§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
In the opinion of the Government this Bill is an absolute necessity in view of the present military situation. As the House well knows, one of the greatest difficulties with which each Government has had to cope ever since the outbreak of the War has been the proper apportionment of our man-power between the fighting forces in the field and the essential needs at home. We have had many Debates on this subject. It has always happened that one set of people thought only of the Army, and the other thought of the needs at home. The need, however, of combining the two has always been kept in view by the responsible Government of the day, whatever it was. That difficulty has never been greater than it is at the present moment. The House knows that it is impossible for our military authorities to make the best use of the material placed at their disposal unless they can know in advance, not only the number of men who will be obtained, but the rate at which they will be obtained, so that they can make their arrangements on that basis. Arrangements were definitely made last August which, it was hoped, would give the military authorities all the men necessary for this campaign on the scale on which it had been arranged. That antici- 637 pation has not been fulfilled. It has not been fulfilled for the simple reason that as the War proceeded the Cabinet found that the needs at home were for the moment so pressing that those of the Army in the field had for the moment to give way.
The main ground for this change is well known to the House. It is due to the increasing severity of the submarine menace. In consequence of that the Army has not got the men which it expected to get from agriculture, and the Government, and I think everyone in the House and in the country, recognises that food production has, for the moment, become one of our most pressing needs. In the same way the men who were expected to be obtained front various works and shipyards have not been forthcoming, because, for the same reason, we had come to the conclusion that it was absolutely necessary that every ship which could be put into the water should be launched, and that no man could be spared for that purpose. As a result of what has happened in that case, I think it is right to tell the House, so that it may understand the exact position, that the recruits obtained since the beginning of this year have fallen short of the number estimated by no less a figure than 100,000 men. Everyone will realise, in view of the definite arrangements made not only by our own Commander-in-Chief, but in conjunction with our Allies in France, that such a falling off must be serious, and might easily be more than serious. I am glad to say, however, that in some considerable degree that shortage has been made good in the method which has often been urged in this House, and of which everyone will approve—that is to say, there has been a change in the men employed in the Army itself.
Those fit for service have been sent to the front, and the work behind the lines is being done to a much greater extent than ever before by men not fit to go into the fighting line. It may be said that that ought to have been done long ago. Perhaps, like many other things, it could have been done sooner; but we have always kept in view the pressure which from the beginning has rested on the War Office in all arrangements of this kind. I myself know, that my attention was called two years ago to the number of clerks of military capacity who were doing clerical work. A most serious effort has been made by the military authorities to remedy that defect to whatever extent it can be 638 remedied. General Lawson has been appointed by Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig for the express purpose of getting to the front all the men we can raise, and, in addition to the relief which has come from men, as the House knows, the services of women are also being utilised there, too. They will be able to assist our Army not only in such work as cooking, but in clerical work. From these sources considerable relief has been obtained for the shortage of which I have spoken. In spite of this, however, shortage exists. The Army authorities feel that unless in some way the shortage can be made good our prospects in the coming campaign will be seriously jeopardised. I do not pretend that the Bill I am introducing to-day will meet all the needs of the situation. The Government still believe that it is possible to obtain for the front the men who are required to carry out the fighting on a scale which was anticipated, and that it is a question of organisation at home. We cannot make definite plans until we know to what extent the voluntary National Service scheme will enable more men to be obtained for the Army, but in the meantime this step is absolutely necessary. The Bill which I am now introducing will enable the military authorities to deal with 1,000,000 men, and their estimate is that at least 100,000 recruits will be forthcoming from this class within the next three months. I need not say to the House that the Government would not willingly bring forward a Bill of this kind. We thoroughly recognise the hardship which is involved, but, though there is hardship, I do not believe it is unfair, and we must recognise that the stage which the War has now reached, when every one of the belligerents-is putting forth greater efforts than have ever been put forth before, when the result of the War may depend on the extent of the efforts made at this time, under those circumstances it must be felt it is not unfair to make this demand. After all, it comes to this: It is a principle which, I am sure, would be adopted by everyone in this House—at least, everyone who thinks we are engaged in a just War, and is determined to see it brought to a successful conclusion—that every man who is fit to go into the fighting line should be there unless his services are required for national needs of equal importance at home. That must be the principle. It is, as I have said, very hard in many 639 cases. No one would not try to avoid it if he could. It is very hard that in many cases the call should be made on these men, but in a long War like this standards have changed, and must continually change. Men who in the earlier stages of the War were rejected would now be taken, and there are many other reasons which show that there is a very considerable number of men who can be made available without unfairness.
The House knows that, in addition to the varying standards of which I have spoken there were special reasons in this country which made a considerable number of men escape, or not come under the Military Service Acts, who ought to have come under them. For one thing, during part of the recruiting campaign, under the name of the Lord Derby Scheme, an immense number of men came forward at one time. There were, I believe, on one day as many as 300,000. In these circumstances medical examination was not as thorough as it ought to have been if there had been more time. That is shown on the other side of the picture, when many men were taken where it was a distinct disadvantage that they should have been taken. They were taken on account of being passed improperly by medical boards. There is a large number of men of this class, and it is not unfair that they should be subjected again to examination. In addition to that, there is a considerable number of men, I am sorry to say, who have succeeded in evading service by something like fraud. Well, in their case there will be no special sympathy on the part of anyone in this House. But the real justification for this measure, in the opinion of the Government, is that we must judge of a man's fitness now and not by any condition in which he was six months or a year ago. If his conditions have changed, if his state of health has changed, and made it right and possible that he could fitly serve the country in the field, his services should be made available for that purpose. I have said there is great hardship in this. I can imagine no case much harder than that of a man, for instance, who had served his country, had been wounded, had gone back to work, and was under the impression that he had done his share and would not be called upon again. That is true, but you have to consider, not only the needs, but the question of fairness to our troops who are fighting, and while there is that hard- 640 ship, it is only right to say that in this Bill the Government have done everything they can, subject to the needs of the nation, to make it as light as possible. In such a case as I have mentioned no man will be called up in less than a year from the time when he was discharged with wounds.
Of course, the real hardship is the absence of finality. A man who is medically rejected cannot feel that he can set himself to work at home with any certainty. It is impossible to give finality. No one can tell what the necessities of this War may be, but the Government have done what they could. Anyone rejected will not be called up again for six months, and I think I may add this, that the Army Council have had their lesson with regard to medical examination. It is not in their interests either to take men who are not fit for service, or to employ our very limited medical staff in constantly examining men who will never be fit for service. This will be taken into account, and the House may be assured that, so far as it is possible, no unnecessary inconvenience will be imposed on the men liable under this Bill.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
As I say, when they are called up they will not be called up again for six months. "They will not be called up again if rejected within the last few weeks, unless there is some ground to suppose there was some mistake in the medical rejection.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am just going to deal with that case. Among the hardships, it seems to me that a very great one is that of an officer or a non-commissioned officer who has been discharged from the Army, and becomes liable again to be called back to the Service, except in the rank which he left. In the Bill it is stated that it is the intention to restore them to those ranks, but it has been found necessary to give a dispensing power to the Army Council. I dare say the House will think that does not give a man protection, but they have got to consider the other side of the question. It may be that there were men who, perhaps by accident, or by want of proper forethought, obtained commissions. Now, to give a commission to a man who is not fit for it not only 641 endangers the whole strength of the Army, but really risks the lives of the men placed under them. It is, therefore, necessary to make these restrictions. But when I read the Bill I spoke to the Army authorities specially on this point, and I can say it is their intention to exercise this dispensing power with the utmost care, and with the distinct purpose of restoring every man where they possibly can to the rank previously occupied. Another class who are affected by this Bill, and who are not. specially under medical test, are those who have been rejected on other grounds. In this case I do not think there is special hardship. What is meant here is to have power to deal with men, for instance, who made application to a particular corps—that is to say, a corps like the Artists—early in the War, and were not accepted for that corps, and they have been treated as if they had been rejected. It is an open question whether that is a legal rejection, but, in any case, to try to carry it out would be difficult if the point were raised, and it is put in this Bill clearly that all such cases are to be subject now to military service.
I would like to call the attention of the House to this fact: A Bill on precisely the same lines was carried by the French Government last week. It would not be right for me to go into the numbers of the male population of France who have been called to the Colours, but the House knows that it is a much larger proportion than is the case in this country, and the fact that the French have found it necessary to adopt this same measure is an indication of what I have already said, that everyone of the belligerents is putting forth his full fighting force to-day, and that it is necessary for us to do the same. I have spoken of the hardships to individuals, but we have got to consider the other side of the question. We have got to consider, not only the needs of the nation in this hour, but the question of fairness to our troops who are fighting at the front now. If you look at it from the point of view of our necessities, the position is clear to everyone. I am thankful to say that one reason this falling off in recruits has not had the disastrous results it might have had hitherto is that the casualties so far this year have been less than were anticipated; but we all know—there is hardly a Member in this House who does not know it with apprehension—that the time of great fighting, 642 with terrible casualties, is in front of us. It may well happen that the whole value of this year's campaign may depend on our being able to drive home any success which we may be fortunate enough to achieve, and it might well be that the falling off of the anticipated recruits for the Army might have the difference between really almost decisive results and a victory which would have nothing like the same effect. But, in addition to this, we have, as I say, to consider the men who are fighting in France. If it is a question of hardship, they have had their share. From their point of view, every chance of shortening the War is a duty which we owe to them, and, in addition, everyone acquainted with the Army knows that the moment the numbers of battalions begin to run down, and cannot be replaced, the feeling of confidence in the whole Army, from the Commander-in-Chief to the private, is weakened. At this moment the moral of our troops in France is splendid. They have the confidence which they have had from the beginning of the War, but they have it now more than ever that they are far more than a match for the enemy. Well, it is our duty to let them see that they can count on support from home, that they are not going to be left in the lurch, that their numbers, if it can be done, are to be kept up to the full extent.
I have only dealt with general considerations in regard to this Bill, but I assure the House that, in the opinion of the Government, it is necessary to take this step. I notice that there is an Amendment down—I do not think it deals directly with this Bill—in regard to the question of pensions. I should like to say this about that: I would hardly think that it ought to affect, in any case, our decision now, but the subject has been very freely discussed in this House. Many opportunities have been given for dealing with it, and, though it is quite true that, in putting in an Amendment of that kind, anyone can count on the sympathy, and sometimes the support, not only of the House of Commons but of the country, it is only fair to say that that sympathy is not more strongly felt by the House than it is by this Government, and the Government which preceded it. So far as I am personally concerned, the first speech I made after the War broke out was to the effect that these men had the 643 first claim upon us. I have never changed that view, and since I have occupied my present position, as the House knows, measures dealing with these men, involving immense sums of money, have gone through. As Chancellor of the Exchequer I have never admitted the view— and I do not think anyone in my place would have admitted it—that it was necessary to try and cut down expenses. I have looked upon this matter in precisely the same way as I should have done if I had been a Minister in any other office. The House should consider this question as a whole, and if they do so they will come to the conclusion, I think, that not only is this country treating these men much more generously than they have ever been treated in the world before, which is not enough, but that they are treating them as generously as our duty to the country in other directions enables us to treat them. I sincerely trust the House will enable us to get this Bill, which we must have before Easter, without undue delay.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add instead thereof the words, "this House declines to proceed with the Second Reading of the Military Service (Review of Exceptions) Bill until the Government is prepared to accept full responsibility in regard to providing pensions for such men as, having been accepted for service by the Army medical authorities, are subsequently discharged from service owing to disability not caused by their own willful misconduct."
The right hon. Gentleman has made a statement which I agree is serious in its import because it means that the military situation is such that in order-to deal with the demands made apparently by the military we are to be forced to pass a Bill through this House in the hope that out of a million men who have already been rejected, most of them for medical reasons, we may get 100,000 medically unfit men for any offensive which may take place in the near future. I think the House of Commons ought to consider that statement very seriously. If it is true, as my right hon. Friend has said, that that is the situation, it seems to me that, instead of discussing facts and figures, this Government in this House ought to 644 be reviewing policy, and instead of seeking to come to this country, which has now reached the stage in which out of a million men who have been medically rejected, we expect to get 100,000 for the Army, we should consider, for example, whether we should not give up the Salonika Expedition altogether and release those men on the Western front, and thus relieve the shipping which is being absorbed there, and we should do this in order that this country may be enabled to sustain itself during the critical months of the War that are to come. I suggest that when we are parting for the Easter Recess that this Government, which after all was formed in order that things should be done speedily and vigorously, should not have come down to the House after four months and ask for this at the last moment of the Session when they must have known how their demands were increasing. I hope that before we agree to this Bill we shall consider it very carefully.
This question of the medically rejected men has a very long history. There has been a series of pledges made both by the previous and the present Administration which forms a very formidable catalogue. Pledges have been made from time to time with regard to these men. The present and the past Government kept none of those pledges. They broke them all. Every pledge that was given to every man who volunteered or was taken compulsorily into the Army has been broken by either one or the other of the Coalition Governments. The catalogue of these pledges includes many with which this House is familiar. It goes back to the famous Lord Derby's group scheme by which men were induced to join the Army, and since they accepted the pledge given by Lord Derby they have gone through considerable vicissitudes of experience until now presumably this Bill will fulfil Lord Derby's pledge by putting the attested men in the same position as the conscripts under the Military Service Acts. Lord Derby said in those early days that if a man's certificate was signed by a doctor that man would be exempt from any further medical examination. I have here in my hand a series of some twenty separate pledges that have been made to the men who have been recruited into the Army from time to time, every one of which has been broken. It may be that owing to the War we have lost all our moral sense, but some of us, at any rate, 645 would be better pleased if some attempt were made to keep the pledges which have been given to these men.
I want to say that when the Leader of the House of Commons comes down to this House and asks us to provide him with another 100,000 men out of the 1,000,000 men who have already been rejected, he ought to come with clean hands. The present Government actually has within its four corners men of military age. These men who have been in uniform since the outbreak of this War, who have been trained to drill men and discipline and lead men, they have been combed out of the Army for presumably work of greater national importance on the Treasury Bench, work which could be done by many other hon. Members of this House who are above military age, but who are not deficient in ability. Therefore the Leader of the House of Commons has no moral right to come down to this House and ask his fellow-citizens, men who have already been rejected as medically unfit, and are therefore in a worse physical category than some of the Ministers who sit in this Government, and ask them to make up the hundred thousand of which he is short. I think that ought to be said, and it applies not only to the Government, but to many of the people employed by the Government. [An Hoy. MEMBER: "And the late Government."] I think as a matter of fact, that both Governments broke every pledge they ever made on these points. While you have got efficient men of military age in many of your offices doing work which could be equally well done by women, I think these men should be given a chance to go into the Army. I have been present at some military tribunals when your military representative has told men who have not a physical leg to stand upon so far as their health is concerned, that they were doing work which any woman or girl could do. Any woman or any girl could do the work of some of these military representatives on the tribunals, who not only get promotion, but higher pay. They are men of military age with military experience behind them, and they should be doing work in the fighting line on the West or the East fronts. Therefore, I say to the Leader of the House, if he is going to ask hon. Members and the country to respond to this appeal, let him clean out his own Government first, and then let him come here and say, having done that, he is forced on account of the military situation 646 to make a further demand on the medically unfit who are left in this country. I have put down an Amendment, which reads as follows:
"That this House declines to proceed with the Second Reading of the Military Service (Review of Exceptions) Bill until the Government is prepared to accept full responsibility in regard to providing pensions for such men as, having been accepted for service by the Army medical authorities, are subsequently discharged from service owing to disability not caused by their own willful misconduct."
