§ Mr. MORRELL
I do not propose to pursue any further this question of the conscientious objector, except to say I am certain that anyone who has followed this question closely, as I have done, will welcome most cordially the proposal made by the Noble Lord who has just spoken. If some sort of solution like that could be found, we should be saved the scandal of such scenes as occurred at Birkenhead a fortnight ago, when two men were really tortured in a public park in front of a very large number of their friends. Most of the difficulties with which this House has been asked to deal again and again would never have arisen if the scheme put forward by the Noble Lord, and more or less approved by a Committee, had been adopted. I hope my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will take the matter into his consideration, and get the plan adopted. My object in rising was to call attention to another kind of case which has arisen under the Defence of the Realm Act. It is the case of Mr. Bertrand Russell, which was referred to at Question Time yesterday. In bringing forward this case I want to say at once I do not desire to claim any particular pity or urge that any particular hardship has been done to a single individual. I bring it forward, in the first place, because I believe it is typical of many other cases now occurring under the Defence of the Realm Act, and, secondly, because I believe it involves most important and fundamental principles of government—principles which cannot be disregarded without the greatest harm to the community.
With regard to Mr. Russell himself, it is unnecessary for me to say anything at all. He is the bearer of a most distinguished name, he is a grandson of a Prime Minister, the descendant of a long race of distinguished men, and he himself has achieved distinction which no one will deny in the fields of philosophy and mathematics. Whatever people may say about his political opinions, no one will question his eminence as a thinker and philosopher. He has a reputation which extends far beyond this country, which is European in its extent, and extends also to America, where he is well known. Such a man, at any rate, you would expect would be treated by the Government, even I if he was in disagreement with them, with 826 fair consideration. I do not ask for any special favour. I say that he ought to be treated with fair consideration; I shall endeavour to show that he has been persecuted and pursued with a malignity which recalls the methods of the Middle Ages. I will take Mr. Russell's case from the beginning. At the beginning of this year Mr. Russell was attracted by the problem of the conscientious objector, and this at a time when the conscientious objector had far fewer friends than he has now, when his sincerity was denied, and when it required great courage to take up his case. Mr. Russell thought it was right that the, conscientious objector should have the protection which Parliament intended. For some time, at great personal inconvenience, he worked in the offices of the No-Conscription Fellowship, in order to obtain protection for these men. In the course of his work there Mr. Russell took part in preparing a leaflet entitled "Two Years' Hard Labour for Refusing to Disobey the Dictates of Conscience." The leaflet was of a straightforward character, simply describing what had happened in the case of a certain conscientious objector. That leaflet was distributed, and it came to Mr. Russell's knowledge that men who had been distributing it had been, in some cases, sent to gaol by magistrates. It seemed to him unfair that these men should suffer for the distribution of a leaflet, unless the author himself was prepared to take his part of the responsibility. Quite rightly he at once wrote to the "Times" a letter, saying in effect, "I am the man who wrote this leaflet. If any proceedings are taken they should be taken against me." As the result of that letter Mr. Russell was prosecuted and fined £100. In due course his furniture was sold to pay the fine. That was the first stage in what I describe as the pursuit of Mr. Russell by the Government. In present circumstances conviction almost invariably follows a Crown prosecution in such matters as these.
