HC Deb 05 March 1917 vol 91 cc65-81

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 5,000,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1918."


I desire to made a few suggestions to the Government with regard to the withdrawal of such a large number of men from agriculture. In doing so I would not for one moment suggest that the representatives of the War Office here have not treated us with the most admirable courtesy and given us as much information as they can. So far as my information goes, the War Office have withdrawn so many men from agriculture that it is bound to result in a very serious diminution in the food production of this country. I observe that the Government; have established Directors-General of various Departments. There is a Director-General of National Service and a Director-General of Food Production. All these Directors-General, all their staffs, and all their officials will not produce anything like so much food as would he produced by the 10,000 men whom the War Office have recently called up from agriculture. I want to impress upon the Government and the War Office the fact that orators and officials will not produce a single grain of wheat or a single pint of milk. You must have the labour.


And the seasons.


Of course, the seasons vary. Whatever the season may be, it cannot produce crops without labour. The Secretary of State for War, in another place a few days ago, said that there were at the present moment 300,000 men of military age employed on or about the farms, and that they were only taking some 30,000, or that the tribunals had allowed them these 30,000 men.


They have only taken 9,500.


In fact, the tribunals have allowed them 60,000. The instructions to the tribunals were that the need for men in the Army was paramount to every other consideration, and that there was nothing to stand between the Army and the men who were fit for general service. If you went before a tribunal, and I had that experience myself, you found that there were no questions asked asked but "Is this man fit for general service in the Army?" If that were so, the farmer or other employer would have very great difficulty indeed in retaining him. We saw in the newspapers the other day the statement that there was a strike of farmers against food production. Nothing could be further from the case. If food production is stopped, it is due entirely to the War Office withdrawing labour. The farmer wants to produce food. He has never had such good prices, and therefore, on the whole, he is induced to produce as much as possible.

I have here three cases which appeared in the "Times" newspaper on 27th February. The first is a farm of 216 acres, 30 acres arable, 75 cows, 14 horses, 75 ewes, 2 store pigs, 7 miles from a station. The farmer had a son, who was rejected. He has now been re-examined and accepted. The farmer had three men, and if this young fellow is taken, as I understand he is to be, the farmer will be left with himself, who has a broken arm, and a daughter aged seventeen. The thing has only to be mentioned here to be riddled. You have taken away his men? What can he do? I will take the next case. A widow over seventy-two years of age farms 72 acres, 27 cows, 3 horses, 16 sheep. One man has been with her for seven years, and he does everything. This man has been taken. The military claimed him and offered a substitute, who turns out to be an artist and journalist. Here is another case: A widower, well over sixty, with chronic asthma and unable to fodder cattle, owns and farms 80 acres. He has one son, who does all the work, and no other labour. The military claimed him and refused a substitute. It is no use talking of a strike of farmers. The War Office is entirely responsible. It is the uncertainty that is killing agricultural enterprise. No man can attempt to cultivate his land if he does not know what labour he is going to have. It has been taken away on every hand, and it is taken away very suddenly.

I will give my own case. I had to appeal before a local tribunal for a ploughman. The local tribunal granted me exemption. Immediately the military representative said, "I shall appeal." He took me to the county town—Exeter —and I again got my man off simply and solely as a ploughman. That is all his work. Now I am between heaven and earth as to whether I am to have a substitute, and what sort of substitute. This man is working a pair of horses worth anything from £150 to £200. Can you expect me to accept a substitute who does not know anything about horses? We will do our best to cultivate the land, and we will plough an increased acreage, but if you do not let us have competent men it is quite impossible that any farmer would entrust valuable horses to them. If you bring in a pair of horses and they are too hot and drink a lot of cold water, the result will be colic and all sorts of epidemics. You will not trust a valuable pair of horses to an inexperienced man. Lord Derby says, "We are picking out some ploughmen to send back to the farmers. We are endeavouring to find out cowmen and horsemen," and the only character they could give him would be that they had said they were ploughmen before they joined the Colours. Two thousand four hundred of these men, according to Lord Derby, have been sent to the fanners, but I understand that they are always to be ready to return to their units, if necessity arises, at twenty-four hours' notice. What is the good of a substitute like that? The men who deal with these things at the War Office cannot understand agriculture. I do not want to criticise, except when I see crass stupidity such as this. We are told also that we are to have agricultural companies of 15,000 men. You cannot farm land with companies of men. The farmer will have to learn the new drill book—"Form fours! Plough!" or something like that. The thing is absurd. Then I do not understand War Office arithmetic in these matters. Lord Derby told us that he had only taken 180,000 men from agriculture. But we were told last year by the then Under-Secretary for Agriculture: Gravely depleted before the War, agriculture employed under 1,000,000 men. including the farmer?. From 250.000 to 300.000 have gone. How can the Department reconcile these figures?