I am ready to admit that what the Leader of the House has said with regard to what we have done in the matter of pensions is, to a large extent, true. We have endeavoured to provide a scale of pensions which is adequate to the needs of the men who have served in the Army, but my right hon. Friend is wrong when he assumes that we have met the case of these men, because he must know perfectly well that already over 100,000 men have been discharged from the Army who were accepted by Army medical doctors as fit. That number is increasing. It is being concealed at the present moment because those men are not being discharged from the Army, but they are being discharged into Class W Reserve. Does the House of Commons realise that there are soldiers in Class W Reserve who have lost an eye or a leg in actual fighting in this War, and who have been discharged into Class W, and because they are there they have no pay, their wives and children have no separate allowances, and they are unable to draw the pension for the eye or leg so long as they are retained in Class W? Employers to whom they go to ask for work refrain from employing them because of the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act. I say that 100,000 is not a true figure, because it includes all the men in Class W Reserve. I assert that that figure is getting nearer to 250,000 than 100,000. Those men have this provision made to them now. They can only get a gratuity.
I want to put this to my right hon. Friend, because he is not without sympathy for the men who are fighting. I do not think anybody will allege against the Leader of the House that he is not prepared and ready to meet the situation. Let me put this direct question to him. He has stood at that box this afternoon and appealed to us who represent those 647 men in this House to pass an Act of Parliament that may compel them to come into the Army. The road into the Army is through the examination of an Army doctor. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that, if he gets this power from the House of Commons, if these men pass the Army doctor as a result of this Bill passing, that there will be no humbug about gratuities, and that he will see to it, as Leader of this House, that they will be made eligible for pensions? That is a fair offer to my right hon. Friend. I believe that this is a just War, and I am prepared to do anything to see it through, but I want to look in the face the men whom we ask to take up this responsibility. If we in this House are going to put this immense power into the hands of the military authorities, then do not let us give that power without knowing what we are giving. Do not let us be put off, as we were put off before, by the Minister of Pensions suggesting that these men can be disposed of. The phrase is bad enough. Think of the nation trying to dispose of the men who have been broken in the ranks of the Army ! Will my right hon. Friend get up and pledge himself and his Government that these men, if they are taken by the Army doctors as fit to fight, will be considered fit for pensions, and that he will see that they are pensioned?
It may be that those of us who are not inside the Government do not know all the facts. It may be that these men are required for very essential reasons. I do not think anybody would grudge giving what is necessary if we are assured that there is some prospect of success. But whether there is a prospect of success or not, do not let us give our own constituents away to the Army without conserving their rights. That is surely a small thing to ask. If my right hon. Friend gets his Bill, will he stand by the men for whom he is asking? I see that the late Prime Minister is also in the House. He had a great many similar questions through his fingers. He had to come to the House and ask for men. I make the same appeal to him, because, after all, he represents a very considerable body of opinion in the country and in the House, and he enjoys the respect of both. Will the leaders of opinion on the Government Bench, backed by the leaders of opinion on the Opposition Bench, play the fair game with the men that they are asking to come into the 648 Army? Will you, if the men pass the military doctor this time, as the result of this Bill, make it your purpose and your resolve and your determination to see that they are eligible for pensions and are not disposed of by any small sums in the form of gratuities? If victory is worth having, it is worth paying for. The little extra that is required is nothing to this country, but the result that may accrue is a great thing to this country. You are making an appeal to a body of men who prima facia are not physically fit, men who must go into the Army even in spite of their not being physically fit, and all this Amendment asks is that the House will see to it, if they make this bargain, that the bargain is kept with the men, that they are provided with pensions, and that this abominable system of disposing of them by a scale of gratuities which may be a great deal less than £150 is got rid of.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I desire to second the Amendment which has just been proposed by my hon. Friend for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). Candidly, I must confess that I have not been greatly impressed either by the reasons or by the promises which have come from the Front Bench to-day. We have had the same arguments and the same promises on every occasion upon which an extension of the Military Service Acts has been before this House. We have always been told that these men who have been rejected would not be called upon to present themselves again for medical examination. It is only fair to quote the exact words. On 16th May, 1916, when this same question was under discussion on the Military Service (No. 2) Act, and when criticisms very similar to those made by my hon. Friend were put before the representative of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman the present Colonial Secretary (Mr. Long), who was then in charge of the Bill, said:Those who are rejected again will never again be harried and called upon to undergo a fresh medical examination."— OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th May, 1916, col. 1455, Vol. LXXXII.]We must remember that was not the first pledge, because in the first Act there was a definite pledge that men who had been medically rejected since 1st August, 1915, would not be asked to undergo medical re-examination. But the late President of the Local Government Board had to face the breaking of a pledge, and he said," Well, it is true I have to come 649 before you in a white sheet—I have to ask you to amend the Act which we only passed three months ago—but you may take it that we have reached finality." My right hon. Friend, however, is fair enough to say now that there is no finality. Apparently, we have to go on month after month re-examining and resifting out these men, going lower and lower in the scale of health and physical capacity, and he expects the Members of this House and the people of the country to believe that this is a way of winning the War. There are many other alternatives. One way of getting 250,000 men would be by coming away from Salonika. That is one alternative. Another thing, it would relieve the most awkward and critical situation which this country has to face in regard to shipping. The right hon. Gentleman brought in the submarine question. He told us that this Bill was due to the submarine question. We could not take men from the land or men from the shipbuilding yards, and therefore we must take the medically unfit. There is a better way than that. You have an Army of 250,000 men hung up at Salonika, suffering from a bad climate, with a sickness rate unexampled in any other theatre of war, and achieving no military result, and with these men there you come to this House and you ask us to fake 100,000 medically unfit men in order to win the War.
There are other alternatives. Why not be honest and raise the age and take physically fit men over forty-one? You do not need to eat your words to do that. There has been no pledge given up to the present not to raise the age. Why cannot you do that? Why you should go on harrying men whose lives for more than twelve months have been made a burden to them? We all know that this is not the only pledge that is involved. My right hon. Friend referred to what had occurred under the Derby scheme. Lord Derby promised that the attested men were in every respect to have equal rights with the conscripts. The conscripts were safeguarded from re-examination under the Act if they were not called up before 1st September, but the Army Council has for months now been calling attested men under the Derby scheme, although they have been medically rejected. Now, in order to carry out the pledge, the Government withdraw the privilege which was given to the conscripts. They say, "We 650 will put you all in an equally unfavourable position." In order to redeem the promise made to the attested men under the Derby scheme, they are going to eat their pledge to the conscript under the Military Service Act. The argument which has been put to the House by my hon. and learned Friend in respect of this question of treatment in regard to pensions is unanswerable. Is your medical examination to be a real medical examination or is to be a sham? This House ought not to part with this Bill until it knows. We know for a fact that for months now the medical examination has been an absolute sham.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield) put down a Motion on going into Committee of Supply on the Army Estimates on this question of medical re-examination. Unfortunately, he had to state his case in a very thin House, but for a whole hour he cited case after case which had come before him as chairman of a tribunal. He is not a person who would naturally criticise the administration of the Army authorities. He is a man who is interested in getting men into the Army in a fair way, but every one of his cases he had personally investigated, and it was the most serious indictment that has ever been brought against any branch of Army administration, or war administration, since the beginning of the War. It proved conclusively that in any number of cases the medical men who are examining recruits for the Army are not giving anything which can be described fairly as a medical examination at all. They are taking consumptives; they are taking men suffering from heart disease; they are taking epileptics. All these have been taken and poured into the Army. We know that 100,000 of them have been actually discharged already. Almost another 100,000 have been taken and have not yet been discharged. Some of them are in Class W Reserve. There is little care exercised in the matter of classification, and when a man is once in the. Army you find him being exchanged from one category to another without any apparent reason. It is true that they go before the doctor, but only in the very rarest of cases does the doctor take the slightest trouble to examine the man. He may be put in Class A on the most cursory examination. There has never been any answer. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has told us that the per- 651 centage of mistakes is very small. He took an arbitrary period of seven weeks, and found that the percentage was something like.7. It is easy to get a figure for an arbitrary period, but you cannot dispose of your 100,000 actually discharged, you cannot dispose of the men in your hospitals to-day by making up a percentage figure.
All these things prove conclusively that your existing medical re-examination is a sham and a farce, that as a result of it you are getting men into the Army who are being discharged without any pension and men who will never be able to resume their civilian occupations—men who, in the long run, must be thrown upon the Poor Law, and who, as an hon. Friend who is very familiar with these things reminds me, will be thrown upon the approved societies under the Insurance Act, and we all know how difficult is the position of those approved societies in the matter of finance—many of them being practically bankrupt. I hope the House will agree that there are two questions which must receive a categorical answer. I hope that some of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench will take an interest in this, because, after all, these pledges were given by them. My right hon. Friend the ex-Prime Minister was responsible for the pledge given by the present Colonial Secretary that these men were never to be harried again. If that pledge is to be broken, surely my right hon. Friend is going to take some interest in seeing that the people to whom the pledge was given are protected. I therefore make an appeal to him to support us in obtaining a fair reply to the two questions we now ask—first, Is the medical examination of the men affected by this Bill to be a real examination, and is it such an examination as will secure that men who are passed for Class A are really fit for Class A, and if they are passed for other categories that they are really fit for the work in those categories? The second question is, If the Government's medical men pass these men into these categories, and it turns out that their health is such that they cannot discharge the work laid upon them in those categories, and they have to be discharged unfit from the Army, not owing to any misconduct of their own, will the Government undertake responsibility in the matter of pensions for those men? Those are the two questions to which I 652 make bold to say the House ought to demand an answer from the Government. I maintain that if the House docs not; obtain an answer to those questions—a straight answer, an answer without any equivocation—this House will not be discharging its duty to the country.
Mr. CARADOC REES
I should like to say one or two words about military representatives. I have met a good number of them, and the first remark I would make is that many of them are over military age, and receive no pay at all for the services they are rendering. With regard to doctors, there are hard cases, and, speaking generally, in these cases care is taken by doctors in their medical examination. I am not going to say anything about broken pledges or promises which have not been fulfilled. The point before the House to-day is what is the best thing to be done now. Is this Bill a good Bill, having regard to the circumstances of the day? I understood an hon. Member to say that this Bill is intended to get men fit to fight. That is a mistaken idea. It does not follow, because men are taken into the Army, that they must be fit to go into the fighting line. There are labour units at home and labour units abroad. There is sedentary work at home and sedentary work abroad. It does not follow, therefore, that men who are found to be medically fit on re-examination are going to be put into the fighting line at all. If they can be put into other branches and release other men for the fighting line, it is important that they should go in. With regard to the medically rejected men, some of them were examined as far back as August, 1915. Suppose that a man was medically examined eighteen months ago and, perhaps, rejected at that time because he had met with an accident at football. During the whole of that time he has not been re-examined and has not been liable for service in the Army. The standard of rejection which obtained then is altogether different from the standard obtaining now. This has been going on for many months. The War Office has been saying that the medical rejects who had been attested were in the Army Reserve and that the medical rejects who were not attested were not in the Army Reserve. You have had these inequalities. A considerable amount of grumbling has been going on with regard to the pink form which ought to have 653 been sent before the 1st September, 1916, if the medical rejects were to be reexamined. In some districts the pink forms were sent out, but in others they were not. Consequently there has been a lot of inequalities throughout the country.
There is one further point with regard to the Bill upon which I desire some information. I want to know if the Bill deals with rejected men, not merely medically rejected men, but all rejected men? The House knows that a number of men at one time went forward, but if they had any strain of, say, German blood or foreign blood in them, they were rejected straight away. The mayors of East London at a deputation last week, were pressing home the fact that these alien rejects—that is, unnaturalised Britishers who had alien blood in them—were taking the places of Britishers who were sent abroad. There is the strongest feeling throughout the United Kingdom on that point. I want to know whether those men who were rejected in the early stages of the War-not medically rejected, but rejected simply because of some foregn blood in them—are bound to come up for further examination and can be put into the Army? If they can, it is important for these people that they should know it. An hon. Member of this House, speaking in the smoking room the other evening— there are many sensible speeches made in the smoking room, and they are all short —said to me: "If I had a friend in my house, and I gave him the right of asylum, and if the house catches fire and he remains sitting in the drawing-room reading a book and will not assist to put out the fire, there are only two things to be done: either he must come out of the house or must assist in putting out the "fire." There are a number of people in this country of that kind. One wants to know whether they are going to help to put the fire out, and, through this Bill, be brought into the Army. One has great sympathy with the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). With regard to pensions, if the men are put into the fighting line, I should certainly support him, but if the men are put to sedentary or labour work merely, then the Pension Act already passed by this House meets the case. In conclusion, I am greatly impressed by the remark of the right hon. Gentleman in 654 introducing the Bill that there cannot be finality until the War is over. Of course, there cannot be finality.
§ Sir CHRISTOPHER JOHNSTON
Rising for the first time to address this House, I can claim some slight acquaintance with this subject, because I had considerable experience, not only in connection with the Derby scheme, but, first of all, as a military representative before one of the most important tribunals in Scotland—that of the city of Edinburgh, and subsequently as chairman of the Appeal Tribunal for the county of Perth. I support this Bill on two grounds, first of all, because there is a need for it. We ordinary Members of the House cannot judge of what the military requirements are. We have not, quite properly, the information. The Government have the information. The Secretary of State for War has the information, and he says that further men are necessary, and that the small influx of young men who are coming to be of military age and otherwise is not sufficient, and that we must get more men. Therefore the need is plain. In the second place, I say that there are men to be got. We have not such information as the Government possesses as to the sources from which men can be obtained or the number of men to be got under this scheme, but with full knowledge they say that there is a large number of men who, under this scheme, can very well be brought into the Army. For that reason we ought to pass this Bill. I have, in my experience, seen a good deal of rejections and the grounds for rejections. Although, of course, my knowledge is small compared with that of the members of the Government and of the Secretary of State for War, I have seen enough to convince mo that there is a large number of men who hold certificates of rejection who could very well be in the Army. When the medical officers began this work there was no experience on this scale, or anything like this scale. At that time, and before that time, the idea was one of selection of the very best men you could get. We have got past all that. If we can get a serviceable man in we must have him, although ho may not come up to pre-war standards. At that time there were certain rules which were somewhat slavishly adhered to. I will venture to give the House two illustrations of such cases which were brought before me by way of complaint, addressed to me in Perthshire 655 as sheriff of the county by men who were rejected and who regarded their rejection not as a favour, but who protested against not being taken into the Army. One of them wrote me as follows:I have been engaged for the last ten years in such light work as tree-felling, saw-milling, road-making, quarrying and ploughing, and I have never been off work a day, but I am rejected because one of my legs is one-eighth of an inch longer than the other, while white-fingered, narrow-chested youths, who have been engaged in the arduous work of tying-up parcels all their lives, are passed lit,5.0 P.M.
The other case was that of a man who wrote to me saying that he was a professional cricketer, that he had done the hat trick, middle stump each time, but was rejected for defective eyesight. I brought these and other cases before a very distinguished doctor who was examining the recruits locally. He told me that the difficulty was that there were certain rules. He quite agreed that these men, and many others who he had rejected, ought to be in the Army, but he said that if he sent those men up he would be told that he did not know his business, because he had broken some technical old rule about qualifications. There is a large number of men of that kind in the country who might very well be in the Army. I have no sympathy with those, I confess, who regard the certificate of their own disability, or of some defect of their own, as a privilege which exempts hem from military service. I have not been long a Member of this House—a month or two—but I have heard many Debates and listened to thousands of questions, and many of these Debates and questions have been directed to urging the Government to reconsider classes and cases, and to let men off from a particular class or from the Army because new circumstances have emerged, or some mistake has been committed. Now that should not operate all on one side. It is our duty to look at both sides of the question. The Army is just as much entitled to consideration and to have its case re-examined as are those who want to get out of the Army, or who desire special privileges in respect of their services. No doubt there are hard cases, but in my profession there is an old saying that hard cases make bad law. If we are to have regard to hard cases in this matter, I think we shall find that hard cases make skeleton divisions.
