§ (1) Paragraph five of the First Schedule to the principal Act shall cease to have effect so far as it relates to men who have been discharged from the naval or military service of the Crown on the termination of their period of service. Provided that such man if discharged from the naval or military services of the Crown on re-enlistment shall be restored to the same naval or military rank as they held before the termination of their period of service.
§ (2) Paragraph six of the First Schedule to the principal Act shall, on the first day of August, nineteen hundred and sixteen, cease to apply to a man who has offered himself for enlistment and been rejected since the fourteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and fifteen, if the Army Council are satisfied that he should again present himself for medical examination, and send him notice to that effect.
§ (3) Sub-section (5) of Section two of the principal Act shall have effect as if the words "before the appointed date" were omitted therefrom.
§ Question proposed, "That the words in Sub-section (1) down to the word 'effect' stand part of the Sub-section."
§ Mr. JOWETT
I wish to raise the point which I attempted, inappropriately, to raise when the last Clause was being considered. The particular case that I wish to bring before the President of the Local Government Board is the exceedingly disadvantageous position in which time-expired men who have already gone into civil life will be as compared with time-expired men whose term actually expires whilst they are serving at the front. The men who have already gone into civil life—at least, those I have particularly in my mind at the present moment—have served during the War, and have already been allowed to go. They will have grown accustomed to being back in their homes. They have made arrangements regarding their employment, and have fixed up in civil life one-way or another. They will be called back again, and called back under conditions, 1413 so far as I am advised, that will be actually worse than the conditions of those whose time has not expired up to now. I have had cases brought to my notice of time-expired men who have gone into civil life after serving in this War, and who are within a few months of forty-one, who will be called up to serve for the remainder of those few months, and I am advised that when they reach forty-one they will not be qualified to receive the advantage of Clause 2. [An HON. MEMBER: "No; they will be kept on!"] If that is correct, they will be kept on indefinitely. It is monstrously unfair that they should be kept on. Many of them, as I have said, have actually served in this War up to the last few months, and I do not think the Bill ought to be allowed to pass in that state if the explanation given to me of the state of affairs is true.
§ Mr. LONG
I am afraid I have nothing to add to what I said before on this subject, which has all been raised in Debate previously. There is the old question of bringing back those men. All that my hon. Friend said is quite true. Of course, they would not be affected by Clause (2), unless they were able to come within the provisions of Clause (2). If they fulfil the conditions there they come within it; if not, obviously they remain outside, but they must be brought back. It is necessary. That is all there is to say.
§ Captain AMERY
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words, "so far as it relates to men who have been discharged from the Naval or Military Service of the Crown on the termination of their period of service."
This is an Amendment which the President of the Local Government Board promised to consider before we arrived at the Report stage, because, at any rate, it seemed to me that the answer he gave on a previous occasion implied a misunderstanding of the scope of the Amendment. There is no intention in this Amendment to compel the military authorities to re-examine every man who has been discharged as medically unfit. Obviously there has been a large number of men discharged since the outbreak of war, whom it would be a mere waste of time to re-examine, but the object is to prevent a 1414 man claiming the right, which he can claim if the Bill is left in its present form, that he is entirely excepted from the provisions of the Bill, that he is as completely outside the scope as a woman or a clergyman, if at any time in his past life he has left the Forces of the Crown or been discharged from them owing to ill-health. We know a great many men were discharged for ill-health—enteric and other complaints—in the South African War. In a very large number of cases those men are perfectly fit and strong now, and if they have been hanging back from their duty to serve, surely it is an absurd thing that they should not be compelled to serve to-day. There is another case, and I think the majority of cases which will be affected by this Amendment, and that is the man who left the Territorial Force before the War on the ground of ill-health. It is difficult for us to take our minds back to the spacious and easy days before the War when you joined the Territorial Force on a four-years' obligation, but could in practice always get free of your obligation either by pleading claims of business or the state of your health. I believe that in every year before the War something like 15,000 persons left the Territorial Force without completing their term of engagement, either on the plea of business or of ill-health. That means something like 100,000 persons, and, assuming the majority who could have actually joined voluntarily, it is still probable that the Bill excepts quite accidentally, by haphazard, 5,000, or possibly 10,000, men who ought to serve. I admit from the military point of view 5,000 men is not an immense number. At the same time, 5,000 men just make the difference between a weak and disorganised division and a division brought up to full strength to go into action, and one division can turn the scale of a battle. The reason that I earnestly urge this Amendment upon my right hon. Friend's attention is that even 5,000 cases of men being exempted by an oversight of the law at a time when you are trying the conscience of the people is very hard. We have had hours of discussion about some 15,000 conscientious objectors and we are going to compel countless people to break up their businesses and sacrifice the fruit of their life's work, and what will be their feelings if they find that there are men in their neighbourhood who are fit and eligible to serve and who have nothing 1415 much to lose by serving, but who will not go because they happened to be in the Territorial Force and had to give it up because they could not go to night drill because it did not suit their asthma. There does not seem to me any difficulty involved in accepting this Amendment. It would be perfectly easy for the Army authorities to announce that they did not intend to re-examine a single person who has been discharged within the last two or three years as long as they have the right in regard to those who left the Territorial Force six or ten years ago. This is not a question of increasing the scope of compulsion for compulsion's sake, as I have sometimes been accused of doing; it is a question of fairness and of justice, and from that point of view I thought this was purely a drafting Amendment. I hope in pressing this proposal I shall have the friendly consideration of the right hon. Gentleman and the friendly support of hon. Members of the House generally.
§ Mr. LONG
I regret that, although I have made every inquiry, I have been unable to ascertain the number of men who would be affected, and I have been quite unable to get any estimate of what this proposal means. It is not thought that there is any necessity for this Amendment, and our proposal is not an oversight at all. We had a similar Debate to this during the Committee stage, and my hon. and gallant Friend, as far as I can recollect, made, word for word, the same speech, and, as far as I know, I am making the same speech in reply to it. A large number of these men have long ago come to the Colours, and the Adjutant-General does not think it worth while to make this Amendment. It must not be forgotten that by this Bill every man who does not come within certain exemptions is compelled to serve. We have to embark upon the most complicated machinery to carry out the proposals of this Bill, and the Adjutant-General has undertaken to set up, and is setting up, complicated machinery to deal with medical rejections in a way which will be fair to the men, and he does not wish to add to their number and therefore I ask the House to reject the Amendment moved by my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Amendment negatived.1416
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "service" ["on the termination of their period of service"], to insert the words, "and accordingly in that paragraph the words 'and subject to any provision which may hereafter be made by Parliament, men who have been discharged from the naval or military service of the Crown on the termination of their period of service' shall be repealed."
This Amendment is one of a large class of Amendments I have put down which raises only drafting points, but raises them in a very important way. I shall be glad if I may have the attention of the Solicitor-General in regard to this Amendment which raises the whole principle of the way in which the Bill is drafted.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This Bill is drafted in the Government style. When the hon. Member brings forward a Bill, he can bring it forward in his own style.
§ Mr. KING
I only intend to put my point very shortly. I wish to ask the President of the Local Government Board and the Solicitor-General whether in view of the fact that this Act has to be constantly interpreted with the earlier Military Service Act, and will have to be applied by tribunals which are not strictly legal bodies and by military representatives who are not legal men, whether we may look forward to anything in the way of a consolidation of this Bill and the previous Military Service Act within a reasonable time, so that we may have the two Bills in the form of a single Act of Parliament which can be much more easily understood and acted upon than the present two Acts. The Amendments I have got down are all with the object of making the Bill more clear, either by direct repeal or the direct insertion of new words. I move this Amendment because I want to put the point before the Solicitor-General to know if we may look forward to a Consolidation Bill at an early date which will be more easy for tribunals and conscripted persons to understand.
§ Amendment not seconded.
§ Mr. LONG
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words, "such man if discharged from the naval or military services of the Crown on re-enlistment shall be restored to the same naval or military rank as they held before the termination of their period of service," and to insert instead thereof the words, 1417 "where a man is transferred to the Reserve, in pursuance of the principal Act, or this Act, he shall, if he has been so discharged from the military service of the Crown as a warrant officer or non-commissioned officer, be restored to the military rank which he held immediately before the termination of his military service."
The question was raised whether men who retired from the Army were entitled to resume the rank which they held on leaving. In the course of the Debate which took place on this question we considered the question of the warrant officer, and also the question of those in the Navy. I confess that I did not know what the custom was in regard to officers, and therefore I propose, in moving this Amendment, to make a short statement. With regard to the warrant officers, or non-commissioned officers, they return to the same rank in the Army which they occupied before they left, and this Amendment carries out that proposal. With regard to the men it is suggested that if a man has held a similar rank in the Navy he ought, on joining the Army, to have something equivalent, and at first sight it seemed to me that there was a case made out for this. I wish to point out, however, that the Navy have the first call upon these men who come in either under the parent Act or under this Bill, and if they think that a man is worth restoration to the Navy in any rank it is obvious that they will restore him. The Army, however, are not prepared to accept the position that if the Navy does not think a man is worthy of restoration to his rank in the Navy he should be given an equivalent rank in the Army. The War Office are not prepared to undertake this in regard to the Navy, and I shall resist it for this reason. In the first place, I have been unable to find what is the equivalent rank in the Army. If a man has been a boatswain in the Navy, what rank is there equivalent to that in the Army? It does not follow that because a man can steer a boat he can ride a horse. Of course, if the Navy do not care to take a man into the Navy, the Army will take him as a private, but it will not undertake to give him equivalent rank.
