HC Deb 16 May 1916 vol 82 cc1355-405

(1) Every male British subject who has at any time since the fourteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and fifteen, been, or for the time being is, ordinarily resident in Great Britain, and who has attained the age of eighteen years, and has not attained the age of forty-one years, shall, unless he either is for the time being within the exceptions set out in the first Schedule to the Military Service Act, 1916 (in this Act referred to as the principal Act), as amended by this Act or any subsequent enactment, or has attained the age of forty-one years before the appointed date, be deemed as from the appointed date to have been duly enlisted in His Majesty's regular forces for general service with the Colours or in the Reserve for the period of the War, and to have been forthwith transferred to the Reserve.

The appointed date shall, as respects men who come within the operation of this Section on the passing of this Act, be the thirtieth day after the date of the passing of this Act, and, as respects men who come within the operation of this Section after the passing of this Act, be the thirtieth day after the date on which they so come within the operation of this Section.

(2) The principal Act shall be construed as if the foregoing provisions of this Section were substituted for Sub-section (1) of Section one of that Act, without prejudice, however, to the operation of that Sub-section as respects men to whom it applied.

(3) Sub-section (4) of Section one of the principal Act is hereby repealed.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the word "eighteen," and to insert instead thereof the word "nineteen."

The proposal to raise the age to nineteen, which has been discussed on former occasions, has always commanded a large measure of support in this House, and the President of the Local Government Board must have found out that it commands great and increasing support in the country generally. I should like the House to consider the matter, first, from the point of view of the national interest. The number of lads affected by the provision as it stands is between 300,000 and 400,000. That is roughly the number of boys who in each year attain the age of eighteen. Therefore the proposal affects a very considerable number of persons, and affects directly almost every aspect of the national life. You are going in this arbitrary and sudden manner to divert the streams which run through the whole of our national life; you are going to interfere with the education of these boys for expert professions and occupations; you are going to take them also from the general industrial life of the country. Although it may be possible to do this for a short time, it is impossible to do it for any extended time without inflicting a most serious injury upon the economic life of the nation.

But that is not the main ground upon which I wish to urge the acceptance of this Amendment. I would ask the House to consider the claims of the young lads themselves. I submit that eighteen is too young an age at which to take these lads compulsorily into the armed forces of the Crown. I can well understand the temptation that a Government has to take these lads. I remember that when this matter was being discussed on a former occasion an hon. Member opposite interrupted and said that these lads had no votes and no rights. Undoubtedly there is a temptation, and because these lads are both voteless and voiceless their claims may not receive the same measure of consideration and inquiry as follows when the claims of older persons are being considered. I suggest that in many cases these boys are immature both in mind and in body, and that the age is altogether too young. I should like to see it raised much higher. To my mind there is something peculiarly repulsive in this House adopting a Bill which conscripts schoolboys.


Our own sons.


I will say a word on that presently. I think that in the national interest the lives of these lads should not be interfered with in this way at so early an age. I believe that it would be sound economy from the national point of view not to conscript boys until they have reached a higher age. [An HON. MEMBER: "How old?"] My Amendment proposes to raise the age to nineteen. Even one year is some improvement on the proposal of the Bill. I would mention also the consideration which this House ought to show for the parents of lads of so tender an age. My hon. Friend interrupted me on that point a moment ago. I should like to read a letter which I have just received from one of the parents concerned. I am sure that all Members have received letters on this subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then they are indeed fortunate. A great number of Members will have received many letters from parents of lads affected by this provision. I will read one that I have received, and I am sure that Members, whether they agree or disagree, will at least realise its sincerity and the right of these views to be expressed:— Dear Sir, I hope you will excuse my taking the liberty of writing. I know I am only one mother out of millions, but I have a boy, nearly 18, and it is troubling me too much to sit and think and yet do nothing to try to save him, because he is not fit for a soldier; he is such a boy, and does not look over 15. Oh, Sir, it is horrible, I could not bear it. Will it be taking too much of your time to read this? I was left without a husband when my first baby was born, and I have simply lived for him, and worked to keep him until he was 14. I have always been a delicate woman and had no one to help me besides my boy. All I had was a widowed mother and a invalid sister who could not work for her living. We four have struggled along together. My mother and sister are partly dependant upon me and my boy. Oh, sir, can you advise me what to do? He will not be 18 until July. Each day I awake with such a load on my mind, because it is a day nearer. Oh, sir, can it not be prevented? I would not grieve so much if he were a man, or if only I could take his place. Have these gentlemen got boys of their own who want this conscription?




I have a lad not yet eighteen, and he wants to go now.


So have I.


I would not have spoken upon this point, knowing the bravery, chivalry and love of adventure of English boys, but surely it is our duty not to be guided only by these characteristics of English boys, but to see to it that the arrangements that are made are wise, just and fair alike for them and for the nation. I have read the letter I have because I think this expression of sorrow and anguish is almost epic in its intensity. Because it reflects not only the opinion of the mother, but the feeling in the country, of which we have had overwhelming evidence. I venture to appeal to the Government to raise the age to nineteen, when these boys will at least be a little more mature in mind and body. I decline to go on believing that it can be necessary for this great wrong to be continued. I trust very much, in view of the evidence that has been submitted on former occasions to the Government, that the right hon. Gentleman, in reply, will not content himself by saying that the matter has been considered and that no concession can be made. There are few provisions in this Bill that have raised greater resentment than this particular provision. If the Government could modify it at all they would give great satisfaction to a great number of people who are directly affected. I earnestly hope, before we have disposed of the Bill, that this matter may meet with at least some partial Amendment.


I moved this Amendment in Committee, and I approach this subject from a slightly different standpoint to that of my hon. Friend. I have taken the position, ever since the House determined by an overwhelming vote that we must have compulsion, that it is no use any of us who are opposed on principle to compulsion beating our heads against a stone wall. All we ought to do, and what I think the House will perhaps agree to let us do, is to try and secure some measure of fair play where we think such does not operate in the previous Act. It is entirely from that point of view that I desire to offer my observations. I would remind the House that at the moment—I think the President of the Local Government Board will agree—there is very considerable inequality existing in regard to the boys who are fighting, or who may be called upon to fight in the Army. As we all know, boys of well under eighteen years of age have been fighting for us at the front. Many of these boys have done extremely well. Many have secured coveted distinctions, and everybody must be thoroughly proud of them. But the fact remains, that a great number of these lads are under eighteen years of age. Under the Derby scheme no boy of eighteen, after he was enrolled, could be called up until he was nineteen. Owing, however, to military exigencies an arrangement was come to whereby those boys were offered at eighteen and a half the option of being called up for immediate training, or, if they wished it—the Government were quite proper in every part of this agreement—they could return to their homes, after being medically inspected, and could not be called up till they were nineteen. What does this Bill do? It calls up all those boys at eighteen years and one month. They are allowed one month's grace in which to recruit voluntarily. I think I am expressing the feeling of the House when I say that a very large number of these boys will recruit voluntarily within the month, and save us the trouble of calling them up. We have, therefore, these three different states. It is perfectly obvious that some of these lads of eighteen may by this Bill be actually called up, and be fighting before the lads who are called up under the Derby scheme. That is a possibility in time, and I suggest to the House, and to the President of the Local Government Board, that if he does not, and cannot, meet this question and raise the age from eighteen to nineteen, he will be doing the fair thing to equalise the position more than has been done by any methods yet suggested. For instance, I do not think it is fair to call up under this Second Military Service Bill lads of the same year as were called up under the other, and actually have these fighting before the men whom we conscripted in the first Bill. I do not think it is fair. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, if he cannot go the whole way that I suggested in Committee—and presumably he cannot, for I agree that if a proposal is beaten in Committee it must have very, very strong reasons behind it before it can be accepted on the Report stage—he might go half-way, and he might agree to co-ordinate this particular Bill with the Derby scheme so that the lads called up under the Derby scheme and under this Bill would be in the same position.

There are two other reasons—quite shortly—why I favour this present proposal. The President of the Local Government Board always replies—I think he is entitled to reply—that the tribunals will look after the question as to how many of these boys shall be taken. I think the House will agree that there is a shortage in what one might term here, without any reproach—the supply of boys for professional classes. We are running very short of doctors; that is one of the great things during the whole campaign that has created difficulty. Everybody knows that boys at that age are beginning a medical curriculum at our universities. As I say, the reply may be that a tribunal might not take a boy of that sort, and that that boy would be given an opportunity of going on with his studies; but I do suggest there is something in the economic argument that you are depriving the State of the material which will enable the State to take up the fight with the rest of the world after this War is over and peace is declared, a point which we ought never to forget, because if we are going to meet the conditions which will obtain after the War, we must be well equipped, and if there is a large hiatus in the supply of boys coming into professional and scientific branches of education, we are bound to be less equipped than we otherwise would be.

There is a third point, and it is the last I make, in favour of the argument that there is a hardship on the parents of those boys, which the House does not quite appreciate. At the age of eighteen a boy has left school—in the working classes certainly—and been away from school for at least three years. He is three years through his apprenticeship, and he is within reasonable distance of earning a wage which would enable him to contribute to the upkeep of his parents. The House will also agree that in many cases the lad of eighteen who will be taken is the last boy in the family. The elder boys have all been enlisted. Now, when that boy applies to the War Office for support for his parents, because he is an apprentice, and because his parents are making sacrifices in order to enable him to go through his apprenticeship, he cannot prove that his parents are dependent on him, and he cannot get a penny separation allowance out of the War Office. I see my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) in his place. He was a member of the Pensions Committee, and I remember talking with him about this very subject. He told me then that on the Pensions Committee they had discussed this question of apprentices, and he himself felt that the question of dealing with the apprentices from that point of view was an extremely difficult one, and that it was a real hardship. If you are going to take these lads of eighteen away from families which have already contributed largely to the Army and Navy by giving up other members of the family, I hope the parents will not be left stranded, but that some contribution will be made to the home. I do not think it is fair on the Report stage to elaborate too much those points which have been touched upon in Committee, but I do ask the President of the Local Government Board to consider the points I have made, and to appreciate the fact that I do not make them with a view of stopping the progress of the Bill, but of trying to adjust what seems to me a certain amount of unfairness in this proposal both with respect to the boy and with respect to the parents.