We must have regard to urgent military necessities. There are many hard cases 656 of men who started in business and undertook obligations before the War began, relying upon the assurance that peace was not likely to be disturbed, and they would never be called upon to perform military service. These men have had to break their engagements and to give up their employment, and when there are hundreds and thousands of such cases, I suggest we need not be so very tender of those who, at present, hold certificates of exemption. I am sorry I appeared to intervene between the House and the late Prime Minister. I noticed that the two hon. Members "who have spoken against this Bill are both Scotsmen. We have had another Scottish voice here today; we have a message from General Murray, a Scot who is with the men in the field, and we all hope that before long we shall hear that General Murray has done what one of the greatest English soldiers—Richard Coeur de Lion—failed to do—has taken Jerusalem. I venture to think the people of Scotland are determined to support their men in the trenches and to support the great leaders of whom they are so proud—Field-Marshal Haig and General Murray—and, on behalf of the men in the trenches, I hope this House without hesitation will pass this Bill.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I am very glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Johnston) has had an opportunity of making a speech which induces us to congratulate ourselves on his accession to our ranks. He pointed out that the Debate so far has been entirely taken part in by Scotsmen, and, I am reminded, one Welshman. I am not a Scotsman, but I am a Scottish Member. I quite agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I think it will be the experience of everybody to whatever nationality he may belong, there is hardly any limit to the eccentricities in the way both of of exemptions and inclusions which doctors and tribunals and the other authorities concerned have committed themselves to in the course of the very difficult task of combing out, as it is called, the population. So long as human judgment is fallible and variable I am afraid that cases of that kind will be and must be an inevitable occurrence. My object in rising—I will not enter into any arguments on the general principle—is to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to give some little explanation which might very much 657 shorten and simplify our Debate. My right hon. Friend has spoken of 100,000 men as the number to whom this Bill may probably apply. I assume they are all men who have been medically rejected as unfit for Army service.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Rejected on medical grounds as unfit for military service. I think the House will be glad to be assured—and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be in a position to give that assurance—that these 100,000 men are not in any substantial proportion occupied in equally useful work in other forms of service.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Of course, they are under precisely the same conditions as the men who came under the first Military Service Acts. They have a right to go before the tribunals and to be treated in every respect, from that point of view, as the others.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Does not that imply that men employed on other equally important service—agricultural or munitions or any other service, should not be brought back into the Army under this Bill or any other Bill. On that, I think, we are absolutely agreed. The point on which I want to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman is the one raised by the two hon. Members who respectively moved and seconded the Amendment. It is assumed, of course, that these men who are going to be re-examined are men who hitherto have been exempted on medical grounds. But some of them may be men who, having been originally passed and gone into the Army, have been discharged as unfit for service. I do not want to dogmatise, or even to express any conjectional opinion, but, so far as I have been able to familiarise myself with the fact, I am not at all sure that an equal number of men have not been passed into the Army who ought to have been rejected to those who have been rejected, but ought to have been passed. I think it is a very disputable point as to where the balance lies. We have all of us had brought to our notice, in our own constituencies or in 658 other ways, numbers of cases of men who have passed the medical examination, and after a very short time of service—sometimes only a few days—have proved themselves manifestly unfit to serve their country in a military capacity.; That aspect of the case ought not to be left out of account in dealing with a measure of this kind. Take the case which has been put by the two hon. Gentlemen of men who, having been previously rejected ore medical grounds, now upon re-examination stand the test and are sent into the Army, and then prove, as is not unlikely to be the case, to be really unfit for military service. Is not the appeal which has been made that they should be dealt with generously in the matter of pensions, are appeal which ought to commend itself to the House of Commons. I think if my right hon. Friend, or those who represent the War Office, were in a position to give some assurance on that point, it would very much facilitate the passing of this measure. No one wishes to protect men who have been rejected on imperfect evidence and escaped. Every man in the House will agree it is perfectly right that they should be re-examined and subjected again to the doctor's test, and perhaps a fuller examination. If they pass that test and qualify for military service, they should go. If my right hon. Friend can give an assurance on the point raised in this Amendement, it may be the passage of this Bill through the House will be enormously facilitated.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
With the permission of the House, may I point out to my right hon. Friend how this case stands, if he is not familiar with it? The position, as I understand it, is this: Anyone who has been taken into the Army is entitled to a pension if, on his discharge, it is found either that his ill-health is due to service in the Army or that his previous ill-health had been aggravated by it. The only case where a pension is not given is the kind of case which has been explained over and over again by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Pensions: it is that of men who have by mistake been taken into the Army and who are perfectly unfit. In many cases they have never attended drills and have done no work. What my hon. Friends ask is that these men should get the same kind of pensions as if they had gone through actual service.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
The men we are dealing with now are men already rejected, and we think the military authorities should look on that as some kind of warning. In spite of their rejection they are now to be re-examined and to be sent into military service.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I need not say that any case which is put by my right hon. Friend, who has had experience of precisely the same character, is one which deserves attention from the Government, and will get it. Is not this the position —I put it to my right hon. Friend? Assume a mistake is made of the same kind again, then are we going to give them the same kind of pension? I admit, in dealing with these matters, it ought to be possible to be more careful in the examination, and what I will promise to do—I cannot answer at once without communication to the War Office—I will ask whether it is possible to make the medical examination so perfect as to run no risks of this danger.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
The point which my right hon. Friend has just mentioned is the point on which I desire to address one or two words to the House. It is a very serious request to make to the House—to pass a Bill of this kind. There are few, if any, Members of the House who would be unwilling to grant it on the statement made by my right hon. Friend, but if we do pass this Bill it is imperative that every possible attempt should be made to avoid mistakes by the medical authorities who do the re-examination, and to avoid the difficulties which have been pointed out by the late Prime Minister and by my two hon. Friends in submitting this Amendment. What I venture to put to the House is this, that, without any reflection being cast on the medical authorities of the Army in the past, there can be no doubt they have been greatly overworked and have in many cases made great mistakes. These ought to be prevented in the arrangements to be made by the War Office for re-examination, if this Bill is to be carried with public acquiescence and if the dangers which lurk in it are to be avoided. I would like to make one suggestion which I made last autumn to Lord Derby and to the War Office. The tribunal of which I am a member found the greatest difficulty in dealing with the very large num- 660 ber of men who had not been medically examined or re-examined under the existing law. It was very desirable, in the interests of the Army, that this examination should take place as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. When we came to inquire how it was that case after case that came before us had to be adjourned, sometimes indefinitely, for want of medical examination, we found that it was because there really was not a large enough staff of military medical authorities to deal with the cases promptly.
The suggestion was then made that it might be possible to get the services of civil medical practitioners to a much greater extent than had been done in the past—not, of course, to allow medical men to decide on behalf of the Army cases arising immediately near their own homes or within range of their practice, but to join with military doctors in forming a board, say, ten, fifteen, or twenty miles away from where they are carrying on their daily practice. In that way you would get what you have not got up to now. You would get in many cases the larger and more varied experience of the civilian doctor as to many kinds of disease, and you would have the representative of the Army Medical Service, who knows the Army conditions, and who knows what the points are that ought to be specially looked for when you are deciding about taking men into the Army. What many of us regret is that the War Office, which braced itself so well to so gigantic a task, still does not snow enough recognition of the fact that you may have competence in professional men although they are not wearing khaki, and that you ought to bring to aid those who are wearing khaki those who have had medical experience as civilian practitioners. If only the War Office could divest itself of the notion that everything must be done by someone who is holding a permanent commission under the King, and that nothing can be done by people outside, however wide their experience or however acute their intelligence, if they would put aside that departmental predisposition-all Government Departments are bound of necessity to have this predisposition— this problem would be much more easily solved. I can say, from my own experience in the early months of this year, that it was very difficult indeed to attach proper weight to medical certificates issued in November and December because of the rush, crush, hurry, and congestion 661 of the work under which these gentlemen had to do their duty. When this Bill has become law, when thousands of men come again before tribunals asking them to decide their fate in the light of a new medical examination it is of the greatest consequence that there should foe no ground whatever for thinking that this re-examination has been done perfunctorily or without adequate variety of knowledge and skill.
I am appealing to my hon. Friend in no spirit of hostility, on the contrary I am doing all I can do as a mere layman to help the Army in the War, but from the point of view of one who sits on tribunals principally and has a good deal to do with recruiting all through the War, I ask him to arrange that the War Office should seek the help—it may be for one or two days in the week—of experienced local practitioners, both in order to get rid of the congestion and in order to have a greater variety of experience and, therefore, a greater weight of judgment. I have worked it out for one English county on the financial side, and it was a mere flea-bite compared with the money which is now being quite properly, but lavishly, spent in a thousand directions. There will be a great feeling, on the part of thousands of persons, of regret and anxiety at the harassment which is involved in the carrying out of this Act of Parliament. We want to minimise that as much as possible, and it is to minimise that that I make these suggestions. I need hardly say I desire to associate myself with what has fallen from my hon. Friend in regard to the need of considering the pensions question in relation to these exceptional cases. I am quite sure the appeal made by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) will be carefully attended to by the Government. We have on the one hand to be sure that this Bill is necessary— after the statement of the Leader of the House I cannot take the responsibility of saying it is not necessary—but if it be necessary, it is equally necessary to make it work as smoothly, as fairly, and with as much weight and sense of justice as we can possibly get into its administration. That can only be done if there is a great improvement in the discharge of the duties of medical re-examination, not because those who have tried it before have not done their best, but because many were inexperienced and many were overworked. Help that is 662 available has not yet been sought to anything like the extent which might have been done. If that is done it will be the duty of us all not only to carry out this Act of Parliament, but to try and make our fellow citizens understand that the need of the country calls for it and it does not mean that there is an intention, on the part either of the Government of this House or of the country, to have greater harshness in administration, but where men are really qualified to serve in the Army who, at this crisis, can desire that any of them should refrain from doing so?
§ Colonel BURN
I do not know if the hon. Gentleman knows that almost a mobilisation of the medical men of this country has taken place, and really the doctors who actually belong to the old Army Medical Department are absolutely in a minority. Most of the medical men now who examine recruits and who are doing duty at the front are men who have joined temporarily for service during the War.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I am aware of that fact, and I hope I said nothing derogatory to them or implying ignorance of the fact that many of them have joined the Army since. My point is that I worked out, in one English county, the possibility of doctors who are at home giving one or two mornings a week to this particular work.
§ Colonel BURN
I did not mean that the hon. Gentleman said a word which was derogatory, only he was proposing to call in the advice of civil practitoners and I was attempting to explain that so many civil practitioners were employed already that they were doing the greater part of the work of examination. It is perfectly true that in the great stress and rush that there was for recruits in the early stages of the War many men were passed into the Army who certainly had no place there, and ought, for medical reasons, not to serve in the ranks. But at the same time, when the great rush of recruits was on, many men were very cursorily examined, and I am perfectly convinced, from my own knowledge of cases which have come before me, that men have been refused as not being fit for the Army who were perfectly capable of serving in the ranks. Many of these men would not be required to serve in the ranks or in the trenches at all. There are many positions which have 663 to be filled at what we call the back of the front, where life is certainly very different from what it is in the trenches. Perhaps I, from the nature of the duties I have to perform in my constant visits to the front, can tell the House as well as any individual of the vital necessity there is for men in order to fill the vacancies and gaps which must occur in a war of this description. Our position in France is an extremely good one, but it is vital that the Commander-in-Chief, if his plans are to be carried out, should have this constant and continual supply of men, and that the ranks of the divisions which are facing the enemy should be kept full. Hon. Members do not perhaps know that the flower of the Germany Army and the bulk of the divisions of the German Army are facing the front held by the British Army. We all know that the French have fought magnificently. They have proved themselves to be true Allies and true Frenchmen. No one could wish for anything more gallant than the defence the French have made at various positions of the line, and especially at Verdun, and it was simply by French tenacity and bravery that the Germans were defeated at that point. There are many other things connected with this campaign which must prove to every individual in the country that men are first and foremost vitally necessary for the conduct of this campaign. The hon. Member (Mr. Hogge) and my hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment suggested means by which men could be got. They spoke of Salonika, and asked why we do not draw 250,000 men from there. It is a very dangerous thing for any hon. Member to lay down what men are to be drawn from any part of the front. Even with the knowledge at my disposal, which is possibly greater than that of those two hon. Members, I should be very sorry to take the responsibility of ordering a withdrawal of the troops from Salonika or from any other portion of the front. There are a great many things to be considered. Perhaps those hon. Members do not know that, at any rate, the good that our force is doing there, if not positive, is negative good. It is containing a very portion of the enemy forces which might be very well and very usefully employed elsewhere. So I think, as has always been my opinion, that we had better leave the strategy of this campaign to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and his advisers.
§ Colonel BURN
There are a good many reasons other than military which keep a force at Salonika or elsewhere, and, after all, when this War is over, doubtless the hon. Member will be perfectly satisfied with the reasons which have placed the force there. I, and many others who are in a far better position than I am to express an opinion about that, would rejoice if they felt they could get those 250,000 men from that part of the world. When we discuss the question of men I see there is very great and deep interest being shown by those who occupy places below the Gangway, and I think I might equally suggest that we ought to make an appeal to Ireland to provide some of the many young men who are to be found in Irish towns at this moment. Ireland has been left immune from the operations of the Military Service Act. It is not my intention to discuss that, but in view of the splendid way in which the Irish regiments have fought in this campaign, and the brilliancy with which they have fought, I think at this time of the country's peril Ireland might very usefully add a considerable portion of the 100,000 or 200,000 men we have been talking about. However, that seems to be a question that is left in the hands of Ireland to do as they please.
§ Colonel BURN
I am very pleased to hear the hon. Member say so, and I would remind him that it is not too late to send them now, and if they will send them they will be very welcome.
§ Colonel BURN
I do not want to provoke the hon. Member. I am not anxious to go into the question of why you should have Home Rule or why you do not get Home Rule. I only say that the men are wanted, and in my opinion every man who can be spared and is fit to fight for his country should be got; and now is the time that he has got to do it. I have no hesitation in saying that. After the War is over and when peace is declared, then the representatives of Ireland will have to stand up and will have to tell us why they have not got as equal a right as any other 665 portion of the British Dominions to speak as regards peace negotiations. I feel that there are many young men in Ireland who think that it is an insult to them that they have not been called to the Colours in order to fight for their native land. That is a question that undoubtedly will be settled after this War is over. I heard the remarks made by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) when he addressed himself to the Leader of the House as regards men in Government offices. I am not definitely certain, but I am led to believe that the civilians employed in Government offices have been combed out as far as it is humanly possible they can be. I believe that only those who are absolutely essential are still holding their places in the Government offices, and I feel convinced that the Leader of the House would not allow men of the proper military age who are fit and able to fight to be retained in sedentary posts where they are doing nothing except pen work for their country. The few months that are now coming on will be the vital time of the War. We have got a Commander-in-Chief in France in whom the Army reposes its trust and confidence, and I am certain that this great War will be brought to a successful issue. At the same time I would impress upon this House the necessity, before everything else, of providing the men to fill up our ranks. Then, and by these means alone, shall we be able to bring the Germans to their knees and to enforce a peace on terms which would suit our country and our Allies, and once and for all stamp out the military despotism of the German nation.
