§ Resolution reported, "That a 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 Army Services in so far as specific provision is not made there for 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 240 all Expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary Grants 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."
Sir H. DALZIEL
We had yesterday a Debate of unusual interest with regard to various matters of supreme importance in regard to the conduct of the War. I should like to make one or two observations on that portion of the Debate which dealt with the suggestion of peace negotiations. I make no complaint of my hon. Friend (Mr. Holt) for having raised the subject in this House. I do not know that the House is fully aware that there exists a volume of opinion outside in close sympathy with the expressions of opinion made by many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House as to the general position regarding peace negotiations. I think it is a mistake for this House to shut its eyes to the fact that in large industrial centres in every part of the country huge mass meetings have been held week after week at which the doctrines put forward by some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House yesterday have received the most hearty applause. I think the Government is to a large extent responsible for that state of things. I express the opinion, after somewhat close observation, that that volume of opinion is likely to increase in weight. The Government is to blame because it has allowed men in all parts of the country to make fortunes out of this War. These men, who are working twelve, fourteen, and sixteen hours a day, as they go to their work in the morning see shops closed because the proprietors have been compelled to join the fighting line, and when they go home in the evening they read in the newspapers that hundreds of thousands of pounds, and even millions, have been made out of them because of their part in this War. Therefore, when these overworked men, who get a few hours rest at the end of the week, go to listen to speeches in favour of peace, can we be surprised that a sympathetic ear is sometimes given to the doctrines largely put forward.
I charge the Government' with responsibility because they have allowed these huge fortunes to be made and have not properly prevented it or dealt with it, 241 notwithstanding the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has done something but not enough. I know clerks who were earning £2 or £3 a week before the War who are now rich men and have made enough to keep them for the rest of their lives. That is a state of things which should not have been possible. Therefore, when my hon. Friend (Mr. Holt) and those who think with him go to these great centres and address working men, when they point out week after week that this is a capitalistic war, there is no use shutting our eyes to the fact that unless something is done to counteract that state of things, we may have a danger ahead which may be of much greater importance than at present the House is apt to believe. It is the duty of the Government and of members of the Cabinet to tell the country oftener than they are doing their view upon the passing issues of this War. This has been a silent Cabinet since the War began. They never go to their constituents. The Prime Minister is about the only one who has made a speech to his constituents. The result is that there is no counter attack on the doctrines which are being preached by those in favour of peace negotiations. No Minister deals with them. They ignore them; and I warn the House that silently but surely these doctrines that are being preached throughout the country will be laying up trouble for the Government unless they face it, both with regard to stopping huge profits out of the War and also to presenting the case for the Government better than it has been in the past. My hon. Friends who share the views of the hon. Member for Hexham want peace. They want an immediate peace. Is there in this House, or outside it, anyone who does not want peace? In Heaven's name, can anybody look upon the awful tragedy that is going on and not want peace? We are all alike in that respect. The sooner peace comes, the better for humanity and the better for civilisation. Therefore, we start upon common ground in regard to every man desiring peace. In that desire I would almost include the men who are making huge profits out of the Government in connection with the War. I believe everyone will associate themselves with the desire for peace. We start, therefore, upon common ground, but what evidence have my hon. Friends that there is any prospect whatever of peace negotiations, not to speak of successful negotiations? Is there any evi- 242 dence that the German Government desire peace at the present time? Where is it? Talk about Germany being anxious for peace, and using neutral countries as mediators, or about to use them, why that is not the act of the German Government itself! Such acts are committed by the supposed friends of Germany. You cannot read in any speech that the German Chancellor has ever made a definite offer of peace in regard to this country. It has never been made. My hon. Friends are so anxious to read everything into the speeches of the German Chancellor; things which he does not include himself. For my part, I view with the greatest suspicion everything the German Chancellor says in regard to peace and peace prospects. There is no evidence, therefore, that the German Government are in earnest in desiring peace.
There is no evidence that the German people desire peace; no evidence whatever. Read the German papers. At the present moment, what is the trouble in internal affairs in Germany? It is that the German people think that the German Chancellor is not bitter enough in regard to the War being carried on against England. He does not go far enough for the German people. The German people and the German Socialists are holding meetings at the present time, every weekend, in which they are demanding that more women and children shall be killed by Zeppelins in this country, that more Zeppelins shall be sent to destroy life in this country, and that more submarines shall be used to sink undefended ships. That is the issue between the German people and the German Chancellor. The German Chancellor may have good reasons of his own why that policy is not pursued in a more aggressive manner than it has been. Let it be clearly understood that you cannot have peace unless the people are agreed, and at this moment there is absolutely no evidence that any section of the German people would look upon any negotiations for peace with any approval whatever.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Minister for War in many things, but I am not responsible for his phraseology. I would say to my hon. Friend that if he would refer again to that interview he will find that the 243 Secretary of State for War did not apply that phrase in the manner in which he suggests. That is to the best of my recollection. Of course, in an. interview, even reporters sometimes make mistakes, but I do not know that my right hon. Friend has repudiated that particular phrase. However, I am dealing with actual facts, and I say that there is no evidence of the desire for peace in Germany. My hon. Friend (Mr. Outhwaite), who studies Germany very closely, cannot produce at this moment any evidence which would be accepted by this House, and which would lead it to the conclusion that the German people at this moment are asking for peace. They are doing nothing of the kind. Why should they? The German people do not believe that they have lost this War. Why should they? Look at the map. The doctrines that are being preached throughout Germany are that Germany has won this War, and surprise is expressed that we are so foolish and so ridiculous in this country that we do not recognise the fact. Therefore, I cannot see for a moment why the German people or the German Government should want to enter into peace negotiations unless they believe that we are going to recognise that they have won the victory in this War. Look at the territory they have in their possession. They have it in the West and in the East, and their whole military position is of such a character that it would be ridiculous for any volume of German opinion to think that they have been defeated up to the present time in this War.
There is no doubt whatever that unless the fact is made clear at the end of this War that we have been victorious, we are only postponing the matter for probably a few years. Whatever happens in this war it must be made clear to posterity, and it must be made clear to the whole world, that this country was on the victorious side. If there is any doubt about it Germany will only take encouragement from a half peace. She will tell her people, "We made certain mistakes which we will never make again," and she will begin from that day to get ready for a future war. Therefore, it seems to me that we cannot accept, and we cannot honour, the signature of Germany, even when peace comes, unless we have the power to enforce that security which we demand and which we have the right to expect. 244 Unless we do that, unless our mastery is established in the future, there will be really no victory in this War, and our troubles will all begin again. I wish I could agree with my hon. Friends. I would like to be converted, but I see no evidence whatever that would justify me at this moment in endorsing the sentiment which they express, that it is the duty of our Government at this moment to hold out a hand to Germany and say, "Let us begin peace negotiations." Imagine what the position would be. In the first place you would have to have an armistice. No war can ever be successfully carried on after an armistice; it never has been. That would be a mistake. The enthusiasm of our people would evaporate to a very considerable extent. Not only that, the conditions under which the Conference would take place, and the conditions under which the negotiations would be carried on, would be such that we should be handicapped at the commencement. Germany would have far more to give away than we have, and it is unbelievable that anything like satisfactory negotiations would be concluded.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Yes, there is the question of our Allies, but I am dealing for the moment with our own country. Under these circumstances I cannot sympathise with the case put forward by my hon. Friends, and I should be sorry if this campaign which is being carried on is continued. Now I want to come to another matter which was referred to yesterday by the right hon. Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson), and that is to press the Government for an answer to the question, "Are they or are they not satisfied with our present position in regard to man-power?" We are entitled to an answer to that question. It is time that we got an answer, and we ought to get an answer when we are asking for so many hundreds of millions of money, rather than we should have to ask the question on the adjournment at night or on some other occasion. We have been told by the Chief of the General Staff that he wants more men to win this War. I presume Sir William Robertson was speaking on behalf of the Government when he made that statement. I want to know, and the House is entitled to know, what the policy of the Government is in 245 regard to this question. Every day that they postpone their decision means a day added to the length of the War. Therefore, I suggest to the Secretary for War that we ought to have a decision on this matter at the earliest possible moment. There are only two aspects of it to which I would refer.
One aspect is the continuous employment in Government offices of thousands of young men who ought to have joined the Army two years ago. What is the policy of the Government in regard to that? They refused to accept an Amendment when the Military Service Act was before the House which would have placed these young men on the same basis as other young men not in Government offices, and the result would have been that the War Office, and the military authorities responsible for recruiting, would have been able to challenge every young man who has been taken on since the War began or who is at present engaged in the Government service in these offices. That is not the case. The War Office, I understand, has no power whatever over the head clerk in a Government office who likes to take, say, half a dozen friends into his Department in order to carry on Government work. There is clashing between the various Government Departments. You have the War Office wanting men, and you have the other offices where the head clerk is really able to say what number of men he requires. That is not the worst of it. I know of a case that happened a short time ago in a works down in the country, which is only remotely connected with the supplying of goods to the Admiralty. They had seventy or eighty men at that works. A War Office inspector went down, and decided that fifty-six of those men ought to go on military service, because women could do their work perfectly well. He made a report to that effect, and the men were going to be called up, but in a few days' time the Admiralty sent down a responsible official who gave the men badges and only allowed six to go. These men were employed making food in connection with the Admiralty, and by no means essential food. Therefore, you have one Department overlapping another. That is an impossible condition of things, and it is a condition of things prevailing all over the country in regard to Government contracts. All that is required is a little influence on the part of 246 the proprietor with the office concerned and the recruiting possibilities are set at nought. I would appeal to the War Secretary to see if he cannot do something to stop that conditions of things. It is a scandal that it has been allowed to go on so long, and it ought to be stopped at once.
I want to bring another matter to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, and that is in connection with Government contracts. The hon. Member for Loughborough (Sir M. Levy) made a most useful speech on that subject yesterday. It did not require the exposure in regard to Pimlico to tell a great portion of the public that these scandals were going on. There is scarcely a manufacturer throughout the country who could not tell his Member why he did not get certain contracts and why he got some. We all know, and we know why they are so disgusted about it. The Government were warned long ago about that condition of things, and it has never been stopped. Now the matter has been made public, and made public, I understand, in spite of the War Office. The counsel in the case experienced the greatest difficulty in being allowed to make his speech, so we may assume when the counsel for the prosecution is in that position that there was strong official influence at work to prevent this prosecution going on. I think that is almost a greater scandal than the scandal itself. However, this exposure has now been made, and even the officials at the War Office are convinced, I suppose, that these things have been going on. But they have only been in one particular Department up to the present time, and I would suggest to the Secretary for War that he ought to persevere in his inquiries in this matter. He ought to inquire how it is that some of the biggest firms in this country supply the War Office with certain materials week after week and yet they cannot get the order for these materials themselves. The order has to go through a middleman. I am speaking by the book, and I will give him a number of cases, if he wishes, which will prove what I say. I will give one instance now.
I will take the question of paper. I am not interested personally in the manufacture of paper, but I am acquainted with some of the biggest paper firms in this country. One of these firms complained to me some time ago that it was 247 impossible for them to get from the Ministry of Munitions an order to supply paper or even the opportunity of quoting. This particular firm is one of the biggest in the country. A member of the firm said to me, "We are supplying paper all the time. It does not matter two pence to us, but it seems a scandal that the public should be fleeced in order that somebody else may get money out of it." He told me that a certain man was supplying the paper to the Ministry of Munitions, and he added, "We would not trust him; we refused to trust him for £20, but he is getting all these contracts. He brings them to us, and we supply him with the paper, and he is supplying the Ministry of Munitions." That is monstrous. There must be something wrong. I gave him a letter to the Ministry of Munitions, and told him to see a certain official there and get to the bottom of the matter and see how it came about. He told me a few days later that he had been sent from room to room, that it cost him two and a half hours of time in going from one official to another, and that he finally got to a little room where a person, not with an English name, was in possession, and he was supposed to be the buyer of the paper. I asked him had he ever heard of the firm "So-and-so." "No," he said, "I never bought any paper until the War began. Then I was put in here to take charge of this department." I said to my friend, "Is there anything else that can be done? We know that the country is being fleeced, and that this man whom you cannot trust is making a profit. Can nothing be done to stop it? "I saw him again the other day, and asked him had anything been done? He said, "No. We are still supplying the paper, but we have to give it through Mr. So-and-so." I suggest that there is a case for inquiry.
I happened to meet the head of another paper firm, and asked him was he aware that this was going on. He said, "Yes, but in our case the gentleman came into our office. He said that he had been commissioned by So-and-so, the paper buyer, to make inquiries, and also that be had authority to charge 5 per cent. for carrying out the contract. We immediately ordered him downstairs, and, of course, never heard of him since." This is going on with regard not only to one article, but to many. I know myself a 248 big manufacturer in Scotland, a close personal friend of my own, who since the War began has been hammering at this to see if something cannot be done. He is a big contractor for the War Office, with mills running all the time, but there are certain things he cannot supply. He has tried for months and months to get the War Office to give the orders direct, but has not succeeded, and again in this case the orders are being given through a man whom he would not trust with a £ 10 note, who has a little office in the City. The country is paying more than it need for these things, and therefore I suggest, without saying any more on the point, that there is room for inquiry. I would make this practical suggestion to my right hon. Friend, the Secretary for War: Let him at once communicate with whatever firms contract for the War Office and ask them whether they are supplying any other goods through any other person. Without going into the matter any further, I think that he will be able to see that there is further room for inquiry in regard to it.
There is another point connected with the War Office—that is, the treatment which the National Volunteers have received since the commencement of the War. I ask the attention of my right hon. Friend to this very important matter. Here you have thousands and thousands of men throughout the country, beyond military age in most cases, who are anxious to do their bit during the War, to give up their time and spend their money to fall in, as they think, with the desires of the Government; and they have been sneered at since the commencement of the War, their whole enthusiasm has been damped, and everything that can be done has been done to try and disappoint and depress them. The latest blunder of the Government occurred only this week. A short time ago they issued instructions to the tribunals to the effect that if men were exempted a condition should be made that they were to join a Volunteer Corps and go in for drilling. All the tribunals have been doing that throughout Scotland, and thousands of men have joined the Volunteers, which have become a very important organisation indeed. General Bethune has been stumping Scotland on behalf of the War Office. He made a speech in Edinburgh a few nights ago, and he spoke in my Constituency the night before last, and in what he says he is practically altering 249 entirely the policy of the War Office in this respect. He says that one mistake has been made in regard to the Volunteers, as tribunals have been exempting men from service in the field on condition that they should join the Volunteers, and arrangements should be made to request the tribunals to refrain from doing so.
First the Government asked the tribunals to make it a condition of exemption that men shall join the Volunteer Force, and after the tribunals have done this we are told that all this is going to be changed and that it was a great mistake to make that condition. But the. condition has nothing whatever to do with the fact as to whether a man is going to be exempted or not. It is after the decision of the tribunal has been arrived at that they make the condition that they should join, and therefore the Army does not lose a single man as a result of the condition being made. Very many gladly accept the suggestion of the tribunal. The first duty of large classes of those who are exempt is to do what they can in the way of training and drilling, in order that they should be prepared for any call that may be made later on. I have a letter from the commander of one of the largest of these organisations in Scotland. He begins by asking, "Are the Government absolute lunaties?" Then he goes on to argue that that must be so, because here are men giving time and money and everything to build up these organisations, and the Government appear to do everything they can to discourage and depress them. This is a comparatively new matter for my right hon. Friend, but if he examines the history of how these organisations have been flouted and jeered at; he will find that a great mistake has been made in the treatment which they have received. Here you have a great body of men throughout the country who can do good service, and in many cases relieve men for the fighting line, and this policy of the War Office in regard to them should be stopped. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will take full advantage of their assistance.
My right hon. Friend has returned recently from a visit to the Western front. We have had many statements as to what happened when he was there and as to the result of his visit. I think that we are entitled on a Vote of this kind to ask him to give us his own impressions as to the state of things out there. I do not think that 250 the House of Commons ought to take these things from newspaper articles, or any other form of outside communication. I think that the House of Commons is the place where all these statements ought to be made, and therefore I ask him whether he can give us any information as to his impressions derived from his recent visit. I would also like to ask him whether he can tell us exactly what has been done with regard to Sir Edward Geddes, who, I think, has been appointed in reference to railways, and whose powers, I understand, are going to be extended across the water. I should like to know whether it is an indication that we are going to have more railways there instead of motors. I do not press that point if my right hon. Friend considers that such information would in any way be of use to the enemy, but it is desirable to know as far as possible what his position is. Then we have the all-important question of tanks. Usually I criticise the Government, but I congratulate them upon the secrecy with which that new weapon of war has been brought into existence. I think that it is one of the great surprises of the War, in view of their great achievements, that the War Office were able to keep the matter as quiet as they were able to do. I would like ask my right hon. Friend as to the degree of satisfaction which they have given up to the present, and whether he has any great hope of their usefulness, in the future. Whoever is entitled to the credit of inventing this particular weapon of war has rendered a great service to the country.
I would say to the Government that some explanation is required and required soon as to the leniency which has been shown to enemy firms in this country. There are four or five hundred of them, which this House decided were to be wound up. Up to the present only a few of them have been dealt with. They are allowed to carry on business and allowed to compete with firms whose heads are at the War fighting. I can give cases of men who are allowed every day to go to their businesses and look after them, while their English competitors are actually standing still because the heads of the business have gone to the War. The extraordinary leniency shown by the Government is totally unexplainable. Let them remember that this House decided that these businesses were to be wound up. This decision of the House does not mean appointing men to look after the interests 251 of those particular firms, but that the firms should be put up to auction and disposed of as soon as possible. Then there is the further question of Germans being allowed out on parole day after day to look after their business. I have heard of cases of these men being allowed to go out and take a policeman with them and leave him at the bottom of the stairs and come back a few hours afterwards. That should be stopped. Why should Germans who are interned, because it is dangerous for this country that they should be at liberty, be allowed out at all? Either we made a mistake originally in interning them, or we make a mistake in allowing them to go to the City day after day to look after their business. I appeal to the Government to give some attention to these matters and not have any further delay.
Yesterday we had admissions on two very important points which afforded proof of what we have contended from the begining of the War, that there was no foresight, no initiative and no real power to carry things into effect. We are told after two years that the Government are going to give something to the old age pensioners. I have been advocating this eighteen months ago. Why was a delay of two years necessary in order to deal with a simple matter of this kind? Then there is the control of the food of the people. After two years they find it necessary to take Government control. I remember, when I raised the point a year ago, that the President of the Board of Trade made a very powerful speech in reply, which we were told was a successful exposure of a ridiculous proposition. Now, after we have had public opinion expressed, after raising the matter in the House, after Lord Northcliffe has cracked his whip, the Government are prepared to give in. All the fine speeches in the world will not win this War unless the Government do the acts which are necessary in order to make us supreme. Big guns, heavy artillery, and plenty of men, and not the perorations of the right hon. Gentleman are what are required to make a successful end to this arduous struggle.
§ Colonel LOCKWOOD
I do not think that the House will need any excuse from me for raising here a matter which I believe they will deem of interest. It is the question of what becomes of the horses of our Army when they are found unfit for further services. We pride ourselves on being—and I hope we are—the most 252 humane nation on the earth. We have numerous societies—perhaps twenty or even more—concerned with the care of animals. We have hundreds of inspectors all over the country who are looking after the animals and seeing that they are not carelessly or badly used. On this occasion, therefore, I do regret that I have to bring against the War Office the additional charge, I will not say of inhumanity—I know perfectly well that my right hon. Friend is just as humane as I am personally—but I do bring the charge that they have neglected what humane feeling demands towards these horses, and that they have not taken the care of them which the public may fairly expect. The charge that I bring against the War Office is not new to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, because the question has been raised several times in this House by interrogatories; but the charge brought against the Government is proved not by extraneous testimony, but by the confessions of the Army authorities themselves. My charge against the Government resolves itself into this, and this only—and I say that it is proved by their own authorities, because immediately horses are unfit for military service they are then and there disposed of. They are carefully examined, I am perfectly certain, but when they are pronounced to be unfit for further military service then the Government say, "You can do what you like with them," and they are sold by public auction.