I am sure that my hon. Friend who has just spoken expressed what everybody feels when he said that these Amendments, each one of which has been discussed either generally on the Second Reading or individually in Committee, cannot lend themselves to much further discussion at this later stage. We have discussed this question of the age of eighteen—nineteen on the original Act, and on several occasions during the progress of this Bill, and the Government feel quite as strongly as any of those who have spoken to-day or on previous occasions that it is regrettable that we are obliged to call on those lads to come and take their share in the service of the country, but it is a national necessity. It is put forward as a national necessity, and it is my duty to put that to the House with as much emphasis as I can command. A great deal has been said about the hardship inflicted upon those lads by taking them away from home and imposing upon them military training and discipline so early, but I think everybody who has watched the lads in the course of their training will agree that the improvement, physical and mental, that comes to these boys after two or three months of good military training is extraordinary. I know a case—one individual case, I know, does not make the whole right, but it is no exception—of a mother whose lad enlisted at the age of eighteen, and insisted upon going, and she was broken-hearted. She said he was taken from nome, and it would mean his destruction. He came back after three months' training with the Colours, and his mother herself admitted that she could not have believed so much change for the good could have taken place in a lad in so short a time. He was physically built up, strengthened mentally, and given a view of life he did not entertain before. I do not think anyone who has followed closely, as many of us have, the lives of these young soldiers can contend that anything but benefit comes from the condition of life which they are called upon to bear. It ought to be said here that we are engaged in this great conflict with a very powerful enemy, that we have many disadvantages, and that we are often reproached that we started without due preparation. Well, we have to overtake those arrears as best we can, and we have striven to do so, but we ought not to increase our disadvantages. And let the House remember that other countries take their lads much younger than we do. My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War tells me that Germany calls her lads up for training at seventeen.

There is an aspect of the case altogether different from the one put by my hon. Friends the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment that they ought to consider, speaking as friends of these lads and parents. I think, perhaps, the worst thing that can happen when you are creating a new Army, as we are doing, is to be called upon to send men out to take their places in the trenches before they have had an adequate amount of preparation and training. Let the House remember that this modern warfare has none of the dash and glory and hot-bloodedness of the old-fashioned warfare, the constant attacks, the constant excitements which attend the sort of warfare we have hitherto been accustomed to. Every soldier to whom I have talked about this great War tells me the same thing, that never were training and discipline so essential to success as they are in this present form of warfare, where the men have to endure the peril of being constantly under heavy fire, constantly in exposed and difficult positions, where, if they do not obey the orders to the letter, they sacrifice their own lives and risk the lives of others. Therefore, never have you required training so much as now. The proposal of the Army Council is to take those lads of eighteen and train them until nineteen, by which time they will be really efficient soldiers, ready for the work that they have to perform, and, I venture to say, that it is in the interest of the Army and in the interest of the lads themselves—the very point of view from which my hon. Friends have approached the question—once you admit the fact that their education, the adoption by them of civil careers, have all the time to go by the board, and let it be remembered that this condition does not apply only to the lads who are taken now under this Bill for soldiers, but that in every class, from the highest to the lowest, from the richest to the poorest, the same sacrifices have had to be made. Thousands of young fellows have given up their educational preparation for all sorts of professions, and are now fighting in France or lie buried in one of our theatres of war, young fellows who had fully intended and partially prepared themselves for all sorts of professions. This is one of the horrors of war. It is one of the evils which we cannot avoid if we are going to carry a war of this sort to a successful conclusion. If those elementary conditions are admitted, as I think they must be, the question remains whether in the long run the balance of argument is not in favour of taking these lads of eighteen and giving them a training to make them efficient soldiers by the time they go to the front.

There are two outstanding questions, one the liability for dependants raised by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). The hon. Members say that these lads cannot show that their parents have been dependent upon them and therefore they may be exposed to great financial loss through the lads going to the Army at this early age. Surely that case is met by the new Committee which has been appointed to consider the liabilities and the financial difficulties of those who are called upon to go to the War and their dependants who are left behind. I know of nothing to prevent that Committee dealing with a case of this kind. Then there is the question of sending these boys abroad to France. I notice that there is an Amendment on the Paper in the name of three hon. Members providing "that no man who comes within the operation of this or the principal Act shall be sent to serve abroad before he reaches the age of nineteen. It would be impossible for the Government to accept that Amendment for two reasons. Firstly, because it is open to the objection that by putting those words into the Act you impose a liability upon the Army Council and their representatives which it is not fair to impose upon them, and which I do not think they ought to be asked to accept; nevertheless, I am authorised by the Adjutant-General to say quite distinctly that he has no intention of sending these lads abroad until they are nineteen.

At the same time he says, what he has stated in every one of these cases where he has authorised me to make a statement on his behalf, that you cannot bind yourself to any condition when circumstances may be too strong for it. You might have lads close upon nineteen years of age, well trained and physically strong, and you might have some terrible pressure at some part of your line, and the general officer might be urgently demanding that in extra number of men should be thrown into that particular part of the line, and this might make the difference between success and failure. It is inconceivable that this House, in such an emergency as that, should put into the Statute words that would not enable the authorities to make the best use of these men, although at the present time the Adjutant-General thinks that it will not be necessary to send these, men abroad, and he only takes this power as a precaution, and not because he wishes to make a wrong use of this power, but simply because he does not want his hands and the hands of the Army Council tied in such a way as would prevent them if necessary using all our forces in order to secure success. There are some words which I am prepared to insert which are not quite the same as those which have been proposed, but which I think would really carry out the greater part of what they desire. They are to this effect:

"Provided that steps shall be taken to prevent as far as possible the sending of men to serve abroad before attaining the age of nineteen, except in the case of military necessity."

[An HON. MEMBER: "Are you going to put those words in the Bill?"] I propose to put those words into the Bill instead of the Amendment which has been moved. I hope the House will not accept the Amendment, but will support the Government in what is a very sacred duty, to provide the men we want for our Army.


I shall not enter upon the question that has been foreshadowed by the right hon. Gentleman because my hon. Friends have an Amendment down, and they will deal with that point directly. I want to say a word or two on the question of liability, which, strong as it was when the Pensions Committee sat more than a year ago, is much stronger now, because we have a compulsory system instead of a voluntary system. When we discussed this matter on the Pensions Committee eighteen months ago, I made repeated efforts to get some provision whereby the parents of these lads might get some benefit of a financial character if they went away, and I was always met with the plea that the principle of prewar dependants mast be laid down rigidly and not departed from, and therefore nothing was done with regard to those boys. These cases are very hard, and they are not exactly on the same ground which the right hon. Gentleman wishes the House to believe. With regard to apprentices, we have had brought forward the case of the better-to-do people whose parents are better off than the poor boys who are apprentices. The right hon. Gentleman also says that provision has, he understands, been made by the Statutory Committee to deal with these cases. Might I inform him, as a simple matter of fact, that no such provision has been made. I have brought the matter forward before the Pensions Committee, and, rightly or wrongly, they feel that they are more or less tied by the same principle laid down some considerable time ago that the pre-War standard of dependants must be the rigid principle to be applied, and therefore neither by the flat rate nor by the supplementary allowances now being, or about to be, made to dependants and others is any provision made for the parents of the boys who are now to be compulsorily taken, and who, after serv- ing three or four years of their apprenticeship, are taken into the Army compulsorily instead of voluntarily.

4.0 P.M.

What is the position of these lads? I have gone through the process myself, and I know. Parents struggle hard and at great sacrifice to get their boys a trade, and in order to do so they send a lad to a trade at about fifteen years of age, at a wage perhaps of 3s. or 4s. a week for the first year. Perhaps at the end of four or five years the boy may get 14s. or 15s. per week, perhaps less or more, and then he is taken away to the Army within a few months, perhaps in some cases within a few weeks, of his apprenticeship terminating. If that apprenticeship had terminated a little earlier, instead of receiving 14s. or 15s. a week, the lad would probably have had £2 per week, and then the parents awould have been in a position to reap some of the advantages they have been looking forward to as the result of a very long sacrifice and struggle. That is the position in the case of hundreds of parents throughout the length and breadth of the country. I believe the Statutory Committee have decided, after much discussion, to give something within a period of five or seven years to the parents after the boy is dead, in the event of him being killed in war, provided it is found that those parents are in poor or poverty-stricken circumstances. I want to submit to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Government that it is a miserably inadequate provision to make for the parents of these boys. It was passable a year ago, perhape, to make no proper provision. I do not say it was justifiable, but it was arguable at all events that while the boy went voluntarily the community was not to the same extent under the obligation to pay something to his parents. But now that you are taking them compulsorily, it is incumbent upon the Army Council, or whoever deals with these matters for the Government, to alter their Royal Warrant in such a way that the boy's parents will have something, even if he is killed, to make up for their sacrifice in giving him a trade. I commend that view not only to the right hon. Gentleman but also to the Financial Secretary to the War Office.


The conclusion to which the Select Committee arrived with regard to separation allowances payable in respect of apprentices was part of a general conclusion with regard to the grant of separation allowances as a whole, and it is utterly impossible, in a comparatively rigid administration such as you must have and such as you cannot avoid in administering an Army of This kind, to forsake the realm of fact and to embark upon the sea of probability. I do not suppose anyone who has not had any practical experience of administering a gigantic undertaking such as the Army is at the present moment realises what the effect would b'e if you adopted an unduly elastic system. You would never get anything done at all. Out of the millions of cases with which we have to deal one knows what would happen. Members of this House would be bringing hundreds of cases to my personal attention where they now bring one, and it would be quite impossible to get anything done at all. That is no argument, I agree, against setting up some other authority to deal with those cases which do come within the realm of probability, and it was in order to deal with cases of that sort the Government adopted the recommendation of the Select Committee which considered this question and called into being the Statutory Committee of the Royal Patriotic Fund. That body is not tied as the hands of the War Office are tied in dealing with this question, and I venture to submit to the House that is the proper authority to deal with the separation allowances which might properly be allowed in respect of apprentices.


Give them the tip.


I honestly do not think that body will want any tip. I think they will realise just as much as anybody else that when you graft upon a voluntary system a system of compulsion the problem is altered substantially. No one who has studied the question can come to any other conclusion than that this matter requires most careful thought and investigation. It is obvious that I cannot carry the matter further at the present moment. All I want the House to do is realise that there is in existence now a body specially charged with the consideration of these cases, and I am quite sure they will consider them with sympathy.