I now come to the second stage. Mr. Russell was informed that an engagement of many months' standing to deliver at Harvard University, in America, a course of lectures on mathematical logic could not be carried out because the Foreign Office declined to allow him to leave this country. A letter was sent to the Ambassador at Washington, and finally a message was communicated to Harvard University that Mr. Russell was considered too dangerous a character to come and 827 deliver lectures on mathematical logic. Except for that action, Mr. Russell would now be on his way to America to deliver this course of lectures. His passport was refused. It was a heavy loss to him in every way, pecuniarily and otherwise. It naturally aroused a great deal of comment in the United States. He has received letters from the university regarding the action of the Government, and the matter has been commented on again and again in the American newspapers. Here you have one of the most distinguished living mathematicians, one of the best known philosophers in this country, not allowed to go to deliver a course of lectures on mathematics at Harvard University! Following that, the Council of Trinity College, Cambridge—I am not suggesting that the Government are responsible for this—took action to deprive Mr. Russell of his lectureship. I only mention that because it is part of the same principle of vindictiveness and persecution which the Government, by their action, seemed to be encouraging. Mr. Russell found himself prevented by the Government from lecturing on his own subjects in America and prevented by the Council of Trinity College from lecturing at Cambridge. He then made arrangements to deliver at various provincial centres throughout the country a course of lectures on the philosophical principles of politics. All the arrangements were made. The lectures, for which a fee was to be charged, were to deal solely with the principles of government. I have the syllabus here, and it includes such subjects as "Capitalism and the Wages System," "Pitfalls in Socialism," "Individual Freedom and State Control," "National Independence and Internationalism," and "Education and Prejudice." Mr. Russell himself, in a statement which he has issued in regard to these lectures, says:My proposed course of lectures on 'The world as it can be made' is not intended to deal with the immediate issues raised by the War; there will be nothing about the diplomacy preceeding the War, about conscientious objectors, about the kind of peace to be desired, or even about the general ethics of war. On all these topics I have expressed myself often already. My intention is to take the minds of my hearers off the questions of the moment—
§ Mr. MORRELL
I am dealing now with the lectures he proposed to give. 828My intention is to take the minds of my hearers off the questions of the moment, and to suggest the kind of hopes and ideals that ought to inspire reconstruction after the War.He prepared a series of lectures, one of which was delivered by him at Manchester, and was also read last night at Glasgow. I will deal with that later. What course did the War Office take? It seems almost incredible that this distinguished mathematician, who proposed to lecture on the general principles of politics, should have been treated as he was treated. The War Office, taking their powers under the Aliens' Restriction Act and the Defence of the Realm Act combined, said that he was not to go into any area which was a prohibited area under the Aliens' Restrictions Act—an act intended to deal with aliens and spies. He might go to Manchester; he must not go to Liverpool. He might go to Surrey; he must not go to Sussex, because it is a seaside county. He might go to Cambridgeshire; he must not go to Norfolk. In fact, under this Order he was prevented from going to almost all the centres—Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh—where he had arranged to deliver his lectures. Here you have a distinguished man, bearing the name of Russell, who is English right through, a man well known for his patriotism—whether you agree with his sentiments or not, whether you agree with his views on the War or not, he is well known for his love of his country, and for what he has done for his country—and you treat him as an alien and a spy. You make an Order under these absurd Acts saying that he is not to go into these prohibited areas. What are the reasons which led to this extraordinary action? They were given by the Secretary of State for War yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman said:We had information from a very reliable source that Mr. Bertrand Russell was about to engage in the delivery of a series of lectures which would interfere very seriously with the manning of the Army—In other words, to discuss before a select audience, who had paid for admission, such subjects as "Individual Freedom and State Control," "The Sphere of Compulsion in Good Government," and "Tyranny of Majority" was considered very dangerous and likely to interfere very seriously with the manning of the Army. The right hon. Gentleman also said:I do not in the least care what the lectures are called, but they undoubtedly interfere with the prosecution of the War in this country, and lead to weakness, inefficiency, and, if tolerated, would hamper us in the prosecution of the War."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th October, 1916, cols. 539–40.829 I wish the right hon. Gentleman were here to tell us whether he has ever taken the trouble to inquire into the subject matter of these lectures, or to satisfy himself in any way as to the action taken by his officials.
§ Mr. CURRIE
Can the hon. Member say who was, or would have been, in the chair at Mr. Russell's lecture at Glasgow?
§ Mr. MORRELL
I can. As a matter of fact the lecture was actually delivered last night, though not by Mr. Russell. It was delivered by Mr. Smillie, president of the Miners' Association. The gentleman in the chair was, I believe, a very distinguished man, named Sir Daniel Stevenson, an ex-lord-provost of Glasgow.
§ Mr. CURRIE
Is that the same Sir Daniel Stevenson who suggested that Lord Roberts' pension should be stopped?