What becomes of these poor horses? The Government do not know where they go to. Horses realise a certain average price. I understood that the average price of a horse sold at the West front was about £23. What is the reserve? On the East front the reserve is only about £5 or £10. It should be remembered that the English soldier looks after his horse with as much care as he would show in looking after a human being. But, that having been done, the British Government say, "This brute is of no further use; let him go." But where does it go to? The Government does not know. They put him up for sale, and he goes away to his new owner. I submit that the Government should be careful as to who become the owners of these horses, and the present course, I suggest, involves great danger to the animals. I have here the case of a horse which came, to London. We know that in London the people are very careful about the treatment of horses, and any man in 253 the street watches a horse to see if it is overtaxed, and if it is he at once reports to the police, who always, like the good fellows they are, look after it. The case in London to which I refer was the subject of a letter sent to me by one of the inspectors of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He said:I examined the two horses. The bay was fairly nourished, but the roan was very old, and in a low and weak condition, and quite unfit for work at present. The condition of the roan is probably due to old age, as our inspector found that all the animals appear to be well fed.That is the real reason why I ventured to read this letter, which goes on to state:The owner stated that he had only purchased the animal in question a short time ago from the military authorities, but now, if he finds that it will not improve in condition, he has promised not to work it again.If horses in this condition are sold and brought to London, then I submit that the Government have a right to exercise greater supervision in order to reserve these animals for a better fate. The answer of the Financial Secretary to the War Office to questions on this subject put by myself and my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) was to the effect that it would be casting a slur upon our Allies to suggest that horses sold to French farmers would be cruelly treated. But my charge is that when you sell a horse you do not know where' it goes to; you do not know what happens to it, or how it will be treated. The experience is that the cheaper the horse the harder it is worked. The French peasant is. a very thrifty fellow and he will get as much work as he can out of the horse. I come to the sale of horses on the East front, and I honestly say that my blood boils at the idea of what occurs. There is no greater devil on earth as master of a horse than the Eastern master of a horse. I have seen and know what is done. There is no torture that those fellows do not inflict on their horses in driving them, starving them, and overworking them. It is to these people you quietly allow English troopers to be sold—horses that have been well looked after, well fed, and carefully tended. It is with difficulty that one restrains oneself, feeling so deeply as one does on a subject like this. The British public are anxious always to do anything they can to avoid animal suffering as well as human suffering, and they subscribe over £150,000 to the Blue Cross, to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, of which I am a mem- 254 ber, like my right hon. Friend the Member for the City. The public subscribe altogether about £150,000, to do what?—to assist the Government to carefully tend to sick horses. We provide every sort of necessity; we have built great hospitals out there at our own expense, and we furnish everything we can within our means, in order that sick horses may be carefully nursed back to a useful condition.
Do you think, for one minute, that the British public, who are sentimental—and it is a very good thing they are sentimental, for sentiment is at the bottom of a great deal of this life—would have subscribed that money if they had thought that those horses which you have used for the purposes of the War, and very rightly used, were to be nursed back to health to be what?—to be sold to the first comer, without its being known where they go to; I do not know, and the Government do not know. At all events, I am perfectly certain that if the British public had thought that the horses would be dealt with in this way they would have refused to subscribe the money. If I had thought that the horses which I have sent, in the same way in which other Members of this House have sent horses, to be used in the War, were to be dealt with in the manner I have described, I should have preferred to have them shot dead rather than that they should live a life of suffering. I believe that the country has of late become deeply interested in the question of the future of these horses. Indeed, I can assure the House that the British public are keenly interested in their fate. I ask that these horses, if they are unfit for further work, should be shot. I know it is said that it would be difficult and cost too much to bring them back to this country. I understand that the cost has been put down at something like £300,000 a year. That is the gross amount. There is an increased demand for horseflesh in France; the hides, hoofs and hair and various other things, all of which would go to diminish the loss. I would point out that we were able to spend £20,000,000 upon freeing slaves in 1833, and we did not nurse them when they were sick and feed them in order to sell them back to slavery. We also spend about £4,000,000 a year upon the suppression of the opium traffic, and I maintain that we must be ready to see that these animals, who have served us faithfully and who have suffered for you in the War, at 255 all events should not be allowed to drag out the remainder of their lives in misery and suffering.
I have a further question to ask the Government. I have here a letter from a veterinary surgeon, and, though I cannot answer for its absolute truth, I believe the writer does, and he is a very respectable man in the Army service. He says?Horses are entrained in France about 50 miles away at about eight o'clock in the morning and they are watered at that time, and they arrive at any time between six and twelve the next day. They were several hours before coming to a certain station.In ordinary circumstances they would get no water from the time of entraining until they were unloaded, but this gentleman has taken the opportunity, wherever possible, to assist in getting water for them. Then the letter goes on to say:On one occasion the horses were three days on the journey and one horse had a fracture, and although the transport officers were informed, they would do nothing for the horse.Just imagine this horse three days on the floor under the other horses. God help the horses! I give that on the authority of the gentleman who wrote to me, and having the proof in my hand of the neglect of the Government as regards the horses on the West front and the East front, I shall be particularly disappointed if, after hearing what my right hon. Friend the Member for the City has to say, and what others who are deeply interested in this subject have to say, the Government do not see that the right course to pursue in regard to these horses is that they should be taken and killed when they have done their duty to their country.
§ Sir GEORGE GREENWOOD
I am very glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping has called attention to this subject. It may perhaps be said that it is one of small importance in comparison with other topics in which we are all interested just now. But I know myself, from the numerous letters that I have received, and from the numerous letters which have appeared in the Press, and letters that have come through the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, that there is a feeling abroad of great anxiety, and even of resentment, with regard to this subject. It may be said that this is largely a matter of sentiment. I am reminded of the eloquent words in which the Colonial Secretary not long ago in this House expressed the opinion—and I venture to say a very true opinion—that sentiment, after all, is the underlying force and mainspring of the 256 best things in this world. My right hon. Friend alluded to questions which have already been put in this House. On 1st August last I put a question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War—a very clear and simple question:If he is aware that cast Army horses at the front are habitually sold; and whether, in view of the fact that such horses have rendered valuable service to this country, he will consider the desirability of their being painlessly destroyed rather than sold abroad?I have the answer which was given. I do not know by whom it was composed or prepared, but I think that neither my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War nor my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office had anything at all to do with the composition of that answer. I was told.It is the case that cast Army horses at the front are sold. Those fit for work and certified by a veterinary surgeon as fit to be exposed for sale are sold locally to fanners…. I think it is an undeserved slur to suggest that the farming population of our Ally are not at least as careful of their horses as are our own farmers.5.0 P.M.
My question did not contain any suggestion of that kind, and I merely venture to say that I think it would be far better when questions are answered in this House that such gratuitous and quite unwarrantable innuendoes should not be read into them. There was nothing whatever to suggest any slur against our Allies, but at the same time I should be guilty of cant and hypocrisy if I were not to say that I think when those horses are sold to farmers, that is to peasant proprietors in France, that there is a very great danger indeed of their being cruelly treated and overworked. I believe there is not a single cultured Frenchman who would not immediately admit that that is the case. I am reminded that it was a Frenchman who said of his own capital, "Paris est le Paradis des femmes et l'enfer des chevaux." As has been pointed out, how can those who sell the horses know who really are the buyers of the horses? They cannot dictate as to who should buy them afterwards or as to what is to become of them afterwards. I have a letter from a lady in France in which she expresses the belief, and I hope it is quite untrue, that some of those horses have gone to Spain for the bulls. I hope that is entirely untrue, but it is quite possible.
§ Sir G. GREENWOOD
A short time ago Boulogne and other French towns were placarded with an announcement of 257 the sale of 150 British Army horses, reformé, by auction to the highest bidder. We have not heard that any reserve price was put upon them. I should like to know what is the lowest price that an Army horse has ever reached at an open sale. The other day there was an article in the 'Daily Mail" entitled "The Slave Market," but I am not quite certain if it referred to British Army horses, but it was a terribly sad picture and a picture which moved one to sorrow and indignation. They were Army horses, and may have been French Army horses, and they were sold at £2 or £3 or £4 each. The writer gives his name. We do not know but that our horses are sold in the same way for those very small sums. In the answer which was given to me by the Financial Secretary he said, or was made to say by the official who prepared that answer,From the sentimental point of view I would suggest to my hon. Friend that it is a better thing for horses no longer capable of service in the Army to pass into the hands of our Allies the French for agricultural work.I venture most respectfully entirely to disagree with him. I often myself really envy the fate of a man who is painlessly and instantaneously put out of existence. I would rather myself be killed suddenly and painlessly by the humane killer—and the Royal Society has sent anything from fifty to a hundred of them to France—than to linger on in a lingering illness, and would infinitely rather so than to be sent into slavery and to be worked, as these horses are probably worked, to death. I submit that from the sentimental point of view it is a far better fate for the horse to be killed painlessly and instantaneously. If it is the fact that these horses are sold in Egypt—and we have a letter on the subject from a gentleman who writes from Alexandria, and who signs his name—
§ Sir G. GREENWOOD
We are told the reserve price is only £5. I have not been to Cairo myself, but near relations have and have told me what goes on. The idea of our Army horses being sold in Cairo to go into the cabs of Cairo or Alexandria 258 is, I quite agree, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, really enough to make one's blood boil to contemplate. What is the saving? At the very outside it is a few thousands a year, and it seems to me to be a very mean saving to be won by the sufferings of these animals. My right hon. Friend has alluded to the fact that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has raised a very large fund indeed for horses. At the end of last year it amounted to over £50,000. I do not know how much it amounts to now. Hospitals, horse ambulances, buildings, and every possible requirement have been supplied to nurse wounded horses. I know that many of those who subscribed to that fund are disgusted and indignant at the thought that their subscriptions, which were meant to assist and benefit our wounded horses at the front, are applied to a certain extent to nursing back those poor horses, not into a fit state so that they may join again, as many of them have, but to such a state that, unfit to serve any longer in the Army, they are sold by auction in France or in Egypt, as the case may be, to the highest bidder. We know that Englishmen are noted for their love of horses. Their horses have been commandeered, which is very hard on the owners, but they submitted cheerfully because they knew that it was necessary for the public service. They know, further, that in the hands of our soldiers those horses will be treated with all possible humanity. The British soldier is proverbial for the care and humanity which he bestows on his horse. Those owners did not think or contemplate that after those horses had been in the fighting line and had been wounded and sick and utterly worn out at the front, and unfit any longer to serve, having done their bit for this country, that they would be put up for auction and sold abroad. It is that which we so strongly object to. I really think if this matter is considered that there will be unanimity about it, but we do not think it is "playing the game," to use a common expression, to sell those horses back to the highest bidder after they have done their work for their country. We look upon it as cruel and peculiarly mean. If it is impossible to bring those horses back to this country on the ground of economy, then we venture to suggest that there is only one thing to be done, and that is to put them out of pain as painlessly and instanta- 259 neously as possible, and, if that course is adopted, it will be more in consonance with our reputation as a humane nation.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not think there is very much to add to the very able speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Lockwood) and the speech of my hon. Friend opposite. I should, however, like to say a few words upon a question which interests me very much and which I think interests a very large majority of the people of this country. I think those Members who are present will admit that I have always taken in this House a very strong line in order to support economy, and that anything which deals with extravagance or waste of money finds in me a very strong opponent, but there are times when you have got to do the right thing, and when you ought to recognise that you are under certain obligation to certain people, and to certain animals, and when you ought not to deviate from the right path, even if it cost you a little money. I took the trouble to see the Under-Secretary of State for War upon this question, and at first I hoped that I should be able to receive a satisfactory answer, but finally he informed me that the Treasury said that the cost of having these horses killed would be detrimental. I do not know whether my figures are absolutely correct, but they are as near as I could get them, and I believe that since the War began in round figures 13,000 horses have been sold in this way.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not say that my figures are accurate. I am not in an official position, but I think they are not far wrong. My right hon. Friend says 18,000. I am informed that the average price realised for these horses in France—and I do not know how many have been sold in Egypt-is £20. With 18,000 horses at £20 an easy calculation gives us the figure of £360,000. I am also informed that a dead horse in France is worth £10. If you follow the recommendation of my right hon. and gallant Friend and of my hon. Friend opposite you will get £10 per horse, and therefore the loss which we are discussing as if it were such an enormous pecuniary sacrifice that we could not do the right thing on account of the loss of money would amount to something under £200,000. I venture to say, though I do not really put it upon the pecuniary ques- 260 tion at all, that if we are spending, as we are, over £5,000,000 per day upon the War, that we should not allow these horses who have done their best for us to be treated in the way that has been described. They are not responsible for the War. All the nations are responsible, more or less, for the War, and we are giving our lives and the lives of those who are dear to us in order to defend our country, but it is no fault of the horses. They have done their best to assist us. You have only got to read a short time ago the account of the first Cavalry charge which took place after many months in France to realise that. We were informed that on that occasion the Cavalry charge was successful owing to a great extent to the wonderful manner in which the horses entered into the spirit of the thing. You are going to sell those horses, when they come to pain and misery from having assisted us, to an Arab for £5 to be used in the streets of Cairo. Here is a letter—I do not know the writer—which appeared in the "Daily Mail" on the 11th October:I can assure you that words cannot describe the horrible cruelty that goes on there——that is in Cairo—to the wretched cab horses, many of which are English cast Army horses sold into this slavery by the Army Remount Department there. One sees them all day long in the terrible heat being ceaselessly flogged, and overdriven and half-starved. It is the most heartbreaking thing I have ever seen to watch these poor animals struggling along, often until they fall with fatigue, when they are lashed furiously by the Arab drivers until they get up again, much more dead than alive, and at night it is a thousand times worse. I and many others did what we could by writing to the Cairo papers and complaining to the R.S.P.C.A., but nothing; was done and no more inspectors were put on.The writer gives his name and address, which I shall be pleased to hand to the Financial Secretary if necessary. I submit that this is a scandal which this country ought not to permit. Therefore, I trust that the Government will see that in the future these things do not recur. I should like to read a short statement from a letter sent to my right hon. Friend, who knows the writer personally. Obviously, I cannot give his name, as he is a veterinary surgeon with the Army in France:My cause of complaint is the awful cases that are put on rail and sent here for the purpose of being sold but are absolutely useless for the purpose. Many have to be destroyed on arrival. In many instances horses are sent suffering from open joints, fractured limbs, wounds in some instances gangrenous … Added to this it sometimes happens that horses are two or three days in the trucks, and as they are only supplied with one day's rations, this is an additional hardship …Let it be remembered that £150,000 have been given voluntarily by English people. That money was not given in order that 261 the Government might resell these horses and make a little bit of money on them. The Government take our money, and then, when we have patched up the horses in order that they might render service to the Army and the country, the Government sell them into slavery, although they have not spent one farthing towards their recovery. I had better not say too much, because my blood boils when I consider that this great country, perhaps the second greatest horse-loving country in the world, for the sake of a paltry £200,000 does this thing.
Sir HERBERT ROBERTS
I am sure that the House generally will cordially and deeply sympathise with the views which have been expressed by the right hon. Baronet opposite and other Members, and I trust that, if not to-night, at an early date, the Government will be able to make a satisfactory statement on the subject. I have risen for the purpose of calling attention very briefly to a question relating to the Welsh Army. I am one of those who have recognised from the outset of the War the enormous responsibilities and burdens of the War Office, and have felt disinclined, unless compelled to do so, to criticise the War Office upon points of detail, knowing the very heavy administrative work which falls upon the Army authorities. But we sometimes reach a position when it is desirable, not only in the public interest, but in the interests of the War Office itself, to call attention on the floor of the House of Commons to certain points. I hope by doing so to-night I shall be able to obtain from the Secretary of State assurances which will allay anxiety in certain parts in regard to this matter.
Some little time ago a number of battalions of Welsh regiments were moved from Kinmel Camp, in North Wales, to Litherland, in Lancashire, and to other training camps in England. The 18th, 20th, 21st and 22nd Battalions of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers were sent to Litherland, while the 9th and 14th Battalions of the South Wales Borderers were sent to a camp near Liverpool. It is hardly necessary for me to state that the military authorities in Kinmel Camp are not in any way responsible for the action taken in regard to these battalions. The War Office may possibly say that these Welsh battalions were moved out of Wales in accordance with the new scheme of military training organisation which was adopted before the present Secretary of State for 262 War entered the War Office. I am not competent nor do I desire to express any opinion as to that new scheme of military training organisation. No doubt it has for its object military efficiency. All I would say is that I do not think that the adoption of that scheme ought to be allowed to override what the great majority of the people of Wales consider to be an undertaking with them as to the treatment of the men who joined the Welsh Army. When, at the outset of the War, an appeal was made to Wales for recruits, an undertaking was given that when they joined the Colours they would be trained in Wales as a Welsh Army, under conditions to which they were accustomed in regard to language and other things which, in the situation in which they were placed, made all the difference in the world. What I wish to emphasise is that the removal of these Welsh battalions into English camps has, naturally and inevitably, caused considerable apprehension throughout Wales. I am bringing this matter before the Secretary of State because I believe that at bottom it is really a question of military efficiency. I am the last man in this House to exalt unreasonably in these terrible war days any question of national sentiment or feeling in the sphere of military organisation. I do not for a moment desire to do so; but I think it is clear that regard must be paid to these matters if we are to get out of the Welsh Army, or any other army, its full value as a fighting machine. I hope something may be said to-day which will clear the air and allay anxiety in Wales on this point.
Complaints have reached me as to the treatment of Welsh troops at Litherland consequent on their removal from Wales. Everybody in the House knows that it is a very difficult and delicate task to obtain evidence upon a matter of this kind. I wish to make it clear that personally I have received no communication whatever from those concerned in the incidents which have been laid before me. I will put the position in this way: With regard to the alleged cases of harsh treatment of Welsh troops at Litherland and elsewhere, information has reached me from many sources—sources which in my opinion are absolutely reliable—which has forced me to the conclusion that the placing of purely Welsh battalions under the control of noncommissioned officers who necessarily have no knowledge of the Welsh language or of Welsh traditions has led to a situa- 263 tion of apprehension and dissatisfaction. I am not going into details, but I may mention one fact only to show the kind of thing that has taken place. An order was issued at Litherland by the non-commissioned officer forbidding the use of the Welsh language in the huts. When the order came to the knowledge of the commanding officer it was, of course, immediately cancelled. I take that as an illustration of the kind of attitude which prevails there towards the Welsh language and all things Welsh. Many complaints have been made with regard to the treatment of monoglot Welshmen. I do not know whether the House yet realises that in the Welsh Army there are a number of monoglot Welshmen and a very large number who imperfectly understand the English language. As a result it is inevitable that cases of exceptional hardship and harsh treatment should arise in the circumstances I have stated. Under existing conditions these things are inevitable to a certain degree. The point I wish to emphasise is, that the sending of purely Welsh battalions to English camps under these conditions aggravates the difficulty and intensifies the injustice which must follow in a great number of cases to Welshmen who have joined the Colours.
In conclusion, may I make it clear to the House that in bringing this matter to the attention of hon. Members and to the attention of the War Office, I do not wish to create the impression that my countrymen are asking, in these days above all days, for any special treatment or for the relaxation by one hair's-breadth of the full rigour of military discipline. That is not the point at all. They are perfectly willing cheerfully to undergo any military conditions which may be imposed upon them. What I do ask is, in accordance with the promise which was made at the outbreak of the War, when an appeal was made for Welshmen to join the Welsh Army, that so far as practicable Welsh regiments should be trained in Wales and under Welsh supervision. I feel sure if the Secretary for War will give an assurance upon this point it will not only be serviceable to the general situation in Wales, but it will conduce to the military efficiency of the Welsh troops. I hope that the Secretary of State for War will take the opportunity to inquire into the facts which I have laid before the House, and, if not to-day, that at an early date it may 264 be possible to make a statement which will include two assurances: First, that so far as practicable the promise made in regard to the training of the Welsh troops in Wales shall be fulfilled; secondly, that Kinmel Camp, to which I have already referred, shall be used, as it was originally intended to be used, for this purpose. If this is done, if these assurances are given, I feel sure that it will impart a new spirit of confidence to all those who in Wales wish in this great crisis that she should play her part honourably, and should continue to contribute her full share to winning that victory in which she is as vitally and as deeply concerned as any part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. DILLON
There is one subject which was hardly alluded to in the course of the Debate yesterday, and has not been at all alluded to to-day. I would put a question to the Secretary of State for War, if he is going to reply before this Debate closes, as to the position of Roumania. The Prime Minister, in his speech yesterday, departed from the practice he adopted on previous Votes of Credit by making a general survey of the War. It was a very interesting survey, but he passed over very lightly the whole question of the situation in the Balkans and of the Salonika Expedition. It is well known to those who have followed the course of the present War that for many, many months the most sinister and painful rumours have been in speculation as to the Salonika Expedition. It has been confidently stated that those rumours emanated from sources which are usually exceedingly well informed. It has been confidently stated that the British War Office, and especially the British General Staff, have looked all along with an evil eye upon the Salonika Expedition; that they did everything in their power to discourage the expedition and to withhold assistance from it; and, in fact, have regarded it as a great mistake and as a great departure from the true principles of strategy which ought to govern the conduct of the War. There appeared today in the "Times" newspaper what I, at least, think a moving and vitally important letter from a Roumanian professor, in which he makes a strong appeal to the people of Great Britain to realise in time, from his point of view, how vitally and overpoweringly important is the question of the fate of Roumania. He goes on to point out the desperate urgency of this question. I could not help regretting, 265 as I followed the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday with the most intense interest, that in that speech the right hon. Gentleman said nothing to give the people of Roumania, in this hour of their desperate danger and trial, some assurance that the utmost resources of this country would be used to rescue them from the dangers which had helped to crush Serbia, Belgium, and other small nationalities which have stood by our side in this War.