I now come to the case of the warrant officers. All those below the rank of a commissioned officer return to the same rank. I ask the attention of the House to the question of the officers, because I am obliged to say that the War Office are not 1418 prepared to carry out the arrangement which has previously been indicated, for reasons which I will give. This question has been very carefully examined, and the Army Council believe that, so far as the men who have held commissioned rank are concerned, everyone suitable for employment in commissioned ranks has been taken back already. There are some who have had commissioned rank and who have been called upon to resign that commission. The Government will resist, on behalf of the Army Council, with all the strength we can command, any attempt to force us to take these men back as officers who, in their deliberate opinion, are not to be trusted with the leadership of men. As this would be the inevitable result, and as men who had held commissions and had been found, possibly through no fault of their own, to be not fitted for the responsible task of leading men would come back with commissions, the Army Council are unable to accept the arrangement, and I have been advised so to amend this Bill as to make it clear that we deal with the non-commissioned officer as I have described, that men not taken by the Navy will be taken by the Army in the ordinary way, and that men who have held commissions cannot be taken back as officers. The position of men who have held commissions may be, and in some cases no doubt will be, one of hardship. I have known cases myself, but it is not for me or the House to review these decisions of the Army Council. It is absolutely impossible to do anything of the kind, and I am convinced that this House would resist any suggestion which would result in committing the lives of our men to the leadership of those who are not fitted to be trusted.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I am sorry to say that I find myself in total disagreement with the right hon. Gentleman, not as to the wording of his Amendment, with which I entirely agree, but as to the two statements which he made in his speech in moving the Amendment. The Amendment recognises the right, or at any rate the justice, of the claim of a man who is brought back into the Army under this Bill to be reinstated in the rank which he occupied when he left the Army, not through any fault of his own, not turned out in disgrace, but when he left it in the ordinary course of events, either because his term of service had expired or for 1419 some other reason. The right hon. Gentleman quite recognises that in the case of the ordinary non-commissioned officer, and by this Amendment he is going to give him back his rank. Then he makes a class by itself and he treats them extremely unjustly, namely, men who are being brought back under this Act and as to whom the Navy has first choice. The Navy say they do not want these men, and they are therefore handed over to the military authorities. The right hon. Gentleman says that those men who are not wanted by the Navy are not to be given the rank which they previously occupied. [HON. MEMBERS: "How can they?"] These are not men who have served previously in the Army, but in the Navy.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
After all, it is for the Government, surely, to define the equivalent rank. It is very hard that a man who, by his merits, has raised himself to a position of trust and who comes under this Bill should be put back on the lowest rung of the ladder for no fault of his own, but simply because he is not wanted in the Navy. I am not suggesting that any officer who is turned out of the Army for dereliction of duty, the King having no further need for his services, should be given a commission, but what is sauce for the non-commissioned goose should be sauce for the officer gander, and, if you give back his rank to the non-commissioned officer, why, in the name of justice, should you not give back his commission to the officer. The right hon. Gentleman simply said these men are not fit to lead. I challenge that statement. Why are they not fit to lead? They have been officers and have retired in the ordinary course of events.
§ Mr. LONG
You must not misunderstand me. I speak on the authority of the Adjutant-General. I do not know, they do not come before me, but they do come before the Adjutant-General, and he says that he has taken all the officers whom he is prepared to trust to lead men. If a man proves unfit he is called upon in his own interest to resign his commission. Does my hon. Friend suggest that he should come back as an officer?
§ Mr. ASHLEY
Of course, no man who is called upon to resign his commission should be reinstated in the same rank. All I ask is that a man who has resigned in the ordinary way, because he is tired of the Army or wishes to take up another position, and who is called up under this Act, should be given his rank.
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I agree very largely with the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. An officer who has been called upon to resign his commission ought not to be brought back as a leader of men, but you are bound to take into consideration the position of these officers who are going to be called back to the Army. I do not suppose, in the first place, that their number is very large. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman could tell us—
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman heard my point. What is the number of officers who will be affected by this decision? It cannot be very large. It may perhaps be 100 or 150 at the outside. It seems to me you will be doing an injustice to a number of deserving men if you call them back to the Army as privates or as non-commissioned officers when they once held commissioned rank. They have not been educated for the sort of life which the ordinary private soldier lives in barracks. The number affected cannot be large, and they cannot be of very great value to the Army as private soldiers. I would suggest, therefore, that the Government might find words which would except those who have been discharged as officers and who under the right hon. Gentleman's proposal would be called back as private soldiers. We should be doing a considerable injustice to men who have left the Army through no fault of their own, but because they were not thought worthy to lead men, and they ought not to be brought back in the position of privates. There may be grudges against people who have once borne commissioned rank which might very easily be paid off in the obscurity of the barrack room. Such occurrences and the possibility of a very disagreeable feeling between this class of man and those with 1421 whom they would have to serve as privates would be obviated if the Government could see their way to leave these men out from the application of the Act and prevent their being called back to the Colours at all.
§ Captain CASSEL
I should like to call the attention of the House to the fact that this hardship, if it be a hardship, has already been inflicted upon all single officers. Under the original Act, single officers in this position are liable to come in as privates, and, as all the single groups have already been called up, this hardship has been inflicted on every single officer in this position. The only result would be to put married officers in a different position from that of single officers. I fully sympathise with what my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool (Mr. Ashley) said, if any case of that kind is likely to arise; but one infers from what the right hon. Gentleman said that no such cases are likely to arise. Although in the case of single officers this course has been, followed, I am not aware of a single complaint.
§ Colonel NORTON-GRIFFITHS
It is of great importance, from a practical point of view, that officers should not be forced back into the Service against the will of commanding officers and others. I have known many cases, and have dealt with some personally, where in increasing the Army by leaps and bounds men have crept in somehow or other and have got commissions who never ought to have got them. They never had the qualifications and never were intended to be leaders of men, and they stood in the way of much better men. Those who know what responsibility officers, from subalterns upwards, have at the front in an attack know how very important it is in the interests of the men themselves to ruthlessly clear out those who are not probably the best leaders, and put the very best in their places. You cannot very well give equivalent rank in the Army to a man who has held non-commissioned rank in the Navy. He does not necessarily become a good non-commissioned officer in the Army; but to-day any good man who is worthy of being a non-commissioned officer will be marked down at once, and before two or three days are over will get his one, two, or three stripes, and, if he is going to be made a sergeant-major, he will quickly get his four stripes. To-day the great trouble is to find good non-com- 1422 missioned officers, and I do not think the House need worry about any injustice being done to these men.
§ Mr. KING
I want the House to realise how complete is the volte-face which the right hon. Gentleman has performed. The matter was very carefully and fully considered in Committee, and the conclusion to which the right hon. Gentleman came was as follows: "The understanding which has been arrived at is that those men who have left the Service are to come back, whether they belonged to the naval or military services, either with the same rank they held in the Army when they served, or the equivalent rank if they served in the Navy." That is the first point. I shall not venture to develop it further than to point out that it is perfectly easy to recognise, from the standing which a man has and the rate of pay he has, as well as his other advantages, what is his corresponding rank in the Army. I often meet men in the Navy who tell me "My rank is so-and-so, and it is equivalent to such and such a rank in the Army." It is a perfectly well understood thing that might be easily adjusted by some order or other which would recognise that a certain rank in the Navy corresponds to a certain rank in the Army. And now I come to the question of officers. On this point the right hon. Gentleman has completely changed his point of view, and I think very unfortunately. He said on the 10th May:I am prepared on behalf of the Government to accept the inclusion of officers subject to this clear understanding that the Army Council reserves to themselves the right that they now possess, and of which I am sure the House would not wish to deprive them, to deal with an officer as they deal with him now, and of not reinstating him if he is not found fit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th May, 1916, col. 780.]Nobody objects to that. What is strongly objected to is the point taken by several hon. Members who spoke immediately after the right hon. Gentleman sat down, and repeated by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who said it would be very hard to call a man who had been a captain back to the Army as a private, becuse in doing so you would inflict a great 1423 slur upon him. That is what you must inevitably do if you bring back to the position of privates men who have been for years holding the commission of His Majesty. I know myself at least two cases in which the prospect seems to be, for men between thirty-five and forty years of age who served in the South African War, but who for one reason or other have not been able to join the Army in this War, of being sent back to the Army as privates. I say it is totally unjust, and it will not be for the good discipline of the Army itself. Of course, whatever changes the right hon. Gentleman makes, just as, whatever views he may choose to alter, the House will, of course, support him under present circumstances. But I most emphatically protest against this change in regard to a promise which was given in Committee, seeing that it will inflict grievous injustice and cause great discontent.
