§ Motion made, and Question again proposed,
§ "That a number of Land Forces (including Air Force), not exceeding 5,000,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919."
§ Mr. HOGGE
I wish to raise this afternoon a number of questions on the Vote which I think require some kind of answer or explanation from the Financial Secretary or the Under-Secretary for War. The first point I want to raise is concerned with the question of the recent increases of pay in the Army. On Thursday I asked the Financial Secretary if he could ascertain from the various paymasters in the different units whether or not the actual increase awarded by the recent Army Order had actually been paid or not? I suppose there are other hon. Members besides myself who have received complaints from different units as to the non-payment of the so-called increase of pay. That leads me to make this further observation that there remains a very considerable amount of dissatisfaction with the method by which the men in the Army can ascertain what pay they have got and what is the state of their credit at any particular time. If there is one document which the soldiers seem to regard with derision more than any other it is the statement of accounts with which they are furnished by the paymasters from time to time. I would like to say this about the Pay Office, that I think it is due to that office to say that in my experience, as a Member of the House, in my dealings with the Army Pay Office, I have always found that General Sir John Carter, the Pay-master-in-Chief, is not only an able but a very efficient servant of the State. I have never approached him with any difficulty 1128 with regard to the pay of any individual soldier without receiving not only courtesy, but a very quick and satisfactory reply to any question involved in the matter of a soldier's pay, and I hope that there is no truth in the rumour which was current a few weeks ago that there was some intention of superseding Sir John Carter and putting his work into the hands of a civilian.
I notice that my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office shakes his head, and I hope very much that distinguished servant will not be removed from his office. I complain about a great many things, but General Sir John Carter, in my experience, has proved not only one of the most obliging, but also one of the most efficient officials at the War Office with whom I have ever had anything to do, and I am glad to know that there is no prospect of him being removed from his position. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain how really the state of account is finally arrived at? I know the difficulty of paying soldiers in the field, and the soldiers themselves know the difficulty of ascertaining how much is due to them in comparison with what they get. The fact of the matter is that no soldier is ever paid his weekly wage as any artisan is ; a certain proportion of his pay, which may or may not be on the credit or debit side of his account, is always retained, and when the man is killed and the balance of pay to his credit or otherwise is paid to his widow or dependants there is a great deal of dubiety as to how much is due or whether the credit side of the account represents what they are entitled to. I know the system of witness rolls in the field, of the sending of them to the paymaster, and of the drawing up of the statements of account, but my right hon. Friend would be doing a service if he would make some statement publicly as to what check is made upon the amount paid in the field and afterwards sent up by the witness roll to the paymaster in comparison with the amount to which the man is entitled. There is nothing affecting the men which is felt more acutely than this doubt as to whether they are getting their money or not. If the right hon. Gentleman can convince them that the system upon which they are paid and by which their pay is checked is infallible, or is as infallible ns it can be he will be doing a considerable service to the men in the field.
The second point that I wanted to raise has been disposed of by an answer which I 1129 received to-day from the President of the Local Government Board. I had it down on my notes to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it was the case—and one was disposed to believe it might be the case from the amount of Press notice which has been given to it recently—that owing to the recent increases of pay the wives and men were being deprived of the civil liability grant to which they were entitled upon the old basis, but I am glad to know from the President of the Local Government Board that it is absolutely illegal and in variance entirely with the instructions of the War Office that any civil liability grant should be altered or varied on account of the general increase of pay. I hope my right hon. Friend will confirm that and remove all doubt. I am not saying that it cannot be varied or altered if the pay is increased for normal reasons. If a man is promoted to the rank of sergeant and is thereby in receipt of larger pay, of course the fact is taken into consideration by the Civil Liability Committee, and it may result in a reduction of the civil liability amounts. The point to be made clear, and many people want it made clear, although I am quite clear about it myself, is that none of these grants either from the Civil Liability Committee or the local war pensions committees can be either varied or altered as the result of the recent increase; in other words, that the increase of pay is over and above all other payments which have been made. The third point about which I want to ask a few questions is the method by which the silver badge is distributed to discharged men. I still fail to understand the basis upon which the silver badge is granted. Originally, it was' given practically to most men who had been discharged for any disability. Later, it was only given to men who were discharged when on medical examination they were considered to be no longer physically fit for any form of service. If that is the practice that obtains at the present moment, I should like to know how some people managed to get the silver badges that they are wearing. For instance, if I may say so without meaning anything at all, I know certain Members of this House of Commons who are wearing silver badges who have never been in the Army at all except in positions which are not military but administrative, and who have never been out of the country at all, whereas men who have been abroad and who have been discharged for disability, but whose 1130 disability apparently in the opinion of the medical board is not such to warrant them getting a discharge which says that they are absolutely physically unfit for any kind of service, are not entitled to the silver badge and cannot get it. Obviously, that creates a feeling among those men that is not helpful. They really want some average distinguishing mark to show that they have served and that their service has been recognised by the State. I have suggested before now—I do it again, although I have no hope that the War Office will accept the suggestion—that if the silver badge is not to be, restricted, then it is up to the War Office to furnish the men with some kind of mark which at any rate will indicate that they have fought. I do hope that suggestion will be considered.
The fourth point that I want to raise concerns the decision of the War Office with regard to wounded and time-expired men. In all the concessions that have been made so far no attention, beyond the expression of a pious opinion, has been paid to the men who have been wounded and the time-expired men. I was present on Sunday afternoon when the Minister of National Service made a speech in London—presumably he was talking the mind of the Government—and he indicated the time when the Government hoped to replace every soldier at the front who had been twice wounded by fit men or men who had not served. The War Office and the Government from time to time from the Treasury Bench have expressed their hope that wounded men who have been returned to this country, but who have not been discharged, could be relieved from going back to the front. I need not elaborate this point, because many hon. Members have referred to it again and again, but I can assure my hon. Friends that if there is one class of men who evoke more sympathy from the general community than another, it is the class of soldier who cannot secure his discharge and who is returned to the front time and again after he has been wounded. For example, I know a friend of mine who has been wounded seven times and who, in spite of that fact, has been sent over for the eighth time to the front. Everybody realises that that is the type of man whom the country regards as having done everything the country expects of him, and that that man ought to be replaced by someone in this country who has never seen the other side of the Channel and who has no experience of the fighting at the front.
1131 I venture to suggest to my hon. Friends in charge of the Vote to-day that they ought to make up their minds on this subject, and ought to be able to give some definite pronouncement very soon. By very soon I mean within a few days; I do not mean that it is the kind of thing which can be put off by saying that it is being considered and that an early decision is expected. It is up to the War Office, because they have the facts in their records, to draw the line somewhere, and if they can do nothing more, might I suggest that they should make a beginning to-morrow by refusing to send back to the front men who have been wounded for, let us say, X times, and let them fix the number? As I have pointed out, men have been wounded eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one times. If the War Office would only make a beginning and say that all those who have been wounded six times shall not go back, and a fortnight later would say that all men who have been wounded five times shall not go back, then we should see that they really meant business. I do not like to leave it just with the promise that the War Office are trying their best. I should like the War Office to say something definite, so that the public may know that the men who have been wounded over and over again at the front, and who have come back here and convalesced at our hospitals, should not have the feeling at the back of their minds that they have to go back again. That ought to be settled. Probably my hon. Friend feels as I do, and the only thing which prevents him coming to a decision is the officialdom he has to break through. I have suggested to him a method by which he might make a beginning by issuing an Order under which men with more than a certain number of wounds should not go back. That would leave it possible for men—although I should regret it—who have been wounded once or twice to be sent back in the meantime, but it would give an indication to the public that the War Office really meant business on this question of the wounded men.
I should like to be quite clear, because I have only got the promise in a letter to myself personally, and I should like my hon. Friend to say it in his speech, so that it can go on the Notes of this House, with regard to the time-expired man. I under- 1132 stand that a time-expired man who has been discharged on the ground that he is time-expired is frequently a man who has also been wounded, and that if he is discharged on the ground of being time-expired that allows the authorities to recall him to the Colours, but that now a concession is offered that a time-expired man, discharged because he is time-expired, shall not be recalled to the Colours if he has been wounded. That does not cover the whole case of the time-expired men, but if my hon. Friend can say quite definitely in this Committee that from now onwards the lime-expired man who has also been wounded is in the same-position as the silver-badged man who has been wounded, who has served overseas, and who, therefore, is entitled to claim his final discharge, he will be indicating another useful concession.
I also want to ask the Under-Secretary a question with regard to the distribution of the 1914 Star. I am not going to put him into any difficulty in the matter with regard to dates. I quite realise that the War Office had to draw the line at a certain date, and that a number of men on the other side of that date feel very keenly that they have missed, as we might call it, the appointed day. Whatever date we draw as to the distribution of any award of that kind there is bound always to be a certain number of men disappointed who would like the date to extend another day or week in order to cover their cases. The point I want to put is that while it is true, so far as I can ascertain, that the men serving in the forces now are able to get the ribbon of the 1914 Star, very few of the men who have served and have been discharged can get the same ribbon from the Record Office of the unit to which they belong. As I pointed out when discussing the question of the silver badge, it is quite possible that a large number of men who were not entitled to the silver badge are entitled to the ribbon, and if they had the ribbon that would protect them in the same way as the silver badge protects the other men. I want my hon. Friend, if he will, to get in touch with the various Record Offices in the country, or, if that is not the process, to examine his own office and to find out why, after all the applications that have been made to the Record Offices of the various units, the ribbon is not being distributed to these men. No men ever deserved the ribbon or medal more than these men do, and if the War Office have 1133 made up their minds to distribute it, it is up to the War Office to distribute it with dispatch and not to keep the matter hanging up so long, and thereby disappoint men who are both entitled and proud to wear it.
I want next to raise the question of the travelling medical boards inside the Army. I do not want to go into much detail on this point, although one could easily do so if he wished. We had a Committee, which is popularly known as the Shortt Committee of the House of Commons, which went into the subject of the examination by medical boards in this country. At the time that inquiry was made a great many of us felt that the reference to that Committee might very well have been extended to the travelling medical boards inside the Army, and that a great number of men actually in the Army received no better treatment from the medical boards in the Army than did many men from the medical boards in going into the Army. I should like to read to ray lion. Friend a very short extract from a letter which emphasises what I mean in my criticism of the travelling medical boards. It is an extract from a letter which I quite generously admit straight, away that my hon. Friend has promised to investigate himself personally. I am only using this as an example of the type of thing to which I refer. To begin with, he enlisted in September, 1915, in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He got his training and was sent out to France, and in May, 1916, was invalided home, suffering from rheumatism. From then to April, 1917, he was in England, and in the middle of April he was sent to Italy, was unfit there, in hospital again on the 9th May, and ever since. In September he was marked unfit in Italy, and was told he was going home to be discharged. However, when he arrived at Rouen he was detained, and was sent before a board, and marked fit for active service. Following on the top of that, another board marked him permanently unfit. He was sent up the line to a Labour company, where he was unable to do the work, was sent back to hospital, and then to this convalescent home. Since a year past in May he has done practically nothing, but suffered all the time, out of hospital into convalescent, and doing a little in the Post Office, where he was before he enlisted. I do not want to push this too hard, but it is obvious, as the result of the decisions of 1134 the inquiry into the medical boards in this country, that there are to-day in the Army a large number of men who are very unfit, and it is a hindrance to the efficiency of the Army to keep them there. They are wasting the time not only of their comrades in the ranks but of the officers, of the medical attendants of all kinds, from the doctors down to the nurses, of the transport officers, in fact of everyone, and as a plain business proposition, apart altogether from the humanity of the proceeding, it is worth the Army authorities while to comb out that type of man. I could give many more letters if it were necessary, but I suggest that it is worth while looking into the question of the efficiency of the travelling medical boards. The medical boards in this country were acting according to instructions furnished from the War Office. I hope there is no similar kind of instruction given to the travelling medical boards in the Army because, if it is so, the War Office is doing itself an injustice and the men concerned a very great injury.
The next point I want to raise is the question of release from the Colours. I should like the Under-Secretary to tell us what exactly is the form now that the National Service Department has been set up. Previously in the War Office there was a. Release from the Colours Department. Now there are two Departments. There is one at the War Office, and there is one at the National Service. Will my hon. Friend explain clearly what is the function of the two Departments, and when one is expected to apply to the War Office Release from the Colours Department and when one is expected to apply to the Release from the Colours under National Service. Will he also say whether it is worth while at all sending to him the kind of cases which are submitted to one as a Member of this House, or whether it is better to leave applications for release from the Colours, in the case of the War Office, on the ground of ill-health, domestic circumstances, and so forth, to the man himself or his wife, and in the other case, of National Service, to the employer, who may be seeking the services of the soldier?
Another point I want to touch on is the question of transfers from unit to unit. Owing to the exigencies of military warfare now, a great number of men who originally enlisted under special enlist- 1135 ment are being transferred to other units. Can my hon. Friend say that all men who enlisted on a special enlistment, that is to say, who applied in response to deliberate invitation on the part of the War Office on certain terms, cannot be transferred from the unit into which they enlisted to any other unit with a reduction of pay? I understand the practice of the War Office is this. Say a man enlisted in one of the Veterinary Corps at a special rate of pay, he may now be sent to an Infantry unit and his pay may be reduced. If you make inquiry about a case of that kind you find the War Office reply is that they are able to reduce the pay if the man is not efficient at the trade for which he enlisted. It is rather one against the War Office if they enlist a man who is not efficient at the trade and take so long to discover that he could not do the work for which they enlisted him and were paying him. I want to be quite clear that the War Office is not taking advantage of a man who has made that special kind of enlistment on account of military exigencies. I had far rather the War Office were perfectly honest and said, "We have to do this because it is necessary," than try to excuse themselves on the ground that the man whom they themselves accepted as efficient for the trade has become inefficient, and therefore is only entitled to Infantry pay. The same kind of thing arises with classes of men at the front. A great many men who voluntarily joined the Motor Transport at the beginning of the War are being compulsorily transferred to Infantry units now, and men who were conscripted later on are being left in the Motor Transport. When I raised a case of two of that kind with the War Office, they explained that it was a question of age, and they wanted the fitter men, whether they enlisted voluntarily or were conscripted, for the Infantry units. Whatever pay the Motor Transport man was getting, it was the War Office who advertised for them at 6s. a day, and those men went before they were taken, and now they find they are being put into the Infantry, and the fellows who were conscripted are being kept in the Motor Transport. It is not the kind of thing to make a cheerful fighter.
Another point I want to raise was raised the other day on what is known 1136 as the Monteagle-Browne case. Why is it that the War Office have no general court of inquiry before which a man with a grievance can present his case? I have had cases from time to time of men who, for some reason or other, on which I cannot form a very precise judgment, have been sent home from the front, and have either been asked to resign or have themselves resigned in order to prevent themselves being dismissed. The complaint of these men—I think it is true, and I think it is admitted—is that they cannot raise their case in any particular way with the War Office. The Undersecretary has told us it is not possible in war time. Most things seem possible in war time, in spite of the fact that we are always saying nothing is possible. I wonder whether it is not possible that a man in that position could be entitled to put his side of the case before a court of inquiry, because any number of these men are turned down—and turning down to a man in that position means a very considerable disgrace—without ever being able to put their side of the case at all. I do not think that is just, reasonable, or fair, and my hon. Friend should try to constitute some general court of inquiry to which cases of that kind could be put from time to time, and so avoid a rankling sense of injustice that is left in the minds of very many of these men.