A great many are in other employment. They were offered higher wages by your Government.


If they are in munition works they cannot be available for producing food. I am on the question of food.

The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)

You are blaming the War Office.


I am inclined to think if these figures were examined it would be found that few of these men have gone into munition works. The great bulk of them were taken into the Army. At any rate, the real point is that the food production of the country is being greatly decreased, and it was said last year by my hon. Friend (Mr. Acland):— Making every allowance, the danger point of gravely decreased production is already readied. Here is Lord Selborne, in the House of Lords, of whom the hon. Member (Sir G. Younger) ought to take some notice I believe he is one of his leaders:— Agriculture has given more than its full share to the Army, and unless the tribunals are extremely careful, the food production of the country will be seriously impaired. Lord Selborne says agriculture has given more than its full share to the Army—not to munition works.


So have lots of other people.

4.0 P.M.


I am pointing out that if you take these men away you will not have food. You have the result at the present moment. The representative of the Food Control Department said a few minutes ago in answer to a question that there will not be any potatoes in the country in two months' time. If we go on as we are, there will not be any milk in the country. There are other articles of food far more important than potatoes which will be difficult to get, certainly at anything like ordinary prices. I can well understand that Lord Derby has been a very persuasive politician, but I do not fancy that he understands much about agriculture. I remember very well that during the South African War, when he was Financial Secretary to the War Office, he had a tremendous bout with a certain gentleman named Mr. Julius Weil over the supply of cold storage for the Army. Mr. Julius Weil retired from the fray a multi-millionaire. A very sensible suggestion was made in the House of Lords by my late leader on this bench, Lord Chaplin. He suggested that the House of Lords should pass a Resolution that in the case of men being called up by the War Office it should be within the power of the Board of Agriculture to say whether or not he is indispensable. I think that is an admirable suggestion. Let the Board of Agriculture have the power to badge a man. But Lord Derby said, "I cannot possibly accept that." Of course not. The one man in the Government who understands the business is the President of the Board of Agriculture, but he is not to be allowed to badge a man as to whether he is necessary for agriculture or not. I think the War Office treat the Board of Agriculture almost with contumely and contempt. Lord Derby made this remark in the House of Lords: I am now arranging with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture, that, before the issue of any of our Orders which are likely in any way to inconvenience him, he shall see them. What an extraordinary act of condescension to say that the head of the Board of Agriculture shall see any Regulations which may inconvenience him before they are issued. Lord Derby appeared almost as if he were talking to his bailiff and saying that he would talk over matters with him before any order was issued. I am not here for one instant to haggle about prices. I am only interested in production. When men are doing their duty, as they are doing it amid such risks and amid such discomfort over in France; and when we read of ships being topedoed in the night, and woman and children having to take to boats, I am not here to haggle with the Government over one shilling or two shillings per quarter on wheat, or £1 or £2 per ton on potatoes. It is a matter of production. Unless you have production—and the War Office is gravely imperilling production—you cannot have the food for the people of this country to eat. I would like to make a suggestion to the War Office with regard to their dealings with tribunals. You cannot do it from London.


We do not issue instructions to the tribunals.


At any rate your military representatives dominate the tribunals. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!": You may tell me what you like, but I say that the military representative dominates the tribunals. More than that, if he is defeated at the local tribunal, he threatens to appeal to the Central Tribunal.


He has instructions to do that.


Of course he has instructions. I was going to make a suggestion, but probably it is a little out of order. Therefore, I will not pursue it. There are, however, one or two other questions I want to ask in relation to the Army. We were told, I think on Thursday last, in the very charming speech made by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary (Mr. Forster), that the medical arrangements of the Army were admirable, and certainly the figures he gave about enteric fever were wonderful. The Medical Department deserve every credit for that. The hon. Gentleman did not tell us about the health of the troops in Salonika and in Mesopotamia. Is there any undue amount of disease in Salonika and Mesopotamia?


I gave the figures.