§ Mr. MORRELL
All I know is what I find in the "Manchester Guardian," which says that he is an ex-Lord Provost of Glasgow. This lecture, which it would be criminal for Mr. Russell to deliver in person, was delivered by Mr. Smillie to an audience of a thousand persons—all of whom had paid for admission—with the result that they passed an unanimous resolution protesting against the action of the Government in persecuting Mr. Russell as they have done. What good do the Government think they have done by action of that sort? If these lectures were so bad for recruiting or so bad for the Army, as the Secretary of State says they are, what business has he to allow them to be delivered at all? Is it not gross negligence that they should be delivered in any circumstances?
§ Mr. MORRELL
Ought he not at once to prosecute the man who read the lecture, Mr. Smillie, for having been guilty of these treasonable utterances? But if they are, as everybody knows they are, perfectly innocent and proper lectures, what is the good of having these Orders just in order to annoy a man who happens to be against you? In order to annoy Mr. Russell you have Orders of this kind 830 promulgated. We shall be told that Mr. Russell was asked to give an undertaking: that nothing he said would be against the regulations made under the Defence of the Realm Act, and that if he had given that undertaking the lectures might have been delivered. Why should a man be asked to give an undertaking of this sort before he may lecture? The War Office who were to receive the undertaking tell us that this man was to give a vague undertaking that he would say nothing of which the War Office would disapprove. If he says anything that is dangerous to the country the War Office or the Government have it in their power to prosecute him.
§ Mr. MORRELL
Instead of that he has to give this undertaking! What would my hon. Friend have said if he had been asked to give this undertaking?
§ Mr. MORRELL
I just want to put it to the House what an absurd thing it is that a man of Mr. Russell's attainments and position should be subjected to this sort of perpetual persecution, and should be asked to give undertakings to the Government before he is allowed to deliver his lecture. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War said that it was easier to prevent than to prosecute, that prevention was better than prosecution. Of course in a certain way it is much easier to govern by adminstrative order than by process of law. It is much easier to say: "Oh, no, we shall give an order to stop it beforehand rather than prosecute afterwards, and after treasonable utterances." It is easier, but is it the way to allow fair freedom of opinion in this country? Is it carrying out the undertaking which the Government gave when the Defence of the Realm Act was passed that they would not do anything to suppress fair political opinion? The thing is grossly unjust, and also a futile proceeding, for it will not lead to the suppression of the opinions for which Mr. Russell stands. It will cause him hardship, injustice, and loss, but it will only lead to the growth of the opinions which the Government wish to suppress. Therefore I would ask my hon. Friend when he makes his reply to assure us that this matter will be reconsidered, and that the Government will recede from the position 831 which they ought never to have taken up in attempting to suppress freedom of speech in this country.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I wish for a few moments to draw the attention of the House to two or three subjects which will fall within the province of the reply of the Financial Secretary to the War Office. The first subject is one to which, I think, he will not be able to give a considered reply, for I have only given him notice during the last hour or so, but it is the question of the treatment of the Territorial Force in France. The Whole House, I think, will agree that there is hardly any portion of His Majesty's Forces which deserves greater credit and ought to receive more gratitude from the people of this country than the Territorial Force. That force came to the aid of this country and saved the position in Flanders about December, 1914, when the old Expeditionary Force had been practically wiped out of existence by casualties and sickness. The Territorial Force held the line there for a good twelve months till the New Army went overseas and reinforced them, and enabled us in this country to see a far better aspect to the War than had previously been the case. Therefore, I think we in this House ought to inquire very carefully into any slight or improper treatment put upon the members, for at the end of the year to which I have referred they had become seasoned soldiers. If my information be correct—and I believe it is—I may say that in the Territorial Force in Flanders, and especially in the Artillery, there is practically no hope at all of any promotion. The same disabilities apply to a considerable extent to the Infantry of the Territorial Force. Quite recently the number of officers in a battery have been cut down to one half. When the senior officers are killed, wounded, or invalided, their places are filled by Regular officers from the Royal Regiment of Artillery. The same process goes on in the Infantry battalions. I do not think I state it too high if I put it that now in France there is practically no hope of promotion to any very high position for any officer in the Territorial Force.
