§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
May I ask on a point of Order whether you, Sir, can explain how it happens that a notice for the rejection of this Bill in my name handed in last night, and which appears on the Blue Paper this morning, does not appear on the White Paper?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not select necessarily from those who appear on the Paper. It depends who gets up and catches my eye.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I was not referring to that. When a larger number than six is handed in at the Table what method is adopted of making a selection?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The first six handed in are taken. They all appear on the Blue Paper, and the first six handed in appear on the White Paper.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—[Mr. Lloyd George.]
§ Mr. HOLT:
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
I base my objection to this measure on two different grounds. In the first place, I believe it is intended to be used as an implement of excessive development of the military side of our effort in the War. I think it is throwing the weight of this nation unduly on the side of military enterprise. I object to it also because there underlies it a theory of the relation of the State to the individual from which I entirely dissent. I think it makes inroads on the individual which are entirely unjustifiable. The first point involves a review of the whole part which this Empire is to play in the conduct of the War. I want to recall to the House and to the Minister of Munitions a speech which was made in this House exactly one year ago by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, a speech which, I think, laid down very fairly the proper line on which this country should act in the prosecution of the War. This is what was said:I think the Allied countries ought to determine the part they wish Britain to play in the combination, and the best service she can render. What service can Britain render to this great combination? She can keep command of the seas for the Allies. She has done so, and she will maintain complete control to the end. That is the invaluable service which she is rendering to the Allies. It is essential to the ultimate success of their arms, especially in a prolonged war, because the longer the war the more the command of the sea counts. Supplies come from overseas, there is the freedom to choose the point of attack, and there are various other points which I need not labour. What is the second service which Britain could render? She could, of course, maintain a great Army, putting the whole of her population into it, exactly as the Continental powers have done. What is the third service? The third service which she can render is the service which she rendered in the Napoleonic War, of bearing the main burden of financing the Allied countries in their necessary purchases for carrying on the War—purchases outside their own country more especially—and also to help the Allies with the manufacture of munitions and equipment of war. Britain can do the first, she can do the third, but she can only do the second within limits, if she is to do the first and the last, and I think that is important."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1915, col. 1014, Vol. LXXI.]144 I quote those words because I think they sum up the situation, and they express the method of dividing the energies of this country in the prosecution of the War very properly. They were spoken exactly a year ago, and I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman who spoke them then still believes that they give an accurate description of the part which Great Britain should play. In his speech a few day ago the Prime Minister, in shorter words, reiterated the same point. Before we pass this Bill we ought to satisfy ourselves that the first and the third of the services which the Minister of Munition held out as the most valuable contribution we could make to the joint combination of the Allies are amply provided for. If hon. Members will cast their minds back to the 7th March last they will remember that there was a Debate on the Navy Estimates. On that occasion the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Colonel Churchill) made a speech which certainly indicated to the House, and I believe caused many people to think, that there was reason for believing that the development of our Navy was not going on as satisfactorily and as rapidly as it ought to have done. I have read through that Debate again, and I think I am right in saying that the present First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Balfour) did not express himself as absolutely satisfied with the way in which the shipbuilding for the Navy was going on, and my recollection is that the House was not satisfied at that time that there was not an element of truth in the suggestion which he right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Colonel Churchill) made, that the Navy, as regards equipment and shipbuilding, was not being kept up to the very highest state of development. We ought to be satisfied by the most explicit assurances of Ministers that there is no foundation whatever for the suggestion that we are unable to carry on shipbuilding for the Royal Navy as rapidly and as successfully as the protection of our country and of the whole of our overseas traffic makes necessary.
I do not think there is anybody in any quarter of the House who will dispute that the predominance of the British Navy on the seas is the most vital point in the successful prosecution of the War. If by any accident the British Navy were to lose the command of the seas, 20,000,000 men in France would not save us from 145 disaster. If we cannot maintain command of the seas everything is lost. There is another matter in this connection upon which I should like some information. I want to know whether all the persistent repair work that necessarily has to be done for the warships is being carried on as promptly as it ought to be. Anyone who knows anything about shipbuilding knows perfectly well that one of the difficulties in getting mercantile vessels completed is that the men who ought to be doing engineering work are constantly being taken away for the repair of warships. It is very necessary that the warships should be repaired promptly and put to sea at once, and everything else must give way to that, but there ought to be sufficient men for both purposes. It is unsatisfactory, as everybody knows, when men who are engaged on shipbuilding are taken off for repair work. It is not good for either class of work. If both forms of work are to be done properly there ought to be an ample supply of men to give independent gangs for each separate form of work. I do not want to say very much on the subject of mercantile shipbuilding, but I think it is generally known that for a year past, and even to-day, mercantile shipbuilding is virtually at a standstill. People may say, and no doubt it is quite true, that efforts are being made to complete a certain number of ships for sea. No doubt some work is being done, but as compared with the normal output of mercantile tonnage from our shipbuilding yards, what is going on now is really trifling. I would remind the House in this connection that owing to the action of mines and submarines, which do not alway sink the vessels against which they explode, there is an exceptional amount of heavy repair work in regard to mercantile tonnage going on in all our great ports. That, of course, requires attention, and requires men just as much as building does. There was an interesting debate yesterday in another place which I commend to the attention of hon. Members, because it will save me from the necessity of laying before the House many facts which were very clearly and very well put by Lord Beresford and Lord Curzon. Let any hon. Member read that debate, and he will see that it is very plainly admitted by two Noble Lords, neither of whom is a shipowner, and, therefore, neither of whom is open to the implication of personal interest in the 146 matter, that the maintenance of the British mercantile marine is one of the prime necessities of the successful conduct of the War. Perhaps I may be allowed to make an observation on this point, because I know people have suggested that I take an interest in this matter and speak about it purely from motives of personal advantage. If anybody would consider the point they would see that the one person who loses by an increased amount of shipbuilding is the shipowner, because he is making more money out of a small number of ships than he could possibly do out of the larger number which everyone desires to see produced in order that freights may be reduced.
It is not only the difficulty of obtaining men which confronts us. There are very great difficulties in obtaining material. It is almost impossible to get reasonable deliveries of any sort of shipbuilding material. That means that iron and steel are very scarce, and they are very scarce for the vast number of other trades which depend upon iron and steel. Coal is very scarce. We are having very great difficulty in getting anything like an adequate quantity of coal. The output of coal has fallen off. On this point I want to draw the attention of the House to a fact which was referred to at Question Time today. The House will know that under ordinary circumstances it is the custom to supply the River Plate with coal from this country. We are so short of coal that in spite of the fact that everybody is regretting the shortage of mercantile marine tonnage, vessels are being sent round by America, a very considerable deviation, in order to take coal to the River Plate. That means that because we are short of coal in this country there has to be an unnecessary waste of mercantile tonnage. It also means that the balance of trade is affected adversely against us. The railways in the River Plate belong in the main to British capitalists, and we are buying in North America goods which we ought to be able to export from this country, thereby injuring our commercial position. In every direction of commerce in which I am interested, and in which I can get an accurate information, there is a universal and serious shortage of labour. We cannot get the men at the docks to load or unload. There is a shortage of labour on the railways. What is the result? The men have been overworked; they are getting irritable and touchy, as 147 overworked men do, and you have in front of you the prospect, if you are not careful, of a great deal of friction, not because people are bad tempered, but because an overworked set of men naturally, in any walk of life, tend to become unreasonable and difficult to deal with. You cannot keep a nation going for a long period under a system of overwork and high pressure.
I have heard in recent Debates suggestions made to this House that the difficulties that have arisen with regard to labour are entirely due to the voluntary system, which caused the wrong men to be recruited. I cannot see how that suggestion can be justified. What was the trouble? The very people, the War Office, who are going to be allowed to conduct a compulsory system of recruiting, are the very people who had not got more sense than to go and take the men who, they ought to have known, were essential for the industries of the country. If these people accepted the wrong type of man in the Army, the man who would be more useful at home than in the firing line, what guarantee have we got that the same men will not do it again? And there is this to be remembered, that the persistent suggestion which goes on all the time that those persons who serve their country otherwise than in the firing line are doing work of less value than those who go into the firing line is bound to drive a great many courageous men, and a great many men who are not very courageous, to think that it is their duty to go into the trenches rather than remain in the workshops. From the start of this War there has been a persistent suggestion that work in the trenches is more valuable than work in the workshops. I admit, like everyone, that work in the workshops is far pleasanter than work in the trenches. The man in the workshop is having the thick end of the stick. But it does not follow because one form of work is more pleasant than another that therefore it is less desirable and less valuable than another. That is a distinction which, I think, has never been properly made. It is constantly suggested that the man who takes the more pleasant form of work is doing something which is less desirable than that which is done by the man who takes the less pleasant form of work.
Turn for a moment to the purely financial side of this question. A year ago the 148 then Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke very strongly of the necessity of helping our Allies by financial contributions. No one will deny that the suggested necessity is far more urgent to-day than it was a year ago. On the 9th of March, in the Debate on Free Trade, I took the liberty of pointing out to the House the very serious position in which our Allies were as regards their solvency. No one can deny that as time goes on the Allies must become to a steadily increasing degree dependent upon British credit, which is based upon the prosperity of British trade, for the means of carrying on the War. If they are to keep their Armies in the field it is necessary that we should be able to keep our trade in the field. Some hon. Gentlemen talk as if trade were carried on for no purpose whatever, except for the profit and private gratification of the traders. That is, of course, an absurd idea. We carry on trade because, without the profits gained from trade, it would be absolutely impossible to carry on the War. It would be impossible to pay for the countless commodities which we have to obtain from all parts of the world, and I think that it would be impossible to pay the wages and pensions which are very properly due to our soldiers. The real foundation of this alliance is the control of the sea by this country, and the credit of this country, and if anything is done to imperil either of those two foundation stones, then the whole joint plan of campaign is going to fail, because militarism will be triumphant.
The question whether you have more or fewer soldiers may indeed involve a question whether you get victory at an earlier or a later date; but the question whether the Navy can stand firm and whether our finances can stand firm is not a question of victory sooner or victory later. It is a question of victory or defeat. With regard to the particular measure which we have got before us, I want to draw attention to one matter, as to which I hope we may be permitted to have some information. During the Debate, in the speeches which have preceded this, the Prime Minister has clearly laid down that he intended to take 200,000 men, and no more, from the unattested married men. I find nothing whatever in the Bill which limits this number to 200,000 men, and I want to know from the Minister of Munitions, who, I understand, is going to speak, exactly what security the House has got, or what is supposed to be the security that 149 no more than 200,000 men will be taken. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO security!"] The right hon. Gentleman told us most explicitly that that is the maximum number of men who would be taken. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I think that my impression is quite correct. That is what we were told. The House ought to know what security we have that no more are going to be taken than the number which we were told was the maximum which could be taken with safety. The policy of the large Army involves the policy of the knock-out blow. It means that if you are going to have a large Army you have got to use it at once, and you have got to bring the War to a speedy termination, and the question which we have got to ask ourselves is whether, if we did this, we should be able to stay the course? In this connection I may read a short article from the military correspondent of the "Times," who, I understand, is regarded as a considerable expert in these matters:Now it is our turn, but we must not imperil our success by premature attacks before we possess the superiority in numbers necessary for a crushing victory, or for a continuous offensive. Whether 1916,1917, or 1918 will give us this opportunity it is for the Allies' Staffs to decide, but history will never forgive us if out of sheer impatience, or war weariness, we hazard a brilliant future and a sure victory by engaging in a genera] offensive before we are ready.4.0.P. M.
That seems to me to be a very sound doctrine, but the question I want to put to the House is this: Suppose that our Army is not ready until 1918, are we quite sure that our financial position will remain as it is until 1918? I have always thought this was going to be a long war, and I want to be sure that we can stay the course. It has always seemed to me that when we started this War we were in the position of an athlete who had made the three mile race his special study, and who was suddenly asked to run on a quarter of a mile course. The policy of shortening the course is a very dangerous one, and we ought to be quite satisfied that we can stay the course. I do not know what the present Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks of it, but I should have thought that anybody who knows, what is common property, the financial position of our friends, must be perfectly well aware that there is not the remotest chance of our being able to stay the course until the year 1918. We are not likely to stay the course until 1918 at our present rate of expenditure. Let us be satisfied on this subject. If we cannot stay the course, had we not better modify, as I think we should do, these pro- 150 posals? [Interruption.] This is a place in which we are discussing publicly our public policy, for the purpose of seeing whether it will bring the War to a successful conclusion, and if we have good reason, or any reason, for believing that the policy is a wrong one, then we are going to say so. I want to ask another thing with regard to this Bill. I want to know how it is that those who are responsible for it, and who support it, are willing to vote for it, although Ireland is left out of it. In the previous measure, based on the pledge given with regard to recruiting, there was good reason why Ireland should be left out of it. I cannot see that there is any reason why Ireland should be left out of the present Bill, or why those who are prepared to vote for it—I do not care in what quarter of the House—should exclude Ireland. It is common knowledge that in the whole of Ireland a much smaller proportion of the population is engaged in what may be called essentially civil service, in connection with the War, than there is in Great Britain, and I think we ought to be told why Ireland is excluded. I cannot suppose that these things are being done purely as a political manœuvre. The previous Military Service Bill was founded on a specific pledge, and Ireland was left out, and we want to know, and the public ought to be told, why Ireland is left out of this measure. I want to ask right hon. Gentlemen who are going to vote for this Bill why they stop short at military compulsion and refuse to include industrial compulsion? The Prime Minister used, only two days ago, in this House, these words:That is to say, if they can be spared from industry without incapacitating us from the discharge of other responsibilities which, in our judgment, are as essential to the successful prosecution of the War as the maintenance of a fixed number of men at the front.If it is right to compel men to fight in the trenches, surely it must be equally right to compel them to do comparatively safe industrial service at home, which, as I understand from the Prime Minister, is equally essential to the prosecution of the War. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not the same wage"] I am going to vote against every form of compulsion, but I am entitled to ask those who support this measure the reason why they will not apply it to industrial service at the same time that they compel men to go and fight in the trenches. It may be necessary some day to compel colliers to hew coal in the same 151 way as you compel precisely the same people to go to the trenches. I want to put this to the House. You are going to compel men to enter the Army in such numbers that only upon the nicest calculation can you discover that there are enough men left at home to carry on the essential industries of the country, and, under this nicety of calculation, you expect every man to play the part assigned to him. If you have calculated with exact nicety the number of coal miners, if you have calculated with exact nicety the number of riveters, if you have calculated with exact nicety the number of persons in every other class of trade that you require, how can you escape the necessity of dealing with the claim of each man to play the part assigned to him? I think you will find yourselves, later, in a very difficult position indeed, when proposals come from some quarter that compulsion should be carried a step further.
Then as to the Special Reserve. People are to be put into the Special Reserve in order to do civilian work, when it is necessary and convenient to call them out, for the War. I have a very strong suspicion that the civilian work they will be asked to undertake will be work approved by the military authorities—the sort of civilian work which they think most convenient to themselves. In addition to these reasons, and I submit they are very substantial reasons, which should be considered before passing this measure into law, I object to this or any other form of compulsion for personal service, because I think it is based on an entirely wrong conception of the relation of the individual to the State I do not agree with the view that the State should be a great machine run by politicians and bureaucrats in which every single person is to have his place, his own proper little pigeon hole, and in which everyone is to do the work assigned to him. I entirely disagree with that idea. It is, as far as I understand it, the German idea, and carried out to its logical conclusion it will inevitably end in that Prussian militarism which it is the object of the War to destroy. I do not believe that it is the proper way to destroy Prussian militarism, and the best way to meet that system of militarism is to bring to defeat it the great forces of freedom and British liberty. I submit that if the voluntary system had been properly pursued we would have readily obtained the men required. This 152 principle of compulsion has been tried before in this country, some 250 years ago, and I think that forebears of the Minister of Munitions, like my own forebears, did everything they could to prevent the experiment which was then attempted of being brought to a successful conclusion, and I think it will be agreed that on the whole that it was a good thing for this country that the British Nonconformists succeeded in breaking down the attempt to establish Parliamentary uniformity. Yet it seems to me that is the principle, the essential principle which is being set up to-day, the principle that it is right for the State to say what is the duty of the individual citizen, and then compel him to do it whether his conscience agrees with it or not.
I hope we are going to find, when the Bill leaves this House, that some better provision has been made for the conscientious objector. It is really not too much to say that they are treated in many parts of the country in a manner which is simply scandalous. The military authorities and the tribunals openly flout the declared opinion of this House. If this measure had been introduced sixteen years ago, when, I think, both the Minister of Munitions and myself were of military age, I believe we should have been found at that time to be conscientious objectors. I should have objected if I thought it was wrong. If there were one single man who honestly believed that this country was in the wrong, I think it would be an outrage to make him take up arms in a cause which he believed to be unjust.
The Prime Minister made an appeal, with which everyone must have sympathy, for support of the Government. When we are asked to support the Government I think it not unreasonable to call attention to the way in which this measure has been put before the country. First of all, we had the Derby campaign; then we had the Prime Minister's pledge to married men which always appeared to me to be a very unwise pledge, because it took for granted those who were to be compelled to go— the single men—and those who were not compelled to go, the married men. That, in my opinion, was a very mistaken consideration as between two men. I have always thought that the principal consideration was the comparative fitness of two men for military work, and their value for work at home, and that the question of marriage and its responsibilities was only a matter or the proper 153 factor which should decide the scale between the two parties in determining, where other considerations were equal, who was to go to the front. Then there was the Bill of January to redeem the pledge which had been given and that as followed by this institution of universal compulsory service. As to the first Bill, I would remind the House of some of the arguments used in support of it. This is one from the First Lord of the Admiralty on the 6th January:I do not believe that this Bill is the thin end of the wedge or by any conceivable turn of the wheel of fortune can be made the thin end of the wedge of a universal system of Conscription—Then, after a short interval, he went on to say:Why, Sir, it is the strongest argument against it.Then I turn to the Bill and I find on the very first page of it:CLAUSE 1.—(Extension and Continued Operation of the Military Service Act, 1915.)As if the whole of this Bill were not the thin edge of the wedge. The first Bill is the foundation of the second Bill, and the second Bill is simply by reference to the first. Is not that a scandalous way of introducing this great change? It is not fair that we should be told in January that a certain measure cannot lead to another, and that in May the second measure should be produced, and it should be found that the first measure is the very foundation stone of it. On the 9th March, this year, the Prime Minister, in his place in this House, said that he was still a supporter of voluntary service. Now, on the 4th May, we have the Second Reading of the Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, in favour of universal compulsion. That is not fair, straightforward dealing. If we are to have a system of compulsory military service, then for heaven's sake let us have it from right hon. Gentlemen who believe in it. I do not care very much what the political party is to which right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Bench happen to belong, but what I do care about is that no right hon. Gentleman should introduce into this House a Bill in which he does not honestly believe. If the Government want to know the reason why they are losing authority in the country, that is precisely the reason. Ministers may think it right to change their minds, but if they do they would be well advised to cross the floor and let the persons who believe in the policy that is being adopted go and carry it out.
154 At various times we have had appeals to let this measure pass without discussion, and we had an eloquent appeal last night from an hon. and gallant Gentleman to allow the country and the House to appear to be unanimous. I do not know that unanimity is in itself a very necessary or very desirable virtue. The most complete case of unanimity that I have ever heard recorded was that of the Gadarene swine. I never heard it was considered that unanimity alone in that case brought about success to the operations of the herd. In a matter of this sort the duty of the minority appears to me to be this. It is our duty to state, I hope politely and courteously, but firmly, what our views are, and our reasons for dissenting from the policy adopted by the Government, and to carry that, as we intend to carry it, into the Division Lobby. I would remind the House that though we oppose this Bill, almost all of us who are going to do so, and certainly I myself, are entirely at one with, I believe, everybody else in the House, in desiring to win this War and bring it to a successful conclusion. I venture to differ as to the best method to accomplish that end, and it is a difference as to the means, and not as to the end that separates some of us from the vast majority of our colleagues in this House. But however much we disagree with the policy which the Government are adopting, once we have had our hearing, and when once the House has taken its decision, it will be my object, and I believe it will be the object of all my Friends, to-do everything we can to make the policy, even though we think it a mistaken one, successful. We have just as much desire to win the War, and we are just as ready to do, according to our judgment, the best that in us lies to bring that result about. I beg to move.
§ Mr. LEES SMITH
I beg to second the Amendment.
When the first Military Service Bill was before the House I did not speak on it, but I voted against it in all its stages. When the first Bill was before the House it was suggested that some of those who objected to the Bill were indifferent as to what might be the final result of this War. I do not think they quite see our point of view. Our point is this. I heard the other day in the Secret Session the estimates of the figures which the Prime Minister gave. It is a great disadvantage from the debating point of view that one 155 is not able to exactly criticise those estimates of figures, because the impression they made upon my mind, and which has been strengthened by examining them afterwards, is that this Bill is in the nature of a gamble which is far more likely to weaken our total effective contribution to the War than otherwise. I have not followed this question in great detail, but if there is one impression I got more clearly than the rest it is that the r61e which this country is playing as the financial reserve of the allied combination is becoming day by day so vital and decisive that if there is any reasonable doubt whether a certain section of men should be utilised for that purpose or for any other, then the benefit of the doubt ought in ordinary caution to be given to our credit and to our finance. I read three or four months ago a speech which was delivered in this House by the President of the Board of Trade. I do not say that necessarily what, he told us then he would have to accept now. But at that time he told us what he considered from his point of view and his responsibility, the final limit to the number of men that could be raised for the Army without imperilling our industries. That number has almost been reached, and when the attested married men who have not been called up are summoned to the Colours and when the other recruits which are in sight are also summoned, that number will have been long overstepped. We are now by this Bill exhausting our financial resources for the remainder of the War by a further draft of 200,000 men who will, I suppose, be drawn from that class of married settled moneyed men whose economic value is high, and whose military value is correspondingly small. That is the point of our objection.
If, as is surely possible, this War settles down to a long-drawn-out war of endurance, then, surely, finance and credit will become the determining consideration, and the point of our objection—of my objection—is that this Bill is imperilling the factors which this country alone can provide, and on which in a war of endurance the whole allied combination will become dependent upon us, in order to give a comparatively slight increase of numbers to the military role in which we are no more essential than the others of the Allies. Those considerations appear to me to be so strong that I believe if the Government had been absolutely free to 156 determine this question simply by balancing our financial as against our military requirements, they would not have introduced this Bill, but that has not been the case. There is a considerable demand in the country I do not deny, but the demand arises especially from the attested married men. Surely it is true that those men are not basing their demand for this Bill upon a balance of our financial as against our military requirements, but this demand, this popular demand, is based on the argument that compulsion is essential to secure fair and just treatment as between one man of similar age and another. Those who have followed the controversy can see that the real issue which has laid behind this long conflict is not the balancing of the issue as between financial and military consideration, but is a struggle between those who believe—in the phrase of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson)—in equality of sacrifice, and those who believe in voluntary service. That is the issue. You cannot have both. If you have voluntary service, then it must happen that a certain portion of men—a certain fraction of men—will not rise to their responsibilities. There is something to be said for equality of sacrifice, but if you have got to choose, the thing for which we stand is by far the finer and nobler of the two.
It is the absence of Conscription from this country which has given our people that self-dependence, that initiative, and that freedom of spirit in which they have led their way throughout the world. Those of us who believed in it before the War have more reason still to be proud of it since now that we see what it has accomplished in the stress of war. In spite of these Conscription Bills it must be true to say that over 96 per cent, of our Forces will have been raised by voluntary service. To impose conscription upon this country in order to apply this theory of equality of sacrifice to the remnant of about 4 per cent, is to tarnish without proper cause one of the proudest achievements of our race. This conscription is already beginning to cast a shadow over the Army as a whole. We cannot have voluntary service and compulsory service existing without any means of distinguishing them side by side without the discredit of one reflecting on the other. This effect is beginning to operate now. These Conscription Bills are lowering the status of those who have attested under the group system. After all, I play a very unimportant and 157 unheroic part, but I hear what ordinary soldiers are saying. If hon. Members wish to hear it for themselves and do not believe in what I say let them go to any London railway station and let them watch batches of Derby recruits being sent from the railway station to some camp in the country, and let them listen to the remarks of the soldiers standing by. The stigma of conscription is stamped upon them all. Men who have made great sacrifice in order to respond to Lord Derby's appeal are being robbed of the credit to which that sacrifice entitles them. The other day the hon. and gallant Member for Hull made a very striking speech in this House, in which he said that those of us who still insist on voluntary service do so because we are dominated by the obsession of prewar ideas. Why, Sir, if it had not been for pre-war ideas this Bill would not have been introduced. This Bill is not the result of any careful balancing of military and financial considerations. The driving force behind it has been the agitation, ferocious and blatant, beginning from the very commencement of the War, and continuing without ceasing and without scruple ever since—the agitation of those who, before the War and after the War, believed, and still believe, in Conscription for Conscription's sake.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
The two speeches to which we have just listened have been very moderate presentations of the views held by the hon. Members who made them. The main position taken up by those hon. Members is really one which is not contested. The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) laboured very considerably, with quotations from the Prime Minister and from the Minister of Munitions, to show that there are three factors in the contribution which this nation can make to the War, and he endeavoured to prove that the due proportion between those factors cannot be observed if this Bill be carried into law. That was really the gist of his contention. I do not believe that there is anyone in this House who for one moment questions the principle laid down by the Prime Minister and by the Minister of Munitions in the speeches from which the hon. Member quoted. The only difference between us is that, with the exception of the very small body to which the hon. Member and his Seconder belong, this House is agreed that we can pass this Bill into law and obtain a very considerable augmentation of our military forces 158 without in any way dangerously sacrificing our contribution as regards either commerce of finance. The hon. Member spoke about a serious shortage of engineers, and he quite rightly pointed out that, among the pieces of work which it is extremely necessary for us to carry on with great vigour at the present time, few, if any, are more important than the maintenance and increase of our mercantile marine. He wished us to draw the inference that, because there are a certain number of engineers who have been taken from that work to do Admiralty work from time to time, therefore the men cannot be spared to go into the Army. I do not know whether the hon. Member heard the speech made yesterday by the right hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes), in which that right hon. Gentleman stated that, of his own knowledge, there were many thousands of members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers who had enlisted and were now in the Army. The inference that I drew from that statement was this. I quite agree with the hon. Member that the enlistment of those men was in many cases a mistake; but that was entirely due to the fact that at the time the War began; and long afterwards, we had to depend on the voluntary system. If we had had then a system such as this Bill will introduce, under which the military authorities could take the men they want and choose between those who would be most useful for the Army and those who would be most useful for the workshops, there would have been no occasion for them to take those engineers to whom the hon. Member referred. When this Bill is passed, I take it, if the military authorities find that the accession of strength under the Bill is sufficient to enable them to do so, there will be nothing in the world to prevent their releasing from service in the Army some of those engineers, who may then go back and do the work which the hon. Member for Hexham thinks, and I quite agree, so necessary, but which we have not the men in the country now skilled to perform.
