§ (1) Paragraph five of the First Schedule to the principal Act shall cease to have effect so far as it relates to men who have been discharged from the naval or military service of the Crown on the termination of their period of service.
§ (2) Paragraph six of the First Schedule to the principal Act shall, on the first day of August, nineteen hundred and sixteen, cease to apply to a man who has offered himself for enlistment and been rejected since the fourteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and fifteen, unless the Army Council are satisfied that he need not again present himself for medical examination, and send him notice to that effect.
§ (3) Sub-section (5) of Section two of the principal Act shall have effect as if the words "before the appointed date" were omitted therefrom.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (1).
I shall endeavour to be as brief as I possibly can in moving this, partly because that from the various hon. Gentlemen who are associated with me in this Amendment we shall doubtless have a variety of points of view, whilst I shall also get a certain amount of support from rather unexpected quarters. The effect of the Amendment would be that men who are already out of the Army, having done their time—in the majority of such cases they will be those men who have done their bit in the present War—having taken their discharge under the Army Regulations which are at present in force, would not go back. The proposal of the Government is that a man, if he has done his time in the Army, however long that time may have been, shall 740 now, if he is under forty-one years of age, go back to the Army as a conscript. I will mention two or three cases which are actually known to me which will, I think, show at once the unfairness and even the ridiculousness of the proposal. The one is the case of a man who has been in the Army for twenty-two years. During that time he has had an exemplary character. He was discharged on 26th January, 1916, after having served eighteen months in the War. He is now forty years and six months old, so that if he is conscripted, as I suppose he will be, he will be out of the Army in five months.
§ Mr. KING
Well, then it is all the more unjust that a man who has done twenty-two years' service should be forced to go on indefinitely in the Army. In January last this man left the Army without any invitation or inducement being put to him by his officers to continue in the Army. Why, I do not know. The real reason I suspect was that they did not want to have this old soldier of forty years, and with twenty-two years' service continuing amongst men who were the new recruit of what we know as Kitchener's Army Whatever the reason, the fact is certain that he was not even asked to continue in the Service. He left the Army and settled in London and took up a little business which, if he is obliged to go back to the Army, will be ruined, together with his whole position and prospects. I say it is an atrocious thing that a man of that character should be brought back into the Army and conscripted at a 1s. a day. He 741 was receiving a 1s. a day together with good conduct, or service pay, I believe they call it, of 7d. a day. The proposal in relation to men of this class is perfectly monstrous and ridiculous.
Let me take another case which possibly will commend itself more to hon. Members of the House. This is the case of a well-known literary gentleman. He was an officer for some years in a regiment which I need not indicate. He left the Army for good reasons. At the beginning of the War he offered his services. He has repeatedly offered them in a special direction where, I believe, he might have been employed and done good and useful work. He was refused again and again. He is under thirty-nine years of age. This ex-officer, who has offered himself for service again and again during the War is now to be conscripted as a private soldier at a shilling a day. Here, again, the thing is perfectly monstrous. In relation to hard cases of this sort no modifications apparently are contemplated in the Bill. I myself know at least three ex-officers who for one reason or another have not gone back into the Army. They might have gone back, but I believe in each case the reasons were good, and, certainly, two of them have offered their services. These three ex-officers are all over thirty. They are liable to be conscripted as private soldiers at a shilling a day. It is a shame. Such arrangements are not going to make the ranks of any unit in which such men are any stronger. It is going to put a feeling of injustice about—what I should term a feeling of irrational weakness—in the men who are drafted into the unit. I have the very greatest confidence that even if this Clause in this form is put through something will be done to mitigate hard cases such as I have indicated. Possibly before the tribunals such men may get some justice, though I do not think on the lines on which some tribunals have given exemption that there is much hope for them. I do, however, without hesitation say that the Government has not really considered the cruelty and injustice of this proposal, and I have, therefore, the very greatest pleasure in moving the deletion of this Sub-section.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
Though my name is associated with this Amendment, I have no intention of moving to that effect. I simply put my name down in order to raise one specific point. That is the position of men who have been non-commissioned officers or officers before and who 742 are now called up. These men are now being called up, as we understand, as private soldiers. To-day at question time the Under-Secretary for War was good enough to say—and I appreciate his attitude—that any man—if I correctly interpret his answer—who served as a non-commissioned officer, when he is called up, will be given that same rank, though not necessarily in the same unit. I quite understand that it is possible that he may not get into the same unit. But I will put it to the right hon. Gentleman that the same measure of justice must be done to old officers. There are men who have served as officers in the South African campaign. They got their commissions, some from the Yeomanry, and so on, for gallantry in the field. They have been in civil life since. If the War Office calls them up again they must in justice make them officers. I do not see how there can be a discrimination between non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers. If the War Office consider that a man should receive back his non-commissioned rank, it is only right that officers should receive their old rank. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will answer that point when he speaks.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
I would say that the question of my hon. Friend opposite is rather a different question to that of the non-commissioned ranks. I cannot give any promise on the point without consultation with the military authorities. I am sure the hon. Member would not be so unreasonable as to expect me at once to reply.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
No; but I am in the difficulty so far as these men are concerned of not being able to see any difference between the case of the non-commissioned officer and the commissioned officer. Commissioned rank is presumably given to the individual because he has fitted himself for it and has gained it through his merit. Therefore, I cannot see, if you give it to the one man, why it should not be given to the other.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I desire to support the Amendment, though we have just been beaten in the Lobby in relation to a somewhat similar principle. Let me point out to my right hon. Friend who has charge of the Bill that there is in this particular Sub-section what could not be alleged perhaps in quite the same way against the case of the men we have just been 743 considering. Paragraph (5) of the First Schedule of the original Act says:
"Men who have been discharged from the Naval or Military Service of the Crown on the termination of their period of service."
We have been discussing time-expired men who may again be called to the Colours to complete their period of service. Those in this Sub-section have actually done with the Army and done with the Navy. On the strength of being finished with either Service, or both, these men, as my right hon. Friend well knows from his own personal acquaintance with many of them, have actually gone into business of one kind or another, and have undertaken very serious and varied liabilities. He will, I think, agree that it is much more difficult to bring a man who has actually severed his connection with the Service, and who has gone into a small business of one kind or another, back into the Army. I think that is really an aggravated form, and unless my right hon. Friend can assure the Committee that the number of men involved is so many, and that the services they will be able to render are so necessary to the Army, I do think that this is a case in which my right hon. Friend might give way to the Mover of the Amendment.
§ Mr. WARDLE
I should like to ask whether, in regard to this Clause, as in regard to the last—the question of a man who has served for a long period—the Government would accept a reservation in regard to the number of men they would call up. Secondly, I would like to ask whether a man who has been in the Naval Service is to be called up in the Army, or whether, if he is to be called up in the Navy and not in the Army, this Bill really does not go beyond the title. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member opposite, which was not replied to fully by the Under-Secretary of State for War, I should like to point out that there has been an Amendment on the Paper for some time, and I think the right hon. Gentleman might have been in a position to give a definite answer.
§ Mr. SHERWELL
There is one case which has not yet been referred to in this discussion. This Clause, as it now stands, does not merely affect those who have completed their term of service in the Army, and who have made no offer for further service, but it will actually operate 744 against those men who have completed their term of service during the War, and have volunteered for a further term, but whose offer has not been accepted by the War Office authorities. Only quite recently I submitted to the War Office an application of a man who had served twelve years in the Army, and who during the progress of this War was discharged because he had completed his period of twelve years' service. The man himself made application for a further term of service, as he wished to complete twenty-one years' service in the Army. His application was rejected. The man wrote to me, and I submitted his case to the War Office, but the War Office regretted that they were unable to entertain his proposal. It does seem to me a perfectly scandalous thing to propose a provision of this kind on the ground of military necessity, when the War Office during the-conduct of this War have themselves refused to avail themselves of the voluntary help of those who have completed one period of service and were ready to serve their country for a further period. I do think some undertaking must be given in cases of that kind, where a man, having had his offer rejected, might not be required to serve again. It is certainly not fair to tell a man under these circumstances, when you have declined his voluntary offer, that he must become a conscript under the new conditions of this Bill.
I should like to ask whether it is intended to give any bounty or any concession to those men who are recalled to the Colours, on the same lines as the President of the Local Government Board has already promised should be given to those men who are retained in the Colours? I may point out there has-been an Army Order in force since 20th February, 1916, under which these men, if they had been willing to stay on with the Colours, could have claimed and received £15 bounty. Many of them—the majority of them, I fear—have taken their discharge, under the belief that they were entitled to do so. They have at the present moment, I fear, forfeited all right to this £15, but if some concession is going to be given—and I hope it is—to those men who are compulsorily retained with the Colours,. I think the case to these men who have-recently taken their discharge and forfeited their claim to this bounty should, in common justice, be considered. I should be very grateful if any statement could be made on this point. Both as regards the 745 men retained and also as regards those who are called back, I think it is difficult to say which is the fairest—some concession with regard to pension, or some increase of pay while they are retained with the Colours, or called back, or whether they should receive a bounty. Each case will, more or less, have to be dealt with on its merits, and I would suggest, if possible, that the men should be given the choice according to their individual cases of what is best suited to them. In any case I think we should preserve the principle that these men are worthy of their hire and worth paying a little extra for.
§ Mr. LONG
The hon. Member for Somerset, who moved to omit the Sub-section, gave us two cases which he claimed, in somewhat strong language, were cases which showed the absurdity of this Bill. It is quite easy for anybody who has sufficient industry to produce hard cases in relation to any part of this Bill, or any Bill which deals with compulsory service. What the critics of the Government seem to overlook is that compulsory service involves hardship and sacrifice because it makes a certain number of men do what they were unwilling to do. If everybody were willing to join the Colours in sufficient numbers obviously you would not require any compulsion. Compulsion is necessary because we are engaged in a great War, because immense demands are made upon us in order to play our part in conjunction with our Allies, to do justice by them, and in these circumstances we are bound as a Government to ask the country for the powers which are contained in this Bill. We do not deny—it would be ridiculous to do so—that in imposing this fresh burden on the nation some people will be called upon to undergo a hardship and an additional sacrifice, and, therefore, merely to advance certain hard cases, which are the result of an immense amount of industry, searching and inquiry, in order to find hard cases, by the hon. Member for Somerset, does not justify the condemnation he sought to pass upon the proposals contained in this Clause. The hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. Ashley) asked about the men who have obtained non-commissioned rank. In all those cases they return to the Colours in the rank which they enjoyed when they left, exactly in the same way as they do when they go to the Reserve and come from the Reserve to the Colours.
§ Mr. LONG
It is not necessary to put it in the Bill. After all, there is nothing new in this. Men pass through the Reserve and are brought back to the Colours, and when they are brought back to the Colours they return to the rank which they held before, and, therefore, as I am advised—and I can only act on the advice I get, as I am not an expert in these matters —it is unnecessary to put this in the Act of Parliament. However, that particular point is raised in another form later on.
§ Mr. LONG
But they pass when they are conscripted automatically into the Reserve. That is the machinery of the Bill. With regard to the commissioned ranks, my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War said he was unable to give a definite answer, and I think the Committee will realise that it would not be possible to promise that every man who has served in the commissioned rank, and is not now in the Army, should be reinstated at once in the commissioned rank. There are, undoubtedly, cases where this would not be desirable in the interest of the Army, but I think in the majority of cases this would follow, and certainly, so far as the Army Council is concerned, I know it is their intention to make use of this power with discrimination, because they do not want to inflict undue hardship, nor do they want to fill the Army with men who would be undesirable. I do not know anything about the case which the hon. Member for Somerset quoted—that of a man who had served eighteen years and was not asked to re-engage. At one time—I did not know it was as late as last January—no offer was made, I believe, to prevent men whose service had expired, or was expiring, to reengage, or induce them to re-engage. It is very easy now, of course, to indulge in the sort of remark the hon. Member for Birmingham is so fond of making—namely, that the Army Council are never looking ahead.
§ Mr. LONG
I am quite aware of that, and-1 regard it as singularly unfair, having regard to the hon. Member's position, that he seeks to draw that distinction, because, serving as he does in the War Office, no 747 one can know better that in these matters the Government act under the advice of the Army Council.
§ Captain AMERY
I think I must be allowed to make an explanation. The right hon. Gentleman has, I think, no doubt entirely unintentionally and inadvertently, misrepresented the work I do in the War Office and the position I hold there—an entirely subordinate work in a particular Department which does not bring me in any way in contact with the Army Council, or the decisions of the Army Council, or any branch of that, and in regard to recruiting I am in exactly the same position as any hon. Member in this House.
§ Mr. LONG
And so does every soldier in the Army. Therefore, I do not think it is fair—I am giving the hon. and gallant Member credit for special knowledge on this subject, which I know he possesses— but I say I do not think it is fair to draw a distinction in these matters between the Government and the Army Council. In these matters we are acting on the advice of the Army Council, and are only acting as their mouthpiece in the House of Commons, and I say it is very easy to blame the Army Council or the Government—I 'do not in the least desire to shirk the responsibility; I have never done that in my life in the House of Commons—and to say they are not looking forward, and have not done things they ought to have done in the past. Perhaps they ought to have done them, but let me remind the Committee that "it is never too late to mend," and if these mistakes were made, it is no use wasting time and blaming them because they made them. The best thing to do is to take such steps as seem to them and us the best to repair the mischief now. With regard to the rank of officers and men, I think the case is as stated, and I do not think it is unwise or wrong of the Under-Secretary of State for War to guard himself as regards the question of officers.
The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Wardle) has asked whether the Government would be prepared to limit the number of men in regard to the case of men with a number of years' service? I 748 do not think it desirable or possible to introduce such a Clause in the Bill. This Clause applies only to men of a certain age, namely, from eighteen to forty-one. It gives the Army Council power to call up those men and deal with them, and I think they may be trusted not to take men whom it is undesirable to take. With regard to the Navy, they get first call upon the men who are within their special domain, and, so far as they are concerned, I think they are very well able to take care' of themselves. With regard to bounties, of course the same principle applies to those men obviously as those in the preceding Clause. Whatever the bounties are or the conditions on which they are granted to the men, they will apply to the men who are recalled. With regard to the general question, I have already said that the Army Council have exercised their discretion. Beyond that, let me remind the Committee that every man who conies in under this Clause has the same power, and all that happens is that the exemptions in the original Act are removed by this Clause. As regards the time-expired men nobody denies that we are making great demands upon them, and it is only because the country really needs their services that we are asking them to make this special effort.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
With reference to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Navy, is it the intention of the Government that in the case of a man who has served for years in the Navy, and has been discharged, if the Navy do not want him at that moment to go back, under those circumstances will he be enlisted in the Army and serve in the Army?
§ Mr. W. THORNE
In the case of a man who is already in the Army and his time may expire in two or three weeks, I think there is some justification in trying to retain that man's services, but where a man has received a discharge and done a great deal of Army service in days gone by, I think it is a great hardship for him to be forcibly called upon again to serve. T would just like to quote from a letter I have received in connection with this matter. One of these men writes to me as follows:I for one consider it absolutely unjust and illegal and certainly a breach of confidence that I have to return after eighteen months' war service, while some of those cowardly men get total exemption at the tribunals. I hear that four sons of Mr.—have all got total exemptions as conscientious objectors.749 Under the circumstances I feel in duty bound to support this Amendment, and if it is pressed to a Division I shall vote for it. I have backed up the Government all along, but I think the time has arrived in regard to these particular men when we shall have to part company.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I want to ask if these men have the right of appeal to the tribunals the same as any other men?
The right hon. Gentleman asked how many men were involved in this proposal. If they happen to be a valuable contribution to the Army the Government may be justified in resorting to all the meanness involved in this proposal. These men have served in the Army and been discharged, and their voluntary services have been refused three months ago by the Military Service Act. On the strength of that they have entered into obligations and re-entered civil life on the assumption that they would not be called upon. Now we are going to be mean enough in many cases to ruin them, destroy their small savings, and compel them to come back into the Army. A good many of these men are accustomed to military life; they like it, and of their own volition I know a large number of them would go into the Army without any sense of the gross injustice involved in the recancellation of this exemption which was in the previous Bill. Is it worth while for the small balance you will get to cancel this right which they have earned by long years of service and which was sanctioned so recently?
