§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
It is my duty to make this Motion in order that the Army Estimates may be considered in Committee. For the third year in succession the Estimates are submitted in a token form. Never have such small figures carried graver significance. Much has happened within the last twelve months, as to some of which I shall have a few words to say presently; but before I come to the few observations with which I have to trouble the House, I would make some reference to a particular event that has occurred during the last twelve months. I refer to the loss of Lord Kitchener, the great soldier whose name will ever be remembered when the story of this War is told. Men greater than myself, tongues more eloquent than mine, have paid tribute to his memory and to his great services. To what they have said I shall not attempt to add anything; but, speaking as I do to-day as the representative of the War Office, on the occasion of the introduction of the Army Estimates, I could not pass by in silence the loss of so great a man.
I fear that on many a home there has fallen the iron hand of fate, and that in many a family there is grief—proud and silent grief. To those families the Prime Minister promised, while he was Secretary of State for War, some special mark of record and sympathy. Since he made that promise, steps have been taken to redeem it. A Committee consisting of Departmental representatives, four Members of this House, two Members of the other place, assisted by the Directors of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery, and the Keeper of the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum, have been considering the form of this memento, and it is hoped that they will make definite recommendations shortly. I should like to say that this, of course, will not take the place of the War Medal, which will be 2179 issued to the next-of-kin of those who have fallen, as has been customary in former times.
The House will expect me to say a word or two about the general military situation. I am afraid there is not very much I can tell them that is new. It is one of the difficulties of making a speech of this kind in present circumstances that all tellable secrets have already been told either in the newspapers or by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. My right hon. Friend gave us a survey of the situation earlier in the Session, and nothing of great public interest has occurred either at Salonika or in East Africa since he spoke. But that is not the case with regard to either France or Mesopotamia. For the last two or three months our operations in the Western theatre, to within a few days ago, have been necessarily confined to raids and minor attacks on the Somme Front, while the French Army has similarly undertaken a series of raids which have met with considerable success. In the course of our operations heavy losses have been inflicted upon the enemy, more than 3,000 prisoners have fallen into our hands, and ground of considerable importance has been won. During the past few days, however, and as a result of our continuous pressure on the Ancre Front, the enemy has retired on a front of about twelve miles. Our troops have already advanced some two miles in the area north of the Ancre, and have taken possession of ten villages and of several important positions to which the enemy has hitherto clung with the utmost determination. Up to the present time, as is well known, the enemy has impressed upon his troops the necessity of defending every position to the last and of fighting for every inch of ground. In view of such training, this retreat cannot but have an unfavourable effect both upon the enemy's troops and on the German people—when they know-it. At the same time it is probable that the enemy has retired not merely as a defensive measure, but with the object of saving his strength for a great blow on one or other of the Allied fronts. There is every indication that he will make a supreme effort to end the War in his favour this year—an effort which can f only be successfully met by a corresponding determination on the part of the 2180 British Empire and of its Allies. I am confident that determination and that effort will be forthcoming to the full.
In Mesopotamia important results have been obtained by General Maude's operations. Assuming the offensive on the 13th December, on the right bank of the Tigris, our troops, by dint of hard fighting, had gradually cleared the whole of this bank by the 14th February. General Maude then undertook an attack on the Sanna-i-Yat lines on the left bank and, having engaged the enemy's attention in this quarter, commenced preparations for the crossing of the river in the Shumran Bend. The crossing began on the 23rd and on the 24th our troops had occupied the ridge across the neck of the Shumran Bend. In the meantime, further progress had been made with the attack on the Sanna-i-Yat position, and the Turks, attacked in front and in rear, made a hasty retreat, leaving behind them considerable quantities of stores, tents and equipment. An immediate pursuit was undertaken by our Cavalry, Infantry, and gunboats. On the 25th the enemy's rearguard was attacked fifteen miles north-west of Kut and driven back, and the pursuit was resumed. On the 26th and 27th fighting was proceeding thirty miles from Kut. The enemy, who was very hard pressed, abandoned his pontoons and some of his artillery, and the ground was strewn with arms, ammunition, tents and equipment. General Maude states that the remnants of the enemy forces are badly shattered, and will only reach Bagdad as a disorganised mob. Over 2,300 prisoners have been secured since the 24th, and the Turkish losses in killed and wounded have been very heavy. Full details have not as yet been received as to the number of captured guns. Since the commencement of our offensive, on 13th December, over 5,000 Turkish prisoners have been taken, and their total losses are estimated at considerably over 20,000. These results would have been impossible had it not been for the energy and forethought with which our previous preparations had been carried out, especially as regards the improvement of our railway and river communications. General Maude had spoken in the highest terms of the stubborn determination and fighting spirit of the troops, and the endurance and dash shown by all ranks as well as the skill and resolution dis- 2181 played by General Maude himself in this brilliant series of operations, are worthy of all praise. We may face the future with ever-growing strength and confidence, in no way underrating the power or the purpose of the enemy but with full faith in our ability to beat him. The troops trust their leaders, the leaders trust their troops, and we trust both.
To pass to the subject of recruiting, for the past twelve months recruits have been provided mainly under the Military Service Acts, and the numbers obtained have fluctuated considerably from time to time. For the first period there was a satisfactory flow, which fell off, however, as 1916 drew to its close. Since the end of last year the numbers have been better; but the fact remains that we are approaching, if we have not reached, a stage when the competing claims of the military forces on the one hand and industry on the other must be decided with sole regard to national as distinct from local and individual interests. The tribunals have had a difficult and disagreeable duty, and for the most part they have done it well. Faced as we are with the serious situation disclosed by the Prime Minister on Friday last, there is need for continual and further effort. We have created vast Armies, and we have supplied them with munitions and supplies of all kinds. But that is not the end. We have got to maintain them. In spite of the large numbers we have obtained recently, we need still more men, and we need them now. The call to duty sounds clear as a bell to every man and woman to enrol either in the fighting or in the industrial army.
As far as the Royal Flying Corps is concerned, the supply of personnel, both officers and men, has been maintained, although the provision of skilled mechanics in sufficient quantities has presented difficulties, which I think have been overcome. The importance of this cannot be overstated, for while, of course, troops of all kinds contribute their quota to the success of the whole Army, none do more valuable or more conspicuous work than the Royal Flying Corps in all the theatres of War. We all recognise their intrepid daring and indifference to danger, which is only equalled by the skill with which they carry out their perilous duty, and the value of their work both to the Army in the field and to the safety of our people 2182 at home. The training of officers in flying has been very largely expanded, and the main difficulty that we have had to face in this connection has been that of providing suitable aerodromes and buildings. It may interest the House to know that we are establishing new flying schools in Canada and in Egypt, and I should like to take this opportunity of acknowledging the valuable services of the large number of Colonial pilots in the Flying Corps. There has been some difficulty and delay in obtaining the necessary aircraft and their appurtenances, in spite of the assistance which has been given to us by the Ministry of Munitions, but I hope these difficulties have now been overcome. The formation of the Air Board, with extended powers, and the entrusting of the practical business of the supply of aircraft both for the Navy and Army to the Ministry of Munitions will, it is hoped, give the Air Services that priority which their importance demands. The policy of instituting an Air Board has for some time had the firm support of the Army Council, and although the new arrangement has been in force only for a week or two its influence is already having effect. It must be remembered, however, that whatever the efforts of the Air Board and the Ministry of Munitions, they cannot be expected to show at once a greatly increased output. Anti-aircraft stations have been installed at various points, and though the actual buildings are only a few huts and offices in each case, there is much work involved in connection with electrical connections and other accessories which is not always a matter of easy arrangement in isolated country districts. I am not going to boast about what might happen in the event of renewed Zeppelin raids, but we have profited to the full by the experience that we have gained.
We have had to construct new depots on an enormous scale for collecting and distributing ammunition and stores of all sorts in many places. The size of modern armies, the increasing weight of the vehicles and the guns now used in the field, the use of new materials in trench warfare, have lent additional importance to their proper storage and distribution. There has been nothing more remarkable than the growth in the size and weight of the guns and howitzers which are now used in the field. This and the conveyance of stores and supplies of all sorts necessary for armies on so great a scale has called 2183 for the construction of railways in the various theatres of war to an extent which I think is not generally realised. Obvious considerations prevent me from giving detailed figures, but taking all the theatres of war together, we have a programme of some 4,000 miles of railway track. Locomotives are numbered by the hundred, and railway wagons and operating personnel by tens of thousands. No one can wonder that, in face of such vast developments as that, it has been necessary to curtail travelling and traffic to some extent. I think when people at home realise that the sacrifices of comfort and convenience are bringing to the theatres of war those railway facilities without which an advance of big armies cannot now be conducted, they will be content to put up with any difficulty or inconvenience that they may be caused. Great expansion has also taken place in inland water transport—ships, barges, tugs, wharves, quays, warehouses, everything that is required for increasing the operation of the inland water transport service on all our fronts. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when moving the Vote of Credit, referred to the enormous increase in the up-river traffic in Mesopotamia. He reminded us then that the up-river traffic of January, as compared with last July, has increased by 1,000 per cent. The great development of railway and river transport played a large part in the success of the operations to which I referred earlier.
While I am speaking of Mesopotamia, may I refer to a subject which engaged a great deal of attention last year, namely, the condition of the Medical Service. Since the Estimates were introduced last year the War Office has become directly responsible for the medical arrangements in that theatre of War. We have received frequent reports from the medical and sanitary authorities of that force. The special Sanitary Committee made an exhaustive examination of the conditions existing there, and the general conditions now existing may be regarded as fully satisfactory. During the summer there was necessarily some considerable sickness, but the admission ratio has steadily diminished since then, and I think the health of the Army at present may be considered satisfactory. An abundant supply of nurses and other medical personnel has been furnished for hospitals in that area. These hospitals have recently been visited by a representative from the War Office, 2184 who reports that they are not unequal to any of the hospitals which we have at the other fronts. In France, Salonika, and Egypt the general condition of affairs is satisfactory. A great strain has been at different times put upon medical resources in the various theatres of War, but the difficulties have been met. We had to contend with a good deal of malaria in East Africa, owing to the exceptionally unhealthy climatic conditions in which we have had to carry on our operations. I think nothing in this War is more striking than the triumph of science over disease, wholly upsetting the experience of former wars. One of the most remarkable phenomena is the almost total disappearance of enteric fever, that dread scourge which in former wars has decimated our Armies even more effectually than the efforts of the enemy. This is the more surprising when one considers the vast numbers of men, their density on the ground, and the poisoned condition of the soil, especially in France.
I think it will interest the House if I give them the last weekly returns in respect of typhoid from the various fronts? They are the last weekly returns of the numbers in hospitals suffering from typhoid.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I am giving the last weekly returns. In France four cases, Salonika nine, Egypt three, Mesopotamia eight, making a total of twenty-four. Perhaps I may give a few more figures in this connection. The figures I am now giving relate to France. The number of cases of typhoid fever among British troops in France up to the 1st November last year was 1,684, para-typhoid 2,534, and of indefinite cases 353, a total of 4,571 cases of the typhoid group of diseases. Compare that with what happened in South Africa. In South Africa there were nearly 60,000 cases admitted to hospital, and 8,227 deaths. That is to say there were four times as many died from this disease in South Africa as there were cases in France up to the 1st November last.
§ Mr. FORSTER
Yes, with an Army infinitely larger. The admission ratio of typhoid fever amongst the troops in France who have not been protected by inoculation, is fifteen times higher than 2185 amongst those who have been inoculated, and the death ratio seventy times higher. I think the bald narration of figures like these bears eloquent witness to the debt that we owe to the medical service. At home during the past year a system of convalescent hospitals, command depots and orthopædic hospitals has been developed and extended. Arrangements have been made with the Ministry of Pensions, by which the problem of the training and treatment of the discharged soldier will be more effectively dealt with, and arrangements have been made to link up the treatment in the military hospitals with that afforded to discharged soldiers on the out-patient system under the local committees of the Statutory Committee on War Pensions. The strain on the medical department in providing accommodation for the sick and wounded from the various fronts overseas has been very great, but we have received, and we continue to receive, the most valuable assistance from the voluntary hospitals which have been established throughout the country by persons to whom we are deeply indebted. The system of utilising the services of the members of the Voluntary Aid Detachments has been highly successful. Those ladies serve abroad in large numbers, and they are highly appreciated by the general body of the nursing profession. A system of Voluntary Aid hospitals has been invaluable in linking up the military medical system with the large number of sympathetic workers amongst the civil population, and I am glad to take this opportunity of saying how deeply indebted we are for the assistance we have received.
