§ The register formed under the National Registration Act, 1915 (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act), shall, in addition to the persons mentioned in Section 1 of that Act, include the following persons:
- (a) All male persons who, not having been liable on the fifteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and fifteen, to register themselves under the principal Act by reason that on that day they were under the age of fifteen years, or were members of some part of His Majesty's naval forces or of His Majesty's Regular or Territorial Forces, have, before the passing of this Act, attained the said age, or ceased to be members of any of His Majesty's Forces, or thereafter attain that age or cease to be members of His Majesty's Forces;
- (b) All male persons who, having been registered under the principal Act, have subsequently joined any of His Majesty's forces, and who before the passing of this Act have ceased or thereafter cease to be members of any such forces,
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
had given notice to move at the beginning of the Clause to insert the words "During the existence 830 of the present War," and to insert the same words after the word "shall" ["shall in addition"].
§ The CHAIRMAN
The first two Amendments are not required. If the hon. Member looks at Section 16 of the original Act he will see that what he proposes has already been dealt with.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I have examined. the original Act. The Section is limited to the continuance of the War, but no such provision appears in the amending Bill, and I submit that this is necessary because the principal Act took a census. and compiled a register of ages, and. therefore the Act substantially was complete in its operation so far as registering the people was concerned the moment that that register was taken on that date. The amending Bill does not take the census but provides that all persons who have reached the age of fifteen before the passing of this Bill or who may attain the age of fifteen after the passing of this Bill shall be registered. The words in the Clause are, "or thereafter attain that. age." Therefore the liability imposed by this Bill appears to me to be a continuing liability. I would also call attention to the course taken with regard to the several Bills dealing with military service where in each case it was provided that it should be for the continuance of the War.
§ The CHAIRMAN
In any case, the period for which an Act is to operate must be contained in the last. Clause, and not in the first Clause of the Bill. If, before we reach that point, the hon. Member will again look at the last Section of the principal Act, and the last. Section of this Bill, he will find, I think, that the point has been amply covered.
§ Major NEWMAN
I beg to move, in paragraph (a), to leave out the word "male."
This Amendment has two purposes. First, I want to ascertain the policy of the Government, and second, I want to register a protest which I registered before against legislation by Orders in Council. Clause 7 gives powers to His Majesty's Government by Order in Council to extend this particular Bill to female persons. There is hardly a member of this Committee who has not been approached by persons, not Members of this House, who ask about a. particular enactment and how it came to 831 be passed through Parliament, and Members have had to say, "That was passed not by us in Parliament, but by Order in Council." Then the public are inclined to say, "If that is done, what are you sent to the House of Commons for?" Undoubtedly there is a strong feeling, which is growing, against legislation by Orders in Council. We have this particular Clause in this important Bill which gives the Minister of National Service power, if he thinks fit, by Order in Council, to extend this Bill to female persons. It ought not to be done in this way. Better, if necessary, for us to sit longer hours and to do the legislation ourselves than to leave it to Orders in Council. I say, with all deference to the President of the Local Government Board, that it is perfectly obvious that the word "male" is put into the Bill, and that then, in Clause 7, he seeks to minimise the position in regard to females. The hon. Member (Mr. Whitehouse), I see from the OFFICIAL REPORT, suggested that there would be persecution of girls by the police.
§ Major NEWMAN
I apologise to the hon. Member. Reading the OFFICIAL REPORT, I gathered the impression that a girl of fifteen, whom he described as a child, would be compelled to register, and to show her certificate of registration to the police. Supposing this particular Bill applied to what the hon. Member described as a child, a female of over fifteen and up to seventeen and a half years of age, I submit that it would only make my case stronger for the Amendment. The hon. Member referred to a child of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen to eighteen being asked by a policeman to stand and deliver and show her certificate but I suggest that this Bill is made applicable to male persons in order to minimise a certain amount of opposition to the measure. First of all, I would ask the hon. Member whether he really wishes to describe a young lady of seventeen and a half years of age as a child?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is not entitled to review a Debate which has already taken place. His business is to advance arguments in support of his Amendment.
§ Major NEWMAN
I apologise, and I go on to submit that surely a female of about seventeen years of age should be registered She can do work. I think I may say that a girl of seventeen is equal to a young man of nineteen or twenty in regard to working capacity, and therefore she ought to be registered. There are thousands of cases in which young women now walking up and down the streets could do a lot of work. We see a good many conductresses on the omnibuses who are under eighteen years of age, and I suggest that girls between fifteen and eighteen ought to be registered and brought within the Bill. Then, suppose we leave it to an Order in Council, I still say that there is a real grievance against the Bill, which does entail the obligation of registration on boys of over fifteen, these boys having to go to the Post Office to get forms to fill up. If they fail to do that, they will make themselves liable to a penalty under the Bill when it becomes an Act. When it does become an Act, it will be noticed in the newspapers, and a certain number of people will see that their boys of fifteen have got to be registered, and the matter will be talked about and brought to light. But suppose, in six months after the Bill has become an Act, the Minister of National Service decides to apply the Bill to females of between fifteen and eighteen, it will be done by Order in Council. In that event, there will be great possibility of people incurring fines through their not having noticed the Order in Council. I therefore suggest that the Government might well consider the dropping of Clause 7, and leaving the words "all persons."
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The hon. and gallant Member really proposes to bring a million girls between fifteen and seventeen and a half years of age under the provisions of the Bill. That would entail upon those who are still children at school, at the age of fifteen years and over, the duty of themselves seeing that they get registration forms, and fill them up. But, what is much more serious than that, it would subject these children to a definite penalty provided by the Bill. A child of fifteen who, through ignorance, fails to carry out the provisions of the Bill, would he subject, as the measure is now drawn, to a fine of £5, and to certain continuing penalties. It would also place this million of girls in a position where it would be a policeman's duty to demand from a girl 833 her registration certificate or require her to give an account of herself. I suggest that such provisions are unsuitable, and that our legislation would be searched in vain for any parallel proposal. I very much hope that the President of the Local Government Board in charge of the Bill will not extend provisions of this arbitrary form to girls of fifteen, as suggested by the Amendment.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Hayes Fisher)
Let me remind the Committee what the Bill is actually for. Under the Act which we are seeking to amend, every person, either male or female, between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five, was compelled to register. Therefore we have upon the register now, or ought to have upon the register, all females as well as males over fifteen and under sixty-five. This amending Bill mainly desires to get upon the register those males who have become fifteen since the War in 1915, and who are now sixteen and a-half or seventeen and a-half years of age. We are now asked why we do not get on to the register females who have approached those ages, and bring them all under one process. We have chosen to deal with males first, because my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Service thinks that it is far more important to him that he should have an accurate record of young males between the ages fifteen and seventeen and a half years. It is a matter largely of convenience to the registration officer. As it is, we shall be dealing with anything from three-quarters of a million to 1,000,000, if we confine it to these young men. At present we do not want to put more work upon the registration officer than we can possibly avoid, and, therefore, we apply this Bill only, in the first instance, to males, and take power to apply it to females by Order in Council. When we come to discuss Clause 7, it proposes to give the power to apply the Bill to females by Order in Council. My hon. and gallant Friend (Major Newman) objects to Orders in Council; he has a very rooted objection to them; for my own part, I think they ought to be very strictly limited. But there are purposes for which the Order in Council can be most profitably and conveniently used, where the House passes an Act which contains a general principle which it is desirable should be applied at once either to the whole of the United Kingdom, or to a part of the United 834 Kingdom, or to a particular area. That is admitted by the House to be convenient. Therefore, the whole of the classes and categories which are included in the Act of Parliament come under the application of the general principle, so that it is convenient that the Government should have it in their power to increase the ages or classes of those who come within the principle of the Bill. After all, if the females were not put into this particular Clause, and even though they had to wait until some Order in Council was passed there is nothing to prevent girls of seventeen from being made equally useful with boys of seventeen, eighteen, or nineteen. We all know what wonderful work girls are doing at the present tune—work of great national importance in various national industries. But the mere fact of their not being included in this Clause would not in the least prevent their being employed. It is suggested that if we reserve the application of this Bill to females for an Order in Council, then they would not have any notification that the measure was to be applied to them. I admit that they will not have quite the same notification, but we must recollect that the National Registration Act was passed two and a half years ago, and people have become accustomed to the fact that girls of over fifteen have been put upon the register. That is a matter which has been very much discussed, and parents have gradually got to know that the measure applies to boys over fifteen. When the Order in Council is promulgated there is not the slightest doubt it will be noticed by the newspapers, and a very large amount of local knowledge will be gathered about these matters. For obvious reasons I cannot accept the Amendment, and the Government fully expect that the day will come when an Order in Council will apply the Bill to females.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, in paragraph (a), to leave out the words "said age," and to insert instead thereof the words "age of sixteen."
This is an Amendment of substance, and in justification for it may I remind the Committee that the original Act provided that a census should be taken of all persons between the ages of sixteen and sixty-five, but there was no provision in that Act for taking a census of persons as they became fifteen. My Amendment is that the registration should not take place 835 until the boys reach sixteen. If the present Bill proceeded on the same principle as the original Bill my Amendment would not be necessary because you would simply take a register of all the persons who have now reached the age of fifteen, while the proposal of the Bill is to take a continuous register of all who reach the age of fifteen during the War. That means that however long the War goes on right up to the last you will have a register of persons who are no less than three years away from the date upon which they would be liable to military service. I suggest that that is quite unnecessary. I think my proposal would mitigate some of the objections made to the other Clauses of the Bill as it would be more reasonable to expect young persons of sixteen to carry out the duties imposed by this Act than persons of the age of fifteen. The right hon. Gentleman will see that there is no substantial objection to this Amendment so far as realising the declared objects of the Bill are concerned by beginning the system at sixteen instead of fifteen.