The hon. Member went on, not merely to say that there was a shortage of engineers for this particular work, but to complain—and we have heard the same complaint from many sources—of a general shortage of labour in this country. I do not believe that there is any shortage of labour whatever. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] By that I mean, of course, for necessary work. The labour is unorganised. It is 159 impossible at the present moment to get workers in one direction or another for work which the nation requires. But why? Because, go where you will, whether in London or in the country, you cannot turn your eye in any direction without seeing in progress work for which there is no occasion whatever. I had an example in a very small way near my own house in London the other day, but the same thing is going on everywhere. There is a thoroughfare which is subject to very little traffic and the surface of which was in excellent repair; yet a whole gang of men were employed only a week or two ago putting a completely new surface on that road.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I have seen the same thing elsewhere. I am glad that the hon. Member so far agrees with my criticism that he was able to spot the locality at once. Wherever you go throughout the country you find the same thing going on. Therefore I maintain that until an organisation is brought into being by the power and the influence of the Government, it is idle to talk of a shortage of labour which is created simply through that want of organisation. The hon. Member referred to the figure of 200,000 men given by the Prime Minister, and he complained, as I understood, because he could not find within the four corners of the Bill any limitation to 200,000, as if that had been a maximum figure, or there had been a pledge from the Prime Minister that it would not be exceeded. I certainly never understood the Prime Minister to give any such pledge.
§ Mr. McNEILL
What I understood the Prime Minister to say was that that was the estimate of the number of men likely to be got, and that they were unlikely to get more. So far as I disagree with the Prime Minister, if I may respectfully do so, my disagreement is in thinking that a great many more men than 200,000 will be got. I have gone carefully into the matter, and on the figures as far as they 160 are available I believe that the number of men likely to be obtained under the Bill is much nearer 500,000 than 200,000, always provided that care is taken to redistribute the men according to the occupations and service in the Army for which they are most needed.
I must say a word in reference to the conscientious objector. I understood the hon. Member to say that in Committee he and his Friends will endeavour to obtain still wider consideration for the conscientious objector. Speaking for myself, I regret very much that the Government have not had the courage in this Bill to go back to the precedent, pure and simple, of the old Militia Ballot Act, limiting the exemption strictly to men who could show that they belonged to the Society of Friends. I have no hesitation in saying that the conscientious objector, as he has appeared in these latter days, is a gentleman for whom I have not the smallest respect. I think it is perfectly outrageous that any man in such a time as this, not merely should be allowed to act upon an objection of that sort, but should receive sympathy and encouragement either in this House or outside. That a man should be allowed to refuse to serve his country and at the same time to remain at home to enjoy all his civil rights and all that peace and civilisation has given him, and should continue avowedly to enjoy those privileges, battening upon the sorrows and sacrifices of others, is an outrageous proposition, and I am very sorry that the Government have not taken the occasion of this Bill to sweep it away. I do not think it has been mentioned before, but it is a significant circumstance worthy of record that in the present War all the male representatives, of military age, of John Bright are serving their country. That is a circumstance which ought to bring a certain amount of shame to these false conscientious objectors to-day, and it is an example which many who belong even to the Society of Friends might do well to follow.
§ Mr. McNEILL
The hon. Member for Hexham said that if this Bill was to be brought in at all, it ought to be brought in by Ministers who believed in it. I entirely agree, especially for this reason: not merely that I think that political honesty requires such a course, but also because I myself disbelieve in the vigorous and impartial administration of an Act in the hands of a body of men who do not 161 themselves believe in the justice of the measure which they have carried into law. I do not know how far it is true that there are at present responsible for this measure Ministers who do not believe in it; but I cannot forget that the right hon. Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. (Simon) told us, on a former occasion, that there were members of the Cabinet whose views upon this question were indistinguishable from his own. Nor can I forget that an hon. Member of this House has told the world that a member of the Cabinet conspired with him against the first measure. Therefore, we may reasonably presume that the same Cabinet Minister, if he has not conspired against the carrying of this second Bill, at all events is not a very enthusiastic believer in it. The hon. Member who seconded the rejection of the Bill had the hardihood to say that it would never have come into the House had it not been for pre-war ideas. He told us that this measure was due to the influence, or the agitation, of Members who, before the War, were believers in compulsory service. I believe exactly the opposite to be true. I believe that there has never been the hint of a belief in compulsion, and I believe if none of us who did believe in compulsion before the War had ever breathed a word of our ideas, and if the proposal had been made for the first time after the War broke out, that the Compulsion Bill would have been carried at the beginning of the War without the slightest difficulty. We on this side have been handicapped from the very first, because we were very reluctant to give plausibility to the charge which the hon. Member has brought. We wanted so far as possible—and I think that hon. Members will see that for many months we honourably carried out that intention—not to bring forward the ideas which were in our minds before the War. On the other hand, of course, the fact that we did advocate this policy before the War has enabled its opponents throughout the country, both in this House and outside, to bring forward the charge which the hon. Member has brought to-day, making it appear that we have exploited our pre-war sentiments in order to get them carried at the present time. Nothing could be further from the truth—that is to say, as regards our support of this Bill and the principle of compulsion generally. I think that is sufficiently proved by the fact that a great number of hon. Members in the House who never 162 dreamt of such a thing before have now, by the very necessities of the case, become supporters of compulsion. This ought to be sufficient refutation of the idea that we tried to exploit old prejudices and old party views.
I entirely agree with the hon. Member opposite in what he said about Ireland. I should like to take this opportunity, in a very few words, of endorsing the very persuasive and the very powerful appeal on this subject made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Down (Colonel J. Craig). I could have wished very much that the sad recent circumstances of Ireland might foe taken advantage of, as I think they might be, for an agreement upon this subject between the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson). They have both of them shown in very unmistakable fashion during the last few days and weeks that in a great national emergency they are prepared to sink past differences and act in common for the good of the country. I agree with the hon. Member that there is no possible logical defence for the exclusion from this Bill of Ireland. I thought, and I think I said it at the time the former Bill was discussed in the House, that I considered the reason for this exclusion was little more than a pretence. But, at all events, it is true that it was a plausible pretence—that that Bill was introduced for the purpose of fulfilling the pledge of the Prime Minister. It is quite true that the pledge had no immediate application to anybody in Ireland. That reason has disappeared with this Bill. Can anyone suggest any reason in the world why numbers of equally brave, active, fit young men, whether married or single, should be allowed to remain at home, whether idle or busy, in Ireland, when exactly the same class of men in this country are being compelled to join the Colours?
That brings me to the mention of a certain difficulty which I think will arise even in the administration of the Act as it stands, and which I ventured to make the subject of an interruption yesterday during the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. Under this Bill time-expired, men are going to be required to stay with the Colours. Take the case of the regiment in which there are numbers of Irish and English soldiers serving side by side. 163 We have constantly been told, and quite truly, by hon. Members below the Gangway that there are large numbers of Irishmen serving in English regiments. There are also, I am sorry to say, a very large number of Englishmen serving in Irish regiments. Where will be the justice or the plausibility of the administration of this Act if men of the same regiment at the front, serving in France, Mesopotamia, or elsewhere, becoming entitled to their discharge on the expiration of their term of service on the same day or in the same week, have different treatment meted out to them? I asked the right hon. Gentleman, in my interruption, how he was going to decide, under this Bill, whether or not the Irish soldier is to be retained with the Colours or released owing to the exemption of Ireland from the Bill? I cannot myself see how the Act will operate in cases of this sort. You can surely hardly go to the man who is serving at the front and ask him whether his ordinary residence is in Liverpool or in Dublin, in Glasgow or in Belfast. In the one case you will presumably say to the man that he will have to stay and serve for a further term, or to the end of the War. If, on the other hand, it is plausible that the soldier's residence is in Ireland, then, as Ireland does not come under this Bill, the man will be told that he is entitled to his discharge. Such an arrangement will be altogether an impossible one!
There is one argument which hon. Members opposite are constantly using which appears to me to involve a state of hopeless contradiction on this question of compulsory service. We are constantly being told in the course of discussion by hon. Members opposite who are opposed to compulsion that it is quite unnecessary. "Pursue," they say, "the voluntary system; use your persuasive powers; tell the country that men are needed and you will get all the men by voluntary service that you are likely to get by compulsion." That is very frequently said. But remember also that hon. Members constantly at other times have told us that one of the chief objections to the compulsory system is that it will take dangerously many men away from the civil employments of the country. These two arguments are mutually destructive. If you are going to take too many men away by compulsion, and if you are going to get the same number of men by the voluntary system, then it follows that the voluntary system would 164 equally take too many men away from, civil employments, and the one argument, therefore, necessarily cancels the other. I could not at all agree, I must say, with the concluding portion of the speech of the hon. Member opposite who seconded the rejection of the Bill. He seemed to assume—I think he stated it in terms—that there was something inherently noble in the voluntary system which was altogether lacking in the compulsory system. That is an intelligible proposition, and a man is entitled to hold that dogma. But if it is a dogma it is not a self-evident one. It is not one for which the hon. Member gave any reasons, and it is a dogma from which a very great many of us, of whom I myself am one, emphatically dissent. I see in the voluntary system itself no such nobility as the hon. Member imagines. On the contrary, I myself believe that one of the great advantages of the Bill which we are now, I hope, about to pass is the fine moral effect it will have, not only in our own country, but still more perhaps in the countries of our Allies and in neutral countries. I myself believe' that the moral effect will be worth gaining for us, even if we do not gain a single man to add to our Army. It is a moral effect which I am quite certain will be cheering to our Allies, and at the same time it will do more than anything else to discourage our enemies.
I believe that this Bill will pass through its Second and Third Readings with very little opposition. There is a small body of hon. Members opposite who perhaps may be called the Order of Teutonic Knights, with headquarters at Walthamstow, who, I suppose, will offer their opposition to the Bill. Hon. Members in that respect will give a new meaning to the sin of Simony. Hon. Members are, I suppose, determined to show that so far as this Bill is concerned we are not to have any longer that boasted unity of the nation which we all value and for which the Prime Minister pleaded so eloquently. In this matter of the unity of the nation we have many appeals, and not a few threats. We have had from time to time, from the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), and I think also from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J, Simon) and others, statements that the unity of the nation depended upon the retention of the voluntary system. We have had the same statement on the authority of the Prime Minister himself. In his speech on 2nd November the Prime Minister said that his only objection 165 to the compulsory system was that its adoption would put an end to the unity of the nation. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite, who take the view they do, have quite appreciated how high a compliment the Prime Minister on that occassion paid to those of us who are in favour, and have been long in favour, of the compulsory system. To what did it amount? The Prime Minister told the House to stick to the voluntary system, because you cannot trust the voluntaryists to be sufficiently patriotic to maintain the unity of the nation unless they get all their own way. On the other hand, you may go on so long as you like flouting and rejecting the views of those who are in favour of compulsion, for you may be perfectly certain that their patriotism will be so proof that they would not break the the unity of the nation, no matter what occurred. Surely that was a striking compliment for the Prime Minister to say, especially when you have regard to the description which he himself gave of the working of the voluntary system in this War. In that same speech the Prime Minister used a very striking expression. He said: "I admit that the voluntary system, as it at present operates, is capricious"—and some other adjective of a similar sort, which I have forgotten—"and unjust—unjust to individuals and to classes." When we are told by the hon. Member for Derby, and others, that it will be wicked of us to impair the unity of the nation, because we cannot get our cherished compulsory system, surely it is fair for us to retort: "We have for twenty months, notwithstanding that the War has gone none too well, accepted in silence, and acquiesced in, a system which the Prime Minister himself says is unjust in its working to individuals and classes, and I do not think that we can be blamed if, after that experience, we say we will not stand it any longer." Therefore, the unity of the nation no longer depends, and can no longer depend, upon the maintenance of this system. If it were not broken on one side it would be on the other. We are not prepared any longer to acquiesce in that unjust system. At last, now, after all this time, we in our turn, after the long delay and the great reluctance of the Government, are going to have some trial of a fairer and more just system. Because of that resolve we have the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow and his friends saying: '"Oh, 166 we are not going to maintain the unity of the nation at all; we did maintain it, we will not maintain it any longer." I do not think that is a very patriotic attitude, and I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be showing more of the dignity of the position which he holds in this House, and which he has held so recently, if he were to take a more patriotic line, and were to say, "For twenty months we have had the full operation of the system in which I believe. I am now in a minority. The nation and the House desire the trial of another system. I will not press my view forward at such a time as this. I will support the Government and I will maintain the unity of the nation."
Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
I do not propose to interpose for very long because I understand that for the first time we shall hear the master's voice this afternoon. We have had many a Debate in this House during the last ten or eleven months, but we have never heard the master's voice. [An HON. MEMBER "Whose is that voice?"] The Minister of Munitions. We never heard the master's voice except, like the dog in the advertisement, through a gramophone. Sometimes the gramophone has been here; sometimes on the Front Bench opposite. To-day we are told that, immediately after I sit down, we shall hear for the first time the greatest democratic leader this country has ever seen—and I say that in all sincerity—explaining in the House of Commons and to his countrymen the reasons which have made him, an old pro-Boer, become a Militarist, and the reasons which have induced him to impose his will in this matter upon a reluctant and mutinous Cabinet, on an indifferent and, four months ago, a hostile House of Commons, and on a country that is bewildered at the change. I remember well last summer how my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Leo Chiozza. Money) ploughed a lonely furrow in striving for compulsion and Conscription. He proved by statistics, irrefutable according to him, that the more men you take out of industry, the more your production will increase. My hon. Friend is a master of statistics. He is born to statistics as the sparks fly upwards. I verily believe he sucked in statistics with his mother's milk. My hon. Friend, 167 alone of Members in this House, can apply to himself the famous line of Pope,I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came.But when my hon Friend departed from his statistical ground and assumed the role of the statesman, then indeed we did become a little impatient, and we were inclined to remind him of an old adage, of which no Member for Northampton ought to be reminded, "Let the cobbler stick to his last," or, if I may quote the words in the language of my hon Friend's ancestors, "Ne sutor ultra crepidam." Unfortunately, my hon. Friend took the platform. I forget what theatrical stage he graced by his presence at the end of August, when the Minister of Munitions for the first time began to unmask his batteries, and sent him a telegram which was read at a frankly Conscriptionist meeting, but, unfortunately, though my hon. Friend is a power in this House, he did not prove to be so great a power on the platform, even though he was assisted by the tinkling epigrams of my right hon. and learned Friend opposite.
My right hon. and learned Friend knows what I mean. He went to Queen's Hall, and the hon. Member for Northamptonshire went to another place to speak under the same auspices. Then my right hon. Friend the Minister of Munitions, who is nothing if not a master both of strategy and of tactics, thought it was time to call to heel the hon. Member for Northamptonshire. He took him, and there he has been since October, I think, of last year, in the lethal chamber of the Minister of Munitions. Another man came forth to help on the great propaganda—the hon. and gallant Member for Fareham (Colonel Lee). He made a speech in this House. He made a speech in the country, which, by some means or other, for the first time got for him the honour and dignity of a verbatim account in that great newspaper, the "Times." But, unfortunately, in that speech, valuable and important though it was, the hon. and gallant Gentleman drew attention to the fact that, while this country was paying what might be called the trade union rate of wages to its soldiers, the conscript 168 soldiers of France and Germany were paid only a ½d. a day, and the cry arose, "Here is a man who wants a cheap Army." The hon. and gallant Member repudiated the charge, and the "Daily Mail" said it was a lie. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman was found too dangerous a controversialist to be left outside, so the Minister of Munitions got the hon. and gallant Member for Fare-ham into the Munitions Department, where he has sat dumb and silent ever since.
Then another protagonist came forward, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson). He left the Ministry some time at the end of October, and he has ever since been making powerful speeches in this House in favour of conscription or compulsion. He has been full of sound and fury against the Government on each and all occasions. What his sound and fury amounted to is a more difficult matter to tell. Great advocate that he is, he never descended to particulars. He reminded me of nothing more than a famous passage in Ovid, where the poet describes how an evil spirit, brooding over the stately palaces and temples of Athens, wept because he could find nothing to weep about. I have listened very carefully to the right hon. and learned Member, because I can assure the House, on my own behalf, and on behalf, I think, of nearly all, or all, the Members who oppose these measures of compulsion, that we have honestly done our best to persuade ourselves that a case has been made out for compulsion in this country. I have said on several occasions in this House that, if a case of military necessity could be proved that would satisfy me as a reasonable man in spite of my repugnance to compulsion, I for one, at all events, would lay aside my weapons and allow it to go through. I listened, therefore, very carefully to what the right hon. and learned Member has had to say on the matter, but I have found nothing except vague denunciation of the Government, sins of omission, sins of commission, never specified, never particularised. That is all I have received from hearing the right hon. and learned Gentleman. His diatribes against the Government remind one of an old couplet some cynical person wrote in the early Victoria era of women,Men have many faults, women only two;Nothing right they say nothing right they do.169 That is the sum and substance of the right hon. and learned Member's criticism of the Government. Now, we are going to hear this afternoon, I hope, for the first time, the real case for Conscription and Compulsion, and it will be put forward, I know, with a power and an eloquence which we always expect from my right hon. Friend. What is it? Why was it necessary, in the first place, to introduce the Military Service Bill in January last? We all remember how that Bill originated. The Derby scheme only came to an end on 11th December. We had a Debate in this House on the Adjournment the following week. The whole question of compulsion was raised. There was no indication given by the Government that, by the time Parliament reassembled in January, we should be met by an accomplished fact, that a decision would be against us. Not a word. The Minister of Munitions did not attend the Debate. He attended the Debate the night before on the discussion on the Munitions Department, but he did not come here to attend the Debate on compulsion, and so we left on the eve of Christmas thinking that, at all events, we should meet again in the following January in order to discuss freely and fairly, not as at a res judicata, but as an issue to be fought whether this House of Commons was prepared for compulsion or not.
What happened? There was a Cabinet meeting the following week, and the "Daily Mail" stated—I do not know whether it is true or not—that at that Cabinet meeting, or during that week, my right hon. Friend said to the Prime Minister that unless the Military Service Bill, now the Military Service Act, was presented to the House of Commons on 4th January he would forthwith resign. At all events we came back to the House of Commons with a decision against us, and that is my first complaint. I do not think it is a fair way of asking the House of Commons, if the House of Commons is to be asked, to decide. We have a Coalition Government, comprising all the talents—at all events, all the parties, and all the party Whips, and all the party funds—having made up its mind to produce a Bill. Faithful followers we have been, and I do not think the Minister of Munitions will deny that I have been an absolutely loyal follower of his for many and many a year. It is the greatest wrench of my life to make a speech even purporting to 170 be against any policy in which he is interested. It is one of the greatest wrenches of my political and private life, and I say it is an unfair position in which to place any body of men, to find themselves confronted in Parliament with a decision which their friends in the Cabinet have arrived at, not on the merits, but behind closed doors in Downing Street without a real discussion in this House, and without any man on the Front Bench saying a word in favour of compulsion, not one; and yet we come here on the 4th January and the whole thing has been settled, and we are put into this dilemma: Either we have to vote in favour of a Bill we have always opposed, and which we think is detrimental to the interests of the country, or else we have to appear to be opposed to the men we have been proud to follow for so many years.
I remember saying on the First Reading how that Bill had been whittled down to its narrowest proportions. Ireland was left out and so was the conscientious objector; the indispensable man was put outside the scope of the measure, and everything was done to make it palatable to hon. Members of this House. The real reason that Bill was introduced was to place for the first time on the Statute Book of this realm an Act of Parliament embodying Conscription for a free-born people. We said then that it was only the thin edge of the wedge, and we knew that it would not stop there. We said then that that Bill was useless from the military point of view, and who will dispute to-day that it was useless from that point of view. What has the Government had to do to make even a semblance of success of their Bill? Lord Derby in his report conjectured that there were 650,000 single slackers in this country who would come within the scope of that measure. The "Daily Mail" went one better, and said there were 1,000,000 single slackers in this country. I was speaking to a French journalist in this House the other day, and he actually believed that there were 1,000,000 single slackers in this country, and he believed that on the strength of the "Daily Mail." Where are they? How many men have come to the Colours under the Military Service Act? It is only by combing out of our industries men who were starred, and by unstarring industries which were starred in January that you have made a success of this scheme from a military point of view.
171 We have had the same familiar manœuvre during the last fortnight. We have had another holiday. When Members go away from this House they know that there is some crisis in the air, but they do not know what, and then we find that the Cabinet meets and there is a Cabinet crisis. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, the Prime Minister told us on the eve of the Easter Adjournment that unless the Cabinet could arrive at some compromise or some formula upon which they could agree the Government would dissolve, and this would involve us in a national disaster. What was the compromise arrived at? This was the state of things on Wednesday night, but on the Thursday we all knew that the Cabinet had made up its mind and the crisis was over. In what way? By my right hon. Friend the Minister of Munitions once more having his own way. This reminds me of the story of Abraham Lincoln's compromise. He and his wife are said to have had some difference in regard to the painting of a certain door in White House, and the whole of Washington was ringing with this incident. Later on Abraham Lincoln was asked by a friend how the dispute had finished, and he replied, "We have compromised the matter. I wanted the door painted white, and my wife wanted it painted red." The friend then inquired what colour was it painted, and he replied "Red." That is the sort of compromise which has been arrived at by the Cabinet. My right hon. Friend has now got universal military Conscription for all men of military age, and you cannot go further except by extending the age. You rope in the young men of eighteen. There are thousands of men in this country who will resent having their children at eighteen years of age taken away perhaps from school and sent, not to the discipline of a university or the discipline of the home, but to the indiscipline of a camp. You are also roping in the time-expired men, and you are practically doing away with the Territorial Force. You are competing every married man from eighteen to forty-one years of age to come in if necessary. What else can you do? Surely this is universal Conscription.
Has any military necessity been made out for these proposals? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] By whom? [HON. MEMBERS: "By the Prime Minister and the Army Council!"] All I can say is that I have given the best study I can to the matter, and I have found no evidence in any speech yet made by the right hon. Gentleman 172 showing that there is this military necessity. There has not been a single speech made in favour of this Bill or in favour of the Military Service Act which made out a case of military necessity, and if such a case can be made out I ask the Minister of Munitions to make it this afternoon, because it will relieve my mind, and the minds of thousands of people in this country. As far as I know up to the present no case of military necessity has been made out. There is one great disappointment which has come out this afternoon. I understood that of the unattested married men there would only be something like 200,000 required.
That was the outside limit of the most sanguine estimate. Therefore for the comparatively meagre 200,000 we are now asked to give the go-by to all our old convictions, and to that voluntary service which has stood us so well in the past. I listened with some amazement to the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite who said he could not see anything noble in voluntary service. I venture to say that if hon. Members searched the records of the world, they could never find anything as noble, great, or as chivalrous as what this Old Country has achieved by voluntary service during the last two years. Remember that there were only about 1,000,000 men engaged in the Crusades for the freeing of the Holy Land, but what about this little country of ours. Here we raised 3,000,000 men in the course of eighteen months, not to defend their homes—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—no, not to defend their homes—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"]—but they went out to fight for the distressed and to free Belgium. I am sure the Minister of Munitions would say the same thing. He said in January last that as far as he was concerned he would never have been a party to this War had not Belgium been invaded, and in that matter he was the interpreter of his people, as he has been in the past. That was what voluntaryism did for this country, and it has been described as the noblest spiritual achievement any country has ever accomplished.
Let us contrast for a moment the position to-day with what it was even twelve months ago. Then people were tumbling over each other in their eagerness to join the Colours, but to-day men who have 173 entered into the solemn obligations of service for their country are trying to evade that service as some people try to evade the payment of taxes. The touch of compulsion has vulgarised and materialised this fine spiritual movement. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to allay some of these suspicions. I have no suspicions against him personally, because I know him too well to think for a moment that in what he has done or is doing he is influenced by anything but the highest patriotic motives. He is convinced himself, and he has convinced others, but I want him to prove, not his sincerity, but to convince me of his sound judgment in this matter. He made a great speech on the 4th of May last year, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He then looked at matters not merely from the point of view of a Department, because he was in the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he could survey the whole national field. He made a speech which has often been quoted, and which was quoted by the Prime Minister last November with approval, in which he said that the first thing this country ought to think of was how to finance the War and find the men, money, and munitions, and be said that support could not be got from this country on all those three heads, and the Allies must select how this support was going to be given. Has that been done? Just think of the financial position. As far as I can see, something like £500,000,000 in munitions or in loans will be given as subsidies for the Allies during the coming twelve months. We have already incurred a debt of something like £2,000,000,000, and you propose to raise another 1,000,000 men under this Bill. As I understand it, the Prime Minister has told us that every man costs the country from £250 to £300 a year, and it has been computed that every man you withdraw from productive industry involves a loss also of £250 a year. If you add the two figures together, every man costs this country £500 a year, and that means for your million another £500,000,0000 a year. We are raising £500,000,000 by taxation this year. I am not sufficient of an expert to judge—indeed, I am not a financier at all; I do not understand finance, but I should like to be assured that we can afford what we are asked to do. I hope that no one will believe that I and those hon. Members who take the same view of this matter as I do are instigated in the slightest degree by hostility to this country's cause. It is 174 because I believe that it is only by a smashing victory in the field this country can win the peace that will make life worth living that I am opposed to this measure.