One word in reference to the British Red Cross Society. Their work is too well known to need any encomium. Suffice it to say, that the great resources of the society have been ungrudgingly placed at the disposal of the medical department on many occasions. A special committee has been recently established by that society—upon which are representatives both of the War Office and the Ministry of Pensions—for dealing with certain classes of disabled soldiers, such as neurasthenics, epileptics, and other cases requiring institutional treatment. This still further strengthens the link between the military hospitals and the civil institutions. Before I pass from the medical service, may I say one word with reference to a question that has been engaging a great deal of attention lately, the question of 2186 venereal disease? I think it should be generally known that the venereal rate in the Army to-day is no higher than it is in ordinary times of peace. The absence of statistics for the general population in pre-war days renders it impossible to say whether the total number of cases of venereal disease in the Army is higher than in a corresponding portion of the civil population of corresponding ages. We are making every effort to reduce the rate still lower than it is. The National Council for the Prevention of Venereal Disease has given us great assistance by providing lecturers specially chosen to lecture to troops in camps and barracks. These lectures have been largely attended, and have been very much appreciated by those who have attended them, and I am sure that a great deal of good can be done by lectures of that kind.
I come now to one or two other questions upon which I wish to touch very lightly. The first is the question of pensions. As the House knows, a new Department has been created to deal with this important problem. Increased provision will be made for the disabled soldier and for the widows and dependants of those who have fallen in the War. I do not dilate upon that, because we are to have an opportunity of discussing it next week, and a discussion upon that question will be more appropriate on that occasion. The House is already aware of the increase that has been made in the separation allowances in respect of non-commissioned officers and men, and of the steps we are taking to provide a maintenance allowance for the families of married officers below the rank of major, in cases of necessity. I think there is general agreement that something of that kind was necessary. I had been in hopes that we should have been in a position to make a more detailed statement as to when the new allowance would be brought into force. I hope it will not be more than a day or two. In view of the man-power situation, we have continued and developed the employment of women in substitution for men wherever possible. Steps have been taken during the last few weeks by the Army Council to create an organisation for the enrolment of women for certain employment in France in order to release men in those employments for duty at the front or for other work. Generally speaking, the forms of employment are clerks, motor 2187 drivers, cooks, and female labour of various kinds. Every effort is being made, by the appointment of experienced women supervisors, to safeguard the well-being of the women so employed, and the War Office is in close touch and co-operation with the Director-General of National Service and the women's organisation, under the direction of Mrs. Tennant. In speaking of the women's part in this War—and it is great and growing—I cannot omit a reference to the brave and devoted service of the nurses. Amid all the dangers and sickening horrors of modern war they carry on their work of mercy with a patient cheerfulness and a quite courage, a willing self-sacrifice and supreme skill that has won universal admiration.
Complaint has been made recently that the War Office is unsympathetic, or even antagonistic, to the claims of agriculture, so far as men are concerned. It is very difficult, especially for the War Office, whose prime conceren is and must be the provision of men for the Army, to hold the scales even between the two competing claims. We have done and we are doing what we can to meet the needs of agriculture as far as possible, and I do not doubt that if we are not doing enough, we shall be made to do more. We have been met during the past twelve months with one or more crises. In the spring, owing to the weather, there was great need for an increased number of men getting in the spring corn. We sent for short furlough some 15,000 men at that time. At the beginning of August came a heavy demand for men for clearing the harvest, and at that time we sent 30,000 men. These men were distributed to individual farmers through the medium of the Labour Exchanges. We had a great many letters gratefully acknowledging the services that these men rendered to individual farmers. Of the 30,000 men that were sent out during the harvest of 1916, I believe that not more than 1,500, and probably not nearly so many, were returned by the farmers as being useless. On the other hand, many farmers have stated that, although some of the men did not know very much about the business when they arrived, they put their backs into the work and shortly became very valuable and gave satisfaction. We are now making further efforts to assist. As my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War, in the House of Lords, said last night, we 2188 are sending men who profess to be skilled men—we have no means of judging whether they are skilled or not in these matters—in considerable numbers to assist in agricultural work at the present time. We have already sent, I think, 800 men who profess to be ploughmen and horsemen to Scotland, 100 to Northampton, 100 to the South-West of England, 900 elsewhere, and the Commands themselves have about 2,000 men out. I do not know the precise number. These men are from the Home Forces. They are sent out on furlough till the 15th April, subject to twenty-four hours' recall in case of emergency. Fifteen thousand Class W men have been promised by the War Office as substitutes. That is in addition to the 15,000 who are being found by the Home Forces. These men are being organised into agricultural companies, and will be placed at the disposal of the war agricultural committees in the localities where labour is most urgently required. The whole substitution branch of the War Office will be handed over to the Director-General of National Service on the 1st March.
There are three observations which I would like to make as to matters which militate against the success of the scheme for the employment of soldiers on the land. The first is the dislike of the farmer to employ what is constantly represented to him as the riff-raff of the Army. That is not really justified. We are not able in every case to send men who have great skill in agriculture, but, at any rate, they have the willingness to go, and I am quite sure that they will do their best and, in the majortiy of cases, will repay employment. There is the further dislike of the farmer to pay unskilled labour a weekly wage which must now amount to a minimum of 25s. We cannot help that. We must do our best with it, and I hope that he will be satisfied with what we are able to send. There is also the difficulty of feeding and housing these men properly. Farmers must realise that unless they are able to house and feed these men properly they cannot expect to get the best work out of them, and that it would be only natural that the men should want to come back to military service.
§ Mr. FORSTER
Arrangements are being or have been made for the employment of a large number of German prisoners. Where they have been em- 2189 ployed I am told that they have given very satisfactory results. The House will forgive me if I say a word or two about the supply services. Of course, with an Army of such vast proportions, it necessarily follows that the supply services are on a correspondingly great scale. My Noble Friend the Secretary of State has decided to give us some extra assistance in dealing with them. I think that the House will be interested to know that he has invitel Mr. Andrew Weir, a man of great business experience, who is well known in the West of Scotland as well as in London, to aid the Department in these difficult problems. I am glad to say that Mr. Weir has accepted the invitation and will join us immediately. He proposes to make himself thoroughly familiar with the working of the various supply branches before offering any suggestions. That seems to me a very businesslike method. When he has done this, we shall be able to consider, in consultation with him, what definite functions in the official hierarchy he could best fulfil. I am quite sure that we shall welcome his assistance. I may remind the House that we have already the assistance, of a number of eminent business men. Lord Rothermere has become the Director-General of the Army Clothing Department, with the management of the Pimlico factory under him; Sir Eric Geddes, Sir Guy Granet and Sir Sam Fay—all leading lights in the railway world, are now part of the War Office organisation.
§ Mr. FORSTER
We gladly welcome the assistance of these great business men. At a time like this when the need for economy is so urgent, it may interest the House to know something of what has been done to prevent avoidable waste. Waste is the enemy, as the Prime Minister told us the other day. With regard to the saving of rations, last year an improvement was made in messing arrangements and the instruction of cooks, and about 52,000 cooks passed through a course of instruction, and with improved appliances, and so on, there has been a substantial reduction in the amount of the rations, thereby saving large quantities of food. The reduction of the bread ration of troops is to be carried further by the reduction of 2 ozs. Among other food supply measures we have made some variation in the rations in the interests of the troops, 2190 by the introduction of sausages, brawn, frozen fish, rabbits, venison and other things, in substitution for the regulation beef and mutton. I need hardly say that the sausages have proved exceedingly popular with the men. Briefly, it may be of interest to know that recent developments have effected large savings of public money, amounting, I think, speaking from memory, to something like £4,000,000 a year, without in any degree adversely affecting the stomach of the soldier.
The prisoners of war ration has been revised, so as to bring the essential articles as far as possible into line with Lord Devonport's voluntary ration for the civil population. Steps have been taken in all the theatres of war, and especially the more remote ones, as far as possible to make the forces self-supporting. For instance, in Egypt potato cultivation for the use of the troops is being largely encouraged and extended. It is the same with regard to Salonika and Malta, while in Mesopotamia there are something like 3,000 acres of vegetable garden under cultivation. Arrangements have been made with India to export large quantities of grain for the support of the nearer expeditionary forces, which will save a large amount of shipping through very dangerous parts of the ocean and will effect a very large saving of general work. In the case of troops on the lines of communication in France, the older officers are being largely substituted for younger men, thus freeing the latter for more active employment. Female labour is being substituted for men on clerical work and driving light cars. Speaking generally, I may say with confidence that a strict watch is being kept on any economies which may be possible in the Directorate of Supplies and Transport.
One word with reference to a subject which used to be brought to my notice and was pressed on me repeatedly twelve months ago, that was the waste of food, by throwing away things that ought really to be preserved. We have given very special attention to this. In former days broken meat and other table refuse were generally thrown into the swill tub and sold for a relatively small sum, or else buried or burned. This refuse is now collected and sorted. All the fats are collected and sold to soap-makers, who extract the crude glycerine required by the Ministry of Munitions for the manufacture of propellant explosives. Special 2191 plants have been established, one in this country and one in France, and the results have been so satisfactory that others will shortly be erected. The importance of this development—I would direct the attention of the House to this point—will be realised when it is stated that fat contains 10 per cent, of glycerine, and 1,000 tons of glycerine, which is the prospective rate of annual output from the troops, provides propellant charges for approximately 12,500,000 18-pounder shells. I may add that the glycerine is sold to the Ministry of Munitions at about £50 a ton. whereas if we bought it refined in the United states, we should have to pay. I believe, as much as £240. That is a development which reflects great credit on General Landon in the Quartermaster-General's Department, and the officers concerned, several of whom are Members of this House. May I express the hope that the civil population will emulate our efforts and save in a similar fashion. We have established huge workshops in France for the cleaning and repair of equipment and clothing. A regular system has been started and is in course of development for the salvaging of every kind of article on the battlefield or its immediate neighbourhood. The question of economy in the use of timber has been taken up by the Field-Marshal, Commander-in-Chief, and Sir Bampfylde Fuller has been appointed to take charge of this special department. He will exercise all the influence that he can command, and will receive the full support of the Army Council in his efforts.
One other topic with which I wish to deal very briefly is the question of contracts. The present War differs from all previous wars in point of magntiude and complexity, and in no direction is this better illustrated than in the economic organisation which has been called into existence for equipping and feeding the Armies in the field. Needless to say, many difficulties have been encountered, many obstacles had to be overcome, and each additional year of hostilities brings with it great problems in relation to the supply of raw materials. At the beginning of the War the industrial organisation of the country was strained to the utmost in order that the needs of our own Armies and our Allies might be adequately provided. The mechanism of production had to be overhauled, expanded, and adapted to the new functions which it was called 2192 on to fulfil. Sources of supply had at once to be taken in hand, with a view to-their utmost utilisation and development. New sources of supply had to be encouraged and opened up. I want to give one instance, typical of many. It is a very simple illustration. We were hard put to it in the beginning to get a sufficient supply of horseshoes. We went to Canada and we tried all America, bat we could not get enough. Then we organised the farriers all over the country, and the result has been successful. At the beginning of the War the output of horseshoes in this country was 50,000 per month; now it is 1,500,000 per month; and we are able to supply the whole of our requirements without going abroad.
I read in the "Times" of yesterday, I think, some figures indicating the enormous quantities of material that we have had to provide for our own and the Allies' requirements since the War began. I have some figures showing the enormous scale on which we have to make provision at the present time. We have had to provide some 25,000,000 gas helmets; we have had to supply no fewer than 250,000,000' sandbags to the Allies; we have had to manufacture 105,000,000 yards of khaki cloth, and 115,000,000 yards of flannel. If you take these two commodities together you find that we have had to produce 220,000,000 yards of these goods. That is a stupendous figure even in these days when the million has become a unit of arithmetical expression, and, indeed, these enormous figures seem really to cease to have any meaning. We have made 111,000 miles of cloth and flannel, or, to put it in a more simple form, enough to go four and a half times round the earth at the Equator. In dealing with commodities on that scale, we have been driven to take drastic steps, revolutionary and very far-reaching steps. We had to get the goods, and in order to do that we have had to organise production; and to organise the production of clothing and equipment, we have found it necessary to introduce an elaborate system of control in various industries—the boot and leather industries, the woollen industries, and other textiles. The control began with the purchase and distribution of the raw material, audit extends all through the various processes of manufacture up to the finished article. The main object has been to secure a larger output for military purposes, at the cheapest cost. But it has also been neces- 2193 sary to provide for the release of men from the Army, for the transfer of labour from non-essential to essential production, the encouragement of the export trade, and the reduction of imports.
