§ Resolution reported, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £300,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, beyond the ordinary Grants of Parliament, towards defraying the Expenses which may be incurred during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1917, for General Navy and 2180 Army Services in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament; for the conduct of Naval and Military operations; for all measures which may be taken for the Security of the Country; for assisting the Food Supply, and promoting the Continuance of Trade, Industry, Business and Communications, whether by means of insurance or indemnity against risk, the financing of the purchase and resale of foodstuffs and materials, or otherwise; for Relief of Distress; and generally for all Expenses, beyond those provided for in the Ordinary Grant of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
It is rather to be regretted that the stage of the Military Service Act just concluded was put down in the middle of the Vote of Credit, because the Vote of Credit is the only opportunity that this House gets for taking a general survey of the War and all the attendant circumstances Yesterday the discussion ranged over the conduct of the War itself, and I desire to-day to draw the attention of the House to what I consider is an even more important field, namely, that of the diplomatic situation. It is the duty of this House to survey, control, and supervise the diplomatic activities just in the same way as it is their duty to superintend the actual measures necessary for the conduct of the War. I would say more than that — the War and its termination, whether it be decisive or indecisive, is not an end in itself; it is merely the signal for the commencement of diplomatic activities At the moment when the belligerents begin making declarations on both sides, it is only right that opinions should be expressed in this House as to whether the differences that 2181 exist between the Allies on the one part and the Central Powers on the other are sufficiently grave and unbridgable as to justify us and our Allies in continuing the gigantic sacrifices which we are called upon to make. Just as the military advisers have not inspired us with any great confidence, so we cannot look back to any diplomatic successes, either before the War or during the conduct of the War, which would justify us in allowing the same old rusty machine of diplomacy to be used in the same clumsy way. On the contrary, we have got to look back upon a very tragic diplomatic failure before this War commenced, and upon diplomatic weakness on our part during the course of the War. Therefore, it is necessary for us to scrutinise very carefully the method, the manner, and the policy which are being adopted in this highly complex problem which lies before us, and, more than that, to see exactly how matters are proceeding in the very critical events of the moment.
The problems that confront our Government and our statesmen to-day are so overwhelming that they might well tremble before them. You have not only got to think of the schemes and the policy, but of the extraordinary variety of problems throughout Europe, and you have got to realise the particular peoples in all countries whom these problems and schemes and policies will affect. It is necessary in this great task to have a knowledge of Europe which is not derived simply from official dispatches and diplomatic reports. No more misleading idea of the present state of Europe, or the state of Europe during the past years, could be made than would be derived from such a source as that. It requires first-hand knowledge of the peoples, their temperament, their aspirations, and their social life in order that statesmen may be able to grapple with the very complex difficulties which will arise. These difficulties must not be approached in a party spirit—the sort of spirit which we necessarily become accustomed to in our domestic policy, the sort of spirit which means there must be all advantage on one side and humiliation for the opponent.
The future peace of Europe will not depend on the supremacy and exclusive advantage of one nation over other nations. In fact, that is precisely what we are fighting about, and we must be careful to think of our own case as well as the case 2182 of others. But the peace of Europe will depend upon the capacity of statesmen for surveying these great problems in a broad spirit based on international knowledge, and the recognition of the legitimate aspirations of all the peoples in all the nations who have been affected by this great catastrophe. May I say one word about the machinery that we have at our disposal. Of course there is no question of reforming it at the present time. That will have to wait until later on. In connection with the Foreign Office I may say in passing that I welcome the return of Lord Hardinge to the Foreign Office because his abilities have been tested in very many different fields, and his judgment and knowledge and perspicacity will be of great value in time to come. But the expert in the Foreign Office is very impatient of the control of the politician. He is wrong, because ultimately it is the politician who is responsible, and it is the politician who should control. But the expert in the Foreign Office, with his wide knowledge of foreign countries and his intimate knowledge of the life of foreign countries, when he sees his advice set aside, and when he sees his knowledge disposed of, as being of no very great importance, is apt to be impatient when the policy by which he is overruled is evolved by men who have no first-hand knowledge whatever of European life.
That is a rather sweeping assertion to make of the control of the present Cabinet, because obviously there are one or two exceptions. But I do feel very strongly that the diplomatic situation is open now, and we want to feel that we have confidence in men who are not regarding the whole of this great complex problem of the settlement of Europe simply from the point of view of officials, but who are able to grasp the situation from an intimate knowledge of the peoples concerned. The insularity which has been a characteristic of our policy in the past, constitutes something more than a disadvantage — it constitutes a real danger. I want now to come to the present situation as we find it. The War for some time past has amounted to a deadlock, and we want to examine that for a moment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Colonel Churchill), in his speech yesterday, placed great confidence in men. I doubt very much whether in this modern warfare the bare and the individual service of men is really the decisive factor. 2183 Our modern warfare is a warfare of diabolical machines, and one sometimes wonders whether victory might not go to those who devise some more diabolical engine than has yet been applied, and I do not think that the victor then will pride himself on being the champion of civilisation. No, Sir; deadlock presents itself; loss and ruin to all the nations concerned. But in that deadlock I think that we ought to realise the relative superiority of the position of our own country. We have swept the seas, and hold an unrivalled position in that direction. We have taken over 750,000 square miles of territory of the enemy, and not a foot of British territory is occupied by them. That must be borne in mind in taking account of the whole position. I think that I am right in saying that our position is a strong one.
The Prime Minister, on 2nd May, said:The naval and military situation of the Allies as a whole was never as good as it is to-day.But may I say that if our position is strong, if we have been saved from disaster, it is not by the policy of the Government, it is not by the strategy of the military adviser, but by the unparalleled spirit, valour and endurance of our officers and men in the fighting line, and by the skill, persistence and heroism of those who man our Fleets. It is the people who have saved this country, and not the statesmen, and I sincerely hope that the statesmen are not going to imperil the future by indecision and ineptitude in the diplomatic field. If I call attention to the necessity of this House controlling our diplomacy, it is because what might be called pourparlers have been going on on both sides. May I remind the House of exactly how we stand in this matter. In February last, in the course of a Debate in this House, in answer to statements which had been made, the Prime Minister made a reply in which he repeated a phrase which he used very much earlier in the War. At that time, speaking after him, I ventured to say that the phrase which he used was capable of misconstruction, and that nothing assisted the enemy more than vague extremist phrases to help them to rally their forces together. There is no doubt—and many people have endorsed this view—that nothing will help Germany more in this War than the extremist utterances of responsible statesmen, because they have always enabled them to rally 2184 all their forces together. I thought that the Prime Minister's phrase would be misconstrued, and it was. The German Chancellor, in the April following, did misconstrue what the Prime Minister had said. Then, in May, the Prime Minister took the opportunity of defining more clearly what he meant, so as not to allow it to be capable of misconstruction. The words were:Great Britain and France also entered the War not to strangle Germany, not to wipe her off the map of Europe, not to destroy or mutilate her national life, certainly not to interfere, to use the Chancellor's language, with the free exercise of her peaceful endeavour.That had a very far reaching effect, so far as we can judge by what has been written in German, because it was no longer possible for the extremists in Germany to turn to their fellow countrymen and say that it was the intention of Great Britain to destroy the German people. This has been followed by the interview in the "Chicago Daily News" of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary.
There are many mysterious methods in diplomacy, but this new method of disregarding your Parliament or your prominent citizens in your own country, and adopting as your platform the American Press, is not only undesirable, but is wanting in respect to the people of this country. I see that the right hon. Gentleman's example has been followed, and we have got to go now to the American Press to get our information as to what the policy of this country is. It was difficult enough in ordinary times, to ascertain what our foreign policy was in this House. Now this House has been deprived of any such opportunity, and it is from the American Press that we have to gain what information we can. The right hon. Gentleman gave a very lengthy interview, and, apart from the necessity which statesmen feel in a matter of this sort of always exalting their own country to the very top of the scale, and blackening their opponents, which is, I suppose, necessary in a war, the right hon. Gentleman's interview, which was extremely interesting, marked a great advance when he said:Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg affirms that Great Britain wants to destroy 'united and free Germany.' We never were smitten with any such madness. We want nothing of the sort and Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg knows we want nothing of the sort. We shall be glad to see the German people free as we ourselves want to be free, and as we want the other nationalities of Europe and of the world to be free.2185 That was an endorsement of what the Prime Minister had already said, and left Germany absolutely no opportunity of raising the excuse that we were out for aggressive purposes. The Foreign Secretary also said:We believe that the German people—when once the dreams of world empire cherished by Pan-Germanism are brought to naught—will insist upon the control of its Government; and in this lies the hope of secure freedom and national independence in Europe. For a German democracy will not plot and plan wars as Prussian militarism plotted wars to take place at a chosen date in the future.I entirely agree with that, but it seems almost to imply that we really had control over our Government, and that democracy exercises control in other countries. When he says that German democracy will not plot and plan wars, I should like to say that democracy when it is established—and it has not been established anywhere—will not allow war. But we have not reached that stage of development yet. We ourselves are very far from it, especially with regard to foreign affairs. But anyhow in this interview there is a great stride forward.No one wants peace more than we want it,said the right hon. Gentleman.But we want a peace that does justice, and a peace that establishes respect for the public law of the world.I do not think that anybody will disagree with these sentiments. And now the German Chancellor also is using the American Press in answer, and he indulges in paragraphs of recrimination. The nations are getting impatient, and they do not want to see their statesmen standing up and recriminating in the American Press while this War continues, and they are being weighed down by great responsibilities. This War will go on for ever if we are to wait until the German Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary agree as to who was to blame for causing the War. Therefore we do not want to have these recriminations, the time for which is when the War is over, and each country sets to work to examine what is really at the back of it. We wade through these recriminations and we come to phrases which are wrapped up in the proper diplomatic manner, which are always rather vague, which are difficult to distinguish, but in which we eventually find what is meant. I see nothing in the interview with the German Chancellor which conflicts with what the Foreign Secretary has said. The German Chancellor said:I stated openly that Germany was ready to negotiate on a basis which would protect her 2186 against future attacks by a coalition to secure the peace of Europe. Only when statesmen take the war situation as every war map shows it, and when they honourably desire to discuss peace proposals in a practical way, shall we approach peace.Speaking of the War map does not mean necessarily the particular parts of Europe which are at present in the possession of the German Army. The War map includes the seas and includes the African Possessions that have been captured by us, and that is not a proposal which would be likely to be rejected. In fact, we cannot say that there is any absolute barrier or obstacle which should prevent the two sides from gradually coming closer together. What is there now which is incompatible with the expressed desire of the leading statesmen on both sides? Has Germany refused to restore to Belgium her full rights, her sovereignty, her independence, with reparation? Has Germany refused to evacuate France; has she refused to evacuate Serbia; has she refused to establish a kingdom of Poland; has she refused the one safeguard against future war in the establishment of an international council to which differences between nations could be referred? We do not know that Germany has been asked. It is supposed that it would be a weakness to ask her. I think, on the contrary, that it is a great want of courage on our part not to ascertain, because those are the objects we are wanting to attain. What is the difference between Great Britain and Germany now? Is it the obligation we have undertaken with regard to our Allies which makes the continuance of war a necessity? If this War is being continued until Constantinople falls, if this War is being continued because of some obligations we have undertaken with Russia, with Italy, and with France, then I say emphatically that whatever they are our people ought to know in what they consist. We ought not to demand the sacrifice of our blood and of our treasure for objects which are hidden from our people.
If that is not the case, if there is no obligation which is making the continuance of this War a necessity—an obligation to our Allies—then I say that as between the Foreign Secretary and the German Chancellor, when you take away all the trimmings of diplomacy, there is not any substantial difference which really necessitates a continuance of this struggle. I appeal to the House of Commons, as much as to the Government, to take the earliest opportunity to press for the termination of this fruitless and disastrous conflict by the 2187 initiation of negotiations at the earliest possible moment. We see as time goes on measures brought forward which are consequences of the War. Military service is now practically universal, and the Bill will pass the House of Lords. But I think if the War goes on Conscription will have to go further, and if men under certain age are made to sacrifice their lives, then I think people receiving over a certain income ought to be made to sacrifice their wealth. There would be some conscientious objectors then, and they would be listened to with the greatest attention, I have no doubt. When we see all these evils arising I say, to those of my Friends who are endeavouring to mitigate the arbitrary injustices of tribunals, the loss of liberty and the suppression of opinion, the rise of militarism, the economic dislocation, and the agricultural depression, all of which, as time goes on, will inevitably become worse and worse, that their efforts will be in vain. The only way to check finally this gradual descent of our whole national life into this abyss of disaster is to terminate hostilities by negotiations. I would impress upon the Foreign Secretary that although he may think that I and other Members of this House represent a very small body of people, I can assure him that he is mistaken. The opinion we hold is a growing opinion. I would not venture to get up in this House and express views of this kind if they were my own private opinions that I held, without anybody behind them. There is this body of opinion, which may not be articulate, which may not be heard, not because it does not exist, not because it does not want to speak, but because it is silenced; and that body of opinion is growing not only in this country, but in France and other belligerent countries. I should like to read a very remarkable manifesto which has lately been issued in France and has been signed by labour federations in six departments, and also signed by thirty Socialist deputies. The manifesto says:After twenty months of victorious resistance, after twenty months of less glorious intrigues, nothing proves that the real significance of the War is to-day for France what it was at the beginning. A war remains a defensive war for a nation so long as the adversary persists on aiming at its territorial integrity and independence. But, inversely, the war ceases to be a defensive war even if the territory of a nation be still occupied by the enemy from the day that the enemy formally renounces all demands upon that nation, realising that it cannot be dominated. Therefore, from the day that Germany renounces all projects of domination over France, Belgium and other nations, 2188 the war ceases to be for those nations a war of national defence. The only reasons for continuing the war to the bitter end and to the death, à outrance—reasons more or less dissimulated—are or will be the desire to revenge oneself upon the enemy peoples, the desire to punish them by humiliation or shameful capitulation, or the hope of crushing or weakening their political or economic power in order to increase one's own.It is very significant that this should have been signed in France, where the censorship is stronger than in almost any other country. If we want a victory of reason over might, if we want the moral forces to overcome the forces of physical violence, then let us use the weapons of reason, and let us appeal to the moral consciousness that resides in the people of every nation, though it is conspicuously absent in their Governments. While Europe is bleeding, and the death roll continues to increase, and the pressure of ruin is heavier and heavier day by day, we must not allow the etiquette and formalities of stale diplomatic tradition to stand in the way of our taking the lead, definitely and boldly, in conducting the nations back to sanity, and through sanity to peace.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I desire to take the opportunity of supporting the point of view urged by my hon. Friend (Mr. Ponsonby). We listened yesterday with exceeding interest to the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Churchill), as to how the Army ought to be raised, and as to how its supreme military position could be secured. It is a problem which at the present moment is supreme in this country. But what I would like the House to remember, and more particularly the Government, is that when you have raised your Army, when you have got your men, and when you have secured your victory, the problem of peace should be made a political and not a military problem at all. There is nothing that is more melancholy to look back over than the history of past wars. How often it is that we have had to pay our homage of pride to the magnificent spirit of the people when war broke out. We have always to pay our homage, with gratitude, to the men who have offered themselves and sacrificed themselves to our national security. But those feelings of ours, as a rule, hitherto have had to be mingled with sorrow that after our people have made the supreme sacrifice our statesmen have failed to carry out the moral purposes and the high ideals for which the War stands. That is what has happened over and over again. I want to say this afternoon, and that is 2189 why I rise in this House, that the Government must remember that national duty is not confined to the raising of Armies, is not confined to the voting of money wherewith to supply the Armies which you enrol, but to apply diplomatic skill and political capacity in such a way that the supreme sacrifice offered by our Armies shall achieve a permanent result in the establishment of a peace that has not been established hitherto.