§ Mr. LOUGH
I wish to mention the case of a soldier in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He bought his discharge from the Army Reserve at the cost of £25 in September, 1913, and he has received Reserve pay at 6d. a day. I wish to draw attention to the gross injustice that will be inflicted upon this man if the Government, after having entered into an arrangement with him, break their contract. In the case of men who have bought their discharge and paid for it and made a definite contract with the Government, I should be much obliged if the right hon. Gentleman will tell me whether such cases have been considered, or whether these men, in spite of the arrangement they have entered into, will be compelled to rejoin the Army.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
It has been said that these men will have the right to appeal to the tribunals. Unfortunately, they have had some months' experience of the tribunals and their methods of working, and they have very little faith that their cases are going to be fairly considered. It does appear to me in regard to this matter that the Government, or the Army Council, do not know their own mind for three or four weeks consecutively, and the policy which obtains one month is entirely withdrawn the next month, and what a week ago seems unimportant becomes a military necessity a few weeks afterwards. That seems to be the general line upon which matters move. There is no doubt at all that there is a real hardship here, and I think it would have been well if the President of the Local Government Board had tried to meet the matter more than he has done. These men have been allowed to leave the Army. They served in the Army as volunteers and free soldiers, and now they are going to be called up as conscripts. Surely that is a hardship. Various letters on this subject have been read, and I do not think there is any hon. Member present who could not read such letters, but the answer of the President of the Local Government Board in each case would be that it is very easy to bring up isolated instances. May I point out that these are not such instances, but they are cases of hardship which are going to arise. When these men left the Army they felt that they had finished their service, and many of them have undertaken business commitments of one sort or another. Some of them have gone in for small shops, and their business prospects are going to be ruined, and it cannot be said in any shape or form that these men have not done their duty.
What is going to be the position with regard to compensation? What is the Government scheme by which these men are going to be recompensed for the new duty they are going to undertake. Of that we get hardly any inkling at all. I would also like to know how many men are involved in this matter? That question has been asked several times. I believe the number, from the standpoint of the Government and from the point of view of military necessity, is small. We ought to have some understanding as to that, and, in view of the real hardship 751 involved, this point ought to be met, and if it is not met I hope the Amendment will be pressed to a Division.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think this is one of the most contemptible proposals contained in this Bill. The plan contained in the proposal we are now dealing with puts these men in a more humiliating position than any other class of men affected by the Bill. Here we have men who have been discharged from the Army. In many cases since August last these men voluntarily offered their service, and it was the deliberate policy of the Army Council to refuse that service because an extension of their service would increase the State's liability in regard to pensions Three months ago we passed an Act of Parliament, and in the Schedule of that Act we gave these men a statutory charter of freedom from service, and now within three months that is to be withdrawn. This Bill has been recommended by the Minister of Munitions to his fellow-countrymen in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity. These words have often been dragged in the mire, but never have they been more sadly disgraced than in this case.
I wish to ask a quesion affecting the position of men invalidated out of the Army. There were a very large number of men discharged and invalidated out of the Army after the conclusion of the South African War, and I have not been able to find in the Bill any reference to their case, and I would like to know if they are provided for in this particular Clause. That class of men desire to know whether they are considered here as being included, and whether they will have to undergo a further medical examination.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I am sure the President of the Local Government Board must feel that he ought to say something more, and I will tell him why. I made a very short speech, and the right hon. Gentleman has replied to all the long speeches, but he has not replied to mine. I will put my point shorter still. I know a man who has gained the Victoria Cross, who has been discharged from the Army, and under this Clause will become a conscript. Is my right hon. Friend in favour of making a man who has won the Victoria Cross with the British Army a conscript? I say that is not British. Will my right hon. Friend really get up and tell us the 752 difference between those men who have absolutely left the Army and the men we dealt with a month ago who might be called upon to continue their service? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us the number of these men? If the number is insignificant they would not have bothered to legislate for them, and if it is a significant number, let us know what it is. Is it 500, 1,000, or 5,000? Surely, if the Government stand in this position for those soldiers, they must be at their absolute wit's end for men when they have to bring those men and label them as conscripts. I invite my right hon. Friend to deal with that point as shortly as I have dealt with it.
§ Mr. BARNES
I am considerably exercised in my mind about this Sub-section, and before we go to a division I should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman deal with this point. I am concerned about a man who has left the Army and has rejoined civil life. He may have made commitments, and I want to provide that he shall not be sent abroad again, at all events, if he is near the margin of forty-one. I think, as we have passed Clause I, we should maintain the limit of forty-one here, but there are many men between thirty-five and forty who, after serving their country, have come home and settled down. I think something is due for them, and I should like to make some provision so that a man of thirty-five shall have an option of serving at home, training, I should say, new recruits coming into the Army.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
May I raise a question which I put to the right hon. Gentleman on the last Clause, but which the Chairman ruled out of order. A number of my Constituents were working in mines prior to the War. They were called to the Colours, but they have come back, and are now again following the reserved occupation of miners. I take it that under the Regulations they will come before the tribunal the same as all other miners. My Constituents want to know whether the military representative will make any difference between these men and the ordinary married man working in a mine, because their principal and usual occupation prior to the War was that of coal miners. May I say, referring to the statement made by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden), and the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Anderson), that I cannot for the life of me see why the charge 753 should be made of any breach of pledge. I do not understand it. The Government have now, at this late hour of the War, made up their minds—they ought to have done it nine months ago—that it is necessary to have Conscription, and that all persons, married or single, under forty-one, must be brought under the provisions of this Act. Is it to be said, because a man joined the Volunteers or the Territorial Force or any other Force, and because his occupation happens to be that of a soldier, that he is to be outside the provisions of this Act, though every other citizen is liable? Why should you give a special exemption to soldiers which you are not giving to any other member of the community? It is not really true that there has been any breach of a pledge.
§ Mr. LONG
The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) asked me about the case of a soldier who has won the Victoria Cross and served with distinction and who now becomes a conscript. He asks me whether we are going to treat this gallant fellow in this way. I do not want to indulge in anything like heroics, but it really does seem to me that it is not necessary to talk about "conscripts" in this tone of contempt, as if it were an insult. After all, my hon. Friends must remember this. They are constantly talking in well-deserved terms of eulogy of our Allies, the French. Everyone of those gallant soldiers, how gallant they are many of us hardly realise to-day, is a compelled soldier, called "conscript" for some reason. I do not think it is a good name. After all, it must be remembered what hon. Members who now talk about "conscripts" in such a term of contempt were saying when we were discussing the other Bill. Some hon. Members contended that there were a large number in the country who were shirkers. That was not my view, and I stated so, but it was the view of many that there were a large number of shirkers, evading their duty to their country. What was the answer, and I believe the correct answer, from those who took the opposite view? It was that the great mass of these men who were not joining the Colours were not shirkers seeking to evade their duty to their country, but were men who for one reason or another found it more difficult to join. Their claims at home may have been so strong that they thought they should not be broken. What was said by many men with conflicting views as to 754 Conscription? It was said that it was upon these men that the burdens from volunteering would be the greatest. The man who has family claims says, "It is very much harder for me to break these ties and to come to a decision myself. Let the State decide for me, and then I will do what the State tells me." I do not think it is quite reasonable or correct to talk of these men as if they were suddenly placed in a position of indignity and contempt as compared with the voluntary soldier. Whatever line we may take here in this House, when he gets at the front and in the trenches the conscript, as he is called, will be heartily welcomed by his comrades and none of these undesirable distinctions will be drawn either by officers or men in the Army. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) asked me a question about the man who has purchased his discharge. It really depends upon the interpretation of the language in the Act. I do not know whether that covers the case of a man who buys his discharge, but there is no fraud in the matter, because the man who purchased his discharge purchased a freedom from military obligations which he has enjoyed from the time of his purchase up to the present. Now the nation makes a fresh demand. One hon. Member said that the Army Council, the War Office, and the Government changed their minds every six months.
§ Mr. LONG
A proportion of it will be made good. I think, for the purposes of 755 the Act, he, like other men, will have obtained his discharge, although he has purchased it. I was asked about the men who were discharged on account of ill-health after the South African War. I take it that they come within the Section of the First Schedule "discharged in consequence of disablement or ill-health," unless, of course, they offer themselves or are now able to pass the Army medical examination they will be outside. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) asked me about men who have reached the age of thirty-five and who have rendered good service. There is one thing about which the Army Council are very emphatic indeed, and that is that it is most undesirable to increase the number of men in the Army who are entitled to be employed for different services. The difficulties are already very great between the men who are for Home Service and the men who are for General Service, and it is most undesirable to increase the number, but in certain cases the Army Council are most anxious to exercise their discretion and to see justice done, and I am sure that such a case would have their most friendly consideration, though, of course, I cannot
§ pledge myself that they will be able to give effect to the wishes which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed and which are very natural. With regard to the colliers, so far as this Act goes their position remains the same, and will remain the same so long as they remain in a reserved occupation and so long as that occupation is a reserved occupation. No change is made by this Bill. It is obviously impossible for me to give the numbers. I am told that there are about 5,000 time-expired men leaving every month, but I do not know how they are divided, or how many there are in the country who have already served and taken their discharge. It is quite impossible to say. I do not think there is any data available at the present moment. I doubt if the National Register would give it out—I am sure it would not—and I do not think you could possibly get it without prolonged examination.
§ Question put, "That the words 'Paragraph five of the first Schedule to the principal Act shall cease to have effect' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 159; Noes, 39.757
|Division No. 10.]||AYES.||[8.0 p.m.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Edge, Captain William||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Fell, Arthur||Layland-Barrett, Sir F.|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Forster, Henry William||M'Callum, Sir John M.|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Foster, Philip Staveley||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Galbraith, Samuel||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Goldman, C. S.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Boyton, James||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Brace, William||Gulland, John William||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Millar, James Duncan|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hancock, John George||Mills, Lieut. Arthur R.|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Butcher, John George||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza|
|Carew, Charles R. S.||Harmsworth, K. L. (Caithness-shire)||Morgan, George Hay|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Morison, Hector|
|Cassel, Felix||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Hon. H. (Ab'don)||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Newman, John R. P.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Norton-Griffiths, J.|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Coote, William||Houston, Robert Paterson||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Pratt, J. W.|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Jessel, Colonel H. M.||Prothero, Rowland Edmund|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Dixon, C. H.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Robertson, Rt. Hon. J. M.|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Larmer, Sir J.||Roberts, Charles H.|
|Robinson, Sidney||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Swann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.||Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Rowlands, James||Sykes, Col. Alan John (Knutsford)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.||Talbot, Lord Edmund||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Salter, Arthur Clavell||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)||Worthington Evans, Major L.|
|Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Tickler, T. G.||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Shortt, Edward||Touche, George Alexander||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)||Toulmin, Sir George||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Spear, Sir John Ward||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Whiteley, Herbert, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.— Mr. James Hope and Mr. Beck.|
|Steel-Maitland, A. D.||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Stewart, Gershom||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N. W.)|
|Anderson, W. C.||John, Edward Thomas||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Arnold, Sydney||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Jowett, Frederick William||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Byles, Sir Wiliam Pollard||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Snowden, Philip|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Clynes, John R.||Molteno, Percy Alport||Thomas, J. H.|
|Glanville, Harold James||Morrell, Philip||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Needham, Christopher T.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Outhwaite, R. L.||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Hogge, James Myles||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Pringle, William M. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.— Mr. King and Sir E. Lamb.|
|Hudson, Walter||Radford, George Heynes|
§ Captain AMERY
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "so far as it relates to men who have been discharged from the naval or military service of the Crown on the termination of their period of service."
The object of my Amendment is to fill in a very small but not altogether unimportant gap which I believe has been left by inadvertence in the present Bill. To understand the purport of the Amendment it is necessary to go back to paragraph (5) of the first Schedule of the principal Act. That paragraph excepted altogether from military obligations men who have been discharged from the naval or military Services of the Crown, whether on the ground of ill-health or at the termination of their period of service. The present Bill removes that exception with regard to men whose period of service has previously terminated, and the object of my Amendment is also to remove the exception with regard to men who may at some time in the past have been discharged from the Service on the ground of ill-health or disablement. When this paragraph of the first Schedule was under consideration, in January, I ventured to point out that this exception would exempt from liability to service, not only men who had been recently discharged from the Service on the ground of ill-health, and were still unfit, but men who might have been invalided from South Africa years 758 ago, or even men who might have entered the Territorial Force for six weeks, have contracted a bad cold during that time, and, by arrangement with the colonel, in the easy-going days before the War, have been released from Territorial service on the ground of ill-health, although they might be perfectly fit, and have done nothing more for their country than that six weeks' service.
When I raised this point I was met with an answer which at the time appealed to the Committee at large, namely, that the Bill was in pursuance of a pledge given by the Prime Minister to coerce into the Service the slackers who had never offered themselves before. But men who have been in the Territorials some years ago obviously could not be deemed to be slackers. Not on the merits of the case, but because of the pledge which the Government had given, these exceptions were then maintained. But the pledge has now gone. It certainly no longer holds good as regards men who have completed their service. What I wish to suggest is that it ought not to hold good as regards men who at some time or other were discharged from the Service on the ground of ill-health unless those men are at this time unfit for service. This Bill is already going to provide that men who offered themselves for service since 15th August last, and were rejected on the ground of ill-health may be re-examined. 759 I suggest you should not leave a gap by which men who left the Territorial Force on the ground of ill-health after six weeks' service, five or six years ago, should now be able to say, "I am entirely exempted, I have no liability to serve." I know of such cases. I was asked advice by a parent about his son some little time ago. It was perfectly obvious that there were no valid grounds why the son should not serve, but I had to tell the parent that as his boy left the Territorials on the ground of ill-health after a short period of service, the parent was entitled to send in the record of that discharge to the military authorities and that there was no necessity for him to appear before the tribunal. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept this small Amendment. It can inflict hardship on nobody. It will prevent a small number, possibly not more than 3,000 in all—still a small section of the people—being free to disregard claims which fall with such weight and involve such heavy sacrifices upon the rest of their fellow countrymen.
§ Mr. LONG
We are dealing in a later Amendment, which will come on almost immediately, with the question of medical rejections. This Amendment only refers to the men who have been discharged from the Army or the Navy as medically unfit. I am advised by the military advisers of the Government that this proposal would lay upon them a very heavy burden. It would be a very difficult task which they do not at all desire to have placed upon their shoulders. It would mean practically re-examining every man discharged from the Navy or the Army on the ground of ill-health, and their belief is that the number of men who would be available for service as a result of such a general resurvey would be so very small as to make it not worth the great labour involved. I, of course, have no special knowledge on this matter. I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend was justified in describing the number as he did. I do not know whether it may be larger or smaller. All I know is that we discussed this Amendment fully with the Army Council, and their instructions to me were—and I have made further inquiries since to confirm it—that it is their desire the Committee should reject the Amendment on the ground that, although it might possibly produce a small number of additional men for the Army, the number would be out of all proportion to 760 the labour involved—labour of a somewhat unpleasant character. Under these circumstances, I hope my hon. Friend will not press the Amendment.
§ Captain AMERY
I think my right hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. It would not be in the least necessary for the War Office to have all the discharged men re-examined. All my Amendment would effect would be that where a man is called upon in the ordinary course to appear before a tribunal, he shall not be able to say, "No, I was discharged on the ground of ill-health from the Territorial Force, and that frees me." I want that this objection should not be allowed to hold good. It would not be in the least obligatory under this Amendment for the War Office to re-examine any man.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The hon. Member always seeks to produce the maximum amount of inconvenience for the minimum of efficiency. I well remember the innocent Amendment now before the Committee being proposed on the previous Bill.