With regard to man-power and production, our own experience shows that the best results are obtained by establishing local committees, representing the Government, and employers and employed; and these committees consist, in each case, of four representatives of the employers and four representatives of the employed, with the local officers of the Recruiting Department and the Contracts Department. The chief advantage of these local committees is that the various interests concerned are able to meet for discussion of their various points of view, instead of looking upon one another with suspicion and jealousy. But even more important than this is the close co-operation between the Government and the trade which such a committee renders possible. Instead of leaving the problems of release, substitution, and transfer of labour to be settled by the strongest pull in a perpetual tug-of-war, a considered attempt is made to weigh possibilities and devise ways and means for a satisfactory solution by the aid of detailed statistics and practical knowledge of the technicalities of the industry. The result has been that the demand of the Recruiting Department for the release of men is being met without impairing production. Women are being gradually introduced to work which has been hitherto done by men, and substitutes adapted for particular jobs are being provided by the military authorities without causing friction with organised industries. Further than this, the trade unions have themselves assisted in the transfer of labour to firms where its employment would be most valuable in the national interest. In general it may be said that the presence of employers and employed on the same committee creates a healthy rivalry in subordinating private interests to urgent national necessities.
It is clearly essential to the maintenance of production for military requirements, and for our export trade, that manufacturers should be certain of receiving sufficient supplies of raw materials at reasonable prices, and it is therefore most necessary to safeguard the limited quantities of raw materials which can be imported against unnecessary inflation in price and diversion into non-essential 2194 channels of manufacture. It may be said, "What are you doing, how are you carrying out this policy, which may be right and reasonable in the circumstances, and what use are you making of business, men?" We are making abundant use of business men. We are regulating, coordinating, and controlling, and we should be foolish if we did not call to our aid the very best men we can command in each of the industries concerned. It is inevitable that there should be some dislocation in the first instance, some soreness and sense of grievance on the part of those affected; but, speaking broadly, I am proud to say that they have responded fully to the call made upon them, and their loyal co-operation has been of great value both to the Army and to the State. Over and above the policy of calling in all the leading men of each industry concerned, so that we might have the best possible guidance and advice in dealing with this great and difficult question, at the end of 1915 I established an Advisory Committee on Contracts, composed of men in commanding positions in the business world. I regret to say that we have recently lost the services of three of those distinguished men, but I am glad to think that we have lost them only because they have become members of the present Government. They are the President of the Board of Trade, the President of the Local Government Board, and the present Postmaster-General. But I think that is eloquent and striking proof that we have got the best business brains available in order to guide us in framing our industrial policy. It is impossible, ire the course of a single speech, to trace in detail the varying needs and fortunes of our Armies in various theatres of War, or the work which the War Office is doing as a whole. The story is one or great difficulties steadily faced and overcome, steady and continued progress. But although our needs and fortunes may vary from day to day, there is the factor that never wavers, and that is the dauntless courage, the invincible resolution, the enduring fortitude of all ranks of the Imperial Army, and the steady and unflinching determination of our people throughout the Empire to carry the War to a successful conclusion.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I should like to be allowed to congratulate my hon. Friend on the valuable statement he has made, and the eloquent terms with which it was 2195 concluded. The House will agree that the presentation of the Army Estimates is always an important matter, and, speaking as one who has presented them on two previous occasions, I am in a position to say that it is always a difficult one. When I see my two hon. Friends representing the War Office on this occasion, the Under-Secretary of State (Mr. Macpherson), and the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Forster), I think the House should be congratulated on the representation of the Department in this House. I have been very closely associated with the Under-Secretary of State, and a tie was formed which bound us very closely together through the strenuous years when I represented the War Office in this House. As to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, his athletic power, skill and strength have filled me with admiration for more than thirty-five years, and continue to do so. I am, bound to say to this House that from my friendship and association with him during a very strenuous and important period of the War I derived the very greatest benefit. If I were asked which of my two hon. Friends should present the Army Estimates, I should be inclined to say, "How happy could I be with either." The outstanding feature of the statement which the Financial Secretary to the War Office made seemed to me to be the enormous extent of the business and operations controlled by the War Office; and if one figure is more eloquent than another, it is the figure which my hon. Friend gave with regard to horseshoes. I believe that when the history of this War comes to be written, there is nothing which deserves more honourable mention than the manner in which the supplies have been found for the Army—food, clothing, quarters for the men, stores of all kinds, and forage for animals. I can speak with greater freedom on this subject because in the whole course of my War Office duties during the last four years, I had no responsibility for that Department, and therefore can all the more freely offer my congratulations to those who have been responsible for providing those supplies. The Quartermaster-General deserves the greatest praise, and I would also like to refer to the admirable services of Sir Charles Heath and General Crofton Atkins.
There has always been a certain fly in the sea of ointment; the fly was waste, 2196 and the hon. Gentleman has told the House the steps which have been taken, and the steps which it is contemplated taking, to reduce that waste, and no one welcomes that part of his speech more than I do. I am well acquainted with the fact that my hon. Friend has during the whole period of his service at the War Office directed especial attention, and given most careful work to that particular department of the War Office administration, and I know that he will agree with me when I say that he has received active and zealous support of Sir Charles Harris. If there is one thing which is remarkable and no less gratifying it is the health of the troops. That brings me to the statistics given by my hon. Friend in regard to typhoid, which I think were most striking, and to the absence of epidemic disease of any kind. This is very remarkable. My hon. Friend quite properly laid stress upon the even more remarkable fact that it is not only that the administration of the Army from a medical point of view is rendered more difficult by increased numbers—because all forms of administration must be clearly affected by that— but in the question of sanitation great aggregations of men must produce more difficult conditions, and it is very remarkable, therefore, that there should be this marvellous immunity from epidemic disease. My hon. Friend did not tell us what the causes are—I think they are fairly well known—of the admirable state of affairs as we find it to-day. I should like, in passing, to pay a tribute to those eminent bacteriologists who have been giving their services during the whole of the War—in many eases freely—and I would also attribute the immunity from epidemics largely to the willingness of the troops to be inoculated. I think these are the principal factors which have contributed to this success, and I wish my hon. Friend the Member for Haggerston (Mr. Chancellor) had been in his place to hear what my hon. Friend had to say on this subject. I think the House will agree that the person more responsible than any other for the happy state of affairs is the Director-General of the Medical Services (Sir A. Keogh). Let us give honour where honour is due. I do not believe that in his case any honour could be too great.
My hon. Friend, in the course of his speech, did not specially mention the 2197 Territorial Force, although I know he is aware that that force occupies a very special place in my affections. I observe that an Order has recently been issued altering the scheme of promotion within the force. I do not want to go into the details of this technical and complicated matter, but I understand, broadly, that the Order gives promotion on the same terms as in the Regular Army, and substitutes permanent for temporary promotion. These are ends to be sought, and I am glad that they should be achieved. There have been in this House, and certainly outside, fears to which expressions have now and again been given that the Territorial Force has not always been treated with the justice which it merits, I am bound to state, speaking with the greater freedom I now have, that I think sometimes those fears were not wholly without justification.
I am aware that my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War is very much animated by the, same love of the Territorial Force as I entertain for it, and is most anxious to see that these fears should be absolutely without foundation. In other words, he is anxious to see justice done, and in conversations which we have had together, we have agreed there is no method in which that object could be better achieved than by providing for the members of the Territorial Force a larger share in the higher commands than they have yet received. I know there are difficulties in such matters—difficulties which will be apparent to all hon. and gallant Gentlemen. The business of war, after all, is not really so unlike other business, not so unlike peaceful crafts which require a technique which must be learnt before a man can master his business. That technique cannot be very rapidly acquired. Therefore, I sympathise with the difficulty of the Army Council in distributing a larger share of the higher commands among officers who are considered not to possess in a sufficient degree the technique of the business of war. I would remind the House that the Territorial Force, with the Army, has within its ranks now some of the finest brains of this country, and I trust that the Army Council will see that full advantage is taken of these fine fellows, so that these splendid thinking machines may be used to the best advantage.
I cannot leave the subject of the Territorial Forces without a word of farewell to my old friend Lieut.-General Sir 2198 Edward Bethune, who was the Director-General—the technical head of the force of which I was the titular head. Our relations were always cordial, and I should like to pay a tribute to the great services and good work which Sir Edward Bethune did for the Territorial Force, and for the County Associations throughout the length and breadth of the country. I am glad to think that a thoroughly competent successor has been found in Lord Scar-brough, to whom we wish all success in the tenure of his important office.
Dealing with another branch of the Army—the Flying Corps—my hon. Friend paid a glowing tribute to the bravery of these young fellows who risk their lives in the flights they make, and I should like to join with him in that tribute.
Coming next to the difficulties alluded to by my hon. Friend, arising out of the rival claims of the Army and of industry to men, I notice that the difficulty of reconciling these rival claims was dealt with in the speech of the Secretary for War in another place last night. In truth, there must arrive a time, if you carry the business sufficiently far, at which these claims become irreconcilable, and, indeed, they are irreconcilable when you consider the vastness of the operations described by my hon. Friend—when you consider the figures he gave as to the numbers of miles of railway made out in France—4,000 miles, I believe.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Four thousand miles in all the theatres of war. Just imagine the labour required, first to make the railways, then to maintain them, to supply and run the rolling stock, and to constantly carry troops, munitions, food, clothing, and other stores. It is very remarkable, indeed. Enormous numbers of people are required for the work. I say you cannot reconcile these claims because they are irreconcilable, and you have therefore to consider which are the more imperative claims and to put aside individual consideration. I know there are gentlemen inside and outside this House who hold strongly that the War Office has not been sufficiently sympathetic to the claims of essential industries, and particularly of agriculture. Indeed, I believe the Board of Agriculture has had to fight to keep its end up. I notice that in a statement which has been issued, and which was repeated by my hon. Friend 2199 to-day, it is proposed to give to agriculture two batches each of 15,000 men. My hon. Friend said they would be men skilled in agriculture, but it must be remembered that the Army Council have no means of ascertaining whether they are or not. He was rather inclined to plume himself on the fact that last August only 1,500 men were returned as unfit for performing the work of husbandry—1,500 out of 30,000! The percentage, it is true, is not great, but still 1,500 is a very considerable number to be returned as really unfitted to do the harvesting work for which they were specially selected. I believe there was one case of a man in Scotland who, the harvest not being quite ready, was asked to do some weeding, and objected because he said the work would have to be done in a quagmire and he would get his feet wet. That kind of man is not very useful to farmers, and I should like to think that some means can be devised for selecting only men who are really suitable for work on the land.
I come to another branch of industry, and a very important one, particularly in view of the shortage of tonnage at the present moment—I refer to the dock industry. The House will remember that about two years ago the War Office set up a Dockers' Battalion at Liverpool, largely under the influence of my Noble Friend the present Secretary of State for War, and I should like to ask my hon. Friend if any additions to that battalion are contemplated. In connection with labour, of course, the National Service scheme is of great importance. No doubt the employment of women with the Army, both at home and abroad, marks an important new departure. I am not going to dwell upon the question of women's labour in connection with the National Service Department, because that is not my business, and, indeed, I do not think it would be in order, but I do happen to know that much of the time of those who have the control of this particular Department is given to trying to secure adequate safeguards for the welfare of the women, both at home and abroad. That, of course, is very important. It is desirable there should be confidence in this Department, otherwise you will not get the right sort of women to come forward.
I pass from the labour problem to that of finance. Three new departures have been mentioned by my hon. Friend. First, 2200 there is the allowance for married officers, and that is a very important one, particularly for the junior married officers who are unable to provide maintenance for their wives and families when they are on active service, and I am glad to think that the Civil Liabilities Committee will be given funds for the purpose. I assume, though my hon. Friend did not say this, that the work of the Officers' Families Fund, which has been most admirably conducted by Lady Lansdowne, will thereupon cease to have existence. Is that so?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I take it, then, that this will be supplementary to it; but I think we cannot pass over in silence the admirable work conducted by Lady Lansdowne's department, and I am sure one would like to convey the thanks of the House to Lady Lansdowne and her workers who have so courageously and efficiently administered that fund. In regard to the increased separation allowances mentioned by my hon. Friend, they will bring relief no doubt to many struggling persons, and to hon. Gentlemen who are interested in the subject in this House, and particularly to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), who I am sorry to see is not now in his place, but I dare say my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle) will not omit to inform him of what I have been saying. In regard to the transfer of pensions to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions, who takes the treatment of disabled soldiers out of the hands of the War Office, I think the House will await with interest the statement to be made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions, because we all feel that there is a special duty which falls upon all of us and a really lively concern for the welfare of the disabled soldier, and that, we have some responsibility for his future. When I try to estimate the administration of our great Army and the Department responsible for that almost Herculean task, my own association with that Department has been so long and so intimate, and such close and affectionate ties have been formed with some, at least, of my colleagues on the Army Council, and I have been jointly responsible for so much of the work and even policy of that Department, that of course I must own quite frankly that perhaps the dispassionateness of my judg- 2201 ment may not be above, suspicion, and therefore my criticism is not quite so judicial as my right hon. Friend sitting near me would have it to be. But if I appeal to my hon. Friends opposite for improvements in Army administration, therefore a fortiori, I hope, it ought not to fall on deaf ears, and I do not think it will.