I do not think the question of age which has been raised now admits of argument. The President of the Local Government Board has clearly shown to us that the military exigencies of the situation require the age to be taken at eighteen, and he has shown us that boys of that age will not suffer by being so taken. When I recollect how hundreds, and almost thousands, of boys between the ages of eighteen and nineteen in my Constituency have gone to the front voluntarily without any thought but that of doing their duty by their country, and when I recollect how our colleges are emptied, how our quadrangles are silent, and how the not of life is stilled on the rivers and playfields of Oxford, I do not think anyone can say that the age of eighteen is too young to satisfy the call of patriotic duty. I must say that the question of apprenticeship has been, in my mind, a very serious one. It arises only on the Military Service Act and the present Military Service Bill, because they are the first to apply compulsion. It is a very difficult question, and I should like to add my voice to that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) in an earnest appeal to the Government to arrange to meet the very difficult and very hard case of appreticeship. I know a case in my own experience of a widow woman who has brought up a boy from almost childhood by her own exertions and has paid for his apprenticeship. Up to the present moment, of course, she has derived no advantage whatever from the money which she has expended. Her son will fall under this Bill before she is able or he is able to derive any benefit from the years of expenditure which his apprenticeship has caused. That is a situation which, I think, the Government ought to meet, and, under this compulsory system, to meet with generosity. There was another point which was raised by the Amendment which stood in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Blackfriars Division, which we appear to be able to discuss under the present Amendment. The Amendment proposed to be placed in the Statute by the President of the Local Government Board is a much wider Amendment in one sense than that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Blackfriars Division. Whereas his Amendment is confined to young boys under the Military Service Act and under the present Bill, the Amendment as proposed by the President of the Local Government Board applies to all boys, whether volunteers or enrolled under the two Acts, and that is an addition which I most cordially welcome.

It would have been a monstrous inconsistency to place a volunteer who has come forward patriotically in a worse position than the man who has come forward under this system. May I put a case which came to my notice only the other day? A boy enlisted on 9th September, 1914, at the age of sixteen and three months. He had his nine months' training, and then went out to Gallipoli. He was slightly wounded in the head by shrapnel, and he was badly wounded in the knee by a rifle bullet. He was invalided home; he is now convalescent, has rejoined, and is at this very moment expecting to be sent abroad again a second time before he is of the age of eighteen. This boy, I may say, has no wish to be kept at home, and he is physically fit, but it is a parents' question, and I do really think that you will be outraging the feelings of parents if you do not extend to the parents of the volunteer the same protection against foreign service which you are now giving to those who are brought in under the compulsory system. On the other hand, I must entirely accept the principle that was laid down by the President of the Local Government Board that, whatever rule you make, you must make it subject to the exigencies of the military situation. I do not think that putting a distinct prohibition in the Statute would in the least help to produce the result that we all desire, that boys should not be sent until they have attained the age of nineteen. What penalty could be enforced against a commanding officer who, under the stress of military necessity, allowed a boy to go to the front? I do not believe there is any judge or any court which would pass any sentence upon a man who acted in the best of his discretion when in a position of such absolute difficulty, and I think those who, like myself, are in favour of the proposal not to allow boys to go to the front until they are nineteen ought to accept, and accept gratefully, the words which the President of the Local Government Board proposed to put in the present Bill.


The House, I think, will be in possession of my views on this particular Amendment. I spoke a few days ago upon the same point, and I have not seen any reason at all for de- parting from the opinion which I then expressed. I find that my opinion, in so far as I have been able to test Labour opinion throughout the country, is backed up by every representative body of which I know. Last week we had a meeting of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, and I only refer to it because, after all, it is a very great representative organisation. We took the main points of this Bill into consideration. The miners may at once be said to have supported the Government from the commencement of the War in a way which has not been exceeded by any other body of people in the country, and, while on every other point there were marked differences of opinion, upon this one point as to the very serious mistake—as we believe national mistake—of taking boys so early into the Army there was absolutely unanimity of opinion. There seems rather a tendency to look upon this matter from the point of view of the financial burden that may be entailed upon the household unless certain Regulations are altered. That, of course, is a serious enough aspect, but I submit the most serious aspect of all is the terrible depletion that this condition will make in that which, after all, is the highest capital of this country, the young life of the nation.

When the President of the Local Government Board tells us that it is a matter of military necessity I am bound to say one must pay very great attention. There must be authority somewhere. There must be some person in whom we can place our belief, and when the right hon. Gentleman, with a full sense of responsibility, tells the deputation that he met last week, and when two of his colleagues also tell them the same thing, one does feel a tremendous difficulty in opposing such a definite authoritative statement. At the same time, one must regret that the position of this nation is such that we are bound, by reasons of military necessity, to take away this very valuable young life. Let us see whether we are treating these young people honestly. Are we treating them on the same lines as we treated them in the principal Act? Then those young folks were told—and I make no complaint that the promises and statements then made have been departed from, provided, of course, that a military necessity has arisen, and the Secret Session convinced me that it has—I make no complaint that the pledges are not being kept. But then these young men were taken on at eighteen years and seven months. The appointed day was the 22nd of March. They had a complete month after that time, and they attained the age of eighteen on the 15th of August in the previous year. Therefore they were only embodied in the Army at eighteen years eight months. I take it they are entitled to something like six months' training. If the military necessity does exist, why cannot we co-ordinate the treatment in both classes of cases?

I can hardly imagine that our condition has become so parlous that we are bound to take these young people at eighteen and put them into the Army even for home training for twelve months. I do not intend to go into the other part of the matter, but one would like to see, after all, this House of Commons have some definite control over the military authority. I can see no possible shadow of ground why, if it be the keen desire of the military authorities not to take these young fellows before they are nineteen, that cannot be definitely expressed in the Act of Parliament. There have been so many things left to chance that, with the very best will in the world, one is driven to the conclusion that, after all, we are not being treated quite fairly. If there is a distinct desire—and even Lord Kitchener himself has expressed that desire—not to take these young people until they are nineteen, if it is the case that nineteen is the earliest at which they can make effective soldiers, surely that might very well be expressed in the Bill itself, and then we should be giving to the nation at large the idea that, after all, the parents of the boys are being treated fairly and openly. I hope I have not said a single word that can be unfairly construed. Honestly, after listening attentively through the Secret Session, I have reported to everyone over whom I have any influence that a serious military situation has arisen, and that this necessity exists, and yet, with all my desire to place confidence in those who possess authoritative information, I can hardly believe that our nation has been driven to such a pass as to be compelled to take these young folk so early. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of hundreds of thousands outside this House, to give us something more definite than the statement he has made.

Colonel YATE

I should like to express my entire agreement with what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Prothero) as to the statement of the President of the Local Government Board, and I also agree in hoping there will be equal treatment to men of eighteen under the different schemes. But I do ask the right hon. Gentleman not to proceed with the addition he has suggested. Talk of eighteen! Why, good gracious, I went out to India at eighteen as a soldier, and yet we are here simply talking of their going to France. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark (Mr. Pringle) in what he said as to the age of nineteen. My belief is that the age of eighteen is the time when a man can best be spared from industrial work. No man can be called a skilled labourer at eighteen, and I believe that the majority called up at eighteen would be found perfectly fit to go abroad six months later. It is only the young immature men who would have to be kept behind. I do trust that this question may be treated as it has been treated in the principal Act, and that no fresh change will be made.

Suppose I was called upon to jump a parapet and charge a German trench. Which would I rather have with me, these active young men of eighteen, or a lot of fat old married men? We want young active men to charge German trenches, and eighteen and nineteen are just the ages at which they can do it. To call upon men of forty, who have never had a day's military training, to do it is dangerous to them. They are apt to break down. I trust there will be no hesitation in calling out all the young men in the country. I do not believe there is a man in the country in any employment whatsoever between eighteen and twenty-five, years of age that can really be deemed to be indispensable. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make arrangements, as soon as he can, to call up every man from eighteen to twenty-five. I should like to call the special attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the tremendous discontent among the older men of thirty, who say, "Here am I being called up; look at those young fellows still at work." Let us have every young fellow from eighteen to twenty-five out, and then these men of thirty will also come out with satisfaction and contentment, which they do not do at the present time.


I am sure we listened to the last speaker with a good deal of curiosity on this side of the House. But we cannot follow him in his argument that there is no age intervening between eighteen and forty, and that if you cannot have people at eighteen you must have those at forty. The argument remains, and I think it is a very strong argument indeed, that a boy of eighteen is certainly not as mature, as able, or as capable of being a soldier as a man from twenty-one to twenty-six and up to thirty. My view is it is possible and, in fact, it has occurred there are these immature boys; for, after all, boys of eighteen are not all alike, any more than are men of forty or fifty. There are immature boys of eighteen who have been taken into the Army, and many of them have suffered very severely. It is quite true, as those of us who go about with our eyes open know, there are some boys taken on at seventeen or eighteen who immediately begin to pay for the training. There are others whom it is exceedingly difficult to train, and who are found to be only a burden. You can make nothing of them. I quite agree with the President of the Local Government Board that in the case of a person with stamina to begin with, there is a likelihood that physical training will aid development and give the boy a better physique. But there are cases where it has an exactly opposite effect, and therefore there is no cast-iron rule which can be laid down as applicable to all boys of eighteen.

May I be permitted to say, in passing, it is quite true, as suggested by the hon. Member for Oxford University, that, as regards men who go to Oxford, you do get at eighteen a very fine physique. But in some of the staple trades in the country where boys begin work at ten or eleven years of age—in my time they used to begin at eight or nine—you get undeveloped physique in the factories, in the mines, and in other places where they have to work, and it is upon these that the strain falls. Therefore we feel, when you take the whole broad question into view, that eighteen is too young to take these boys into the Army. Apart from the general question, on which I do not desire to touch further, I should like to come to the Amendment in my own name. It was mentioned in the speech of the President of the Local Government Board, and in several speeches by other hon. Members, and it may save time in coming to a conclusion as to what should be the policy of the Government and of the House if we take a general discussion upon this point. In regard to this question of sending abroad boys who are under the age of nine- teen, I am rather sorry the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept the full implication of my Amendment.


I desire to ask how, if the hon. Member is going to discuss his Amendment, and the right hon. Gentleman has given his assent to his doing so, we are going to proceed? What will be the course of the Debate? In what position will the House be after the first Amendment has been disposed of?


I do not think it will make very much difference. These two questions are very closely bound up, and there does not seem to be very much objection to discussing them together. We shall have to take the Amendment of the President of the Local Government Board separately, and the House will have an opportunilty of pronouncing upon it.


But will it be possible to move any Amendment to it? You will not allow any further discussion.


I should think the House will hardly want any discussion.


Does that mean we shall not be able to take a vote on the next Amendment on the Paper?