§ Sir M. LEVY
After the opening remarks of the Leader of the House I think anyone who would oppose this Bill must be a man of great courage, and after what we have learned from the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Burn) one feels further impressed with the desirability of doing all that one possibly can at the earliest moment to find the necessary men. But in saying that I think we are entitled to seek from the Minister in charge of the Bill some information as to the attitude of the War Office. It has been said and is well known that a great many men have received exemptions who certainly were not medically unfit. On the other hand, it is well known that a great many men have been taken into the Army who were totally unfit from the medical point of view. I want to ask the hon. Member (Mr. Mac- 666 pherson) to give us some explanation or some assurance that the medical examination which these men are to undergo under this Bill shall be an examination of a really reliable character. I expect every hon. Member has his attention drawn day by day to cases, in consequence of the overworked condition of the doctors, of men utterly unsuited being taken into the Army. Let me give a case which was recently brought under my notice. I know the man and I know the full facts. The man had been rejected as totally unfit for any military service. He was anxious to serve his country and tried to get employment in the Remount Department, but was turned out on each occasion as being a weakling and unfit for service. That man was called up a few weeks ago for re-examination. He told me that seventy men were re-examined by what was called a travelling board, and practically every one of them was passed into the Army. This man presented himself afterwards at 48 hours' notice, and he was taken, and told he would be very useful for the tanks. What is the result? Within one week that man was in hospital. He remained in hospital something like eight weeks, and has now been rejected from the Army. Similar cases are occurring frequently, and I think we are justified in asking that the re-examination of those who have been rejected shall be an examination reliable in every shape and form. I hope that the Minister in charge of the Bill will be prepared to consider favourably an Amendment I propose to put down, to the effect that in extreme cases a man shall have the right to be examined by a board, and, if he desires, one member of that board shall be his own medical adviser.
I am as anxious as the Minister in charge of the Bill to get every physically fit man. into the Army, but, on the other hand, I say it is a mistake to increase your numbers unless you are increasing them with men who are efficient and who will be some good to this country in the War. I want also to impress upon the Government that they must make up their minds that every man they take into the Army after his re-examination, no matter what may be the cause of his illness, shall be entitled to pension. I heard the Leader of the House say that these men when they were invalided out were entitled to pensions, but words were quoted in which it is claimed that they must prove that their illness has been aggravated by military service. So long as the men are the 667 servants of the State the responsibility should rest on the Government, just as the responsibility rests on any other employer. If the Government in any way impairs or injures the health of a man, no question of aggravation should arise in the minds of the people who have to decide whether or not that man is entitled to a pension. There is another point which, perhaps, cannot be met by this Bill, but in regard to which I would like to have some assurance. A large number of young men or boys have left the secondary schools and public schools probably at an earlier age than usual with the object of going to Woolwich and Sandhurst and then to obtain a commission in the Army. Many of these young men and boys have been rejected as medically unfit. I want the Government to take into consideration the position of these boys and to say that under the new system of lowering the medical scale for admission into the Army, these boys shall not have their interests prejudiced by the fact that they were rejected on an earlier occasion. I think that is a fair request to make, and I sincerely hope that it will be taken into consideration. I admit that perhaps it is impossible for my hon. Friend to do anything in the Bill to make the position of these boys equivalent to what it was prior to their being rejected, but if he will give the House an assurance it will be a source of great gratification to a large number of people.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I think my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) should be congratulated on having raised an issue of very wide and far-reaching importance, and also on the reply which has been given to him. As I understand it, the Government have given a pledge.
Sir H. DALZIEL
They have given a pledge to the late Prime Minister that in future there is to be better medical examination than has taken place before, and that if, after recruits are obtained, they become medically unfit, their claim is to be more favourably considered in the future than in the past.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I am trying to ascertain. I would like to know exactly where we stand, and if there is any change in the 668 position of affairs as the result of to-day's. Debate? My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House must have meant something: when he said that he was going to see that there was better medical examination. I do not think he need worry himself there about making any promise which ought not to be made, because the whole House knows that the medical examination has been very unsatisfactory in the past. Let us not blame it entirely on the doctors. The Under-Secretary for War will know that some time ago a circular was issued to the doctors, informing them that they were not to take too much heed of the condition of the recruit at the time, whether they were accepting him or rejecting him, but they were to come to their decision in regard to how they thought that recruit would be in six months' or a year's time. I thought that was a very dangerous circular. It was one that obviously said to the doctors, "Pass the recruit; let him take his luck, and see what happens." I have a copy of the circular, so that I am speaking of what I know.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)
I should like-to see it
Sir H. DALZIEL
I have not the circular here at the moment, but I can get it. I think it was sent in February. My hon. Friend need not shake his head.
Sir H. DALZIEL
There are many-things at the War Office that my hon. Friend does not see. I only plead for the doctors that we must not place the whole responsibility upon them. They have been rushed to a large extent by those who had to get the men necessary to carry on the War, the result has been extreme pressure upon the doctors, and it is quite true, we all know, that men have been passed really without any examination at all. As far as the future is concerned, we must have something more than we have had to-day from the Leader of the House. I do not think it is good enough to say we are going to have better examination, and I do not think it is good enough to say that if the men turn out medically unfit their ease is going to be favourably considered. I see my right hon. Friend the Pensions Minister in his place. I know if he were sitting with us below the Gangway what a splendid case he would make out on behalf of the claims put forward by my hon. 669 Friend, what a splendid case he would put up if he agreed with it, which I naturally assume he would do, and no man is more anxious to do the right thing by these men than he is! Therefore I direct his attention to this: Is it not fair, if these men have been medically rejected in the past, if, in face of definite pledges given to some of them that they would never be examined again, they are now to be examined again—they are to be more carefully examined than ever before—they are passed through, and they have got to sell their businesses, into which, on the faith of a decision of the Government, they put their money, is it not fair if, after being passed as fit, they are, through no fault of their own, declared medically unfit, that they should be entitled to something more than a gratuity, that they should be entitled to a pension?
The question was raised as to whether you would treat these men in that position as well as the men who had been in the trenches. I do not think that that is quite fair. If a man is accepted by the Army, he is bound to go where the Army sends him. If by a mere accident he is not in the trenches, that is no fault of his. After being accepted by the doctors, he ought to be in the same position, to all intents and purposes, as the man who is ordered into the trenches. Therefore I say that there is a case which is far more important than has existed up to the present time for saying that the position should be more clearly defined than it has been. He ought not to trust to a gratuity in the future. He ought to have a pension. Make it as small as you consider necessary, and as large as you think the circumstances warrant. Let him know where he stands. I believe that if the Government take that line at this moment, it would practically end this controversy, a controversy which is otherwise likely to increase, and as to which I am perfectly certain that public opinion holds the view strongly that these men should be more favourably considered. I do not consider the position satisfactory. I do not consider that it ought to be left where it is. I consider that we ought to have a definite agreement on the floor of this House. My hon. Friend does not like pledges. The days have gone by for pledges in this House, because, I say it advisedly, we have had half a dozen pledges which have not been kept.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Both Front Benches are to blame for all the pledges that have been made and have been violated, so that private independent Members of the House are in this position, that they must not put too much confidence in the statements of Ministers, no matter what particular Government they may belong to, when a few months later it may be said that the pledge which was given no longer applies, that it has no relation to the present position. We know these cases well. There is one directly before us at the present time. Take the case of the pink form. I have received at least a dozen letters this morning from people who will be affected by this proposal. The circumstances were these. They had been rejected as medically unfit, and they had been assured on behalf of the Government that they would never again be called up for re-examination. On the faith of that they placed what little savings they had in businesses and made arrangements for the future according to that declaration on the part of the Government. Had it been different, had they thought that they might be called up for re-examination, they would not have undertaken the responsibilities which they have undertaken. The case of these men is a very strong one. Only a few months ago that pledge was made. Now they are to be called up after they have invested their savings in these businesses. These are cases which ought to be very favourably considered by the Government. So far as I am concerned I shall want something more than has yet been stated before I support even the Bill which is before us. Why should we have this Bill to-day? We have it because the Government require another 100,000 men. I will show my hon. Friends how they can get them without this Bill. If the declaration before the country is that we have got such a state of things in carrying on this War on twelve or fifteen different fronts that 100,000 men is the only demand we are making at the present time, I think that it is a very small demand in view of the liabilities which we have undertaken. A hundred thousand men does not go very far.
Sir H. DALZIEL
My hon. Friend is right; this Bill only applies to unfit men, but of course it involves the assumption that we cannot get the 100,000 men who are required at the present time, otherwise 671 we would not pass this Bill. Therefore we have got to take the broad question. The Government consider that this Bill is the best method of obtaining the 100,000 men which they require. I will only observe in passing that 100,000 men really does not go very far in some of the offensives which we sometimes undertake. I certainly agree with the hon. Member who said it suggests considerations of larger policy rather than the mere method of obtaining men at the present time. Before we agree to this demand I think that we are entitled to ask the Government if they have exhausted practically every other source at their disposal? They have done nothing of the kind. For two and a half years, at any rate two years, I have raised in this House time after time the question, which was alluded to to-day, of friendly aliens in this country. I was told a year ago by the late Home Secretary that we had in England here—the larger number of them in London—over 30,000 friendly aliens belonging to countries fighting with us, who at the time were of military age. I venture to say that the figure should be a great deal more than 30,000; I would say myself 40,000. However, take the official answer and assume that it is over 30,000. Why, when our men have been making sacrifices, risking their lives, shutting up their shops and leaving their businesses have these 30,000 men been walking about our streets? It is a scandal, and neglect on the part of the Government is responsible for it.
I know that delicate negotiations may have to take place with the Allies, but over six months ago we had a declaration on behalf of the Government that their policy was to call up those men, and when you are asking for 100,000 men who have been rejected as medically unfit, we are entitled to say, "What are you doing to get these 30,000 men, who are fit, to fight either in our ranks or in the ranks of the country to which they belong?" Before the Bill passes I hope we will have a definite statement on that subject. I understand that a Bill is necessary. When is the Bill coming in? When is it to be introduced? We are adjourning over Easter. That means that it will not be done for another month. Yet for two and a half years these men ought to have been taking their burden of responsibility. There are 30,000 whom I have given to begin with. There are other 672 sources of supply. I do not agree with my hon. and gallant Friend who addressed the House a few minutes ago, and who said, "Why is not Ireland got in at the present time?" I am not going into that question. It suggests a demand on Ireland for men while we deny Ireland's demand. Had we shown a little more foresight in times past, it is possible that recruits from Ireland would have been very much larger than they even have been. I say, however, in dealing with Ireland, that there are men in Ireland who ought to be in our Army at the present time. I allude to the Englishmen, Scotsmen, and, may be, Welshmen, who went over to Ireland eighteen months and two years ago, and are there at the present time. I had a letter yesterday from an eminent professor in Ireland who gave figures, very substantial figures, as to the number of young Englishmen over in Ireland at the present time who ought to be available for military service. I only ask the War Office: Have they inquired into that? Obviously, if there are any Englishmen who have gone over there during the last eighteen months, they ought to be subject to the operation of the Military Service Act. That is quite a distinct question from the question of no Conscription in Ireland.
There are other sources as to which again there has been great delay. There is the source of Britishers living in Allied countries. French papers have often very strong articles, asking what the French Government and the British Government are doing, so as to secure these Englishmen who ought not to be exempt from military service. How many Britishers do the Government consider are in France at the present moment who have never been liable to military service at all? I understand that there is a considerable number. There are other Allied countries where, to my knowledge, there are large numbers of Britishers who ought to be taking their share in the War at the present time. Measures ought to be adopted to have a Proclamation to the Britishers in Allied countries, pointing out that unless they accept their responsibility and come and take their share, they will not be in quite the same position after the War as other men will be. I know cases where men have gone to British Consuls in different countries and asked for their passage to come home, and been refused. That is another way in which something might be done. Let the British Consuls 673 in all neutral and Allied countries have a free hand in dealing with these men. Let them have a medical examination there if they like, and these men could be dealt with. But all these sources of supply have not been tapped up to the present. There has been a lot of conversation and a lot of talk. We have never yet had any real action on the part of the late Government or of this. I ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to make it his business as far as possible to have no more time lost about it. It is about two years too late now. The result may not be as good as we were entitled to expect, but it ought to be done. Up to this moment there has been no direct appeal from this country to the thousands of our countrymen abroad, from which they might consider it absolutely necessary for them to return. I ask that that shall be made, and I have no doubt whatever that if done, it will find a ready response.
Then there is another point. I would ask my hon. Friend, are we to do nothing with coloured labour at all throughout the War? Is the War to end with half a million coloured men available not only for the fighting line, but also to do work which would enable men to go into the lighting line. I know that we are using a considerable number in France at the present time. Why have we been so slow in using them? We never seem to have wakened up to the enormous character of the War. We ought to have had every available man from every corner of the Empire helping eighteen months ago. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill) over a year ago, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Colonel Ward) raised this question in the House. They pointed out the delay that would take place, and that then it would be necessary to train officers in the language, and so on, in order to command these battalions. But up to the present time no real action has been taken to bring coloured men into the fighting line. We have not touched the fringe of the question yet. So far as India is concerned, there is certainly a great reservoir of men which ought to be tapped. I would invite my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to tell us how many coloured men we have got. He may say that he cannot tell us because of not giving information to the enemy. I do not think that matters very much. This bogey about 674 giving information to the enemy has been exploited far too much by both Governments. The Germans know to-day far more about our military strength and arrangements and intentions than most Members of this House. Therefore, let us know how many coloured troops we have got, how many are actually employed at present, how many are expected to be employed, and how many more my hon. Friend thinks will be necessary. When you are making the demands that you are making it is a very serious matter, for it often means certain death, whether the men who have been re-examined go on the field or not. To my knowledge men have been brought from the front who were of no further use for service of any kind. I had a case of my own only the other day, that of a young man of about twenty-three years of age, who returned from the field unfit for doing any further work, and it afterwards took me about three months to get him released. Before he was released he was examined by four or five doctors, and he was so exhausted at the end of the examination that I immediately sent him away for a month's rest, and it took him a month or more before he was capable of doing anything of any sort. The examination was of so severe a character that it was almost worse than anything the young man had gone through in France. This lad, in my opinion, should have been rejected. I put to my hon. Friend two things: The first is that he should go further than he has yet gone in reply to the demands of my hon. Friend behind me, and also give us an assurance that all the sources of supply have been properly tapped before proceeding with this demand under the Bill.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I should like to say two or three words about the Bill. Examing it, as I think we all ought to do, on the basis that compulsory military service has been adopted by Parliament and the country, and, having been so adopted, it has got to be worked in the best possible way to secure the best possible results. Since the original Military Service Act was passed I have myself always taken up that attitude, and I look back and say, I think with truth and accuracy, that any suggestion I have since made has simply been in the direction of making the working of the machine more efficient. I want to look at this Bill only from that point of view. I would ask the Under- 675 Secretary for War if he thinks it sufficiently distinguishes between two entirely different kinds of cases? One kind of case I think is deserving of very little sympathy, and as to which probably the whole House would be willing, even at the risk of some disregard of previous assurances, to pass further legislation. The other class of case, I think, would be thought by everybody in the House as one which they would desire most anxiously to consider, and the interests of which we should all wish most jealously to watch over and guard. The two classes are these: On the one hand, we are told— we have been told it before, and I have some difficulty in believing that the numbers are really very great—that there are people walking about this country to-day who, though within the limits of military age, have none the less escaped the duty which the law of the land puts upon them, and of which they are physically capable, being in good dealth and strength, by means which are nothing short of fraudulent. Nobody can have any sympathy whatever with such persons. I do not know how many of them there are, or by what means they have escaped, but I think they ought to be dealt with, if possible, where they have escaped, owing to their own fraud or owing to some failure in the working of the machine. They ought, by some means, to be called upon to do their duty; at any rate, some means should be adopted to catch them, whether they have escaped by good fortune or mistake, or whether they have escaped by fraud.