§ It being a Quarter past Eight of the clock, and leave having been given to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put.
§ The House resumed, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.
§ Mr. DILLON
not being in his place, the Proceeding in Committee on the Military Service Bill was continued.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I well remember that the hon. and gallant Member on that occasion endeavoured to show that the Amendment then proposed was well within the meaning of the pledge. He was at pains to point out on that occasion that these people were slackers, and he went on to say that they were shirking their obligations. Then the right hon. Gentleman drew his attention to the fact that they had already served a period, and the Amendment was withdrawn, yet we now see it brought up in another form. We had an unfortunate illustration from the hon. and gallant Member. He gave us a typical case of what he wants to deal with by compulsion, and said that the parents of a young man consulted him with regard 761 to a son who got out of military service some time ago through having a slight cold. What does he admit by that? The clear advice he ought to have given was not, "Unfortunately the Bill will not affect you, and therefore you are exempt," but it should have been, "Never mind this Bill; go and offer your services now, and they will test you." If that is a typical case of what the hon. and gallant Member wishes to deal with in this Bill, there is a very easy way of dealing with it. It is not suggested that these men are prevented from offering their services. It would have been his duty, notwithstanding his anxiety for compulsion, to tell him to immediately enlist.
§ Captain AMERY
That was the advice I gave. I said that if he did not want to enlist, he was perfectly entitled to refuse to do so under the Bill.
§ Mr. THOMAS
You did not tell the Committee that. You said you stated that you regretted to inform him that he escaped.
§ Mr. THOMAS
If he did not want to enlist, he did not require any advice from you to tell him that he could escape. I am very glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman refuses to accept the Amendment, because it is useless to pretend that this will not inconvenience people. If it is true that there are large numbers—I do not suppose there are very many—who have been so rejected, the least these men are entitled to say is that in the days gone by they have offered their services but unfortunately they were medically rejected, and therefore the State is not entitled to come along and say they are slackers. For these reasons I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will not try to rope in everybody when there is no military advantage in doing so.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
I will not follow the argument between my hon. Friends on either side of the Committee or say whether my hon. and gallant Friend gave good advice to the parents of the boy who consulted him, because that is quite immaterial. I am sorry the President of the Local Government Board is hiding him- 762 self—I do not use the term offensively—always behind the Army Council. He says, "I take my instructions from the Army Council. I do not exercise any independent judgment."
§ Mr. LONG
I certainly do claim to exercise my judgment whenever I speak. I have never said that I never exercised my own judgment. It must be apparent, in regard to these questions which come under the Army Council and which are decided by them—I am not a member of the Army Council and have nothing to do with the daily details of that Department—that I must consult them. Where else shall I go for instruction if it is not to the Army Council? I never stated that I had not exercised my own discretion. I exercised my discretion in counsel with the Army Council before I came down here.
I dare say it is all my fault, but the phrase, "take instructions from," is a very unfortunate one. Is not this an Amendment that really deserves consideration? I understand that the President said, "My advisers or instructors tell me there is too much work involved in this." Not a single figure is given to us of the numbers that would be affected by this Clause. May I remind the Committee that it is not merely the men who have been discharged but the men who have left who are affected. If it was merely a question of discharge I could understand that that would be a serious matter, but if the man himself has left that is quite a different matter. If a man left six, ten or fifteen years ago owing to a slight cold, can the hon. Member say that that man ought to be exempted for ever?
§ Mr. THOMAS
Is it to be assumed that the Army would let a man go simply because he had a slight cold? Are we to understand that that was the basis of inefficiency under the military régime?
It refers to men who have left or been discharged. The words "a slight cold" are not in the Act. I submit that the words leave too wide a 763 door open for exceptions. If we are going to deal with this matter, as we know nothing about it, the least the Army Council could do is to investigate cases as they come up, to see if they come within the Bill. If there is a good reason for discharging them, then they will come within the exceptions. Although I do not press the matter, I think the right hon. Gentleman and the Army Council might be expected to take a reasonable view of this Amendment.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I should not have taken part in the discussion on this Amendment had it not been for the speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). It is difficult to imagine a more unfair stricture being passed upon any Member of this House than that he has passed on my hon. and gallants Friend (Captain Amery). I really think he did not mean what he said. He said that my hon. and gallant Friend's express desire was to producethe maximum of inconvenience with the minimum of efficiency.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I entirely disagree with the hon. Member in saying that that is the effect of my hon. and gallant Friend's efforts in this House. I believe that if he had put the proposition in its converse order he would be much nearer the truth. There is no Member of the House who is more anxious to produce an efficient Army in the time of this great War and there are very few Members who know better what proposals are likely to produce that efficient Army than my hon. and gallant Friend. I do not know whether he intends to go to a Division on this Amendment, but if he does I shall go with him. I think it is a very reasonable Amendment. Does the hon. Member (Mr. Thomas) think there is any point in this slight cold? What does it matter whether it was a slight cold or a dangerous disease? If a man was discharged from the Army years ago on account of any disease or disablement, whether slight or severe, and if in the time that has intervened he has become fit and strong again and able to serve in the Army, what in the world has it to do with his obligation to the country whether or not he was ill some years ago? No doubt the hon. Member has come across men who were totally disabled or had some disease and made it a perfectly legitimate excuse 764 in time of peace, and the Army authorities were not too strict. Why should they be? There are numbers of men—no one can say how many there may be—who have passed out of the Army for those reasons. The only reason given against bringing them back along with everyone else, according to my right hon. Friend, is that the Army authorities say it would give a great deal of work in re-examining them all. But if the Army authorities objected to the Amendment on this ground they would be apparently misunderstanding its effect, because it would not be necessary for any such wholesale re-examination to take place. It would only mean that that particular excuse would cease to be ipso facto a valid excuse when the man comes before the tribunal. The hon. Member talked about hardship and unfairness. We are all agreed that the whole Bill is hardship from beginning to end. The whole conditions of the War are hardship from beginning to end. The fact that we are at war is a hardship. Therefore, surely it is beside the mark to take advantage of these proposals for improving the Army to say there is hardship here or there. That is an argument which ought to be left behind now in the general agreement that we have unfortunately to impose hardship in the circumstances in which the country finds itself to-day. I hope very much that even now my right hon. Friend will see how reasonable the Amendment is, and that in spite of the misunderstanding which the Army authorities appear to have been under with regard to its purport, he will see that it is a reasonable proposal.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Amery) must be greatly gratified by the very full and adequate certificate of character which he has received from the hon. Member (Mr. McNeill). It must be an encouragement to him that the hon. Member has thrown his ample shield over him and that so much of his person as emerges behind that shield is without a stain upon it. I am not going to enter into the argument which has been very ably put before the Committee by the two hon. Members opposite who have spoken, but I am somewhat surprised at the attitude of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Ellis Griffith), who now pours contempt upon the Army Council. Why should the President of the Local Government Board pay any attention to the Army Council? Why should he take any instructions from them? My recollection of his contribution to this controversy in 765 the past is that the word of the Army Council was to be the last word. After all, the question of the introduction of this Bill was a question of policy, which was surely a matter above the decision of the Army Council; but upon the question of policy the right hon. Gentleman took the advice of the Army Council as the last word on the subject. Here when we are dealing with a question of pure administrative machinery, which is surely a question upon which the Army Council is alone entitled to speak, he says the right hon. Gentleman is very foolish to pay any attention to advice he receives regarding the administrative machinery of the War Office. I do not think such an argument coming from such a source is likely to have much weight.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am in the recollection of the Committee. The inconsistency was so obvious to the meanest intelligence that it must have occurred to everyone present, and if my right hon. Friend was ignorant himself that he had used the argument and was guilty of the inconsistency, I cannot account for it. After all, we are in the midst of the dinner hour and not after the dinner hour, and aberrations of that kind are not easily explicable
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I must ask the hon. Member to address himself to the Amendment before the Committee.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am sorry you did not observe that part of my argument already related to the subject matter of the Amendment. As you did not observe it I will repeat what I then said. The only point at issue between the advocates of the Amendment and the Government is the question of administrative machinery. On that point the right hon. Gentleman strengthened himself behind the advice of the Army Council, and I think the Committee is justified in accepting the advice of the Army Council on this question as put by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
Although the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Amery) spends so much time at the War Office— at least his mornings, in preparation for his afternoon speeches—I am prepared on this occasion to back the Army Council. To say they have not considered the point is surely beside the mark. They must have considered it before they could have advised the President of the Local Government Board, and they must have made an 766 estimate as to the time it would take them to dispose of this matter as the result of their inquiry. The result of the inquiry obviously is that the number of men to be produced as a result of the work bestowed upon the examination of these men is not worth the consideration of the Army Council, and, these men being men of great ability whose time is valuable, I submit that we ought to take the advice of the President of the Local Government Board and not ask them to take under review all the cases which it is suggested should now be considered, in accordance with the Amendment moved from the benches opposite. The hon. Member (Mr. McNeill) said this was a time of hardship for everybody. That is not quite the fact. There is quite a number of people for whom this is not a time of hardship. It is for them a time of making hay. It is for them a time of sunshine, so to speak, and they make hay while the sun shines.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I will not pursue the matter further. I was rather led into it by the statement of the hon. Member. On this question I propose to give my whole-hearted support to the President of the Local Government Board, whose advice seems to me quite the best under the circumstances.
§ Captain AMERY
May I, to save time, say that I am prepared to withdraw the Amendment, whatever I may think about the War Office. I hope, however, that the right hon. Gentleman, with the Army Council, will give this point further consideration before it arises again on Report.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider this question before the Report stage.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
It is entirely the fault of the Government. They come nine months or a year too late, and then they ask for time to get their Bill through. We have been urging them to do it for months, and we are now told they want further 767 time to discuss the matter. I know, of my own knowledge, something about this question. I have several men in my own employment who have been discharged from the Army owing to various causes, a number of whom have rejoined the Army, although they were discharged from the Army as medically unfit. I know of men who were discharged from the Army years ago, who are medically fit to-day to serve in the Army. It is ludicrous to say that because a man some years ago was discharged from the Army, through some incapacity, that he should not be taken to-day. The Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Amery) only says that where the War Office want power to take these men who are medically fit and are able to go they should have power to take them. To say that it is going to throw great work on the War Office is perfectly ridiculous, because the total number involved can only be small. Speaking as a practical supporter of this measure, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will seriously consider this Amendment, because I think the Army Council must hare been under a misapprehension when they gave him the opinion they did.
§ Mr. SHERWELL
I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not listen to the suggestion just made by my hon. Friend. The effect of this proposed Amendment will be very much wider than has been indicated. It is not sufficient for the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. E. Griffith) to refer to cases of slight illness which may have incapacitated men and led to their discharge some years ago. Obviously this Amendment brings in a great number of those who were discharged from the Army, for whatever degree of physical disability, and who must in the main represent a very large aggregate in the country. The actual effect of the Amendment in the country, if it were accepted by the Government, would be that every one, no matter the degree of his disability, would be liable for service if he failed to sustain an appeal to the tribunal. I take my stand on this matter, and I say that in the light of the experience of the tribunals in the last few months—especially on this question of physical fitness—I am not prepared to trust the men, who may have been discharged through genuine physical disability, to the discretion and tender mercy of the tribunals. Only in to-night's 768 papers we see a responsible chairman of an Appeal Tribunal and the military representative of an important London Appeal Tribunal suggesting that their work would be diminished infinitely if only there could be some medical examination of the appellants before they appear before the tribunals. It is notable that under the existing system the military authorities are prepared to accept men who in the judgment of their own military representatives on these Appeal Tribunals, and in the opinion of the chairmen of these Appeal Tribunals, are obviously and patently unfit for military service, and should not therefore receive further consideration at the hands of any tribunal. It is because I profoundly distrust the discretionary powers of the tribunals, in the light of the experience of the last few months, that I certainly would strongly resist any attempt to reopen this question on the Report stage of the Bill.
Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT
If the hon. and gallant Member had gone forward with his Amendment I should have supported him. My reason for that course would be that the answer given by the President of the Local Government Board seems to me singularly unconvincing and because I happen to have had this afternoon a most convincing proof in favour of the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend. I had a visit a short time ago in the lobby from a man who was discharged as physically incapacitated a year ago. He represented to me that he wished to go back, that he was discharged against his will, and that he wished to go back, without waiting until this Bill was passed. He hoped, in any event, that this Amendment would be passed in order that the authorities might be compelled to take him back. That was his view of the matter, and on the strength of that I took him to a recruiting officer, who I hope will review his case as I should I do not believe that that man would be fit for all the work of an Infantry regiment, but he certainly would be fit for very useful service. In that way he would be able to take the place of another man who could be put into the fighting line. It is most desirable that these cases where men have, been discharged should be revised. As has been pointed out by the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Captain Amery) it is not true to say that the whole list of these men would have to be revised. It would be revised in the usual course when they came up.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I understand that the President of the Local Government Board has promised to consider this matter before the Report stage. If he did I think it will be saving the time of the Committee if some suggestions were made as to what will happen. I hope the Committee will realise that there is another class of man who is covered by this Clause in the First Schedule of the original Act, who, so far as I have been able to gather, has not been mentioned. Those are the men who were disabled and who on account of their disablement have had to leave the Navy and the Army. The Committee knows that a man in that position applies for a pension from the proper authority, and when he receives that pension it is reviewed from time to time. As the Committee also knows, men in that position have great difficulty in establishing their right to a pension, and every Member of this House has several cases of that kind every week sent to him from his constituency, which he is asked to take up with the proper authority. The hon. and gallant Member who moved this Amendment now wants to withdraw it. It is convenient to withdraw an Amendment when the whole sense of the Committee is against it—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—with the exception of the two hon. Members who interrupted. The Amendment was put on the Paper in the hope of getting it through at an attenuated period of the sitting, such as now. Those who are in favour of this proposal want to make themselves absolutely ridiculous. This Bill, among other things, is proposing to deal with the re-examination of the medically rejected. This particular Amendment deals with a proposal which would give the Army Council power to conscript men who are in receipt of a pension because of their disablement. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Amery) occupies part of the day at the War Office and the other part at the House of Commons. Is he really typical of the mind of the War Office when he comes down to this House and asks us to give the Army Council power to conscript soldiers and sailors who at the moment are in receipt of a pension from the country because they cannot work on account of their disablement?
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The object of the Amendment is only to take those men who to-day are medically fit. If a man is receiving a pension because he met with disablement, he would be outside the scope of the Amendment. The hon. Member is playing with the matter.
§ Mr. HOGGE
But I would remind my hon. Friend that there is a new medical inspection, and that men with cork legs are being taken since that new inspection was instituted. So not only does my hon. Friend want power to take disabled men in receipt of pensions, but he wants to have cork legs, paralytics, epileptics, and all the rest of them. That is playing with this business. If you want a Conscription Bill, come down to the House and do it fairly. My hon. Friend knows that I am an anti-conscriptionist, but we recognise that we are beaten on the principle of this Bill, and we make no bones about it. But being beaten on the principle of the Bill, let the rest of the House try to carry out the thing fairly. Let us have a fair deal now. If you will give us a fair deal you will get your Bill without any trouble, and you will have our help in putting it into operation, but do not come with proposals of this kind whatever else you may do. I appeal to my right hon. Friend not to bother about the examination of this proposal. If he does consider this before the Report and bring up any such absurd, ridiculous, and unjust proposal, then we shall have to reconsider our position with regard to the other Clauses of the Bill, and put up a fight of a different kind altogether. We are putting up a constructive fight. Yesterday my hon. Friend spoke to an Amendment upon which we were told when the Amendment was introduced that they never proposed to divide, and two and a half or three hours were occupied. That is absolutely hopeless if you want business done.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I appeal to my hon. Friends all round to come to a decision on the matter. The hon. Gentleman opposite has offered to withdraw. My right hon. Friend also has promised to give consideration between now and the Report stage. The amount of consideration will be the amount which it deserves. My hon. Friend, I think, need not be apprehensive of any result that will come from it, though I do not want really to tell the hon. Gentleman that there will be no chance of accepting this proposal, but that is my own opinion. My hon. Friend says do not come down to the House with these proposals which he considers so bad. But we did not come down to the House with them.
