Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £l07,000,000, be granted to his Majesty on Account for defraying the Charges for Army [services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
I have an apology to offer to some hon. and gallant Members, because the original understanding when this Vote was put down was that the (Service Members should, as far as possible, have this day to themselves. 1 would suggest that those hon. and gallant Members will probably have a very full opportunity i the Chairman intervenes, after such time as seems fit to him for the discussion of the special topic which I am going to introduce, namely, our policy in Russia. There can be no doubt at all that great apprehension and confusion exist in the minds of the public with regard to our military adventure in Russia and our policy, or lack of policy, as a right hon. Friend of mine suggests, with regard to that country. There is no clear view of policy nor do we know what are, the relevant vital facts of the situation. No one can doubt that it is of the utmost importance that the public mind should be fully informed, because it is quite hopeless for the Government to think that they can continue the present position in Russia unless they have the public with them, and that I think they must be painfully conscious of themselves. But while it is at all times a very useful adjunct to Government policy, at the present moment it is exceptionally necessary that the public should know, I repeat again, and knowing what the policy is and what the facts are, if the public mind is satisfied on those points, and if the Government policy is in substantial accord with the will of the majority of the public, then they can go safely ahead. But without that nothing but disaster awaits us in what adventure. What, after all, as far as we have been able to ascertain, is the policy of the Gov-, 1964 eminent? To my mind some statements which were made by the Prime Minister on the 16th April last were in accord with what, at any rate, my hon. Friends and myself consider to be the basis of our position with regard to Russia, and at the risk of wearying the Committee I will read one or two sentences of what the Prime Minister said:Does anyone propose military intervention?Later on he said:First of all there is the fundamental principle of all foreign policy in this country—a very sound principle—that you should never interfere in the internal affairs of another country, however badly governed, and whether Russia is Men-shevik or Bolshevik, whether it is reactionary or revolutionary, whether it follows one set of men or another, that is a matter for the Russian people themselves.He goes on to talk of our disgust at and whole disagreement with the general procedure of those who are at present governing Russia, and proceds to say:But that does not justify us in committing this country to a gigantic military enterprise in order to improve the conditions in Russia.He then gives a warning from very recent history, that is the intervention in Russia, by Germany in the War. He pointed out what enormous difficulties the Germans got into because they had intervened in Russia.Because they had entangled themselves in the morass and could not get out of it, let that be a warning.He went on to say in very epigrammatic form:I share the horror of all the Bolshevik teachings, but I would rather have Russia Bolshevik until she sees her way out of it than see Britain bankrupt."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1919,cols. 2940.42, Vol. 114]He goes on to give the other side of the picture, a very proper tiling to do. He states that the policy of intervention there at that time was the general policy of the Allies, and that the Russians, at any rate the anti-Bolshevik Russians, had come and rallied to our military aid, and that it was our duty as they had rallied to our aid to stand by them. That he also makes perfectly clear. The position that we are in with regard to Russia is one which at any rate gives no sort of excuse for a military gamble. It requires a clear-cut definite policy, and having got your policy it will, of course, govern your strategy. What has been the position following on that? We have had one very short Debate, I think on the occasion of the Whitsuntide Recess, and several questions, and the deduction one could get 1965 from them may be put in this way, that the Secretary of State for War has held out very considerable hope to us, and on 6th April he said:We are endeavouring to wind up our affairs in North Russia, and it is our hope that North Russia may become self-supporting before the end of the summer, and that then we shall be able to go away, Slaving honourably discharged our duty to those people to whom we committed ourselves during the time of the War,He goes on to refer to the position in Siberia, hundreds of miles away from fighting, and to two battalions at Omsk in support of the Government that had been set up there, but that they were in no military or indeed, as far as I could gather, any other peril. Later on I will say a word about the battalions at Omsk.
What really has been the sequence of events in so far as we can tell, because we are more or less groping in the dark] The Government knows much more than we do and it must be assumed that they do. On the point of pressing the Secretary of State to tell us what our position really is, the reply which is so often made is that if this information were given the enemy would know things greatly to our disadvantage. I do not think we need trouble very much about that. So far as our experience goes the enemy knows all the relevant facts of the situation and a great deal more about the position in Russia, I urn sure, than even the best advised and best posted of His Majesty's advisers. I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State will not put that excuse before us. I do not think it ought really to be pressed upon us unless there is some very remarkable or very unusual fact which would imperil the lives of our men there. If that is pressed upon me with all the responsibility which must attach to such a statement coming from such a quarter, I have no more to say. But on the general point about giving information to the enemy we have had a lot of experience of how much that amounts to. Do let us to the full extent have all the cards on. the table, both political and military, so that country shall foe able to know where we are. There are, perhaps three or. four alternatives. There is, first of all, the policy of countering Bolshevism. That can be ruled out at once. It is quite an impossible position to take up. We know that, substantially, we shall be dealing with the Russian natfon in arms. That has been ruled out by all practical men who have considered 1966 it. Then there is another policy—to withdraw our men, our stores, and the friendly Russians who are within reach of our own armed forces. If you are going to launch out into a crusade of rescuing from all parts of Russia all those who are friendly, that commits you to a military adventure in the whole of what was the Russian Empire. And then there is, perhaps, another policy, which is to maintain our position in the hope of something turning up; and there is another policy which has been suggested, and that is to settle with the Bolshevists. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the Government have tried them all in one form or another. While the thing is present in my mind, let me ask the right hon. Gentleman something about this question of settling with the Bolshevists, with special reference to statements which have been made, in responsible newspapers such as the New York "Nation." Very definite statements of our policy are made as to the dealings of Mr. Bullen with our representatives in Paris. I am not going to commit myself for one moment to the adoption of these statements. They go so far as to say that some memorandum was sent in the writing of one of the Prime Minister's private secretaries. It is a statement perfectly easy to make, but I say at once I am not putting any weight on it, but there is, as far, is I can gather, some evidence that negotiations have taken place, and they are strongly deprecated by some hon. Members, who say very frankly that they will not have anything to do with the evil thing. That is the position they take up. As far as I am concerned I say that if the Prime Minister cares—and in his statement of 18th April he did not in any sense categorically deny it—if he has endeavoured to find out what the position in regard to Bolshevism is in Russia, I should hesitate to say it was not the proper thing to do. The whole thing ought to be thoroughly and completely explored. There is an amount of dubiety amounting to mystery about the whole of the negotiations or of the "feelers" put out in respect to the Conference at Paris and the Bolshevik emissaries, whoever they might be, which could be very well cleared up. Why not let us know what the truth is? It would tend very materially to allay public suspicion and unrest.
With regard to what has happened in the military sense since April, here again one does not know, and what I am saying is in purely interrogative form. The idea, 1967 as I understand it, was this. We had these very brave but to some extent physically ineffective troops holding with dauntless valour most difficult positions in Russia in a way which would have redounded to the credit of troops which were thoroughly fit and efficient, and we sent to their relief General Grogan with large reinforcements, the idea being that these men at least had done their duty and ought to be returned and their place taken by volunteers, with this purpose, as I understand it, and in accordance with the statement laid down by the Prime Minister, that these new troops should be sent there with the purpose of securing the safe withdrawal of these tired and worn-out troops, the withdrawal of our stores, as far as possible, giving an opportunity for friendly Russians to make good their escape, or to render them definite protection, and, that being done, then the complete withdrawal from North Russia should set in, so as to be completed by the end of the summer, before the winter ice began in November. That, I understand, was the idea, the policy.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Were our troops under Generals Ironside and Maynard used for a purpose beyond that—for the larger purpose of, by military intervention, rendering such assistance to Admiral Koltchak and General Yudenitch that they might attempt a larger policy If that was the objective, it was not in accord with what the majority of the House, and the great majority of the country desired. What ought to have been done, I humbly submit, was to have used the whole of our effectives and take the opportunity of the success that was then present with our arms and with the Russians of carrying out our policy of withdrawal, so that we could get our men home again before the winter severities set in. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many conscripts and how many volunteers there are in this military area in North Russia? Clearly we are all of opinion that there ought to be none left there but volunteers to-day. All the conscript men who desire to return ought to have been home by this time. If I remember rightly, the right hon. Gentleman said that the last date he could hope to get troops away was somewhere about the early part of November, 1968 before the ice sets in. Can he also state what sort of support locally our intervention has met with? One makes the deduction from what happened in the mutiny of some Russian regiments on whom General Ironside was relying, that there must be some very serious movement of public opinion in North Russia which is not friendly to our intervention there, but swinging steadily towards the Bolshevik military power. Another point I want to press is: How many of our Allies are operating with us? We know that the French have left Odessa and that, so far as our Allies and friends the Americans are concerned they are getting out of Russia as fast as they reasonably can. Are they or are they not leaving in such numbers as that in a short space of time will leave us alone?
The whole point, as I understand it, the basis of our intervention was that it was an Allied intervention, and it is causing the gravest concern to the people of this country that the prospect before us is that we shall be left alone in this military intervention. I agree, of course, that our Eastern commitments are greater than those of either of our Allies, but still the Eastern interests of the United States are very considerable and Japan is vitally interested in the policy and future of Siberia. With regard to the troops m Siberia, I would ask, at the special request of my hon. Friend the Member for one of the Divisions of Portsmouth, with regard to a battalion at Omsk. I understand that he has sent to my hon. Friend a letter signed from twenty-nine wives and parents of members of the Hampshire regiment who are stationed at Omsk. This is a prewar territorial battalion. The men have served three years in India and came, via? Vladivostok to Omsk, and are still there. The position of these men I am sure has the sympathy of the War Office and the Government. They are men who volunteered, who took on themselves gladly the burden of territorial service and volunteered at the outbreak of the War for service across the water with full readiness and a glad heart.
They are there to-day—I do not know what the other battalions are—thousands of miles away from their friends, rendering, I have no doubt, very valuable service. I think the whole energies of the Government should be devoted, as far as may be possible, to relieving them from the duties which they have done so gallantly and nobly up to the present.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
It is a long way, but still it is good to hear that they have left. I hope that applies to both the battalions that were there.
My final question is the question of cost. The country is entitled to know what it is costing us in. lives and in money. The right hon. Gentleman gave us some information on the 6th June with regard to that. This is what he told us:Since the Armistice there have been killed in all parts of the Russian theatre thirteen British officers and 116 rank and file, and there have been wounded fourteen officers and 152 rank and file, while two British officers and twenty-six rank and tile were missing. Therefore our total casualties in Russia in the last six months have been twenty-nine officers and 294 men killed, wounded and missing.That is up to the 6th June. Will the right hon. Gentleman be able to bring that up to date?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Now with regard to cost. In reply to a question which I put to the right hon. Gentleman in the course of the Debate, and which was also repeated by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain Wedgwood Benn), as to whether he could give us any figures with regard to cost, the right hon. Gentleman said:If it is decided to lay figures on this subject there will be no difficulty about that. I am certainly not arguing against it, but I am deprecating the absurd and mischievious exaggeration which is getting currency now with a view to working up a general prejudice against the policy the Government is pursuing.From time to time questions have been addressed to my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office with regard to that, and his last answer, I think, was that it was not possible to do it, that it was such a complicated matter to extract the figures that he did not feel justified in diverting the efforts of the staff to get them out. With much respect I do not think that will do. We ought to know. I am not asking for a precise, meticulous return at all; what I am asking for is an estimate. Can he tell us within ten millions what it has cost this country 1970 since the signature of the Armistice, up to, say, the 1st July? I made a rough estimate, just a mere shot, and said that it is costing this country 100 millions a year. That has not been contradicted. It may be£200,000,000, or it may be only £50,000,000, but we ought to know, and I cannot understand why we do not know. I think there is a very general agreement on that point. The right hon. Gentleman has told us what it is costing us in lives and in wounded and missing, but let us know what it is costing us in money. All he said was that they had sent about £20,000,000 worth—I am speaking from memory—of stores of all kinds, and the suggestion was that had they not been used in that way they would have been, so to speak, scrapped, and they might as well go in that way as any other.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
They were unmarketable, and were used in that way. But I say again, let us know, and I hope that the result of the Debate to-day will be to elicit from the right hon. Gentleman a clear statement of what his policy is. Is it or is it not a policy of attempting to crush and conquer Bolshevism in Russia? If it is not, is the policy of the Government just to settle military affairs so far as may be necessary to enable us to withdraw our troops and if possible to get away the stores—though it would be much better to cut the loss and sacrifice the stores if it means keeping the men there through the winter. I think that by far the best method would be to cut the loss with regard to the stores, and, so far as we honourably can, give protection to those of our Russian friends who are near our troops. If you go further than that, you inevitably land yourselves in an interminable military intervention in Russia. That is what I want to know, and I think it is what the country wants to know. If it is for such a limited purpose, I think the country is behind it; but let them know the facts, and you will get the necessary public opinion. The general sort of muddle which is going on, the mystery, the to-ing and fro-ing, so to speak, with regard to our military work, and the lack of drive in the policy, is doing no good to Russia and is doing a very great deal of harm to public opinion in this country. All history shows that, where a country has been given over to revolution, one of the most powerful weapons which can be 1971 put into the hands of the unscrupulous, bloodthirsty men who are manipulating revolution for low and base ends is the idea that they are the only sort of power which that country possesses for fending off foreign intervention. As far As I can see, there seems to be no doubt at all that what is happening in Russia is that we are giving to Lenin and Trotsky, or whatever may be the particular titles of the unscruplous ruffians who may be dealing with the position there, an opportunity which we ought to take from them. I hope that my right lion. Friend will be able to satisfy the House and the country on those points.