I shall certainly call on the hon. Member in due course, if he wishes to move it.


When I was interrupted by the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham) I was endeavouring to say that I was very sorry the right hon. Gentleman could not see his way to accept the Amendment in the form in which it appears on the Paper. I quite recognise, however, that there is some force in what was said by the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Prothero), that the suggested Amendment only deals with those who come under this Bill and not with those who come under the previous Act, and that this Amendment deals with all boys between eighteen and nineteen. There is one part of the Amendment to which I take some objection, namely, the words "except in the case of military necessity." I quite see the difficulty of binding the military authorities down absolutely by saying that in no circumstances should a boy go out before he is nineteen years of age. He may be a week or two off nineteen, and he may be in a battalion in which there may be ten or a dozen of boys close upon nineteen, and it would be a great difficulty if in that instance those boys could not be sent out. If the words I have read in the right hon. Gentleman's proposed Amendment are left out, it will then provide, "Provided that steps shall be taken to prevent as far as possible the sending of men to serve abroad before they attain the age of nineteen." I am prepared to accept those words instead of the Amendment which is in my name upon the Paper. I recognise that is as far as we can get, and I am prepared to take that Amendment rather than sacrifice getting something into the Bill which indicates to the military authorities, to the country and to anxious mothers, many of whom have written to me, and I have no doubt to other Members of the House, that these boys should not go before the age of nineteen. If that Amendment is put into the Bill it will reassure public opinion and prevent in a large measure the sending out of boys before they are nineteen.


I only desire in a sentence to associate myself with what has been said by my hon. Friend who has just sat down, and to thank the right hon. Gentleman for putting in these words. They will meet a very widespread desire. I quite understand that it is not possible to carry them further. I can assure my right hon. Friend that the reason why some of us have pressed this matter is because we welcomed his own statement as to the intention, and because the more of my right hon. Friend's speeches we can get embodied in the Act of Parliament the better it will be.

Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT

I rose in the first instance after my hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Colonel Yate) to say that I entirely disagreed with a great deal that fell from him with regard to the best age at which to take men for the Army. I agree with him that eighteen is a very excellent time for taking recruits, but the experience of all officers who have served abroad has been that it is too early for the average young man of this country to go on active service, especially in tropical climates. At the same time, I would ask my hon. Friends whose names are attached to this Amendment not to press for the putting into a Statute a limitation with regard to age. There are very serious objections to that when we are dealing with such a Bill as this. At the same time we ought to have—and I believe the President of the Local Government Board is anxious to find—something which will give a guarantee that the principle which we here all hold is maintained, and that a lad will not be sent out before he has had time to become fully matured. I have known many cases since the War began of lads of eighteen who joined the Army solely with the idea of going out at once, and who felt a certain amount of grievance that they had to go through a considerable amount of training before they were allowed to go to fight the Germans. That is a very natural feeling. There are many cases where the lads are perfectly capable and physically fit and able to stand it. Therefore I would not put a limitation upon commanders that would make it impossible for them to give a young man of that sort a chance of attaining his natural ambition. As I came into the House just now the Financial Secretary to the War Office was speaking, and I was glad to hear from him that the question raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) has been considered, and that the question of apprentices is shortly to be referred to the Committee presided over by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board—


I am sorry to interrupt my hon. and gallant Friend, but he is carrying the matter a little further than what I said. What I said was that the question of apprentices had been considered by a Select Committee of this House, and that the Government, in pursuance of the recommendations of the Select Committee, had created the Statutory Committee to deal with it.

Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT

I am sorry that I went further than my hon. Friend intended, and recognise that that comes from getting up to speak after one has only just come into the House. I did not hear the whole of my hon. Friend's speech. Perhaps he will consider the advisability of taking the step I have suggested, and of going a little bit further, and of referring it to his right hon. colleague, who, I am quite sure, will be most anxious to deal with that and other matters which will eventually come before the Statutory Committee. It is a very important matter. I have had several cases of apprentices sent to me where there undoubtedly was considerable hardship. It is certainly a case which should be met in the provision that is going to be made. If it had been possible when this Bill was before the House for us to have been in possession of the details of the provision that is going to be made, it would have assisted considerably in the passage of the Bill. Apparently that has not been possible, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, who, I am quite sure, appreciates how closely these two things hang together, to use his influence to get these matters submitted to the House as soon as possible.


My hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken has given us a valuable military opinion to the effect that nineteen is a better age than eighteen for young soldiers; nevertheless, he said that it was undesirable to put the age of nineteen in the Bill, because there should be no limit placed upon a commander in selecting men. His argument cannot be said to have been very convincing when one remembers that the age of eighteen is already in the Bill, and that the commanding officer will be confronted with the same difficulty whether the age is eighteen, seventeen, or any other age.

Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT

May I correct a misapprehension of my hon. Friend's? A man can be enlisted at eighteen, and a very good age it is—I do not think you could have a better. The question I was discussing was whether be should be sent abroad at the age of eighteen.


I pass to the point of the age at which a man should be sent abroad. As one of those who reluctantly voted for the Second Reading of this Bill and of the previous Military Service Act, overborne by authority and not by the arguments which were used in favour of the measure, I am bound to say that I will be no party to voting for the reduction of the age of the young recruit. It is proposed by this Clause to lower the age by eight or twelve months. I have heard no reason alleged in favour of that, and I will certainly be no party to it, so that if my hon. Friend, who moved this Amendment goes into the Lobby, I shall be bound to go with him in support of it. The proposal of the age limit is complicated by the further addendum to the effect that although a man is enlisted at eighteen, he is not to go abroad until he is nineteen. That is plausible, and is helped to some extent by the Amendment which is to be proposed by the President of the Local Government Board; but I should like to point out to the House that when we once put into the Bill an Amendment, such as that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, we have really no further control over the matter. The right hon. Gentleman does not intend that men should go abroad before they are nineteen, and the Army Council probably has the same desire. Their intentions are honourable and they mean to stick to them. I do not impugn the word of the right hon. Gentleman in any way, but I know perfectly well that these monstrosities will happen. I would like to remind the House once more of the case I mentioned last week of a boy who was enlisted, trained, sent abroad, put into the trenches, shot dead, and buried, all before he attained the age of seventeen. That is contrary to the law; it is contrary to the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, but it happened, and it goes on happening, and I feel certain that is what will happen. In these circumstances, I will be no party to these possible atrocities. I hope the Amendment will be carried to a Division, and that I may have the pleasure of voting in support of it.


I cannot help feeling that in these discussions—I have listened to nearly all of them—we lose sight of the great object which we all have at heart. We have got to win this War, and it is absolutely certain that we have to follow the advice of the Army Council, nay, more, the dictates of the Army Council, if we desire to win it at the earliest possible moment. There is not a thing we have done here which has not made some person or other sacrifice something. Every civilian who has to close his civilian career and go to the front as a soldier has to make a great sacrifice, but he is making that sacrifice because he knows he is one of the men who are privileged to carry upon their backs the honour and welfare of the country of which they are citizens. I am certain that none of us desire to take boys of eighteen, nineteen, or even twenty, if we can possibly avoid it, but anybody who, like myself, has watched the making of the New Armies, who has had a boy in one of those Armies from the day a particular regiment was formed, and has gone down from time to time to watch the development of the boys and men in that regiment, will have noticed that the Army training has done an enormous amount of good for the physical welfare of the boys and the men. I have had that experience. My boy joined a battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers almost at the commencement of the War, and I watched, day by day I might almost say, the growth of that regiment from simply a mass, as it were, of untrained, raw recruits into trained soldiers. I watched the physical development of every single man in it, and I have had it from the men themselves that they are of opinion that their military training has done a very great deal for them in every way. I think my right hon. Friend (Mr. Long) has given every single thing it is possible for him to give subject to the requirements of the Army Council. We in this House, we who have, so to speak, to order the affairs of the country during this War, are nothing but, the trustees of the generations to come. These boys of eighteen are going to be our critics in the future as to whether we have done our duty or not in winning this War. How are we to stand before the tribunal? How are we to answer to them if we lose this War because we had not enough men and because we have declined, for sickly motives of sentiment, to ask these boys to come and do their duty in helping us to win the War? I should be ashamed and afraid to meet any of them. I know lots of these boys are burning to go out and are only longing for the day on which they may be of military age and permitted to go out. There is a boy whom I have known ever since he was a child. He is in the Navy. He joined one of his Majesty's ships just after he was sixteen, and has been in engagement after engagement. He has been practically round the world since the commencement of the War. I met him only two or three days ago with his father. He is a very proud man. He is proud of having done his duty. His father is proud of him. He is a gallant sailor and, more than that, he has developed into a splendid man physically. I cannot help thinking, looking to all the needs of the occasion and the great necessity forced upon us as the custodian of the welfare of our Empire, that it is our absolute duty to vote against the Amendment.


The hon. Member has announced with great emphasis that he wishes to win the War, and in that he is echoing the desire of every member of the Assembly. The real point in reference to this Amendment is whether you make the best use of the material which you are going to take by taking boys at eighteen or somewhat later. There is practically complete agreement in the House appa- rently that boys are not to be sent abroad before they are nineteen, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) is going to put into the Bill words which will have the effect of preventing boys going abroad before they are nineteen on the whole. If you really wish to prevent boys under nineteen from being sent abroad the best way is not to have boys in the Army ready to go tbroad before they are nineteen. You want a different standard, properly applied, when you are going to compel all the lads to come in from when you are dealing with volunteers, such as the hon. Member has been describing. We all know boys of eighteen who are ready and ripe for service, but there are large numbers of boys of eighteen who are immature and not fully developed, and who would be all the better for another six months or a year before they go into the Army, remaining at home or at their occupation. In your consideration of what use you are going to make of your material you have to take great care that you do not reap your crop too soon. In the last Act you did not take your boys at eighteen. You took boys over eighteen and a half. I do not know if hon. Members think the War is going to end very soon, but this is going to be a continuing Act, to take boys as they reach the appointed age continuously, and therefore a mistake may have very serious effects upon the Army of the future, and I think the Government, if they really are sincere in not wishing to send boys abroad before they are nineteen ought to achieve that object by not taking boys until they are eighteen and a half, when practically no boy would be ready to go abroad before he was nineteen unless he was one of those who had volunteered at an earlier age, and I do not object to an earlier age for volunteers. It seems to me that under the volunteer system—




Boys can volunteer for service. My hon. Friend must know enough about it to know that. Only yesterday I was talking to a boy selling tickets at a railway station. He said, "You are not going to make a conscript of me without giving me an opportunity to volunteer, are you, sir?" I said the Bill provided a month for him. He will be eighteen in two or three months, and he is only too anxious to volunteer for service. All the boys fit for service are most eager to volunteer. But when you are going to take all the boys and give them this military training you had better not take them before they are sufficiently developed. The Government should put this Bill and the last Act on all fours by fixing eighteen and a half, which was the age in the last Act, if they will not give us the nineteen, and thereby the boys would not be going abroad before they are nineteen, and you would really achieve the purpose which the House has in view in putting in the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I think that is the course of wisdom, and I am positive it will be welcomed by the parents of this country, who very much dread, not military service, but the boys being taken for military service before they are mature enough to profit by it and make the best use of their strength.