In order to enforce that point let us be clear as to what we are out for. The Prime Minister on various occasions has given his definition, but that definiton, as my hon. Frend has reminded the House, and as I shall show later on, has not always been successful from the point of view of showing precisely to the enemy what we are out for. There is no question about ourselves. This country has got its ideal. This country is absolutely convinced about the righteousness of its cause. So convinced is this country that it never feels the least moral qualm in carrying this military ideal in front of its altars and asking its God to specially bless its arms. It is absolutely honest. It is done with a spiritual enthusiasm that nobody but a blind man could doubt for a single moment. I hope nobody ever imagines that I do not take that view. But that is not enough. In fighting war, and such a colossal conflict as this is, when the best of men's lives are involved and the accumulated treasure of this country is flowing through your fingers, you have got to remember this, that part of the battle, and a very important part of the battle, is your ability to make it perfectly clear to your enemy what your purposes are, so that your enemy cannot misuse and misrepresent your statements for the purpose of increasing his internal strength. I would define our position first of all, and I believe that has not been done better by any man than by Lord Cromer, in a very remarkable letter which appeared in the "Times" of 11th April. I am perfectly certain that if it were clearly understood by the enemy a tremendous change would take place. He wrote:We need not and should not continue the struggle for mere military glory or to humiliate Germany, or, in the German Chancellor's words, to obstruct the economic evolution of Germany, or even to avenge the cruel misdeeds perpetrated by the German army, with the consent and approbation of its commanders.I should put it stronger and I should say, "by order of its commanders." I think Lord Cromer is a little bit too mild in the 2190 condemnation he utters in that matter. What I want to point out to the House is this: First of all, for the purpose of making the German people and the Austrian people and the enemy generally clearly understand what we are out for, it is the imperative duty of those in authority to do as the Prime Minister has done, and state what our position negatively is, namely, that we are not out for this, that, and the other thing. It should be repeated again and again, for having it done once is not enough. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, in his interview, whatever we may say, made it perfectly clear that his negative position was a good one. You must work on the psychology of your enemy as well as upon his armed forces. If you simply concentrate your attention on doing the one, you can vote your three hundred million of credit every three or four months, but you are not going to bring the War to an end whatever resources you command, either of men or of money. Therefore, my first appeal to the right hon. Gentleman is to use this opportunity to say once again, perhaps nothing new, but to put to the people the negative position this country takes up in regard to the War, and that we are not out to do this or that which the German Chancellor said we were out for in his appeal to his country in order to get it ranged in a solid mass behind him.
Let us understand what we are out for. I say unhesitatingly—and my hon. Friend who preceded me put this point in a series of interrogations—I say perfectly definitely that this country, if it retains any shred of honour at all, cannot accept a peace unless peace is forced upon it which means the sacrifice of Belgian sovereignty to any extent. If Germany imagines that there is any section of this country that is prepared to accept peace at the sacrifice of any portion—and I emphasise this—not merely of Belgian sovereignty, but of any portion of it, then the sooner German public opinion is disabused of that delusion the better. The same is true regarding France, so far as France has been invaded. Let us be perfectly clear about that. But I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, if he does put supreme importance upon Belgium and invaded France, he ought to state equally specifically that if Germany states in such a way that nobody can doubt its genuineness — [An Hon. MEMBER: "Oh!"] Well, I quite understand; but let us put the case. We will have to put the case sooner or later. If it is stated in such 2191 a way, perfectly specifically, "We do not want Belgium, we do not want to interfere with Belgian sovereignty. The moment peace is declared, the moment the negotiations are open, we shall evacuate Belgium. We only went through it (using the German Chancellor's own words) as a piece of military necessity"—an argument which this country understands far better now than it did twenty months ago, an argument, not using very strong language in a rough way, but in an honest way, which when used sends every country to the devil which does it. Let us see if Germany, having used Belgium merely for the purpose of military necessity, and to defend herself, as she said, against the possibility of attack by France, stated when that military necessity is over Belgium will be restored to precisely the same position it was in—
I say all those points as to "how can it be done" are points for discussion afterwards. If hon. Members will allow me to go on, what I want to lay down is a general row of statements as to what will take place between the two countries, so that the people of the two countries will each understand what the other is out for, and that is all. I know perfectly well if a Power does to any country what Germany has done to Belgium, the question of "how," which my hon. Friend opposite puts, is a very important question. Before you are in a position to answer or discuss the question put by my hon. Friend you must, first of all, get down the general fundamental statement that it is not the intention of Germany to interfere in any way with the exercise of the fullest conception of sovereignty that has been attached to rule in Belgium hitherto. That is the first point. There should be no doubt about it, no mistake about it, and no qualification about it. The second point is this: There should be a settlement of the disturbing influences in Europe of nationalities which are unhappy and restive under foreign yokes. You can vote your three hundred millions as often as you like, and you can sacrifice the best lives you have got, and the highest and most noble-minded youth in this land, and you can send them out, but if you do not settle the problems of nationality in Europe, then you are going to come home empty-handed after your great sacrifices. What I want 2192 to ask the right hon. Gentleman is this. I want no answer which quite properly cannot be given from the point of view of national safety. I am not pressing at all, but I do ask him this: Is he in a position to contradict the rumours that are about, and that have received tremendous volume since the visit of Members of the Duma to this country, that we have, as a matter of fact, entered upon agreements with Russia which means that that principle cannot be carried out, and that there are sections of Europe and peoples of important districts of Europe that have been the subject of fixed bargains, and bargains which, if carried out, will transmit to the next generation, and the succeeding generation, unhappy and discontented nationalities, irritating and irritating to a deeper and deeper fever until at last Europe again turns to war.
My second question is this: These national difficulties centre very largely in the Balkans, although not confined by any means to there. I hope that neither ourselves nor Germany are going to fight and fight until those national difficulties are settled. I venture to say that there is not a single Member of this House who has got the least command of Balkan history, and knows the story of those nationalities and those peoples, who would not shudder at the very thought of our wasting—for it would come to that in the end—our treasure and our blood in trying to solve that problem. It can only be done if the belligerents to-day on both sides would agree to refer these complicated political, historical, and ethnographical problems to a properly qualified commission, who will find its decisions supported by a union of the Great Powers of Europe. Those problems can only be solved, I was going to say, in an academic way, because they are very largely academic problems, although oddly enough they show themselves in the history of Europe as the most aggressive and the most brutal problems that any nation has had to solve. Therefore I say, in this respect, if you are going to remove, as the result of this War, this constant source of war in Europe you must settle these things in agreement. You cannot hope to settle them if you take this extraordinary miscellany of creeds and divisions, and nationalities and races, if there is a vanquished at one end and a conqueror at another, and if you merely distribute them according to political convenience, for in that way you will settle nothing at 2193 all, and before the signatures are dry on the Treaty of Peace there will be conflicts and troubles, and schemes, and conspiracies in the very places you have dealt with.
The third proposition I make is this: This War ought to end in the destruction of militarism in Europe. How are you going to do it? Quite honestly, that is where some of us disagree. I agree again with the very remarkably bold statement made by Lord Oromer, where he said, in dealing with this very point, "There can be no prospect of a durable peace so long as uncontrolled Junkerdom reigns supreme in Germany." I only wish my Socialist friends in Germany had been wise enough to have settled that problem long ago, as they could have done. However, it is a political problem, and not a military one. If hon. Gentlemen agree with me in that, they must also agree with Lord Cromer in his deduction when he says, "Any change in the direction of bringing Junkerdom under Executive control must be the work of the Germans themselves." That is a hard statement to make, but those of us who know Germany—I mean who know the life of Germany, that is to say, who know personally practically every leading politician in Germany belonging to every party—know perfectly well that that is the only way to settle the problem. You cannot impose upon Germany any political rule to suit yourselves. It would not accept it. I had a letter—I do not know if it is an offence; I fancy technically it is an offence—I had a letter from a member of the Reichstag some time after the War broke out, a man who, if there is a pro-Englishman within the borders of Germany, deserves that epithet, and in that letter he said:Tell your fellow countrymen not to imagine that they are going to help us by military victories to rid ourselves of the shackles of Junkerdom. What they are doing is, they are hammering those shackles much more firmly upon our wrists even than they were before.There is a great deal in that. It may be that in the extreme form it is wrong, but we have only got to ask ourselves: "Supposing Germany was to try to relieve us, would we accept it?" Not at all. In these days of war we have got to use more common-sense than usual in understanding our enemies. We can best understand our enemies by more clearly understanding ourselves. I only ask that this problem of how to end militarism should be dealt with and considered by ourselves with the 2194 knowledge of ourselves, and by assuming that Germany was trying to do the same thing to us.
There is one other point. We ourselves must make our own offers. It is not enough for right hon. Gentlemen to say that we only want to crush Prussian militarism. Prussian militarism is the magnificent fruit and flower of this poisonous plant upon which there are less perfectly developed fruits and less perfectly developed flowers. You cannot go to a people and say, "We are going to ask you to disarm yourselves; we are going to ask you to destroy your power of self-defence, and we are going to do nothing ourselves." Therefore, do not let us change the phrase, do not let us abandon our goal, our intention, our declaration that if this War is going to be successful it must finish militarism in Europe. But let us supplement it and go and say that we are prepared to make our contribution to the finishing of militarism, whilst we demand that Germany shall make its contribution. The military situation must be dealt with as an European one and not as a national one. I am profoundly convinced that if something could be said on these lines the War would reach a new substantial phase. There is a great deal of false opinion abroad on that point, as there is about others. The impression is—and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech yesterday rather gave colour to it, although I do not believe he meant it—but the impression is that during the War the only thing that matters is the Army. That is not so. If you use your Army and your Navy only you will never get a peace at all. I am referred to sometimes by people who are extraordinarily misinformed, not to say ignorant, as being a peace-at-any-price man. I do not understand the expression. I do not know what it means. But what happens? The people who are always talking about the Army and the Navy only as an engine of peace are a peace-at-any-price people, because they never have secured a peace. No Army can—happily it never can—secure a peace in that way.
Let us take a case. Suppose you put your men in the streets of Berlin; suppose your General Staff's Headquarters were at Potsdam—how much different would that be from what happened at the end of the Franco-German war? Germany took the whole of France. In no district of France could a soldier effectively lift his head. Germany put the face of France down in 2195 the dust and put its heel on the neck of France and made peace absolutely impossible in Europe. The only patched-up peace, to use a frequently used expression, that is likely to happen as a result of this war, is a peace which is the result of military events exclusively. I am in favour of a peace which would be a European peace, and one which would be accepted by the peoples of Europe. I am in favour of a peace which will express a new attitude of the international mind. Without that you can have no peace. You can have a military truce, you can have a peace of Amiens. That would be foolish, absolutely foolish. What is the use of sheathing the sword for six months. You do not even sheathe it, you only rub it on the grindstone. Hon. Members may all agree about that; but would hon. Members also agree about this, that a peace of forty years is very little better, because for the greater part of your forty years you are arming for your coming war, and if, after this enormous and unparalleled sacrifice of the lives of your people and of your treasure, you are going to go back to those men after peace is declared and tell them twelve months afterwards that you have settled nothing, that the enemies have not agreed, that force has been the predominating authority, what are those men entitled to say to you, and particularly to those of us who are Members of this House of Commons and who are supposed to be doing our political duty whilst they are doing their military duty? Merely talking patriotism, merely making perorations to speeches, and so on, about the magnificence of our intentions—that is all right for recruiting purposes, but it is no good for the hard political duty imposed upon a body like this, whilst millions of our fellow-beings are laying down their lives and are prepared to lay down their lives on the battlefields of Europe. That is shirking our duty, and it is only in so far as the right hon. Gentleman keeps his diplomacy active even when the noise of the battle is most deafening, only in so far as he takes care that no single opportunity which the Armies give him, and no single opportunity which the men in the field give him to produce and widen out the basis of his coming peace—only in so far as he does his duty in that respect, and in so far as we do our duty by seeing that he does his, are we worthy to look in the 2196 eyes of these men and say, that though we stayed at home we nevertheless did help them to do their work in the field.
My final point is this. I intended to support this case by extracts from newspapers representing all schools of thought in Germany showing the effect of the speech that the Prime Minister delivered in reply to my hon. Friend's when a similar subject to this was raised in the House. But I shall not take up the time of the House in reading them. It is no good, everybody knows them. I myself have seen a manifesto issued to trade unionists by the Central Commission of the German Trade Unions when the Prime Minister's speech was joined with the speech of the President of the Board of Trade. Trade unionists were there told by their leaders, "Now, you see what England wants: she means to impoverish every German workman. Bally round to defend your country," and so on. The Prime Minister's speech, along with the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, was specially issued and circulated in the trenches so that the German soldiers might see what they were fighting for. That was actually pasted abroad throughout Germany and circulated in the official organ of the trade unions. I have seen it, and will leave the matter there.
But this I would like to say: We want the neutrals to come in and help us to settle this War. The neutrals are very nearly as much involved in the War as ourselves. The accounts one gets of Holland and Sweden are perfectly appalling. The deprivation which these people have to undergo through no fault of their own, not being involved in the War at all, is worse in some respects than is suffered by some countries engaged in the War. Friends of mine tell me in regard to Holland, at all events, that no increase of wages has taken place or can take place. Their suffering is enormous and the people are entitled to have some say in the War. I will not say a predominating say, but they are entitled to be heard just as hon. Gentlemen opposite who are not members of a trade union, like myself, are entitled to have a say when there is an industrial struggle in this country. An European War, on a colossal scale such as this, is not a war between two enemies or between two camps of enemies, it is a war which affects Europe, and not only Europe, it 2197 affects the whole world, and the whole world has a perfect right to say to us, "End this thing as quickly as you possibly can." It has no right to say, "End it dishonourably"; none whatever. But it has a right to say to us: "Do not carry on this as so many of the other big wars have been carried on after it has produced its maximum good." One of the most extraordinary things, if you read the histories of any of the old big wars, is that every one of them was carried on after it had produced its maximum effect. The neutrals have a right to say to us, "You ought not to repeat that historical mistake. How is it to be obviated? By the Foreign Secretary making it clearer and clearer, first of all, what we do not want, and, secondly, what we shall insist upon having, so that everybody can understand where we are and what we are out for. Last of all, in regard to these two interviews, I dare say there is a great gulf between the two chief Government servants, people's servants, who took part in them. Does that gulf represent anything in the minds of the two nations? I venture to say it does not. What happens is that the real intentions of the people cannot eventuate; cannot affect public policy. We, the people, are in the middle of a tremendous storm, and are blown about by it. We poor private individuals huddle ourselves into a corner of the State, waiting for the storm to blow past, when the real intentions on both sides will have a chance of showing and expressing themselves. Therefore, from the point of view of neutrals, from the point of view of shortening the War, of minimising sacrifices, and of making peace, not only an honourable, but a lasting one, from the paint of view of the whole of Europe, I beg the right hon. Gentleman to go on with his diplomacy, with his statements—which are negotiations, whether he gives them that word or not—to go on remembering that this problem is not merely to lift up our hearts, but to enlighten the minds of our enemies. With our hearts uplifted and our enemies minds enlightened, I am perfectly certain that this War will eventuate in a demand for peace which will not be broken again—a demand for a peace which will be established upon the common agreements of the peoples, and which, therefore, will never be assailed in the history of mankind.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Edward Grey)
I did not come down to the House intending to make any statement. I have no prepared statement or speech to make. If I believed that the German Government, German opinion, and the War had arrived at a stage "when members of the Allied Governments could bring nearer the peace which is essential to their interests, and the interests of Europe, by making speeches about peace, I would prepare any number of them. I do not believe that that time has come. I see no sign of it. There are one or two points in the questions which have been addressed to me in the Debate to which I think I should reply, and personal criticism has been made upon me which I think I should like to answer. I am asked with regard to the conditions of peace—as to whether there are special points agreed upon with our Allies, and for which the Allies, and we, are bound to fight to the end, and until our enemies are beaten. The governing relations between the Allies, and the alliance between France, Russia, and ourselves have been published, and have since been adhered to by Italy and by Japan. In these we are bound—all of us—not to put forward any terms of peace except in common, and in common agreement, and I am not going to say anything about any special conditions of peace except this: That we can make no statement about conditions of peace which will be acceptable to ourselves and our Allies until we do it in consultation with them and in agreement with them. That precludes any separate discussion as far as we are concerned on particular conditions of peace. There we remain on that particular point.