Take the other case, which I cannot help thinking a hard one, that of the man who came forward in the early days of the War and volunteered, whether under the Lord Derby scheme or otherwise, and who, though he was anxious to do his best for his country, was rejected on the ground of unfitness. I quite see, and I realise that the standard of physical fitness must deteriorate as the War goes on. That is well understood. Consequently, it was thought right, in the autumn of last year, to carry a second Military Service Act, which provided that men who had been medically rejected before the first Military Service Act none the less might be called on at any time before the 1st of September last year to be re-examined. There were many persons who received the pink form for that purpose, but in the course of the late autumn last year they were not called 676 up for re-examination because the military authorities at that - time thoroughly realised that the persons who had been rejected were so wholly unfit that they could not possibly be sent to the Army. These are the cases of men who wanted to serve, who were disappointed because they could not serve, and who were, under the first Military Service Act, put right outside the scope of it. Yet they are now to be put under the provisions of the Military Service Act. They were given the pink form of the 1st September last year, but the military authorities asked themselves what was the good of having these men who were no more fit at the end of last year than before and who could not be accepted. Is it right to treat these two kinds of persons, the fraudulent person who slipped his way out of the Act of Parliament and the man who did everything he could to serve his country, but who was, in the judgment of the military authorities at the end of last year a person who could not be considered fit for the Army—is it fair, I ask, that these two persons should be dealt with in the same way?
Under this Bill you do so. Under this Bill a man rejected only last week will be none the less liable. A man who has been wounded twice or thrice and discharged from the Army because it was found by experience that nothing could be done with him comes under this Bill. The Under-Secretary for War says not for twelve months, but there is no such indication in the Bill. You have these two classes of persons—one the fraudulent trickster that everybody would like to see brought to book, and the other a man who, of all classes of the community, seems to me to deserve most consideration from the House of Commons. The Director-General of Recruiting has had this very point brought before him. He was asked in correspondence whether he did not realise the gross injustice that would arise unless a clear distinction was made in future legislation between those who received the pink forms and had them withdrawn when the authorities came to the conclusion that it was of no use to call the men up, and those rejected men who either had not received the pink form or else had received it too late. The reply of the Director-General of Recruiting, written in December of last year, was as follows:I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter addressed to the Director-General of Recruiting 677 and in reply to inform you that the point you raise is appreciated, and will be borne in mind in any future legislation that may be proposed.I would ask the Under-Secretary, has it really been borne in mind? There is no sign of it whatever in this Bill, and it does seem to me a very serious thing that you should expose to disabilities the very class who have really done their best and are most to be pitied, while those who have escaped service by fraud or by mistake will be subjected to the same tratment. In the times in which we live, pledges seem to be so much piecrust, and assurances given in the most solemn way in most instances are treated as of not much account. I would like the House to hear what was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time when he was President of the Local Government Board and on the occasion of the last Military Service Bill. I would like Members to hear the assurances which were given on behalf of the Government by my right hon. Friend. There was a discussion as to what was the date before which the pink form ought to be served. The right hon. Gentleman was arguing that it ought to be a fairly distant date as he wanted to be quite sure that the War Office machinery would not be too hard pressed. I am reading from the 16th May, 1916, column 1455, of the OFFICIAL REPORT. The right hon. Gentleman said:We all want that there shall be a time, and as early a time as possible, when all those men who have been medically rejected shall know that their cases have been revised and settled for all time—that is to say, those who are to be re examined, and called up for service in consequence, shall know what their duty is; and, on the other hand, those who are rejected again, will never again be harried and called upon to undergo a fresh examination.Apparently there seems to have been suspicion in the minds of some people, for the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:There is an impression, I know, that it is the intention of the War Office to keep on re-examining medically rejected men, and that a man who was medically rejected a year ago may not necessarily be medically rejected to day, and that a man medically rejected to-day may not necessarily he medically rejected in six months' time. That is an entire misapprehension. There is no intention whatever to renew these reviews of medical examination.I can recognise, as must any sensible man, that as the War goes on the standard of fitness must be depressed. I make no complaint of that; it is quite reasonable, and it is not unnatural, that the Ministerial authorities, if they find that the machine is not working effectively, should come to the House of Commons for further power to make it work effectively. Still, I do think that some better protection 678 ought to be given, and that people ought not to be harried when no good can come of it. There are people who, in many cases, have been wounded in the country's service, who had offered themselves in the early days of the War, and who got the pink form last September, but were afterwards told by the military authorities that it was no good their coming up because their condition was such that they could not do anything. The object we should have in view is to have machinery which will not produce the degree of depression, anxiety, and injustice which is involved in the wide terms of this Bill. The Government told us that they expected to get 100,000 men by this moans. Will they tell us how many will come from the different classes? For example, how many is it seriously thought are going to be got from those who have already received pink forms? I find it very difficult to believe that the standard of medical examination was so high up to September, 1016, that a new medical examination to-day will produce anything of the kind. There is the point made by the right hon. Gentleman who has just now addressed the House, that this House will hardly be doing justice to deserving members of the community who may be touched by this Bill, if we leave the thing merely in the realm of assurance from the Treasury Bench, and that there will have to be in this Bill assurances translated into the terms of the Bill in order that those who really do deserve protection in this matter shall feel that the House is doing what they can to protect them.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in moving the Second Reading, said that the Government and the authorities had always realised that the important thing was to distribute properly the forces of the country between military service on the one hand and other necessary services on the other. I hope it may be so, but I am not quite certain, from the action of the military authorities and their agents, that they understood the necessity so. Nobody would imagine that the military authorities have been other than doing their honest best in the interests of the Army. That was what they were employed for, and what they do. I make no complaint of their having done it as thoroughly as they could. It is quite a different thing from trying to preserve a real balance between the different needs of the country. It surprised me to be told—as we were told — that it is only in view 679 of the recent submarine menace that the authorities fully realised how damaging to the total strength of the country in time of war it is to take from agriculture or from shipbuilding the men who are specially skilled in carrying on those occupations. That surely was a consideration that ought to have been borne in mind. It was never more true than to-day to say that the carrying on of this War by this country is not a simple question of getting any kind of men in any numbers into the Army. It is a question of securing the proper distribution of the man-power of the country as between the different kinds of National Service in time of war. I trust that we may hear that the method hitherto adopted has produced such a result, but I do not think that the past experience which we have had of the working of military service will justify us in allowing this Bill to pass as it stands without greater security being taken for those who would fall within its provisions, and who, if brought within it, would not thereby add one jot to the strength of the nation at this time.
Sir HERBERT ROBERTS
I rise in order to put a specific point before the Under-Secretary as to the working of this Bill. I accept the necessity for this measure after the statement of the Leader of the House. There are undoubtedly a great number of men in the Army who ought not to be there, and there are likewise a great number of men out of the Army who ought to be in the Army. The purpose of this Bill is, as far as it is practical to do so, to get into the Army at the present grave time those who are able to serve the nation. The point to which I refer is this: Many speakers in the Debate have emphasised the difficulties of the medical aspect of the re-examination under this Bill. What are the facts? The medical staff of the War Office is not adequate for the present position, and I hope that the War Office will carefully consider the suggestion made to-day, and on many previous occasions, that greater use should be made in future of civilian doctors. In connection with the re-examination there is bound to be a great deal of new work imposed on the medical staff of the War Office. The Leader of the House stated that the calculation was that about a million exemptions would have to be re-examined if this Bill were passed into law. What I should like to suggest is this, that in order to save 680 time and labour and to ease the medical staff in its gigantic task, would it not be possible and wise, in the first place, to arrange for a general review of those million cases by a specially appointed medical board for the purpose of excluding from the necessity of re-examination all those cases in which it is perfectly plain and clear that the men concerned could not in any way be taken to serve in the Army at the present time? I think it has been calculated that about 40 per cent, at least of this total of a million exemptions would be men who are quite unfit, and permanently unfit, to be of any real service in the Army. It seems to me if you were in that way to lessen the sphere or area of re-examination it would be a helpful arrangement, in view of the short-handed condition of the medical authorities under the War Office. I dimply put forward that suggestion for consideration, and if it is practical it would meet some of the difficulties which would be inevitably created by calling up a great number of men under this Bill who would undoubtedly be rejected, and would avoid unnecessary dislocation, hardship, and injustice. I hope the Under-Secretary will consider the matter.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I think the Government is to be congratulated in one respect in introducing this Bill. This is a Bill for repealing certain pledges that the Government gave only a few months ago. It usually happens that the Government breaks its pledges without even introducing a Bill, so that it is an advance, certainly, that if pledges are to be broken they are to be broken on the strength of legislation brought forward in this House. A very large number of pledges have been given, some of which were read to-day in the House. It seems to me that the Government theory about pledges is that when they wish to get something passed they give a pledge which makes the passing of that legislation more easy, and when that has been accomplished, and when they have attained what they wish, they no longer regard as sacred the pledges which they gave. I can assure the Government that they are creating a great deal of feeling in the country and in this House as to the constant breaking of understandings that have been given and pledged words that have been spoken. My own view is that a very large number of wholly unfit men have been passed into the Army. I do not believe it is the least 681 exaggeration to say that some 200,000 men unfit for military service have been passed by doctors and entered into the Army. Many of those men have since been discharged, without pension in many eases, and have been placed on the funds of voluntary associations which are expected to pay insurance benefits which they ought never to be asked to undertake to pay. The case has been raised of men who have escaped by means of fraud. Does anybody believe that the Army has not wide powers at present to deal with cases where there is a suspicion that men have used some form of fraud in order to get round the question of medical examination? What is involved in this matter is this: Some people do not seem to attach much importance to the question of the individual. I regard it as of great importance that in the cases you are going to deal with under this Bill you are imposing tremendous cruelty on the individual. In many cases the diseases of the men who have been examined are chronic diseases of the lungs, heart, and so on, and they have been given the most definite assurances by the Government, and by the recruiting authorities and by the doctors, that a man who is suffering from chronic disease, as of the heart, is a man so ill that there is no question of him being better in a few months later on. Now he has got to undergo uncertainty. The man may be in business and not know where he is, or in employment, or placed in a position in which no employer will take him on, because he does not know the moment he will be called up. I quite admit there are diseases that may be a good deal better six months later on, and there are Army doctors who are able and do discriminate between a temporary disease and something which is chronic. Look at the uncertainty of those men with chronic diseases, perhaps as to setting up in business, and as to what is going to happen to them. They are left in the dark, and is that really going to be defended from the Front Bench? Do they suppose the extra strength they are going to gain from military service is worth it? Hon. and gallant Members have told us about the number of unfit men in the Army. I heard the hon. and gallant Member for Altrincham (Major Hamilton) say that those men were a drag on the Army. Having got them, they cannot get them out, or, with the red tape, it is most difficult to do so. Sometimes, when 682 they know a man is no use, it takes six months before all the various forms are complied with. Many of those men are assuredly going to break down in training. I know that the Army doctors have made many mistakes, but it is really difficult for the Army doctor with a tremendous number of men to examine and devoting five minutes to each of them. Is the Army doctor to be blamed for making mistakes? A man's family doctor would know far more about the man and whether there was any question of trying, by fraudulent means, to pretend that he had an ailment that he had not. The doctor dealing with the case in five minutes is not able to tell what a man's real physical condition is, and the result is that time and again the examination. is of a perfunctory character. Any number of men are passed in who ought not be passed in. Thousands are passing through whom the doctor has never seen and never will see again, and the position that arises in regard to many of these people is that you will not accept full financial responsibility for them in respect of pensions. They have been examined, presumably, once already and been rejected, and they are going to be examined again. If they are passed in the second time—and surely the doctors ought to be a little chary about accepting men who were rejected only a few months ago—are these men going to be allowed to receive a pension if they break down and are discharged? Having used up material which you ought not to have used, are you going to scrap them mercilessly without any recognition or pension? I think that is a vital question, and I am convinced that whatever may be said in this House, and whatever assurances may be given about greater care in this direction or in that, once we put the full power over these men in the hands of the military authorities the matter passes out of our hands altogether, and we have no longer any control over it.
A great many of these unfit men are now serving in industries—and does anybody believe that industries can be drained to a much greater extent than they are already?—men who are working on land, engaged in food production, and so on. I can quite easily understand the constant and ever-widening demand that comes from the Army, but I would remind the House that you can swell the demand up to that point where you have very little economic power behind the Army left, and 683 I do not hesitate to say, without any reflection on the doctors, that in many cases these medical examinations have been very largely a farce. I am convinced that this constant breaking of pledges on the part of the Government is going far to discredit the military authorities and to discredit faith in Governments, and I hope we shall receive before the conclusion of this Debate a far more satisfactory statement than we have yet had from the Front Bench, and that any statement which is made will not be merely a pledge—we do not want any more pledges—but that we shall have any pledge which is given definitely embodied in this Bill with a view to seeing that you are not going to use unfit men recklessly and that the men you do accept and who are passed as fit by the doctors shall be fully recognised in regard to pensions, and payments, and so on.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
The hon. Member who has just spoken always makes a very strong case from his own point of view, and he has done so to-day, but I confess that his oratory would have more effect upon me personally—and I may say the same as regards the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon)—if I did not remember that they are, and always have been, opposed to the whole principle of compulsory service for the Army. If you start from the standpoint that it is an iniquitous invasion of our liberties and a wrong policy to pursue to take men compulsorily for the Army at all, then, of course, it becomes comparatively easy to pick holes in any such proposition as is now before the House, and I cannot help thinking that, if the policy recommended by the hon. Members, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow, had prevailed at an earlier period, to-day the Germans would be in Paris, if not in London. Consequently all the persuasive eloquence that is expended from that standpoint appears to me to be altogether out of place when we are considering a method of making good gaps or shortcomings in the system deliberately adopted by this House and by the country. The last speaker, following the example of some others, has said a good deal about broken pledges. That is rather a threadbare subject, and if I wanted which I certainly do not, to indulge in old-world recriminations, I could recall broken pledges for which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow was as responsible as anybody 684 in this House, and the breach of which was much more enthusiastically supported by the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment than the giving of the pledge, and therefore I pass by all these questions of broken pledges with this remark alone, that, after all, if the doctrine of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken were to prevail, it would only result in this, that no Minister of the Crown, in laying the policy of the Government before the House, would ever dare to indulge in any prediction or prophecy, or even to make a statement as to what the intentions of the Government were in regard to the working out of their policy.
§ Mr. MCNEILL
That is the hon. Member's view. I do not think myself that it would be for the advantage of the House or the country. I listened very closely to the quotation from my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, which was read a short time ago, and personally I could detect no pledge in it at all. It appeared to be a mere statement of the views that were held at that time by the Government as to the working out of the policy which they were then laying before the House.