But I understood they were only for enteric. I understood that there is a great deal of dysentery in those two countries. I shall be very glad if I am mistaken. It does seem to me that the War Office might give us a little more information as to what is going on in Salonika. We rejoiced to hear of the victory of General Maude at Kut. What is going on at Salonika to-day? I was talking just now about the War Office withdrawing ten thousand men from agriculture. Why not withdraw ten thousand men from Salonika? There you have men fully trained. One thing which really does alarm me is the Resolution which has been read from the Chair that the War Office is to have control of five million men. Do they use them to the best advantage? Are they using them to the best advantage to-day? We heard from the hon. Member for the Ealing Division (Mr. Nield) a most interesting speech the other day, which showed how the War Office or the medical boards pass everybody into the Army, and when they have got them there, they will not let them away again. It would appear that the most valuable soldier is a man with half a lung and seven children, for they stick to him like leeches. I suggest that all these men should be released They are of no use to the Army. The Under-Secretary (Mr. Macpherson) when replying, like a canny Scot, took refuge in the dug-out of averages. We want the War Office to realise that it is their duty to make the very best advantage of the material at their disposal. John Bull's pocket is a very long one, but six millions a day will reach its bottom some time. I suggest that in these matters the War Office must consider shipping. Shipping is almost as important, if not as important, as agriculture. I read on Saturday, I think, that the Controller of Shipping complained very much that the War Office would not return men to the shipbuilding yards in order to build the ships that are urgently required for bringing food and produce to this country. You must remember that every soldier who is enlisted in this country if he is sent out of the country must have a bit of a ship. He must be taken abroad on a ship, and he must be fed by means of ships. Therefore, I ask the War Office not to be so lavish in their expeditions which involve such an enormous amount of shipping. This is a very important matter. I do not want to labour it because it is a question of high strategy; but I am certain that it is one of the most important questions that can be brought before Parliament. I have emphasised these two points—shipping and the production of food. I do it with a real sense of responsibility, for I am perfectly certain that if things go on as they are now, if labour is withdrawn from agriculture and food production, if ships are used for these distinct expeditions,: you will find that in this country famine will stalk through the land during the course of a few months.

Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT

I have listened with very great interest to the speech of my right hon. Friend, than whom I think nobody is better qualified to speak on the question of agriculture and the production of food. I have a great interest in the production of food. I am a farmer myself, and at the present time I am satisfied that if my ploughshares are ploughing up my park with the object of increasing the production of cereals, I can think of more important things. What is much more important than ploughshares is the question of bayonets. Bayonets demand men. The question of the moment to my mind is the supply of man-power to keep the Army going if we are to carry this War through to the victory we all desire. I think every hon. Member who has done me the honour of listening to me will agree that I have never approached this question of man-power simply from the point of view of military requirements alone. What I have always maintained from the day the War began—and it is as true to-day as then, and even more patent —that the whole man-power of the country has got to be directed to the carrying through of this War in some way or other. That is to say that the man-power of the country must be scientifically applied for that purpose, some being allotted to the Army, others to the production of food, and others for the subsidiary services which are necessary in order that the Army may live and be able to defeat the enemy. Have we now, after nearly three years of war, really realised such an ideal as the scientific application of the man-power of the country. I fear we have not. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary in his very interesting speech on Thursday said that the German effort can only be met by a corresponding determination on the part of the British Empire and its Allies. That determination exists, there is no doubt whatever about that; but is it being utilised to the full? Is it being applied in a practical and scientific manner? Those are questions to which I should like to have an answer, and upon which I hope to hear something satisfactory. The hon. Gentleman further went on to say that under the Military Service Acts 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March. 1917. col. 2181, Vol. XC] I would like to know, and I hope it may be possible for one of the hon. Gentlemen to enlighten me, what are the causes of that decline and what are the measures that are being taken to remedy it; I fully realise that there are questions with which we have to deal, such as the numbers of men coming into the Army who do not become effective, which cannot be discussed in public, but an excellent precedent has been set by which the highest authorities of the War Office and of the Admiralty have on different occasions met a Committee of this House and discussed questions of this kind confidentially with them. Why should there not be a further development of that precedent? If these matters cannot be fully discussed on the floor of this House why should not my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War meet certain Committees of this House upstairs and explain to us exactly what is being done and get, that which he would certainly have in the fullest way, the most complete co-operation which he can wish for? But unless we know we can do nothing. Everybody is only anxious to help. There should at this time be an end of that unfortunate absence of confidence which was so prominent in the activities of the late Government.