§ Mr. FISHER
The ages in the original Act are fifteen and sixty-five, and there is no reason so far as I can see for altering the age of fifteen to sixteen. It is quite impossible to enter into speculations as to when the War will end, but I think that the age of fifteen is a very good age to begin, and as that is the age mentioned in the principal Act I think it would be exceedingly undesirable to put a different age in the amending Bill.
§ Mr. KING
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman's reply is quite sufficient. The matter is a little more important than the Local Government Board seems to think. In the first place this Amendment would relieve the Board of a good deal of work, and registration officers throughout the country instead of having two and a-half years' growth of boys since the original Act would only have one and a-half years, and instead of having to register something like 1,000,000 or 1,200,000 you would only have to register from 700,000 to 800,000. Do you really want information about boys of from fifteen to sixteen 2 As the boy gets older information about him becomes more valuable, and I think sixteen is quite time enough to begin. I think the Amendment has been treated by the right hon. Gentleman in a somewhat cavalier way, though I 836 know that is not his nature really, and I simply mention the matter as a warning on the subsequent Clauses.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I think the right hon. Gentleman has entirely misunderstood the argument of the Mover of the Amendment. This Bill and the original Act are on a different basis. The original Act relied on only one registration, whereas that, under this Bill, is to be continuous, and I submit it is a waste of time and public money and labour to begin registering people so long before they are required for military service at eighteen. Why do you want to know all about these boys two or three years before they will be required for military service unless it is really your object to continue this Bill after the War? We ought to have some reply given as to why we should spend an amount of public money and take up the time of all these public officials compiling a register of boys of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen. I should have thought that the Amendment was a very moderate one, and if I had the drawing of it I should have been inclined to put the age at seventeen, which would be a, year before they would be required, a period which I think would for all practical purposes be sufficient. On what possible grounds do the Government want to know about these young men at the age of fifteen, and what advantage can it have for the purposes of the War or towards winning the War? I think we should have a better answer than the mere parrot cry that because these were the ages in the original Act they should be mantained here.
§ Mr. FISHER
I stated on the Second Reading that this Bill is not required really for military purposes, or to obtain a record of those who will in a year or two become of military age. That is not the real object of this Bill. I stated on Second Reading that this Bill is wanted very much more in order that we may know the occupations and capacity of these boys of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen. My right hon. Friend the Director of National Service wants to obtain an accurate and systematic record of all the labour power of this country, both male and female. He thinks it is of extreme value that he should know what these million or so of boys of from fifteen to seventeen and a half are working at now and what they are capable of. We are looking forward to make provision for this year or next 837 year, should it be necessary. Some Governments have been accused of being too late in making adequate preparations beforehand, and we desire to take full stock and make an accurate survey of the labour forces and occupations in this country. I went further the other day and said that the statistics we are likely to get may be exceedingly useful to the Food Controller, and that a record of discharged soldiers might be exceedingly useful towards obtaining employment for them. I might have gone further and said that, although this Bill and the Act of which it is an auxiliary are for the period of the War only, yet I think it is very likely that when the War terminates the House, with full and general accord, will desire to obtain some form of national vital statistics. If this register is to be of any value it ought to be complete and accurate, and it is because we desire it to be as complete and as accurate as possible from the point of view of the Director of National Service that I mantain that it is valuable to us to know what these boys of fifteen and sixteen are doing. Boys of fifteen and sixteen may be performing labour of great national importance, and it is important that we should know. The Amendment would exempt from registration all those under the age of sixteen, and we desire that all those above the age of fifteen should be registered, as under the original Act of which this Bill is the complement.
§ Mr. KILEY
What is the object of this information unless there is some definite, practical purpose; and why, if there is not that, spend time, money, and energy in obtaining it? If there is no immediate purpose of using this information, why not alter the age and start at fourteen? I can see a good many reasons in favour of starting at fourteen, at the time when boys are leaving school. You fix the age at fifteen, when the boy has probably got no settled mind, or is not, in my judgment, of much value to the State, and unless it is desired to conscript these lads, I can see no advantage in having the age at fifteen. I prefer either fourteen or sixteen, and if this Amendment is not accepted, I would like to move an Amendment that the age be fourteen, and that the schoolmasters or the educational authorities should be called upon to supply the information.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I only want to say one word more in explanation before I press this Amendment to a Division. I think the right hon. Gentleman must realise by this time that when an Amendment is presented to him with serious objects, it is scarcely treating the Committee with courtesy when he dismisses the whole argument with a reply in a cavalier way, and speaks about our indulging in idle speculations as to how old we shall be at the end of the War. I said nothing of the kind. I presented to him a very serious argument which called for serious reply. That is why on this Amendment, my case not having been met in any way, and having received so much support from other members of the Committee, I feel bound to carry it to a Division.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 161; Noes, 15.839
|Division No. 145.]||AYES.||[4.32 p.m.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Grifflth-||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Bowden, Major G. R. Harland||Croft, Brig.-Gen, Henry Page|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Currie, George W.|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)|
|Archdale, Lieut. E. M.||Bull, Sir William James||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Burn, Colonel C. R.||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Caniile, Sir Edward Hildred||Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.|
|Bathurst. Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Cator, John||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Du Pre, Major W. Baring|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Clyde, J. Avon||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Beckett. Hon. Gervase||Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Faber, George Denison (Clapham)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Cornwall. Sir Edwin A.||Falle, Sir Bertram Godfrey|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Cowan, Sir W. H.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Craig. Colonel Sir J. (Down, E.)||Fleming, Sir John (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Gelder, Sir W. A,||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Shaw, Hon. A.|
|Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Greig, Col. J. W.||Macpherson, James Ian||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Staveley-Hill, Lieut.-Col. Henry|
|Harmood-Banner, Sir J. S.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Stewart, Gershon|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Meysey-Thompson, Colonel E. C.||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Harris, Sir Henry P. (Paddington, S.)||Millar, James Duncan||Sykes, Col. Sir Alan John (Knutsford)|
|Haslam, Lewis||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Morgan, George Hay||Thomas, Sir A. G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Morton, Sir Alpheus Cleophas||Tickler, T. G.|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Newman, Major John R. P.||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||O'Malley, William||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Hinds, John||Parker, James (Halifax)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Hope, Hary (Bute)||Parkes, Sir Edward E.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Pease, Rt. Hon. H. Pike (Darlington)||Watson, Hon. W. (Lanark, S.)|
|Hope, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Midlothian)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Watson, J. B. (Stockton)|
|Hunter, Major Sir Charles Rodk.||Perkins, Walter F.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Peto, Basil Edward||Weston, J. W.|
|Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.||Philipps, Maj.-Gen.Sir Ivor (S'hampton)||White, Col. G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Philipps, Sir Owen (Chester)||Whiteley, Sir H. J.|
|Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Pratt, J. W.||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.||Wills, Major Sir Gilbert|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Randies, Sir John S.||Wilson-Fox, Henry (Tamworth)|
|Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Knight, Capt. E. A.||Rawlinsen, John Frederick Peel||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)||Wood, Sir John (Stalybridge)|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Layland-Barratt, Sir F.||Rendall, Athelstan||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L|
|Lindsay, William Arthur||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Robinson, Sidney||Younger, Sir George|
|M'Calmont, Brig.-Gen. Robert C. A.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Rowlands, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord|
|Mackinder, Halford J.||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Lancs., Darwen)||Edmund Talbot and Capt. F. Guest.|
|Macleod, John Macintosh||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Holt, Richard Durning||Partington, Hon. Oswald|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Kiley, James Daniel||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Bliss, Joseph||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Molteno, Percy Alport||Whitehouse and Mr. King.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Morrell, Philip|
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, in paragraph (a), to leave out the words "or ceased to be members of any of His Majesty's Forces."
This is a most important Amendment from my point of view. Whether I have got it in quite the best form, I am not sure, but the point is this: You propose under this Clause to cause men who have been in the Army to register. I contend that that is quite unnecessary. First of all, it is duplicating information which you have already obtained. We know perfectly well that the Government more than a year ago took over the National Liberal Club for the purpose of having a complete card index of every man in the Army and Navy, and every man who had come out of the Army and Navy. That was done at great expense with elaborate organisation, and I am told by people who have visited the institution and seen it that it is extremely ably clone and 840 extremely complete, extraordinarily well arranged, most accessible and convenient. Now, you have the whole of this information already about the men in the Army and Navy. I venture to say that in a great number of cases, if you are going to insist upon registration of the very same men for the National Register, you are going to cause friction and difficulty, because a great number of men all over the country will not be quite sure whether they have registered or not, the original registration was so long ago. Then you have got a large number of men discharged as ill, or invalided, or crippled, and the most vital thing about these men and their use for national service at the present time is, not what their address or their employment is, but the very fact that they are crippled, invalided, and discharged for one purpose or another, and the information which is most important in the case of men discharged 841 from the Army you are not going to collect under this register at all. Information about a discharged man is the nature of the illness or physical incapacity owing to which he is discharged, and that is not going to be in the National Register at all. Therefore, when you have got the National Register, in order to put it into force, you have got to go to the War Office and the big emporium of information at the National Liberal Club, and yet, so ready are these Government Departments at the present time to heap work upon themselves and others, to add piles of paper and red tape to piles already existing and never used, that they are going to include in this National Register a large amount of registration of information which they have already got, and they are going to do it in a much more incomplete and inefficient way than the information which is already accessible. I therefore do protest that the whole of this subsequent part of paragraph (a) of Clause 1 is quite unnecessary. It ought to be cut out altogether, I think, but I am quite open to suggestions as to the amount that ought to be left out. Of this, however, I am quite certain, that in collecting incomplete information about soldiers who have left the Army you are giving yourself a lot of labour to absolutely no purpose.