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived. Words, "Where a man is transferred to the Reserve in pursuance of the principal Act, or this Act, he shall, if he has been so discharged from the military service of the Crown as a warrant officer or non-commissioned officer, be restored to the military rank which he held immediately before the termination of his military service," there inserted.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2). One of the exceptions which was granted in the original Act provided that men who had been medically rejected since the 14th August, 1915, should not be compelled to serve under the Military Service Act. This Sub-section which I propose to leave out modifies that provision to this extent, that all those men hitherto excepted will be liable after the 1st of August, 1916, to be called upon to offer themselves for re-examination, if the Army Council are satisfied that they should present themselves for medical examination, and send them notice to that effect. This question was discussed on the Committee stage of the Bill, but it is one of such importance, and it affects such a large number of men, that we believe it is necessary to invite the decision of the House upon it on the Report stage. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has complained that, in respect of other Amendments, he has been compelled to repeat the speeches he has made on the Committee stage. I sincerely hope he will do nothing of the 1424 kind in reference to this Amendment, because I think, in the opinion of the majority of those who heard him, nothing could have been more unconvincing than the arguments which on that occasion he placed before the Committee.
He then stated that this provision was necessary because large numbers of men were in possession of rejection certificates which they had improperly obtained. That was his first ground. The second ground was that the medical examination" of recruits had been very loose in the earlier periods of recruiting, and that it was absolutely necessary now to give power to the Army authorities to re-examine everybody who had been rejected. In respect of the first defence, while it may be admitted that there are cases where certificates have been improperly obtained, it is unnecessary to throw the burden of re-examination upon every man who has been properly rejected in the past. Surely it would have been possible to invent a machinery which would deal with offenders in this respect without throwing a burden upon men who are properly rejected, and causing them at the same time, what is of far greater importance, a great amount of anxiety. In respect of the other defence, the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments related to the earlier stages of recruiting. The provisions in the original Act only relate to rejections since the 14th August, 1915. It is almost universally admitted that at that period if the examination erred it did not err in the direction of excessive rigour, but rather in the direction of excessive laxity; indeed, I remember during the Debates which we had on this subject of compulsion in the autumn, several speeches by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Birmingham (Captain Amery), in which the gravamen of this charge against the voluntary system was that it was so difficult to obtain men voluntarily for the Army that they were really taking in the blind and the halt, so as to get the number they required. We all know that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had a great knowledge of the methods of recruiting, and I think that this evidence regarding the method of examination which prevailed at that time should be conclusive that the examination erred on the side of laxity, rather than on the side of rigour.
We may claim that in many cases men who submitted themselves for examination in the latter part of last year were allowed into the Army when they ought not to 1425 have been, and many men who had been rejected in the earlier period were then for the first time found fit for military service. Consequently, the main part of the right hon. Gentleman's contention on the Committee stage referred to a period in recruiting history which was quite irrelevant to the proposal just now before the House. I would point out that this very proposal was before the House when the original Bill was being considered. It was then put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Birmingham, and on that occasion the President of the Local Government Board made a different speech from that which he made on the Committee stage last year, and which was a much sounder and much more reasonable speech. If he is going to repeat any speech now, I hope he will repeat that one. He said it was unfair and unjust to men who had presented themselves and who were not shirkers, but had obviously desired to do their best for their country, now to call upon them to submit themselves for re-examination. He accepted the contention then made that many of them had taken on themselves important responsibilities, believing their rejection was final and that there was not the slightest likelihood that in this War they would be called upon for military service.
The contentions which he then put forward against this proposal have been greatly strengthened by our experience of War Office administration in the intervening three months. The ink was hardly dry on this exception in the Military Service Bill before the War Office had endeavoured by other means to force into the Army men who were legally excepted under this provision—men who were excepted and of whose rejection there were records in the War Office and in the offices of the various recruiting authorities. Men in every part of the country received notices calling upon them to present themselves for re-examination—notices, in fact, to enlist. It was suggested, indeed, that some of them had not received satisfactory certificates, and that only certain certificates would be allowed to exempt men from service, quite ignoring the fact that, in the Schedule to the Act, there was no reference to certificates at all. By these means quite a considerable number of men were illegally forced into the Army. There was another significant thing. For the first time, new standards of medical fitness were laid down. It was not only a question of a man's fitness for general service, which was understood to be the test during the 1426 period of the voluntary system, but a new classification was invented as soon as the compulsory system had been adopted, and they then began to accept men, not only because they were fit for general service, but because they might be fit for garrison duty, or for some sedentary work. Men suffering under very serious physical disabilities were brought into the Army for this purpose. It is rather significant that for the first time this measure, which, to some extent at least, amounted to the employment of the compulsory system, was adopted only after compulsion became the policy of the country. We have numerous examples of how men have been brought into the Army who are totally unfit for military service. On the Committee stage of the Bill the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) gave a number of harrowing examples of men who, within a few days of being enlisted, had died; cases in which inquests were held and in which the strongest disapprobation was expressed of the practice of the War Office authorities. I do not intend to detain the House with, any lengthy examples at this stage. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"] Examples are relevant to the consideration of this Amendment. I will give two examples, given to me by a colleague in this House. A man was taken and passed for general service, although his card was marked:Suffering from chronic bronchitis.That man within three days was taken ill and sent to hospital, and within three months he was dead. That is an example of the practice. A brother of that man, also suffering from bronchitis, was also passed, and within a month he was invalided out of the Army. Those methods are going on at the present time. Men are being passed for general service without any real regard to their physical condition. There is a case, of which the personal details are known to myself, of a boy who offered himself in the first place in November, 1915. He was rejected then on account of a form of heart disease. He was not content with that rejection, and offered himself again within a few months and was again rejected. When the-Derby scheme was opened he offered himself and was passed. When the question of his being called up arose he was passed, not for general service, but for motor transport. What happened? It turned out that the motor transport was full up, and because of that, and not because of any change in his physical condition, he was 1427 passed for general service. When we find things like that going on, I ask the House not to place the life and health of all the medically rejected men in the hands of authorities who are abusing their powers in that way.
We know, of course, that there are large numbers of medically unfit men in the Army at the present time. Why do you want any more? The hon. and gallant Member for South Birmingham told us of large numbers who were enlisted under the voluntary system—indeed, it was one of the crimes of the voluntary system. What was one of the crimes of the voluntary system now turns out to be one of the prime virtues of the compulsory system. It was a crime under the voluntary system to accept an unfit man who offered himself. It is now to be a virtue of the compulsory system to force an unfit man to serve against his will. How many unfit men have we? It is known that they run into hundreds of thousands. There are over two hundred thousand in this country and probably a similar number in France. Surely the large number of medically unfit men the Army now have are sufficient for garrison duties and sedentary occupations, without drafting any more unfit men out of industry. We have been told that the medically unfit men in the Army at the present time are to be discharged. It is a most extraordinary thing that while, on the one hand, you are to discharge medically unfit men whom you have trained for military duties, on the other hand you are to withdraw men who are profitably employed in civit Han duties who are also physically unfit and who have not been trained for military duties. This is one of the most muddling and insane, proposals which has ever come from our War Office.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
If anybody can prove that the doctors have been squared— apparently my hon. Friend knows of such doctors—I would invite him to give instances.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I dare say there are cases, but you will not get at the men who have squared doctors by re-examination. It is the honest man who is really unfit who will be the victim. The man who has been able to square the doctor before will 1428 be able to square the doctor again. There is the further point that it is undoubted that those men who have been medically rejected since 14th August, 1915, have assumed that they had a statutory safeguard of their position. They believed in an Act of Parliament, and thought, after all, that when the British Parliament passed legislation it was intended to endure for more than three months, and that the securities which it offered to British subjects were not to be cast aside after only a few months and without any adequate reason being put before the House of Commons. These men, believing in this statutory guarantee, have taken upon themselves obligations. Many of them have gone into business. A good many of them are doing good work in the national interest. You are going to put every one of these men in a position of doubt and anxiety as to what his future position is to be. They do not know where they are. They do not know when they are to be called up, or how often they are to be called up. If the War goes on for two years or more they do not know whether they are to be called up every six weeks or two months or any other period. Under this Bill they can be called up for an ever-recurring period. It has been intimated by the hon. and gallant Member for South Birmingham, who may be taken to be the authentic voice of the War Office, that it is the intention of the War Office to do this.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The hon. and gallant Member has admitted that it is absolutely essential to have a periodical examination. [An HON. MEMBER: "Germany does it!"] That is the conclusive argument which is advanced. Whenever it is a question of injustice or inequality under the Bill, the only answer we get is that Germany does it. I hope those who are fighting Prussian militarism will not accept an argument of that kind, not only are these men anxious as to their present position in civil life, but when they are called up they are in still greater anxiety as to what their future position will be in the military service. These men know that they are suffering at present from diseases. The War Office does not take responsibility if a man is incapacitated through a disease from which he was suffering before the entered the Army. They only take responsibility if the disease which has incapacitated the man 1429 either developed during his service or was aggravated by his service, while the only people who are to decide those two questions are a Medical Board appointed by the War Office themselves. Obviously, there must be great anxiety among men who know themselves to be medically unfit, and who have been certified as medically unfit in the past, as to their future, should they be disabled as a result of their service in the Army. These are the reasons why we think it necessary once more on the Report stage to put forward this Amendment. We believe that up to the present time no answer has been offered to these arguments, and we now once more invite the Government to return to the position they took up upon the original Act, to remove this anxiety from these men and, at the same time, to refrain from perpetrating an act of injustice.