§ Mr. McNEILL
Their expectations in that respect have been disappointed, and their intentions have been changed, but I did not understand it as a definite pledge given by a Minister to certain classes in the country by which they ever considered themselves bound. I must say that I have a good deal of sympathy with the views of the two hon. Members who introduced this Amendment on the subject matter of the Amendment itself. My two hon. Friends, those Scotch twin stars who are always revolving round each other, each one the satellite of the other, laid before the House an objection to passing this Bill until they had extracted from the Government a pledge—another pledge, although they do not seem to think that there is much advantage to be attached to these pledges— that the Government will deal in a different fashion from what it has hitherto done with men who, when called to service with the Colours, reveal defects which have not been before detected, and who are practically broken in life, and are dismissed without pension or sufficient gratuity. I entirely share that view, and it is one which I hope they will continue 685 to press upon the House; but I think this is not the occasion on which to press it. I do not see myself that it is an occasion when we should put into practice a sort of perverted version of the old doctrine of "grievances before supply," because that is really what they want. There is no direct relevance between the two cases. I want to see a sound and effective and generous system pursued towards all classes of soldiers who fall or who are injured in the War; but because I desire to see that policy put upon a sound footing by the Government, I do not want until that is done to delay the Government in adding to the efficiency of the Army. My hon. Friend who introduced the Amendment appeared to think it was an occasion for a sort of bargain between the House and the Government in regard to getting men for the Service, and I was so struck by one phrase which he used that I took it down verbatim. He said:When the Leader of the House comes to the House am] asks us to supply him with 100,000 men he ought to come with clean hands.It is not a case of supplying the Leader of the House with 100,000 men; it is not a case of supplying the Government with 100,000 men; it is a case of supplying the nation with 100,000 men, of supplying ourselves. It is not the Leader of the House who wants any more than any of the rest of us to beat the Germans. We want it ourselves, and the only function of the Government is, with the information which is at their disposal, to come down here and tell us what is the best way or the only way of getting the men, not for themselves but for us, and it is in that light altogether that I regard the proposal which is now before the House. The Seconder of the Amendment was, I think, a little audacious in the way of proposing an alternative. What was the alternative of the hon. Member? It was that we should give up the Salonika Expedition and bring 250,000 men from there. All I can say in regard to that, with the greatest possible respect to the hon. Member, is that I cannot accept him as a great strategical guide, and I cannot accept merely on his ipse dint the proposition that we should be better able to carry on the War if that particular branch of hostilities were abandoned to-morrow. I think that as long as the highest military authorities—
§ Mr. McNEILL
As long as the highest military authority continues to regard that as an essential part of our military operations I think it is hardly an effective suggestion to come here and say to the Government that we cannot accept their plan for getting more men, because we should adopt the strategical proposal of my hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) made a speech just now, and I am sorry he is not now in his place, and, as he always does, he made a very able speech; but there was one thing which I was unable to determine, and that was whether or not he was a supporter of the Bill or whether he was a supporter of the Amendment. At one time he appeared to support the Government proposals, and at another time he appeared to supper my hon. Friends opposite, but there was this noticeable proposition which he laid down: He said that, of course, we must accept it as an axiom in the progress of the War that the medical standard should necessarily be lowered. Well, I think that is probably true, but I do not think the Bill which is before the House rests upon the acceptance of any such proposition as that. I do not think it at all follows that the men who are to be got under this Bill are in any sense of the word medically unfit. A great many speeches which have been made appear to proceed upon the assumption that in a greater or less degree the men to be got under this Bill will be medically unfit. I do not understand that that will be so at all. All that the Bill says is that men may be taken now who possibly two years ago were medically unfit. Medical unfitness is not an incurable disease. It is quite true, as the hon. Member who spoke last said, that there are men who are or who may be incurable. You may have many of these men who are called up who will be medically unfit, but the only grievance they will suffer is having to undergo medical re-examination. Is it really to be held, as the hon. Member for Sheffield just now said in such very indignant language, that it is so very great a hardship and so great an iniquity that, at a time like this, men should be requested to submit themselves to medical examination in order to establish the fact that 687 they are not more fit for service than they were two years ago? I do not think that at all. On the other hand, it seems to me perfectly plain that there must be very large numbers of men who were perfectly rightly rejected—I do not say six months ago, but twelve or eighteen months ago— who may be perfectly fit to serve now without in any degree giving support to the proposition that the medical standard has been lowered. I understood from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill that the 100,000 men expected to be got are only estimated as the sound residuum after the examination has eliminated some 800,000 or 900,000 men who still will be unfit for service.
Under these circumstances, surely the House has a much more clear-cut proposition to deal with than many of those introduced into the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon. I think it is quite likely that in reference to individuals and classes that there may be hardships. I think it is inevitable that there may be such in the working of this and other Military Service Acts. We are, however, up against this plain proposition with which the House is called upon to deal— that to-day the Government tell us that the recruiting for the Army is to a serious degree short of what it ought to be. By this Bill, as I understand it, any minimum deficiency will be or may be wiped out by bringing to the Colours 100,000 men fit for general service and also for service at the front. Why, then, under these circumstances, should this House hesitate? Is there any Member of this House who, if he clearly understands that 100,000 men are urgently needed for the Army for service in the coming months, and that by this Bill these men can be got, would hesitate to vote for this Bill, even if all the objections which have been urged on both sides of the House were substantiated and agreed upon? I for one am not prepared to allow myself to be moved by any of these considerations. One clear duty before me is to vote for the Bill which the Government have put before us. I go further. I regard this as only a very partial dealing with the subject. I cannot help thinking that the Government must have brought in this Bill as a more or less temporary measure in order to bring in these 100,000 men, knowing very well that we shall require further and more drastic legislation later to get a still larger supply. I earnestly hope that the Government will get the 688 Bill through before the Recess in order to supply the gaps that now exist, and that we shall not be back here very long after the Recess before we shall have some far-reaching proposals to supply the men whom everybody knows must be brought in in very much larger numbers if that decisive victory over the enemy is to be achieved within the next year or year and a 'half—that victory which this country is determined to achieve whatever disadvantage or hardship may be involved in getting the men.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I rather think that there is really a more common-sense feature in this matter than that presented, at any rate, in the Debate up till now. This principle of renewed examination is a very common one in business life. I was rather astonished to hear a distinguished Member of the Labour party deal with this matter as being a hardship, because the Labour party have accepted it without a murmur in relation to cases under the Workmen's Compensation Act. A man, it may be, has been incapacitated by accident and is getting a pension from his employers. There is no doubt about the facts here. It has been admitted by the payments that have been made to the man. That he should be called upon periodically to be examined by a doctor has not been accounted a hardship or a thing to be complained about. It is practically unknown for a man to object to medical re-examination who is receiving some allowance from his employer. There is no difficulty in the case. You get two doctors, the employer and the man, and if they do not agree the case goes before a County Court judge or an official, and there is no difficulty, or problem, or anything requiring legislation. The principle has been accepted by both sides for years. To require such an examination is not taken as a reflection upon the man. The Labour party have never come here and represented that this was a grievance and a thing for which they would fight. The cases of injustice are exceedingly few. If that be so, if that was an accepted part of our business life in times gone by, why is the principle considered obnoxious when we are engaged in a life and death struggle with an enemy? I do not take it that this Bill will draft unfit men into the Army. If I thought that I should be bound to vote against it. I quite agree with the statement made that unfit men have been taken into the Army, because they have 689 come back into civil life and come upon the approved societies under the Insurance Act. A Bill is being introduced by the Government in order to meet this case, for it is admitted that this is a burden the societies should not suffer. That, however, is not the point. I cannot conceive that this Bill will be used now in cold blood to repeat former errors.
We must remember that in every one of these cases the doctor will be on his guard. When previous cases came before him he could not pick them out; he could not pick out whether A, B, C or D required the one more examination than the other. He had to be guided by his own observation. He now has the previous records. The doctor might in previous days have made mistakes, and originally have brought in some men who ought not to be there. He will take great care not to make a mistake now, because he is reversing the previous decision, and has all the facts before him of previous examinations. I do not fear it at all, but I would ask my hon. Friends, who are against this Bill, to answer this: Do they not know that there is a considerable number of men in this country carrying exemption certificates who are fit to go into the Army! The number may be 5,000 or 500,000; it may be 50,000 or 150,000. What is their proposal to get these men into the Army? That is what I have been listening for in their speeches. Has there been any proposal? No one has denied that there is a body of men in this country that we may get. Has anyone proposed how to get these men into the Army? If, as has been suggested, the object of some hon. Members is to keep the Army as small as possible, I could understand their speeches and conscientious objections. They may take the view that we ought to have a small Army, a small victory, or a big loss. I can understand them in that case scrutinising every measure of this kind which attempts to get new soldiers. I know the hon. Member who moved and the hon. Member who seconded this Amendment is as sincere as I am in wanting to win this War. They accepted the national position at the outbreak of the War quite as calmly and as frankly as anyone in this House. I put this to them: You would not for a moment scrutinise a measure of this kind because you wanted to keep the Army small; therefore be careful of any Amendment which would delay the passing of this Bill, even of such an excellent kind as that put forward. Before 690 I can vote for such a proposition we must have an alternative plan, not only to get the men from Salonika, or even to get men from abroad, but to discover how you are going to get hold of this brigade or division, or whatever you like to term it, walking about with exemption certificates ! It is no answer to our queries and to the Bill for the hon. Member for North-West Lanark to say, "You can get 100,000 men from Salonika, or Egypt, or Mesopotamia."
§ Mr. BOOTH
Even if I were in favour of withdrawing from the Balkans—which I am not—I am satisfied with the opinion that we ought to maintain our forces there. I should still want these men who are capable of military service who are walking about with exemption certificates that should be withdrawn. It would be our duty, even with the 250,000 men at Salonika, to raise by this Bill these other men for the West, because the warfare would be over sooner, and with less bloodshed. I venture to express a hope of a different character. I will be better pleased with this Bill if I am told that it is the first of a series which will apply conscientiously the principle of getting the right available men, wherever they are. It is painful to meet so many men of military age in our streets, and I am sorry to say that a number of these are in Government positions. There has been a great cry about combing out. I suppose this is one of the combing-out Bills. We want, however, someone to comb out the combers. There are combers going about who are entitled to all the prominence that can be given to them by those splendid cartoons in the London "Evening News." I hope to see a Bill dealing with these. I hope to see a Bill that will comb out the combers, and also one which will deal with that class of British citizens mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. I make this proposal to the Government with regard to those young Englishmen abroad: They are entitled to have notice that unless they class themselves with the young Englishmen at home, and report themselves to join the Army, their rights of British citizenship shall be withdrawn. It may be that we cannot go abroad with compulsory powers to bring them home, but I think we ought to give them notice such as I have suggested. I do not care if there are only 500. I say that any English- 691 man abroad shirking his duties merely by living in another place has no right to claim the protection of the Army or of the Fleet in a time of trouble.
§ Mr. LUNDON
I have tried for the last twelve months to get the War Office to look after them, and they have absolutely refused to do anything.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BOOTH
That is a melancholy fact. Doubtless the Irish Nationalist Members are doing their best to remedy this, and to make these young men feel uncomfortable. I am afraid some of them get anything but the cold shoulder when they walk about the streets of Dublin I do know that some of the Irish Nationalist Members have felt very strongly upon this point. They do not want their country made into a refuge for shirkers; that would be unfair and an injustice to Ireland. No doubt they haves enough of their own troubles. I sympathise with hon. Members opposite, and trust they will take every opportunity to get these men out. But in regard to those abroad, to whom I was referring, I say I should give them notice to come back, and make it clear that those who did not could not rely upon the protection of the Foreign Office, or the Army, or the Fleet to protect them as British citizens. I was saying, when I was interrupted, that it surely would be a melancholy thing if in years to come it had to be reported to this House that any of those shirkers were claiming their full rights as British citizens and perhaps involving our Foreign Office in a great deal of difficulty to protect them. But they are just the class that would do it. I, therefore, venture to ask the War Office whether this is the first of a series of measures. Are they taking up this matter in earnest? I shall not vote against this Bill because it is not bigger. I can quite understand they want to take one subject at a time, but I speak, at any rate, for those Members on this side who are determined that throughout this War they will not, under any circumstances, however good the grounds may be, vote against any request from the military authorities for help. There is a considerable body of opinion on this side, 692 and has been all through the War, whom nothing would induce to deny the War Office a request for men to support our Army at the front. In this case I think they are entitled to support, and to still more support, and I would rather criticise the War Office for not being bold enough. I do not think the Government has ever been bold enough in making its requests to the country, and the only criticism I foresee and the only dissatisfaction I can foresee, with regard to this measure, is that the people who come within its scope will say, "Why are you not dealing with the man in the other street who cannot be reached by this Bill?" That is the criticism I think you must fear, because so long as you are only clearing out one particular class, they have a ground of complaint for saying, "Why are you not doing this thing all round?" and if some of these men feel that they are carrying the burden twice, they are the men with whom I have most sympathy—men who have risked their lives and suffered severely, and who, having recovered in health, will be called upon to bear the burden and risk their lives again, when they see about them some men who have never been called at all. We heard the doctrine preached a year or two ago, "Every man once, and some men twice." In passing this Bill, which will call upon some of our gallant sons and brothers to go out again, when they thought they had done their part, I do ask for an assurance that we do not give them the grievance that we are leaving men out who have not been at all. If the War Office will give me that assurance, I will vote for this Bill with all the greater glee.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I do not want to say very much, but, as a Member who for a long time has taken a considerable interest in the question of the medically unfit, I would like to make a lew observations on this Bill. The hon. Member for St. Augustine's complained that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow, left him in doubt as to what his attitude to the Bill really was. If it is any interest to the hon. Member, I can assure him that my observations will leave him in no doubt whatever as to how my vote will be given on this Bill. I do not suppose my reasons, however, will carry any weight with him. He criticised my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe because he had always opposed Conscription. Well, I am in precisely the same position. In part I 693 oppose this measure for the same reasons that I have opposed all previous Bills dealing with compulsory military service. If we were arguing the general question of Conscription now, I could advance arguments conclusive to myself, though I do not imagine conclusive to the hon. Member and his Friends, that probably the military position would have been much better to-day if we had remained with our voluntary system. The hon. Member for St. Augustine's, replying to a remark made by the hon. Member for Lanark to the effect that the Leader of the House was asking for these 100,000 men, said that it was not the Government who were wanting 100,000 men, but it was the nation who were wanting—I suppose, who were asking for—100,000 men. If the nation wanted 100,000 men, we should not require a measure of this sort. If the nation had believed these men were necessary, they would have responded voluntarily, and long ago. I do not believe there is one man of military age in the country to-day outside the Army who is very anxious to be under military control. It is simply because the country does not accept the position put forward by the hon. Member for St. Augustine's that measures of this kind are necessary.
I support the Amendment that has been moved from the benches opposite, but it is not my only reason for opposing this Bill, and I do not think, even from the limited point of view of the Amendment, that the case that has been made out is quite complete. My hon. Friends have asked that men who break down under military training or in military service shall be entitled to receive a pension, but there is another class whose position has never yet been mentioned, I think, in the course of this Debate, and that is the not inconsiderable number of men who are not discharged from the Army disabled, but who die before they are discharged from the Army, or who die very soon after their discharge, as a result of the hardship they have undergone while with the Colours. I have in former Debates on this question submitted many cases. I could keep the House here a whole evening giving cases of men who ought never to have been accepted for military service, men who never could have been examined, because it needed no doctor to know that they were totally unfit for military service, and who within a week, within a fortnight, within a month, have died in the Army. I have one case in my mind of a man who had 694 been discharged from the Yeomanry. He was called up under the Military Service Act. He was passed on a Saturday, went with the Colours, and was brought home dead the following Saturday. I have several cases of a similar character in my own Constituenecy. I had one case of a man who had been consumptive all his life. He had never done any work. He was taken under the Military Service Act, sent to the Colours, and in three weeks that man was dead. I have another case in my Constituency now. I have in my possession a pile of correspondence with the War Office, This young fellow was a stonemason. Last May he was called up under the Military Service Act and passed. In forty days he was discharged. He came home, went to bed, and has never since left it. His mother never received one penny of separation allowance, and he has never received one penny of gratuity or pension. Now, it is because we believe that the tens of thousands, nay, the hundreds of thousands of cases more or less similar to that are going to be enormously increased by the powers proposed in this Bill that we do so strenuously oppose it.