§ Mr. CLEMENT EDWARDS
I share the view which has just been put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, that it would enormously help the situation if greater publicity in regard to essential facts were given by the Government. I am perfectly certain, from what I know of this problem, that such publicity would produce a state of public opinion in this country which is entirely opposed to the luke warmness, the half-heartedness, the limited-liability attitude towards this great problem which has been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman. He instanced two or three alternative policies, and I was amazed when he said that to conquer Bolshevism has been entirely ruled out as one of the alternatives. I am perfectly certain that the overwhelming opinion in this House, as it is in the country, is that it is of vital importance to this country, to our liberty, and to the future of the civilised world, that Bolshevism should be stamped out, and stamped out in Russia.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
I would go so far, as I did in the Debate in April, as to say, if it is necessary, even by military intervention. I do not think that military intervention is necessary, but our position is gravely menaced in the Far East, our position is gravely menaced in India, by this Bolshevik peril, and there is definite information that a good deal of the trouble in Afghanistan has been caused by the connivance of Bolshevik agents in that country. I repeat, therefore, that if it were necessary to stamp out Bolshevism in Russia by military intervention, I should be prepared to support it. If it were necessary even to continue Conscription for the. purpose I should be prepared to 1972 support it, as I believe it to be the most dire menace and peril to the future liberty of the civilised world. There was no hint in the right hon. Gentleman's speech as to the origin of Bolshevism. He spoke of Bolshevism as though it were a perfectly natural emanation from a distant country—from a disgruntled and starving Russian people. As a matter of fact, there is overwhelming and conclusive evidence to show that what we now know as Bolshevism was an instrument deliberately fashioned by the German Military Command for the purpose of weakening the fighting arm of the Allies, and what is more is that to this day a great deal of the military force of Bolshevism is definitely officered and definitely controlled by German military officers. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman something more. Within the last three weeks over 700 military officers have left Germany to officer the Bolshevik forces in Russia. What does all this mean? It means—and to me it is a haunting terror—that the great work that has been done by the Allies in the War, the overwhelming sacrifice of life and the suffering which this and other Allied countries have incurred in bringing about the victory on the battlefield of Europe, the great work which has been done in the prolonged Peace Conference in Paris, and the imposition on the German nation of those terms of peace which some of us think are pretty just, will, in my view, all be throw away if Bolshevism is allowed to work its way out by default of this and the other Allied countries in Russia.
If we leave Russia, if we remove our assistance from Russia, if we cease to intervene by material help in Russia, it means that the very agents who are running Bolshevism for Germany will reorganise Russia and deal with her trade, and that is the smallest of everything. They will dragoon the Russian man-power, and already, as we know from positive information, German agents are collecting Chinese recruits from every part of China to swell the ranks of Bolshevism in Russia on the one side, and to play these Chinamen on the other with a view to extending across there. We know, because there is fighting already in mid-Asia, that there are German agents there, because German officers have been captured by loyal tribes and handed over. What is the prospect? We allow this Bolshevism, the creation of the German military power, to go unchallenged and to be developed by 1973 Germany, we allow her to capture and dominate the overwhelming man-power of Russia, and all that great man-power of mid-Asia, and to penetrate beyond into China, with the result that in ten or fifteen years from now she will control a man-power five, six, seven times as great as the man-power which she controlled when she thrust the civilised world into war. That is a prospect that haunts me day and night as the real peril that we have to fight against. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there has not been a sufficient, I will not say frankness, because there are difficulties in the way of all Allied movements, but a sufficient revelation of the dangers, and sufficient information of the facts from the Government. I am certain that, if they would frankly tell the country what is the menace, and how they view it, and give us the facts from day to day, as I know our people in every part of Great Britain, they will back the Government through thick and thin to stamp out this menace at whatever cost. The right hon. Gentleman, in the old spirit of party strife, seeking to make a cheap debating point, asked if I would do this by military intervention. I answer above all party considerations that I would, whatever it meant in the way of military intervention, but I do not believe that military intervention in the ordinary sense of the word is required. There is a huge population of perfectly loyal Russians, there is a still greater population of Russians which are more than tired of Bolshevism, but unless they can have food and some semblance of protection it is inevitable that they should be the continued serfs and servants of the Bolshevik regime.
How is that to come? It has come very effectively in a large part of Southern Russia under the command of General Denikin. There have been serious reverses, we all know, on the Eastern side under Admiral Koltchak; there has been great movement on the part of the Esthonians and the Finns on the Baltic; there has also been a great deal of effective movement in Northern Russia. The right hon. Gentleman wants certain information, and went on to say, in asking for this information, that if the Secretary of State for War said in his reply that that information was likely to jeopardise the lives of our men in Northern Russia he would accept that statement. As a matter of fact, by some of the questions that have been put in this House, and by the attitude that the 1974 right hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues have taken up, by the kind of talk that has been assumed by many Members of the Labour party and certain papers in this country, there has been an idea conveyed to the Russian troops in Northern Russia that this country was out for a policy of scuttle, and that has had an enormously demoralising effect on large bodies of Russian troops in North Russia, with the result that there have been some defections which have very seriously jeopardised the position of our men there. I am not quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman, in his new position -as Leader of the Opposition, quite realises how anything that is said in this House is magnified enormously by the agents of the Bolsheviks and through German agencies to create mischief in loyal Russia, and particularly through Finland and Archangel. I may be asked, if I think that there should be intervention and that that intervention should not necessarily be military, what it should be. The right policy, in my view and that of my colleagues, is that the Allies, and if necessary in the last resort this country alone, should, in view of what is menaced belonging to us in the East, be prepared to supply armaments, military equipment, clothing, and food to the loyal elements of Russia behind the fighting line of the Russian soldiers as they advance from time to time, and there is one thing that I should particularly like to say with regard to this.
From the information that has come to me I am quite convinced that if the policy which I understood had been agreed to by the Allies in conjunction with Russian, representatives in Paris, which 1 understood from official sources in this country had been agreed to some months ago, had been carried out, I believe that at this moment Petrograd would be in the hands of loyal Russians, and there would have been a very considerable movement already on foot from Petrograd down towards Moscow in the South to meet the rapidly advancing forces of General Denikin. Something has gone wrong. It was understood that General Judenitsch was to receive equipment and supplies from this country. It was understood definitely that the feeding arrangements for the loyal population at the back of Judenitsch's force when he should advance would be supplied through and under the control of Mr.' Hoover, the American representative, and what I should like to ask the Secretary of State for War is this: 1975 Why is it that those supplies have not been sent to General Judenitsch? Why is it that the American food ships which were arranged for have not been sent to Helsingfors? Is it a fact that something which was agreed to by the Conference in Paris with the Russian representatives has been departed from, so far as the Americans are concerned, since President Wilson returned to the United States? I should very much like to have an answer from the right hon. Gentleman on that very important point; but, broadly speaking, I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman, so far as his responsibilities are concerned as representing the Government, has carried on an active policy, with which the party which I have the honour to lead entirely agrees, and I shall hope to hear from him this afternoon that there is a determination on the part of the Government to back the loyal Russians by intervention to the extent of supplying material and food and equipment, and it may be some technical units, and to supply also if necessary the necessary military forces at the point of debarkation to protect the stores in those places. With a policy of that sort I am certain the Government may feel fully confident that they have the hearty endorsement of the electors who sent them here to finish the business last December.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I want in as short a time as I can to try and enforce the appeal which has been made by my right hon. Friend for the clearest possible statement of Government policy on the subject of this Debate. I fear my hon. Friend who has just addressed the House was not present when there was read to the Committee the statement of the Prime Minister as an outline of Government policy on this subject, when the Prime Minister addressed the House on 16th April last, and it would appear that my hon. Friend now intends to try and lead his Leader into some path where I fear the Leader will not be ready to follow. I will, therefore, trouble the House again to read the pronouncement of the Prime Minister on that occasion:Does anyone propose military intervention? I want to examine that carefully and candidly. I will not say before the House, but before any individual commits his conscience to such an enterprise. I want him to realise what it means. First of all there is the fundamental principle of all foreign policy in this country—a very sound principle—that you should never interfere in the internal affairs of another country, however badly governed, and whether Russia is Men- 1976 shevik or Bolshevik, whether it is reactionary or revolutionary, whether it follows one set of men or another, that is a matter for the Russian people themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1919, col. 2940, Vol. 114.]That is exactly the position of those of us on this side of the House who have for months been asking the Government to suit the action to the word, and that is our position to-day. I have not myself in any way varied or lessened my abhorrence of the methods of the Bolsheviks as they have been pursued in Russia, but I confess to a great conflict of evidence on this question, and I would like to be reassured on the mere point of fact as to what actually is the situation in Russia. 1 do not know whether it is worth while suggesting that some attempt should be made to send to that country some accredited delegation of persons which could secure, if allowed to enter, for this country some record of what actually is the internal state of things, but I can assure the Secretary of State for War that there is a very great conflict of evidence, and, for my part, I would like to have the public mind eased by as reliable testimony as can be obtained as to what actually is the state of things prevailing there. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why do you not send some delegates?"] I am aware that any independent party, any political party or labour association might offer to send delegates, but that is not the point. Their testimoney might be coloured. They have their prejudices, and they might in advance be discounted because of their views. I am rather thinking of an impartial British jury which would be trusted impartially to examine the situation as it is, and to bring back absolutely impartial and trustworthy testimony. I agree with what my hon. Friend has said generally on the subject of Bolshevism, and the conclusion I reach is that if it be so black as it is painted, it can be better killed from within than from without. I long ago ventured the view that we could cope with it better by feeding it than by fighting it. I still hold that opinion. The political revolution, which was the cause of the disappearance of the old system of government in that country, was, in my judgment, followed too soon by the social and economic revolution that imposed a system of Bolshevism on Russia. A country which so newly came into possession of anything like democratic methods of government was totally unfitted for this tremendous experiment which men were found ready to impose upon it. There are 1977 in all countries, I suppose, a number of eligible dictators prepared to experiment in new forms of government, and by one means or another arc ready to impose the whims of themselves or minorities upon the masses of the country as a whole. The last of all the countries of the earth suited for that purpose at this stage of the world's history was Russia, but it has been the fate of that country to be in many instances the experimenting cradle for mankind.
But I repeat the conclusion to which I am driven, that, whatever be the internal condition of Russia, the doctrine of the Prime Minister was a sound one, namely, that it is improper for us, it is unsafe for us, to interfere with the internal authority of the people of Russia. They must rescue themselves from their own sufferings, and from the domination of those minorities who have imposed their will upon them. The argument of the Prime Minister was that military intervention on a scale large enough to be successful must be ruled out of the question; any other kind of intervention would be so futile and ineffective that it would be folly to attempt it. We are driven to the conclusion that the safe step for this country to take is to declare, and to act upon the declaration, that it must be left to the Russian people to work out their own destinies and settle their own internal affairs. Foreign policy is now more than ever, in this country at any rate, linked up with internal domestic conditions. A very much larger number of people in this country take note of what is happening in remote parts of the world, and great masses of the workmen, who formerly, perhaps, were more interested in the travelling circus than what might be happening in America, Russia, Germany, or elsewhere, are now personally taking some interest in the conduct of affairs in very remote parts of the world. Indeed, it is not too much now to claim a definite Labour policy on the question of intervention in Russia, and, if the words of the Prime Minister mean what they say, that Labour policy is not different from the policy of the Government. But we have been saddened and bewildered as Labour spokesmen by the spectre of intervention at a time when we have been told that intervention is totally contrary to the Government's intention. It no longer is an Allied intervention. What steps have our Allies taken in regard to Russian policy? 1978 Are we to continue a line from which they have departed? If there is to be further intervention either of men or of material, is it to be solely an intervention of Britain without any association whatever with America, with France, or with any other of our former Allies?
I am sure that the House, keeping its-mind for a moment upon the pages of Russian history, will agree with this view that, difficult as it may be, either as an. active military intervention or in pursuance of any other declared policy, to get into Russia, it is much more troublesome to get out of it, and we have not had from the Secretary for War on many of the occasions when he spoke of liberating our troops, or of arranging methods for their departure, any sufficiently clear statement of purpose as to whether actual seasons were to be used, periods of the year to be availed of, to gain certain strategic or tactical advantages, or whether actually we are waiting for changes in the seasons really to liberate the men who were sent to Russia, or, in more recent days, were asked to volunteer to go. For months we have been told that the Government has intended to get out of Russia. Really, it ought not to be so very difficult, seeing that the resources at the disposal of the Government are so formidable, actually to escape from that part of the world, and I hope that, to-day, if never before, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell the House that we are definitely and absolutely to secure the release of our troops from Archangel and Murmansk, or from any other parts of the Russian territory where they are now located. Despite all the assurances that have been given as to releasing our troops, I have to-day had put in my hands a communication in these terms. This was written only yesterday:To-day, at the South-West India Dock, thirty tanks were awaiting shipment to Russia, by the steamship 'Borodino.'If tanks or other war materials are to be sent at this moment, to what use can they be put unless men are there to use them? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to state clearly where those tanks are to go, and if they are to be used by our men? If they are to go to Russia, are they to be used by Russian troops? On these points I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the working-class mind is very anxious to receive some very definite assurance.