§ Mr. HOLT
I beg to second the Amendment so ably moved by my hon. Friend. I should like to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether he will say quite distinctly if I am not right in stating that under this Clause as at present worded it would be lawful for the War Office to call up very person who has either been rejected or, at any future period may be rejected for re-examination as often as they please? I submit that that may be the meaning of the Clause. It is quite clear that that is not the meaning which the right hon. Gentleman attributed to it in the discussion in Committee. It is quite clear to those who listened to his speech then that he contemplated that only people who bad been improperly rejected in the hurry of dealing with so many candidates should be re-examined. I am sure he will agree it is most essential that the Clause should say what he means. It is really intolerable that there should be large numbers of people—it is practically almost everybody—left in such a position that they do not know whether or not they have been finally rejected as medically unfit, and, whatever the justice or injustice of the re-examination may be, it is certain that it will be most unjust that any further re-examination imposed upon those men should not be final.
§ Mr. LONG
I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friend who has put forward this Amendment, and who indulged in a great deal of speculation as to which of the various speeches I made in the course of this and the other Bill I was going to re- 1430 peat on the present occasion. I will put him out of his pain at once by telling him that I am not going to repeat one of them, nor am I going to make a fresh one I am going to make a very few remarks, because, as the bulk of the attack upon the Government has been directed to actual War Office administration, I shall be glad to leave that matter in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War, who, I have no doubt, is very well able to show that the attack is without solid foundation. After all, it is very easy to criticise and pick cases out of the hundreds of thousands of cases which have had to be dealt with by the War Office or their representatives throughout the country, to pour ridicule on their work, and to ask why they have failed in this or that. I wonder if some of the critics who have been most loud-voiced in their criticisms here would have presented very different results if they had been charged with the duties with the performance of which they now find so much fault. In regard to the previously rejected men, we are—notwithstanding the ingenious argument of the hon. Members—where we are in the Committee stage. I stated quite frankly on behalf of the Government on the Second Reading and on the Committee stage that the situation has changed, that there were a variety of causes, not merely the one cause referred to by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt), which have led the War Office and the Army Council to the conviction that they must take powers for re-examination. The principle of policy was decided times out of number by the House on the Second Reading and in Committee, and the only question outstanding is whether the War Office have been able to devise such machinery as will enable them to deal with these cases with the minimum of inconvenience and annoyance to these people.
As to the speech quoted by my hon. Friend (Mr. Pringle), it would be an insult to his intelligence not to say that he knows perfectly well that it was directed to a totally different set of conditions when it was made, and that it has no bearing on the case as it stands now. In the first Bill we were dealing with men who were affected by what is known as the Prime Minister's pledge. The language he has quoted, which I used then, was perfectly proper language to use in regard to the men who had been rejected and who could be regarded as coming within the Prime Minister's pledge. We 1431 are dealing with no pledge. We have no circumscribed field to deal with now. We are dealing simply with the question whether or no there are, for different reasons, men now covered by medical certificates whom the War Office ought to have a right to re-examine and ascertain whether they are fit and whether the certificates are genuine or not. That is the whole story. We are taking that power, and all I have now to tell the House is that we already give two months in the Bill—the date is 1st August—and I have Amendments on the Paper making 1st August 1st September, which will extend the period to three months. The men who are to be called up are to be called up by the War Office authorities, and they are now preparing—I myself am personally acquainted with it—machinery which will cover the country and which, I believe, will give the medically rejected men all the information they require in the shortest possible time, and the evils which my hon. Friend anticipates will not arise.
There is a further special concession which the Adjutant-General is prepared to make. Although it is perfectly true that the groups are closed on the appointed day, we propose to make special arrangements by which he will take into the groups men who were medically rejected since 14th August last and who choose to offer themselves for attestation during the period of grace—that is to say, before 1st September. This disposes of what was one of the main arguments of our critics in the earlier stages, that we are treating these men unjustly and unfairly. There is no injustice. All we want is that where there has been fraud it shall be exposed, and that this shall be done with a minimum of inconvenience to these men who have suffered under this unfortunate disability. We cannot depart from the position we have taken up. The War Office and the Government will do everything in their power to lessen the inconvenience to those who are affected by the Amendment. There is no justification for the interpretation the hon. Member (Mr. Holt) gave, because everyone can interpret Clauses of Bills as he pleases. We are quite certain this Bill will do what we want and will give us the power we want.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
I do not wish to criticise the right hon. Gentleman or the Bill—I have been supporting it from the first, whatever my previous convictions have been—but I want him to minimise the 1432 inconvenience to those men who have been medically rejected. The strong point, as I thought, of the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Pringle) was that a statutory decision was come to by this House in January last that these men who were rejected as medically unfit would not be called up again. I have had cases sent to me of men who, by virtue of that statutory enactment, have entered into business and other engagements, and they want now to know exactly what their position is, and they want to know it as soon as possible. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) states that he has extended the date to 1st September. Might I ask this, with a view to obviating inconvenience to these persons: Would it be possible to have the medical examination now?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Then I will not pursue my argument, but I ask the Government to avoid and to minimise as much as possible inconvenience to these people. There are a good many in the country who at present are in a state of uncertainty, with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, and do not know whether they are to be called up or not.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I sympathise entirely with what has just been said by my right hon. Friend, and I wish to point out two or three matters which I hope the Undersecretary will find it possible to deal with. I wish, first of all, to ask if he will deal with this. I quite understand that the War Office wish to chock the possibility of some fraud having been perpetrated, and no sensible person, whatever his views on this general subject, can possibly desire that such fraud should not be exposed and punished. Though I have several times heard this referred to in general terms, and though I have had a great many cases brought to my attention, I do not know of a specific case of such fraud, and if there be such a thing I cannot imagine why the War Office is so lax that it does not prosecute, because every such case of fraud is a perfectly plain conspiracy. It is a criminal offence, because it is perpetrated as between the man who really gets the certificate and the man who is pretending it is his. I cannot believe there is a great number of such cases, but if there is by all means let us see if they can be got at and exposed. But really I would ask him not 1433 to go burning down the house for the purpose of roasting the pig. There are probably 1,000,000 people in the country by this time who, relying upon what happened last January, came forward patriotically, many of them again and again, and in effect were assured that if they were genuinely rejected by a genuine examination, they were entitled to regard themselves as outside the operation of compulsion. If they were really rejected because they were not fit, they will not be of any use to the Army, and the consequence is that an immense amount of anxiety is being caused all over the country by this unhappy Clause—a Clause which is not in the least necessary in a general Bill for the purpose of compelling married men—I say nothing against that for the moment—and which is going to produce comparatively little result.
The second point I would put to the Under-Secretary is this: Does he realise that this applies not only to men who came forward under the Derby scheme, but also to men who offered themselves for direct enlistment? Does he really say, in the name of the military authorities, that men who have offered themselves for direct enlistment have been improperly rejected by the doctors? I cannot believe it. I do not believe there is a shred of evidence to support it. Surety he ought, at any rate, to exclude from this Clause men who offered themselves for direct enlistment and were rejected as the result of the medical examination.
The next point is this: The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) says that he is making a concession in that he proposes to alter 1st August to 1st September. Will the House just see what is really involved? A number of people came forward at the end of last year, or in the early months of this year, quite genuinely to join the Army. They were volunteers. They were examined and were rejected. They undoubtedly built upon that and they believe that as the result of that they were safe and were entitled to enter into whatever obligations they have entered into. Many employers would not employ anyone until he had offered himself and until it was clear that he could not fight, and all sorts of arrangements have been made all over the country, both in industry and in private employment, on the basis that some of these people are people who have really been rejected. It is not really an assistance to them to tell them you are going to hold this sword over their 1434 heads till 1st September. The thing they want to know is, "How soon can the War Office tell us whether we are people whom they want to examine again?" That is really a reasonable point. It is not a question of saying, "I am going to leave you in a state of uncertainty, not till 1st August, but till 1st September." The question is, How soon is it practicable for the War Office to give them notice—and I submit it ought to be written notice—that it wants to examine them again? Until they know that they really are in a difficulty which we are not entitled to put them into. It is not as though these people were not entitled to our sympathy. They are the very people who are entitled to everything we can do for them, and I would press my right hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant) to tell us what is the latest date at which the military authorities will be able to give such persons as they propose to re-examine notice of their intention. That is really fair and right, and with that in mind I have handed in a proposal which I hope my right hon. Friend may see his way to accept. It is to apply in this way: That the paragraph shall, on 1st September, cease to apply to any man who offered himself and has been rejected if the Army Council is satisfied that he shall again present himself for medical examination and send him written notice to that effect before 1st July. I cannot judge whether 1st July is a fair date, but I am quite certain it cannot be the wish of the War Office to leave all these people right through the summer—there are hundreds of thousands of them—in complete uncertainty as to what their position is. I do not know how business can be carried on or how new commitments can be entered into, and it seems to me in the highest degree harsh and unfair to do that to these people, who are really entitled to a special measure of assistance and consideration. I would ask my right hon. Friend, therefore, to say whether he could not arrange that any notice that he has to give should be a written notice, which ought to be given once and for all—it ought not to be repeated—that the notice ought to be given before a certain date—I should have thought 1st July was long enough—and if he thinks it right to extend the other date to 1st September no harm will be done.