I come to the personal criticism made upon me because I gave an interview to a correspondent of a newspaper of the United States. I was told by the hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Pon-sonby) that that was disrespectful to this House. That is not the first statement which has been made on the subject of the War since the War began. It was made after many months of war, after, I think, about a year and eight months of war; after many statements had been made in this House by the Prime Minister in particular, and, I think, one or two by myself. Are we never to give an interview? I fully admit that in due respect to the House disclosures of policy and important 2199 statements should be made first to Parliament, but there was no new statement of policy on this occasion. It was not as if I were stating something new which had not before been stated to the House of Commons. It had been done over and over again. The hon. Member for Stirling Burghs in this and some other parts of his speech seemed to me to be barely conscious of the fact that we were at war. He said in some other connection, "Do not let a point of etiquette stand in the way." Supposing I had said something in that interview which required to be said at that time, and which I had said for the first time without saying it in this House, would not the House have recognised that these were exceptional times, that these were times of war, that crises may arise in time of war in which you cannot allow to stand in the way that etiquette, or those higher considerations of etiquette with regard to what is due to the House of Commons, which you would observe most scrupulously in time of peace? Members of the German Government here, over and over again, from the beginning of the War, given interviews to correspondents of United States newspapers. Now, when one of us tries to defend his own country in a neutral country, against statements made by the German Government, the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs gets up and reproaches him for lack of respect to the House of Commons. Really, these are not the days for pedantry of that sort! I shall endeavour in time of war, as in time of peace, never to fail in respect to the House of Commons, and to make the statements I have to make to the House of Commons in preference to any other place. But the fact of my having given an interview, so many months after the beginning of the War, and after all which has passed, to the correspondent of a great United States newspaper, is not a matter, I think, which the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs should have made the subject of criticism.
I have one more thing to say about the which the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs. He urged that the members of the belligerent Governments—I think he meant the German Chancellor and myself—ought not to indulge in recriminations about the causes of the War. He must not indulge in criticism of the diplomacy of his own country before the War. If we are not to go into the question as to who 2200 is to blame, he must not begin by talking about the diplomatic failures preceding the War. I care not how often I state that this War might have been avoided by the acceptance of a Conference which we proposed. Why was not that Conference accepted? Because there was no good will. It had been preceded only shortly before by a Conference on the Balkan question. I wish the German and the Austrian Governments would publish the report of their own Ambassadors, in regard to the part which Great Britain played in that Conference. I have never seen it. I am quite sure, however, that nobody went through that Conference without being prepared; to bear testimony to the fact that the attitude of the British Government was one of entire good faith all through. When the German Chancellor says that another Conference would only have been used against Germany, that advantage would have been taken to prepare for war, and so forth—things which he did not say at the time—I say that the attitude which we observed through the Conference which had then closed, entitles us to say what I do. The Conference, as it was proposed on the eve of this War, was one which those who had experience in a previous one ought to have accepted with confidence and good will. If there was diplomatic failure, that was how the failure came about. It was not our failure. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs that the published interview or speech of the German Chancellor last month shows that disposition for peace which the hon. Member seemed to find in it. If Germany is prepared to offer the-terms which the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs said, why does not she say so? The hon. Member reproaches us for allowing etiquette to stand in the way. Is it etiquette which stands in the way of the German Government making statements which the hon. Member suggests on their behalf? I really think that in time of war the Government of the enemy might be allowed to speak for itself! I find, I am bound to say, nothing new in the statement of the German Chancellor with regard to the terms of peace. I did find one thing that was new. That is the statement as to the attitude of the British Government in the time of diplomatic difficulty about Bosnia, That statement is untrue as far as we are concerned, but it has been made before. The charge that our attitude was bellicose about the negotiations about
§ Bosnia is new, but it is a first-class lie! The idea that we attempted to urge Russia to war, and that we said that this country would be ready to go to war about the annexation of Bosnia—that that was our attitude—is directly contrary to the truth.
§ When you talk about appealing to reason, about getting reason to "triumph over might," and so forth, and of getting reason into the German people, I say you cannot reason with the German people so long as they are fed with lies and know nothing of the truth, and so long as these lies are multiplied. I suppose this new one has been supplied to the German Chancellor out of that laboratory which is always at work in some diplomatic quarter in Germany producing these things. So long as you have that sort of thing going on, you cannot possibly reason with Germany, and your enemy does not want to be reasoned with. What do we find in the German Chancellor's speech in this interview of last week? As I read it, it means that those people are responsible for the War and for the continuance of it who will not accept Germany's terms, and that we have to look at a map of the military situation as it is to-day to see what those terms shall be. We have had the German Chancellor's preceding speech as to what those terms should be. They are terms of a victorious Germany, of safeguarding Germany's interest, and taking no account of other people's interests. If they were accepted they leave the other States of Europe at her mercy whenever she chooses to pursue an aggressive policy towards them again. It is childish to say that because Germany's enemies will not accept the terms of peace that suit Germany without regard to their own interests that, therefore, they are responsible for prolonging the War. The real thing which is responsible more than anything else for prolonging the War at this moment is that the German Government goes on telling its people that they have won the War, or, if they are not winning the War, they are going to win it next week, and that the Allies are beaten. The fact is the Allies are not beaten, and are not going to be. The first step towards peace will be when the German Government begins to recognise that fact.
If any of the Allies have a special right at this moment to speak with regard to peace, it is the Government of France, on whom for some weeks past the concen-
trated fury of the German attack has fallen. The hon. Member for Stirling Burghs spoke, and spoke very rightly, of the heroism of British soldiers and British sailors, and all of us who are members of the Government are upheld daily and hourly by the thought of the spirit and courage of the British Army and Navy. But if he was going to talk of the courage of armies and navies, he might have stopped to pay a little tribute to the French Army at this moment. The0 prowess of the French Army through the long battle of Verdun is saving France, and saving her Allies, too. Is this a moment for us to do anything but concentrate upon expressing our determination to give the fullest support in our power to those Allies? If anyone has a right to speak on behalf of peace at the moment, it is the Government of France. Well, the Prime Minister of France has spoken, and if the report in to-day's paper be accurate, as I believe it to be, he has said:—
What will the generations to come say if we let escape the occasion to establish firmly a durable peace? Peace must be based on international right.
That is what we feel, too, and, with our Allies, deeply as we feel and desire to see the fruits of peace established, at the hon. Member for Leicester described them, in a peace which shall endure not for a few years, or not even for a generation or two, but shall save the world from such a catastrophe as this War ever again—deeply as we feel that, I believe the duty of diplomacy at the present moment is to maintain, as it is completely maintaining, the solidarity of the Allies, and to give the utmost support it can to the military and naval measures which are necessary, and taken by the Allies in common, to bring this War to a stage, which it has not reached yet, at which that prospect of securing a durable peace may be made a reality.
§ Sir W. BYLES
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said that the German people were constantly being encouraged to believe that they were winning, and that they would soon achieve a great victory. I have always thought that our people have been far too much upheld in their warlike propensity for the last two years by similar declarations and protestations by leading statesmen and leading journalists, who have always told them we are winning and we are sure to win. Looking back on the past two years, or nearly two years, it does not look as if those protestations have been justified. 2203 This Vote of Credit we are asked now to pass is an enormous sum. I sometimes wonder how long even British credit will last with these repeated demands upon it. But it is a time of stocktaking. It gives us an opportunity, as in this Debate, to look back and to look forward, and, I am bound to say, neither the retrospect nor the prospect shows me anything very bright. Looking back I see the liberties which we have been fighting for jettisoned one by one and the militarism which we are out to crush and destroy we are, indeed, adopting, imitating and assimilating. I never thought to live to see the day when the chains of Conscription would be fastened on this country, and especially by a Liberal Prime Minister, whom I have followed, I hope, with fidelity, and certainly with affection, for many years, and whom I hope still to follow and to trust in every policy except this one. But I believe he will live to regret that he has introduced Conscription into the British Constitution. I believe it will injure his political reputation, and I believe the nation will realise that it has been a mistaken policy.
Hitherto there has been a difference between a British citizen and a citizen of Germany. Henceforth, I will not say there will be no difference, but there will be less difference, and we shall breathe the same vitiated air of restricted freedom which they do; further, a monarch in future, or his Minister, can embark the country upon any wild-cat enterprise of conquest, tyranny, or oppression, and can compel British citizens, however they disapprove it, to risk their lives and limbs in its accomplishment. An Englishman is no longer the lord of his conscience, no longer the captain of his soul. Day by day we are losing what we set out to defend, and building up what we set out to destroy. The Minister of Munitions, who has played a principal part in this policy now achieved said here in a recent speech that he would sacrifice no Liberal principle, and in another speech, in his own Constituency, that he had in this matter been fighting for the freedom which he had fought for all his life. Yet Conscription destroys the freedom of personal will and engrafts on the British Constitution what is nothing more nor less than the sheet anchor of Prussian militarism. Many of us are receiving in our daily letter bag tragic stories of the effects of Conscription upon conscientious objectors. I could give many instances here, but I do not think 2204 the moment suitable. There is however one poor fellow who has been very roughly treated, and he says that when he got into prison one of the officers told him with an oath to get his coat off. The man says, "I told him I was not a soldier and should not obey military orders." The colonel was standing near, and he thundered out and shouted, "What, you won't obey me?" The man quietly answered, "I must obey the commands of my God, sir." "Damn your God," said the colonel, "send him to the special room." That is what I regard as a moratorium of the Sermon on the Mount. There are men I know in this House who cannot appreciate these conscientious objectors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, I know, and the only argument they can appreciate is to batter a man's head with the butt end of a rifle or drive a steel bayonet into his bowels.
It needs far more courage to resist this, law than to obey it. These men are not cowards. They are disbelievers in fighting. They are Tolstoyans, if you will, and there are thousands of them in this country. I am one myself. Fighting is no way of settling these differences. Force is no remedy. It only embitters relations and increases enmity. I said this here long before the War began, and I have not yet seen any reason to change my opinion. If we may believe the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who addressed us in so interesting a speech yesterday there was no-need whatever for this compulsory service, for he told us of five great reservoirs of men whom we might call upon to make up our battalions. Surely we have seen enough of the horrors of war already in this country. Cast your eyes over Europe and you will see 20,000,000 of men who have been engaged for two years in killing one another and destroying European civilisation. Let each hon. Member look at his own constituency, and if his experience agrees with mine he will read in his local paper a fresh list of widows and orphans and cripples every week, with its consequent privation and suffering and sorrow. It must be remembered that the same thing is going on in other countries besides our own. It is going on in the countries of our Allies: France, Italy, and Russia, and also in the countries of our enemies, Germany and Austria. Why goon with this slaughter? What good is it going to do to either side? Sir Walter Scott says that:War is the only game from which both parties rise losers.2205 I remember the saying of a German statesman six years ago, forecasting an Anglo-German war, in which he said:In an Anglo-German war there will be no conqueror, but only conquered.I very much doubt whether there is any responsible person on either side now who expects a complete military victory. But if this terrible War is to end in a draw why not arrange it soon and save lives and suffering and sorrow? I think ft was Cicero who said:All wars should be carried on with the supreme object of achieving peace.Everyone in this land, and every other land, is longing for peace. Is it really contended that the only way to get it is to go on exterminating one another? Why, Sir, if you sea two men fighting in the street, or even two dogs, you try and separate them, but here we have, not two nations, but ten nations fighting, comprising hundreds of millions of men, women, and children, including philosophers, poets, priests, and artists, as well as multitudes of creatures struggling with poverty. These millions are living thousands of miles from one another, knowing nothing of each other, and having no quarrel, and these millions hurl themselves at one another with death-dealing machines. And we see the First Minister of the Crown, who is, above all men, responsible for the welfare of his people, egging on the combatants on his own side, telling them to fight to a finish, and urging our soldiers to kill as many Germans as possible; men who are forced by Conscription to face our guns, and refusing to listen for one moment to counsels of peace such as have been uttered tonight; and yet the right hon. Gentleman uses his great powers of eloquent speech, and only too successfully, to promote a cause which can only inflame the passions of hatred and revenge in the people. The great mass of unthinking people applaud, and the Church stands by approving—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—and the bishops, too, although I heard of one bishop who seemed to have some doubt whether the Almighty was blessing our arms; in fact, he said he thought that the Almighty was "sitting on the fence." [HON. MEMBERS: Name!"] It was the Bishop of Chelmsford. I would suppose, if God takes any side at all, he would be on the side of the handful of men in this country who are longing and striving after some effort to ring down the curtain on this terrible drama.