1979 I want, in my last point, to impress the importance of giving a reassurance to the Labour mind upon this question. I agree that Labour as a party has no more right to claim a monopoly of interest in this question than any other party. It is a question for the country as a whole. Our interests in this matter are national, and the example we set should be a national example, and must not be tested by the standards of any particular political party. But, so strong has Labour opinion been shaped upon this question, that its views have been expressed through resolutions, through a campaign, through numerous meetings which, I can assure the House, have been very successful in different parts of the country, and views have been put and endorsed which the Government ought to meet by some reassuring statement. I read to this House on the occasion of a previous Debate the resolution passed by the recent Labour Conference in Southport on this very question. So strong has Labour opinion become upon our policy in relation to Russia, and so much does Labour believe that we have intervened in Russia, partly in the interests of property, partly in the interests of investments, held even by Members of the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—I am merely telling the House what has been published in Labour newspapers and at Labour meetings—and partly, and perhaps mostly, in order to destroy what is termed the new-born democracy in Russia—so strong is Labour belief on all these questions, that the strength of the right hon. Gentleman's answer must correspond with that feeling if Labour is to be reassured.
My own view is that we have not got a democracy in Russia, that we have not got a Social Republic in Russia. A republic, indeed, there may be resting upon a personal dictatorship which the British working classes would be the first to repel if any attempt were made to impose a similar form of government here. But I say, bad as the condition of things there may be, there has been now formed in this country so strong a feeling in the mind of organised Labour that assurance can come only by a complete reversal of the policy so far formed in relation to Russia, and so strong is that feeling that it has been—I regret to say—deliberately resolved by a very formidable organisation known to the country as the Triple Alliance to take such steps as might lead to something in the 1980 nature of a national strike, unless we reverse our policy on the question. I am not so sure, by the way, that the working classes of this country would go the length of "downing tools," as the phrase is, to secure this end, but I quote the decision as a measure of the intensity of feeling which has been created by the course that we are following. I should hope that the working classes in the use of the industrial weapon will neither now nor in the future commit an act which would supply to any other section of the community any excuse for defiance of the law at some time or other. Such intervention as the Government so far has indulged in is not a policy for which they can claim to have any electoral sanction. There was not, at the last election, any indication to the people of this country that the measures which the Government have so far followed would either be begun or pursued, nor can it be claimed that this is an instance where the confidence of the country was secured when an appeal was last made to the electorate. If it is not improper to remind the House, may I say that the very latest election result which has reached us does not indicate that there is any approval at all in the country of the policy which the Government has so far pursued in regard to Russia. Let me ask that the right hon. Gentleman should give a reassurance to the homes and to the parents of the men, many of whom have been absent for a very long time as soldiers—give, I say, some reassurance that the men now in Russia will soon be back here. Let him further give a reassurance, however unfortunate and however appalling may be the internal conditions of affairs in Russia—unhappily for the masses of the working poor there—that it is an affair which they must settle for themselves; and that, bad as the outlook may be, we must leave Russia to carry out in practice as well as in theory those principles of self-determination of which we think when we speak in terms of freedom for every people.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The speech to which we have just listened is one of those speeches to which the right hon. Gentleman has accustomed us—full of interest and suggestion. I think that the most interesting part of the speech was that in which the right hon. Gentleman described, with such authority, the feel- 1981 ing of a large proportion of the wage-earning classes in regard to this question. Such opportunities as I have had of forming an opinion—which are not so great as his—entirely confirms what he has said. There is no doubt that—rightly or wrongly—this is one of the facts of the situation which the Government and this House must take into consideration. There is no doubt that there is a very strong feeling among large sections of our fellow countrymen on this subject. It may be that the reasons which my right hon. Friend gave are the right reasons. Of course, to us the suggestion that this Government, or, indeed, any British Government, should allow its policy to be deflected in the slightest degree, or by a hair's breadth, by any question of the investments of any of its members—if they exist, which I think very doubtful—is, of course, fantastic and absurd. There is not a single Member of this House, wherever he sits, who believes that for a single moment. Unfortunately, in some quarters—I should imagine very few—there is an impression of that kind. That is very unfortunate. I do not know that anything the Government can do, or that any of us can do, will dispel that altogether. It is part of that curious wave of unrest and suspicion which is passing over the whole face of the world. It is one of the most formidable and ominous signs of the times, and is a well-known symptom of the revolutionary temper It is always found in close accompaniment with the revolutionary ferment.
I quite agree it does make it very important—and I am sure my right hon. Friend is going to take this opportunity of clearing the air to the greatest possible extent, —it makes it very important that the utmost candour and frankness should be exhibited by the Government in all their dealings with this and other questions. What I am sure every Member of this House agrees to is that we want the fullest possible information. We want to know everything there is to be known about the Government policy. We want to be quite assured that nothing is being kept back, that there is no arrière pensée behind any act of the Government, either now or in the past. With a good deal of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said I find myself in agreement; but I think, if I may be allowed to say so, the right hon. Gentleman a little ignores the history of this question. We intervened in Russia during the War as a war measure. 1982 We were at the time, when the intervention first took place, after the revolution had occurred, in a position of considerable difficulty. The position was exceedingly difficult in all parts of the theatre of war. There is no doubt whatever that there was considerable ground for the belief—I do not think my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will consider me indiscreet in saying so—that the Germans were in alliance with the Bolsheviks, and that they might seize the sources of supply.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I agree. My right hon. Friend says there was some danger of collusion between the Bolsheviks and the Germans, and it was thought the Bolsheviks might seize the sources of supply in Russia, and in Western Siberia especially, and greatly prolong the War by nullifying the effects of our blockade. For that purpose I thought personally at the time that intervention was fully justified—not intervention in the internal affairs of Russia; it was an act of war. It was done with the view of defeating our enemies, and was a perfectly justifiable manœuvre. But, as my right hon. Friend said a few moments ago, it is quite an easy thing to go into Russia; the difficulty is to get out. No better illustration could be given than the complications which have followed our perfectly legitimate intervention during the War. It necessarily follows that numbers of the people in Russia who worked with us and became our Allies have had their position altered in reference to the great civil war which was going on in Russia, and for us now simply to abandon them, and to leave them in the lurch would be—I think everybody would agree—quite impossible and improbable. To induce people to take a certain responsibility and then merely to leave them without a word—that is the kind of action which this country has never been guilty of, and, I hope, never will be. This seems to me the real difficulty of the position. I myself agree fully with what the right hon. (Gentleman says about the folly of smashing Bolshevism. I do not believe there is anybody who really is prepared to advocate such a policy as that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"] Well, there may be a few. If anyone has advocated it during my absence he will acquit me of discourtesy in not knowing; but really is it suggested that we are to march an army 1983 into this gigantic country and seize Moscow? All that kind of thing is fantastic nonsense. Really, even if you could do it, it would not be the least good. Bolshevism is a creed, an idea. A very bad idea. I think, and a dangerous creed. But you would not destroy it by seizing Moscow. On the contrary, if you succeeded, you would drive Bolshevism outside Russia, and it would spread all the more freely and all the more vigorously over the rest of the world. More than that, you will expose yourself to the same criticism to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, of the friends and sympathisers, such as they are, in this country, of Bolshevism. They would say, "Bolshevism would have succeeded perfectly well if you had not gone in and interfered with it from the outside." If it is going to fail, as I personally believe it is absolutely bound to fail, let it fail by itself; do not let its friends be able to say it would have succeeded if only you had let it alone. Therefore I am utterly opposed to the theory that we can go in and smash Bolshevism. I do not believe that is a legitimate policy in the least.
I entirely agree that the general proposition laid down in the passage quoted from the Prime Minister—it has been quoted twice this afternoon—accurately lays down the true principle of British foreign policy, namely, that we should not intervene in the internal affairs of a foreign country. The difficulty is in the history of the affair. We must take care that in our anxiety not to intervene in the internal affairs of a foreign country we do not act in a discreditable and treacherous way to those who have been our friends in that country. That I quite agree makes an extremely difficult position. I have never doubted in my own mind that the line the Government has to steer in this question is an exceedingly delicate one; that the position is an exceedingly difficult one to hold. To my mind the principle should be that we must put everybody, so far as we can, who has assisted us in Russia in as good a position as they would have been had they not assisted us. I do not think it can be maintained that because we have once gone in with this or that Russian leader we are necessarily bound to fight by their side for all time. That is an unreasonable expectation. We must, however, do what we can to prevent the position of such a one being worse than it 1984 would have been but for the fact that he came to our assistance, or fought with us during the period of the War. That is the broad principle I venture to lay down. But there does seem to me to be one other-interest we have got in Russia.
The great interest of the world at the present time is peace. I. have ventured several times to allude to the very serious economic position of Europe at present. Nothing that I have read since has induced me to modify the opinion which I have before expressed, except, perhaps, to think that, if possible, I understated rather than overstated the economic dangers of the future. Unless we can have peace, unless we can get people back to work, unless we can get the normal condition of affairs restored in Europe, the dangers appear to me of the gravest possible description. Therefore, if I saw any means by which we could induce the warring factions in Russia to cease fighting, and to turn their minds to peaceful avocations, to hold, perhaps, the territory which each of them have got at the present moment until the country and the people had time to rest and recover from their present fearful disorders and famine—if I saw any means to accomplish that, personally I would not be deterred from attempting it by any lighter consideration. I quite agree it is very difficult to negotiate with Bolsheviks. It is difficult to negotiate with anybody whom you do not trust. At the same time, if, without negotiation, it were possible to lay down principles for the Allies to act together—seeing the League of Nations is not in existence—if it were possible to lay down broad lines and tell these various factions and Governments in Russia that they were to be content to remain within those lines and not to advance beyond them, and that if any of them declined, then we should devote all our economic strength, at any rate, to compel them to abide by our decision if something of that kind were still possible, as I think it was possible some months ago, I myself should be warmly in favour of it. I know a very great deal of ridicule was thrown upon the Prinkipo Conference. I am not sure that in every detail of that meeting I found myself in agreement, but on the broad principle that it is our business and our interest to do what we can to promote peace, in Russia, even without any reference to the justness of the quarrel between the different parties, and because peace is essential in the interests of the whole 1985 world at the present time—with that broad principle I find myself in entire agreement. If the right hon. Gentleman below me can indicate any step which the Government think it possible to take to carry out that policy, I, for one, will be exceedingly grateful.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I think the Noble Lord expressed the general feeling of the Committee upon the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. Clynes) a few moments ago, but I think his praises might well have been extended to the whole course of this brief Debate. It has been a Debate conducted with extreme moderation and with a sense of responsibility on the part, of all who have taken part in it, and it has been a Debate which I venture to think reveals a substantial measure of fundamental agreement between all, or nearly all. the speakers who from various widely diversified points of view have taken part in it. I particularly agree with what my Noble Friend has just said, that you cannot judge this question apart from its history. Why are we in North Russia? Why are we at Archangel and Murmansk? That question has often been answered, but I see day after day discussions proceeding out of doors and in the public Press which altogether ignore the vital historical basis of our position there.
Let me repeat it in a very few words. After Lenin and Trotsky had signed a shameful peace whereby they betrayed their country and falsified its engagements to its Allies, and whereby they liberated more than 1,000,000 Germans to come over and attack our people in the West—after that fateful event in history had occurred there was a Czech Army of about two corps made up of prisoners taken from the Austrians by the Russians whose hearts were always on the side of the Allies, and this army refused to continue Any longer with the Bolsheviks in Russia, and it demanded to be set free from Russia, and to make its way over to the Western Front, where it continued the-struggle which the Bohemians were waging against Germany. After an attempt to secure the exodus of this army by Vladivostock it was proposed that they should cut their way out by Viatka to Archangel. There was the danger of Archangel becoming a submarine base for the Germans, and the danger of the loss of all that great mountain of stores we had accumulated there in order to keep that means of 1986 contact with Russia, and for all these reasons, combined with the fact that it was hoped the Czechs would make their way out by that route, the Allies in 1918, as an essential military measure, and an essential military operation as part of the war, decided to occupy Archangel and Murmansk and put an Inter-Allied force on. shore there. This took place in August, 1918, and the pressure upon us at that time was very great indeed, and it was not possible to spare any large force from any of the countries of the Allies, but a number of French, American, British, and Italian troops, the British in larger numbers, were landed at Archangel and Murmansk, and the population generally welcomed them. The town and surrounding district passed into our hands, and we became very deeply involved in the fortunes of that region. We were not able to send enough troops to occupy the whole of the area from which it was hoped a sufficient uprising of Russian manhood would have resulted to enable a really large unit of Russian Government to be established. We were not able to go to Vologda or Viatka, and we had to confine ourselves to the comparatively small region of Archangel and Murmansk, and about 100 to 120 miles in various directions from those towns. The Czech troops who were trying to escape from the country via Archangel were unable to get as far as Viatka, and they got up to Ekaterinburg. Their advance slowed down, and what had originally been intended to be a measure for effecting a junction with these troops and securing their safety, became a mere occupation of Archangel.
But the Committee would make a great mistake if they condemned the decision of policy which led the Allies and this country to make this movement. Although it did not achieve all the results we expected of it, it achieved results greater than anyone would have dared to hope for. Let the Committee consider this. Up to the time we landed in Archangel in August, 1918, German divisions were passing from the Eastern to the Western Front at an average rate of six divisions per month to attack the Allied forces. From the time we had landed there not another division was sent from the Eastern Front, and the line there remained absolutely stable, the whole of the German forces being riveted by this new development and the anxiety they had about Russia until the complete rebuff occurred in October or November 1987 of that year. Therefore it is very wrong to regard this as a mistaken enterprise either from the political principles which inspired it or still less by the results by which it was attended.
