§ (1) The Army Council may, in accordance with and subject to the provisions of this Act, at any time, by written notice require any man who is for the time being excepted from the operation of the Military Service Acts, 1916, as being—
- (a) a member of the Territorial force who is, in the opinion of the Army Council, not suited for foreign service; and
- (b) a man (in this Act referred to as a disabled man) who has left or been discharged from the naval or military service of the Crown in consequence of disablement or ill-health (including an officer who has ceased to hold a commission in consequence of disablement or ill-health); and
- (c a man who has been previously rejected on any ground, either after offering himself for enlistment or after becoming subject to the Military Service Acts, 1916,
§ Provided that no man shall be required to submit himself for re-examination within six months of his previous and last rejection or discharge.
§ (2) Any man to whom a notice is so sent shall, as from the date of the notice, be deemed to come within the operation of Section one of the Military Service Act, 1916 (Session 2), and not to be excepted therefrom as being unsuited for foreign service, or as being a disabled man, or as having been previously rejected, as the case may be; and the Military Service Acts, 1916, shall apply accordingly.
§ (3) If a man fails to comply with a notice under this Section, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months [but a man shall not be. liable to a penalty under this provision it he shows that he did not receive a notice.]
§ (4) Where a disabled man has had at least one month's service with the Colours or where his disablement has been caused or aggravated by naval or military service, no notice shall be given to him under this Section till after the expiration of a year from the time when he left or was discharged from the Service.
§ (5) Where a man has been required to present himself for examination in pursuance of this Section and is not accepted for service, no further notice shall be given to him under this Section until after the expiration of six months from the date of the previous notice:
§ Provided that a man who is not accepted on the ground that he is permanently and totally disabled for service shall receive a discharge.
§ (6) A notice calling up a man to present himself for examination under this Section may be served by registered post at the last known address of the person on whom it is to be served.
§ Amendment proposed [2nd April:] In Sub-section (1), after the word "man"["by written notice require any man"], to insert the words "who is not now employed in agriculture and".—[Mr. Peto.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
I think I should inform the House that owing to the pressure of the work yesterday there is a slight omission in the print of the Bill 1141 issued this morning, which I have given instructions should be corrected. An Amendment which was agreed to in the Committee at the end of Sub-section (3) of Clause 1 has not been printed, namely, to add at the end of Sub-section (3) the words "but a man shall not be liable to a penalty under this provision if he shows that he did not receive a notice." I have caused the official copy to be altered to carry out what was the decision of the Committee. [Words referred to are. printed above in italics,]
§ Mr. MOLTENO
This Amendment deals with the exemption of those employed in agriculture, and it is evident by the Amendment which the Government have placed on the Paper that they do not intend to accept this Amendment. My objection to the Government Amendment is that it does not do what we ought to do in facilitating the calling up of these men. It is already admitted that out of the 1,000,000 men who will come under the operation of this Bill only 100,000 are expected to be called up—that is, one in ten. We have to limit the estimate by the fact that the men who are employed in agriculture, if they obtain a certificate from the Board of Agriculture are not to be called up, and therefore the proportion would be much smaller. Instead of proceeding in this way, it would be perfectly simple to put it upon the Government to show that any particular Man they desire to call up is not indispensable for agriculture, and therefore ought to be called up.
We are all agreed that we intend to exempt 99 of these men out of 100. Yet by the method suggested by the Under-Secretary we are going to require all the ninety-nine to come forward and bring certificates from the Board of Agriculture. That means that all the agricultural employers in the country will have to approach the Board of Agriculture for every man of this type whom they employ, and they will have to lose the time of these men at a most critical moment to agriculture. That will all be because the Government suggest this cumbrous method, instead of exempting all those whom we are agreed should be exempted, and calling upon the rest to show cause.
The situation in the country with regard to agriculture is very grave, and we ought not to subject agriculture to a process which will involve a waste of time and a 1142 disturbance of their work. A number of men have gone into agriculture because they have been invalided. It is admitted that out of all the men employed in agriculture only those in Class A are to be taken, and you therefore have a still further limitation of the number who can possibly come under this Bill. You have an infinitesimal number of those employed in agriculture who can be taken under the provisions of the Government Amendment, but you are going to compel all the men employed in agriculture to come forward and prove that they ought to be exempted, instead of putting the onus on the military authorities to show that a man ought not to be exempted. That is the difference between the Government Amendment and the Amendment which I suggest. It would be quite easy to alter the Government Amendment, and I would propose that it should be altered so as to read,Provided also that the powers under this provision shall not extend—(a) To any man who is, for the time being, engaged in agriculture and who was engaged on such work on the 31st March, 1917, and whose work has not been certified by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries (or, as respects Scotland, the Board of Agriculture for Scotland) not to be work of national importance.That would place on the military representatives the duty of getting from the Board of Agriculture certificates to say that the men whom they wish to call up are not indispensable. That would only disturb those who are liable to be taken under this Bill, and it seems to me it would be a businesslike proceeding, instead of disturbing everybody. We ought at this time to make every effort to save unnecessary disturbance to the industries of the country, and particularly to agriculture. The position is extremely serious. I would like to read a letter from a man in authority as to the position of agriculture in my neighbourhood. He has been vice-chairman of the parish council for twenty-one years, and he was employed to make an agricultural survey of his parish. He says:I am a farmer and farm bailiff, and I was requested by the West Sussex War Agricultural Committee to go over the farms in this parish. On the first three farms that I visited there was no one to do the work except the farmers, and their time was almost fully taken up in milking and feeding stock, the horses nearly always remaining idle. These farms would average about HO acres each. On another farm of about 230 acres, that was fully stocked, I found one carter, one old man in poor health and over seventy years of age, and 1143 the farmer. They were fully employed in feeding stock, and a fine team of horses were standing idle most of their time. On another farm of nearly 100 acres that was let, there was no one left on the place. The stacks were rotting for want of thatching. For the whole parish I made out forty-three reports, and in nearly every case I reported that there was a shortage of labour, and that the food production must be less unless something was done quickly to put more labour on the land.Then he continues:This morning the carter on my farm which I manage informed me that he had received final instructions to join up on 29th April. That will leave me with a blind cowman, one other who helps with the cowman (he always must have a stick to walk with), and one over sixty years of age—this on a farm of 70 acres. The horses are big, powerful ones, quite beyond the control of a lad or a woman. This farm must go out of cultivation for want of labour. On my own farm, before the War, I always employed four men and casual labour in haying and harvest time. I have now only two men and one of these, my carter, has been ordered to join up. I may get him off on appeal, but the uncertainty of this is such that one does not know how to farm with advantage.There is a simple man in country life, giving an account, after careful investigation, of all the farms in his parish. I want to urge upon the Under-Secretary that he should not place upon men so situated with inadequate labour the unnecessary burden of going to the Board of Agriculture or writing to the Board of Agriculture, of getting an examination of their farms and of those whom they employ, and of sending their men up to the Board. All this involves serious delay at a time when every moment is precious, as it is in this spring time with the weather that we are having. I would therefore ask the hon. Gentleman if he could see his way to accept the Amendment in the form which I have suggested, instead of insisting upon his own Amendment, entailing quite unnecessary toil and labour and a waste of time for a result which we all admit is not going to be attained.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. J. MASON
It is really essential that we should understand the difference between the effect of the Amendment now-proposed and the Government Amendment, because I do not read the Government Amendment exactly the same as the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. I understand the idea of the Board of Agriculture issuing a certificate is that the Board will have to be satisfied that the man's work is absolutely essential in the place in which he is situate. The Board would discriminate between the skilled agricultural labourer, men like milkers and carters, and the ordinary labourer whom they might say was not essential. The Amendment poposed, on the other hand, would exclude every man engaged in 1144 agriculture. I would like also to understand whether the words "engaged in agriculture," such as are used in the Amendment, would enable the men connected with the agricultural industry, but who cannot be said exactly to work in agriculture—men of the clerk or storekeeping type—to obtain exemption? Many of those men are not essential. An Amendment of this kind, embracing the ordinary agricultural labourer who is not skilled, is too wide. My own feeling is that this suggestion that agriculture can give up no more men who are fit for Class A in the Army is exaggerated. I believe there are many parts of the country—it is certainly true of the part of the country in which I live—where the shortage of men is not so great as the shortage of horses. In such parts of the country, if a better system of substitution existed than does exist at present, it is quite possible that some men fit for foreign service might be obtained.
§ Mr. J. MASON
I see that there is a certain qualification there. The point I wish to make is that there should be some discrimination. The mere fact that the man is engaged in agriculture should not be accepted as a sufficient reason why, in no circumstances, he can be touched for military service. When we come to the machinery which is apparently suggested in the Government's Amendment, we find that a certificate would appear to be necessary for each man. I do not see how it is possible for the Board of Agriculture to issue individual certificates to the men and I cannot understand how the machinery for that is going to be set up. If some power of discrimination is given, and if an effective form of substitution can be devised, it would be quite possible to take some of these sound men and substitute others for them. In districts where there are no munition works, the drainage of agricultural labour unfit for military service has not taken place; while, of course, in districts near munition works, older men and unfit men have been drained away, and the shortage of labour is very acute. There are districts 1145 where that does not arise, and there ought to be some discrimination between the two.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)
The House will recollect that when we discussed this Bill on Friday we devoted no less than two hours and a half to the discussion of a particular Amendment relating to agriculture, and that, after a good deal of speechifying from both sides of the House, I gave a promise to my right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman) and to the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) that I would, on the Report stage, introduce an Amendment. I think I am right in saying that both my right hon. Friends, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. G. Lambert), agree that the Amendment which I have placed on the Paper represents accurately the pledge which I gave. I will read that Amendment to the House:Provided also that the powers under this provision shall not extend—(a) to any man who is for the time being engaged in agriculture, and whose work is certified by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries (or, as respects Scotland, the Board of Agriculture for Scotland) to be work of national importance, and who was engaged on such work on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and seventeen.It was represented, rightly or wrongly, in Committee, that the War Office and the Board of Agriculture were at daggers drawn over this particular point. It was represented that the Board of Agriculture were most anxious to keep men upon the land. On the other hand, it was represented that the War Office, despite the efforts of the Board of Agriculture, insisted upon dragging men off the land and placing them in the Army. It was further represented that so bitter was the strife between the two Departments that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture, when he sits in the House, sits on the bench as far away from me as possible. In order to reassure the House, I thought it advisable and politic to bring him down and show himself—[An HON. MEMBER: "Will he speak?"]—he is going to speak—I thought it advisable for him not only to come down and to show by his 1146 contiguity to me that there was no personal dissension between him and myself and by his words hereafter he will show that, instead of there being any animosity between the two Departments, for the last eight months, at any rate, they have been working in the best of harmony. I think I may now deal with the Amendment we have placed upon the Paper. I feel sure that the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto), who has taken a very great interest in this subject and has always placed his case before the House with very great fairness, will realise that there is really no distinction between his Amendment and mine. It is the old way of using a double negative for a positive affirmative. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. J-Mason) has brought to light the only difficulty which I can conceive might arise so far as either the Amendment of the hon. Member for Devizes or my own is concerned. The difficulties were, first, the question of machinery and, secondly, the question of a definition of what is really meant by the words "being engaged in agriculture." My Noble Friend the Secretary of State had a conference with the President of the Board of Agriculture and it was agreed, first, that the local representative of the Board of Agriculture should give a certificate to any man whose case was concerned, and, secondly, that the definition of "being engaged in agriculture" to be relied upon should be as follows:It is agreed that exceptions should only be given to a man whose whole time is given to agricultural work of national importance.That is the definition of what we mean by "being engaged in agriculture" under my Amendment. I think that carries out accurately the promise I made. If in any case the War Office think that this certificate has not been justly given, we have the right to appeal to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture. A few days ago, in Debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton and a colleague of his from South Devon emphasised the necessity of there being, in every case, an appeal to the President of the Board of Agriculture. In every case we have given that appeal, consequently I feel bound to say that I am going very much further than what I promised to do on the Committee stage. Therefore, I hope, in view of what I have said, that 1147 the House will realise that a complete fulfilment of the promise has been made, and that the hon. Member for Devizes will not see fit to press his Amendment.
§ Mr. PETO
In view of the fact that the Government have an Amendment later on upon the Paper which is susceptible of slight Amendment in order to substitute the effect of the Amendment I have put forward, and in order to save the time of the House and to close this Debate by dinner-time, may I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment at once, so as to get on with the Government's Amendment, upon which that subject can be raised?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), after the word "man"["by written notice require any man"], to insert the words "not included in one of the classes set out in the Schedule to this Act."
This is an Amendment which I had down for the Committee stage, but was unable to move. It is an attempt to get this Bill into line with the French Bill. It is not an attempt to get the Government now to observe pledges which may or may not have been satisfied, but it is an attempt to do what I believe the Leader of the House wished, namely, to make this Bill as nearly as possible identical with the French Bill. During the course of the Debate on the Second Reading, in introducing the measure, the Leader of the House spoke of this asthe same measure,In the French Bill, a copy of which I have here, there is a number of classes of persons which may be found in the Schedule which I suggest and which appears upon the Amendment Paper. Those persons are in all cases persons who have an exceptional family or other claim to exemption for exception from this Bill. For instance, I include fathers of not less than four children now living and under the age of fourteen years and who, therefore, almost certainly must be beyond the earliest and best years of military life. I also include fathers who are widowers with not less than three children dependent upon them, the sons of families of which five members at least are serving with the Colours, or of which not less than two members have been killed on active service, and men who have been prisoners of war and have 1148 escaped or have been repatriated or exchanged. These classes speak for themselves I they are classes which were in the original French Bill, and which nobody in France, so far as I know, has ventured to suggest should be called up. I hope very much for a sympathetic reply and for the acceptance of this Amendment. These cannot be very large classes. They are classes which in every case must mean hardship, and, probably largely, a very heavy expenditure for allowances and, in certain unfortunate circumstances, for pensions.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I beg to second the Amendment, and hope that it will receive the sympathetic consideration of the Government. I should like to see a. statutory protection given to some of the classes mentioned in my hon. Friend's Schedule, because the experience of the working of the tribunals has shown that we cannot trust the tribunals to give a sympathetic consideration to claims which are justified by the provisions of the principal Act. Within the last few days. I have received countless letters from people living in all parts of the country in regard to this Bill—letters in regard to each of the four classes mentioned in the proposed Schedule. Yesterday I had a letter from a man who had four brothers serving in the Army, two of whom had been killed and the other two had been invalided and had since gone back to active service. They were all voluntarily enlisted men, and they joined the Army in the early days on the distinct understanding that the fifth son was to remain at home, as he would be the only support of his aged parents.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I hope my two hon. Friends will not press me to accept the Amendment. I quite realise that it is the instinct of sympathy that has persuaded them to put it on the Paper, but I am quite sure they will be convinced that it would be quite impossible, from an administrative point of view, to extend indefinitely all the exceptions and exemptions in the Bill. The system in France is entirely different from the system here. We have here a system of local and Appeal Tribunals—in France they have not any such system—and in any case of individual domestic hardship the local and Appeal Tribunals have the right, whether they exercise it or not—that is another point—to consider such a case and to examine the man. In 1149 view of that fact, we have really gone much further than the French have, and I hope, therefore, when I tell my hon. Friends we should like to meet them if we possibly could, they will not press the Amendment to a Division.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I beg to move to leave out the word "six"["for reexamination within six months"], and to insert instead thereof the word "twelve."