If that be so, I think that this House, at no distant date, ought to hear from the Financial Secretary or the Secretary for War why it is so. Surely at the present time our Army is one! We have no Regular Army, no Kitchener's Army, 832 no Territorial Army. All our Army is one! All the members have now practically equal experience. Our old Regular Army has ceased to exist, and I put it to the hon. Member whether the officers and men of the Territorial Force are not now fitted by their experience of war for the higher commands—at any rate for the command of battalions and the command of brigades. I would also ask the hon. Gentleman to inquire what are the Staff billets, and similar posts, in France which are given to officers of the Territorial Force. I believe I am right in saying that there is not one. At any rate you can number them on the fingers of one hand. This to a force which now numbers ten times the original Expeditionary Force, as it totals about 1,500,000 of men! Does the Financial Secretary or his office say that there are not to be found amongst that force officers perfectly fitted and responsible enough to hold Staff billets, or certainly the command of battalions and brigades? The Regular Army is a very fine body of men, but of all trade unions in the world the Regular Army is one of the closest. We talk about the regulations of the trade unions of the labouring classes, and also of the closeness of the legal profession. But in the Army the spirit of trade unonism is very strong. No doubt the disabilities under which the Territorials are suffering is a result of their being the lineal successors of the old Volunteers.
In former days the old Volunteers were not fitted to take their part with the Regular troops because they had not sufficient training. What, however, I put now is that Territorial officers are perfectly capable of occupying the most experienced positions owing to the fact that most of them have been out at the front fighting and holding their own for so long. If the hon. Gentleman has any doubt as to the efficiency of the Territorial Force, let him ask the military authorities in India. I think the Commander-in-Chief in India will tell him that of all the forces now garrisoning India they are the best. If it is argued that you want professional soldiers for the higher commands, and that you must have men who have been trained from their youth upward as Regular soldiers to command battalions and to command brigades, especially in the Artillery, I would ask how is it, then, that the War Office permit the divisions which come from Canada, New Zealand, and Aus- 833 tralia to have their own officers? From the Divisional-General down to the youngest subaltern are men who have proved their worth and have done extremely well, and it will be found that in the proportion of 99 per cent. they have never had any previous training at all, but are men who have left their businesses in the Dominions and have come as officers of those gallant troops who have helped us. Therefore, if it is possible in the Dominions Forces for even a Divisional-General to be a man who probably has not been brought up as a professional soldier, I ask my hon. Friend to make inquiries and see why it is that our Territorial officers and men are slighted in the way they are and Regular officers are brought in over their heads. No promotion is given, and many heartburnings, and many bad feelings are engendered between the different branches of the Army which ought to be one, and in which promotion, if possible, ought to go in one line.
May I pass from that for the moment to another subject? That is a subject which I have brought before the House previously, but which I want to impress upon the House again. I refer to the inefficiency and waste which still continues in the Royal Army Clothing Department. The House will perhaps know that Olympia, the great building where the Horse Show used to be held, has for some considerable time been a depot of the Royal Army Clothing Factory. Goods are brought up to it from the country. They are tested, examined, and passed for Army service. They are then forwarded to all parts of the country, and also overseas. The goods that pass through that building weigh many thousands of tons, and the value doubtless runs into millions. I mention that to show that what I wish to speak about is not a matter of a few bales of goods, but a matter of thousands upon thousands of tons. Hon. Members who have visited the place know that a railway runs within twenty yards of the building and the railway facilities, sidings, etc., are ample and up-to-date. How, then, are the goods brought to Olympia, and how are they sent away? Are they brought in by goods trains from the sidings and unloaded, checked, and then returned to the train? Will hon. Members believe that nothing of the sort is done? Will hon. Members believe that these thou- 834 sands of tons of goods, which pass in and out every month, are unloaded at a goods stations four or five miles away from Olympia, are carted across London in vans drawn by horses and motor lorries, which run at the rate of two miles to the gallon, are taken to Olympia, examined there, and then carted back to the goods station? The House will wonder whether it is credible that such a state of things could exist, and continue, with sidings within ten yards of the main door of the building—that this waste of the nation's man-power and money should be going on.