I have had a very great number of complaints recently from Scotland—I do not know whether it obtains in England or not—with regard to the day on which the separation allowance money is paid. Just now the money is paid on Monday. As the right hon. Gentleman would know, if he were a Scotsman, the average Scottish wife does her marketing and spends her money on a Saturday. If my hon. Friend were in touch with Scottish newspapers he would find that there is an increasing and very strong demand that the separation allowance should be paid on Friday, rather than on the Monday. That is the kind of thing which could easily be adjusted. It is a matter of convenience for the greater part of the population, and if the Financial Secretary could see his way, after discussing it with the Paymaster-in-Chief, to pay the allowances in Scotland on the Friday instead of the Monday, he would be conferring a very decided boon upon the working population in Scotland.
1137 The last question I want to ask is: Who fixed the price for junior officers uniforms? Since they were fixed I have had, even from my own personal friends, a considerable amount of complaint. For instance, the price fixed for the Service jacket of an officer is £6 16s. 2d. After all, the men with one and two stars are not very well off. In many cases they have been promoted from the ranks in the New Army, and, while it is possible for a man of higher rank to pay that amount of money, it is rather taking it out of the younger officer to compel him to pay that price. I could get a couple of suits of clothes for £6 16s. 2d. in London, and very good clothes, too. If it were not for free advertisement of my tailor I would give the name and address now. If that is true, it is not fair to charge £6 16s. 2d. for a Service coat to a junior officer. I suggest to the Financial Secretary, although my speech is not concerned with any of the larger problems of War Office administration, that it raises just the kind of case that all of us have heard from our serving friends, whether they are privates or officers. Both my hon. Friends know enough about the War Office to know that, if you want the Army to be contented and if you do not want to make them feel disgruntled, it is just these little things that affect personal comfort, and affect the convenience of their relatives or affect the question of justice between one payment and another, which have an effect upon a considerable number of men. I submit to both my hon. Friends that if they would give me, in answer to the questions that I have put this afternoon, some hope that these matters will be attended to, and if possible remedied, they will be conferring not only a benefit upon the men who are affected, and those of us who are working for these reforms, but they will be doing a real service to themselves, because they will be convincing the men over whose interests they preside that they take a deep and personal interest in their concerns.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I wish to ask the Home Secretary for some further information in regard to the regulated brothels in France and the policy which is being adopted towards them by the military authorities out there. The Committee knows that in France they have a system of licensed regulated brothels, and a large number of these are in towns 1138 largely occupied by British troops. The hon. Member has been asked questions about this in the House, and he has replied that these places are under the jurisdiction of the French civil authorities, and that he has no power over the French civil authorities and cannot take any steps in the matter. As a matter of fact, these replies do not touch the point at issue. Of course, he has no jurisdiction over the French civil authorities, but he has jurisdiction over the British soldier. The question I wish to raise is this—Why is it that, by the policy of the military out there, these places are deliberately being left within bounds for British troops? The Americans, in the towns where they have control, put these places out of bounds. The British military authorities out there put other places out of bounds. They put estaminets out of bounds by merely putting a message upon the door, or putting a military policeman on guard. If they can do that, why do they refuse to put these regulated brothels out of bounds for British troops?
I understand that the hon. Gentleman is acting in accordance with the representations of his military advisers. That is a policy which the military have always believed in even when the Contagious Diseases Acts were repealed. I believe that the military view of this question is absolutely wrong, and that if the hon. Gentleman will go into it, he will find that the proportion of venereal diseases in the British Army just before the War was smaller than it was in the days of the Contagious Diseases Acts. If he will go into the question in regard to the whole civil population I think he will find that it is now fairly conclusively established that quite apart from the moral question this system in the long run leads to an actual increase in the amount of venereal disease. It does so for a variety of reasons. One reason is that the women in these places are not as a matter of fact safe. They are inspected, but they get infected and in turn they infect dozens of men before they are inspected again. Not only that, but if you take Paris or anywhere else, for every woman regulated and inspected in one of these places there are at least half a dozen unregulated and un inspected women carrying on this trade outside. The reason is that although men may acquire these habits inside these licensed places, which are very unattractive and squalid and unappetising, they prefer to continue 1139 those habits outside, with the result that a new clandestine trade springs up. The first effect is that under this licence system there are, in spite of the regulations, thousands of unregulated prostitutes upon the streets. It leads to this condition of things—here is a system or a habit which carries with it certain dangers and penalties. The State, the Government, tries to reduce the dangers and tries to reduce them by a system which practically invites the whole of the male population as they go out to become addicted to this habit, what is the consequence? On the one hand you have all these women still about the streets, and on the other hand you have an enormous increase of the proportion of people who are addicted to these habits, and these two conditions together mean that in the long run the amount of venereal disease is greater than if the system had not been put into operation.
This is not simply a question to be decided by the military authorities According to their views of the statistics of venereal disease. It is a moral question. It is a question which touches us very deeply, and which goes very deeply to the spiritual sense of the British people. There is no reason whatever why the hon. Gentleman should accept the views of his military advisers on a question of this sort. It may be right that they should dictate to us as to their views on strategy, but there is no reason whatever why they should dictate to us their views on morals. I do not feel that I am called upon to enter into any argument as to the merits or defects of this system of regulated prostitution. The fact is that the whole country and this House, when it repealed the Contagious Diseases Acts, deliberately decided against such a system, and if the House wishes to reintroduce the system it should do so in the light of the public eye; it should do it openly, and in the public view, by reintroducing the Contagious Diseases Acts. Until it is prepared to do that, I think it ought not to be that, so far as tens of thousands of young British soldiers in France are concerned, that the system should be clandestinely permitted to them by the policy of the military authorities. I hope the hon. Gentleman will give me a different answer this afternoon. As he knows, the subject has been privately pressed upon the War Office for about 1140 eighteen months, and it was only because other means have failed that the subject was finally brought before the public. I can assure him that since the answers that he has given in this House have appeared they have caused profound misgivings in thousands of decent homes from which sons have gone abroad, and I can assure him that if the War Office insists upon its present attitude there will be a widespread public agitation on this question which nobody wants on such a subject as this. I hope, therefore, that he will this afternoon give some satisfactory assurances on the subject.
§ Colonel Sir C. SEELY
May I bring the Committee back to some of the questions raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), and draw the attention of the representative of the War Office to the importance of the subjects with which he dealt? The first question which he raised was in regard to soldiers' pay books. I know that it is a very difficult and complicated question, but I should like to add a few words to what was said by the hon. Member for Edinburgh as to the individuals composing the Pay Department of the Army who deal with this question. I have not myself had anything to do with General Carter, but I have been in contact with a great many of the Pay Department officers, and I can speak very highly as to the great amount of personal care and attention that they give to this matter, and how constantly they go to personal pains in their endeavour to meet any difficulties that occur in regard to pay. What I would like to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman is whether it would not be possible to get some sort of balance of the soldiers' pay books made at shorter intervals. I have found, and I think he will probably know that it occurs very constantly, that when a man has come home to see his wife or other relatives he has been under the impression that he has a considerable amount of money due to him. He has gone out, and something has occurred, and when inquiries are made from the Pay Office it is found that instead of money being due to him there are debits owing by him. The real difficulty in regard to that is that old balances are carried forward such a very long time. I know the difficulties of the Army arrangements, but I think it would be well if you could strike a balance oftener. This might occasionally involve 1141 the Department losing a little money on old claims by striking a balance, say, at the end of three, four or six months, but it would have the advantage of obtaining a fresh start, and having a clear balance which would be understood, not only by the authorities, but by the soldiers themselves. While this would involve occasionally writing off small debits, I think, from the point of view of the whole expense of the country, it would not be much, because the carrying forward of these small debits causes a considerable amount of clerical work and trouble which is not worth the actual amount ultimately recovered. I put the suggestion forward for what it is worth.
There is another matter which has been referred to, and that is the sending out of men who have been many times wounded. I know the difficulties of the matter, but I would add my words to what the hon. Member for Edinburgh has said as to the very great advantage it would be to the Army and the country if there could be some general statement such as that he suggested, namely, that a man who has been wounded a certain number of times should not be sent out again to the front. It is not entirely a question for the hon. Member now sitting on that bench. It is also a question for the Ministry of National Service. It is rather a misfortune that in this House now no one is ever seen on that bench unless he is immediately concerned with the business of the moment. It would be a good thing if the Ministry of National Service were represented on that bench at present, so that that Department might hear what is said with regard to a matter in which it is very intimately concerned. Many of the difficulties in which it is at present engaged are due to the fact that not quite sufficient consideration has been given to those men who have been wounded, or who have served for a very long time during this War, and the claim which is at present made by the Ministry of National Service and the War Office to obtain men who up to the present have been exempt from military service for various reasons would be greatly strengthened if it were clearly understood that those men who have served for a long period and those who have been wounded seriously in the service of their country, or those who have been wounded again and again, were going to be exempt from further actual service at the 1142 front. If that were definitely understood, then the claim which is made for the services of the young men who up to the present have avoided service in consequence of being engaged in certain industries would be very much strengthened.
The difficulties which occur at present. and which everyone appreciates, and which are certainly serious, and at the same time should be got over in the interests of general fairness to all classes of the population, would be very much diminished if the War Office would make a definite statement as to what their wishes and intentions are with regard to asking men to continue their service beyond a certain period, or to resume service after a certain number of wounds, if they succeed in obtaining the services of those men whom they are asking for at present. That is a matter with which the hon. Gentleman opposite is not solely concerned, but I press it on his consideration, not only from the point of view of its importance in itself, but also because of its bearing on the question of obtaining further recruits. Another matter to which I wish to refer is the Civil Liabilities Commission. I understood from the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman that he was responsible for that Commission.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
The Local Government Board.
§ Sir C. SEELY
Then I will not deal with the matter. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was the Minister responsible.
§ Sir C. SEELY
I hope that I may have the support of the right hon. Gentleman when I deal with the Local Government Board in reference to that subject. I would also press upon my right hon. Friend the claim which is put forward with regard to the men who were enlisted under special conditions of pay. I feel fairly confident that he will have a perfectly straightforward answer to that question, but I do hope that it will be a thoroughly straightforward one, and I trust that the War Office will see the very great importance not only of not doing anything which is not fair, but of avoiding anything which may appear to be unfair. There is no doubt very great difficulty with regard to men being enlisted for special corps at a high rate of 1143 pay, and men afterwards being enlisted compulsorily for similar work at a lower rate of pay. But whatever those difficulties may be, the one important thing with regard to the men and the pay is this, that when you have made a definite bargain with men at a certain rate of pay that bargain should be carried out, and, if there is any difficulty or difference, that you, being as you are in a position of absolute authority, should give the benefit of the doubt to these men. I have heard stories, and one reads in the Press, of men who have been enlisted in these special corps being reduced, and then put into the Infantry or something of that kind at a lower rate of pay. I do not suppose for a moment that the War Office do anything of the kind, but I would impress on them very strongly the necessity not only of not doing anything of the kind, but of making it perfectly clear to everybody, the men themselves and the public generally, that anything of the kind is entirely avoided, and that a bargain once made with men is carried out however inconvenient that bargain may be, and whatever difficulties may arise in adjusting the general pay of the Army and the pay of these men.
Reference has been made recently to certain grievances of certain officers. I have no wish to go into that particular question, and no knowledge of the circumstances, but I say one thing quite distinctly. We have had during the last year a considerable amount of difficulty with regard to the position of officers in the Army, and of men in the Army of every rank and class, and I do suggest-to this Committee, to the Government and to the. public, that you will never have a really successful government of the Army of this country until you go back to the old arrangement which existed for so many years past, which was only abolished a short time ago, of having a Commander-in-Chief of the British Army who shall be responsible for the general management and discipline of the Army. You adopted, quite recently in the history of this country, the system of governing the Army by an Army Council As far as my experience of armies goes, councils are not a very good system of government. All councils have the great defect that they are impersonal. No man knows who they are. When a decision is taken no one is certain which particular member of 1144 the council is really responsible for it. That is not a good system of management of an Army, and I would suggest that, the real solution for all the difficulties which arise as to whether a man has been fairly treated, and in many other questions of the greatest importance, will be found by giving back to the Army what it has always had in the past, and what I am certain is the proper thing for the government of an Army, that is a. Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, not a Commander-in-Chief in a particular centre or a particular place, but a soldier of great and distinguished position having the confidence of the country and the Government, who shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the English Army at home and abroad, on the fighting front, in India and over the whole world, for the whole of the Army. I feel certain that that will be a solution not only of small difficulties, but of large ones which: may arise in the future.
§ Colonel Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I desire for a few moments to bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend a point which, I think, is worthy of serious attention. I quite realise that it is a difficult and delicate task for a Member of this House to criticise those who have been responsible during the three last strenuous, trying years for running the vast machine of the Army. I served some time at the beginning of the War myself, and I have the greatest admiration for the devotion and self-sacrifice they have shown. Here and there, of course, one does come across some Jack-in-office; here and there one sees sometimes intensive conservatism in. high places. But, speaking generally, the country ought to be very grateful to the officers who have been responsible for the fighting machine, for the sympathy, intelligence and understanding which they have shown, and if I do criticise, it is merely for the purpose of appealing for still more sympathy and still more understanding. We have got in our Army the finest fighting machine that this or any other Empire ever possessed, but I hope that we shall always remember that, though we have got a great fighting machine, the individuals composing it are the last thing in the world but machines. The youth of this nation have submitted gladly, willingly, to the self-sacrifice, military hardships and discipline of the Army, but, at the same time, 1145 they remain essentially civilians at heart, and in maintaining the morale and discipline of your troops you cannot do better than realise that they are human beings, and do the utmost in your power to appeal to their intelligence and understanding.
With that little preface to my right hon. Friend, I desire to refer to the conditions of what are called Command Depots. These are places where convalescent soldiers are gathered together in large numbers for the purpose of being hardened up in order to be sent back to the front. I am given to understand, and my information, I believe, is reliable, that these places arc extremely unpopular. They are, in fact, centres of discontent. It is said that there is little attempt made to interest, amuse or instruct the men. The chief means of making these men fit for the field is to take them for interminable route marches. Obviously, the atmosphere is a little bit difficult in these places, because the men ought to know that the only object of their being there is to fit them once more for being sent out. It is also obvious that the proper policy of the people who are responsible for running these places is to remove, as far as possible, the impression on the men's minds that they are being treated as machines. But, unfortunately, that policy is not pursued, and nothing is done either to instruct or to amuse the men, or to assist them to be either better citizens or better soldiers.