§ Mr. TENNANT
This is a day on which we are giving certificates of character. I ask my hon. Friend to allow us now to decide the matter.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Leave once having been giving to withdraw and refused, it is not possible to withdraw it afterwards.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to propose at the end of paragraph (1) to insert the words "and accordingly in that paragraph the words 'and subject to any provision which may hereafter be made by Parliament, men who have been discharged from the naval or military service of the Crown on the termination of their period of service' shall be repealed."
This is a purely drafting Amendment. Its object is to ensure that there should be a definite repeal stated in the Act of a provision which is no longer operative. My right hon. Friend will be well advised to accept this Amendment. It does not make any alteration in the law; it only makes it clear from the text that a certain provision is repealed. As this Act comes into force it will have to be interpreted in connection with the other Act to read as one, and as it will be interpreted constantly on tribunals by people who are not accustomed to law and by military representatives who are not legal men, and often when there are no legal men accessible, I hope that this proposal will be accepted.
§ Mr. TENNANT
It is probable that a schedule of repeals will be added to the Bill if there is sufficient number; if not, the actual repeal will be left to be done by statute law revision, which is not an uncommon method, as my right hon. Friend knows. I do not think that the Amendment is necessary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to propose at the end of Sub-section (1) to insert the words "Provided that any man who by virtue of this Sub-section comes within the operation of Sub-section (1) of Section one of the principal Act, as amended by this Act, shall not, unless he was discharged from the military or naval service of the Crown as or in connection with a punish- 772 ment, be placed in the Army in any grade lower than that which he held, or corresponding to that which he held, as the case may be, on his discharge from the military or naval service of the Crown, and shall not receive pay or emoluments less advantageous to him than those to which he was entitled at the time of his discharge."
This Amendment is very important, as hon. Members will see. It is really the same proposal as the following Amendment which stands in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College. I am in good company and company so unusual for me that I am a little suspicious of my own proposals, but on reconsideration I am convinced that this is a good proposal, and one which the Government ought to accept. They have told us that in principle and in general practice they do accept the idea of this Amendment, which is that a man, having done his bit and gone out of the Army, is brought back to serve by the operation of this Section, he should be brought back to the same grade or position as he was in when he left the Service.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I have conceded the principle, and that being so, I propose to accept either the words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman or put in some other words that will serve the purpose.
§ Mr. KING
There is one point in my Amendment which is not in the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Trinity College. The right hon. Member suggests that on re-enlistment a man should be restored to the same naval or military rank as before the termination of his period of service. My Amendment is rather different. It is that when a man who has been in the Army or Navy comes back to serve he shall have a corresponding or the same position. That is, if a man had been in the Army and goes into the Navy, or vice versâ, he ought to have a corresponding position. If he has been an officer in the Navy he ought not to be conscripted as a private in the Army, and so on. My point is therefore that the corresponding grade in the other service ought to be recognised when a man comes back. I trust that the point which I am raising will be considered.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I only want to ask my right hon. Friend, in regard to what he said to-day at Question time, and which he has repeated, whether it is perfectly clear, from what he states, that it applies to officers and non-commissioned officers? I was not quite clear on that point.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I do not think we are considering the case of officers at all; we are considering the case of non-commissioned officers. In reply to my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment, I would point out that this Bill takes no cognisance of the Naval Forces of the Crown at all. This is a military Bill, and therefore we could not accept the words in the Amendment, "Naval or." It would have to be clearly military.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I do not quite follow the last statement of the right hon. Gentleman, because, in point of fact, we have already had another Amendment dealing with Section 5 of the First Schedule of the principal Act, in connection with men who have been discharged from the naval or military services of the Crown. In reply to a question which I put, the President of the Board of Trade told me—and I thought it was rather a curious position—that in the event of a man who had been discharged after years of service in the Navy, if the Navy did not want him—I do not think it would apply to many cases—he would be liable for military service under this Bill, and, consequently, men in that position would be brought under this measure. I think the point raised by my hon. Friend is a good one, and I think it was also present in the mind of my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) in drafting the Amendment which stands in his name upon the Paper. If, as we have been told, a man in the position of a corporal, or sergeant, or any other rank of that sort, who has been discharged from the Army, is to go back to the same rank, what happens to the warrant officer in the Navy if he is brought under this Bill? What rank could be given to him? It would be a very difficult question, and I do not press for a reply at this moment. I do not think there would be very many of these men, because I fancy that most of the men discharged from the Navy would be called up to the Naval Reserve. I do not suppose that many would go into the Army.
But there may be some, and if a warrant officer was obliged to go into the 774 Army, beginning at the bottom, he would be in a worse position, or would he be entitled to a rank corresponding to that which he had in the Navy? I do not know how that would be met, but it would appear to be very unfair that a man of that sort should enter the Army as a private. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for War will consider that point, but I do not press it at the moment. I am in a difficulty as to whether I should support the Amendment now moved by my hon. Friend below the Gangway. I was prepared, in fact, in his absence, to move the Amendment standing in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson). I hope that the Government will accept that Amendment. We have often heard that "the style is the man," and I think if we compare these two Amendments that old saying is borne out, because the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend below the Gangway provides us with a great deal of verbiage; on the other hand, the Amendment of my right hon. Friend is very terse and very much to the point; and if the right hon. Gentleman is going to accept the idea which is put forward in both of those Amendments, I hope he will do it in the form suggested by my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. TENNANT
It will save time if I inform the Committee that I propose to accept the Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), though in a slightly different form.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to add the words, "Provided always that such men on re-enlistment shall be restored to the same naval or military rank as they held before the termination of their period of service."
§ Mr. TENNANT
I accept the Amendment, but these are not the words I wish to adopt, and I want to make some slight alteration. I would suggest, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the word "always," and after the word "such" to insert the words 775 "discharged from the military service of the Crown," so that the Amendment would read, "Provided that such men discharged from the military service of the Crown on re-enlistment shall be restored to the same naval or military rank as they held before the termination of their period of service." This would leave out the words "naval or." With regard to the question raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite of a man who has been in the Navy, and who has attained warrant rank, I agree that if he is brought into the Army a question of difficulty arises. I have no doubt myself that he would be given some rank, but one does not know what it would be. Probably he would very soon, if not at once, find some rank after he joined the force. I do not think it can be inserted in an Act of Parliament, but I will not absolutely close the door to it. I engaged to ask my military advisers what they think. I do not think there is much chance of inserting the words "naval or."
§ Mr. McNEILL
The President of the Local Government Board, dealing with this matter earlier in the day, pointed out that the Navy would have the first call on the men who had been in that Service. I quite see the difficulty. We are now dealing with a Military Bill, and I do not know that it would be possible in this Bill to make any provision with regard to the Navy. I think it is quite clear, however, that the right of a man who has left the Army to come back to that Service with the same rank as before should equally be given to a man serving in the Navy. If the Navy exercised the option of bringing back into the Navy a warrant officer, that warrant officer ought to have the same rank legislatively as a statutory right and not merely an assurance. It would be very unfair that a soldier should have an actual statutory right given to him and that a naval man should not have the same right. Whatever may be the correct method—I do not know whether it can be done in this Bill or not—I think it is a point which the right hon. Gentleman should certainly bear in mind and deal with, because in the Amendment which he suggests he has removed the words "naval or." If those words remained in the original Amendment they would perhaps be a clumsy method, but, at any rate, they would embody in the Act of Parliament the right which I think the House would want to give to the naval man.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I suggest that a question should be put down to the Admiralty in order to see what policy they would wish to adopt upon this difficult question. If necessary, a Clause might be drafted for the Report stage, putting the matter in the way which I think the hon. Gentleman desires, and which would suit the naval service.
My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. K. McNeill) described the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) as too verbose. I think the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend is too laconic. My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has provided us with a tertium quid which I am afraid is not complete. It reads, "Provided a man who has been discharged from military service." A man may be discharged for misconduct. A subsequent Amendment of mine reads, "who has been discharged from military service on the termination of his period of service." Those latter words, I think, should be inserted, as otherwise, even though a man might be discharged for misconduct, he would have to be restored to the rank he held. I also ask in my Amendment that the time-expired man who is brought back should have the opportunity of joining the same corps or regiment as that in which he was in previous to his discharge. If, after his experience at the front, he feels himself better qualified for some other corps or regiment I think he should have the choice, provided he is qualified.
§ Mr. TENNANT
If he were qualified that would be one ground for doing it, and if they were in a position to take him into the corps that would be another, and if those two conditions were fulfilled I have no doubt it would be done.
I do not want that provision put in the Statute, as it might embarrass the military authority, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider it.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I think the reply of the right hon. Gentleman to the contention advanced is not completely satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that men discharged from the Navy and not taken up by the Navy afterwards would be given equivalent rank perhaps after a time. That will not I think meet the sense of the House, which will, on Report stage, expect an explicit declaration on the part of the Government that there has been 777 consultation between the Admiralty and the War Office, and that equivalent ranks in the Army have been determined on in the case of non-commissioned officers of the Navy. We ought to have an assurance that there will be that consultation and that those naval men will receive a rank not less honourable and not less well paid than that which they previously held in the Navy.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I will endeavour to do that, though I cannot give an absolute assurance. In reply to the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Denniss), I would be willing to meet his point by making the words read, "provided that such men if discharged from military service."
§ Mr. C. HARMSWORTH
I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman to be rather cautious in giving the pledge asked for by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gold-stone). I can imagine that a man who occupied the responsible position of bo'sun in the Navy might not be suitable for corresponding rank in the Army, and there may be other cases of the same kind. We all desire that such, men should be treated as fairly as possible, but the difficulty I have mentioned may arise.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I am rather surprised that it is not proposed to extend this provision to officers as well as to noncommissioned officers and men.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Officers never cease to be officers, unless they are discharged for some disgraceful conduct or for ill-health. Their term of engagement does not end.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I think I am right in saying that in the case of some officers who served in the South African War, their service came to an end when the war ended. They are not on Reserve or half-pay. I can give instances when men have retired and ceased to be officers. I desire on this Amendment to enter this caveat about the position of officers. I also think, on the question of drafting, that the Amendment in its original form carries out the intention of the Committee better than in its amended form, and that the words "naval or military rank" should be retained. I hope also that the question of officers will be Considered.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for undertaking to make this addition. As regards the drafting of the Amendment, since the word "men" has a 778 technical signification in the Army, should it not be made perfectly clear that it does apply to non-commissioned officers? I have no doubt that it does, but why is it not stated in terms?
§ Mr. TENNANT
Men who have any rank at all must be non-commissioned officers; they cannot be anything else. I understand from my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board that there is no real objection to putting in the words "officers or men." That, I think, will meet the case put by my hon. and learned Friend. The words will then read:Provided that such men, if discharged from the military service of the Crown, on re-enlistment shall be restored to the same military rank as they held before the termination of their period of service.The words will be altered on Report, if necessary, to carry out the object in view.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I will ask the hon. Member to withdraw his Amendment in order to avoid the putting of four subsequent questions to the Committee.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to add the words "Provided that such men, if discharged from the military service of the Crown, on re-enlistment shall be restored to the same military rank as they held before the termination of their period of service."
§ Mr. ASHLEY
Does this apply only to married men, or does it apply to men who were brought in under the first Military Service Act? I understand that it has been held by a legal authority that officers do not come within the exceptions from the Military Service Act, as only the word "men" is there used.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir G. Cave)
I believe that that question has never, in fact, arisen, but when this Amendment is reconsidered it will be made clear that it includes officers.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
May I suggest that the meaning of the amended Clause would be much clearer if you altered the position of the word "shall," so that it should read "shall on re-enlistment"?
§ Mr. McNEILL
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will allow the Amendment to stand in the form "naval or military rank." I understand from my hon. and learned Friend, who knows more about drafting than I do, that there is no reason why these words should not stand. As the Amendment will require to be redrafted and there is considerable substance in the point, I hope my right hon. Friend will allow the words to stand.
§ Mr. LONG
I have been absent for a short time, but I believe the understanding which has been arrived at is that these men who have left the Service are to come back, whether they have belonged to the naval or to the military service, either in the same rank in the Army that they held before they were discharged or in the equivalent rank if they had served in the Navy, but now, not being claimed by the Navy, are taken by the Army. It is also suggested that the arrangement shall apply to officers as well as to non-commissioned officers and men. With regard to that, I will only say that there are men who have been officers and are not now regarded by the Army Council as men who ought to be recommissioned. I do not want to do anything without making the position perfectly clear. If you put in this obligation it must be done with the full knowledge that you may be submitting such a man to an alteration in his position which may make it worse for him than it would otherwise be. The Army Council have power to secure the discharge from the Army of an officer who, without having been guilty of misconduct, has proved himself to be an inefficient leader of men. Nobody desires at any time that we should have in the commissioned ranks men inefficient in action; above all, in war time, it would be a crime to keep men with a commission who were not fit to lead troops in a moment of difficulty. In this War, more perhaps than ever before, we have found that the most junior officer may at any moment become the leader of a large body of men and have upon his shoulders very serious responsibilities. It would be a crime against the men of the British Army to expose them to the risk of being led by an officer who had been proved to be incompetent for his work before he left the Army.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I had particularly in mind men who had served in the South African War and had since gone into civil life.
§ Mr. LONG
Why not? Such men may make excellent non-commissioned officers or excellent private soldiers. My right hon. Friend suggests that if we do not want them as officers we ought to let them go back home. We want to get every man we can. Above all, we want to get those who have had experience in the Army. We as a Government think that every man should take the place most suited to him, though it may not be the place that he himself thinks he ought to have, so that he may do his full share of duty. I do not believe that in the bulk of men in this country there is any opposition to the proposition which I am laying down. But, as I have said, I am prepared on behalf of the Government to accept the inclusion of officers, subject, however, to this clear understanding, that the Army Council reserve to themselves the right that they now possess—and of which I am sure the House would not wish to deprive them— to deal with an officer as they deal with him now and of not reinstating him if he is not found fit.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I have not intervened in this Debate either yesterday or to-day, and I should not have now intervened had it not been for what the right hon. Gentleman opposite has just said. I cannot myself believe that there are a number of officers running to, it is suggested, three or four hundred, which must be the outside, though I think the number is nearer thirty, forty, or fifty, coming under the head suggested. I would venture to suggest to my right hon. Friend that to take the man who, some years ago, served as an officer and who has not in any kind of way forfeited his position as an officer, who has not been dismissed from the Army, but who has merely retired, and say to that man, "You"—probably a man of thirty-five or thirty-six—" are to come back into the Army, not as an officer, though it may be you retired as a captain, but as a private, because we do not think you are fit to be an officer and to lead men," is to inflict a great slur upon that 781 man. I do not say that it may be an undeserved slur, but it is inflicting a slur upon that man, and I must say—
§ Mr. LONG
That is not the proposal. My right hon. Friend, I am quite sure quite unintentionally, entirely misrepresents me. I said exactly the contrary. What I said was that I was willing, on behalf of the Government, to accept the proposal that these men should come back as officers. My hon. and learned Friend understood me—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If I made a mistake, I am only too glad. I understood my right hon. Friend to inquire why should not these men go back as privates. I have achieved my object; that is all I desire.
§ Sir E. LAMB
I am quite satisfied with the undertaking that the right hon. Gentleman has now given to the House. I was only asking for information. Are naval men to be included with the military men? In the words read from the Chair they are omitted. I therefore want it to be put on record, even at this stage, that naval, as well as military, are included. If the right hon. Gentleman agrees to these words being put from the Chair now I shall be satisfied.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
There was nothing further from my mind at the start of the Debate than leaving out these men. I put my question in order to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman opposite had retained the words "naval or". I raised no question whatever about officers. I had not the slightest intention of luring my right hon. Friend into making any promise. I asked him one simple question, whether he would retain the words "naval or" in order that we may keep in the naval non-commissioned officer, who is as much entitled as a military one to consideration.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Will the right hon. Gentleman put the Amendment in the form of officers, non-commissioned officers, petty officers, and men
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Words, "Provided that such men, if discharged from, the naval or military services of the Crown on re-enlistment shall be restored to the same naval or military rank as they held before the termination of their period of service.'' there inserted.