§ Mr. FISHER
If I accepted my hon. Friend's Amendment it would have to be altered, but I do not propose to accept it, because we really want a complete register, and in that register we want all the workers. Although some may not be able to do any more fighting for their country, they are always willing to take part in industrial life so far as they are able, and do much good work of a very useful character for their country. The effect of the omission of these words would, I think, be to produce a defective register of those who are capable of doing admirable work. Personally, I think that this register may be exceedingly useful for many other purposes. There is nothing we want more than a very careful accurate local register of all discharged soldiers, many of whom have suffered severely in fighting for us, and everyone in this House and outside will admit that these men have a first claim on this country so far as employment is concerned. Therefore this register may be of great use from their point of view. It will provide a list of those who have 842 given their services to the country, and who are capable of industrial employment, and even if they have such employment now it may be that it is not suitable employment or that which is best for them, and this register would enable them to get better employment. What we want is an accurate and systematic register of all the available industrial forces of this country, and from that point of view it would be very inadvisable to have a register which did not include the hundreds and thousands of soldiers who have been discharged from the Army. This Amendment cuts at the very root of the Bill, and the Government cannot possibly accept it.
§ Colonel PENRY WILLIAMS
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will clearly define what is required of these discharged soldiers and sailors? They are very unwilling to be included in this Bill at all, and some of them have written to me to ask what is the object of including them As I understand from the right hon. Gentleman, it is only for statistical purposes. If a soldier fails for any reason to register under this Bill, is he to be subjected to the same penalties as the ordinary man? Men who feel that they have done fairly by their country do not think that they ought to be followed up in this way.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I sympathise with what has just fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for Middlesbrough (Colonel Williams). What it is proposed to do by the words we are asking this Committee to omit is to place an obligation on every discharged soldier to get himself registered when he leaves the Army, and if he does not do it he will be made liable to certain penalties, although he may never have been told that it is his duty to register. There is nothing in the Bill which requires any authority to inform a discharged soldier that he must register himself. I do not suppose that there is one soldier in every 100,000 in the Army to-day who is aware that this Bill is before Parliament, and not one person in every 10,000 in the country knows anything about it. The Army certainly knows nothing about it. These soldiers will come back in total ignorance of the fact that they have got to be registered, and there are no provisions laid down for informing them of their duty and of their liability to punishment for neglect of it. That 843 seems to be a wholly improper state of things, and later on I am going, unless some arrangement is made by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, to raise this point in connection with everybody who is to be registered. Is it not a wrong thing in the case of boys of fifteen years of age that they should be expected to know the law in this regard? It is ridiculous, absurd, and monstrous, and, in the case of the discharged soldier it is more than that: it is a grossly ungrateful act on the part of this country to subject him to penalties for failure to register without some provision being included in the Bill for informing them that they have to register. Much as I dislike this Bill, I am not going to oppose it, but if we are to pass it let it contain full and reasonable provision which will make it likely that the possible 500,000 of soldiers to whom it may apply will know what their duty is under the law. If the Government can give us some kind of indication that they are ready to meet this point, I shall not press my hon. Friend to go forward with his Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
There are two Amendments on the Paper dealing with that particular point which the Committee will reach shortly.
§ Mr. CURRIE
Perhaps it will be convenient for the right hon. Gentleman if I ask him at this stage to redeem his promise to make a reasoned statement as to the small extent to which the Review of Exceptions Act is still really operative. A great deal of trouble in the country would be saved if he would do so.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I confess that, as I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill, I could not help asking myself whether he was really aware that a War is going on at the present time. What is it he is asking the House to do? If we pass this Bill and reject this Amendment there are hundreds of thousands of soldiers, who have served their country, who have been discharged from the Army, and are really useless for any further military purpose, and these are to be registered at a great expense and great labour, and for what? The right hon. Gentleman could not give us any adequate explanation of any kind as to the real object with which these 844 hundreds of thousands of men are to be compelled, under a penalty, to register themselves under this Bill. What did he suggest were the objects? In the first place, he hinted that it would be useful to the Food Controller, and that the possession of this information might enable him to look after the food of the country a little better—it could hardly be worse than now! But what good is the registration of hundreds of thousands of soldiers going to do? How is it going to help the Food Controller? The right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to explain that. Then he went on to say it might be useful for the purposes of vital statistics. But this is a Bill for the duration of the War, and for what conceivable object could the right hon. Gentleman require vital statistics affecting the men who have served their country and have been discharged? He also said it was a matter of benevolence; that it might be possible by this means to find the men jobs if their names were included in the register. He told us that it would be an advantage to the soldiers themselves. I should like to consult some of those soldiers who are going to be put to all this trouble to fill up registration forms under a penalty—a continuing penalty of £l per day. It is putting them to an immense amount of trouble, and it is involving the country in great expense for no conceivable object which the right hon. Gentleman can explain.
Of course, if underneath it all there is an intention to what is called conscript labour, to carry it from one industry to another, we can well understand why it is desired that this extremely drastic measure should be passed. If it is the intention to carry bodies of men from one place of industry by force or pressure to another place, then I can understand why the right hon. Gentleman wants to have a complete register. But he has told us that he has no such object in view—that he does not wish to conscript labour. I thought the Bill was for the purpose, which I can quite well understand, of enabling the Government to carry out the Military Service Acts. When you have a system of Conscription you desire to have young men registered so that you may know where they are when you want them and when their turn comes to serve their country in either the Army or the Navy. But as regards soldiers who have already served their 845 country what conceivable object can there be, except to increase the machinery, in placing them on a register? The real fact is the Government have gone mad in its bureaucracy. It has but one idea for indexes, names, offices, clerks, hotels and endless expense, in the hope that it may be possible to Prussianise the country and make it as much like Germany as it can. The right hon. Gentleman, in an earlier speech, let fall the hope that this is going to be a permanent measure. We are, therefore, going to have a National Register, and policemen always ready to accost everybody after the War, asking them if they are properly registered and whether they have put down their occupations. You are not only going to make boys of fifteen put down their occupations, but a discharged soldier, the moment he comes out of the Army, is also to do so. He is further to be asked what is his age, and where he is living, and failure to give all this information correctly is to render him subject to a penalty. In the name of common sense, I invite this Committee, at this crisis of the country's history, to reject such a silly provision as this, and to accept the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend. There is no conceivable reason for including these men in the register. It will be a waste of time and of money, and the right hon. Gentleman, so far as I can see, has shown no sort of justification for it.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of NATIONAL SERVICE (Mr. Beck)
My hon. Friend who spoke last was a little severe in his criticism. It is not really a question of taking hotels or any of those other processes which he imagined. Yesterday, in the House, I gave an important answer on this point, and I am rather surprised it should have escaped my hon. Friend's attention. As I understand it, my hon. Friend wants to know what classes of discharged men there are who are not liable to be called up for military service?
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CURRIE
I rather wish my hon. Friend to put the matter the other way round, and to say what classes under the Review of Exceptions Act remain liable to be called up in this way. The case I put was that of a man who was offered a permanent job in Scotland, and who had great difficulty in securing it, because he was under this sort of shadow. That is the objection.