You are raising a terrible spirit in this country. I saw in the South Wales papers to-day a statement by one of the leading tin-plate manufacturers in South Wales, who appeared before the military tribunal at Swansea, that if any more men were taken from the tin-plate industry—a small industry, it is true—they would shut down their works. I know that is true in my own Constituency in Llanelly, whose staple trade is the tin-plate industry. My hon. Friend said that there is no scarcity of labour, but he does not sit for an industrial constituency, or he would never make that statement. When you get employers feeling the pinch they will demand industrial compulsion. Industrial compulsion is involved in the two Military Service Bills. My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith) will remember a deputation which waited upon us six weeks ago in connection with this same matter under the Military Service Bill. They were employers, and they said before they went away that there were hundreds about the docks in Swansea loitering and idling, and they thought that the State ought to step in in order to compel those men to render national service. That is what it is coming to.
I can well imagine my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lloyd George)—I cannot imitate him; I wish I could—drawing the picture on a platform of two brothers. "One is in the trenches getting his 1s. per day, or whatever it is, and the subsistence allowance for his wife and children a thousand miles away. He sleeps in a dug-out. He has no shelter from the blasts of heaven. His life is in momentary danger. He is not allowed even to choose his trench. He must go into a wet trench, even although he may be suffering from rheumatism, and he cannot leave or go beyond a certain line without rendering himself liable to military discipline. He is treated worse than the criminal in goal. Why? Because he is a hero and a patriot. His brother remains at home. He was earning £2 or perhaps £3 a week before the War. Now he is earning £4, £5, and in some cases £8 a week for precisely the same sort of work. He hears that some workmen in a similar grade of employment in another 175 town get 10s. per week more, and he makes a demand for an increase in wages. There he is, living in comfort, even in affluence, at home, not risking his life or his limb, doing necessary work it may be for the nation, but not in the same essential way as his brother in the trenches. You talk about equality of sacrifice! Why should he be treated in one way and his brother in the trenches in another way? Give equality of treatment if you want equality of sacrifice. Indeed, if it comes to that, why should you draw the line at forty-one? by should not the man of forty-five be at the disposal of the State exactly in the same way as the man of forty, and why should not the wealth of the man of sixty or sixty-five, who cannot render personal service, be at the disposal of the State? These are the questions you are raising, and it is because I hate and abominate them all that I am against this Bill. I happen to be one of those few people left in this House or elsewhere—an old-fashioned Liberal. I am not a Socialist. If I were, I do not know that I should take the view that my hon. Friends here take of this Bill. I am not a Tory. I am an old-fashioned Liberal. I have been brought up to believe in the old traditions of this country, and it is because I happen to hold those views that I voted against the Military Service Bill in January, that I propose to vote against this Bill to-night, and that I propose to vote against any further compulsion, industrial or otherwise, that may ever be brought before the House.
§ The MINISTER of MUNITIONS (Mr. Lloyd George)
My hon. and learned Friend is a very witty and amusing speaker, and so far as the first part of his speech was concerned, at any rate, he entertained if he did not enlighten the House. I only regret that his sense of humour seems to have deserted him halfway. But I looked in vain in that speech, as I did in the speeches of my hon. Friends who preceded him, for any real argument in favour of the very serious course which they are adopting. After all, each Member in this House must take action, and when he is using arguments he must intend to convince the House to follow the course which he is recommending. I wonder whether they quite realise what they are asking the House to do. Those who are responsible for the conduct of this War, the most serious war in which 176 we have ever been engaged, a war in which there are greater issues involved to this country and for humanity than any war that has ever been waged, are advised by the military authorities that it makes a difference possibly between a defeat and victory for us to secure these men. We can find no other means of getting them; we must get them immediately, and my hon. Friends come down here and say, "We appeal to the House to reject that advice." It is a terrible responsibility, and for my part, I say, the moment that demand was put forward I would rather be driven out of the party to which I have belonged all my life, nay, I would rather be driven out of public life, than have on my conscience the refusal of such a demand.
What are the reasons that my hon. Friends have advanced for urging this great Parliament to accept so serious a responsibility? "You are not going to keep men for shipbuilding if you take them away." Whoever proposed to take them? Who has ever suggested it? There is not a single man who can help to put a ship together who will be taken. Nay more than that. If my hon. Friend can point out any man now in the Army who can help to piece a ship together or to repair it as a skilled man, he can get him back. What is the good of talking about shipbuilding? It shows that they have not studied the question upon the basis of which they are asking this House to take the most tremendous responsibility which it has ever been invited to take. As a matter of fact, as my hon. Friend pointed out this is the greatest argument for Conscription. Thousands of these men have been taken away under the voluntary system. We tried to get them back. There are hon. Members in this House who assisted, including my right hon. Friend the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes). As he pointed out, you have got some of them, but there are some who will never return. In France, under the system which we are proposing to apply here, they were able to arrange the whole thing so that men who were essential for essential industries were kept at home, and only those whose services could be dispensed with were sent to the front. There never was a greater argument for compulsion than that which my hon. Friends have been advancing.
Let us have the second argument of my hon. Friend (Mr. Holt). It was a most extraordinary thing to say, even if it were 177 true—that if the War lasted till 1918 we could not financially stay the course. A more injudicious observation has never been uttered, and I venture to say whatever speech will be left out from the reports in the German Press that observation will not be omitted. But it is not in the least true, and I say that, having consulted some of the ablest financiers in this country during the time I was at the Exchequer, as I was bound to do, because I always took the view that this was going to be a long war. The first thing I did was to consult these great financial advisers as to what the staying powers of the country were, and they had not the slightest hesitation in advising me, however long the War lasted, that we could outstay, and outstay for years, anything Germany could do. But supposing it were true, is not that an argument for putting all your power immediately to the fronts Is not that an argument for the recommendation of the General Staff that you should do it without loss of time? I put it to my hon. Friend: Supposing it were true that we were going to be bankrupt in 1918, what would any wise Government do? They would say, "We cannot stay till 1918, so let us put the whole of our force in immediately in order to win the War" Every argument I have heard from my hon. Friend is an argument not against compulsion, but for compulsion. I do not know whether he regards me as one of those men who are recommending a Bill in which they do not believe. It is not true of any member of the Government. There were members of the Government who were more reluctant than others. That is true. The Prime Minister has said so. There were some who were readier, some who were more reluctant than others, but, after prolonged examination, they came to the conclusion it was absolutely inevitable that this Bill should be introduced.
Let my hon. Friends consider what the position was. Here is a demand from those responsible for advising us about the conduct of the War that it is essential that we should call up every available man and make him ready to go into the field. My hon. Friend says the military have not got the last word in this thing. No; that is absolutely true. But the responsibility upon them is a great one, and, more than that, you ought not to refuse it unless the reasons are overwhelming. The Cabinet, having examined the demand, quite unanimously came to the conclusion it was an irresistible demand. My hon. Friend, 178 in spite of these facts—in spite of the fact that men who take the same view that he does, and I reckon myself one of them—that you must co-ordinate finance, men,, material, and shipping—in spite of the fact that men who hold that view as strongly as he does came to the conclusion you should not resist this demand, says "I will accept the responsibility" without having all the facts, and he accepts the responsibility of recommending to the House the rejection of the Bill. I ask him, Why? What are his reasons? As to the military necessity, we have not merely got the opinion of the General Staff and those who are advising us. He has only to look at the situation for himself. This is not a Secret Session, and there are facts which are common to friend and foe. What are those facts?
We have Germany in possession of Belgium, Serbia, Montenegro, an important part of France, Poland, and the Balkan Provinces—in possession and entrenched. It is a fundamental axiom of military science that, in order to drive out an entrenched foe equally well organised, equally well led, equally well equipped you must have a superiority in men. 1s. it not evident to my hon. Friend that the greater the superiority in men, the more assured the success? And when our military advisers come to us and say that, in order to win the War, we must summon, immediately to the Colours all the men, who are available, he has only to look at the facts himself, and he will know why they have come to that conclusion. It is perfectly true, if you take the Allies as a whole, that they have got an overwhelming superiority in men. That is why I am confident in the issue. But that superiority in men must be a superiority in equipped, men. It is no secret that last year the comparative failure of the Russian campaign was due to lack of equipment. It is no secret there has been a great improvement this year, but it is also true that the number of men Russia, or any other country, can put into the field is limited by equipment. Very well; it is essential that until Russia can complete her equipment, France and Britain, who can equip, should put every available man into the field; until that moment arrives. It is essential—the enemy knows the value of it, they know the importance of it, they know the danger of our not taking the utmost share that we possibly can of the burden this year and immediately, and I venture to say the powers we are taking to summon 179 every available man to the Colours will be About the worst piece of news the German General Staff can read.
So much for the military demand. Here is a demand put forward by the military unanimously pressed by a perfectly united Government on the attention of the House, and my hon. Friends do not accept it. I regret to see their readiness to criticise the Government. It rather amuses me, coming from that quarter—my hon. Friend amongst them. The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen Burghs (Mr. L. Williams) condemned my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) for criticising the Government! But at the same time he proceeded to deliver a violent harangue against the Government Bill, criticising the action of the Government in the most strenuous terms. My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) was very violent indeed. He compared us with "a fleet of Gadarine swine." And that comes from Gentlemen who are always telling us "that the most important thing is national unity.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Some of the Friends of the hon. Gentleman are constantly saying it. This is their notion of unity. If you criticise the Government from one point of view you are a traitor, a caballer, an intriguer; but from their point of view you can criticise, you can condemn, you can charge them with insincerity, you can say, "You are bringing in a Bill you do not believe in; you are not honest." Then that is all right. Their notion of criticism is something like a new Defence of the Realm regulation which will start, "No person other than ourselves, or those of whom we approve, shall criticise the Government, or any member of it, except the Minister of Munitions." After all, the vast majority of the Members of this House, and an infinite majority of the people outside, are in favour of this measure. If anyone doubts it, I am sure my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen Burghs does mot—
May I explain? I convened meetings in two towns in my Constituency of the executive. At the 180 first meeting—a private one—I had an absolute vote in my favour. I did not ask for a vote of confidence. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not ask for it?"] Because as the sitting Member I am entitled to the confidence of my Constituents. At the second meeting one gentleman did say, at the beginning, that he would propose a vote of censure on me for voting against the First Beading of the Bill. I challenged him to bring it on at the end of my speech, but he declined.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I must say my hon. Friend has given me a fresh argument. Even a friendly newspaper reported that at the end of the meeting he gave an undertaking to his constituents not to vote against the Bill.
My right, hon. Friend has not forgotten his legal knowledge. He knows the meaning of the word "undertaking." I gave no such undertaking at all. But at the beginning of the first meeting I explained that, owing to certain reasons which I cannot make public, I would not be able to vote against the Bill, because I would not be in the House. But I added that my absence from the House must not be taken by my Constituents to mean that my absolute hostility to that Bill was less measured than it was before, or than it is now.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I must say my hon. and learned Friend had very good reasons for being absent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] I withdraw nothing. Does anyone doubt that at the present moment, if this question were put to his constituency whether they would accept the advice of the military, and the unanimous recommendation of the Cabinet, they would adopt it? There is not the slightest doubt. I asked my hon. Friend what reasons they have got. I waited in vain for any argument against the Bill. I thought there was some ground of principle—something which would override even military necessity. Where is it? Has anyone expressed it, either inside or outside the House? What is the principle? I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham, I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Lees Smith) for this great overriding principle, and I have not heard it yet—not once. Is it inconsistent with the principles of either Liberalism or democracy? Why? Is it inconsistent with the principles of democracy that the State should demand the services and help of every man to defend 181 its life when it is at stake? There never yet has been a country faced with a great military peril that has ever saved itself without resort to compulsion. Never. It is true of autocracy, it is even more true of democracy. Every healthy body has demanded the help of its members to defend itself. Thank God Britain is not a paralytic that cannot command the services of every citizen.
Where is the principle? I have a personal interest in finding it out, for I have been told that I am a traitor to Liberal principles because I supported Conscription; therefore, I am personally interested in seeking it out. I cannot find it. Every great democracy which has been challenged, which has had its liberties menaced, has defended itself by resort to compulsion, from Greece downwards. Washington won independence for America by compulsory measures; they defended it in 1812 by compulsory measures. Lincoln was not merely a great democrat, but his career was in itself the greatest triumph that democracy has ever achieved in the sphere of Government. He proclaimed the princple ofGovernment of the People, by the People, for the People,and he kept it alive by Conscription. In the French Revolution the French people defended their newly-obtained liberties against every effort of the Monarchists by compulsion and by conscriptionary levies. France is defending her country to-day by Conscription. In Italy the Italian Democracy are seeking to redeem their enthralled brethren by compulsion.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
In Serbia the Serbian peasants defended their mountains by compulsory measures, and they are going to win them back by the same means. When hon. Members say that Conscription is contrary to the principles of liberty or true democracy they are talking in defiance of the whole teaching of history and of common sense. Where is the principle? I want to find it. The military advice is for this measure, and the Cabinet, having examined the proposition of the military, are unanimously for it. The clear military necessities of the case demand that we should put every available man into the field. My right hon. Friends ask Parliament to refuse that on the ground of some sacred principle, which is too sacred even to be made public. I am 182 told, "Oh, you will only produce 200,000 men." Personally, I say at once that I think that 200,000 is far too conservative an estimate—I will give my reasons for that by and by. Supposing it were true that you could only get 200,000 men, do they realise what 200,000 men mean? It means ten divisions of Infantry. Have they followed the course of this War? I cannot believe that they have thought it out. In the great battle of Ypres, where it was a question whether we should get through and outflank the Germans, or whether the Germans would get through and take Calais—everybody knows how near that was—there is not a military man present who will not tell you that a single fresh division, marching into action when the troops were tired, exhausted, and could not fight, would have meant victory on either side. If after a great campaign lasting it may be weeks or it may be months, when the men are tired and exhausted and there are losses, you can get 200,000 fresh men to throw into action, who can tell what the effect would be? Has my hon. Friend considered that? [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Well, he ought to have considered it. He has tendered military advice to the House of Commons and has said there is no military necessity, and he ought to have reflected upon every possibility of the case, before he set himself up as an authority against trained experts who have told us that this is essential to the winning of the War. I have always thought that 200,000 was a very modest estimate, and I frankly think an underestimate. I think we are perfectly right in not putting it too high, but I am certain of this, that when men say that 200,000 means one one-hundredth or one-thirtieth, that is ridiculous. There were 1,100,000 unattested married men of military age in non-starred occupations.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Yes, altogether. Take the percentage of the single men who have come in, and upon the same basis you will find that it is considerably greater than 200,000 men. There is a little more than that. Since then my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board has undertaken the task of unstarring some occupations which were then regarded as being absolutely indispensable, and in addition to that he has undertaken the combing out of men in starred occupations, even to the extent of taking men from munition works, 183 although I have to watch him very carefully there. That shows that the 200,000 is a conservative estimate and that you can expect more. I go beyond that. I am not sure that here I am not speaking perhaps my own mind. I know all that is to be said about our financing the Allies, about shipping and about the necessity of our keeping up our trade. I can conceive contingencies when we would have to take greater risks. They have not arisen, but they may arise. Let me give this one fact to the House of Commons: If we had summoned to the Colours from the British Empire the same proportion of our population as France has called to the defence of her frontiers, there would have been twice as many men as we have got.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am referring now to Great Britain, the United Kingdom, and the self-governing Dominions. I know of the responsibilities of financing the Allies, and that the difficulties with regard to transport have to be taken into account. If you make a generous allowance for that, you still have a substantial margin before we have made the same sacrifice that France has made. When we talk about 200,000 men, as if that were the last thing we could do in defending the British Empire, it is ridiculous. I do not want the Germans to make any mistake. I want them to know that if there comes a time when it will make the difference between victory and defeat, between liberty and submission to the Prussian rule, that this country will summon the whole, mark you, of its manhood to the Colours to defend itself. I think it is important that not only our Allies but our foes also should know that when we talk about 200,000 men we are not at the end of the resources of this Empire.
There is one thing for which I waited anxiously in this Debate, and I am glad it has not appeared, namely, the suggestion that if we take the only means which are essential to the purpose of successfully conducting this War there would be trouble among the labouring classes. I never believed it. We were told before that there would be trouble, that there would, be turbulence, and that there would be general strikes. There were none of these things. I will give the reason why. I know it is said, "Oh, the leaders persuaded them not to do it." Why did they 184 persuade them? Because they knew that general strikes would damage this country in the hour of its need. They were too-patriotic to encourage them. Are the working classes less patriotic than their leaders? Do you think they do not realise that just as well as their leaders? I object to and protest against this talk about the working classes, as if they were not an essential part of our community, but as if they were a sort of doubtful neutrals of whom we have to be careful, otherwise at any moment they might be converted into-formidable foes. That is an insult to the working classes, which is not in the least justified. There are differences between the classes. I was one of those who, before the War, called attention to those differences. I may have to do it again—I hope not. There are differences-in training, differences in environment, differences in circumstances and conditions, but the fundamental passions and virtues own no class, and patriotism is one of the greatest of these. There has been no distinction in this War between one class and another in the readiness with which they have made sacrifices for their country. Does anyone imagine that if you had gone down to the workmen of this country and said to them, "Conscription is essential to victory for your country," that the workmen would have said, "We will not have it; we will strike." Not at all! It is their country just as much as ours. They know this is a struggle for liberty. They have sacrificed more liberty than any class. [An HON. MEMBER: "Voluntarily!"] They would win more by liberty than any class; they would lose more by the downfall of liberty than any class, and they know that Prussian domination would hurt them more than any other class in this country. They know more than that. They hope, as we all do, that this is the last frenzy of war before it expires. There is no class that has a greater interest in peace than the working class. They know perfectly well that if the Prussians through any means, neglect on our part or failure to throw all our resources in at the right moment, triumph and become the lords of Europe, it will be but the beginning of war, for humanity could not long endure that yoke.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The right hon. Gentleman has made a brilliant and powerful speech, the sincerity of which will be recognised in all parts of the House. He has put the case for compulsion this afternoon for the first time in this House, 185 and he has put it upon a double ground. He has put it as a believer in compulsion, as a sacred principle of Liberalism and democracy, and he has put it on the ground of absolutely meeting the necessity of the case in the present War. I propose to deal with both of these arguments. I hope that I shall deal with them in the same spirit as that in which he advocated them, and at the same time I hope that he will excuse me for suggesting that the power and the force of the arguments which he used were somewhat marred by two taunts at least which he levelled at my hon. Friend who has already taken an opposite view in the course of this Debate. He denounced my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) for an indiscretion in regard to the statement which he made that if the War went on to 1918 we could not stay the course. If my hon. Friend sincerely believed that that is the case, and in view of that belief, was of the opinion that this country was entering upon an erroneous policy, it was his duty as a Member of Parliament to tell the House of Commons so, and it does not lie with the right hon. Gentleman to denounce any man for making alarmist statements. The right hon. Gentleman published a preface, which was hailed in every organ of the Press, in which he gave the most alarmist description of the position of the Allies that has come from any tongue or pen in any of the Allied countries. He told, not only us in this country, not only our Allies, but our enemies, that our Allies were beaten in the dust, that Russian fortresses were falling like sand castles, and now forsooth, because my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham in order to make a perfect case on a question of public policy, makes a prophecy about the year 1918, he is held up as unpatriotic and unfaithful as a representative of the people of this country. It does not lie with the right hon. Gentleman to treat his hon. Friend in that way.
But I will leave that, and I will go on to the substance of the speech, and I wish, in the first place, to deal with the latest revised version of the gospel of Liberalism and democracy. When, indeed, was this new gospel found? Has it been delivered for the first time to-day as a new revelation as it were from the Sermon on the Mount? Certainly none of our old teachers and preachers told us these things. Did the right hon. Gentleman learn these things from the old master of 186 Liberalism in this House, Mr. Gladstone, whom he first came in to support as a Liberal leader, or before this War what Conservative leader ever put forward the doctrine of military compulsion as a doctrine not inconsistent with Liberalism and democracy? He has quoted a few exceptional cases. He has quoted France and the Revolution and the War, but Conscription was not adopted by France in the revolutionary wars until France had ceased to be a democracy. It was not in the days of the National Assembly. It was not in the days of the Conventions. It was not until the time of the Directory.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The levy system was adopted when Danton was in charge, and he actually wrote the report to the Convention on the requisition system. May I also remind my hon. Friend that the rebellion in La Vendée was due to the fact that there was no compulsory levy.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The levée en masse is not really different in practice from the voluntary system which we are advised to abandon. The rebellion in La Vendee was a Royalist rebellion, very largely stimulated by Royalists intrigues in this country. Everybody knows that to be the fact. There was no organised compulsory system in France until the days of the Directory. That is a matter of fact. I come again to the great case of Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln did not touch compulsion during the first two years of the Civil War. It has been a sacred principle of Liberalism and democracy. Why should he not have adopted it in the very beginning, in the same way as the aristocrats of the South did? They began with complusion. They were not the preachers of this new evangel of Liberalism and democracy. He does not quote them as an example. Lincoln went on by the voluntary method for two years, and it was only because in a position of extreme peril he could not get men— [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear?"]—that does not prove it to be a doctrine of Liberalism and democracy. If a man adopts an exceptional measure in a state of absolute extremity, that does not make it a fundamental article of his faith. It is a doctrine of despair, and he merely adopted it on that occasion as a counsel of despair, and when a Liberal and a democrat adopts an exceptional measure as a counsel of despair that does not constitute that measure a measure in harmony either with Liberalism or democracy. I think that I have proved my 187 case, that this is not a Liberal and not a democratic doctrine. I am going to deal later on with the question of peril, extremity, and necessity in this War. I will deal with that on its merits, but certainly the counsel which the right hon. Gentleman to-day has cited did not in the slightest degree justify his contention, that there is nothing contrary to the spirit of Liberalism and democracy in the adoption of compulsory military service.
He cannot quote a single man in his party, the party of which I think he is still proud to be an ornament, who has spoken in this way of compulsory service until he has done it this afternoon in this House. I do not know that he will get many converts to this new doctrine. Indeed, in all the Debates on the last Bill it was a strange thing that the right hon. Gentleman took no part, but every Liberal speaker from the Government side wept, literally wept, because he had to depart from the voluntary system. The Prime Minister again and again has protested his reluctance to depart from it. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was equally emphatic. Indeed, that right hon. Gentleman, in the days before I came into this House, was guilty of writing a book on Liberalism, its principles and proposals, and if you look up that book, which was regarded as a kind of handbook for Liberal speakers in my younger days, you will see that the right hon. Gentleman clearly included voluntary service as a Liberal principle. But that has been found out to be all wrong by the Minister of Munitions this afternoon. It is a false doctrine. We have been woshipping false gods. We have been living in Egyptian darkness in regard to this. It is not until now that this new Moses had come to lead us to the promised land, that we have found out the true secret of Liberalism and Democracy. Why, the contention is beneath comtempt.
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in former Debates, quoted Oliver Cromwell. I am not quite sure whether he regards Oliver Cromwell as an exponent of Liberalism and Democracy. His practice was not congenial to either, but he was a very great man and a great military authority, and I am quite willing to consult Oliver Cromwell on a question of military expediency. I remember reading a letter of his 188 when he wished new recruits to be levied in order to conquer my countrymen in Scotland. He was needing drafts as we are needing drafts now, and he said, "Do not send me pressed men, serving men or tapsters, but men who know for what they fight, and love what they fight for." That is the position of the military service system as put on military grounds from the mouth of one of the greatest captains in history. I think that I have described this new Liberal and democratic doctrine. It is certainly a newborn doctrine, but I think it is about as stillborn as the Bill which we saw on Thursday.
That is not the only fiction which we want from the hon. Gentleman. This Bill is the considered, carefully devised, and deliberate decision of a unanimous and harmonious Cabinet. Then there must not have been any crisis at all. Then we are living in a complete state of hallucination. There was no Bill introduced last Thursday. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University did not kill it. It was all a mistake. This was the Bill that the Government intended all the time. We never had a secret Session. The Prime Minister did not tell us a lot of things so that we would not be able to quote them this afternoon. The Prime Minister a fortnight ago did not come down to this House and say that serious difficulties existed in the Cabinet upon the recruiting problem, but only on one point were the Government unanimous—and it is-always interesting to find them unanimous on anything—they were unanimous that the break up of the Government would be a national disaster of a formidable character. But that is all a mistake; it never was so. The Prime Minister had never said it. The editor of the "Daily Mail," the day before, was all wrong when he said that the position had been carried by the little Wizard from Wales. No, this is Alice in Wonderland in the middle of a great War. The right hon. Gentleman must excuse us if we do not quite accept these assurances that he has given. We are very anxious to believe in the unanimity of the Government. It has been so slightly in evidence that even fleeting signs of it have given some of us some comfort in the thought that there will be some hope of winning the War. The right hon. Gentleman's story is that all these things were wrong—that they were only degrees of reluctance. In this 189 unanimous Cabinet some were more reluctant than others, but they have come quite unanimously to a conclusion. What was the conclusion? That this was a matter of victory or defeat, and some were more reluctant than others to adopt the measures necessary to make the difference between victory and defeat. Does the right hon. Gentleman expect the House to accept that statement? The importance of all these things is this: How are we to accept all these assurances about military necessity, about the number of men we can spare, the number of men available for industry, about our powers of financing not only ourselves but our Allies, when we get statements of that kind which, to the naked eye, are not in accordance with the facts? Are we to trust these men on things of which we have not had absolute evidence? I think that is a fair question to ask. The right hon. Gentleman to-day has given us no evidence on the question of military necessity. He has come down and said that the Army Council had laid it down. I am quite prepared to admit that the Army Council may have made certain demands for men, but I do not know that they have made any demand for policy, and I am not aware either that the Army Council is to be the supreme authority as to the whole policy of this country in this war. They are to be consulted, of course, on military policy as to the number of men required for carrying out a given military policy, but that is not the sole function of this country in this War. What the Government have to decide, above the Army Council and independently of the Army Council, is whether they can grant the demands made by the Army Council consistently with directing the whole resources of this country in the best way to win the War. That is the real problem.