Only one other thing. I quite understand that when you say a man under this Act is deemed to be a soldier as from a 1435 particular date, 1st August or 1st September, he has got another month. Therefore, I hope my right hon. Friend will not imagine he meets the point by telling me there is a month to run before the Bill really operates in respect of him. I know that; but the point is that a month is regarded as the least you can concede to the skulker, the shirker, the man who ought to have come forward long ago. These people are not of that class, and they are people who, because they are not of that class, in many cases have committed themselves to all sorts of obligations, and you must give them time to get out of them. If, therefore, one month is the amount you concede to the least desirable member of the community, surely you ought to concede from 1st July to 1st September, together with the month, to those of this character. I think, and I hope the House will think, the points I have mentioned are really practical points. They have nothing to do with objection to compulsion as a principle at all. If the Bill is going to work, you cannot have in every quarter of the country a lot of people who feel that you are doing them real injustice when they are the very people who have done their best to come forward.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I really feel that we are entitled to a clearer statement of policy from the War Office than we have yet received on this question. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) said that it was the desire of the War Office authorities that there should be a minimum of inconvenience and annoyance caused. I am quite sure we ought to accept that, because I cannot believe that the War Office would desire to cause endless annoyance and endless inconvenience to the hundreds of thousands of people who are involved in this matter. But if the matter is left where the right hon. Gentleman left it, it will cause consternation, anxiety, and alarm among large numbers of people who are suffering already, and it is wicked and wrong that we should add needlessly to their sufferings and not permit them to know where they are going to stand in regard to this question. I want to ask the Under-Secretary for War, first of all, if there is any certificate at all of medical unfitness granted by doctors to these unfit people which he is willing to accept as exempting them from service. I raised this question during the Committee stage, and I pointed out that whilst it was quite possible that in certain classes the doctors 1436 had said these men for the moment are unfit, and on that ground exempted them, it is also absolutely true that the doctors ire many cases gave men certificates that they were totally unfit for service, and, as I could prove from scores of letters I have received, doctors gave men certificates that they were permanently unfit for the service of the Crown, either in the Army or the Navy. If these men hold certificates showing that they can never under any circumstances make fit or efficient soldiers, what is the use of keeping them uneasy and uncertain on this point for months to come? What is the use of asking them to undergo re-examination? I can well understand that a man may have been suffering from some temporary illness which incapacitated him for the time being, but the cases about which we are far more concerned are the cases of men whom the War Office know will never be able to undertake military service. They are people who are suffering from tuberculosis, people who are suffering from heart trouble, and from diseases of that kind which will never be put right. I maintain that certain certificates ought to be guaranteed by the War Office immediately as being certificates which, if they are held by a man, will be a guarantee that he will not have to go up again for re-examination, and he will be quite sure where the matter stands. Unless that is done there is going to be a great deal of needless cruelty and a great deal of needless anxiety imposed upon these people It is not as if you are imposing this anxiety upon fit men. You are imposing this anxiety and this strain upon ailing men, upon sick men, upon diseased men. It is absolutely true also that, as a result of accepting under the last Bill what they regarded as a pledge embodied in the Act of Parliament, and believing themselves to be clear of military obligations, many of these men undertook business commitments that they would not otherwise have done, and they have gone into business in some cases. I do say that where the illness is of the character I have indicated it is absolutely a waste of public money to enrol these men as soldiers.
I want to ask the War Office what they propose doing if they do draw in large numbers of these unfit men. I believe there are 200,000 unfit men in the Army already. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the same number abroad?"] I do not know how many there may be abroad. I hear 1437 there are none abroad. At any rate, it is believed that here at home there are about 200,000 unfit men in the Army. Surely that is quite sufficient. I do not believe that there is an officer in the Army who does not regard these unfit men as grit in the military machine, and absolutely of no value. What responsibility is the War Office going to accept towards these men? If they impose the strain of training upon them and the men break down, what compensation are they going to get? I would ask the Under-Secretary of State for War to give us a clearer statement than we have yet had, to tell us who are going to be in and who are going to be out, in order to relieve, if possible, a great deal of needless anxiety. I would remind him that the President of the Local Government Board promised me during the Committee stage of this Bill that whilst he could not accept a form of words in an Amendment that I proposed, he would see between then and the Report stage what could be done with a view to definitely embodying in the Bill the fact that if a man had been certified by doctors to be totally and permanently unfitted that that man would be exempt straight away, and no further worry would be caused to him. Nothing has been done by the Government to redeem that pledge, and, so far as I can see, the whole of the men who are ill are now going to endure needless anxiety for months to come unless we get a better statement than we have had. I hope we shall get a better statement from the Under-Secretary for War.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I desire very briefly to support what has been said by the right hon. Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon). He approaches this Clause from the point of view of one who is opposed to the Clause, but as one who desires to make the Clause workable if it is to be adopted. I approach it from the other point of view. On the whole I agree with this Clause, and said so in the Committee stage, and I also am most anxious that this Clause which, so far as my experience goes is unhappily in my judgment necessary, should be made workable as far as possible, and particularly on the point of not keeping these people in a state of uncertainty a day longer than is absolutely necessary. I admit that it must take some time for the War Office to go through the very large number of cases there are, and to make up their minds as to whom they are going to summon 1438 for re-examination. But on the other hand, it is surely essential, and I hope the Under-Secretary for War will agree on this point, that the notice should be in writing, and that the date of the notice to go up for re-examination should be a date substantially previous to the date on which the re-examination should take place. As the Clause stands, a man may receive on 31st July a notice that he is to be medically re-examined, and the month may begin to run the very next day, the 1st August. That is obviously wrong, and I ask my right hon. Friend, from the point of view of a supporter of the Bill and of the Clause, to make the Clause better in one vital point by giving a fixed date as soon after this date as can possibly be done, and by securing that the notice shall be in writing, thus making this Clause clear where at present it is vague and indefinite.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
I desire to speak on two points. In the first place I wish very warmly to support what has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Middleton (Sir R. Adkins). From the standpoint of the man it is of the utmost importance that early notice should be given, and I think also from the standpoint of the employer that is also extremely important. I know of small businesses which are really dependent now upon a man who has got a certificate as a medically unfit man, although, of course, he can do this particular work well. If that man is to be re-examined, and has to go into the Army, it is absolutely essential from the standpoint of that business that time should be given to the employer in order that he may get other labour, or else the business will have to be closed. I know large businesses where some of these men have been given very important positions because it was thought that at any rate these men would be able to stay right through the War. From that standpoint it is equally important that these employers of labour should have adequate notice if these men have to be removed. The other point I desire to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman is that I hope the War Office will do something rather more definite than they have done in order to see that the knowledge of the family doctor is obtainable and given when some of these men are re-examined. I have known cases where the medical examination has been hurriedly done, and where the certificate and advice of the family doctor has been laid on one 1439 side. Two or three cases I have in my mind have gone before the medical board, and in these cases the advice of the family doctor has been found to be right, and has been accepted by the medical board. Care ought to be taken to see that the certificate from the family doctor is given as evidence of the real condition of these men. That suggestion was made, I think, when the Bill was in Committee, and I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to say that he will do something to see that that advice is taken in these cases.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The hon. and learned Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle), who moved this Amendment, although he is strongly opposed to the Clause being incorporated in the Bill, did, in point of fact, admit that there was some ground for it, inasmuch as he made the admission that a certain number of persons had been improperly rejected. I do not know whether he holds that view, but he certainly did make that admission. I am glad to think that most of the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken realise that there is a real necessity for revision of these medical certificates. I am not going into the long story which was set out by the hon. Member for Lanark as to the mistakes we have made, all of which I have answered in the past, and which we put right as soon as we could; but I cannot pass over in silence the statement which he made, and which I think is a gross exaggeration, that there are not only 200,000 unfit men in the Army at home, but that there are 200,000 unfit men in the Army in France. That is a statement which I do not think ought to go unchallenged. It is not a desirable statement either for our Allies, or for our enemies, to hear coming from a responsible quarter such as the House of Commons. I am perfectly at one with nearly every Gentleman who has spoken, that there is a real ground of apprehension that persons who have been medically rejected and who have made business and other arrangements may be put, not only to inconvenience, but to considerable anxiety, by such a proposal as is contained in the Bill, if it were unaccompanied by any other statement. I respond at once to the invitation which has been made to allay these suspicions, and, if possible, to quell the anxiety which may be existing in the minds of many people. I will tell the House exactly what it is that we propose 1440 to do. Of course, my right hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, and other hon. Gentlemen, I am sure, realise that there is no desire on the part of the Army whatsoever to take men who are not going to make efficient soldiers at the front. We may take those who are less physically well set up for Home defence, in order to release those who are now in our Home Army for service in the trenches in France and in Flanders, but there is no desire, and I hope the House will accept this assurance from me, that this Clause shall be administered in a vexatious manned at all.