Before the German resistance was broken and the Armistice signed, the winter had settled down on the North Russian coast, and the port of Archangel was icebound, or practically icebound, and our men were forced to spend the whole of last winter in this bleak and gloomy spot in circumstances which caused the greatest anxiety, because it was evident that the Bolsheviks with whom they had been in collision, could, if they chose, have concentrated against this particular section of the sector of the circle by which they were invested a, force of indefinite size, because our men were utterly cut off from the outer world except as far as small parties were concerned, and therefore their position was one of much anxiety. They were men mostly of the C 3 class, but they had a fine spirit, and once they were assured and promised that they should be brought home before another winter occurred, they discharged their duty with great determination, and maintained the position against some quite serious attacks, and others which might well have become very serious had they been allowed to proceed, and maintained the situation throughout this dark period. Not only was there considerable unrest amongst these troops during their imprisonment on this coast during the winter but also, as the Committee recognises in the exhaustion and prostration of the public mind which followed the triumph in the great struggle owing to the general disposal of energies which had been so long held up by the great strain, there "was the greatest difficulty in sending out any form of relief or assistance to those troops for several months.
Such was the situation that I inherited when I was sent to the War Office in the middle of January of the present year. But although I had not been responsible for any of the events which called this state of things into being, although I heartily agree with them, no one could view that situation without the gravest anxiety. In the first week of March the War Cabinet decided that Archangel and Murmansk should be evacuated before another winter set in, and they directed 1988 the War Office to make arrangements accordingly. But they also prescribed that whatever support, nourishment, succour, reinforcements or aid might be required or needed by our troops for their safe extrication from this position should be used and dispatched by the War Office; and further that due regard should be had to the obligations which we had inevitably contracted with every class of the population of Archangel and Murmansk, and with the local Russian Army and local Russian Government we had called into being. That was the task they remitted to the War Office, leaving to the military the widest possible latitude as to the means, method, time, and circumstance in which they should carry out that task. Such was the policy which was laid down then. Such is the policy which has been followed since, and such is the policy which will be carried to its conclusion in the future.
This decision of policy was communicated to the Russian leaders. On the 30th April Admiral Koltchak was informed that all the Allied troops would be withdrawn from North Russia before the next winter, but in the meantime we hoped to make it possible for the North Russian Government and the Russian Army to stand alone after the Allied troops had left. It will readily be seen that if such a solution could have been reached, if this local Government and local Army could have maintained itself or could have joined up with the main anti-Bolshevik Russian Army, that would have relieved us of the extremely anxious and painful operation of carrying away a portion of the population and of the troops who were now there, and affording them asylum and refuge, and of settling a most terrible problem for decision for all those loyal Russians who elected to remain on that shore. It was communicated to the Russian leaders—the intention was communicated to the troops, to the volunteer brigades who were sent out, and these troops were told that the men who had been there last winter would come home before the harvest, and the others would come home before the winter set in. They went out with that knowledge, and when they arrived they made no secret of what was the limit of the task they had undertaken and the limit of their stay on those shores. Once it was perfectly clear that, this knowledge was public property in the whole of the Archangel and Murmansk region, once it was perfectly clear that the enemy, as well 1989 as the local Russians, were aware of it, I communicated the fact to Parliament in a public announcement.
It is not in the least true to say that the people on the spot first heard of our policy of evacuating North Russia through the statement which I made in this House. It arose from the fact that thousands of troops had arrived on the definite understanding that they were to quit before the winter, and also from the fact that we had actually begun to take away the tired troops. One British battalion had already left. A large proportion of the Americans had left; a portion of the French had left, and preparations were made to evacuate the various Allied contingents. Therefore, there is no justification for the suggestion which I have seen, that the mutiny arose in consequence of an incautious statement in this House. That statement on evacuation was carefully considered, and it was only made after I was satisfied that the knowledge had become public property through other channels. But I think the very fact of the reaction which the knowledge produced on the enemy and on the local situation must make us extremely careful in any statements which are made about anything which affects the future, and when my right hon. Friend appeals to me, as he has done, to lay the whole case before Parliament, and to speak with perfect frankness and candour, ho will realise that it would be very wrong for me to give any information which would in any respect or degree make more difficult the task with which we are now set.
I should like to say a word about the difficulties of evacuation. Although to us who sit here at home in England it may seem very easy to say "Clear out, evacuate, cut the loss, get the troops on board ship, and come away"—although it may seem very easy to arrive at that intellectual decision, yet on the spot, face to face with the people among whom you have been living, with the troops by the side of whom you have been fighting, with the small Government which has been created by our insistence, with all the apparatus of a small administration, with all its branches and services, when you get our officers and men involved like that on the spot, it is a matter of very great and painful difficulty to sever the ties and to quit the scene. I do not disguise from the House that I had most earnestly hoped and trusted that it would be possible in the course of events for the local North 1990 Russian Government to have a separate life and existence after our departure, and with the fullest assent of the Cabinet and the Government, and acting strictly on the advice of the General Staff, we have been ready to hold out a left hand, as it were, along the Dvina River to Admiral Koltchak in the hope that he would be able to arrive in this district and, by joining the local Russian forces, which amount to nearly 30,000 men, stabilise the situation and enable our affairs there to be wound up in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. But I do not feel, after the retirements which have been imposed on Admiral Koltchak, that we must indulge in that hope any longer, and therefore we are nakedly confronted with a situation which, after all, is wholly the situation we faced in March last, when the decision was taken to quit the scene-before another winter closed down. I beg the House to treat this operation with the utmost indulgence. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House made such an appeal at Question Time yesterday. There is no more difficult and delicate operation than the withdrawal of troops in the face of an enemy who must necessarily be elated. There is no more depressing operation, and when those troops are mixed up with local troops, a very large-proportion of whom are going to remain behind and have to make some arrangement for their future life with those in whose power they will be, the operation becomes fraught with all sorts of complications and anxieties, which will be apparent to any honest and fair-minded man applying his intelligence to the subject.
We have the greatest possible confidence in our commanders on the spot. They will have every support that is necessity from hero. The General Staff, who have been conducting all the operations, are of opinion that there is no cause for alarm in regard to the safety of the British troops, but they ask that entire latitude shall be given to the commanders, that absolute discretion shall be afforded to them as to how and when and in what manner they carry out the policy which they are directed to carry out from here. If reinforcements are needed reinforcements will be sent to them; if they wish to manœuvre in this direction or in that as a part of their operation of retirement so as to secure the best and safest possible circumstances for embarkation, they shall have the fullest liberty to do so, and so far as I am concerned I am not prepared 1991 to give any forecast or detail of the method or manner in which this operation, of which we make no concealment, and on which I consider we are entirely agreed, is to be carried out by the military men on the spot, and I appeal to the House to accept the position in that respect.
So much for the situation in North Russia. I should like to say a word about the general military situation in Russia. The Armies of General Denikin and Admiral Koltchak did not exist in any appreciable form a year ago. Those Armies are now very considerable. They are best to be measured by the number of enemy troops who are fighting them. Nearly 300,000 enemy troops, or more than two-thirds of the entire military forces of the Bolshevist Empire—an Empire which, let me remind the Committee, has the whole great central mass of the Russian people in its control. [An HON. MEMBER: "Power!"] I was using the phrase purposely. I do not beg the question, let us say beneath them. [An HON. MEMBER: "Behind them!"] This great body has two-thirds of its military forces engaged against the Armies of General Denikin and Admiral Koltchak which were not in existence a year ago. Those Armies are passing through a most critical, an intensely critical, phase at the present time, because Admiral Koltchak's Army is continually retreating and General Denikin's Army has been making very noteworthy and formidable advances, and the military question which is being decided by the continual fighting on these fronts is whether General Denikin can continue the advance so as to take the pressure off Admiral Koltchak, and whether Admiral Koltchak can recover so as to cooperate in the advance of General Denikin. It is in vain for us to speculate on what the upshot of such operations will be, but Admiral Koltchak is supported by a considerable force of Americans and a very much larger force of Japanese, who are holding the main line, of the Siberian railway behind him. There are hardly any British troops there, and those that are there are coming home, with the exception of a few individuals who will be left behind to supervise the destination of some of the stores which in the early part of the year were sent out to that theatre.
General Denikin has taken an enormous area of country, where he has been welcomed by great masses of the population, and in the course of his advance he has 1992 been assisted by all sorts of risings taking place behind the enemy's front. This very large area, which contains many millions, of people, is mainly centred on the Cossack region, but it contains many populous towns and districts, and several of the great grain and coal producing districts of Russia. The kind of assistance that General Denikin requires at the present time is mainly economic. Food, clothing and boots are wanted. Men and rifles are not wanted. Very few weapons of war are wanted. What is wanted are articles of barter— the cheap, ordinary necessary-utensils which are the products of our great cities. If these could be introduced into this area in the wake of these advancing Armies, the peasants would give up their grain in return for those necessary articles, and the streams of supply and demand would once again begin to flow in this Island, and in the vast tossing chaos of Russia there will be some greater measure of material well-being amongst the suffering masses of the population, That is the form of assistance which is most required at the present time by General Denikin.
I have spoken of these two Armies, and' the question will no doubt be asked, "What has it all got to do with us?" I should like to point out, if I may do so parenthetically, as I am known to hold strong views on this subject, that I have not committed this country to any commitments or to any obligations of any sort or kind with regard to Russia to which we were not committed, and as I think properly committed, before I had anything to do with the affair at all. All I have been labouring to do is to discharge faithfully, honourably and efficiently the obligations into which we had entered in the days of the German War and into which I hold we had rightly and properly entered. I think that should be recorded if it is not challenged in any quarter of the House. I defy anyone to show a single commitment or obligation which I have been personally responsible for creating on behalf of this country in regard to intervention or interference or intercourse with Russia during the present period of war.
I return to the question, What has it got-to do with us? Here I am going to quote the speech of the Prime Minister, which has been three or four times referred to, always with appreciation, in this Debate. I understand that my right hon. Friend 1993 opposite, accepts the policy put forward in the speech. He said that he stands by that speech. He quoted one passage with approbation, but I should like the House to remember other passages which are also in that speech. The Prime Minister said, having expressed the opinion that it would be a great act of stupidity to attempt military Intervention in Russia,Then I am asked, if that is the case, why do you support Koltchak, Deniken and Krakoff? I will tell the House with the same frankness a I put the other case. When the Brest Litovsk Treaty was signed there were large territories and populations in Russia that had neither hand nor part in that shameful act and they revolted against the Government that signed it. Let me say this. They raised armies at our instigation and largely no doubt at our expense. That was an absolutely sound military policy. What happened? Had it not been for those organisations that we improvised, the Germans would have secured all the resources which would have enabled them to break the blockade. They would have got through to the grain of the Don, to the minerals of the Urals and to the oils of the Caucasus. They could have supplied themselves with almost every commodity of which four or five years of rigid blockade had deprived them, and which was essential to their conducting the War. In fact, the Eastern Front was reconstructed—not on the Vistula. It was reconstructed at a point that hurled the German armies to their own destruction and when they got there deprived them of all the things they had set out to seek. What happened? Bolsehevism threatened to impose, by force of arms, its domination of those populations that had revolted against it, and that were organised at our request. If we, as soon as they had served our purpose and as soon as they had taken all the risks, had said, 'Thank you, we are exceedingly obliged to you, you "have served our purpose. We need you no longer. Now let the Bolshevists cut your throats, we should have been mean—we should have been thoroughly unworthy indeed of any great land. It is our business since we asked them to take this step, since we promised support to them if they took this step, and since by taking this step they contributed largely to the triumph of the Allies, it is our business to stand by out friends. … Therefore I do not in the least regard it as a departure from the fundamental policy of Great Britain not to interfere in the internal affairs of any land that we should support General Denikin, Admiral Koltchak and General Krakoff.That is what I may call an obligation of honour. There is another aspect of a more practical kind which I think the Committee should not overlook. I said just now that two-thirds of the entire Bolshevik Armies were engaged in fighting the Armies of Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin. The other one-third is engaged in fighting the long line of little weak or new States that have been called into being as the result of the War on the Eastern frontier of Europe, and who not 1994 only have a significance of their own. and a right to live of their own, but are also an important part in the general settlement, in the creation of a bulwark designed to stand between Germany and the Empire of Russa. These weak small States, this long thin line, this cordon sanitaire, as it was called in France, was four or five months ago a, subject of the deepest anxiety to all who were concerned with the general problems of European policy, because when you see how weak they were, how short of food, how short of money, how deprived of permanent and well-established institutions or disciplined armies, or organised finances, it seemed almost impossible that, subverted as they were themselves to no inconsiderable extent by the general progress of Bolshevism going on just over their borders, they should withstand any fierce, general, organised attack coming from Russia, and that it would be necessary for the Allies to aid them powerfully, if not indeed with men, at any rate with large supplies of munitions and of money, and in every other way that was possible. These small States have stood. They are intact to-day. They have maintained their existence precariously. Quivering and shaking, but still standing, they have held back not only the Bolshevik armies but the more devastating Bolshevik propaganda which, applied to people in the depths of misery, just recovering from the convulsions of the War, without any of the resources of a civilised State, offers every temptation to internal disorder and anarchy.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
They have also, of course, been undoubtedly the subject of German policy, pursuing devious but highly destructive channels, in all these regions in regard to which the Germans are better informed than any other country in the world. They have stood, but why have they stood? I want the House to look at this fact when they say, What have the armies of General Denikin and Admiral Koltchak to do with us? If two-thirds of the Bolshevik forces had not been drawn off to fight these new armies which have come into existence, it is the opinion of sound military judgment that a weight of pressure would have been brought to bear on these small States which would have led to their collapse or drawn from us a measure of intervention which might well have delayed the demobilisation of our own forces. Therefore, 1995 there is not only a reason of sentiment but a practical reason at the back of the course we have taken. If the policy of the Allies—not the policy of this country alone—had not been to aid those forces to which we were bound during the period of the German War with munitions and supplies to a certain extent of our resources, you might well have found that, we ourselves disarming all the time, demobilising all the time, whilst the other Bolshevik forces were growing in strength and power, the balance in Central Europe had been fatally deranged, and you might well have been, called upon either to see the League of Nations stultified at the very outset of its work and a most formidable situation develop, approaching ever nearer to Germany and the Western lands, or you would have been compelled to make exceptional exertions, far greater than any strain that has been cast upon your resources by the help you have given to those Russian Armies. That is the practical reason. I have no doubt that it is the sentimental reason I have spoken of and the practical reason which, taken together, have led the leaders of the four great States who assembled in Paris, France, Britain, America, and Japan, after cross-questioning the anti-Bolshevik Russian Government searchingly as to their intention to establish a Constitutional Assembly on a democratic franchise and various other matters to conform to the conditions of modern States should they be successful—I have no doubt it is these reasons which have led to the Council in Paris to promise, as they have done, to Admiral Koltchak the continuance of their support, in munitions and supplies.