All of us can form opinions of our own as to the causes why the Military Service Acts have not produced that even flow of recruits for the Army which was expected. Anyone who has thought on the subject who knows anything about it and keeps his ears and eyes open can form a very fair opinion. We have not, of course, got the full knowledge which is possessed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on these benches. One of the great difficulties which prevent the smooth operation of these Acts, and prevent the full benefit being derived from them, is an inherent fault in the Acts themselves. The Acts do not apply to the whole population of this country, but only to a section of it. They only recognise a duty devolving upon a very small percentage of the male population, that is to say those of a certain age, and those of that age who are physically fit. But they ignore the fact that the whole of the rest of the male population of this country is quite as capable of doing something to carry on the general work of the nation, and of the War, and there is no obligation imposed upon them to do it. Therefore, competition arises for the best material out of the general male population of the country. We are all competing for the men who are most capable, most physically fit, and of the best age, and we ignore the residuum. I have said, in this House, I think, and certainly many times outside, that the only logical basis on which compulsion can be allowed at all, is that it should be applied equally, and based upon the identical principle which requires a duty from every citizen to be performed towards the State, and gives to the State the right of requiring that that duty shall be performed. Our Military Service Acts never recogised that. The late Government allowed itself to be ter- rorised by a minority who held up the bogey of what they called industrial conscription, or some phrase of that kind. I am not—


I am afraid that my hon. and gallant Friend is trenching on the ground of legislation.


I was merely arguing this point of the inherent weakness of the Military Service Acts. If I allowed myself to be carried a little beyond the four corners of those Acts, I will not pursue that subject any further. I think that I am within your ruling in asserting the principle upon which I have always urged that the Army should be recruited, that is, on the principle of demanding from every man in this country a certain duty, and requiring those who are fit for military duty to be taken for that duty while the others are relegated to civil and other work. I do not wish to skate upon thin ice. I wish to keep entirely within your ruling. It is obvious that, say, the youth of nineteen, and the strong and capable and skilled workman of thirty-five, assuming that they are the men of the best physical capacity, are those who are the most suited, and for whom, therefore, competition is set up. The only way of ensuring the regular supply that is indispensable for an army in the field, and whose necessity increases in proportion to the vast increase in the numbers of the Army, is by doing away with that competition for the most fit, as it at present exists. There can be no doubt that the demands during the last year have exceeded the estimate of the War Office, made, shall I say, three years ago. The circumstances of war vary, and cannot always be justly estimated, but I should like to remind hon. Members that some nine months ago I spoke of the necessity for estimating the supply of men required for 1917–18. When I uttered those words there were in some quarters of the House what are, I believe, described as derisive cheers. I do not think that derisive cheers will be heard now. We are in 1917. We are within reasonable distance of the requirements of 1918. I do not think that any hon. Member will say now that we have not got to consider what will be our requirments for 1918, and possibly for a considerable time after that.

I would earnestly press upon my hon. Friend that he should, in the course of this Debate, give some more information than we have had on the question of recruiting, and the measures the Govern- ment is considering, or is prepared to take, in order to prevent the possibility of those fluctuations which the non. Gentleman has informed us do exist, and which are a source of serious danger to the Army. I do not wish to deal with any other subject, but the paramount question of provision of men for the Army. There is another point connected with this question. It is a delicate point, but I shall endeavour to deal with it in a manner which I hope will not give any offence. I am glad to see opposite to me my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), because it is the question of the supply of recruits from Ireland. I wish to approach that question in a manner entirely detached from any other question connected with that country. For that reason I think it very much better that it should be spoken of to-day than at another time, when possibly the question of that country will be before the House. I should have rejoiced if hon. Members from Ireland had been able to see their way to join in the legislation which was carried out last year, which took the form of the Military Service Acts, and that Irishmen should be at the present time under the same conditions as Englishmen with regard to the national duty that they owe to their Sovereign in regard to the War. I believe, and I hope that many others will agree with me, that the very fact of the two countries having been dealt with in the same way, and all men having been brought together under the same conditions, would have aided materially in settling those other large differences of which I do not feel myself competent, even if I was in order, to speak. But that, unfortunately, is not the case. Therefore I should like to consider, and to learn from my hon. Friend what is being done in order to utilise that great reservoir of the finest fighting material in the British Empire, because there is a great reservoir of fine fighting material in Ireland. Has anything been done in order to utilise it?