Why should not these depots be treated as places where men can be made better soldiers? Why should there not be classes held in all the many activities which go to make up a soldier's life? Why should there not be classes in machine gunning, howitzer firing, physical drill, bayonet exercise, and map reading? The Army needs an enormous staff of non-commissioned officers as instructors for homo use. Why should not these places be utilised as schools for training non-commissioned officers for this purpose? It would be well to induce these men to take an interest in their work, and it would be of enormous benefit and help in running these places. Let one part of the day he devoted to making a man a better soldier; let the other part be devoted to making him a better citizen. You might have musical and debating societies; the aid of the Board of Education might be invoked: lectures and technical instruction might be provided, not so much to fit these men 1146 to compete in various trades, but more or less to amuse them. I am informed that the head of these Command Depots at the War Office is a most estimable and popular officer who served in the Indian Army. But you want younger men for this job, men more used to dealing with Europeans. We want a thorough overhauling of all these Command Depots from top to bottom. I do not see why these places should be so neglected. The lack of understanding and sympathy is making them the centres for the propaganda of disaffection; I might almost say disloyalty. If nothing is done in this matter, I shall consider it my duty to worry my hon. Friend until some improvement is brought about.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I ventured earlier in the discussion to draw the attention of the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Forster) to the advantages which had accrued to the. War Office from the process of evolution which has been proceeding on a. large scale. At the same time I hinted at certain possible disadvantages which, I feared, might occur and of which I myself had heard echos with regard to details of administration. Since then I have had the advantage of listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Harcourt), who has given to the House a very graphic description of what has taken place in the South of Scotland, and I cannot help drawing the attention of the Committee to the very' unusual, I am glad to say, but none the less unfortunate circumstances which surround that particular case. I think the Financial Secretary is conversant with the facts. I cannot profess to have in my mind that wealth of detail which is of great importance, but in handing over of a part of the domain of the administration to the Air Department of the Government there has been lost or thrown away a very large sum of money, amounting, I believe, to £400,000, and I cannot help thinking that that is one of the defects which have to be faced in this process of evolution to which I drew attention in my first speech. It is a misfortune that we should have one Government Department saying, "Here is a place fitted for such-and-such a purpose; we will equip it accordingly, we will spend the money of the taxpayer lavishly upon it, and make it fit for that purpose," and then that the place should be handed over to the Air Board, who declare, "We cannot do this thing; it is impossible; we will have to get rid of it and cut our loss." That is I under- 1147 stand, the history of this case. I do not like recriminations and I think my right hon. Friend will acquit me of indulging in them, but I cannot help drawing the attention of the Committee to this most unfortunate transaction.
I wish to say a word in relation to what has fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Sir C. Seely), who wishes us to revert to the arrangement under which we existed prior to the advent of the Liberal Government to power in 1906. He wishes us to go back to the old system which existed in the War Office when that building was situated in Pall Mall. I am an old enough Parliamentary hand to remember in what odour the War Office was held in those days. It may be said it is not in the best odour to-day. I do not agree with that, although I know some people hold that view. But whatever the position may be, I can only say that even the most fiery critics, such as the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, have not got a vocabulary which will at all compare with what used to be said of the War Office when it existed in Pall Mall. I am an old War Office servant, and I know those who were in the Service long before I was; they always said that even in my time, although the criticism was most severe, we were infinitely more efficient than the Office had been in earlier days. I would say that if you want chaos piled upon chaos you will get it if you go back to that system of centralisation which the hon. Member for Mansfield advocates. We well know why the Army Council system was adopted, and I think my hon. Friend would do well to read the Report of the Esher Committee upon which the Army Council system was founded. If he would do that he would, I think, come to the conclusion that it is highly desirable, not only in the interests of the State as a whole but of every person who wishes to obtain something like satisfaction from a great State. Department like the War Office, to have one individual at the head of each Department responsible for the transactions of that Department, and that is what the Army Council was established to obtain. Discipline comes under the. charge of the Adjutant-General; the Chief of the General Staff is responsible for strategy; for war stores and equipment, food, clothing, and so on, the Quartermaster-General's Department is responsible; guns and ammunition are under the charge of the Master-General of the 1148 Ordnance. In that way only is it possible-for a great Department, undertaking such vast transactions as does the War Office, to perform efficiently its important duties with satisfaction both to the Army and to the individuals immediately concerned?
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I respond at once to the invitation of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant)that I should take note of what he has said with regard to the waste of money due to the lack of properly co-ordinated administration revealed by the instance to which the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Harcourt) drew attention in the Debate last week. My right hon. Friend said it amounted almost to a scandal that such a case should have occurred that one Department of the State should start upon a work which it believed to be essential, and that when the administration of that particular Service was handed over to another Department of the State, the new Department should abandon the work and describe it as a white elephant. The Committee has listened to two very frank statements with regard to this question, one made by my hon. Friend the Undersecretary for Air (Major Baird) describing his share of the business, and the other made by myself describing the part played by the War Office in this matter. I do not think we can carry the question very much further by Debate in this House. I am not in the least disposed to deny that it is the business of the House to see that inquiry is made into a question like this, on the contrary, it is freely admitted that the House will naturally want to know who is responsible for the various decisions—the decision, in the first place, to construct, and secondly, the decision to abandon the undertaking. In order to allow the House to arrive at a proper judgment on a question of this nature, it should have before it the officers concerned in coming to the various decisions, not only the military officers, but civilian officials as well. I can quite well believe that, in normal times, the House would have insisted on the appointment of a Committee to inquire into this particular matter, but in this instance the House will be able perhaps to enjoy the advantage of an inquiry by a Committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Samuel)—a Committee which has been re-appointed this Session to carry on the work on which it was engaged last Session, and as I said last week, I have 1149 no doubt whatever that that Committee will wish to investigate the whole of the circumstances of the case. I should like to repeat what I I said last week. It may be that a service which is urgently demanded by a technical corps like the Flying Corps is very properly demanded at the time the demand is made. It maybe that, owing to technical developments—in the speed of aircraft and so forth—before the work is completed that originally contemplated may be out of date That may call either for increased expenditure to equip it in accordance with the newest requirements or it may be that the whole scheme may have to go, that it may be more economical to abandon the whole affair and cut the loss, as was said by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Air. You cannot say that either decision was bad, that either decision was unnecessary, until you have the whole of the circumstances in detail upon which you can come to a judgment. I do think, therefore—if the Committee will allow me to say so—that there is no occasion to come to a decision now that either of these decisions was wrong at the time it was taken, but when it has been more closely examined by the Committee to which I have alluded the House will be able to form its own judgment in that matter.
I will reply as far as I can to one or two of the financial points that have been addressed to me by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) and others. I need not tell the Committee how glad I was to hear the tribute paid by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh to General Carter or to hear the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Mansfield (Colonel Sir C. Seely) who paid such an excellent tribute to the work done by the officers of the Army Pay Department. I know even better than they do what an enormous and what a difficult job they have had to do. I know how ungrudgingly they have devoted the whole of their energies and abilities to carrying out the enormous work that has fallen upon them, and I know how strenuously they have striven to sec that there is no avoidable amount of delay and no great volume of mistakes so far as they are able to prevent them. With regard to the direct question asked by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh as to whether there was any truth in the rumour that General Carter was to be superseded by a civilian, I can only say that, so far as I know, there is not the 1150 slightest foundation for it of any sort or kind. Then the hon. Gentleman asked me, first of all, whether I could carry any further the matter to which he alluded the other night, namely, the bringing into the hands of the individual soldier the increase in pay which was recently sanctioned. The hon. Gentleman asked me last Wednesday if I could call for a Report from the Pay Offices as to whether or not pay had actually reached the individual man? The hon. Gentleman will know that a report from the Pay Offices would not reveal that, because the actual cash payments are made not by the paymasters but by the regimental officers. So far as I know, the business of the paymaster, as he is called, is to credit the man's account with the proper rate of pay to which he is entitled. The actual cash distribution is done by means of the regimental (company) officer, the man signing a receipt, either on the acquittance roll or—
§ Mr. FORSTER
I see the hon. Gentleman thinks that we may be able to judge from the acquittance rolls whether the actual payment has been made. I will look into that and see whether that can be done. Then the hon. Gentleman raised the question of conveying fuller information—and more intelligibly—than is done at the present time as to the state of a man's account. The hon. and gallant Member for Mansfield suggested that we should strike balances at shorter intervals than we do at the present moment, and that we should write off irrecoverable balances at rather more frequent intervals. If one is dealing with one's own money one is more free to write off balances that are difficult to recover than when one is dealing with public money, but we have been looking into the question of making the man's accounts more intelligible, because it is obviously better for them, and better for us, to avoid difficulties, frequent questions, and so forth, with regard to credit or debit balances, and matters of that kind. We have indeed, I think, definitely settled on a form of pay book which will show, at any rate quarterly, the state of the man's account, so that he will be able to judge of his account from time to time. Hitherto I think it has been difficult for him always to know. He does not always remember how much he has spent, and he does not remember that there are various deductions to be made 1151 from his account for insurance contributions, and matters of that kind. We all agree that it is better to let him have a statement winch makes matters plainer to him.
While I am speaking of this I should like to refer to an old story which arose I do not know how, and which we cannot yet stop. It is the story that a deduction is made from a man's account on account of the blanket in which he is buried. I had a case brought to my notice only to-day in which it is said that when a man dies the Government recovers from his account the price of the blanket in which he is buried. There is not a word of truth in it. The State does not recover the cost of the blanket in which the man is buried. No deduction from the man's account is made for that reason. I have been asking my hon. Friends always, whenever this story has cropped up, "Do for goodness sake let me have a case, if you know of one, so that I can hunt it out, and kill it by putting my finger on the spot!" I have a detailed story this time, and it shows how even an officer may be hopelessly and wholly mistaken. We cannot get it even into the minds of the officers that no deduction is made. The story was this: A man died and was buried, and some question arose as to the balance which was due to his wife. A detailed statement of the man's account was sent to her, and everything appeared to be in order with the exception of a deduction of 6s. 6d., which she did not understand. She asked, I think, the adjutant of the man's battalion to explain it to her. He could not understand the deduction of the 6s. 6d., and said he supposed it "must be the price of the blanket in which the man had been buried." Absolutely incorrect and unfounded! The 6s. 6d. was the deduction on account of insurance contributions, and, as it was put down quarterly under the form of, I think, "insurance," the item appeared in the account as "Insurance, 6s. 6d." Why the regimental officer should have chosen to imagine that it was the price of a blanket when it was described as insurance, I fail wholly to understand. I beg the Committee always to keep in mind, if they hear of this story, that they will be doing a real kindness to people all over the country when they will contradict flatly the story that there is any charge of this kind made.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Can the right hon. Gentleman say absolutely definitely whether 1152 there are any cases where burial expenses are charged against a man's statement of account—expenses which do not necessarily include the price of a blanket, but which include certain charges incurred in burying soldiers?
to give a general assurance which might or might not be incorrect in some particular. If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will leave the matter where I have done in dealing with the blanket alone. Then he asked me if we could consider or alter the day on which separation allowances were paid in Scotland. As far as I can see, it makes no difference at all to the War Office whether separation allowance is paid on Monday, Tuesday, or Friday. My recollection is that in some of the very big post offices part of the allowances are paid on one day of the week and others are paid on other days of the week, so as to spread the work over the week generally and not to have the full burden fall on one particular day. I will certainly see whether or not the alteration suggested can be made. The hon. Gentleman also asked what was the position with regard to the grants made by the Civil Liabilities Committee in view of the increase of pay which was recently sanctioned? The position, as I understand it. is that there is to be no general revision of the grants made by the Civil Liabilities Committee on account of the recent increase in pay, and that, I think, has been convoyed to them. I have no doubt they will act upon it. The last point the hon. Gentleman raised was the question of the prices fixed for officers' uniforms. I do not think he quite understands what has been done, and I think it is quite likely that a great many people do not understand what has been done. It is this. Everybody knows that there is considerable difficulty in the wool position at the present time. Owing to circumstances, to which I need not refer, we have been anxious about the future output of the supplies of wool and of military clothing. It came to our notice that the cost of uniforms was tending rapidly to rise, while the quality showed a tendency to go the other way. In order that we might, at any rate, secure that any officer should be able, if he wished, to 1153 get a uniform of standard quality at a reasonable price we arranged that officers' uniform cloth should be woven at a special price. The cloth was woven so that it would be unmistakable, and, after going into the matter with tailoring firms, we arranged that they were to undertake the manufacture and supply of these uniforms, and that they should be allowed to charge a definite price. We fixed a maximum price, and not a fixed price; but there is no compulsion whatever upon any officer to buy any of these uniforms. As far as we are concerned he can buy his uniform where he likes, and pay whatever he can afford or whatever he pleases for it, but he will have an opportunity, if he so desires, to get one of these standard quality uniforms at a reasonable price. There is no compulsion upon him at all. There is one other point which was touched upon, and which was also referred to by the hon. Member for Mansfield, namely, the question of men enlisting at special rates of pay. Where a man is transferred for the benefit of the Service, or where he is transferred with his own consent from the unit in which he has enlisted for special rates of pay, it carries with it—the transfer being for the benefit of the service—the special rate of pay for which he enlisted originally. The special rate of pay in the Army Transport Service is 6s. a day, and if a man is transferred to an Infantry unit, he carries the special rate of pay with him; but where he is transferred on account of inefficiency, then he drops to the rate of unit to which he is transferred. My right hon. Friend rather suggested that this was an improper proceeding, and that where a man has been enlisted at a special rate of pay he ought always to carry that rate of pay. The hon. Member for Edinburgh said, "You took him as efficient, and therefore you are bound to regard him as efficient." I am afraid that even my hon. Friend will have in his mind some individuals who have deteriorated in efficiency.
§ Mr. FORSTER
My hon. Friend will see at once that a man may be inefficient in one branch of military service but may yet be a very good fighting man. I do not think myself that there is the real grievance that my hon. Friend rather suggested. I think he should be satisfied to know that where a man is transferred 1154 from the Army Service Corps to an Infantry battalion he, as a rule, carries with him the rate of pay for which he enlisted.