The question arises also, Is this to go on for ever? There, I think, the Prime Minister's speech will also be found to give, if not an answer, an indication of an answer. The Prime Minister said:Bolshevism itself is rapidly on the wane. It in breaking down before the relentless pressure of economic facts. This process must inevitably continue. You cannot carry on a great country upon such rude and wild principles such as those which are inculcated by the Bolsheviks. When Bolshevism, as we know it, and as Russia to her sorrow has known it, disappears, then the time wall come for another effort at re-establishing peace in Russia. But the time is not yet. We must have patience and we must have faith."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April. 1919. cols. 2944, 2945. Vol. 114.]My right hon. Friend said a little earlier:The world will not be pacified as long as Russia is torn and rent by civil war. We made 1996 one effort. I make no apology for that. That was an effort to make peace among the warring sections, not by recognising any Government, but by inducing them to come together with a view to setting up some authority in Russia which would be acceptable to the whole of the Russian people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1919, col. 2944, Vol. 114.]I quote that passage because I think the Committee would do an injustice to the breadth of view of the Government, to the main intention which animates their policy, if they thought all we were trying to do was to keep alive a devastating civil war in Russia, and that we are prepared for an indefinite period to go on making very heavy disbursements in money and great contributions in kind. Obviously the policy which we are pursuing, which it is admitted is a policy adapted to the extraordinary difficulties of the Russian situation, and which takes due regard of our historical obligations, is one which we are entitled, nay, bound, to reconsider and to pass in review from time to time. But the time is not yet.
I have put these considerations before the Committee, but I am bound to answer the specific questions which my right hon. Friend put to me. He asked me whether our troops were used for any purpose beyond that of mere relief and extrication. The answer is, No. The General Staff had full latitude as to carrying out that operation, and they included the hopes of a junction being effected with Admiral Koltchak as part of the definite machinery and manœuvre for the evacuation of the country if it could be achieved. He asked how many conscripts and how-many volunteers are in North Russia. The proportion of conscripts to volunteers at present in North Russia is eleven volunteers to six conscripts, but these conscripts are being shipped away in continual succession. That process is going on now. I am giving perfectly plain answers to these questions because I have no desire to conceal anything. He also asked me what local support we are receiving. We have received a great deal of support in North Russia. Of course, we have put a great deal of power into it. We have been there with substantial forces, and with food and money, and we have received substantial support in return. There are-at the present time 20,000 Russian troops who are obeying orders, and obeying them under conditions, as will be admitted, of very considerable difficulty. That is one of the special difficulties attaching to the 1997 problem which we have to solve. He also asked what the other Powers are doing. That point of view was also put forward by the right hon. Member for Manchester. All the other Powers are quitting Archangel, and Britain is the rearguard there, but it must not be supposed that we are the only Power which is making its contribution within the limits of the policy I have explained to the operations in Russia.
We may say that each of the Great Powers has got its sphere. We have hitherto been principally engaged in North Russia. We are withdrawing from there. We are also withdrawing our troops from the Caucasus, and we are withdrawing our two battalions from Siberia. Therefore, in a few months we shall have hardly any British officers or soldiers in Russia. On the other hand, we have made a powerful contribution in munitions, and we are continuing to make it, to General Denikin, and we are considering the question of economic aid and of food. The French have concerned themselves chiefly with the rehabilitation of Poland, the interests of Czecho-Slovakia and of Roumania, and I think I am right in saying that she has a larger body of troops on the Western frontier of Bolshevism than we have employed even at the present time in all the various theatres. The Japanese have a large army—a substantial army—the largest Allied Army concerned in Russian affairs, which is in Siberia, and is distributed along the line of the Siberian railway. The Americans have a substantial force on the Siberian railway, and I observed from the daily papers that President Wilson last week informed the Senate that it was intended to keep it there. Therefore, the Committee should dismiss from its mind altogether any idea that we are taking or contemplate taking or continuing to take any isolated British action. Any action we take in this matter will be Inter-Allied and international. We shall only proceed in this matter in so far as we carry with us the assent and the consent of the other great victorious belligerent Allies.
I have dealt with these topics, but I cannot leave them without referring to the danger which has been mentioned by my hon. Friend below the Gangway. I plead for an earnest study by the House of this Russian question and its reaction on the general European situation arising out of the great War. I can never clear 1998 my mind from a sense of anxiety as to the danger of a hostile Russia and a revengeful Germany realising that their misfortunes have largely arisen out of their division, and that their fortunes would largely be repaired by their unity. I do not wish to elaborate that subject, but it seems to me that we should make a fatal mistake if we assume that the great victory that has been won at so much cost and trouble can now be safely left to take care of itself, that the whole of our population can disinterest itself absolutely in the affairs of Europe and of Russia as a whole, and leave them to stew in their own juice. If we do that, the day may come, far more speedily than we may suppose, when we may have a very rude and very painful awakening. I appeal for a most sober and searching study of this great question connected with Russia, and connected with the relations of Russia to her European neighbours and the small States between Germany and Russia,
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I will presently deal with that. I will see what can be done to give an estimate of the cost. I have consulted the Prime Minister on the subject, and he is of opinion that the House of Commons has a right to be informed upon that matter. Therefore I will see what can be done. I accept the offer of the right hon. Gentleman that it is to bean estimate, and that it is to be within £10,000,000 one way or the other. I must ask for that, otherwise the process of disentangling these accounts, which have not been kept separately, would east upon the officials, my hon. Friend informs me, an altogether undue burden. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the assets?"] I am not able to make a return. It is highly speculative. I would like to point out, as I have pointed out before, that North Russia I regard as a legacy of the German War, pure and simple, and part of the war expenses. The occupation of the Caucasus is, similarly, a legacy of the German War. because we went in there to expel the Germans and the Turks, and we remained there only pending arrangements being decided upon as regards the future of that country. It has nothing to do with Bolshevism. As far as the Armies of Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin are concerned, the important aid given to them has been in munitions, and that may well amount to £20,000,000 or £30,000,000. 1999 but, as I pointed out the other day, those munitions are surplus to the requirements of our Army on a most liberal scale after the War, and they are not marketable. If you keep them you would have to build stores to house them and hire people to take care of them, and though you may be saddled in your accounts with these munitions figures, which no doubt represent a contribution on the part of this country, it would be foolish to suggest that it is an additional burden thrown upon the British nation.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that no munitions have been recently manufactured in this country and Bent to Russia?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I say that the munitions that we are sending are all surplus; but, in addition to that, there are certain ancillary supplies which are not surplus and which have been a direct additional charge. In addition, there have been certain supplies of clothing and boots and some kinds of food and medical supplies which may have taken the form of an additional charge. Then there is, as the hon. Member for Hull pointed out, the shipping charge, which even when localised in Siberia and the Black Sea will be a serious item. But I think, when the calculation is presented in that form and analysed in that form, and when those allowances and deductions are made which can properly be made, it will be found to relieve the anxiety of the Committee in the matter of finance as much as the casualties, when I stated them, relieved the exaggerated anxieties and apprehensions of many Members.
There is one further matter that I would refer to which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend opposite. He spoke of the threat of the Triple Alliance to have a general strike in order to force the Government to adopt their view in regard to certain matters of public politics and policy. I am not going to stigmatise that threat, because it has already been censured in the most effective manner by the responsible leaders of Labour, by the trusted guides of the trades union movement and of the Labour party. I will not complicate their task by adding any words of mine upon the subject, but this I am entitled to say as representing the War Office, that during the whole of this year we have had a task of exceptional diffi- 2000 culty. In the whole history of that Department, which is always in hot water—I have been twenty years in this House and I have never seen that Department when it was not the subject of universal dissatisfaction, and I have contributed to that dissatisfaction—it has probably never passed through a more difficult period than the period we have had to go through since the Armistice. But we are making progress. Demobilisation has been delayed to some extent by the negotiations being prolonged before a final settlement with Germany was come to. How well advised we were to have a powerful and efficient force upon the Rhine at that critical moment cannot be doubted. Demobilisation has also been delayed by difficulties in India and in Egypt, but still it has proceeded until more than 3,000,000 officers and men have already reached their homes. It is proceeding now at the rate of 5,000 or 6,000 a day, and I have every hope that it will be accelerated in the months that are immediately before us. We are making progress which entitles us to say that we are getting towards the end of this particular task.
The maintenance of discipline and good spirit in the Army has been secured in increasing measure throughout this year, and it has been secured in spite of a great deal of deliberate provocation of the most cruel and even criminal kind. The progress of voluntary recruitment is most encouraging. We arc getting 4,000 or 5,000 men every week in one category or another in the Army. We have now got 225,000 volunteers, Regulars of the old Army. Our volunteer Regular Army now amounts to 225,000 men, and, in addition, there are 25,000 men in the Armies of Occupation who have volunteered to stay on. I think that I am now entitled, in view of these figures and of the winding up of our overseas affairs, which is proceeding continuously, and of the progress made in spite of all our difficulties and disappointments towards the main and general pacification of the world, to say at this juncture that unless some quite unexpected evil turn of events occurs, some altogether unforeseen catastrophe breaks out upon us, Conscription, which is dwindling every day as discharges take place, will pass permanently from the Statute Book at the expiration of the present Military Service Act.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I would rather not deal with that at the moment as it is a difficult calculation to make, because so many men are joining us for a year and for two years, as compared with the men who joined for seven years, whom we may have to be training, and we may have to keep garrisons abroad and we may have to train a larger number than the average normal number which we should have when; our system is re-established on a peace basis. But, broadly speaking, we contemplate no Army in this country substantially larger than the small Army which we had when the War broke out, but it will be an Army better paid and better equipped in every respect. I venture to think that the worst of our difficulties are over and that it is not only possible to look forward to the complete passing away of Conscription, but also we can see at the present time by our situation how absolutely foolish it would have been not to have passed the renewal of the Conscription Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] We are entitled to the support of this House which has not hesitated to do its duty in this matter and has run some risk in this matter. [An HON. MEMBER: "By-elections!"] Yes, and run some risk of by-elections; and we are entitled to point out to the country, at this moment when technical and formal ratification is imminent, that the whole of our military system would have gone to pieces, and that we should have had nothing to guard our Provinces in India, Palestine, or Egypt, or any form of military service except those hastily-formed units of the new voluntary Army unless we had gone through the labour and burden and faced the admitted unpopularity of passing that Act into law.
When I see the threat of a national strike on four questions for which the War Office is responsible, I feel that I am bound to mention them seriatim. There is the withdrawal of the Army from Russia. That was decided upon at the beginning of the year. Then Conscription. It is passing away, as it was always intended that it should pass away. The third is the Circular, which we debated earlier in the year when this Vote was last down for consideration, which I fully explained, which was devoid of political significance, which no member of the Government ever saw before it was issued, and which has long since ceased to be operative in any respect; and, in the fourth place, there is the conscientious objectors, who are all, 2002 without exception, out of goal. When I detail this series of obsolete grievances I feel that my duty is to issue a solemn warning to those extreme agitators who are pressing this course upon the sober mass of Labour that if they do not hurry up with their general strike they will have to get hold of a brand-new outfit of grievances. I hope that we shall not let ourselves be frightened by this sort of thing, but that we shall continue calmly along the lines of a democratic and liberal policy to carry out our pledges to the electors to maintain with security the great position to which we have attained in the War.
§ Colonel MILDMAY
I do not wish to depreciate the importance of what we have just heard. I remind the Committee, as the right hon. Gentleman has reminded us just now, that there was a tacit agreement of the Service Members of the House of Commons to take no part in the discussion when the Army Vote was last under consideration, with the view of leaving to the two sections of the Opposition a fair field, so Service Members throughout the House are looking forward to the opportunity of speaking on Army matters this evening. If I might do so without seeming impertinent, I would preface my remarks with an acknowledgment of the increased accessibility to Members of the House of Commons of the Secretary of State for War, and his officers generally. For over four years, in France and Flanders, I have listened every night at mess to violent abuse of the politicians. I have never said a word in their defence. I have never been drawn. One reason was that I was always in a very small minority. Another reason was that I knew very well that this abuse was not levelled so much at all those who take part in political strife, but rather at the party politicians, the men—and there are not a few of them—who look upon the triumph of party as the be-all and end-all of political warfare, and who have that as the sole object in view in the actions which they take on all questions, military, naval, fiscal and industrial. If at times goaded by vituperation I have deferentially raised my voice, it has been to suggest, what we all know well enough, that there has always been a great number of Members in this House, not the politicians, perhaps, who are keenly anxious to learn what are the requirements that are looked upon as essential by those soldiers at the War Office, who 2003 have made a life study of military organisation, and are keenly anxious that those legitimate requirements should be satisfied. When general officers have assailed politicians as a class with a wealth of picturesque invective, I have again very deferentially—because general officers, though very kind, can be very, very truculent—suggested that it has not been so very easy for conscientious Members of Parliament to find out what have been the requirements regarded as essential by those in high position at the War Office when those requirements have been turned down by the Treasury, and we all know how difficult it has been for those in high position at the War Office to make known to the public what have been those requirements when they have been turned down by the Treasury without resigning.