§ Mr. BECK
There are three classes of men who are protected. One is those who are protected by the statutory Clauses in the Review of Exceptions Act. The second comprises the men who have served overseas and who are protected under the concession given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War. They are not liable to be called up. They certainly have not statutory protection, but I think they have full administrative protection. As I announced yesterday, recently the Minister for National Service has extended the concession for the men who have served in campaigns overseas to the discharged and invalided men who have served at home. That is a thing that they -have very strongly pressed for, that these men should be protected in the same way as the men who have served overseas. If the House will allow me, perhaps the quickest way would be for me to read again the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) yesterday:Mr. Hogge asked the Prime Minister whether, before the House goes into Committee on the Military Service Bill, he can announce the decision of the Government with regard to discharged men now subject to reexamination and recall under the Military Service (Review of Exceptions) Act, and whether it has been agreed that such men shall be given the alternative of engaging in work of national importance, and so long as they remain engaged in the same shall not he subjected to recall unless and until a national emergency warrants it?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January, 1918 col. 662.]We must, of course, always prepare ourselves for a great national emergency. That has always been behind all the pledges. This was my reply:My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply. The Government propose to make the following farther concession with regard to men at present in civil life who have served in His Majesty's Forces and have been discharged in consequence of disablement or ill-health, and who are now, or who may become, subject to re-examination and recall for service under the Military Service (Review of Exceptions) Act, 1917…Of course, the concessions alluded to up to there are the concessions made by the War Office, in response to the demand of this House. This is the new concession:It is proposed that any such man who has served in the forces, and who is not for the time being engaged on work of national importance, shall have an opportunity which it is proposed to fix as a standard at the period of one mouth bat for good cause shown in any individual case this will be extended, in which he may engage in work of national importance. The period would run from the coming into force of this arrangement in the case of men already discharged, and from the date of discharge in the case of men who may he discharged hereafter. The work of national importance would he in an industry contained in a list to be settled and revised from time to time such as shipbuilding., iron-ore mines, munitions, agriculture, public utility undertakings and the like Each man himself mist take steps to apply for employment, but 847 every facility will be given through existing Government machinery to enable him to obtain such employment. Special arrangements are already in force to enable soldiers now being discharged to obtain civil employment.That machinery, I do not know whether it is understood, is of quite an elaborate character. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War, and the Secretary of State, have established certain big discharge centres. I think they are seven in number, and at these discharge centres the Ministry of National Service has established machinery which places before the men being discharged a review of all the jobs in the country. Thanks to arrangements into which the War Office have entered, these men are given leave to go and look at the work, and if they are satisfied they are engaged and taken back to the discharge centre and discharged. It is a little cumbersome, but it is better than a man going to a job that does not suit him, and having to walk about looking for other work. The class we had to deal with was that of the men who have already been discharged from the Army, and that is what this question goes on to deal with:Special arrangements are already in force to enable soldiers now being discharged to obtain civil employment. The arrangement will apply to men already engaged on work of rational importance. These will, on application, be given a protection certificate to show that they are rightfully continuing in civil life.That covers, I think, all the classes.In order to secure—this is partly an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Morrell), and is the great difficulty—the smooth working of these administrative arrangements it is absolutely essential that all the discharged sailors and soldiers should keep the local officials of the Ministry of National Service fully informed as to their whereabouts and the nature of their employment, and I venture to express the hope that all associations interested in their welfare will cooperate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January, 1918, col 662–63.]I hope that is clear to the Committee, and I hope it will dispel the suspicion which my hon. Friend feels, because, of course, the great difficulty of dealing with these men and giving them a preference in finding employment is to know where they are. If you arc reinforcing the shipyards, if you are building aerodromes, or if you are reinforcing agriculture it is impossible to consider the discharged soldier if you do not know where he is. A man capable of doing that sort of work may be out of work, eating his heart out, and a civilian who is already in good work may be taken out of that work 848 because it is not essential and used to reinforce the work of national importance when there is a soldier who could do the work quite well. There is a gap in the National Register, and it is essential that these men should come into it, but the Minister for National Service, in his speech on the First Reading of the Military Service Bill, gave a most definite assurance that the extension of this registration to these men was not for the purpose in any way of adding to, or removing, for that matter, their liability for any military service, but was solely for the purpose of knowing where they are in order to reinforce the essential industries of this country.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask him this question in order to clear up the important point of which he last spoke? He said the object was to have a register of these soldiers, to know where they were in order that the Ministry could put their hands on them, and arrange for their re-entry into industry. When the register was compiled under the original Act, however, only certain questions could be asked, and those are unaltered by the amending Bill. The questions that may be asked do not include any question about the past occupation of the person to be registered. A discharged soldier could not be asked whether he was a discharged soldier, or whether he had served in the Army or not. Consequently, when you have carried out this provision you will not know whether you have registered one discharged soldier or 1,000,000 discharged soldiers. I think the President of the Local Government Board will see that this is a question of the very greatest importance, and I will be very glad if he will give me a reply to this point.
§ Mr. CURRIE
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the full restatement of the position he has made. May we now put it in this way: That the Review of Exceptions Act is a dead letter except for the purpose of obtaining industrial employment for soldiers in the way to which the hon. Gentleman refers, and that they will not under that Act be called back to the Colours? Is that so?
§ Colonel P. WILLIAMS
It seems, after the explanation of the hon. Member (Mr. Beck), that the fears of the discharged soldiers and sailors are very well founded. 849 You are not going to put them in a preferential position, but in a position much inferior to that of the ordinary civilian.
§ Mr. BECK
I can only say that this concession has been given in response to the most violent pressure by the associations, such as that in which my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) is interested, and which particularly deal with the discharged sailors and soldiers. They have asked for this concession time after time, they have at last got it, and they are very grateful for it.
§ Colonel WILLIAMS
It may be a concession, but what is the position of these men? A man has either to engage in work of national importance or to come under the Review of Exceptions Act and be liable to military service again. If the work he is engaged on is not, in the opinion of the authorities, of national importance, he is liable again to be called up for the Army. He is in a worse position than the civilian; and the man who has been broken in the War and wants to go home and rest is entitled to do so. I have never opposed this Bill, but unless I get some explanation on this point I shall vote against it on every possible occasion.
§ Mr. WATT
I sympathise entirely with the observations that have just been made by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Colonel P. Williams). There is no doubt that this Amendment is of much more importance than the attendance in the House would lead one to believe. Had the House been better filled I believe the Government would not have the easy run which they no doubt expect, and probably will get. This particular Amendment, which has the effect of leaving out the discharged soldiers from this measure, is, as I say, most important, and these men no doubt, as my hon. Friend has just said, will be harassed by this measure. They will be worried by being asked to register under it, and they will not clearly understand that it is to be in any way beneficial to them. They are already working up horrors at the prospect that this measure is to take them again to the Colours, and there is disturbance in the country among these men. From the military point of view, why should these men be so harassed? Have they not done their bit? Do they not deserve to be left alone by the Government in the matter of 850 registration and threatened penalties if they do not register right? How much the country is indebted to these men I do not know it will ever realise. They have fought their fight, and have kept back the Germans—
§ Mr. WATT
Well, what I was saying when my hon. Friend interrupted me was that the country is much indebted to these men who have kept the Germans from our shores, who have done their bit at the various fronts and on the North Sea in that respect, and who, having done that, have been discharged from those forces, and are now seeking a quiet life, undisturbed by any of those blue papers that arrive asking them to register again. As the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse) pointed out, the case made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Service was not a good one. When these men fill up this paper they will not indicate that they are discharged soldiers; they will not be asked whether they are or whether they are not. The register will not show that they have served their time, and the case of the Parliamentary Secretary that they will be given a preference in industrial pursuits because they have served is a weak one, and will not work at all. Altogether, as I said earlier, the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough are well worthy of the consideration of the House. Is it wise that this registration measure should be extended to soldiers and sailors who have done their bit and who have been discharged from these Services? Not only would the questions to which I have alluded come in, but the question of the expense of this measure would be infinitely more. Seeing that it is to be an expense for the country in these trying financial times, is it right that these men should, at great expense to the country, be harassed and worried, and asked to fill up papers under fear of being penalised if they do not fill them up satisfactorily?
§ Sir H. ELVERSTON
May I ask a question on one point? Supposing, for the sake of argument, a discharged soldier is working in a printing office, will it be within the power of the Department to tell that man to leave that printing office and to go into a munition factory or a shipbuilding yard? Am I correct in the suggestion of that question?
§ Mr. BECK
I do not know of such a case. I do not know the exact technical point as to whether a printing office would be considered to be work of national importance. These men will have a choice of occupation. Any man so circumstanced would hold a card which would free him from all pressure whatsoever of the military authorities, as in the case of other citizens.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We are really not here discussing that point. The only point before us is as to registration for one purpose. The Amendment is to leave out certain words. Of course, I understand that the last speech was related to a pledge by the Government.
§ Sir H. ELVERSTON
I should like to say that I do not think it is wise on the part of the Government to press this upon discharged soldiers and sailors, because there is great uneasiness in my own Constituency, as well as doubtless in many others.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It is not quite clear what the effect of this would be. Would it be in order to ask whether, if the Amendment is rejected, it would be within the power of the Government to compel discharged soldiers to do certain work to which they object?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Is there any power to compel a discharged soldier, who has registered, to enter, against his will, upon certain work which may be described as of national importance?
§ Sir H. ELVERSTON
I think a discharged soldier cannot be removed from work which is not of national importance to work of national importance at the bidding of his Department?
§ Mr. BECK
No. I do not want to go over the ground again; the matter is so-plain. These men are men who are liable for military service. They are men who have been in the Army and, under the Military Service (Review of Exceptions) Act can be called kip again, examined, and taken back into the Army. I hope we will carry one another together so far. But in order to protect these men a variety of pledges have been given, under which such men, having served, are not called back. This is an extension to a very large number of these men of absolute protection under the word of the Government and a series of administrative orders protecting them against being called up for re-examination in the Army so long as they are doing certain work of national importance. That is really the whole thing. The men are put in a better position. I hope that is plain. It really is a concession to the men, and is a thing they have been begging the Government for ever since the Review of Exceptions Act was placed on the Statute Book.
§ Colonel P. WILLIAMS
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us as to the calling back of these men when further information is wanted from them?
§ Colonel Sir H. GREENWOOD
I am bound to say, with regard to the explanation of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for National Service, that it has made what was not clear more clouded. As I understand it, this Sub-section deals with all members of His Majesty's forces who at the time this Bill becomes law have ceased to be members of any of those forces. That includes hundreds of thousands of men. Every one, or nearly every one, of these men who has been discharged by reason of ill-health and who has served abroad is now protected by an Army Council Instruction from being called up under the Review of Exceptions Act. That is clear. So it is not accurate, as I understood my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for National Service to say, that these men are liable to be recalled to the Colours. They are not.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I said that—if they are men who have been serving abroad and have been discharged from the Army on the grounds of ill-health. There is another class of man who has been in His Majesty's forces and who has not served abroad and who has been discharged. That man was liable and may be still—though I think there is an Order dealing with it—to be recalled to the Colours. I understand, however, that under the various Bills and Orders that are now going through in connection, with the Military Service Bill, which passed its Committee stage yesterday, and under this Bill, that unless those. men are of Class 1 they are to be left in their civil employment, and those men who are of Class 1, on subsequent re-examination, are to be sent to employment of national importance. That clears out all the sailors and soldiers who have been discharged on the ground of ill-health. I understand that is the legal position at the moment. Therefore, this registration by itself cannot in any way affect or recall men to the Colours. And the Government itself cannot recall any of these men to the Colours unless they go back upon all their pledges, unless they cancel the Army Council Instruction, and unless they break the last pledge made by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for National Service, given on Monday last in the course of the First Reading of the. Military Service Bill—namely, that the object of this Bill that we are now discussing in reference to discharged and disabled soldiers is to register them in order to give them a preference for employment. Does the Government stick to that pledge? If the Government does not stick to that pledge, I, for one, will vote against them, and although—
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
Well, on the understanding that every discharged soldier, according to the speech of the Minister of National Service, is registered for the specific purpose of giving him a preference in employment—and I see the Government agrees with that—
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
On that agreement I support this Bill. But I do impress upon the Government this fact—and I do it now from intimate personal knowledge of the grievances, and the just grievances of these men who have done their share in the War—the worst-paid and the worst-pensioned soldiers in the British Empire, remember!—if the Government attempts to interfere with these discharged soldiers and sailors other than to give them preference of employment in the future I, for one, will help them to harass the Government in the most violent way possible—
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I quite agree with what has been said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I only want to know, seeing that under this Bill the discharged soldier is required to register, whether the. Bill does require some machinery by which the fact of his being a discharged soldier is to be made known, and inserted, beyond the other questions? I fully accept the statement of my lion. Friend on the Treasury Bench that it is the object of this Bill to give industrial preferences to discharged soldiers, but to do that you must know that they are discharged soldiers. To know that they are discharged soldiers, would it not be convenient to have some addition to the questions asked under the principal Act, or in some other way to make it perfectly clear that those with whom you are dealing are discharged soldiers, and that only on that footing you are dealing with them? May I ask the right, hon. Gentleman to dispose of that point which I have tried to put?