I think there is a feeling abroad that the statements made by Ministers are not always carried into effect in the manner in which we should like them to be. I have suffered from that myself. I believe one of the cases in point is the employment of boys in the Army, and in this connection I miss very much, as we all do, our old friend Sir Arthur Markham, who was tireless in his devotion to that particular cause. I have made promises, when standing on the other side of the Table, that boys under nineteen should not be sent to the front, or at any rate should not be used in fighting, and I believe it to be genuinely the desire of my hon. Friends, as it was mine, that they should not be so employed. But in spite of all that they do get employed there, and they do themselves, I think, contribute to the fact that they are so employed. In other words, they make misrepresentations to the authorities. I would ask the Under-Secretary if he would press the Adjutant-General's department to give strict orders that this instruction as to the age of nineteen should be rigidly enforced.
To come to another point, I must own that I have never been quite happy in my own mind as to the system of administration of justice in the Army. My hon Friends will not have forgotten the strange case of an officer in a Highland regiment who was charged before a court-martial for an offence and dismissed the Army, an offence which I think it is highly doubtful that he ever committed. I do not want to go into that case, because I think it probably lingers in the memories of my hon. Friends, and particularly the mysterious sequel to it. I do not know that I have any very particular suggestion to make. The only contribution I can make to the subject would be this, to ask the Army Council to exorcise increased vigilance in regard to courts-martial and to ask that the greatest care should be exercised in the choice of officers to sit upon courts martial. You have in the Army at the present moment in France, and I imagine 2202 in other theatres of war, numbers of men trained in the law, and I think it might be a very good plan that no court-martial should sit without at least one member of the court being a man trained in one of the learned professions accustomed to sift evidence. I do not know if that would be possible or not, but I would ask my hon. Friend if he will consider it. It has never been our custom on Army Estimates to deal with matters of high policy, and I have not, therefore, touched upon any topic of that kind to-day, but there is one subject which seems to me to be of such supreme and urgent importance concerning our supplies, not only of our troops abroad, but of our own people at home, that I make bold to ask my hon. Friend a question upon it. I wish to ask him about the garrison at Salonika, whether he can announce any change since the new Government came into office, cither in the numbers of that force, or in its higher command, or in the objective which is set for it. I am sure the House would welcome a statement just to show that the Government were exercising the utmost vigilance to secure economy—economy in man-power, which is of great importance, and, of not less importance, economy in tonnage for the carrying of supplies to that force.
I would say to my hon. Friends, the Financial Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State, that I hope in the time that lies before them, heavy as I know their work is, that they may be spared some of the trials which fell upon the shoulders of their predecessors; and, indeed, the military situation as I view it to-day, and as it was put before us by the Financial Secretary, seems to be of good augury and full of hope for the future. Particularly should I like to join with the Financial Secretary in congratulating our old Etonian friend, Sir Stanley Maude, upon the brilliant victory and the great success which has attended his operations in Mesopotamia. In France, also, one success follows hard upon the heels of another, and I think our people are grateful to Sir Douglas Haig for these incessant and spirited blows at the enemy which have been delivered with such precision and force. I believe the nation trusts Sir Douglas Haig and trusts Sir William Robertson. The nation has great expectations for the near future, and I feel that there is almost a passionate longing outside for the speedy and successful termination of this War.
2203 It is not indeed surprising that there should be such a longing when one considers that all the pleasures, joys, and amenities even of life, whether you live in town or in country, are gone. That is to put it on the lowest scale. Everyone is poorer, except those who produce war material, and the taxation and the cost of living are very heavy burdens upon all of us; but those are the natural results of war, and, I presume, are inseparable from it. If one penetrates below the surface of life and comes to the graver considerations which move men, I think I am free to assert that throughout the King's Dominions there is scarcely a threshold uncrossed by the Angel of Death, there is scarcely a household unmoved by anxiety, anxiety for father, for son, or for brother in daily, or even in hourly peril of his life. So I say, can it be surprising that there should be this longing for peace? And yet the nation is calm, and withal determined. The restrictions announced by the Prime Minister, who no doubt will demand considerable sacrifices from large classes of our people, have been received by our people with a calmness which, I think, might almost be mistaken for indifference, but there could be no greater mistake. The calmness, the serenity, of our people is a sign of their inflexible resolve, no matter at what cost, to pursue their great purpose to its end.
§ Colonel Sir MATTHEW WILSON
I have listened to the speech on the Army Estimates by my hon. Friend with great interest, and as I am home on a few days' leave I should like to take this opportunity of paying a high tribute to the excellence of the arrangements of the War Office and the Admiralty with regard to the feeding and transport of troops engaged in distant overseas expeditions. I think I am entitled to speak on this subject, as the fortunes of war have led me with my regiment to three different theatres of operations—namely, the Sinai Peninsula, Gallipoli, and Salonika. As we know, the establishment of divisions which went from France to the Mediterranean had to be reconstructed on totally different lines. Heavy draft horses and heavy wagons bad to be eliminated, and in their places we were given pack-mules. The Remount Department also, when we were in Egypt, produced more than 50,000 camels, as well as huge numbers of horses and mules for troops, not only in 2204 the Sinai Peninsula, but also against the Senussi. What I think is most gratifying is that no change in the formation or equipment of a unit has ever caused any delay in the operations.
Let me now for a moment speak on the difference in the numbers of pack animals in a division in France and in Salonika. In France the number of pack animals for a division is 145. A division may be sent from France to Salonika. When it gets there it is put on the equipment, Part IV. of the Salonika Field Force for war. This lays down their establishment at 5,109 pack animals. This means that we have only thirty-six short of 5,000 pack animals to deal with as well as 5,000 pack saddles to be handed out. The Salonika front presents a most difficult problem for the feeding and equipment of troops. Before the War it was considered a very difficult operation to feed two divisions in peace manoeuvres on one road. In Salonika the Sixteenth Corps are fed by one road. Their front line is over 16 kilometres from Salonika. The Sixteenth Corps not only consists of three divisions, but also of one mounted brigade. It is a single road full of hairpin turns, the surface of which is very bad and continually under repair owing to the ravages of heavy mechanical transport. This road is the only possible one for all services and all evacuations. But it is not my particular portion of the front. On our front the great difficulty is the transport of food and ammunition from the railhead to our line. The word "road" hardly describes the narrow tracks in many places. In many places it is knee deep in mud, up which no transport can go. Pack mules only are used, and then by night. If they come up by day in sight of the enemy the convoys are shelled.
These mules, I must say, are the admiration, not only of ourselves, but of our Allies. They are the best transport animals I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. They come from America, and average about 14 hands 3 inches in height. They are very sound and very hardy, and at the end of a long journey, in which they have been carrying a full amount of provisions, 160 lbs. deadweight, they will come in as fresh, to all appearance, as when they started. The mules themselves are also amenable. I should like to speak of the way they bring food to us. The word "ration" does not hold the terror to soldiers in Salonika that it does for the housekeeper here. They bring us most 2205 excellent meat of a most excellent quality which we get five days in every week. The other days we get a ration of cheese or jam, with bacon almost every day. There is a daily ration of bread. In times of blizzard or snow we get an issue of cocoa or rum. As a result of all this care I think hon. Members would agree, if they saw the troops, that they certainly have every reason to praise their pastures. In respect of forage—and, of course, I refer principally to hay, which, owing to its bulk, is a most difficult proposition—the foresight of the War Office has to some extent relieved the pressure on home freightage by not only buying up the hay crops of Mesopotamia, but also obtaining other supplies as far as possible from Egypt and India. They have also, as my lion. Friend has already told us, planted in huge areas potatoes for the use of the troops. I am sure hon. Members will agree that this speaks volumes for the untiring energy and efficiency of the War Office and the vigilance and co-operation of the Admiralty. Napoleon's maxim that "an army marches and fights on its stomach" is as true to-day as it was when it was spoken. It is, therefore, a pleasure for me to dwell on the way in which difficulties have been triumphantly surmounted where the well-being and comfort of the troops has been at stake.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
We have all listened to my hon. and gallant Friend's account of the efficiency of the supplies on one part of the front, about which we rarely hear much, with very great interest. When we realise how distant are those troops from our home base, we shall all feel gratified to know that at least the troops in those parts are well fed, because, after all, feeding is the best road to happiness with the soldier. I should like to say one or two words as to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Tennant) who followed the Financial Secretary on Territorial officers and promotion It is only right, as a Territorial officer, that I should say I believe that this criticism should not be generally levelled throughout the Army. On the other hand, I think that there are undoubted and numerous instances where Territorial officers have been passed over and where recognition has not been given to their services at the front. As I say, this may not be general, but the fact remains that 2206 there is not quite sufficient consideration shown in the Army to the fact that a very large number of officers in the New Armies, and in the Territorials—as has been said to-day, "the brains of the whole of this great Empire"—because at first appearance they do not appear to have all the ways and traditions of the old Regular officer, are of first-class quality. It does not necessarily follow, provided such an officer has been in modern warfare for a sufficient length of time, that he has not picked up just as much of the science of modern warfare as some other officer who may have been out of the Army for many years. There is just another word I should like to say, following what has already been said by the Financial Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman, and that deals with the question of the maintenance of officers. I only offer this suggestion. I hope it is not going to be made difficult for an officer to say, "I am in distressed circumstances." Anything of that kind is going to be most invidious. For my own part, I wish the Government would frankly recognise the extraordinary increase in the cost of living, which has been recognised in every other walk of life, and allow junior officers to feel that they have not to proclaim to the War Office or to-anybody else the fact that they are in distressed circumstances, and need special advantages or consideration—because that is what it amounts to!
I rose, however, for one object, and that was to deal with the question of manpower. A graceful tribute was paid by the Financial Secretary to the memory of Lord Kitchener. All of us must remember how much we owe to Lord Kitchener for having told us what we were up against. The fact that his mind was able to grasp what other people's minds did not grasp to grasp the enormous thing in front of us, was a cause for gratitude. We ought to remember him for his words of wisdom which caused us calmly to face a struggle of this great length. I think it is necessary for us to try and conjure up in our minds once more the Kitchener touch, to-look at things in their proper proportion-with regard not only to to-day, to six months hence, or one year, but to consider any possibilities for the future.
The two great problems we are up against at the present time undoubtedly are the questions of man-power and food. Food, of course, includes the submarine menace, the building of the mercantile marine, and of destructors—if that is the 2207 right name—for the submarines. Both of these problems, that of man-power and food, come from the same cause, a complete lack of organisation at the start for anything like the scale of' things with which we have had to deal. With our haphazard methods we had been relying upon the patriotism of the people, regardless as to how to discriminate the patriotism of our countrymen, and regardless of the effect upon the industries of agriculture, munitions, and shipbuilding has brought difficulties which might and ought to have been foreseen. Although these great errors have existed in the past, it seems to me that we ought to have learned from these blunders, and there is no reason whatever now, two and a half years from the commencement of the War, that we should not be able to repair them and look ahead with more discrimination than in the past. It is in order to assist the Government in this respect that I am going to offer one or two suggestions.
First of all, in regard to the question of agriculture—of which, I dare say, the Secretary of State for War must be heartily sick—I understand that the War Office are in process of supplying some 30,000 men, surplus to the Army, for agriculture. Elaborate care should be taken to free no men from the Army who are likely to make good soldiers, unless they are highly skilled agriculturists. Whatever their military value, if they are really highly skilled agriculturists they ought to be released at once in order to instruct the large number of unskilled agriculturists who are now being attracted to the land. Whereas it takes three months to make a home defence soldier it takes at least three years to make a highly-skilled agriculturist. There are in the Army, I believe, large numbers of men of defective sight, men who are quite fit—I have known frequently cases of the sort—but who are unable to march the pace of the ordinary Infantry regiment. They are quite fit to work on the land. Directly, however, they find their muscles extended to a pace of three miles an hour they find that they are out of the race. These are types of men who obviously ought to be weeded out and put into these agricultural companies. We are still hearing of numerous cases of men quite unfit remaining in the Army, and who are still masquerading in uniform. The War Office has no right to keep those men in uniform 2208 unless they are fit for some kind of fighting. It is a very great expense, and it is extravagant. It is mere window-dressing. Those men ought to be restored to agriculture, or to some other essential industries, at the very earliest possible day.