I think certain members of the Labour party are to be congratulated upon a death-bed repentance. The number of those who have opposed this Bill and who voted in Committee and yesterday on Report in support of certain Amendments proposed by the Government is not so large that we can afford to feel otherwise than grateful for any increase in numbers. We therefore welcome the new-found enthusiasm of certain members of the Labour party for the protection of boys of eighteen. The second Amendment on the Paper, which we are discussing in association with this, stands in the name of three members of the Labour party. It is copied word for word from an Amendment which was put down in Committee in the name of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Simon), and not one of the three members in whose name it now appears voted in support of it. My hon. Friend (Mr. Walsh) has said this afternoon that his views upon this question are very well known to the House. It is perfectly true that in the Debate on an important proposal made by the Government a fortnight ago the hon. Member spoke very strongly against the conscription of young boys, but he did not feel so strongly upon this question as to make the effort to put down an Amendment on the subject in the Committee stage of the Bill, neither was he sufficiently enthusiastic in their cause as to be present when we raised this question in Committee and divided upon it. The hon. Member expressed himself the other day as having been in favour of compulsion for a fairly considerable length of time. He ought to know then that the conscription of youths of immature age is an essential part of Conscrip- tion. This proposal of the Bill which we are now considering—the proposal to conscript boys of eighteen and to take them as they reach the age of eighteen—is the very essence of a system of Conscription, and therefore if my hon. Friends are prepared to support the Bill generally I think they are somewhat inconsistent in opposing this most essential part of the Bill. My hon. Friend spoke about Labour opinion upon this question. When did my hon. Friend begin to pay attention to Labour opinion upon this question of Conscription? Labour conferences, without a single exception, have, by overwhelming votes, expressed their opposition to the Bill of last January and to Conscription generally, and they would, by an equal and, I believe, a larger majority, have opposed this Bill had they been given the opportunity to express themselves in a national conference called by organised Labour, but the leaders of the trade union movement have been afraid to give them that opportunity and have declined to call a confernce for this purpose. It appears that the hon Member is quite prepared to accept the voice of Labour when it coincides with his own, but when it does not he ignores it. But my hon. Friend has, in other respects, become a great admirer of German methods and the German model. [Interruption.] I can quite believe that hon. Members do not like this, but the hon. Baronet (Sir A. Markham) ought to be the last person in the world to interfere when observations relating to remarks made by a previous speaker are being made.


How about the Amendment?

5.0 P.M.


If I am not in order, Mr. Speaker will call me to order. The hon. Member (Mr. Walsh) told us he was prepared to trust the military in matters of military necessity, and immediately afterwards—[Interruption.] Did he not say he had been convinced by the case which had been made at the Secret Session that there was grave military necessity for this Bill? If hon. Members are going to begin to speak about their impressions derived from what happened in the Secret Session, those of us who hold a very different opinion in regard to what was said in that Session will equally find ourselves at liberty to give expression to our own views. Having said he was prepared to give considerable weight to the plea of military necessity, my hon. Friend went on to say he was not prepared to trust the same military authority not to send boys to the front unless they were distinctly prohibited from doing that by an expressed Clause in the Bill. I do not accept the Amendment which has been suggested by the Government. It is like a great many of the compromises which have been made in the course of the discussion on this Bill. I think the speech of the President of the Local Government Board gives us reason to doubt very much whether the words which he proposes to incorporate in the Bill will be effective in achieving the purpose which, judging from the speeches which have been made, with one exception, is generally desired by this House, namely, that boys should not be sent abroad until they are nineteen years of age. The right hon. Gentleman said that a military situation might arise where we would be very hardly pressed in a particular corner of the field of battle, and where it might be necessary to send out boys who had not reached the age of nineteen. I do not want to put a callous construction upon those words, because I am perfectly certain that that would be doing the gravest injustice to the right hon. Gentleman, but still the right hon. Gentleman's words might mean that a military situation might arise, or that the military exigencies might be such that you are going to send immature boys, only partially trained boys, who have not reached the age of nineteen, into the hottest part of the line.


The hon. Member, I am sure, does not want to misrepresent me. I think I was careful to say that circumstances might arise in the battlefield which would require the sending out of special troops from the garrison reserves, and in that case it might be necessary to use boys who were close on nineteen and who had been trained. I never suggested sending immature, untrained men out.


I am glad to have given the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of making what he said a little plainer. [HON. MEMBERS: "It was plain enough."] I notice that hon. Members say it was perfectly plain although they were not in the House at the time. I suggest that we are in order in discussing the Amendment which the Government are about to propose. In that Amendment the Army authorities may send out boys before they reach the age of nineteen. It seems to have been inferred and implied by certain Members that it is not the practice of the War Office now to send out boys before they are nineteen years of age. The Under-Secretary for War, however, has upon record the reply to a question that he gave to me last November, which he calls his locus classicus. According to that locus classicus a boy may be sent abroad, and boys are being sent abroad, under the age of nineteen. I have had quite a number of cases which I have brought to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. Confirmation of the statement that these boys may be sent abroad, and of the statement I am about to make, can be found in a score of replies which the right hon. Gentleman has given to questions in this House. Boys can be sent abroad now if they are turned seventeen years of age, provided, on the certificate of a medical officer, they have the physique of a boy of eighteen and a half years. That is the practice of the War Office at the moment, and now we are seriously asked by the Government to trust the Army authorities not to send boys abroad under nineteen years of age unless there be a grave military necessity. The simple fact of the matter is that the Government are unwilling to put words in the Bill making it illegal to send boys abroad before they reach the age of nineteen, because they are going to send boys abroad before they reach the age of nineteen.


The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) likes to pose in this House as a kind of Robespierre. I will leave him and the hon. Member for Ince to arrange some Sunday afternoon when they can work out in detail the constitution of the Labour party, which he has been bringing before the attention of the House so prominently this afternoon. I would remind the hon. Member for Blackburn, when he refers to the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Waltham-stow (Sir J. Simon) having been copied by the Labour party, that he (Mr. Snowden) was only a short time ago proclaiming in my part of the country that no member of the Labour party, and particularly himself, would ever have anything to do with the Liberal party, or be associated with it in any movement.


made a remark which was not audible in the Reporters' Gallery.


You came into the Division of North-East Derbyshire, and now you are hand-in-glove, working with the right hon. Member for Walthamstow. I simply wish to point out that the hon. Member holding these principles so dearly to his heart only a short time ago is now working in close union with a Liberal group whose objects and aims he has for many years denounced in the country. He is one of the middle-class exploiters of the Labour party, and I will leave him to settle his differences with the hon. Member for Ince and the Labour party outside the House. Turning to the subject of the Amendment I will point out that I have on innumerable occasions raised the question of boys below the age of eighteen being sent to the front. I think I know how far I can transgress at Question time, and how far I cannot, but you, Mr. Speaker, have allowed me considerable liberty in raising the question of boys of the ages of fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen, who have been sent to the front, despite the orders of the War Office. I want to know where is the Under-Secretary of State for War to-day. Is the President of the Local Government Board representing the War Office and Lord Kitchener, or who is responsible? There is an absolute disagreement here, and I think the House is entitled to know how it comes about that on this most important point the President of the Local Government Board can come down to the House and give an undertaking that no young man under the age of nineteen should be sent abroad unless the military exigencies compel the War Office to take that step. I have been asking the War Office persistently for the last twelve months, week after week, and month after month, to say that they would not send boys of fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen years of age to the front. I have always been of opinion that boys of eighteen should go and help the country at the present time, but the War Office have always persistently refused to give me an undertaking. What is the position now? If this Amendment is accepted how many classes of recruits are we going to have in this country? There will be one class under the principal Act where boys cannot be sent abroad until they are nineteen. You have another class that you are sending abroad under Lord Derby's scheme, where false ages were given in the case of boys of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen years. There will be a third class now proposed by the President of the Local Government Board, where boys of eighteen may be taken, with an undertaking that the promise that they shall not be sent out until they are nineteen shall in effect be carried out.


I understood the hon. Baronet to say that under the Derby scheme false ages were given. I think in all cases the birth certificate is required.


I stand corrected. I should have said the pre-Derby scheme—the direct enlistments before the Derby scheme. I am sure that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant) in his own mind and in his own good common sense is not in favour of sending these youths out. He is the spokesman of Lord Kitchener and of the Army Council in this House. If he had been the Secretary of State for War we should not have had all this nonsense to deal with. However, as the representative of the War Office, he is responsible at Question Time, and has to stand all the odium, although I am quite sure he is not in favour of these boys going out under age. After this promise has been given in the House to-day are you going to send boys to the front at seventeen years of age and upwards, or will the Under-Secretary for War give to the House an undertaking now that when it is brought to his attention that a boy is under eighteen years of age he shall not be sent to the front? He replied to a question which I asked two or three weeks ago, and said that no boys were now being sent out at seventeen years of age. On the following day I received a batch of leters from people, and I sent these letters to the right hon. Gentleman, showing that boys were still being sent out under the age of seventeen, although their parents had written to the commanding officers. In one case the letter said: "Relating to Mr. Tennant's statement in the House of Commons, I hope that you will take steps to see that my boy is not sent abroad until he is seventeen years of age." After the statement has been made to-day, in order to get this Bill through, that boys are not to be sent abroad until they are nineteen years of age, unless the exigencies of the War demand it, surely the War Office will take the steps we have asked for so long, and will say, "We will send no boy whom, we know to be under eighteen years of age to the Front at the present time."