2206 Of course we are shouted down. Our meetings are often broken up; our newspapers are suppressed; and, if we are Members of Parliament, our seats are endangered. But we are a growing number both here and in Germany, especially if we count those who think but do not speak. There is a growing number of men and women who think it is time to stop this death and destruction and to initiate, as has been suggested in two or three speeches, some diplomatic approaches, with the object of finding out what each side wants and would accept. This quarrel will have to be decided ultimately by discussion, by diplomacy, and by reason, and not by force. Why, then, delay? Why not, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said in another speech yesterday, do it now? The speech of the German Chancellor, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member of the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Pon-sonby), and the reply of our own Prime Minister, addressed to the French deputation at Lancaster House, have certainly brought the country nearer to the course of reason. Instead of sending by Conscription all our male population to kill and to be killed, would it not be much wiser to continue this exchange of definitions and of sentiments until you change brute force into reason and argument. I will not quote now what the Foreign Secretary said in that interview which has been referred to over and over again, except a sentence or two. He said:We believe in negotiation,and he has just told us that he proposed a conference which, if it had been accepted, might have prevented this War.I think that a conference would have settled it in a week, and all these calamities would have been averted.I want to know why he cannot propose that conference again now. Germany, depend upon it, would be far more likely to accept it now than they were then. The speech in yesterday's paper of M. Briand has been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. In that speech M. Briand said:To utter the word 'peace' now is sacrilege.I hope it will be with becoming diffidence if I contest that statement. It is never sacrilege to say "peace"; it is always sacrilege to say "war." I would implore the right hon. Gentleman if he were here, I would implore the Prime Minister or any Minister who is responsible or has to bear some of the responsibility of this fearful war, to keep his ear to the ground and to 2207 listen for the first fluttering of the wings of that blessed bird that brings an olive branch of peace.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I should like, first, to say that I regret to see that the Foreign Secretary has seen fit to absent himself from this Debate so early after his own speech. I think I express the feelings of many here present when I say that it was a, gross act of discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman who followed him in the Debate. For a Minister who so seldom comes to this House to walk out of the Chamber immediately after making a speech, as was pointed out by the hon. Member who initiated this Debate, when he spoke of the right hon. Gentleman giving an interview to American newspapers, is certainly an act of the grossest discourtesy. The Foreign Secretary, referring to the recent interview of the German Chancellor, said that he demanded a victorious peace. I happen to have here a copy of the recent dispatch of the German Government to the United States Government, and I will quote it to the House so that we can see for ourselves what is in the mind of the German Government at the present moment. The German Government said that twice within the past few months she has announced before the world her readiness to make peace on a basis safeguarding German rights and interests, thus indicating that it is not Germany's fault if peace is still withheld from the nations of Europe. The Foreign Secretary read into the statement of the Imperial Chancellor, when he referred the British Government to the war map of Europe, a declaration for a victorious peace, but I do not think that is consistent with the actual statement which I have just quoted. They are the actual words of Germany herself. Twice she has been prepared within the past few months to make peace—providing her vital interests are preserved. My hon. Friend did a good service in his very able speech when he initiated this Debate, and I think he was justified in pointing to the elements which at present exist, as he said, for advancing negotiations. He considered the time was ripe for these negotiations, and this dispatch from the German Government certainly gives us very considerable ground for that assertion. If we pass on to the latest dispatch of the Imperial Chancellor, we find that he again refers to this statement to which I have just alluded, and says:I have twice publicly stated that Germany has been and is prepared to discuss the termination of 2208 the War on a basis that offers her a guarantee against a future attack from a coalition of her enemies, and ensures peace to Europe.There again we have a very distinct and specific utterance from the Imperial German Chancellor, in which he very definitely states that Germany is prepared to enter into peace negotiations providing her interests are preserved. I do not know what words mean if that does not mean that she is in that position, and therefore I contend that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was certainly not borne out by the statement of the German Government itself. I very much regret and deprecate the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and I think that will be endorsed by others who heard it. I am not here to defend the German Government or the attitude they took up with regard to Bosnia, but a Minister who describes the statement of the Imperial Chancellor with regard to Bosnia as "a first-class lie" is certainly not likely to be the instrument that is going to advance that honourable and satisfactory conclusion to this War which is so very desirable. He was perfectly justified in pointing out the inaccuracy of the statement made by the German Imperial Chancellor, but such an expression as he made, of course, will be publicly quoted and sent far and wide throughout the length and breadth of the world, and is not the way to advance the cause of peace which he himself would have us believe he desires. What did he himself say? He said, in that famous interview in the "Chicago Daily News":Nobody wants peace more than we want it, but we want peace that does justice. … Presumably Germany would like neutrals to think we are putting pressure to keep France, Russia and Italy in the War.That is a sentiment which I think will meet with support from every Member of this House. But when one reads a statement of that character in an interview purposely provided for the nourishment and consumption of the American public rather than of the British public, how can we reconcile it with the bellicose and very extraordinary method of expressing himself which the right hon. Gentleman has used this afternoon? It is impossible to believe in the assertions or attitude of His Majesty's Government, or to reconcile it with a statement of this character, which everyone will agree was temperate and moderate; which led me to believe, when I came down to the House, animated by the most conciliatory attitude 2209 towards the Government and looking forward to a great advance, as I believed, the Government and right hon. Gentleman were prepared to make. To find the right hon. Gentleman using language and tones such as he used just now, I am bound to Confess, was a very great disappointment to me.
What, after all, are the primary objects for which we entered into this War? It may seem unnecessary to again go over the whole ground, and to reiterate them, but I would like briefly to state them, as they may help once again to direct our minds to the object for which we are struggling. The hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby), in his able speech, and the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) both referred to these objects and showed that, as far as we believe, Germany is prepared to concede them. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs perhaps does not agree with that; indeed he denied that there was any evidence to show it. But I have endeavoured to show that there is abundant evidence. What are these objects? They are, first and foremost, to carry out our solemn treaty obligations with regard to Belgium, and to bring about an honourable settlement with reference to France. It is often forgotten that we are not alone in this treaty. The obligation for the preservation of the sovereignty of Belgium is equally shared by Russia, France, Austria, and Germany. They, severally and jointly, are responsible for the obligation. No one has suggested that we are anxious to make peace independently of Russia or France, because we recognise that they are, equally with ourselves, responsible for the carrying out of this obligation towards Belgium. Therefore, we feel, unless they have some other motive, some other axe to grind, they must be equally as anxious as ourselves to carry out the primary object with which we entered on the War.
It has been suggested by other critics to those who, like ourselves, contend that the time is approaching, or even ripe, for trying to bring this War to an honourable close, that this is a sign of weakness. I cannot see how that can be justified. How is it a sign of weakness? We may point to our strong military position, our strong naval position, and our strong financial position. But, because we are equally as patriotic as others, because we are alive to the enormous liabilities which we are incurring, because we had taken a particular 2210 view on the whole situation, because we are alive to the immense cost both in life and treasure, because we are anxious to bring this War to a close, and because we seem to take more persuasive measures for bringing that about than those who cry "Peace" and then indulge in the purest invective, how can it be a sign of weakness on our part when we add that, whilst stating our minimum terms, we ought still to pursue the War with our utmost vigour. If Germany is prepared to concede—as I think she is—these very legitimate demands, I think we should be prepared to meet her either by arbitration or in the way suggested by the hon. Gentleman who preceded me (Sir W. Byles), by suggesting another conference at which the nations can come to terms. If, on the other hand, she refuses to have anything to say with regard to the complete evacuation of Belgium, then I do not believe there is a single man in this House or in the country who would support any giving away or weakness with regard to that fundamental principle which lies at the bedrock of our position. Knowing that fact, knowing full well that we will adhere to the primary object with which we entered and are carrying on the War, it cannot be suggested that it implies an element of weakness or is likely to discourage our Allies. If we can get those terms granted, we are prepared to give an honourable peace and to imply that that means weakness is not in accordance with common sense.
Reference was made by one of the preceding speakers to the immense risks and liabilities that we are incurring, and I would like to allude to that once again, as it may perhaps press upon some who look at this question, not only from the point of view of human life, but from the point of view of the financial responsibilities and untold suffering which is bound to come to this country, and to all countries, whatever the settlement may be, as the result of this awful tragedy. I saw a statement the other day by a London financial expert estimating what would be the position of the belligerents if this War should continue until the 1st of August next. He estimated that the total debt of the German Empire would be £3,200,000,000, with interest charges amounting to £152,000,000; of the Russian Empire at £3,000,000,000, with interest charges of £145,000,000; of France of £2,920,000,000, with a fixed charge of £125,000,000; and of Great Britain at 2211 £2,610,000,000, with interest charges of £110,000,000. That, perhaps, is a rather modest estimate, because our own Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us we shall have interest charges of something like £145,000,000. Still, that latter figure may possibly include the loans we have made to our Dominions and our Allies. But if you take that as a summnry of the position, which we shall have to face sooner or later, and which is bound to entail an immense amount of suffering on people who are struggling to live, you will find the total debt charge will be £11,730,000,000, and the annual interest charge between £500,000,000 and £600,000,000. That fact is worth the consideration of all of us, and it is worth bringing to the notice of many hon. Members who perhaps, in the present state of artificial prosperity and the great boom in trade, are not alive to what is going on. They see immense prosperity, a great circulation of money and high wages, and, for the moment, they keep this fact in the background. It is not a very welcome fact to realise the enormous debt that you are incurring and the enormous bill you will have to meet some day very soon. Therefore it may serve a useful purpose if I draw the attention of the House to that factor in the situation.
Many other critics say, again, that even if Germany was prepared to meet this country in granting, for example, those primary objects to which I have alluded, it is not sufficient. They say that they do not want this to occur again, that they do not want their children to suffer another such tragedy, and that there is only one solution, namely, to crush Germany to her knees. All I can say to those critics is that if they will honestly face the situation from a military point of view and consult military authorities, they will find many of them who will say that that is impossible. If they could consult the war map of Europe, to which the Imperial Chancellor referred, they will admit that the task is a superhuman one. It is no use deluding ourselves that it is within our powers, that it is an easy task, and that it is not going to cost us also an enormous sacrifice of blood and the probable bankruptcy of this country if we persist in the steps which this particular end involves. We cannot dismiss Germany by simply saying that we are going on until we have crushed her to her knees and, in the end, make her sue for peace. In the 2212 first place, I doubt our ability to do it, and, in the second place, if we were to persist in it, after having attained the primary objects with which we entered the War, it would not only be an impolitic but an immoral act. The Duke of Wellington once said that after a great army had obtained the primary object for which it entered the campaign, it was unquestionably an immoral act if it persisted in the campaign for military glory, or with a desire to trample upon and crush the enemy. Even if it were to remove the menace from our children and our children's children, it would leave you with a crushed and beaten Germany with a rankling spirit of revenge. If we study history, we find that Napoleon tried that with Prussia, but failed. He tried to limit her standing army to 40,000. He succeeded for the moment, but she again rose up, and eventually took her revenge in France in 1870. What policy did Prussia pursue then f Very foolishly she took from France Alsace and Lorraine, but she did not prevent a spirit of revenge arising in France, because we now see France, very rightly, trying to get back what she lost by that most unjust treatment of her by Germany in 1870. Therefore, if we study history, we see there is no evidence to show that such a policy—apart from its difficulty—is likely to achieve the result which those who support it would have us believe it is likely to bring about.
I do not propose to go into all the details of a possible settlement. This is not the time for us to survey the whole field, or for stating what we are prepared to do in regard to Serbia, Poland, and the other parts of this enormous field of operations. We have specifically stated the objects for which we entered the War, and Germany has agreed, as I believe, to concede these primary objects. We have to remember that in the earlier stages of the War many German publicists were in favour of the annexation of Belgium. All that has disappeared. I contend that while we were a united country—rightly united—and are still united with regard to those particular objects, there will be, and necessarily must be, growing disunion in this country because of the suspicion, which may rapidly grow into a conviction, that we are not now pursuing the War for the objects for which we entered it, but for some ulterior objects not disclosed to the House or the country. If the belief centres in the minds of men and in Members of this House that 2213 the Government is not anxious to bring to a close this horrible tragedy but that they have ulterior motives in view, we are justified in pointing out to them that they are guilty of the worst of all crimes—the crime of blood-guiltiness. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in the interview to which I have referred, spoke of the advantages of arbitration. He used one phrase in which he said that he was not in favour of war as a means of settling disputes and that he regarded it as a most undesirable method of settling disputes. That. interveiw may possibly have been drawn up for American consumption only, but I believe that is his honest conviction. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman speak in the most eloquent terms of the advantages of arbitration and conference, and in condemnation of war. Perhaps if he had not been irritated a little by the criticisms made upon his diplomacy this afternoon he might have spoken in that higher and nobler vein. On some occasions he has spoken in very eloquent terms of the terrible disadvantages of war. In conclusion, I would remind the House of an episode that occurred in South America. High up on the mountain side of the Andes is a statue of bronze. It is made of the cannon belonging to the two States of Chile and the Argentine. It is a statue of our Blessed Lord, and it is set up there to commemorate the fact that these two countries, rather than go to war, preferred to refer their differences to arbitration and to a conference such as we desire.
§ Mr. KING
I am sure the House has listened to a very important and weighty speech from the hon. Member. I am glad to have listened to his remarks, especially to the very important financial considerations he put before us. He will not mind my saying that the two features of the two days' Debate we have had on the Vote of Credit have been the speech yesterday of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Colonel Churchill) and the speech this afternoon of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The speech of the Secretary of State was so weighty and important that I intend to read it over again and consider it afresh before I pass my final judgment upon it. One thing he said struck me as very remarkable. He insisted, towards the end of his remarks, upon the solidarity of the Allies. If he had listened the day before to my right hon. Friend (Colonel Churchill) he would have heard that one of the disadvantages 2214 we have as against our enemies is that they are solid and united, a Central Power, and we are not united in the same way at all. Day after day, until quite recently, the "Westminster Gazette," a very respectable and important organ of Liberal opinion, has been tolling us that one reason why we have got on so badly in the War is that we Allies are not solidly united as the Germans are, and, of course, there are many points in which it is quite absurd to say that the Allies are united, and knowing the candour and straightforwardness, the utter absence of guile which always mark the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, it astounds me to hear him insisting upon the solidarity of the Allies.
Take the case of Poland. What is the position of Poland? We have lately had from Russia repeated and authoritative statements that Russia will not cease this War until the whole of Poland—Prussian Poland, Austrian Poland, and Russian Poland, which at present Russia has completly lost—are united under the Czar's crown, and only after they have been united in the Russian Empire will the Russian State itself consider whether it will give it any measure of autonomy or not. That is the position that Russia takes up with regard to Poland. What happened only a few weeks ago in the Italian Parliament? A motion was put forward that Poland at the end of this War ought to have an autonomous, independent position, that she should not be under Russia, but should be an autonomous, united Power, and that Resolution was passed unanimously by the Italian Parliament. And then to talk of the solidarity of the Allies! We may be united and determined as Allies each to win in our own field of war, but solidly united in the aims; and objects of the War, we neither are now nor can I believe we ever shall be. These things, of course, make a great deal of difference in the feelings with which the different elements of this great Alliance view this War. And if one object is attained by one State of the Alliance, and another object by another State of the Alliance, we shall find, unless there is some power of authority, diplomacy, negotiation, or agreement stepping in which is not a military power, that the conclusion of the War will not be one which will be easily and smoothly attained, but will be one of confusion, as it is at the present time. I might, of course, pursue this question of the solidarity of the Allies a good 2215 deal further, but I may have an opportunity on another occasion of referring to the subject.
I should like to refer to the very important speech yesterday of my right hon. Friend (Colonel Churchill). I listened to it with mingled admiration and, I think I may say, dismay also—admiration and approval first and foremost, because I felt that here at last we were going to have what I hoped was only the beginning of a movement in this House which will grow—well-informed, responsible criticism, directed by a Minister who has seen the inside and the outside of Government affairs, who is, with a high spirit of patriotism, and with great ability and sense of responsibility, directing his criticism to the Government of the day. In that sense I very gladly heard and approved his speech; but when I came to think it over, it struck me that it was a curious thing that he should have taken the line of military criticism, because, if there is one thing that has been at fault in this War, it has been the military authorities, in other States as well as here. They have been hopelessly at sea and wrong from beginning to end. The world now is suffering not so much from the sins of human nature as the sins, the follies, I will say the fooleries of the military authorities. How did this War begin? If you want to know the German view of how it began, read the last issue of that well-known periodical in Germany, "Die Zukunft" Maximilien Harden, not a Socialist by any means, not a Labour leader, not a pacifist, but a man who has spoken for what one may call the rollicking, well-to-do, bold, rather conceited German, has voiced that element—a very large element, unfortunately, in German society—for the past ten years, -and in the last issue of "Die Zukunft" he starts from this position. He says we were led into this War because we trusted the military power and authority, and because for the moment the military clique in Berlin got the better of the statesmen who ought to manage our affairs, and, starting from that point, he reads to his countrymen the lesson—which I am very glad to hear they are learning from so authorito-tive and eloquent a mouth—that they have been misled by military advice, by military authority, and by military promises, and that these have all proved false and will prove still further and more terribly f$lse in the future if they are still believed 2216 in. I am glad to see that doctrine preached in that way in Germany to-day. It is a sign of the times. But I shall not be content until the doctrine of the folly, the futility, and the fooleries of the military authorities in other countries, and here as well, I am sorry to say, are recognised equally.