Resignation is the only way in which they could make known to the public their objection to the position, and you cannot expect such a man to resign his career to which he has devoted all his life and in which he has every hope of rendering signal service to his country. We have known the same thing in the Navy. In the Admiralty the Sea Lords have had great difficulty in making known to the public what they regarded as essential requirements when those requirements have been turned down by the Treasury. They could only resign. It is very questionable whether a man in a high position ought to resign when his country is in a difficult position. That has been the mischief of the whole thing. It has been a problem how the public should be informed by the professional experts at the Admiralty of the requirements which they looked upon as essential. In pre-war days, ever since I entered this House in 1885—and what I am saying applies to the administrations of both political parties—the interposition of a political Secretary of State, with his Under-Secretary of State as the sole means of liaison between those in the War Office and Members of the House of Commons, was to erect a wall between them. I have always said when abroad that the first thing that we ought to do when we got home was to get rid of that wall, and to bring to close touch Members of the House of Commons and those at the War Office. They ought to have the opportunity of acquainting themselves more closely with each other's mentality ! They ought to get to know each other better. If this were done immense ad- 2004 vantages must result. We owe it to the Secretary of State for War that that wall has been thrown down. He has short-circuited the means of communication between the War Office and the Members of the House of Commons.
There are now, I believe, over 250 Members of this House who have served His Majesty in a military capacity. These having been formed into a Committee upon which the rank and file found representation, and the meetings of which were attended by men of all parties, including the Labour party, the Secretary of State professed his readiness to meet them himself at any time. He provided that representatives from the Departments at the War Office should similarly attend and give explanatory addresses, on any point on which Members might seek enlightenment, and in this way we have been informed not only upon the large question of military policy, but also upon comparatively minor Departmental questions, such as, for instance, the employment and training of demobilised officers, or the disposal of canteen funds. Though the Secretary of State's every day is so crowded with duties, he himself has been able to attend meetings of the Committee on several occasions. At the end of the proceedings he has invited questions, his representatives from the War Office have done the same, and both he and they have subsequently asked for both our comments and our criticisms. I will not pursue this matter further, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not take it amiss from me when I say that it is his bold disregard for precedent, when precedent can be improved on, which we have valued so-much and for which we are so grateful to him. It is so very obvious that the frank exchange of opinion between responsible military experts at the War Office and Members of the House of Commons must conduce -to the public advantage. To paraphrase a very old French saying, "tout saroir, c'est tout comprendre." This should apply to the relations between all Government Departments and the House of Commons. This is a lesson which should be learned by all Government Departments.
There is another matter to which I may refer. Hon. Members can hardly be aware of the extraordinary development which has taken place in connection with service in the British Army through the establishment of a system of education which will open out a new future to the young soldier 2005 and give him quite priceless opportunities for fitting himself for a civil career of real usefulness in after life. In this connection, perhaps, the representative of the War Office will be able to enlighten us. I wish to congratulate the Secretary of State upon the wholehearted fashion in which the authorities at the War Office have devoted themselves to the development of this educational system. It has grown greatly. It had its origin in unofficial beginnings. It was the insistent and simultaneous demand for education by young soldiers at home and abroad which compelled the supply—a supply which was at first spasmodic and hesitating. I think it was the Infantry school of the Third Army, with which I was connected in France, which first recognised the thirst of the young soldier for education, and was the first to satisfy him in some degree. It is greatly to the credit of the War Office that the importance of the possibilities in this connection were realised forthwith. A training scheme for officers was authorised in 1918. This is a most important step forward, because it endorses the principle that educational training is part of a soldier's business. I wonder whether hon. Gentlemen have realised what important progress has been made on these foundations — progress which I have had a chance myself of observing in France and Flanders, and afterwards at Cologne, subsequently to the Armistice.
After we had occupied the Bridge-head at Cologne and the prescribed German country around, and before the period of rapid demobilisation set in, there was a slack time in December and January. During that period educational activity everywhere attracted attention. It fairly startled one at every step. Instructional staffs were formed. Cologne schools were taken over. Bonn University became a British educational centre; but what was really most remarkable was the enthusiasm with which units and formations jumped at the educational opportunities. I was talking not long ago to a general officer lately in high command in those parts, and ho spoke with real enthusiasm of the way in which the young soldier grasped every educational opportunity offered to him. This officer delighted in their keenness and the intelligent interest they brought to their work. I have seen it all myself. I do not quite know how to express what I mean. It was their receptivity that was so striking. I do not 2006 think that is quite the right word, but the House will know what I mean. What a change of outlook we have here ! In old days, we know only too well, the Army was looked upon as a blind-alley profession for the great majority of those who enlisted. Now we see how, from the moment he joins, the young soldier can ever be fitting himself for his career in after life. We Members often have to deal with letters from parents who object to their boys being kept in France or Germany. It ought to be a consolation to them to know that these young fellows can be trained in any trade at Cologne, and that instead of wasting their time they can be ever qualifying themselves to earn in civil life a far higher wage than they would have got before they went out. I have had many talks with those responsible for the great work done out there. I would like to quote a few words by a general officer in very high command, who took an interest in this scheme. He said:It is important that the interest and the co-operation of the Education Department should be sought, that responsibility should not be vested, in an exclusive sense, in the War Office, for if education is regarded merely as a branch of War Office responsibilities, if it is merely the care of a Department at the War Office, its importance may fade, it may become a side-show. It is desirable that the Board of Education should regard the Army as being, what in fact it is, a very important part of the nation; and this being so, the Board of Education should be directly responsible for the provision of teachers, plant, etc., required by the Army, and that the Board of Agriculture should be responsible in the same way as regard., agricultural instruction in the Army. But, expert assistance and advice having been provided! by the Boards of Education and Agriculture, the War Office system of education should be carried out in conjunction with and as a part of the military training, and should as such be obligatory on non-commissioned officers and men during the full period of service.Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could give us his views as to this educational development. Is it hanging fire? I am rather inclined to think that in slight-degree it is. I know the great difficulties of the Secretary of State for War. I know that now the after-war Army is in the melting pot, and that none can say yet what is to be the Army's size or proportions. He has the very greatest difficulty in laying the foundations of these subsidiary schemes. None the less I hope he may be able to reassure me and assure us that this scheme is going ahead. I frankly admit that all I saw at Cologne has made me an enthusiast in this matter. I like to think that never again shall we hear of 2007 a big employer hesitating to employ an ex-soldier because, in his opinion, life in the Army has unfitted him for an industrial future. I like to think that service in the Army may be looked on in future and sought as a stepping-stone to real efficiency in civil life. Now that it has become more than ever certain that British supremacy in the markets of the world—in other words, the prosperity of the British Empire—will in increasing degree depend upon the average mental equipment of its population, I am quite sure that the Secretary of State will be prepared to take full advantage of the thirst for education which has shown itself in the Army.
There are very many questions which might claim one's attention, and I do not want to trespass too long on the time of the Committee. There is the question of the disposal of the canteen funds. By favour of the Secretary of the War Office I was shown how those funds had been disposed of till recently. I may say I do not quite understand why it was necessary to charge such high prices in France and Flanders as to result in the accumulation of these millions we have now at our disposal. There was published in the newspapers last Saturday a new scheme for the disposal of the funds. There is nothing very much to object to in the way these funds have hitherto been disposed of, except that the disposing body was not a representative body. I think that is a thing to oppose. Now we are told that a representative body will be created, but, if I am right, we are not told how it will be composed. It is, therefore, not possible to criticise it, but I have every confidence that it is intended to give full rein in this connection to the truly representative principle.
There is one question I should like to ask the War Office. Is the Secretary of State able to tell us what has been the conclusion of the War Office Committee which has been sitting with a view to inquiring whether the services of the original Territorials can be recognised by some decoration? I think that some of the divisions of such men have cause to question the attitude assumed by the War Office towards them. I allude especially to the 1st Wessex and the Home Counties Territorial divisions, which sailed to India in 1914. I take a special interest in the 1st Wessex because it contains the 1/5th Devons, a very gallant battalion which 2008 comes from near my own home. This division was in camp at the outbreak of war, and officers and men alike were keen to serve at the front and on any front. General Donald, the officer commanding, went to London to interview Lord Kitchener, and on his return he announced that the division had been chosen for temporary service in India, where it was very much needed. Lord Kitchener evidently anticipated that considerable disappointment would result amongst the men; and, aware that the obligation to serve in any quarter of the globe had not yet been assumed, he directed General Donald to tell the division that in consenting to go to India they would be performing a great Imperial duty. General Donald was further instructed to promise on behalf of Lord Kitchener that "those men who would volunteer to go to India would participate in all the honours of war, just as if they had been sent to France," and he added that it was the intention of the War Office at the end of the lighting "to release, before general demobilisation, such of them as would in answer to his appeal volunteer for Imperial service on any front." General Sir Henry Sclater was present at this interview and could confirm the terms of Lord Kitchener's message.
We all know how the War Office has frankly declared that it has been impossible to carry out the second promise as to demobilisation in view of the unrest in India. Men serving in the division have loyally and admirably accepted the situation. All the more reason is there why the first of the two promises—the promise that the Wessex and Home Counties Divisions should, in Lord Kitchener's words, "Receive all the honours of war"—should be adhered to. That pledge also is being ignored. The 1914–15 Star has been denied to them on the ground that India was not a theatre of war. At the same time they are entitled to wear the red chevron. If the red chevron, why not the 1914–15 Star? The denial of the Star to the l/5th Devons and other units of the two divisions has told very hardly. The l/5th Devons were anxious to serve on any front. The 2/5th Devons were composed of men in many cases who did not volunteer, but went to Egypt on garrison duty only. They saw no active service, but as Egypt was a theatre of war they got the 1914–15 Star, which is denied to the l/5th Devons, who fought most gallantly and admirably in Palestine and in France, and forward until the very day of the Armistice. Such was their gallantry that 2009 they were accorded the very great honour of having His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales as their Hon. Colonel. There is the further consideration that the high seas were a theatre of war. The convoy in which those two divisions sailed was subjected to constant attacks from submarines. I earnestly hope that the authorities at the War Office will reconsider the determination to which they have come in this connection.
There is the question of waste. I feel most strongly that if the War Office is to have placed at its disposal sufficient funds to discharge the legitimate requirements which will place this country in a position of security, it must make it quite clear to the people of the country that there is a determination to stop all waste. I am afraid that under war conditions a certain amount of waste is absolutely necessary, but is there not much waste going on at the present time which could be easily stopped? I left Cologne on the 17th of January, and, going into the Army agent's the other day, I found I was being paid for my services during February, March and April, and, for all I know, I should have been paid to this moment if I had not made a strong protest. I think that is a kind of thing which ought not to go on. I know that there are other cases of a similar character. I know of officers who, in a formation abroad, had nothing to do and wished to come home. They said, "Why not demobilise us; and what is the use of paying us when we have nothing to do?" In those particular cases they were told that they could not be demobilised, but that they could go home on leave. I know of an officer who came home on leave and was paid for months while on leave, and at the end of those months demobilised. I think that sort of thing is really a (scandalous waste. I often ask myself whether my own experience and of those related to me are typical. We hear very often of units kept in being with officers for months because of the difficulty of squaring accounts. No doubt the paymaster is partially responsible, but I put the suggestion to the Financial Secretary, Could not a travelling paymaster go around with the necessary power to close-accounts? I am sure that that would hasten matters a great deal, and save the country very much wasteful expenditure. We all know how easy it is to indulge in destructive criticism in war-time, and it is so easy that I have at all times rather distrusted it in the House, I am only stating 2010 matters which came within my own individual experience. There is one other matter in this connection. I have a property in Kent, and on that property I have erected a range, as ranges for Territorials were lacking. Troops were encamped on that property upon two very valuable grass-fields. As regards one of those fields, of from about 8 to 9 acres, the War Office gave notice to determine the tenancy more than a year ago, but, although their tenancy expired on the 25th March, 1918, there remain on that field thirteen large huts and four long water-troughs. It is a very valuable field in the productive sense, and to that extent it has been prevented from producing all' it could. That is great waste from two points of view—from the point of view that the field cannot give full production and from the point of view that those huts are rotting, and, if left there, will bring in nothing to the Government at all. The second field, which is also valuable, is covered with huts at present, but for a year and a half there have been no troops there, although until this very moment the Government continue to pay rent for that field, and from all I can see will continue to pay rent until Doomsday, although it is not being occupied. I think I am justified in drawing the attention of the Financial Secretary to those two instances, which I can only hope are not typical of what is going on elsewhere. The Secretary of State said; just now that he felt that the War Office was continually producing a feeling of dissatisfaction throughout the country. I am glad to be able to congratulate him none the less upon the energy and the diligence which he brings to bear on the discharge of very difficult duties.