§ Mr. BARNES
I beg to move, at end of the Sub-section, to add the words "and men who are called up under this Subsection shall have an option of serving for Home defence instead of service abroad, if over thirty-five years of age."
I did not vote on the question of this Sub-section on being put from the Chair because, to tell the truth, I could not find it in my heart to vote for the man who has served abroad, or who may have served at home—many of them have served abroad—after resuming civil life, being taken away again for service abroad. That was quite in accordance with the speech I made on the Second Reading, when I accepted quite frankly the calling up of the young men under the circumstances under which they were going to be called up. But I put it that it was a very hard case that the time-expired man who may have served abroad— and as a matter of practice it would bring in the man who had served right from the time of the Boer War and has come home, got married and settled down—should be called up to go abroad again. This Sub-section includes all men who have gone from the Territorials, the Army, or the Navy. It includes, therefore, a large number of men ranging from possibly the age of somewhere in the twenties up to forty-one. I do not see that there is a great deal of hardship in sending a man abroad again who is, we will say, twenty-five or twenty-six, or a man even over thirty who may be single. He is in the height of his strength. Therefore there is no greater hardship in sending him abroad than there would be in sending another man who has not been abroad. But after a man has served his time and come home, and has perhaps got a little business, or has got established in a factory, a workshop, or an office, it is a hard thing that he should be called upon, having served his country once, to undergo the great hardship and privation of being taken away again. I think that you may very reasonably place the age at thirty-five. That is about the time that a man who has been abroad once has settled down. That is when the great bulk get married. It is reasonable that men of 783 thirty-five to forty-one should be treated differently from those under thirty-five.
I feel that it is necessary I should put this forward, because I considered the Bill in all its aspects before I spoke last week. I had told certain people what I felt in regard to these time-expired men. I told many who spoke strongly on the matter that I agreed with them, and though the right hon. Gentleman said a short time ago that the Army Council felt very strongly that it was undesirable to split up the men coming in between those to go abroad and those not to go abroad, yet I think he might just consider the other side, and, at any rate, no harm would be done by having a fuller expression of opinion on this point. I only ask that the men should be given an option. Probably many of them would prefer to go abroad, but if there are any of these men between the ages of thirty-five and forty-one, men who have got fixed down, and do not want to go abroad, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that many of them might be quite usefully employed in training the large numbers of men whom you are now taking into the Army compulsorily. Therefore, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give a fuller explanation and more consideration to the matter.
§ Mr. LONG
I have sympathy with the object my right hon. Friend has at heart. It is a recognition of the services of men who have already done great work for the country, and have come back home and taken on other occupations, or started in business, and who will naturally feel the burden of this Bill when it becomes an Act more severely than many of their countrymen. May I point out to my right hon. Friend how extraordinarily difficult it would be for the Army Council to carry out a statutory provision of this kind? You have got to ascertain, first of all, the age of the man with what is called official information. You have got to ascertain his wishes and his circumstances, and all this has got to be done with men at a moment when the Army Council are very hard driven. I know that there is ground for criticism, not only of the Government but of those who serve the Government. Of course, it is a very easy task this criticism, but many of those who criticize, I am quite sure, do not realise the enormous difficulties of those who have to administer our Army at a moment like 784 this, and I know from my own personal experience in discussing all these questions with the Adjutant-General how tremendous are the difficulties when he is called upon from time to time to send out reinforcements, or to make up divisions here, or to do any of the work which falls to his lot as Adjutant-General in the time of a great war. Now if you are going to-add to those difficulties that he is to give this option to every man who is over a certain age, and the man is to have the right to exercise his option as he pleases, in favour either of service abroad or at home, I do assure my right hon. Friend and the Committee that you are going to add enormously to the difficulties of those who are responsible for our Armies at this moment.
I have the Adjutant-General's assurance that he will deal with all these cases with the utmost consideration and with the largest measure of indulgence, and I would most earnestly ask the Committee to accept that assurance given by me on his behalf, and not to put into the Bill, as a statutory condition, a provision which might cause very great additional difficulty, which is great enough already, in making the best provision we can to keep the Army at the front at its full strength. I do not for a moment question the motives of my right hon. Friend. Everybody who knows him and knows the sacrifices he has made, and the policy which he has pursued in this House throughout all these Debates, will not question for a single instant the depth or sincerity of his patriotism or his willingness to bear sacrifices, but in all these cases there must be some risk of hardship, and all I can say is— and I say it with full knowledge of the intentions of the Army Council —that every effort they can make when they are calling on these extra men they will make, in order, if possible, to avoid undue sacrifices, and to give the men who are so reengaged any reasonable consideration they can.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2).
My reason for moving the omission of this Sub-section, dealing with the medically rejected men, is not in any way to oppose the principles underlying it or to delay the Bill. My object is mainly to elicit from the Government more information than we 785 have yet obtained as to the way in which this Sub-section is to be used. My name is one of four names which appear at the head of this Amendment, but I speak for myself alone. I do not suppose it is likely that I am in agreement with the three other hon. Members whose names follow mine. Therefore, I speak for myself only, and, speaking for myself, I would like to say, at the start, that I can see no reason whatever why men who have been rejected should not be re-examined. That examination and re-examination is going on, not only in the countries of our Allies, but it is going on in enemy countries, and it may possibly be that the issue of the War may depend, to some extent, upon our being able to get into military service some of the least unfit of these men who have been rejected. No doubt hardship will accrue to some men who are called up for re-examination and passed, but I do not believe it is possible to make war without incurring hardships, and I think our object at the present moment must be to take every step to avoid the greatest hardship of all, and that is the hardship of not being able to put an adequate number of men in the field. I do not know what other hon. Members are going to say, but I do not propose to insult these rejected volunteers by assuming that they are endeavouring to shelter themselves behind medical certificates. I do not believe that that is the case. I believe that the great majority of the men who have been medically rejected have proved, by volunteering, their patriotism and their willingness to serve. I believe that they were mostly honestly disappointed at being rejected, and that a very large number of them, at all events, will be quite willing, and very pleased, if on re-examination it is found that they are sufficiently fit to be able to serve in the Forces; but I do not think the real point before us is as to whether these medically rejected men are or are not willing to serve again if called upon.
The point, as it occurs to me, is that we have already in the Army a large number of men who are not as fit as they ought to be, and that from the point of view of military efficiency and national economy it may not be wise to add to that number of unfit men in the Army a further number of unfit men culled out of those who have been previously rejected. I believe that one of the strongest arguments in favour of this Bill is that by getting rid of the unworkable voluntary system and adopting 786 the compulsory system we have for the first time a large reservoir of men from whom we can select, and I hope the Government will be able to give us an assurance that they intend to use to the full the powers of selection that this Bill confers, and that out of the large reservoir of men—[An HON. MEMBER: "We are discussing the medically unfit!"]—I am speaking about the medically unfit, and I will bow to the Chairman if he tells me I am out of order, but I will not bow to amateur chairmen who take upon themselves the Chairman's duty. Under this Bill there is not the necessity which formerly existed of bringing into the Army the medically unfit. We need no longer take the first man who offers himself, and we are able to dispense to a great extent for the time being with the medically unfit, because we have a large reservoir of fit men to draw upon. My point is that this Bill, having now conferred these powers on the Government, I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain why and how it is that, in spite of these powers of selection, that are being conferred upon the military authorities, they have put in this Subsection, which seems to suggest that they are going to bring in a number of medically unfit men. It is more than likely that I have arrived at a wrong conclusion and that the Government have no such intention, but before parting with this Subsection we are entitled to ask the Government why, in these altered circumstances, they have put in this Sub-section, and how they intend to use the powers conferred upon them.
§ Mr. LONG
Perhaps it will be convenient if I make as briefly as I can a general statement in regard to the position and the view of the Government in connection with, the question of the medically rejected men. At the beginning of the War, the War Office had to largely increase the Army which had been recruited on a single standard. Since then it has become necessary, on account of the immense growth of our Army, to organise it on somewhat different lines, and whereas in peace time men who were quite unfit for ordinary military duty were found discharging non-military duties in the sense that they are not combatant duties. In war time that condition of things became impossible, and it was necessary before you called for more and more men from the civilian ranks to join the Army, that you should make the fullest possible use in the trenches of the fighting men. In 787 order to do this it was necessary to enlist into the Army men who, although they might not be fit to go to the front trenches, could be able to discharge duties which had hitherto been performed by men who were competent to be fighting men. Therefore the Army Council desired to extend their power of recruitment and take a great many men who in the original circumstances would have been rejected.
Apart from that change we had the extraordinary conditions which obtained when the New Army was first raised. This proposal in the Bill to reopen the case of the medically rejected men is very strongly opposed by many of my hon. Friends who are entirely opposed to compulsion. Those who are fighting compulsion are also fighting this proposal to reopen the question of the medically rejected men, and if possible to enlist to-day men compulsorily who were medically rejected a short time ago. May I point out that that action is really inconsistent and absolutely illogical, because the difficulty in which we are in now, and I admit that it is a practical difficulty, is the inevitable consequence of the voluntary system. I am the last person in the world to decry the voluntary system, although, as the Committee knows, I have held strong views for many years on the question of national service and national training. At the same time, I yield to nobody in honouring the men who have been so willing to place their lives and services at the disposal of their country. The advocates of the voluntary system cannot really profess their claim without acknowledging at the same time that even a faith so sacred as that has some shortcomings. When you are suddenly called upon to increase your Army from a small number to a very large number under the voluntary system you have no machinery available which enables you to do that in any ordered form. The result is you call upon the country to rally to the Colours and give you recruits. You want to get those recruits according to a certain medical standard, but you have no machinery to assure this.
What is the result? Everybody who watched what was going on in recruiting knows what happened. To the eternal honour of our country and our countrymen men flocked to the Colours in hundreds and thousands. We all remember the wonderful scenes which took place in this 788 country when recruiting was opened in the early days of this War, and it was necessary then that the men should be exempted who were medically unfit. You had not then the doctors or the machinery necessary for the purpose of doing this, and anybody who took part in recruiting meetings as I did must have been struck by the amount of work which was thrown upon the recruiting officer and all his subordinates, whether the doctor, clerks, or the junior officials. They had men coming before them in enormous numbers, and in some cases 200 or 300 in a day were passed through this ordeal. What was the result? In the first place, that a great many of these medical examinations were cursory and unsatisfactory. In the second place, a great many of these certificates issued were valueless. They contained neither the name of the doctor nor the name of the man himself, and they could not be afterwards identified in any way. Therefore a great many of these medical certificates are not worth the paper on which they are printed, because it is quite impossible to identify them and ascertain whether they were the result of a really critical examination, or whether they were issued by a man competent to make that examination.
Then we come to the third case. I do not think it is so numerous as those I have already referred to, but unfortunately there are cases, as is perfectly well known to Members of the Committee, where these certificates passed from hand to hand by improper methods. When we came to passing the Military Service Act, which imposed compulsory service upon the single man between the ages of eighteen and forty-one, we had to deal with this particular case. The Government were extremely reluctant then to include in the Bill men in regard to whom evidence was not forthcoming of the character to which I have referred, and who had freely offered themselves for attestation and had been rejected by the doctor. Now we are in a totally different position for the reasons which I have given, and which I will very briefly enumerate. We have, first of all, the fact that to-day we are able to enlist men to do work at home or even abroad that will release fighting men. Next, we have the unsatisfactory condition of the medical certificates originally granted to earlier numbers of recruits, and from this we have undoubtedly the result that there are a great many men in this country today whose medical certificates ought not 789 to be a statutory exemption from the provisions of this Bill. It does not follow that the man will not get exemption, but it ought not to be a statutory exemption.
The question is what is the machinery by which you are to give effect to your new system? Nobody wants—it would be a crime—to expose all these unfortunate men who have serious physical troubles, and are therefore incapable of service, to the ordeals they went through before. The Army Council propose that there shall be three months during which nobody who claims to have a medical certificate which has declared him unfit for service should come under the powers of this Bill. During those three months the Army Council intend through their recruiting staff—which is now much stronger than it was, and let me say more efficient—not that I want to throw any discredit upon the old staff, but more efficient because it has been brought up to date and it has more experience—to establish communication with the medically rejected people in each recruiting area or sub-area. Under the Bill it is proposed that there should be an opportunity afforded to these medically rejected men to present their own cases, but there is an Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Wardle) which adopts our method but transposes the machinery, and the Government propose to accept that. [Leave out the word "unless," and insert instead thereof the word "if," and leave out the words "need not," and insert instead thereof the word "should."]
The effect of that, if the Committee will be good enough to look at the Bill, will be to transpose the machinery. We think it necessary for the reasons I have given to make these proposals deliberately to the House, but we believe in the machinery as we propose and as altered by the Amendment, that we provide means by which all of those who are legitimately exempt by virtue of medical certificates will not only escape service but will not be harassed in any way by our work of enlistment, whilst on the other hand those who hold wrong certificates or who ought to be re-examined will be available for service with the Colours. I hope I have made it clear that the Committee will be prepared to accept it, and that my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment will, on the whole, find our arrangement satisfactory.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. SIMON
This is a very important Clause in the Bill, and though I recognise 790 that the concluding words of the right hon. Gentleman do indicate a change in its form which is important and which I do not wish to minimise, I really do not think that the matter can be got rid of without facing rather more fairly and squarely what is the extent of the change which this Clause proposes. Let me point out to the Committee how very wide the Clause is, even after the change which my right hon. Friend has indicated he will be willing to make. It does not merely apply compulsion to a man who has been rejected under the Derby scheme. It applies compulsion to a man who when he offered himself for direct enlistment was rejected; it applies compulsion to a man even although he has offered himself many times for direct enlistment; it applies compulsion to a man who has accepted the invitation of the Government, an invitation to which my right hon. Friend has called attention more than once, and who has at his own expense been examined by a Medical Board and rejected. Whatever else may be said, these are serious changes. It would be a great pity if this question were treated as a matter of division between the people who are in favour of the principle of voluntaryism and the people who are in favour of the application of compulsion. That really is not a fair division at all. There are many Members in this House who know perfectly well from their own experience and correspondence, apart altogether from the question of principle, that this is a matter which needs and calls for the most careful consideration of the House of Commons. Let me point out two or three considerations which seem to me to arise. In the first place, it is not making an addition to or an extension of the powers which Parliament took in January last, but so far as this matter is concerned it is reversing the policy which was then declared. It would be quite wrong on the Committee stage of this Bill to raise a Second Reading discussion as to whether you should extend compulsion to married men. That was decided in principle on the Second Reading. This is not a question of adding additional classes; it is a question of reversing the declared policy which was announced to the public in January last. There are thousands of people in this country who came forward. The right hon. Gentleman has referred in language which we all accept and endorse, to our feelings as to their patriotism. Many 791 came forward again and again. They came forward on the distinct assurance given by the Government and by the right hon. Gentleman himself, that, in coming forward, after their case had been judged, they would know what their position was. It is a very serious thing that three or four months later the Government should recommend to the Committee and to the House of Commons, not some addition to the powers which they took some months ago, but a complete reversal—I hardly use too strong language if I say a complete withdrawal of the assurances which were then given. That is my first point.
My second point is that it is not as though this question had not been carefully considered and argued. My right hon. Friend, as we know, argued the case with his usual straightforwardness and clearness, and he said that he resisted altogether, in the name of the Government, the idea that there should be compulsion applied to unmarried men who had been rejected. The right hon. Gentleman said those men had done their best. They had not been in any sense of the word shirkers. He carried the sense of the House and of the country with him. That is my second point.