My purpose in moving this is to harmonise, this proviso with Sub-section (4) of the Clause. The Sub-section gives to a man who has been discharged from the Army with at least one month's service the protection of twelve months' time before he can be called up for further re-examination. The paragraph provides that no man shall be required to submit himself to re-examination within six months of his previous rejection and discharge. Between these two provisions there is an anomaly which wants straightening out. Therefore I propose, to substitute twelve months for six, so as to give to everyone the protection which is given to the large majority of discharged men by Sub-section (4). That would remove what is felt by a very-large number of persons to be a great hardship which is going to be inflicted upon them by this Bill. Judging from the enormous correspondence I have had during the last few days, I am sure there is no feature of this Bill which is so unpopular and so much resented by the men as this recurrent calling up of men for reexamination, and I hope, therefore, the hon. Gentleman will see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think I can submit good reasons why it should be made, apart from synchronising with Sub-section (4), which is quite a good and useful point. A great many of these men have been rejected, and are almost entitled to regard their rejection as final, on account of the diseases from which they are suffering, and have entered into obligations of one kind and another on the strength of the conviction that they were never to be called up again. When these men have entered into these obligations, to re-submit them to the continual worry of a six-monthly examination is 1150 neither fair to them nor to the work which they may be called upon to do. Like other Members of the House who are interested in this question, one has a tremendous. number of letters. I will read one in order to show the kind of case that we. have in our mind when we are asking what I think is a perfectly reasonable thing. This man says:To a man who has a delicate constitution all these-new Orders and Acts are terribly worrying and tend to-further hamper his powers of making a living. I myself am quite unable, whilst all this worry lasts, to-give my mind to my work. There are many more men like myself who have been constantly under the doctor for many years.The House may be interested in listening-to this man's letter, because he is the type of man who will be called up under this Act:This new Bill is surely never intended to force-weak men into the Army, but only to re-examine those who at the time they were rejected were unfit but who-may now have recovered. In my own case I have had within the last six years the following illnesses: congestion of the lungs, double pneumonia, diphtheria; also chronic gastric catarrh, which necessitates my following a strict diet and leading a very careful, everyday life. I have also had to seek the assistance of the following specialists En addition to my ordinary medical practitioner—and he gives the names of three or four specialists, which I can give my hon. Friend. He also suffers from a dilated stomach and recently had to seek the advice of Sir James Mackenzie, who was a member of the Medical Appeal Board. In addition to his before-mentioned trouble, he has suffered from chronic varicose veins in both legs:I hare been under the same local doctor for the past sixteen years and can produce enough documentary evidence to prove my unfitness.I do not see why the House should laugh at this man. There are a great many men in that position who will be called up under this Act. It may be true, and I give my hon. Friend credit for this, that when they are called up they may be rejected again, but under this Clause they will be brought up six months after again for another examination, and six months after that again; and if my hon. Friend does not accept the Amendment, he ought to agree upon some form of rejection which would turn that type of man down finally, so that he can walk out of any of the Military Service Acts and be free from any worry. Everyone of us knows many cases of which the example I have read is only a type, and it is to protect that type of man from worry that my hon. Friend and I and those interested in getting a longer period between the re-examination ask for some 1151 declaration that there will be something done to get rid of that type of man once and for all.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
I am afraid we cannot accept the Amendment. I think the hon. Member (Mr. Snowden) professes to be moved by a desire to bring this part of the Bill into conformity with a later Sub-section, but I think he has omitted to notice that there is a real difference between the cases of the men who are dealt with. The men who have given some service are entitled under this Bill to a period of twelve months before they are called up. There are, on the other hand, a large number of men who have never given any service at all, and I do not see why they -should have so long a period free from reexamination. I do not think their cases are on all fours, and if we were to accept the Amendment we should be, causing needless delay in securing the services of some of the men who I think will very properly be called up under the Bill. The hon. Member (Mr. Hogge) was anxious -that the men who are suffering from ill-health to the degree of his correspondent should not be subjected to frequent and recurring medical examination. I think they would be dealt with under the Amendment which I moved yesterday to
§ the effect that men who were permanently and totally disabled would receive a final discharge. I cannot imagine anyone who is suffering from such endless diseases as the hon. Member's correspondent could possibly be of the slightest use.
§ Mr. HOGGE
It is quite true that the hon. Gentleman moved that Amendment, but who determines that that man is permanently disabled and will not be recalled, and when he is put into that category, supposing the Medical Board says he is not permanently disabled, and he can prove by such a letter as I have read that he is, what protection has he?
§ Mr. FORSTER
The Medical Board will, of course, give the certificate on which the man would be discharged or not. The hon. Member is suggesting that we should reopen the question on this Amendment of the civil practitioners' certificate and of the Appeal Boards which have been referred to on former occasions. Those are separate questions. The question here is whether or not this man would be entitled to a final discharge. I think he would, and the Medical Board who examined him would be the authority to decide.
§ Question put, "That the word 'six' stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 166; Noes, 33.1153
|Division No. 24.]||AYES.||[4.28 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Archdale, Lieut. E. M.||Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Martin||Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)|
|Ashley, Wilfred W.||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Craig, Col. James (Down, E.)||Hewart, Sir Gordon|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Craik, Sir Henry||Hills, John Waller|
|Ballour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Currie, George W.||Hohler, G. F.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Fredk. G.||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Howard, Hon, Geoffrey|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Denniss, E. R. B.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Bathurst, Capt. C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Hume-Williams, William Ellis|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Hunt, Major Rowland|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Fabar, George Denison (Clapham)||Jones J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Blair, Reginald||Fell, Arthur||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Boyton, James||Fletcher, John Samuel||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Forster, Henry William||Larmor, Sir J.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Foster, Philip Staveley||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||France, Gerald Ashburner||Layland-Barrett, Sir F.|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Galbraith, Samuel||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||Lonsdale, Sir John Browniee|
|Butcher, John George||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh|
|Carew, C.||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)||Macmaster, Donald|
|Carilie, Sir Edward Mildred||Greig, Colonel James William||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T J.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Cawley, Rt. Hon. Sir Fredk. (Prestwich)||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Hancock, John George||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Hardy, Rt. Hon, Laurence||Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Morgan, George Hay||Robinson, Sidney||Walsh, Stephen (Lanes., Ince)|
|Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness)||Rothschild, Lionel de||Wardle, George J.|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Newman, John R. P.||Rutherford, Sir John (Darwen)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||Watson, John Bertrand (Stockton)|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petsrsfield)||Salter, Arthur Clavell||Wedgwood, Commander Josiah C.|
|Paget, Almeric Hugh||Samuels, Arthur W.||Whiteley, Herbert J.|
|Palmer, Godfrey Mark'||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Seely, Lt.-Col. Sir C. H. (Mansfield)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N. W.)|
|Parkes, Ebonezer||Shaw, Hon. A.||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Partington, Oswald||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)||Smith, Sir Swire (Kelghley, Yorks)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Perkins, Walter F.||Stanley, Major Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Peto, Basil Edward||Stewart, Gershom||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Philipps, Sir Owen (Chester)||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Primrose, Hon. Neil James||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund||Talbot, Lord Edmund||Younger, Sir George|
|Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Rawson, Colonel Richard H.||Thomas-Stanford, Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Tickler, T. G.||Mr. James Hope and Mr. Beck.|
|Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.|
|Aldan, Percy||King, Joseph||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Baker, Joseph Alien (Finsbury, E.)||Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Radford, Sir George Haynes|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Rowlands, James|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Martin, Joseph||Snowden, Philip|
|Goldstone, Frank||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Trevelyan, Charles Philip|
|Hackett, John||Nolan, Joseph|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Holt, Richard Durning||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Hogge and Mr. Anderson|
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
As I undertsand it, the first Amendment to insert words after the word "discharged" must be moved now. The Amendment relating to paragraphs (a) and (b) come later.
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), after the word "discharge"["last rejection or discharge"], to insert the words "except where the Army Council otherwise direct in a case in which it appears to the Council that the previous rejection or discharge was obtained by fraud."
I would remind the House that there have been discussions upon this question. There was no provision that a man who had been recently rejected should get the benefit of this six months' provision. In the course of the discussion I made it clear 1154 to the Committee that the Army Council were quite willing that a man who had been rejected on genuine grounds should get this six months, but they were afraid of giving the benefit of this six months to men who had obtained their previous rejection by fraud. I think that was the general sense of the Committee. It is in fulfilment of that pledge that I have put this Amendment on the Paper, and I hope the House will accept it.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I think the House should agree to this Amendment. It proposes a distinction which some of us have always wanted to see, and that is, a distinction between the cases, be they many or few, of men who have been rejected by practical fraud, and men who have been rejected though they have done their honest best to serve. I cannot believe that the cases are very numerous which will be covered by this proviso, but, be they many or few, I hope this Amendment will be accepted as a right one.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I am entirely in sympathy with the object of this Amendment and my only doubt is whether the words will really effect what my hon. Friend-has in view. I would like to have a little information on that point. What is the 1155 meaning of the words "in a case in which it appears to the council"? Does that mean that any sort of proof which would be accepted as legal proof is to be offered to the council before it comes within the terms of this Amendment? It is notorious that there have been a great many fraudulent cases. I was told the other day by someone who ought to be well informed that there were probably thousands of these cases in London alone. I do not know whether these oases can be brought under the terms of this Amendment. I am only afraid that the Government are not giving themselves a sufficiently wide scope by having such precise words in the Amendment as "in which it appears to the council." I do not know whether that point has been considered, and I should like to be assured on it.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I do not think that absolute legal proof would be demanded or would be necessary in these cases, but I think there must be a prima facie case, and the Army Council would be the judge as to whether they would proceed in the matter or not.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Since it is the desire of the House, the next Amendment will be moved in two parts.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I beg to move, after the words last inserted, to add the words,Provided also that the powers under this provision shall not extend—(a) to any man who is for the time being engaged in agriculture, and whose work is certified by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries (or, as respects Scotland, the Board of Agriculture for Scotland) to be work of national importance, and who was engaged on such work on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and seventeen;I do not think it will be necessary for me to repeat the speech which I made when 1156 I spoke against the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto). I am hopeful that most hon. Members did me the honour of listening to me at that time. Briefly, I think I proved to the satisfaction of the House that this Amendment was a complete representation of the pledge which I had given, and that the Board of Agriculture and the War Office were united in thinking that this would be the best way to meet a very difficult problem.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "and whose work is certified by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries (or, as respects Scotand, the Board of Agriculture for Scotland) to be work of national importance."