§ Mr. ROCH
I wish to call the attention of the representative of the War Office to the organisation of the Royal Army Medical Corps, and I hope it will not be thought that criticisms directed towards the organisation of the Royal Army Medical Corps imply that those who make the criticisms do not recognise to the full the very great work done by doctors of all kinds during the whole period of the War. The point I desire chiefly to impress upon the War Office is the use that is now being made of the large body of civilian doctors who have been swept into the Army. Roughly speaking, I think that before the War there were 800 officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps, and since the War and the mobilisation of the Territorial troops there have been swept into the Army some 14,000 of what may be called the cream of the medical profession, if I may so put it. In regard to the policy pursued by the War Office, I think they have not made the best and most proper use of those men who have been called into the ranks of the Army. It is difficult for a private Member to prove by chapter and verse all that he has to say upon a question like this. I admit that to the full. But I have had brought to my police so many cases, from so many varied sources, that I cannot help thinking that the general criticism that the best use is not being made of these civilian doctors is amply justified, and it is a subject which will have to be considered by the War Office. First and foremost, if you look at the purely administrative posts which are held in the Army to-day, you will see that a very large proportion of them arc hold by the old officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps. That is an established fact. I cannot help thinking that of the civilian doctors with their wide experience, gained in the hospitals and the various branches of their profession during many, many years, some might well be promoted to what I may call purely administrative posts in the War Office. If you compare the positions of the civilian doctors with those of the old officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps, you will find that there is a great disparity between the two, the posts being held by the old Regular officers. A friend of mine, who has a statistical mind, examined into the matter, and he found, in the matter of decorations, that while one out of every 1155 two of the Regular Army medical officers have been decorated, only one in fifty of the 14,000 civilian doctors have been decorated at all. If you look at honours, titles, and distinctions—if they are not to be considered obsolete—you find that there is a still greater disparity between what is bestowed on the old Regular medical officers and what is given to the civilian doctors under the control of the War Office. I hope the Under-Secretary of State, when the new broom comes into use, will remove this great disparity, which is, I will not say felt keenly, but is felt strongly, by this large body of civilian doctors.
It would, perhaps, be invidious to draw a distinction between the sacrifices made by various sections of men in this great War, but I may be permitted to point out that the sacrifices of these civilian doctors have been very great, and such as to alter their whole scheme of life, many of them having given up substantial practices and are now undergoing great hardships. They are men of undoubted abilities, and this question of distinctions, titles, and decorations, and of administrative posts and promotions, is one to which attention should be given by the War Office. I have to-day a letter from a friend of mine at Salonika who was a house surgeon, who was engaged as a Territorial officer, and who, since the beginning of the War, has remained only captain in rank, taking his orders from his Army medical officer as to what operation should or should not be performed, though he had a large surgical experience which would have enabled him to suggest the kind of operation that should be adopted, but entirely owing to the fact of his medical officer's seniority of rank, and the necessary discipline of the Service, he was really unable, though familiar with modern methods of operation, to use them in the service of the unit to which he was attached. I cannot help being disappointed that the new appointment of Assistant to the Director-General was not chosen from the large body of civilian doctors.
One other point in connection with civilian doctors which, I think, should be pressed upon the attention of the War Office, leaving aside the question of promotion or anything of that kind, is the small use that has been made of some of the foremost operators that are to be found in the medical profession. I have numerous letters from people showing that 1156 eminent medical men, whose names are household words and who are among the civilian doctors, have really never performed any operation at all. It does seem one of the most ludicrous things that the War Office should have at their disposal men who in times past have received almost fabulous fees for operations and who are now really almost wasting their time, for they are not carrying out those operations which they are so eminently fitted to perform. I cannot help wishing that the War Office would make use of this large staff at their disposal of purely operating surgeons. I cannot help wishing that these civilian doctors and surgeons were formed into a staff for the base hospitals, giving them liberty to choose out the men—they, for none know better than they—who are the best qualified to carry out the work which falls to the civilian medical officer with the Army. You should really let these men have a free chance of rendering services which are of a unique character and which they should be enabled to put more freely at the disposal of the Army and the Navy. Among those who are serving in the body of civilian doctors are some well known and eminent members of the medical profession. I may mention Sir A. Wright, whose services were almost dispensed with. Then there is the case of Sir James Mackenzie, one of the greatest heart specialists in the world, who was, I will not say, dismissed, but whose services are practically not being used by the Army. Then there is Mr.Percy Thornton, perhaps one of the greatest brain surgeons in the world, who, from the beginning of the War, has hardly performed any operations at any time. I do not suggest that these things are general—though I am told they are—but they do leave the impression on one's mind that the barrier which exists between the old officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps and the body of civilian medical officers is a very real fact, and it should, and I think could be, bridged over, with great advantage to the men who are under the charge of the medical profession.
I should like to suggest again that the War Office should consider the restoration of the old Advisory Medical Board, which was set up in times of peace at the War Office. I know that the hon. Gentleman has said, as did his predecessor, that that Board is still in existence, and that the members meet frequently, but that is really not the same thing as having the 1157 Board in constant session. I think there is a great opportunity for the Wax Office to resuscitate that Board and to make use of the civilian medical man with his great knowledge of his own profession and developments, and to bring into that Board, if necessary, representatives of the Canadians, the South Africans, the Australian, and perhaps even the Indian Medical Service, and make it a Board in reality as well as in name. If one looks back at some of the organisation of the War Office, particularly in the first year or two of the War, one cannot do so without regret at the fact that some of the organisation and old safeguards which were provided in order to secure better organisation were mercilessly scrapped at the beginning of the War. I cannot help thinking that the hon. Gentleman would do good service to the Army and the medical service of all ranks of the Army if he were to revive and make a real thing of the Advisory Medical Board, which was so strongly recommended as the result of our experience in the South African War. There is one general point to which I wish to direct attention. I do not wish in any way to enter into any controversy as to the constitution and powers of the Chief of the Staff, which engaged our attention last week, but as this Vote directly raises the question of the number of men and the amount of money which Parliament is voting, and as, perhaps, we are voting this large amount of money for millions of men who are to come under a new dispensation and a new constitutional authority, I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he can, consistently with the public interest, tell us whether the new Order in Council which regulates the constitution of the Army and the position of the Chief of the General Staff has yet been promulgated. Perhaps he can tell us, without detriment to the public interest, the terms upon which that Order in Council has modified the previous one?
There is one other small point, and that is the present position of the Women's Auxiliary Corps. He is aware that a great many unfounded rumours as to the conditions under which those women are employed in France have exercised the public mind, and of the attention which has been directed to some of the conditions. For myself, I have received letters calling my attention to some abuses, such as I think are bound to exist when we employ women under somewhat novel conditions. I may say I am having them 1158 somewhat more carefully investigated before I worry my hon. Friend with them. I understand that the Minister of Labour, or some other Government Department, is sending out some Commission to inquire into the conditions, and to set at rest all kinds of stories which are abroad. I hope my hon. Friend will be able to tell us if that is so, and I hope he will assure us that the employment of these women in France and in this country will be very carefully supervised. The difficulties of employing these girls, who go, as it were, into the Army, are great, and the subject is one which will require the utmost care and supervision. I think that my hon. Friend will be doing a public service if he is able to make some statement of a reassuring kind as to the conditions under which these women work. I should like to say a word about the somewhat unpleasant subject which was raised by the hon. Member for Northampton. My hon. Friend will know to what I am referring. I am sure his attention has been called to the letter upon the subject which appeared in the "Times" of 21st February from the Dean of Lincoln. I hope my hon. Friend will realise that this subject is really creating some stir in the public mind, and will continue to do so, particularly now that some 6,000,000 women are enfranchised and will look on questions of this kind from a somewhat different standpoint from that in which men are inclined to look at them. The Dean of Lincoln has really challenged the accuracy of the statement which was made in answer to the question of my hon. Friend. I can assure my hon. Friend that it is not really sufficient for him to say, in the present state of public opinion, that this question is one entirely for the French civil authorities. It is common knowledge from soldiers that these are not places out of bounds, and it is also common knowledge that they have been placed out of bounds, I believe, for the American soldier. That is a distinction which, I think, is a reflection on the control and command of the Army and the authorities in France or here, or wherever the ultimate authority rests. I do hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to make a full and frank statement of the conditions as they really are, and that that statement will show that there is some more enlightened point of view held both by the Army authorities and the Ministry.
§ Sir CHARLES HOBHOUSE
My hon. Friend who has just spoken has made a tentative reference to the subject of our 1159 discussion of a week ago, and said that he did not propose to refer to that subject beyond asking the Under-Secretary whether or not the new Army Order had been issued setting out what were the new duties of the new military representative as a member of the Army Council and of the Chief of the General Staff. If my hon. Friend had read a particular passage in the speech of the Prime Minister on this day week he would have seen that an invitation was conveyed, not confined to this House, but extended to the public, which would justify inquiries in this House or elsewhere on that subject, more searching and precise than have yet been addressed to the Front Bench. The Prime Minister, speaking on the 19th inst., said:I propose to invite from the highest military authorities suggestions for the best means of removing any possible anxiety in the mind of anyone that in any scheme put forward in order to secure concert and combined action between allies you are not doing something to impair the efficiency and command of your own Army." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1918, col. 645.]I think those words justify me, both as a member of the public and as a Member of this House, in renewing one or two comparatively simple questions which I put to the Under-Secretary a week ago. I ventured to point out to him, leaving the personal question entirely on one side, because I do not think it ought again to be mentioned, that in reference to this subject there were certain issues raised of the new relations between the military representative in France and the Army Council and the Chief of the General Staff and the Commander-in-Chief which can be cleared up without giving any information to the enemy, and which ought to be cleared up before this House accepts the responsibility of confirming that new arrangement of which it knows so little. I would put my statements as well as I can in the form of interrogatories. The new arrangement has separated, as far as we know, the front in France and the command in France from the control of the Chief of the General Staff at home, and, as far as I know, from the control of the Army Council and the Secretary of State, and it has done it in respect of two separate things—again I am speaking interrogatively—and on two separate issues, that is, first of all, with regard to the French front in France, and, secondly, with regard to the disposal 1160 of certain forces which are to be used as portions of a strategic reserve. Under the old arrangement, as far as this House is acquainted, the control of direction upon the British front in France was subject to the supervision and sanction of the Chief of the General Staff, and he, having sanctioned the plan of operations there, was bound to provide the means of carrying out any operations which were there sanctioned. He had knowledge of the different fronts and of the disposable reserves both of munitions and men, and he could allot as between the different fronts that which was required in order to carry out the series of operations sanctioned therein. But now from henceforth the operations on the French front are to be controlled, so far as one can make out from the statement of the Prime Minister, practically by the military representative of the staff in France on the Allied Supreme Council of War.
Remember that the military representative in France is to be a member of the Army Council, and is to remain a member of the Army Council in order to give him the executive authority to give orders to the British troops in France. That is apparently the only reason why he is to be made a member of the Army Council. I take it that there is no suggestion that he should in any way have power over the Armies which are under the command of the Commander-in-Chief, but I also take it that he is to have a certain power of control over the Commander-in-Chief, and I will not say to actually direct operations, but certainly to supervise the operations which are suggested by the Commander-in-Chief. The military representative is not only the representative of the British Government in France, but he is one of a Committee of four persons all apparently with equal authority, and one of whom I imagine would be chosen to be the chairman of that body. What happens? If this Committee of four persons, of which our military representative is one, are in agreement as to the plan of operations, then the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in France will merely have changed masters, and he will be transferred from the authority of the Chief of the General Staff at home to the authority of the military representative in France, but within the limits of that control he will have a free hand, apparently, to dispose of his forces as he will. But suppose the military representative in France is not in agreement 1161 with his colleagues on this Committee, then, apparently, the Chief of the General Staff is to be brought into play as the supreme advisor of the British Government, who is to arbitrate as between the views held by our military representative and the three other military representatives, or, at all events, the dissentient members. It does not seem to me, if I might make a comment upon the arrangement, that that is an arrangement which would tend to quicken the speed at which decisions are arrived at. On the contrary, it seems to introduce a drag on the wheel to prevent any decision being speedily arrived at. But supposing there is, as is more than probable there will be a difference of opinion, then one of two alternatives must be presented to our Government—either the British Government is in support of, and in agreement with, the Chief of the British General Staff and overrides the opinion of the other three military representatives, or else the military representatives of the other three nations override the opinion of our authorities in respect of our front. Now, that is a very important responsibility for the Government of this country to take upon itself without having had any discussion at all on the subject in this House of Commons, and it is a very great responsibility for the House of Commons to agree to that proposition without having had the pros and cons of the argument in support, or in opposition placed before them.
I desire to say a word on the second part of my argument, and that is the disposal of the British forces which form a portion of the strategic reserve. I imagine that that body will be a composite body, and, again, it is to be under the control of the Committee of four. In practice, as I have endeavoured to point out, a military Committee, for the purposes of controlling military forces in the field, invariably and inevitably ends in confusion of command and in dissipation of energy. But the alternative is the control of the Committee by one man, either because he is the dominating personality in that Committee, or because he is appointed to the chairmanship of that Committee. We are told in this case—I do not know that it has been formally announced—but we gather, so far as we can gather any information from the Front Bench, that the Chief of that Committee is to be a distinguished French General. Now, no good reasons—indeed, 1162 I do not know that any reasons—have been offered to this country—certainly not to this House—why any person should be appointed to be the permanent head of that Committee, and why in particular it should be a General whose name is on everybody's lips at the present moment. If that is the arrangement, it may be perfectly well justified by that General's reputation in the field, but we have got to remember quite clearly that an atmosphere has been created for his name, and that a year ago another and similar atmosphere was created in connection with another French General's name—an atmosphere which was not justified by results—and, I think, therefore, this House, before it parts with the control of British forces to any foreign General Officer, however distinguished he may be, should have some good grounds offered to it before it transfers that control. Nobody wishes—nobody could, even if he were so malicious as to try to do so—in any way to depreciate the gallantry and endurance of the French nation in this War, but we play as important a part in the field at the present moment with our military forces as the French military forces, and the giving over of the control of our forces to some other, even though an Allied officer, is only justified by some much stronger and more cogent reasons than have been attempted to be produced in this House. I said I did not wish to introduce names, and I do not know that I have done so hitherto, but there is one fact which, I think, in this connection ought not to be overlooked. Sir William. Robertson refused to go to France as the military representative on the Allied Council. If it be true that the Chief of the French General Staff is to be the permanent head of this Military Committee, he would have been in a position superior to the officer who had lately been Chief of the British Imperial General Staff, and, I think, therefore, that it would not have been convenient, that it would not have been fitting at all, that the Chief of our General Staff should have gone to France to hold a position subordinate to the Chief of the French Army.
There is only one other observation I wish to make. These changes, whether they are for good or whether they are for evil, have enormously diminished the power and responsibility of those persons who have hitherto been held to be the responsible civil and military advisers of the 1163 British Government, namely, the Secretary of State and the Chief of the General Staff. The Secretary of State is not a member of the War Cabinet; he does not attend the Military Councils which are held in France. It is very difficult for any outsider to know what are his powers and responsibilities at the present moment. They are very nebulous and ill-defined, and, of course, his absence from this House—though my hon. Friend opposite most ably represents him—does detract somewhat from the authority of the replies given to questions by hon. Members who desire to seek information from the War Office, which very often, for that reason, the War Office, as represented by my right hon. Friend and hon. Friend opposite, is quite unable to give to this House. These changes, on the other hand, have enormously increased the power—I will not say the authority—of the Prime Minister of the day. He appoints a member of the War Cabinet, who goes as his colleague with him to France on this Supreme War Council. He appoints, and apparently dismisses, the Chief of the General Staff, which was an appointment within the grasp of the Secretary of State in old days. He arbitrates, apparently, as representing the British Government, between this new Council of military representatives and the British military representatives if those authorities differ. It is quite certain that every able man will concentrate as much power in his own hands as he can possibly accumulate, no matter in what Department he serves, but it is equally true that the concentration of power in one hand means that the power which ought to be exercised by subordinates becomes limited, and that their power of decision becomes limited, too, and they cease to exercise such powers as remain in their hands. Such a system seems to me to be fraught with so much danger, both as respects the concentration of power in a single hand and the transference of the command and control of the British forces in the field from a British to a foreign General, that I do not think I should be doing my duty as a Member of this House if I did not put in a caveat against the proposals which have not been discussed in the House, and questions concerning which have not hitherto been answered by the authorities of the War Office in this House.