My third point is that we ought to look at this matter from the point of view not only of the men, but also of the employers and others who are taking advantage of the services of these men. Let me take first the point of view of the men themselves. We have all of us, I anticipate, had letters since this Clause was announced by the Government in which men have said, "We did go forward; we were examined." It is all very fine to say that the examination was cursory, because in cases where it was perfunctory the result was not that people were improperly rejected, but that they were improperly accepted. It is nonsense to say that people were rejected right and left. It was the other way about. Many men write, "I went forward and offered myself. I was stripped and examined, and did my best to join." Others say they came forward again and again, and it was only after they had been definitely told that they were rejected, and that they were passed into the class of men whom the military authorities refused to take, that they committed themselves to new liabilities on the face of the representation of the right hon. Gentleman 792 and of the Government and on the assurance of the medical authorities. Many of these men have incurred new obligations Some of them have got married. Some waited until it was certain that they could not be used by the military authorities before they incurred further obligations. Of course, everybody understands that compulsion involves hardship. It is not, however, a question of that. It is a question of keeping faith. You really do not keep faith with these people who three or four months ago were told that if they would do their best honestly and; carefully to join the Army and, if they failed, their positions would then be secure. You cannot now say to them, "I do not care what obligations you have entered into in the meantime, I am now going to compel you to join." That seems to be the real difficulty, and it is one which demands a rather more generous reply than was to be found in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman just now.
Now take the point of view of the-employer. There are many employers, public and private, who take this stand. They say, "We did not desire to employ in time of war able-bodied men of military age." I think they were quite entitled to take up that position. Many private persons say, "While I must have one man who is in a position of service as regards myself—it may be my gardener —whoever it may be, I will make sure he is not an able-bodied man of military age." In the same way many employers, in industry say, "We will spare every man we possibly can, but we must know first of all how many people there are we are able to retain, because they are rejected persons although of military age." That is the basis on which they have arranged their business, and in view of which new engagements have been entered into. Here, again, it is not a question of hardship. It is that the employer has made great sacrifices in order that he may do the best for the country. In many cases he has arranged for his partner to join the Colours, because he has an assurance that he can rely on the services of a man who has been rejected by the military authorities. You cannot turn round now and say, "I do not care what assurances were given three or four months ago, I must have the man."
Of course, if in return for this Clause you are going to get an overwhelming addition to the national strength, though 793 there would still be the greatest difficulty in justifying your proposal in view of the assurances given, at any rate you would have something to show for your action. The arguments against compelling men who have already enlisted to prolong their period of service can be very well understood. We had them put forward in the Committee this afternoon. When you take compulsory powers there you are certain you are going to get a good article. In the same way there are arguments against compelling the ordinary civilian population, but here, again, you may be getting a good article. But in this case you are only going to secure people who have been rejected, and in many cases they have been rejected because it was quite plain that they could not be made use of.
I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman point out the change it was proposed to make in the Clause. I do not think he made as much of that change as he fairly might have done. It is a very important one, and I do not want to minimise it. As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman says that instead of the Clause providing that men who had been rejected since August 14th last being men who are primâ facie compelled until the Army Council tells the individual he is not compelled, no man rejected since August 14th is in fact to be compelled unless the Army Council gives him notice that they require him to come forward. That is undoubtedly a very material alteration, but unfortunately it does not really reach by any manner of means the length and breadth of the people. It does not meet fairly the case of the man who offered himself for direct enlistment, where that man offered himself after 14th August last. To be told you are a person who is not to be compelled is not sufficient.
Only this afternoon the President of the Local Government Board explained the real principle of compulsion. He stated that compulsory service makes men do what they are unwilling to do. But these people who have offered themselves have shown that they are not unwilling, and whatever else happens, surely this Clause ought not to apply to them. In the case where a man got exemption by a swindle, I would be the first to suggest that he should not be exempted. But these are not by any means ordinary instances. The fact is large numbers of persons have been taken into the Army who are unfit, 794 but I would repeat that perfunctory and inadequate medical examination has only had the result of putting more people at the disposal of the military authorities and not less than would have been the case had there been a more elaborate examination. On these grounds, I hope we may have this matter more fully discussed, and we may get a more satisfactory statement from the Front Bench. It is rather an odd circumstance that the rejection of this Sub-section should have been moved by the hon. Gentleman opposite, but, taking him at his word, that he really wants to reject it, some of us as at present advised will be pleased to join him in the Lobby.
§ Sir ROBERT FINLAY
I should have thought there was very great cause for the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir J. Simon) if the President of the Local Government Board had not announced his intention of making the change in this Sub-section which he described. I quite feel that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have been justified in saying that it is rather hard on the men who have got certificates of exemption that you should say that they are all to come up again for examination unless they succeed in obtaining a notification of exemption from the Army Council. I cannot help thinking that my right hon. and learned Friend's speech was prepared rather in view of the subsection not as it will be when it is amended, but as it at the present moment stands in the Bill. In the closing passage of his speech that reflection seemed to occur to the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself. I do not think he did full justice to the extent of the change indicated by the President of the Local Government Board. It is notorious that there have been many cases—I think the Committee may take it from the President of the Local Government Board— in which persons who ought to have been passed have been rejected. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] At all events, there is reason to suppose that there may be such cases, and a great many of them. Why, in the name of common-sense, should we not have machinery in the Bill directing and requiring a second examination if there is reason to suppose that by some oversight, owing to the enormous press of business there was then, a number of men so exempted who ought to have been passed. As the Sub-section is to stand, it seems to me to meet the case exactly. It 795 provides that if the Army Council thinks there is reason to believe that a man was improperly exempted they may say that he ought to be examined. All objections to the Sub-section are removed by what the President of the Local Government Board has said.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I rise to support— [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"]—I rise for the first time in this Debate to-day — [An HON. MEMBER: "Cheer up!"]—I rise—[An HON. MEMBER: "Speak up!"]— to support the Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman opposite, and I hope to meet him in the Lobby in support of the Amendment which he has moved. I listened with extreme care to the speech of the President of the Local Government Board, and I am bound to say that I thought it was a very inadequate justification for the Sub-section in the Bill that we are now considering. I should like to refer to the fact that during the delivery of that speech the, Under-Secretary of State for War was not present, nor is he present now, and apparently this Debate is to take place without our having the assistance of his presence in a matter which so closely affects his Department and the arrangements which have been made in the past in connection with this provision. I wish to protest against the absence of the Under-Secretary of State for War, and to suggest to the representatives of the Government who are present that it would be courtesy to us here—[An HON. MEMBER: "Get on!"]—in dealing with this branch of the matter that we should have the assistance of his presence. The right hon. Gentleman placed the responsibility for the confusion that had taken place upon the voluntary system. I do not think he was justified in blaming the voluntary system.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am not going to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman. His words were that it was the inevitable consequence of our system of voluntary enlistment that we had got into the difficulties which we had got into, and he instanced the great rush of volunteers in the earlier months of the War and the fact that adequate arrangements could not be made for classifying these volunteers. It is one of the criticisms we have made all along, that the War Office did not make simple elementary arrangements for deal- 796 ing with the applicants for service with the Colours and the most ordinary common-sense methods, such as recording the names and addresses of applicants whom they could not deal with at the time, were not taken. It is not fair of the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that it is the inevitable result of having a voluntary system of enlistment that we have been landed in the difficulty that we are in on this question. I want to ask the Committee to consider the case of the individual who will be affected by this Amendment. What happened after the passing of the principal Act, in which the men who had been medically rejected were exempted from the operation of the Bill? It is hardly necessary to remind the Committee of the Debates which took place respecting the administration of that portion of the Act and the attempt by the War Office to place within the provisions of the principal Act men who were declared by the Section which it is sought to repeal to be outside the Act. Many men were claimed by the War Office. They had responded under protest, and had been merged into the Army. These cases, which were very numerous indeed, were ultimately inquired into in a very frank spirit by the Under-Secretary for War, and as a result—and it is because of these very relevant points that I lament his absence to-night—a great number of men who had been improperly brought within the provisions of this Act by the interpretation wrongly given to it by the War Office, were released. They have once more readjusted their private lives, entered into fresh responsibilities, and what is the position with regard to this very considerable number of persons? Having offered themselves for enlistment before 15th August, 1915, and having been rejected on medical grounds, and after Parliament had passed a Clause permanently excluding them from the provisions, of the principal Act, they were wrongly summoned to the Army and underwent great trouble and distress and annoyance. Then, as a result of inquiries by the Lender-Secretary for War, they were discharged and told they were exempt from the provisions of the Act. Now, a few weeks later, they are to be told again that all these things that have been done in the past are to happen again, and they are to be once more summoned to the Army. That is an intolerable state of affairs. It places a most unfair burden upon many individuals who should be relieved from 797 it, and I feel that we require very much more information 'before we part from this subject.
The right hon. Gentleman has announced an alteration, but I cannot see that the alteration which he has announced amounts in practice to very much. I do not think it materially alters the original proposal of this Bill. I doubt very much whether it substantially alters the Bill at all. The Bill, as drafted, proposes that these men who have been rejected on medical grounds shall be subject to the Act, if it becomes an Act, unless they are advised that they need not present themselves. The alteration suggests that they shall be subject to the Act if the War Office notifies them that they should present themselves for re-examination. What will happen? All that will happen will be that the Army authorities will advise the whole of these medically rejected persons that they should offer themselves for re-examination. Therefore, with the best intention in the world, I cannot see that the alternative foreshadowed by the right hon. Gentleman has made any substantial difference in the proposals as they are in the Bill itself. I desire to compliment the right hon. Gentleman upon not having placed too great emphasis upon his concession. I hope before this Debate ends we shall hear the views of the War Office on this matter, and have some account of the magnitude of the problem involved. I think it is due to the Committee that we should know what kind of records have been kept in these cases. We know, for instance, that many men who have been properly rejected on medical grounds, and who are outside the provisions of the principal Act, have been given all kinds of certificates of rejection, and in some cases have been given no certificates at all. I think we ought to know whether the War Office themselves have not preserved records of these rejections. At least we ought to know to what extent the records have been kept and what are the numbers involved in so far as these records have been kept. I think we should be given this information as fully as possible in order that we may judge of the magnitude of the problem. I dissent entirely from the view that because medical examination had to be quickly performed that healthy men were rejected. What happens in a hasty medical examination is that men are only rejected who are obviously physically defective. 798 Therefore I think that the case on that score falls to the ground. We know that an enormous number of men have been taken into the Army who are unfit for active service with an Army and have been put to a light character of work. I think it in the best interests of the nation that men who are physically defective are unable to bear the burden of active service, and are fit only for light clerical duties, should not be taken from their ordinary duties in life which they have been trained for, and which they are fit for, in order to do temporary work in the Army. I trust, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will consent to give the Committee further information. I trust, too, that the Committee will not allow this protection—that was given to men who were medically rejected, and who were properly outside the provisions of the first Act—to be withdrawn on the evidence that has been adduced.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
I desire to ask the President of the Local Government Board two questions—first, does he intend it to be publicly understood that if a man previously rejected now comes within the operation of the Act he should have full opportunity of coming before the Local Tribunal on appeal as under the original Act, and also whether, as he said just now, if each man is to be given three months' grace, he will be willing, instead of putting the 1st August, to put in the 14th August, the same date as last year.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
Those of us who have practical experience know that on the one hand there is a number of men who have been improperly rejected, and ought to be brought into the Army, and that, on the other hand, there are persons who have been treated in the other way. Some people have been examined by their own doctors, who have taken too sympathetic a. view of them—I know cases—and there are other cases of persons who were examined only by Army doctors, and whose very natural predisposition is in favour of getting men into the Army if they can any way conscientiously do it. I am a supporter of this Clause as a whole. But I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can more specifically define the arrangements which are now perfected and the safeguards which are now introduced. If you are going to re-examine men—and on the whole I think it is desirable that you should—it is surely of importance that they should be examined 799 by a medical board, the majority of whose members are civilian doctors of local eminence unconnected with the Army, in order that this second decision may carry more weight than the original decision. I also want my right hon. Friend to tell us whether in the circumstances any appeal is possible, if the second decision is at variance with the first. Though knowledge leads one to be convinced that the object of this Clause is a proper object, and that there has been in some parts of the country, at any rate, extensive laxity, on the other hand many provisions have been made, many commitments have been made on the faith of bonâ fide medical decisions. Therefore I hope that my right hon. Friend does not think that I am wasting his time or that of the Committee in asking those questions.
§ Mr. JONATHAN SAMUEL
Before the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) replies I should like to put one or two questions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I am a supporter of the Bill, and not an opponent, and therefore I put it from quite a different standpoint. There is a very strong feeling in the constituencies with regard to the re-examination of the medically rejected men. I am bound to say that I do not agree with the President of the Local Government Board in the reasons which he gave why these men were rejected. I served for about twelve or fourteen days inside a recruiting office during the rush in 1914, and I cannot understand how anyone can say that the men were not medically examined. It is a very serious reflection upon the medical men, to begin with. Every man who was medically examined had to answer a certain number of questions, which were contained in a medical register. Each man was registered and the register was marked that he was either medically "fit" or "unfit" against his name. This was done in each case. The block was not in the medical department, but in the clerical department of the recruiting office. The two medical men were turning the men out at the rate of 200 to 225 a day, but the clerical department, who had to make a copy of the registers, only turned out about 140 attestation papers in the twenty-four hours.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Gentleman in order in referring to what took place in 1914, while we are dealing with what is connected with 1915?
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I understood the hon. Gentleman rose to ask a question. The hon. Gentleman did not catch my eye, but when he said he wanted to ask a question the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, who had risen, gave way.
§ The, CHAIRMAN
Perhaps the hon. Member will put his questions without the preliminaries, and he will get a reply.
§ Mr. LONG
I rise to answer two or three questions, and to appeal to the Committee to make progress. Really, we must get on. I do not want to sit up here to all hours of the morning. We are to have a Debate on Ireland to-morrow, and we must really make progress. We are not making progress at all. There is no good in repeating statements about hardships. The Government have gone a very long way to meet the different criticisms. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton asked me whether these men who have been medically rejected will, on coming up again for service, have the right of appeal to the tribunals. Of course, they will have all the rights possessed by any compelled soldier, who, before he goes to the Colours, will be entitled to claim exemption on any of the grounds mentioned in the Act, before the tribunals. I have been asked to explain the machinery more fully. I really do not think it is necessary now. The Government will apply machinery which I frankly admit is immensely improved by the Amendment of my hon. Friend. It transposes the duty, and instead of leaving the obligation on the shoulders of the man it places it on the shoulders of the Army Council. Therefore it is only the people to whom the Army Council address a request who are affected; the rest will be free during the next three months, and those that are notified will have full opportunity of appealing to the tribunal. Is it unreasonable to ask the Committee now to decide?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am most reluctant to use that machinery. I have done my best to find means for the discussion of the more important questions, and I hope the Committee will support me in my view that we should very shortly now come to a decision.