I cannot object to the claim that we should take men from agriculture. I am, however, suggesting very sincerely that only the right men should be taken. It does seem to me that the desire which is, I believe, almost general in this House should be carried out and that the President of the Board of Agriculture should have the same power given to him as the Minister of Munitions in regard to this question. He ought to be able to stop going into the Army any man who is regarded as essential to agriculture, and upon whose skill the lives of very large herds and flocks may depend. He ought to have the power to say, "No, this man is really essential to the continued existence of the agricultural industry." Having said that much, I should like to add that I think there are many cases in the past where agriculture has not played up. There are certain districts in the country where, there is no doubt whatever, some of the tribunals have been rather inclined to permit men to remain on the land who really wore not essential. It is in consequence of this that we have got this conflict of opinion. It is up to the farmers now, who for the first time are being properly treated by the State, and not being made the shuttlecock of party politics, to do everything in their power to yield up such labour as is superfluous. At the same time, it is up to the War Office to encourage the idea, that skilled agriculturists should be retained in agriculture, and should, as far as possible, be returned to agriculture.
In my opinion more men are required for the Army than we at present see in view. I have held the opinion for some time that new divisions ought to have been formed in order to make that superiority which the attacker must have if we are really going to smash the enemy in the near future, and I fully recognise that, if this great offensive is going to take place to which we are all looking forward this year, it is quite impossible to form any new offensive divisions. But it does seem to me that it is possible with a little adjustment, a very little reorganisation, to form new divisions, which could hold the line in France in those parts which are distant from where the offensive is taking 2209 place. It is no new principle, having been adopted by most of the military powers of the world, and it stands to reason we have a very large number of men in the Army who are really unfit for the prolonged strain and stress of an offensive, but who could march a short distance up to the trenches, who have been trained as so many soldiers in this country have been for a long time, and are fully capable of holding their own in those trenches. I suggest that it would be desirable to endeavour to form some six divisions of this description, and if the War Office were to get to work on this matter soon, I believe they would find that these six divisions would be a perfect Godsend in a very few months, for reasons which I will point out. The first reason is that we are bound to consider the possibility of a very prolonged offensive, it may be stretching right through the summer. My humble view is that once that offensive is taken, if we are to end the War, it must be pressed right through in order to get a decisive action this year. But if we are unable for any reason or other to carry on that prolonged offensive, if because we have not the reserves behind us, through any weakness on our part now, then our soldiers and sailors are going to suffer from our criminal neglect. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Tennant) told us that there was a passionate longing among the people of this country to end the War—yes, to end the victorious War; but I venture to think that there is one way we shall not end the War, and that is if we are not ready to make every effort now to prepare the Reserves which will be essential in these coming months.
My suggestion is that these six divisions could be formed out of the troops at present in this country. It may be objected that we should be depleting the Home Defence Force. My answer to that is, first of all, that the number will be made up by my proposals for fresh recruits. The second proposition I am going to make is that, behind the Home Defence Army, we should organise the Volunteers into a great Beserve Defence Army. Thirdly, I submit that the greater pressure you put upon the enemy on the Western Front the less likelihood there is of invasion of this country. And, fourthly, the total number of men in the United Kingdom is undoubtedly far more than is necessary to deal with any possible raid which the enemy can organise against us, and if all 2210 the various drafting units of this country do not fall into a definite scheme of defence organisation, then I cannot congratulate the War Office. Obviously here you have the chance of making your great drafting units in this country fulfil the two roles—one the role of drafting a very large proportion of trained men, and the other the function of falling into a definite scheme of organisation, which ought to be complete if it is not. Let me give one instance. Supposing there are 200 depots and training camps in this country, and supposing there are 2,000 men in each of those depots. Fifty per cent, of those men are probably fit to fight. Each depot ought at very short notice to be able to produce 1,000 men. A skeleton organisation of brigades and divisions ought to be complete for the mobilisation, if necessary, of those units, and by these means alone we could form at least fifteen divisions of Infantry which ought to have their allotted place in the defence of this country. When I am told that the Home Defence Army is now well able to resist any possibility of a German invasion—when I am also told we must not deplete it, I reply that, unless this great reservoir behind is part of our scheme, then we have failed, and the earliest moment we succeed in organising that matter the better. I know it may be said, "Oh, yes, but there are great difficulties. Where is your artillery coming from for the extra fifteen divisions?" It is inconceivable to me, unless the Fleet is crushed and defeated, that the enemy will ever be able to land heavy guns in this country at the time of a raid, and field artillery has never yet driven British troops out of trenches, and never will.
As regards the question of transport, I believe you have only to earmark your wagons and horses in this country, and you can greatly eliminate that problem by making a great storage of bully beef and biscuits, which you can have all along behind your defensive system in this country, and so cut down your organisation to that extent. I have lived on bully beef and biscuits for over a month, and nothing is better for figure. I have said that I agreed that there would be an immediate outcry from the military authorities. "If you take six divisions of this description, how are you going to make good your supply?" The Government can at once make up their mind to call out every fit single man from eighteen to twenty-two or twenty-three immediately. Then every fit man from twenty-two to twenty-six should 2211 be immediately warned that three months hence he will be called up, and then from twenty-six to thirty, five months' hence; from thirty to thirty-four, seven months hence, and so on. That is method. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well he has got to do it in the near future, but it is not fair, and it will not be fair, to come down on industries in this country who are dependent on these men—very often what I may call "key" men—if you do not give fair warning. If given fair warning, there is no doubt the difficulty can be overcome. In three months' time, if these proposals were adopted, you would be able to release these divisions I have suggested to hold the line in France.
One word as to why I suggest this question of defensive divisions. It is because— and it may not always be recognised in the higher circles—the modern effect of war is such on the mental condition of troops, that you cannot go on after a certain period without resting the men whom you are throwing into the fight. I will give one example. In the Somme offensive I knew a brigade which went into the attack, and was practically attacking under a shell barrage probably something like fifteen to twenty days, going back, so to speak, to rest, but in front of our guns, and then going again into the inferno, this happening over and over again. Then the troops were taken out to hold the line at another part of the front. Great as these men are, wonderful as they have proved themselves, they cannot recover, they cannot be really happy if you take them out of the attack and put them into another part of the trench to hold the line. I want to see these divisions—perhaps not all "A" men—holding the line, so as to give the attacking troops rest out of the shell zone; and that is possible if we adopt some such suggestion as this. Then I believe your divisions will come again and again; they will recover and be fresh and happy troops. If only the troops have two, three, or four weeks' rest you may be certain that, not only are they not reluctant to go back to fight, but are willing and desire to do so. If you are going on right through the summer with the offensive there is no time to delay in this matter, and, if contemplated, it ought to be done soon.
My last proposition is that we should make the volunteers in this country a real thing. At the present moment we have this great human force prompted by 2212 patriotism, actuated by the very highest motives, but which is nothing but a sham, a snare, and a delusion. The hon. Gentleman opposite nods his head in the negative, but I can assure him that at the present moment the volunteers themselves feel that they are not treated seriously. I am very glad to think that the hon. Gentleman has something in mind which is going to turn the force into reality. There is no reason whatever why the volunteers, if any effort were made to turn them into an organised force, should not become quite as efficient, or even more efficient, than the Territorial Force at the outbreak of war, and some Territorial units were in the line of the first defence of Ypres, right at the beginning of November, when it was thought it would be quite impossible for them to be ready. How have the Volunteers been treated? They have no rifles; they have no trained adjutants. This question may be exercising the hon. Gentleman now, and possibly in the last few days, but up to now there have been no trained adjutants, no ammunition, and no organisation. I know a great many have dummy rifles, and that a few rifles have been handed out. I know also that some have bought their rifles; but, generally speaking, there is no organised armed force of Volunteers which possibly could be used for the defence of this country in the event of a raid, and there is absolutely no reason why, when the National Service policy comes to natural fruition, namely, a compulsory state—because, after all, all this volunteering is sheer nonsense—we should not have an organised force. Why always rely on patriotic people, instead of placing the same burdens on everybody? Do we not want to win this War and end this misery? If so, why not have the courage to provide the armed men to go and assist their trained comrades in the trenches in France? If we grant the fact that Infantry can hold the line in this country with the Artillery we have at our disposal, I venture to say that with the organised drafting units in this country, plus your Home Defence Army, plus the Volunteers—and I would change that most vicious name at once, and call them the Imperial Reserve Army, and let them feel they have a real part in this scheme—there is no-doubt any invasion of this country would be very short-lived, and I have no hesitation in saying the enemy would be driven into the sea. In order to make that a success, I suggest that the Volunteers require 2213 the aid and assistance of all wounded invalid officers in this country who can possibly be got hold of. I am not suggesting they should be paid full time, but quite a lot of men who have come back from France are only too anxious to give any service they possibly can to their country, and here is an opportunity. Give them their out-of-pocket expenses and a quarter pay, or something of that kind, but use those men in order to take advantage of the splendid material which undoubtedly exists in the Volunteers. It may be said that Volunteers contain a great number of old men. The answer to that is that they are no older than the Turks or Austrians fighting in this War, for there are numerous Turks and Austrians fighting of the same age. I should like to say, in conclusion, that I believe one touch of imagination with the compulsory element behind it and you are going to find this Volunteer force the great solution of this man-power problem, and then you can get rid of the hobbling men who are disguised as soldiers, and you can send them back to civil employment. If you are going to make the defence force a success you want a great organised reserve force behind them. It is sometimes suggested that we will not provide enough men, because we dare not risk further losses. People who have tender hearts think so and say, surely they have done enough, but it is precisely because they have tender hearts that I want to appeal to them now, because the only way to end this conflict is really to be prepared, now we have reached the absolute climax of this contest, to see it through. If you want to make certain of allowing the War to drag on for this year and next year, and possibly another year after, that is what will happen if we do not put in our top effort in a few months' time. I hope the House will do all it can to persuade His Majesty's Government—I do not think they need very much persuasion—and to encourage them from now onwards and have no half measures, but take all necessary steps to secure and earmark every single man in this country of military age in whatever occupation he may be concerned, in order that you may not make the fatal mistake of not having the necessary drafts to fill the gaps in France.
I take this opportunity of congratulating the Financial Secretary to the War Office upon the admirable statement which he has made this 2214 afternoon. Eighteen months ago I listened to a somewhat similar statement, but during the intervening months my lot has fallen outside these shores. Coming back after that interval of time one is almost staggered and hardly able to realise the enormous strides and labours which our War Office has undertaken and achieved in those intervening months. The transport services very often receive little praise, and I was glad to see them receive their due share this afternoon. I refer to the Transport Department in particular, because one knows how little they appear in the limelight, and yet how little one can do without them. One is almost afraid to discuss the military needs of this country and the War generally without complete knowledge of all the difficulties, but yet if suggestions emanating from hon. Members of this House are accepted in the spirit in which they are put forward, one is encouraged to make an effort in that direction. I am afraid I have suffered since the beginning of the War from something approaching to pessimism, not temperamentally, but from experience, and so one cannot but dwell upon man-power and whether it will be forthcoming or will not.
It seems to me that there are only three demands that should at this time be made upon the able-bodied members of the nation. The first, naturally, is the maintenance of our divisions at their full strength in the field, involving as it does completely trained and prepared reinforcements. The second seems to be the making and supplying of munitions; and the third, which appears at the moment to be attracting a great deal of attention, although it seems rather late in the day, is that of food production. I ask the House, and I ask the representative of the War Office here to-day whether there is any justification whatsoever for any man or woman working on any other industries? After an absence of a year one finds this great Metropolis apparently very much the same, and the only difference I can see is that you get three courses instead of four. Below the surface there may be more going on, but if you take the streets of London you find people manufacturing and selling an immense volume of commodities which are of absolutely no value and which are no contribution to the War. If you walk down the main thoroughfares of London you find jewellery being sold, mended, and manufactured, you find musical instruments being sold, and although these may seem very small things I believe they are 2215 indicative that even yet we are not thoroughly appreciative of the seriousness of the situation. In South Africa it was brought to my notice by a colonist that in this country we still seem to find time and money to waste upon racing. When you come to discuss the question of racing, you find that the supporters of it will say that it is only steeplechasing. Now if ever there was a vicious form of racing it is the second and third-class steeplechasing, and yet from day to day it is allowed to go on in this country. I run the risk of being looked upon as almost morbid in my desire to fix the attention of everyone upon the necessity for absolute sacrifice in regard to pleasure and luxuries, and I would go to the extent of prohibiting all forms of public amusements. You have only to go to the extravagant revues any day you like, and you will see thousands of pounds being wasted on scenery and dresses. We are now being asked to volunteer for the purposes of industrial labour, and if all these unnecessary industries were closed, you would find a great many more people coming forward to put their names on the volunteer roll.