§ Sir JOHN JARDINE
I propose to put five questions on different points to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, and I hope he will not consider that I am treating him as if he were an encyclopædia. If he is not able this afternoon to give an explicit answer to every point I shall be content to wait, so that he may have an opportunity of inquiring into the matters. My first question relates to Mesopotamia, I tried to draw his attention when he was making that interesting speech on introducing the Estimates. I wanted to know whether his remarks about apportioning furlough to soldiers injured or wounded in remoter campaigns like Salonika and Egypt, applied to Mesopotamia? I made two interruptions, but I got no advantage there from, and therefore I put it now, that Mesopotamia, though more difficult to manage, does require most careful consideration. My particular point is not so much as regards wounded, but as regards those who arc suffering from the dreadful climate you have there in the hot weather; indeed, at all times, nature seems to be in convulsions of all sorts, but the hot weather is very bad and brings on jaundice and other complaints. My suggestion, therefore, is that there might be opportunities of relieving the British troops in Mesopotamia by sending them back to India and bringing fresh troops to relieve them. I think in putting this question I am expressing the feeling of a great many who are interested in the forces out there.
My next question is one which I was intending to put down for next week. It is to ask the Under-Secretary whether the Army chaplains, permanent or temporary, are entitled under existing Regulations to the silver badge on completion of active service abroad, or on discharge for wounds or sickness incurred in campaigns? I put that on the ground of equity, which means everything, for some of those Army chaplains have suffered in the campaign and have been wounded or invalided, or have been at the front under fire. At any rate, when they are out of that, they have no badge upon them to show to a carping world that they have been in the War at all, and it would be a gratification to them, of course, if they had any badge or distinction to show they have done their duty in these campaigns.
Another point I wish to raise, is this: I wish to know whether the rule that was established in the time of Sir Henry Camp-bell-Bannerman, when he was Secretary 1165 of State for War, and which I am afraid may be neglected at the present time, that no church built and owned by the Government in cantonments should suffer the rite of consecration, because hon. Members are probably aware that advantage is taken of that consecration when performed by the authorities of the Church of England in this country, and in India lately, to exclude Presbyterians—generally Scottish regiments—from worshipping in those churches. There is something in that rite which is considered to give a legal title to the Church of England to keep members of other Churches out, and to prevent them partaking of the administration of the Holy Sacrament in these buildings. The natural consequence has been for another church to be built across the road, for Presbyterians to worship in, whenever a Scottish regiment has gone into contonment. I want to know whether that rule has been observed during the years of this War? Mention has been made of the training of the Royal Artillery, and facts have been given which are very much to their credit. One set of facts concerned the course at Woolwich. I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that it was being, or had been, extended. Members interested in the Royal Artillery would like to know how long the course for a cadet at Woolwich lasts? I would add to that question this: How long is the course of an officer cadet in the Royal Artillery School? Is it the same as the course at Woolwich, or is it longer, or shorter? Any further information, with the reasons for the difference, which the hon. Gentleman may be able to give will be welcome. The next point is a question that has been once or twice raised in the House. I refer to the matter of Brigadier-General Elliot and the major associated with him. One commanded a camp of 5,000 men, and the other commanded a battalion. What we heard in the House, in the shape of replies to questions, one day was that they had been relieved of their commands. It had something to do with a very conscientious objector who had, by an illegal order of the adjutant, been put into some damp, miserable place which had been injurious to his health. It was assumed, so far as I can make out, by a kind of fiction, that the commander of a battalion must have known every illegal thing that happened there, and while he was in command the position of every officer and soldier by day or night. I presume it was found that 1166 there was no wilful misbehaviour nor serious negligence. We next heard that these officers had been reinstated in the Army. I should like to know what positions they had been put into, and whether either of them has been mulcted in regard to his pay or emoluments? If the Under-Secretary will answer these five questions, I shall be greatly obliged.
§ Major NEWMAN
I only want to ask one or two questions. First of all, I want to plead the cause of quartermasters and riding masters in the Army who have attained to honorary rank and are barred further promotion. As the Committee is aware, the subject has been raised by way of question and answer on several occasions. I asked questions some months ago, and the replies were not very satisfactory. It is the wish of the Committee, I feel sure, that in our National Army, controlled by the democracy, every man shall have an equally fair chance of promotion and that there shall be nothing in the nature of a blind alley—
Notice taken that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ Major NEWMAN (resuming)
I was saying that I believe it to be the wish of the Committee that there should not be in the Army a blind alley where men can get no further promotion, as is the case at present, I submit, of quartermasters and riding masters. Technically the pre-war Army was an institution where every man had the chance of rising from the bottom to the top, where every private carried in his knapsack a field-marshal's baton. Actually in pre-war days it was very difficult for a member of the rank and file to attain to commissioned rank. What happened was this: a young fellow who desired to become an officer went to Sandhurst, where, when he got into the Army, he aimed at becoming commander of a battalion. The young fellow who enlisted in the ranks had the ambition, not perhaps to command a battalion, but to become a quartermaster or a sergeant-major, or some similar rank. It was comparatively rarely that a man from the ranks obtained a commission. There were, of course. notable exceptions—the cases, for example, of Sir Hector Macdonald and Sir William Robertson.
In our present Army things are very, very different. If a young fellow wants a commission he has to go into the ranks, 1167 serve abroad on one of our fronts, get the rank of corporal; then he comes home, takes up his commission, and having got it, can rise to any rank that his ability or his merits can obtain for him. He can become captain, major, officer commanding a battalion, or a divisional-general. That is, however, not the case if he finds himself made a quartermaster or a riding master. He is then given the honorary rank of lieutenant, and, apparently, from that he cannot rise. That is, I submit, an injustice and an anomaly which should be removed. Let me give the Committee the case of two brothers. When the War broke out the one brother, who had retired some years before from the Army with the rank of sergeant, rejoined the Army with his old rank, and was posted to a battalion of the New Army. His brother joined with him. That brother, being a, civilian, had no knowledge of the Army. and had had no training in it. The second brother went out to France, be came a corporal, came home, got his commission as lieutenant, and—before he knew where he was—had become captain, and then commander of a battalion. On the other hand, his brother, an experienced soldier and a sergeant, having been promoted to be quartermaster, remains at that with the rank of lieutenant. I submit that is not as it should be. In these democratic times this is an anomaly, and one which, ought to be done away with altogether. Abolish these honorary ranks. If a man is a quarter master give him the rank of lieutenant or captain, but give him the opportunity of rising, if he is worthy of it and merits it, to any or every position to which he may be entitled. I submit to the Under-Secretary that this is a question which ought to be dealt with now.
There is another question I should like to bring before the Committee—perhaps a rather bigger point. I refer to the remission of Income Tax. The Committee, I know, are anxious that in the Army there shall be an equal chance of promotion, and I am sure also hon. Members are equally desirous that every person genuinely engaged in service of a military character should enjoy the benefits that Parliament has voted. In one respect, at any rate, the Finance Departments—which should be the watch-dog of the War Department, keeping an eye on the interests of every man in the Army—upon the individual and on the Army as a whole—in 1168 one respect the Finance Department has been very remiss. By a letter some time ago they appeared to me to be acquiescing in a grave injustice, and, besides doing that, are raising in an acute form a very difficult question. To show my meaning, I will just read an extract from a reply that the War Office wrote on 8th January:I am to say that the Council are advised that only persons who arc engaged on really active service are entitled to the benefit of the reduced rate under the Clause in question.This important question deals with a man, as to when he is engaged on general military service. Section 30 of the Finance Act, 1916, sets forth that—Where any person who. during the current Income Tax year, has served.…or is in service of a naval or military character in connection with the present War, for which payment is made out of moneys provided by parliament—is entitled to claim relief, and so on. The Finance Department in their letter say as follows:I am desired to acquaint you that it has now been decided that secretaries and assistant secretaries of Territorial Force Associations cannot be regarded as members of the Military Forces of the Crown.There at once a very difficult question is raised as to who is and who is not really on active service. It will be obvious to every member of the Committee that that is a very big question. What is active military service? Are the members of the General Staff of the War Office, who may not be at the front, who may be at home, engaged on really active service or not? But I want to put that at one side and deal with the question of the secretaries of the Territorial Force Associations. I do submit that if ever there was an individual who was engaged in service of a definitely military character in connection with the present War it. is the secretary of a Territorial Association. I know something something about the work. I myself was, when the War broke out, a member of the Territorial Reserve of Officers. During the first months of the War I was in close touch with the Middlesex Territorial Force Association, and I know the work that had to be done in the matter of recruiting. I have jotted down the main things they did. On the outbreak of the War they had to clothe and equip the four battalions which existed and send them out. They had to raise sixteen battalions further. They also raised twelve companies of the Royal Defence Corps. The secretary of the Territorial Force Association personally inter- 1169 viewed for commissions over 700 officers. At the present moment the Territorial Force Association in my county is engaged in the task of equipping and clothing seven Volunteer battalions. The reorganisation of the Army took place in 1907, and then the county association was put exactly in the place of the administrative general in the Regular command, and I would like to read to the Committee what Lord Haldane has to say on this matter. Lord Haldane was responsible for the change that was made, and in another place he said:I think there has been a sort of idea in the minds of outsiders that the county association was a sort of useful civilian association presided over by the Lord Lieutenant with a secretary who did the clerical work for it. Nothing of the kind. These associations are military bodies. There is a military majority on them and their character is military right through. Any Noble Lord who is interested in the subject has only to read the first five sections of the Territorial Force Act to see that in the Act of Parliament the association is a statutory body set up for the purpose of giving effect to a plan which is to be fashioned by the military authorities in the War Office, and it is bound to conform to that plan. It has no discretion of any kind. It has to carry out the military purpose.That makes it clear that in Lord Haldane's view the secretary of the Territorial Force Association is a gentleman who is the secretary to a body engaged in carrying out important military work. The secretary is really there as chief staff officer, and if ever there was a man who is engaged in active military work it is the secretary. It has been said that the salary paid to the secretaries of the Territorial Force Associations is not paid by Parliament, and therefore does not come under the purview of Parliament or of the Secretary of State for War. There again people who imagine that are quite wrong, and on that point Lord Haldane is quite emphatic. He said:I brought in the Estimates in the other House at least half a dozen times ; and we always submit the Estimates of the county associations for approval by Parliament and for vote by Parliament of the money which is to be applied in, among other things?, paying the salary of the secretary. The salary of the secretary is provided by Parliament out of the funds voted for the purpose in such a fashion as to give Parliament the opportunity of discussing whether the secretary has done his duty and fulfilled the functions which are attributed to him by the Act.Those few extracts prove my case. Now I understand that the Financial Secretary for the War Office has thrown up his hands in the matter, and he is going to allow the subject to be decided before the King's Bench Division. Really he ought not to allow that, and he ought to say, "No, in 1170 our opinion the secretary of the Territorial Forces Association is a gentleman engaged in active military work as chief of the staff, and as such he should be given the benefits of reduced Income Tax, as is done in the case of an ordinary officer in the Service." And may I suggest, if the right hon. Gentleman will not do that, this House ought to do it, and ought to say, "We consider these gentlemen are doing military work, and we will not allow the country's money to be spent in a useless law suit, nor do we think the judge of the High Court is the best man to determine what really is active military service." I trust that when the Under-Secretary replies he will say that he is going to put his foot down firmly in this matter.
There is one other point with respect to the Territorial battalions which have been kept in India since the outbreak of war. In my county two of our crack Territorial battalions were sent to India, and there they have been ever since. They were fine battalions, but they have remained in India, and I suggest the time has come when those battalions should either be removed from India and sent to one of outfighting fronts, or, at any rate, drafts should be sent from them to replace our war-worn men in Mesopotamia or elsewhere. Those battalions of which I speak were full of young men who had they been sent to France at the commencement of the War would in all probability have now had commissions, because they were just the class who have been given commissions freely. They will come home after the War and they will find their brothers and relations who were sent to France have all got commissions, and if they remain in India they will probably see no fighting at all. I think we might allow drafts from those battalions to proceed to one of the fighting fronts where they might replace the men who want a rest. This is a subject upon which feeling is very deep. And if the Under-Secretary could see his way to allow these men to volunteer or to form drafts, I am sure he would be doing a good and just act, and a good thing for our fighting Army. Another subject which I raised by a question in the House is that of the allowance given to young officers who have got to proceed to Egypt, and who have to buy themselves a uniform suitable for that climate. There is an allowance of £5 10s. for a young officer who has to proceed to the Egyptian front, in order to get the clothing necessary for that climate, but 1171 that sum is only given to him if he goes after April. If this young officer goes in the summer time he has got to get a uniform which will cost him £25, and if he is sent before April or in March he gets nothing at all, and he has to find the cost of this uniform out of his own pocket. That is a great strain on a young officer, and something more than £5 10s. ought to be allowed, and this sum ought to be given to him whether he is ordered to go in January or in May.
§ Mr. BILLING
There is quite a short point I want to make this afternoon, and it is that I would like to call the attention of the War Office to the question of the distribution of control over our antiaircraft guns throughout England. I understand that there is still under the control of the War Office a certain number of guns in the Eastern Counties, that there is under the control of the Navy certain guns on the coast, and that in London itself the officer in command is an officer of the Royal Flying Corps. I would like to ask the Under-Secretary for War whether that officer is operating under General French, and, if not, whether he is operating in any way, either directly or indirectly, under the War Office? I raise this point because of the confusion which arose on the evening of Monday last, when an alleged air raid took place over England. Last Thursday I pointed out that I did not think any bomb-dropping aeroplanes had visited England on that day, and I suggested that if the enemy sent anything they sent a small fighting scouting machine to start the circus in London. Information has come to me to which I should like the War Office to reply, not only that the enemy did not send any bombing machines, but that they did not even send a small fighting scout, and that there were no German aeroplanes over England last Monday night. When you come to think that at seven o clock a bombardment started and it went on till nearly one o'clock in the morning and thousands of shells were fired and a considerable amount of damage was done; that there was a large amount of alarm—it is quite reasonable people should be alarmed by the extraordinary barrage set up in London when a raid takes place— and then we hear it was a bombless raid! From the information I have received there was no enemy aeroplane over England at all that night.