I am not quite sure that the House will agree with my hon. Friend in thinking that the words which he proposes to insert accurately represent his pledge to the House on Friday last. I would like to recall to the attention of my hon. Friend an episode which took place in that Debate, which may perhaps lead him to reconsider for a moment his thoughts upon that subject. The House will remember that the Under-Secretary, after a very harassing, continuous Debate, yielded to practically the unanimous wish of the House that some such words giving exemption to agricultural labourers should be inserted in the Bill. Previous to the surrender of my hon. Friend the intervention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been sought in aid, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech to the Committee dealing with the views put forward by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Among other things, a suggestion was made by the hon. Member for Barnstaple, which it is worth while to recall to the memory of the Under-Secretary. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was saying that he was unable to yield to the wish of the Committee. Then the hon. Member for Barnstaple said, "Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether he would accept the certificate of the Board of Agriculture that a man is indispensable for agricultural work?" The Chancellor of the Exchequer said really he did not think that it is for any Department to be the absolute judge of its own case, and he proceeded practically to reject the suggestion of my hon. Friend. To-day the Under-Secretary proposes that under 1157 this particular Bill the Board of Agriculture should be permitted to be the sole judge of its own case.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
It was the suggestion of my hon. Friend. There is no other mention of this proposal in the Debate save that by the Member for Barnstaple which the Chancellor of the Exchequer rejected. Why does he accept it to-day having rejected it yesterday? I confess I am afraid that we have recollections of previous encounters between the Board of Agriculture and the War 'Office, and in every case where those encounters have taken place sufficiently in public for this House to be aware of the result we have found that the Board of Agriculture has been forced to yield to the importunities of the War Office. What has taken place behind the scenes we do not know. It may be that while in public the Board of Agriculture was defeated, in private it has been invariably successful, but so far as the public know it does not appear possible for the Board of Agriculture to stand up successfully against the War Office.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
The hon. Member will permit me to state my own case and afterwards he is at liberty to refute it if he can. Under the proposal which is now made, it seems to me that what the House had in mind last Friday, namely, the continuance, and, if possible, the increased production of agricultural produce, may be frustrated. I would ask my hon. Friend to consider the method by which the Board of Agriculture would carry out the provisions of his Amendment. It may either act generally over the whole country or in specified areas,?or it may attempt to go into individual cases. If I might ask the consideration of the House for the general proposal, in that case the men who are called up will have to attend at some place, a tribunal or recruiting office, or wherever it is. Then they will have to show that they are engaged in some sort of agricultural work, and then they will have to submit to the Board of Agriculture their case, showing that they come within the rules laid down by the Board of Agriculture, and that they are exempt from the provisions of this Bill. There will be, first of 1158 all, the attendance at the recruiting office—I do not know whether I am right in making that the particular locale—and then there will be a subsequent attendance for the purpose of explaining that they are employed in an exempted kind of agriculture, because, as I read these provisions, the Board of Agriculture has to show that some sort of agricultural work is essential, and that some sort—though I do not know what it is—is non- essential, for the purpose of increased I production of agricultural produce. That is the general statement, but I will beg my hon. Friend to remember that this is a very exceptional agricultural year. The season is far later this year than I suppose it has ever been within the memory of man. Agricultural operations have to be crowded not into the space of one or two or three months, as has been possible in recent years in this country, but into the space of two or three weeks. Here we are, and in the first two weeks of April we should finish the spring sowings, but it is not possible. In three or four days we ought to be planting potatoes. These crops will follow one after another as fast as they possibly can with no possible time between the planting of each crop. No sooner have you got that over than you will have to set to work to harvest the winter wheat. Therefore, it is essential not only that there should be no cessation of work upon agriculture, but that there should be no interruption of worK, and that not only should no single man be taken away from the cultivation of the soil, but should be even interrupted for one day in his work upon the soil.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
Then no doubt we shall get an explanation of the procedure of the Board of Agriculture, and my intervention will not have been in vain. Now I may put the other case. Suppose that the President of the Board of Agriculture does not adopt the general method, that he does not classify whole districts as exempt, or various agricultural occupations as exempt, but a exempts to deal, as indeed he ought to deal, if he is to deal satisfactorily, with the individual farm or the individual labourer on the farm. I should like to remind the House that every individual farm or holding wants a particular local knowledge of the cultivation of the cultivated area, and to know 1159 what amount of labour to assign to successful cultivation in that area. There is no good in bringing back a substitute A. B. and saying that he is a good substitute for C. D. whom you are taking from the farm. He does not know anything about it, whether it is wet and cold or dry land, or whether it is deep or shallow, or how to put a particular crop into that particular soil. Therefore, I suggest both to the Under-Secretary for War and to the President of the Board of Agriculture that you must deal with cases of particular farms, and with the particular labour upon the farm. Otherwise you fail in obtaining production. How are you going to do that? I imagine that the suggestion will be that the agricultural representative of the Board of Agriculture before the tribunal, or whatever the authority is, will say, "This man is necssary. There are five men upon that farm. You ought to be able to cultivate it with four. Therefore, one of the five must go."
From my knowledge of them, the representatives of the Board of Agriculture, who always try to do their work, and very often succeed in doing it admirably, when they are dealing with general propositions are perfectly unable, on account of the great extent of the areas of which they have charge, to deal satisfactorily with the requirements of the individual farm or the possibilities of rendering work of the individual labourer. What would happen? Either they will not be able to go in detail into the requirements of the individual farm or else they will create anomalies as between one farm and another, which is fatal to the successful prosecution of agricultural industry during the next two or three months. I do not think that one can get away from the dilemma. What is the alternative? All agricultural work is of national importance. Every sort of agricultural work is at the present moment vital to the maintenance not only of the whole population, but of our Army over the sea. I should like to give one illustration. At this moment. one of the great difficulties in the successful prosecution of agriculture is the fact that the prolongation of the winter has increased enormously the consumption of hay in this country by stock which usually feeds itself at this season upon grass, and the production of hay will, in a couple of months, be of vital importance, both to agriculture itself and 1160 to the farmers, and any attempt to interfere with the number of men on the grass farms, just as much as any attempt to-interfere with the number of men on the arable farms, would be likely to cause the greatest damage to agriculture. There never was a time when agricultural land was producing less than at the present moment, not because people are not willing to come in, but because labour is not available to come in. For those reasons I move this Amendment, because I believe that if the words which I propose to leave out are deleted, the effect will be to prevent these men from being interrupted in a work which is of national importance.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Prothero)
I will not follow the right hon. Member into the means by which the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member in charge of the Bill has been introduced. I do not think that it very much matters. As President of the Board of Agriculture I welcome its introduction, and I am not disposed to look a gift-horse in the mouth. The hon. Member who is in charge of the Bill gave a description of the relations of the War Office to the Board of Agriculture as they appeared to one of the public. It seemed to me that he represented us as a sort of happy family in which the agricultural rabbit played with the tail of the War Office python. Quite obviously there must be conflict of opinions between the Board of Agriculture and the War Office. The object of the Board of Agriculture is to grow the maximum amount of food for the people, and, on the other hand, it is the duty of the War Office to send as many men to the front as possible. These are two conflicting duties. The War Office are anxious to carry out the one, and I, as President of the Board of Agriculture, am anxious to carry out the other. Whatever our opinions, we are often necessarily in conflict, but I must honestly say that the Secretary of State for War and I have long ago agreed that it is better for us, as far as possible, to act together rather than against one another. There has been a certain amount of good resulting from that decision. Hon. Members have spoken of the scarcity of labour on the land. The War Office has really treated agriculture, for temporary purposes only, very liberally, and, so far from there being a small 1161 amount of labour on the land, there is a larger amount' at the present moment than there has been for the last eight months. And that increase is not only in quantity, although some of it is not much good. It is also in quality, because the War Office took the trouble to get back for us some 14,000 skilled ploughmen. I am glad to take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to the War Office for that, and if they will only keep these men on the land after the spring operations are over I shall be comparatively happy. Still, for the time being, we have a larger supply of skilled labour on the land than we have had for eight months.
As regards this particular Amendment to the Bill—the Government Amendment I mean—I entirely support it, and for this reason, that it gives us the power which we wanted to prevent men being called up unnecessarily before military tribunals of any sort. The process by which it will be done is this: The War Office will send to the war agricultural committee a list of the men who come within the extremely limited range of this Bill—that is to say, men who have been exempted from military service on the ground of previous rejection, or previous naval and military service. They will send in the list of these men to the war agricultural committee, which will consist of farmers and others closely concerned, and the farmers will hand over the list to the agricultural representative before the tribunal, and between them they will certify that such and such a man is a whole-time agriculturist engaged in agricultural work of national importance. If the War Office object to that, it is open to them to appeal to me at the Board of Agriculture, and whether they exercise that power or not will depend on the honesty with which the certificates are granted. The Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir C. Hobhouse) is of a very much wider character than that. The right hon. Gentleman proposes, in effect, that any man who is engaged in agriculture shall be exempted from the Bill. That means, if he does not follow it up by a further definition, that any man—say, a clerk—who in his leisure moments cultivates a garden will be eligible for this certificate of exemption. Now, that is not the meaning of the concession of the War Office. An hon. Member objects to my statement, but I Bay it is as I have said, and a clerk could claim if he were cultivating his garden in 1162 his leisure moments that he is engaged in agriculture. The Amendment being in this vague form, I hardly think it is one which the right hon. Gentleman really meant to move. He cannot mean that a man who spends an hour a day, perhaps, in cultivating his garden is to be entitled to say he is engaged in agriculture and come under this exemption provision. I may say, of course, that the chief value we attach as agriculturists to this Amendment of the Government is that the farmer will know that he will not have to go or to send his man long distances to be examined. They will not have to go to the Court. The whole thing will be carried out in their own neighbourhood, and in all probability on the farm. Thus exemption will be secured at a minimum of inconvenience and trouble to the farmers.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I should like to point out what actually did occur last Friday. It is quite true, as my right hon. Friend says, that the only objection of the Board of Agriculture was made quite early in the Debate on the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for one of the Divisions of Devonshire which was rejected by the Leader of the House. The Debate went on for a long time after that, and finally this was what took place. I will quote the words I then uttered:I think we should accept the proposal which has been made by the hon. Gentleman in charge of tile Bill, because I think he has endeavoured to meet us most fairly. He has given, as I understand, a distinct pledge that he will introduce words to carry out that object, namely, that men who were engaged in agriculture at the time of the Registration Bill shall not be taken."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March. 1917, cols. 817. and 818.]After that I went on to talk about the Report stage and asked if there would be one, and the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill replied, "Yes." There was nothing there about the sanction of the Board of Agriculture having to be obtained. Now I should like to deal with the speech of the President of the Board of Agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman naturally said that he would support the Amendment. He added that he would not look a gift-horse in the mouth. That evidently conveys a feeling which I object to very strongly, but which I am sorry to say is very paramount, and, indeed, is uppermost in the mind of the right hon. Gentlemen who hold these distinguished positions. The feeling is that all the power and work shall be given to their Departments, and that is exactly what we 1163 want to stop. We do not want any more departmental interference. We do not want any more committees or local advisory committees meddling in these matters. We want the farmers and men to be let alone—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
What has that to do with it? If it is a question whether it is quite right that men engaged in agriculture should be taken away and sent into the Army or if it is quite as much in the national interest that they should remain on the land, then I say both of those are intelligent positions to take up. But it is not an intelligent position to take up to say that, after all, these men who first of all have been registered and have been before the tribunal at least three times already should again be taken before the tribunal to see whether or not their exemption should be maintained when all the facts are well known. If we were at the commencement of the War there might be something to be said in favour of it. But these men have already attended. I have on several occasions wasted three or four hours in this way. I have had to go fourteen miles about a man, and now the same process is going to be repeated. The light hon. Gentleman I notice shakes his head, but I understood him to say that the Advisory Committee and the War Agricultural Committee, in association with the agricultural representative, would review these cases. He suggests that the committee will probably go to the farm. Even that would mean the man being taken away from his work, but I personally do not think the committees would go to the farm.
Again, I am not at all sure that these local bodies, which are composed of rival farmers, are the best people to choose for this purpose. In some cases they are actuated by personal motives, and I say they would be quite the wrong body to choose. The right hon. Gentleman tells us he has come to an agreement with the War Office that they should always act together. So they do, but then the War Office has its own way, and the Agricultural Department has to give way. That is what we object to, and we are afraid 1164 that this which has happened I the past will occur again. No doubt there will be agreement, but it will be agreement, according to the War Office view, and not. in accord with the view of the Board of Agriculture. I really do suggest, first of all, it is not in accordance with the pledge given us that the sanction of the Board of Agriculture should be required. What we really want to avoid is this continual taking away of men—of farmers and labourers—and sending them to tribunals, and calling on them to waste their time in filling up any number of forms. Only the other day a farmer told me he had to go thirty miles, to hire a motor car at the cost of £5, to spend the night away from home, and to travel home another thirty miles in order to try and get a man exempted. Farmers who have to do this get very little sympathy from those who hold a little brief authority. The result is that both farmers and labourers are-rendered uncertain. They never know where they stand. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that the position of the farmers at the present moment is a very difficult one. It is very hard indeed to keep the labourers on the land, and if they are to be constantly disturbed in this way they will assuredly go into other occupations where they will not be so-liable to be moved about. I trust that after what took place last Friday the Government will consent to adopt my right hon. Friend's Amendment.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I think it right to-say at once, in view of the speech of my right hon. Friend, that when I spoke earlier on this subject, I understood from the spirit which was manifested in the. House, that the Amendment on the Paper in my name redeems the pledge which I gave. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) suggested, if I remember aright, that we should allow to remain on the land the men registered as being in agriculture—that is to say, he differed from those on the corner of the Front Bench opposite, who pressed me to remember the fact that the Registration Act was passed in 1915. The discussion went on, words were bandied from one Front Bench to the-other, and the general impression was given me that it would not be reasonable-to regard the date of the Registration Act as the date appointed in the Amendment which I submit, and which I feel sure represents, the opinion of those engaged in agriculture and the opinion of the country 1165 The agriculturists hold a common view on the question of date and any Amendment would be utterly useless if it took the date fixed upon by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I notice that the extract which I read just now was the last word in the Debate, and nothing occurred after that.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am only giving my recollection of the Debate, but in any case I may state that my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) came to me afterwards, and pointed out that he had been in conversation with agricultural friends, and said that before I consulted with my Friends with regard to the Amendment, I should know that any idea of referring to the date of the Registration Act would not be acceptable, and accordingly I was forced, in view of my own impression of the Debate, and in view of the observations of my hon. Friend in regard to agricultural opinion upon the point, to put down the Amendment as it stands on the Paper. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London seems to think that every man who is in agriculture at the present time is an able-bodied man, and he proposes to deal with the men who are bonâ fide agricultural men; men who were in agriculture in 1914 and 1915, before the War, are to be regarded as bonâ fide agricultural labourers. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture has pointed out that this Bill does not affect these men at all; this measure is dealing with an extremely limited number of men—not with B or C men, or even a lower category. We have given assurances in this House and out of it in regard to rejected men, and men of a very low category, and we will not call up B 1 or C 1 men engaged in agriculture.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
It is temporary assistance which the President of the Board of Agriculture mentioned to the House. We have pledged ourselves, for the time being, not to call up B 1 or C 1 men. But there are men who have been registered quite recently as being engaged in agriculture. These men are not engaged in a bonâ fide manner in agriculture; they are fraudulently engaged in that industry. I do not think I am overstating the fact when I say that there are a great many 1166 hundreds of men in this country at the present time who are defined as being engaged in agriculture, and who would be included in my right hon. Friend's Amendment, and who ought not to be included in it, as men bonâ fide engaged in agriculture. I have a letter from a lord lieutenant in the south of England putting before me three cases which had come under his consideration as chairman of a tribunal. He described one as a coal dealer and another as a thatcher.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The cases which the letter mentioned showed how extremely wide would be the meaning given to men employed in agriculture. I am perfectly certain that under the agreement come to by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture and my Noble Friend the Secretary of State, these men would not be regarded as being employed in agriculture, a work of national importance. I think we ought to have in view the fact that there are so many of these men who do not come within this definition, and I, personally, prefer the Amendment which I moved to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol. Notwithstanding what my right hon. Friend has said, I feel sure that the Amendment put down by me represents correctly the feeling of the House as it existed at three o'clock on Friday afternoon, and, in view of that fact, I think this Amendment is a much more reasonable one than that of my right hon. Friend opposite.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I was stating that this Bill deals with an extremely limited number of men, and I said that B and C men are not included in this Bill.