I recognise, of course, quite well that it may be quite impossible for the Secretary of State for War to go into details as to the present position in Macedonia, and the district around Salonika, and even the position of the Salonika Expedition. But it would be very useful from many points of view, if it were possible for the Secretary for War to say something before this Debate closes to convey to the people of Roumania the conviction and assurance that, so far as possible, this country will strain every nerve and without delay go to their rescue by a strong counter-effort in Macedonia. There cannot be the slightest doubt that if the Bulgarians were seriously alarmed for the safety of their country, and particularly for the safety of Macedonia, in which they are overwhelmingly interested, that they would probably withdraw the Bulgarian armies from Roumania and set her free to use all her strength to resist the ferocious onslaughts which are now being made on her by the German General Mackensen and the chief generals of Germany. It is a most sinister and serious thing, if your sources of information are confined only to the public newspapers, to notice that every single German general of any great reputation in this War has been brought from all the fronts and concentrated on Roumania. It would be an unparalleled disaster, and one which would have consequences of the most far-reaching character, both as regards the prestige and the morale of the Allies, and in regard to the enormous resources placed at the disposal of Germany if she were allowed to overrun Roumania.
I do not know anything whatever as to what may be going on behind the scenes, but some strange and sinister hints have reached me from sources to which I could not now properly allude. I take, however, one source alone, which is public property, and therefore can be properly spoken of in public debate. I refer to the usually extraordinarily well-informed correspondent of the "Daily Telegraph," Dr. 266 Dillon. I may say that, although a namesake of my own, Dr. Dillon is no relative. He is, as a rule, a very well-informed correspondent. He published two communications in the "Daily Telegraph" during the month in which he said that General Sarrail's requests for necessary things had been over and over again ignored. Dr. Dillon continued that the hour would come when all these requests, and the written replies which he had received, would be made public. When that hour came the world would receive a very severe shock indeed. That is a very serious statement to come from so well-informed a source. I may add that it appeared to me to be all the more serious because, to my own knowledge, Dr. Dillon is personally acquainted with all the statesmen of the Balkans. He is well known throughout the Balkans, and to the peoples of the Balkans, as being one of the foremost and best-informed pressmen in the world. Any statement, therefore, coming from him, or published by his authority, really carries more weight with it than does an ordinary newspaper article or would an ordinary statement. It is because these things have come to my notice quite recently that I do feel it worth while to ask the Secretary of State for War, so far as he can see his way to do it, to make some statement as to the Salonika Expedition which will really convince the Roumanian people that we are engaged in straining every nerve and sparing no exertion to go to their rescue. This also, I must say, bears to me a very sinister aspect: When Dr. Dillon's statements were published they were instantly met by statements written by Colonel Repington, who himself is also a person occupying the position of a statesman, and not that of an ordinary newspaper correspondent, and who in view of the great forces behind him is really a person whose communications must be seriously considered. He immediately countered the statements of Dr. Dillon by saying, "We trust we shall have no more"—I do not know to whom he referred—"of these amateur expeditions to divert attention from the one great point on which the whole forces of this Empire ought to be concentrated—that is, the Western front." That reminded me of the fact that rumours had been continually in circulation for a long time that a struggle had been going on behind the scenes between the General Staff of England and certain other influences as to whether or not the Salonika Expedition should be starved and weakened and ultimately swept away 267 altogether. I do not pretend, because I have none, to any knowledge on these questions of strategy. I am, however, one of those who have believed for a long time, and more strongly now than ever, that this War will be decided in the Balkans—that there will be the ultimate issue as to wheher victory will lie on one side or the other. I believe with my heart and soul that if we allow Roumania to be overrun, that, it may be, we never shall succeed in ending this War as we desire.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I think the House is very much indebted to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Epping Division for bringing under our notice the question of the fair treatment of Army horses. I hope that his appeal to the Government will not be in vain. There is another matter in which I think that this House and the Government have even a higher and more sacred debt of honour to discharge. I refer to our men who have gone to the front and their dependants. It is our duty to see that they get fair and proper treatment when they are no longer fit to take any part in war service. I hope that in this matter we shall have the assistance of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his influential friends in pressing the Government to see that our men who have done their share in this great struggle, and their dependants, shall receive better treatment than they have been able to get up to the present. In no part of the memorable speech of yesterday was the Prime Minister more eloquent than when he described in glowing terms the heroism that had been displayed and the sacrifices made by the youth of the nation in the course of this great struggle, and his hope that their supreme sacrifice will not be in vain is one that will find an echo in all parts of the Empire to-day. I trust that we will not rest content with hoping that the cause for which so many of our young men have died will be successful, but that we will see to it that their self-sacrificing devotion shall receive generous treatment from their countrymen. I think this is a debt of honour that is due to our heroes from all parts of the Empire. Up to the present we have fallen far short of discharging that debt of honour in the generous manner which their self-sacrificing devotion deserves, and I trust that the promise that has been made recently, that this question will again be gone fully 268 into, will be carried out in the near future, and that some of the Army Regulations that stand in the way of getting for our people the proper recognition that many of us think they deserve will be altered in such a way as will permit of fair treatment being given.
I want to give a few examples of the difficulties that our people have had in getting fair treatment. They are cases in the experience of some of my own Constituents. I believe they are not solitary examples. I am convinced that a number of them are only typical of the difficulties that are being experienced by our men in all parts of the country. The first one I want to give is the case of a man who, at the beginning of the War, was in the Army Reserve and was recalled to the Colours. He was sent with the Expeditionary Force to France, and in the early days he was wounded. A rifle bullet passed right through his body. For three days, because of the great courage he displayed and his physical strength, he was able to continue with his regiment, but at the end of that time he had to be taken to hospital, and later on had to be discharged from the Army. From the moment he was wounded he never had a day's health until his death occurred some fourteen months after. Application was made by his widow for a pension. Up to the present time that application has been unsuccessful, on the ground that he had been medically certified to have died from disease—disease which the War Office recognised as being contributed to by Army service. They have not recognised that his wound was the cause of his death, and consequently they are only prepared to pay a grant instead of a pension. The second case I want to instance is that of two brothers who were living with their old father and mother, and took a special interest in keeping them as comfortable as they possibly could in their declining years. In the early days of the War those brothers enlisted in the Army. One of them made arrangements for his father being paid a separation allowance and the other for a separation allowance for the mother, and so long as the lads were living the parents were fairly comfortable, because in both cases they were granted a separation allowance of 12s. 6d. a week. Unfortunately both of those young men have been killed. After the six months had elapsed, and the allowances then became convertible into pen- 269 sions, the mother was informed that she could not be paid a pension as her husband was already in receipt of one, and consequently their income of 25s. from the boys was thereupon reduced to 10s. per week. Since then, in consequence of the father being in receipt of an old age pension, he has had the information conveyed to him that he cannot continue to draw his pension longer. Therefore, instead of having 25s. a week, that old couple have now only 5s. per week in the shape of the husband's old age pension.
Take another instance—that of two brothers living with their widowed mother, and not only having the care of a mother, but also of some young children. Those brothers, in the early days of the War, enlisted, and one of them made arrangements for an allowance to be paid to his mother and the other for an allowance for the young children. The one who made arrangements for the allowance being paid to his brothers and sisters has had the misfortune to be killed, and, after the six months had elapsed, the mother was informed that, as she was already in receipt of a separation allowance in respect of her other son, instead of being paid 10s. she could now only be paid 5s. She could only be held to be partly dependent upon the lad who had been killed, and no notice has been taken of the fact that this one made her an allowance in respect of his younger brothers and sisters who were unable to work. There are many other instances I could give, but I will take these as the last: A young man on enlistment informed the regimental authorities that he wanted 3s. 6d. deducted from his Army pay with a view of having a separation allowance arranged for his mother. The 3s. 6d. was deducted, but weeks passed and no papers were sent by the Army authorities to the mother. Inquiries were made, and she was then informed that, as the time had lapsed in which a claim for separation allowance could be made, her claim was ruled out, and the 3s. 6d. a week which, up to that time, had been deducted from the Army pay of her son was paid up by the regimental paymaster. The other case is that of a young man who, on enlistment, left 3s. 6d. a week for his mother. Again delay took place in the sending of the papers from the regimental paymaster to complete the transaction for the mother to secure a separation allowance. Seven weeks passed before the arrangement was 270 made, and it was then only paid from the date on which the Army form was completed, and the first seven weeks of his service were ruled out, and no separation allowance was made to the mother.
Many more of these cases could be cited if I had unlimited time to deal with them. There is just another I would like to give, and the reason is that it again illustrates one of the difficulties that I think the Government are required to deal with at the earliest possible moment. It is the case of one of my Constituents who, in the early days of the War, enlisted in the Army, and after being on active service for some time, had one of his hands completely destroyed. He was in hospital for a considerable time, and his Army conditions and wife's separation allowance were continued while he was there. During the time he was in hospital one of his companions, who was also there suffering from a wound, was likely to die unless fresh blood could be inserted into his leg. This constituent of mine, who had already suffered very severely in the War, volunteered to have the fresh blood taken from him and transmitted to his less fortunate companion. On two separate occasions did this man volunteer to have blood taken from his veins in order to save the life of his fellow-sufferer. Instead of being rewarded with some special distinction for his military service, and then for this service which he had volunteered to undergo in the interest of a fellow-sufferer in that military hospital, when he was discharged he was given the handsome pension of 12s. 6d. a week. It is no doubt true that since then, on my representation, his pension has been raised to 18s. 9d., and a certain grant has been made to each of the children. His pension is only now a three-quarter pension, and it is altogether inadequate. Apart from his heroic actions both in the field and the hospital, this man has a wife and three children dependent upon him, and a pension of 18s. 9d. a week is altogether inadequate to maintain them in any degree of comfort. I feel that what the Army Medical Board will have to recognise is that while a man may in theory have a certain earning capacity through one of his hands being whole, they will have to recognise the difficulty of that man finding a market for his labour in which he can earn money. We are told when we bring these cases forward that 271 there are certain regulations which only permit of certain payments. One would imagine that some of these regulations had been brought into existence for the purpose of making it as difficult as possible for our injured men and their dependants getting justice, but whether that is so or not, if these regulations are standing in the way and preventing our heroes from getting justice, it is time they were scattered to the four winds of heaven. I hope this House and the country will impress upon the Government the necessity of seeing to it at the earliest possible moment that the men who have left their homes in order to answer their country's call, and who have given of their best, will have fair play done both to them and their dependants.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
We have all listened with sympathy to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Epping Division (Colonel Lockwood), who has urged that we should be very careful in our treatment of cast horses, but I think he was going too far when he suggested that every one of these horses should be killed. Of course, in the East those horses should be killed, but I think in the case of the Army in Europe we ought to have some regard for the nation's purse. I believe a civilised nation like the French are quite as humane as we are ourselves. I did not, however, rise to bring forward this case, but I rose mainly to speak in order to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the importance of the speech made yesterday by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Loughborough Division of Leicestershire (Sir M. Levy). I hope every hon. Member will read that excellent speech, in which the hon. Baronet showed the inefficiency, the corruption, and the obstruction that has existed in the Quartermaster-General's Department, especially in the Clothing Department, ever since the beginning of this War. I think that speech also shows the very difficult task the Financial Secretary to the War Office has in dealing with the financial side of the War Office when he presses for reforms and economy. I think the House will agree that the hon. Gentleman has done everything in his power to get these reforms through, but he has been obstructed by those who control this Department, who are, after all, the servants of this House. The hon. Member for Loughborough was approached by the War 272 Office in December, 1914, and he was asked to help them in getting clothing for the Army. With others, he was appointed as a Committee to inquire into what was going on in the Army Clothing Department, and I should like to read to the House part of the conclusions arrived at by that Committee. They state:We consider there should be a closer connection with both the Inspection Department and the Department of the Director of Contracts, so that the latter Department may have more complete and accurate statistical information as to the manner in which former contracts have been fulfilled.The Report further states:We think in the management of the Royal Army Clothing Department it would be desirable to hare associated with the officer in command, with full administrative powers in the Departments entrusted to him, a civilian of wide experience of business organisation and a thorough knowledge of business methods, who should be directly responsible to the Quartermaster-General's Department. Looking at the experiences of the past and the working of the Departments at the present time, we are convinced that some cooperation on these or similar lines is essential to the efficient and economical management of contract work.You would think, after having asked an hon. Member of this House and other gentlemen to give their time and energy to an investigation of these matters, that when they made the recommendations they did in 1915 something would happen, but nothing at all has happened. If hon. Members will turn up the speech of the Hon. Baronet the Member for Loughborough, they will see that he states that he was obstructed in every way by the military and the War Office in order to delay any reforms which had been suggested. Another Committee was afterwards appointed which contained two hon. Members of this House, and they reported practically on the same lines in December of last year. What was done? Absolutely nothing. The same obstruction took place; Why is something being done now? Why has Lord Rothermere been appointed? Simply because corruption came out at a trial at which in my opinion not the right people were tried, and other people in greater positions ought to have been tried. Certain men were tried, and there were very severe comments made by the judge, and now we have had the appointment of Lord Rothermere to clean out the stables at Pimlico. What we want to ask the right hon. Gentleman is, Why was Lord Rothermere, or somebody else like him, not appointed in the middle of last year after the Committee presided over by the hon. Baronet the Member for Leicestershire issued its Report? The authorities knew just as much eighteen months ago as they know now. Who is 273 responsible for the hanging up of these reforms and the waste of millions of pounds? I ask the Secretary of War to tell us, and when he knows of this state of things I am sure he will take such steps that will prevent them occurring again, and he will see that the proper official is punished.
In my opinion, not all the Lord Rothermeres in the world or the whole of the Harmsworth family, however able they are, and however much business ability they have, can put the Army Clothing Factory at Pimlico right unless they are also given power to look after the contract. These two things are inseparable. You cannot work the Army Clothing Department at Pimlico satisfactorily unless you have some control over the contract. What is the view of the Contracts Department? The tendency of officials is to have as little trouble as possible, and therefore they take the lowest contract. I would like the Financial Secretary to the War Office to inquire whether it is not a fact that last month a large contract was given to a gentleman whose name ends in "stein" who was reported on badly by the Pimlico Factory in August. I wish to impress upon the Government that if they wish to make a good job of this—and I am sure Lord Rothermere means to—they must have more control over the contracts. You cannot work in two watertight compartments. You cannot have one person deciding the price of the goods and then come down and abuse the people who have to pass and issue the goods which have been ordered. I want the Committee to consider for a moment the wages that are paid at the Pimlico Factory. How can you expect employes to be honest if you employ them at starvation wages? I understand that some of these men were advertised for at a rate of 36s. per week. The viewers at the Pimlico Factory are paid 42s. a week, and they have to pass between £1,000 and £2,000 worth of goods per week. Can you be surprised if men who are given such responsible duties are liable to accept bribes if you pay them only 2 guineas a week? Under such circumstances can you expect them to be free from corruption and the liability to accept bribes?
I want to ask the Financial Secretary whether he can justify those wages? Owing to the War a certain number of assistant viewers have had to go away and women have been appointed to do 274 their work. The assistant viewers got 31s. a week, and you only pay the women who are doing the same work 19s. I ask the Secretary for War is that fair? If you take a woman to do a man's work, and it is reported that she does the work equally well, have you any right to pay her less wages than you paid to the man? I do not think that you ought to discriminate between the sexes in this way if they do the work equally well. It is the same with the clerks, who were receiving 2 guineas, for the women who are now doing their work are only paid 21s. to 25s. a week. I do not think you will ever do any real good unless you remove the Pimlico Clothing Factory from the site where it is. Fancy placing a clothing factory which requires large supplies of raw material in the centre of a residential district and expecting to have efficient work. Can the representative of the War Office justify this? What happens in most of the cases of the articles dealt with at Pimlico? Supposing a great-coat is required. How is it made? The clothing is made at Leeds. It is not tested at Leeds by the Government inspectors, but the cloth is sent to Pimlico or one of the branches to be tested, and it is then passed for Government use. The cloth is sent in bales, and it costs a good deal of money for carriage. It is then sent perhaps to an East End firm to be made up into great-coats. It may have to be sent out of London, repacked, and sent back again. It is made up and sent back again, and another Government inspection takes place, and it is then passed as being fit for military use and sent to the base depot from which it is issued. I am not a business man, but can anybody conceive a more ludicrous way of carrying on a business than sending the goods to inspectors and not sending one good inspector to see the goods laid on the premises. The right hon. Gentleman knows that it is perfectly easily done. Ha is doing it in the case of shells. This nonsensical system might have done when we had an Army of 200,000 men, but now that we have an Army running to several millions of men it is impossible. I would press this one point very specially upon the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think any real success can be obtained by reforms in the Army Clothing Factory at Pimlico unless whoever is in charge is given much more control over the making of contracts.
Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
There are so many shades and grades of opinion in this House at present that I beg leave to preface the few observations I propose to make by saying that I entirely disagree with those of my hon. Friends on this side of the House who think that peace negotiations can be started now with any prospect of success. I have always felt, ever since the War began, that not only is the War a just one, but that the only possible and, so far as this country is concerned, is a smashing victory and the defeat of the Germans, and until we get that it would be an intolerable disaster to think or speak of peace. It is necessary to say that in the first instance, because I am going to criticise very shortly the Government methods of carrying on the War. I am entirely at one with the Government in regard to the origin of the War, with regard to the objects of the War, and in regard to the time when peace negotiations should start, but I am in entire disagreement now, as I have always been, with the methods by which the Government during the last eight or nine months have tried to increase the man-power of this country. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend who sits behind me (Sir H. Dalziel) speak so strongly on the question of peace negotiations. I agree with every word he said, and I agree also with the appeal which he made to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War that he should state the exact facts as to the man-power of this country at the present time. The House of Commons and the country are entitled to know what the facts are, and I believe if the facts are stated that they will prove that what we who fought against the Conscription Bills in January and May of this year predicted as to the result of Conscription in this country has been absolutely justified.
What were we told in January last? We were told by the "Daily Mail" that there were a million single slackers in this country and that the Military Service Bill was necessary in order to bring them in. The famous Lord Derby Report stated, or rather conjectured, that there were something like 650,000 single men in this country who had not attested under the Derby scheme, and hopes were held out before the House of Commons and the country that if that first Military Service Bill were passed in January hundreds of thousands of young men who were shirking their duty to their country would be called to the Colours. Indeed, in the course of the 276 Debate in January last the hon. and gallant Member for South Monmouth (General Sir Ivor Herbert) proposed an Amendment to rope in young men of eighteen, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long), speaking specifically on behalf of the War Office, stated that the Amendment was not necessary because the War Office was satisfied that the number of men required would be forthcoming under the Bill as it stood. Therefore, that Bill was passed on the express declaration of a member of the Cabinet, in the presence and hearing of his colleagues, that it would provide the necessary men. We who opposed that Bill opposed not so much on the principle of compulsion—I, at all events, have always said that if it were shown that it were a military necessity I would not shrink even from Conscription—but because we said that the figures of Lord Derby were conjectural and even wrong, and that the hopes that were entertained of the number of men to be broght into the Army under that Bill were not merely problematical but exaggerated and that, therefore, the Bill was not required.
The Bill came into operation on 2nd March of this year. Within three months of that date the Government came down here again, and, in effect, admitted to the House and to the country that they had miscalculated the position, and that another Military Service Bill was required. Indeed, we know that there was a Cabinet crisis in May, and, if we may believe the "Daily Mail," it was my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War who carried the day on that occasion and got the Government as a whole to propose a general measure of Conscription for married men up to the age of forty-one. We were told both in the Secret Session which preceded the introduction of the Bill and during the course of the discussion on the Bill itself that the measure was necessary because immediate provision had to be made for an additional supply of men. That Bill passed through a submissive Parliament on that understanding. It came into operation early in July of this year, and here we are, on 12th October, again being asked by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Trinity College, Dublin (Sir E. Carson) to discuss once more the question of our man-power. What does that mean? Does it not mean that the two Military Service Bills that have been 277 passed have broken down, that all the hopes that were entertained by those who stood as sponsors to them have been defeated, and that the man-power of this country had been so drained before the Bills were introduced that it was impossible by such measures to increase our man-power. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has advocated the extension of Conscription to Ireland. I saw in one paper—I forget the name of it, but I believe it was sent to every Member yesterday or the day before—
I saw that he was reported to have said that there were to-day 600,000 available men in Ireland.
That is the Lord Derby figure over again. "Six hundred thousand men," said Lord Derby at the beginning of this year.
§ Sir E. CARSON
May I remind my hon. and learned Friend that I said "over 600,000," and may I say that Lord Wimborne, the Lord Lieutenant, gave the figure the other evening as 562,000. He did not include men of eighteen and nineteen years of age, which would give 40,000 more and bring it to over 600,000. Mine was not a fancy figure. I took it from the Census.
