§ The Army Council may make arrangements, to take effect during the continuance of the present War, for the transfer to the Reserve of any member of the Regular Forces or for the temporary demobilisation of any member of the Territorial Force, notwithstanding anything in any Act or in the terms of his enlistment, in cases where the transfer or demobilisation appears expedient in the general interests of the country and the Army Council are satisfied that it can be effected under conditions which will render the man transferred or demobilised immediately available for service in the case of military necessity.
§ Question again proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Long)
When we adjourned a short time ago, I undertook to make a statement dealing with the real effect of this Clause. We propose, under this Clause, to set up a new Army Reserve. In some quarters it has been stated that this means some dark policy 971 on our part by which we are going to embark upon a system of industrial compulsion. I have no hesitation in saying that this Clause has no relation whatever to industrial compulsion in any shape or form. As the Committee knows, the old Army, as it is now called, the original Army, was formed on a system which provided so many years' service with the Colours and so many years' service with the Reserve. When a soldier passed to the Reserve, he found employment in whatever form of labour he preferred, and he was, of course, during the whole of the time while he was in the Reserve as free and independent a workman as any of those with whom he was working and who were not members of the Reserve. He earned the ordinary wages of his craft. He enjoyed all rights and privileges, for instance, of trade unions, and he was in every sense of the word practically a free worker. When the New Armies were raised at the beginning of this War, they were raised for a period of three years or the duration of the War. It was not thought necessary to create a Reserve for them. With regard to the Territorials, there is for them, of course, no Reserve as there is for the old Army. Now, unhappily for us, the War has lasted a long time, and is not now approaching, so far as we can see, its completion, or, at all events, it is not within our sight. In this time a great many have gone to the Colours and become soldiers, and some of there are not fit for foreign service, either because they suffer from some slight physical defect, or because they are of an age when it is not thought desirable to send them to the front, or they may have been engaged for the greater part of their lives in an occupation which does not fit them for marching or military work of that kind.
The War Office and the Army Council are in this difficulty: They may have in a battalion ten or a dozen or fifteen men of the kind I have described who are really not wanted now for the Army. They have been undergoing training ever since the beginning of the War, and have learned all they can of military duties, musketry, and the rest. Those, men are badly wanted in industry. There is not an industry in the country at this moment which could not do with a great deal more labour than is at its command. Those men to whom I refer are not earning their money for the country, because they are not really doing 972 military duty which is worth the pay they are receiving, and they cost a great deal in pay and allowances. They are all of them, the men who will be sent to this Reserve, capable of earning high wages in their various occupations, to which many of them would be very glad to go. But the Army Council is in this difficulty: They can only let these men go to industry either by discharging them from the Army altogether and thereby losing a hold on them for the future, or by lending them to various industries. That has been done to a small extent, but it is a very unsatisfactory way of meeting this difficulty. To discharge these men is to lose them for Home defence, for which they might be wanted in the event of invasion. To lend them is unsatisfactory. Although the War Office, as I think the most determined opponents of industrial compulsion will freely allow, have behaved with great tact and consideration and have really done all in their power to make those men free labourers, the fact is that those men. having been enlisted and joined the Colours, are, of course, soldiers and are liable at any moment to come under military discipline, if that seemed necessary or desirable. We want to avoid that altogether. I think there is an idea in some quarters that it is proposed to send these men in large bodies—battalions, or regiments, or companies—to do industrial work while they are soldiers. Of course, there is no intention to do anything of the kind.