In a speech which was made by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford in the beginning of October last year, he went in some detail into the grievances, I think, probable legitimate grievances, of Ireland, in regard to recruiting for the Army. I will not touch upon them. They are a record of petty annoyances. I can well believe that they produced a very bad effect in that country. I can only say that I have had experience of the same sort myself in regard to Wales. When we attempted to raise an Army Corps on a national basis in Wales, we were met with every kind of petty opposition by the authorities of the War Office. Instead of giving way to it, we fought it, we beat it, and the end of it was that the Service recruiters had to come to us on their knees to ask to have a few of the men that we were getting by thousands. I would like to see something of the same sort occur in Ireland. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when he was at the War Office, sent an Irish officer—-who is well known and who has done a great deal of work, especially in recruiting, over to Ireland—to inquire and report upon the subject. He travelled all over the country, and he made a very elaborate report, which was supported by Sir John Maxwell, by the present Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, and, I believe, it had also the approval of the present Secretary for Ireland.


We never had the report.


I am informed that the report was made, though I am not surprised that my hon. Friend has not heard of it, for one ought never to be surprised at anything which concerns Ireland. I am informed that the report was made, that it is in existence, and that it has the support of all those authorities whom I have named. Why is nothing done? If there are practical suggestions contained in the report, made by an Irish officer who knows the country, and who has been backed up by those who ought to know something of the country, why is it that the authorities in the War Office are so hide-bound that they cannot break away from their antiquated methods in order to try something new? That is a question I should like to have answered. In Ireland we have close at our own doors as fine a recruiting ground as can be imagined, and a race who have certainly made the most brilliant of recruits during the present War —men who, whatever their divergencies of opinion politically when they are at home, throw them aside and combine in face of the enemy, thus showing the possibility of bringing them together for a national purpose in a great emergency. I would urge my hon. Friend to take this question seriously into consideration, and I hope that before this Debate is over I shall hear something which will be satisfactory not only to me, not only as one who is interested in the Army, but also to my hon. Friend opposite, who, I should have thought, would be consulted in the matter.

Brigadier-General CROFT

I do not propose to move the reduction of the Vote standing on the Paper in my name, owing to the more or less satisfactory reply last week of the Under-Secretary of State in regard to the matter of man-power. But there are just two points I desire to emphasise in dealing with this question. I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down that we cannot too often think of this whole big question of man-power as it affects the House. I also agree with him that we have to get rid of the habit of considering only to-day, and not looking ahead, and it is for that reason I hope that the hon. Gentleman representing the War Office, reversing the old order of things, will really map and plan out the question of getting manpower over the next few months, and, if necessary, the next few years. The Debate has shown very conclusively that the actual calling up of men of military age is not so much a hardship to industry; it is the way in which they have been called up. Above all, it seems to me that the War Office should give warning and notice to the industries of this country as to when, and in what numbers, they are likely to require men in the near future. That is why I urge this evening that we should decide now what number of men we require, not only to-day but three months hence, nine months hence, and a year hence. If the Under-Secretary could give, in the near future, if not to-day, more definite notice to the manufacturers and agriculturists of this country of what men they would lose, and when they would lose them, I believe, despite what they have got to face already, that they would make preparations to meet those requirements and find substitutes.

Since the previous Debate, it has been announced, I think, that all exemptions—so far as I understand—other than those engaged in certified industries, will be reviewed. That seems to me good, but there, again, it seems to lack precision, and I think it most important that, even in this case, as far as possible, industries should know exactly where they are and exactly what they have got to arrange for. The House of Commons has got to face this question, if not to-day, in the very near future. The whole of this most important subject is going to come up again and again, and if we only can get a definite plan we shall know where we are. I read in the nespapers, a day or two ago, a telegram from Italy estimating that the enemy has no less than 166 Divisions on the way. That may be accurate, or it may be not, but at any rate it is possible, and the question I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman to consider first is, whether he can be quite sure that we have sufficient superiority of divisions to make our offensive decisive; secondly, that we have recruits in view for the next year at least, in order to provide reinforcements? I can conceive of nothing, and I think the House can conceive of nothing which would be more tragic than the fact—when we see all these great efforts that are being made, when we see all the ability of our generals and the valour of our troops, when we have the great hope that our offensive is going to be decisive—that we had not organised in time the reinforcements necessary to take their place.