May I remind my right hon. and learned Friend that it is rather a disingenuous way of stating figures? To say that there are 600,000 men of military age in Ireland is one thing, but the real question is how many men of military age there are in Ireland or in this country who are available for military service after providing munitions and money for ourselves and our Allies. That is really the crux of the whole matter, and I would ask the House and the Government to direct their attention very seriously to that problem. You have, on two separate occasions this year, had the estimates made by the Government on the advice of their experts as to the men available for military service under the present conditions shown to be wrong. I would urge the Government to be careful how they extend the principle of Conscription in any way when they have been proved to be wrong twice already in this year. What did my right hon. Friend behind me say? I confess I did not know 278 it before he mentioned it. He said that there were crowded meetings being held every week-end all over the country to-day to ask for peace, and he asked why it was. It was, he said, the fault of the Government. Men working at munitions and elsewhere pass through streets where they see shops empty and closed, and they know of homes that have been broken up because of these Bills. Then they see other people rolling in luxury made out of the profits of the War.
We were told at the beginning of this controversy—I heard it frequently set forth from the Front Opposition Bench at a time when it was occupied by people other than those who occupy it now—that we wanted Conscription in this country not merely to get men, but in order to promote equality of sacrifice. Where is the equality of sacrifice now? It is not in existence. Men in the Departments in London, men of military age—thousands of them—are not asked to make any sacrifice. Not only that, but all over the country the same thing applies. I have been drawing the attention of both the War Office and the Ministry of Munitions to one case in my own Constituency. A munition factory was set up at the beginning of the War and 7,000 or 8,000 men are employed there. Young men, single men, from Ireland and Scotland and England and North Wales have been brought down there and they are starred and not liable to Conscription, whilst thousands of men who were born there, who have lived all their lives there and who have earned their livelihood there, have had their homes broken up and have been sent to the front or to some distant camp in England or Scotland. The fat jobs in the neighbourhood are reserved for strangers who have no home ties or stake in the country at all. That is the equality of sacrifice! We were told that this was a measure for universal national service. Where is the universal national service? We were told that everybody would be equal before the law. "Organisation and co-ordination," those were the blessed words that were used constantly. As long as you cloak the meaning of Conscription by such plausible words you can get any assembly, if they do not look into the matter, to pass it, but by this time, I tell you, the meaning of Conscription is being understood in this country in every parish, in every township, and in every county. The meaning of Conscription is being driven home to every household in this country. What 279 does it mean? It means muddling, it means bureaucracy, it means officialism and red-tape, it means lack of uniformity of treatment. What hon. Gentleman is there who listens to me now who has not been inundated with protests and complaints from his constituents and others against the action of tribunals? Tribunals would not be necessary but for Conscription. What man amongst us has not been harassed by complaints of the treatment of conscientious objectors? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I will ask how many Members on this side have been harassed? I am not a conscientious objector, but I think I understand—as my right hon..Friend said yesterday he understood—his position as one who believed that evil could only be resisted and overcome by patient endurance.
I can understand what my right hon. Friend said yesterday as to the position of the man who thinks the War is an unjust war. Personally, I hold that if ever there was a just and inevitable war, this is one, and while I cannot sympathise with that man's views, I can understand the position of the man who comes to the conclusion that it is unjust. I remember my right hon. Friend himself taking up that position some sixteen years ago in connection with the Boer War. I remember that in December, 1900, my right hon. Friend had the courage of his convictions, as he always has, and refused to vote supplies in order to carry on that war. He was only supported by fourteen Members. I cheered him on that occasion, and I admired his loyalty to his convictions. Therefore I can understand the position of these men, though I do not agree with them in this connection. I can understand the position of a man who says he is opposed to this War. But may I point out to my right hon. Friend if he admits the position of such a man his case for Conscription is gone. He says he understands a man who, as an individual, contends that this War is wrong. Is he then in a position to say to that man, "You must shed blood in a quarrel which you deem to be unjust." He cannot do it. My right hon. Friend has given away the whole case for Conscription. It may be it is a military necessity in this War. I take note of the fact that he made that admission yesterday. I think when this War is brought to a triumphant conclusion we shall, with my right hon. 280 Friend's help, finish for ever with this evil spectre of Conscription in this free land.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I did not intend to intervene in this Debate, but as my hon. and learned Friend has just challenged me with regard to certain statements that I made, I think perhaps the House will allow me to say a few words. I admit that I am seriously concerned about the reserve of man-power in this country; I do not base it on any love of Conscription or any wish to upset anybody or any trade, but I base it upon a speech that I read the other day by General Sir William Robertson, and there is no man in the country more competent to form an opinion as to the necessities that lie before us in this great War. I base it also on calculation, and figures which have been put before me by a man I believe perfectly competent to judge, of the reserve power of our enemies—the Germans—in the field. Are we to neglect it? Are we to leave it where it is? I, of course, do not know, nor do I want to know official details and how exactly the matter stands, but I certainly am rendered anxious by the speech to which I have referred. All I did yesterday was to call—and I do it now again—upon the Government to give us assurances that that is a question which, if it becomes necessary, they will deal with at the very earliest possible moment.
My hon. and learned Friend thinks something is gained by going back into the history of the fight over Conscription. He says first there was an Act in January about single men, and it was a failure. I remember that at that time I described it as a very anaemic Act. It was full of loopholes which it would have been much better if the House had never put there. He said it failed, and then what did we do but bring in another Act. What else could we do? And then he says, "When you brought in the Conscription Act, that failed." He made a very eloquent statement with which I have a great deal of sympathy about the way in which, by reason of the manner in which that Act was drawn it has been administered, and he pointed out that, according to his view, it led to a want of equality of sacrifice. If that is all true, we ought not to delay a day in remedying that Act, and if there are loopholes, and I believe there are plenty of them in the Act, put in by perfectly honest Members of this House who object altogether to raising soldiers 281 for the War—or adequate soldiers for the War—I say, let us get rid of these terms in the Act at the earliest possible moment. And I say, further, that if there are these grievances as to the manner in which men are selected, as he suggested unfairly, which I hope is not true, so that some men are favoured and kept at home unnecessarily, while others are sent abroad, I say that is a gross charge against the War Office, and you should call upon the War Office at the earliest possible moment to rectify it.
The only question it is open to us here to consider is: Have we enough men, and if we have not, how are we going to get them? There is no use going into the horrors of homes and businesses broken up. Everybody regrets them. We have got to win this war. I am bound to say for my own part I believe, as I said yesterday, that if this House and the country really mean the policy that is laid down as being the policy of the country in relation to the War then we have not reached anything like the limit of sacrifice that will have to be made to provide the necessary man-power for the War. It is all very well to make criticisms. It is all very well, though I think, if my hon. and learned Friend will allow me to say so without giving offence, it is somewhat mischievous to raise this question of unfair dealing with the men, and the question of the Conscription Act having, as I understood him, rendered it more difficult to get the men—a very strange allegation, and if it is true, a very gross condemnation of the way in which the Act is drawn and administered. What our speech to the country ought to be is this: You people are making and have made the most terrible sacrifices which human beings can make for the purpose of carrying on this just war We know you would multiply your sacrifices ten times over rather than ever allow the tyranny of the Germans to be imposed upon your country or the country of the Allies. My hon. and learned Friend spoke about a letter I have written about Ireland. I gave absolute facts.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I stand by every word in that interview, and I have seen nothing whatever to displace any single fact that I gave. Ireland has made a considerable contribution to the Army, but having regard to the death struggle in which we are 282 engaged, not an adequate, or anything like an adequate, one. For my own part, as I have written in the letter, I must say here I do not know anything that could be more harmful than the kind of speech made by His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland the other night, when he was telling the people who had given something like from 17 to 4 per cent. of the male population within the military age to the Army, that it was a most splendid contribution. I do not agree with him. I am ashamed of it.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I am not denouncing Lord Kitchener at all. I have Lord Kitchener's report on recruiting in Ireland, and I know very well what his views were. I do not think there need be any bitter feeling about this matter at all. It is really and solely only a question of how we are going to win, not whether we are going to win. We are going to win. The country will tolerate nothing else, and the country will never forgive us if we, who are placed here in responsible positions in this House, do not tell them the whole truth. I believe that the more you tell them the whole truth the more they will be prepared to make sacrifices. Of course the whole subject is a painful one; but no greater mistake could be made, in my opinion, than trying to wrap up and get over the question of numbers by constantly talking to the people of the glorious actions of our soldiers at the front. What we ought to tell them is this: The men you have sent out have proved themselves worthy of the greatest traditions of any Army that has ever existed, and we call upon you to make further sacrifices to bring the work they have commenced to an end.
Mr. GORDON HARVEY
I wish to draw attention to two Orders in Council relative to the holding of public meetings, and I desire very briefly to utter a word of warning lest the extension of those powers may raise the very discontent and turmoil in the country which they are intended, perhaps, to limit and restrain. Before I put my case I would wish to urge upon the Government that they should, in future, give the fullest possible publicity to Orders or Proclamations of this kind, as in a matter so important every Member of this' House ought to be acquainted with what is being carried out. I venture to 283 ask that in future we should have circulated with the Votes all new Proclamations dealing with the Defence of the Realm Act. The House of Commons has given to the Government enormous powers. Those powers were given—we all know it—in a moment of very great public agitation, and practically without any criticism of examination by this Assembly. I am sure there must be many like myself who have a feeling of uneasy responsibility in that when the first Defence of the Realm Act was brought before this House we failed to grasp its full and complete meaning. We all admit that in carrying on a great War like this the Government were bound to have a Defence of the Realm Act, and I feel convinced that they do endeavour to administer it within proper limits and to take care lest they create a vicious circle where we may spread from violence to violence and where we may circle from prevention to the actual encouragement of outbreak. The Proclamations to which I wish to call attention is that dated 3rd October. This Proclamation alters in what I maintain is a serious degree the previous Proclamation of last April. The words altering the Proclamation are very few, but I fear the alteration may turn out in practice to be very substantial indeed. What does the alteration amount to? The original Order in Council commenced in this manner:Where there is reason to apprehend.that the assembly of certain people might do certain things, etc. The alteration to which I desire to call the attention of the House makes the Order commence as follows:Where there appears to be reason to apprehend violenceI maintain that those words make a very substantial alteration in and extension of the practice of these Orders. The words cannot have been put there unintentionally; they must mean something. To whom are these great powers given to prevent the holding of meetings in public? They are given to the mayors of corporations, magistrates, and chief officers of police. Those gentlemen have in future not only the power to prohibit meetings of a public character being held in public places, but, under the second alteration in the Order, they now have power to prohibit and disperse any meeting at all, wherever held. One can and must appreciate the very great difficulties under 284 which those have to act who have to maintain local order and discipline; but, on the other hand, we ought to remember that at a time like this, when the strongest personal feelings are aroused, there ought to be increased restraint and care in the exercise of authority by responsible people over humbler folk. If these gentlemen are to prevent meetings being held, without any limitation as to what those meetings may be, it is not absurd to suggest that if Mr. "A" has got into the habit of assembling in his room a few friends for the discussion of the great matters now agitating Europe, and should have somebody to whom he is obnoxious, who would publish abroad a determination to break Mr. "A's" windows, the police would go into Mr. "A's" house and haul his friends into the front garden. If you proceed on these lines—I submit you have no right to do it—a state of things intolerable to the public mind would have been created, a state of things to which the public will not submit. Of course, we trust the Home Secretary, and the Home Secretary will tell us that he himself intends to administer and to advise those in authority to administer these Regulations with tact, discrimination and care. But the foundations of liberty are at stake, and ought to stand on a firmer foundation than all these things. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, I have no doubt, will recollect other days than these, when he was not the darling of the Jingoes of the country, and when, notwithstanding the danger of disturbance, he maintained the liberty of free speech to the admiration of his party. I thought it my duty to raise this point. I feel very strongly about it, and I hope the House will expect moderation. I feel that it might even now be wiser to tolerate and, if necessary, to protect the utterers of unpopular opinion, lest by striking at free discussion we should bring that turmoil into the country which we all desire to avoid.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Lloyd George)
A very great variety of topics—almost all of them connected with the administration of the office which I hold—have been raised in the course of this discussion. All I can do is to deal in a very few sentences with each of the questions that have been put I hope my hon. Friends will not imagine that by doing so I am in the least shirking an answer to the questions which they have 285 put, but I should have to take up the whole time of the house until the adjournment were I to deal with them fully. The last question which has been raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. Gordon Harvey) is one which is entirely within the jurisdiction of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and he will deal with it immediately after I have sat down. I will take the other questions which have been raised. First of all, I will deal with the question raised by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Epping Division of Essex (Colonel Lockwood). He, in a speech which charmed and warmed the House, dwelt upon the case of the worn-out and cast horses which have rendered service in the campaign. I confess to a good deal of sympathy with his point of view. He made a very strong case. He was good enough to write to me some time ago upon the subject and I directed my attention to it. I have had a good many letters—a good many charming letters, too. One letter I received from an old lady who, in order to enlist my sympathy, said that when I departed this life and made application to go into the celestial regions, it would be a very good thing for me to have the support and suffrage of all the worn-out and broken horses that I had saved. She was evidently a subscriber to one of the many leagues with which my right hon. and gallant Friend is associated. I will not say that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has exaggerated in the least some of the worst cases, but horses that are found to be unfit for work are not sold; they are dealt with on the spot. When the veterinary surgeons come to the conclusion that a horse is really not fit for further work—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Not fit for any work, they put an end to it in the most painless manner. At the same time there are cases where there is a possibility of horses which have rendered service in the campaign being disposed of under conditions that might be cruel. So far as France is concerned, I am assured on all hands that the treatment of horses there is just as humane as it is in this country.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Although, after making inquiries, we have no reason to believe that the horses are badly treated there, I will promise, as far as France is concerned, to consider the matter further. As far as the East is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman's case is completely established. I do not think that under any conditions we ought to sell our old war-horses to the Eastern to be dealt with in their usual way—to be treated in a way in which they are too often, no doubt, treated in those places, and where you have not got the same assurance with regard to the treatment of animals as you have here. My right hon. Friend may congratulate himself, at any rate, upon the fact that he has protected the horse from any possibility of maltreatment in the East. So much for that topic. I hope my right hon. Friend will consider that satisfactory.
I now come to the questions raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel). With regard to the Volunteers, I had something to say last night. The difficulty there is this: Some of the best Volunteers are men who are excepted because they are engaged in work like munition work or mining work, and therefore could not be spared for the Army. Neither can they be spared for anything in the nature of prolonged drill and practice. You cannot take them to a camp, you cannot set them on one side for two or three months for the purposes of the defence of the country; you can only rely upon them for occasional drills, say, at week-ends or at holiday times, which are getting very much scarcer. Therefore, the men you can depend upon, the men who have leisure, are exceedingly few. We have gone into this matter, I can assure my right hon. Friend, very closely. At the same time I think a good deal more can be done. There are hundreds of thousands of men who might be available for Home service if there were a possibility of invasion, and the knowledge that they are there trained and mobilised for the purpose is a source of strength undoubtedly to this country. These matters we are considering now, and I hope to make an announcement in a very short time upon the subject.
I am afraid I could not possibly answer the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) without entering upon subjects which are extremely perilous in their nature. The 287 hon. Member wants an assurance with regard to the campaign in Roumania and the efforts we are making to assist Roumania. Of course, I cannot possibly do that, and he will understand why it is impossible for me to do so, but I can assure him that the Government is fully alive to the necessity of giving every support in its power to the gallant Armies of Roumania in the very vicious attack which has been made upon her. We have not the least doubt that Germany is concentrating her strength in the hope of crushing her. She is doing it not merely from the point of view of her own interests, but in a spirit of resentment and vengeance because these brave people have dared to challenge her power so near to her own home. The allied countries are fully alive to that, and my hon. Friend may depend upon it that every effort will be made by this country and by others to protect the Roumanian Army against an effort of that kind. Of course, I cannot go beyond that in the discussion to-night.
My right hon. Friend asked me a question with regard to the "tanks." I think there has been a very favourable account of the services of these extraordinary machines in the public Press, and I do not think I could serviceably add anything to what has appeared on the subject. We are very satisfied with our experience of these machines. There is no doubt they have been a very considerable success, and I hope, as things go on, and as they improve in experience, they will render even greater services than they have in the last two battles. My right hon. Friend asked to whom the credit is due for this invention. I have already expressed my opinion upon that subject, and I do not wish to vary it in the least, but probably there are one or two whose names I ought to specifically mention. The Admiralty expert whose services were so valuable in designing this machine, Mr. Tennyson-d'Eyncourt, who was the chief naval constructor of the Admiralty, had probably the greatest share in the matter of designing this formidable weapon. Then I ought perhaps to have mentioned Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, to whom we are very considerably indebted for the first suggestion that something of this kind should be tried; but I still say that these suggestions would never have fructified had it not 288 been for the fact that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Churchill), who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, had given practical effect to them by setting up a Committee to carry the suggestions into effect, and by giving the whole of his energy and strength into materialising the hopes of those who had been looking forward to an attempt of this kind.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I mentioned Colonel Swinton in the statement I made to the Press. Colonel Swinton had a good deal to do with the experiment from the start. He has been a most enthusiastic promoter of the idea, and the fact that it was carried through with such zeal is very largely due to the enthusiasm which he threw into the work. The same thing applies to Colonel Stern, whose practical business ability has been invaluable in securing the manufacture on a considerable scale of these weapons of war. That is all I can usefully say on that question. I do not know that I can add anything to what I said last night. We have appointed a very able business man to go into the matter, and we are awaiting his report. I hope to get it in a few days. I think he is perfectly convinced of what my hon. and gallant Friend said, that it is necessary that he should have a certain supervision in order to enable him effectively to carry out his work.
Will the right hon. Gentleman state whether the tank was made entirely of British materials?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. and gallant Gentleman must not ask me too many questions. It has been made, and I think that is the most important fact of all, wherever the material came from.
I now come to the question of manpower. My right hon. Friend asked me a few questions about this yesterday. I am afraid I was rather diverted from a reply to his question by some observations made upon another topic which interested me for the moment. I should like to answer the questions he put. I had the papers with me at the time, but it is very difficult to give them. It is not that we wish to withhold anything from the House, but we do not want to give too much information upon a subject of this kind. There is no doubt at all about the available man-power of this country. None. There is no doubt about the available reserves of this country. 289 but you must get at them. My hon. and learned Friend is rather inclined to rejoice over the fulfilment of predictions which he made about Conscription. I think he will find he is wrong. It has already produced a very considerable number of men—the Act itself. It has produced men of three classes. There are, first of all, the men who came in because they knew that if they did not come in a compulsory Act had been promised by the Prime Minister, and that must not be ruled out when you talk about the productivity of Conscription. There are the men who came in after the Act was passed, when there was a period of grace to enable men to come in before the Act was in operation. That produced a considerable number. There are the men who came in under the Military Service Act itself. That produced a considerable number of men. But we are not at the end of the fertility of this Act. The tribunals have exempted a good many men temporarily—provisionally. These periods are coming to an end. In a month's time we shall have a certain number of men—two months, three months, four months, when the periods of exemption expire—and it is too early to tell the House what these Acts have produced. All I can say at the present is that they have produced forces without which it would have been impossible for us to have carried on the War, and surely that is a justification for any Act of Parliament. My right hon. Friend asks us what we are doing—whether we are taking the thing in hand. We are. The exemptions are certainly far too numerous. The Government is convinced of that, and we are dealing with them. If I gave the figure of the exemptions, I think it would rather startle the House. All I can say is that I have reports from France and from Italy—two great democratic countries let me assure my hon. Friends—and when you compare the exemptions here with the exemptions in those countries, whereas they run to hundreds of thousands in those countries, they run to millions here.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Anyone who knows anything about the comparative financial position of this country and the others knows that it has absolutely nothing whatever to do with it. This was 290 the richest country in the world before the War, and it will be a rich country after the War. There is no doubt at all that the exemptions are far too numerous, and we are taking action to deal with them. We hope it will not be necessary to have any legislation. We believe the exemptions can be dealt with under the powers we have got in the two Acts. That is our conviction. But if they cannot be, I have no doubt at all that the Government will have to take counsel with the House of Commons as to the steps which it ought to take. Our one determination is that all the resources available in this country of wealth and man-power should be utilised to the utmost for the purpose of winning this War. There we are in entire agreement with my right hon. Friend. Many of these anticipations have not fructified. At the present moment we have the men, but we have to look forward to the possibility of a prolonged campaign. It would be folly for us not to do so. If the War comes to an end at an early date the fact that we have prepared for a prolonged war will not interfere in the least. The fact that it comes to an end before that period will not in the least interfere with either the trade or the commerce or the military position of the country. It will shorten the War. But if we found that the War lasted a longer time than some people anticipate, and if we had not made the necessary preparations it would be exceedingly disastrous. We have to lay the foundations of plans for war for even a prolonged period. That is the only way to ensure victory. My hon. and learned Friend reminds me that I opposed the Boer War. So I did. I said so. He said that I opposed the measures for carrying out that war. Yes, I said I was opposed to the war. I never pretended that I was in favour of the war, that I believed in its righteousness, that I thought it was the right thing to prosecute it, and then did my best to thwart every effort made by the Government to carry it through. I took the risks, and they were pretty bad risks. I did not have quite a holiday at that time. It was not a pleasant one, not in the least. At any rate, if you are for the War, it is much too serious a business to be carried through in a halfhearted way. If you are against it, say so, and stick to your grounds. I have no belief in this sort of prefacing every effort which is made to prosecute the War by saying, "Personally, I am in favour of the 291 War, I believe it is a righteous War, and I want it to be carried on, but for Heaven's sake do not do anything to win." My hon. and learned Friend is quite right in saying that Conscription is not pleasant. It does disturb folk, and it does disturb business. So does war. He is quite right when he talks about broken homes and broken hearts. That is war. But there are such things as broken treaties and broken faith. There are many broken homes now. The homes of the future must be built upon the foundations of public faith, and unless you establish that through Europe and through the world, at all costs now, you may depend upon it that broken homes, instead of being an episode of a few years, will be something that will pass from generation to generation for centuries to come, as it did in the dark centuries of the past.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I have been visiting the country of one of our Allies and after an absence of a few weeks from this Chamber I return with a certain air of detachment which, although it may rob me of some illusions, has the compensation of allowing me a clearer judgment. Looking at this House of Commons from that detached point of view, one thought that occurs irresistibly in my mind is how much there is in this House of histrionics, of theatrical pretence—of the rô le being carried out simply from a sense of consistency in that rô le. I could mention certain instances, not the least being the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, who, however, I may say, en passant, is perhaps the one member of this Government who from the perspective of foreign countries stands out distinctly as a man of mark who has accomplished something for the progress of the War. I do not wish to flatter the right hon. Gentleman because I may subsequently have some critical remarks to make even upon his regime. One other impression with regard to this House which one gets from the manner in which the Debates are conducted is that there is a kind of machine-made optimism, a sort of rô le of optimism; a sort of atmosphere of optimism, an atmosphere of unreality, pretence and hypocrisy, which seems inseparably associated with the modes of thought of some of our great leaders.