We have had on a number of occasions in this House statements regarding the methods in which this country is to employ its resources. The locus classicus on this question is a speech of the right hon. Gentleman made a year ago today. He has travelled far between 1915 and 1916. A great deal of water has run under the bridges since then, as my right hon. Friend has said, and that may account for it, but undoubtedly to-day he said comparatively little about the other functions which this country has to perform, apart from its military functions. It is true he spoke optimistically of our financial resources up to 1918. I would 190 like to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Junior Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) speak as optimistically about the: spring of 1918, or the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Prime Minister, either in secret or in open session. We have heard this question discussed, but general and sweeping assertions such as the right hon. Gentleman has made to-day are not an adequate way of dealing with this extremely serious question. It is not really a question between us on this side: of the House, or hon. Members in any part of the House, as to whether we desire to win this War or not. We are all at one upon that question. I hope that those of us who have spoken this afternoon have spoken in a truly patriotic spirit, and have endeavoured to state a reasoned case to our colleagues in this House. You may think us misguided, but you at least, I think, must admit that we have done our best to apply such judgment as we have to this great crisis in our country. We have done that, and we have come to the conclusion on the facts before us, that the risk of this country is not in the direction to which the right hon. Gentleman is calling the attention of his countrymen. It is not a question whether we will have 200,000 or 300,000 extra men to put in the field in the month of September next. The dangers are of quite a different kind. I believe that the possibility of this country going on successfully depends in a far greater degree upon the situation at sea than upon the situation on land. That is a serious situation, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, and I was indeed surprised at his perfunctory reference to the question of shipbuilding, the most important question at the present time. He himself heard what was said by his late colleague the right hon. Member for Dundee (Colonel Churchill) in the Debate on the Army Estimates in March, and he knows how inadequate was the answer on the facts, apart from dialectics, by the First Lord of the Admiralty. The facts were practically admitted. We know that in respect of naval shipbuilding we are in arrears. We know also that practically nothing has been done in our mercantile shipbuilding yards to make up for the wastages, not only the normal wastage of mercantile tonnage, but the serious additional wastage on account of German submarines. We know all these things, yet the right hon. Gentleman says, in regard to these things, "Is anybody so foolish as to believe that we will take away anybody from shipbuilding?" I do not suppose he would.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It has been done, I know. The hon. Member for Westhougton (Mr. Tyson Wilson) tells me they are even now doing it, in spite of all this shortage. I thought they had given that up. It is not that we do not want any men taken away, but the fact is that we require new men to be added. The First Lord of the Admiralty, and I think the Minister of Munitions himself, have spoken of the necessity of dilution for the shipbuilding yards. But everybody knows you can get no real dilution with women in the shipbuilding yards. It can only be the dilution of unskilled labour, and while you wish to get more unskilled labour that is not at present engaged upon necessary work you are going at the same time to drain your reservoir into the Army, a hopelessly impracticable and impossible suggestion. Even then it is not merely a question of the labour which you have taken. The right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with the real dangers and perils of our position as one would have desired a responsible Minister to do. When I listened to his speech, with his (continuous harping upon the military situation, upon the demands of the Army Council, his light-hearted references about the spring of 1918, I confess that while he was receiving plaudits from the great majority of hon. Members, I never felt more depressed by any speech in my life. It is not by a one-eyed view of that kind that this country is going to be led to victory; it is by looking at the problem as a whole, and by concentrating our forces in the best possible way, so that the utmost may be obtained from the direction of these resources in the War. Not only in regard to shipbuilding was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman inadequate. He did not say anything about munitions. It is not so long since the right lion. Gentleman made an appeal for 80,000 -skilled workmen and 200,000 unskilled workmen extra for munitions work. Has he got them? If he has not got them, how many has he got? I would ask him in view of these circumstances, only in reference to shipbuilding and munitions, is it fair, is it wise to compare what we are doing in respect of men with what France is doing? Is it wise from the point of view of its effect upon opinion in France? We all know how 192 the pro-Germans in France have endeavoured to sow dissension between France and this country by repeating, in season and out of season, that this country is not pulling its weight, that simply because we are not enlisting our men into the Army on the same scale and on the same basis as they are doing, Great Britain is not playing its part in the alliance. Now the pro-Germans in France will be able to call in my right hon. Friend in support of their campaign. There is another aspect of this comparison between our effort and theirs. We know perfectly well the extent to which we in this country are supplying France with boots, other munitions, transport, all their frozen meat, all their coal, much of their grain, a great part of their clothes. We do not even get assistance in French labour for the benefit of our Army behind our lines. All these things have to be taken into account in comparing the respective sacrifices of the two countries in regard to the number of men enlisted by them. But the right hon. Gentleman draws a slap-dash comparison of a most indiscreet kind, and makes no allusion to all these important facts. I do not desire to continue the discussion upon this topic. I hope I have dealt fairly with both the grounds of argument of my right hon. Friend. I hope I have shown that this is a new brand of Liberalism which has been brought forward this afternoon, and, in the second place, that the case of military necessity rests merely upon ipse dixit, and that we have had no facts, no evidence, and no figures.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend says that the case of military necessity has been put to the House merely on my ipse dixit. That is not so. It is upon the advice of the military advisers of the Government, after a complete examination of the facts.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I understand that the military advisers gave the same advice a fortnight ago when the Cabinet refused to bring in this Bill. What was their advice about the last Bill? We remember 193 that it was quoted by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walter Long) on the occasion of an Amendment moved for the purpose of bringing in the youths of eighteen.The measure, by bringing in unmarried men and enabling 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.It was largely on account of that quotation from Lord Kitchener—from the military adviser—that the hon. Members who so strongly pressed for this Amendment were defeated in this House. Had it not been for that statement by the military advisers, I think they would have gone far to succeed in the Division. This statement was quoted in the House of Lords by Lord Shaw in Lord Kitchener's presence without any question on the part of Lord Kitchener. That is obvious evidence that the consultation between the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) and Lord Kitchener was accurately reported. The quotation was made in the Committee Stage on an Amendment moved for the purpose of bringing in boys of eighteen, and it was repeated in the House of Lords in Lord Kitchener's presence on the Second Reading of the Bill there, and Lord Kitchener did not deny it. This was the forecast. There must have been a military forecast. I am not simply dealing with the Derby forecasts because they are never quoted now. Lord Curzon is one of the leading members of the Cabinet and was put up to wind up the Debate in the House of Lords on the Second Reading of the Military Service Bill on 25th January. "I do not hesitate "—the Noble Lord is never anything but emphatic—I do not hesitate to point out to your Lordships 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 forces at your command.That was by the last Military Service Act. Where are the million—the phantom million? They are like the Humbert safe. Hon. Members have forgotten these interesting, ancient, pre-war episodes. Here we are' now, within four months of that Debate in the House of Lords, when over a million were promised, having to deal with a Bill which can only have been brought forward on the ground that less than a third of a million had been got under that Act. It can only have been on that ground. What are we to make of the military advisers? When the right hon. Gentleman brings forward his military authorities and hopes to close our mouths in that way, we say we have had too much experience of them; we want some sub- 194 stantial fact, and we have got it neither now nor on any other occasion. We resist this Bill on the ground of our country's interests. We believe that by the measures adopted under it you are not going to advance the cause of this country. We believe that you are going to dissipate and weaken her resources, and that the inevitable results of its fatal and disastrous passage will be an inconclusive peace.
§ Colonel LOWTHER
I listened with great attention to the hon. Member, and I am not very much wiser for his speech. It seemed to be a speech against the Minister of Munitions, certainly not against the Bill itself, and with the exception of the peroration I failed to understand the speech. I should very much like to know what really is in his mind. Whom does he expect this House to follow? Are we to listen to the advice of the War Council presided over by Lord Kitchener, or are we to take the advice and the opinion of himself and his colleagues. I listened also with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lloyd George). That was a splendid defence of compulsory service. The speech was made with great force and great emphasis, and the points were all made with dynamic force. I must say I listened to it also with some amazement. I kept on wondering why that same speech was not made a year ago. If it is so certain that compulsory service is the one thing for this country, surely he must have recognised the fact not this month or last month, but over a year ago. It is not on account of their sins of commission or of omission, but because the Government do the right thing at the wrong time that I am so anxious to bring before the House what I consider to be a matter of vital necessity, and that is that the Government should introduce some measure to mobilise the people, and, what is inseparably connected with the mobilisation of the country, take over the control of the vital industries of the country and the foodstuffs of the people. I have listened to the speeches which have been made by the critics of the Government, and I must dissociate myself entirely from them. I want to speak in no spirit of petty faction. I recognise, above all, that the Government are confronted by a stupendous—a prodigious task. No one recognises that more than I do; but I hold no brief for them, and I think they are not against fair criticism. Where I join issue with them is 195 in the fact that they are not getting the maximum of efficiency out of the country, and in my opinion they never will until they mobilise the people of the country. We have been the mistress of the seas all the time, yet it took the Government certainly eighteen months to tighten the blockade; it took them eighteen months to know that they want a more efficient Air Service; it has taken them twenty months to know that they want compulsion. The sooner they make up their minds to mobilise the country, which I think is a matter of vital necessity, the better for the country. After all, if you take the assets of this country, we are the richest country in the world; we have the most virile population and the biggest poulation. If you take the Empire, we have complete control of the seas and we have the greatest resources, both morally and geographically. If you take our moral assets, we enjoy the confidence of every neutral Power, and we enjoy, what is far greater, the unbounded support of those enlightened communities beyond the seas that I like to look upon as greater Britain. The Government will never obtain the maximum of efficiency until they mobilise the people.
After all, what does mobilisation of the country mean? It simply means to direct the energies of the individual into the most productive channels. I do not mean by a measure of mobilisation a sort of registration measure like Lord Derby's, which anyone in the world could evade and did evade. Thousands of people stepped out. They even went over to Ireland to evade it. I want a thorough and a drastic measure. I do not want it to be compiled by any amateur committee. I want it to be compiled by the police acting in their own areas. I want a measure which will compel every man and every woman, between the ages of sixteen and sixty, to be enrolled under a National Register with the penalty of imprisonment rigorously enforced if they fail to do so. This register would clearly denote to what trades, callings or vocations every man and every woman was most suited. It would be an assertion by the State—I heard this said by the right hon. Gentleman himself—for the State to claim the right of service of every individual who enjoys the privileges of the State—indeed, it would be a concentration of the working of the country. There are thousands of men to-day who are doing work totally unsuited to them; 196 there are thousands of other men who are doing work which might easily be done by women. There are thousands of men who are slackers—and if this compulsion Bill is enforced it will not alter it—who are drones upon the community in every part of the country, slackers who will make no sacrifice until they are forced to do so. There are thousands of other people who are clamouring for the opportunity to help their country at this moment, hut they are not called. Since I put this question down demanding mobilisation of the country, demanding that every man and woman should be inscribed between the ages of sixteen and sixty on the National Register, I have received 500 letters in two days only from people asking me to put this for all it was worth. Surely there is a spirit of frivolity in the air which contrasts very badly with the determined attitude and dogged determination of our French Allies at present, and it is essentially the moment to compel the individual who will not make a sacrifice for the common weal to do so. Things are too easy for the pleasure seeker. I go out and I see on every hoarding in the place that I must not take joy rides and must not motor for pleasure, but I can buy all the petrol I want. I can bathe in it if I like to pay for it. I can motor from John O'Groats to Lands End. I go further. In every radius of five miles I can come across some garage or workshop in which I find able-bodied mechanics who are able to take my car to pieces and put it up again if I want. Yet the First Lord of the Admiralty the other day said he would build more "Dreadnoughts," more submarines, and more aeroplanes if it were not for the scarcity of labour. What are these men doing? Why not nationalise every workshop? Why not insist upon the services of every mechanic, every carpenter, every skilled labourer in the land? The Minister of Munitions said the Bill before the House will enable us to bring back mechanics, engineers, and carpenters who are at present engaged abroad fighting for their country and make them go into the workshops. Not a bit of it. Those are the powers I should like the Bill to have. It does not and cannot compel a man to go into the workshop. It can only compel a man to take up his rifle and go into the ranks. I know that is called industrial compulsion, and for some reason or other industrial compulsion has an ugly name. But there is an uglier name than industrial compulsion, and that is defeat. 197 After all, is there any master of logic or anybody who has studied the rudiments of logic who will pretend that it is within the principles of democracy, that it is not tyrannical, that it is no departure from the old Liberalism, as the right hon. Gentleman said, to compel a man to serve the State by taking up a rifle and going into the Army? Is it tyrannical, is it despotic, is it against all the traditions of Liberalism and democracy to tell a man to go into the workshop and make the rifles for the men in the Army? Is it more tyrannical. Personally, I fail entirely to see the difference. I believe that the nation are perfectly ready to make any change at the present moment. They do not care if it be a root-change in constitutional policy. It is the nation who are leading this House at the present moment—the House is not leading the nation. I believe the nation wants determination; it is ready to make any sacrifice. Both our men and women would be glad to help. Give them a lead, that is all they ask. I feel quite certain, from the letters which I have received, and from what I have learned by coming into communication with people, that the only possible war to win the War is by getting everybody to do their best; and the only way to effect that object is by bringing in a Bill to mobilise every man and woman in the nation.
§ Mr. M'CURDY
I should not, I think, for the first time since the commencement of the War, have occupied any of the time of the House, but for the fact that my colleague in the representation of Northampton (Mr. Lees Smith) seconded the Amendment for the rejection of this Bill. It is with feelings of regret that I rise to express my profound dissent from the views put forward by my colleague, and to make it as clear as I may to the House and the country at large, that when my colleague in what he said was representing in no sense either the views of his constituents, or, indeed, so far as I am aware, of any section of his Constituents. No one who heard his speech, or who knows my colleague, would doubt either the sincerity of his views or the patriotic motives which have led him to take the view which he does in this War. He is one of the Members of the House who have sacrificed their own civil career in order to serve the country in a military capacity. One disadvantage of that is necessarily that when a Member of this 198 House is spending his time either in the trenches or in other military service, he cannot keep so closely in touch with the proceedings of this House or with the views of his own constituents as he otherwise could do. I have been very frequently among my Constituents during the past few weeks, and I am not going to follow the previous speakers in arguing the merits or the demerits of the proposals which are put before the House on the ground of military necessity. I wish to confine myself to a plain statement of the fact, which is true, at any rate, as regards my own Constituency, that this is a measure which will not only be welcomed but which for weeks and months past has been demanded by the great and overwhelming majority of the constituents of Members of this House, of whatever politiopinion they may be.
The borough which I have the honour jointly to represent is a borough which has certainly not got an undemocratic record—a borough in which the most advanced progressive thought has been represented for many years past, and although we have heard a great deal today from hon Members on this side of the House about the undemocratic and illiberal quality of conscription, I cannot think that a policy which is almost unanimously demanded by a free people, after full discussion of the subject matter extending over very many months, can be an undemocratic policy for a democrat Government to adopt. I think the difference between myself and some of my friends on this side of the House really springs out of the very loose way in which language is used. We talk of the voluntary principle, and we talk of the evils of compulsion. There is no voluntary principle. There is no merit in doing a thing voluntary unless the thing is a right thing to do. There is no demerit in being compelled to do a thing if we are lawfully and honourably compelled to do what is right. There is the greatest difference between the compulsion which a free people resist, and the compulsion which a free people, in a great struggle like this should welcome, as this democracy should welcome, when they see by whom the compulsion is proposed. There is no more hateful form of compulsion than the servitude of a democracy under a Hohenzollern sovereign or a Ferdinand of Coburg, who send their subjects to the War possibly against the best interests of the people and against their best friends; but when a free people say to their representatives, "We have freely chosen; 199 we desire to be bound by this Act, this measure of Conscription, this measure of constraint," I see no servitude in that. I see in that the finest measure of patriotism, the greatest admission of a free and proud people of what they conceive to be right and necessary.
It is for these reasons that I find myself compelled to dissociate myself as completely as possible from the attitude of my colleague and to express on behalf of my Constituents while they, as well as I, recognise his high motives, that it is not the fact that he represents any section of feeling in the borough of Northampton. May I add one word with reference to the observations—the very interesting observations—of the last speaker? So far as Northampton is concerned, the people there, from what I know after being in close touch with them, are not only unanimously in favour of a measure of this kind, but they can say, what I fancy no other borough in the country can say, that when the Bill is passed into law it will have little or practically no effect so far as they are concerned, because in Northampton we have already enlisted or attested for service in the Forces something like 90 per cent, of the total number of men of military age. When allowance is made for those ineligible by reason of infirmity, it is obvious that there can be hardly anyone left to conscript. That is one of the reasons why I hope, when this measure is passed into law, that in other parts of the country, perhaps not so democratic, but at any rate quite as patriotic, we may get far more than the 200,000 men spoken of as the minimum under this Bill.
§ Colonel MEYSEY-THOMPSON
It is with considerable reluctance that I enter into this Debate to-night, because I think that at this time it is for us, who have the privilege of speaking here, to act and not to talk. At the same time, I must agree with some of those who spoke last week, and who said that the time had come when silence was no longer permissible, and that it was our duty to speak. I have had the privilege of being at the front, and I therefore think it my duty to make an appeal, even at the eleventh hour, to those who moved the Amendment, to reconsider their position. Before I make my appeal, I must refer to one or two speeches which were made this afternoon, and which, I must say, I heard with considerable regret. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment, seconded it, I 200 regret, in His Majesty's uniform. I say that advisedly, because I think those who speak in such circumstances should only speak when their doing so is helpful to the Army and the country. I do not think his speech was helpful, and therefore I think it would have been wiser if he had not made the remarks which he did. He mentioned the fact that he had the privilege of speaking for the soldiers, and he gave us what he believed to be their views. I have had the opportunity of speaking to many hundreds of soldiers. I have had the privilege of raising several thousands of the Royal Artillery in this country, of commanding brigades in this country, and of holding a command out in France until I was invalided home. I talked with the soldiers out there, and I have had the privilege of speaking to many hundreds of them. I do not know whether the hon. Member has ever been to the front.
§ Colonel MEYSEY-THOMPSON
As I said, I have had the privilege of speaking to many soldiers out there, and I can only say that I regret very much that the hon. Member should have made the reflection which he did, and I think it was very unworthy. He was speaking of soldiers at our stations in the Metropolis, and he told us it would be impossible to get conscripted soldiers and voluntary soldiers to serve happily together. He told us that he had heard these new soldiers insulted at the railway station. I take it that that was a little harmless chaff on the part of soldiers who had joined before. I think it is a very unworthy suggestion to say that those men will not fight equally well side by side. I can say of those who have been out that they have fought side by side with the greatest patriotism, and with the greatest courage. I have heard with regret other speeches which I think were distinctly disadvantageous to this country. I want not to stir up strife, but rather, on the other hand, if I can, to bring all sections of the House together, and to make them realise their responsibilities to the country at large. I can only say that when people declare that they do not want militarism, and that they do not want compulsion, I would ask them straight out, do they want to win the War? We cannot do it without it, and every other means has been tried. I myself took a very strenuous part in recruiting, and I am quite convinced we can no 201 longer get the men we require voluntarily. We have had constant appeals for unity. May I ask that those gentlemen who oppose this Bill will preserve unity now? On this side of the House we have done our utmost not to break up that unity. I myself, and I am sure many others on this side, sat day after day with our hearts burning within us and dying to say what we wanted to say, but we refrained from doing so because we did not wish to hamper the Government in what they were endeavouring to do. I hope I shall not appeal to deaf ears when I ask those gentlemen who have declared their intention of supporting the Amendment to be equally patriotic. I ask them to realise that after the War nothing can be the same as it has been. I see very plainly that our industrial and social conditions and, in fact, all our conditions must be changed.
I admired very much the speech of the hon. Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes), which was unselfish and which, I believe, expressed the real feelings of the working men of this country. I only wish that I could say the same of the speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). The keynote of that speech was selfish. It turned entirely, not upon the necessity of providing men for the winning of the War, but as to what might possibly happen in a political sense to the party which he professes to represent if compulsion was adopted. If we lose the War the working men will be the greatest sufferers by coming under Prussian militarism. Are they not willing then to make some sacrifice in order to ensure that we shall win the War? There has been some talk about the conscription of capital. Let me point out that capitalists from the highest to the lowest have contributed, as far as in them lay to winning this War both by offering their own lives and the lives of their sons and other relations, and by large contributions in money, and that they will continue to do so cheerfully and willingly to the end. Why, then, should we have that socialistic demand for money in addition to the offering of lives and the large contributions which those people are already making. Do you think that the Jives of our children and our relatives are less dear to any of us than in the case of the working man? That is what is implied by some of the arguments that have been used. They say that the working man is offering his flesh and blood, but so are 202 we. I was over military age, but I went out to the front to serve there and my son has passed out of Woolwich and is going straight into the artillery. My dearest and nearest relations have been killed during the War. Why should we be picked out as though we had no feelings for our kith and kin? I am sure that that is not the real feeling of the working men. Can life be the same to the men who have lost their limbs? Can fathers and mothers go on the same when they have lost perhaps their only son? A mother, though she is a duchess, has as much a mother's heart as a peasant.
I want to make this appeal to my fellow-countrymen. Put all statistics and arguments aside; put behind you the principles so-called of Liberalism, Socialism or of whatever you held before, and realise once and for all that this question has been brought about by necessity. One Member after another has got up and said that the necessity has never been proved. I can tell them about it. I have been there myself. I have seen men overwrought coming out of the trenches where they had been fighting longer than they ought to have been, and compelled after a very short rest to go back again because the battalion they belonged to was not half up to strength. I have heard over and over again the soldier saying that he wanted a measure of general compulsion in order that he might have fair treatment at the hands of his fellow-workmen. I have heard them say, "Our people at home who are in the works are not enduring the hardships and risks we are enduring, and are they not going to do their duty and to help us here, and if not, they are not worth fighting for." What a feeling to engender out there. I do make the most earnest appeal that I possibly can to those hon. Members who hold different views to give up their views on this subject as we on this side nave done over and over again on so many subjects. Let them consider the harm that their action will do to this country and to our Allies and in the view of our enemy and in the view of our own Army. Let them put aside all prejudice and show that they are capable of changing their views as the necessity has arisen for those views to be changed. Some hon. Members taunted the Minister of Munitions for having deserted his Liberal principles. I do not think he has, but if he had on this occasion all honour to him, for he would have done so simply for the purpose of winning the War. Can I hope that 203 this appeal may be effective, and that those hon. Members to whom I refer will rise to the occasion and will patriotically resolve to withdraw their Amendment and earn the gratitude of their countrymen now and for all time to come? I hope they will.
§ Mr. THEODORE TAYLOR
As one who did not vote for or against the Military Service Act and who proposes on the present occasion to vote for this Bill, I desire to say a few words. I much regret, with other Members, that there was not in the speech of the Minister of Munitions more recognition than there was of the equal necessity for the winning of the War of providing the things for the men at the front as well as the men at the front. Although I hate compulsion of every kind I am not one of those who held as a matter of either Liberalism or democratic principle or anything else anything that prevented me from voting in a time of national crisis for anything that would win a war for liberty. Therefore I can vote for this Bill with a good conscience. The only reason why I did not vote for the other Bill was that I felt very strongly and intensely what many people and a proportion of Members of this House do not realise, and that is, that for the purpose of winning the War it is not men only that we want, but that we must have munitions, food, clothing, and the things to exchange with other nations for the things which we require to carry on life here, and for our men in the field and on the sea. Is it realised what that means in numbers? The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken, with the temper of whose speech I heartily agree, said that we ought to drop all reference to statistics.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman to be appealing to hon. Members not to mind statistics.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I do not wish at all to take any advantage of any phrase that may have been used. In my conversation with some Members of this House, and with a large number of people outside, I find that there is a very great error in men's minds on this subject, and I am 204 speaking now solely about winning the War. I hold with the vast majority that the State has a right in an emergency to call on the members of that community, the citizens of the country, not only to give their lives and their bodies into the hands of the State to be used for the defence of the State, but also to call upon them to give up all their wealth, and in this I agree with the Labour Members, and in the last resort to place all their income at the disposal of the State. I agree that a Debate of this kind can take too pessimistic a tone. I may be allowed to agree with some speaker who rather criticised the Minister of Munitions for speaking rather depressingly on a previous occasion. We all of us have very great difficulty in representing to each other in this public Debate what we hold to be the reasons for extreme measures without some indication that things are I will not say in a desperate position, but in a serious position. Looking forward to the future the Government must have regard, of course, not only to the present state of things, but to the possible state of things in the future, because it takes time to train men. With all my distrust and dislike of the compulsion principle, believing as I do that one volunteer is worth, I will not say ten, but three pressed men, I cannot help saying this: that the Government know the same things that I know, and a good deal more. I must have regard to the fact that this is a Coalition Government; that it represents, at all events, three of the parties in this House, the Unionist party, the Liberal party, and the Labour party. It is very easy to make great play, as one of the hon. Members for Glasgow did a little while ago, with the fact that the Government did not come to all the same conclusions and that they did not come to them earlier, that it has taken a long time for some of them to make up their minds, but there is a practical consideration at the back of it, and the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) yesterday once more emphasised, as other leading Members of the Government have already done, the great importance of the Government having public opinion behind it. I think they have been right in this. They may have lost some advantage from a military point of view, but I think they have gained immensely more from the fact that in the Labour party, which is probably even yet considerably 205 divided on the question, man after man who has formerly opposed compulsion has come in finally to vote for it. I say that is statesmanship. It is an advantage to the country, and will reinforce the Government, while, as I recognise and as has been said this afternoon, there is a moral advantage abroad, a psychological advantage, if you like, among our Allies. I have read the utterance of a French statesman on the tape—I do not know whether it has been in the papers—in which he said that the fact that we had at last adopted the principle of compulsion would be very grave news for the Germans, and is a good answer to the joybells which have been ringing in Berlin—although I think they have rung in the midst of riot—for the Turkish victory, such as it is, at Kut. It was the reply of the Government to the Irish rebellion, and to the various difficulties which they have had. I recognise that these psychological influences have some effect even in war. We all know very well that if we could have produced on Bulgaria earlier on, and on Greece, the impression that we were going to win very likely things would be in a very different position from what they are, in spite of the German ruler of Bulgaria. We cannot look at these things merely from our own point of view.