All we propose to do with this new Reserve is the same as happened with regard to the old Reserve. If the Army Council find that a man is not wanted with the Colours for military purposes, they will offer him the opportunity to go to his own occupation, his old home, or wherever he thought he could get the best employment open to him at the time. The moment he passed the Reserve he would become a free and independent workman like anybody else. The only liability resting on him would be that, in return for a small payment per day he would be liable to be recalled to the Colours in the event of some national emergency, say an invasion of this country. I hope I have now made it clear that there is nothing in this new Reserve which leads to the smallest risk of any form of industrial compulsion. It is really only creating for the New Army the same Reserve there is already under the old Army system. The advantage to the country is twofold. In 973 the first place, you will release men from regiments where they are not doing full work as soldiers, and you relieve the country of the cost of maintaining soldiers, they do not require, and you give to the country and to industry the immense benefit of the labour of those men and of their earnings. I am quite sure this is a proposal which ought to be supported in all quarters of the House, because, so far from its being connected in any way with industrial compulsion, it is in reality exactly the opposite. Industrial compulsion is much more likely to arise if you have to keep a man on as a soldier and use him m labour, even though you may make some private arrangement by which for the moment you cease to regard him as a soldier. These men will be independent workmen, just as any othei1 workman, and this Reserve is in no way connected with battalions such as that formed by Lord Derby, and which, I believe, is called the Dockers' Battalion. That has nothing on earth to do with this Reserve. Those men are enlisted on a totally different system. This Reserve is precisely similar to the old Reserve which formed part of the old British Army, and I am quite ready, if it is thought desirable to make it perfectly clear by the insertion of words, to accept the words standing in the name of the hon. Member for Halifax and other hon. Members, and to put them in the Bill, in order to make clear that while these men are with the Reserve they will not be amenable to military discipline.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
The right hon. Gentleman has said that there are some people who charge the Government with carrying out a dark policy of industrial compulsion. I do not know who those people are. The charge does not apply to me. I do not believe the Government intend to carry out a policy of industrial compulsion, but it is the duty and responsibility of the Government to see that other people than private employers do not use this legislation for any policy of industrial compulsion. That is quite a different point, and I am quite sure it is one which will commend itself to the Committee and to the right hon. Gentleman. There is at least one member of the Government who is in favour of industrial compulsion. He has made speeches showing that he is in favour of industrial compulsion, and those speeches have been quoted so often that I am not going to refer to them at the present time. There are people who hold the view very strongly that you cannot 974 separate military compulsion from the danger of industrial compulsion, and that, indeed, once you state that you have power to compel a man to go into the trenches, why should you not have the power, those people ask, to compel a man to go here and there to this or that workshop, seeing that the work is as important from the point of view of the War as work in the trenches. Where does the logic come in in regard to the matter, and where can you stop?
The policy of the Government, as I understand it, is that they desire to bring certain people back from the trenches to do more important and more valuable work in factories and workshops. That is a policy which I cannot question, resist, or dispute in any shape or form. We have not got a word to say against that policy, but we want to point out that there are certain dangers linked up with it, and the Government ought to the best of their ability to guard themselves against those dangers. For my own part, I do not know that these men need come back and form a Special Reserve. I think it would be better for the Government to make up their minds whether those men are going to be soldiers or whether they are going to be workmen. If they are going to be workmen and you are going to avoid industrial compulsion, then make them as free workmen as possible. I do not see that you are going to get very much advantage out of this Reserve. One argument put forward for it is that in certain extreme circumstances, such as the invasion of the country, these men, who have had military training, could be immediately called up for defence. Does anybody believe that that could not happen, and would not happen, whether they were members of the Reserve or not?
§ Mr. LONG
That is exactly a point I want to make clear. If they are not made members of the Reserve they must be discharged from the Army altogether. There is no choice. For instance, some short time ago I brought before the notice of the Adjutant-General the names of some men who were very anxious to be released from the Colours and to go to their own homes and to resume the occupations they were in before the War. "The difficulty is this," he said. "I can spare those men provided I can recall them, as if there were an invasion I might want them. I therefore cannot discharge them." The only alternative is to send them as soldiers, and that we do not want to do. It is not 975 desirable at all, because if they go as soldiers they cannot help being amenable to military discipline. Therefore the only alternative is to discharge them to the Reserve. That is the only way in which you can make them free labourers and at the same time be able to recall them to the Army in case of necessity.