In regard to the reply given at Question Time to-day about statements coming from officers at the front, I shall feel it to be my duty next week to put down a number of very serious questions, which have relation to these very young boys. I will not deal with the matter now, but I will only say that you have actually shot boys of seventeen years of age. You have shot them at eighteen years of age, and I know to my own knowledge of one boy who has been shot for leaving the trenches under very heavy trench fire at the age of seventeen. I will give my right hon. Friend a full opportunity of dealing with these particular cases, which I am sure no one regrets more than he does, but in regard to which, owing to the stupidity and blundering of Lord Kitchener, no step whatever has been taken to alter them. He must have known of his own knowledge of all the thousands of men who have been enlisted in this country from the commencement of the War, and yet they have continued sending boys of sixteen and seventeen to the front, and boys have even been sent to fight in Gallipoli at fourteen. When all these things have been brought to the attention of the War Office, and attention has been called to them in Parliament, how can you expect to get any decent people to take the word of the War Office as worth anything?

One more word about the hon. Member for Blackburn and the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones), and others who agree with them. I always notice that when any question of attempting to amend the principal Act or the Bill comes before the House these hon. Members say they want to get the best use out of the materials. But when they are preventing the House getting the best use out of the materials, I am not going to believe that these people, who are always seeking to close the avenues under this Bill whereby the Army can get men, are sincere. There is no deathbed repentance for the Labour party so far as I know. The hon. Members of the Labour party concerned with this Amendment can show that they represent their constituents; they are not like the hon. Member for Blackburn, who never represented his constituency. The hon. Gentleman must remember this. Sitting on these benches one night I wanted to get some information from him, and I said—I do not know whether I should be in order in saying what I said—but I used rather strong language in order to draw on the subject, and I succeeded in doing so. The hon. Gentle- man all through has been against this War. He has never had the courage to go out openly and say so from the commencement, while other members of the Labour party have done so. Therefore I ask the House to pay no attention to the Member for Blackburn, whose whole object at every stage of the War has never been on any one occasion to help the country. He has never assisted the voluntary movement, and now, when we have the question of compulsion, he delivers his vitriolic speeches and drops his acid drops in every direction to serve the interests of the nation. Let him be on one stool or another. Let him say once for all, "I am against taking any man whatsoever, and let the Germans come to this country." That is an argument which I could understand. But he takes no step whatever to assist his country in any direction; he thwarts the country at every stage, and then quotes the Member for Walthamstow as his bosom friend.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)

I am glad to have the opportunity of saying one word lest the House might be left under a false impression as to what was my position, and that of my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War. My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield has indulged in rather strong expressions with regard to the War Office policy in relation to boys who were of tender years, and he has dissociated me from the administration with respect to these matters and laid the blame upon my Noble Friend the Secretary of State. I want to say that I stand here as sponsor for everything done by the War Office and the Secretary of State. I do not want to be dissociated from any indictment which might be made as regards the War Office.


It would be very unfortunate if the discussion on this important matter is not directed to the real point. The real point has nothing whatever to do with the bandying of charges between one Member and another. It is a question which everybody must regard as serious, and it has to do with a proposal which I am sure nobody in this House delights in. Nobody can like the idea of taking a youth so young as eighteen and compelling him, whatever may be his character and antecedents, to join the Army. It may be a necessary thing to do, but, since every Member of the House of Commons is necessarily over the age of eighteen, I should be very sorry to think that there was anybody here who did not realise that among people of that age there were many to whom this would be a most terrible ordeal. That is no reason why it should not be done, accepting the principle of the Bill, if it is necessary, and I quite concede that if the authorities come forward and tell us that they have military advice to that effect, it is a very serious matter which no sensible man, accepting the principle of the Bill, which we ought to do at this stage, can wholly set on one side. What I would point out is that it is not the case that by accepting the Amendment you are losing what you may call a whole crop of people. It would be so if your compulsion was really going to take everybody between the limits of military age, because, of course, if that was the case, then to let off people who are in the first year of military age would obviously reduce the total number whom you took; but the very essence of the scheme is that you are to have a reservoir of persons of military age, and that out of that reservoir you are going to take a certain number—how many it may not be in the public interest to state, and I do not ask—but, admitting only a certain portion of the total reservoir and supposing this Amendment were to be carried, supposing the Government were able to accept it, as I am sure they would do willingly if they thought that the arguments justified it, the result is not to reduce the total number of people to be put into the Army. The result is, no doubt, to make a rather larger call upon this reservoir, which consists of people between the ages of nineteen and forty-one. I quite admit that it is a substantial call, but I cannot believe that, if it could be done, people would not very much prefer to see the call made on those who have reached the age of nineteen, rather than eke out the necessary number by taking boys of the age of eighteen.

It is largely a practical matter, and, as a practical matter, may I call attention to this? There is a real practical difficulty in many parts of the country due to what remains of our apprenticeship system. It was felt to be such in the days of the Militia Ballot Act, because that Act expressly exempted from its provisions every apprentice. We have not done that here, but while we have not done that I wish very much that I understood what was the real position of a man who was an apprentice and who is taken under these compulsory powers. What happens to his indentures and to the premium which he has already paid. Somebody spoke just now as if that is to be met by compensating his master, because he was losing the services of somebody who would soon be a skilled worker. I am equally concerned with the position of the apprentice and the apprentice's father. In many cases in which an apprentice or his father has paid a premium, something substantial, it is not an easy matter to define the result. What happens to the premium if the State interferes in he middle of the apprenticeship and insists upon the apprenticeship being broken? That really is not a small point. It is a point about which many of us have felt greatly concerned. The question was raised in an earlier Debate upon the first Bill. Up to the present I have never heard any answer to that.

The next point which I wish to press is this: It is perfectly true that many people who have reached the age of eighteen are thoroughly mature for the purpose of being soldiers. If I understand that that is what has been said by the hon. Member for Mansfield, I quite agree. But the point about compulsion is, that you are not alone taking those who are so mature that they are the sort of people who volunteer to fight, but that you are applying your Regulations to people of all sorts and characters of temperament, and in order to judge whether it is right to apply compulsion to boys on their eighteenth birthday, what you have to consider is not the case of the youth who is physically developed and has got courage which makes him quite prepared to take the part of a skilled man, but you have to consider the case of the youth who is not so developed or so prepared, because it is he who is really affected by the sytem of compulsion. The arguments which I am addressing to the House are not in the least degree unmindful of the fact that such training in many cases would improve both the physique and the moral of these youths. I do not doubt that. But it is a very serious question indeed for the House of Commons whether or not we, all of us necessarily over this age, are going to impose compulsion on boys and youths of eighteen, none of whom have got any votes, who are absolutely without direct representation of any sort, many of whom cannot possibly express their own position in any organised way.

Are we really compelled, by the stress of this emergency, to apply compulsion at such an age as that? If so, accepting with loyalty the principle of the Bill, which was carried on the Second Reading, I do not want to have anything to do with any Amendment which undermines or cuts at the root of the principle itself, because the Committee or Report stage is not the time for that; because, as I follow it, the argument hitherto has been that we shall necessarily lose, and therefore have fewer people whom we can by compulsion put into the Army. I would point out, if that is true, that what really happens is that you will make an additional demand on all ages from nineteen to forty-one. That is quite a different thing from saying that you will lose the group for a whole year. One final point. I am sure that many of us must have through actual experience had brought to our notice again and again boys of eighteen or boys of seventeen who will be eighteen in a few months, and who are the last remaining son at home. If we had in this Bill an exceptional provision that the last remaining son would be excused from compulsion, that would be quite another matter. We have no such provision. I am not only speaking of the last remaining son of a widow. Many of us have received letters obviously sincere, deeply pathetic, from parents, not only mothers but fathers also, pointing out the fact that this particular provision of this Bill is not only going to take away someone who is little more than a child and who is not in development, constitution, or character in the least fitted to play the part of a skilled man, but is going to take compulsorily the last remaining brother at home of three or four who are already at the front. I do not believe that the House of Commons likes doing that at all. I do not believe that the arguments that it will be welcomed and embraced will receive the least response in the House of Commons. I respectfully urge the Government to say whether they cannot really reconsider the matter, if not here, then in another place, because there is a great body of opinion—not opinion that I am using as a threat at all, but opinion which is thoroughly sympathetic in other respects—that this particular provision is one which does no credit either to its authors or to the judgment of the House of Commons.


I think that it is high time, in dealing with this Amendment, that the House of Commons should come to the question with the hon. Member for Blackburn. Speaking on the 2nd of June, 1913, in this House, the hon. Member used the following language: Suppose we had an invasion by German aeroplanes and they succeeded in imposing on us in this country German government, is there any man here who thinks that as soon as the ravages of the invasion hail been repaired, the working classes of this country would be any worse off economically or socially under the German Government, than under their own British Government to-day?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd June, 1918, col. 686, Vol. LIII.] If these be the views of the hon. Member for Blackburn, why should the hon. Member for Mansfield be surprised? Why should we have the speech from him that we had to-day. This House is a representative institution, and I suppose that the dregs of the people are entitled to be represented here.


The views of the hon. Member for Blackburn which have been quoted have not any relation to the Amendment at present under discussion.


With the greatest respect I merely wished to draw attention—


A charge has been made against me. I do not know whether it is worth while answering it at all or not, but if the hon. Gentleman would read the speech from which he has been quoting he would see that I was using the Tariff Reformer's argument.


No, I do not see that at all.


The Tariff Reformer's argument, which has been used thousands of times, pointing out how much better off the German working man was than the British working man.


I think that I may be permitted to say that I consider the hon. Gentleman's explanation is a piece of unmitigated humbug. I read what he said last night and I verified the quotation, and if he chooses to say whether he still holds those views or not, that is another matter. I merely wish to call attention to the fact that the views of the hon. Gentleman to which he has given expression on this Amendment seem to me to be very largely undermined by the opinions which he has not yet repudiated.


The hon. Member opposite has made a poor return to the hon. Member for Blackburn in respect of the great contribution he made to him in his return for the Leith Burghs.


Perhaps the hon. Member will proceed to discuss the Amendment.


I was just going to point out that I deprecate all these irrelevancies, and, in regard to the Amendment, I desire to point out that the question we are discussing is in two parts, the question of the age of the recruit, and the question of his afterwards being sent to the front. In regard to the first question, which is the real question at issue under the Amendment, apart from the time when he is required to go to the front, I am going to support the proposal. In the first place, the age now in the Bill represents a retrograde step. It is true that in the original Military Service Act the age of eighteen was the age of eighteen on the 15th August last; consequently the lads to whom it applied were at least eighteen years and eight months old when the Act came into operation. We are now applying the age of eighteen to every youth as he reaches that age, thus going back on the decision which we made in the month of January last. We hear all this talk about military necessity which impresses to such an extent the minds of hon. Members, but we had exactly the same statement about military necessity against the proposal to bring in men of eighteen. We remember that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board announced that in a conversation with Lord Kitchener the latter said that, without calling on any boy until subsequent to his becoming eighteen, we had enough men to win the War. We do not hear so much about winning the War in these Debates, but I would point out to hon. Members that these contradictory assurances from the Government and the highest military authorities in the country make us necessarily sceptical about anything put forward as the means of securing a decision in this House.