I am going to vote for this Bill, but I want to say with what great reluctance I am going to vote for giving into the hands of the tribunals of the country—not the Government—the trade of the country. I was talking to a man in the clothing trade this morning, a necessary industry. He is a customer of ours. I am a cloth manufacturer, and you may say I have a selfish interest in the matter, though I will disclaim that in a moment in the best way I can. This man employs hundreds of workmen for the manufacture of clothes in this country. He said he had thirty-six cutters, men who cut the cloth for it to be made up into garments. Of these eighteen had gone already, and he said that by-and-by he did not know how he would carry on. I tested him in every way I knew as to whether women could not be employed. He said he had tried several women, very good workers, patriotic, and desirous of helping. But they could not do the work because it was too heavy. I said "Will your trade have to be further reduced in proportion as you lose these men?" He replied, "Yes, because we 206 shall not have the men, and there is no hope of women doing the work." This work is a kind of key of his industry. I know of tribunals in the country that are taking the very narrowest, in-tendedly patriotic but the very narrowest, military view of the situation without understanding the needs of industry. They are taking men away from industry, and I suppose they will continue to do so until—I do not say we have arrived at a desperate position now—the industry of the country will be compulsorily stopped. I know there is a great notion, not only outside the Commons, but I am afraid in it, that it all rests with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, this money question, that the question of the provision for the War of money and articles is only a question of taxation. I want to point out that if you could take slices of capital, which is impracticable, from the owners of farms, fields, factories, and the warehouses of the country, the men whom we call capitalists, and who own the means of production, you could not feed the men with fields and barns, and you could not clothe the men with factories. The things with which our troops and Navy are supported afield and afloat must be made by the present day labour of the people, and if we have to get into this country the raw material and food that are absolutely necessary to carry on the War we shall have to keep a large corresponding army of workers here at home. This has been mentioned already, but I do want to point out the difference between the Chancellor of the Exchequer's taxation of people and the actual production of articles. The hon. Member for the Camlachie Division of Glasgow (Mr. Mackinder) a few months ago made a very good point, and it was this, that you could look upon these things quite apart from money. The Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot provide the things that our soldiers want and we want for the feeding and transport of our troops; for the labour we want in the rear of our Armies in France; the dockers and others to unload goods at Marseilles, and other places. To make things in this country for the purpose of export we must have a large industrial army at work, and we must not ignore the fact that we are the industrial producers for the Allies to a much larger extent than any of the other Allies. Although there is a large reservoir of labour in Russia which, if only we could get at it, could help France and 207 Italy, no doubt, if there was the machinery of production, manufacture, and communication, in present circumstances, until the way is open for an exchange of products with Russia, she is largely, as we know, a closed door, and we have to work not only in the fighting line, not only on our ships and on the field of battle, but we have to win the War through the labour of our people. I admit, and I deplore the fact, that there is a large amount of restriction of output, and that although the large bulk of our workers are working splendidly, there are some who have not done their best. How can we get them to do their best to win the War? I do believe that the Minister of Munitions would be better engaged giving the workers a Sunday rest, because I do not think we get more out of Woolwich by working seven days a week, and, as an employer of fifty years standing, I think we get more by not working such long hours. I believe reforms could be made in that way, and I would urge on the Minister of Munitions and on the Government—
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I am very glad to hear that probably the Ministry of Munitions is going to reduce these hours, and I would urge on them that they should give the workers of these places some interest in doing more work by affording them a sort of share of profit. I am quite sure that in that way, better than by any amount of compulsion, we should find a way out of that difficulty. The hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Cumberland, whose speech I was very glad to hear—it was very earnest and well meant —wants to organise the whole country. We cannot in the middle of a war organise labour in the way he wants. It is utterly impossible, and it is that kind of proposal, although well meant, that is apt to excite distrust and suspicion on the part of labour, that someone wants to get them to work for less wages than they ought to have. The way to treat labour is to take it into our confidence. I know the Labour leaders have done the best they can, and I hope they will continue to do it, and to point out to their friends that although there is not so much glory in working in the machine shop, or in the mine, as marching in khaki behind a 208 band and getting Victoria Crosses, Distinguished Service Orders, and so on, yet these men are necessary. The provision of things, not merely weapons of warfare but food and clothing for our people and transport for our troops, is prosy when compared with the more obvious duty of fighting for their country, and the greater glory of dying for their country, and I honour the soldiers above all for it; and elderly men who can give their money should do so, and I should be very glad to do so myself, and we ought to be ashamed to do anything less to win the War. It is for that reason that I am prepared to put into the hands of the Government once more, and to a greater extent than before, the lives and liberties and occupations of the rest of our population of proper age who are not under the Military Service Act. I shall vote for this Bill with great reluctance, and only because the Government of the day must after all take the final responsibility. It stands for a great deal with me, in spite of the fun that has been made of the Government, that they have continued to be united on this policy. I cannot believe of them that they are any more ignorant than the rest of us, or, indeed, that they do not know a great deal more than the rest of us about the things of which I have been speaking, and certainly about international relations. I believe the proper way is to put men in office whom you can trust. They have made a great many mistakes—they say so themselves—but can anyone provide us with any more likely way of winning the War than by supporting the Government? People will say that I am one of the hacks of the party. I do not mind what I am called. What I want to do is to win the War. I want nothing from the Government. I am an independent Liberal member, as many hon. Members are. I do not fear anything or anybody. I want to win the War, and although I do not agree with everything the Government have done and are doing, I believe that to support them is the best thing. I want to say just this one word to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long). I for one do this in the full faith and in the belief that in spite of the omission, I hope not the significant omission, from the speech of the Minister of Munitions, of reference to the matters of which I have been speaking, the making of munitions, and the finding of the money—that in spite of that, from the speeches in this House of Members of the 209 Government of different shades of belief, and the speeches we heard in the Secret Session of men of different political faith, the Government are aware of this great need for other things besides soldiers.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
I entirely agree with a great deal that has been said by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and I think, therefore, that little will be gained by following up the points with which he has dealt so well. Most of the speeches, however, which have been made against the Bill seem to me to have been based on the assumption that the War can be fought and won on a sort of limited liability principle. Hon. Gentlemen have repeated one after another that the nobility of the voluntary principle, or the British system, was greater than that which it is proposed to adopt. Everybody admits that the voluntary system is magnificent and has given wonderful results. Everybody admits that compulsion should not be adopted unnecessarily. But the whole point of the question is whether the system which we have followed up till now has given results which we can anticipate with complete satisfaction. It is not a question of how much effort we find convenient as a nation to make; we have got to make that effort which is necessary to gain that success which we are quite determined to gain. The effort is not what we think we ought to make; it is the greatest effort which we possibly can make, and nothing short of that will suffice. The hon. Member for Lanark, earlier in the afternoon, devoted the greater part of his speech, first of all, to a defence of certain Liberal principles as laid down in some book. These, I presume, he looked upon as a sort of co-divine principles of Liberalism for all time. Secondly, his speech contained an attack upon the Government in general, but was principally directed to the devoted head of the Minister of Munitions. I admit that the hon. Member had good reason to twit the Government for the unity to which they only come so suddenly—and so easily; but I do not think anything is gained by harping on the lost time or delay which has occurred in arriving at the point at which we are now. The fact which we have to recognise, and on which, I think, we can congratulate ourselves, is that we have now arrived at a mode of procedure in regard to this question, or, at any rate, as to the advantages of being fair and just, and at a mode of procedure which probably will be, as I hope, a complete solution of the military problem.
210 It has been said that this proceedure will not give us more men, or the men more quickly, than the procedure which was proposed last week. At any rate, I think it will not be denied that it will give us the right men first, and that we shall be able under this procedure to pick the men who, for various reasons, ought to go first—that is to say, those who can most easily be spared from other occupations, and so forth, and that, if it does not give more men, it will give the right men. If, however, this Bill is to be a complete solution of the military problem it is essential that it should be made the most of, and that the administration of the Bill should be satisfactorily carried out. If this Bill is not well administered, and if loopholes are not stopped, the results will undoubtedly be disappointing. It has been pointed out that there is hardship in any Bill which deals with compulsion. I suppose that all forms of compulsion necessarily bring with them hardships. What, I think, we can, and may, hope for, in this procedure is that we shall get the maximum of justice as between different classes and individuals. I notice, however, what appears at first sight to involve some inequality of treatment among the different married men who are affected. It appears, from a recently issued Order, of which, unfortunately, I have not with me the reference, that the unattested married men are not now to be enlisted for Home service only, and that the attested married are not only liable for Home service, but are at this moment under notice to present themselves for enrolment on the 29th of this month—that is to say, that there is at this moment a difference between the attested married men and the unattested married men. I hope there will be an explanation of this. The position involves considerable inconvenience and uncertainty to the attested married men who have been under notice since the 29th of the month, and who are now, of course, busy taking steps to appear before the tribunals' where they think their case justifies it.
As regards the question of the men who, on physical grounds, are for Home service only, I cannot suppose that it is the intention to pick these men in the early stages, because obviously there will be considerable wastage of the staff and instruction in bringing men into the ranks who are eventually not available for foreign service, whereas large numbers of men, training for foreign service, will in 211 the meantime, after partial training, be available for Home defence. Therefore I should imagine that all these Home service men will be called up later than those who are physically fit for foreign service. The last point I put, and which I hope we will see put right in the administration of this Bill, is the question of the exemption of classes of men. Reference is made in this Bill to Section 2, Sub-section (5) of the Principal Act, which deals with the right and power of Government Departments to exempt clases of men for war work. This is perfectly right and as it should be. But there is no suggestion in the Principal Act or in the Bill which we are now considering, so far as I can make out, that either the Government or anybody else should exempt classes of men in contradistinction to individuals for anything but war work, or essential work. At this moment there are those who are being exempted by the Government who are not doing war work at all, and who are not, in my opinion, doing essential work. The class to which I allude is a very small class: it is men who are in the employment of the local authorities. I myself think that each case should be judged on its merits, and that the onus of proof should be on the employer, which in this case would be the local authority, to show that the man is indispensable or essential, and that he should be exempted. As it is at present, by virtue of an agreement between two Government Departments, the whole of this class of men are exempt, although some of them are single men of military age, and otherwise perfectly suitable for military requirements. They are exempt as the result of an agreement between two Government Depart-and are not brought before the tribunals, so that neither the local authority, nor the employers, have any reason to appear for their exemption.
The question of the onus of proof should now be put beyond doubt. The presumption under this Bill must be that every man is liable for military service. The onus of proof to show that he belongs to a trade or an occupation which ought to be exempted must be on the civil side. Equally with that, the trade should be proved to be one in which men should be exempted, and the particular man in the case should be shown to be necessary for that trade, or else he should be liable to military service. The leakage from this one source alone I believe to be very con- 212 siderable. A good deal has been said in these Debates about the necessity of the nation throwing in all its power—I think the expression used was "pulling its last ounce." I want to bring to the notice of the House that with the best intentions in the world there seems to be a considerable loss to man-power. Conceivably, it may be all right, but this man-power is not available for military purposes, and it is quite willing to be fully used. There are classes of men who are quite willing to serve as soldiers who are quite willing to serve, if not as soldiers, as munition workers, but unfortunately they have not passed the test. These men are waiting because they are doing unessential work, work which we all agree is not at all desirable that they should do at this moment. Let me give one instance, of which there are many thousands, in private circles. I myself have a groom. I do not want him as a groom. My horses have all been turned out to grass. I have no reason whatever to employ the man. I do not want to keep him. He has presented himself for enlistment, and has been found to be not physically fit. He is quite a strong young man, and can do a great deal of work. I suggested that he should go to the Labour Exchange and offer himself for munitions work. He was refused employment on the ground that he was not a skilled man. We have thus here a man, or men, who are quite strong and able to do a considerable amount of useful work who are not employed at it. I am at present keeping him, not at all because I want to, but because I do not feel justified in turning him off.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Brace)
Why not send him to munitions?
§ Mr. LONG
Why does not the hon. Member, having communicated with the Labour Exchange, communicate with the Ministry of Munitions? I am only making that suggestion to him. I have had no difficulty whatever in regard to my men who were not eligible for military service. I have placed every one of them.
§ Mr. MASON
I am very glad to hear how to go about the matter. As a matter of fact, I was told in every direction that the right way to apply for employment in a munitions factory was through the Labour Exchanges. That is one of the things which have been impressed upon us 213 all the way along. It is news to me that I have gone the wrong way about the matter. I understand now the Labour Exchanges are not the right media of employment.
§ Mr. LONG
I did not say that. My hon. Friend must not understand anything but what I said. I said that if he did not succeed in the first instance through the Labour Exchange, he could apply direct to the Ministry of Munitions. As far as I know, every young and able-bodied man who is ready to do the work, and for whom there are still plenty of vacancies all over the country, will get it.
§ 8.0 P. M.
§ Mr. MASON
I am very glad to know that. I would make one other suggestion—that the Labour Exchanges should be brought more into harmony with the demand. It rather looks as if the Labour Exchanges were not kept quite up to the mark in the matter of information as to what the munition factories can take in the way of men. There is one remark more I would like to make on the question of the Bill as a whole. It seems to me there is one injustice in this Bill which one cannot help noticing. It is of a very glaring nature, and that is the position of Ireland. I feel constrained to join with one or two other speakers, notably my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke from this side yesterday on the introduction of the Bill, in the appeal made to Irishmen to consider whether they would not prefer to join in the burden which the Scottish, the English, and the Welsh have got to bear. Unionists and Nationalists have vied with each other in expressing horror at the rebellion which we have just seen in Ireland. I believe that the loyalty of the great majority of the people in Ireland has been perhaps increased, but, at any rate, more remarkably made evident since this rebellion broke out. We have seen expressions from both these parties, who, after all, contain a very large majority of the people of Ireland, and I cannot help thinking that the great bulk of the Irish people must feel that they desire in some way to show their disapproval of what has taken place. The right hon. Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) said yesterday that he thought the turmoil which had just taken place there indicated that it would be dangerous to make any proposal of the kind. I do not agree with him. I cannot help thinking that that very turmoil gives an opportunity to the re- 214 mainder of the Irish nation, who are in the main loyal, to settle a considerable number of the differences which now divide them, and to show their abhorrence of what has taken place by coming forward now and agreeing—aye, even insisting, on taking their place and bearing the burden of this War together with the members of the Scottish, English, and Welsh nations.
Mr. CARADOC REES
I voted against the Military Service Bill in a very small minority, and I know there is a feeling in this House preponderatingly in favour of the measure now introduced, so I am not going to be a party to delay, or to hamper or hinder the majority of the Members of this House putting on the Statute Book that which they believe to be necessary in the interests of our country. At the same time do not misunderstand me, because I do not abate one jot of my confidence in voluntaryism. This Bill has been brought in by a Coalition Cabinet. We have a Coalition Cabinet, but we have not a Coalition House of Commons. We have a Coalition Government, but not a Coalition Parliament. Now for all Coalition there has to be compromise, and the justification for a Coalition Government is that the extremists on both sides disagree with what it does. Voluntaryists complain that voluntaryism has been chipped away bit by bit, and compulsionists say a bold comprehensive measure ought to have been introduced twelve months ago. So looking at this from the Coalition point of view, I believe they are carrying the general opinion of the country.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) objects to perorations. May I say I object to the constant use of a couple of phrases—"More vigorous prosecution of the War" and "Equality of sacrifice," which we hear repeated parrot-like all the time. The more vigorous prosecution of the War we should believe in more readily if it did not appear to mean the more vigorous persecution of the Government, and, in particular, the more vigorous persecution of the Leader of the Government. As regards equality of sacrifice, the phrase is very good, and may help to carry the Bill, but there is no meaning in it. Sacrifice knows no equality. Sacrifice does not look round to see how far the other goes, and to say, "I will go no further." Sacrifice to a man is deliberate and unequal. Let me go further and say 215 sacrifice knows nothing about compulsion. It springs from voluntaryism, and that is the very glory of voluntaryism: the sacrifice is underlying it. I recognise this further, that the very success of voluntaryism—and voluntaryism has been a success—makes more bitter the feeling against a small residuum that does not volunteer. The more the waves of voluntaryism go forward, the more bitter is the feeling against the small residuum that has not volunteered. In saying that I would not vote against this measure, I am not going to say voluntaryism would not have been successful. If we are to have equality of sacrifice, or equality to some extent, what I would suggest is that everyone of us, from eighteen to sixty-five, be given the same wages and the same privations as men in the trenches, and then there would be something approaching it. "Oh," say some people, "then you want industrial compulsion!" If I understand the labouring classes, they object to having their wages fixed in order to make profits for individuals. They would not object to be on the same terms as the men at the front if they were making profits for the nation. The difficulty in this War is that we are at war as a nation and in business as individuals all the time. If I understand the working classes correctly, you would not have to compel them; they would do it voluntarily if they felt they were working not for individuals but for the nation.
In conclusion, I would like to say one word about the youths of eighteen. I had hoped there would be no need to compel them. I did believe that the idea in this House of compulson was as a last necessity when voluntaryism had failed. We all know youths of eighteen have never had the chance of volunteering. It is true they have a month to do it in: there is not much glory in that. If the leaders of our nation—and this is the only complaint I have against them—had called on the young men of eighteen in the voice of faith and in the tones of confidence, I believe the young men of eighteen would have gone, and there would have been a glory then in their going. I am not deceiving myself. I do not believe that compulsion is founded on confidence: it is founded on timidity. I do not believe it is founded on freedom, but that it is founded on the negation of freedom. And yet I may express these views to this House, honestly hoping and trusting that this measure, when passed, will 216 bring fruit equal to the highest expectations of those Members of this House who support it.
§ Colonel GREIG
In the able speech to which we have just listened the hon. Member has given expression to the view that he, as a voluntaryist, is in favour of a vote for this Bill. I am in exactly the same position. I voted for the first Bill on the advice of His Majesty's Government, acting on expert advice, that it was necessary, and I am going to allow no previous predilections for voluntaryism, or questions as to whether this is a Liberal principle, to stand in the way. I propose to-night to say a few words on one or two points in the Bill which are giving some of us considerable anxiety. An expression fell from an hon. Member who spoke a few minutes ago from this side, that on the administration of the whole Act a good deal would depend. I am glad the President of the Local Government Board is here, because my anxiety springs very largely from an expression which fell from him not more than a year ago. I have never at any time felt depressed or disheartened about the prospects and the ability and capacity of the Territorial Force to perform its duties in the War until this moment. Now last year the right hon. Gentleman, in a very able speech which he made on the introduction of the Government Bill authorising the transfer from one unit to another of Territorial units, said:When, however, you come to moving a man against his will from one Territorial unit to another, I must point out to the Under-Secretary that you are striking at the very foundations of the Territorial Force."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th April, 1915, col. 615, Vol. LXXI.]Now that is the expression in his speech which gives me this anxiety. Is this a culmination of any idea or suggestion of cutting at the root of and ending that force? It is true that the right hon. Gentleman in the same speech said that he would prefer to see all the recruits going through one channel, with an idea, no doubt, of sending them to the particular unit which wanted them, but I think he will permit me to remind him that at that time we had to get the men, and what happened? It was a case which affected units within my own knowledge very severely. They were able to recruit very largely. They were actually forbidden to go on recruiting, and they were ordered to recruit not merely for the Regular Army, but for the New Army. Now, I do not say that was wrong, but what I do suggest is that it is scarcely fair to turn round on 217 the Territorial Force and say now, "You I are not able to keep your units up to the strength, and some alteration must be made in the system." I have actually in my hand now an order in which Territorial units were told to send their recruits to those other units, and they did. One unit I know of sent 2,500 men, and, besides that, has had calls upon it which it has ungrudgingly fulfilled by sending to other units as officers something like 1,200 men. That was one thing which was done and gave us anxiety. We were restricted in recruiting in the earlier stages. It was not that the Territorial Force was not able to recruit perfectly well, or that its organisation was not attractive. Here is what the "Times" correspondent actually said on 20th April, 1915:No special effort has been made to push the claims of the Territorials in the recruiting campaigns which have been undertaken since the outbreak of war. The ranks of the force have nevertheless been more than doubled since the beginning of August. Why were so many recruits attracted to the Territorials when the New Armies were open to all? This is a question which the officials of the force find a difficulty in answering. The medical tests, pay, and conditions of service (for the duration of the war) are the same for the Territorials on a war footing as for the New Armies. Less than 20 per cent, of the Territorial recruits have been enlisted for Home service; this, then, is a consideration that can have had little weight. The traditions of the force, young as it is, the knowledge that it possessed machinery for its work, and the motive power which came from friends or brothers already serving, these were probably among the chief inducements.I never hesitated to say, although I differed from the experts, that I thought a very large proportion of the New Army, other than the Reserve battalions for the Regular Army, could very well have been raised by successive lines of Territorials. I would have preferred to say these things in Secret Session, but I will be very careful and not say things that might be useful elsewhere. In my opinion the Territorials during the early stages of the War were cold-shouldered, and facilities were not provided for them to the extent that was fair and proper. Some of the units were called upon to provide drafts very early and it looked as if they could not provide them, owing to this want of facilities. There is another point which I know the right hon. Gentleman felt very deeply. Man had been enlisted in the old Territorial Force for Home service only. The War Office and the Government itself, up to 1915, were still enlisting men for Home service. I know that in the autumn of 1915 an order was issued that recruits were not to be taken for Home service, but a most unfair step was taken, and the President of the Local Government Board himself indicated what he thought about 218 it. Those battalions were cut up; some of them were cut in two and sent away to join composite battalions, and that was unfair to those who had been enlisted on that particular principle. There were good reasons why some of these men could not take on Imperial Service, and yet I have known officers deriding those men, and that is another reason why the Territorial Force does not know to what this proposal will lead.
Of course we will do everything we can to carry out this proposal, but we know that amongst the ultra-compulsionist party the Territorial Force has always been regarded as the main obstacle in the way of absolute general compulsion. Some of us believe that there has been a certain amount of professional military opinon aganst this force, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to assure us that that is not going to be the case in the future. I may be asked why I have this strong objection to the transfer of these men. I do not say that it ought not to be done. I am not opposing that part of the Bill, and I am only going to ask the right hon. Gentleman to impress upon his advisers that that power must be exercised with the utmost consideration. I have been asked what objection can there be to transferring Territorials to other corps, and why should they not serve in that way? Those hon. Members who ask these questions cannot have had the experience which I and others have had of the difficulty, the labour, the anxiety of building up units from untrained men taken in a hurry from the desk and every profession, and thrown in a mass together to organise into a military unit in a very short time for use at the front. How do they do that, and how has it been done? How is it that we can send them out in three months to face the enemy, and they do it well? Because we had to work on their esprit de corps and their Imperial patriotism, upon which we have built up these units. If that spirit is injured you will do serious injury to those units. It is natural under these circumstances that one should feel anxious. The Territorial Force is the really true expression of the military side of this nation's life in addition to the Regular Army. I am not alone in that opinion. A Very distinguished general has said:I regard the Territorial movement as the expression of a free people who mean to remain free. It is the greatest expression of the country, the expression of free service which has carried us through many a campaign in the past and will carry us through many a campaign in the future.219 What I ask the right hon. Gentleman to do is to make quite certain that this Clause if it is passed shall not be used for the destruction of this force. It is a force of armed citizens who are not professional soldiers. Those of them who have taken on Imperial service and have gone to the front are armed citizens fighting in defence of their homes, and those men are the expression of the nation itself. Do not damp down that force. We ask that something should be done to make it quite clear to the Territorials that when this Bill is passed it is not intended to put an end to that force. I have now said all I have to say, though I might say other things. I hope I have given expression to no insubordinate criticism of my superiors. There is, however, one other Clause in the Bill about which I am a little anxious, and that is the retention of time-expired men. Does it mean that those men who have already gone out previous to the passing of the Act and who may be over military age can be recalled? I know a man in the Territorials who is either forty-nine or fifty years of age. He has served as an ordinary Territorial and he is a man in a high position in civil life. He has served twenty-four years, and he was advised recently, owing to his increasing age, to retire, although he was not absolutely unfit physically, but his position was such that he had to undergo very severe route marches at the head of his regiment. He has gone back to civil life and he has got a very important position in consideration of his technical and professional qualifications. Is that man to be brought back under this Bill?