This question, I think, does want settling. Let it be cleared up to the advantage of the soldier and not to his disadvantage. It ought to be stated in the paper whether or not a man is a discharged soldier; nor should he be penalised in the way suggested. I hope the Government will pay attention to this point, as it ought to be made an advantage and not a disadvantage to the man who has served his country. If I do not get a satisfactory answer I shall oppose the Government.
Colonel G. WHITE
It is perfectly true that discharged soldiers on the whole will look with grave suspicion upon this legislation, accompanied as it is by heavy fines. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was partly a case of philanthropy—philanthropy and fines do not go very well together. Either it ought to be voluntary registration or the Government ought to 855 give some form of pledge on the lines laid down by the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland to give discharged soldiers preferential treatment. If this is not done, I am afraid I shall not see my way to vote.
§ Mr. FISHER
Perhaps it is desirable to clear the air in regard to the position of the discharged soldier? I have stated more than once that, so far as discharged soldiers are concerned, there is no intention on the part of the Government to use this Bill to bring them back again to the Colours. I have stated more than once that this Bill could not possibly be used for this purpose, or even to facilitate the operations of a Government in bringing these men back to the Colours.
§ Mr. FISHER
If the Government can by any means bring any portion of these men back to the Colours, they have already, as I understand from my hon. Friend who represents the Ministry of National Service, sufficient information in their possession. As far as the Government are concerned, the whole object of making this Bill apply to discharged soldiers and sailors is that we shall have a complete and accurate register for several useful purposes in order to enable us to utilise all the industrial power of the country. It would be a positive misfortune if you did not take this opportunity of linking up your local register so as to embrace the names and the other particulars given in the original Act as regards the occupations of all those who have served their country either by sea or by land. If you do that, you will find that you have a much greater opportunity afforded you of obtaining employment for these men than you have at the present moment. As regards preference to discharged soldiers, that is a matter for the Ministry of National Service. So far as the Government is concerned, their object in making this measure applicable to discharged soldiers is for the benefit of those soldiers, and it is not intended to utilise this Bill to bring these men again into the Army.
I know there is a suspicion amongst discharged soldiers that there is some intention to use their services again in the Army and Navy, although they are entitled to rest from their labours by reason of 856 the admirable services they have given, and for which we are all deeply grateful. May I point out that I cannot remove that suspicion altogether without putting them outside the Bill? This will mean that hundreds of thousands will not be on the register, and therefore you will make the registration singularly incomplete if you leave them out. You will not get a complete and reliable stocktaking of the men and muscle of the country, and all your available resources for all purposes, if you place the discharged soldier outside the scope of this Bill. As regards the penalty, obviously if you have a register, and if you want to make it complete and accurate, you must have some penalty attaching to those who neglect to comply with the provisions of the Act. Nobody supposes that any magistrate would think of convicting a soldier or sailor who claimed that he did not know about the Act, and was not aware that he had to be registered under it. [An HON. MEMBER: "He must carry out the law!"]
§ Mr. FISHER
I do not think that any man would convict a soldier who said he had no knowledge of this particular Act of Parliament, and who stated that he was perfectly willing to register. I am asked to put something of that kind in the Bill. Hon. Members who are accustomed to deal with Acts of Parliament I think will agree with me when I say that there are very few precedents for an Act. which enjoins and commands certain things to be done by the population, and which does not enforce those things by some penalty. There are Acts which have been passed for very similar purposes in which there are penalties. I have peen thinking over this matter since I heard the Debate, and I will most carefully consider in the interval between this and the Report stage the points which have been raised in the Debate. I will see whether I can safeguard the position of the discharged soldier or sailor in this respect, so that we may prevent any hardship being imposed upon any man who has good reasons for saying that he really did not know that such a duty was placed upon him, and that he was willing to register. There is no intention to enforce a single man back to the Army by this measure; in fact, I do not believe that this Bill would facilitate that operation. On the contrary, I feel it is a measure which will be an advantage 857 to our soldiers and sailors, because we shall obtain a complete and accurate local record of all those who have given their services to the country.
§ General M'CALMONT
While I entirely support the right hon. Gentleman in his effort to make this register a success, I do not agree that you should do away with all penalties. I support what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend on the subject of some distinction being made in the case of the soldier and sailor. The Government have pledged themselves that there shall be a preference shown to soldiers and sailors in getting employment, and I can see no objection to some mark or distinguishing word being put to the names of these men in order to identify them. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has given no pledge upon this particular point, but I hope he will do so before this Amendment is disposed of.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
My right hon. Friend has told us if this Bill becomes law and a soldier does not register, and if he is taken before the local magistrate and says that he did not know what the law was, that the magistrate will not convict him. Now if there is one thing which is common knowledge to everyone who has to sit upon the magisterial bench, it is that ignorance of the law is no defence. I venture to say that instead of there being no magistrate who would convict under such circumstances, I do not believe there is any magistrate who would not convict. Probably a small fine would be imposed, but the soldier would be convicted beyond doubt. I have listened to the whole of this Debate, and as far as I can make out there are two classes who would Le affected by this Clause. The first is the class of soldiers who have been discharged, and the second is those who have been allowed to go to the Army, but who can be called back under certain circumstances. The Government said they do not intend to call back those who can be dealt with under another Act if they are required in some other direction. That is open to the objection that it is all very well for a right hon. Gentleman sitting on the Treasury Bench and saying he does not intend to do this or that, but he cannot bind the Government which succeeds him, and I understand that this Bill is for all time.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I thought the right hon. Gentleman said he hoped this Act would be continued after the War.
§ Mr. FISHER
I did not say that. I expressed the belief that something of this kind might be exceedingly useful in the future.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then I understand now that this Bill only applies to the War, but that does not alter the objection which has occurred to me. These particular men have done great service to the country, and my right hon. Friend says, and it has also been said by hon. Members below the Gangway, that there is already a register which furnishes the names and particulars of all these men and the War Office have got all this information. The proposal of this Bill may mean more than it seems to convey. There is a dislike which I confess I share myself to having to be continually filling up forms. Why should these people who deserve well of their country and who will not, as I understand, be subject to anything unpleasant under this Bill, and who are to be given the option of having preferential employment, be compelled to fill up forms of this character when the War Office knows all about these men. This will give rise to discontent among the discharged soldiers. There is a desire prevailing in most Government Departments that everybody should fill up some kind of form and be subject to some inquisitorial questions, but in this case there is no object to be gained, because it is the Government's own statement, and they have already got the names and particulars.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Under these circumstances might I suggest that if it is impossible for the Government to leave out soldiers and sailors altogether they might make this registration voluntary. Why inflict any penalty at all? If soldiers and sailors like to register themselves let them do so, but do not inflict a penalty and then you will make some distinction between those who have fought for their country and those who have not.
§ Colonel GREIG
I really think the House has misapprehended the effect of the Section which imposes a penalty under this Bill. If hon. Members will turn to the old National Registration Act they will find unless there is something in this Bill which I have failed to find, that the infliction of the penalty is restricted in two very 859 important particulars, one of which meets the point put forward at an earlier period of the Debate by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, and the other meets the point of the discharged soldier. Section 13 of the National Registration Act, 1915, imposes a penalty upon anybody for not filling up the form. It provides that
"If any person over eighteen years of age required to register himself under this Act,
(a) Refuses, or without lawful excuse neglects to fill up—"
§ Colonel GREIG
That may be so, but it is just possible that something of that kind might be inserted in this Bill to place it en a safe footing. My own impression is that the penalty is not provided for in the present Bill, but only in the old Act. You find nowhere in this Bill provision for a penalty except upon another point altogether.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The lion. and gallant Gentleman will find that the effect of Clause 6 is that anyone who neglects to carry out the provisions of the Act—that is, when called upon to produce his form or to fill up the form—incurs all these liabilities.