1172 I do not want to call the attention of the Committee to this point from a purely destructive critical point of view, but assuming that this is correct, and I have every reason to believe it is, it does point to the fact that there seems to be a want of co-ordination between the Army, the Navy, and the Air Service in their defensive measures of England. It seems to show that our information department must be worked on very extraordinary lines when they permit some hundreds of guns to let loose their fire apparently at nothing and continue it for several hours. I have been told that the whole question of following German aeroplanes when they come by night is complete. I have my own views about anti-aircraft fob/ring at night, and I appeal to the Under-Secretary for War to see that at least the guns which are employed are not the mobile guns in the streets, because a gun which is capable of being run on an ordinary trolley or motor car and is fired without that car being scotched is not a very serious weapon to use against a modern aeroplane. The firing which has taken place in the last few barrages cannot in the nature of things be called a barrage, and the question arises whether or not it is advisable to remove the guns a little further out of London.
On matters of this kind I think our information should be correct, and no one should be allowed to start firing off large anti-aircraft guns simply because someone has told them that an aeroplane raid is taking place. I ask my right hon. Friend to assure the House that if a mistake took place last Monday some inquiry shall be held, that somebody shall be made responsible, and I would like an assurance that measures have been taken to prevent that mistake occurring again. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick (Mr. Tennant) has called attention to the question of a certain aerodrome in Scotland. When the right hon. Gentleman who is now in Opposition was in office he was responsible for reckless expenditure on aerodromes totally unsuitable for their work, and we ought, not to allow his remarks to pass on this occasion without calling attention to the fact that during his administration there were infinitely greater blunders than have occurred since he left. I suggest that this afternoon he mistook criticism for what should have been confession. He stood up and criticised the War Office for what was a very regrettable blunder. One calls to mind a 1173 dozen aerodromes for which the War Office were responsible under his administration. They were practically useless, and many more millions of pounds were wasted upon them than upon the one in question. It simply shows how extraordinary the views of a man can be when he ceases to occupy office and goes into Opposition. Whenever I hear criticism from the Front Opposition Bench, I doubt the facts. The question of this large aerodrome in Scotland is another of those regrettable instances, and I hope the new Air Board will meet the Army in the proper spirit and try to help them out, and not make it an excuse for further friction among the heads. Somebody was to blame for spending something approaching £2,000,000; but, if we are going to have an inquiry into the money that has been squandered on aerodromes, let us have a complete inquiry. I can give the names of twenty or thirty aerodromes that might be included, but I do not think that any useful purpose will be served by putting the Air Service and the War Office at loggerheads just when this amalgamation is taking place. I for one would deprecate any step on the part of the Government which would tend to bring the present Air Board and the past administrators in the War Office more at loggerheads than they are at the moment. I therefore suggest that the best thing is to let bygones be bygones until the Air Ministry has so established itself and so completely severed its connection with the War Office that such an inquiry can be conducted without increasing the friction which to-day undoubtedly exists.
§ Major DAVID DAVIES
I want to ask the Under-Secretary to reply to some criticisms which were made the other night with regard to courts-martial, and to say whether the War Office are prepared to appoint officers with legal training to be attached to Army Corps and Corps Headquarters to appear as counsel for the defence in cases of courts-martial in the field? I hope my hon. Friend will give us a definite reply. I should also like to bring to his notice the cases which are constantly cropping up of officers sent back and retired from the Service who think that they are suffering from injustice and who desire to put their case before the Army Council. A case of that kind has been before this House on several occasions during the past two months, and a great deal has been written about it in 1174 the Press, which is bad for the discipline and morale of the Army. There should be some Standing Committee or Court of Inquiry at the War Office where these cases could be looked into and where a decision could be given. They should not be brought up here in the House and they should be kept out of the Press. It must be perfectly obvious, in a war of this kind on so many fronts with a huge Army in the field, that cases of necessity must arise where injustice may have been done advertently or inadvertently, and that after a time these cases must multiply and create considerable feeling in certain sections of the Army. I do not see why the War Office, when they are prepared to set up Courts of Inquiry in other cases, such as the Mesopotamia Inquiry, should not also be prepared to have some Court of this kind which can dispose of these cases. Last week reference was made to the disbandment of battalions in France, and especially the Welsh Battalion, which was raised by a Committee in London at the beginning of the War and which has covered itself with glory. It would cause much disquietude and great pain to the Committee in London and to those who spent a great deal of time and money in raising that battalion to find that it was to be disbanded and no longer belong to the New Army. We know that the circumstances in the field have to be first considered, but I venture to hope that it may be possible to disband other battalions before this particular battalion, which represents a great-body of Welsh opinion in London and the efforts of the Welsh community in London. It has special features, and I hope the Wax Office will reconsider the whole matter and will find it possible not to disband this particular battalion. I am sure if there were any question of disbanding the London Irish or the London Scottish that the Irish Members or the Scottish Members would be at once up in arms and would see that these distinctive units were not disbanded before other battalions which has no distinctive badge or designation.
This decision is on a par with other decisions of the War Office, which have a very bad effect upon the esprit de corps of the Army. We know perfectly well that they have not given attention to the national feeling or to the Territorial esprit de corps or to the regimental esprit dc corps. If there were anything which the New Army wanted to make it a great fighting force 1175 it was esprit de corps. We remember how at the beginning of the War, when the Leader of the Irish party (Mr. J. Redmond) offered to raise Nationalist battalions in Ireland and to form an Irish Army Corps, and when asked that badges should be given to this corps, and that it should have a distinctive name and designation, that these requests were turned down by the War Office. The same thing would have happened in the case of the Welsh Division had not the present prime Minister used his influence at the War Office to have a distinctive Welsh Division created. We know that since then there has been an agitation to have a Jewish battalion raised to operate in Palestine. The War Office for months and months quibbled over the matter, and it was not until several months had elapsed that they decided that this Jewish unit should be raised, and even then they did not allow it to have its own badge and its own designation. If we are going to win this War, the first thing we must have is esprit de corps. I know the difficulties which the War Office have to meet with regard to the pooling of drafts and so on, but they seem to have gone to the other extreme and to be determined to do away with the Territorial arrangement and with the regimental arrangement. Instead of endeavouring to minimise so far as they could the evils which were bound to come from the necessity of pooling drafts in certain cases, they have gone to the other extreme and have done a great deal of harm to the regimental spirit and to the Territorial spirit, of which we were always proud in the Army.
I should like my hon. Friend to tell us what the position of the New Army officers is going to be in the future? There has been much discussion with regard to this matter, and the other day Lord Derby gave us some figures which practically told us nothing. He did not tell us the total number of officers in the Old Army and in the New Army, and the figures which he gave us bore no relation at all to the total number. The Committee would like to know what is the actual position, and what is going to be done in the future to rectify the great disproportion between the number of officers in the New Army and in the Territorial Force who are serving on the Staff and in the Higher Command. We were told that Territorial Force officers actually commanding divisions in the field were nil, brigades ten, 1176 of whom five had had previous Regular experience, and that the Territorial Special Reserve and New Army officers appointed on the General Staff, first grade, were: Territorials, three; Special Reserve, two; and New Army, two, making a total of seven. As I have pointed out, these figures really tell us nothing, and the time has now arrived, as Mr. Spencer Wilkinson, in an article in the "Sunday Times," says, when there should be one Army and not three. He tells us:My purpose in writing is to urge the public to support the Chief of the Imperial General Staff in dealing, according to his own judgment, with some of the problems with which in this critical time he is confronted.… So I made the suggestion, which I had reason to know commended itself to the highest military authorities, that the old Regulars, Territorials, and New Regulars should be amalgamated into one Army, the officers put on one list, and all claims to promotion be abolished except one.This comes from a high military authority who has studied these questions all his life and who has come to the conclusion that the time has come to give the New Armies their deserts. Apparently he is in accord with the highest authorities in the War Office. We have a right to know where the obstacle lies. There must be obstacles somewhere. I should have thought that we have a right to know from the Secretary of State, after his speech the other day in which he said that he quite approved that the New Armies should have their proper place and that all the distinctions between the Old Army, the New Army, and the Territorials should be abolished, in what way he proposes to carry out that promise and who the obstructionists are who are preventing this being carried into effect. Mr. Spencer Wilkinson went on to say:These are, first, that the Territorial and New Officers believe that their services are not appreciated; secondly, that in the selection of Staff officers it has been too readily assumed that Regular officers as such are necessarily superior in ability to all those who have joined for the War, and that, therefore, some of the best brains of the country have been passed over; and, thirdly, that many of the best scientific men whom the nation possesses, after trying to help the Army by joining it, have received such treatment as must tend to make them regret that step, and as would be incredible were it not proved by abundant evidence.I could go on quoting a great deal more, but I leave it at that. I hope the Undersecretary will be in a position to tell us whether it is proposed to abolish these distinctions between the New Army, the Territorials, and the Old Army, after four 1177 years of war, so that promotion in the Army may be based on merit and on merit alone. I understand that in the German and French Armies there is constant interchange between the officers on the Staff and those who are carrying on regimental duties. It is perfectly obvious that in this War not only should Staff officers be trained for that work, but that they should also have actual experience of the conditions of war as they are to-day. I therefore ask the Under-Secretary to tell the Committee, first, what he proposes to do with regard to courts-martial and the appointment of legal advisers for counsel; secondly, what he can do to mitigate the decision to abandon the London Welsh Battalion; and, thirdly, how and in what way the Secretary of State for War—assuming that he has already made up his mind—proposes to carry out the promise to put the New Army and the Territorials on an equal footing with the old Regular Army?
§ Colonel LESLIE WILSON
The question to which I should like to call the attention of the Committee is one which I have brought before the Under-Secretary and the Financial Secretary already by means of questions, to which I have not been able up to the present to obtain any satisfactory answer. When this War started the State made certain arrangements by which the wives and dependants of men called up for service were looked after by the State by means of separation allowances. That was an entirely new departure from the conditions of the past. The War Office, however, did not make any alteration in their existing rule with regard to certain other allowances which were in force at the tmie and applied to the Army. I allude to the compulsory stoppages which are in force under Section 145 (2, b) of the Army Act for wives who have been deserted by their husbands and for the children of these women and also for bastards. The present rule stands that the most a man can have compulsorily stopped out of his pay if he deserts his wife is 6d. a day, or 3s. 6d. a week, in the case of a private. In the case of a bastard child he can only be stopped 4d. a day. The pay of the soldier in this present War has considerably improved, and it does seem extremely hard that the most a woman who is deserted by her husband can get is only 3s. 6d. a week. Everyone knows that at the present time the cost of living has increased so enormously that it is quite 1178 unreasonable to say that any woman can live on 3s. 6d. a week or anything like it. I would also point out that when you come to the question of bastard children, if he has two, I believe there is some arrangement in the War Office—I do not think it is legal or in the Act—under which he pays 3d. for each. At any rate, whatever the sum is, it is totally inadequate. I suggest that this particular Section of the Army Act should be altered at once. It will necessarily mean an amendment of the Army Act, but the Army Act has already been amended more than once and I do not see why it should not be amended in this particular instance. A magistrate's order may be put in force if the total amount is £2—
§ The CHAIRMAN
This clearly, as the hon. and gallant Member himself says, involves legislation and must be brought up on the Army Act itself. In Committee of Supply we do not permit a discussion of matters that require legislation.
§ Colonel WILSON
I am sorry I am not in order. I hope to have another opportunity of calling attention to this question, which is a very important one. I should like to say a few words in support of what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Enfield (Major Newman) with regard to the position of Territorial secretaries. It does seem very unfair indeed that the remuneration of Territorial secretaries is to be treated for taxation purposes exactly as if it were private money. It has not been the fault of the Territorial secretaries that they have not joined the Regular forces and taken an active part in the War. I have the honour to be the Vice-Chairman of a Territorial County Association, and my Territorial secretary has done his best to join up, but his services could not possibly be spared. If any men have done good work in the sense that they have done real war work, Territorial secretaries throughout the country have done it. It is very unfair that these men should have to test their case in the Courts because the Government say that their remuneration should be treated for the purposes of taxation as if it were the same as pay in the Regular Army. Another question which the Under-Secretary knows I have raised on more than one occasion is that of the decoration which it is suggested should be given for the operations in Gallipoli. I understand from the Under-Secretary that already negotiations have taken place 1179 between the Dominion Governments, the Colonial Governments, and the Wax-Office on this question, and it was still under consideration at the time when I last put the question to him. I feel certain that everybody in the United Kingdom would be only too glad to see those very gallant troops receive a decoration for their brilliant services in those operations. I put it to the hon. Gentleman that, if a decoration is given, the Imperial troops who have served with the forces on so many occasions should not be left out. I hope the Under-Secretary will be able to give a satisfactory answer soon. He knows that the question is under discussion in the Colonial papers and that there is a large number of Imperial troops who are very anxious to know how they will stand in this particular matter.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
I have already inflicted two speeches upon Committees of this House with regard to what we are now permitted to call the Loch Doune aerodrome, and I should not have dreamt of intervening again even after the two speeches delivered this afternoon from the two Front Benches if, from the accident of Debate, I had not spoken before and not after the Ministers who answered for the two Departments on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. I only rise in order to say that I think it is due to the representatives of those Departments that I should say that there has been a perfectly frank and straightforward disclosure of all the facts of the matter. If it had not been so, assuming oneself to possess the capacity of making oneself unpleasant in the Parliamentary sense, I should certainly have felt it my duty to do so. But the Financial Secretary to the War Office and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Air Ministry have, I am convinced, given the House all the material at their disposal. It is a perfectly just and reasonable suggestion that we should now at every point of further detailed criticism be referred to the Committee over which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cleveland (Mr. H. Samuel) presides.
I would refer in a few sentences to matters which have been raised by other hon. Members, notably by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), with regard to medical classification and the sending out of wounded men again and again. I would refer to that only 1180 from the point of view of my own personal experience. I had a case quite recently with regard to medical classification where a man had been passed as fit for general service, where he had apparently been some considerable time in the Service, where he had been picked up on the road in an absolutely helpless condition by an officer, and, as a result of a letter I wrote to the War Office, a special board was held upon that man. In spite of the fact that he had been passed for general service, and had been in the trenches, the board found that he could not be classified higher than B 1, and he has been returned to hospital over and over again—in fact he is there at the present moment. I am sending the correspondence to my hon. Friend, but, as a Parliamentary opportunity has occurred of drawing attention to the matter, I think it only right to emphasise the fact that there is a grave disquiet, because there is hardly a member of this Committee who does not receive a number of instances where it is perfectly obvious that the classification has been put too high by the medical board. With regard to the sending out of the wounded over and over again, one of the most painful subjects to which anyone, more especially one who has served as an officer himself, could possibly refer to—one has an uneasy feeling—I do not assert it, because I cannot prove it in all cases—that there may be a number of quite young men—I mean single men of twenty-five years of age who are still on garrison duty at home, or men who have come back after a certain time abroad and have not been wounded—who are still being retained on Home service while wounded men are being sent out over and over again. It is extremely unpleasant to refer to any individual cases of men who are being kept at home of which one may have knowledge, but I certainly shall feel it my duty to point out to my hon. Friend one or two classifications from which I think men could quite well be taken before you send out these wounded men over and over a grain. I hope in both these cases of the medical classification and the constant return of wounded men there will be the most searching investigation as to whether other men are not available.