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I am not really concerned with the exact form of military organisation, but I am concerned to see how far we can guard against the danger of private employers using the special existing circumstances for the purpose of putting extra industrial pressure upon these men. There have been a number of gross cases where this has actually happened. I have a case where a firm in Manchester gave a man a leaving certificate for which he had asked. Apparently they had some quarrel with the man, and in place of giving him a clear leaving certificate, which would have enabled him to go to another firm and get employment, they wrote upon the certificate, "This man to join the Army." That is quite illegal. It is illegal under the Munitions of War Act. But these illegal things have been happening. A great many things have been done in regard to this matter which ought not to have been done at all. I know a case in Lincoln where men brought back from the Army were actually marched to the workshop where they were to work and marched away again. That has been stopped. These are gross forms of industrial compulsion which I am sure the Government would not permit to continue once they were brought to their notice. But the employers will have, with regard to these men, very considerable power of recommending the withdrawal of certificates.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Oh, no! I do not quite know under what circumstances these men are to be kept by the employers. I want to be assured on that point. As I understand, the men are to be brought back from the Army and given for the time being to private employers to carry on important work. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
§ Mr. LONG
No, no! The man is no longer required for his military duties. He has nothing further to learn; he is not earning anything as a soldier; he is not earning anything for the country. He is 976 therefore definitely discharged to the Re-serve. He takes off his uniform and puts-on plain clothes. He goes away a perfectly free man; he goes where he likes, he works where he likes, or he need not work at all. He can do just as he likes. He can leave his employer if he likes. He can choose his own employer. He is just as free, I was going to say, as I am; but he is a great deal more free than I am, as I am tied to the House of Commons.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
There are soldiers who are being brought back at present under quite different conditions; are they also to be put into the Reserve under the-same conditions? At present soldiers are being brought back through the Ministry of Munitions and put in controlled or other establishments exactly on the conditions I have mentioned. In many cases these-men are working in uniform. Therefore it is important that we should know the exact method and basis of this Reserve. I think the right hon. Gentleman's proposal is a great improvement upon what is now being done by the Minister of Munitions. Would' he not be willing to take over all these workmen who are now employed through the Ministry of Munitions and whose circumstances are certainly different from those which he mentioned? Would he not make the same rule applicable to all these-men? I think they will have more freedom under the present proposal than they have now. There is a real danger at present. I know cases where men have-found it absolutely impossible to change-their employers, because they are lent practically as soldiers to a particular employer or firm. When that happens—and we have seen it in Glasgow and other places—it is no wonder that working people begin to speak about industrial compulsion. I am not, and I have not been, charging the Government with trying to-carry out a policy of industrial compulsion, but I say that with the military policy of bringing back these men certain dangers are linked, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is as anxious as anyone-that we should guard ourselves against those dangers. That is why yesterday I moved an Amendment to the effect that the right hon. Gentleman himself should" issue definite instructions and regulations, making it clear, as far as possible, that these men were used from the standpoint of national need and national safety, and that no private employer ought to take-advantage of the present circumstances; for private profit or private ends.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Anderson) is one of the leaders of the Labour party. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] He is one of the leading members of the Labour party and has very grave responsibilities. His speeches are read throughout the country. The speech he has just made is really a very mischievous one. The hon. Member began—I am sure not intentionally—by completely misunderstanding the Clause under discussion. He made a speech the beginning of which he could not possibly have made by the time he got half-way through and understood what the Clause was about. That being so, I want to ask the hon. Member—because his words carry great weight—to be very careful when explaining the Bill outside the House to say what the Bill really means and not what he mistakenly thought it meant. If I might put in simple, non-legal language the meaning of this Clause, it is shortly that men are to be discharged from the Army with the liability to be called back again if the Army Council demand it. There is no other connection with the Army whatever. The Army has no control over them. The Army authorities cannot say where they are to work or fetter them in any way whatever. A man discharged to the Reserve under Clause 9 is as free as air, subject only to the liability to be called back if the Army Council want him for a definite purpose. I have always found the hon. Member a quite fair opponent, and I think he ought to be quite willing to accept that.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I do. I explained very clearly that I wanted information, because at present soldiers are being brought back as soldiers through the Ministry of Munitions, and I wanted to understand quite definitely what was the basis of this Reserve arrangement. In view of that, I do not think I deserve the long lecture which the hon. Member has given me.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am not lecturing the hon. Member at all, but I want him to make it perfectly clear when he speaks outside the House that the view which he took ten minutes ago is not the right view. I think that this Clause is a very great advantage and benefit to the hon. Member's friends.
§ Mr. JAMES PARKER
Speaking for myself, I think that if the right hon. Gentleman will make plain in the Bill what he said just before he sat down it will satisfy all of us. I understand the Clause 978 to mean that these men will practically be on all fours with the men who serve so-many years with the Colours and so man;' years with the Reserve. If that be so, there is not the slightest taint of industrial compulsion in this Clause.