In response to the speech of the late Prime Minister some sort of concession was announced by the Leader of the House. I confess I do not understand its full implication, but it did scorn to convey a sort of impression that the Government are willing to consider such cases as those to which I have just referred, and which have been mentioned in the course of this Debate. What is it worth? After all, this matter is in the province of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions, and we know what his views are on this question, or, at any rate, we know what his views on the question were a week or two ago, and I would like to remind those hon. Members who may be influenced by what has been said from the Government Benches on this point during the course of this Debate that if anything be done to assure pensions for these men, or pensions for the dependants of men who are killed as a consequence of being called into the Army when unfit, if my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions still remains of the same opinion, then the acceptance of that involves his resignation. I hope before this Debate closes we shall hear something from my right hon. Friend. Now many who have spoken in support of this Bill have made the point that this Bill is only going to deal with men who were medically rejected eighteen months 695 or two years ago. It does a great deal more than that. Under that much discussed Clause of the Military Service Act the War Office could call up before 1st September every man who had been previously rejected within a period of something like twelve or fourteen months. It may be that there are cases where the pink form was not sent before 1st September. I believe there are such cases.
I had a letter this morning from a man who lives in a town of Lancashire with a population of 70,000, and he says in that borough there are only three men who did not receive the pink form before 1st September last. What is this Bill going to do? This Bill is going to give the power to the War Office to call up every-man who was medically re-examined under that provision in the second Military Service Act, and who have to remember that those men who were medically reexamined under that Act had been examined at least once before, and in a vast number of cases not once, twice, or thrice, but many times. There is a man within this building who has a son who has been rejected six times, and if this Bill be passed the War Office will have the power to call upon that man to undergo a further medical examination. Many cruel and wicked things have been done in connection with the recruitment of the Army under the Military Service Acts, but it is cruel to call up men in that state of health, because that knowledge of their physical condition is a sufficient burden for those men to have to bear. It will be worse when this Bill becomes law, because these men are suffering actual torture as to what their future condition is going to be, and they know something of the perfunctory way in which the medical examination is carried out. Therefore I do not attach the least importance to the statement made from the Treasury Bench that greater care will be exercised by the military medical examiners in the future than in the past.
Last August I raised this question on the Adjournment, and then the Prime Minister denied that unfit men had been taken into the Army, and he said that I had rendered a disservice to the country, because if my speech was reported in Germany it would convey the impression that the new British Army was composed of "crocks," and the Germans would arrange their campaign accordingly. The 696 Prime Minister on that occasion denied my statements, and challenged me to produce cases. Afterwards I produced the cases and sent to the War Office a big batch of them. I was promised that they would be investigated, but not in one single case did the War Office make any investigation. Every day I get letters from men who have previously been examined—and there must be in the Army records a statement of their physical condition—who have been rejected suffering from heart disease, and they are not likely to improve in six or twelve months, and yet our medical men every day are passing recruits for the Army who are suffering from heart disease and other organic disease. The House was much fuller when the hon. Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield) raised this question of the taking of unfit men, and in seconding his Amendment I called attention to what I have since been told was an incredible thing. A man in my Constituency whom I have seen, who was taken into the Army, has not a single finger on his right hand and has only a stump of a thumb. I have had that case before the War Office for two or three weeks, and it is still there. When we know from our own experience not one such case, not a hundred such cases, but thousands of them, how can we have any faith after eighteen months of this kind of thing that the War Office is going to reform its evil practices? As a matter of fact, we know that they will not. We are told that there are one million of these men, and that the Government expect to get 100,000 men from them. Well, we must be in a serious military position if, to save the Allied cause— [An HON. MEMBER: "Where?"]—we have to take 100,000 men who are admittedly unfit—[An HON. MEMBER: "No!"]—Yes, admittedly unfit; because they have all been examined, and nearly every one of them more than once.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
How can the hon. Member make a statement like that; how does he know that that is so. Surely the Government must be acquainted with the facts, and under the Defence of the Realm Act that is a very serious offence indeed. 697 But why is it necessary for the Government to bring in a Bill to re-examine one million men to deal with the few cases of what my hon. Friend opposite calls bilking. But there is another aspect to the question. The Under-Secretary for War told us the other day that in seven weeks' time the Army Medical authorities had examined 1,500,000 men.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I did not say in seven weeks. I said up to the end of 1916 and the beginning of 1917. I was referring to discharges from the Army in seven weeks.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I am glad the hon. Member has given that explanation, because the same impression was given to other hon. Members. Then there is the question of cost. I do not suppose that the Army doctors will examine all the one million men, although they will examine a large number, and, of course, there must the cost of re-examination, with the loss of time involved, and the loss of wealth in calling up all these men, I say uselessly calling up these men, for medical examination. One hon. Member told us that in his district, which is a large agricultural district, ploughmen and others are being called up for reexamination, and this means the loss of at least one day's work. I think it is admitted that at least 100,000 unfit men have been discharged from the Army, and it will not be denied that there are hundreds of thousands of unfit men. in the Army to-day who are simply an expense to the country. We are told that each soldier costs £300 a year, but I will take a moderate figure, and I will say that the cost of these men who, sooner or later, will have to be discharged from the Army as unfit is £200 a year. That is a tremendous waste of public money, and it is a matter which ought to receive consideration.
I do not ask for pledges. I went very closely through the Debates on the first and second Military Service Acts, and I have learned something by the experience of the last twelve months. I was so innocent in the days of the first Military Service Act that I accepted certain pledges given by the Government, but not one of them has been kept. Not a single pledge which was made in order to induce Parliament to pass the Military Service Acts has been kept; therefore I ask for no pledges; and I do not want any pledges, because I have no faith that any 698 pledges which are given now will be kept more strictly than the pledges which have been given in the past. We shall seek to amend this Bill in Committee, and we want Amendments in black and white in the Bill itself. If the Government want men other resources are not exhausted, and, according to what the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. R. McNeill) said, he is looking forward to more Bills of this kind. I suppose he is feverishly anxious for the time when the age will be extended to include himself, and then he will be given an opportunity of showing his patriotism on the field of battle. I am quite sure my hon. Friend, even at his age, is physically far more capable of undergoing those hardships than a large proportion of the younger men who have been taken into the Army to-day.
I say your resources are not exhausted. Who have tens of thousands of ministers of religion, most of them of military age, and they are the most patriotic people in the country. They are the people who believe in the righteousness of this War and in the righteousness of all war. Why should they be exempt? Are they doing work of such national importance that it is necessary they should be specially exempt? Why should they not undergo the hardships of trench warfare? Let all the resources be exhausted before the War Office comes here and asks us to conscript the kind of men it is proposed to take under this Bill. I will conclude by making a suggestion, and it is that the Government should repeal both the Military Service Acts and introduce and pass into law a short one-Clause Bill endowing the War Office with autocratic-powers to do just what they like. That will then give legislative sanction to the practices which the War Office have been carrying out for the last eighteen months. I promised to give my reasons for opposing this Bill, and I have done so. I shall vote against this Bill, and we shall endeavour to amend it in Committee. The Bill will pass, that we know, but I want to assure the Government that I am perfectly certain they will not help in the prosecution of the War by passing a measure like this. There are 1,000,000 men affected, and whatever their enthusiasm for the War was before, it will not be increased by the adoption of this Bill.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I think I am correct in saying that the criticisms that 699 have been passed upon this Bill as it stands have been very few indeed. The main criticisms have been directed towards the attitude of the Government in regard to the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) and seconded by the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle). This is a small Bill. It is admittedly a small Bill and merely a temporary measure. I note with very great satisfaction that when it was being impressed upon me as representing the Government that we should go on and get an even more comprehensive measure there was a good deal of general support in the House, and I am not surprised.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I should like to know what part of the country my hon. Friend refers to. My hon. Friend knows that he cannot go into any part of his own Constituency and say, after the assurance which has been given from this box and on the responsibility of the Government, that 100,000 more men are wanted now, that it would not be in the national interest to have them.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
My hon. Friend cannot really ride away upon that small point. I notice with satisfaction that so long as the Government pursues a vigorous policy they will practically get the undivided support of this House. If I may say so, most of this Debate is irrelevant. The Amendment itself is largely irrelevant. It is an Amendment which has been debated and discussed in this House appropriately upon the Pensions Act. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge), who is usually very courteous and knows this subject as well as any Member of the House, began to-day with a very virulent attack not upon this Government so much as upon the last Government. I defy my hon. Friend to say that the present Government has broken a single pledge. He began by attacking the practice of breaking pledges and then he went on ex misericordia to get the sympathy of the House by attacking the War Office on account of Class W Reserve. I should like again to state the real facts so far as Class W and Class P are concerned. 700 He knows perfectly well, and he admitted in the course of the Debate the other day, while the Department did make a mistake by putting disabled men into Class W, that we are now recovering ourselves. He admitted that we had so far recovered ourselves by putting these men from Class W into Class P as even to win his own gratitude.
It is perfectly true that Class W is composed almost entirely, or it ought to be, of men who are sent back to civil employment with a lien upon their services if the time comes when their services are required. Class P is different. It is composed of those who have been disabled in the Service and who go back into civil life with a pension. I went so far as to promise, so far as Class W were concerned, that while we could not give them pensions we would guarantee the moment they left the Service that they would in any case get a week's wages and separation allowance for their wives and children until they got some civil occupation. Let me examine the contention of those who have been pressing the Government to accept this Amendment. It is a fact that this Government is the most generous of all Governments so far as pensions and allowances are concerned. It is admitted that we give a pension to a man who has been disabled in the Service. It is admitted that we give a pension to a man whose disease has been aggravated in the Service, and we give not meagre pensions, but substantial pensions. What is my hon. Friend's proposal which has received astonishing support from the most astonishing quarters? His proposal is that we should also give a pension to a man who is discharged from the Service even after twenty-four hours, and though any disease that he may have has not been aggravated by his service or has been acquired by him in the Service.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
That is exactly what I say. That was my reading of my hon. Friend's Amendment. I accept that statement of his case. If we are going to give a pension to the particular class of men my hon. Friend describes, every single man in the British Army will get 701 a pension for life, except the gallant fellow who has never been ill, and who has fought for two solid years in the trenches and has come back. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, you include everybody for a pension except the strong physical man, who has very likely done all the fighting at the front. Could my hon. Friend go to his constituency and justify that?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
There is not a single individual in the Army who would be excluded from a pension except the man who is physically fit and has done gallant service at the front. Are those men to come back after their gallant service and find that a pension has been given to a man who has been in the Service very likely only for a few hours, and who may have been dismissed from the Service for illnesses of this sort: "Unable to march on parade. Attended no parade; had no military training."
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
We have not been unmindful of these men, even although we feel that they have no claim.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
No; under the new Royal Warrant we have provided that these men shall be allowed to get a gratuity up to £150, and I do not think we can accept any further responsibility so far as these men are concerned. When a pension is given for an aggravated disease or for wounds, it is a flat-rate pension. I assume, therefore, that my hon. Friend would have a flat rate all round. If that is so, it would cost the country at least an additional £10,000,000 a year. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) asked whether, in regard to the men in this category, men who are discharged with an aggravated disease, or with a disease acquired in the Service, we would accept the suggestion made by my hon. Friend. I am not in a position now or at any time to promise that we could accept the Amendment, but I can give the House the assurance, which I think will satisfy my right hon. Friend the 702 late Prime Minister, that we are going to take every possible precaution, if men who have already been examined come up again for re-examination, that they shall be most thoroughly and carefully examined. I cannot go any further than that at the present time.
Some attacks have been made upon the doctors who have been examining the recruits for the last few months. Since the passing of the Military (Service Acts the doctors in this country have been divided into two classes. You have got the Royal Army Medical Corps men engaged in the various theatres of war, and you have to rely upon the meagre supply of civilian doctors available for this purpose. It is true, as my right hon. Friend the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that in one day during the heavy recruiting season you had no fewer than 300,000 men examined. I am not at all surprised that some doctors did make mistakes, but I would repeat the argument by which I attempted to reply the other day to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) and the hon. Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield). You would not find a Harley Street specialist, looking back upon his medical prognoses and diagnoses, who had made less than 1 per cent. of mistakes. I can confidently say that out of all these 1,500,000 cases the doctors have not made mistakes amounting to more than 1 or 2 per cent. I think it is greatly to the credit of the doctors that they have performed the work to such great satisfaction.
§ Mr. BILLING
If the mistakes of the doctors only amount to 1 per cent., would it not be possible for the Government to pay for those mistakes?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) for his speech. It went very much further than I expected him to go. He told us quite willingly that this Bill provided for the calling up again within a short time of men who were excepted from service because of fraud or fortune. These cases of fraud are very numerous, and so are the cases of fortune. The typical case of fortune might be described as the case of the men with enemy associations who at the very beginning of the War offered himself for enlistment, but who was told that he could not be accepted because of his enemy associations. The other cases are the cases of those who applied for admission to select corps, but who were 703 not admitted because they did not come up to a certain physical standard. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir H. Dalziel) raised the question of the provision of labour from other sources. I did assure the House some time ago, and I repeat the assurance now, that we have attempted in every possible way to utilise coloured labour. We are watching that source of supply with the greatest care and everything possible is being done not only to utilise that labour in all the theatres of war, but to see that the men are comfortably housed and fed. My right hon. Friend also suggested that we might get 30,000 men from the Allies in this country. I confess that does seem to me a very fruitful source. My right hon. Friend knows that we have done our best to negotiate with the various Governments concerned, and we are endeavouring to do so now. Had it not been for certain events taking place in one of our Allied countries, we should at the present moment have negotiated matters and have provided ourselves, so far as that country and other Allied countries are concerned, with the assistance of members of those Allies in this country for our fighting forces. I cannot go further than that just now, but I can assure my right hon. Friend that I will do everything I can in the matter.
I have been asked by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waltham-stow whether this medical examination is to be a real one? I have consulted the authorities, and can give him the assurance that the medical examination will be a real one. The House will quite realise the enormous difficulties which we have had, and we frankly contess that men have been not only rejected from the Army, but included in the Army—it works both ways—because of the amount of work that the medical officers have had to do. We are hoping that we shall get for examination purposes in the near future, not individual civil practitioners, but boards composed of civil practitioners. I can give this assurance that very special attention will be directed to the case of any man who has been medically rejected and who comes up for medical re-examination again. A great deal has been said about the harassing attitude of the War Office so far as calling up these men is concerned. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walthamstow said he knew of cases 704 where, although the pink form had been sent, notice was given to the men that they would not be called up. That does not show that the War Office is anxious to harass anybody. It shows that we realised at that time that, though we were entitled to send the pink form to them, we could not profitably call them up. It did not show that there would be any danger in future that those who had been disabled would be called up again. The criticisms which have been passed except upon the points I have mentioned have not dealt with the main purpose of this Bill, and any suggestion that has been made can very well be debated. I hope that, in view of the enormous need which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pointed out—it is an urgent need—of getting these men at the present time when this nation is in the throes of the most terrible war, that this House will grant this Bill a Second Beading now.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I have listened with great attention to the very able speech of the Under-Secretary in the hope that he would make some answer to the very important questions which were directly put to him and the Government by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Lanark (Mr. Pringle). My hon. Friend did not confine himself to any small question of detail, but he asked point blank why, for instance, do you choose this method of adding to your resources in man-power, when, at the same time, there is an alternative method open to you of calling up all men over forty-one years of age, which, from many points of view, is preferable. I am not attempting to prejudge such an issue as that, but it does seem to me that this is a most important point, and that the House is bound to require from the Government a statement upon a matter of that character. After all, is it really better to compel the recovered invalids and recovered wounded who have gone back to their homes, who have taken up civil work, and who are reunited with their families, to go out to the front again, while, at the same time, you leave unmarried men of forty-two, forty-three, or forty-four, all men in full physical efficiency, utterly untouched by the scope of your military arrangements? It is quite impossible for the Government to burke an issue of that kind, and it ought to be quite impossible for the House to allow them to do so. This proposal which has been made by the Government is one 705 in regard to which we should take a very great responsibility upon ourselves if we did not assent to it. But an equal responsibility lies upon the Government. They are bound to show not only that their proposal in itself is a method of meeting the need, but that it is the best method of meeting the need compared with all other measures and efforts which may be open to them. Does not the House consider that the Bill now brought before them is, at its very best, an extremely partial means of meeting the needs? Does it not look like mere tinkering with the great question of man-power? I do not know all the possibilities which are open to the Government, but we ought to have received from the Leader of the House a broad survey of the resources available and clear arguments to show why this one has been selected in preference to the others.