§ Mr. RADFORD
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an estimate of the numbers affected by this Amendment, because to some of us it would be an important element in coming to a decision?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I am very reluctant not to respond to the appeal, Sir, that you have made, but I would like to remind you that this Amendment is of very great importance indeed, and affects most seriously probably many thousands of people in this country who, owing to their physical condition, are certainly entitled to the consideration of this House. I have noticed during the last half-hour impatience on the benches opposite from Members who have come into the House within the last hour. We have been sitting on these benches doing our work—[An HON. MEMBER: "So have we!"]—since the House assembled this afternoon, while other Members who are now so impatient apparently have been spending their time in much more genial spheres. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] We are not going to be suppressed by their impatience. We are going to have full and adequate discussion of this Bill. This is the most important Bill ever considered by this House. It means life or death to probably tens or hundreds of thousands of people, and we are going to insist upon our right, as the representatives of the constituencies of the country, to have these important proposals adequately discussed. I rise, therefore, not like the hon. Member for the Middle-ton Division (Sir R. Adkins) to say two words only, but like the hon. Member for Thanet, to give an historical survey of this question, and I am not going to soothe the impatience of hon. Members opposite by telling them that my survey will be of a brief character.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but the Chairman withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The hon. Baronet has given us a fine illustration of Prus-sianism! The President of the Local Government Board has made a certain alteration in the Clause, but I regret I cannot 802 agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, that it is a concession of any value at all. I fail to see that it makes any substantial difference whatever. It is simply a question of substituting Tweedledum for Tweedledee. Before the alteration was made, it rested with the Army Council to decide whether or not a man should be re-examined, and it is now precisely the same thing. It still remains with the Army Council to decide whether or not a man's certificate shall be considered valid. We know that for the purposes of the administration of this measure it is not the Army Council at all. The people who are going to do this are the recruiting officers and the recruiting clerks in the various stations, whose conduct of this business during the last twelve months has be scandalous and inhuman. As a result of their conduct scores of men are tonight in their graves who would have been alive if these people had displayed a little more humanity. There have been brought before this House scores of cases of men who have been passed by the medical officers, although known in the locality for years as being in such a weak state of health that they were unable to earn a living. Your colleague, who is chairman of the tribunal which sits at the House of Commons, has made the most scathing observations on the conduct of medical officers in passing men who are totally unfit. The reason why I urge this matter now is that we are going to give to the very men who have been responsible for those illegalities of this inhuman conduct, the power to continue the same course of action. Yesterday we had an interesting intervention on the Debate by the hon. Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield), who is chairman of the Middlesex Tribunal. On the 13th April he was sitting on the Middlesex Tribunal when this question of passing men totally unfit was raised:Mr. Herbert Nield said the War Office would be asked to have a fresh examination, and in a certain event he would have to call attention to the matter.This was a case where the appellant put in a medical certificate saying he was suffering from heart disease, hammer toe, and other infirmities, but he had been passed by the medical board. Sir Frederick Milner, in a letter to the "Times," recently called attention to a number of such cases. He said that a man who had had rheumatic fever once, quinsey twice, had consumption, and suffered on and off from catarrh had been passed for military 803 service by the medical officer after five minutes' examination. He told of another man who had been a hopeless invalid all his life and only occasionally able to do a bit of work, and who has been passed for military service. The Westminster Tribunal refused to exempt an epileptic who had been five times rejected. And so on. An incident of a somewhat similar nature happened at Wandsworth Tribunal. Applicant appeared before that tribunal and said that he had been to Kingston Barracks, where he had been treated rather harshly. He had asked for a certificate of medical exemption in order to place it before the tribunal. He was told that they were not there to help the tribunals, and that he would not get an exemption certificate. After they had conferred together — and this is the power which under this Clause we are going to give to these recruiting authorities to exercise in the same way in the future—the doctors said: "Stick him down, he might as well die there as anywhere else." And Lorden said: "I am sympathetic with you, and I do not think that ought to have been said." Another member of the tribunal said: "There is no excuse for the military authorities making such a statement; I think very serious notice ought to be taken of it. At Wood Green at an inquest the coroner said: "It is a mystery to me how this man was passed for military service." The widow stated that her husband attested in January, and was passed by the doctors at Scotland Yard as fit for general service. Without having experienced any exertion he died suddenly. Dr. Parsons stated there was extensive tubercular disease in both lungs and deceased had evidently suffered from pulmonary phthisis for a long time. The examination of the attested man must have been a very superficial one.
This is by no means an isolated case. I have here a clergyman friend in the North of England. He tells me of a college chum, a man who had been very delicate all his life. When he was at the university he missed several terms through illness. My friend tells me that to his amazement he learnt a little while ago that this man had been passed for the Army. Within a month of having been" passed by the Army medical officer as fit for general service he was dead. Another case which is exciting the greatest local indignation is where a young man who 804 for years had been known as a consumptive was passed by the doctor, and within three weeks was dead. That I call murder! We are asked, I repeat, under the proposal that we are now discussing, to continue that power to these bodies to send men to a premature grave. I have scores of letters of a similar character. I have a letter from a man who has been a clerk—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have really allowed the hon. Member a great deal of latitude, but it is impossible within the limit to allow that kind of thing. It is clearly a breach of the rules of the House. I think, in view of the liberty that has been given, that the hon. Member should not attempt to abuse that liberty. It is my desire at all times to allow the freest discussion, but I am bound to check any abuse of the rights of hon. Members.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
With all respect to you, Mr. Whitley, I refuse to accept your opinion that I have abused the privileges of this House.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member need not read into what I said anything I did not say. I asked him not to multiply cases further, because I thought it would be going beyond the reasonable limits of Debate.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
May I pass on to another point? I want to know what assurance there is under this Bill that this system is going to be superseded by a better system. Under the existing Act, a person may appeal to the tribunal on the ground of physical condition. The practice of the tribunal hitherto has been not to take the testimony of an independent medical man upon the physical condition of the applicant, but to refer the applicant to a Medical Board, and the tribunal has accepted the opinion of that Board as being decisive. If that system is going to be continued, there is no assurance whatever that these men, who have already been examined, and have received a certificate of rejection, are not going to be dragged into the Army, although they are in a totally unfit condition. I must repeat what I said at the beginning, that I think the change proposed is entirely fatuous, and that if the Bill passes in this form it simply means that these men, who surely have enough to suffer from the knowledge of their physical condition, which has been revealed to them for the first time in many 805 cases by examinations to which they have already been subjected, instead of being relieved of their anxiety, they are going to be harassed, they are going to be summoned before this Medical Board, or whatever it is, with almost a certainty that, in spite of their unfit condition, they are going to be driven into the Army.
§ Mr. WARDLE
I am very sorry to intervene, but I think it is due that I should say a word or two in consequence of what was said in regard to the Amendment accepted by the Government, and which has been described in the language just used by my hon. Friend. On the contrary, I think there is a very vital difference in the Bill as it stands and the Amendment which the Government have agreed to accept. I think, even on the grounds which my hon. Friend has set forth—and with his general purpose of protecting men who are medically unfit from going into the Army, I am absolutely in accord—there is a very great difference between the proposition that is now made to the Committee and the Bill as it stands. Surely, if the Army Council have to direct that a man is to have sent to him a notice if they require him to be re-examined, they will not send that notice to men who have been rejected eight, nine, or ten times, men whose medical record they have before them, men who are halt, blind or lame, or who are obviously unfit to go into the Army. There are thousands of such cases, and if such cases are ruled out, and we have to get down to the minimum of cases which do require to be re-examined, I think, with the safeguard of the appeal which, I understand, is now admitted, there is more to be said for this Clause in the amended form than there was at the beginning. At the same time, I do just want to associate myself with those who are anxious that the muddle which has undoubtedly characterised this medical examination in the past shall be definitely set aside for the future, and if we can have some absolute guarantee that men who are epileptics, men who are obviously unfit, are not going to be taken into the Army either under this re-examination or, what is still more important, in my opinion, that the vast number of men who will be brought into the Army under this Bill shall not have to run the risks which have been referred to, I think if we can have that assurance I do not see any particular danger in merely re-examining a number of men whom the Army Council think ought not to be allowed to slip through. 806 If that examination is not to be conducted on better lines than in the past, I should be against re-examination or allowing re-examination to be conducted as in the past.
§ 11.0 P.M.
Mr. E. HARVEY
Would not the position be eased if we made arrangements for the Army Medical Board to see private physicians without the man being there? Cases of chronic invalids who are medically unfit could be dealt with in that way. In some cases the only possible way by which the Army Medical Board can have the facts is by them being able to see the man's own physician. I know a man who appealed on the grounds of health, and the tribunal would not hear his specialist at all and the Army Medical Board also refused to see him, and he was passed for general service, although he had been ten years under a specialist suffering from two internal forms of illness. These are cases in regard to which a specialist might have access to the Medical Board or family physician, and if this were done facts could be promptly ascertained that could not be discovered by a mere cursory examination of the man. In many cases these breakdowns which take place after a man has entered the Army could be prevented if proper medical evidence would be considered by the Army Medical Board. It would ease the situation if the Government would give us an assurance on that point. There is no doubt that the medical examinations which have been held this year have been more strict than those held before, but the men who have just been rejected should not have to come up again. Those are points which the Government might consider, and if they would meet them they would very materially ease the situation.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I want to raise an entirely new point, which has not yet been touched upon, in connection with this Amendment, and I appeal to the House to give us a little more time on this extremely important Amendment. We began this discussion at 9.50, and we have only been an hour and a quarter discussing what is really the crux of a great deal of our objections to this Bill. I think hon. Members opposite will agree that there has been up to this point no attempt to delay the Bill unreasonably. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] As one who has said although we are beaten on the principle we might find agreement on details, I 807 now say that we are much more likely to find ourselves not at loggerheads if we are allowed to discuss this question from another aspect which I propose to put before the House. I want to say quite frankly—I am only expressing my own personal view at the moment, and do not speak for anybody but myself—that I agree that there has been a great deal of very hasty medical examinations. There has also been a very great deal of bad medical examination, and it may be that there have escaped the recruiting officers, or the Army Council, or the War Office a number of men who on re-examination ought perhaps to be brought within the ranks of the Army, but will the Government accept responsibility for the men that they enlist? That is a perfectly fair and square offer, and I make it to my hon. Friends opposite. When a man is enlisted by the War Office or the Army Council, is this House of Commons prepared to say it will stand by that man whatever the consequences are to his health? Is that a fair offer or is it not? Will my hon. Friends opposite respond to it? We have present to-night, and I am glad to see him, because he is here from the front, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Colonel Churchill). He knows, and he wil agree with me, that there are at this moment a considerable number of unfit men in France. There are, as my hon. Friend reminds me, a considerable number of unfit men in Great Britain. What happens to these men? Supposing a man dies, as has been the case over and over again, unless the War Office, who has accepted him as medically fit, say that his disease has been contracted or aggravated by his service in the Army, they take no responsibility, and they pay nothing to his widow.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is a question we have had discussed, and which the hon. Gentleman himself has debated on other occasions. It really cannot be permitted here, and I must ask the Committee again to come to a decision. There is the subsequent Amendment of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Wardle), as as well as the Clause itself to be dealt with. It cannot be an encouragement to me to try to provide, as is my obvious duty as Chairman, Members all round with fair opportunities if hon. Members really go too far.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I understood you to say you were trying to provide Members all round with fair opportunities and that among other things there was the question that the Clause stand part. I understood from that I should be able to advance this argument: This paragraph says if the Army Council are satisfied that he should not again present himself for medical examination he is not to be brought up. I want to put this point. I do it not because I want to obstruct but because I feel very keenly and sincerely on this, question of liability. I want to ask if it is not a fair and proper argument to advance against re-examining these rejected men the fact that if any of them are accepted the War Office does not accept responsibility?
§ Mr. MORRELL
Will this Amendment put my Amendment later on the Paper out of order. Can the Question be put so as-to protect that Amendment?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid it is a question of hon. Members protecting one another. If, on a preliminary Amendment, hon. Members discuss a whole Sub-section or Clause in the manner they have done this evening, while I am anxious to give the individual Member his opportunity, the point raised is rather a question for hon. Members, I cannot allow these things to be raised many times over. As regards the point put by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), I cannot accept his suggestion. If I were to he must see what it will lead to, namely, a discussion on the amount of pension or of Army pay, or grants to widows and so on. That cannot be done.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I have not even advanced to the stage of discussing the amount of pension or pay. I was not going to touch that subject. I was putting a simple proposition in the form of a question, and I will leave it at that. Will the War Office, if we give them the liberty they ask for under this Bill to re-examine these men, accept responsibility in their case?
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be 809 now put," but the Chairman withheld his consent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. MORRELL rose— [Interruption.]
§ Mr. MORRELL
Yes. I want to know if I shall be precluded from moving my Amendment which comes later on the Paper?
§ Mr. MORRELL
Then I desire, if I may, very respectfully to say a few words. [Interruption.] I protest against the spirit displayed by hon. Members who try to shout down anyone who on this side rises to speak for liberty. This is the first time I have attempted to address this Committee. I have certainly never done anything whatever to obstruct this Bill. I am making a protest, and I intend to go on with it. I intend to protest against the spirit of Prussianism; against the attempt to browbeat—
§ Mr. MORRELL
I want, first of all, to protest against the whole proposal; and, secondly, to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not possible to come to some compromise over this business in order to prevent the breach of faith with these men which is involved in the proposal he is now making. The right hon. Gentleman did advance one argument which had real substance in it, and on this I want to make a very fair attempt at compromise. That argument was that a certain number of certificates of exemption have got into the wrong hands. [Interruption.]
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must call the hon. Member's attention to the Rule against the repetition either of an hon. Member's own arguments or those made by another hon. Member.
§ Mr. MORRELL
This is an entirely new point which has not yet been raised in this Debate. I have not yet had time to make clear what it is. The right hon. Member suggested that there were certificates of exemption which were wrongly held or which had passed by fraudulent means into the hands of people who ought not to have them. I suggest it would be possible for him to modify this provision in such a way—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
On a point of Order. May I call your attention to the fact that the hon. Member for Worcester (Sir E. Goulding) is constantly interrupting.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I would call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the point that if his only objection is, as I understand it to be, to see that people should not be exempted from military service who are the holders of certificates which have been improperly obtained, which are not signed, or which have come into their hands fraudulently, it would be perfectly possible for him to put on them the onus of proving that they are the people mentioned in the certificates or the people to whom they have been issued. If he would do that it would take away some of the greatest objections which are felt with regard to this provision. It is suggested that I am repeating arguments already used. I am doing nothing of the sort. [Interruption]. It is impossible to develop an argument properly if hon. Members insist upon trying to shout down their opponents. [Interruption]. Their behaviour shows the spirit which is behind this Bill.
I wish to ask a question, and do not mean to speak for more than two or three minutes. [Interruption]. I very seldom intervene in Debates, and have not taken up ten minutes of the time of the House during the last three months, therefore I think I am entitled to intervene now. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether persons who have attested and undergone examination after examination and upon his advice have appealed again to a medical board and obtained a certificate from them, will come under the operation of this Sub-section? I know of cases of volunteers who have attested who have attempted to join a regiment for general service, but have been rejected 811 by the regimental doctor, who have then attempted to enter the Service in another place, and at last have gone to the medical board and obtained a certificate from them. I want to know if they will again have to undergo an examination if this Bill passes?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 179; Noes, 49.813
|Division No. 11.]||AYES.||[11. 21 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Galbraith, Samuel||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Goldman, C. S.||Pratt, J. W.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Grant, J. A.||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Gretton, John||Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||Rendall, Atheistan|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S. E.)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Gulland, John William||Robertson, Rt. Hon. J. M.|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Bathurst, Col, Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Hen. H. (Ab'don)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton||Henry, Sir Charles||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Bird, Alfred||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Shortt, Edward|
|Boyton, James||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Brace, William||Horne, Edgar||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Hudson, Walter||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hunt, Major Rowland||Stewart, Gershom|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Illingworth, Albert H.||Sutherland, John E.|
|Butcher, John George||Ingleby, Holcombe||Sykes, Col. Alan J.|
|Carew, C.||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Cassel, Felix||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Cator, John||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Joynson-Hicks, William||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Larmor, Sir J.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Robert (Herts, Hitchin)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Tickler, T. G.|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Layland-Barratt, Sir F.||Tootill, Robert|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Touche, George Alexander|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Coates, Major Sir E. F.||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Coats, Sir Stewart A.||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Mackinder, Halford J.||Wardle, George J.|
|Coote, William||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent. St. Augustine's)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Macpherson, James Ian||Whiteley, Herbert, J.|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Magnus, Sir Philip||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N. W.)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Williams, Thomas J.|
|Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Meysey-Thompson, Major E. C.||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Mills, Lieut. Arthur R.||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Dixon, C. H.||Morgan, George Hay||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Morison, Hector||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Worthington Evans, Major L.|
|Edge, Captain William||Newdegate, F. A.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Newman, John R. P.||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Fell, Arthur||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Norton-Griffiths, J.||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Parry, Thomas H.||Younger, Sir George|
|Finney, Samuel||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Pennefather, De Fonblaeque|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Perkins, Walter Frank||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Forster, Henry William||Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)||Bridgeman and Mr. Rea.|
|Fester, Philip Staveley|
|Anderson, W. C.||Dillon, John||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Esslemont, George Birnie||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Gilbert, J. D.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Glanville, H. J.||Hazleton, Richard|
|Clynes, John R.||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Hinds, John|
|Hogge, James Myles||Molteno, Percy Alport||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Needham, Christopher T.||Snowden, Philip|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Outhwaite, R. L.||Sutton, John E.|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Pringle, William M. R.||Thomas, J. H.|
|Jowett, F. W.||Radford, G. H.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|King, J.||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Rowlands, James|
|Lundon, Thomas||Rowntree, Arnold||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.— Mr. Goldstone and Mr. Morrell.|
|Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)|
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word "fifteen," to insert the words "unless he has received a certificate that he is permanently unfit for naval or military service of the Crown or."