At this stage I will pay homage to the valour of our troops and the troops of all our Allies, not using it as a peroration to win the ear of the House, to cover up grave 292 mistakes in conduct, but as a simple tribute to their greatness, to that wonderful fever of courage, to that poetry of sacrifice, which is the prevailing spirit on the fronts to-day. I endeavour to look at this War, not in a spirit either of optimism or of pessimism, but, so far as in me lies, in a scientific spirit, to regard it as a problem which must be solved by definite factors adequate to the solution. Looking at it in that way, and from a broad standpoint, I would say definitely, here and now, that if we continue to wage this War in the same spirit, with the same ability or want of ability, the same style of drifting, the same hiding of realities, we are moving inevitably, not to the victory predicted by the right hon. Gentleman, but to a deadlock, followed inevitably by an unsatisfactory peace, which will have solved nothing, and will leave all the old burdens untouched or increased perhaps tenfold.
I will deal for a few moments with the question of the Balkans. I spoke recently to a man, whom I will not name, but who is one of the greatest intellects in Europe. He expressed to me feelings of the deepest exasperation at seeing a glorious chance missed, a chance which would, if taken, have had a most decisive influence on the whole aspect of that campaign and on the whole course of the War. He said it had been a coup manqué. The whole responsibility of having missed that great chance redounds to the discredit of that Front Bench. When Roumania entered into action, men of real intelligence, high intelligence, who would regard the situation from a broad standpoint, would say that the electric moment had sounded, and that this was the time for a great coup de foudre of the Allies—troops from the Eastern Front making for Sofia with the utmost energy, and troops from the Western side from Salonika rushing there to join hands with them, once and for all obliterating Bulgaria, isolating Turkey, and changing the whole aspect of the War. That chance was missed, and missed precisely by vacillating councils, by all that hesitation and by all those defective qualities which the Prime Minister said yesterday should not be allowed to appear in our councils. If I cared to probe the matter deeper, I could reveal to the House some sensational intelligence I know of; that great chance having been missed, not entirely by incompetence, but by direct interference in the conduct of the War of matters of politics. Anxieties as to the safety of thrones have imperilled the very life of this nation.
293 I will proceed now to the situation on the Western Front. Does any reasonable man in this House, who thinks, and whose thought has any validity, imagine, as a result of four months' gigantic struggle, at enormous and unprecedented cost, that the gain of seven miles on a depth of front of nine miles is an adequate compensation? Remember also that it is a gain which has a very small strategic meaning. In the early days of this year there was terrible anxiety when the Germans were continuing their slow but irresistible advance towards Verdun. When the Germans were continuing that slow and apparently irresistible advance, great anxiety filled the minds of the Allies until it was felt that the French had placed a barrier of impregnable resistance in the way, and it was seen that persistence in that campaign was the highest folly on the part of the Germans and the greatest salvation of France, because the cost to the Germans was totally inadequate to their achievements. I say to this House—because we must come down to the realities in regard to such a terrible situation as that which oppresses us—that, viewed from the purely military standpoint, this advance has been, as it were, a counterpart of the advance of the Germans upon Verdun. I do not wish to minimise the great advantages of that advance, because it saved Verdun, and in saving Verdun it saved France, not only for this year, but, I hope, for all time averted the peril of any further progress of the Germans on that side.
But it is not sufficient to arrest the onward movement of the Germans, considering that during so many months the gains have been on their side. We have to tackle the other side of the problem and deal with this gigantic task of driving these embattled forces, so strongly entrenched, out of France, out of Belgium, out of Serbia, and out of Poland. I maintain that the means hitherto adopted, which are described so complacently by Ministers on the Front Bench, are totally inadequate. I would refuse to say these words, even if I believed them, if I did not think that some other solution was possible. Looking at the matter on the broad, general lines of strategy, I think the situation now is one of considerable danger, and that the coup manqué which was missed when the Roumanians entered into action will bear fruit. Roumania is now in the direst peril due to a great stroke of strategy. Although we may abhor the methods of the Germans, we must give 294 them credit for high intellect in the conduct of the war, and I say that Roumania is in great peril owing to the high conception and brilliant audacity with which the Germans have carried on their great feat of strategy.
Not only on the broad lines of the conduct of the War, but in several particulars where it would have been possible to bring ameliorations—I will give one or two concrete instances—this Government has failed to show the efficiency which we have a right to demand. For instance, there is threatened a serious shortage of steel for all the Allies, perhaps particularly in France. A shortage of steel would mean a shortage of shells. That is not giving a secret to the enemy, for they will know it. if it shows them a diminution in the power of attack. I hope my words will be some, stimulus to the Government in regard to this great fault, the reparation of which is within their power. I hope so great a man as the right hon. Gentleman opposite will not be content with these mere excuses which would satisfy the great majority of his colleagues, and bring forth to this House all sorts of reasons to excuse incompetence, or arguments to show the impossibility of doing what is required. You can get steel; it is your duty to get it.
A second point is the shortage of coal which is even now requisite for carrying on all the great works of manufacture in France. The coal supplied to France at the present moment is of so inferior a quality that 30 per cent. of it is useless, and it hampers their work by destroying their boilers and machinery. All this gives the impression that this country is reserving the best products for itself, and giving the second best to its great Allies. There again is a perfectly concrete and definite point. There is a great fault which can be repaired, and I call upon the Minister of War to repair it.
I will give another indication of how the efficiency in the conduct of the War can be improved. Reference has been made to man-power. I will not touch on that just now because it is a very delicate question with respect to Ireland. In the Debate next week I intend to face it, and face it with the utmost boldness. But another aspect of this question is the effective employment of the man-power which is available. In the early days of the War, when the Germans were the attacking party and the Allies were entirely on the defence, the Germans had a method by which they kept 295 a mere screen of men at certain places and concentrated huge forces upon weak points. Later the Allies had a great conception of a general attack on the lines of the Western front, which for a time was perhaps the best strategic conception; but this has ceased now to be a great strategic conception. The matter has been brought to such an issue at length that it is the Germans who are on the defensive, and being on the defensive they leave a small body at certain points on the Western front and employ in other regions the activities of the men taken away. But the Allies fail to take advantage of that disposition of the German forces, and still keep up a uniform pressure over the entire line. These matters are almost like the A B C, I will not say of strategy, but of common sense, and I would hardly venture to mention them in this House had I not been assured by authorities in other countries, who know from inside knowledge the exact state of affairs, that even elementary consideration of that kind are hampering the work of the Allies.
I will proceed to another aspect of the question, that is the matter of aeroplanes. Some of us in this House from the very beginning of the War began to agitate for a great aeroplane fleet. Members of the Government, in their usual style of superior knowledge, pooh-poohed that idea as something impossible, and then, after a very long period, they adopted the expedient of forming a Board. We want an aeroplane fleet which will give us a mastery of the air, which will be the cavalry of the air, which will be one of the decisive factors in winning this War; the Government has given us a Board—a Board devised after a style more or less familiar of doubtful joint stock companies in the City which begin by giving a front-window dressing of well-known names.
The representative of that Board in the Commons is, I believe, a man of good intentions. He has done that extraordinary thing for a member of the Government, he has actively looked into the matter himself, and has endeavoured at some personal fatigue and peril to himself to be as efficient as possible. All that is to his credit; but, after all, he is not the director of the work of this Board; and, judging entirely by results, I would say that that Board has been a lamentable failure. The Board has not given us what we have a right to demand, that aeroplane fleet 296 which once for all will show a superiority over the Germans, so that no German aeroplane can ever dare to show itself above the horizon. What I say is a possibility. Had the matter been accepted from the very beginning in the spirit in which some of us brought it forward, had true energy been put into the work, had we less of the Gambetta spirit and more of the spirit of Lazare Carnot, the organiser of victory, we should have had to-day, not a Board of high-sounding names and practical incompetence, but an aeroplane fleet. What was the dream of some of us could now be the reality of all. What is wanted is not merely a sufficient number of aeroplanes to tackle the Germans and gain a sort of predominance over them, or to be an aid in scouting or in directing artillery fire, or anything of that sort, but a wider conception of the functions of aeroplanes, which should be also an entirely separate arm. If I were to proceed to figures I would reach a number which would be far beyond anything that has yet been suggested. I would say that it would have been possible, had this matter been tackled in a right spirit, with adequate intelligence and energy, to have at the present time a fleet of 30,000 aeroplanes. It would not have been used for these sporadic raids, which looked well in the "Daily Mail" and the "Daily Chronicle," and so on, and which come in so very a propos when it is necessary for Ministers to come to this House to ask for £300,000,000; but for raids which would accomplish something definite and decisive towards the rapid winning of the War. With a fleet of that kind it would be possible to have not a mere raid on Combles or Strasburg or what not, but a continuous raid on points properly selected as part of a great plan which would, one by one, reduce these strong places to impotence so that the plan could be carried out methodically on to the next point. A fleet of that kind would be an aid to the Army in its attacks, and would finally attack the great German Army even in open campaign. It would be the cavalry of the air.
There is a possibility that the War may still last three or four years, and even now that possibility should be faced and this fleet be made a reality. I believe that if we persist in a kind of orthodox or conventional optimism, so far as one can project one's mind into the future, something of this sort will arise: I will now utter my judgment with greater temerity than for- 297 merly, and for this reason: At the beginning of the War I was very diffident in offering my judgment at all. I had a great respect for the authorities on the Front Bench, a respect which I now see to have been entirely misplaced. For whereas I myself, in my humble capacity as a simple Member of this House, expressed opinions which they in their superior wisdom pooh-poohed, with greater alacrity, because they made certain demands on their intelligence and energy, when these propositions were put to the test of reality, I found that in nine cases out of ten the judgment of these men was totally at fault and that some of my own previsions became realised. Therefore I proceed with greater boldness now to indicate what I believe may be the course of future events. With the present mode of conducting this War, with the want of energy and want of organising power in the Cabinet, with the want of conception, and with the reliance upon generals who, however esumable, are not winning the War, things will drift, and by this time twelve months the situation will not be appreciably different from what it is at the present moment. Meanwhile, the neutrals will have suffered only less than the belligerents. All the world will become fatigued with this War, which will have reached the stage of a deadlock. There will be the pressure of public opinion also in the belligerent States. But with irresistible force among all the neutrals, mainly in the United States of America, but with the co-operation of all the neutrals of Europe, there will be a demand for a cessation of the War because no clear and definite issue was being reached. At that point an armistice will the called for. The armistice will be granted, and after the armistice there will be no further resumption of hostilities. And the armistice under the conditions which now obtain, and with the factors now in view, will be one which will leave the Germans in possession of a considerable part of their conquest, and in a position to prepare for the future. That future will be a still more trying time, and will develop still greater perils even than those through which we have passed, leaving the great problem unsolved, and leaving for other generations a still more terrible war than this one, which has been so unexampled in the history of the world.
There are some escapes from this, but there are not many. The avenues are 298 closing up, the chances are being missed one by one, and yet something can still be done to change the situation. I will not further elaborate the matter, but I will sit down after concentrating on that one point, the one great line of safety and power which can change the aspect of the War and give hope of a victory on the Western front: that victory can only be obtained now by one means—that is, by realising the conception, bolder, as I have said, than anything yet contemplated, of a great and overwhelming aeroplane fleet, which will leave this country and the Allies undisputed masters of the air.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
The hon. Member who has just sat down gave the House a forecast of events during the next six months. I think that it was George Eliot who defined prophecy as being "the most gratuitous form, of mistake." I trust that events will show the rashness of the hon. Member in venturing to forecast what will happen in a field so uncertain as the field of war. Every Member of the House will, at any rate, profoundly hope that the gloomy forecast of the outcome of the War which he has just given us will be very far removed indeed from the true course of events. My object in rising was not to reply to the hon. Member's speech or to the suggestion which deals mainly with the Air Service, in regard to which my hon. Friend will address the House. I rose rather to answer the hon. Member for Rochdale on a matter which relates to my own Department. Before doing so, I should like to say on behalf of the Secretary of State for War that there was one point to which he had intended to refer in the course of his speech but which he unfortunately forgot to mention. That is the matter which was brought to his attention by the hon. Baronet the Member for Denbighshire of the removal of certain Welsh battalions from Kinmel Camp. My right hon. Friend will be very grateful to the hon. Baronet if he will bring the specific facts to his notice, and he will certainly make immediate and careful inquiry into the whole subject. My right hon. Friend, under the pressure of many other matters, forgot this one, which escaped his memory for the moment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale dealt with a matter in which he and, I know, several other Members of the House are interested, namely, the new Regulation made under the Order in 299 Council which deals with the holding of public meetings. I am very glad indeed that he has brought this to the attention of the House, because it gives me the opportunity to remove certain misapprehensions, as to the true meaning and purpose of this Regulation, which have arisen in certain quarters. It is a very good thing that public opinion should be sensitive whenever there is any interference with the right of public meetings, even in time of war, for the free expression of opinion is a matter of the greatest importance, and the House of Commons is well advised to watch any measures taken by the Ministry of the day which in any way threaten or impair the right of public meeting. Let me remind hon. Members of the origin of this Regulation. Just before last Easter a meeting was announced to be held in Trafalgar Square under societies known as the Union of Democratic Control, the No-Conscription Fellowship, a small body called The Stop-the-War Committee, and one or two other organisations, in order to advocate the early opening of negotiations with a view to peace. I was informed by the Commissioner of Police that the holding of this meeting in Trafalgar Square would undoubtedly give rise to grave disturbance. Meeting in Trafalgar Square is allowed for the demonstration of public opinion, and there was reason to believe that the public opinion of London would demonstrate itself in a manner very hostile to the promoters of the meeting. In these circumstances it was clear that steps should be taken to prevent this meeting from being held. It would have been a scandal if, in time of war, thousands of police had to concentrate in the centre of the Empire in order to protect a comparatively small number of persons intent upon holding a meeting diametrically opposed to the wishes and opinions of the great body of the population of London. Consequently, I moved for power, by Order in Council, to enable public meetings to be prohibited in certain circumstances. The circumstances were these, and this is the original form of the Order in Council. The Order in Council says:Where there appears to he reason to apprehend that the assembly of any person for the purpose of the holding of any meeting in a public place will give rise to grave disorder, and will thereby cause undue demands to be made upon the police or military forces, or that the holding of any procession will conduce to a breach of the peace or will promote disaffection, it shall be lawful for a Secretary of State or for any mayor, magistrate or chief officer of police who is duly authorised for the purpose by a Secretary of State, or for two or more of such persons so authorised, to make an Order prohibiting the holding of the meeting 300 or procession, and if a meeting or procession is held or attempted to be held in contravertion of any such prohibition, it shall be lawful to take such steps as may be necessary to disperse the meeting or procession, or prevent the holding thereof.Then there are paragraphs applying the Regulation to Scotland and Ireland by the proper machinery.
An Order was promptly made, under that Regulation, which was passed ad hoc, on the 19th April, prohibiting the meeting in Trafalgar Spuare. Not a word of protest was made in any quarter, either in this House or outside, or even in the Press which represented the views which were to be advocated at the meeting, against the regulation, or against the Order made under it. Indeed, there is some reason to suppose that the promoters were not very sorry to be absolved from the rather perilous adventure on which they had somewhat rashly embarked. My hon. Friend was mistaken in suggesting that these powers were then, or have since been conferred on any mayor, magistrate or chief officer of police. It is a power that can be conferred by the Secretary of State upon any such officer. There was no intention in my mind of making any general order conferring any powers upon those officers at large. It was only in view of a particular meeting which was likely to give rise to serious disturbance that it was contemplated to confer such powers upon the local authorities.
Mr. GORDON HARVEY
May I ask whether those powers simply refer to special meetings and not to meetings generally?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
My intention is only to confer them in regard to special meetings. I cannot say whether the same view is held by the Secretary for Scotland. In that country the circumstances are somewhat different, the Secretary for Scotland being in London, and the local authorities being at some distance. I cannot speak as to Scotland, but I am speaking now of the exercise of the powers in England and Wales, for which alone I am responsible. The House perhaps will desire to know what action has been taken under that Order. I have had seven applications from various localities for power to be conferred for the prohibition of meetings on the ground that serious disturbance was apprehended. I examined all those cases, and I did not act in any of them. It appeared to me that in no case was there sufficient evidence to show that serious disturbances, making undue 301 demands upon the police or military forces, would in fact occur. The result has been, in spite of Orders not having been made, that five of the meetings were not held; the promoters abandoned the meetings, or did not get the use of places in which to hold them, and they were therefore abandoned. In one case a meeting was held and there was no disorder. In another case where a meeting was held there was some slight disorder, but no disorder of a serious character. Consequently, as to England and Wales, the only occasion on which this Regulation has been used since it was made in April was at the Trafalgar Square meeting, for which it was, indeed, devised In Scotland no Order at all has been made. In Ireland the Regulation has been enforced only once. Hon. Members in Ireland may be interested to know that the body against which it was directed was an Orange Lodge of Belfast.
May I remind the Home Secretary that we have, under the Defence of the Realm Act, another Regulation which prohibits entirely the holding of any political meeting in Ireland without the permission of the police?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I do not know that that is under the Defence of the Realm Act; I think it is, rather, under the general powers exercised by the General Officer Commanding under martial law.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I am not sure that there has been any specific Regulation, certainly not under this Regulation. On the 12th July the Orange Order generally most patriotically abandoned their processions, which they have held for very many generations, lest they should give rise to ill-feeling and cause disturbance, and, it being in time of war, they abandoned the 12th July processions. There was a comparatively small independent order of Orangemen who refused to comply and who proposed to hold a public meeting in spite of the policy generally adopted, and, to prevent that from being done, this Regulation was brought into operation. Those were the only two occasions in which, fortunately, it has been found necessary to make use of this Regulation. The Regulation has been slightly amended, not because it was found in any way inefficient or unsatisfactory, but 302 because of the conditions in Ireland. The desire of the Government is to get rid of the exceptional martial law powers which have been possessed in that country; but, at the same time, there are certain dangers to be looked forward to, and one of them was the growth of processions, whether in Ulster or in other parts of Ireland, which might give rise to serious disturbances and disorder, or which might promote disaffection. Any procession, although it might not be technically a public meeting, at the same time might be a meeting, either in Ireland or in England, which might give rise to serious disturbance. Moreover, a meeting of that character might not be held in a "public place." For example, it might be in a field to which the public would not have access without the permission of the owner, and it was felt desirable to amend the Regulation in order to make it really apply to what is technically not a public place. Supposing a meeting was to be held in the Albert Hall, and it was likely to give rise to disturbance, it would have been necessary to prohibit the assembling of people for the purpose of going to the Albert Hall, as it was, in fact, to prohibit their assembling for the purpose of meeting in Trafalgar Square. While the Regulation was being amended in regard to processions, it was also amended in respect of the words "in a public place" in order to give it greater scope. The other Amendment which has been made is one to which I think my hon. Friend has attached too much importance. The original wording of the Regulation was, "Where there is reason to apprehend that the holding of any meeting," and so forth, "it shall be lawful for the Secretary of State" to make such-and-such an Order. That, of course, meant that where, in the opinion of the Secretary of State there is reason to apprehend disturbance, he may make such an Order. It is merely a drafting amendment which has been made. Instead of the words "where there is reason" we used the words "where there appears to be reason to apprehend." It is purely a drafting alteration, without any of the sense or intention or effect which my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale may with undue suspicion read into it. I would particularly emphasise the fact that the Regulation will not apply, as my hon. Friend supposes, "to any meeting wherever held." No mayor or chief of police force may prohibit any meeting at any time, or wherever 303 a few men or a few friends meet in a room to discuss political matters. No Order may be made except by direct action, so far as I am concerned, of the Secretary of State. In the second place, the Order cannot be made unless there is reason to apprehend that the assembling of persons or the holding of the meeting will give rise to grave disorder or cause undue demands to be made on the police or military forces. I do not think that anyone could honestly say that the assembling of a few persons in a house, even if an individual were to threaten to break the windows of the house, could be considered to give rise to grave disorder and thereby cause undue demands to be made on the police or military forces. The powers under this Regulation, I agree, ought to be most sparingly used, and so they have been. Only two Orders, which I have mentioned, have been made under it. The Government and this House ought never to permit a situation to arise in which a comparatively small band of disorderly people could put a stop to free speech by threatening to break up certain classes of meetings. Wherever they are held it is the duty of the police authorities to give protection wherever it is practicable to give protection. But, on the other hand, in time of war there ought to be some power to prevent a meeting such as the one in Trafalgar Square, which would undoubtedly have given rise to grave riotous disturbance, from being held. I can assure the hon. Member and the House that as his fears as to the operation of this Order, which he will, I think, frankly agree have not been realised in the past, so also they certainly will not find cause to be realised in the future.