§ Colonel SANDERS
I have the temerity to call attention to what was more or less a grievance before the War and is a very much greater grievance now, and that is 1181 the price given for Army horses. I believe it is practically the same now as it was at the beginning of the War. Breeders of horses feel that the article they have to sell is practically the only one of which the price has not gone up. The price of bullocks has practically doubled. That may be partly due to the Food Controller, but you cannot appeal to the Food Controller over the price of a horse at present. The reasons which have caused the increase in the one case are practically the same as those which have caused it in the other—namely, the very high price of feeding-stuffs. The cost of producing the finished article has gone up just as much in the one case as in the other, yet the price at which you are able to sell that finished article remains the same. I have seen figures worked out in a great number of cases of the cost of bringing a five-year-old horse ready to be sold to the Army. They vary a great deal in different places, but I do not think I am far out in saying that a man who sells a five-year-old horse to the Army must have lost £70 over it, and he may lose a great deal more. If the War Office wishes horses to go on being produced in England it will be absolutely necessary that it must raise the price. I do not ask for a reply to-night, but a deputation from the Hunters' Improvement Society is very shortly going to wait on the Under-Secretary, and I hope he will give the matter his careful consideration and may be able to give them a more or less satisfactory reply.
§ Colonel YATE
My hon. and gallant Friend (Major Davies) has raised the question of the removal of the distinction between the Territorial Force and the rest of the Army. I would ask the Undersecretary to tell us exactly what is meant by the removal of that distinction. The Territorial Force have a peculiar esprit de corps and a county connection of their own. They are proud to be serving under the County Territorial Committees, and I hope this question of the removal of distinction does not mean in any way that they shall be removed from the control of their county committees or from their own counties. The esprit de corps that is in these Territorial regiments is a most valuable asset, and I hope nothing will be done in any way to lessen it. The question of disbanding certain regiments has also been raised. I would remind the Under-Secretary of the promise given me in answer to a question by the late Under- 1182 Secretary that when first line Territorial battalions come to be disbanded they shall all be reformed at the conclusion of the War. It may be necessary under the stress of circumstances at present to disband first line Territorials, but I trust that that promise will hold good, and that as soon as the War is over the battalions will be restored to their original counties. There are many of these first line Territorial battalions, and there are also many Regular battalions, still serving on garrison duty in India which have been there during the whole of the War. I know the difficulty of relieving them, but I would ask the Under-Secretary to bear this in mind, and whenever tonnage is available, to try to relieve those battalions which have been kept now for three years and more on garrison duty in India, and give them a turn of service at the front while there is yet time to do so. I wish also to say a word regarding the treatment of secretaries of County Territorial Associations. They are mostly retired officers of the old Regular Army, and they are all doing soldiers' work, and I trust there will be no further question of not giving them the proper remission of Income Tax which is due to them.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I wish to ask a question as to the price paid to farmers and others for boarding and care of remounts. The present price is 25s. a week, and no doubt up till recently that was enough, but my information is that, owing to the increased cost of forage of late, it is hardly enough in many cases to pay the actual cost of the forage, let alone any payment to the men who actually look after the horses. There must, of course, be grooms, or helpers of some sort, and all the more so when the horses are likely to be sent out to the front, because in many cases they are kept at these remount places in order to be made fit to be sent abroad. That means, of course, that they must get plenty of oats and food of all sorts and be properly exercised. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will inquire whether 25s. is enough, and if not, make representations to the Financial Secretary with a view to altering it. The other question with regard to remounts is this: Is it quite certain that we have, or are likely to have, enough hay in the coming season for feeding our horses? Unless we grow it in this country it will be very difficult to get it elsewhere. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman 1183 would make representations to the President of the Board of Agriculture and ask him when he directs the carving up of grasslands to remember that it is exceedingly important that we should have hay enough to keep the Army in horses.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)
I will deal first with the points raised by my right hon. Friend (Sir C. Hobhouse), because I do not think, in view of the fact that we have already had two very important Debates, I could very well answer them here to-day. On two occasions the Prime Minister has made statements upon the points which my right hon. Friend raised, and on Tuesday last he gave all the information which could possibly be given upon the Versailles Council. I do not think my right hon. Friend would press me to carry the matter further to-night.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
My right hon. Friend asked me for information, or, to put it the other way, gave information in a series of interrogatories. While I quite accept his statement, and I am sure the Prime Minister will accept it, the Prime Minister deliberately refused to go a step further, and, if I understood my right hon. Friend's intention aright, he really wished to press me to go just a little further than the Prime Minister did. I am quite sure, as an old Parliamentary hand, he would not wish to press me any further.
My hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) raised a great variety of points. The first was the question of silver badges. I cannot read out in full the Order appertaining to them, but I would refer hon. Members to Army Order 265, of 1917, where it is made perfectly plain what persons are entitled to the silver badge. I think the point my hon. Friend wished to emphasise was that you could not distinguish, when a man had a silver badge, whether he had served abroad or only at home. I think he must be wrong, and my recollection is right, that if a man has been abroad and has been wounded he can always wear a gold bar on his civilian clothes or a chevron. I do not know what complaint he has against Members of the House who are wearing silver badges who have not been at the front. As a matter of fact, a great 1184 many hon. Members have served who have not been abroad. I know case after case of hon. Members who have been invalided out of the Service, and in accordance with this Order they are perfectly entitled to wear silver badges.
The point which appeals probably more than any other to the Committee is the question of sending wounded men back again and again to the front. This question—indeed, all questions of this nature—are receiving the very closest attention of the Army Council at present. Like every other question of the sort, it turns round the acute question of man-power. I need hardly tell the Committee that if we had men at our disposal there would be no attempt on the part of the Army Council to send abroad, to be wounded again very likely, or to suffer the supreme sacrifice, a man who has already suffered three wounds. My hon. Friend pressed me to give a definite assurance on this point. I am quite sure that he will realise my position. I can assure him and the Committee that this question is now being sympathetically considered, and I hope he will not press me any further on this particular point.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
My hon. Friend also asked me which Department deals with releases from the Colours? At the present moment, if my memory serves me right, the Department which deals with releases from the Colours in the first place is the Ministry of National Service. The only Department which the War Office kept to itself, both primarily, secondarily, and finally, is the Department for release on compassionate grounds. Any other request for release from the Colours must be addressed, in the first place, to the Ministry of National Service.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
That is perfectly true. When a soldier has been enlisted, and is serving in the Army, the Department of State which has the effective control over his destiny must be the War 1185 Office; but the chances are nine to one that any recommendation which is sent to us by the Ministry of National Service, who may have investigated the ease, would be accepted. But there may be occasions when we cannot accept their recommendation. In view of the great difficulty of man-power there may be cases when we cannot accept the recommendation of any Department.
§ Mr. BILLING
Does the man apply to his commanding officer, to the War Office, or direct to the National Service Ministry?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
We are at cross-purposes. I am dealing with the case of a man who is released on other than compassionate grounds; the man whose employer in civil life wishes him to be released in order that he may get his services. In that case he must of necessity apply to the. Ministry of National Service. They investigate the case, and upon their recommendation the War Office acts whether confirmatively or negatively. There is one other point which my hon. Friend raised, and that is in regard to time-expired men and I must confess that I did not quite catch the gist of his question. The time-expired man who has been discharged and who is not liable under the Military Service Acts will never be called up again. He wants to be assured on that point.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I know that point. Recently the Minister of National Service wrote me and said that the time-expired man who had been discharged on the grounds of being time-expired, would never, if he had been wounded as well as having been discharged as time-expired, be recalled to the Colours in future. I want to know if my hon. Friend can also make that statement quite definitely, so that we may know where we are?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I cannot make that statement quite definitely because the question of there call of these men is a question under the Review of Exceptions Act and is a matter for the Ministry of National Service.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Of course, in a case like that it rests entirely with the Ministry of National Service and not with us.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
One other point was raised by my hon. Friend and also by two or three other hon. Members. They complained rather bitterly, but quite nicely, that there was no Court at the War Office to consider cases of inefficiency which had been sent home from France. I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Major D. Davies) and my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Colonel Sir C. Seely) made the same complaint. The hon. Member for Mansfield wished we were back again in the ways of the Commander-in-Chief. As a matter of fact the functions which the Commander-in-Chief in the old days performed are now primarily the functions that are performed by the Army Council, and the same attention which was given in the old days by the Commander-in-Chief must now be given to every individual case by at least three members of the Army Council.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Is there no procedure whereby an officer aggrieved can place his case before the Army Council and make sure that he has a fair hearing?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
His appeal comes to the Army Council, and I can assure hon. Members, speaking for myself, and the same remark applies to my colleagues, that every case is most patiently looked into and every attention given to it.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Frankly, I do not know of any case where an officer has been heard. I am quite sure that in no case during the time that I have been at the War Office has an officer been heard in his own defence. He has got to give, in technical terms, an explanation of his conduct or he has got to state the facts in his own defence under the Army Act on appeal. That is the procedure, I think, as it stands 1187 now. I understand that ever since the Army Council was instituted no officer has been heard in his own defence. I agree that in the old days the Commander-in-Chief did give a personal interview to any officer who felt himself aggrieved.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I think the Army Council is in the nature of a standing committee, and its functions are the functions which a standing committee would possess. I come now to a subject which is rather difficult to deal with. I refer to the question raised by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Lees-Smith) and the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Roch). I was asked what was the attitude of the War Office so far as the maisons tolérées were concerned in France? This is a very unsavoury and maladorous subject to discuss on the floor of the House of Commons. BeforeIsayanythingaboutthespeechesthat were delivered, I would remind the Committee that the charge which was made against the War Office in the last Debate was put forward in quite a friendly way by the hon. Member for Haggerston (Mr. Chancellor), and it was that we had expressed the wish that these maisons tolérées should continue to exist in the towns of France, particularly in one town of France. I think the hon. Member will agree that that was the intention of his supplemental question when the matter arose at Question Time the other day. The suggestion was that if we had not expressed that wish we had at any rate connived at the keeping of these institutions.
I asked if it was true that the French authorities had stated that they had done it at the request of the English military authorities?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am glad the hon. Member has emphasised that point, because we have sent to France and asked for a categorical statement on that point, and I am happy to assure the Committee that there is no truth in the statement that we either instructed the French military authorities or, indeed, connived at the keeping of these institutions. I stated in the course of a number of supplementary questions put to me that this question was entirely one for the French civil authorities. That is the view of the Army at the present time. The Committee will realise 1188 that it is extremely important that we as an Army serving in France, an Allied country, should interfere as little as possible with the jurisdiction of the civil authority. Whatever our views are in this House, and whatever our views are all over the country, it seems to me that we have to accept the condition of things in a country with which we are allied and part of which our Army at the present time occupies. A great many hon. Members who take a deep interest in all subjects of this sort may feel aggrieved at this statement; but I am only trying as delicately as I can to suggest that while in this country we would certainly have no hesitation in taking a certain action, yet in a country which is allied to us and which has all along been on most friendly terms with us, I think the Army is in an extremely difficult position, and that it cannot very well ride rough shod over things which are accepted as part and parcel of the life of the country. My hon. Friend quite properly put his case very well, and he said to me, "You have put out of bounds certain estaminets and cafés." That is quite true, but, as I understand it, these institutions are not out of bounds, except for a specific purpose, namely, that in a certain estaminet or café disorder or a row may have taken place. Another cafémay have been put out of bounds between certain hours, and in a certain street, because it is a most congested street, and as little difficulty as possible is desired in that particular street between those particular hours. If at any moment we found that our soldiers were in anyway creating a disorder in any of these institutions we should have no hesitation in taking action, although we could not do it in a rough and ready way. Our officers in that particular town would go very quietly to the mayor of the town and make the necessary complaint, and I am quite certain that joint action would then be taken, and, without hurting the sympathies of the French people, or without casting any slur upon an institution which they think proper to maintain in their midst, such joint action would be taken, and that promptly.
§ Mr. ROCH
Will the hon. Member make inquiry as to whether these places are out of bounds to American soldiers, and whether it is not a fact, as stated in a letter to the "Times" from the Dean of Lincoln, that there are entries made on 1189 the camp leave cards of the men of our own camps which give the hours during which these places are not out of bounds for British soldiers?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I do not know that I have ever seen officially any information in regard to that statement made by the Dean of Lincoln, but I will inquire into it. I have seen a statement, but not an official statement, in regard to the point as to American soldiers, and on that matter I will get official information. I am not afraid to face the question, and if my hon. Friend will in the course of a few days put down a question I will do my best to answer it.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
Does the hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that it will endanger the relations between this country and France merely because it was stated that these places were out of bounds, purely for British soldiers?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
No; I did not expressly say that. I implied that, and I meant to imply a great deal more that I cannot discuss in this House. I might have given a semi-sufficient reason, not quite a sufficient reason, for our inaction if my hon. Friend wished to have an answer, but I am hoping that the Committee realises that there are far greater difficulties behind this.
Do I understand that the impression is that offence would be given to the military or civil authorities in France if you protect our soldiers from disease and moral ruin by placing these places out of bounds?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
No; the hon. Member for Northampton, if I remember aright, said that there were thousands of cases of unregistered women outside in the streets, and he went on to imply that relations took place between soldiers and those women. If that is so, human nature being as it is, I am not at all sure that it is such a bad thing to have a certain house where women are registered and kept clean.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
That may be so, but you have got the danger of tolerating houses of that sort for soldiers who may wish to go there, or of having them meeting in the public streets women who 1190 make their living in that way, and who are unregistered, and who will not give the men who associate with them the security which the registered woman may give.
Is not the hon. Gentleman familiar with the fact that these unregistered women are most numerous in the neighbourhood of the registered brothels?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
No; I know nothing about that. My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke dealt at considerable length with the disparity of treatment between civilian doctors and doctors of the Royal Army Medical Corps. I was hoping that my hon. Friend would now be assured that those distinctions which existed in the past were now dying away. I understood that the new reform which came into existence made all distinctions a thing of the past. He put one specific point. He said that far more decorations were given to men in the Royal Army Medical Corps than were given to civilian doctors. That would naturally be the case, because the Royal Army Medical Corps doctors went out at the very beginning of the War; they were established servants at the time. They did splendid service at Mons. Consequently, I can imagine that there would be a disproportion of decorations such as my hon. Friend suggests, and I do not see very much in that point
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I do not think that affects my argument much. Most of these civilian doctors were kept at home doing part-time work. They were carrying on their own practice and also doing civil work in hospitals, and while the nation is very grateful to them for their part-time service, I can quite imagine that it did not give them the opportunity for decoration which was given to the Royal Army Medical Corps, who were established officers who had been bearing the brunt of work at the Front and in the trenches. The hon. Member wished me to go back to the case of the Advisory Board. I think that by means of question and answer the House has been informed as to exactly why we did not use the Advisory Board. The Advisory Board is a Board composed of very distinguished medical men. While the Board, so far as 1191 I know, has not met at any time during the War as a Board, the Director-General of the Army Medical Service has been in constant communication with either one or other of the members of that Board and receiving invaluable advice from them. I know, for example, that two members of the Board were absent in different theatres of the War, and in these circumstances those members, in my judgment, were receiving information as individuals to bring back to the Director-General of the Army Medical Service which they could not possibly have received if they had remained at home as members of the Board, and this information will no doubt prove invaluable to the Director-General of the Army Medical Service himself.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
That is so. I would not like to see the able surgeons in administrative posts. By that I mean this, that I would like the able surgeons, if possible, not to be doing administrative work, but doing their own specially skilled work. The practice in the old Royal Army Medical Corps, and it is the theory too, that the Army Medical officer was supposed to be a man who combined skill of administration and of practice, and I am not surprised that a larger proportion of the Royal Army Medical Corps, established officers, should have administrative jobs than is the case with the civil practitioner. I thought that my hon. Friend's difficulty was, "You are using the skilled surgeon too much for administrative work."