The only explanation that I can give is that as the branch of the Royal Army Clothing Factory at Pimlico has got no station, when they started a new branch, they said, "We have always gob our goods by van, and I suppose we must go on in the same way in respect to Olympia." It seems never to have occurred to anybody there that they might make use of the railway sidings. In all seriousness, I would ask the Financial Secretary to look into this matter. There may be a reason for the processes that I have stated, though I cannot conceive it unless it be that the railway companies refuse to take the goods. If they do they ought at once to be made to take them. There is another matter. Army caps run into millions. They are now of two well-known sorts, the hard and the soft. The one is for Home service and the other for trench work. Contracts are running. Perhaps I should say three or four firms are doing the work, a large firm dividing a certain number of the old pattern and the new pattern caps amongst them. There is a deficiency in caps which are wanted for Overseas which no doubt could be made up. There is a large surplus of the caps of an antiquated pattern running to over a million which nobody wants, and yet the old-fashioned caps are pouring in by the score of thousands every week, while hardly any of the new pattern caps are coming in at all. All that is required is for someone to have the common sense to tell the manufacturers who are doing the two contracts side by side to stop making the old pattern and to turn all their energy to the manufacture of the new. It has not occurred to them, or, if it has, nobody apparently has the power to give the order. I saw myself the spectacle of an enormous 835 number of old-fashioned caps accumulating, and a great deficiency of the modern caps needed for our soldiers in the field. I would ask the hon. Gentleman if he could deal with these two points about the Royal Army Clothing Factory and the promotion of Territorial officers.
§ Mr. STANTON
As one who, at any rate, for some considerable time has sat down, and almost exhausted his patience by listening to the generous remarks of people who, I think, were placed in a position to say something very much harder, I want to get on to the conscientious objector, and those friends of the conscientious objector who speak from the floor of this House. With regard to what has been said about Bertrand Russell, it is true he has been to Cardiff and other places, and it is also well known to every Member of this House that at Cardiff he said everything he could say in the way of traducing this country, his own nation. As far as words would carry him in betraying the nation, everything that man tried to do. I think it is disgraceful for anyone to get up in this House and champion his cause, merely because he is a man who is supposed to have great intellectuality, and a man whom the Americans would welcome. I do not know we have much to thank America for. The Americans have been none too friendly as regards our own country, and that Bertrand Russell should be welcome in America is no test of a true Britisher.
I am astonished to think the House has wasted its time so long this afternoon on the troubles of the conscientious objector. What about our sons and brothers and others who are at the front? Do they cry out about a little mud in their camps? What about the boys whom I saw out at the front, my own son among them, up to their eyebrows in mud—boys who are risking everything? Yet we can find time here to cry out about the woes of the poor creature who is a conscientious objector in his own country's greatest hour of trouble. The Noble Lord on the other side has tried to excuse them by pointing out that they might be more usefully employed in our schools. But are we to give further powers to conscientious objectors and every anti-British crowd in order to prejudice and poison the minds of our children in the schools? I am absolutely opposed to anything of the kind. This House is too tolerant. It may be that you desire to show the greatest courtesy to Members, 836 and I have always stood up myself for freedom of speech, and have fought hard for it. I know their real feelings down in Wales. Occasionally, no doubt, there is a splash after a big I.L.P. meeting at Cardiff or a conscientious objectors' meeting at Merthyr Tydvil. I know what happens. Our people are loyal after all.
I do think the Government has been too lenient, and I know the genial Under-Secretary of the Home Office would go all the way he could to extend fair play to all men and see justice done. But I think he is too kindly. We can ill-afford in this country to-day to coddle and canoodle around these people. It is disgraceful. My hon. Friend is smiling, and I do not wonder. I am astonished that men should dare show their faces after going round endeavouring to poison the minds of the people of this country—that they should be still unabashed and unashamed, and face, at any rate, the empty benches on the other side, knowing they are guilty of absolute, downright treason to their country. I can understand freedom of conscience. I have had to suffer for it, and have been in prison for my opinions, where some of these people ought to be now if conscientious objectors. There was a complaint made the other night about having to break stones and carry them in barrows. These people ought to be making mail bags or doing something else at Dartmoor. At all times we must support freedom of expression of opinion, provided it is not dangerous to the best interests of the nation. But these people have taken liberty upon liberty. They have trespassed in every direction which was most unfair and ungenerous. To clap them on the back, to coddle them, and to allow them to flaunt their shameful expressions in the House from time to time, is, I think, sufficient to disgust any honest man; and I do say, as one who has put up a big fight, a strong fight, always for labour, and always, I believe, in the interests of all that is best for my country, it is disgusting that we have to sit here and allow so much time to be taken up in hearing about the troubles of the poor conscientious objector. A crowd of them happen to be intellectuals, of course. They are school teachers, and because a school teacher has happened to tumble into the I.L.P. or join the Fellowship, is that any reason why he should not be doing his duty? Other boys in the trenches have to put up with mud and everything.