§ Mr. HOGGE
We had a discussion on this Clause early this morning, and I hope we shall not waste too much time on it now, because it was then discussed in all its aspects. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for the Atterclifie Division (Mr. Anderson), but did not discover any mischief in it. I thought it a very excellent speech which all intelligent working men outside would be glad to read. But the hon. Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) thought it a-mischievous speech, and gave us an explanation of the Clause which he indicated was so simple that any child could understand it. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for the Attercliffe Division will convey that childish explanation to the workers outside every time he speaks to them. They knowing the authority from whom it comes, it will carry great weight and raise my hon. Friend very high in the labour world. I do not think he has any reason, to complain of the lecture that he received from the hon. Member opposite. If the-President of the Local Government Board will deal with one point which remains, undealt with, I think the whole matter may be left. Every speaker so far has agreed that this is an infinitely better arrangement than any yet made for the withdrawal of soldiers from the Army for industrial purposes. I think the Committee will also generally agree that the larger the number of soldiers who can be withdrawn for industrial purposes agreeably to the military situation the better for the industries of the country. Under this arrangement there will be two classes, of soldiers working in the country for industrial purposes. There will be the men in this Reserve, working as free men and offering their labour freely in any market for the current rate of wages. There will also be the men who have been brought back from the Army in France and at home and who are working under special conditions and on special terms in the controlled establishments of the country. These men are entitled to draw fresh uniform as and when their old one gets destroyed in these factories. They are entitled to separation allowances if their wives are not in the town in which they are working. If they 979 are bachelors, they are entitled to sustenance allowance. They have also various other privileges. Does not my right hon. Friend think that that is likely to create some friction? There is the one man who has been and remains a soldier in the Keserve, and who is an absolutely free man industrially; there is the other man who has to conform to certain rules and regulations. Would it not be worth while, in consultation with the Minister of Munitions, to put all these men on the same basis? If they are all put in this Special Reserve their movements will be known and they can be mobilised for Home defence or brought back to the Army if required. If my right hon. Friend can introduce uniformity into the practice, he will be able to congratulate himself upon the fact that he has perhaps achieved a solution of this difficulty that will meet with the approval of all of us who are interested in the question.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board intimated in his speech that there were certain people who were very suspicious as to the intention of the Government in regard to industrial compulsion. On the particular Clause with which we are now dealing, I never have thought, and I certainly do not now think, that anyone can believe, after the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, that there is any danger of industrial compulsion. But it does not follow that there is no industrial compulsion in the Bill. We can talk from now till Doomsday, and it will be difficult for anyone to draft any Bill, no matter with what intention, to introduce military Conscription without dealing with the other aspect of the question. Therefore, I think the responsibility rather rests upon the Government. It is not so much what may be the intention of the Government; it is rather how the thing is to be applied afterwards. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will avail himself of the opportunity to co-ordinate the present system with that of the Ministry of Munitions. What happens in those cases is this, that there are men who have been at the front twelve, and in some cases "fifteen months, and they are brought back from the front. They are put into workshops. There are cases where the foremen treat them differently, because of the overhanging fear that they may have to go back. No one can say that the. Government is responsible. It would be absurd 980 to blame the Government for this. No one would be justified in doing so. That, however, does not prevent this thing being done, and it ought not to prevent us taking every opportunity to prevent it. It should be prevented in the system that is now introduced, because, clearly, the whole of the skilled mechanics that are now, unfortunately, in the Army—I mean "unfortunately" from the standpoint that they would be doing better work at home—instead of being brought back, as they are now, very often separated from their wives and families, and at additional cost to the State of separation allowances, and often put to work which is either not so congenial to them or work about which they have not so much knowledge to that in which they were previously engaged, would be differently treated. If these men were released on precisely the same terms as the people with whom we are now dealing, they would come back as free agents, and be able to go to their particular employment in their own town, and be with their own families, and, simultaneously, the State would have the advantage, if it were necessary, that they should be called upon at a later stage, owing to their training and experience, of calling them up. Therefore, whilst I presume that it would be out of order, at this stage, to deal with industrial compulsion—with which I will deal on another Clause of the Bill—I do hope that as wide publicity as is possible will be given to this particular Clause. Understanding, as I have said, that even in this Clause there is a very grave suspicion in the minds of many people that it may be used for other purposes, yet, having regard to the very clear explanation and intimation, that additional words are going to be inserted in the Bill, I think that ought to go a very long way to clear up the existing misapprehension.
§ Mr. TIMOTHY DAVIES
I welcome this Clause above all other parts of the Bill. It is a Clause which will enable the men, who, as the President of the Local Government Board has said, are in the Army and cannot be made use of for the moment, to come back as free men to the industries which they usually serve. I do not at all think that the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Atter-cliffe have not helped to initiate and get the declaration which has been given by the President of the Local Government Board on this Clause. These men, it appears, when they are not required in 981 their regiment for the present purposes of the War Office can be set free exactly in the same way as under the old Reserve. Those others who are employed in the Reserve, and who have served their time, should know very well that there is no restriction at all in regard to the performance of their duties in any way, except that they were called up when the War broke out. I welcome this Clause, especially with the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend below me. Thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of men may be relieved and be used in the industries which they serve. It is quite clear now what it means.