I am not a partisan of those who think that the difficulties of this country are going to be surmounted merely by allowing the War Office to sweep every available man in the country into their net. I have repeatedly said so. The task before us is to take only what is necessary and to take it in the best way. Is it not a fair conclusion that if, for instance, you include in the scope of your new proposals 300,000, 400,000, or 500,000 men over the age of forty-one, you would have to make a less severe scrutiny of those invalids and wounded men to get the necessary 100,000, and, in consequence, that you would not be led either into hardship to the individual or to undoubted inefficiency in the Service which would result when you take a man not really fit for service? I remember perfectly well in the days of the late Government, when there was one of those great crises on the question of compulsion, the Ministers came down to the House and asked us for power to send the old soldier or the wounded soldier comnulsorily to the front, while they refused to take compulsory powers to conscript the young married man. The House treated that proposal with great decision, and it was withdrawn almost immediately. This proposal is very similar in its character, because I say it is a cowardly thing to take a wounded man or a recovered invalid, a doubtful man, physically defective, and press him into the fighting line at this time, while, at the same time, you do not attempt to take a perfectly fit, 706 strong, healthy man who happens to be just over the age and who otherwise might be absolutely eligible and available.
We have to ask the Government to consider this proposal as a whole. I am not going to oppose the Government on this measure, but I rise for this purpose: I want the House of Commons to insist upon discussing this question of man-power as a whole. What is the use of our dealing piece-meal with this question now, after all that has happened? I got up in the House a year ago and implored Parliament to pay attention to this question of man-power. I was thoroughly versed in the subject; I have studied it from the inside, and I have had practical experience of the Army. I pointed out the immense numbers of servants and men employed behind the line—employed in non-military duties—and that all those great fields could be drawn upon to maintain our manpower. The House took very little interest. There was no desire to take up these points. What do we get now? The Leader of the House says that a good deal has been done in this direction. He admitted we ought to have begun it earlier, but he said that a great deal has been done and is being done in this direction. But if the House of Commons had thrown itself into these questions at an earlier stage and had pursued them with resolute and untiring mental vigour, the Government would have moved earlier and you would have had large resources at your disposal which are not now at your disposal. The House abdicated its functions then. I say it is abdicating its responsibilities now. By all means let the Government have the power they are asking for, but I say we ought to insist on having a proper Debate and discussion on the Whole question of man-power.
There are two vital questions—manpower and tonnage—on which our lives depend and our existence depends. Here are Members of the House, each with their constituents in thousands of little cottages and little homes, with families to whom they are responsible. The House is paying no more attention to these subjects in their great scope, paying practically no adequate attention to these questions. It is quite easy to let these matters go. In times of peace you can often let matters go and no harm comes of it, but in time of War you cannot shirk your difficulty. It always falls upon your head with absolute certainty. The clouds never blow over in war time. Everything that is 707 looking bad, has to be met and encountered or else disaster occurs. I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I am not attacking the Government on the question of a Debate in Secret Session. They have never said they would not give one. They have never taken a strong line against it— never! It is the House that has failed to ask for it with sufficient unanimity and energy. Why should the House of Commons neglect its duty in regard to these vital matters? The French Chamber do not do it. They insist upon Secret Sessions. They move in and out of Secret Sessions according to the convenience of debate and the needs of the situation, and when a Minister said he could not trust the Chamber in Secret Session, although he was a most important Minister, the storm of indignation was so great that the Minister was forced to resign. Why should the House of Commons, the Mother of Parliaments, as it is called, avow itself incompetent to discuss the matters upon which the lives and welfare of every one of its constituents and every fellow-countryman absolutely depend? I appeal most strongly to my right hon. Friend to promise us that, if the House so desires it, he will facilitate, after Easter or whenever the course of public business renders it convenient, a full Debate in Secret Session on the great questions of man-power and tonnage. Then we shall be able to see what our resources are, what our needs are, what our prospects are, with at any rate much more clearness than we can at present. Although there may be many facts and figures which the Government would not care to give to the House of Commons even in Secret Session, I am certain that we shall be able to express our own views and to hear from the Government the answers which they would make to those views in such a way as to enable the House to pass this great problem through its mind and take some fair share, some real share, of the responsibility for the grave matters entrusted to their charge, and for which their countrymen will certainly and rightly hold them strictly and straitly responsible.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
My right hon. Friend is certainly right in saying that the issue which is raised to-day by the presentation of this Bill does involve the whole question of man-power. In the few introductory remarks which I made I clearly indicated that that was the case. 708 I said also that the reason why this Bill was introduced was because, in our opinion, the necessary steps which the Government would have to take in order to secure the men which we believe must be found depend upon internal organisation, and we thought it was necessary, before dealing with the subject on the wide scale indicated by my right hon. Friend, that we should see what relief we can expect from the National Service scheme which has been put into operation. My right hon. Friend is perfectly right in saying that the Government have never refused to allow the House of Commons to debate these matters in Secret Session. We never have. We realise that the House of Commons has a perfect right to take that course if it so desires. There is much to be said in its favour, but from the Government point of view there is something to be said against it. For one thing, my right hon. Friend is right in saying that even in a Secret Session it would not be possible to give all the facts and figures which have led the Government to take the course they feel compelled to take in this matter. My right hon. Friend asks me to give a promise. I have given it already. I have said, on behalf of the Government, that if the House shows real desire for discussion—[An HON. MEMBERS: "How it is to be shown?"] I do not think it would be very difficult to find out whether there is a real desire.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
If there is a strong desire in the House I think the House would find some means of making it known. At any rate, the Government have shown no hostility, and they will be quite ready, after Easter, to consider whether or not it may be desirable to have a Secret Session. In regard to this particular Bill, my right hon. Friend, I think, exaggerates its defects. He speaks as if we were going, by this measure, to bring in an inferior— physically inferior— class of men. But precisely the same medical test will be applied to the million men over whom the Army authorities propose to take this power as are applied to all the men being recruited for the Army now. Therefore, there is no reason to suppose that men drawn from this source will be inferior to those obtained under former Acts. That ought to be evident from the fact that the total number we expect to get from the million men 709 to be re-examined is something like 100,000. There will be no falling-off in respect of the medical test. We are dealing at this moment with the Amendment, which has relation to the pensions to be given to men who are taken into the Army. It was suggested by my right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister that the Government might make some concession with regard to those men dealt with by this Bill who have already been discharged from the Army, but are again called up after undergoing the re-examination, and subsequently again discharged as unfit. Since my right hon. Friend spoke I have had an opportunity of discussing this point with the Departments concerned, and I think I can show to the House that that is a course which ought not to be adopted. We ought not to apply a different principle to the men we are raising under this Bill to that which is applied to those raised under previous Acts. Therefore, the course to be adopted in regard to the men under this Bill is the course which you must adopt in regard to all men who are brought in under the Military Service Acts. I should like to point out to the House this further fact, that it is not altogether a question of mistakes alone. However careful the medical examiner may be, I am told there are many cases where at the time the medical examination takes place, it is impossible to diagnose the disease from which a man may be suffering, and therefore it may be, without any fault on the part of the examiner, that men are passed who are incapable of doing military service.
I wish the House to realise how the question stands. I should be very sorry to be the spokesman for a Government which took up an attitude which, in the opinion of hon. Members, was unfair to the men who are serving the country in this War. What has happened is this: At first, the principle adopted in regard to pensions, was that no man was to get any pension unless his disease was attributable to his military service. Of course, that left out a large number of people. This is not a new question, as my right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister stated, it was raised during the time of his Government, and it was debated in this House. I heard that discussion, and it was then agreed by the Government that it was not fair to the men. Even though their disease was not attributable to military service, if it had been aggra- 710 vated by military service, and if the fact that they had served their country had made their case worse, then they also should be entitled to full pension privileges. These are the two stages of the question. [An HON. MEMBER: "Full pensions?"] Yes, originally it was proposed to give four-fifths, but it is now full, and the 80 per cent. proposal has been abandoned. These two stages left the men who did not come under either of these categories in the position that they received nothing. But that has been changed under the Royal Warrant. Men were entitled to receive a gratuity up to the extent, within the Warrant, of £100, but I myself, after listening to the Debate, agreed that the sum should be raised to £150.
I wish the House to understand the principle on which the Government are acting, and have acted—both this Government and the previous Government, and it is not a principle on which we can go back. It is this. It is utterly unfair to the State to say that a man whose illness or disease is not due to, or accountable for, by military service should be left to be a permanent burden on the State, while the men who have actually fought and have given their services to the country get nothing. That is the principle we have laid down. If the House accepts that principle, there is one other consideration. I listened to the Debate on the Pensions Bill in regard to this matter, and I felt that there was a case, a real case from this point of view. It might be justly said by men who are either given the full pension or get only a gratuity—a very different thing—that under the Royal Warrant the people who pay the money— the Government—are to be judges in their own matter. There is something in the belief that there is a danger that administratively the Act will be so worked that men who ought to be given pensions may only get a gratuity. Obviously, I can make no definite promise. I have to consult not only the Department concerned, but the Cabinet. But I say, speaking for myself, I think it is a proper case, and I shall see that that case is carefully and sympathetically considered by the Government with a view, if they think there is a real case, of setting upon an independent tribunal, which would do nothing more than this—that in the case of men who may only get a gratuity and nothing more, 711 it will review the decision and come to a final decision whether or not they are to get a gratuity or a pension.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
All cases where a gratuity alone is given. I have already stated that it is obviously unfair that ft different principle should be applied to the men coining under this Bill, and to those who came in under previous Acts. I think I have shown that the Government, as I believe they ought to be, and as I think they have been from the beginning, are willing to consider the cases of the men. serving with every fairness, and to deal with any legitimate complaints that any of them who have had the misfortune to be rendered unfit through the services they have given to their country may have. I must add this. We cannot really make any condition of this kind a bargain whether or not this Bill is to be passed. There is no question, the House can imagine, on which the Government have a more direct responsibility than that of the way in which they are going to get the men who are deemed to be necessary in order to carry on the War. We say that this Bill is necessary for that purpose, and the House of Commons must take the responsibility if it refuses to assent to what the Government propose in a matter of this kind. At the same time, I am extremely anxious that the House and the country should realise that the sympathy which is felt in the House for these men is felt just as strongly by the Government, and that we are determined to give them everything which our duty to the State as a whole enables us to give them. I hope the House will be satisfied with the discussion which has taken place, and allow us now to come to a decision.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am sure the House will have heard with great satisfaction the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the case of the soldier discharged with a gratuity, on medical grounds, is to be made the subject of independent re- view. But the other questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) does not seem to I have been fully appreciated and met. Still, as the matter can be raised again on the Committee stage of the Bill, I do not propose to deal with it now. I must, however, remind my right hon. Friend 712 that what was asked for is this: That the case of the soldier who has already been discharged from the Army on medical grounds is quite different from that of the soldier who has not already passed through the Army, and it therefore is deserving of special treatment. If a soldier who has served his country is discharged for sickness or wounds—and the medical authorities do not discharge them lightly—and if you now submit him to reexamination, and again take him for the Army, then the absolute responsibility for taking that man ought to rest on the Army. If we were mistaken in those circumstances, I do not think any case ought to be brought up against him hereafter that he was intrinsically unfit to serve the Army. He has proved that he was incapable of serving because he has been discharged from the Army. If that is the case which my hon. Friend raises on the Committee stage of the Bill. I for one shall be very happy to support him.
§ Mr. HOGGE
After the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer it would be ungrateful of me if I did not withdraw my Amendment, and although this is only an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman he himself and those of us who are interested in the welfare of the soldiers are particularly gratified to know that now there is a possibility of an Appeal Court being set up to deal with all cases of men whose disability is not attributable to service. We hope these men will have a right to take to an independent tribunal their case for a pension before they are dispossessed of all gratuity. If that is done—and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will achieve that—a great step forward has been made in the matter of pensions, and I very warmly thank him.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I understand that a very considerable number of the men who will be affected by this Bill are engaged in agriculture, and, in view of the very critical condition of agriculture, very great anxiety is felt in regard to the time lost by these men having to attend for examination? Could any special provision be made to avoid any unnecessary delay of that kind?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Arrangements have already been made that no men will be taken before 1st May. But it goes much 713 further than that. I explained that one of the reasons for the need of this Bill is the fact that we are not allowing any men essential to food production to be taken away, and that policy still holds.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Will you make arrangements to examine men in accordance with the period in which they were rejected before?
§ of those pledges which, although made in good faith, cannot really be supported afterwards by Statutory power?
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 175; Noes, 18.715
|Division No. 19.]||AYES.||[8.15 p.m.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Fletcher, John Samuel||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Archdale, Lieut. E. M.||Forster, Henry William||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Foster, Philip Staveley||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gardner, Ernest||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Nicholson, William G. (petersfield)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Grant, J. A.||Norton-Griffiths, Sir J.|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Barrle, H. T.||Greig, Colonel James William||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Barton, William||Gretton, John||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Bathurst, Capt. Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Haddock, George Bahr||Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Pratt, J. W.|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Primrose, Hon. Neil James|
|Bonn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)||Pryce_Jones, Colonel E.|
|Bentham, G. J.||Haslam, Lewis||Radford, Sir George Haynes|
|Billing, Pemberton||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Rawilnson, John Frederick Peel|
|Bird, Alfred||Henderson. Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Henry, Sir Charles||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Boyton, James||Hope, James Fitealan (Sheffield)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hope, Lieut.-Col. J. A. (Midlothian)||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Home, Edgar||Rowlands, James|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Salter, Arthur Ciavell|
|Bull, Sir William James||Ingleby, Holcombe||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Johnston, Christopher N.||Shaw, Hon. A.|
|Cawley Rt. Hon. Sir Fredk, (Prestwich)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Shortt, Edward|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R.(Herts, Hitchin)||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Kellaway, Frederick George||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Coats, Sir Stuart (Wimbledon)||Larmor, Sir J.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (Aston)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Stanlcy, Major Hon.G. F. (Preston)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Layland-Barrett. Sir F.||Steel,Maitland, A. D.|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cory, James Herbert (Cardiff)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald|
|Cowan, W. H.||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwork, West)|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Swift, Rigby|
|Craig, Col. James (Down, E.)||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Cralk, Sir Henry||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Croft, Lieut.-Col. Henry Page||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Tickler, T. G.|
|Currle, George W.||McCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Touche, Sir George Alexander|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Macmaster, Donald||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannon)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Watson, John B. (Stockton)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Macpherson, James Ian||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Maden, Sir John Henry||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Dixon, C. H.||Malcolm, Ian||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-In-Furness)||Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Fell, Arthur||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza|
|Finney, Samuel||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness)||Lord Edmund Talbot and Mr. Beck.|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue|
|Anderson, W. C.||King, J.||Snowden, Philip|
|Arnold, Sydney||Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Thomas, J. H.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)|
|Hudson, Walter||Outhwaite, R. L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|John, Edward Thomas||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Thomas Richardson and Mr. Richard|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Sherwell, Arthur James||Lambert.|
|Jowett, F. W.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Mr. J. Hope.]