Dealing with the question of manpower from another point of view, I would like to ask the War Office to consider whether we are really getting the fullest value out of all the labour which is available in different parts of our Empire. I believe I am right in saying that the troops in France at the present time, instead of getting the rest that they deserve and the training which is necessary between their terms of service in the trenches, are frequently turned into coolies to do manual labour in some form or another. I believe most of this labour can be done by natives from different parts of the world. During the last year there have been two or three debates dealing with this subject, chiefly from the point of view as to whether you can produce black fighting troops. I think the first and greatest use you can put your native dependencies and possessions to is to produce labour to save your white troops in the field. The principle seems to be accepted now that the white man should do the fighting, and I do not see why it should not also be accepted that the black man should do the digging. There is no doubt that they do this work extremely well, and the Britisher has a disinclination to dig unless he is made.
2216 I do not think India has made its proper contribution to the War. I admit the difficulties of transport, and I agree that it is no good looking back and finding fault. But I would like to be satisfied that a determined effort is being made to remedy that situation. India has a population which is surely big enough to provide a few hundreds of thousands of able-bodied, strong and capable, well-disciplined men who could do a great deal of this coolie work behind the lines. I have had some experience in this respect in Africa, where we have had a large number of native troops who have had to be put to all sorts of jobs, including railway construction and the laying of telegraph lines, in which work the Indians have shown themselves capable and trustworthy. In this connection there is a suggestion which I would like to put forward. If it is a fact that large bodies of our Indian troops for one reason or another are not, perhaps, as suitable as white troops to undertake equal burdens with them in the front line of attack and defence, surely the organisation and training they have gone through might be turned to good account if those regiments were made into labour battalions.
Already India has probably been much more closely investigated from this point of view than Africa, but I think in practice there is a reservoir not quite so deep but still of proportionate value from which to draw. Central Africa alone can place at our disposal an immense number of our natives for this and other purposes. I would not like to run the risk of suggesting that these men are only valuable for purposes of labour, because the Central African makes an extremely good fighter under certain conditions. The German Army which was opposed to us in the African campaign has shown what effect good discipline and good training can have upon the blacks in that part of the world, and their faithfulness, bravery and loyalty to their officers has been a surprise to many of those in command during that campaign. We have at our disposal quite a large number of these natives. I remember reading many months ago the discussion, and I was alarmed at the size of the figures, and I feel, having come recently from the spot, and having taken a good deal of trouble to ascertain what one might reasonably obtain from this source, so I take upon myself the liberty of giving my idea of the figures to the 2217 House. I will take as a parallel the number of troops which the Germans found themselves able to raise and train in that part of Africa. The tribes are very much the same in our own Protectorates, and after the War we shall have the advantage of being able to recruit from both these Protectorates in Africa. The Germans without much difficulty were able to put into the field after nine or ten months of war 13,000 or 14,000 trained black troops. I see no reason why we should not be able to put in the field reliable troops of an equivalent number. Some must necessarily be left for garrison duty, but I believe over and above that we should be able to produce a full division suitable for some of our garrisons in the East, thereby releasing troops who can be better employed on the more severe fronts.
The question of labour from Central Africa is perhaps not quite so easy, but at the same time it is well worth going into very closely. During the last year of the campaign we have been able without much difficulty to keep steadily employed as many as from 50,000 to 60,000 natives, The rate of sickness amongst them has been much higher than they would suffer under a better organised condition of affairs. I do not mean to throw any aspersion on the Native Transport Department in East Africa, which was admirable, but they had often to be raised with great speed and without very much warning, and they had to be pushed along at the same rate that the troops were moving. As a result, they very often suffered much more greatly from a want of sufficiency of food and a want of necessary care, and sometimes of medical attention, than they would have done under stationary conditions. I wish to emphasise the point that we could get more for a purpose which involved merely taking these men in large bodies to a country like Egypt, or Mesopotamia or Aden, where they would work more or less at stationary jobs, and where, therefore, they would be looked after much better. The question may or may not have been gone into by the powers that be at Whitehall, but I hope, if they can find time, that they will make exhaustive inquiries as to the possibility of producing a fighting force from Central Africa capable of being sent at any rate to some of the Eastern garrison centres of our Empire, and thereby release troops of a different quality and perhaps of a different value for other purposes.
2218 I wish to ask the War Office also to take into consideration the possibilities of South Africa in this respect. I was glad to learn in Cape Town that we had already made an experiment in this direction. The first batch—perhaps it is better not to give the numbers, but it runs into many thousands—are already, I understand, being used in France. I had personal acquaintanceship with the class of native and the class of organisation, inasmuch as I was in charge of one of the ships which came home from South Africa with one of these contingents on board. I was very much impressed with the excellence of the organisation and with the discipline. The difficulty there of finding white men to control the natives is, of course, very much less than it would be in Central Africa. The Dutchmen who would be glad to come and help and who have experience of handling the natives in South Africa are luckily very numerous. I also made inquiries as to what that country could produce without the main industries being in any way disturbed. I gathered, apart from the objections which were raised by many to the scheme in all its forms, that at least five times the number that we have now got in France or are in this first detachment would be available within a very few months if an arrangement were at once come to with the Union Government.
I know that there are difficulties. There is a feeling in South Africa that they do not wish their natives to become too civilised for fear that they should become difficult to handle in times of peace. The chief fear, however, is that they will not be properly looked after when they get to France. I am quite convinced that the War Office have taken that side of the question into consideration, and that there need be no fear of the abuse of the natives and no risk of him being spoilt for the purposes of labour in the country afterwards. It is all very well to be negrophile, and to a certain extent our instincts may lie in that direction, because as a rule the negro has been exploited by white men wherever he has been found, but there is no doubt that the question requires delicately handling and that it might easily become a very serious one indeed. The population of natives as compared with whites—in itself five millions to one-is indicative of the necessity of very wise and very far-seeing legislation and control. If India, Central Africa, and South 2219 Africa were immediately embraced in a comprehensive scheme for the purpose of supplying labour, and if the machinery were put on foot with as little delay as possible, the War Office and the Commanders in France would very shortly find that immense benefit would result to the white troops which they have under their control. The natural difficulty likely to be raised is the question of white officers and others to control them. The experiment of sending out officers from home to take charge of the raising of black troops in the British East African Protectorate, so far as I could see, and I saw a good deal of it, was most successful. In times of war people learn things very rapidly indeed, and many of those who were inclined to pour cold water on the possibility of a man picking up the language sufficiently in five or six months to control a body of men under his command were very much surprised at the rapidity and ease with which this knowledge was acquired. At the risk of labouring the point, I would again press the War Office to give this matter their close consideration.
There is only one other point that I am anxious to raise this afternoon. I feel that in all probability it somewhat exceeds the scope of the Debate, but it has so direct a bearing upon the conduct of the War that I trust it will be permitted. The forthcoming Colonial Conference seems to me to have in it the possibility of our strengthening our war machine. When we remember the enormous contributions of men that the Colonies have made to the general fund it seems almost glaringly peculiar, to say the least of it, that the entire direction should be in the hands of the Motherland. Of course, it may be that no complaint is made on the part of the Colonies and that they accept the fact that we have more professionally trained soldiers, and are, therefore, naturally more likely to succeed in getting good commanders. If it is not possible actually to give the highest commands to members of those Dominions and Dependencies, it seems to me that they should, at any rate, have a more definite place in the councils which decide the general line of policy to be pursued. It would be a very unfortunate thing if, after the War or after a disaster, the Dominions were ever able to say that 2220 they made contributions in men and in blood, but were never consulted or asked with regard to the policy of the campaign in which the troops were employed. I only hope that those splendid Colonial troops who are fighting with us may be given to understand that their great statesmen—and they have great statesmen —will not only be well received and allowed to express their opinions in general terms, perhaps without much effect, but that they will be definitely made members of an Executive Board charged from day to day with the control of this vast War. It is, I admit, a difficult subject, and perhaps a very unwise one, for anyone without great Parliamentary experience, to touch upon, but I feel so strongly about it that I take the risk.
There is one Colony which, it seems to me, up to now, has not yet perhaps fully pulled its weight in the Imperial boat. The Overseas Contingent from South Africa is not a very large unit, but it is a very gallant one, and although its fame is written in the hearts of everyone of Colonial or British parentage residing in that country, I believe with a little more encouragement that a very much larger force could be obtained. It is the last Colony to join the family, and it is perhaps the most suspicious, but the number of experienced fighters that the Colony now possesses would be a very considerable asset. There are men there who have been through the two campaigns of German South-West and German East Africa, and who have very little to learn about warfare; but for some reason there appears to be possibly a little hanging back in the numbers which come forward. I hope, if possible, that an effort will be made by the Government to get them, to invite them, and to make much of them. I believe also South Africa of the future would be enormously benefited if the effort were successful, because I think six months' fighting side by side is worth a lifetime of domestic politics where racial differences are involved. I know full well that the difficulties which beset the War Office are enormous, and in the few remarks that I have made this afternoon the last thing in my mind has been in any way to be anything but helpful. The strides which the War Office appear to have made in grappling with the immensity of the problem reflect the greatest possible credit on all concerned.
§ Major WHELER
While the last two speakers have dealt with matters from overseas, I want to deal with one or two questions of administration at home. I would like to congratulate and thank the Financial Secretary to the War Office for his words with reference to the economies effected and the avoidance of waste in camps, because whilst a great many of the officers commanding camps have been doing their very best, especially during the last eighteen months, to do away with every kind of waste, it has been very galling to see in the papers articles headed "Waste," and so on, giving the impression to the civilian population that there is great waste in the bulk of the military camps of the Home Command. That is quite contrary to the fact. I need only ask the House to consider for a few moments the conditions under which a vast number of units were raised over two years ago. Of course, there were difficulties. The general administration was not in any way perfect—it could not be. The officers commanding were constantly making up units and shifting them from spot to spot, and those things made for waste But it is right to say that in the last year and a half, since the vast majority of the bigger units of the home commands became draft-producing units and had settled down to a great extent in camps, anybody who is able to inspect those camps and their general administration will agree with what the Financial Secretary to the War Office said, namely, that the wastage in those camps now compared very favourably indeed with the wastage of the civilian population round about. I can say from personal experience that everything in those camps is saved.
The Financial Secretary mentioned glycerine. In the home commands there is a genuine rivalry between all the different commands to see which can produce the biggest amount of glycerine for the Ministry of Munitions. There is also rivalry with regard to sardine tins, jam tins, and everything that goes to a soldier in the way of messing. As the Financial Secretary said, the results have shown that officers and men as a whole are doing their level best to reduce waste to a minimum and to save every penny they can in the interests of the country. Only a few days ago I had a striking instance of that brought to my notice when I was doing work in connection with the Western Command. A commanding officer came to me and showed me a cheque for 2s. 10d., which 2222 he said was for waste paper, and asked me to which account he should put it. That is a small economy, but it shows the care that is being exercised by commanding officers to-day. However much those savings are carefully guided by the War Office, unless there is willing co-operation between the officers of the various commands and the men they will not amount to much. The savings which are effected, I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree in this, are practically entirely due to the willing co-operation of officers and men, who endeavour in every way to see that every particle of food which cannot be used is conserved and put to a useful purpose. I mention that matter at length, because I hope that now the general sort of stigma which attached to so many camps because it was said that they were wasteful will not be heard of so much in future. Any Member of this House who has had an opportunity of visiting any of the standing camps in the home commands to-day will find these economies being effected and improved upon day by day, and this reflects great credit on all those concerned. I should like to congratulate the Financial Secretary upon the appointment of a permanent messing officer. The appointment of a permanent man to look after the general administration of messing, who has a full grasp of the work and need not be taken away, as he used to be in the old days, at a few hours' notice, is going to be worth many thousands of pounds to the War Office. May I say a word about substitution. The substitution scheme has worked very slowly in the past. A lot of money has been lost in this way; men have been kept at depots in large numbers for four or five weeks and clothed, fed, and housed all that time, when they ought at once to have gone away to the various employments for which they were intended. One hopes now that that difficulty has been got over very largely, for every hour a man is kept at a depot waiting for a civilian job it is a loss of money and labour to the State.