What we propose to do and what is now being drafted is an instruction to recruiting officers to the effect that men who have been rejected at the primary military examination by the recruiting officer, or subsequently by one of the medical boards set up in the recruiting areas, and whose rejection by either of these authorities is recorded in the military register, will not be called up for re-examination. Those are two important points. The man who is rejected at the primary military examination, which is an examination to show whether the man was or was not possessed of the requisite number of limbs, and was a person obviously unfit for military service—that rejection, of course, would count. Again, a man who has been carefully examined by the military medical authorities, and whose rejection was recorded in the military register will not be called upon in any event to come up again to be re-examined. I will now deal with the next point raised by the right hon. Member for Walthamstow and other speakers. On the question of giving a man the power of ascertaining whether or not he is liable to be called up, we are proposing to give facilities of the widest possible kind in order that a man who wishes to know how he stands should be medically examined by the medical board of the area in which he resides provided that he makes an arrangement. He cannot walk in and say, "Here I am; examine me now," but he can send a note a day or two beforehand and ask for an appointment. Arrangements are made with recruiting officers according to appointment by each individual man. So that any man for whom there is a conditional apprehension, who does not realise what his position is, has merely got to ask the recruiting officer of the area in which he lives whether he requires to be medically examined or can be medically examined or 1441 not. No man will be called up, as the Clause in the Bill says, unless the military authorities are satisfied that he should present himself for medical examination. The House knows that it will be necessary for the recruiting officers to call upon these men to present themselves for further examination. Any man who does not do so will not be called up unless there is real ground for thinking that he is a person who has been improperly rejected.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that those persons who would be permanently excluded according to the first concession, which I frankly admit is a very great concession, will be acquainted with the fact that they are so exempted, as this will save anxiety and would not involve very much labour seeing that you have got the records?
§ Mr. TENNANT
It lies with the War Office to call up these men. Is that the point of my hon. Friend?
§ Mr. THOMAS
No. I am dealing with those who, you have stated, will be exempted, because there is a record kept of the medical defects, and I want to know whether you will acquaint them and relieve them of any anxiety?
§ Mr. TENNANT
What my hon. Friend asks me to do is a very considerable undertaking He asks me to tell the million of men in all cases whether they will or will not be called up. That, I am afraid, is too large an undertaking for us to grapple with. What I believe is not improper is to advertise the fact, as I am trying to advertise it now, that facilities are going to be given in the area in which men live for them to be medically examined. If they have any doubt in their own minds they ought to tell the recruiting officer what the nature of their objection is.
§ Mr. THOMAS
From the standpoint of labour, will there not be less labour in the military authorities themselves sending that intimation and saving everybody bother?
§ Mr. TENNANT
You think that the recruiting officer should send notice to the man to say that he was to come to be examined?
§ Mr. THOMAS
No. What I gather from the right hon. Gentleman is, that the concession with which he is meeting us is shortly, that where the War Office has a record of a man's medical rejection that man will be troubled no further, and what 1442 he proposes is that the man can make inquiry and be informed to that effect. What I suggest and want to know is whether, from the standpoint of labour on the military authorities, it will not be a saving of trouble if instead of inviting the man to come in and be bothering them, they will acquaint him by a note of his position.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am sorry that I have mistaken my hon. Friend. The reason was that several people were speaking to me at once, and that always makes it difficult to follow an hon. Member. I do not think that what my hon. Friend suggests is in any way insuperable, and I will see whether we cannot arrange to do that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow made another point as to whether we could not let people know within a definite date. On that point, if we do as I have promised we should do, grant these facilities and inform men that they are definitely rejected and are on our register as being rejected, and give men notice to the effect that they have been so rejected and will not be called up again, I think that that goes a very long way. I think that that is as much as you can expect a very much overworked Department to undertake in the middle of this great War.
§ Mr. L. JONES
Is there no date at all after which men will know that they are not going to be called?
§ Mr. TENNANT
The 1st of September. I think I see what my hon. Friend is thinking about—that we may not call the man up until the last day of August and may ask the man to come forward on the 1st day of September. We cannot do that; we will give a month.
§ Sir J. SIMON
What I think is this. Whatever date you put in your Bill, whether the 1st of August or the 1st of September—at present the Bill has got the 1st of August as the date, and you propose to alter that to the 1st of September—whatever date you fix now there will be the thirty days that follow, which I call a month. My suggestion is that you ought to give more notice than that.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I do not think that that is a very good argument. You have got from now—the passing of the Bill—until the end of August. That is quite a long time in which the man has to make up his mind as to whether or not he is a person who ought to come under military service.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Surely the War Office does not intend to put every single person who has been rejected, however often, and however genuine his rejection, in a state of doubt until September.
§ Mr. TENNANT
No; I never suggested that. All I said was that I did not think it possible for the recruiting officers to say that by a particular interval, like the 1st of July, suggested by my right hon. Friend, they could achieve the large task of reviewing all these cases of rejection and discovering that there were no others that they were going to take on. That is all that I suggested. My right hon. Friend does not appreciate the magnitude of the task. It is a very large task indeed. I am very anxious that the House should not press me on that, because it is a most difficult matter. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not think it necessary to do so. The opening speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, and other speeches, seem to me to be the kind of speech which does not realise what this Bill is intended for—that is to get men for the Army. I would like to remind hon. Gentlemen that there is a very great necessity to get men for the Army, that the country rather looks to Parliament to help it to get men for the Army, and that speeches such as those of these hon. Members do not really help us to do that. It is said that if you take so and so you are going to do an injustice to the man. That is not the intention at all of this legislation. We want to get men for the Army. I must appeal to my hon. Friend to help us in that very difficult problem. There is no desire to take unfit men who would not be useful to us. We do not want to have them at all. I know that my hon. Friend believes that we have taken them.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am at a loss to know why my hon. Friend thinks that we have done so. That is not our intention. All that we desire to do when these cases of fraud occur is, if we can discover sufficient grounds, to take proceedings against the persons who perform that fraud. My hon. Friend is acquainted with the difficulties of these cases, and he will agree that it would be very foolish to undertake a prosecution that is not likely to succeed. I think he will realise that we cannot do 1444 that. I hope the House will agree with me that we have made very considerable concessions.
§ Mr. GEORGE GREENWOOD
I have a letter from a constituent of mine who was rejected. He has suffered from cerebral hemmorhage, and he states that he has got certificates from the Army doctors and a Harley Street specialist of his absolute unfitness for the Army, but he is worrying himself, and is making himself quite ill, lest he should have to make a long journey from Northampton to come again before the Medical Board, who might find for him some form of sedentary service. How soon will that man know whether or not he will have to come forward and again present himself for medical examination?
§ Mr. TENNANT
My hon. Friend (Mr. Greenwood) speaks of a Constituent who wants to know what he is to do. If his correspondent goes to the recruiting office he can easily find out. It would not be very difficult to go to a recruiting office in his area.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I do not bow whether he was aware of the fact that he could take his certificate to the recruiting officer, but at any rate he was worrying as to whether this proposal was going to apply all round to rejected people. When is he to know and how is he to know?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I think he must go to the recruiting officer and ask. With regard to the question put by my hon. Friend (Mr. Rowntree) as to the certificate of the family doctor, so far as I am aware I think that kind of evidence is always desired by the Medical Board. I will speak to my military advisers, but the certificate of the family doctor can only be accepted as auxiliary, and I think that it would probably be very valuable. In regard to the question of notice, it is provided in the Act that notice is to be sent.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
A number of forms are issued by the War Office, and will the right hon. Gentleman say whether any one of these will be accepted as final evidence of rejection?
§ Mr. TENNANT
All forms of rejection which state that a man has been rejected because of chronic disease would certainly be accepted.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman has expressed considerable good will, for which I am sure the House is grateful, but I would like to know how far that good will is to be translated into administrative action. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me specifically the number of any rejection form held by any men which would entitle them to regard themselves as permanently disqualified for military service? Will he tell us the number of any certificate issued by the medical authorities of the War Office which entitles a man to regard himself as totally exempt on medical grounds from military service?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I could not possibly do that. These are medical forms, and it would be improper for me to say on which of any of these forms a man is entitled to exemption.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
To that extent I feel that the concession which has been outlined by the right hon. Gentleman is not very material in its effect as going to meet the views which have been advanced by supporters of this Amendment. The view is entertained, without a doubt, that this particular Clause is to be used to secure, for some service or other, men who have been rejected previously, and these men, rightly or wrongly, feel that the grounds on which they have been rejected are permanent grounds. Various medical standards are adopted by the War Office, the effect of which is to get men into the Army, with results not entirely satisfactory. The results will not be satisfactory from the State point of view, and certainly not from the point of view of the men. We have not yet got the admission of the War Office, in the case of the man who is now taken, and subsequently proved to be unsound, organically or in some other way, that responsibility is accepted for diseases which may be developed even under the new form of medical examination. Can we have from the right hon. Gentleman a guarantee that if, under the further medical examination to be imposed under this Clause, all the men who are taken on that examination will be regarded as fit subjects for military service? In the case of disease or disablement other than by wounds and so forth, is the War Office prepared to accept responsibility for that man, if, as the result of training and hardship, a disease which is there now develops during that training? We have not yet got that guarantee, and these are things 1446 which, taken together, leave in the minds of large numbers of men now holding certificates of one kind or another the impression that the intention is to get them into the Army to perform some minor duties, whereas, as a matter of fact, from the point of view of the State, from the point of view of the commitments of these men, undertaken as a result of their rejection, there is every reason why there should be an explicit instruction given and an explicit declaration made at the very earliest date as to what their position is. Some of us cannot help thinking that this is an attempt of the War Office to rectify a position which brought them into sad disrepute a little while ago. It will be recalled how the right hon. Member for Walthamstow drew attention to the illegal action of the War Office in bringing in men who had exemption under the Military Service (No. 2) Act, and it does seem, to us at least, that this Clause is an attempt of the War Office to give an answer to those who called attention to their illegal action in administering the Military Service (No. 2) Act. So far as I am concerned, though I acknowledge the good will expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, I regret I find very little substance in the admissions he has made to the House.