§ Colonel GREIG
That is another point altogether. I think it will be found that it is this old Section that imposes the penalty. I may be mistaken, and, assuming that I am, it might be possible to adjust the Section in the old Act to the point that we are at present discussing. Until now it has only applied, in regard to the community at large, to persons over eighteen years of age, although everybody at fifteen years of age was required to register. If an ordinary civilian came before the magistrates and said, "Although I am by law supposed to know Acts of Parliament passed by the Legislature, still I am not aware of the existence of this Act, and it is not on account of any wilful action or neglect on my part that I have done this," the. magistrates would certainly not inflict a! penalty. That seems to me to meet the whole point raised. If the Committee will turn to Section 4 of the old Act, they will find the particulars which anyone, coming under it has to register. I believe that I shall myself have to register under 860 this Bill. When the original Act was passed I was serving, but I am not now serving. I do not want to deprive myself of the opportunity of having an industrial occupation if the duties of a Parliamentary Secretary become too hard by reason of the action of Members of this House. Let us presume that a person has got to register. What has he to disclose about himself? Surely it is in the interests of all discharged soldiers that these particulars should be known, for the very purpose of giving them an opportunity of getting work—
"Name; address; age; whether single, married, or widowed; number of dependants (if any), distinguishing wife, children, and other dependants; profession or occupation (if any)."
I think a man, if he got a form, would probably say, "I have served," but that could easily be amended in the present Bill by adding the words, "Whether he has served in any of His Majesty's Forces, and, if so, which?"
"Name and business address of employer (if any)—"
Is there any harm in asking a discharged soldier that—
"and nature of employer's business; and (in the case of a person born abroad) nationality, if not British."
That is very useful information in many respects—
"and whether the work on which he is employed is work for or under any Government Department."
There is no harm in that—
"Whether he is skilled in and able and willing to perform any work other than the work (if any) at which he is at the time employed, and, if so, the nature thereof."
What hardship is there in asking any discharged soldier the same questions as every other citizen in the country was asked at the time of the passing of that Act? Has it been any burden on the community at, large other than those people—and there have been cases—who have tried to evade it? There has been no cry against the Bill. People registered quite willingly, and it provided quite useful information.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The hon. Member has really missed the point of the criticism that has been addressed from every part of the House with regard to the registra- 861 tion of discharged soldiers. I can put the case in a sentence. The Government claim that it is necessary for the soldiers' own good that they should be able to register after they have been discharged from the Army or the Navy in order that the Government may assist them to reenter industrial life. Our reply is that you have no power, either under this Bill or the original Act, to ask a man whether he is a discharged soldier or whether he has served with the forces. If you wish to get a register including soldiers, and to know who are the discharged soldiers, you must alter the particulars which the first Act requires you to ask of every person who fills up this form. That is the question to which I again beg that a reply may be given.
§ Mr. KILEY
The question that the Committee has to consider is the effect on the man himself. Let us consider the position of a soldier who has served in this War and who has resumed his former occupation. He is liable under the Review of Exceptions Act to be called up for reexamination. Such a man in my own employ has been called up and found incapable of military service. He has got six months' exemption. Under this Bill he will have to register, and, if the Minister of National Service wants a hundred men to run the tramways in Glasgow, he may call upon him to go to Glasgow for that purpose. The man may not want to leave his present occupation, but, if he does not do what the Minister of National Service wants him to do, I presume that the Minister will at once report him to the War Office. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If that is not the object and intention, then why put it in the Bill? Why give this power to the Minister of National Service to order a man to do work of national importance? If he does not do what the Minister of National Service desires him to do, then he can be called up for reexamination, and, if found suitable, he can be sent into the Army again. If the Minister in charge of the Bill will put into it some words that will prevent that being done, then I shall be quite satisfied. I know that the Minister of National Service, perhaps, may not do that, but I speak with a good deal of feeling and, knowledge, because I have had to deal with some of the officials at the Ministry.
§ Mr. MORRELL
The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Greig) said that the provisions with which these discharged soldiers have to comply are of no importance whatever, and that they are not going to be harassed or subjected to unpleasant penalties. I am in the recollection of the Committee, and I say that was the whole point of his speech. I do not know what other object his speech could have had. He read out paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of Sub-section (1) of Section 4 of the original Act. I will read what this Clause 13 says, so that the Committee may see what are the penalties to which these men will be subjected:
"If any person over eighteen years of age required to register himself under this Act—
he shall for each offence be liable, on conviction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts, to a fine not exceeding five pounds, and in the case of a continuing offence to a further fine not exceeding one pound for each day during which the offence continues."
- (a) refuses, or without lawful excuse neglects, to fill up or cause to be filled up a form to the best of his knowledge and belief, or to sign it as by this Act required; or
- (b) refuses, or without lawful excuse neglects, to attend at any place or time at which his attendance is required under this Act; or
- (c) wilfully makes or signs, or causes to be made or signed, any false return of any matter specified in the form; or
- (d) refuses to answer, or wilfully gives a false answer to, any question necessary for obtaining the information required to be obtained under this Act; or
- (e) refuses, or without lawful excuse neglects, to perform any other duty imposed on him by or under this Act;
§ Colonel GREIG
Has the hon. Member himself found any difficulty in complying with any of those provisions?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir Donald Maclean)
I must ask the hon. and learned Member to refrain from such an unusual method of addressing the Committee. I hope that it will not be repeated.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I understood the hon. and gallant Member to ask if I had found any difficulty in complying with these provisions. Fortunately, I have had a better education than some of these men, and therefore it is not so difficult for me to fill up these forms. I confess, when I was asked what other forms of National Service I should be prepared to engage upon beyond the occupation in which I was engaged, I began to think it was a tiresome thing to be asked by a Government Department. I know that a good many people had a good deal of hesitation in putting anything down. I was fortunate enough not to be asked to attend "at any place or time." It is quite plain that these men will be liable to very disagreeable penalties and that they will have all kinds of obligations put upon them under this Bill. They will be liable to be accosted by any policeman and asked to produce their registration form at any time. They will have to fill up all kinds of forms. My hon. Friend who represents the Minister of National Service says that it is entirely for the benefit of these men. If the benefit of these men is the only thing in view, I would suggest to the Government that they have a perfectly easy means of proceeding. In the first place, the War Office can quite well collect all the information about these discharged men, if they have not got it already. There is no reason why the whole thing should not be arranged by some voluntary society which would enable them to get the employment they require. You are harassing men who deserve well of their country, and it is a very unfortunate matter. You are collecting at great expense and trouble information which will be of no useful purpose for the War, and for that reason I hope that my hon. Friend will carry his Amendment to a Division.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I have listened to the greater part of this Debate, but up to the present time I have heard no adequate reason given for the inclusion of this provision in this particular Section. I always understood that it was the intention of the Government to make a register of all the men discharged from the Army, and that they were able to do it without any 864 additional power and without any Amendment of the National Registration Act. I have some recollection, indeed, when the National Liberal Club was commandeered, about eight months ago, that assurances were given that the building was to be used for the purposes of demobilisation—for the pigeon-holing, as it w ere, of the whole of the men as they were discharged or demobilised from the Army. It was obviously the view of the Government at that time that they were in a position to make an adequate and complete register of all the men discharged from the Army without any harassing statutory provisions in relation to the men at all. We naturally want to know what has occurred to change the view of the Government, and why it should be necessary to include the discharged men in this Bill and to make them liable to all the serious penalties which are included in this Bill by reference to the original Act. The answer of my hon. learned and gallant Friend the Member for West Renfrewshire (Colonel Greig) is quite inadequate. We all know that he is quite willing to be registered, and that with his legal acumen he would find it very easy to answer all these somewhat difficult questions included in the catechism issued by the National Service Department. For example, he would have no difficulty in informing the national registration officials what other work of national importance he was competent to undertake, but the ordinary discharged man is not in quite so favourable a position as my hon. Friend, and may have some doubt as to the risk of the penalties which he incurs. My hon. Friend says that those penalties will only be incurred in the event of failure or default without lawful excuse, and he gave a somewhat novel legal interpretation of the words "without lawful excuse." He said that if a discharged man came forward and said that he did not know of the existence of this Act, that would be a lawful excuse. That is a very novel doctrine. I always thought that ignorance of the law was in no case admitted as a lawful excuse. Up to the present time there has only been one exception to that maxim of law, and that was made by Statute in favour of the Attorney-General, when he, in ignorance of the law, retained his office in this House, and thereby incurred penalties amounting to thousands of pounds. A special Statute was passed to relieve him of those penalties on the 865 ground that ignorance of the law excused the Attorney-General. Apart from the Attorney-General ignorance of the law has never been held to be a lawful excuse for anybody. I hope that my hon. Friend will at once save his legal reputation by withdrawing his novel and heterodox contention with which he has endeavoured to mislead the Committee.
The real point of this discussion arises from the experience of the past. Many of the discharged men up to the present have been quite willing to register themselves. What has been the result? In every case where a discharged man has registered himself he has been penalised, he has been called up as if he were a man who was not registered, and he has been harassed by the Government. It is because of this persistent unfair treatment of discharged then in the past that we object to their inclusion in this Clause. That is a perfectly fair reason for objecting to it. But that is not all. We are told that they are to be perfectly safe in the future. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Service yesterday read out an answer which, indeed, so far as Ministerial assurances go, is a fairly adequate protection for these discharged men. But I do not think that their protection should depend upon Ministerial assurances. If the Government had wished to give adequate protection, they should have repealed the Review of Exceptions Act so far as it affected discharged men. A Ministerial assurance is totally inadequate. For one thing, it only binds the Ministers who happen to be for the time being on the Treasury Bench. These gentlemen, much as we esteem and admire them, may not be long there. They may pass away asThe remembrance of a guest tarrieth but for a day,and how will their pledges bind their successors? Indeed, they are already in process of disintegration. The right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) has gone. He has been followed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who used to efficiently whip the majority of this House and who represents an Ulster constituency. They are already disappearing like spring snow. If that is the situation of the Government, why should we rely merely on declarations made from the Treasury Bench? No, Sir, let us make the position clear. Let us see that there is no possibility of these men being harassed in any way. They have already rendered good service which their 866 country has asked of them, the great majority of them voluntarily and without any compulsion, and after they have done that and they are discharged on grounds of disability, surely the least that can be done for them is to save them from any harassing persecution such as that to which they have been subjected.