§ Colonel Sir H. GREENWOOD
I intervene to make my protest against the Amendment now before the House. I must say that after the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer making a most urgent appeal for this Bill, in order-to secure recruits for the Army, to have now the Government giving in under the pressure of representatives of agricultural interests in this House and outside this House, and proposing this Amendment, is to me a most deplorable thing. If the Gov- 1167 eminent need the men—and no Government would ask for re-examination of a million men unless the Army was urgently in need of them—no exemptions should be made of any kind. But here we have the case of one of the most prosperous classes of the community, which, through its representatives in this House, is pressing and forcing the Government to exempt it from doing its share, and shouldering its portion of the common burden of sacrifice necessary for the prosecution of the War. The fact that the Government has yielded to this pressure seems to me a dangerous precedent. What is to stop any organised body of people, outside this agricultural body, from bringing pressure to bear upon Members of this House and compelling the Government to deliberately set the example of yielding and of exempting a whole class from military service?
It is true that this Bill only refers to disabled persons, persons not fit for service, and discharged soldiers, but what will be the position in the future when tribunals—excellent bodies, in my opinion—have to carry on their work of calling agriculturists to the Colours? I would remind the House that on the 1st January, 60,000 exempted agriculturists were due to join the Army. Under pressure the War Office called up 30,000, and owing to more pressure they brought to the Colours only 10,000. In other words, there are 50,000 agriculturists at this moment exempted. [Interruption.] I am speaking of manpower, and I am thinking of the Army first. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have to feed the Army!"] As a matter of fact, the Army are almost wholly supplied with sea-borne food and not with home produce, and the hon. Member for Hertfordshire knows that. If the 50,000 agriculturists were to go before the tribunal the military representative of that tribunal would be bound by the decision of this House, and it practically amounts to this, that in futuare it will not be possible to get another recruit from the land, and that the agricultural community will now be sealed as against the War Office taking men for recruits. I fear that the agricultural community will cast a greater burden on other classes of the country, and I think it is an extraordinary result that the Government should give way to this particular class. The troops are really needed, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer insisted, and the effect of the exemption of the agricultural class means 1168 the exacting of further sacrifices from other members of the community. I protest against this giving a privilege to one of the most prosperous classes of the community. It has broken the unity of common sacrifice and deprived the Army of urgently needed recruits.
§ Brigadier-General HICKMAN
I hope the Under-Secretary for War will adhere to his Amendment, though I regret that the War Office are not going to get all the men they want, though they are going to get some of them. I think it would be a poor thing if we allowed an Amendment to go through this House which would allow shirkers to escape. By the Amendment which the Under-Secretary has proposed the Board of Agriculture will be enabled to make certain that men who are shirkers shall not get exemption. If the Amendment to the Amendment, cutting out the words of the original Amendment, were adopted, all these shirkers would get exemption. I hope the Under-Secretary will stick to his own Amendment.
§ Mr. MARTIN
It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman has gone beyond what was understood on Friday as the definition of persons engaged in agriculture. It was suggested that the registration of 1915 should be taken, but he has taken 1917, and in that respect he has fully or even more than fully fulfilled his pledge. The Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman finds no fault with the definition contained in the Government Amendment. I think mostly every speaker on Friday pointed out that not only did farmers want the War Office not to take these men, but that they did not want their labour interfered with at all in the way of proving a matter of this kind. The Under-Secretary in none of his speeches suggested that he was going to propose a change like this. The effect of the Government Amendment is entirely to place the onus upon the farmer to prove that the men are not entitled to be called upon. I suggest that in that respect the hon. Gentleman has not carried out his pledge. There was no reference to that, and it has come entirely as a surprise. For these reasons I have tabled an Amendment.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
We have had a very interesting discussion. I do not poropose to press my Amendment to a Division, but I do hope that the House will take note of the promise made by the President of the 1169 Board of Agriculture that his plan was designed—I do not know that it is successfully designed—in order to give as little friction to the farmer and the labourer as possible. I hope that, in the interests of the Board of Agriculture and of the War Office, that that plan will be carried to a successful conclusion. I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ Mr. PETO
I want to respond to the appeal made by the Under-Secretary to say whether this Amendment really carries out what was the arrangement made with regard to it in so far as it does not confine the scope of exemptions of agricultural labourers amongst those who are registered under the Registration Act. The final word was said by the hon. Member for Rochester (Sir E. Lamb). After I had been led to withdraw my Amendment, several hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir J. Spear) pointed out what would be the effect of going back to that date of the registration, and I conveyed those views to the hon. Gentleman. With regard to this Amendment, I extremely regret that the Government have not accepted an Amendment which I put down and which would have given effect to what was exactly understood in all quarters, that agriculture should first of all be omitted, and then, if necessary, we should give powers to the Board of Agriculture to make any exceptions to the general rule with regard to classes or districts or individuals that they, on their responsibility, saw fit to make. I am sorry that method is not the one adopted, and for this reason: The President of the Board of Agriculture has just been explaining to the House how simply this is going to work, and that, under the Clause as put down by the Government, agricultural labourers who have been rejected already will not be called up for re-examination at all. He is going to work it through agricultural representatives in each district dealing with a list, and that only very few will be called up. He suggested that the war agricultural committee should go and visit the actual farmer and talk it over. That sounds a pretty picture, as pretty as the one he drew of his own connections with the War Office. It would be very nice if it in the least bit 1170 resembled what we believe will really take place. I am not certain that that is what is actually offered by the right hon. Gentleman does. The Act is not to apply to any man who has been engaged in agriculture and whose work is certified by the Board of Agriculture to be work of national importance. That means, if it means anything, that they have got two exceptions to prove to enable any man to show that he does not come under the Act. First, he has got to show that he is engaged in agriculture, and the hon. Gentleman told us on Friday that that was a matter it was almost impossible for him to define. Secondly, he has got to show that he is certified to be engaged in that particular part of agriculture which is certified by the Board of Agriculture to be of national importance.
I disagree with the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol (Sir C. Hobhouse) in deprecating putting any power in the hands of the Board of Agriculture, and still more from the right hon. Member for the City, who said we did not want to give any more power to the Board of Agriculture. I do, at any rate, in this matter. I deeply regret that the War Office did not see their way to accept my proposal, which I know met with the approval of a good many people who have a great deal to do with the practical working of whatever is put into this Bill. My proposal was that for England and Wales the President of the Board of Agriculture, upon representations made to him by the Army Council, should authorise the application of the provisions of this Act to such agricultural districts and men or class classes engaged in agriculture as he might see fit. The effect would have been, as far as the limited scope of the Bill permitted, to have done something to equalise the extraordinary unequal distribution of agricultural labour throughout the country. All that the President of the Board said did absolutely nothing except to crystallise the present position, because these things are all going to be settled with cach individual man locally. For that we are to have an enormous amount of correspondence and journeys in motor cars about the country, in order to decide with the local people themselves whether anybody can be spared from a particular district.
That does not seem to me to be the way to get the men that agriculture can spare, and I agree that there are men who 1171 can be spared from agriculture. The way to do it is for the President of the Board, with his wide scope and the knowledge he has of how the whole thing is working all over the country, and with all the figures he has before him of the exact quota already contributed by various counties, to authorise, on the representation of the Army Council, that the Act shall apply in certain districts or in certain sections of agriculture. As it is, I fear when this Amendment is brought into the Bill the position will be by no means clear to the farmer and the agricultural labourer. I am not at all sure that it is going to work so simply and as easily as the President of the Board of Agriculture said. I believe, on the other hand, there will be the same constant friction between the representative of the Board of Agriculture and the representative of the military authority in every little district fighting for the corpus vile, of each agricultural labourer. I do not believe that that is a practical or workmanlike way of carrying out the matter. I do not mean that the right hon. Gentleman did not intend to carry it out properly, but I do say that the machinery proposed is about as cumbersome as any that could possibly have been devised. I believe it would have been a perfectly simple way to give the authorities of the Board of Agriculture power to enable them to be the final arbiters as to where this Act could be made to apply and where it could not. Therefore, I feel called upon to make a protest against the Amendment which crystallises the arrangement come to on Friday, and I am very sorry that it is not one that I think would work more smoothly.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendment proposed: After the words last inserted, to insert the words
or (b) to any officer or man who has left or been discharged from the naval or military service of the Crown in consequence of disablement if the disablement is certified by the Admiralty or the Army Council to be the result of wounds (including injury from poisonous gas) received in battle or in any engagement with the enemy or otherwise from the enemy, but any such man shall, notwithstanding anything in any Act or Regulation, be entitled to offer himself for re-enlistment if he is willing to do so, and to be re-enlisted."—[Mr. Maepherson.]
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I beg to move, as act Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "disablement"["consequence of disablement"], to insert the words "or ill-health."
I think the House will be grateful to the Under-Secretary for the Amendment on the Paper, and the effect of which is that men who have been wounded or gassed while on service at the front, and who have been discharged from the Army in consequence of that, should not be brought up again under this Bill. I think that is absolutely and entirely right, but I propose my own Amendment because I think the Amendment of the Government hardly goes far enough. There are several consequential Amendments following by which I wish to ensure that whenever a man having served at the front has been discharged by reason of ill-health, whether due. to gas or nerve shock or disease, that man should not be called upon again under this Bill to serve. The Amendment of the Under-Secretary as it appeared on the Paper this morning applied only to men who had been wounded at the front and were discharged for that reason, but in the White Paper circulated later the exemption was made also to apply to men who had been gassed and who had been discharged for that reason. There is another class of case which is not provided for by the Government Amendment, and that is the case of men who suffer from neurasthenia or nerve shock—brought on by service in the trenches. I notice that a little later down on the Paper the hon. Member for Don-caster (Sir C Nicholson) has got an Amendment which will meet that case, and if the Government tell me that they are prepared to accept that Amendment, in one respect my Amendment becomes of less importance. I would suggest to the Government that a man who has been in the trenches in Flanders or France and who has suffered from nerve shock or neurasthenia which has had such a permanent effect upon his system that the doctors have thought it necessary to discharge him from the Army, ought not to be called up again under this Bill. There appears to me to be a most clear and distinct difference between men discharged from the Army in consequence of some accident at home and men discharged by reason of this nerve shock sustained by service in the trenches, which in most cases, I should have thought, rendered the value of their services as fighting units so 1173 little that it is not worth calling much. Looking at it from their own point of view, is it not reasonable that a man who has been discharged for nerve shock should not be called on again to serve?
There is only one other case I want to refer to, and that is the case of the man who has contracted or aggravated a disease during his period of active service and has been discharged from the Army for that reason. I venture to think that that man ought not to be called up again. I think of the many men who served in Gallipoli and contracted dysentery and other diseases owing to the severe and trying conditions under which they lived on the Peninsula. Is there any reason why those men who were discharged from the Army should be called up again? I expect that the number of men who suffered from disease and were discharged from the Army may possibly not be so very great. They would not be discharged from the Army on account of disease unless it was very severe, but in those cases where, in the opinion of the medical authorities, the disease was so severe that it necessitated their discharge, I think they should be granted exemption under this Bill.
§ Colonel Sir CHARLES SEELY
I rise to second the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. and learned Friend, and I would press it upon the Government not only in the interests of the men themselves and of the general acceptance of this Bill, but also in the interests of the Army. We all acknowledge how completely the Government have met us in the Amendment they have themselves put down, and I quite agree that the understanding in Committee was that the Government would put down an Amendment dealing with the cases of men who had suffered from wounds, and that they did not promise to put down anything dealing with the cases of men who had suffered from ill-health, but I should like to press it on them for several reasons. I think they hardly realise how very strong is the feeling in the country with regard to this question. I have had a number of letters, not only from my own Constituency, but from people all over the country, pathetic letters dealing with the cases of men who have been wounded and who have suffered from illness at the front and are now asked to go out again, and every one of those letters refers with very great bitterness to the fact of the numbers of young 1174 men who for various reasons have been kept at home and have never done anything of any kind towards the actual -fighting in this War. This Amendment-raises the case of ill-health, but there are subsequent Amendments which confine that ill-health to ill-health which is due to disease contracted or aggravated on actual active service. His Majesty's-Government have, since they put down this first Amendment, altered it to a certain extent by adding the words "including injury from poisonous gas" What is-the difference between a man who is injured by poisonous gas and a man who is injured by poisoned water? We all know that our opponents, among the other things which they have done, have-been guilty of a crime—a crime which we thought had been gone for the last two thousand years—of poisoning wells. If a man has suffered from poisoned water to-an extent which has compelled his discharge from the Army, is it quite fair to call him up again? Is it quite fair to subject him to a medical examination, and, if the medical board happens to think that he has recovered, to send him out to all the hardships of the front when there are other men who have suffered very little? There is also the case of the men who have been discharged in consequence of nerve shock and neurasthenia. Those cases are dealt with by an Amendment which is down in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster further on, and I would press that Amendment strongly on the notice of the Under-Secretary.
But apart from the question of these men themselves, I should like to point out. that the Army will gain nothing whatever by including these men. What you will do if you put them in is this: You will examine a certain number of men, out of whom you will get a small number who are available as soldiers. You will cause a considerabe amount of ill-feeling by so-doing, but you will get a small number. You will also get a very large number of cases where the medical officers have-really made a mistake, because everybody knows that when a man has suffered from a serious illness, and particularly when it is due to poison, or typhoid, or to dysentery, or any of those digestive diseases,. he may appear to be perfectly well and entirely recovered, but that if you take him out and subject him to a serious strain in nine cases out of ten he will break down. Everyone who has taken any in- 1175 terest in military matters knows that the worst thing an Army can have is to have a large number of men in its ranks who, the moment they are subjected to any strain, fall out and have to be nursed and brought back to health; and unless I am very much mistaken the actual fighting Army at any given moment will be a great deal stronger if this Amendment is accepted than if it is rejected and you take these men in, who will be not only useless themselves, but will take a whole, lot of men, who would be better employed otherwise, in order to look after them when they break down. I would honestly press the consideration of this point on the notice of my hon. Friend, and if he will yield to this Amendment he will not only be doing a very great kindness to a very large number of men, but he will also be improving the actual strength of the Army.