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
My hon. Friend cannot have it both ways. What I said before I think will please the Committee and the country—that the best work for those distinguished surgeons to whom my hon. Friend alludes is not administrative work, but in our hospitals dealing with major operations and all the worst cases that arise. I come now to the two main points which he made. The first was 1192 whether we had promulgated the Orders in Council dealing with the duties of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff? So far as I know, no such Order has yet been promulgated. As the Committee will remember, in January, 1916, certain powers were taken away from the Army Council and from the Secretary of State for War and were given to the Imperial General Staff. All that will happen under this new Order in Council will be that those powers will be restored to the. Secretary of State and the Army Council. In my humble judgment, the Order in Council of January, 1916, was a highly unconstitutional Order; it was an Order which took away the powers which were given to the Army Council by their constitution, and I cannot see any great grievance that the Committee will have when I assure them that all that this new Order will do will be to re-establish the constitutional practice as it affects the Army Council. I think that my hon. Friend quite properly asked as to the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. In the course of the speech which I made last week I mentioned a few facts about the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, and I then, to the best of the space at my disposal, tried to point out that it was a grievous hardship that certain malicious rumours should be circulated about the social life of those gallant women. I am glad to think now that Mrs. Burleigh Leach is at the head of this large and devoted band of female workers, and I hope, with the good will of these people and with their own desire to submit to the discipline which has been specially enacted for them, that this corps will turn out to be a most efficient corps, and valuable not only by the work which they are doing, but by enabling the Army to get for the fighting services the men who are now required.
The hon. Member for Enfield dealt with the training of new soldiers. I dealt with that at very great length in my speech last week. His main point was that we should regard the secretaries of the Territorial Force Associations as being men on active service. The exact definition of "Active Service" is a very difficult one. While, as I have reason to know, no body of men in the whole country has worked so devotedly as the secretaries of Territorial Associations, I think that he must accept the situation which has been presented by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, and see that this definition will have to be settled definitely in Court. I do not think that 1193 he will expect me to go further than that. It is under consideration, and I hope that before long there will be some decision.
§ Major NEWMAN
Who is going to pay the costs? If it turns out that the unfortunate secretary has no case, will he have to pay the costs as against the Crown?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am afraid I cannot answer that question offhand. I have a good many points to deal with, but I will look into that point carefully and let my hon. and gallant Friend know. I think that these are all the points that have been raised in the course of the Debate, but if there are any which have been overlooked—
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
As my hon. and gallant Friend knows, that is not purely an English question. We have got to be careful as to how we act, and we cannot act until such time as we have got the sanction and good will of the Dominions. as I hope we shall have. Meantime, I cannot give my hon. and gallant Friend a definite answer. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for York and the Member for Bridgwater both raised the question of remounts and the breeding of horses. These points were raised quite unexpectedly, and I cannot answer them straight off to the satisfaction of the hon. Members or my own, but if they will allow me I hope, within the course of a day or two, to be in a, position to give them an answer, whether satisfactory or not. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire asked about the question of unity of control upon national defence. He seemed to think there was no unity of control at all, and no co-operation between the various branches of the Service who were serving in Home defence. I can assure him there is the most hearty co-operation throughout all the branches concerned, and nothing could afford greater proof of that than the extraordinarily successful way in which the raids have been met during the last few weeks. I cannot answer definitely 1194 anything about the raid on Monday last. My hon. Friend seems to know more about it than I do. But if he likes to come to me privately and give me his facts, I will do my level best to verify them and to see whether there is any truth in them.
§ Mr. BILLING
Will the hon. Gentleman say if one man is in supreme control of all the anti-aircraft guns in England on the occasion of a raid, or whether the control is divided? If it is divided, will he agree to recommend single control?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
My information is that it is one real control. If it is not, I will see that the representations of my hon. Friend are placed before the Commander-in-Chief.
§ Major DAVIES
Has the hon. Gentleman anything to say with regard to the question I raised as to the London Welsh?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I understood that my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary met that point the other night. At the present moment I have no definite information, but I will give my hon. Friend any information we have at the War Office in the course of a day or two. My Noble Friend the Member for Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) raised the question of the command depots. I know he is always very anxious as to the treatment which soldiers in this country receive from the moment they leave hospital. I was rather concerned to hear that these command depots were centres of discontent and disloyalty. I do not like to discuss that question in the House, but if my Noble Friend will give me any definite facts, I will make the necessary inquiries as soon as I possibly can.
§ Mr. WATT
I had not the honour of catching Mr. Speaker's eye earlier this afternoon, but the fact that the Minister in charge of the Vote rose so early to intervene cannot be accepted by me as stopping the discussion. I want to ask the hon. Gentleman a question with regard to a grievance which I have already aired. I put to him a question the other day in consequence of an application I received from Constituents, and my hon. Friend took umbrage at the way in which I put the question. I have been unable to understand why or wherefore he did take umbrage. I was simply doing my duty to my Constituents. He knows the case very well. It was on the 31st January that I asked a question as to two young officers 1195 who came from my Constituency. Their mother Was seriously ill, and on medical advice the friends of these two young men wired to my hon. Friend on the 19th May asking that they might be, released from the Colours in order to visit their mother. No attention was paid by the hon. Gentleman to that request, or to the letter which followed containing the medical certificate. Seven days later a telegram was again sent, but no reply was obtained from the Department. On the 27th May a telegram was sent to the hon. Gentleman intimating that the mother had died and that the funeral would take place on the 30th, and asking again for the release of these boys. There was no reply from the War Office, so on the 28th a further telegrame was sent and again failed to elicit a reply. The funeral of the mother was postponed to the 31st May and then took place. Eleven days after the appeal the hon. Gentleman sent his first reply, in which he stated that the letter of the 19th ultimo had been received and that a telegram had been sent to France asking for special leave to be given if the exigencies of the situation permitted.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Will the hon. Member say when that telegram was sent to France? I gave him a full account of the correspondence. The hon. Gentleman has made no reference to that fact.
§ Mr. WATT
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to finish my case? On the 19th May the first approach was made to the War Office and no reply reached the relatives until the 2nd of June, when a letter, dated the 1st June, arrived. My hon. Friend did show me some papers connected with this case, and the papers indicated that the wire had been sent to France, but my point is that no reply was sent to the relatives. The War Office telegram was sent to France on the 24th May, but as a matter of fact the relatives were not informed and got no communication whatever until the 2nd June. I think I was justified in bringing this case to the notice of the hon. Gentleman. We are sent here by our constituents to do that class of work, but when, in accordance with my duty, I put a question to my hon. Friend he unfortunately took umbrage and seemer to show ill will to me.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The acknowledgment of the first letter was delayed because I had sent a telegram to France 1196 and was expecting leave would be granted. As a matter of fact, I did reply to the only two letters addressed to me.
§ Mr. WATT
But the hon. Gentleman's explanation is really no reply to my complaint that no answer was forthcoming until the 2nd June. My complaint is that my hon. Friend did not in any way communicate with the relatives of the soldiers to indicate that he was giving attention to the matter. It is, I repeat, our duty to put these cases on behalf of our constituents, and I intend to do so notwithstanding any umbrage which the hon. Gentleman or any other Minister may take, I submit there was nothing in the phraselogy of the question which justified the hon. Gentleman in taking offence at it. But in view of the attitude he has now assumed, I think I had better lengthen my speech by reading some of the extracts which I have here. This is the text of the question which I put to the hon. Gentleman:Mr. Watt asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that repeated applications were made to him on medical advice on 19th May last for leave from France for two soldiers named Miller, No. 27120 and No. 8885, of the Highland Light Infantry and 5th Scottish Rifles, respectively, on account of the illness of their widowed mother; that these applications were repeated to him on 26th May without effect; that the mother died on 27th May. and repeated telegrams were sent to him for leave for the two soldiers to attend their mother's funeral on 31st May; and, seeing that no notice was taken by him of these personal communications, will he say whether this is still the system that holds in his Department on the question of leave for soldiers in such circumstances?" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3lst January, 1918, cols. 1765–66, Vol. 101.]These were the terms in which I put the question at which my hon. Friend took offence. I hope he will tell the Committee what particular part of the question is offensive. If he can show any part is offensive, I will gladly apologise.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I have already stated that what I took objection to was the statement that I sent no reply to personal notes.
§ Mr. WATT
And my point is, as I have demonstrated, that the relatives of these soldiers received no answer until twelve days after the first application was made. They approached the hon. Gentleman personally, because he had been a candidate in the constituency and they had formed a friendship with him while he was that candidate. They, therefore, approached 1197 him, but unfortunately got no answer. I hope the hon. Gentleman will give the Committee some further reply.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Major DAVIES
I listened carefully to the reply which fell from the Under-Secretary and confess I am very much dissatisfied that he has not given the reply I hoped for. The War Office are constantly throwing dust in our eyes; they are constantly endeavouring to stifle the right which we possess to know certain things. They will not give us answers to questions which we put in this House. On two occasions I have ventured to submit the question of courts-martial in France and I have begged the hon. Gentleman to give every possible consideration to the question of attaching officers to units in the field whose duty it shall be to act the part of the soldier's friend when so required. Up to now I have got no reply from anyone on the Front Bench as to the attitude of the War Office on this particular matter. I wish also to ask whether or not the War Office are going to make good the promise given by the Secretary of State for War with regard to promotion in the New Army, a question which is attracting a great deal of attention at the present moment. I do not think any Member of the House need apologise for bringing up this question and for asking the Under-Secretary whether the Secretary of State for War does really mean to carry out the promise which on several occasions ho has made. From the figures adduced up to now he has not carried out that promise, and what the country and what the Army want to know is whether the New Army, after four years of fighting, is to be placed relatively in the same position as the other parts of the Army, whether the Army is to be regarded as one national Army, or as three Armies. All this points to the absolute importance and necessity for having in this House a Secretary of State for War who can give categorical replies to questions of this kind. I know my hon. Friend endeavours to do the best he can to give us the information on these points, but unfortunately he cannot always speak with authority with which a responsible Minister could speak in this House. For my own part I am extremely sorry the Secretary of State is not in this House in person, because I confidently believe that if he had been a Member of this House he would a long time ago have been out of his present office.
Will my hon. Friend be good enough to tell me whether any more has been done with regard to preventing men being sent back to the front who have been wounded; whether the War Office will treat the veterinary surgeons in precisely the same way as the medical students, and whether some relief cannot be given to men who have been serving for a long time and who have been the mainstay of their businesses? In some cases these men have been called up naturally and quite rightly, but if something could be done to give occasional relief to these men, it would case considerably the difficulties from which they suffer. I have had cases put before me, and I fully agree that my hon. Friend has very fairly considered the cases I have submitted to him in writing. If he will make a public statement on these points I am sure it will be very acceptable.
§ Major HUNT
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman why the silver badge is allowed to men who have served in this country and have had to go out of the Army because they have become medically unfit, while in the case of a clergyman who has served about two years, abroad a good deal of the time, in Egypt, and who has been mined on a ship does not receive the badge when he is not employed any more because on account of war service he is not sufficiently healthy to go abroad, although capable of serving at home, there being no place for him at home? It is rather hard when a man has done all he can do by going abroad and so on that he should not have any recognition at all, as this clergyman has had none, whilst a man who has only served at home for a lesser time gets the silver badge. The hon. Gentleman will perhaps remember that I have had some correspondence with the War Office about the silver badge, and they were good enough to allow it to officers who had served at home. Apparently, however, there is some difficulty about allowing it to an officer who has served abroad in the circumstances I have mentioned. Could the hon. Gentleman tell us that there is any hope that the Regulation, whatever it is, which prevents this may be reconsidered?
§ Mr. BILLING
I must apologise for keeping the hon. Member any longer on this matter, but will he say who gives the permission for an officer to put on his breast a foreign decoration, and who is responsible for giving that permission? Is it the Secretary of State for War, and, 1199 if so, will he say, having regard to the fact that Russia no longer has anyone who has the authority or the right to issue royal decorations, and has not had for many months past, whether it would be in order for an officer to wear these Russian decorations, especially having regard to the fact that to my personal knowledge two officers in an important position have, so far as I know, gazetted themselves to high Russian decorations, with crossed swords? Is it not the fact that when the Czar of Russia gave these orders in the past it was an understood thing that the crossed swords could only possibly be won under enemy fire, and will the hon. Gentleman say whether these two officers have ever been under enemy fire, and, if not, why they are allowed to put on their breasts Russian decorations which could only be awarded by the Czar? Further, will he say whether, having regard to the present position in Russia, it is proposed to allow officers to continue to adorn themselves with Russian decorations?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
As I understand it, it is His Majesty the King alone who can give permission to wear any foreign decoration. I am not quite sure of that, but I will inquire and let the hon. Gentleman know. With regard to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Major Hunt), I have been looking at the Army Order dealing with the silver badge, and I find if an officer or chaplain has served abroad, and has been invalided out of the Service, he is entitled to the silver badge. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will give me further particulars of his case. I think we have been in correspondence about this already, and I will see whether it can be brought within the four corners of the rule. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Price) has put certain questions to me. I am not in a position to deal straight away with the last two, but I did deal fully with the first—regarding sending wounded men abroad—in my reply. I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Major Davies) did me an injustice, because on Wednesday, in my second speech, I dealt at very great length with the points he has raised—firstly, with regard to the courts-martial; and, secondly, with regard to the soldier's friend. If he will read that speech, I think he will find I met the points addressed to me so far as I could.
§ Major DAVIES
The point my hon. Friend promised to deal with was that a letter was to be sent to France bringing to the attention of the authorities there the present Regulations laid down for the carrying out of the court-martial, and the second point was that he promised to see what could be done towards increasing the facilities for the soldier's friend. Then I made a suggestion—
also last week—that officers should be told off to act as soldier's friend, and I asked whether my hon. Friend could give any indication that that suggestion might, be favourably received?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Again I must repeat what I said. If my hon. and gallant Friend will read my second speech, he will find that I dealt very fully with that, and that I fulfilled my pledge that I would write to France. France has been written to, and I gave a full explanation of the new draft Order we propose to issue to General Officers Commanding, pointing out to them exactly what the law is, that everything must be done to provide a soldier's friend to an accused person, and that the prosecutor in the case should bring, and must bring, every fact that tells in the prisoners' favour before the court-martial.
§ Question put, and agreed to.