I would next refer to the position of the junior officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Territorial branch. The simplest way of putting the case is to give the pay of those officers and compare it with the pay of the Regular officers of the R.A.M.C. A captain's pay in the Territorial force is 15s. 6d. a day, with allowances that bring it up to £280 a year, less Income Tax. They are not qualified for any extra pay under Royal Warrant 358. These Terri- 2223 torial officers joined up very often at short notice, and had to leave their practices, which, in most cases, have gone to ruin, therefore they are practically entirely dependent upon their pay. While their pay is the same as that of the Regular officer, the pay of the latter is based on the assumption that he qualifies, after twenty years, for a pension of £365. On the other hand, there is no pension for the Territorial officer. There is a great grievance in regard to the temporary officers who have been and are now being appointed in the R.A.M.C. A temporary lieutenant in the R.A.M.C is engaged for one year; he gets £30 on joining, 24s a day pay, Is. 9d. ration allowance, and £60 at the end of his first year, which roughly works out at about £500 a year. At the end of his contract he can leave the Service and draw his gratuity, whereas a Territorial officer cannot leave until the end of the War. If he leaves before the end of the War he loses his gratuity. I mention these facts because there is a genuine grievance among the medical officers in the R.A.M.C., Territorial Force. If the hon. Gentleman will look into the rates of pay of the junior officers as compared with the Regular officers, he will see that the case is worthy of his consideration, bearing in mind that they can be called up at very short notice, that they have to leave their practices without putting anybody in charge of them, and are entirely dependent upon their pay at the present time for their livelihood and the keep of their wives and families. Something ought to be done to help that branch of the Service. I should like once more to thank the hon. Gentleman for his statement with regard to the economies effected, which I am sure will give increased zest and energy to those, who have been helping in the matter.
§ Mr. P. A. HARRIS
I should not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Christchurch (Brigadier-General Croft). I was glad to hear him, as a practical soldier, praise the Volunteer Force, and I am certain that his praise and his remarks as to their possibilities will do very much to encourage Volunteers throughout the country. His criticism, such as it was, was a little bit late in the day. He said they had practically no organisation. That certainly was true at the beginning of the War, be- 2224 cause this force has grown up since the War and is an outcome of it. During the last two years a very complete organisation has grown up, and the whole country is now organised on a military basis very much as were the Territorials in peacetime, namely, on the county basis. Every county has its Volunteer regiment, divided into battalions, and, under the new scheme brought out by the War Office, they are under the direct supervision of the Territorial Associations and of the General Officers Commanding the districts to which they belong. I heard the hon. and gallant Gentleman say that this was not a real live military force. It is-not a properly organised military body, but the organisation is coining very near to-completion. He went on to complain of the absence of paid adjutants. I know that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has been serving his country at the front, so that probably he has got out of touch with what has been going on. He should have remembered that when the Volunteer Act was being passed an undertaking was given that paid adjutants should be appointed to every Volunteer battalion. I think I am right in saying that those appointments are being made rapidly They may be made on the lines advocated by the hon. and gallant Member. Officers invalided out of the Army or on sick leave are being appointed. In addition to that, the General Officers Commanding the various districts are placing at the disposal of the battalions their Staff officers, their training facilities and their command schools, and we are in a very fair way to get these Volunteer battalions very good rivals in efficiency to the Territorial battalions as they were before the outbreak of hostilities.
The hon. Member complained about their lack of equipment. That, too, would have been justified six or nine months ago. Up to a few months ago Volunteer battalions depended entirely upon voluntary subscriptions, public benevolence or personal self-sacrifice for their equipment. The hon. Member referred a little contemptuously to the dummy rifles Even there he is not correct. What have they done for themselves f A great number of volunteers have bought serviceable rifles, not necessarily modern service rifles, out of their own pockets, and to-day a considerable percentage of the force is armed in that way. We have had a promise that service rifles will be supplied when available. Volunteers are reasonable people.
2225 They have been waiting for two years and they understand that these rifles will be forthcoming as soon as they are available and when the requirements of the forces for overseas have been fully supplied. It cannot be too much realised that the Volunteer Force necessarily is a spare-time force. Once you try to make it a full-time force and call up these men the justification for its existence largely disappears. The great advantage of volunteers for Home Defence purposes is that they are economical, both in manpower and in money—in man-power because they remain at their industry or employment and help to keep the trade of the country going at a time when there is a great shortage of labour in the country, and economical in money because, as they remain at their industry and employment, it is not necessary for the State to maintain them, provide them with food or accommodation, pay them wages, or keep their wives or provide separation allowances. If you attempted to convert this force into a full-time force you would be throwing away a great advantage; you would be drawing their labour from industry and immediately make them a charge upon the State. Owing to the fact that this country is an island and that its main defence is the Navy, we can, fortunately, largely depend for Home defence upon a spare-time force. If you substitute anything for that you throw away one of our great advantages as to man-power over enemy countries.
The hon. Member for Christchurch took great exception to their name, and wanted to give them some high-sounding Imperial title. I do not think the force wants its name changed, but that, on the contrary, they are proud of being volunteers, proud of inheriting the title and the name that have so long distinguished the volunteers of Great Britain, and handed down by the volunteers of the Napoleonic Wars and by the volunteers of 1852, and again handed down by that force which gave way to the Territorials. I think, from the practical point of view, apart from the name, if you are going to nave the Volunteer Force as I hope a spare-time force, that it is obvious compulsion would not be a practical proposal. It is possible to train a conscript when his full time is at the disposal of the State, but in a spare-time force, if it is really to be efficient, the men must give the time freely and of their own will, perhaps with a little peaceful persuasion, to be set aside for training purposes. I do hope that 2226 the War Office will not listen for one moment to the suggestion to change this force which is proud to be called "Volunteers," and make it something under another name, as is suggested by the hon. Member for Christchurch. That hon. Member did refer to some extent to National Service and suggested that now that we had that scheme that there was good reason to use compulsion for this over-age force. I do think, if the volunteers are to-continue to be a success, that it is very important that their relations should be defined to this new scheme. I raised this, matter on the Second Reading of the National Service Bill, and received a very sympathetic reply from the Home Secretary. It is very necessary that it should be made clear that membership of the force under the Volunteer Act, 1916, will count towards National Service and be reckoned in considering the position of any man employed in industry. If that is done, not only will it encourage men to sign the new agreement provided by the Act of 1916, but it will bring in a very large number who at present are uncertain of their position under the new National Service scheme and are hesitating to enrol in the volunteers.
The new scheme under the Volunteer Act of 1916 lays down a definite number of drills. Men are not going to take on a definite obligation of that kind if at any time they may be asked to shift their homes to another part of the country or take up greater industrial obligations requiring greater physical strain, or which are a much greater tax on their physical resources. Therefore I hope that the Under-Secretary, to whom we look to champion the claims of the volunteers, will see that the position of the Volunteer Force is clearly defined in the National Service Bill. That is very very necessary, and important, not only in the interests of the volunteers, but in the interests both of National Service and of Home defence. I am satisfied that the War Office is approaching this question of the volunteers on right lines. There is a new spirit come into their attitude towards them. I think on the whole the terms are generous. The force understands that their best justification is that there should be an economic force. So long as there is a desire to meet their reasonable requirements, and so long as there is sympathy, and I desire to recognise their value from a practical point of view, and to do everything to assist 2227 towards their success, I am sure the volunteers will be satisfied, because they realise in these days of sacrifice, when every penny is precious, that not a pound should be spent on the force except there is a real practical return. The hon. Member for Christchurch rather seemed to think that the force was not at present an organisation of much practical use for Home defence. That sort of criticism will do more harm than even a little delay in finding funds. What is of the greatest encouragement to the volunteers is to feel that they are of real practical use. They consider that they are efficient, able, ready and willing to take the field should an enemy ever land on these shores. What they desire, and what they feel is that now, having the confidence of the military, that they are an efficient, well organised military body. Lord French has on repeated occasions made clear that he believes in the potentialities of the force, and that he believes in the physical fitness of the men. I believe, should anything arise to make it necessary for the volunteers to take the field, that they will acquit themselves with equal valour, courage and ability to that displayed by the Territorials in France.
§ Sir JOSEPH WALTON
I desire to warmly congratulate my lion. Friend the Financial Secretary on the most admirable and hopeful statement he has made to the House to-night, and a statement that shows that a great step in advance has been taken in the last twelve months by the War Office authorities in endeavouring to secure better value for the expenditure which is going on. It was with special pleasure I heard of 1,000 tons of glycerine being obtained by the Government for the Army from homo sources at a cost of, I think, £50 a ton as against £240 per ton paid to the United States of America. Let us only hope that the civilian population will follow that excellent example, and that it will not be long before my hon. Friend is able to state that not only In the matter of glycerine, but in the matter of munitions of war altogether, that we are practically a self-contained country. We know that the greatest waste of money is in the far too high prices we have got to pay to America for munitions of war, which unfortunately we were compelled to have from that country, I should have liked to have some further statement from my hon. Friend as to how rapidly that process of increasing our home production of muni- 2228 tions is going on, and it would have given much encouragement to the taxpayers of the country to have an indication that the enormous waste of money in the matter of munitions will speedily be stopped. We appointed a Committee to look into the question of retrenchment of expenditure and the abolition of waste in connection with the Army. No Report has yet been presented to us on the results achieved by that Committee, and I think we might have had a little more information on that particular question. There is no doubt whatever, when we have regard to the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, that there has been very heavy waste in connection with War Office expenditure. I am perfectly certain that no one could be more anxious than the Financial Secretary to the War Office to prevent waste.
The Public Accounts Committee made various criticisms and points in their Report as to the waste that was unfortunately going on in connection with the War Office. I can only hope that the more hopeful indications we have had to-day that the prevention of waste is engaging more than ever the utmost attention of the authorities of the War Office will enable my hon. Friend to state frankly to the House that the strictures made by the Public Accounts Committee can no longer be made, and that the grounds of complaint have altogether been left behind. We know that the Public Accounts Committee express the opinion that competition was too limited, and that it should be broader, so that we should get minimum prices. We know that the War Office have the power to requisition, if they think that too high prices are being charged. I should like it to be told how often that power has been acted on. We know, of course, one strong accusation made by the Public Accounts Committee was as to the waste of money on billeting hundreds of thousands of soldiers. The Army Council passed a resolution to reduce the rate allowed for billeting, and the War Office took nine months before that was given effect to. There is no doubt whatever that in many respects waste is still going on, but I believe at a diminishing rate. We have not yet had the Report of the Controller and Auditor-General, but there will be a subsequent opportunity of dealing with it on the Vote for clothing. I will not stand longer between the House and the Under-Secretary except to say that there is one notable figure in this House who offered 2229 the most cogent criticisms in regard to waste. I refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool (Mr. Ashley), from whom I am sure we should have heard under other circumstances. I can only hope, after all he said in the House on the question of preventing waste, that he is busily engaged, morning, noon, and night, in putting his views in that respect into practice. I wish him and everyone associated with him in that task, including my hon. Friends in front of of me, the most gigantic that the world has ever faced, great success, both as regards economy and efficiency.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)
I think the Financial Secretary and I may congratulate ourselves and the War Office on the fact that this Debate has been wonderfully free from criticism of any sort of the administration of the offices which we represent. It is a rather remarkable fact that we have heard to-night three distinguished hon. and gallant Gentlemen who have come from distant theatres of war, and the must striking fact in connection with their speeches was that they were unanimous that the efforts of the War Office, not only in administration but in efficiency and in every other branch of the Service, were magnificent. I join with everyone who has spoken in congratulating the Financial Secretary on his speech. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant) paid him a compliment which was due not only to the efficient work he has been performing for a long time at the War Office, but to that genius for friendship which I know he possesses. My right hon. Friend twitted us both in regard to the precedent which seems to have been created by my hon. Friend in introducing the Estimates to-day, but where two friends are concerned no question of precedent can ever arise. I shall always remember my association with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant) with very great affection and regard. He told us that he was very anxious about the fate of the Territorial Force, particularly as far as promotion was concerned. I think I shall allay his feelings when I tell him that this particular side of the Territorial Force question has been engaging the attention of the Secretary of State for a considerable time, and I am now in a position to announce that my Noble Friend has appointed a Committee to inquire into the various anomalies of promotion, not only in the Territorial Force, but in the New 2230 Armies. He has been fortunate enough to secure as chairman of that Committee my right hon. Friend (Mr. Churchill), along with whom will work Lieutenant-General Sir Francis Davies, K. C.B., K.C.M.G., as military secretary; Colonel Lord Burnham; my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Lieutenant-Colonel Stanley), who also will act as secretary; 69. Colonel E. F. Riley, C.M.G., who has been a very powerful factor in the Territorial Force; and Mr. R. H. More. I think that Committee will appeal to the House as being a very strong and effective committee. The terms of reference are sufficiently general to cover the points which have very often been raised, in the House and out of it, as far as the anomalies with regard to promotion are concerned in the various branches of the Service. They are:To inquire into the system of promotion in the New Armies and the Territorial Forces, having special regard to anomalies which may have arisen as follows:
- 1. Promotion at home as compared with the Expeditionary Forces. Promotion in different battalions. Reduction in rank on being wounded or invalided and having to work up again to former acting rank.