§ Sir WILLIAM COLLINS
The Amendment on the Paper in the name of the Government is, I believe, in redemption of a promise given yesterday to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol (Sir C. Hobhouse) to extend the area of the class of cases that would be covered, and prevent them being called up again for further examination. I venture to think that the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Butcher), although it does yet further 'extend the area of exemption, hardly goes far enough in that direction, and I submit that the distinction that should be drawn should not be the distinction between cases of battle wounds or illness as the result of active service at the front, but whether the case is or is not one of total and permanent disablement, whether the result of battle wounds, of accidents at home—of which I have seen a good many examples—or of cases of illness, such as neurasthenia or other forms of nervous diseases, in which satisfactory and conclusive evidence is forthcoming that the disablement is of a total and permanent character. The Bill has already been samended so far that where on re-exami-? nation total and permanent disablement is discovered there at length finality is to be reached, and a man is to be given a certificate of permanent discharge. The same principle should apply to cases called up for this re-examination, that if the Army Council have in their possession satisfactory and conclusive evidence that the case is already one of total and per- 1176 manent disablement, it is unnecessary to call up that person for further examination. Therefore, I say it is a false and confusing distinction merely to put in the case of battle wounds or gassing, and that it ought to be really cases of permanent and total disablement from whatever cause.
I am aware that many criticisms are made with regard to the medical examination, and I think the Leader of the House indicated on Second Reading that he was desirous of making the future medical examination as satisfactory and as conclusive as possible, and I hope for that purpose there may be called in to the aid of some of these medical boards special and expert advice, or at any rate that there will be consideration of satisfactory certificates from the person's own doctor when they are produced, and not, as has sometimes been the case in the past, total disregard of such certificates. I would urge that as, if on re-examination the disablement is found to be total and permanent finality is reached and the case will not be called up again under any circumstances, the same principle might apply where the Army Council has satisfactory evidence that the disablement is permanent and total, and that then the man should not be put to the unnecessary grievance of again being called up, even for the first re-examination under this; Bill.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am sorry that I cannot accept this Amendment. The House may recall the history of this Amendment, or, rather, the Amendment which I have placed upon the Paper. In the original Bill there was no exemption of this sort so far as men who have been disabled and discharged were concerned. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill) pressed me upon this subject, and I gave a pledge that on the Report stage I would introduce an Amendment dealing with those men who had been disabled and discharged on account of wounds received in battle. After giving that pledge I thought that there was a case where, though an actual wound may not have been inflicted upon the soldier or officer, or he might not have lost a limb, yet he might have received an injury from poison gas. Accordingly, I extended the original pledge, and put in this extra injury or disability. I see the result of it to-day ! My advisers, who probably knew more about Parlia- 1177 mentary procedure and Amendments than I do, advised me that if I once moved away there would be no termination to suggestions of amendment.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Accordingly, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York, and my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield, come forward to-day and suggest that I should extend the exceptions to a very great extent indeed; because in this particular Clause, if you are going to extend disablement and injury, there is no limit to extension, and this Bill will probably become dead ! In regard to the point which was raised by the hon. Member for Derby, I noticed that he emphasised that we were putting men who were permanently disabled to the trouble of being called up again. Throughout the whole of these discussions there has been a continuous mixing up of two different things, namely, the calling up of men for re-examination, and the calling of men up for battle service or actual service in the field. I have only to point out to the hon. Member for Derby that if a man is permanently disabled from battle wounds, sickness, or ill-health, and he is so certified on re-examination, that he has not the remotest chance of being sent on active service. I think that that completely covers the point which my hon. Friend pressed upon me.
§ Sir W. COLLINS
Why re-examination if the Army Council possess satisfactory evidence to that effect?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
If we have in our possession satisfactory evidence that a man is permanently disabled we have no intention of asking him for service. We will not even send him a notice. I think the good intentions of the Army Council have been shown when I accepted the Amendment suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Lanark (Mr. Pringle), and when we said that when we knew as a fact that men, even in civil life here, were permanently disabled and devoid of a limb, the War Office would not go to the trouble or expense of sending them notice to come up for reexamination. I think my hon. Friend can rest assured upon that particular point.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The Amendment is on the Paper to-day in the name of the? hon. Gentleman the Member for North-West Lanark. I think, therefore, that I have certainly shown that the Government cannot accept this Amendment as my own Amendment was meant practically to cover the whole of the diseases and disablements which appear- in the category. I think that is a very good test. I would ask the House now not to press this matter, but to come to a decision.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I should like to know, first of all, what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary had in view when he says that "if disablement is certified by the Admiralty or the Army Council," etc? I have contemplated that men suffering from battle casualties, who have been invalided out of the Army on that account, should not be brought within the scope of this Bill; or that any further -action of the Army Council or the Admiralty should be necessary for that purpose, or that they have not already discharged their function when they have invalided men out of the Army. I want to know, first of all, whether I am right in my assumption that that is the intention with which the hon. Gentleman has put the Amendment on the Paper; otherwise-there is no meaning in it at all?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Well, then, let us make the intention absolutely plain. I would suggest that my hon. Friend should accept the words "has been" instead of "is" ["disablement is certified."]
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
And instead of the word "by" the words "under the authority of" the Admiralty or Army Council. That makes it quite clear that it is not a special and a fresh operation to be taken in regard to these men by the Army Council; that it is a matter which lies in the past work of the ordinary medical boards. I will move-these words when the Amendment is proposed. I quite recognise that this is an important concession. I think the House-should not close its eyes to that fact. Let me, however, point out that what is really-extraordinary is that such a proposal as this should ever have been made; that it should really have been proposed to take-these totally disabled people and casualty. 1179 men and put them through the mill again with a view to seeing how many of them are to be sent out to France. It was an extraordinary proposal that that should be done, and all this other very large class which is in everybody's mind is not being brought within the area of our recruiting operation. It shows, I think, how very far adrift are the War Office from the real sentiments of the people of this country with regard to measures taken. I recognise fully that the hon. Gentleman has done his best, and has made an important concession. My hon. and learned Friend below the Gangway has moved to extend this Amendment to a question of the men who are invalided for ill-health. It seems to me that there is no doubt whatever that that is desirable. It is perfectly clear that men invalided out of the Army for ill-health while on active service, and considered permanently disabled from that ill-health, should not be called up and sent to the front while there are, as we all know, quite young and active men in many industries throughout the country within the age limit who have not yet been out to the front at all. Everybody knows it. Everybody feels it. I do not, however, myself, press that point upon my hon. Friend. I confine myself to the suggestion I made at the beginning as to the question of battle casualties alone. As the hon. Gentleman has met me on that, so far as I am concerned, although I fully sympathise with the view that has been expressed by my hon. and learned Friend below the Gangway, I do not feel able to press the point further on my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I regret I cannot accede to the request made by the Under-Secretary to accept his statement as satisfactory. There were one or two statements in the speech he delivered just now from which I do not think his account of the genesis of this Amendment was quite accurate. This matter was raised on an Amendment which proposed to relieve from the operation of this Bill men who had been discharged from the Army or the Navy on account of physical unfitness. It will be remembered that that Amendment, which we carried into the Division Lobby, received a very considerable amount of support. There is no doubt about it that the measure of support received in the Division Lobby did not actually represent the amount of sympathy with the Amendment in the 1180 House. The Government majority on that occasion fell to something like ninety. The Under-Secretary said that if the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York was carried it would knock this Bill into smithereens—or he used some such expression. We understood him, at any rate, to say that no men would be obtained as a result of the operation of this Bill. Surely that is a most extraordinary statement to be made! It is admitted that these men have, every one of them, been medically examined once, or more than once, and some of them at least half a dozen times—practically all of them within the last six months. Therefore, that admission of the hon. Gentleman means that the authorities are hoping to get men by the operation of this Bill who have repeatedly been declared, on medical re-examination, to be unfit for military service.
I come more directly to the matter of this Amendment. I shall certainly support the Amendment moved by the hon and learned- Gentleman the Member for York. It seems to me quite impossible, either logically or practically, to draw any distinction between men who have been discharged as unfit whether that unfitness be due to wounds received in battle or to illness which has resulted from Army service. For instance, a very common cause of discharge from the Army is rheumatism, which is the result of the hardships the men have to endure in the trenches. I remember an hon. and gallant Member, speaking from the opposite bench a few weeks ago, and he described the awful condition of the trenches as he had seen them a very few days before. The expression he used was that, "The men were up to their eyes in mud." It is quite certain that in a very large number of cases very serious physical results will follow owing to the terrible hardships the men have had to endure. Can anybody draw a distinction between men discharged as a result of wounds in an engagement with the enemy or a man crippled for life as the result of rheumatism owing to the hardships of the trenches? Take the case of frost-bite. We know that a great many men have suffered from that and have been crippled for life, many of them having had to undergo amputations. As I read this Amendment these men will not come within the protection of it. We will have to rely upon the medical 1181 boards. It has been assumed by the Under-Secretary more than once this evening that we trust the medical boards and the Army Council to carry out fairly and justly the provisions of this measure. In view of the experience that we have had during the last eighteen months it is impossible to convince me that that would be so. Only yesterday I had a letter sent to me in relation to the case of a blind man. The case was cut from a Northampton paper of only two or three days before. That soldier was discharged from the Army. That is by no means a solitary case. Now the Under-Secretary has left altogether untouched the point that it is impossible to draw the distinction in question, and I am not at all satisfied with the extent to which he has gone in attempting to meet us.
Let me just endorse an observation made by the hon. Baronet as to the state of feeling in the country about this measure. I have had evidence of feeling arising out of the Military Service Acts, but I can honestly say to this House that during the last eighteen months I have never had so much evidence of widespread indignation, amounting to horror, as has been aroused by this Bill, and it is well to remember that there are 1,000,000 persons affected by it. All those are in poor physical condition. I heard only this afternoon of the case of a man who had been repeatedly rejected suffering from heart disease. Before this Bill was introduced he was able to do a little work, but the prospect of having to undergo again the torture of a medical examination, and the possibility of being taken into the Army as the result of an arbitrary decision by a medical board, has made that man quite prostrate, and at the present time he is lying ill. There must be a great many cases of that sort. Why could not the Under-Secretary be—I do not say generous, but just in this matter? While he is making a concession, why cannot he make a concession which is going to be of practical value to these men?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
You have not conceded more than the Amendment I moved, which received a great deal of support. If the Bill is left as proposed, the result will be that an arbitrary, unfair, and unjust discrimination will be created between men who had more or less active service and are entitled to consideration by this 1182 House. Therefore, I shall support the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for York, and I hope it will be carried to a Division.
§ Sir G. GREENWOOD
I only rise to ask the Under-Secretary to answer a question which, I think, is relative to this Amendment. I have already called his notice by correspondence to a case in my own Constituency. This is the case of a gentleman who suffers from cerebral hemorrhage, and he has been several times examined, and, of course, rejected. He holds a certificate not only from a local doctor, but from one of the best known specialists in Harley Street—I could give his name—who says that he is "totally unfit for military service whether at home or abroad, and the only hope of keeping him fairly well is absence of worry, anxiety, and exertion." He is in a state of very great anxiety, because he knows if he is called up and endures, perhaps, four hours before a tribunal, it will lead certainly to a nervous breakdown, and perhaps something worse. Do I understand my hon. Friend to say that if those certificates of the specialist in 'Harley Street and the local doctor are placed before the proper authorities he would be exempt from coming up? Or must he risk his life, and certainly incur a nervous breakdown by being called up under the provisions of this Bill? If that is the case I shall certainly support the Amendment to the proposed Amendment.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I understand the constituent about whom my hon. Friend is speaking is not a discharged soldier, and that he has not yet been called up?
§ Mr. J. MASON
If the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend were accepted it seems to me you would lose the whole of those men discharged from the Army in the early days of the War, a great many for very small ailments. I know, for instance, a man who joined in the early days of the War in 1914. He was discharged after some months of service for slight rupture. He went back to civil employment, and was able to enlist again in three months. That man was a patriotic man, and wanted to serve again, but I think you would lose a great many men who have been discharged for very small ailments.
§ Mr. BILLING
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary what is the position of pilots in the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service who have been invalided out for neurasthenia or nerve shock consequent on flying either in this country or in France? It is quite a common thing for pilots' nerves to break down after two or three months' flying, and under those circumstances I should like the hon. Member—
§ Sir C. NICHOLSON
On a point of Order. Will this discussion prevent my raising this point later on?
§ Sir C. SEELY
With the leave of the House, might I just say one word? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!" Other HON. MEM-BEES: "No!"] It is that this Amendmen—
The hon. Member is only entitled by the leave of the House to speak twice on an Amendment on the Report stage.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment to the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 46; Noes, 1511185
|Division No. 25.]||AYES.||[6.25 p.m.|
|Anderson, W. C.||Holt, Richard Durning||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Hudson, Walter||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||King, J.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Snowden, Philip|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Lambert, Richard (Wilts., Cricklade)||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Lynch, A. A.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Molteno, Percy Alport||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Nolan, Joseph||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Goldstone, Frank||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Partington, Oswald||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H||Butcher and Colonel Sir Charles.|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E. H.||Pringle, William M. R.||Seely.|
|Hogge, James Myles||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred|
|Archdale, Lieut. E. M.||Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. M.||Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Ashley, Wilfred W.||Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Gretton, John|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S. E.)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Hancock, John George|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Cowan, W. H.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Bathurst, Capt. Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Craig, Col. James (Down, E.)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Craik, Sir Henry||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Croft, Lieut.-Col. Henry Page||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Currie, George W.||Hewart, Sir Gordon|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Denniss, E. R. B.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.|
|Boyton, James||Faber, George D. (Clapham)||Hills, John Waller|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Fell, Arthur||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)|
|Brookes, Warwick||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Bryce, John Annan||Fletcher, John Samuel||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Bull, Sir William James||Forster, Henry William||Hunt, Major Rowland|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Foster, Philip Staveley||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Galbraith, Samuel||Johnson, William|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Gardner, Ernest||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Cautley, H. S.||Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||Kenyan, Barnet|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Parker, James (Halifax)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Parkes, Ebenezer||Stanley, Major Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Layland-Barrett, Sir F.||pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Perkins, Walter Frank||Stewart, Gershom|
|Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Peto, Basil Edward||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Pretyman, Ernest George||Swann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Tickler, T. G.|
|Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Radford, Sir George Heynes||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Macmaster, Donald||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Rawson, Colonel R. H.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Macpherson, James Ian||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Watson, John Bertrand (Stockton)|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)||Whiteley, Herbert J.|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Rees, Sir J. D.||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth||Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Robinson, Sidney||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Morison, Hector (Hackney, S.)||Rothschild, Lionel de||Younger, Sir George|
|Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness)||Rowlands, James||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Neville, Reginald J. N.||Salter, Arthur Clavell||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Samuels, Arthur W.||Lord Edmund Talbot and Mr.|
|Ogden, Fred||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood)||Primrose.|
|Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
§ Sir J. SIMON
On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill), I move as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment in paragraph (6), to leave out the word "is" ["if the disablement is certified by the Admiralty"], and to insert instead thereof the words "has been."