§ Mr. L. JONES
I think the procedure the right hon. Gentleman has outlined is a great improvement on that in the Bill. In one respect, though, I think he has worsened the position of some of the men. Those we are thinking of are men who would probably ultimately be rejected, but what they are suffering from is uncertainty as to their fate. The giving of another month increases the period of uncertainty. It is true they may go before an Army Medical Board for re-examination privately before the period expires, but in many cases they may not wish to do so. You are not dealing with men who are shirking service because ex hypothesi these are men who have volunteered and have been rejected. Many came to me at the week-end and asked me to ascertain, if possible, certainty for them. If the right hon. Gentleman will not insert 1st of July, why not insert 1st of August, which I think is not an unreasonable request. It would secure two months' notice, which would make a considerable difference in the arrangements of these men. To complete the scheme and make it fair, the right hon. Gentleman should go a little further and name some date, and I suggest the 1st August.
Mr. CARADOC REES
The forwarding of a postcard to men affected would prevent the necessity of going to the recruiting offices of men who are in many cases hopelessly unable to fight. Otherwise you bring the whole thing into disrepute by the War Office calling up men who are unable to fight. The Army, if they have records before 1st July, could simply send to those who are obviously unfit a postcard to say that they need not present themselves. Otherwise there is no system, and those men will be presenting themselves at different dates and the whole work will perhaps have to be done twice over. If a date is given there is no overlapping. It seems to me a question of detail which any officer would do and a few clerks would arrange in a few hours. It would save a lot of unnecessary trouble and relieve a lot of men of the necessity of presenting themselves when they ought not to be asked to do so. It is not the fault of these men that they are not fighting for the Army, it is their misfortune, and they ought not to be put to any further indignity.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
From what has been said it appears that these men will be absolutely uncertain up to 31st August, unless they have previously of their own accord offered themselves for re-examination. What we desire is that notice should be given.
§ Mr. THORNE
They are absolutely uncertain up to 31st August, unless they previously receive a postcard that they are to offer themselves for re-examination.
§ Mr. GALBRAITH
I feel that fewer words and a little more wisdom would lubricate the machinery and accelerate the passage of this Bill. On this subject I have more letters from people in the Constitutency I happen to represent than on any other point. I know several cases myself of men who hold medical certificates that their kidneys, liver, lungs, and other organs are diseased. Why can we not save time and money and a prolific source of vexation by keeping those men in doubt and notify them by a simple halfpenny postcard that there will be no further trouble and the thing is at an end? They will then become canvassers for recruits instead of becoming obstructionists. I do hope that the Government and the Under-Secretary will see that it is most 1448 discreet and wise to do so. A tactful man can take a sting from a bee without being stung. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will act on that principle.
§ Mr. TENNANT
By leave of the House, may I say that my hon. Friend who spoke just now seemed to think that the whole problem could be settled if you named a date by which notice should go to the rejected. That is really not the point. I am perfectly willing to give a date for that, but the point that has been raised, and was raised originally by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon), was to name a date, after which no notice would be sent to anybody. That is what I cannot do. I will undertake to do this, to consult with the military authorities again, although I am not very hopeful, to see whether it is possible to make any such concession. If it is possible I will make the essay with my military authorities to know whether their machinery is sufficiently large and expansible to undertake this particular work. I do not want to make another speech, but I wish the House would realise that it does involve a great amount of labour. To give an undertaking that after a specified date no more notices shall be sent out involves going over the whole of the possible lists in the shorter time. That is the real difficulty. But I will agree to ask the Adjutant-General's Department if it can be done. If it can be done, an Amendment can be inserted in another place.
§ Mr. JONATHAN SAMUEL
The statement of the right hon. Gentleman, I think, makes the case very much worse. I agree with the hon. Member for Mid-Durham (Mr. Galbraith) that there is a very strong feeling in the constituencies about these rejected men. How are the Army Council going to deal with these matters? Subsection (2) says, "If the Army Council are satisfied." How are the Army Council to judge whether or not a man should present himself? There is in the medical register a record of every man who has been medically examined. I have seen the system at work. I have seen scores of men medically examined. The doctor, who is paid for this work, is under an obligation; in fact, he is under a very severe penalty. He has to answer about a dozen questions as to the man's physical condition. Those questions are recorded in the medical register, and at the end of the statement it is entered whether the man is fit or unfit. If the man is unfit, no attestation papers are made 1449 out. That is really the point. The object is to test whether or not a mail is fit before the attestation papers are made out. During the Derby scheme, when there was a great inrush of recruits, an order came from the War Office that the medical examination was to be set aside, that the attestation papers were to be made out, and that the men should be medically examined when their groups were called up.
A case was put to me the other day when I was speaking about the great rush in the year 1914, when we had about 35,000 men coming up every week to be enlisted. My own observation in that great rush was that the men were carefully examined by two doctors, and there is a record kept of every man. If the Army Council are going to state whether or not these men are to be recalled, how long are the men to remain in doubt? The Army Council really cannot deal with this point. The President of the Local Government Board definitely told me the other day that it is the local recruiting officer who will decide this point. He cannot decide it, because the records are local. I believe, personally, that the recruiting officers should not decide the point. The only person who can decide whether a man should be re-examined is the medical man who was at the recruiting office. He is the only person who can judge from the record whether or not a man should be re-examined. Therefore, I think it is very easy to carry out the suggestion that a definite date should be inserted. I do not see any difficulty. It should be for the doctor in each recruiting district to go through the list. It should not be for them to send the books or a report to London, and then for the Army Council to decide whether or not men should be examined. If that is done, the Army Council in London will never be able to deal with the point.
I have nothing to complain about in regard to my right hon. Friend's action in these matters. He has been very courteous and careful. We can all speak well of the War Office in that respect. Therefore I do not complain of anything that he does in this matter. But I called attention the other day to the case of a young man who had been medically rejected. He was a shop assistant, and his employer told me that for two years in succession he had sent him away into the country to try to prevent the inroads of consumption. This young man was medi- 1450 cally rejected and had a certificate. He was persuaded, so he says, to go before the medical board to be re-examined. He was passed and sent to a regiment, with the result that within a few weeks he was in hospital. It is a scandal to send young fellows like that into the Army with the result that they drift into hospital and are a great cost to the nation without being any benefit. I have called attention to other cases where men have been discharged from the Army as medically unfit, and the Army, after taking them, have repudiated responsibility as to their finance. I am certain that a serious blunder is committed by speeches to which I have listened in this House and by articles that I have read in the Press in reference to the large numbers of men who have been recklessly examined by the doctors. Personally, I do not believe it. If the doctor is in any way conscientious, he is bound to answer the questions in the medical register, and if those answers are in accordance with the physical condition of the man, that register ought to be the guide as to whether he is fit or not. Therefore I say that this uncertainty should not be held over these men for a very long time, but a definite date should be put into the Bill.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
When I brought before the right hon. Gentleman the case of a man suffering from cerebral hæmorrhage he told me that the man ought to take his certificate to the recruiting officer. Is the recruiting officer entitled to tell him whether he must present himself for re-examination?