§ Colonel GREIG
That is one of the points about which I should like to be assured. I want the right hon. Gentleman to impress upon his military advisers to give these matters the utmost consideration in administering this Clause, and I should like him to clear up the points I have raised.
§ Mr. JAMES PARKER
My position is very similar to that of the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Bees). When the last Compulsion Bill was before the House I voted against it in all its stages, and did so quite conscientiously. As I said the last time I addressed the House, I do not think that I shall ever regret that vote; nor do I regret it to-night, though I am going to change my policy. I believe we 220 could have got the men voluntarily if we had been allowed to do so. I have had as much experience of recruiting as anyone, and I think we could have got the men if we had had a fair chance, but, like many other members of this House, I have got pretty well tired of the continual quarreling going on between the Compulsionists and the voluntarists. All this talk about equality of sacrifice is arrant nonsense, no matter what may be the point of view of the hon. Member who puts it forward. You have only to cite a particular instance to prove it. I will give a personal illustration. I have a son engaged on munition work. He desired when he came from the grammar school at which he was educated to be an accountant. I could not put him to that profession. I had not sufficient finance to pay the necessary premium. He had to go to be a mechanic. He agreed. Had he been an accountant it is a thousand to one that he would have been fighting to-day in France at a shilling a day. He is a mechanic, and he is making his £3 and more per week. You talk about equality of sacrifice. It is a mere accident that he happened to be the one thing instead of the other. It is useless to talk about equality of sacrifice. There is no equality of sacrifice either in compulsion or voluntaryism.
I am going to give a vote for this Bill tonight, in face of whatever consequences it may have, because the military advisers have told us that these men are necessary. I do not put too much trust in military advisers. Whatever they may or may not be, I do not think that they have shown such extraordinary ability in the conduct of this War that one should put implicit faith in them, so far as our own military advisers are concerned. We have, however, to face the situation, and I have to ask myself if I have anyone to put in their place or if I know of anyone better to put in their place. I have to confess that I do not. I represent my Constituency here, and my Constituency, like all the nation, wants to see this War won. The military advisers have said that this Bill is necessary, and I feel that I can do no other than vote for it. I have a profound objection to compulsion in any form. I cannot understand the point of view of the man who can lightly ask another man to go and force him to go. I prefer to say to a man, "Come and do your duty," rather than say, "Go and do it," at the point of the bayonet. If hon. Members cannot see any difference between those 221 two positions, I must say that I can see a mighty difference, and I am proud of the fact that we have got over 90 per cent, of the men who are going to win this War for us by voluntary means. I am sorry the Government ever took up this question of compulsion. Nevertheless we are in this War to win it, and no opinion that I may have held with regard to compulsion or any other question is going to keep me from giving the only vote I can at the present time to help us to win this War.
I am glad that the other Bill was dropped. I say that candidly. It was an impossible Bill. Those of us who believe in the voluntary principle were asked to perform an impossible task. Those who have done recruiting know pretty well what it means to get recruits, and to ask us to get 50,000 recruits in about a fortnight and then 15,000 a week until we had got the whole of the 200,000 necessary was to ask for something that could not possibly be done. It was therefore, after all, only delaying some form of compulsion, and if it had to come I am glad that the Government are united and have brought it forward. There is one Clause in the Bill on which I think my party will have something to say when we come to the Committee stage. I refer to Clause 9. I am particularly anxious that the men who are released from the Army for work on the farms or in the factories or munition shops shall not be under military discipline when they are relieved from their military occupation.
§ Mr. LONG
I think there is a misunderstanding about this Clause. Under the ordinary system of enlistment before the War, as the House knows, men were enlisted for so many years with the Colours and so many years with the Reserve. When a man was discharged into the Reserve he became an ordinary civilian labourer like anybody else, liable only to the obligation of performing military service when called upon to return to the Colours. During the time he was in the Reserve he was an ordinary civilian labourer, free in every respect as any other labourer, and that is exactly all that is now proposed. The New Armies were not enlisted under the original system, but for three years or for the duration of the War. There was no Reserve, and consequently at present, if a man is surplus to the strength, or if for some reason it is not desirable to keep him with the Colours for the moment, you have no option except 222 either to keep him with the Colours for purely military duties or to discharge him altogether. The Government propose to create a new Reserve for the period of the War, by, which men shall be released in exactly the same way as they were when they passed into the old Reserve.
§ Mr. PARKER
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation, but if I have any means of interpreting the views of the Labour Members of this House, I think it would give a good deal of satisfaction if words could be put into the Bill to make that point thoroughly clear, because as it stands at present it is; not clear. I do not expect that we shall get entire agreement. I give my colleagues in the Labour party who differ from me the same right to obey their conscience and to vote in the Lobbies as I hope they will give to me, but I would ask that they and those whom my voice may reach outside should realise the condition in which our nation stands to-day. We are fighting as a nation the greatest War ever known, and making the greatest sacrifices that any nation has ever had to make. If these things are necessary to give us a final victory, and if this is going to help us as those who are responsible for the nation tell us that it is, let us put aside all smaller things and stand straight.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
There is no man in the Labour party whom I respect more than the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. J. Parker), and there is no decision on this Bill that I regret more than his decision to vote in favour of it. His speech was a speech against the Bill; his vote will be in favour of it. The hon. Member says that I am quite right when I say that. He told us—and I agree with him entirely—that the men could have been obtained under the voluntary system. He knows, probably, better than any man in this House how the voluntary system was crabbed in the interests of Conscription, and yet I am sorry to find he is going to add his support to the people who have won the day. He is going to vote differently from his vote on the first Bill. The conditions are exactly the same. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The military advisers told us that Bill would give us all the men necessary for this War, and my hon Friend, as he told us, pins his faith to men in whom he has no confidence—a position surely of the greatest inconsistency. I would like to share his confidence in the statement which has been made about the Reserve. It may be true that the men who are going into 223 industry will be under civilian control. Why, then, the alteration of the eight weeks which was conceded to the Labour party because of our suspicions of industrial conscription? It is cut down to two weeks, as I read the Bill. I may have read it wrongly. The eight weeks, then, perhaps stands. I hope that it does; but let me say this: As soon as the man who is transferred to the Reserve makes trouble in his works and is expelled from those works, he automatically ceases to be a member of the civilian Reserve and can be conscripted once more. Right through this Bill industrial conscription appears. Hon. Members say, "No, no!" but wait till a man like the President of the National Union of Railwaymen tells you what he thinks of it. He will tell you, without hesitation, that industrial conscription is there. I may add that, in my opinion, it is present more naked and unashamed than it was in the last Bill.
It is getting fashionable nowadays, in quarters quite unexpected, to deride the decisions of Labour representatives in conference assembled. I am told that tonight the hon. secretary of the Labour party, still nominally occupying that position, is to be put up to reply in support of this Bill when the conference at which he sat as its secretary expressed the utmost condemnation of all forms of Conscription, and also expressed by an overwhelming majority its hostility to the Military Service (No. 2) Bill. May I recall the figures of the decisions of the Bristol conference of the Labour party? I am glad my right hon. Friend (Mr. Henderson) is here to listen to what I have to say, because I do not wish to speak in his absence. The conference of the Labour party, where my right hon. Friend sat as its secretary on a recent occasion, expressed its general protest against the adoption of Conscription in any form, as it was against the spirit of British democracy and full of danger to the liberties of the people. The decision of the conference in favour of that resolution was registered by 1,796,000 votes against 219,000 votes, and the secretary who sat by the president who will support the decision of the conference, is going to be put up to decry against the decision of the conference of which he was secretary. Again, there was a resolution passed against a very much more modest Bill, the Military Service (No. 2) Bill. The decision of the conference to oppose that 224 Bill was carried by 1,716,000, against 360,000. The right hon. Gentleman, who was secretary of that conference, will to-night support a Bill which goes beyond the modest Bill No. 2, and the chairman of the conference will go into the Lobby against it. Be it remembered that by a very small majority that conference determined it would not agitate for the repeal of No. 1 Bill.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
Why was that decision come to? Because it was sensitive that such agitation might incite industrial action.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
At that conference I made the suggestion that when it appeared the Government intended to extend the Bill, the Labour Ministers should withdraw from the Government, and it was because that conference was assured by the Prime Minister himself that there was no possibility of its extension—and he was relying on the same unreliable people as those in whom my hon. Friend places no confidence—it was because the Conference was told that, as I believe, it did not accept the resolution which would have had the effect of inviting the Labour Ministers to withdraw from the Coalition when general compulsion became the policy of the Coalition. I regret more than I can say that the Labour Party is not in the fortunate position of our Irish Friends opposite. [An HON. MEMBER: "With a rebellion on their necks!"] They, at any rate, did nothing to set an awful example. I wish my hon. Friends had been in the fortunate position of being able to resist compulsion. There has been no application of it to Ireland, and I would that hon. Members on these Benches had been in the strong position of our Friends opposite, for if they had we might have been able to support my hon. Friend below the Gangway (Mr. Parker) in seeing that voluntary enlistment was not crabbed, and that the voluntary system was not killed by those whose great objective was a permanent system of conscription which would extend beyond the War period. It sometimes is alleged that men who speak from these Benches against conscription do not speak on behalf of large numbers of working men in the country outside. I hear that sentiment 225 cheered, and the hon. Member who cheers it is no doubt a good authority on trades union organisation.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
They are usually organised in trades unions. An hon. Member opposite, who knows about as little of trades union organisation as anyone, has ventured to challenge the position taken up by an official of the National Union of Railwaymen. My hon Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), probably more than any other trade union official in this House, keeps in close touch with the men of his union, and visits them week-end after week-end. In that way he learns their views, and he reflects their sentiments when he speaks for a unanimous executive of the railway men. I hear an hon. Member near me say that is not true. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby is here, and will perhaps correct the statement if it is wrong.
§ Mr. THORNE
I say there is no executive in this country which gave a unanimous vote against the War or against Conscription.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I said that the executive of the railway men were unanimous against this particular Bill. I said no more. To that I adhere, and the official of the union concerned is in his place now, and can reply to the hon. Member for West Ham. It is the largest trade union in the country, and the hon. Member who speaks for it speaks the views of the executive. Is that to be challenged now, like the decisions of the Labour party's conference are challenged by those gentlemen who found that their views were not supported there? My hon. Friend the Member for Derby speaks for a united executive, and those who speak from these benches against Conscription speak for the overwhelming majority of the representatives of labour who attend their annual conferences. I want to make that perfectly clear. I want to make it clear also that their great objection is to the possibility of the imposition—the fear of the imposition—of a permanent form of Conscription, associated with industrial conscription, against which they have in the past devoted their best energies. 226 I would that the Minister of Munitions would show equal keenness to get his 280,000 munition workers as he does now to support whole-hearted Conscription! Where are the 280,000—the 80,000 skilled and the 200,000 unskilled men for whom he appealed? He seems to have forgotten them in his blast for whole-hearted Conscription to win this War.
It is worth while the House recalling the steps by which full-blooded Conscription is being imposed upon us. There was the crabbing of the voluntary system in the interest of full-blooded Conscription. There was the statement upon which the first Bill was built, that there were 651,000 single slackers to be drawn upon. Where are they? What has the Military Service (No. 2) Act produced in the way of men for the Army? Ere we passed that Act, those who are out for full-blooded Conscription were wanting the married slackers next. Because that Act did not produce the numbers expected, the married men are called upon to-day much earlier than they ever expected. The industrial and the commercial position were quietly set aside for the time being, but when this Bill, with every probability of its acceptance, is introduced, then the industrial position is outlined by a Noble Lord in another place. How curious it is! The next cry will be the industrial and commercial needs of the country due to the sinking of so much of our tonnage by submarines, and then will come the transference of the Reserves, not nominally in khaki, to the shipyards, with a threat that if there is any trouble they will be discharged and back they will go again into the Army. If that is not industrial conscription, what is? It is all part of one game, cleverly played, not, perhaps, deliberately—I do not believe that—by my hon. and right hon. Friends, but deliberately played by those who use them as their tools. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who are they "] They are the Northcliffe Press and certain other interests who speak with such authority, or a kind of authority, from the other side, and who are now supported by persons who call themselves Liberals. [An HON. MEMBER: "And Labour!"] Yes, and Labour. I wonder if my right hon. Friend and other members of the Ministry have received any guarantees as to industrial conscription before they agreed to support this Bill. I wonder why the transformation has come sp soon; why my right hon. Friend 227 came down with a scheme that he was prepared to throw to the winds during a week-end, and why he is now prepared to give us full-blooded Conscription in the hope—a hope, I am afraid, I am not entitled toshare—that it is for the period of the War only. [An HON. MEMBER: "To save the voluntary system!"]
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I can say that there are few Members in this House who have done more for voluntaryism than I have, hence my great regret that, notwithstanding those efforts, crabbed as they were, we are now let in for Conscription. This is an attempt to accustom our people to a Continental system, so that, when the War is over, our friends who are preaching eternal hate—which means another war sooner or later—will turn to the country and say, "We must prepare for this." They are preparing for it now and telling us that we must have a Continental system. This is to accustom us to it. Although there may be hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who believe—I do not doubt their bona fides—that they will be able to shed this wicked system at the end of the War, I grieve to say I do not share their confidence, and I believe that just as France, the most democratic State in Europe, has this system now fixed upon her, so the attempt will be made in our country to fix a similar system upon us. One of the grave things resulting from the adoption of Conscription has been the breach that has come about in our national unity. Does anyone believe that the lowering of morale and the breach which has come between us will be made up by the few men this Bill will get? Will the men it brings in as conscripts march to the trenches as those of us who accompanied the first Parliamentary party to Ypres, heard the Durham Light Infantry go into the trenches, singing as they went? My right hon. Friend himself was there, and we heard them and cheered them. Will the men that this Bill will bring in go into the trenches in that spirit? What will be its effect? These men will dilute the battalions into which they go. These men will cause a breach in the spirit of the men of whom we are proud, and who have gone 228 to the extent of 5,000,000. We are told that an odd 200,000 is to win the War. How absurd it all is. How unfortunate it will be if that breach should come. I desire to win the War. I believe that the men taken by the Military Service (No. 2) Act and this Bill are not to assist in winning the War, and will not do so, notwithstanding the military advice which has been given.
It would appear to me that the industrial position and the commercial position have been overlooked. I wonder whether the President of the Board of Trade is in this, and whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in this. Are they satisfied that all these men may be taken? Are they satisfied that the- maritime menace has reached its maximum? Are they satisfied that the tonnage on mercantile lines is being put into the water at an adequate rate? I would like to have very explicit assurances that they are quite satisfied that these men may be taken, that they may be taken at once, and that the country is quite safe. Is it not true that the Allies to-day are looking to us more than ever for the finance which, in a long war, means victory? Are not those who are engaged in the trenches telling us that under trench conditions victory may be deferred for another eighteen months? If these men are to be taken and exports reduced thereby, and the mercantile tonnage reduced thereby, are they quite sure that on the financial side we are going to see ourselves and our Allies through? Are the chambers of commerce in full sympathy with the Government in respect to this Bill? Are our big shipping firms, the men who know, in that position too? I do not know. You must not assume that because they expect to make bigger profits that shipowners desire therefore more tonnage to be put into the water. My information is, and I have no reason to doubt it, that it is because of the shortage of tonnage that the great profits are being made, and that the putting into the water of more tonnage and bringing more ships into competition with their own would reduce their profits. I believe that the great shipowners and some of our first-class business men are not with the Government in this matter. Looking at it from the point of view of finance and of commerce I believe this Bill is a mistake. What support is coming from the working classes is associated with the desire and intention that there shall be an approximation towards equality of sacrifice. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for 229 Halifax (Mr. J. Parker), that that is difficult to achieve. I would recall to the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. W. Thorne) a recent meeting which he addressed in his Constituency, where associated with support of this Bill was also the expression of a desire that if the Government were to get it they must also give us conscription of wealth. Are the Labour Members as a whole, or their representatives in the Cabinet, securing guarantees from the Government that there will be associated with this Bill as its corollary, conscription of wealth so as to achieve something like equality of sacrifice? Are hon. Members satisfied that the greybeards who are forcing others into the fighting line are making their contribution through the wealth they possess? Is there any proposition, for example, to limit incomes to not more than £500 or about that amount per year so that those who are going shall be assured that not only now, but if they lose their lives, their families are going to be kept in a position equal to that which they now enjoy? I know we might want local tribunals so that people could show whether they were entitled to run expensive motor cars, spend a lot on clothes, and enjoy more than £500 a year, while men were undergoing hardships in the trenches and their families were undergoing similar hardships at home. I would have the representative of the widow who wrote to me a little while ago on a local tribunal which would settle this conscription of wealth. Where she received more than £2 a week from her two soldier sons, she is now receiving less than £l. There is sacrifice if you will, and those who are forcing these men into the front, calling on others to die, what are they doing to surrender something of their wealth so that the people who are making the sacrifice are maintained in a reasonable condition so far as living is concerned? We are calling for the conscription of life, labour calls for the conscription of wealth, and I hope my hon. Friend here will be as insistent in his call for the conscription of wealth as he is for the conscription of men.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I promise him mine, whole-heartedly, if he will only make his support of this Bill conditional on such a conscription of wealth that the basis of retention of income shall be proved necessity and not desire. As for the future, if 230 young fellows of nineteen may be forced to offer the ultimate sacrifice, they are entitled to ask for some direction as to how affairs in the State shall be conducted. I will put it to those who are supporting the Bill to-night: if a young fellow is sent abroad at nineteen, will they give him a voice as to how the State's affairs shall be directed when he comes home? Are you prepared to give a voice in the settlement of the nation's affairs to everyone you compel to go? [An HON. MEMBER: "I am!"] I am glad to hear one right hon. Gentleman, but he is the only one on that side. [HON. MEMBERS:" No, no!"] That is better. We are getting on. That means universal franchise for all men of con-scriptional age, and also an equalisation of votes, so that the equal sacrifice shall be followed by equal direction of affairs. We are getting on. Adult suffrage, then, is in view, and if that comes some of this sacrifice will not have been altogether in vain. In my view this Bill represents a surrender of our State to the Prussian spirit we are fighting. The numbers of men it will produce represent an insignificant addition to the magnificent battalions who are representing us now in training and at the front. It is an attempt on the part of those who have forced it on the Government to accustom the country to this pernicious system of Conscription which, I regret to say, I believe it will be almost impossible to throw off at the conclusion of the War.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I think the hon. Member cannot include me, at all events, among those who have attempted to crab voluntaryism. I have spoken on countless platforms in support of the voluntary system, and there is more than one Member of the Liberal and Labour parties with whom I have had the privilege of appearing on the platform. A year ago I spoke with the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Meysey-Thompson), who urged upon this House to-night a policy which I am afraid the last speaker has rather upset. The hon. and gallant Gentleman urged that we might emerge this evening as a united nation instead of being divided, and if I could do or say anything I would gladly do so in order to induce hon. Members to unite with us in presenting a solid front to the enemy, in sinking our own party differences, and in presenting a solid front to the enemy. I do not agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Holt) when he suggested that unanimity was not 231 so very desirable, because the Gadarene swine were unanimous. That seems a very poor argument. If we were to follow that argument, what would become of us as a nation 2 Surely it is important that at a crisis of this kind we should be as united as we possibly can be. For that reason I at all events will refrain from saying a single word, as far as I can, which is likely to irritate or inflame anyone's feelings. We have been to-day, from the very initiation of this Debate until now, very naturally engaged upon weighing the financial needs as against the military needs of the nation, and it is very right and proper that we should balance those two considerations one against the other. But I submit that there is this difference. Suppose that by our policy to-night we did something which weakened our financial position for six months. That would not be losing the War. But suppose we threw out this Bill to-night and refused the number of men that the military authorities require, that might, in six hours—in six minutes—lose the War. There is that great difference, that if we make a mistake to-night on this question, if we do not support the Government, and through them the military authorities, we may be losing the War. But if we make a mistake in the other direction and do something which does, for the time being, cripple our commerce or our exports, that need not kill us. That might last for six weeks, six months, or a year or two without affecting the ultimate issue of the War.
I know the hon. Member (Mr. Holt) is very strong in his opposition to giving this increased number of men, but I think we ought to remember that last September he expressed his firm opinion, which was agreed with by other Gentlemen opposite, that we could win this War better with 3,000,000 soldiers than with 4,000,000. To-day he thinks we can win it better with 4,000,000 than with 5,000,000. But suppose we had followed his policy last September. Suppose we had then refused the Government their extra 1,000,000 men, where should we be to-day? We should have been defeated. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Well, we would have been in danger of defeat, and I suggest that when we remember the dangerous advice which was given to us by the Gentleman who introduced this Motion today we should to a great extent discount the advice he now gives us, and that we 232 should take the advice of His Majesty's Government. I have been in favour of the voluntary system, and I have urged time after time, from platform after platform, that those who, like myself, were in favour of winning this War, if possible, on the voluntary system, had it in our power to defeat Conscription by supplying enough men. That has been the test. Have we supplied enough men? If not, what are we to do? To me the call for Conscription does not come from the Northcliffe Press, it does not come from any politician, but it comes from the men in the trenches, who are asking us for reinforcements. There are battalions, we all know, at the front that need to be made up. They are in need of more men.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I would ask the hon. Member for Blackburn, who interrupts me, how many men he has contributed? Has he ever assisted to supply one man?
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
The hon. Member for Blackburn was not the Government. Suppose we had followed his advice since the War began, where should we have been to-day?
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
The call for compulsion comes from the men in the trenches, who say to us, "Our ranks are getting thin; we want reinforcements." What would my financial friends say if our reply was to be, "Never mind your ranks getting thin; our exports are waxing thick"? That would not win the War. It is from the trenches that the call has come for reinforcements. Another great factor which weighs with me—I do not know how it may strike other hon. Members—is this: has a British subject of military fitness the right to stand aside and say, "I am a neutral." Have we a right in this country to have British neutrals, men who are capable of assisting us to win this War, men who are young, strong and fit? Have they the right to stand aside and be neutrals, and allow weaker men, poorer men, and older men to go and fight their battles for them? I do not think we have. For all these 233 reasons I would support the plea put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman for Handsworth (Colonel Meysey-Thomp-son) that we should, if possible, to-night agree upon all the points that we can agree upon; that we should, as far as possible, stop talking about old principles; that we should cease to be haunted by the ghosts of our former speeches; that we should at the last moment withdraw opposition to this Bill, and pass it in the face of the world as a pledge of Great Britain that it will, if necessary, carry on this War to the last man, aye, and the last 1s., and that we should pass the Bill unanimously as a pledge of our belief in victory and of our determination to secure it.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
Those hon. Members who have listened to the speeches to-day—and I have had the pleasure of hearing all the speeches—must have been struck by one fact, and that was the easy task which speaking on this Bill has been to two different types of Member. The man who believes that Conscription under any circumstances is wrong has been able to put forward arguments against this Bill and criticisms of the Government with unrestrained force, while those who believe Conscription to be the best, if not the only, method of organising the nation at this time, have been able to give support wholeheartedly and rhetorically to this Bill. But one cannot take refuge in this serene and comfortable dogmatism of either side. I believe there is a majority in the House who feel that the question of compulsory service put forward in this Bill at this time is a matter involving far too many complex arguments and considerations to be dealt with easily, certainly not lightheartedly, by those of us who have to vote one way or another in the Division Lobby to-night. I was one of those who supported the Military Service Bill last January. I supported it as one who had done all that he could to help voluntary recruiting during the War, and as one who believed that that measure could not affect the fact that the vast bulk of our Army had been raised voluntarily, and that the voluntary method is the dominant one in the affections as well as in the traditions of the people of this country. I said then to my Constituents that it would take a good deal of fresh information and fresh argument to make me vote for a further measure of Conscription such as is involved in this Bill. I wish to say in a sentence that I have come to the con- 234 clusion that a great deal of fact and argument has taken place since the former Bill was brought in.
In the first place, it appears to me that the progress of the War has strengthened the argument for getting more men than we have as a matter of fact obtained since that Bill was brought in. In the second place, I attach great value to the recommendations of a united Cabinet, and I attach value to them not less because it is a Cabinet which has become united after a good deal of discussion and much evidence of original divisions of opinion. When men decide upon a course and the whole Cabinet support it, it is more likely to be weighty and well founded than if it were decided upon in a hurry or represented a mere majority exerted at once, and peremptorily, over a minority which might be of even greater personal weight. In the third place, I attach great importance to some of the things that were said in the Secret Session. I think the speech of the Prime Minister and the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies then must have had a great deal of effect on others beside myself, who believe this difficult question to be one of high expediency, and who believe that under all the circumstances it is the least of two evils to follow the Government's suggestion, and the greater of two responsibilities to reject the proposal they advance. Lastly, the experience I have had in the last two months of the working of the tribunals has convinced me that we cannot have proper, fair decisions, and allow enough people to be saved from the Army for necessary work at home, unless these tribunals have cognisance of all persons of military age, whether married or single. So long as you were raising Armies on the voluntary basis that was the best thing to do; but when once you part from that, the opinion has been gradually and steadily forced upon me that the work of the tribunals is more likely to be unfair and one-sided if you are dealing only with one section and if you are unable to regulate and deal with other members of the community who are in competition with those who come before you for exemption or delay. On those grounds, therefore, do I support this Bill, and I repudiate as strongly as I know how any of those sombre prophecies which the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Goldstone) has expressed with so much power. You cannot argue with a prophet; you can only believe or disbelieve his prophecies, and these are 235 prophecies I will never believe until I find that the whole temper of the country has altered by the War, which, after all, is a war for freedom, and I do not believe that temper will alter unless it be for the better.