837 What about these people with their wretched complaints? If the country is not good enough for them, may we make it a condition that men like Bertrand Russell who want to leave do not come back? I will vote readily that he be allowed to go out of the country at once, and a crowd of his friends with him. Some of his hon. Friends here would not be missed. Instead of wasting our time with these people we ought to be doing something very much more drastic. In my opinion there is only one place for a man when his country is in danger, and even at this moment the danger is not passed, and everyone, man, woman and child, has still to strive. What are these people doing? Are they helping? They are not helping, but absolutely betraying the nation of their birth, and I say they are a disgrace to their country, and should be ashamed to come into this House. Above all, the Government ought to be ashamed of themselves to permit them to hold their meetings as they propose in Cardiff next month, and other places wherever they can. Then they will whip up all their old pals. Do not I know the game! It is only their friends who get inside the meetings, and then flashy reports appear in the newspapers. Friends of Germany! An anti-British khaki-dodging crowd! I am absolutely disgusted with them, and if I had my way I should do something very much more drastic than the Government will do now. But it is never too late to mend. I am a conscientious objector in the sense that my two boys to-night are out in the Somme push somewhere. Their brains have been trained, so far as I could afford it, but I did not forget their physical powers, and they have the necessary grit, and are not ashamed but are proud of their work, and so are the millions out there. I have looked round this House and noticed things, and they have left an impression on my mind of disgraceful treachery for some purpose or the other. The Government ought to be strong. I hope the Under-Secretary of the Home Office, instead of being so lenient, will be infinitely more drastic, because, after all, the Old Country is wondering why we have pandered to these people so long. For Heaven's sake, let us buck up and place these people where they ought to be. If they do not like breaking stones, let them make mail bags at Dartmoor, unless they will volunteer to leave their country for their country's good for ever.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I do not desire to follow the last speaker in his defence of the War Office, but only to congratulate the War Office on their defender. The hon. Gentleman has put an alternative with regard to the conscientious objector, but he apparently entirely misapprehends that that is not the alternative provided by the Government. He says, "Let them be sent to prison or leave the country." But the one thing the Government will not do is to allow them to leave the country, and that is one of the terms of the indictment of the hon. Member for Burnley against the Government in the matter of Mr. Bertrand Russell. We know Mr. Russell had been appointed to a lectureship in Harvard University, where he was to discuss philosophical subjects, and the Foreign Office refused him a permit to go upon this mission. Even on that point the hon. Member who has just spoken would admit the ineptitude of the Government, but the main point we have to discuss in regard to Mr. Russell this afternoon is their refusal to allow him to deliver a course of lectures in certain areas. One has already been delivered in Manchester, and I believe he is allowed to deliver them in some other towns. But apparently there is some occult reason only known to the War Office which makes it dangerous that he should speak in exactly the same way on exactly the same subject in other areas of the country. The Secretary of State for War told us yesterday the reason of this action on the part of the War Office. He said that if Mr. Bertrand Russell were allowed to deliver lectures on political ideals, he would discourage the manning of the Army. I could have understood the Government taking up that position at a time when we were depending on voluntary recruiting. At that time Mr. Bertrand Russell was allowed to speak all over the country on the War. He was allowed to discuss the diplomacy of the War and the whole British diplomacy from the beginning of the Morocco question up to the beginning of the present War. Obviously if his views were contrary to the national interests during all that period, he was preventing voluntary recruiting, and all that time the War Office took no action. But now, when he begins to deliver a series of purely philosophical lectures, the Government discovers, very strangely indeed, that this abstract discussion of political philosophy is going to endanger the national cause.
839 It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.