I might easily point to the way in which every one of our opponents has been fooled and deluded, and is still being misled by military authority. Let me point to the way in which this War began, and to the way in which the Secretary of State for War at the very opening of the War told us repeatedly—if hon. Members will look up the House of Lords Debates they will see that the Secretary of State for War in August, September, and again later made the statement—that Germany and her ally, Austria, had called to the Colours every available man, and that, therefore, the military power of Germany must inevitably decline while we, beginning with a small Army, and with the prospect of a larger and larger Army, must inevitably gain month after month a predominant position of superiority over our foes. It is humiliating for an Englishman to have to recall here such words by an eminent man, in whom we place so much of our trust, of whose services we are in many ways so proud, and whom we have recognised as a great support and stay of the State in these terrible times. It is humiliating that we have to recall the fact that the promises of Lord Kitchener, made in the first few months of the War, sound folly at the present moment. They have been proved to be utterly inadequate and absurd. I will cite two cases, quite well known, in which the military authorities have given words to the Prime Minister, which he used in all good faith, unfortunately to the humiliation of himself and greatly to the disappointment of the people. The Prime Minister, on 20th April of last year, went to Newcastle and made a speech. It was at the time when there was great anxiety and discussion about shortage of munitions, and he stated to his audience, on the highest mlitary authority, that there never was, nor would there be, any shortage of munitions. I frankly say, knowing what I do, knowing what everybody does of that episode, which was a painful and trying episode, that the Prime Minister was miserably deceived on that occasion by the military authorities. The military authorities, either through utter ignorance or utter recklessness, gave 2217 information to the Prime Minister, which he used in the most solemn way, and in such a way that we now can only regret. We can only feel that the military authorities, who, unfortunately, are being quoted again and again in this House and up and down the country as the one set of people we ought to follow, are befooling us, have befooled us, and, worst of all, have befooled the Prime Minister, and have humiliated and reduced his authority in the face of the nations of the world. I will quote another case in connection with the Prime Minister. On the 2nd November of last year he used these words in this House:General Nixon's force is now within measurable distance of Bagdad. I do not think that in the whole course of the War there has been a series of operations more carefully contrived, more brilliantly conducted, and with a better prospect of final success.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1915, col. 509. Vol. LXXV.]No doubt the Prime Minister made those remarks upon the reports and the authority of the military advisers, and only a very few weeks afterwards we began to hear painful and alarming accounts, which culminated in that most deplorable reverse, the surrender of our Army at Kut. I am told that this is the first time for two hundred years that a General in Command and a General Staff have surrendered in such a way to the enemy. [HON. MEMBERS dissented.] I understand that that is so. It is a very painful subject, but are we not going to look facts in the face. "When the military authorities tell us one day that this is an expedition magnificently managed, with magnificent chances of success, and a few weeks later we find we are let down and humiliated by these military advisers in this way, is no protest to be made in this House or elsewhere against the Government coming forward and saying: "This is necessary because the military advisers say so. This legislation must be undertaken, not because we think it altogether right or advisable, but the military advisers think it so." I feel convinced that the main difficulty we have in this War is a difficulty which, to my mind, is greater than that difficulty which has been dealt with earlier in the Debate, the difficulty as to how diplomatic negotiations, conciliations, international and peaceful relations, are to be resumed, a question which was answered in one way by the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Ponsonby), and in another way by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In my opinion that difficulty is at the present moment not so serious as this, 2218 that we are being misled by the military advisers of this country, and we are giving up ourselves far too exclusively, the Government is giving itself far too exclusively to the policy of drift—a policy not demanded by popular feeling, or by reasoned information, but one which is dictated by a set of men—I do not know who they are, and I do not know whether anybody else does—who, under the guide of possessing some peculiar powers of intelligence, information, possibly by spying, divination, or whatever it may be, tell us that this or that is going to happen in the War, and it does not happen; that this or that is necessary, and it is not necessary, that this or that is sufficient, and it is not sufficient. I will quote one more case which has been often quoted. When we were passing the Military Service Act four months ago, and the measure had reached an advanced stage, we were told by the Minister in charge of the Bill, the President of the Local Government Board, en the authority of Lord Kitchener, which he had received that very morning from him—of course, Lord Kitchener was then only the mouthpiece for these unknown military advisers—that the measure then proposed was sufficient to secure victory. What do we find to-day?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
The hon. Member is not entitled to review the Debates we have had on other occasions. That is an abuse of Debate.
§ Mr. HOGGE
One of the disadvantages of discussions on Votes of Credit is, as the House knows, that we have to wait until one subject is exhausted before we can raise another. The interposition today of the House of Lords Amendments to the Military Service Bill has deprived the House of three or four hours of its most valuable time for raising subjects which are more apposite to a Vote of Credit than to any other Vote. The subject to which I, and I think a great many others, wish to devote some attention now, even at the fag-end of the second day of the Vote of Credit, is one which touches the financial and domestic interests of a great many people. We have had issued 2219 a White Paper, dealing with the Regulations made by the Military Service Civil Liabilities Committee, with the concurrence of the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury. We were informed to-day at Question Time that there would be in the post offices of the United Kingdom to-morrow application papers which men having those liabilities, and wishing to have some of them discharged at the hands of this committee, might secure and fill up. I wish to call attention to the fact that we are here having a repetition of what occurred when this House agreed, I think wrongly, to a Report by six Members of this House dealing with pensions which are now administered by the War Office, which involved this House in a large expenditure of public money, which the House never discussed and was never given an opportunity of discussing, before it became part and parcel of the law of this country, and to-morrow men may go to the post office and they may ask for application papers to fill in before they are called up before the tribunal which may involve the House of Commons in a large expenditure of public money of which they have had absolutely no estimate, for which expenditure the Government has no power, and as to which it never submitted a single word to this House since the day when the Prime Minister in Secret Session—1 can refer to this, because this part of the Secret Session appeared in the ordinary Report which was published—announced that as a result of the disaster which had overtaken the Compulsory Bill, which was afterwards embodied in the Military Service Bill that became law to-day, men on being called up were to be able to make certain applications to cover certain liabilities.
I do not know whether the House cares at all about its powers. There was an Amendment on the Paper in the name of the right hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) and some four or five others, including myself, in which we used the phrase that "in order to revive the public control of Parliament over the finances of this country," certain things ought to be done. I do not know whether or not the House is sufficiently interested to insist upon the revival of powers which we ought to have in our own hands. It is surely a thing of which we ought to have the knowledge and which we ought to give the Government power to do 2220 before we are given a scheme of this magnitude, of which no estimate has been laid before the House, and which deals with financial and domestic interests of the most intimate kind, affecting every married man and every single man who cares to make application who has enlisted in the Forces of the Crown since the outbreak of this War—that is to say, affecting practically between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 men—if those men care to make that application. I want to draw attention to the irregularity of this proceeding which has, by some mysterious backward way, committed the House to an expenditure of public money, and when we ask, as I myself asked the Prime Minister, to give us an opportunity of discussing this nearly a fortnight ago, we are put off and told that we can raise it on the Vote of Credit. Here is the Vote of Credit, and it is half-past nine o'clock. We have an hour and a half of Parliamentary time, and those forms committing us to all that can be got in any post office to-morrow!
Is not that a farce, and is it not ludicrous for us, whose main function is to control the finances of the country and to grant no supplies of any kind to any Government without investigation and discussion and agreement, to allow ourselves to be hoodwinked in this way? The scheme itself, as I have pointed out, is a liability which may affect, though probably it will not affect, because everyone will not make application, from three to four million soldiers or sailors. My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Hayes Fisher), whose great abilities I recognise as a Minister who has had vast experience in local government and has spent the best part of his life in gaining the experience which he is now turning to account, has told us in this House, and it is true, because I notice that the Lord Advocate for Scotland (Mr. Munro) is sitting beside him at the moment, and he has told me that if I cared to ask for it in this Debate he is actually in a position to give me the names of those Commissioners in Scotland who have been appointed to do this work. You have those two Ministers present, and you have this fact that the Commissioners under this scheme are actually appointed before this House of Commons has even been asked whether they think that this is the kind of scheme that will suit the occasion or not. What is the House of Commons coming to? Its function is resolving 2221 itself into saying ditto, not only to the Cabinet, but to what any Under-Secretary in any Government Department cares to suggest to this House. I think it is ludicrous, for instance, that the Lord Advocate for Scotland should be sitting on the Front Bench to-night with the names in his pocket of men whom presumably he has recommended. I do not question the recommendations he has made, because I have absolute confidence in the ability of my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate—I am sure he understands that—but is it not ludicrous that we should have sitting on the Front Bench to-night two Ministers with the names of the men who are going to do the work in their pockets, when in the same breath we are told by the Prime Minister that we can discuss this on the Vote of Credit. Here is the Vote of Credit, and we have reached twenty-five minutes to ten o'clock, when we have to deal with what will involve this country in the expenditure of millions. I, for one, absolutely protest against this treatment of the House of Commons.
This matter involves not only the payment of soldiers, but of sailors, and this is one of the two definite pieces of information we receive in the White Paper, namely, that between fifty and seventy men, advocates in Scotland, barristers in England and Wales, will receive a sum of £25,000 a year of public money, which has to be voted in a way which has been suggested by nobody, which has appeared nowhere, and which, we are told, we can discuss on the Vote of Credit, and which we have been prevented from reaching by the discussion of the Amendments on the Military Service Bill. I have some respect for the traditions of this House, but I think that every Member will agree with me that this is a foolish way in which to deal with a big question and with which to deal with the House of Commons. We ought to have been given an opportunity to debate this subject and make suggestions, which a number of Members are now willing to submit. Supposing, for a moment, we were able to succeed in breaking down the attitude which is taken up to this scheme by the Ministers in charge of it, what possible chance has any suggestion of any Member of this House of being incorporated in the scheme, when one can obtain a copy of the document which has been issued at any post office to-morrow? That is reducing to a 2222 farce the function of this Debating Assembly, where we are supposed to arrive at a conclusion after listening to the contributions in Debate of Members on all sides. I do protest against that. It is perfectly obvious that what I say is the fact, for this reason, that since a quarter-past eight o'clock, despite the fact that the Prime Minister assured this House that there will be always one Cabinet Minister on that bench to deal with any business that may arise, there has not been one present for the last two hours. All that the two Ministers sitting on the Front Bench can say in reply to us is that they will convey our opinions to their right hon. Friends. That is not good enough, it is not right, it is not respectful, and it is giving the Prime Minister away. The Prime Minister solemnly pledged himself that we should have the advantage on the Front Bench of a Cabinet Minister, and, as a matter of fact, as I have already pointed out, we have not had a Cabinet Minister for the last two hours.
With regard to the system which is contained in this White Paper, it is one by which the contribution to meet the liabilities of married men who enlist is to be given by Commissioners who are to be appointed or revising barristers. I suppose the reason why revising barristers have been chosen is that they are hard up, or that the work which they usually perform in revising the register has not been done, and that this is compensation for them. I do not know whether the fact that they are employed on this work means that there is going to be no General Election, and that there is to be no work on the register, but I would point out that if the Government wanted to keep the revising barristers, and to pay them anything adequate to the work they previously did, why did they not continue them in keeping the existing register up to date, in at any rate keeping any register we have got in as perfect condition as possible? That not being the policy of the Government, they are given this work, and look what happens. A married man goes before his tribunal, and his liabilities may be of varying and different kinds. There may be a liability to rent, a liability to rates, a liability to insurance premium, to children's school fees, and soon. At the present moment, supposing this system of Commissioners did not exist, the man is able to appeal to the tribunal, and state the ground on which he ought to be exempted, and his 2223 financial or domestic liabilities. But it is because he has got financial liabilities that this Commission has been erected, and in future; from to-morrow onwards, after he can get his application form, it must be understood that, in addition to stating all his financial and domestic obligations to the tribunal, who are to determine whether or not he is to go into the Army, he will be ordered, or rather compelled, to address himself to the Commissioner or revising barrister, in order that he may determine how much the State is going to allow him, before the tribunal determines whether he shall go to the Army or not. If you want men quickly, is there a slower way in which you could do it? We have passed two Military Service Bills now, and when we have to get the men—and that was what all the squabble was about, namely, to get the men quickly—here you have the Government itself coming forward with a scheme by which the applicant before the tribunal has to do the same thing twice before that body can send him to the Army or Navy, or make up its mind whether he is to go or not.
What my hon. Friend has got to prove is this, that the tribunals cannot do this work, and he will find that extremely difficult. He has frequently told us, and his chief has also told us, that the tribunals have done their work admirably. They have considered all over the country the claims of these men, and they have recognised their claims because of the local nature of the tribunals, and they have done so from the financial and domestic points of view. They have actually sent men into the Army as the result of considering whether those were good claims or otherwise. All that is to be taken out of the hands of those competent bodies and put into the hands of advocates in Scotland and barristers in England. The only possible reason that can be alleged is that as the men would be appearing before tribunals and people who might know their circumstances, that they might be influenced by outside prejudice to give the men more money than the revising barrister would. But would not the same argument apply as to whether or not those men would keep applicants out of the Army? The tribunal is composed frequently of a man's fellow tradesman, and he is known intimately to them. I have not any evidence, and do net believe, and do not put it forward, but 2224 conceivably the same influences might operate in putting men out of the Army because of local prejudices as would operate to give men more or less money in connection with their liabilities. I do not think, therefore, there is much in that point. Then there is a vital point with regard to this scheme to which I hope my right hon. Friend will address himself. There is no kind of recommendation in this report as to how barristers are to deal with the cases or as to what they are to grant. It is perfectly obvious that the first thing that would happen wlli be enormous evidence of lack of uniformity. You will have a revising barrister, say, in Newcastle determining the same kind of case as a revising barrister in Bristol and giving altogether different sums of money to the men in question. You will have men in the same profession, for instance, teachers in the same rank of promotion and professional men who are earning the same kind of salaries, and all classes of men in the same categories, getting different sums from different Commissioners in differing and different parts of the country.
I think one of the weaknesses of this scheme is that the Local Government Board has not seen fit to incorporate any adequate direction to the Commissoners as to how they are to proceed. There is no guidance at all as to the importance of various factors. Let me take two of those—house rent and food. Is it to be the principle of the Commissioners that the home will be maintained and that the standard of living will also be maintained? Is it to be the principle that the roof is to be kept over the heads of these men and that the wife and children are not to have their standard of living—and by that I mean their physical efficiency at any rate—-reduced? That is a very simple inquiry that will occur to anyone who cares to read the report. My right hon. Friend must see that those are two points upon which there may be great variety of opinion amongst revising barristers all over the country. In addition to the fact that the revising barristers are to be paid, the only other definite information is that the maximum payment that can be made to applicants is £104 per year. I think my right hon. Friend ought to be able to give the House a little more information. That is all I have to say now on the question of the liabilities" of married men.