This Bill gives great power to the military authorities, and the greater the power given to the military authorities, the more right has this House, and the country, to demand that this power should be used properly and sympathetically. The power is taken to examine again hundreds of thousands of men rejected last autumn. I think that, on the whole, is right. We all know some persons who got off then on medical grounds ought not to have got off, but on the other hand I hope the Army authorities will be more careful than they were not to recruit men who are really medically unfit. Those of us who have had to do with recruiting, and various points of Army organisation know that there are hundreds, I am afraid even thousands, of men who have joined the Army when they were not fit to join it at all, and I have facts, which it is not, perhaps, in the public interest to disclose in this Debate, showing that thousands of pounds have been spent in training men for a few weeks who were absolutely unfit for service, and who would never have been brought to the Colours if the medical jugdment of them when they joined had been sound. When I give power to the Army authorities to overhaul medically a number of persons who have been rejected, I look to them to be careful, and not for 'the sake of making up numbers by a particular time, or by local carelessness, to give the country the expense, trouble, and waste of recruiting people unfit for service. There was a very interesting argument directed by the hon. and gallant Member who spoke on behalf of the Territorial Forces on that Clause which enables Territorials to be moved from one battalion to another. That may now have become a military necessity, but if it has it is a necessity to be most sparingly and carefully used, and it is most important that this House should know, and I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will see to it that the Cabinet insists on it, however much military practice of the past may get in the way, that the Territorial system is to be maintained and encouraged wherever possible. I know a certain camp in this country where in 236 one of the battalions only one-third of the men serving there have been brought from the county whose name the battalion bears, the remainder having been brought from another part of the country where men in their hundreds have been enlisted, and might have been sent there direct. I say if this Bill becomes law it ought not only to be a necessity, but it ought to be the universal practice, that when a man joins a force in any county, he should be sent to a battalion of that county if they are not up to strength. It is only in that way that you will get the esprit de corps and the men fighting side by side with their comrades, with such effect as has been the case in the earlier stages of the War.
This Bill also deals with tribunals, and I hope it will be improved so as to make these tribunals more effective. There have been great disputes in some parts of the country between the Advisory Committees and the district tribunals. I believe the best thing is to combine the two, because the Advisory Committees will have the advantage of local knowledge and the district tribunals will have the advantage of being members of elected bodies. I ask the Government to consider that, and at the proper time I shall put down an Amendment to that effect if I find that it will be in order. I end by saying that if the House gives this Bill to the Government, as it will, there is a corresponding responsibility on them to make the increased military powers as tactful and sympathetic as possible. Those of us who vote for the Bill, not altogeher without reluctance, but with assured and firm consent in the circumstances, will never relax our efforts to see, whatever the needs of the country in the War for such a Bill may be, that the essentially free temper of the English people is to be borne in mind in the way it is administered by the officials of the War Office and the Government.
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY
The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down said that the task of those who speak whole-heartedly on either side for or against this Bill is an easy one. For my own part I can only say that for a number of us who feel it our duty to oppose the Bill it is not an easy task. We do not do it lightly or gladly, for we recognise that it is brought forward as an urgently needed measure in a moment of grave national need. We recognise that 237 it is brought forward because in the situation the Government believe it to be necessary. We oppose it because, while we have not been convinced of its necessity, we are convinced that it is essentially unjust. I am not going to enter into the grave financial arguments that have been put so ably before the House as to why the Bill is inexpedient. They are arguments in the long run which are also military arguments as well as financial arguments. I am not going into the very serious question of the danger of industrial compulsion, which is also being raised, but I do want to put to the House one or two questions affecting what I feel to be the essential injustice of a measure of this kind. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. C. Rees) spoke most eloquently of the way in which another method might have been found to deal with the question of the boys of eighteen. We know how many boys of that age have already come forward, in spite of the fact that they were not legally liable and could not legally enlist before the legal age out of a feeling of patriotic duty. There can be no doubt that if the age restriction had been removed by the Government and the appeal had been made a very large number would have come voluntarily to-day. I believe we have no right to force the young lads of the nation, in preference to other classes, into this terrible position in which they are placed under a Compulsion Bill. It would have been far preferable from my point of view to have raised the age, to have brought in more men of maturer years, than to compel a boy whose mind is unformed, who has not yet the opportunity of thinking out the issues for himself, to make the very grave choice he has to make when a Compulsion Bill is brought in, and when the only opportunity for those who feel that they have another duty than the duty of being a soldier is the very incomplete opportunity provided under the conscience Clause of the present Act.
What applies to these boys will apply to a large number of other individuals in a very different way. As to the injustice of the existing conscience Clause, I know that is a question which is not easily talked about in the House, and that in many ways public feeling has been roused against those who are called conscientious objectors. But I am quite sure that, although many in the House may feel that claims have sometimes been made un- 238 fairly, everyone who has studied the way in which the present Act is worked will have felt that there has been the greatest inequality, and that necessarily is a grave injustice in the administration of the conscience Clause. The accident that a man lives in one street and not in another will mean an absolutely different decision according as he comes before one county tribunal or another. I do not want to make accusations of injustice against the tribunals, but there is an inequalilty of method which alone has resulted in substantial injustice to these men. There are a very large number of these men who cannot in their conscience rest satisfied with what is called exemption from combatant service only, but who are perfectly prepared to do other work of national importance under conditions involving the severest financial sacrifices. I do not ask for them myself any easy position, and I do not wish it, and I believe, in fact, that the great majority of sincere men who take this view do not wish to have any easy financial position at all; they are perfectly willing to make their sacrifice, if they can do it in accordance with their conscience.
As things stand we know that in a great number of cases, just by the accident of geographical situation, men have been refused exemption, not only by the local tribunals, but by the appeal tribunals, decisions vary where men have lived in adjoining counties, or where they have lived in London, in adjoining streets. That surely is something which Parliament never intended to take place, and there should be some opportunity of equalising the position by assuring us that at least where the Local Government Board can see there is inequality there shall be some method of appealing to the Central Tribunal. At present there is no right of appeal to the Central Tribunal at all, and in the worst cases of injustice, the rankling sense of injustice might be removed if the Central Tribunal was enabled to deal equally with all such appeals. I think it is not too much to ask the Government to devise some way by which cases like these can reach the Central Tribunal. I think everyone who has studied the working of the Act will see that the cases of these men cannot be met by exemption from combatant service only. A number are already suffering in military prisons, and hundreds, probably thousands more will have to suffer in the same way. 239 These are men whose conscientious objection has been recognised by the tribunals. They have been told by the tribunals, "We do not question your sincerity, we do not question you have got conscientious objection," but they refuse the only form of exemption which will meet the case of these men, though, at the same time, there are other services which they might render to the State. There can be nothing more uneconomic or wasteful than to compel men whose conscientious objections the tribunals have recognised, and who are admitted to be sincere, to choose between a violation of what they believe to be their conscientious duty or the punishment which will necessarily follow under martial law for disobeying commands that are given them when they are technically soldiers. It is no use to say, as the military authorities do, that these men are soldiers and must be punished accordingly. These men are deemed to be enlisted under the Act, but when Parliament inserted in that Act the Conscience Clause they did not intend that it should be used in this way, but that it should be a genuine relief to these men who are proved to have conscientious objections.
What I want to point out to the House is that this difficulty has arisen under the existing Act in many cases where young men have not fully thought out their position or have not always very mature views. I know of a number of cases of married Quakers who will come under the operation of this new Bill, and many of them will have to go to prison. Already, under the existing Act, lifelong Quakers are in military prisons because they cannot get the exemption which will meet their case, and because technically they have been deemed by the Act of Parliament to have enlisted, and are, therefore, guilty of disobeying orders lawfully given. I do not think it was intended that men should be kept in prison and in dark cells, when their conscience has never been questioned by the tribunals, and when the highest testimony can be brought by people who have known them all their lives. I believe that if Parliament wished to punish men for their belief they would have chosen another way, and it is open to Parliament now to choose some other way, if it desires to punish these men. Surely we had better inflict upon them a civil punishment, or to be outlawed or disfranchised would be juster than to say that these men are soldiers. 240 In fact, it is virtually a lie to say that these men have enlisted, when all their lives they have protested against military service, and have said that they cannot and will not serve. That in itself is an injustice which ought not to continue.
I wish to ask whether some way also can generally be found by the Government to deal with the men who have already passed—through the inequality of the action of the tribunals in some cases, perhaps through acts of what almost amount to injustice—into the Army, without having had their conscience recognised at all? I could bring to the House cases of men of high character who have had their exemption granted to them by the local tribunal and whose exemption has been taken away altogether by the Appeal Tribunal when an appeal was made for fuller exemption than the local tribunal had given. These men are now, technically, soldiers, and they have had to suffer the penalties of martial law in order to prove the reality of their convictions. That is the only way open to them. Is it necessary to punish these men? Could not some other method be chosen? You might put them into a civil prison or an internment camp, but I think it would be far better for the nation to utilise their willing service in some way which would be a real service to the nation. There are many ways which could be chosen. There is agriculture crying out for workers. Work might be given without any financial advantage to the men themselves. Bands of labour might be organised in the forests for cutting pit props, which are so urgently needed, under civil control, with a certain element of supervision. Bands of labour might be organised for urgently needed road making and repairs. It would be possible to do that in a way to utilise the services of these men instead of having them wasted in such a way as to create a rankling sense of injustice, not merely in the minds of the men themselves and their friends, but as well in the minds of a number who do not agree with their views at all, and who think they are wrong and misguided, but who know that they are sincere and that they are in favour in other ways of helping the nation, and who want to see their services utilised. I hope that the Government will take the opportunity of this Bill to remedy some of the injustices which I have alluded to which mar the existing Act. If it does not do that, the injustice now going on will be repeated tenfold in cases where the unfairness will 241 be far more patent, and a sense of discontent will be aroused in the community that will be a bad thing for the nation. I speak not merely in the interests of these men, but in the interests of fair play and of our whole national life, and public opinion will demand sooner or later that justice should be done in these cases.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
The House always listens with respect and attention to the hon. Member who has just spoken. We all recognise to the full the sincerity of his motives in this and in all other public matters in which he takes part. His speech was confined in the main to the administration of the last Act and not to the merits of the present Bill. We all feel the difficulty about these tribunals. There is no doubt that different principles apply to different localities, and it may very well happen that within the borders of one county one tribunal acts upon one principle and another tribunal upon another principle. As I understand it, when this Bill comes into operation, and especially if the financial hardship matter is taken into account, there may be so many scores of thousands of appeals to come before the tribunals that I think it would be well for the Government to take the question as far as possible into account and to arrange, if it be possible, for some other equitable method of settling this difficult question. The question of the conscientious objector is not an easy one. I am going to appeal to my hon. Friend whom I have known for a long time past, whether he thinks, as the recruiting posters tell us, that it is the duty of every citizen to defend his country. Does he admit that it is a duty, and that is the first point, because he must be as much against voluntaryism as against compulsion unless he admits that. If it be the duty of every man to defend his country, how can he, or the body to which he belongs, stand aside and see other men doing work by which he profits? No man has a right to ask other people to fight for him to defend his country, and I would submit to him that the only equitable way of deciding this difficult question is that if a man for conscientious objection cannot fight to defend his country he must give equivalent work in some other direction. He cannot possibly, I think, shirk the whole obligation. If he cannot pay the obligation in that other form he ought to make it quite clear that he will pay an equivalent in another form. Unless he does that, I do not think he is bearing his just part of the national obligation. With 242 regard to what the hon. Member for Middleton (Sir R. Adkins) said, I agree with him that there are three attitudes, with regard to this Bill. The first is those who believe in compulsion as a principle apart altogether from what the views of the Government may be and apart altogether from its varying discussions and decisions from day to day. There is a second class, who are against compulsion whatever be the attitude of the Government. There is the third class, who say they are against compulsion unless the Government is in favour of it. That is not an easy attitude to understand. The hon. Member opposite is one of them.
There are many hon. Members who take that position, but who state that with great reluctance they have come to the conclusion to support compulsion, and that although they were against compulsion in principle they were still more in favour of the Government in principle. I belong to the first class to which I have referred. I have never tried to hide from the House my views, and, if House will allow me to say so, it was not easy for a Liberal at the very commencement of this War to take that view. May I consciously and intentionally do what many others do unconsciously and unintentionally, and that is, repeat to the House what I said a year ago on this subject:It seems to me that universal service or Conscription—I do not quarrel about the word—is justified not only by the necessity of having more men. That is the first and urgent justification, but that is not the ground I am going to submit. I put it not only on the ground of self-preservation, but on what I think is a better and higher ground than that, namely, equality of service that is demanded from every citizen when his country is in peril. That duty and that obligation falls upon all. It falls upon all equally. It falls upon all equally not according to their willingness, but according to their capacity. That is the right principle to apply to this emergency."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May, 1915, col. 2415, Vol. LXXL]It seems to me it is the duty of the Government—if I may say so with great respect it was their duty many months ago—to find out how best they can utilise the services of every man and woman in this country. That is twelve months ago, and therefore so far as I am concerned, I have not to apologise for the position I take up to-night. I have heard a good deal suggested about plots and conspiracies of the Northcliffe Press. I hope I am immune even from that criticism. I may be right or I may be wrong, but I took my courage in both hands. The Government 243 has often been invited to do the same. I have not been slow to take the step I thought right according to my honest conviction as to the necessities of the case. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Goldstone) spoke about industrial conscription, and hailed me as a sudden convert, as he put it, to his doctrine of the man who fought for his country having a vote. But I have just anticipated his point, because yesterday I put a question asking the Prime Minister whether, in preparing the Parliamentary Register, he would take steps to see that every man who had joined the Naval or Military Forces of the Crown should find his name upon that Registrar. With regard to national service, let there be no mistake upon one point. National service is national service. The emphasis is not merely on "service" but on "national." I have pointed out time after time in this House that, as I understand it, national service is inconsistent with the employment of a man by an individual employer. National service means in the service and interest of the people. How can any Liberal or anyone else in the House say that any man shall have to work for an employer and that the result of his labour shall go to swell the private profits of that employer? It is unthinkable, and nobody has ever suggested it in this House, as far as I know. Therefore, my conscience is perfectly clear. In my advocacy of national service, all I have meant is this: That in the state in which we are and have been for a long time past it is not only the right but the duty of the State to put the services of every man and woman to the best use for the sake of the country as a whole, and that no one shall be compelled to work for an employer and increase the profits of that employer by his work.
Has not the time come to take a step in this direction? I do not take an alarmist view, but it is idle for us to hide from ourselves the seriousness of the situation and the grave necessity there is for this country to put out its maximum effort in order to win the War. I hope it is not pessimism, but I do honestly believe that Unless, as the Prime Minister said, we put every ounce of strength and every effort that we can control into this fight, we shall not win, and we shall not deserve to win. Therefore, although I quite admit that there is difference of opinion as to how that can best be done, I should have thought that hon. Members opposite 244 who speak about the adjustment of financial, commercial and military operations, would, at any rate, trust upon this point the Government, who are unanimous in recommending this proposal for our acceptance. Unanimous! It is not a mere casual unanimity; it is unanimity after a crisis, and I value unanimity much more after a crisis, after the matter has been very seriously discussed, and the situation has been looked at from every point of view. When they come to us and unanimously tell us that the General Staff give this as their considered opinion and judgment, I think there is a very grave responsibility upon any man who votes against this Bill.
Something has been said about the figure 5,000,000. It is wonderful how these figures grow, and how they are adjusted to meet different circumstances. What the Prime Minister said was that our effort was 5,000,000 men. That is true. If you look at the daily papers to-day you will find it stated that we have 5,000,000 men fighting for us. That is not true. The 5,000,000 include the dead, the casualties, the convalescent, the men discharged from the Army for misconduct, and so on. What is the good of quoting the figure 5,000,000 in this way. The hon. Member for Derby last night stated that there were 20,000,000 men fighting for the Allies. It is untrue. Their Reserve forces may be 20,000,000 or more; but if you are going to calculate the number of men fighting for the Allies, it is not 20,000,000 or half 20,000,000. I think it is well that the House should remember this fact, and make a protest, as I am doing now, against figures used in one way being utilised in another. The hon. Member for Derby gives advice to the Government from time to time. He makes week-end speeches, as someone has said, and gives advice to the Government between week-ends. I do not like the way in which the Labour party seem to take the Prime Minister under their special protection. They think that the Prime Minister is hustled, that he is driven. I should have thought that that was the last accusation that could be made against the Prime Minister. They think that there is some malign influence driving him to do things which he does not want to do. The hon. Member for Derby says, "Be firm. I advise the Prime Minister to be firm. Let him keep the pledge to Labour like the other pledges that have been given." The danger is that an exhortation 245 to firmness may be looked upon as an accusation of weakness. I am sure the Labour party would not like to take that attitude towards the Prime Minister. As a matter of fact, in my view, if you want a just system you cannot trust to the voluntary system for it. My hon. Friend the Member for West Leeds said that this was an unjust Bill. I do not think it is. At any rate, it is founded on the equal obligation of all according to their ability.
I have often asked the question which the Minister of Munitions asked to-night: What principle of Liberalism have I violated in my support of compulsion? I have been waiting a good many hours to see if anybody would tell me what it was. I am not concerned much—I say it quite frankly—with what the principles of Liberalism are for the moment. I am not concerned about the tenets or the prospects or the existence of any party. But in order to gratify my own curiosity, I should like to know what principle of Liberalism I have violated. A great many Liberals in the House are in the same position. What is this cardinal principle of Liberalism that we have violated? Compulsion? Is compulsory taxation a violation of the sacred principles of Liberalism? Is compulsory vaccination a violation of the principles of Liberalism? As a matter of fact, compulsion is a violation of the principles of Liberalism when it compels you to do something that you do not want to do. The two parties who have coalesced in the Coalition have spent all their lives in each trying to compel the other to do what it did not want to do. That is the meaning of Party Government. The majority in the House of Commons for the time being tries to compel the minority to do what the minority does not want to do. Of course, when we Liberals were in power we tried to compel hon. Members on this side to do a good many things they did not like. I was a party to it, and I have nothing to regret. I should use compulsion against them again if the same opportunity arose. Having used compulsion against the Conservative party, as I was entitled to do, and having suffered from their compulsion when they were in power, if I think that compulsion with regard to the Army will help my country to win this great War, if I think it brings justice and equality nearer than the voluntary system can ever do, why should not I as a Liberal support it? We have 246 heard a great deal about the Northcliffe Press. But there is another Press besides the Northcliffe Press.
And there are no close hours during which it does not attack those who once belonged to the Liberal party. At all events, I am quite certain of this—that in this step not only are we doing what the General Staff want us to do, and what the Coalition Government commends for our approval, but we are placing our Army upon principles of justice and equality. I think it is wicked that you should see in the country at the present time in one house three or four boys gone, and in the next farm three or four boys at home. It is unjust, unequal, and unfair. Because this Bill will do something, I think, to remedy that state of affairs, it is not with reluctance, nor with unwillingness, but with enthusiasm that I support the Second Reading.
§ Sir J. SIMON
My right hon. and learned Friend who has just spoken began his speech by claiming for himself what we shall all be very glad to concede to him. He claimed that the course which he had adopted in this controversy was one which he had adopted thoroughly realising the seriousness of the question, and that he had determined upon it as a result of his own judgment of what was right. Many who call themselves Liberals in this House, even though they may be going to vote for the Second Reading of this measure, do not, I think, altogether agree with his point of view. But that makes no difference to our recognition of his complete sincerity and candour in this matter. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said another thing which I was very glad to hear. It was truly said. He said though there were difference of opinion expressed in this Debate it was plain that the difference arose because we did not all agree as to the best method to pursue, and not because we have any division, or doubt, as to the one supreme object to be attained. I am most heartily glad, and I think everybody recognises and rejoices in it, that a Debate like this shows the extent to which we are all essentially united. I should like to point out to the House of Commons how complete is that union in the most essential matter. It has often been said in these Debates that in a time of crisis like this it is the bounden duty of every citizen to do that which he is best fitted to do in the 247 service of his country. I assure the House that those of us who take a different view as to the merits of compulsion subscribe to that proposition without any reservation whatever.
But the question is not, and never could be, among sincere and patriotic men in time of war, whether anybody doubts the duty which lies upon every man to do that which is best for his country. The question is a question of method and means, and as to whether or not you really will secure that result by such methods as this Bill invites the House to adopt. There is a second statement constantly made in these Debates which I and my Friends accept with just the same enthusiasm and just the same determination as it is put forward by those who support the Bill. That is that there is no limit of sacrifice which this country ought to make. I make no reservation at all in saying so. Though there are many things which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University says with which I do not agree, I most heartily and completely do agree with the remark that he made the other day, that the question never is how much have we done, but the question always is, how much more can we do? On these fundamental facts there is no difference between us. No effort is too great, no sacrifice is too large, if it be necessary and right for it to be made, and made, if need be, by the authority of this House for the purpose of our common country. The question is quite a different one. The question is, granted all that, and the sincere desire to pursue that end, is the case even reasonably made out for that result being secured by the adoption of this further method of compulsion? I hope, and I believe, that there is a third proposition which we all in this House are prepared to accept. It is the proposition that you do not increase the total national strength by the automatic process of pouring more and more of the able-bodied population of military age into the Army. What a happy thing it would be if the whole matter could thus be solved simply by a sentence. I trust it is agreed on all hands that it is not so simple as that. The whole difficulty, and the only thing which creates, so far as I am concerned, any difference between myself and the Government, is not any unwillingness to sec all sacrifice made, and not any doubt as to the absolute duty of every man to devote 248 himself as best he may to the country's service; but the question is whether the case is made out for the additional imposition of compulsion for military purposes which the Government now recommend to-the House? I well understand, of course, that this is recommended to the House on the ground that military opinion has pronounced in favour of the change. But, in the first place, I say the question is not a question exclusively, it is not really in its difficult aspect a question substantially, for military opinion, and military opinion alone. It is just because there are so many different aspects of this matter that the mere assertion that military opinion recommends it cannot be regarded as conclusive by any thoughtful citizen.
It has actually been contended in this Debate that you really can state the situation which is facing us by saying our military advisers tell us that this particular step makes the difference between victory and defeat, therefore follow it! If that was really the true ground of the situation as it now exists, then it is inconceivable that the present Cabinet should at any period have suffered from a crisis on such a topic. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education is, I think, going to speak for the Government, and I am going to stand between him and the House for a very very short time. But I address this observation particularly to him, because I have been his colleague, and I know nearly all those who are serving in the Cabinet as Cabinet colleagues, and I flatly refuse to believe that the members of the present Cabinet, holding generally the opinions which I know they do, are capable of a genuine acute crisis if the situation was the simple situation such as we were led to think it might be in the course of the Debate this afternoon! It cannot be true. If the immensely powerful and immensely effective speech of the Minister of Munitions this afternoon really exhausted the difficulties of this problem there never could have been a Cabinet crisis. It is inconceivable, after what we were told by the Prime Minister only a week or a fortnight ago on this very topic and in connection with this very matter, that these Gentlemen should have always agreed to recommend this with unanimity. The fact that the difficulty arose and that it was deeply and sincerely felt to be a difficulty by those who compose our present Cabinet is in itself conclusive proof that there is here not a simple problem to be solved simply by saying every- 249 body ought to go into the Army, or everybody ought to do his utmost, or that there is no limit to the sacrifice we ought to make, but that it is a difficult, delicate problem of adjustment as between various competing opinions and needs.
In that connection nobody has ever stated that proposition with such force as did the Minister of Munitions a year ago to-day when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. There has been more than one reference to his speech of a year ago in the Debate to-day. I do not quote it again, because it was quoted in what everybody will recognise was an admirably reasoned speech by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) to-day. But let me point out that the argument which was then used by the present Minister of Munitions is an argument which has not lost any force. It has gained in force by the twelve months which have since elapsed. What was his argument in the form in which he presented it? In substance he said, we are one of the parties to a great alliance resolved to resist and to overthrow this menace of Prussian militarism; everyone of us has got to contribute his utmost, but we each of us can contribute best in accordance with our particular opportunities. He then said, What service can Britain render to this great combination? He went on to point out that, in the first place, she could render the incomparable service of maintaining from the beginning to the end of the War supremacy at sea; in the second place, she could, of course, make great contribution in the way of an Army; and, in the third place, she could render the service, which she rendered in the Napoleonic wars, of bearing the main burden of financing her Allies. In that speech, made exactly twelve months ago to a day, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the present Minister of Munitions, dealt with each of those three contributions which we could make. He said, as regards the first, that we could keep command of the seas for the Allies, and we would do it to the end of the War. Yes, but the need of doing that, the value of that service, the burden which it throws upon us, does not get less; it gets greater as the War goes on, and, not only so, but the service in itself, the maintenance of sea power by this country for the Allies, becomes a more and more valuable contribution to the alliance as time goes on, and my right hon. Friend, when he spoke, perfectly recognised that, for he said in regard to keep- 250 ing the command of the sea that Britain has done so, and she will maintain complete control to the end:That is the invaluable service which she is rendering to the Allies. It is essential to the ultimate success of their arms, especially in a prolonged war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1915. col. 1014, Vol. LXXI.]I do not make this point with the slightest desire to argue that, because we undertook this service, that is any reason why we should not exert ourselves to the utmost in military strength. Not a bit. But it is right that we should ourselves have regard, and it is right that the country should have regard, to that as the prime service which we can render to the Allies, because it is the one which they cannot to the same degree hope to render for themselves. Then the right hon. Gentleman took the third of these three functions, and he said that not only could we bear the main burden of financing the Allies in their necessary purchases, but we could also help them in the manufacture of munitions. But what has happened in the intervening twelve months? The need of the Allies for our financial help has not lessened but grown greater. The claim which is made upon this country for assistance of that sort is growing, so far as one can judge, greater and greater month by month. There can be no stint of it, but that is no reason why we should not do the utmost we can in the matter of military strength. But it is worse than idle—it is wicked, and a disservice to this country—to treat our effort in the realm of military strength as though it were the measure of the contribution we are making for the common good. I do not know, but it did seem to me that the speech of the Minister of Munitions this afternoon, eloquent, powerful as it was, is none the less not in all its aspects a speech which is calculated to give our Allies a true sense of the determination of this country to do its utmost. Even if each of the Allies was to bear its own proportionate share of these three services, even then it would be necessary we should have regard what is the proper limit of our military strength, but, so far from that being true, we have to take upon ourselves, and gladly take upon ourselves, an immense portion of the burden in two out of these three matters, which would, if the whole burden was distributed proportionately, be borne by others than ourselves, and really the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken seemed to object because anyone referred to the figure of five millions. 251 By all means, if we refer to it, let us refer to it correctly. The true way to speak of it is to say that five million men is the total naval and military effort of the Empire from the beginning of the War. Let no man misrepresent it, but I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is a figure that ought not to be mentioned. The Prime Minister mentioned it, and it appears to me that a figure of that sort, so long as it is accurately mentioned, is one of the things which it is well for us to mention to prove to the Allies that, whatever may be our differences in this House, we are at one in making the biggest contribution we possibly can for the common good.