§ Mr. HOHLER
I should like to know from the Under-Secretary for War what is the result of this Amendment. Does it refer to what appears on the discharge paper, and, if so, is that regarded as certification? I would like to know what we are gaining by this Amendment.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made to the proposed Amendment: In paragraph (b) leave out the word "by" ["certified by the Admiralty"], and insert instead thereof the words "under the authority of."
§ Sir C. NICHOLSON
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "enemy" ["otherwise from the enemy"], to insert the words "or any officer or man who has been discharged from the military service of the Crown in consequence of neurasthenia or allied functional nerve disease which has been so certified by a special medical board."
I have seen a good many of these cases recently, and only yesterday I was in consultation with the president of a medical board who deals with a large number of these cases, and he told me that if there was one thing that was going to retard the 1186 recovery of a large number of these cases it was the fear that they would be brought up again for a medical re-examination. I have spent several hours recently on the medical board, and I am certain that there is not a single hon. Member of this House who, if he saw the cases which I have seen, would consider it was possible to put those men back to any kind of military service whatever, because some of them were trembling from head to foot and some could only speak in a whisper, and when they were brought up for a two minutes' examination they trembled with excitement in their speech. There is only one way in which they can be treated, and that is to keep them away from excitement. Men of this type ought to be positively relieved under this Bill.
It is quite possible with care that some of these men may be brought to such a state of health as to look perfectly fit and well, but if you once take them out again and subject them to the strain of actual service, they will break down for certain, and nobody can say what damage might be caused by a man running amok with a fresh attack of nerves. I have some hopes that my Amendment will find favour with the Under-Secretary for War. I am not at all sure that really in their hearts they do not realise that this is a very necessary thing to be carried out. There is just one other ground I should like to give, and it is with reference to pensions and the cost to the State. I am quite certain that if you are going to send back men who have been subject to this violent nerve disease, such as I have described, the chances of the recovery of these men will be considerably less, and they will become a further charge on the State when the War is 1187 over. I do not think it is necessary for me to say any more, as I think those two grounds are sufficient to exempt these men from a further re-examination, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept my proposal.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I wish to second this Amendment. I do not think the facts in favour of this proposal could be put with greater weight than they have been put by the hon. Member for Don-caster (Sir C. Nicholson), who has studied this matter very carefully. I ask the Government to consider this very special case which is quite exceptional, and I urge my hon. Friend most earnestly to consider this proposal favourably.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
This particular type of case has excited the sympathy of many people in this country, and I feel, and so do my advisers, that it is a special case, and I would like to suggest that instead of his proposal the words to be inserted should run, "or in consequence of neurasthenia or allied functional nerve disease, certified as the result of military service abroad in the present War." [An HON. MEMBER: "Why abroad?"] I think my hon. Friend will realise that you cannot have cases of shell shock and neurasthenia at home. [An Hon. MEMBER: "Yes—in the Flying Corps!"]
§ Sir C. NICHOLSON
Will my hon. Friend allow me to point out that the words he has suggested will not cover the cases in the Flying Corps? I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "enemy" ["otherwise from the enemy"], to insert the words "or in consequence of neurasthenia or allied functional nerve disease if so certified by a special medical board to be the result of naval or military service in the present War.
§ Mr. FORSTER
May I explain what is meant by a special medical board? In the case of the disease of neurasthenia in connection with the pensions administration, we have set up a special medical board to deal with this particular disease, and it is to that special medical board that we should look for certification in connection with these cases.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.
§ Proposed words, as amended, there inserted in the Bill.
I think that covers the next of three Amendments on the Paper, and brings us to a manuscript Amendment handed in by the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle).
§ Mr. PRINGLE
An Amendment standing on the Paper in my name is directed to a different point from that which we have been discussing. The Government Amendment dealt solely with the case of discharged men, whereas my Amendment relates to the re-examination of men previously rejected, and it provides for an appeal in their case under certain conditions.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to move, after the words last inserted, to insert the words,Provided also that in any case where a man so examined and passed for military service produces a medical certificate that he is unfit for general service, or for any form of military service, he shall be entitled to be re-examined by a special medical board.This Amendment is intended to deal with men who have been rejected in the past. On the Committee stage this question was raised, I think, in a somewhat unfortunate form, because it gave the representative of the Government the opportunity of riding off into opposition purely on the form of the Amendment. It is common knowledge to all Members of the House that nothing has given greater dissatisfaction in recent months than the method of re-examination of men who have been rejected in the past. My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir G. Greenwood) endeavoured to bring forward a case on one of the Amendments just disposed of, but, as everybody knows, that is not an isolated instance. During the Committee my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary promised that there would be an improvement in the medical examination, and that there would be greater safeguard. A similar promise was made on Second Reading by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It has come to my knowledge that at the very time these promises were being made men 1189 absolutely unfit for service were being passed into the Army in a careless and reckless way. I was told by a medical man, for example, about the case of a man whom I know very well. He has been rejected on many occasions. He has always been anxious to serve; so anxious was he to do National Service that he went for several months into a munitions factory and was practically advised to leave if he did not want to be further seriously disabled. This man suffers from two serious diseases, and yet on Friday of last week he was passed C3 and was ordered to go on the land. That man, under my Amendment, would be entitled on producing a medical certificate to have his case determined by a special medical board, and, I think, in view of the cursory method of medical examination which prevails, the House should insist upon the security of an appeal in these cases. It seems to me that we have no real ground, apart from a statutory safeguard, for believing that the interests of these men can be protected, and I think the House ought to insist on the machinery for their protection which this Amendment suggests.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do not know that it is necessary to make any lengthy speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed !" I hope it will be agreed, and, if necessary, we will take it to a Division and see if my hon. Friends who say "Agreed!" vote for it. This Amendment is intended to cover the case of men who have already more than once been medically rejected. If they are to be taken into the Army on the examination of an Army medical board, there are a great many of us in this House who would not give much for their chances. We have lost all faith in the Army Medical Board. We are convinced from our experience of the working of those boards that there is duress put upon the boards to get men into the Army. I have said that before in this House, and I say it again this afternoon deliberately. I remember when I said it before that the Under-Secretary said it was not true, but I myself have seen letters written by the War Office to various commands in this country stating that they thought there had been far too many exemptions in these commands and that they must stop. If that is not duress, what is it? It is a plain indication to the medical boards that they are letting off too many men in the command, and that they have got to get them 1190 into the Army. I know that from my own personal experience, and, although it has been denied from that Front Bench, it is true, and they know it is true. We therefore want to secure that men who have already been rejected more than once on medical grounds shall have a right of appeal against any medical board if they can produce, as most of them can produce, other medical testimony of as great or even greater weight proving that they are unfit. The House ought also to remember that every mistake in this matter means a vast expenditure of money to the country. Everyone of these men turned out later will be entitled, probably for thirty years, to a pension of something like £70 per year. I hope this point will be yielded, but if it is not we can go to a Division and see how far the Government are prepared to go.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I am afraid that I cannot accept this Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) drew from his experience of the past fears for the future, but, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pointed out, it is intended that the medical examination of these men who have been previously rejected on medical grounds shall be thorough, and I hope that it will be more searching than some of the medical examinations which have occurred during the last three years. The mere fact that these men have been previously rejected and that the medical board will know that they have been previously rejected will in itself be sufficient to put the medical board on. its guard. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I think that is a reasonable view to take. I am afraid, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said earlier in the Debates, although undoubtedly there is much to be said in favour of a special medical board acting as an appeal court in certain cases, that it is quite impossible for us to establish such a system generally throughout the country, and we cannot therefore accept the Amendment.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir TUDOR WALTERS
I am very sorry that the Financial Secretary to the War Office has taken up this attitude. Throughout the whole of these proceedings the House has gone on the assumption that they were not entirely in the hands of the military authorities, and that supreme power was given to the civilian side. For instance, the question whether a man is to be exempted or not is settled 1191 by a civil tribunal. The military representative has no voice; he Simply gives evidence. When we come to medical examination, the War Office appear to take up the attitude that no one but the military doctor is to have any say or voice in the settlement of the question. I think that is entirely a wrong course of procedure. If it is necessary to go before a civil tribunal on these questions of exemption, surely every man, if he so desires it, especially in a case of this description, if he considers himself improperly treated by the Army medical authorities, ought to have the right to appeal to the civil medical board. It is no use talking about this House in any way controlling the operations of the Act if on these supremely important questions of the re-examination of rejected men you hand the thing over practically in told to the Army medical authorities. I am not speaking with any prejudice against the Army medical man at all. My experience is not in the least like that of my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). I believe that the majority of these Army doctors conscientiously try to do their duty, but they are up against a very difficult proposition. I spent a portion of my early life receiving the first beginnings of a medical training. I gave it up because it did not look to me to be the sort of career which I should find sufficiently remunerative. I was mistaken in that view. It was one of the delusions of my youth. But from my slight experience I have always carried with me the recollection of the supreme difficulty of medical diagnosis. I find that men who come before an experienced medical man can simulate all kinds of complaints. No doubt the diagnosis in many complaints consists of answers to questions which the medical man puts. If the medical man considers that the man is giving honest replies, of course that would materially influence his diagnosis. I believe that in exactly the same way it is quite possible for a man to come before the most expert medical board in existence and, if he is a dull and rather stupid man, who does not know how to answer questions put to him, the medical board may not discover important physical disabilities or diseases which would render that man quite unfit for military service. To turn an ignorant man into a room with an Army doctor who is anxious to pass 1192 him and only gives a short time to the examination, may be all very well for the ordinary average man, but where a man is suffering from any serious complaint or has a disease of an insidious character which is not apparent from a cursory examination, to do so is to run the most serious risk of passing a man who is-entirely unfit for military service. The Amendment comes in at the critical moment. It says that if any man who has been previously medically rejected can produce a medical certificate of unfitness for military service. he should have the right to appeal to a special medical board. In nine cases out of ten the medical man who would give such a medical certificate is the medical man who has attended him, who knows all about his constitution and has probably treated him at various times when suffering from various complaints which, to the medical man's knowledge, render him unfit for military service. You might have a clear case of that kind, where the competent medical man, perhaps an eminent specialist, discovers an insidious disease, which the average practising medical man would not discover. I remember going once myself to an eminent consulting physician in London and asking him to give me a prescription. He said, "No! every prescription a man writes for a man he does not know is merely an experiment in poisons; the man to write the prescription is the man who knows your constitution, and who has attended you before." In cases where men who have been previously rejected can produce certificates from competent medical men that they are unfit for military service, and especially giving particulars why they are unfit for military service, those men ought to have the right to an appeal to a special medical board.
Without in any way questioning the conscientiousness and honesty of the Army Medical Boards, there is a little point of professional etiquette which arises in the case of these rejected men. If a man has been rejected and comes up for re-examination, if the Army Medical Board has any sort of suspicion, indeed, they may have actual knowledge, that the man was not examined by an Army doctor, but was examined under the Derby Scheme by a civilian doctor, who did the work in a time of great pressure, there is a natural professional disposition on the. part of the Army medical man to say, "This is all fudge. These civilian doctors have been 1193 rejecting everybody. They do not understand what are the qualifications for military service. Whatever the civilian doctors have said, speaking as Army medical men, we know that this man is fit for military service and to military service he shall go." That is not an intentional injustice to the man, but a subconscious professional instinct which we all have in our various professions. It is the business of this House to consider these subconscious prejudices and to safeguard a man who is likely to suffer. I am not in the least anxious that men who are fit for military service should escape that service, but I do not want to turn our Army into an army of cripples. I get so many scores of letters from men who have been rejected, men who have been called up, and upon a cursory examination passed into the Army, but soon to spend all their time in hospital—some of them break down and are permanently injured for life by having a strain put upon them for which they are not physically fit—that I would earnestly appeal to the Financial Secretary to reconsider his decision. Do not let us place them entirely under the control of Army medical men in cases of this kind, but do let us have this right of appeal in certain cases.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I should like to deal with two points mentioned by the last speaker, which are quite distinct in their character. In one part of his speech he seemed to urge that the only satisfactory judge of a man's health was his own medical adviser, who must be appealed to in every case, and if he decided that the man was unfit there must be an appeal to a special board. That cannot possibly be done without the consent of the men's private medical advisers. The other point he raised was that the Army medical doctors were not to be trusted as compared with civilian doctors. I am afraid that he is ignorant of the manner in which the examinations are carried on and of how these boards are constituted. Does he think that all these medical examiners are the same as the old Army doctors? Nothing could be a greater delusion. Does he know that out of 35,000 doctors—I am giving the figures in round numbers—in this country at this moment about 12,000 have placed their services at the disposal of the War Office and are being constantly used for such examinations? An immense number of cases constantly come before doctors who are ordinarily 1194 in civil life, but who are giving help to the War Office at this moment, and act perfectly independently of what are called Army doctors. The idea that you are placing the fate of these persons who are to be examined in the hands of a small section of the medical profession who are in the R.A.M.C., and that the civilian doctor is shut out, is, I can assure my hon. Friend, and I am certain that my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench will confirm me, a complete delusion.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
I would join in urging the Financial Secretary to be good enough to reconsider his decision. This is a most important and most reasonable Amendment. The Financial Secretary seems to suggest that it provides that any man has a right of appeal to a special medical board, but the Amendment specifically provides that he can only have that on producing a medical certificate showing that he is unfit for general service or any form of military service. We can assume that no medical man of position would give such a certificate unless he were satisfied that it was a just case that ought to come up for reconsideration by a special medical board. That is a very reasonable and fair proposal, having regard to the special conditions of this Bill.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
I rise for the purpose of enforcing the point made by my hon. Friend opposite (Sir H. Craik), and putting forward another for the consideration of the House. The hon. Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Sir T. Walters) seemed to base the whole of his case upon the distinction that he drew between civilian doctors and Army doctors. I should not admit that that distinction, so far as regards scientific knowledge, can be so well maintained now as it might have been formerly, because' one of the most remarkable things in the reform of the Army Medical Service of this country has been the advance in the scientific attainments of Army doctors. The distinction does not really hold good in this case. These boards are composed almost entirely of civilian doctors. I would ask the House to consider whether it can readily be supposed that these civilian doctors, because they have temporarily, under the stress of their country's need, put on khaki, and are rendering loyal service to the interests of their country, should at the same moment be able to divest themselves of 1195 their medical skill and medical conscientiousness—that is the word used by the hon. Member—simply because they are wearing khaki? The distinction does not exist. Therefore that basis of argument for the Amendment fails.