I desire to ask one or two other questions upon matters about which many 2225 people outside this House are anxious to obtain information. I ask when the Statutory Committee set up under the Naval and Military War Pensions Act is really going to begin its work? Is it or has it paid any separation allowance, which it is entitled to pay, to the parent of any lad in the Army or Navy who, because of the fact that he did not apply for the allowance at the outset, has been unable to get it since? That Committee was set up to do that in particular. Take the case that occurred over and over again some time ago, and is doing so more frequently now. A young lad goes into the Army or Navy. His father is alive and everything is all right. The people are patriotic and say, "Do not bother about the allowance or allotment; we will get on all right without it." While the young lad is at war the father dies and the mother is left without the father's wages. The lad immediately goes to the paymaster and says, "Take my 6d. per day or 3s. 6d. per week," but although that lad in the Army, having lost his father and fighting for us, allots his 3s. 6d., the Government will not give the 9s. 6d. to the mother! This Statutory Committee was set up to deal with cases of that kind. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Military and Naval War Pensions Bill was introduced into this House, I believe, a year ago, and that we were asked to pass it through all its stages in one day because of the urgency of paying this money? To-day, towards the end of May, this Committee has not yet got its neck down to the collar. It is issuing circulars, but no money. It is holding Committee meetings, it is arranging for deputations to go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask for more money, in spite of the fact that some of us told you that the £1,000,000 which was being given was no good for the liabilities that were being incurred, and that you would require many millions. We also told you that you would not get going until the end of June, and you are not going. The only thing you have done that I know of is that you have changed your address from one part of Whitehall to another.
Will the right hon. Gentleman also tell me what is being done about the rent allowance at present being paid out of the Prince of Wales' Fund? Is the Statutory Committee going to take that over? Have they come to any decision with regard to that? There is another question to which possibly he himself would like an 2226 answer. Has he found out how much the War Office is going to refund to the Prince of Wales' Fund for money advanced to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association which he is now using or proposing to use for certain purposes to pay the rent allowance of wives of soldiers at the front? If the War Office is not going to pay back any of that money, who is going to meet that after the end of June? Is it going to come out of money supplied by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or out of some other fund which exists somewhere but which nobody knows anything about? I am putting these questions shortly, although I might fairly elaborate them at great length, because this is an extremely important social point.
My next question has reference to the work of the Chelsea Commissioners. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the Government decided that disabled men discharged from the Navy or Army on account of disease brought about by aggravation in naval or military service were to be entitled to four-fifths of the full pension. I have taken a great interest in this question from the beginning. I have been a bit of a nuisance to many of my right hon. Friends on account of the persistency with which I have hung on to it. In the course of my interest in this matter I have accumulated a large number of cases of men discharged from the Army for various reasons, and immediately the Government suggested that these men were to get a four-fifth's pension I tested the Chelsea Commissioners with four typical cases. I will not give those four cases, but I will summarise one in order to show the kind of thing that is happening. Here is the case of a Scotsman, a miner from Fifeshire, who joined the Royal Field Artillery. Eighteen months before he joined he had been subject to bronchitis. He was with the Colours for 158 days—I think he claims a little more, but I am taking the figure of the War Office. On the 19th March, 1915, he was discharged—I will give the War Office reason—on account of chronic bronchitis. This man, after leaving the Army, instead of developing other symptoms of chronic bronchitis, entered a consumption sanatorium. He was there as long as the sanatorium would keep him. He cannot be maintained there any longer, and he has had to go and live in a village in Scotland. Will the House credit the fact that that man is receiving the magnificent pension of 5d. a day? He is a widower with a 2227 little girl of eight years of age, and both he and she have no future prospects but the workhouse. If the medical authorities of the War Office accepted that man, kept Mm in the Army for 158 days, passed him through more than one medical examination, and used him as a medically fit man, it is poor patriotism, poor gratitude, and an ingratitude which this House of Commons certainly does not want to see carried out, that that man should be "scrapped" with 5d. a day, suffering from consumption which will take him to his grave inside the next twelve, if not six, months and force his little girl into the workhouse unless somebody adopts her. Who is responsible? The Chelsea Commissioners. Who are the Chelsea Commissioners? I do not know. They write me very polite and respectful letters, stating that all the circumstances have been laid before a medical board, and that the medical board have decided that the man has no case. This is only one of many cases that I could bring forward. I am not the only Member of the House who could bring dozens of similar cases.
Those of us who have the good fortune to remain candidates or Members of this House will hear about this matter on our election platforms for many years to come. I have never made any other claim than that if the Navy or Army take a man as medically fit they are bound in honour to foot the bill if anything goes wrong with the man. We can all follow, in our imagination, the painful domestic incidents of experiences of that kind. We want the War Office—and, after all, we are bigger than the War Office: surely the House of Commons is a bigger thing than the War Office, and the nation is a bigger thing than any of us—we and the nation want elementary justice to be dealt out to men in these circumstances. So long as I have the opportunity in this House, and the vigour and energy to do it, I will persist in calling attention to cases of this kind until we get them nettled on a satisfactory basis, in the knowledge that, whichever of us happens to have the luck to bring the matter forward, we are all supporting each other in the demand for justice for these people. Supposing that man dies, who is left? One little orphan girl eight years of age. What does she get for the sacrifice of her father? Absolutely nothing—not a single farthing. If her father had been entitled, as I claim he 2228 ought to be, to the four-fifth's pension, she as a dependant ought to get a four-fifth's dependant's pension, and she would, at any rate, have an opportunity of getting on somewhat in life. It is that human side of the problem that we want to press upon my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench. I know both of them well. I know the Lord Advocate better, perhaps, than my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board. I know that neither of them is lacking in sympathy for these people, and that neither of them personally would do anything that would hamper them from getting what we consider they ought to receive. I do impress this upon the Members on the Front Bench that throughout the country, and in this House, there is no question which appeals to all of us so keenly, strongly, and persistently as this one fact, that when this War is over and we have to deal with the victims of it is shall be said by every civilised nation in the world that the British peoples stood by the people, and the dependants of the people, who did their work in this great crisis in our nation's history.
§ Mr. JACOBSEN
I shall be glad if the House will be so kind as to extend to me the indulgence that Parliament always so generously gives to Members who for the first time address it. I should like to say a few words on the subject introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh as to the new scheme of relief and Regulations. I am very glad the Government have at last introduced this scheme. I do not want any man to lose his home and his interests in defending mine. The scheme itself is very much overdue. Had it been introduced earlier you would have had a great many more men in the Army, and perhaps would not have needed universal compulsion. We are now coming to a very serious phase. You are calling up men who will be drawn, I believe, mainly from the middle class of this country. A great many of them have not joined on account of their very great financial and domestic responsibilities. I, myself, canvassed a very great number of them under the Derby scheme, and I know what are, their capabilities. It is a class which will make the greatest financial sacrifices. The matter is one most trying and difficult to decide, for the members of this class have neither the certainty nor the resources, nor the security of the rich, nor the power possessed by the poor of making their expenditure more nearly harmonise with what 2229 they will get from the Government. How-are you going to treat these men under this scheme if they want to appeal—and they have a legal right to appeal—to the tribunal on the ground of financial hardship? They are to go to the tribunal, which has no means whatever of knowing whether eventually their case will be one of financial hardship or not. If the tribunal says that a certain man is entitled to relief, the man has appealed without any assurance that that relief will be given. In other words, the tribunals are expected to gamble with the whole material welfare of a man and his family. The tribunals will not do it.
If an appeal is justifiable a tribunal can do one of three things. It can exempt a man; it can adjourn the case until the result is known of the financial appeal; or the tribunal can send the man into the Army relying upon his obtaining relief from the Commissioners. If the tribunal sends the man into the Army relying upon his obtaining an adequate grant and the Commissioners should take a different view, that man will be deprived of his legal right to have his case decided by the tribunal, because the real arbiter of his case will be the body representing the Government, whose proceedings are not regulated by any Act of Parliament, and from whom there is no appeal. I begin to think that we are getting a little too much of Government by Regulation! I submit that this means that a set of Regulations drawn up without the advice or the knowledge of Parliament will cancel and supersede the intentions of a solemn Act of Parliament and destroy and deliberately inserted and most necessary safeguard in that Act. The Committee may be right or wrong. The fact remains that an independent body, expressly set up under Act of Parliament to see fair play between the Army Council and the nation, will be overridden in a manner that this House, I do not think, ever intended or contemplated. I hope the Government will try and understand the fear which is going through the country on this point.
I do not believe, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh said, that you are acting in the best way to get men for the Army quickly. I myself am a member of one of the most important tribunals in the country. I am perfectly sure that if tribunals have any doubt at all they "will adjourn all these cases, and will not make a final and proper decision until they know exactly what the man's posi- 2230 tion will be if he goes into the Army. They will not, and ought not to, be required to take the responsibility of sending men who have just claims into the Army until they are quite satisfied that their interests and homes are fairly protected. I do not say for a moment that the financial representative of the Government will be deliberately unfair. But if a difference of opinion should arise between the applicant and the authorities, the man will be in the Army, and that seems to me a very bad place from which to open up an argument with one's superiors. I cannot see why a claim of this nature should not go direct to the Commissioners in the first instance. If the applicants are satisfied with what they are going to get, you will hear no more of the cases. If they are not satisfied, let them go back to the tribunal and exercise their right to have their cases decided by that tribunal, which then will be fully informed. In all cases up till now we have had the indispensable advantage of knowing exactly what a man would get if he went into the Army. All members here who belong to tribunals know that over and over again we have explained to men what they are going to get, and shown them that they will hot be in any financial hardship, and the men have been willing to go. It seems to me really that the only businesslike thing to do would be for the Commissioners to work in close harmony with the tribunals, the financial assessors to make all inquiries and to advise the tribunals. You would then have the cases settled subject only to the ordinary appeal if either the man or the Commissioners were not satisfied.
It might be said to that, that if the man appeals to the tribunal in the first instance, the tribunals would know too much about his affairs. Those of us who have been on the tribunals know that we have done nothing else all the time but go into a man's private affairs. If a working man has come to us and asked for exemption, we have had to ask him: "How much have you been earning? How much will your wife or daughters be able to earn when you go? What rent have you been paying? How many rooms have you occupied? How many have you been able to let? Is there any reason why your old mother of sixty-eight should not go out and do a day's charing now and again? "We have asked all sorts of personal questions of the poor men who have come before us. These particulars, however, need not be made public. Applications 2231 may be heard in private if a man desires. I do hope that in this scheme, so far as it applies to men who are already serving, and beyond the jurisdiction of the tribunals, that the Government will act in a broad and generous spirit, more particularly to the approved cases of those who are ordinary weekly or monthly tenants. I am not quite sure, and I have never found anybody yet who was sure, whether the Government scheme is intended to apply to such cases. I have heard that argued on both sides. Prices have gone up a great deal, and what was a fair allowance in 1914 or 1915 is no longer so. Men serving are entitled to apply for relief in order to meet their financial obligations, and it is surely a financial obligation on every man to ensure, as far as he can, that those left behind shall be properly and decently housed, and at the same time be able to obtain such necessaries as it was intended they should have under the original allowance. In thousands of cases payment of all, or part of, the rent, in addition to the usual allowance, is absolutely essential to prevent serious financial hardship.
§ Mr. CURRIE
We have had this afternoon BE much of striking the stars with sublime heads that I am almost inclined to be grateful to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) for bringing back the Debate to a more useful, if somewhat lower, level. It is many months since I pointed out myself that this provision for the needs of married men was really overdue, and I am only too glad that at last the thing has been done. When I hear criticisms of the way in which the Under-Secretary of State for War and those who work with him in this matter have dealt with cases of hardship, I must say I always feel bound to protest. The right hon. Gentleman can surely have few more persistent critics than myself, and at the end of the day I think in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he has dealt with them sympathetically, promptly and in a spirit of thorough reasonableness. I think it only fair to say that at the end of the day. I know that my hon. friend and neighbour in East Edinburgh is moved by a very genuine spirit of sympathy for hard cases. I do not propose to follow him in the individual instances he quoted to-night. With much of what he said I quite agree, but I do not propose to follow him in detail. His three main criticisms of the scheme now before us were 2232 really rather strained, and I think the cumulative effect is a little unfortunate in this respect. Surely it is of first importance that those who are to look to these new Referees should have every feeling of confidence that at the hands of those gentlemen appointed by the Government their cases will really receive full and responsible consideration. I think my hon. Friend must have overlooked that a little in some of his remarks. For instance, take his remark that he regarded it rather as a grievance—so I understood him—that the Lord Advocate had already appointed, or practically appointed, the men who will do the work in Scotland. If the hon. Member had complained that the Lord Advocate had not done it, I should have thought perhaps he had some reason on his side, but it appears to me that the House, and, at all events, those married men who require relief, should feel grateful to the Government and the Lord Advocate that the arrangements in Scotland have been practically made, and, if it is not asking too much of my right hon. Friend, I should be glad if he would give the names.
The House was told some days ago that in Scotland the work was to be done substantially by the Sheriff-substitutes, and we know who they are. They have the confidence of all. The others to be appointed are members of the Scottish Bar, and I do not suppose there will be more than a dozen at the outside, so that I do not think there is any substance in the complaint that the Lord Advocate, and those working with him, have been withholding information from the House. Then my hon. Friend rather suggested that the arrangements were such that lack of uniformity would result. I may be wrong, but my impression is that the Government have taken care that lack of uniformity should not result, and that the Referees were to make careful notes of the evidence and report to the Government, or to the Central Authority in London, with the object of securing, what is very desirable, as complete uniformity of decision as is possible. I hope the Lord Advocate or the Financial Secretary, whoever replies, will make that point clear.
The third point my hon. Friend made was that we in Scotland were badly treated by the Government because we were not dealt with by the Front Bench through the medium of a Cabinet Minister. If hon. Members dealing with a Scottish matter have the Chief Whip and the 2233 Lord Advocate, I think it is most unreasonable to complain that a Cabinet Minister is not there in view of the heavy work the Cabinet has before it. Two points I would like the Lord Advocate to deal with. Is it not possible to arrange at this date that soldiers with the Colours, perhaps for one year or one year and six months, should be able to forward their cases through their own officers? Many of those who joined at the beginning of the War would prefer to put their cases through what they recognise as the usual channels and not to be made to use the tribunals. It may be too late for that, but if he could do this it would be a good thing. My last question is this: Apart from the arrangement in which the Chelsea authorities and the new Statutory Committee are concerned, the system involves the demitting of their work by those who are carrying on the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. That work comes to an end on the last day of June, and it would be convenient to all those engaged in that work to know whether their duties which they have done so well will be continued.