§ Major GLYN
I bag to crave the indulgence of the Committee in addressing it for the first time. I desire to point to one or two matters to which I think it is desirable that not only the attention of the Committee, but of the country as a whole should be direced. First of all, I think we all hope that the spirit of the War that brought so many classes together will make the Army of the future a national one rather than one of party, as has been mentioned by hon. Members. I think Service Members who were elected at the last election have a very special responsibility, because we addressed the men in France, and we stated that we would do al1 we could to look after their interests, and to 2011 see that the conditions of service in the Army in future were what we all hoped they would be. Therefore, I think there is a very special obligation on us to point out where we can the difficulties which arise, and to give constructive assistance to the military authorities. Members are being inundated by letters regarding demobilisation. I think the country should realise the difficulties that have beset the War Office in carrying out demobilisation. I do not know whether it is generally known that the first scheme of demobilisation was quite complete and working when it was suddenly altered, and subsequently altered again. That threw a tremendous strain on the military authorities and undoubtedly it led to a considerable amount of heartache. There is one further point that the country should be told, namely, that demobilisation is a system of contraction, so that in case of emergency, without waste and without delay, the Army can be expanded. I believe it was after the American Civil War that it was realised that demobilisation should always have as its object the same utilisation of the country's stores and country's manpower. In the country at the present moment, with the general feeling of unrest which prevails amongst all classes, it would possibly help a good deal if the Government could make quite clear the system on which demobilisation is taking place.
I think that we all ought to attempt to assist the military powers in the formation of the new voluntary Army, which is just as much a new model Army as was the Army of Flanders. I am quite convinced if we could have the assistance of the Labour party we should be able to so model the new Army of the future that the men going into the Service will not only have the advantage of a very good education, but if the Labour party assist it will be possible for those men to join their trade unions without suffering any disability from their service to their country. I know from conversation with many trade unionists, and nearly all Service men, that they feel this point very strongly. There is such a feeling of patriotism among the constitutional Labour leaders that I am convinced no difficulty would stand in the way of making such a course possible by them. There is the bugbear, certainly in Scotland, that Conscription is part of the Government policy. I have never believed that it was, and it seems to me that the best way of proving that we 2012 are determined to raise an Army of a voluntary character is for all to work together and not to decry the Army. A recent campaign was smarted to attract men to the Colours, and I was distressed to see certain remarks reported in newspapers from men throughout the country, pointing out that the statements made were not true, and trying to belittle and besmear the honour and reputation of the Army. I am aware that there is a feeling amongst a great many discharged men that they want to forget the time of discipline and the restraint that was put upon them when they were serving in the Army, but I am quite convinced that after a short time of civil liberty those men will very much want to come together and meet together to discuss the memories of the War and to recreate the comradeship that was then brought about. Personally, I have had some acquaintance with members of the Discharged Soldiers' and Sailors' Federation, and with the Comrades of the Great War, and I firmly believe if the Territorial Force Association would assist the local branches of those organisations in helping discharged men on the land and in regard to trade, putting them in touch with employers, it would be a great service not only to the men themselves, but would form a link, and a very valuable link, between those trained men who had gone through the mill of war and those young soldiers who will, we trust, come forward and join the Territorial Force. Everybody will, I think, admit that as we are not going to have a conscript Army it means that we must re-establish and set up with new renown and credit the Territorial Force, which I think the country owes to Lord Haldane, and to him we owe a debt for the establishment of that force, and that it stood in the gap and enabled us to put the Expeditionary Force in the field within the requisite time. There are one or two special points to which I would beg the attention of the representatives of the War Office. There is the question of reserves of officers, and that is a matter which, I think, requires revision. According to the Royal Warrant, an officer who has served fifteen years in the Army goes to the Reserve of Officers and becomes entitled to a pension, but if you take the case of an officer who had served ten years or ton and a half years and who retired immediately before the War, but who subsequently served during the War, he is not allowed to count that 2013 service towards obtaining a pension. It is perfectly true that he draws a gratuity and goes on and he bears his rank while he is serving; but it must be to the advantage of the country to be able to rely upon a definite number of officers who have been fully trained in time of emergency. These officers do take on a definite obligation to the country, and there is not now much inducement to those men who may retire from the Army voluntarily to enter the Reserve of Officers. It would be far more profitable for an officer not to tie himself down to join the Reserve of Officers, but to hold himself free and to join up as a temporary officer with any force which might be raised. It seems that that is hardly a system which is conducive to the utilisation of the whole of the skill and results of the training that officers receive, possibly at Sandhurst, and after they have joined their units.
Then there is one question which, I know, is concerning the attention of officers in the Special Reserve, Special Reserve officers are of certain categories; certain regiments possess no Special Reserve battalions, other regiments have Special Reserve battalions. But the Special Reserve is the real go-between which was created after the old Militia-force was abolished with a view to making the old spirit of the Militia go to the formation of the nucleus of the new Territorial Force. It must be recreated with the suspended prestige of the Territorial battalions. It would make things much more easy and would be a far simpler form of organising the Regular Force and the Reserve and the Territorial Force. The Special Reserve battalions on mobilisation, in practice, only becoming the feeding of Reserve 'battalions of the Regular units, and it does not in the least follow that the officers who served as officers on the strength of the Special Reserve battalions have had any adequate training or that the men have had any adequate training. If you could establish a proper and sufficient training area, you would be able to train Reserve battalions; you would attract, by a form of payment to Reservists, a large number of trained men to re-engage to serve on the Reserve, and on mobilisation it would be possible to utilise the services, not only of trained officers, but of trained men. If we can accomplish that, we shall have gone a very long way along the road towards a new reform.
2014 Then there is the very important question, especially to the men, in regard to the reckoning of their gratuities. I, personally, fail to see why you should treat differently the system of reckoning as between an officer and a man. I think, if an officer's gratuity is reckoned on 124 days and sixty-two in subsequent years of service, there is no reason why a man should not have his gratuity reckoned on that basis. After all, it was agreed that the sum of £50 bonus should be paid to the men for re-engaging. I see the force of that. But, if a man has served throughout the War and you reckon that his average pay, with allowances, came to 3s., it seems perfectly fair and proper that he should receive a gratuity on that basis, which would work out approximately at some £40. I know that the majority of officers feel that what they went through with their men entitles the men to the same treatment as they themselves received. If we are going to set up a deliberate barrier of altered conditions in the matter of gaining the rewards which have been won through comradeship, I feel we shall be deliberately adopting a method which will split up that good feeling and fellowship which did exist amongst the British Armies in the field, and which was such a wonderful asset in winning the War.
Besides this, it seems rather extraordinary, if the discharged men's organisations are going to be used in regard to canteen funds, as I understand they are, that it should not be possible to announce quite soon the composition of the committees which are going to advise in the disposal of those funds. If these committees are going to be used in that way I am quite sure they would render very great assistance in helping the authorities to arrive at the gratuities, and indeed the pensions, that are due to the various ex-Service men in the different districts. I should like to say, in passing, that in my belief a very real and very definite danger lies in the fusion of ex-Service men's organisations. It leads to the breaking up of local associations and local knowledge, and it seems to me if we could decentralise into the various districts and work in conjunction with the Territorial Force Association in the spirit which we did during the War, we should arrive at an easier solution than any we see ahead of us at the present time.
I want to say a word about the employment of ex-officers. The Appointments 2015 Branch of the Ministry of Labour has not, I think, received adequate credit for the work it has done. There is a large number of officers who think that their powers for work in civil life are possibly greater than they actually are. Therefore they are rather unwilling to accept some of the appointments that are open to them. In spite of that, the Appointments Branch of the Ministry of Labour has succeeded in placing a large number of officers—far larger than the actual records show—in civil life, and I would urge that the Appointments Branch be continued, because there are undoubtedly going into the Army a lot of young keen men whose prospects, with the alteration of the incidence of taxation, are not the prospects of the officers of a few generations ago. They must look ahead, and appreciate that they will have to earn money after they have left the Army. If the Government, as they have promised to do, will shortly announce the increase of pay and allowances, including pensions to officers, and will also say that the Appointments Bureau will be maintained, and that some branch of the Government will assist officers, whilst serving, to obtain the education we are now, happily, giving to the men, it will be of vast assistance to the officers, because otherwise they will not be able to afford to pay for the education necessary to fit them for the more modern conditions of civil life. I would therefore urge, if possible, that the Appointments Branch should be continued and be worked into any new system that may obtain in the Army in future.
I have had a request from an officer to raise the question of the paying out of the men as soon as possible. The responsibility for paying out a company lies with the subaltern, or actually the captain, but the subaltern pays out. It is sometimes forgotten that the large size of modern companies does put a lot of responsibility on a young officer who is paying out. I cannot understand why the Government should push their responsibility off on to a young officer at the moment the money is drawn from the bank. There is no other service in the world which docs not take the actual responsibility of the payment of the men up to the moment of the men receiving the money. Speaking from my own personal experience, it is a most delicate operation to pay out in the coins of some countries. You may very easily make a small mistake in calculating the 2016 exchange. This is the business of experts, and as, in the Navy, paymasters are provided, why should there not be garrison paymasters, with the necessary staffs under them, who could visit the depots of the troops and make the payments? If provision could be made on the lines of the field cashiers in France, by allowing officers to draw money, not by cheque but by direct claim on the cashier, it would be of very great assistance. In regard to the payments of officers' gratuities there is a great deal of complaint over the delays. I think, too-frequently, the unfortunate Army agents do not receive sufficient credit for the extremely difficult conditions under which. they work. The War Office, with the best intentions in the world, find it difficult to give forewarning to the Army agents of the approximate payments out which they have to make. They put on the agents the responsibility of finding out that the officers are not in debt, and then the payments are made to the officers. I understand that between 80,000 and 90,00ft officers have received gratuities from one Army agent alone, and between 50,000 and 60,000 more officers will receive gratuities. That dates since last November. The War Office gave assistance in regard to staff, but I understand it is a difficulty of training a staff which makes it almost impossible to compete with these numbers. I wonder if it would be possible for the War Office, before the officer leaves, to give a notification that he has been advanced a certain sum. There are so many formalities to be gone through now— possibly they are necessary—and so many forms to be filled up, that an officer rather dislikes having to do it, and it imposes endless trouble and considerable upset before he gets any advance on his gratuity.
There is one other point which I think every member of the Committee must seriously consider, and that is that there is a real feeling throughout the country that the pensions question has been too long delayed. I am well aware that it is not a matter to raise at this moment. I also have got a copy of the Interim Report of the Pensions Committee, but I am afraid it is often said, no doubt quite unjustly that the men's prospects, which are thoroughly looked after, and quite rightly, but that there has been undue delay in attending to the officers' equal rights. I cannot believe that any official of the Treasury would think it necessary 2017 to postpone a decision because he knows there will be no strike; but it looks rather bad that there should be a giving way to those forces which were allowed to bring pressure to bear, whilst the Regular and reserve officers who have come back Should have been left until now, in view of all the great increase in the cost of living, and that their pay, as I fear, is not going to be made retrospective from a further period than 1st July last. It should be remembered that great expense is thrown on the officer, and when he moves from station to station no assistance is given him in removing his goods and chattels, while that there are many other expenses to be incurred. I take it that it is not the wish of the Government to press hardly on married officers, because I understand it is their intention to increase the prospects and happiness of the country in every way possible. But there are many young and promising officers who, wishing to get married, have no other alternative but to resign their commission and take up some other form of work, or else to marry, when they would find it extremely difficult to pay their way. I trust the War Office may see their way to assist officers somewhat in this matter. Finally there is file real difficulty which many officers feel with regard to the education of their children. I would urge the War Office to use what powers they can, and the funds that exist, and see whether some of those large sums of money which were collected during the War for the benefit of officers' families could not be used for giving scholarships at some college, such as Wellington or elsewhere, so that the sons of fallen officers can continue their education. Probably a large number of Members of the House will know of cases in which the widows of officers are unable to keep their sons and daughters at school, and I am quite convinced that if we can have an early intimation of a generous payment to officers the anxiety of a great many officers' families will be removed and there will be a feeling of confidence that the Government is going to play up and make the position of the officer, not so much one of expensive honour to serve his country, but, while the honour remains, making it possible to make two ends meet.
§ Lieut.-General Sir AYLMER HUNTER-WESTON
I beg to move,That the Vote be reduced by £100.I do this from no feeling of hostility towards the Secretary of State, who, during 2018 the time that he has held office, has won golden opinions from everybody in the War Office. My object is to bring to novice certain existing financial aspects of the War Office. The Secretary of State referred to the feeling that there is in the country against the War Office. Not a little of the lack of confidence in the War Office, and of the feeling that some of its decisions are not altogether just, comes, I think, from the fact that many of the financial decisions are, I might almost say, pettifogging. The amount of money that is saved by such decisions is very small, and you can hardly call it saving when you deduct money which is justly due. Whereas the money saved is very small, the aggregate of the feeling of injustice, and therefore of resentment, is very large. The fact that there is a great feeling of dissatisfaction, and I might almost say of hostility, to the War Office is noticeable in nothing more, perhaps, than the way in which certain gibes appear in the public Press, while we often hear in public statements in which sometimes apt alliteration is called to the aid of a somewhat weak humour, and we are told of the "dull decorated dug-outs" of the War Office or of the "red tape grottoes." Seeing that the officers at the War Office have done their duty most excellently', why should such terms be used? I believe that it mostly comes from the fact that there is a certain feeling that we are not getting the proper results.