§ Sir GEORGE TOULMIN
I sympathise to a certain extent with the desire of the President of the Local Government Board to have a complete register, and I can imagine there being circumstances in which to know the total number of employés in the various industries in an area might be of advantage, but in his speech the right hon. Gentleman omitted to reply to the suggestion made to him that the register should contain some record of the man who is a discharged soldier. He told us that the register would be to the advantage of these men, but he entirely failed to convey to me in what way it would be to their advantage to have their names on a list. How could it be to the advantage of any discharged soldier to be on this register? It is proposed that he should be registered as discharged? It is not proposed in the Bill at present. The hon. Member for West Renfrew shire (Colonel Greig) said it could be easily amended. We want to know whether it is going to be amended, and, if it is, is there to be a register of discharged soldiers? For many things connected with pensions and otherwise it would be of great advantage to an area to have a list there of all the discharged soldiers, but let us know how this Bill is going to advantage them now. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Service has just told us that he is worried, but that he is not worried about this Amendment. He says he is worried about the past. This Amendment refers to the future, to those who cease to be soldiers, not to those who have ceased to be soldiers. He tells us that the machinery has been already arranged for everything that will happen in the future. Then are we to understand that the machinery they had has broken down? Is it because the War Office machinery has broken down that the hon. Member is worried? Apparently, so far as he is concerned, the Government could accept this Amendment. What would have great influence with me would be to know whether you are going to make this register of discharged soldiers or whether you are not. Are they simply to be put 867 in for the general purposes of this Bill? That is a point with which the right hon. Gentleman did not deal when he addressed the House previously.
§ Mr. FISHER
I promised my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middleton (Sir R. Adkins) that I would answer a question he put to me as to whether we would be willing to make some provision in this Bill, which amends the National Registration Act, 1915, by which it could be made perfectly plain by any person recent War, or, at all events, that he was a discharged soldier, that he was one who had done service to the country in the recent War, or at all events, that he was a discharged soldier or sailor. That was a most reasonable request. It facilitates my own desire, which I have expressed in the House on two or three occasions, that there should be a local record, not a central register at the War Office only, of all discharged soldiers and sailors who have done, as most of them have done, excellent service to their country. My attention was properly called to the fact that under Section 4 of the original National Registration Act all that the form enjoined is the entry of the name, place of residence, age, whether single, married or widowed, the number of dependants (if any), distinguishing wife, children, and other dependants, and then profession or occupation (if any), the name and business address of the employer, the nature of the employer's business, and, in the case of a person born abroad, nationality if not British. The mere fact of stating your profession or occupation would not give any adequate indication that you were a discharged soldier.
On that question I reply that I am most willing to put in words and shall propose words to the Committee, either this evening or on the Report stage, by which it will be made perfectly plain to any discharged soldier or sailor that he can add to that form some words and particulars as to whether he is or is not a person who has been discharged from His Majesty's Forces. I will undertake to make it quite plain that so far as the discharged soldier or sailor is concerned he will be able to notify to the registration officer that he is a discharged soldier or sailor, so that anyone desiring to make use of that local register, say, a municipality which desires to give employment to thirty or forty men, or some local employer who desires to do 868 the same, may be able to search the register and, in a very simple way, discover that there are so many living in that locality who were discharged soldiers or sailors, so that they may, if they choose, be able to give some preference to the soldiers or sailors when they desire to fill up the ranks of labour. I have all along expressed my desire — the Committee knows how much I desire it—and my belief that the inclusion of soldiers and sailors in this list will be beneficial to them. It cannot be detrimental to them. It could not in any way strengthen the desire or purpose, if it existed, of the Government to make use of that soldier or sailor in a military way, or for the purposes of industrial conscription.
§ Mr. FISHER
There is no desire or intention on the part of the Government to make use of this Bill for any industrial conscription. I have stated that already.
§ Mr. FISHER
I will even consider that, but I do not think it would be possible to put what is called "that" in the Bill. However, I will give consideration to it. There is neither the desire or the intention to make use of this Bill for the purpose of industrial conscription, nor do I believe that this Bill will afford any opportunities for doing that. I hope, after all the assurances I have given of my own desire that the Bill should not be made use of to the detriment of soldiers and sailors that they will not be left out of the Bill. If they were the Bill would be deprived of an enormous amount of its value as an accurate and systematic record of all the available resources in this country. I hope, after the three speeches I have made giving these assurances the Committee will agree with the Government that soldiers and sailors ought to be included and that it will be for their benefit and not in any way to their detriment to include them.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I have not heard the whole of the Debate, but one or two points have been communicated to me which I want to be certain about before we proceed to a Division. I understand that the Secretary to the National Service Department stated that there was an express desire on the part of federations or organisations of discharged men to have themselves included in this register.
§ Mr. BECK
No, no! I said nothing of the kind. When an hon. Member opposite, in referring to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend yesterday, said it would be a great shame to force these men into work of national importance, I said that so far from forcing them into work of national importance my hon. Friend and others had been urging that those men who want to engage in work of national importance should be protected from being harassed by the military authorities.
Mr. HOGG E
That is not what we asked at all. If my hon. Friend thinks that the answer to me yesterday was a reply to what we asked he is still really ignorant of the position. What we asked when we got the answer which was given yesterday was not that a man should be protected from doing work of national importance, but should not be called up for re-examination for service, which is a very different point. We were not concerned at all as to what he should do afterwards. That was within the volition of the man himself. What we secured yesterday was that these men shall not be called up under certain circumstances. It was the repeal of the Review of Exceptions Act except with regard to medically rejected men. I should like to say as one who has probably been in touch with as many discharged soldiers' organisations as most Members of the House that the exact contrary is the case. None of these men desire to be put upon this register. They are very suspicious as to the designs of the Government in putting them upon the register. They are more tired of registering themselves than they are of fighting. My hon. Friend must know that there is in existence already a complete register of discharged men, because attached to the Records Office of the unit to which every man belongs there is the name and address and previous service and everything else of the soldier. There is also a register, or there ought to be, of these men at the Pensions Ministry, because no man is discharged to-day, with very few exceptions, who is not at the same time a disabled man. Also, in the Pay Office Department of the War Office,
§ you have an absolutely complete register of every serving soldier that you have had from the beginning of the War down to now, and you have the same record in the Accountant-General's Office at the Admiralty. So that already in three or four separate Departments you have the very thing on which, by a further expense of public money, the great economist who presides over the Local Government Board is proposing to further squander the money of this country. That is a point we never touched. I notice over and over again in the Press the right hon. Gentleman is continually urging economy. Now here he is bringing in a Bill to spend more money, to engage more people, and presumably to get more offices, in order to do that which he must know is already done in four other separate Departments of State. Will he get up and deny that there is a complete register in existence?
§ Mr. FISHER
I will get up and deny that there is any register whatever of a complete character of discharged soldiers and sailors in the localities. There is no such register.
§ Mr. HOGGE
There are the records of every regiment, and the pay offices are all over the Kingdom, and the name and addresses are there. That is not a sufficient answer to my question. The right hon. Gentleman knows the soldiers and sailors as well as most people in this House, and he has done a, great deal for them in the course of his public life, and I am certain he has a geographical and specific knowledge of where those pay offices are, and it is really camouflage to say there is not a local register when there are the local pay offices. I think I have made it plain that there ix no desire on the part of these men, and there is no necessity for this. It is a reduplication—a quadra-duplication, if such a word can be used—and I think the Committee would be very well advised to resist the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, and to support the Amendment.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 164; Noes, 57.871
|Division No. 146.]||AYES.||[6.22 p.m.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Barnston, Major Harry||Bird, Alfred|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouce., E.)||Blair, Reginald|
|Archdale, Lieut. Edward M.||Beck, Arthur Cecil||Blake, Sir Francis Douglas|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Boyton, Sir James|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Bentham, George Jackson||Brassey, H. L. C.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Perkins, Waller Frank|
|Bull, Sir William James||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Philipps, Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Burn, Col. C. R.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Butcher, John George||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Pratt, J. W.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Higham, John Sharp||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.|
|Cator, John||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Randles, Sir John|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arton)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Hope, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Edin., Midlothian)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Horne, E.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Collins, Major Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Rutherford, Sir W. (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, E.)||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Shaw, Hon. A.|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Kinloch-Cooke. Sir Clement||Shortt, Edward|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eition)||Knight, Capt. E. A||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Larmor, Sir J.||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Boner (Bootle)||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Layland-Barratt, Sir F.||Staveley-Hill, Lieut.-col. H.|
|Du Pre, Major W. Baring||Lindsay, William Arthur||Stewart, Gershom|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Swift, Rigby|
|Falle, Sir Bertram Godfrey||Locker-Lampoon, G. (Salisbury)||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||McCalment, Brig.-Gen. Robert C. A.||Thomas, Sir G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Fleming, Sir J. (Aberdeen, S.)||Mackinder, Halford J.||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Macleod, John Mackintosh||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Gelder, Sir W. A.||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Watson, Hon. W. (Lanark, S.)|
|Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Weston, Col. J. W.|
|Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||Macpherson, James Ian||Whiteley, Sir H. J.|
|Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Mallalleu, Frederick William||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)||Marriott, J. A. R.||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon Claud|
|Greig, Col. James William||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Wills, Major Sir Gilbert|
|Gretton, Col. John||Morton, Sir Alpheus Cleophas||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Griffith, Rt. Hon. Sir Ellis J.||Newman, Major John R. P.||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Nield, Sir Herbert||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Hamersley, Lt.-Col. Alfred St. George||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. H. (Antrim, Mid.)||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Wood, Sir John (Stalybridge)|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord C. J.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Hanson, Charles Augustin||Parker, James (Halifax)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Parkes, Sir Edward E.||Younger, Sir George|
|Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Partington, Hon. Oswald|
|Harmood-Banner, Sir J. S.||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbt. Pike (Darlington)||F. Guest and Lord Edmund Talbot.|
|Haslam, Lewis||Peonefather, De Fonblanque|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Holt, Richard Durning||Rondall, Athelstan|
|Armitage, Robert||Hunt, Major Rowland||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.|
|Arnold, Sydney||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Rowlands, James|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Kiley, James Daniel||Smallwood, Edward|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmett (Somerset)||King, Joseph||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Northampton)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs)||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Collins, Sir William (Derby)||Millar, James Duncan||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Moltene, Percy Alport||Watt, Henry A.|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Morrell, Philip||White, Col. G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||O'Malley, William||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Outhwaite, R. L.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Parrott, Sir James Edward||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Pollard, Sir George H.||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Hinds, John||Pringle, William M. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Colonel|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E. H.||Rea, Walter Russell||Penry Williams and Mr. Hogge.|
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move to leave out the words "or thereafter attain that age or cease to be members of His Majesty's Forces."