§ Mr. BILLING
I should like to refer briefly to some of the remarks which have been made here this afternoon on the question of man-power. The attitude of this House towards Conscription seems rather strange. I do not know what the House expects. When you put a strong weapon into the hands of a weak and unresisting man you cannot expect to have any great or useful effect. When this House put the weapon of Conscription into the hands of a weak and vacillating man I really do not know how they could possibly conceive that any useful purpose would immediately come out of it. On one side of the House I hear it said that the Government have done a bad thing too well, and the right hon. Gentleman rises and suggests that 304 they have done a good thing very badly. I do not know that the time of the House should be occupied in deciding what they have done, but I think they ought to occupy themselves in trying to devise, so far as lies in their power, how in some way to get out of the muddle in which they have got themselves, and to bear in mind in administering the Act one or two very important points. I am confident that if I could only persuade the Minister for War to put half the intelligent interest into discriminating as to the use and abuse of his men that he displayed in his position as Minister for War, that we should make a perceptible advance. It would have been very useless to expect all things of one type of gun, and it is very useless to expect one thing from all types of men. We see some of the best brains being hopelessly misused. I would suggest to the Minister for War that brains as well as bravery play, and will play, a dominant part. I know a case myself of a professional man in the City, a man of exceptional ability, who was called up under the Conscription Act. I do not think he was asked what his qualifications were. He was a successful professional man at nine o'clock one morning, and he was a number at five minutes past nine. Within a couple of months, and at the present minute, he is helping to make a road somewhere in the country with pick and shovel, having been lent to a contractor who presumably makes the road at a profit. If we are going to turn the brains of our country about like that, it would seem as if we were running for a fall. Here is a man who to my knowledge, like many others, is of exceptional ability and great organising power. I refer to men who have founded successful businesses, and who could give priceless assistance in organising, where organising is so essential. There is that man lent, No. 762A it may be, to a contractor to be employed with pick and shovel, so that the contractor can make a profit and the country may have a road. I cannot help criticising that.
I would also like to ask the Minister for War whether he can give one instance where a man has been given the opportunity when once he became a number, of proving his worth. There is also the present method of calling men up, all and sundry, quite irrespective of the work you are going to give them to do. When it comes to putting an Army in the field, I am satisfied that the sooner 305 you call up all able-bodied fighting men with no exemptions, if possible, the better. What is the use of calling up men who are not able-bodied, who will never make fighting men, simply because you want to fill offices, whether connected directly or indirectly with the military does not matter? You call one man up to do the work of a labourer or that of a clerk. You call a man up, and you do not think he is good enough for active service and you put him at road making. That man costs the country about £10 per week. Directly you call him up you have broken up his home, and in a most vexatious manner, and without any intelligent foresight, you have lifted him perhaps from Scotland and dumped him down in Devon for no reason. Yet there are plenty of men who are prepared to come forward and do that labouring work for much less than £10 per week, and to join a very excellent institution, the National Reserve, which could be used to keep in touch with such men. Then you go and take a man who possibly has a game leg, and you incur another expenditure of £10 per week, and send him to address envelopes in an office, when you could get men galore at £2 per week or women at 15s. If the Government are trying to make a paper Army, perhaps there is something in it. I think the Conscription Act is excellent and is necessary, absolutely necessary, for the winning of this War. But I think that the Government made a most serious muddle, and I do not think that anybody could have muddled it more than they have done. Equality of sacrifice does not seem to have occurred to the Administration. I know of cases of men who should be called up under that Act who, just because they happen to know somebody who knew somebody else who put in a good word for them in the right direction, are, instead of being called up, making two or three or five times as much as ever they made before, because the other unfortunate man did not know somebody whose wife knew somebody at the front who knew somebody in the War Office, and who therefore had to go, most probably leaving home and children and family behind, while other men, bachelors, remain behind. That has got to be cleared up. It is a horrible, crying, cruel injustice, and the men of this country, who stand a very great deal, and who have stood a very great deal, and the women of this country, will not stand for that type of Act or for that administration very much longer.
306 I heard a very great deal this afternoon about clothing. We had one case in the Courts of a clothing scandal, and yet I have not heard mentioned in this House the whole of this afternoon something more terrible than the clothing scandal, or whether a man took a shilling bribe to pass a pair of trousers or whether he did not. That was the case I read only yesterday of the shells scandal, in which a foreman had forged the inspector's die and had stamped dud shells, passing them through to the Army. As any Member of this House who has ever been identified with guns knows, a dud shell will kill a whole gun team. The men in France are looking to us to supply them with weapons to kill the Germans and not to murder themselves. Why did this man forge this die, this private mark, and pass through thousands of those dud shells? He gets run in, and what happens? The judge takes a very, serious view of the case and gives him six months—six months for with malice aforethought being a potential murderer of the men who had gone out to save his home and country! That was the beginning of it. That is the little pimple, and where we see a pimple growing there is something very wrong in the blood which produces it. I am satisfied in my mind that if that case were more fully inquired into there were other men who should be put into the dock. What was that particular foreman hoping to profit by passing vast quantities of dud shells? Why can we not have an inquiry into that matter? Graft is rampant in this country. I know it. I have seen it, not in one case but in fifty cases. Of course it is no good offering what may seem to be useless recriminations to-day, but it was because we were unprepared that graft has become so rampant.
I could give many cases of inspectors and viewers, showing how this graft grows. In the first instance we had a gigantic organisation built up for the production of war material. We went to the contractors and said, "We will send inspectors to spy on you." That was our first mistake. We said, "We do not trust you; you are a lot of dishonest scoundrels; you will sell us 'dud' goods, so we will send inspectors and viewers to see that the goods are all right." I do not suggest that the contractors of this country are the very best type of men to be found, but I do suggest that we should have had much less trouble if we had left it to their honour and their honesty, with a saving 307 clause that there would be a heavy fine for every piece of bad material delivered, and personal punishment for a second offence. Then we got a lot of young fellows, some of them bank clerks, some of them van boys, and God knows what other sorts of people, who knew nothing about the subject, and sent them down as inspectors. What was the result? I could give a list of twenty or fifty actual cases. These people go to the Admiralty or the War Office and want a job. They get a commission; they become what are called temporary officers, or temporary gentlemen, as the case may be. They are told to go to a factory, and they become viewers or inspectors of the product of some highly technical work. We do not consider it safe even to take an ordinary man out of the street and send him out to fight the Germans without training him for six or twelve months. That is simply to fight, which should be natural to all of us. Yet we take a bank clerk and expect him to give decisions on the quality of steel, or castings, or forgings, on stresses or strains, or on timber, without giving him anything except possibly a little Look containing measurements and a micrometer which he does not know how to use.
What is the result? In many cases when these youngsters arrive they are very humble. The contractor meets them on level ground. He says, "This man will have it in his power either to mess up my business or to pass my stuff, so I will make a friend of him." He proceeds to make a friend of him. He asks him to dinner, or to have a drink; then he lends him his car. In many cases—I do not say in all—the contractor thinks: "Either I have to put this young fellow under social and financial obligation to me, or I have to put up with his trying to do his duty. In his efforts to do his duty, which he does not understand, he will cause me endless bother and nuisance. If we get to know each other and become good friends, possibly he will take my advice or that of my viewers as to what he should pass and what he should not." So before very long corruption sets in. When an inspector, no matter who he is, finds himself borrowing a contractor's car, borrowing petrol for his own cycle-car and forgetting to give it back, dining at the Piccadilly or the Ritz, the Savoy or the Carlton, where I have seen them night after night, when before he had never been out of Soho or Poplar, when he gets his stomach well lined with 308 the contractor's dinner and his head a little flushed with the contractor's wine, what sort of decisions can he give? That is the trouble. The whole thing is based on hurry and ignorance, and the only people we have to thank for it are people whom no power in this country could prise open even before the War, and whom it seems impossible, as far as I can see, to prise open after two and a half years of war. We have had nothing but perorations and assurances the whole time. Even the Prime Minister had the audacity yesterday to get up and say that now we cannot have any more vacillation.
§ Mr. BILLING
I think it Is also a matter of taste to leave it to the Speaker to keep order. I understand that that is the duty of the Speaker, and not of a private Member. But to return to the audacity of the Prime Minister in telling us that now is not the time for vacillation. Surely we have been trying to tell the Prime Minister that for two years, and yet we find ourselves hopelessly involved in all sorts of political corruption, commercial graft, and crooked business. On one side we see some men piling up money and on the other side men perhaps with their sons killed and their homes ruined. That sort of thing is not going to bring about a happy ending, or to pitch our tents much nearer home night by night. I say to the Government, if you cannot conduct the War with imagination, please see that it is conducted with honesty. I have read that all great campaigns are brought to a conclusion not by theorising how your enemy is going to fail, but by concentrating all the brains and energies of the country on how you are going to win. The Press of this country seems to devote itself every day to new theories of why Germany must lose, because she has done something. I very rarely read that we must win because we have done something. The tank itself was advocated when I happened to be at the Admiralty. I think I was one at the Admiralty who was interested in the new tank propaganda. That was in December, 1914. When at the outbreak of war one of the men who to a very great extent brought 309 the idea came over from America—an Englishman—he was turned aside, and no heed was taken of some of his best ideas. I threw out the simple suggestion in the early days that if we were going to employ these tanks surely we should employ them with electric cables, so that when they broke down or got beyond the enemy's trenches they could be hauled back out of trouble, instead of being left with all their secrets in the enemy's hands. These tanks which are so secret that we must not publish a photograph of them, or know whether they are made out of steel or of sugar candy, that we must not be told anything about them—I suggest that the Germans have already captured several of them. I ask the Secretary of State to contradict that, because I have heard it stated that we have lost some of these tanks. If they are in the hands of the Germans, what is the use of keeping up this secrecy, this absolute official bunkum, which is exhausting the patience of the country?
This Cuffley airship business is another instance. Everybody who knows anything about airships is laughing over the stupendous and crass bluff that we are trying to make over that. We all know that that was not a Zeppelin. We all know it was an old-fashioned army airship belonging to the Huns, and that this was the first and last time that they had the audacity to send one of that type over here. There we give the lie to the public, an official lie, and say we have brought down a Zeppelin. Even if it were true it would be fatuous enough. When we do bring down a Zeppelin there is no reason to make all this song about it. The fact that Zeppelins can get back after they have raided this country, after two and a half years of war, the fact that one only is brought down out of ten is a far greater disgrace to us than the fact that we have brought one down is a credit to us. There is no excuse for the Zeppelin getting back to its own country. I put it to the hon. Member on the Front Bench: "Why are you making all this fuss?" Will you kindly let me say this: If you assure me that the best is being done I will remain silent for ever, as long as it is being done. I know quite well that it is not. I know quite well that the defences of London are such that they form a wonderful spectacular effect, or have done on the last two occasions of Zeppelin raids, for Londoners. But the spectacular 310 effects experienced in other parts of the country are not nearly so gratifying.
I want to tell the hon. Member before I sit down that he has the material—I do not say he has an Army—"the cavalry of the air" to which the hon. Member on my right referred. There is no excuse at all in my opinion why we should not have a fleet. If we had only had the vision! We say that the Germans have lost this War because they lack imagination. I do not know what to say about ourselves. We have lacked imagination through the whole piece. We have always done the obvious right. There is no reason to-day why, 'even after two and a half years, the advice that, some of us gave should not be followed. We stood on soap boxes and talked about it, and we wrote about it. We did this for years. We were called fools and malcontents because we said there was going to be a war. I forgive the Government all that because they had not the imagination to see. There was a game bigger than war, and it is even still bigger than war. After the War had broken out the prophecies of these men came true. Those concerned might have left the matter to the imagination of the statesmen who wanted to start on the construction of an air fleet. If that had been done two and a half years ago we would have been, twelve months nearer the end of the War to-day than we are. In two years' time, it may be, we shall turn round and say. "Yes, an airship fleet would help us now if we had started it two years ago." There is no man in this country now who will deny the priceless assistance that our meagre little air fleet has been to us on the Western Front. There is no man who understands aviation, who has even a smattering of knowledge of war, who would not tell you that, if we had started to build an air fleet two years ago, of the priceless assistance it would have been to us to-day. Of course it would! If we could put 10,000 or even 5,000 men in the air, if we could carry this War over the enemy's country, at the back of his fortifications, instead of simply squirting men against them like a spray against a rock, it would be well.
I am sorry not to see the Minister for War present. I think I shall have to write to him personally. If only he would allow some young man of imagination to have a chance! One must remember that the Air Service is very young. Men who have interested themselves in aviation in recent years are only young men of imagination, 311 and they have had neither the time nor the opportunity to win for themselves a great name in the public eye. Great names may move a crowd. Great names may move the people when they are buoyed up with enthusiasm. But great names do not win wars. A man who has made a great reputation as a steel maker or a diplomat, as a builder or as a manufacturer of pianos, we will say, or tin whistles, has a name that is known throughout. This is not the case when he is going to build aeroplanes. That has always been the trouble. Whenever there is a question of a public agitation and the saving of a position it is always the name, and never the brain, that is given the controlling position. I would suggest to the Minister for War that it is not too late to start now to improve the position. It is never too late. We have the resources. We have the man-power—when it is properly employed. I believe we have the money. We certainly have the credit. We should make a start by building a humble fifteen or sixteen hundred machines. In this country, at the present time, we have hundreds of men who are drifting about the streets doing nothing. Why? Because they are naval men and the military could not possibly work with the Navy! They would sooner work with the Huns.
There is no reason why naval aeroplanes to-day should not undertake the defence of the country without interfering with the little part they are playing in the War. There are the men and the machines, and everything else. You could then leave the Royal Flying Squadrons to get on with the War in France. I do ask the hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench representing the Air Service, I do not know to what extent, to consider these points. The Board continue to issue a great many communiques. What extraordinary things! They almost heat the German battle communique last Monday, and that was bad enough! The Army and the Admiralty still seem to issue their own without any regard whatsoever to each other. You note that we are told about "a little air raid last night" without any relation at all to the Air Board. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us just exactly where the influence of the Air Board starts and where it finishes: where comes in its advisory capacity, and whether it is allowed to dictate. If the Air Board is purely in existence in an advisory capacity, you can take it from me that its advice is not worth anything.
312 If it can dictate there is so much good work to be done. What I should like to say by way of suggestion to the Air Board is to discover to what extent they can dictate. I am afraid it is purely there as a name and not as a real thing. Under these circumstances I appeal to His Majesty's Government to put the control of the future Air Service in the hands of young men of imagination, and let them not only win their spurs but let them win for the country, through the squadrons of the air, in perhaps the year or two of war which we will yet have to face, what no other weapon that has ever been put into our hands can accomplish.
§ Major BAIRD
(representing the Air Board): I do not believe that the House will wish to be detained very long on the subject of the air. Deeds count more than words in matters of war, and I do not think anybody who has followed the deeds of our airmen either at home or at the front will have cause to complain in the manner in which the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has complained. The hon. Gentleman who first raised the question advocated the creation of a vast fleet of aircraft. I can assure him that I entirely agree with him in that. I do not believe we could have too many aircraft. At least it is impossible to conceive conditions which would enable us to obtain more than we could use with very great success. But I must ask him to believe that both the Naval Service and the Royal Flying Corps are doing their very utmost to obtain aircraft, and that when he considers the small beginnings with which we started the War, the fact that the expansion of the Air Service has been able to keep pace with the astounding expansion of the Army, and at the same time to win and retain the supremacy of the air, which is undeniable, at the front, disposes, I think, of the suggestion that there has been a slackness in the matter of developing the construction of aeroplanes. Doubtless the hon. Member is aware of the enormous wastage which occurs in the conditions of active service. It is something appalling, and to make good that wastage, to keep up-to-date in the matter of new inventions and improvements, to supply the great expansion which is required—all that has entailed an immense amount of forethought and hard labour on the part of the officers who, long before the Air Board had anything to do with the business, had been in charge of the thing I think their achievement reflects very, very 313 great credit upon them, and the hon. Member perhaps forgot that when he delivered strictures which we in this House are quite ready to accept, but which I do not think he applied to the officers, who cannot answer for themselves, and whose work has been too splendid for words.
I think it is necessary to remember also that aeroplanes and aircraft of all kinds are, perhaps, one of the most complicated and one of the most difficult forms of munitions of war to produce, and that to keep up quantities and numbers, and at the same time to produce the new types which are necessary in order to retain the mastery of the air, is a colossal work. I do not think the experts of our Air Service deserve blame. Indeed, they deserve very great praise for the manner in which they have carried out this work. As regards the speech of the hon. Member who spoke last, I hope he will believe that he cannot possibly desire more aeroplanes than I do or anybody who is connected with the Air Service. The only trouble is that, whereas he is free to give full rein to his imagination on these subjects, we are bounded by the hard facts of the possibilities and the capacities of the country's productive powers.
§ Mr. LYNCH
While fully recognising the splendid achievements of the airmen, who have undoubtedly a personal superiority over the German airmen, what I ask him is this: Is he content with the original conception and the impulsive forces which now exist as compared with the possibilities of a conception and an impulse which at the beginning should have been luminous enough, and determined enough, to give that for which I have asked?
§ Major BAIRD
Certainly I am no more content than anybody else in this matter, because the possibilities of development of aircraft are untold, and if we were prepared to rest on our laurels we should certainly be adopting an attitude of complacency very much out of keeping with the requirements of the time, and that is the last impression I would desire to convey to the hon. Member. With regard to the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Billing), I really wonder if there is anything to please him at all. Apparently there is nothing with which he is satisfied. Really, I cannot understand his frame of mind. With regard to his statement that there was no excuse for Zeppelins getting back to their country, does he honestly 314 think that that is the proper way to describe or to refer to the deeds of those gallant airmen who go up night after night to destroy Zeppelins? How many has he destroyed himself?
§ Mr. BILLING
Is that a question to ask? I consider it perfectly extraordinary, under all the circumstances of the material assistance given, that they have done such astounding deeds of heroism and efficiency.
§ Major BAIRD
I am very glad to have that admission from the hon. Member, because what has been done, without in the slightest degree weakening our position at the front, does seem to me to be deserving of a rather different statement from that to which we have listened to-night. The hon. Member talks of handing over the aid defence of the country to the naval airmen. Why the very name "Naval Air Service" shows that it exists for naval purposes.
§ Major BAIRD
The Navy does not defend the country on land, but on the sea, and it is to assist the Navy in protecting the country on the sea that the Naval Air Service is detailed, and it seems a very logical attitude to adopt. At any rate, it was the attitude adopted some time ago. It is true the Naval Air service at the beginning did undertake the air defence of the country, but that was because the whole of the resources of the Royal Flying Corps were required to fulfil the duties of the Army in the field. Now that the position has altered, the Royal Flying Corps has been able to take over and carry out, as I think most people who consider the matter will admit with extraordinary gallantry and efficiency, the very difficult and dangerous duties of safeguarding this country against Zeppelins. I do not contend, and it would be ridiculous to do so, that it is only the Flying Corps upon whom we have to rely for defence against Zeppelins. Anti-aircraft guns, searchlights, and aeroplanes are all combined in a carefully thought out plan, and that plan, as I said before the Recess, is by no means complete. It is improving every day, and if we adopted the attitude that that plan should be completed at a rate which would make it indispensable to deprive our forces at the front of the sup- 315 port they require, both in anti-aircraft guns and aeroplanes, I do not think that is the view which would commend itself to any but a very small minority of people in the country.
§ Mr. BILLING
I suggest you should take up your Army aeroplanes for employment in France and employ naval aeroplanes, which are doing nothing in England, for the defence of the country.