Those being points of agreement, where does the difference lie? The difference lies in this. Where is the conclusive evidence that this large additional measure of compulsion is really going to add on the whole to our national force and strength? Where is the evidence of that? I confess to being much concerned to find that it is based definitely upon a military recommendation pure and simple. Nothing but military considerations appear in the speech of the Minister of Munitions this afternoon—nothing. Nobody who heard his speech could believe it was made by the same man who made the speech twelve months ago. Certainly, whatever be the part which falls to us, the duty of doing our very utmost in the military sphere is beyond all question. It is not satisfactory to be told that it is on a purely military judgment that the Cabinet, after apparently great and acute division, has at length resolved that we are invited to take this step, and in this connection I want to ask my right hon. Friend two or three questions definitely about the Bill. I do not anticipate, of course, Committee points, but there are at any rate three points about the Bill as to which I think we should get some information before the Second Beading closes. The first is, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what is the object of the provision of this new Special Reserve? I can perfectly understand, if you are going to have military compulsion, that you should cast your net wider, and gather in men who have at present not joined the forces for the purposes of fighting as soldiers. But what is the object of forming, in connection with this extension of military compulsion, this Special Reserve? May 252 I ask him further, has it got any connection with the proposal that there is to be a re-examination of men who have been rejected as unfit for active military duty? I think the two things appear in the Bill, and it is very necessary indeed that an explanation should be given which will show what is the real purpose of this Reserve, because when an hon. Friend of mine this afternoon, speaking against the Bill, said that any man who was in favour of this Bill must be in favour also of industrial compulsion, unless my organs of sight and hearing and those of others misled us, that was a proposition which was not dissented from.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am very glad to hear it. There was an impression, which I am very glad indeed should be corrected, created at the time that there were, at any rate, some on the Treasury Bench who took a different view.
§ Sir J. SIMON
It is a matter of great importance that it should be clearly understood that, at any rate, in the view of the Government proposing this Bill, the Special Reserve, and the re-examination of those who had been rejected as medically unfit, is not to be treated as having any connection with industrial compulsion at all. I am entitled to call attention to the matter because there certainly are people in this House, and I gravely misunderstood the view of the Minister of Munitions if he is not one of them, who hold quite honestly to the opinion that it is the best way of securing our maximum strength to secure that measure of control over industry.
The next question I would like the right hon. Gentleman to deal with is what is the meaning of this proposal which is going to cancel the two months which, under the previous Act, were allowed at the end of any period of temporary exemption? The reason I ask that is, as I feel certain the President of the Local Government Board knows, that since the first Military Service Bill gave everybody who got a temporary postponement another two months after that postponement had run out, the local tribunals, when granting temporary postponements, took that fact into account. A man demonstrates that he is entitled to three months' postponement, but does not 253 get from the local tribunal a postponement of three months, but a postponement of one month because the local tribunal realises that there would be another two months which would still have to go before he came back. I want to know whether this proposal is really intended to apply to those who have been already exempted or only to those who are exempted hereafter. My third point is, will the right hon. Gentleman kindly clear up what is a rather mysterious reference to 200,000 men? The proceedings of our Secret Session are, of course, secret, but there was an abbreviated statement of what happened prepared as suitable for publication, and it contained the definite statement that the compulsion which the Government were contemplating was one which would cease to operate as far as the married unattested men were concerned as soon as the number of 200,000 was reached. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Yes!"] It says so in the plainest possible terms. The abbreviated Report says:—The arrangement in paragraphs 2 and 3 are to hold good until 200,000 unattested men have been obtained.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Henderson)
Read the next sentence.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I do not think the next sentence deals with the point, but I will read it. It says:In the meanwhile the position will be under constant review by the Government.Do we understand that the Government has reviewed the difference between victory and defeat since the 25th April last, and if so, what was the date on which they made the change? I do not think that can be the explanation, and the best proof that it is not so is that when the Prime Minister introduced this Bill two days ago he referred to this figure of 200,000. I notice that the Minister of Munitions, speaking this afternoon, was careful to say it was only his personal opinion he was expressing, but he has already indicated that no such limit as that is in his mind, whatever may be the limit in the minds of his colleagues. I will not argue this point further, but these are points which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will answer. The real and fundamental objection which we make to this proposal is that those who support it seem to think that compulsion is the same thing as organisation. They seem to think that because the House of 254 Commons is prepared to confer tremendous powers on the Army Council and the military authorities that therefore they have organised the nation for military purposes. That is a complete fallacy; it is in any case a fallacy, and in the face of the experience of the last three or four months it is not only a fallacy, but it is a palpable absurdity. Before you are justified in conferring upon the military authorities this enormous power which is going to be exercised over fellow citizens at least you ought to be prepared to satisfy the public that they know how to use it, that they are going to use it with discretion, and that they are going to see in this very difficult task of selection that the right man is accepted and the right man is left. No one can say that the experience of the last three or four months is an encouragement, and in applying it to married men you will multiply the difficulties many fold. If the Government only expect to get out of the remainder of the population of these Islands a comparatively small fraction, the fact that the fraction is small is only going to increase the difficulty and hardship which are involved when one man has to go and another man has to be left. I have always recognised that if you had compulsion which really and truly applied to everybody, if you had compulsion which applied to people of all ages, and if you had compulsion which really covered the whole ground, though, as I think, some objections of very great force and cogency would still remain, the objection that it would not work, the objection that there would be hardship as between one man and another, would to a large extent disappear. The essential mischief of the scheme which is contained in this Bill, as it seems to some of us, is that you are going to get the maximum of hardship and difficulty with, I fear, the minimum result. I say the minimum result, because there is a fact which must strike everybody who has followed this controversy: You come forward to propose an extension of military compulsion, and you have in your possession the facts of what has occurred under the first military compulsion Bill, and yet here we are at the end of the Second Reading stage and nobody has ventured to give us a single figure as to what it is that compulsion up to date has secured. It is not, believe me, from any unwillingness to see this country put forward its maximum effort—it is not that—it is because I fail entirely to see in the facts presented to the House, whether it is in secret Session 255 or public Session, any justification for this extension and because for my part I believe it is contrary to the interests which we are all united in endeavouring to promote that I am compelled to oppose the Bill.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
My right hon. Friend who has just addressed the House began his speech by intimating that no case for compulsion had been made out. He closed his speech with what amounted to an expression of regret that our Bill did not contain a greater measure of compulsion. The question that we have to ask ourselves is whether under any circumstances it would be possible for any Government to make out a case for compulsion that would satisfy some of the opponents of this Bill. He seemed, with others, to object that the Government had taken notice of its General Staff. I want to say here, and say emphatically, that the Government did take notice of its General Staff, but the Government did not allow its General Staff to override it, nor did the General Staff expect that it would do so. So far as I have had any dealings with the General Staff, and I discussed the whole question with them for an hour, they did nothing but take up the position that was due to the offices they held, and they left it for the Government itself to decide the eventual policy that had to be put into operation. My right hon. Friend has put two or three questions to me. I am quite sure that with his long experience he would not expect me to deal with purely Committee points. I think there are one or two of his points I ought to notice. He is very much concerned about those 200,000 men. He seems to complain that no figures have been given during this Debate. I thought that we had a Secret Session in which the Prime Minister gave a most extensive review of the situation and such figures as he considered were in the public interest. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Exception appears to he taken to that statement. Is the public interest not to be safeguarded by the Prime Minister?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
Even in a Secret Session there is a limit. I am quite sure of this: That the Prime Minister impressed the majority of the House with the fact that the military situation was such that 256 a change of policy was absolutely essential. What is the position? When all our estimates have been realised, this is the balance that the Cabinet have decided can be spared from industry, and in the proposal read by my right hon. Friend, for which I was to some extent responsible, the reason why we said that recruiting ought to go on until 200,000 was reached was because we were satisfied they could be spared. But we also knew that military necessities might still further grow, and that the position would then have to be reviewed, and if further men can be spared from; industry they must be spared.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman also asked a question with regard to what, in my opinion, is one of the most satisfactory proposals in the Bill—that with regard to the Reserve. I suppose he and others are apprehensive that there is concealed in this proposal some policy of industrial compulsion. They fear that these men are going to be used, when they are placed in the Reserve, for some ulterior purpose. I wonder if any of my hon. Friends on my right believe that I would have been prepared to support any proposal that in any way threatened the natural and legitimate conditions under which our men are employed in industry now! No, Sir, this is not the time for that after the men have been in the Service. When they are no longer in the Service they will be kept just as Reserves are kept in time of peace. If they go into industry they will go into it not as soldiers but as civilians, so far as they are concerned, and it seems to me the Government were wise when they adopted this suggestion. My right hon. Friend also dealt with the financial position, and I thought, as he spoke, he had calculated that the Government, as a whole, had lost sight entirely of the importance of that factor of the situation. I want to say that it is because of the financial and trade considerations that we have at last been compelled to take this important step of dealing with the men on a more scientific basis.
Those of us who were present here listened a little time ago to another speech to which I must give some little attention. One of my colleagues in the Labour party, the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Goldstone), spoke with what appeared to be considerable heat. He tried to make a point against myself. He referred to a recent conference that we had at Bristol. He pointed out to the 257 House that the chairman of that conference would go into the Lobby against the Bill because, as he said, the conference by a very large majority decided against compulsion. He also pointed out that the secretary of that conference—myself—would be put up by the Government to support the Bill. This seemed to concern him very much. The only observation I have to make is this: That if my hon. Friend is dissatisfied, he has his remedy in this House as a member of the Labour party, and that he can get his remedy outside this House as far as my secretaryship is concerned. If being secretary of the Labour party is in any way to preclude me from doing my duty to my country in this crisis, I want my hon. Friend and others to know that I choose my country before my party. He tried further to influence the House to the recognition of the fact that some of us have not done what we might have done to secure the conscription of wealth. I want to ask him one question—whether he and others who are opposing this Bill, as they opposed the last Bill, if they had the conscription of all wealth, would that alter their position? In view of the fact that they tell us they are actuated by principle and conscience, the answer must be in the negative.
A marked feature of these Debates has been the satisfaction expressed that the Government has at last made itself responsible for a policy of general compulsion. It is quite true that that satisfaction has been mingled, in the case of some speakers, with an expression of regret at what they described as the eleventh hour effort of the Government. The House has been told—the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Plymouth (Major Astor) dealt very fully and forcibly with this aspect of the case—that we had waited until now before we had seriously tackled this question. The hon. and gallant Member to whom I have referred was exceedingly anxious to know what the Prime Minister was going to do with those whom he described asThese anchors in the Cabinetwho area perpetual drag on the progress of this Warand wholast summer opposed the proposals of their colleagues to deal with the matter in time."[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1916, col. 2661. Vol. LXXXL.]I cannot allow that position to go unchallenged. I personally accept the full measure of my responsibility. This is 258 more necessary because, possibly, I have been the heaviest drag-weight on this question of all my colleagues in the Cabinet. Let me examine this point. During last May Labour was invited to join the national Government, and reluctantly accepted the invitation. This should be kept in mind, that neither in this House nor in the country has organised Labour done other than give clear and emphatic expression to its deep hostility to enforced military service. Our position was known to every member of the new Government. It was clearly understood by all the parties in this House and by those whom they represent outside this House. My own personal position was known by my colleagues from the moment I entered the Cabinet. I endeavoured to convince my colleagues that the working classes of this country could not be brought to accept compulsion suddenly or apart from the conviction that it was a real military necessity. I was convinced then, as I am convinced now, that the alternative of Conscription or defeat would unite and not divide this nation. I urged this policy because I believed that one of two results would follow. Either Conscription would be accepted without serious injury to the nation or it would be proved to be unnecessary. Keeping this in view, may I ask the House to remember also that the new Government took office just after the magnificent results of the voluntary system had accrued. I think this is most important to my own position. Moreover, let me remind the House that four days before the Prime Minister announced the reconstruction the Secretary of State for War appealed to the country for 300,000 more men. He must have known what numbers of men he could train, equip, and use to the nation's advantage. Faced with this demand, I felt myself justified in considering these men could be secured by the method then in operation, having regard to the magnificent success that had already been achieved. I think if the policy for which I have been to some extent responsible is examined in the light of this position, if due regard be had to the difficulties of my own position, there is no need for me to be apologetic in the position I take up to-night. Having said this, I cannot agree with those critics of the Government who say that we have wasted time since last summer and done nothing until now. In July, though the Government only came 259 together in May, the National Registration Act was placed upon the Statute Book and the national registration was carried out. In the autumn a great recruiting campaign was carried through. In January the Military Service (No. 2) Act became law. I should like to say—and this is not unimportant having regard to some of the criticism—that during this time the Government had a Committee, upon which there were members who strongly believed in compulsion, examining carefully into the position in order to satisfy themselves how far more men could be spared from industry without jeopardising either our trade or finances.
So much then for the charge that the Government has done nothing until now. I listened attentively to the speech in which the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) moved the rejection of the Bill, and as I listened to him, what depressed me most was this, that, in spite of the fact that we are drawing to the close of the second year in a most unprecedented War, his speech seemed to convey to my mind that he was entirely oblivious of the fact that this War was running. It is true he referred to difficulties in connection with the mercantile marine. Let me say that the difficulties of the mercantile marine and the necessary labour supply is one of the reasons why I try to justify myself in the position I take up to-night. It is because we have allowed so many of our best men to go from our skilled trades into the Army who ought never to have been allowed to go, that we are presented with the difficulty of shortage of labour supply in connection with the mercantile marine. If I have any sympathy whatever with compulsion it is because of the difficulty to which he referred. In my opinion the longer the War lasts and the greater the need for men, the smaller becomes the crop from which you can select, and that means that you ought to apply the principle of selection the more carefully. The hon. Member tried to make great fun out of the position of the Government because it had been claimed that they were united in support of this policy. He used an illustration which, to my mind, was not quite so much to his purpose as he might have desired. He characterised the unity of the Government, I think, as the unanimity of a herd of Gadarene swine. I think his illustration was fatal, for we read that the herd ran violently down a steep place. I do not 260 think the critics of the Government are the people who will say that on this question the Government have run.
Another argument has been used which, must be noted. It has been used with great freedom, and it is that we ought not to go in for compulsion in this country having regard to the total strength of the Allied Armies. "Why not rely," say some of our critics," upon the superior manpower of Russia"? What does this mean? What does it mean, coming from the opponents of Conscription? It means this: Use by all means the Russian conscript to protect British liberty, but by no means compel the British citizen to take his part in protecting everything that is best in civilisation and in democracy, who by his very compulsion may permanently retain for us all our British liberties, I think that this argument, of all the arguments to which I have listened, is the most unworthy of its authors. Then, again, some attempt has been made to bring ridicule upon the claim that the Government policy is based upon military necessity. The question has been asked as to whether we had the approval of the military for our policy of last week. An attempt was made to try to show that there was a considerable difference between the policy of the last week and the policy of this week. I want to say here most emphatically that this Bill does not secure for us a single man more than would the policy of last week, taken as a whole, have secured. I notice that speakers during the Debate, some of my own Friends here, dissociated one part of last week's proposals from the remainder. The Government last week stood by its policy as a whole, and the effect, I repeat, would have been the same. It is quite true we were face to face with a few week's voluntary effort, but I want to ask those who opposed the Bill of last week whether, having regard to the notice this Bill contains—the month's notice—is going to place us in any superior position so far as the actual securing of the men is concerned than we would have been in if we had secured the men under the proposals of a week ago?
Coming to the Bill itself, it was explained very fully by the Prime Minister in his speech, and also by the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) yesterday, and I will devote the remainder of my time to noticing some of the objections that more particularly apply to my own position, and to those with whom 261 I usually associate. The attempt has been made to influence the working classes by statements which, in my opinion, are grossly misleading. There, for instance, is a statement which I feel I must bring to the notice of the House, arising, as it did, out of one of the previous debates. The Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) accepts this position:I will tell the working classes that this Bill has been brought in, not for the purpose of helping to win The War, but to interfere with the working classes.Here is another statement that has been made by the Member for Elland (Mr. Trevelyan):It is cant, hypocrisy and sham to say that the Bill is introduced merely for the purpose of winning the War. It is being introduced for the period after the War and for placing chains upon you.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to read the sentence before that, or may I read it? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I think it is only fair that I should be allowed to read it. I am not referring to the Government:If the Conscriptionists got this Bill through they would soon want the whole conscription system in operation, and people might be quite certain that if the Bill did get upon the Statute Book, the whole pack of the Northcliffe Press would he out in full cry to bring all men within the scope of the measure.That is what came before the statement the right hon. Gentleman has read.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I accept the statement of the hon. Gentleman, and I will leave it to the House to judge. I want to say with regard to these statements that they are nothing short of a travesty of the real position. Not only have the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Colonies given the most definite assurance that this policy does not obtain after the War so far as this Bill is concerned, but the Bill itself is so drafted that the policy it sets up cannot be carried on through that same Act of Parliament. The House has had to endure these misstatements and false prophecies during the previous Debate on the Military Service Act. Were we not told that the Military Service Bill was to enable us to obtain cheap soldiers?
§ Mr. GINNELL
I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether the rule against reading speeches applies to one set of. Members in this House and not to another? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I desire your ruling, Sir, as to whether this representative of Labour is entitled to read his speech? Is it fair play?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The right hon. Member is not reading his speech in the manner in which the hon Member read his.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
We were also told during the Debate on the Military Service Bill that if the Government obtained the men they would gamble their lives away as they did at the Dardanelles. We were also told that it was farcical to think that we could get the men by compulsion, that they were not there, and the opinion was expressed that the Military Service Act would not result in securing 50,000 men. What is the position?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
My hon. Friend desires me to read. I am going to quote the figures and I desire him to follow them. Lord Derby calculated that there were 660,000 single men of military age who had not come forward. Some thought that was an overestimate. It now turns out that it was an underestimate, and that there were no less than 750,000 of these single men who had not come forward. Of these, let me say, the military authorities should obtain 340,000, and already 187,826 of these are with the Colours. I hope that is a reply to the charge that the Military Service Act was a fraud. I hope also it is a reply to the charge that the Government has been doing nothing until now. There is one Clause in the Act which my right hon. and learned Friend referred to, upon which I would like to say a word, and that is the Clause with regard to the two months. I was very much interested in that Clause. I believe it was brought forward on an Amendment by my Friends below the Gangway, and we found it to be very valuable. But what is the position now? I claim that by the new Bill there is no man who will be in any worse position if he comes under the new Bill than he would have been under the old Bill. If a man is discharged all that he has got to do under the new Bill is to make application for a new certificate, and the military cannot touch him so long as his application has been undecided. I hope that will satisfy my hon. Friends that there is no ulterior motives behind this Clause, that it is not an attempt to get, as some of them suggest, industrial compulsion. The 263 Government are united, and it is absolutely impossible to get a particle of industrial compulsion of any kind in connection with this Bill, and it is most unfair that it should be said against us.
There is another point in the Bill I should like to refer to, and that is the conscientious objector. The hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. E. Harvey) made what I think was a very appealing speech to the House. I think that most of the Members present agreed with him that he was pleading for the genuine conscientious objector, and I think I cannot do less than undertake to ask my colleagues in the Cabinet to consider very carefully the suggestions he was good enough to make, that those genuine cases ought to have the chance of appeal rather than that they should be crowded into our prisons by hundreds. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] This Bill is not only a measure for getting the soldiers, but it is a measure for distributing our manhood between the Army and industry on a reasonable and scientific plan; distribution equally essential for manning the Army and for maintaining our financial strength. We must remember that our resources are not unlimited. For military purposes they are more narrowly limited than those of our Allies. The Government realise this even as much as does the right hon. Gentleman the Mem-
§ ber for Walthamstow, and he has given the Government credit for taking into consideration the financial and trade aspects of the case. So, therefore, it seems to me that we are led to this position: The General Staff have advised us that these men are necessary, and the Board of Trade have agreed that these men can be spared. We must realise that there are grave issues at stake in the War. We are for victory at all costs, but not victory at the expense of national unity, because without unity victory is impossible. I hope that by this Bill, though our policy has been delayed, we shall secure the national unity that is desired. For my own part I shall never be sorry for the position I have taken up. If the delay has enabled us to come before the House and before the country as a united Government, if we are going to get something like a united House of Commons, and if we are going to face the country, if not with- entire unity, avoiding any thing like disruption, then it seems to me that the policy of delay without having been injurious will absolutely turn out beneficial to the nation, to the Allies, and to all concerned. For those reasons' I ask the House to give a Second Reading; to the Bill.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 328; Noes, 36.267
|Division No. 4.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Bowden, Major G. R. Harland||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Bowerman, Charles W.||Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Boyton, James||Cory, James H. (Cardiff)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Brace, William||Cowan, W. H.|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)|
|Armitage, Robert||Brookes, Warwick||Craig, Col. James (Down, E.)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Craik, Sir Henry|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Brunner, John F. L.||Crooks, Rt. Hon. William|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Bryce, J. Annan||Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Bull, Sir William James||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Burdett-Coutts, William||Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Butcher, John George||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Buxton, Noel||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Denniss, E. R. B.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Carew, C. R. S.||Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Dixon, C. H.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Du Cros, Arthur Philip|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Cassel, Felix||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Cator, John||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness|
|Barrie, H. T.||Cautley. Henry Strother||Du Pre, W. Baring|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Edge, Captain William|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Essex, Sir Richard Walter|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Faber, George D. (Clapham)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Clive. Captain Percy Archer||Falconer, James|
|Bird, Alfred||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Falle, Bertram Godfray|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Fell, Arthur|
|Blair, Reginald||Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt. Colonel A. R.||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Forster, Henry William||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Robinson, Sidney|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Gardner, Ernest||Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale)||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Gastrell, Lieut.-Col. W. Houghton||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Rowlands, James|
|Gibbs, Col. G. A.||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Rutherford, Sir John (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Goldman, Charles Sydney||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Salter Arthur Clavell|
|Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Mackinder, Halford J.||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Grant, James Augustus||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Donald||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Gretton, John||Macmaster, Donald||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Shortt, Edward|
|Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Macpherson, James Ian||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Magnus, Sir Philip||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Malcolm, Ian||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Haddock, George Bahr||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Stanier, Capt. Seville|
|Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Meysey-Thompson, Major E. C.||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J. Knsington, S.)||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Stewart, Gershom|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Mills, Lieut. Arthur R||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza||Sutton, John E.|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Swann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Harris, Rt. Hon. Leverton (Wor'ter, E.)||Moore, William||Sykes, Col. Alan J. (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)||Morgan, George Hay||Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Morrison-Bell, Major E. (Ashburton)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Morison, Hector||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Murray, Major Hon. Arthur C.||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Henderson, Lt.-Col. Hon. H. (Ab'don)||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Newdegate, F. A.||Tickler, T. G.|
|Henry, Sir Charles||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Tootill, Robert|
|Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Touche, George Alexander|
|Hewart, Gordon||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Hewins, William Albert, Samuel||Nield, Herbert||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Norman, Sir Henry||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Hoddge, John||Norton-Griffiths, J.||Walsh, Stephen (Lanes., Ince)|
|Hohler, G. F.||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Horne, Edgar||Parkes, Ebenezer||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Parry, Thomas H.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)||Weston, J. W.|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Hunt, Major Rowland||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Whiteley, Herbert, J.|
|Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Illingnorth, Albert H.||Perkins, Waiter Frank||Wiles, Thomas|
|Ingleby, Holcombe||Peto, Basil Edward||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Pratt, J. W.||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Jessel, Col. Herbert M.||Pretyman, Ernest George||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Prothero, Rowland Edmund||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Joynson-Hicks, William||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Radford, George Heynes||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Kerry, Earl of||Randles, Sir John S.||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Keswick, Henry||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Wrthington Evans, Major L.|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Roes, Sir J. D.||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Remnant, James Farquharson||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Layland-Barrett, Sir F.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.— Mr.|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Gulland and Mr. Bridgeman.|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. W.||Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Byles, Sir William Pollard|
|Anderson, W. C.||Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Chancellor, Henry George|
|Arnold, Sydney||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Ginnell, Laurence|
|Glanville, Harold James||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Snowden, Philip|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Thomas, J. H.|
|Hogge, James Myles||Morrell, Philip||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Hudson, Walter||Outhwaite, R. L.||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Jowett, Frederick William||Pringle, William M. R.|
|King, Joseph||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Rowntree, Arnold||Holt and Mr. Lees Smith.|
Question put, and agreed to.