§ Mr. WARDLE
I am sorry I was not in Committee this morning in order to move the Amendment standing in my name, but I understand that the Government are willing to accept it on the Report stage of the Bill. Perhaps, however, there is some misapprehension?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not know that there was any misapprehension in the Committee. The Amendment referred to was in the name of the hon. Member for Stockport, namely—Provided that during such period of cismobilisation a man shall not be subject to military discipline."That is the reason why the Motion is, is "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. WARDLE
Then I have been misinformed. I rose with the object of trying to find out exactly where we were. I have no desire to delay the Committee, but I do, however, want to say that I should welcome it very cordially if the men that are being brought back from the Army into munitions and other work could be brought into the Special Reserve, so that we should only have one class of men out of the Army and one class of men in the Army. It is not because it is a Compulsion Bill—not that I am in love with compulsion—but because these men were brought back under the voluntary arrangement, belonging, as they did, to a voluntary Army, and were put under the Ministry of Munitions as Army men, that I now hope, when there is a Special Reserve, they will all be put into it.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I agree that this Amendment will improve the Clause, but I do think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Anderson) 982 was quite right in his contention that in the nature of things there must be this fear—not, perhaps, a fear, but the actual fact, and possibility of industrial compulsion existing under this Clause. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board said that any working man who came into this Special Reserve was as free as he was himself, apart from his obligations to the House of Commons. I do think the right hon. Gentleman, when he reflects upon that statement, will not really adhere to it?
§ Mr. LONG
I am sorry I did not make myself clear to the hon. Member. I thought what I said was clear and intelligible to everybody. What I was dealing with then was not the liability to military service. I was dealing with a question which had been raised—perhaps it has escaped the attention of the hon. Gentleman—namely, the freedom of a man in regard to the selection of his employment and the settlement of wages.
§ Mr. MASON
I quite appreciate that point, but the contention of my hon. Friend below me was scarcely that. No one suggests that this particular Clause is going to bring about industrial compulsion. The Clause says that the Army Council may make arrangements. There is no question that these working men do feel the pressure that has been referred to, that if the employer of a Special Reservist was not satisfied with him he might discharge him, and he might not get other employment. If he was discharged and got a character for not doing what his employer wanted, he would probably be rendered liable to be called up.
§ Mr. MASON
I think it is very clear. The right hon. Gentleman asks, How? I think the fact that there is this liability is, of course, a point that the working man is probably less free than he otherwise 983 would be if that liability did not exist. No one is complaining of it, in view of the exigencies of the situation, but I do not think we should delude ourselves that it is non-existent. That, I think, is the argument of my hon. Friend. I hope the suggestion made by the Leader of the Labour party will receive, as I have no doubt it will, the favourable consideration of the Government.
§ Mr. LONG
I hope we may now come to a decision. In this Clause the setting up of the Reserve has been accepted by those who specially represent labour in this House, and it is rather a strange commentary that the opposition to it comes from others who only opposed it because they actually torture it, like the hon. Member for Coventry—
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LONG
Torture it into such a form as to make it mean something it does not mean. When I asked the hon. Member who spoke just now to show the Committee how these men incur this liability, he stopped. Wisely, because it would be impossible for him to show anything of the kind. The hon. Member apparently does not know that thousands of Army Reservists are employed in industries of all kinds, and they are then as free workmen as any other workmen in the land. They have no liability whatever except the liabilty of being recalled to the Colours. The hon. Member seemed to think that the employer might put pressure upon a man, and I asked him how. He could not answer. Why? Because the employer cannot put pressure upon a man. He cannot take the Reservist and say, "This man is not a good workman, and he must therefore go back to his regiment." There is no power to send him back. That kind of opposition really is not businesslike, but is really taking up the time of the Committee without any object whatever. There is one question which has been raised, upon which I want to say a word. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh suggested that there will be an anomaly, if this Clause passes, because you will have the Reservists on the one hand, and on the other hand the working man who is also a soldier. But while you have got the working men who are working in factories, although they are soldiers, what is the answer? It is objected to, I understand, by a good many hon. Members. But why have you got them? Because you have not 984 got this Clause; because you have not got a Reserve into which you can pass them. That is the answer. I do not know what arrangements the Army Council may make with the Minister of Munitions, but what I imagine they will do in future will be to pass men into the Reserve when they are required for industry. Create this reserve and the Army Council will be able to pass through it any men they choose. The responsibility will rest with them.
§ Mr. ANEURIN WILLIAMS
I was a little surprised at the words read by the Chairman just now. He spoke of "during such period of demobilisation." I think it was pointed out last night that it must be during such period of transfer or demobilisation.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That was so, but it was understood the actual words might be revised on the Report stage.
§ Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.