The hon. Gentleman last week gave the House some figures which interested the House very much with regard to developing military education, if I may so put it, whether in connection with the New Armies or the Territorial Forces. He told us, and this is interesting, that of those who are at present at the Staff, the Regular officers number 31 per cent., and those of the New Armies and Territorial Forces 33 per cent., so that the latter forces actually have 2 per cent. more officers on the Staff than the Regulars. I welcome the new step which is being taken, but I would point out that, as a matter of fact, the Regular Army, compared with the New Armies and the Territorial Forces, is, of course, very small. I do not know the exact figures, but I believe there is as great a difference as between 300,000 and 3,000,000, and the consequence is that this measure has not been very general, especially when it is recognised that almost every Staff appointment at the present moment is from amongst the Regular officers, and there are unhappily very few now who are not so engaged. A fact that the whole House will be ready to admit is this, that nearly all these Staff appointments for a very long time have been filled by Regular professional officers. That, I think, will be admitted; but now that the original supply of these who are specially fitted for the Regular Army can no longer in fact be obtained, or, at any rate, does not exist, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take further steps to give opportunities for men of military genius among the officers in the New Armies and the Territorial Forces at the present time.

I want to say one word with regard to the question of volunteers, debated last week. On that occasion I said that in my opinion the volunteers at the present moment, as an organisation to defend our shores against raids, were a sham, a delusion, and a snare. The Under-Secretary of State for War, in a sense, rebuked me for that statement, and pointed out that my argument was hardly fair, that after all he had only been a very short time in his present office, and that the Bill was only introduced last September. Although the hon. Gentleman has been appointed to a higher position, the War Office has not changed; in fact, that Department is only now beginning to move in regard to the volunteers, and I congratulate the hon. Gentleman that he is the man of push and go who has done it. There are two questions which I want to address to the Under-Secretary of State, if he can give an answer. I do not think there will be any difficulty, but if he cannot, I shall quite understand it. First of all, are the volunteers organised as Reserve complete formations, or are they battalions, which are automatically to come under the command of various Home defence formations, in the event of liveliness in the North Sea? Secondly, are the county commandants to command formations in the field—I mean whether they are called county commandants or county colonels, are they to command in the field, and, if so, will they be selected from men of military experience to take the command, for that would be rather important? The next point I want to deal with is whether the name "Volunteer" can be got rid of. There is reason for getting the name changed because the confusion which is arising is very great owing to the big National Service movement, in regard to which those who seek to be included in that service are also called "volunteers." In reference to the Volunteer Force, I think the name is not really a good one, and I believe the volunteers would be very glad to get rid of that name, because they feel it is one that might give rise to the false impression that they would only go up on parade when they wanted to do so. That idea did get abroad, and I therefore submit that it would be well if the name were changed. I trust the Under-Secretary of State will consider that point.

I would submit, though it is not my own idea but that of an hon. Gentleman who has taken a great and splendid part in the Volunteer movement—and it is a view largely held by those interested in the movement—that the name should be the Reserve Army of this country. I convey that idea to the hon. Gentleman. I believe it is a description which the volunteers would prefer. It has been stated that I urged that this half-time force should not be converted into a full-time force. I entirely agree; but I never suggested that the volunteers should be turned into a full-time force. What I hope the hon. Gentleman will consider is the possibility of taking compulsory powers in respect of the whole community for a limited number of drills, which are necessary for the Volunteer Force. Obviously they would only be engaged if necessary, but it seems to me that it would not be a very great strain upon the people of this country if every man was liable when so-required by the War Office to do ten drills a month or whatever it may be. So long as we have volunteers we must have in the different battalions men who have received that training which is so desirable. I can only say I rejoice to hear that the War Office is determined to make the Volunteer Force a real thing. When we were told as we have been, that within a month the War Office hopes to have professional adjutants and to hand out rifles to the whole Volunteer Force—


To Section A.

Brigadier-General CROFT

To Section A of the Volunteer Force, I think it will be admitted I was not far wrong when I said that at the moment it could not be claimed that the Volunteers were an organised part of the defence of the country. It seems to me essential that the Volunteers should be made into a real reserve army of defence and that every encouragement should be given them from that moment forward. If we adopt that policy, there is no reason why we should not have a very considerable Army of Home Defence Volunteers, which would make our position more secure than it has been in the past, and at the same time give us the power of forming a new defensive body to take over parts of the line in France and so free more offensive divisions. If these courses are taken, I believe we shall be on the high road to meet the dangers which I foresee. But unless the War Office takes the country into its confidence now and says precisely how many men it wants and when it will want them, it will be making its own task very much more difficult and at the same time giving industry no chance of making preparations to meet its demands.