The original Act was not continuing Act. It took a census of those who were 872 certain ages on a certain day. The Amendment which the Committee has been discussing dealt, with the registration of persons who before this amending Bill bad attained a certain age. The words I propose to leave out are the words which 873 make liable to registration persons who become fifteen after the passing of this amending Bill, and members of the Army and Navy who are discharged after the passing of this Bill. This Amendment raises, therefore, the whole question of the departure in method and in principle from those followed in the original Registration Act. I submit that it is unnecessary to do more for the right hon. Gentleman's purpose than add to the original register those persons who to-day have arrived at the age of fifteen years. As this is primary a military register that will give him three years before any persons of fifteen who are registered become liable for military service, I suggest that he is not entitled, without better reason than has been given, to put the country to the very great expense which is involved in this continuing system of registration, and also to place upon a number of persons, which will run into millions, the duty of causing themselves to be registered.
There is another consideration. This is a new point, and one of very great importance in regard to discharged soldiers. The right hon. Gentleman has again and again insisted that the register should contain the names of discharged soldiers in order that they may be assisted to re-enter industrial life in this country. My Amendment omits from the liability to get themselves registered, subject to heavy penalties, those soldiers who are discharged from the Army after the passing of this amending Bill. It is not necessary to include those soldiers. You have first of all a military register. One of the speakers on behalf of the Government has stated that there is a military register. I cannot believe that soldiers are discharged from the Army without a single record being kept of the soldiers so discharged, as well as the local record at the local pay office, as described by one of the hon. Members for Edinburgh. The Bill as it stands, whilst it will make liable to registration soldiers discharged from the Army after the passing of this Act, does not make liable to registration and will not register the soldiers who will be discharged from the Army at the conclusion of the War. Surely if there is to be a register compiled in order to assist registration after the War and to enable men who have fought in our Armies to be cared for in the future and to be helped in getting back to industrial life, it will be of fundamental importance that the soldiers who are in the Army at the 874 end of the War shall be so helped. I say, therefore, that the words in the Bill are useless for the purpose for which the President of the Local Government Board has said they are necessary, because whilst it requires, under heavy penalties, soldiers who are discharged after the passing of the Act to be registered, it takes no steps to register those soldiers who will be disbanded at the end of the War. This Amendment is essentially a part of the Amendment already discussed, therefore I will not again cover the ground.
§ Mr. FISHER
Already we have had a very full discussion on the last Amendment as to the benefit to be derived by discharged soldiers from registration under this Bill. The Amendment now proposed would deprive the Clause of its continuing effect, and it would mean that while those who have attained the age of fifteen immediately upon this Bill coming into operation would have to be registered, those who attain the age of fifteen after that date would not have to be registered. When you add to that the fact that very large numbers of His Majesty's forces would not have to be registered, this Amendment would defeat the main purpose of the Bill, which is to obtain an accurate record of all those, from now until this Bill ceases to operate—namely, until the termination of the War—who attain the age of fifteen, and who, for all I know and for all the House knows, may be nineteen before the War closes. It has been said that the primary object of this Bill is for military purposes. I hope I shall not have to repeat it again, that the primary object is not for military purposes, but to ascertain accurately and to record systematically necessary information regarding the available industrial forces in this country, both male and female. This Bill is an auxiliary to the Man-Power Bill introduced by the Minister of National Service.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I supported the Government in the last Division and I oppose this Amendment on the same grounds, that we have a pledge from the Government that all this registration of discharged sailors and soldiers is to enable the Director of National Service to give a preference to these discharged sailors and soldiers. Those who register must receive preferential treatment, and I cannot understand those who have the interests of these sailors and soldiers at heart who wish to exclude them from a great national 875 registration scheme which is essential to the best use of the man-power of the country and essential to the preferential treatment of discharged sailors and soldiers. The President of the Local Government Board made reference to the length of the War. No one who has the slightest conception of the state of the War now can see the end of it, and it is much more likely to last four years than one. [HON. MEMBERS dissented.] I know many hon. Members prophesied that the end of the War would come by Christmas, 1914, and they have continued to prophesy that each succeeding month, so that they will ultimately be right if they live long enough, or if the senility of their intellect enables them to go on prophesying. The number of men who will cease to be members of His Majesty's Forces between the passing of this Act and the conclusion of the War will be much greater, probably, than that at which it now stands. Therefore, I support this Amendment on behalf of those sailors and soldiers who are discharged between now and the end of the War.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member pleading the cause which he always supports by his voice and his vote in this House—that of the discharged men. I understand that he wishes to give a reason for his voting on the last occasion and the vote which he is going to give now. His reason is the interesting one that this provision is going to give preferential treatment for the discharged men. There is no need to impose a penalty upon the discharged man to make him take advantage of the benefit that he is going to get under this Bill. You are imposing a penalty upon him if he does not rush in and get registered in order to get the preferential treatment of which the hon. and gallant Member speaks. It is really asking too much, even of the intelligence of the present House of Commons, to ask us to accept that as a reason. if you are going to give preferential treatment for these men and you announce it honestly in public, they will come forward voluntarily and register. Everybody knows that, and everybody knows that if it were only a question of preferential employment there would be no difficulty. It is because the Government desire to have a grip upon them for further purposes, and only for that, that this registration is now brought forward, and to 876 have a grip upon them for military service purposes under the Review of Exceptions Act. They got the men to register under the old Act and the men know from their experience that it was not preferential employment, but preferential Conscription.
It is because there is a risk of preferential Conscription once more under this Bill that some of us who are interested in these men, and have some knowledge of what they think, are going to vote for this Amendment as we voted for the last. This register is quite unnecessary. A register is in existence already in the hands of the War Office. They have already had a large staff engaged upon it in one of the big clubs in the West End for nearly two years, and it is simply throwing dust in the eyes of the House of Commons to allege that this register is required for any other purpose than for the purpose of getting a hold on these men locally and making the information available for the National Service authorities. I do not think that is the way in which the discharged men ought to be treated. They have not deserved it. Of course this Clause will be inserted in the Bill and will continue, and the discharged men will get to know the reality. Then we shall have the hon. and gallant Member (Sir H. Greenwood) sending out apologetic circulars to the organisation which he represents, as he has done in regard to his vote on the Review of Exceptions Act.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
No; I have never apologised for my vote on the Review of Exceptions Act. I voted for it on the pledge of the Government that it was essential to reinforce the men in the trenches—an attitude of mind which has never characterised the hon. Member for Lanarkshire.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am quite willing to leave my attitude of mind in this matter to the judgment of my Constituents, and I expect that I shall be back here when the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not. But that is an irrelevant consideration because the hon. and gallant Baronet, on the introduction of the new Military Service Bill in this House, actually apologised in face of the House, and I do not know how he can now get up and say that he did not apologise. His words are in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I have not got them here, but his second apology will stand him in as little stead as the first, and it will be known that in this case, as in that, he has betrayed the interest of those for whom he professes to speak.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I will not take part in the dispute between the hon. Member for Lanarkshire and the hon. Baronet the Member for Sunderland, but I will state very shortly why even those who refused to support the last Amendment should have no hesitation in supporting this Amendment if they really care for the soldiers and sailors, as I am sure we all do. On the last Amendment it was open to the Government to say, though I do not think there would be any justification for doing so, "The register of these men hitherto kept by the War Office has been defective, and the War Office does not know their addresses"; but, as regards the present Amendment, it cannot be said that they do not know the names and addresses of the men who will be discharged in future. It is perfectly open to the War Office, without imposing any penalty on these men, to get themselves all the information which they would otherwise get, with penalties under this Bill. Therefore, if the Government only wish to benefit these men, they could do so without having all these harassing obligations and subjecting them to the very severe penalties imposed by this Bill. If the hon. Baronet really means, as I am sure he does, that his object in supporting this Bill is to benefit discharged soldiers and sailors, I cannot help thinking that he is mistaken in his view. There is no justification for asking these men to fill up these elaborate forms, and subjecting them to penalties if they do not fill them up. It is perfectly open to the Government to give all the industrial preferential treatment which is possible without imposing these penalties. Therefore, if my hon. Friend goes to a Division, I shall certainly support him. Though I with to do all that is possible for these men, I do not wish to subject them to the harassing obligations of filling up unnecessary forms, and being liable to be accosted by policemen, taken before a bench of magistrates, and fined £5 if they fail to comply with the provisions of the new Act of Parliament.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.