That is not the only point. We are told that there is no intention on the part of the Government to send these boys to the front before they become nineteen; but the question of the training of these boys is a very important matter. We know that a large proportion of the recruits enlisted under this Bill are to be trained in great haste, and that efforts are going to be made to have them ready for the field in the month of September. That obviously means that the great majority of the recruits secured under this Bill have to be put under a very hard system of training. It must be so if they are to be ready in time. We have a right to know from the Army Council and the representatives of the War Office whether these boys, as they are enlisted, are to be trained in the same units as other recruits secured under this Bill. Obviously if they are, they will be submitted to the same rigorous training, and obviously, again, it would be unwise to apply the same rigorous course of training to immature boys of eighteen that you apply to older men. The only basis on which we can accept the assurance of the War Office is that we should be told that these youths are to be put in a different unit and under a different system of training, to which they could be subjected with perfect safety in respect of their health.

But you have to consider the position of these boys who are brought in. Have we any security that there will be, on the part of the War Office doctors, an adequate examination, which is absolutely essential if the health of many of these recruits is not to be fatally impaired by the training. We know the kind of examination which has been going on with regard to recruits during the last few weeks. We know that men have been passed who were suffering from organic disease. If the same system of examination is to be applied to these youths as is applied to other recruits under the Military Service Act, we may take it as an absolute certainty that many of these youths will have their health completely undermined for the rest of their lives. It is for these reasons we regard it as most inexpedient that power even for the purpose of training should be given to the War Office to draft in youths as they reach the age of eighteen. Apart altogether from any undertaking given in this House or in the Act with regard to the period at which these youths should go to the front, the House should not allow the age of eighteen to be inserted in the Bill. The age of nineteen is quite early enough for a compulsory measure. Hon. Gentleman opposite have spoken of their own individual experience as to how they were at eighteen years of age. The hon. Member for Nottingham said he was sent to India when he was eighteen, and no doubt he was fit, as a large number of boys at that age undoubtedly are. It is perfectly fair to send out boys of that age under a voluntary system, because they would be boys who were thoroughly fit; but, under a compulsory system, these youths will be sent out irrespective of the condition of their health. We have had some experience of what has occurred in the Army in regard to immature youths, but I do not desire to go into that question, which has been referred to time and again by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield. We have experience of sending out youths at this early age under the present system, and I think the House is bound now to vote against bringing in youths at an earlier age than nineteen, in view of the tremendous hardships to which they will be exposed.


We have a restriction as to sending lads to the front, but it is calculated to give a false impression to the country, which does not know the ways of the War Office so well as this House, when those youths have been secured. It would be very much better that everyone should recognise what are the actual facts as to boys enlisted at eighteen, namely, that subsequent to that, if the War Office demands it, they will be sent to the front. There was great force in what the right hon. Member for Walthamstow said on the question of the need of men, that, as a matter of fact, the number required could be drawn from the reservoir that exists, and that the raising of the age of recruiting does not limit the number to be secured. I wish to point out the extraordinary difference presented in this House at this moment, when discussing the question of keeping these boys from training, and the position presented last night when discussing the question of securing that tradesmen of military age should not be sent to the front. When it comes to a question of business, then, as usual, there is greater sympathy for the exclusion of men from military service, but when it comes to be a question of boys and youths, then we are told that every man must go to the front, and that national necessity demands it. If the Conscriptionists were absolutely honest, they would take the view presented by the Member for Wolverhampton last night, who said that if national necessity demanded it, every man of best military age should go. That is the true and honest method of applying compulsion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide! divide!"] As hon. Members cry "Divide!" I shall go on. I have something further to say. I am interested in this question of age, in the first place, because of various cases brought before my notice of boys being sent to the trenches and shot for desertion under the age of eighteen. I have pressed the right hon. Gentleman who represents the War Office in this House to give me the number of men who have been shot. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"]


That does not seem to be relevant to this discussion.


I was endeavouring to show that if we send immature boys to the trenches, their nerves give way under the strain which exists there.


If that had been what the hon. Member was saying I should not have interfered. When I intervened he was pressing the War Office to give him a return, and that did not seem to me in the least relevant to this discussion.


My argument—


. I heard the hon. Member's argument, and I understood it perfectly.


I was not permitted to put my argument. It was that there should be—


I hope the hon. Gentleman will not enter into a controversy with me. I heard the hon. Member's argument and then I heard him proceed to say that he would press the War Office to give him a return. This is not the time to press the War Office for a return, and I must ask the hon. Member to confine himself to the Amendment before the House.


I will observe your ruling, Sir. One reason why boys of eighteen should not be sent to the front is that the strain to which they are subjected is likely to destroy their nerves, and subject them—


That is only a repetition of the argument that has been frequently used during this Debate. The hon. Member must bring forth some new argument for discussion.


I would point out that I am quite confident that there is no question in connection with Conscription, which is so much in the minds of the people of the country, and especially among the workers of the country, as this proposal with regard to boys of eighteen years of age. For these reasons I submit that if the Government desire to gain more sympathy for this measure they will be well advised if they make a concession on this point.


I desire to put one point before the House—

Sir P. MAGNUS rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided: Ayes, 207; Noes, 32.

Division No. 19.] AYES. [5.46 p.m.
Abraham, Rt. Hon. W. Gardner, Ernest Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Gibbs, Col. George Abraham Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)
Amery, L. C. M. S. Gilbert, J. D. Pennefather, De Fonblanque
Ashley, Wilfrid W. Goldman, C. S. Perkins, Walter Frank
Baird, John Lawrence Goulding, Sir E. Alfred Peto, Basil Edward
Baldwin, Stanley Grant, James Augustus Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G. Gretton, John Pratt, J. W.
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Gulland, John William Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N. Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Prothero, Rowland Edmund
Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs) Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Pryce-Jones, Colonel E,
Barrie, H. T. Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.) Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.) Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.) Rendall, Athelstan
Beck, Arthur Cecil Haslam, Lewis Richards, Thomas
Bellairs, Commander C. W. Henry, Sir Charles Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Herbert, Maj.-Gen. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.) Robinson, Sidney
Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton Hewins, William Albert Samuel Roe, Sir Thomas
Bentham, George Jackson Hibbert, Sir Henry F. Rowlands, James
Bethell, Sir John Henry Higham, John Sharp Rutherford, Sir John (Darwen)
Blair, Reginald Hinds, John Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)
Bowerman, Charles W. Hodge, John Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Brace, William Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Bridgeman, William Clive Holmes, Daniel Turner Shortt, Edward
Broughton, Urban Hanlon Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, W.R.)
Brunner, John F. L. Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian) Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert
Bryce, John Annan Horne, Edgar Stanton, Charles Butt
Bull, Sir William James Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Stewart, Gershom
Burdett-Coutts, W. Hume-Williams, William Ellis Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)
Burn, Colonel C. R. Hunt, Major Rowland Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Butcher, John George Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. Sutherland, J. E.
Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton) Ingleby, Holcombe Sutton, John E.
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Jacobson, Thomas Owen Swift, Rigby
Cassel, Felix Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) Sykes, Col. Alan John (Knutsford)
Cator, John Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney) Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)
Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George Joynson-Hicks, William Talbot, Lord Edmund
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Kenyon, Barnet Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John
Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Kerry, Earl of Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Chambers, James Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford Tickler, T. G.
Clynes, John R. Larmor, Sir J. Tootill, Robert
Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Tryon, Captain George Clement
Coats, Sir Stewart A. (Wimbledon) Layland-Barrett, Sir F. Walsh, Stephen (Lanes., Ince)
Cochrane, Cecil Algernon Levy, Sir Maurice Walton, Sir Joseph
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury) Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Cory, Sir Clifford John Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R. Wardle, George J.
Cory, James H. (Cardiff) Long, Rt. Hon. Walter Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.
Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Craig, Col. James (Down, E.) M'Callum, Sir John M. Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Craik, Sir Henry MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh Weston, John W.
Crooks, Rt. Hon. William Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)
Currie, George W. Mackinder, Halford J. Whiteley, Herbert, J.
Dalrymple, Hon. H. H. Macmaster, Donald Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Dalziel, Davison (Brixton) M'Micking, Major Gilbert Williams, Thomas J.
Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth) Macnamara, Rt. Hon. T. J. Williamson, Sir Archibald
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Macpherson, James Ian Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Markham, Sir Arthur Basil Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Denniss, E. R. B. Meux, Sir Hedworth Winfrey, Sir Richard
Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H. Middlemore, John Throgmorton Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Dixon, C. H. Millar, James Duncan Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward Morgan, George Hay Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Wright, Henry Fitzherbert
Edge, Captain William Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert Yate, Colonel C. E.
Faber, George Denison (Clapham) Neville, Reginald J. N. Yeo, Alfred William
Fell, Arthur Newdegate, F. A. Young. William (Perthshire, East)
Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) Younger, Sir George
Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes Nuttall, Harry
Forster, Henry William Paget, Almeric Hugh TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Foster, Philip Staveley Parker, James (Halifax) Sir P. Magnus and Mr. Booth.
Galbraith, Samuel Parry, Thomas H.
Anderson, W. C. Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe) Radford, George Heynes
Arnold, Sydney Jowett, Frederick William Rees, G. C. (Carnarvon, Arfon)
Baker, J. A. (Finsbury, E.) King, Joseph Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Rowntree, Arnold
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook
Byles, Sir William Pollard Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) Snowden, Philip
Chancellor, Henry George Mason, David M. (Coventry) Thomas, James Henry
Goldstone, Frank Molteno, Percy Alport Whitehouse, John Howard
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Morrell, Philip
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Outhwaite, R. L. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Hogge and Mr. Sherwell.
Holt, Richard Durning Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
John, Edward Thomas Pringle, William M. R.

Question put accordingly, "That the word 'eighteen' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 201; Noes, 46.