§ Major BAIRD
It is very easy for somebody who has no inside knowledge of the organisation of the Air Service to suggest that the whole thing could be upset and altered, but I think the House would believe that these matters are carefully considered by those who are responsible and they are at least as anxious as the hon. Member for East Herts that the defences of the country should be efficient. I do not think the House will desire me to speak at great length on this question, but I am prepared to answer to the best of my ability any questions that the hon. Member puts to me. As a matter of fact, I do not really know what he is driving at. In the first place, the hon. Member complains that we do not bring down a Zeppelin, and then when we do bring down Zeppelins he complains that we do not bring down enough. That is not a reasonable or a fair attitude to adopt towards the men who are risking their lives night after night going up after Zeppelins. The speeches which the hon. Member for East Herts makes create a feeling, which is totally unjustified, that the Government are deliberately shirking the task of defending us against aircraft attacks. I do not think the hon. Gentleman intends to create that impression, because it is one which it is not fair or right to create in the minds of the people, who have nothing to go by except the speeches of the hon. Member, which are very much more widely reported than my own speeches or anybody else's connected with the Air Service. Before making those speeches he might at least think twice or three times, and endeavour to put himself in the position of those responsible for the defences, and give them credit for doing their best under the circumstances.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I do not propose to pursue the controversy to which we have just listened, but I am bound to say that I think a part of the speech of the hon. Member for East Herts sounded to me very extraordinary, and the hon. Member seems to regard it almost in the light of a 316 personal grievance that a Zeppelin should be brought down. I wish to say a word or two about the statement made by the Home Secretary in regard to the holding or prohibition of public meetings. I am glad he is going to retain this power in his own hands, and that it is not going to be conferred indiscriminately upon local authorities. The right of public meeting is a right which ought to be very zealously guarded. I quite admit that in war-time the organisers of meetings themselves have responsibilities, and that when meetings are organised without any judgment the people who organise them may not be rendering a service, but a disservice, to free speech, and may be giving an excuse for imposing certain restrictions. On the other hand, it is absolutely essential that the right of public expression should be protected in this country, or else we shall be thrown back a long way, and we shall have to fight our way forward again as our forefathers have done. I believe in the main that there is no reason for the restriction of meetings at the present time if they are held on reasonable lines. There is no passion at the moment which would lead to the breaking up of meetings, provided that passion is not deliberately stimulated and incited from certain quarters. When a newspaper tries deliberately to incite a riot, the Home Secretary ought to have power to deal with that paper, because it is absolutely not in the interests of free speech. The ground has been very fully covered to-night and many matters have been dealt with.
We talk about Conscription and equality of sacrifice, and we have heard many of the old opinions which were spoken of at the time when this battle was first being fought. I am bound to say that whatever else Conscription brings, it does not bring equality of sacrifice, and you cannot get that between soldiers who for 1s. or 2s. per day are enduring the sweat and agony and horror of the trenches, whilst certain trading interests of this country are using the War in order to enrich themselves at the public expense. When you find a soldier being compelled to go into the trenches whilst his wife at home is left to endure the rising tide of prices which are now 70 per cent. higher than when the War broke out, in the face of those facts it is mere humbug to talk about equality of sacrifice. We watch many of these developments jealously, and we find that as the power of the military grows it is apt to be used in all sorts of ways which 317 would have been resented fiercely and bitterly in this country a year or two ago. We have had the spectacle of men being rounded up at railway stations as if they were so many criminals. We have seen men marched and driven through the streets to the police office who were quite innocent. and I would like to ask any representative of the War Office had he done me the courtesy of being present—they knew I was going to raise certain matters—how many people were arrested and intimidated in this way during those roundings up, and how many they yielded so far as the Army is concerned. These are matters which are rather vital. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson) raised the question of the treatment of many of the soldiers in the Army in respect of pensions and so on. I believe it is the general wish that there should be an abolition of the waste and overlapping and the chaos that is now going on in regard to this matter, and that the element of charity which still enters far too widely into this question of the treatment of soldiers and their dependants should be eliminated and the whole matter placed upon the basis of right.
What I wish to deal with to-night more particularly is the question of the thousands of men who are being forced into the Army through the medical boards, men who admittedly are absolutely unfitted for all forms of Army work, and especially for active general service. Men are being forced into the Army who ought not to be in the Army at all, for they are not fit for Army work in any shape or form, and they will be of no use to the Army when they get there, because they will break down, and when they have broken down the Army authorities will probably turn round and say, as they are now saying, "We are not responsible for this disease which has broken you down. It has not been caused by your Army service, or aggravated by it, and therefore we are not able to give you anything in the nature of a pension." I wish to bring to the notice of the House certain actual cases which are coming up every day, which are reported in the newspapers, and about which we receive many letters and communications privately. Perhaps the medical board that has gained the widest reputation is the Mill Hill board, and even in regard to this body again and again we have actually had this fact established, that the members of the military tribunal override the decisions of the Army 318 medical board, and will not accept men who have been passed by some of the doctors for general service. There was quite recently at the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal the case of a man who, on 30th August, was passed at Mill Hill for general service. This man went to Sir J. Mackenzie and other doctors, some of the ablest doctors, men of standing in the medical world, and they one and all testified that he was absolutely unfit for work. The case was so bad that the chairman, Alderman De Salis, declined to accede to the wish of the military representative that the man should be sent back again for a further examination. In doing so he stated that they were perfectly convinced that the man was unfit, and he asked why they should put him to the trouble of going to Mill Hill again. They could not shut their eyes to the fact that they had had cases before from Mill Hill where the decisions were quite different from those of private doctors, and where they also disagreed with those at Hounslow. Captain Bax, the military representative, said:I quite agree, but they tell me that there are always three doctors there, and in cases of doubt five.The Alderman replied:They may be very imcompetent.When that sort of thing is actually being said by the military tribunals, how can you expect men to have any faith in these doctors? Case after case of this kind has been coming forward, and they have created great discontent and dissatisfaction amongst these men, because they feel that in many cases they have been forced into the Army although absolutely unfit to stand the strain of Army work. Here is a case which came before the Egham Tribunal where they disregarded the decision of the Guildford Medical Board. This board had passed a man for general service, but he was able to establish before the tribunal that he partook of a special diet because he suffered from dyspepsia. He was previously rejected as unfit. He informed the medical board that he had had gastric catarrh and a nervous breakdown. The doctor did not go into his case at all, but merely examined his chest and told him to walk across the room and read the letters on the wall. On that he was passed for active service in the field. I say that is a caricature of what a medical examination ought to be. It does not help the Army. It puts grit into the wheels of the Army to 319 allow men of that sort to be admitted. These men will fall out on the marches and be a drag on the strength of the Army organisation. I wish to bring the whole matter to the notice of the War Office, when they have the leisure to be present, in order to see what is going to be done in regard to it. In one case this Mill Hill authority actually sent a man back for two months, although they had no business as doctors to refer the man back at all. They said, "You go away and come back to us in two months' time, and we will examine you again and be able then to decide what is really your condition." The Chairman of the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal stated that this was absolutely playing the fool, and the military representatives said that they were merely playing about. Yet these doctors who are being condemned by the chairmen of tribunals and by the military representatives are supposed to be doing this highly responsible work of deciding which men are fit and which men are not fit for the Army. It is a public scandal that this sort of thing should go on, and it is certainly a matter which ought to be closely investigated by the Members of this House. Another man came before the East Ham Tribunal and said, "I was never more surprised in my life than when I was passed for general service." At his medical examination, he said, he pointed out an injury to his leg which prevented him doing marching, but the doctor passed it over and tested his heart. He could only use the thumb and first finger of his right hand, but when he showed the doctor his hand the doctor merely said, "Yes, yes," and went to get some papers. The case was adjourned so that the man might go before another medical board. For every one of these cases which we see in the papers or hear about there are scores of others. Men are being forced into the Army—I believe illegally—who certainly were never intended to be in it at all. I have here a letter which a Member of this House received from Brighouse, in Yorkshire, this morning. I will read it to the House:I beg to draw your attention to the manner in which the Halifax Medical Board examine recruits for the Army. On 11th April last, having a preference for the Navy. I attended at the Naval Recruiting Office Deansgate, Manchester, with the intention of joining: His Majesty's Navy, but, as I feared, the doctor rejected me owing to hernia. I have suffered from this complaint for many years now. I informed the medical authorities at Halifax of my previous rejection, and I then received the usual pink form calling me up for re-examination at Halifax. I attended for this yester- 320 day and was passed Class A General Service, and this in spite of the fact that I am in no better health than I was when I was rejected for the Navy.He says that his case is not by any means an isolated one, and that is perfectly true. This is the spirit in which some of these people are doing their work. I want to bring to the attention of the House the case of a man who went before the medical board at Guildford. The action of the board was criticised at the Reigate tribunal. The application was in respect of Bertram Austen Chapman, late assistant-superintendent of the civil staff of the remount depot at Redhill. This man produced a certificate signed by Captain Palmer, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, stating that he was unable to enlist owing to being permanently unfit. On 5th August the Guildford medical board passed him as fit for general service. Since then he had been examined by four independent doctors, who certified that he was suffering from asthma and was quite unfit. The man asserted that when he was examined at Guildford one doctor looked at him and passed him for general service, remarking, "When he is in the Army, if it makes him ill, they will just have to chuck him out." Surely that is not the way to go to work. If we are going to have Conscription, let us have it administered in an intelligent way. This is doing the utmost harm. There is no doubt, if you build up a vast and enormous working machine, there will be many cases of individual hardship, but you ought to reduce them to the minimum instead of having cases of this sort arising. I will take another case, which happened at the Lambeth tribunal. It is the case of a greengrocer who, after being rejected twice, was passed for general service by the medical board, and who was finally rejected by the Appeal Medical Board at Whitehall as unfit for any military service. What sort of confidence can you possibly expect men to have under these conditions? I say this is a matter where there ought to be definite inquiry, and where there is room for real reform on the part of the War Office. I should have been glad to have had the representatives of the Department here to explain matters, and I can assure them I intend to raise this question on another occasion, when they are present. I wish, last of all, to raise a point as to what is to happen to those men under these conditions, and what reward they are getting from a generous country. I desire to read two letters which I have written to the Financial Secretary 321 to the War Office and the reply which I have received to each of them. I do not wish to bring any charge personally against the Financial Secretary. I have brought many hundreds of individual cases to his notice, and I am bound to say that in each case he has manifested personal sympathy and interest. I am not complaining of him as an individual, it is the system behind him which is wrong. These are statements of fact in each case. The first letter was written in June this year, and it was as follows:
§ "Dear Mr. Forster,
§ I wish to bring to your notice the case of Gunner R. T. Perks, who enlisted on the 8th May, 1915, and died whilst in training on the 26th November, 1915, at the Military Hospital, Salisbury. His widow continued to receive the Government allowance for six months, but this has now been stopped, and for three months she has not received anything. She is a widow with one child. She has since had to break up her home, and her situation is very far from being pleasant.
§ Can nothing be done in such a case?
§ I should be glad if you could make investigation with a view to see whether the Government pension cannot be continued. I know, in any case, that you will give this matter your personal and sympathetic attention, as you have done in so many other cases.
§ Yours faithfully,
§ (Signed) W. C. ANDERSON."
§ The reply I received was as follows:
§ "26th July, 1916.
§ Dear Mr. Anderson,
§ You wrote to me on 24th June about the claim to pension in respect of the late Gunner E. T. Perks. I find that he had suffered for six years with chronic kidney disease, and I am afraid that in the opinion of the doctors the disease could not be regarded as aggravated by service.
§ Pension is, therefore, inadmissible under Army Regulations, but the claim has been referred to Statutory Committee to consider an award out of their funds.
§ Yours truly,
§ (Signed) H. W. FORSTER.
§ W. C. Anderson, Esq., M.P."
§ I want to ask this question: If this man had been suffering for six years from chronic kidney trouble, why was it not discovered when he was passed into the Army? If he were unfit to be in the Army he ought not to have been passed, but having been passed the Army should accept the responsibility and not shirk its financial obligations. Here is a second case about which I wrote to the hon. Gentleman:
§ "Dear Mr. Forster,
§ I am writing you in respect of the case of Mr. A. J. Bascombe, 29, Culliford Road, Dorchester. This man has written to me complaining of the treatment he has received from the Chelsea Hospital Pension Committee.
§ He gave up his situation, which he held for twenty-seven years, and joined the Dorset Company of Reserves in September, 1914. He was sent to Dorchester for prison guard duty. During the winter he caught a chill, and after a few days' rest returned to his duty. On the 15th May the following year he was sent to Avonmouth, and in August he was taken ill. He was sent to a Bristol hospital, where it was discovered that he was suffering from diabetes. After being in hospital for about two weeks he was sent home, when he went before a board of doctors, and was given his 322 discharge on 30th September. Mr. Bascombe's papers were sent to Chelsea Hospital, but were returned with a statement to the effect that he was not entitled to any allowance. He has been living on 10s. per week from the Insurance and a few pounds he had saved, but now his Insurance has been reduced to 5s. per week. In addition to his complaint he is suffering from acute rheumatism, and is unable to follow his occupation.
§ Mr. Bascombe does not know what he can live on, and, in view of the circumstances, I should be glad if you would cause investigation to be made in order that something may be done for him.
§ Yours faithfully,
§ (Signed) W. C. ANDERSON."
§ The answer I received was as follows:
§ "9th June, 1916.
§ Dear Mr. Anderson,
§ I have now completed my enquiries about the claim to pension on behalf of Private A. J. Bascombe, Dorset Eegiment. I find that he was discharged after one year and five days service on account of diabetes which, in the opinion of the Board of Invaliding Medical Officers, was not in any way due to military service. It was, therefore, not found possible to grant him a pension.
§ Sir R. Williams has already appealed twice on his behalf, and the Medical Board have on each occasion found no reason to alter their previous decision.
§ The circumstances have been brought to the notice of the Director-General of Army Medical Service, and he is also of opinion Private Bascombe's unfortunate disability was neither caused in, nor aggravated by, the service.
§ In these circumstances, I am afraid that it is not possible to grant him an allowance from Army funds.
§ Yours truly,
§ (Signed) H. W. FORSTER."
§ The same question arises in this case also. If that man is not fit, why was he accepted? How can any board of medical men say the Army training, the conditions of outdoor life, and the entire change in these men's circumstances have done nothing whatever to aggravate the diabetes or the chronic kidney complaint? How can any doctor tell us that? They certainly cannot tell us with any certainty. There is no doubt that, although these men may have had in them the germs of disease, they might have remained very well indeed but for the entirely new circumstances. In some cases where a man is not very strong it may be that the Army life will make him stronger, but in other cases undoubtedly it breaks him down. I say it is a disgraceful piece of cheeseparing for the War Office to try and get out of its financial obligations towards these broken men. They are absolutely broken so far as industrial life is concerned, and the Army authorities should be ashamed of thus trying to wash their hands of them. You are going to multiply these cases enormously. By such illustration as I have given of the methods of the doctors, you are not going to build up a strong or efficient Army by putting into it all sorts of unfit men. Your are going to weaken the Army. But having done this 323 the least you can do is not to shirk your financial obligations to these men; rather you should see that they are well and generously treated.
I want to refer briefly to the speech of the Home Secretary dealing with the new Orders in Council referring to meetings and processions. The right hon. Gentleman made a very important statement, and I am only sorry that the statement was made in such a thin House and without any notice to the Irish Members that the subject was to come up for discussion this evening. Let me say at once that so far as I understand the statement of the right hon. Gentleman it marks a step in the right direction. We heard in the earlier portion of the Debate that this Order in Council was looked upon with some concern by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who did not quite understand its meaning. For my part I may say I too was one of those who entertained that view. This new Order applies to the whole of the United Kingdom. As the House no doubt is aware we already have in force in Ireland an entirely different and contradictory Order dealing with meetings and processions. This earlier Order was issued in Ireland by the military authorities shortly after the rebellion, while the Order in England was issued in connection with the meeting in Trafalgar Square. Whether under the Defence of the Realm Act or under military law, it is an entirely different Order from the one issued in Ireland, prohibiting the holding of any political meetings whatever without first getting from the county inspector of police his permission in writing. Of course, the Order which applied to England only gave the police power to prohibit meetings where they considered there was likely to be disorder. The Regulation of the military authorities in Ireland was a procedure to which we objected and against which we protested vehemently at the time as a monstrous and most humiliating way of securing the end which the Government had in view. We were never able to ascertain whether It was issued under the Defence of the Realm Act or under martial law. The Prime Minister told us on several occasions that, although it is in force, martial law has really never been acted upon in Ireland, and that all that has been done has been done under the Defence of the Realm Act, although 324 the Home Secretary, I gather from a reply to my observation this evening, seems to think that the military regulation in Ireland was issued under martial law.
One of the complaints we had against that Order was that it was quite impossible to enforce it equally in all parts of the country. As a matter of fact, many political meetings were held in, I suppose, all four provinces in Ireland, for which no permission was asked, and which were not interfered with by the police, while in other cases any meeting which it was attempted to hold without seeking that permission was stopped. I had an experience only a week before last of a political meeting which I attended—it was an indoor meeting—and permission had not been asked from the county inspector for holding it, but in order to regularise the proceedings a written order, signed by the county inspector, was received by the secretary of the meeting, although it had not been asked for. The Home Secretary has thrown a good deal of light upon the new Order in Council by telling the House that it is intended to apply mainly to Ireland, and that the alterations which had been made in it are mainly so that it can be applied effectively to Ireland. In his speech he has foreshadowed, as I understand it, the early withdrawal of martial law. Of course, we welcome most heartily that important announcement of the Home Secretary, and hope that it is only the beginning of a return to a sane policy in Ireland on the part of the Government. He has informed us that the old Order preventing meetings from being held without first obtaining the permission of the police is to be withdrawn with martial law.
I do not think the Home Secretary was quite explicit. I am sure the House, and certainly the Irish Members, would have been most anxious if he had explained a little more clearly than he did what it was that he meant to say, because he certainly left the impression upon my mind and the minds of all of us on these Benches that this Order was issued to enable martial law to be withdrawn in Ireland. I presume that it is not the intention of the Government that two contradictory Orders should run concurrently in Ireland, because goodness 325 knows we have enough confusion in Ireland without the Government taking on that procedure now. That is a step which we welcome most heartily, but which in our opinion ought to have been taken long ago. I would venture to remind the Home Secretary that we urged that course upon him as far back as 1st August. In the Debate that took place in the House of Commons on that day I said:There would be no real difficulty at all in withdrawing this restriction, which is only irritating and aggregating people, and in the case of any meeting where the police had the smallest reason to believe that there was a seditious purpose or any breach of the Defence of the Realm Act was likely to be committed, they could step in and prohibit such meeting being held."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st August, 1916, col. 202.]We are now in the month of October. It has taken a very long time indeed for the Government to realise that the course we urged upon them was the right and proper one in the circumstances. I only desire to say that I hope this decision which has been announced by the Home Secretary indicates that we are near the end of an unfortunate chapter in the history of England's relations with Ireland, and that it will be followed without delay by the recognition of the fact that the only satisfactory way in which you can deal with Ireland is to trust her as you trust the self-governing Dominions of the Empire.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
There were one or two speeches made from this side of the House in reference to the issue of the possible raising of peace negotiations upon which I should like to say a word or two. We had a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir H. Dalziel), which was rather remarkable in its inception. He said that undoubtedly a large number of meetings were being held throughout the length and breadth of the country, in which great enthusiasm was being aroused on the question of the initiation of peace negotiations. I may say in passing that I have only taken part to a very small extent in the case of these meetings, but I think that that evidence is useful as coming from this particular quarter. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he considered the reason for the assent given to the views of the speakers in favour of peace in great industrial centres was that the workers saw the vast profits that were being made out of the War by favoured individuals. That may, to a certain extent, be the case. In every direction people realise that, whatever might have been the first intent of this country in entering into 326 the War and the highly moral enthusiasms that were aroused in connection with it, those enthusiasms are dying down very rapidly with the picture before us of the vast plunder system that is going on at the present time. But I do not think that is the chief reason why public opinion is being aroused in the desire for peace which is becoming more and more vocal. I think it is because the people are being horrified with the frightful human sacrifices which are being entailed by the War. Another speech to which we listened was that of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. LI. Williams). He fully endorsed the intentions of our war policy, and gave absolute adherence to the policy of forcing Germany virtually to unconditional surrender; that is to say, he was in full agreement, I should think, with the Secretary of State for War. But having made that declaration of faith he proceeded to make a very violent attack upon the system of Conscription, and went on to argue that we have raised already too many men for service in the field. That is an attitude of mind which I cannot understand, and to which I do not give adherence. If you take the point of view that we are to crush Germany—and when we speak of Germany we mean the Central Powers and Turkey and Bulgaria, that is to say, some 130 millions of people—very nearly half of Europe—to their knees and enforce our terms, whatever they may be, upon them I hold that it is a case of our spending the life of the last man and the last shilling, and it seems to me that anyone who upholds that policy should support a method which will enable the last man to be dragged to the shambles, and you cannot effect that purpose except by way of Conscription. To me it seems obvious that that must be the result of that policy.