§ Mr. SUTTON
I would like to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman that the Government must at least look upon some of these questions more sympathetically in the future than in the past. I must say that I have myself had many cases like those which have been quoted, but I have not wanted to hamper the Government and I have written to the War Office over every case because I determined when this War commenced that I would give the Government all the support I possibly could and I have tried to do that up till now, although I must say that I, along with many other hon. Members, have had a difficult job in cases of this kind. However, I want to give at least one case which I have had recently, and which I wrote to the War Office about but I have not yet had a reply. This is the question of an old soldier who fought in the South African War, and his name is Sergeant Beck. He came to my house a few weeks ago for me as a magistrate to sign a pension paper. The Chelsea Commissioners had awarded him the magnificent sum of 4s. 8d. a week to keep himself, a wife, and four children upon. This man had got two medals and seven bars which he earned in the South African War. He came specially out of bed, which he ought not to have done, and although he is only thirty-seven;. years of age I concluded that he looked 2234 at least sixty. He enlisted when the War broke out, was sent to Southport, and had to be reduced because chronic rheumatism had set in owing to the fact that they were compelled to go and bathe at least several times in the week at Southport, and Lot being able to do his work as a sergeant he was reduced to a private. He is now being discharged, and the War Office and the Chelsea Commissioners have awarded him, as I say, the sum of 4s. 8d. a week to keep himself upon. In my opinion he will not be able to work again His wife has to look after a coal yard, and with this 4s. 8d. a week she has to support herself, her husband, and four children. Those of us who have been doing recruiting work have a difficult job in our different districts when we ask people to enlist. These cases are pointed out to us, and it is said, "This is what the War Office consider is the quota of these people who have made great sacrifices." Sergeant Beck, I might say, was the brother of Corporal Beck, who regained his speech and hearing at a picture palace in Liverpool some time ago. This is not a very great reward for a man who has fought like this man, and I contend something ought to be done in matters of this kind. I have the case of another man, a neigh-bour of mine, who had a stroke in Gallipoli. The Chelsea Commissioners awarded him 4s. 7d. per week to keep himself, his wife, and three children. He received that for six months, and then the Chelsea Commissioners sent for him to come to London. They found that he was unable to obtain work. No employer would take him on account of his having fits. They then awarded him the full pension of 25s. per week—
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members found pre sent—
§ Mr. SUTTON
(continuing): I was just on the point of concluding. I only got up to urge upon my right hon. Friend the necessity of doing something, and impressing upon the Chelesa Commissioners the necessity of being more sympathetic in these cases, because we have stated in this House from time to time that never again will our fighting heroes have to tramp the gutters sellng laces and matches.
§ Mr. W. ROCH
Like my two hon. Friends who have spoken, I think it is a matter of regret that Parliament has had 2235 no opportunity, and will have no opportunity, to mould, or indeed to criticise effectively in any way, the most important subjects we have been discussing for the last hour. All that is really left to us now is to make suggestions to the right hon. Gentleman, and indeed to elicit further information as regards this scheme. I think the right hon. Gentleman must agree that this is an absolutely new departure on behalf of the Government. A great scheme of pensions and separation allowances was never before taken from the purview of the House of Commons. Generally such schemes have been considered by a representative Committee of the House of Commons chosen from all parts of the House. I hope he will assure us that this important matter of social reform shall not be taken again from the purview of Parliament. While we are all agreed there are certain matters connected with the conduct of the War which cannot really be controlled by the House of Commons, this matter is essentially one which could have been taken in hand by this House, which has repeatedly pressed on the Government the desirability of dealing with it. Now, at the eleventh hour almost, the Government have acceded to their wishes. I think also it is a fair matter of comment that, while the House of Commons has had opportunities of discussing the obligation to military service, it can offer no effective criticism and cannot express its opinions on the liability which this obligation to serve carries with it.
I want to deal with one point only in connection with this matter. First, there is the scheme itself, and then there is the machinery by which the scheme is to be carried out. Take first the scheme. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why officers are excluded from it? If a Territorial officer is able to satisfy the Commissioners that his case is one of financial domestic hardship, why should he be left out of the scheme? We have been accused in this House of being rather in search of votes and thereby creating a kind of class distinction, but the exclusion of officers from this scheme seems to me to be the worst form of class distinction. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what this scheme exactly amounts to? While its genera] idea is plain, I think, when this obligation of service is imposed by Statute on a man, he should know with reasonable certainty where he stands. Will the right 2236 hon. Gentleman tell us quite specifically what a man is to get under this scheme? What is the standard which the Government is prepared to lay down? Are these men who are called up to be maintained in their present standard of life within the limits, of course, of the £104 per annum? That is a perfectly plain and simple principle, and I think some statement should be made so that every man can understand when he joins the Army that if his pay and separation allowances do not enable him to maintain his existing standard of life he can take it for granted that, within those limits and for the specific purpose laid down by the Regulations, he can definitely count on getting this money. It is of the very essence of the scheme that we should know precisely where the man stands. Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us not only what a man will get by that standard, but when he will get it, because he must realise that in these cases time is the real essence of the contract?
I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman of a case which came under my notice this morning. It was that of an architect in South London who, up to now, has been able to earn an income of £400 or £500 a year. He has a sick wife, who is undergoing treatment in a home. He has also three children, one of whom is eight years of age, and is. just about to enter a school. The man has not been able to save anything, because he has effected an endowment policy. He is going before the tribunal this week. From the moment that that man is called up his income ceases, and what is more, once he is called up for service his credit ceases from that moment—his credit at the bank and with his tradesmen. That man is to go before the-tribunal this week. Suppose he is not exempted. It is of the very essence of the contract with that man that he should know, not months hence, but almost immediately, whether he will have any allowance to enable him to keep his home together. Will he be placed in such a position that he can maintain his wife in this nursing home? All these questions turn on the precise amount that this man will get, and on the fact that he will get it at once. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reassure us on these two points: first, as to the basis of what is to be-awarded to the men, and as to the fact that there will be absolutely no delay in their getting it. It is not unfair to say 2237 to the right hon. Gentleman that the responsibility for any delay in this matter will rest entirely upon the shoulders of the Government. This scheme has been pressed upon them for months. They could have had these Commissioners appointed three months ago, and they might have had the whole machinery, as far as possible, working by now. The precedent of the Statutory Committee for Pensions is not a reassuring one. That Bill passed its Third Reading on 20th July last year, and while salaries have been paid—I do not say that as a sneer, because salaries must be paid—while a great organisation has been created, while the urgency of the cases with which that Committee was formed to deal has grown from day to day, the right hon. Gentleman cannot get up and say that, while that scheme and that Bill were passed nearly a year ago, one single person has yet received a shilling as a result of it. In the light of that experience, the right hon. Gentleman should not only assure us but be able to satisfy us that without undue delay the urgent cases which this scheme is designed to meet will not meet the fate of those cases which are being dealt with by the Statutory Committee. So much for the scheme itself.
I will say a few words about the machinery to carry out this scheme. First, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us who are the Central Committee, for, as I understand the scheme, the power of these Commissioners or revising barristers is purely that of recommendation. They will spend, I am sure, many days, if not many weeks, investigating, and then their power is purely that of recommending. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us particulars to-night of the names of the members of this important Committee. We do not know their names, the nature of the area, where it is going to exist, its chairman, its secretary, or whether there are to be any paid officials. I really do not know whether it is any good making any suggestion at all to the right hon. Gentleman. The scheme is done. Roma locuta est. Here is the scheme which cannot be modified. I would, however, ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can consider, even now, if he cannot place this power in the hands of the tribunals, whether he cannot weld these Commissioners into the tribunals? I cannot put the case for placing the matter in the hands of the tribunals better than it was put in an extremely 2238 interesting article by Colonel Repington, the Military Correspondent of the "Times," in the issue of that paper of 11th May. He there advocated that the tribunals should be the people to administer this scheme. He speaks of the-revising barristers in these terms:They would have the duty of examining: hundreds of thousands of claims from men serving: and to serve. They will rarely have local knowledge. They will be without the experience gained, by the tribunals and it will take months for them to get through the cases which will come before them. During this period the tribunals must hang up the cases and the Army will not get its men.When you examine really what the tribunals have to do the striking thing is-that they have to consider exactly the position which these Commissioners will. have to consider, for the duty which is placed by Statute on the tribunals is this. They have power to—Exempt those men who are unable by reason of their undertaking military service to meet their-financial obligations as hereafter described and are-thereby exposed to serious hardship.That is the provision of the Regulations which the Commissioners have to decider and this is what the tribunals have to decide, whether they can give exemption—On the ground that serious hardship will ensue where a ma is called up for Army service owing to his exceptional financial or business obligations or domestic position.So that really the Regulation is drafted from the first Military Service Act, and here we have what seems an almost ridiculous position. A man will give all the details of his financial position as a reason for exemption from service. Notice the dilemma the tribunals will be placed in. They will say to these men, "We agree with you. We agree that your domestic position is such that it would be a serious hardship if you were called to the Colours, but then," they may say, "what will you get from the Commissioners? and until, the Commissioners have decided what the man is to get, the tribunals will either adjourn the case or give him exemption. Surely, in the name of practical administration, is there the smallest reason why the tribunals really should not exercise this function, because already the machinery of the right hon. Gentleman has broken down? If you look at the number of those Commissioners, there are only seven, for instance, for the whole of London. There are thirty-eight English counties. There are eighteen for Scotland and three for Wales, and yesterday the right hon. Gentleman had almost to commit himself to doubling the number, so that really 2239 already the existing machinery admittedly will have to be multiplied and increased, and if the right hon. Gentleman is really going to deal promptly with these cases, if he is not going to expose the tribunal to the impossible task of adjudicating on these cases, and if he is not going to place these men under untold anxiety as to what their position is, he will have to multiply these Commissioners all over the country. It takes weeks for these revising barristers—I think there are more of them than there are Commissioners—to decide "whether a man is to have a vote, and they have a much more intricate question to go into than whether a man should be given a vote. After all, why should not the tribunal have this power? You have given these tribunals the greatest power that has been given by law to any body -of men in this country in our history. These men can decide whether a man may possibly be sent to Mesopotamia, to Egypt, to France, or, indeed, to any part of the globe, for there is no statutory limitation, and is the right hon. Gentleman going to say that the tribunal which he has defended as capable of fulfilling that onerous duty is not in the same way able to decide whether these men shall not have that assistance to the extent of £2 a week which is given them by those [Regulations? These are the short points—the points in connection with the scheme and the points in connection with the machinery. I cannot help feeling that any words one says here now are really of no value at all. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can promise another opportunity of discussing this scheme, but there we are. We can only make such remarks as occur to us. We can only make such futile suggestions as one may think fit, and I hope this experiment of pure Governmental action will not be repeated on these lines. It was said by a very witty American that the constitution of the United States was an inglorious contrivance for enabling America to talk herself hoarse. I cannot help feeling that if this procedure is adopted, the legitimate function of the House of Commons will be absolutely done away with, and that we shall relapse into that inglorious contrivance which the American writer described.
Mr. MONTAGUE BARLOW
I must express my regret that I had not the pleasure of hearing the whole of the speech of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. 2240 Hogge). So far as I did hear it, it did not seem to me that the indictment which he brought against the scheme was as weighty or as cogent as the indictments which he brings usually are. The complaint—I think, perhaps, not an unreasonable complaint if we were not at war—was that the House had not had an opportunity of discussing the full provisions of the scheme. Let the House consider what the position is. We are at this very moment placing compulsion upon the Statute Book, and an entirely new set 01 things is set up. We are forcing men, as in the cases mentioned by the last two speakers, to go to the Colours unless they are released by the tribunals. Under these circumstances, no Government, certainly no British Government, can delay. It must put the scheme which we are now contemplating into operation as rapidly as possible. Hon. Members may say it is unfortunate that the scheme was not introduced before—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—and to a certain extent I am disposed to agree, but the position at the moment being what it is—-and that is what they are criticising—and compulsion being now enacted by this House and the other House, no Government, certainly no British Government, can endure delay for a moment. I do not believe it would have been possible in the circumstances to have contemplated a lengthy discussion in this House of details, thrashed backwards and forwards, as to the methods by which the scheme should be brought in—the policy as between the tribunals and the Commissioners, and the scale, and so on.
I am sure that the mind of the authorities of the Local Government Board is open to the lessons of experience, and if it is found that the scheme is not working well it can be adjusted. It is quite clear that urgent action is required. I believe that will be secured by the scheme now put forward, and I do not believe that it would have been secured if an elaborate discussion had first taken place in this House. Curiously enough for the critics of this scheme, one argument they put forward in favour of the tribunals as against the scheme of Commissioners proposed by the Local Government Board is that they are afraid uniformity will not be secured. I have listened to various speeches, some of them rather bitter speeches, and one of the main indictments brought against the tribunals is that their decisions secure no uniformity It is useless, if that is the 2241 ground of criticism against the tribunals, to urge it also against the Commissioners. It certainly cannot be a reason for setting down the Commissioners and setting up the tribunals in order to administer this new scheme. I do not think hon. Gentlemen have differentiated enough between the functions of the Commissioners as proposed and the functions of the existing tribunals. I do not wish to say one word of anything but praise for the work of the tribunals. They were appointed under circumstances of great difficulty and they have discharged most onerous duties on the whole to the satisfaction of the country at large. But they have been set up to decide a certain set of questions—questions as to the policy of a man's life, and is work for the nation, whether it shall be military or non-military. That does not mean that they have got any very great competency to deal with purely business details as to a man's business commitments. The tribunals were set up primâ facie to deal with a class of man who is refusing to serve. [An HON. MEMBER: No, no!] That is so. My hon. Friend says "No," but it is a fact. A man refuses to serve—it may be for perfectly good reasons—and that is why he has to go before a tribunal. It does not seem to me reasonable in the case of men who have volunteered, and have never raised any issue as to whether they should go later or go immediately, to ask them to go before the same authorities and be dealt with by the same machinery as was set up in the case of men who, for perfectly good reasons it may be, say they are not prepared to serve at the moment. In other words, if the suggestion is accepted you are putting the volunteer through the same machine as the man who was not in a position, for good or not, reasons to go at once. That does not seem to be quite fair to the volunteers. Some doubt has been thrown on whether the Commissioners will work rapidly. It has been suggested that it takes months to get one vote through the revising barristers.
You said "one claim." I very carefully noted the words. Let that pass. It may be a slip. The real question is, are we going to get this matter done more speedily by the Commissioners or by the tribunals working at present. 2242 For the particular kind of work required to be done the machinery suggested by the Local Government Board is the most effective and satisfactory. I thought it might be suggested that treatment might not be so generous on the part of the Commissioners as on the part of the local tribunals, but I have not heard that argument urged. I was glad to notice that the Secretary to the Local Government Board, in the address which I understand he gave to the Commissioners, with regard to their duties, was careful to impress upon them that it was their business in the recommendations they made which, after all, are to be settled by the Central Committee, to treat all applications not only with full consideration but with generosity. That advice, or rather instruction, will, I am sure, be well received all over the country. It does away with the suggestion that the barrister Commissioners are to be unduly parsimonious. The Commissioners will sit on Monday, which is something to the good. I would like to join in the appeal that we might know the constitution of the Central Board as soon as possible. I also join in the appeal that when the Commissioners have sorted out a few cases the general lines of policy may be laid down as rapidly as possible and that those lines of policy may be public, so that the married men even before their cases are decided will know that if they come within certain categories they may safely count on certain allowances. I believe that that would go very far to ease the burden of a large number of men, a burden which is not easily to be borne, even when all allowances have been made.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Hayes Fisher)
My hon. Friend who-opened this Debate opened it by a speech more lugubrious in tone than any which I ever heard him deliver. He began by saying that this House was altogether ineffective and that we could not do anything here. He was joined by the hon. Member for Pembrokeshire (Mr. Roch). who spoke in much the same spirit of lamentation, that the whole of this matter had been taken away from the House, that the House had not got it within its purview, and could exercise no control, and could not in any way mould the scheme, and had, in fact, nothing whatever to do- with it.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
From a long experience in this House, and a long experience in connection with the payment of pensions to our soldiers, I can say that I do not know a single subject in which this House has exercised a greater control and a more effective and a more beneficial control than in the matter of pensions and allowances made to our soldiers and sailors. From the beginning of this War the House has made constant efforts to increase those allowances. Whether they were separation allowances, pensions to widows, or to the disabled, or given by Chelsea, or the War Office, or by Greenwich, or the Admiralty, this House has made one constant prolonged effort to raise those pensions and place them on the scale to which I confess—and I think that I have done something towards it—I think those pensions ought to have been raised many years ago. Therefore, do not let us lament over this question any more than over any other branch of this great subject. I agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Hogge), if he likes, that this House, particularly in war time, has not that control over financial matters which I should like to see the House have. That was a bitter complaint of mine when I sat opposite, and I was not in those days supported by the hon. Member's friends. I confess that in the period of war there is not that control over money that there is over policy. My hon. Friend says that we have had no opportunity of debating this question, or of expressing our views in this House. Is that really so? This House, knowing the policy as stated by the Prime Minister in the speech in which he gave the scheme with a great deal of detail in the Secret Session, and having had the opportunity of debating the subject for two days. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I am submitting that the House had an opportunity of debate on that occasion, and they had another opportunity on the Military Service Bill to deal with the subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Certainly. An Amendment was moved by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ellis Griffith) for the purpose of raising this specific question. Again, an hon. Member has put down a Motion, not to establish a scheme of this sort, but to establish a moratorium. Its discussion has not been pressed for.