There is another point with regard to the medical certificates which a soldier will have to produce to entitle him to this appeal. From what I have heard I am sure it is true that the medical certificate's that are produced and brought to bear upon the medical board which is examining for military purposes are a very dangerous feature in the whole process. Very wide and extensive use has been made of them in the past. I am sorry to say that they have very often been obtained or used in a manner in which they ought not to have been obtained or used. It is possible for almost any man to obtain such a certificate, which is given very often from motives of humanity, but which is based on very imperfect knowledge of the case, and of which use is made in innumerable cases to defeat the accuracy and justice of the examination by a military medical board. Of course, where those certificates are based, as the hon. Member for the Brightside Division says, upon a real knowledge of the past medical history of the individual, then I grant that they ought to have great weight with the medical board. There are very few people indeed in the position of the private soldier who are able to have constant medical attendance. Consequently there are very few cases of such men who are able to go to a man who knows their medical history. I have had many cases where men have applied to me to ask whether I could not by some influence get them a medical certificate on the spot before they went up for examination. I have said in many cases, "Cannot you produce a certificate from your regular medical attendant?" and in almost every case they have answered, "We have no regular medical attendant. No one who knows our medical history because we have had very little medical history." Therefore, for this Amendment to rely upon a medical certificate from outside would be to introduce rather a dangerous principle into the whole system of military medical examination.
§ Sir W. COLLINS
I am sure if the hon. Member for Sheffield had pursued his original intention of entering the medical 1196 profession he would not only have been a great ornament to that profession, but he would have learnt, in the course of his. studies, that medicine is not an exact science. You must not expect too much even out of a medical examination. Nevertheless there are medical examinations, and medical examinations, and I was somewhat disappointed to hear the Financial Secretary intimate that future medical examinations would not be different in many respects from those with which we have been familiar in the past. The Leader of the House on the Second Heading said he hoped in the future medical examinations would be so perfect that the risk which had been run in the past would not be run in the future, and it is because I cannot help thinking some improvement might be made in the constitution of the medical boards, at any rate in certain classes of cases, that I regret the reply which the hon. Gentleman gave. As an old teacher in one of the largest medical schools in London I have had the pleasure of teaching both those who have become civilian doctors and those who have entered the Army Medical Service, and I can certainly testify to the equal efficiency of both, and I do not think it fair to institute the comparison which has been made to the detriment of the military as against the civilian. At the same time, only yesterday, I endeavoured to bring before the representative of the War Office a very striking case which came under my own personal notice in which a man suffering from night blindness had been repeatedly examined by medical boards and passed for general service. Although he produced a certificate from a well-known oculist to the effect that he was so suffering, that certificate was disregarded, and it was only when I appealed personally to Sir Alfred Keogh that I secured in a couple of days that man's discharge. Presumably he will come up for re-examination under this Bill, and I am anxious that he shall not appear before the kind of medical board that has hitherto examined him and disregarded his certificate. He has written me a letter saying he dreads a repetition of the jeers and obliquy to which he had submitted, being accused of insobriety and of being a slacker when he was actually suffering from a well-known disease, night blindness, with degeneration of the back of the eye. Anyone with ordinary proper methods of medical examination would have been able to detect it. It is because you cannot expect these 1197 medical boards to be composed of universal specialists that it is necessary that they should have an opportunity of calling to their aid specialists and experts. I am anxious to obtain some assurance that that will be the case in the future, as it has not always been the case in the past. I regret that my hon. Friend has not seen his way to accept the Amendment.
Mr. E. HARVEY
After the very weighty appeal which has been made to him I hope my hon. Friend may see his way to reconsider his decision. The Amendment does not make a general attack upon medical boards. It merely deals with exceptional cases of exceptional hardship which will provide a way for preventing these very grave cases of hardship and injustice from recurring in the future. They have happened in the past. I can give a single instance which will be convincing in itself, and which I have brought to the attention of the War Office, where a man suffering from Bright's disease, with one of his kidneys removed within the past year, was passed for service by a medical board. There was no possibility of appeal. The case was so outrageous that I brought it to the attention of the Secretary of State for War. All he was able to do was to refer it to the same medical board, and they, of course, said they confirmed their previous decision. What happened was that the unfortunate man went up to be drilled and at once became ill. He was only three weeks in the Army, of which he spent sixteen days in hospital, and he has taken five months since he was discharged to get back to a tolerable state of health in which he is able to begin to earn his own living again. That case could never have occurred if there had been a medical court of appeal. It is all that we ask for. It is no reflection on the medical boards, as a whole, because the very best medical board must sometimes make a mistake. It is to provide some means of rectifying these occasional mistakes. I very much hope the Government will consider their decision.
§ Mr. NIELD
I have just come from sitting for some hours from a tribunal over which I preside, and I have again met flagrant cases—I do not hesitate to say scandalous cases—in which medical boards have given a variety of decisions gravitating from the worst, that is, Class C 3 to A, and I expressed my astonishment, as no one could help doing before whom this evidence was placed. There is one class of 1198 complaint which I put prominently in the speech I made on 1st March. It was persons suffering from internal ulcers. I am sure I impressed the Under-Secretary because he promised that those cases should receive special consideration. I asked the House to think what it means that men who have suffered for years from duodenal ulcer, who can take no solid food, who have been treated as an invalid and have had everything prepared for them, and have been under the care of the medical profession in some cases for eight or ten years and sometimes longer should be sent into the Army classed as A, general service, over and over again. I have the records now. If the House doubts it they can be fetched in ten minutes. I think any impartial person examining those records could only pass one verdict on them—that the diseases are wholly ignored. I have sent information of a Bournemouth case which I mentioned on that occasion where there was pending a final appeal to the special medical board. This man had been absolutely incapacitated for work. It is not a pleasant story to tell, but this poor man was liable to instant fits of the most violent vomiting at all times. He has been before the special medical board. One man examined him for his eyesight, another tested him for his heart, and when a third man was told of this malady, which had made his life a burden to him for many years, he pressed his stomach and finally passed him for general service. I myself have never found a tendency on the part of the private practitioner to abuse his position. I have often noticed the careful wording of the certificate. The certificate stops short sometimes from saying he is not fit for any form of medical service. It says, "I do not think this man could long sustain the duties of general service or of garrison duty abroad or at home," as the case may be, and therefore I think I am entitled to say the evidence shows that the certificate is not being used fraudulently or with intent to mislead.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
I drew a great distinction between a certificate which was granted with knowledge of the medical history and an ad hoc certificate obtained without it.
§ Mr. NIELD
I accept that quite. I would not suggest for a moment that the certificate of a man who sees a patient for the first time is anything like comparable to that of the man who has treated him 1199 for years It would possibly be prudent to qualify it by saying "the production of a certificate of the man who has attended the patient in question." What I am concerned to do is not to keep him out of the Army, because I have done my best for upwards of twelve months to supply men for the Army, but my object is to supply fit men for the Army. I gave the case of Dyer, who only served one effective day, a porter in the central meat market, put upon light work by his employer because he could not do the ordinary drudgery. He was made to appear before a tribunal at the instance of the employer. He got temporary relief, but was finally refused more and was sent into the Army. The second day after he was taken to the depot he was sent to hospital, and from that day forward never did a day's work, and in two months was a dead man. Evidence was given at the inquest that he died as the result of taking food given him which he was not able to take. That is not an isolated case. My Bournemouth correspondent tells me of another case that happened in the West of England. It is prudent that I should refrain from going into too great detail of the calamities which have followed on a persistent policy of sending men into the Army who are not able to take the proper food of the Army when these men might be easily utilised as an Army unit in a definite centre where they could be in billets or treated specially. The evidence I have shows me that the special board is prepared to pass these men in for general service. It is a terrible chapter. We desire to do everything we can to prevent men shirking—there are a great many trying to shirk—but while we are inflicting upon them tremendous pecuniary hardships we ought to prevent them from being sent into the Army only to go into hospital.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I have listened carefully to the whole of the Debate, and I am confident that it is the earnest desire of the House to press the Government to consider whether they cannot do something to remedy this matter. I do not think anyone desires to institute comparisons between the Army Medical Service and the great mass of civil doctors, who, indeed, have become for all practical purposes part and parcel of the military service. I have no knowledge which would justify me in condemning in any wholesale way the work which has been done by the ordi- 1200 nary medical boards. I am sure they desire to do their duty, and I am quite sure they have had a very hard task put upon them, bat it is perfectly plain from what has been said in this Debate, and from what many of us have heard outside the House, that some serious mistakes have been made, and the House of Commons is only doing its duty if it does its best to see whether these mistakes can be minimised in the future. What is the position of the man whose case we are now considering! He is a man who has already been twice rejected, and he is a man who if his own doctor expresses an adverse view about him is in fact rejected for the third time. Ought we not to find some way by which these men might, under proper safeguard, realise that their case is going to be carefully considered? I have been looking at the Amendment to see whether it is possible to suggest some modifications in it which would induce the Government to alter the Bill in some way. I can imagine that it may be said that though the standard of professional probity is high there may be cases where a medical certificate got at short notice from a man who has no previous knowledge of the case may not be worth very much. That is a perfectly fair observation to make, and we are not passing any undeserved reflection upon a great profession because we say so. If I may give an illustration which comes within my own knowledge, I know from time to time that when a witness who is about to be cross-examined puts in a medical certificate that he is ill and unable to appear, that certificate does not inspire universal confidence. That is perfectly natural.
Is it not possible for the Government in some way to define what they would require? Is it not possible to insert in the Amendment some words which will require that this medical certificate shall come from a medical practitioner who speaks from personal knowledge of the man's medical history? Is it not possible, if need be, to stipulate that no such certificate shall have this effect unless it states what in the medical man's opinion is the reason why the man in question cannot serve? If limitations of that sort were found to be practicable, at any rate we should feel that some people who are otherwise going to suffer grave injustice, and it may be, as said by my hon. Friend (Mr. Field) great torture, may be protected from that great wrong. I would ask the Financial Secretary, who I am 1201 sure has been most anxiously considering this, whether there is not some modification of this Amendment which would commend itself to those who advise him and who at the same time would secure the substance of what is wanted? I cannot help thinking that the particular stress of the argument on the grounds that the country is going to incur a great expense in the matter of pensions if mistakes are made, is a serious consideration, but it is not the real fundamental one. The fundamental one is this, that we are sifting rejected men for the purpose of finding here or there men who though they have borne the heat and burden of this business can none the less be used again, and we are in common decency bound to secure that, at any rate, we do not expose these persons to the unmerited risk of unnecessary suffering, if by good will and by ingenuity we can provide a suitable protection in the form of this Amendment.
§ Sir S. COLLINS
I trust the Financial Secretary will reconsider his decision in view of the request that has come from all quarters of the House imploring him to do so. I plead on behalf of the men who have suffered already. I would like to draw attention to the letter which has been referred to. It is a letter received from a poor man who dreaded being re-examined. Perhaps many hon. Members I did not hear it when it was read. The man writes:I have little doubt, from my past experience of Army medical boards, that I shall be passed fit for general service again. Will you let me know what course I ought to adopt? As you know, I am perfectly willing to do what I can; the fact that I enlisted before I was called, and did not appeal, proves that; but rather than go through a second experience of what I had before I would deliberately take my own life and put an end to my troubles once for all. The jeers, the threats and the cruelty are more than I can bear again.I will say no more. Those words are an eloquent appeal to the Financial Secretary.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I can only speak again by leave of the House, but I am sure the House will allow me to respond to the observations of my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Simon) and other hon. Members. We are all at one in trying to secure fair treatment for the men and fair treatment for the Army. I have been appealed to to allow greater weight to medical certificates. I do not want to make any reflections upon the medical profession, because it is admitted that, as a whole, it is a singularly honourable profession, but it is generally agreed, and has been recognised in the Debate, that some medical certificates are worth a great deal more than others. If we could secure that the medical certificates which were going to be submitted to the Medical Boards were of the better category, then I should not hesitate to accept this at once, but I am afraid from the experience we have had the danger is of a greater character than the House generally recognises, and I am afraid that I cannot at the present moment undertake to accept the view that the presentation of a medical certificate by a man who is being examined ought to secure an examination by the special medical board which my hon. Friends desire. But I clearly recognise the strong view which has been expressed, not only this afternoon, but on the former occasion, and I will undertake to consult with my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War and our advisers, before this Bill goes to another place to-morrow, and I will undertake to see how far we can go in the direction of meeting the views of the House. Further than that I am afraid I cannot go now, and I would ask the House to let us come to a conclusion upon this matter now.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 44; Noes, 128.1203
|Division No. 26.]||AYES.||[7.40 p.m.|
|Anderson, W. C.||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Rowlands, James|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Hogge, James Myles||Seely, Lt.-Col. Sir C. H. (Mansfield)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Hudson, Walter||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||King, Joseph||Snowden, Philip|
|Clynes, John R.||Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Nield, Herbert||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Nolan, Joseph||Wiles, Rt. Hen. Thomas|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Goldstone, Frank||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Pringle, William M. R.||Sir Godfrey Baring and Sir Tudor|
|Hackett, John||Radford, Sir George Heynes||Walters.|
|Archdale, Lieut. E. M.||Forster, Henry William||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. M.||Fetter, Philip Staveley||Newman, John R. P.|
|Ashley, Wilfred W.||Galbraith, Samuel||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gardner, Ernest||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Goldman, Charles Sydney||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Bathurst, Capt. C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)||Pratt, J. W.|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk. E.)|
|Boyton, James||Gretton, John||Primrose, Hon. Neil James|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Griffith. Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S. E.)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Brookes, Warwick||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Rawson, Colonel R. H.|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Hancock, John George||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)|
|Bryce, John Annan||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Haslam, Lewis||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Henry, Sir Charles||Rutherford, Sir John (Darwen)|
|Butcher, John George||Hewart, Sir Gordon||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. sir George||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Hughes Spencer Leigh||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Hunt, Major Rowland||Stanley, Major Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Johnson, William||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Kellaway, Frederick George||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Cowan, William Henry||Kenyon, Barnet||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Tickler, T. G.|
|Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Turton, Edmund R.|
|Croft, Lieut.-Col. Henry Page||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Watson, John Bertrand (Stockton)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Whiteley, Herbert J.|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Macmaster, Donald||Wilson, Lt.-Ct. Sir M. (Beth't Green, S. W.)|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Fell, Arthur||Macpherson, James Ian||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Magnus, Sir Philip||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Younger, Sir George|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Fleming, Valentine||Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness)||Beck and Mr. James Hope.|
|Fletcher, John S.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Gordon Hewart)
It had been intended to move, after 1916, "[1916 shall"], to insert the words "including any rights of appeal thereunder." But, in view of what has been since discussel, it does not appear to me that these words, which never were necessary, can even be thought to be desirable.