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I do not think there is so much difference between us as there was prior to the concessions being given. There are differences of opinion as to whether the position now is any improvement. As I understand the situation, it is that as the result of this Debate the right hon. Gentleman has promised that all those who according to the War Office medical register are permanently rejected shall receive an intimation by post to that effect. The point that I want to put on that is this: if that record is kept, then clearly the record of other people must be kept. If it is not so, we are in this position: that the remainder of the Clause is useless—because that is what it amounts 1451 to! If it is not so, it means that you cannot call anybody up, because if you have no record for them how can you call them up? If you have a record for them then it is just as easy to acquaint them all as it is to acquaint one section. Let me show another side. The right hon. Gentleman said that so far as he could gather the case he wanted to deal with was someone who had had, say, the measles, and was rejected at that date, but who at this moment may become an efficient soldier. I gather that is the kind of case he has in his mind, or it is a typical case. A man was rejected on grounds that were not permanent. That is the kind of case that we want to hear about. Surely the way to deal with those is this: Having gone through the register and acquainted those that are to be totally exempt, it is an easy matter at the same time to acquaint the others to come in immediately for examination. By that means you relieve them of a tremendous responsibility. That is all we want.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Very well, if you are going to do that, that is exactly what we want. Up till now we have not gathered that.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The date, I think, is really not such a difficult matter as the right hon. Gentleman suggests. He said, in substance, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, that he could not tell the kind of certificate that will be exempt. Surely that is what he can say! No one can get up in this House and suggest that the medical board, or the doctors engaged by the Army Council, have not got varying certificates. They have got them. Those of us who have been occupied with recruiting know very well there were different kinds of certificates given. Some were for those temporarily unfit.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Exactly. Well, now, that is admitted, that they have been written across in different ways. Is it not an easy matter to ascertain at an early stage who are those that are to be permanently excluded, with an intimation to that effect?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I will tell my hon. Friend why. Different recruiting officers use the form in different ways. Therefore I would only be misleading the House if I gave what he asks.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I think that is a substantial objection to the point, and I agree at once. That, however, should not prevent the other suggestion that has been made, namely, as to the date.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Let me put this to the right hon. Gentleman: This Bill is the result of the previous one which was rejected. The House of Commons rejected that Bill, rejected the Cabinet so-called crisis scheme, solely on the ground of urgency—that is to say, that the men were immediately required. I think the right hon. Gentleman must see that the proposal that we are making is all on the side of getting men. It is we, now, who are anxious for you to get the men. I do not know that we can press it further. I submit that it is not now a question of compulsion we are discussing, or the merits of Conscription or voluntarism. All we are asking is that the men who have shown their patriotism, who have offered their services, and who subsequently have entered into business obligations shall at this stage receive the maximum fair treatment that they have a right to expect from the Government.
I want to ask one question as to the position of a man who has been already examined three or four times. I presume he will be registered in three or four places. I have in mind a young man who first of all was passed for general service. Then he offered to join a regiment and was rejected. Then he went to the Board at Holborn, and got some different kind of paper. At any rate, he had four conflicting results from four examinations. Will that young man be liable to be advised from all these four sources in view of four different medical examinations? Will there by any finality in such a case?
§ Mr. TENNANT
That is a very difficult question to answer. I hope the case my hon. Friend has given is rather an unusual one. I cannot think there are a great many people who have different results in the way described.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I do know that doctors vary. I should say, speaking offhand, that possibly the man will receive a notice from the recruiting office which has got him on the register as definitely and permanently rejected, and only from that office.
|Division No. 21.]||AYES.||[9.3 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Haslam, Lewis||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Henry, Sir Charles||Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hewart, Gordon||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Robinson, Sidney|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Hodge, John||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Boyton, James||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Brace, William||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Horne, Edgar||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Illingnorth, Albert H.||Shortt, Edward|
|Bull, Sir William James||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Smith, Sir Swire|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Kellaway, Frederick George||Sutherland, John E.|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Swift, Rigby|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Larmor, Sir J.||Sykes, Col. Alan John (Knutsford)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Layland-Barratt, Sir F.||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Craig, Col. James (Down, E.)||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Tickler, T. G.|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Tootill, Robert|
|Craik, Sir Henry||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||MacCaw, Win. J. MacGeagh||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Currie, George W.||Macmaster, Donald||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Magnus, Sir Philip||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Western, John W.|
|Dixon, C. H.||Millar, James Duncan||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Morgan, George Hay,||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Duncan, C (Barrow-in-Furness)||Morton, Alpneus Cleophas||Williams, Thomas J.|
|Edge, Captain William||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Fell, Arthur||Nield, Herbert||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Norton-Griffiths, J.||Worthington Evans, Major L.|
|Finney, Samuel||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Pearce, Sir William||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Forster, Henry William||Perkins, Walter Frank||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Gardner, Ernest||Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Gretton, John||Pollock, Ernest Murray||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gulland, John William||Pratt, J. W.||Mr. James Hope and Mr. Beck.|
|Hancock. J. G.||Prothere, Rowland Edmund|
|Anderson, W. C.||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Rowlands, James|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Bliss, Joseph||Jowett, F. W.||Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||King, J.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Buxton, Noel||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Snowden, Philip|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Sutton, John E.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Malteno, Percy Alport||Tayor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Morrell, Philip||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Outhwaite, R. L.||Wardle, George|
|Goldstone, Frank||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Radford G. H.||Wilson, w. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hinds, John||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Hogge, James Myles||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvon, Arfon)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Richards, Thomas||Mr. Pringle and Mr. Thomas.|
|John, Edward Thomas|
§ Amendments made:
§ In Sub-section (2) leave out the word "August" ["on the first day of August, nineteen hundred and sixteen"], and1454
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out down to August, nineteen hundred and sixteen," stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 140; Noes, 48.
§ insert instead thereof the word "September."—[Mr. Long.]
§ After the word "him" ["and send him notice to that effect"], insert the word "Written."—[Sir J. Simon.]1455
§ Sir J. SIMON
I beg to move, in the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "mentioned date," and to insert instead thereof the words "day of July, nineteen hundred and sixteen."
The matter has been already discussed, but I submit it is right to fix a certain date, and I hope I may get support for my proposal.
§ Mr. LONG
I was not here a few minutes ago, when my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War dealt, I think, with this question, and I understood from what he told me that he undertook to discuss this with the Adjutant-General, and if there was not some insuperable objection to insert the date. If I may make a suggestion to my right hon. Friend, I think that would be the better course rather than to insert this Amendment here, for this reason. I think, so far as I am able to understand the situation, we all want that there shall be a time, and as early a time as possible, when all those men who have been medically rejected shall know that their cases have been revised and settled for all time. That is to say, those who are to be re-examined, and called up for service in consequence, shall know what their duty is; and, on the other hand, those who are rejected again will never again be harried and called upon to undergo a fresh examination. There is an impression, I know, that it is the intention of the War Office to keep on re-examining medically rejected men, and that a man who was medically rejected a year ago may not necessarily be medically rejected to-day, and that a man medically rejected to-day may not necessarily be medically rejected in six months' time. That is an entire misapprehension. There is no intention whatever to renew these reviews of medical examination. I am quite in accord with what my right hon. and learned Friend wants, but I am bound to put this view before the House. There was, in the early stages of these medical examinations, a great deal of confusion, and there were some very unsatisfactory results in the way of certificates, largely due to the immense amount of work thrown upon Royal Army Medical Corps and their representatives and the War Office. We do not want to run that risk again. What 1456 you are saying to the War Office is, that by the 1st of July you must have completed your re-examination.
§ Sir J. SIMON
That is not the meaning of my proposal at all. I did not make a speech because we have had some discussion upon it, but what the right hon. Gentleman has said is not even the meaning of his own Amendment.
§ Sir J. SIMON
My Amendment is only altering the date, and to fix a date by which the Army Council must give notice to a man to present himself for medical examination. My submission is that really by the 1st of July next the Army Council ought to be able to give notice to those men they want that they are to present themselves.
§ Mr. LONG
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman, but I think the House understood my argument. I was dealing with the object of the Government, and what I think is the object of the majority of the House, namely, that there should be a fixed limit of time at the expiration of which these men shall not be subjected to any further doubt or difficulty as to their position. The difficulty of the War Office is that if you shorten the time during which the War Office has to make-their intimation to these people you hasten the work, and the risk you run is great. This work is not done in Whitehall, but it is done by men all over the country, working under great pressure and very often under very difficult circumstances. Take, for instance, the difference in these two cases. In a country village this work can be done probably in a quarter of an hour, and in a country district perhaps in two days without any difficulty; but when you come to such places as the East End of London, Leeds, Manchester, or Birmingham, you lay a totally different task upon the shoulders of the medical department of the War Office. Therefore we do not want to expose these men to any measure which might lead to action being taken which, with a little more time, might be avoided. I do not want to argue with the right hon. and learned Gentleman as to the meaning of words or phrases. The Under-Secretary for War has undertaken 1457 to discuss this matter with the Adjutant-General as to how the point can best be met. I think it can be met and ought to be met. On the other hand, I am not responsible for the work which is to be done, and I do not want now to promise anything without consultation with the Adjutant-General, who knows exactly what the work is that has to be done and who is approaching his task with a good will and devotion and industry which the House can hardly realise. I do not want to throw upon him, in order to escape a Parliamentary difficulty, a task which might prove to be a very heavy one, and which might defeat the object we have in view. I ask that the Amendment I have moved may be adopted on the understanding that the Under-Secretary will see the Adjutant-General and endeavour to get this matter fixed so that a man shall know whether a man is to be called up for re-examination or whether he is permanently rejected.
§ Sir J. SIMON
My right hon. Friend has spoken sympathetically, and I know very well quite genuinely. The last thing I wish to do is to occupy time over a needless Division. It is clear that what I am anxious about is to get inserted such date as is practical, and the earlier the better, by which the Army Council should give this notice, and my right hon. Friend I am sure appreciates that it is not a question of getting the medical examination over by that date, but of letting the man know whether he has got to undergo the examination or not. The reason for this is that so many of them have really made arrangements which entitle them in common fairness to the earliest notice which is reasonably practical. I hope that it may be possible for the military authorities to meet this point, and I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.