Division No. 20.] AYES. [5.55 p.m.
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles Macpherson, James Ian
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey Magnus, Sir Philip
Amery, L. C. M. S. Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward Markham, Sir Arthur Basil
Ashley, Wilfrid W. Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth
Baird, John Lawrence Forster, Henry William Middlemore, John Throgmorton
Baldwin, Stanley Foster, Phillip Staveley Millar, James Duncan
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G. Galbraith, Samuel Morgan, George Hay
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Gardner, Ernest Morison, Hector
Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick Burghs) Gibbs, Col. George Abraham Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Barrie, H. T. Gilbert, J. D. Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert
Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glo., E) Goldman, C. S. Neville, Reginald J. N.
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Goulding, Sir E. A. Newdegate, F. A.
Beck, Arthur Cecil Grant, J. A. Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)
Bellairs, Commander C. W. Gretton, John Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones Paget, Almeric Hugh
Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke) Parker, James (Halifax)
Bentham, G. J. Gulland, John William Parry, Thomas H.
Bird, Alfred Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)
Blair, Reginald Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Pearce Sir William (Limshouse)
Booth, Frederick Handel Harris, Henry Percy (Paddlngton, S.) Peanefather, De Fonblanque
Brace, William Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.) Perkins, Walter Frank
Bridgeman, William Clive Haslam, Lewis Peto, Basil Edward
Broughton, Urban Hanlon Henry, Sir Charles Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)
Brunner, John F. L. Herbert, Maj.-Gen. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.) Pratt, J. W.
Bryce, J. Annan Hewins. William Albert Samuel Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Bull, Sir William James Hibbert, Sir Henry Prothero, Rowland Edmund
Burdett-Couttts, W. Higham, John Sharp Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.
Burn, Colonel C. R. Hinds, John Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Butcher, John George Hodge, John Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.
Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton) Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Rendall, Atheistan
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Holmes, Daniel Turner Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)
Cassel, Felix Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian) Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.
Cator, John Home, Edgar Robinson, Sidney
Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George Houston, Robert Paterson Roe, Sir Thomas
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Hume-Williams, William Ellis Rowlands, James
Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Hunt, Major Rowland Rutherford, Sir John (Darwen)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r., E.) Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)
Chambers, James Irgleby, Holcombe Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Jacobson, Thomas Owen Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Coats, Sir Stewart A. (Wimbledon) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Cochrane, Cecil Algernon Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney) Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth) Joynson-Hicks, William Shortt, Edward
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Kerry, Earl of Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, W.R.)
Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives) Kinloch-Cooke. Sir Clement Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert
Cory, James H. (Cardiff) Knight, Captain E. A. Stanton, Charles Butt
Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton) Steel-Maitland, A. D.
Craig, Col. James (Down, E.) Larmor, Sir J. Stewart, Gershom
Craik, Sir Henry Law, Rt. Hon. A Bonar (Bootle) Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)
Crooks, Rt. Hon. William Layland-Barrett, Sir F. Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Currie, George W. Levy, Sir Maurice Sutherland, John E.
Dalrymple, Hon. H. H Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury) Swift, Rigby
Dalziel, Davison (Brixton) Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R. Sykes, Col. A. J. (Ches., Knutsford)
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Long. Rt. Hon. Walter Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston) Talbot, Lord Edmund
Denniss, E. R. B. Lyell, Hon. Charles Henry Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John
Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H. M'Callum, Sir John M. Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)
Dixon, C. H. MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Tickler, T. G.
Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward Mackinder, Halford J. Tryon, Captain George Clement
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Macmaster, Donald Walton, Sir Joseph
Faber, George Denison (Clapham) M'Micking, Major Gilbert Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Fell, Arthur Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.
Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan) Williams, T. J. (Swansea) Younger, Sir George
Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney) Williamson, Sir Archibald Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Weston, John W. Wood, John (Stalybridge)
White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston) Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Geoffrey Howard and Mr. James Hope.
White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Whiteley, Herbert J. Yate, Colonel C. E.
Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P Yeo, Alfred William
Baker, J. A. (Finsbury, E.) Jowett, Frederick William Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Kenyon, Barnet Rowntree, Arnold
Bliss, Joseph King, Joseph Sherwell, Arthur James
Bowerman, Charles W. Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allesbrook
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Snowden, Philip
Byles, Sir William Pollard Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) Sutton, John E.
Chancellor, Henry George Mason, David M. (Coventry) Thomas, J. H.
Clynes, John R. Molteno, Percy Alport Tootill, Robert
Goldstone, Frank Morrell, Philip Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)
Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough) Nuttall, Harry Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)
Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Outhwaite, R. L. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Winfrey, Sir Richard
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Pringle, William M. R. Young, William (Perth, East)
Hogge, James Myles Radford, George Heynes
Holt, Richard Durning Roes Griffith Caradoc (Arfon) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Whitehouse and Mr. Anderson.
John, Edward Thomas Richards, Thomas
Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe) Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Sub-section," put, and agreed to.

6.0 P.M.


I beg to move, after the word "Reserve" ["forthwith transferred to the Reserve"], to insert the words, "Provided that steps shall be taken to prevent so far as possible the sending of men to serve abroad before they attain the age of nineteen."

I do not want to travel over the ground which has been already covered, and, therefore, I will content myself with simply moving the Amendment.


I desire, without comment, to second the Amendment


I do not know whether or not we are going to divide on this Amendment, but I do not see why we should thank the Government for it at all. The words are "so far as possible." They do not mean anything, and I for one do not thank the Government for them.


I wish to associate myself with the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) in his proper appreciation of the value of this Amendment. May I call the attention of the Government to the value which their own supporters place upon their words and promises? The hon. Member for Mansfield just now told us that the word of the War Office could not be believed. If this is the way their own ardent supporters regard their promises, I think we ought to have something better than a pious opinion, for that is all that this Amendment is.


I wish to express my dissent from my hon. Friends who have just spoken. This Amendment will make a difference. The existing practice has been to send these youths to the front when they were not wanted. I understand that under the words now proposed they will be sent to the front only when they are wanted. The position will be that when they are not wanted they will be left at home, but when they are wanted they will be sent to the front. It is not a great insurance against the position objected to in the last Debate, but it is a little less bad than the existing state of things.


While I do not consider this Amendment to be one of any great substance, it certainly places these young lads in a far better position than under the Bill as it stands. Therefore, I shall not oppose it. I would like to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether he can explain what steps it is proposed to take, whether by regulation, by request, or by instructions to the War Office, to prevent the sending out of these lads. I would ask also whether under the Bill the young men who have been rejected by the Medical Board will be called up again, or whether the first rejection will be final.


As to the method, I understand that the Adjutant-General, who directs what men are to be sent out, will give the necessary instructions to those who are responsible for forming the drafts. The medical question does not arise here.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move to leave out Subsection (2), and to insert instead thereof the words

"All the provisions of the principal Act, as amended by this Act, with the exception of those defining the appointed date, shall, so far as applicable, extend to men to whom this Section applies in the same manner as to men to whom Section one of that Act applies."

This is really no more than a drafting Amendment. In the discussion in Committee doubt was raised as to whether this Sub-section would have a certain effect, and this Amendment is to make the matter quite clear.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (3).

I move this Amendment in order to call attention to a very kind undertaking given by the Solicitor-General at an earlier stage, if possible, to insert some words to preserve a right given in the original Act. The Sub-section in the original Act which it is proposed to omit provides that persons coming back to this country from abroad shall become conscripts thirty days after their arrival, but that during that period they are to be permitted to make their claims if they have valid grounds for claiming exemption. It was generally felt to be very undesirable that men should come back and make their claims as conscripts, as they would have already passed into the Army. The hon. and learned Member for St. Pancras spoke in strong terms of the extreme undesirability of soldiers making claims before the tribunals. It was felt that men coming back from abroad, some of them from long distances— the Argentine, Australia, and other places—after the passing of the Act, ought to have their right maintained of making a proper claim before the tribunal, and that whilst it might be proper to shorten the period—I might suggest fifteen days instead of thirty—there ought at least to be a brief interval within which the men would still be civilians. If the Bill passes at it stands, you will have the anomalous position that these men before they reach this country will have become soldiers. The moment they set foot on English soil they automatically become conscripts, and they will have to make their claims, if any, as soldiers. That is not a proper position for them, it is not convenient for the Army, and it puts the tribunals in a very awkward position. I cannot suggest other words, and, if the Solicitor-General does not consider it right to omit the Sub-section, I hope that in another place words may be inserted providing that there shall be a short period after their return to this country during which these men may, as civilians, make out their case.


I beg to second the Amendment.


I am afraid that the Amendment which has been moved would not have the effect which my hon. Friend desires. There are really two points between which his speech did not thoroughly distinguish. Under the present system a man resident in the Kingdom on 15th August, 1915, became liable to serve. A man coming to reside in the Kingdom after that date also became liable to serve thirty days after he so came to reside. Under this Bill exactly the same state of things obtains. A man resident here at this time becomes liable to serve at once, and not thirty days after the Act comes into operation. But a man coming to reside after the passing of this Bill will have thirty days, according to the second paragraph of Sub-section (1), in which to go and make his objection. The only object for which dealing with this Sub-section is suggested is covered by the second paragraph of Sub-section (1). So far, therefore, as the actual Amendment goes it really is unnecessary, and the matter is reduced to one of mere drafting. But the point the hon. Member raised in his speech was this: He was thinking of a man who is resident here to-day, and who happens to be out of the kingdom at the moment the Bill passes, and who, as he supposes, cannot get here within the thirty days. Then he says, quite truly, that when that man lands in this country he will, according to law, be at that very moment liable to military service. He wants him to have time in which to apply for exemption. The same point was raised under the old Act, and the answer was given, which I think, applies to this Amendment, that the last paragraph of Sub-section (2) of Section I applies. That is the paragraph which allows the tribunal to extend the time for applying for exemption when the Members are satisfied that the failure to make application within the required time has arisen owing to the absence of the applicant abroad. That exactly meets the point under this Bill, as under the Act, and I cannot conceive that a tribunal would refuse to allow time in any proper case. I rather challenge my hon. Friend to draw up an Amendment which would cover his point. I have, in conjunction with our advisers, given the fullest consideration to the point, and I have come to the conclusion that it could not be done without injury to the Bill. If you give every man so much time after he returns here to apply for exemption you encourage men to remain out of the country for a long time, seeing that a man knows he always has his thirty days after he gets back. I could not really find a way to satisfy the argument of my hon. Friend without injury to the Bill, and I assure him I tried to consider the matter very fully. He himself has not succeeded either. I hope, therefore, he will be content not to press the Amendment which does not effect the object he desires. Any suggestion of words to carry out his view without injury to the Bill I have no doubt will be considered.


I will not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.