§ 11.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I have not observed any great pressure in this House to obtain a day for the discussion of this scheme; at all events, I am confident of this, from reading the Press, from reading speeches, and reading the Debates in this House, that there has never been a man in this House who had any opposition whatever to offer to this scheme — I have never seen any objection whatever in the speeches made inside and outside this House or anything approaching to objection. After the Debate to-night, anyone would really think that our country was very shameful and very niggardly towards our soldiers and sailors in the matters of pay and pensions. It is not so. I am convinced of that, although I think there may be many improvements, and I hope to see many improvements still in the matter of pensions, and certainly in the matter of pay. For all that, in the matter of pensions, grants, and allowances to soldiers' and sailors' wives and dependants, we stand in front of any other country in the world, and at least somebody ought to impress that upon the minds of others and say that so far as this country is concerned it does not compare badly, and that the tendency is to treat the men even better. The impression left by this Debate on any stranger who read it would be that this country was singularly behindhand in the way it looked after the interests of its soldiers and sailors. The hon. Member may think this House is ineffective, but there will be tens of thousands of soldiers going to the front presently who will not think this scheme ineffective, because they will go before those Commissioners, and in a very few weeks' time after going before those Commissioners they will find payments made to meet their premiums on policies, to meet their extra rents, to meet their rates, to meet their taxes, to meet their school fees, wherever they can show to the Commissioners that serious hardship will ensue to them if funds are not provided to enable them to meet those obligations. I have been asked to say, "What is your scheme?" I think I can best do so by giving a typical instance. I have many, but here is one. Here is the type of man whose case this scheme is really devised to meet. He is a man earning £3 10s. per week, a thrifty man with a tidy little 2245 home and a tidy little wife and children, and a man who is doing something for them. He has taken out an endowment policy, he is buying his house, and has other obligations of that kind. What is his pay when he is called up He was earning £3 10s. per week. His pay will be the pay of a private soldier—7s. per week. His wife and three children will get separation allowance of £l 3s., so that the income will be £1 10s. instead of £3 10s. Out of that it would be quite impossible for him to go on paying the instalments on his house, which he is buying at rather a rapid rate, or to meet the premiums on his policy or to meet the school fees for one of his children at a secondary school and matters of that kind. He will put those facts down on the form he is asked to fill up and go before the Commissioners. The Commissioners will be sitting on next Monday. The Commissioner will use his discretion as to whether he is perfectly satisfied that the man's statements are true, and if they are true he can recommend a sum of money which will enable that man to meet his premiums, his extra rent, instalments, school fees, and payments of that kind which cannot be met by him without serious hardship. That is a typical case. In addressing the Commissioners, who were kind enough to come to the Local Government Board yesterday to hear some observations which I desired to make to them, that was the typical case I put before them. I ventured to say that their duties were: 'You must have one eye on the Treasury—it is right that the Treasury should be protected against anything like fraud or imposition—but you must have a kindly eye and a very friendly eye on the applicant who comes before you. You must be a friend to him. You must help him to fill up the form and to elucidate the facts." I went so fa ras to say this: "You ought on the whole to give him the benefit of the doubt." That is the spirit in which we all desire, the Committee desire, that this body of Commissioners should act.
Most of the speakers, with the exception of my two hon. Friends opposite, for whose attempt in advance to rescue me from my position I am very grateful, have rather taken exception to the barrister Commissioners, and have desired that the present local tribunals should do the work. Let me say why I think that that is an impossible scheme. There are over 2,000 of these local tribunals. What would happen? A man comes in. He does not wish 2246 to escape fighting, but he wants some-financial aid to meet premiums, rent, rates, mortgage interest, etc. He makes an open statement before men who are his neighbours. The natural tendency of the tribunal must be to get through its work. The tendency would be to say, "If we force you to go and fight, at all events you shall have £2 a week without any proof except your own statement." Think of the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Could he really be expected to allow 2,000 tribunals to pay out public money at that rate? It might cost him £50,000,000. It is quite impossible. I discussed the question with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said, "Really, I must have some protection." I think the House, on consideration, will agree that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is entitled to some protection against fraud and imposuture.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
That is a fancy figure. I have already said that no estimate can be formed. We cannot tell how many thousands of men have been and are going to be called up who will have obligations of this sort which ought to be met. Perhaps we shall not be able to say in a month's time. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has really taken a very generous view of the matter. I do not mind saying that I was rather surprised, when I suggested as high a limit as £2 a week, that my right hon Friend said, "Yes, you can have it." Because £2, after all, will meet certainly 95 per cent. of the hard cases. There is another reason why I think the local tribunals unfit for the task. I have had many letters from men saying, "I do not desire to go before a tribunal of that kind and disclose all my private affairs to my neighbours. I would rather go before a single Commissioner, a gentleman to whom I am not known, who has no concern in my affairs, and to whom I can disclose, in a private room, all my little savings, expenditures, and domestic concerns." There is also another reason. After all, the applications will come not only from those who are going to be called up, but in thousands of cases from those who are already serving. The local tribunals could not deal with those cases. Those men would not come before them at all. Therefore we should have to set up some kind of machinery to deal with tens of thousands of cases that will come from 2247 men already serving, either abroad or in this country. I believe this machinery is going to work as well as any machinery could. The forms will be at the post office to-morrow. They can be filled up either by the man himself or by his friends. As to the men serving abroad, "all applications for assistance shall be made by the man himself, unless he is serving outside the United Kingdom, in which case application may be made by any person authorised by the man to act on his behalf, or who, in the opinion of the Commissioners, is a proper person so to act." We do not debar anybody from sending a friend to represent him before the Commissioners. I have been asked about solicitors representing a man. Well, a solicitor may sometimes be a friend; if so, there is no bar to him. Some people have found fault because we are employing barristers, and have suggested that it is because they were done out of a job a year ago as revising barristers. They were deprived almost on the eve of their undertaking work by which they could earn £250. I am bound to confess that, as an old member of the Bar, I may have been influenced by the feeling that, if it were possible, some of this work might be given to some of these gentlemen; so thirty out of the sixty are revising barristers. As to the remuneration, I do not think anyone could complain that it is excessive when I say that it is 25 guineas for a month's services four days a week. Really, it is almost patriotism diluted with pay. We are trying to keep the expenses down as much as possible. My hon. Friend says, "Oh, but there is going to be a lot of delay! "There would have been infinitely more delay if the local tribunals had done the work. We should have had to standardise their decisions in some form or other, and I do not know how we would have done it. We are issuing instructions as to which is required in relation to the many questions that arise. We are attempting to bring about a standardisation of decisions. We want, however, first to see how the Commissioners work. One may take a rather severe or niggardly view of the duties entrusted to him; another may take too loose a view. We propose to set up a Central Committee, which will be an Advisory Committee to us, in order to help with our very difficult duties. The Central Committee consists of the Solicitor-General, the Lord Advocate, a representa- 2248 tive of the Local Government Board, and a representative of the Treasury. The Committee consists of five individuals, and up to the present such work as we have done in framing all these forms, regulations, and instructions, appointing the Commissioners, and obtaining this accommodation for the Commissioners—all that has been done by the five gentlemen whose names I have given just now.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
And myself. I think it is only natural that we should look to devolve some of our labour possibly upon some other Members of the House. I will not say more about that now. As regards delay, if any of these Commissioners are at all snowed under by the number of applications, it is perfectly easy to appoint other Commissioners. Take the county of Glamorgan, for instance, a very big county, where we sent one Commissioner down, but all the Commissioners are instructed to write and say if they feel the pressure of work is so. great that they cannot get though it, and to advise us that another Commissioner should be appointed, or two, if necessary. The great object is to avoid delay. I quite agree that those men who are being called up now, or will be very soon, want to know as soon as possible what they are to get, and we are all anxious that they should know. We all know the difficult situation in which they are placed, and if they are compelled to fight for us, and leave their homes and children and risk the little provision they have made, we all want to clear away their anxieties as quickly as we possibly can.
There was one very important point raised by an hon. Member, who asked' why officers were excluded. Officers have been excluded at present because, as my hon. Friend knows, in the matter of pay and allowances they are put on an altogether different scale from the men,, and, as a rule, with many exceptions now, I admit, are able to meet their civil obligations in a way which such men as I have named making £3 10s. or £4 a week cannot meet. Up to the present the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not thought fit to include them in the scheme, but my own sympathies are very much with letters I have received here during the last few days which show me that the junior officers, at all events, are when 2249 married placed in a position of very great difficulty, where some such scheme as this might be of inestimable value to them. There again I do not think hon. Members should underrate the influence they have in debate and elsewhere, and they will find, at all events, my sympathy is in the direction of formulating some such scheme as this for the benefit particularly of junior officers, or those who have undertaken obligations of this kind. However, that is a matter, after all, for presentation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if the officers can make out a case similar to that in strength that has been made out by non-commissioned officers and men, I cannot help thinking we may possibly be able to induce my right hon. Friend, who, I think, has been very generous indeed in this matter, to extend the scheme to officers. I should like to say how much, as an old Member of the House, I welcome to our ranks the hon. Member (Mr. Jacobsen), who I can quite see, from the interesting and well-argued speech he made, is likely to prove a source of strength to that group of men who are so anxious to do everything they can for the soldiers and sailors. There is much in his speech with which I thoroughly sympathise, and I shall hope to meet him on some of the points he has raised.
In conclusion, I may say I do not consider that this House has in any way less control over the general policy of what ought to be adequate pay, adequate pensions, adequate grants, and adequate allowances for our soldiers and sailors. I think in the working of the scheme we are likely to get a great deal of experience in the next few weeks, and, having obtained that experience, it will be perfectly possible for this House to bring about some modification or some extension of the scheme, if the scheme is not considered altogether suitable or altogether adequate-to meet the great difficulties in which many of these splendid men are placed who are only too willing to fight for their country, if we can save them their homes and the provision which they have made by savings in one form or another.
§ Mr. CURRIE
Could the right hon. Gentleman give us the names of the extra Scottish Commissioners who have been appointed?
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I think the Lord Advocate had better deal with that. I cannot answer questions as to the inadequacy of the pensions given by Chelsea Hospital. This kind of work has fallen upon me, not because I am Under-Secretary to the Local Government Board, but because for years past I have been connected with social and patriotic work, and because I am only too glad to do anything I possibly can to promote the welfare of those who are so dear to all our hearts. With reference to the Statutory Committee, I am responsible. My hon. Friend asked, When is the Statutory Committee going to begin its work? I wish he were a member of that Committee, for then he would find that it begins its work on Monday morning and does not finish until Saturday night. I know my hon. Friend thinks it is going very slowly, but we cannot possibly begin to pay out until the local committees are set up, until the Regulations have been framed, and until we obtain an assurance from the Treasury that if we are going to offer the widows permanent supplementary pensions the Chancellor of the Exchequer will finance those schemes, and we shall be able, not to give them for a year or two, but that they will be permanent pensions granted to the widows, the disabled, and others. The work is going on at a very great pace. Most of the Regulations go up to the Statutory Committee for official sanction. Directly the Regulations for emergency grants are passed it will be perfectly possible for the different pension committees to begin to give out the money within the rules and regulations. All large bodies are bound in these matters by precedents, and if we had started giving out money without Regulations we should have been faced with all sorts of precedents and cases which would have made it difficult for us to establish proper rules and regulations. I believe that we are laying our foundations well and truly. We are laying them deeply, and by the autumn of the year we shall be in full working order. All over Great Britain the money will be there and will be given out wisely and judiciously according to Regulations well thought out by the Statutory Committee.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I desire to intervene, in response to the invitation of the hon. Member for Leith Burghs (Mr. Currie), to indicate the arrangements which have been made in Scotland in connection with the appointment of Commissioners and their names. We have taken as the unit the Appeal Tribunals area, in other words, we have taken the sheriffdoms of Scotland as the unit. With very few exceptions, we have appointed Commissioners in each of those areas. The special feature of the Scottish scheme is that I have been fortunate in securing the services of a large number of Sheriff-substitutes in Scotland, who, through the Sheriffs, have agreed to give their services in ten sheriffdoms, thereby rendering it necessary to appoint only ten Commissioners who are members of the Bar. My right hon. Friend has dealt with the remuneration of the Commissioners, and I think it right to mention that these Sheriff-substitutes have been good enough to consent to do this work for a remuneration of ten guineas per month, so that, I think, our reputation in Scotland for economy has been fully maintained. In this connection I should like, if I might, to recognise the kindness and courtesy with which these gentlemen have agreed to do the work, and also the kindness and courtesy of the Sheriffs of Scotland, who, in practically every case, have placed at the disposal of the Commissioner a room or rooms in the Sheriff Court building. It only remains for me to mention, in answer to the request of my hon. Friend (Mr. Currie), the names of the Commissioners. There are twenty in all. There are ten Sheriff-substitutes and ten advocates. The Sheriff-substitutes who are to act will act in the following counties: Argyllshire, Caithness-shire, Orkney, Shetland, Dumfries and Galloway, Inverness-shire (Mainland), Elgin and Nairn, Inverness (Islands) and Lewis, Perthshire, Ross and Cromarty, and Roxburgh, Selkirk, and Berwick.
In these various counties the Sheriff-substitutes are to act as Commissioners, and in the remaining areas the Commissioners are to be members of the Bar. Those areas are: Aberdeen, Mr. W. A. Ramsay; Ayrshire, Mr. J. B. Young; Fife and Kinross, Mr. G. Crurie Steuart; Forf arshire, Mr. Alex. Steedman; Lanarkshire (in which there are two Commissioners sitting in Glasgow), Mr. J. 2252 Edward Graham and Mr. Hepburn Millar; Lothians and Peebles (in which, two Commissioners are to sit in Edinburgh), Mr. Henry Aitken and Mr. C. R. A. Howden; Renfrew and Bute, Mr. W. G. Skinner; Stirling, Dumbarton, and Clackmannan, Mr. Charles Milne. I consider that I have been very fortunate in securing, at the request of the Committee, the services of these gentlemen, all of whom I can claim to know personally.