I listened to the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday, as we all did, with great interest and extraordinary personal sympathy under the circumstances. One sentence that has remained in my mind, and which seems to me to embody the whole significance of that speech, was the statement that in the great advance which has taken place since 1st July we have advanced seven miles on a nine mile front. He did not tell us how many hundreds of thousands of men have been killed and mutilated, but we can give a very fair guess at what the total must be when over a long period, running into months, we have seen casualty lists of 5,000 327 a day. But surely it is obvious that if an advance of seven miles on a nine-mile front in one sphere of war activities entails this sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives, the total crushing of Germany and the forcing of the Central Powers to unconditional surrender must inevitably, of course, take years and must amount to the loss of millions of men. We know that these tactics, which are, I believe, spoken of as General Joffre's nibbling tactics, have cost France a million men dead and millions of men mutilated. We cannot expect now that our losses will average less than those of France, or that their total in the course of a year or so will be less than the total of France, and if, therefore, we are to adopt this policy of the crushing of Germany and forcing of Germany into unconditional surrender it seems to me to entail a system which will enable us to drag forth the very last man of military age in this country. Every man who supports that policy throughout the country should be brought to take part in this terrible sacrifice. I would comb out of industry every man who supports that policy and I would make him help to carry it into effect.
It seems to me to be quite obvious that the pursuance of that policy must bring about some such system as this. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Norton Griffiths) spoke yeserday of man-power, and urged that in certain industries in this country we should employ coloured labour. He spoke of going to Africa for labour for the industry of this country. I suggested that we should get Chinese. He said "Not yet; not till we have exhausted the supply of coloured labour." I think the pursuance of that policy of the crushing of Germany and the forcing of Germany to unconditional surrender will bring in time the necessity for the introduction of some such system as that. We know that already it is being adopted by some. France is importing thousands of Chinese to the coastal ports of the South. We learnt the other day that we are going to recruit thousands of Kaffirs to be brought to France to make good to a certain extent the terrible war devastation amongst her manhood; and what is there to be opposed to such a policy as that advocated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman? If there are amongst the workers of this country hundreds of thousands of men who are demanding this policy, I should think they would be glad to have some substitute for 328 themselves provided to enable them to take part in this conflict and in the achievement of the policy which they are advocating. I have no sympathy whatsoever with the men who advocate this policy and shield themselves in starred industries. I have no sympathy with the Labour leaders who go to the Trade Union Congress and advocate a war to a finish, a war to the bitter end, and get themselves exempted as trade union leaders who are carrying on work of national importance. Let those who believe in the policy share in the ghastly sacrifices which it will entail.
There is to my mind a certain amount of logic in the demand that is being put forward for the extension of Conscription to Ireland, and I do not think there is any friend of Ireland who would close his eyes to that fact. The Members who represent Ireland in this House have been in the past, and again and again in speeches, particularly the speeches made by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond), absolute supporters of the Government policy of the crushing of Germany and the fight to a finish and of closing our ears absolutely to any proposal for the initiation of negotiations for peace. Such a policy has been adumbrated quite recently by the Secretary of State for War. I do not think that they have the right to get glory and support as great patriots by the proclamation of this policy, in which they support the Government, unless they are willing to pay the price which that policy inevitably entails. If it is that they are demanding a fight to a finish and a fight to the last man, then I hold that it should be a fight to the last Irishman, as well as the last Englishman, the last Scotsman, or the last Welshman. We cannot get the last Irishman without Conscription. We can get the last Englishman, Scotsman, and Welshman because we have Conscription. If that policy, as I hold it will, inevitably means that we must drag out all the manhood of this country to the shambles, then if the Irish party support that policy, and if they speak the will of Ireland in supporting that policy, they must accept what that policy entails—the sacrifice, the giving to the State of the means of bringing out the whole manhood of the country. I would comb out and bring into the fighting line and into the sacrifice all those who support that policy.
I think we must all be shocked—we are shocked—by the horrible inequality of the 329 sacrifice that this War has entailed, especially when we see the men at home who are supporters of the War and enthusiastic for its continuation. I said at the beginning of my speech that I have spoken at very few meetings. I spoke at one not so long ago. It was in a great centre of munition making, and I saw there what staggered me. I have not seen from the beginning of the War so many young men of military age gathered together. These men did not want to hear any talk about peace; they were happy, they were joyous in the conditions which exist, in high wages, and the certainty of work. What a contrast there is between the lot of these men and the men who, by their enthusiasm for war, they would keep indefinitely in the trenches—not indefinitely, because mutilation or death comes so soon. If this War is to continue, year by year, as has been suggested in the interview by the Minister for War, when he spoke of the possibility of a twenty years' war, the condition of inequality to which I have just referred cannot in justice be permitted to exist. In justice, we should demand that, at any rate, the men employed in this country to-day should be drilled to take their turn and substitute themselves for a while for the men in the trenches, so that those men should come back—the men who have been engineers, and so on—and take their turn for a while at civilian work, at civilian rates of pay.
It is wrong and unjust for the advocates of war to stay here, earning their comparatively high wages, their pound a day, careless of the lot of the men who are enduring the horrors and agonies of the trenches at a shilling a day. I am confident that this is so wrong, so iniquitous and unjust, that I say to the men in this country who support this policy of a fight to a finish, workers and others—I wish my voice could reach them—the day will come when they will have to bear their share of the sacrifice which the policy they support entails. Those who support that policy, those who think it is right, should be ready to carry it out in their own persons, not only carry it out in the provision of men for the fighting line, not only carry it out to the extent of finding the last man, but also to the extent of finding the last shilling—not finding the last shilling at 6 per cent., and not finding the last shilling at a rate of interest which makes the rich man richer than before There is not much patriotism and not much sacrifice in that. Before the 330 War the State could raise money at 3 per cent. To-day the State has to pay 6 per cent. To-day the patriotic moneylenders in the City of London who cry for war and a fight to a finish are taking care that their patriotism shall be profitable to themselves. They are holding the State to ransom, not at 3 per cent., but at 6 per cent., which they are demanding. The needs of the State have created what is virtually a monopoly of capital and of credit, and these people are extorting monopoly prices out of the needs of the State. How do these men suppose that in the days to come, after the War, the men who have been enduring the indescribable agony of the trenches are going to come back to this country and work to provide 6 per cent. for the moneylenders who extorted that rate of interest out of the State, while they were giving their lives and risking their lives and limbs for a shilling a day in the trenches?
What does this fight to a finish mean? This fight to a finish of which the Minister for War speaks so glibly and to attain which no real sacrifice is made, except by the men who go to the trenches. We were told some days ago by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that by the end of this financial year the National Debt will have been increased by £3,400,000,000. No doubt that amount is likely to be increased. After another year of war from the end of the financial year, 31st March, is there anyone optimistic enough to say that within that period 140,000,000 of people will have been forced to their knees and forced to unconditional surrender? We are within sight, therefore, of raising the National Debt by £6,000,000,000. To-day we are paying 6 per cent. for the money. If we put it at an average of 5 per cent., allowing only 1 per cent. for Sinking Fund, we have increased the revenue requirements of this, country for the interest services of the new debt by some £360,000,000 a year. Go on with the fight to a finish for another year or so, and how many widows will you have? How many hundreds of thousands of cripples will you have to maintain? What is to be the pension fund that will be necessary? Will it be £50,000,000 a year? One hundred millions a year probably. Put it at only £40,000,000 a year, an absurdly low estimate, and that brings our new revenue requirements to £400,000,000 a year as the result of the War. Our revenue requirements used to 331 be £200,000,000 a year for the ordinary services of the country. Therefore, you raise our revenue requirements by your fight to a finish policy to something over £600,000,000 a year.
That may be so, it will be so, and, being so, I cannot understand how the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel) can speak of the likelihood of Germany, if we leave off the War before that period, if we leave off now, preparing for another war, or reconstituting themselves on something like the old lines. If you have in this country to face the problem of raising a revenue of £600,000,000 a year instead of a revenue of £200,000,000 a year, and to raise that threefold greater revenue out of a people whose trade has largely been disrupted, a million of whose men have been killed while other millions have been crippled, you have a condition of things there which spells inevitable anarchy and revolution in the land, and which is not going to be solved along the lines of peaceful reform. If that is so in this country, so it will be in every belligerent country. You will see the forces of revolution sweep throughout Europe after this War over that issue alone of who is to pay for this wild debauch of blood. The only party I know of that appears to have any appreciation of what is coming in consequence of the economic conditions evolved out of this war are the Conservative party of Russia. They had their congress recently, and they are in favour of peace with Germany. The statement was made that they did not wish the War to go through, that they did not wish to see Prussian militarism crushed, because if the War went on to that point it would mean the fall of monarchical systems throughout Europe. That body, to my mind, has a correct vision of what the War to a finish means. You can so depress the people and so load them with a burden of debt that you will have a revolution throughout the length and breadth of the land. To my mind there is no danger that after the War you will go back to the old days, that society will be able to reconstitute itself upon the old lines.
The Secretary of State for War referred with a certain amount of justice to hon. Members who support the policy of the War and are not prepared to pay the price. He said that he could understand those who were opposed to the War though 332 he did not respect them. I desire neither the understanding nor the respect of the Minister for War, but I may say frankly that from the start I have been an opponent of the War not because I am a pro-German, because I have been opposing Prussianism since I had anything to do with politics. I came from South Africa to this country because, having gone there from Australia, I was filled with loathing of what I found there. You had made a law for a number of German Jews who owned the gold mines of that country and wanted to turn it into an Asiatic slave state. I came to England to show what was happening there, yet people call me a pro-German. But I have always taken a different view of the origin of the War from most hon. Members. In my belief this War originated in the struggle between the Teutonic and Slavonic Empires for the overlordship of the East, for the virtual reversion of the decadent Turkish Empire. At one point in our negotiations the British Ambassador warned the Russian Government that if they mobilised Germany would take it as a declaration of war. When I saw being clicked over the tape on that Friday afternoon the news that on Thursday night Russia had declared a general mobilisation, I was certain at once that there was going to be war between Germany and Russia over this Eastern question. It was a fight in the main for Russia to obtain possession of Constantinople, and the attainment of her long historic ambition. We have the statement of General Skobolieff, who was the hero of Russia, that the way to Constantinople lay through Vienna. Russia's object naturally would be to break the Austro-Hungarian Empire and obtain Constantinople and an outlet from the Black Sea. I have never seen that it was to the interest of this country to support Russia in that exploit. I see no reason why we should oppose Russia in that desire, but that was a very different thing from spending our men and our money for the attainment of that object.
I hold that to-day this object is influencing detrimentally our war policy. That desire for Constantinople which exists on the part of Russia, I believe, has vitiated the whole of our war policy with regard to the East, and I raise this point simply to enter a protest against the way in which I was treated by the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs today. I can quite understand that it is a 333 little injudicious to ask a Minister to divulge a secret of a Foreign Office which it is not in the interests of the Allies to have disclosed. On one or two occasions I have put down questions and have been asked to withdraw them, and I have done so. And I put down a question on this matter of Russia and Constantinople, on matters which are known to the Russian people, on which a statement was made to the Russian people by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mons. Sazinoff, just before his retirement or dismissal, and by the leaders of other parties there, and more particularly I refer to a question I asked as to a statement made in the Greek Chamber by M. Venizelos just after he had retired from the premiership, and made by his successor, M. Gounaris, and made subsequently by the next Prime Minister, who stated that Greece had offered to participate, on terms, of course, in the Dardanelles Expedition, but that Russia had protested and opposed her giving us military support and landing forces to carry the Dardanelles, because Greece would possibly eet up a counter-claim to Constantinople. That is a question at issue which is, to my mind, of vital importance on this question of peace. When my friends say to me, "When do you think peace will come?" my reply is this: "When Russia has Constantinople, or when she abandons the hope of getting Constantinople, because under the pact of London we must continue fighting as long as the objects of one of the Allies are not achieved." And so there seems to me to be much hypocrisy in the statements made as regards our war policy by Ministers. They talk about crushing German militarism, and I see no reason why Ministers here should not state to the people of this country what Russian Ministers have stated to their people—what are the commitments of this country to Russia as regards Constantinople, and whether we have or have not to continue fighting, sacrificing our men and spending our money, until that Eastern object is attained.
If our object is to drive Germany out of France and out of Belgium, and compel her to indemnify their people, and—and also with regard to Serbia—to restore as far as she can by military means the devastation of her armies, all that seems to me to be an object within the capacity of this country which perhaps has been achieved already, as I believe it 334 has. But if it means that we are going to fight on and on, until, as an hon. Member said on the other side of the House yesterday, the Cross is raised in place of the Crescent at St. Sophia, then I say that that will lead to endless war and destruction. Many hon. Members regard me as unpatriotic, but I regard them as unpatriotic, because I think that his policy, involving the ambitions of Empires as regards the East, may involve us in a policy which, to my mind, may lead to the destruction of the British Empire. In my youth I was brought up among Anglo-Indian relatives who taught me to believe that the foreign policy of this country should be for the maintenance of our Eastern possessions and of our holding that financial preeminence which is the force of our Empire. What are we doing? These things are now passing away from us. We are destroying and impoverishing ourselves, and I believe that this policy, while to some extent, for the ideals claimed, is a policy to crush a commercial rival, and so increase the profits of privileged individuals. It is because I believe that this policy will destroy the people here at home and land them into miserable poverty in the future and into general confusion and anarchy, that I hold it will be fatal to the maintenance of the Empire and the prosperity and security of our people in the future. When we have the Secretary of State for War saying that it was necessary for him to make the statement he did the other day, so as to make it not possible for America to open any negotiations, I am indeed sorry. It could only be that Germany was asking America to open the doors of Peace, and it is the Minister of War who has closed, banged, and barred the doors. I regret that this should have been done, because it will not only be fatal to the German Empire, but fatal to the people of this country.
§ 10 P.M.
§ Sir WALTER ESSEX
I do not propose to lead to a discussion of any kind at all upon the cheerful and exhilarating ruminations of the hon. Member who has just sat down. I do not think that I have listened to a more gloomy utterance than, that of the hon. Member, who seemed to derive some grim satisfaction such as is enjoyed by the schoolboy when he says, "I told you so!" The hon. Member lamented all the suffering and cost which the War entails. Does he suppose that my fellow countrymen allow him to be the sole critic regarding the suffering 335 which has been entailed upon the country? Does he suppose that he alone of all Englishmen—I suppose he calls himself an Englishman—is able to estimate and figure up the amount of sacrifices that the country is ungrudgingly bearing not only in financial, but in other ways, to meet the cost of this War? The chief gravamen of my complaint against the hon. Gentleman is not that he sees these things, but, like a man with a muckrake, he gloatingly stirs them over, without referring to the loftier considerations for which this country has entered into this titanic struggle—considerations which are not of a mercenary character, that has been so much harped upon to-night, but which have commended themselves to what is best and bravest and most exalted in our country and among our Allies. He did not see that which was noble in what we are struggling for; he did not see that which would bring lasting and enduring glory to this country, which brings its great power, its accumulated wealth and strength to the high and moral purpose of the defence of the weak, and for safeguarding those whom powerful despoilers are out to wrong and destroy. I earnestly—as I am a fellow Member with the hon. Gentleman in the representation of a great British county—ask him not to indulge in any more jeremiads of this kind before his countrymen, and that he will not, at least, keep from them the comfort and proud inspiration of those nobler sympathies, those loftier principles of our life, that we are seeking to sustain in all these fearful calls which are being made upon our endurance. We have lost heavily, and we shall lose heavily. We shall be poorer in matters material, and we shall enter upon our commercial life in future doubtless fettered by the cost of this War; yet I dare say here, without fear of contradiction, that if these sacrifices have not only some compensation, but the greatest of compensation to the peoples of this earth, after this struggle is over, largely in a moral, religious, and pure sense, and in dependence on the sanctity of international contract, then I hold such an ideal worthy of the heaviest sacrifices to obtain. I hope the House will forgive me for this rather warm outburst. When I look at Members of this House who, like myself, have this War seriously brought home to them, when I perceive the pale spectres of beautiful young lives that from time to time in past years have 336 passed through my home and shared with my children their joys and simple pleasures, have perished in the service of their country, under high behest, apparently in the opening days of life, I feel how the sacrifices and sorrows of this War come home to us. What I rose to say was not so much on these broad lines, but I was stunned by the cowardly attitude which the claims of the hon. Member seemed to put forward. As I have said, considerations of men and money are totally indifferent to the moral principles involved.
I rose to refer to a very much smaller thing and to a matter which after what I have said may seem inconsiderate and unimportant. I desire to reinforce some words that fell from the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Anderson) in regard to the persistent enlistment in the Army of crippled men. I have been disquieted somewhat by the good grounds that appear for complaints that have been urged in that direction. I do think that the country is laying itself open to very serious charges in this matter and to charges which may not be lightly disregarded. I have a number of cases with which I might trouble the House if I were not desirous of being as little trouble to it and taking up as little of its time as possible. I will give one which typifies the whole of the changes that I make as to the enlistment of cripples in the Army. It is that of a man upon the borders of forty, although I think rather over than under. He is a man whom no person with two eyes in his head and intelligence behind them would ever regard as anything but a weedy man and as a physical wreck. He is a cripple with hammer-toes and physically decrepit. He has been dragged before tribunals and medical boards. He is willing to go if they can prove that he can be of any use. But if that man were started to-night to walk with a full soldier's kit to Waterloo he would never reach there. To put a man like that into the Army seems to me on first consideration to be an extremely stupid thing to do. Apart from the Army taking care of that man, he is bound to break down, but the military medical authority say that they can use him for sedentary work. Taking this typical example as illustrative of many others, I make this complaint. Here is a man of twenty years' good service behind him in the exercise of his industry with a firm already heavily depleted of labour. That 337 man has been doing good and useful work and keeps an invalid wife now on the borders of insanity on account of a scare. He is to be dragged out of that employment and put on an office stool where we might utilise some poor wounded soldier.
The Army say they want the man for sedentary work, and I suppose he will have to go through drill, though how they will make him do it I do not know. The physical disability under which this man labours is obviously a matter of many years' standing. He has probably been born with some of his defects, and if he breaks down he will be entitled to no pension. If he were in employment which was not regardful of his past good services or in the service of an employer who might desire to get rid of him, an excellent opportunity is afforded of replacing him with somebody stronger and better able, it may be, to do his work. Thus the man would find himself on discharge from the Army with no pension and out of work through this fetish that every man should be taken being worshipped by the military authorities. I want to urge the principle, the acceptance of which enabled many of us to support the Bill, and that is that there should be successive courts of appeal from one tribunal to another. In these cases the difficulty is that the tribunals frequently say: "We will not give you any right of appeal." Thus the tribunals become judges in their own cases. The War Office seem unable to appreciate the conditions, and I suggest that the civil authority, that is, the Cabinet, ought to take this matter under control, and ought to allow, with proper safeguards, the right of appeal to be at the option of the person himself, and not according to the arbitrary decision of some tribunal which feels that it must allow no further appeal on the part of the person concerned lest the unfairness of its judgment should not be maintained. In taking these kind of men, many of whom are bearing the burden of the commercial interests of the country, you are doing a double wrong. I lift my voice in protest against it, and I feel that the hon. Member for Attercliffe, with whom I very rarely agree, has got a good case. He urged it as part of general opposition to the War. I urge it for a wholly different reason. I urge it on account of my desire that the War should be efficiently carried on, and you cannot carry it on in that way by enlisting these cripples who 338 become the laughing stock of those who see them crawling about, and who have brought upon them pain and humiliation by being called upon to perform a duty when they feel and know that they cannot possibly discharge that duty. In addition, they are sometimes scornfully treated. I do urge the matter on the attention of the Government and I do think that the civil power ought to strengthen themselves and prevent this enlistment of crippled persons owing to an ill-considered enthusiasm on the part of the military representatives.
§ Mr. FIELD
I have been asked to bring forward a grievance that has not yet been alluded to to-night. As the senior Member for Dublin City, being now a representative for thirty years, I would like someone connected with the War Office to take note of what I say, because it is really in the interests of the Service. When the Duke of Connaught was Commander-in-Chief in Ireland he made a kind of promise, if not an absolute promise, that an examining and receiving depot should be established in Dublin. I understand that the military authorities themselves are in favour of this depot being established, but owing to subterranean rings that exist in some quarters in regard to contracts and how they are carried on, that promise which was made by the Duke of Connaught has never been carried into effect. It is in the interests, not alone of the manufacturers in Ireland who can supply certain goods direct to the War Office, but also in the interests of the War Office itself that this should be done.
We have had some curious revelations in regard to the peculiar transactions which appear to accompany the unbusiness like methods of the War Office and other Departments. If we had a receiving and examining depot in Dublin it would do away with all these middlemen, as they would be absolutely unnecessary. Therefore, it is in the interests of the military authorities, as well as of the manufacturers of Ireland, that I make this appeal. I would not trouble the House but for the fact that I have been asking questions on the subject for a number of years, and I never get any farther. This subject has been under consideration for the last thirty years, and apparently we are just as far from a decision as when I entered Parliament, twenty-five years ago. Every public body in Dublin has passed resolutions on the subject, and as a member of the Irish Industries Development Associa- 339 tion I promised to bring the matter forward whenever I had an opportunity. I hope, therefore, that attention will be given to the demand which I have put forward.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, "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 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 Belief of Distress; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in. the Ordinary Grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war."