- 2. To inquire into the conditions under which officers holding temporary commissions are given permanent commissions in the Regular Army.
- 3. The position of Reserve of Officers.
- 4. To inquire how far any recommendations of the Committee should be made retrospective."
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I think that is included in the Reserve of Officers. My right hon. Friend was also deeply concerned with regard to the position of Territorial officers so far as the higher commands were concerned. I stated in answer to a question recently that no fewer than seventeen or eighteen Territorial colonels are now commanding brigades at home. The whole question of the higher commands is a very difficult one indeed. I know the subject troubled my right hen. Friend during his years at the War Office, and the Secretary of State has taken a very deep interest in the matter, too, and he has been in communication with the Commander-in-Chief in France, and I have here a letter in which the Field-Marshal assures my Noble Friend 2231 that everything that is possible is being done to see that the Territorial officer shall get every chance to find himself placed in the highest possible command. In the old days it took a Regular soldier seventeen years to become a major, and when one thinks of that, one is not at all surprised that the Regular soldier should after his experience of peace time, get further advancement in quicker time since the War began than a soldier who was a civilian in pre-war time, and merely took the war service obligation after the War began. I think I can quote a significant set of figures. We started the Staff College for soldiers in order to prepare them for Staff work, and I find that the percentage of officers attending the Staff course works out as follows:—Regulars. 31.36; New Armies, 19.61; Territorial Force, 15.70; Reserve of Officers, none; Oversea Contingent, 33.33. If the House will add together the figures of the New Army and the Territorial Forces, they are 2 per cent, more than the percentage of the Regulars. That in itself is rather a significant fact, showing that now, realising as we do the capacity of Territorial officers and new officers, we are giving, as far as staff appointments are concerned— and, after all, a staff appointment is the beginning of the higher command—every possible consideration and every chance to attain it.
§ Colonel YATE
Are the Special Reserve of officers included among the Regulars, or are they not mentioned at all?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I understand they are, but I have not the figures here, unless they are Included in the Regulars. I saw the military secretary to-day, and he assures me that every possible consideration is being given to Special Reserve lieutenant-colonels, and I am hopeful that the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces will see his way to give consideration to the claims of this gallant class. But there are a great many lieutenant-colonels who have served in France who are at home now doing nothing, and the impression is prevalent that this gallant class ought to get first consideration over those who have been doing Home service during the whole time. I should like to 2232 associate myself with the testimony which my right hon. Friend paid to General Sir Edward Bethune. I think the Territorial Force owes him a great debt of gratitude, and I am glad to think that we have now in my Noble Friend Major-General the Earl of Scarborough a man who is eminently suitable to watch over carefully and well the best interests of the Territorial and Home forces in this country.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
Will the Earl of Scarborough have anything to do with officers' promotion?
§ Mr. FRANCE
Would it not be possible in time of war to brush aside the various distinctions in the classes of officers and make merit and efficiency the sole consideration in regard to promotion?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
That is the gist of the letter which I have from Sir Douglas Haig. He is doing his level best, and so is the Secretary of State, to break down all distinctions in our national Army of Regular, Territorial, and Special Reserve. They are being broken down as rapidly as possible, and I think that is the real import of the figures I have quoted. They show that practically the same percentage of men is being sent to the Staff College for the higher command.
My right hon. Friend referred to agriculture, and hoped we should be very careful indeed not only not to take men away, but to leave the best men on the land. If my right hon. Friend had road the speech of my Noble Friend in another place yesterday he would have realised what the War Office is doing in that connection. Not only are we trying to get men out of the Array who are skilled cowkeepers and cowmen, but we have already procured over 2,000 and have sent them to the most necessitous districts. We are also prepared to give to agriculture 15,000 men, and we are assisting agricultural committees as efficiently as we can. We have given them every possible assistance, because we realise that it was not their fault that recruiting was not general but was spasmodic. In my own county in Scotland every able-bodied man has been recruited, while in another county there is no one recruited at all. It is a most difficult question.
2233 My right hon. Friend appealed to me to keep our promise with regard to keeping boys in the Army. I know he has a very large heart and I know the great pains he took in regard to this question. I well remember the pledge which he gave, and I had to confess the other day that we had come to the conclusion that that promise could no longer be binding upon the House because of the necessity of getting men, but there is one consideration which kind-hearted people seem to forget, so far as these boys are concerned. These boys are very patriotic, and they come forward to enlist. In country districts, where the boys are of good physique and strong, they can easily pass as boys of military age. These boys get their pay and allowance, and not a word is said by the parents or anybody else, until the time comes when the boy is due to go on draft. The War Office came to the conclusion that that was wrong. I take the view that if these boys are released, they should refund the payments they have received during that time. If they have enlisted upon those grounds they are now told they will not be sent to France until they are nineteen years of age, but will be placed meanwhile upon reserve until they are seventeen and a half years. I think that is reasonable, and I think the reasonableness of it will appeal to my right hon. Friend. His next appeal was that we should have justice in the administration of the Army. General Childs, who is a young general himself, a type of young man making his mark in the present Army, tells me that he has used fifty-nine invalided soldiers, with a knowledge of the law, to act as legal officers at courts-martial, and in various commands in this country alone. I know further that in the courts-martial in France the men have always got legal advice. My right hon. Friend need not be so afraid as he once was, that justice is not meted out at these courts-martial. I think he will find that a soldier, before he is punished for any serious offence, has his case looked into by at least nine different people or tribunals in one way or another. I am hopeful that the present feeling in the Army that justice is being very fairly administered will continue to be the view that is taken by the people in this country.
The next point raised by the right hon. Gentleman was whether I had anything to say in regard to Salonika. Nobody knows better than my right hon. Friend what my answer will be. I can imagine him stand- 2234 ing at this box and giving the same sort of answer I am going to give now. Nobody knows better than my right hon. Friend that that is a question of national policy over which an Under-Secretary has very little authority. I can appreciate his point. He is anxious, as is the hon. Member for North-West Lanark (Mr. Pringle), that we should not have, as he calls it, an abuse of shipping at Salonika, and that we should have economy in manpower and such things. All I can say to my right hon. Friend is that I will ask those who are concerned with the national policy to pay particular attention to the remarks which he has made upon this particular point. The next point was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Bethnal Green (Colonel Sir Matthew Wilson), and I am sure it was very exhilarating to the House to hear him give such a fine picture of the work which he had done so arduously and gallantly, and with which the British Army is associated in that theatre of war. He was followed by the hon. and gallant Member for Christchurch (Brigadier-General Croft). I think I dealt in the main with the point he raised regarding man-power. I do not think I can usefully add, after what was said by the Secretary of State for War yesterday, anything further on that from the point of view of the War Office. So far as the question of man-power is concerned, it is a question of national policy which must be dealt with in the various Government Departments under a supreme head. I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend—and I am one of those who appreciate very much his gallant service at the front in command of a brigade —impaired a very fine and very gallant speech by his somewhat unnecessary attack upon the Volunteers.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I think the hon. Member will remember that I opened my criticism of the Volunteer question by paying the highest tribute I could to the Volunteers. I said that in the past they had not had a chance, because they had not had a real organisation to make them the force we desired.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I carefully noted what the hon. and gallant Member said. He said that the Volunteers were a sham, a snare, and a delusion. If that is not an attack, I do not know what is.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
There is inclined to be a difficulty in knowing exactly what a volunteer is. You find so many thousands of volunteers of different kinds. I think we ought to come to some understanding in regard to the name. I do not agree with the name which the hon. and gallant Member suggests. I am rather inclined to accept the name suggested by the hon. Member for Market Harborough (Mr. Percy Harris) and that we should stick to the word "Volunteer" for this particular branch of military service, and that anybody working under the National Service scheme should be called a voluntary civilian worker. I think there should be some such distinction. My hon. and gallant Friend, in his attack upon the volunteers, must have forgotten that the Act was only passed at the end of December. It was the first Bill that I personality introduced in this House. We have now the aid of His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught and Field-Marshal Lord French in looking after the interests of volunteers, and I can assure the House that the extraordinary progress that has been made in the Volunteer movement since the beginning of this year has been a very striking fact in military history and a great tribute to the volunteers. My hon. and gallant Friend said there were no rifles. The hon. Member for Market Harborough answered that point. Within the next six weeks practically every volunteer in Section A in this country will have his rifle. I made a promise that the adjutants should, if possible, not be volunteers but, if we could acquire them, men from the Regular Army invalided home. I am glad to say that the Secretary of State for War has arranged with the Military Secretary that we are to get as paid adjutants, with the rank of captain, young Regular officers used to the New Army, and officers of the Territorial Force who have had experience at the front, to act as county adjutants, group adjutants, and battalion adjutants. These men will be paid, and I trust will have the rank of captain, and the emoluments and full pay of that rank. That does not show that we have been negligent. We are gradually accumulating names, and I am very hopeful that within the next month all the battalions which have the minimum number will have an adjutant. I think that is a satisfactory state of things. The hon. and gallant Member said we have no organisation for resisting invasion Upon what ground did he say that?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The hon. and gallant Member must remember that I said that the force by Statute had only been in existence six or eight weeks. The hon. Member for Market Harborough knows that since the inception of this force hundreds of thousands of men have got a fair working knowledge of military tactics, and could very actively resist any landing on these coasts. We are getting battalions, groups, and counties, and I think the last figures we have show that we have in the various sections at least 106,000 men. We are now equipping these men with overcoats, and we are going to pay their fares to musketry practice and training. We are also giving them ammunition free, both for the amount of necessary practice and for additional practice on their own behalf. I think the Volunteer force is no longer "a sham, a snare, and a delusion," and I am certain that the hon. and gallant Member will be the first to recognise that in this short time they have made wonderful progress. The hon. and gallant Member for Dorset (Captain F. Guest)—whom I am sure hon. Members are glad to see here again from the theatre of war—made a special point in connection with the man-power of the country, and that was the need for employing in every possible way native labour. I am glad to assure the House that we are doing that. Hon. Members will realise that it is an extremely difficult and delicate subject. All sorts of international questions were involved— questions which concerned the Foreign Office, which concern our social life at home and also the life of the Colonies from which these men come. All these questions, I am glad to say, have been carefully investigated, and I am now in a position to say that we are using a great many battalions of native labour from all parts of our Empire. It will be at least a satisfaction to the House to know that the native troops we have now in France are being very carefully looked after. We have now looking after these troops Colonel Pritchard, an officer who is a native of South Africa, and who has got an assurance from the War Office that whatever comforts or necessaries these troops require in France will be at once allowed to him by the War Office. The latest information I have got is, that 2237 these troops are being looked carefully and as tenderly as gallant soldiers who are fighting, and gallant Member for Faversham (Major Wheler) raised several points. I covered one of his points so far as the Territorial R.A.M.C. men are concerned. I have no doubt this will be included in the Terms of Reference to which I referred at the beginning of my speech. I was glad to hear what he said about the question of waste. The question of waste is in the Department of my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary of the War Office. Nothing has been more wonderful than the way in which we have buckled to—hon. Members, like the hon. and gallant Member for Faversham, have done good work—to make the best use of the by-products which were such a source of annoyance and waste alt over the country.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Is the hon. Member in a position to give the figure of the savings in the different commands in Great Britain and Ireland?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am afraid I cannot. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary tells me that it is impossible to do that, but I have no doubt that if the hon. Member puts down a question the necessary statistics will be produced at some future date.