The matter arises out of a discussion which took place yesterday. I understand that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lanark is about to move an Amendment, which I believe will deal more adequately with the question of substance.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to move to insert at the end of the Sub-section the following new Sub-section:If any voluntarily attested man who has been rejected but not treated as discharged is called up for further examination, he shall have the same rights of appeal under the Military Service Acts, 1204 1916, as a man on whom a notice requiring him to present himself for examination is served under this Act.This Amendment deals with the case of the voluntarily attested man who was subsequently rejected for military service. In the Committee stage we had a long discussion, which was carried on in the main under a misapprehension on both sides, on the part of the Movers of the Amendment and of the representatives of the Government. That misapprehension was that the voluntarily attested man, who had been subsequently medically rejected, came within the terms of Clause 1 of this Bill. This, however, is not the case; and, consequently, unless some further provision is made, he is not entitled to the rights of appeal which are granted to the Conscript under the Military Service Acta. Exception was taken to the Amendment that has been suggested on the gorund that its effect would be to make every voluntarily attested man a Conscript under the Military Service Acts. Accordingly, this Amendment has been devised in the 1205 form of a new Sub-section to secure to the voluntarily attested man who has been medically rejected the rights of appeal to which the Conscript is entitled and at the same time not to make him a Conscript under the Military Service Acts. The effect of the first sentence is that if a voluntarily attested man who has been rejected but not treated as discharged had been discharged he would have come under Sub-section (1) of Clause 1, but as he is not treated as discharged he is a soldier and in the Reserve, and consequently comes under none of the three categories in the Sub-section. Consequently this new Sub-section brings within the terms of the second Sub-section all those who are at present outside, and secures to them the rights of appeal to which they would otherwise not be entitled. In other words, this Sub-section creates a legal right of appeal, similar to that enjoyed by the Conscript, on behalf of the voluntarily attested man.
§ Mr. HOGGE
In seconding the Amendment, I desire to congratulate my hon. Friend in discovering something which the Solicitor - General and Attorney-General could not discover when this Bill was being discussed previously. It only shows how absurd it is to get a Bill of this sort in the last days of the Session. This question was discussed by the Attorney-General, I think, on Friday, and it was then stated there was nothing in this point, whereas there was a large class of men who were being cut out. This has been discovered, and I only mention it to emphasise the fact that these things do happen, and as an evidence of the absurd lengths to which legislation goes when it is rushed through at the end of the Session.
§ Sir G. HEWART
The Government will accept this Amendment, and I will not be provoked by what the hon. Member says to refer to questions about discovery or even to questions about authorship. But there was one observation of his so inaccurate that I must at once correct it. He said that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General had stated that there was nothing in this point. What the Attorney-General did say was that the voluntarily attested man had a right of appeal, and that, if I may be permitted to say so, was perfectly accurate. But the right of appeal which he has rests at present upon certain instructions. What we are doing in accepting this Sub-section 1206 is to put the right of appeal on a statutory basis. I hope that this Sub-section will meet the sense of the House.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (3), to insert the words "or if he shows that owing to the loss of a limb or any total or permanent disablement he is incapable of military service."
The House will remember that this-matter was under discussion on Friday and that I promised my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-West Lanark that on Report we would introduce words similar to these, and I hope that the House-will accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Mr. J. MASON
I think that the House has passed this Bill with some considerable degree of reluctance, and it is desirable that we should ask ourselves why a Bill so unpopular, as we all realise this is, should have been necessary. I do not hesitate to-say that this Bill became necessary in a very large degree owing to the refusal of the House of Commons to accept the facts which have been brought about by the War. The House of Commons has always so far been in favour of extending exemptions, and refusing to face the real question of the supply of men. We all know that the position as regards exemptions is quite different from and far more unsatisfactory than it is in any other country engaged in the War. We have a large number of men who are sheltering in. Government Departments. We have a very unsatisfactory system created by the trade union card system. We have also a considerable number of exemptions made by the tribunals unreasonably. But these difficulties are aggravated by the fact that we have no proper substitution system by which we can provide substitutes from men who are either unfit for military service or who are too old for military service for the men who could be got if substitutes could be found, and who are fit for military service. The system of substitution that was attempted for getting men into Classes B and C to be used as substitutes for Class A has not proved satisfactory. Great numbers of these B and C men are still employed in very unessential work, though they could be 1207 employed as substitutes? With all due respect to my right hon. Friend, I do not agree that the new voluntary system is a success. I know a considerable number of men who have volunteered under the National Service system and I do not know a single man who has been made use of or called on. It is quite time that some system should be found by which real substitutes can be got from men who are not doing essential work in the country to replace the men who are fit for foreign service, and who now are employed either in Government Departments or other places, and who should be set free by finding substitutes to take their place. It is quite time that the House of Commons deliberately faced this, and tried to find some system of substitution which would be really effective, and which would work out in such a way as to give us the men whom not only we need so sorely, but whom we must have in time if they are to be of real use.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)
I quite appreciate what my hon. Friend has said about the feeling of reluctance throughout the House in connection with this Bill, but I am not going to do more than repeat what I have said on more than one occasion, and that is that the justification for it—and I think it is a sufficient justification—is its necessity. I would remind the House of the understanding at which we arrived last night. I am quite sure that but for that understanding there would have been a desire to have a general discussion on the Third Reading, but I hope that, under the circumstances, the House will agree to the Motion at once.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
In view of the understanding to which my hon. Friend has referred I shall refrain from making any general observations on the measure which has now been reported to the House. I cannot, however, refrain from observing, when my right hon. Friend says this Bill is a necessity, that that statement is not founded on fact. The Bill is not a necessity. The number of men required for the Army is undoubtedly a necessity, but there could be hardly a worse way of meeting that need than the one that has been chosen. I have not opposed the Government in the course of this measure, and, indeed, they have been generally supported by the House. But my right hon. Friend will make a very great mistake if he underrates 1208 the amount of resentment that will be felt throughout the country at the inequitable, unfair, and harsh provisions which are inserted in this Bill, and at the very partial and clumsy manner in which it attempts to meet the needs of the State. It is not true to say that the Bill will supply the men which the Army needs. It will do nothing of the sort. The 100,000 men of whom my right hon. Friend has spoken by no means cover the needs of the War Office at the present time. The establishment of the Army requires a larger number than that to place it at its proper strength, and these 100,000 men neither relate to the needs of the State nor are the methods by which they are to be obtained in any general relation to the resources at our disposal. Everyone knows there are very large areas of recruiting which should have been brought under survey simultaneously with these invalided and disabled men who are the principal subjects of this measure. If we were going to deal with this question, we ought to have dealt with it with design on an orderly system and on a scientific basis. The Government should have made up their minds how-many men they were going to take from the essential industries of the country—shipbuilding and agriculture—for the service of the Army in the present year, and when they had decided what that number was to be they should have arranged their war policy during the present year accordingly, and made it clear that the operations which are to be undertaken must be of a character to conform with our available resources. Then having done that, their object should be to bring all the available resources under survey, not only the classes which come within the scope of this measure, but those other numerous classes which ought to be drawn upon pari passu with the men covered by the scope of this Bill. I regret very much that the Government have dealt with this great question of man-power in a way which shows that they are relying on a hand-to-mouth policy and endeavouring to meet the great difficulties of the War not by any scientific method of supplying the needs of the Army in relation to the competing needs at home, but by small detached, partial, harsh and fallacious expedients such as that embodied in this Bill.
§ Mr. BILLING
On several occasions I have endeavoured to make some small contributions to the Debates on this Bill and it is with considerable reluctance that I rise now, because if I had had an oppor- 1209 tunity earlier I should have availed myself of it in order to deliver the remarks I now desire to put before the House. In the first place, I would like to echo the words I have just heard from the Front Opposition Bench. I too have endeavoured to raise by question and answer in this House the subject of National Service. I am perfectly satisfied that the voluntary National Service scheme is going to be a fiasco. I am equally satisfied that if, three months ago, a form of compulsory National Service had been introduced we should now be in a position really to meet the necessities of our essential industries. The absence of a carefully thought-out system of National Service is, to my mind, responsible for the present what I may call pannicky legislation which is being passed through this House.
I think the House will come to a decision very shortly. There was an understanding arrived at last night as to the time by which these stages of the Bill should be completed, and the House is always accustomed to observe such understandings. I think, therefore, it will come to a decision without any necessity for the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. BILLING
I am exceedingly sorry if I am trespassing on the time of the House, but I do propose, with the permission of the Chair, to exercise the privilege which I have as a Member of this House of rising in my seat and contributing to any Debate in which I feel it my duty to take part, and I must ask you for facilities for exercising that right. If I had had an opportunity—which I endeavoured to secure time after time—of making the remarks I wish to give expression to now, I should not have found it necessary to rise now. What I wish to state is that I hope this Bill has taught the Government a lesson in this respect, that this House is not going to accept lying down any form
§ of Bill which it cares to introduce. I hope these proceedings will also suggest to the Government that it is not always advisable to leave one Minister—no matter how able—and I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Under-Secretary for War on his accomplishment of the exceedingly difficult task he has had in hand—it is not always advisable to leave one member of the Government to fight a Bill like this single-handed. I would suggest that if the Under-Secretary for War had had some assistance he might have been able to close down quite a number of highly debatable points.
§ Furthermore, may I add that I think the whole of this question could have been solved if the Government had decided to raise the age for recruits. I have suggested time and again that a sound man of forty-five is better than a crock of thirty-five. There are plenty of sound men in this country between the ages of forty and forty-five. I believe I am right in saying that our Allies, the French, have raised the age to fifty years, yet we are still combing out men under forty years of age, and we are sending back to the trenches, not merely for the second time but possibly for the third time, men who have already done their bit and are now totally unfit to go. All this is being done simply because the nation has not been properly organised or combed out. There are thousands of men in Government offices to-day, and in non-essential trades as well, who could be called up. This Bill is about as unpopular a piece of legislation as any which any Government has. had the misfortune to introduce. I trust it. will be successful, but that is all I can say. I do not propose to register the one vote I possess against it, because I consider that no Member of this House should do-anything to hamper the Government in getting the men that are needed, no matter how much we may disapprove of the methods adopted.
§ Question put, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 137; Noes, 191211
|Division No. 27.]||AYES.||[8.11 p.m.|
|Archdale, Lieut. E. M.||Bliss, Joseph||Carew, C.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Martin||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)|
|Ashley, Wilfred W.||Boyton, James||Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Bridgeman, William Clive||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham|
|Barnes, Rt. Hen. Geerge N.||Brookes, Warwick||Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Bryce, J. Annan||Cochrane, Cecil Algernon|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Bull, Sir William James||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Bentham, G. J.||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Cory, James H. (Cardiff)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish||Burn, Colonel C. R.||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)|
|Billing, Pemberton||Butcher, John George||Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.).|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Croft, Lieut.-Col. Henry Page||Johnson, W.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Jones. W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Kellaway, Frederick George||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Kenyon, Barnet||Robinson, Sidley|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Larmor, Sir J.||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Fell, Arthur||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Rowlands, James|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Layland-Barrett, Sir F.||Rutherford, John (Lancs, Darwen)|
|Flennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Forster, Henry William||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Macmaster, Donald||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (Aston)|
|Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Stanley, Major Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Goldman, C. S.||Macpherson, James Ian||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Magnus, Sir Philip||Stewart, Gershom|
|Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Tickler, T. G.|
|Gretton, John||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S. E.)||Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Hancock, J. G.||Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness)||Watson, John Bertrand (Stockton)|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)||Monro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N. W.)|
|Haslam, Lewis||Nield, Herbert||Wilson, Lt.-Ct. SirM. (Beth'l Green, S. W.)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Perkins, Walter Frank||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||Pratt, J. W.|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Lord Edmund Talbot and Mr.|
|Hunt, Major Rowland||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Primrose.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Lambert, Richard (Wilts., Cricklade)||Snowden, Philip|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Outhwaite, R. L.||Thorne, G. R (Wolverhampton)|
|Clynes, John R.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Goldstone, Frank||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Radford, Sir George Heynes||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Hudson, Walter||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Hogge and Mr. Anderson.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.