§ Mr. ANDERSON
It does raise a separate point from that which has been decided. The difference is this, that in the last Amendment we have dealt with every sort of certificate that has been given by the medical authorities. As is well known to the War Office, different certificates have been given, some marked "rejected," and some marked "rejected for this or that reason"; and there are certificates on which a man is told that he is permanently unfit either for naval or military service. Therefore, this is a considerably narrower Amendment than the last, because it would mean that a man would have to undergo re-examination, though he was permanently unfit if this Amendment is not adopted.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
That is quite a mistake. This Clause does not apply only to time-expired men. I ask your ruling on that point, as to whether this applies only to time-expired men.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I did not read it so. Now that I apprehend the point raised by the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division, I think that the most direct procedure would be that we should deal with the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stockport, and then we shall see whether the hon. Member's Amendment is required as an addition. That clearly is the procedure. The hon. Member has a small 814 point to put before the Committee. We ought to get the broad point settled first before we can satisfactorily see whether the hon. Member's Amendment is required or not.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I respectfully submit that you should have regard to this fact that the Clause is one which defines who are persons who may be liable to compulsion, even though they have since the 1st of August last been rejected. With great respect, surely we must decide who those persons are who may be compelled before we decide what are the conditions.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I am arguing that these people if they have received a certificate showing that they are permanently unfit should not be subject to re-examination in any circumstances. That is the whole point of my Amendment. Therefore, the subsequent Amendment to be moved by the hon. Member for Stockport will not interfere with that in any way, but will only deal with the method of examining those who still remain over. We have stated here that a great deal of anxiety and worry is being caused to large numbers of ailing people because they have got to go again through all they have gone through before, and we are all agreed that that should be reduced to the lowest possible dimensions, and that the least possible anxiety and worry should be caused to those who are and have been in ill-health. It may be that in certain cases doctors have felt that a man at the time of his examination was unfit for the Army, but they might also think that he was for all time unfit for that Service. There are cases such as that of a man who has been suffering from chronic heart disease, or something of that sort, and the doctor not only knew that the man was unfit for military service at the time he was examined, but was perfectly aware that the man never would be fit for either military or naval service. The doctor gives him a certificate marked, not only "unfit," but "permanently unfit." I say that where that is given there should be no question 815 of medical re-examination for that man. I think that the Amendment is so reasonable and so moderate that it ought to appeal to the Government. The Government have given us very little in regard to this measure; I am not aware that any concession has been made, and I would ask the President of the Local Government Board how many fit soldiers he expects to get among those who have received certificates marked "permanently unfit." In fact, as the hon. and gallant Member for Birmingham pointed out, there are far too many unfit men in the Army already, from the point of view of the Army, and the efficiency and value of its work. These men might do, in civilian work, what they never could accomplish in military service. It would be an excellent thing if the Government could see the reasonableness of this proposal, and also see that they are not going to get fit soldiers from among those holding certificates marked "permanently unfit." Are you going to subject large numbers of these people to needless worry during the next few months? Some extraordinary decisions have been given by some of the doctors as to the men that ought to be taken into the Army, and these holders of certificates are worrying themselves, though knowing they are unfit to make good soldiers and knowing the character of some of the medical decisions already given. The hon. and gallant Member opposite said they did not want such men for the Army, but since such men are taken into that service it is the most difficult thing in the world to get them out of it, such is the red-tape of the War Office.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now going back to the previous discussion. The only distinction between this and the subject of the previous discussion lies in the word "permanent," and the hon. Gentleman must confine himself to that point.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I have made my point, and as I am not here for purposes of obstruction, I will content myself with having moved the Amendment.
§ Mr. LONG
I admit that my interruption of the hon. Member was made in error. There is ground, certainly, for some consideration in cases where such certificates as those of which the hon. Member speaks are found to be correct in all respects, and prove "permanent disability." I do not like the words my hon. Friend has moved 816 now, but perhaps he will accept my assurance that I will look into the matter with a view to the insertion of words which will meet the case.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I am very glad to have that assurance, and to know that the matter will be considered between now and the Report stage. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. WARDLE
I beg to move in Sub-section (2) to leave out the word "unless" ["unless the Army Council"], and to insert instead thereof the word "if."
§ Sir J. SIMON
There must be another change in contemplation. The 1st August is the day on which persons to whom this Clause applies will be compelled. It is quite plain the Army Council must give notice a reasonable time before that. What is the reasonable time?
§ The CHAIRMAN
There is an Amendment handed in on that point, and it would be better to deal with it then.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In Sub-section (2), leave out the words "need not," and insert instead thereof the words "should."
§ Mr. HOLT
I beg to move at the end of Sub-section (2) to insert the words, "previously to the fifteenth day of June, 1916." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon), has stated the reasons for this Amendment. These persons had the expectation that they would not be called on for some time, and I submit the War Office ought to know in a month men they desire to call up.
§ Mr. LONG
I could not accept this Amendment without an opportunity of considering it. We have thrown the whole onus probandi on the War Office and the Army Council, and it is now suggested that under the Bill, which will probably not pass into law for another eleven days, you should allow only until the 18th June for the whole of the work, which everybody, especially those who are opposed to our proposals, agree should be done with more care and completeness. It is throwing upon the authorities a burden which it would be impossible to discharge. To everyone who comes within the operation of the Bill there is given a full month from the time he becomes liable. None of these men can become liable until the 1st 817 August, 1916; they will receive their notice, and they must have a full month to make their arrangements. Surely there is no reason why they should have longer. The only other reason is that you ought to have some fixed date by which the War Office should complete their work. That fixed date is the 1st August. I will see between then and the Report stage whether it be desirable to put any limitation at all. You are throwing a very heavy burden of work on the Army Council, and we must not give a date which would make it impossible for the work to be done except slovenly and carelessly.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
Is it the intention of the Army Council to examine the whole of these cases before they decide to give notice? Or is it the intention to take lists from the recruiting officers and accept them without going into the cases at all?
§ Mr. LONG
I do not suppose the Army Council will go into the cases themselves. What they propose is to set up machinery through the recruiting officers, assisted by the people, to enable all these genuine cases to present themselves, either through their certificates or individually, and secure immunity.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I quite expect my hon. Friend will withdraw the Amendment now that the point has been raised. There are really two parties to be considered in this matter. Certainly we must not put into the Bill a date which is impractically early from the point of view of the Army Council. Nobody wants to put in a date so early that the Army Council cannot do what is cast upon them. On the other hand it is equally important that you should give the men affected by this Clause all the notice you can.
§ Mr. HOLT
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend for the way in which he has met my suggestion. In naming a date 818 I was necessarily hampered by the fact that the 1st August had already been accepted as the last date. I am not sure that it is the case that the thirty days would necessarily apply to these men. I understand, however, that the proposal is a careful redrafting of this Sub-section, and that the understanding is that these men are to receive ample notice. Under these circumstances I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The next Amendment on the Paper, standing in the name of the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King), appears to me to make no difference in the Bill: it is merely putting it another way round.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The several following Amendments standing in the name of the hon. Member are out of place and not cognate to this Clause.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2), to add the words, "A medical re-examination shall only take place at the direction of a properly constituted board, one-half of the members of which shall be civilian doctors, and men who are found unfit for active military duties shall be discharged from the reserve and given a certificate of absolute exemption."
I do so on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn. We desire this addition, not only because we think the proposal it contains is a fair and right one in itself, but in order to give the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board an opportunity of explaining the arrangements for medical examination. I will, therefore, at once give way for what I hope will be a full explanation.
§ Mr. LONG
I hope this Amendment will not be pressed. One of the causes of our difficulties has been the extraordinary pressure upon civilian medical men. The demands upon the medical profession have been tremendous. We have had to ask for recruits for the Royal Army Medical Corps, and the result has been a very serious lessening of the number of medical 819 men available for ordinary civilian work, and very great pressure upon these. There is also the difficulty that if you have civilian medical men they are drawn from the same areas from which the recruits are drawn, and all sorts of questions arise which it is very desirable should not arise in this particular class of medical work. The work is now done by a Medical Board composed of members of the Royal Army Medical Corps. In addition to these gentlemen there is an Advisory Committee which goes up and down the country superintending the work done by the Medical Board. I think the Committee will find that the rearrangement and reorganisation which has been made will have a very material effect in drastically improving the work which has hitherto been done by the medical examiners. The Adjutant-General is fully alive to the fact that unfortunate errors have been committed, and he himself is taking an immense amount of trouble to see that the new machinery may be more efficient. I think the Committee can safely, for the present at all events, leave the matter in his hands.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The right hon. Gentleman in his reply has not dealt with one part of this Amendment. Might I, in answer to what he has said, put this point to him? It may be that it is difficult to get a board on which one half of the members shall be civilian doctors, owing to the pressure on the profession at the moment, but could that not be met by giving the men some sort of independent appeal? There are a number of men who come before those boards and are turned down although they have independent medical testimony from civilian doctors which apparently has no weight. I know an extraordinary case myself in which a man presented himself and produced the results of six inspections of sputum, showing that he was suffering from tuberculosis, and yet he was accepted as fit for general Army service. In a case like that it seems to me it might have been settled by an appeal to an independent doctor. I think it is only fair it should be met in that way. But the part of the Amendment which has not been dealt with is that which says, "men who are found unfit for active military duties shall be discharged from the reserve and given a certificate of absolute exemption." I will not raise that at any length, but I think that does offer a sug- 820 gestion to meet a difficulty which is put over and over again in this House, that the Army is keeping inside the Army and refusing to part with men who might naturally help the situation outside. In the Secret Session, and afterwards in the Report issued to the public, the Prime Minister stated that the War Office was at the present moment attempting to release 200,000 men back into industrial or civilian life in order to meet the other needs of the country. This part of the Amendment does offer some way out for that. It suggests that if this Board—and, of course, the Board would be the Army Council Board, because the right hon. Gentleman has said he cannot accept the Board proposed here—find that a man is absolutely unfit for active military duties, I think every one listening to me will agree that that man had better be sent back to industrial life to help the country in that way. If my right hon. Friend will agree to consider that between now and Report, and accept that part of this Amendment, many of us would feel we were being met in a very important phase of the organisation of all our forces to win this War.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I think we ought to have a reply from the President of the Local Government Board on an Amendment of this character.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
There has been no answer to my hon. Friend who spoke on this matter. In view of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman which many of us in the House welcomed, that he himself was dealing with the weeding-out process, which has been one of the greatest scandals of the War, I do hope he will reply to what is a very important point raised by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. LONG
I do not think it is quite fair. I have already given a full reply. I really do submit to the hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham), that if every time a separate question is put by a separate Member after the Minister has spoken, we shall be here days and days. The suggestion made by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) is one of which I took due note, and, so far as consideration goes, I think it is wholly unnecessary. It is already covered in what he said previously with regard to total disablement, and I believe it totally unnecessary, but, of course, if it is necessary I will take any steps desirable, but I can- 821 not promise a certificate of total exemption, nor would it have any effect beyond the fact that a man was found totally disabled.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Wardle) to leave out of Sub-section (2) the word "unless" and to insert the word "if" is unnecessary. Other Amendments on the Paper should be moved as new Clauses and they are not in order on this Clause. I think the same point is raised by a number of other Amendments.
§ The following Amendments stood on the Paper:—
§ To add at the end of the Clause,
§ (4) Sub-section (3) of Section 3 of the principal Act shall cease to have any effect.—[Sir J. D. Rees.]
§ (4) There shall be added to the First Schedule to the principal Act, Paragraph 7, "Members of either House of Parliament."
§ (5) There shall be added to the First Schedule to the principal Act, Paragraph 8, "Any person who makes a statutory declaration before the justices at petty sessions that he has a conscientious objection to serving in this War.—[Mr. Holt.]
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees), and the two standing in the name of the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt), come under the ruling I am just going to give. I have carefully considered the effect on the framework of the Bill of proposals to amend the principal Act, and all the Amendments of that character unless they are strictly cognate not to the Clause which is amended by the particular Clause of this Bill, but to the subject matter of the Clause in this Bill, they must be brought up as separate Clauses, or else the Bill would not read. I treat every hon. Member's Amendment with the same respect, and I assume it is going to be carried, and I have to consider how it looks when inserted in the Bill. This rule disposes of a number of Amendments.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Some hon. Members have taken the precaution already of putting down their proposals as Amendments and as new Clauses.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (3). I do so in order that we may have an explanation from the President of the Local Government Board as to why he considers this change is necessary. I think it will lead to obvious injustice, and I hope it will not be persisted in. I do not desire to argue this question at length, and I will at once give way to the representative of the Government.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The Sub-section in the principal Act reads:
"Any Government Department may direct that any certificates granted by or on behalf of that Department before the appointed date as to employment on work for war purposes may be treated as certificates of exemption for the purposes of this Act."
If you take out the words "before the appointed day," you widen the scope of the certificate.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member has misapprehended the purpose of this Amendment. It is merely to bring the appointed date of the new Act into conformity. It is a necessary drafting Amendment.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
If the principal Act is read with these words omitted the Section in the Act has a different value altogether. That is my difficulty, but if it is clear that it is nothing but a drafting Amendment and that no change is effected I will at once withdraw my Amendment. Perhaps the Solicitor-General would advise the Committee on this point.
§ Sir G. CAVE
It seems to me that the Amendment is very clear. It enables a Government Department to declare that certificates given by them on their behalf under this Act as to employment on work for War purposes shall be treated as certificates of exemption. Under the original Act they could only be so declared 823 if granted before the appointed date. This does widen the power, and I am rather surprised that my hon. Friend objects to it.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am very much obliged for the explanation. I only desired to know what it meant; and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
If the Clause is carried as it now stands, will it preclude my moving an Amendment that Government Department shall not be the sole authority for granting exemptions to men in the Department, or shall I still be in order in moving the Amendment standing in my name? It is a point of some importance.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I can only speak of the hon. Member's Amendment from recollection at the moment; but surely the mere dealing with these words "before the appointed day," does not affect the point which he desires to raise later on. I cannot see how it can, but I will deal with the Amendment when it comes up.
Sub-section (5) of Section 2 reads:Any Government Department may direct that any certificates granted by or on behalf of that Department before the appointed date as to employment on work for war purposes may be treated as certificates of exemption for the purposes of this Act.
§ If it is carried in this form it places my Amendment in some jeopardy, and perhaps I ought to move it at this point.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We are not moving a new Sub-section or doing anything with a Sub-section in the original Act. The proposal is to omit certain words.
§ Words proposed to be left out ordered to stand part of the Clause.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. HOGGE
I think this Clause should be omitted altogether. I shall not make a speech, but I feel quite certain we ought to go into the Division Lobby against it. The marginal note to the Clause reads, "Modifications of exceptions from service." But the curtailment of these exceptions are made among a class of men whom I would far rather see go. Although I am against Conscription I would far rather that the age at the top end was raised in order to bring in men who are physically fit. That would be preferable to calling on these rejected men to go through the test again. I do not like doing these things, and for the reasons that have been repeatedly given in this Debate I shall oppose the inclusion of this Clause in the Bill.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 157; Noes, 21.