There is no question that the higher officials in the War Office are men who are highly tested, and who have been selected from the very best brains in the Army and the Civil Service, but there is undoubtedly a feeling that some of the decisions that they come to are not just. Now, in the British Constitution there is no Department that can do its duty rightly, nor do its duty properly by the State, if it does not have the great weight of public approval behind it. It is, therefore, of the greatest necessity that wherever we find a legitimate cause of lack of confidence or of grievance, every step should be taken to remove that cause. Undoubtedly, one such cause of lack of confidence in the War Office is the present administration of the financial control, which gives rise to the feeling that some of the decisions are not just. One thing the Briton never will stand is any feeling of injustice, whether real or fancied. What ran be more unjust— I use the term advisedly—than the fact that the War Office has ceased to give pay to those 2019 of our heroes who are permanently disabled the moment they leave hospital? I think the War Office should see that the pay is continued not only until such time as the pension is decided upon, but until such time as the disablement pension is actually paid. It is really intolerable that there should be such a hiatus, whether in the case of officers or of soldiers, and it seems the more absurd when we think that the officers, if they are likely to recover, would be able to draw pay for many months on leave. That is only one typical instance of the rather unjust and harsh regulations and their administration under the present system of financial control of the War Office.
The financial control of the War Office may be broadly divided into two parts. Firstly, there is the financial control within the War Office, and, secondly, the financial control outside the War Office by the Treasury. As regards the first, in theory and if properly carried out there can be no better system. Whenever a question affecting finance comes up, the executive branches refer it to the Finance Branch for their opinion on the direct and indirect financial result of the proposition. They give also a statement of the cost and of the funds available. With this information before them, the Army Council decide whether or not the proposal shall be carried out. If it is decided that the proposal shall be carried out, it is passed back to the Finance Branch to be put into proper form, so that it can go forward to the Treasury, if Treasury sanction be required. If that system is carried out as it has been in the past, and as it generally is now, nothing could be better. There is between the executive branches concerned and the finance branches the closest feeling of comradeship and of support; but occasionally there is, both from the point of view of the finance control and of some individuals, in the finance branches, a feeling that they are obstructionists, that they are putting difficulties in the way, that they are trying as it were to acquire merit by putting in regulations which are difficult and decisions which lead to a feeling of unrest and injustice. When that is the case I think it is time for the Secretary of State to intervene.
I have mentioned as an instance the stoppage of pay of permanently disabled men. The war gratuities, which have been already referred to, afford another 2020 instance which I think really would be laughable if it were not so very deleterious in its effects on the individual. One case came under my notice of an officer who served with me in France. The Royal Warrant for Pay lays down that an officer, when he is promoted, is only able to receive, beyond the two months joining leave, pay from the date when he joins the Service at home or from the date when he embarks for service overseas. The particular officer I have in my mind was promoted on the other side. He could not be spared, and he did duty as an officer, went over the top, was severely wounded, and was sent home. Owing to the fact that he had not joined at home, and did not embark for overseas, because he was already there, the Finance Branch said that, according to the Regulations, he could not draw his pay as an officer. It is surprising that after the long period of the War there are some people, whether military or civil, who have been going on at the same task with the same outlook for all these weary years, and find it impossible to raise themselves out of the red-tape rut of the Regulations, so that it is difficult for them to recognise that the Regulations and decisions must be made to accord with justice and common sense. I think that, for those who rate Regulations higher than justice, the only possible cure is new work and new environment.
Before speaking of the second category I desire to make it clear that true economy in national expenditure is absolutely essential. The Treasury is the custodian of the national purse, and control by the Treasury of the War Office is not only necessary but is welcomed by everybody in the Army, whether in the War Office or outside. I venture, however, to say, from considerable experience inside and outside the War Office, that the present method by which the Treasury control is exercised over the War Office does not ensure either proper or intelligent control in all cases. It is furthermore detrimental in some respects to the efficiency of the War Office, and I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State will be able to take it up. The bedrock fault, in my opinion, of the Treasury control of the War Office, is that the Treasury insists on too many small details being referred to it for decision, and therefore becomes overwhelmed with paper. Its decisions get thrown back, and we cannot get decisions through for months, or at any rate weeks, while it does not have time to carry out its proper functions 2021 or supervision. It seems incredible, and yet it is true, that if the Army Council, composed as it is of high officials, military and civil, with a first-class Minister of State at its head, decides, say, that an extra Staff captain is required, it cannot give authority for that appointment itself, but has to refer it to the Treasury. For the Treasury itself and the Treasury officials no praise can be too high, but the system is archaic, and it does not enable them to do justice to the supervision of the expenditure of the many huge Departments of State, of which the War Office is but one.
In order that the financial control of the War Office may be put upon a right basis, the Treasury must delegate its authority as regards control of details, reserving to itself its proper function of supervising the whole. At present the Treasury decides, and very often decides wrongly, many petty details which it really can know nothing about, and with which the Secretary of State, aided as he is by experts, both military and financial, is infinitely better qualified to deal. One instance among many that everybody in the Army, both in France and at home, knows of, is the giving of rations. You would think that is a detail that the Treasury would have no concern with, but it is not 30, and the question of what particular individuals were to get rations was referred to the Treasury. The Treasury decided that certain officers in one establishment were not to get rations, whereas the officers in other establishments only just across the road, and in every other place in England, were to get rations. Could anything be more absurd? It is not only absurd, but it leads to a great injustice to men who can ill afford it. It is all very well for certain high officials to say they will be hanged if they pay for the lunch of certain other high officials, but it is not a question of the high official, it is a question of the many officers who are very near, and were, especially during the time that rations were so short, actually at starvation point. The quartermasters employed in the War Office were very hard hit during the period of the War, and the decision given by the Treasury that they were not to draw rations was very hard upon them, and was looked upon as being very unjust. Furthermore, that decision was a great obstacle, to military efficiency, because officers at the front and at the War Office were interchanged, and rightly interchanged. Many came home 2022 and took up positions, and many here went out, and when in March, 1918, we were driven back, and there was a necessity for officers at the front, some of those who were sent from the War Office were, to my knowledge, not at their best, owing to the fact that they had been cut short during that hard time of rations here in London. Therefore, it is a very good illustration of the thesis that the Treasury should not have decided a matter of that sort, and that authority for the decision of such matters as that should be left to the Departments concerned. There are many other instances which could be given, as there are many other things that require reform, but I think I have given enough to illustrate my point. All I would say is that to put right the financial control of the War Office, both within and without, requires a strong man, a great statesman, a man who is in touch with the Prime Minister, and who has the ear of his colleagues. Fortunately, we have in the present Secretary of State for War a man who combines those qualities, and I am confident that we shall see a very great improvement in this most important question of the financial control of the War Office at a very early date.
§ Major Sir SAMUEL SCOTT
I am afraid I cannot support my hon. and gallant Friend in the reduction of the Vote which he has moved, but I want to turn to other matters. Early in the Session 1 spoke about the position of quartermasters in the Regular Army, in regard to their pay and their retired pay, and the Secretary of State gave me a most sympathetic reply. Members of the Army Committee will remember that the Committee subsequently sent in a Memorandum to the right hon. Gentleman on this subject, in which certain suggestions were made, and I most sincerely hope that to-night the Secretary of State or the Financial Secretary will give us some information as to the future of these officers. I think the House is well aware of the difference there is in the promotion of quartermasters as compared with combatant officers, and when I speak of combatant officers I want the House to realise that I am comparing combatant officers who have risen from the ranks with quartermasters who have also risen from the ranks. Combatant officers, of course, receive their promotion according to their seniority, or if they have done gallant service they are promoted for distinguished 2023 service. Quartermasters, on the other hand, do not receive promotion in the same way, but are promoted according to time. Before the War, in ten years they were promoted captain, and in fifteen years major, but during the War after three years' commissioned service they became a captain, after thirteen years' commissioned service major, and after eighteen years lieutenant-colonel; but now comes in the anomaly and the difference between a combatant officer and a quartermaster. A combatant officer very naturally draws the pay of his rank as soon as he is promoted, while the rank of quartermaster has nothing whatever to do with his pay. He may be promoted for distinguished service in the field, but that does not affect his pay in any way. Under the present Pay Warrant he is paid by quinquennial rises of, I think, Is. 6d. a day. My right hon. Friend spoke of the necessity for stopping all waste, and there is no officer in the Regular Army who can better stop waste than a quartermaster. I, therefore, beg the right hon. Gentleman to give the suggestions which were made by the Army Committee his very best consideration, if he has not already considered them favourably. The Army Committee suggested that the promotion by length of commissioned service should remain as hitherto, but that promotion should be accelerated and that in five years a quartermaster should become captain, in ten years major, and lieutenant-colonel by selection, and that his pay should be adjusted to the level of that of the regimental officer of equal rank. I think that would allay a great part of their grievances, but there is one other grievance which I must again bring forward, and that is with regard to the retired pay of the quartermasters. The maximum pension of a quartermaster at the present day is £250 a year, but it is almost impossible for any quartermaster to obtain this pension. A quartermaster is retired at the age of fifty-five, but only three out of sixteen who have retired since August, 1916, when the new Regulations came into force, have been able to obtain that pension, and I can only suggest that quartermasters for retired pay should have equal to the maximum of the Regular Army, namely, £300 a year, that their ranker service should be allowed to count more than it does now, and that they should be put practically on the same basis as the combatant officer who has risen from the ranks.
2024 I am afraid I cannot agree with my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down with regard to Treasury control. I do not want to attack the Department of my right hon. Friend, but I could not help feeling that the delay in coining to some conclusion with regard to the grievances of quartermasters and other grievances which have been brought to his notice has not been so much due to the action of the War Office, which I know is generally sympathetic, but that they have a most unsympathetic Department with which to deal. My hon. and gallant Friend, mentioning a certain class, stated that they would not take direct action and that therefore the Treasury would do nothing for them. I regret to say that that is very much my experience of the War Office and the attitude of the Treasury. They are penny wise and pound foolish. I will give one instance, and one only, of the officialism and lack of sympathy of the Treasury. There was an officer I knew who had in pre-war days £50 a, year extra duty pay. He went out to France, where he served for two and a half years and still enjoyed the £50 a year extra duty pay. He came back to England, because he could not stand the wear and tear of the campaign, and on arriving in England he was docked of his £50 a year by the Treasury on a quibble, and if it had not been for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and who at once saw that the grievance was rectified, I believe he would still be in want of that £50. I should like to say a few words in regard to the retired pay of officers who were retired in pre-war years. I think this question may have been considered with regard to officers who have rejoined and that their retired pay is going to be revised, but the older men, who served their country in former years, have not had their retired pay revised, so far as I can understand, and I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us something on this subject. After all, it has been acknowledged by every employer of labour and by others that there has been an enormous increase in the cost of living, and it is quite impossible for men to live in these days in the same manner as they did in pre-war days, and what I appeal for now is that men who have served their country and spent their lives in that service, and who would if they had had youth and health on their side without doubt have come forward again 2025 during this war, should be given the means of spending the remainder of their lives in comparative comfort. It is the least the country can do for them. I will read one of many letters on this subject which I have received:The greatly increased cost of living has become intolerable to men like myself. I retired in 1894 with a pension of £300, with a wife and two delicate daughters to maintain. It was just possible to do that decently before the War; now it is impossible.That is one of many similar letters which 1 have received. May I now ask a question with regard to the uniform of the Army. I understand a Committee has been sitting on this question, and I should very much like the right hon. Gentleman to give us some information about that, whether anything has been decided and whether it is the intention of the Government to issue officers' clothing from an officers' clothing store. I sincerely hope it is the intention of the Government to do this, as at the present time it is a very great strain on the finances of any officer to have to buy his own uniform. I hope that to-night we shall get some statement with regard to the Territorial Force. I am quite well aware that it is extremely difficult at the moment for the Government to make any statement with regard to the Territorial Force, as the Regular Army is now being reorganised, and no doubt the Territorial Army will also have to be reorganised in accordance with the scheme for the Regular Army. But as the enlistment begins, I think, in November, I hope my right hon. Friend during the course of the evening will be able to make some statement with regard to the Territorial Force.
Lieut.-Colonel W. BELL
In rising for the first time, I wish to support the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend for the reduction of this Vote, but I do not wish to turn my attention to matters of which he has already spoken. I rather wish to urge the Government to give us some information about the post-bellum Army. We have been told that a Committee has been sitting considering this, and I would urge the Government to take the House and the country into their confidence on this point, and endeavour, if possible, to obtain an agreed-upon Army policy Members of every party in this House, and indeed in the country, have, I think, by their patriotic and loyal action during the War a right to be consulted as to the future policy with regard to the 2026 Army, and I think it is a matter of the very greatest importance that the Army policy should be agreed upon, so that, in the event of change of Government, we may not find our Army policy entirely reversed by any Government who may succeed to the Treasury Bench. In making this request, I feel it is up to me to make Some suggestion. At the same time. I feel considerable diffidence in doing so, both because I am a newly-joined Member of this House, and also because, although I have been a soldier for over twenty years, all my service has been as a regimental officer, and I feel that those officers who have served on the Staff at the War Office—many of them my friends—may be inclined to say, "It is not your business to talk about these questions of organisation. It is up to you to go and fight when and where you are told, and to leave these matters to those who have given them their serious consideration, and whose job it is." Inspite of that, I do intend to make one suggestion, at any rate, which, I think, might form the basis of what I may call an agreed-upon Army policy.
When we consider our Army, and, indeed, the Armies of all European Powers before the War, that Army consisted of two parts—what one may call the active Army, and what one may call the potential Army. This was the same with us as with the conscript nations of the Continent. The active Army, of course, in our case differed from the Army of our Continental rivals only in the fact that it was recruited by voluntary enlistment, instead of by compulsory service, and in its size. It was trained, equipped, and when once enlisted, as much at the disposal of the Government of the day as any Continental Army. The potential Armies of all nations really consisted, ultimately, in the whole available picked manhood of the nation of military age, whether in this country or on the Continent; but whereas, on the Continent, the bulk of this body of manhood consisted of those who had been passed through the ranks of the Army and had received the training, with us the potential Army not only differed in that it was not trained as the case in the Continental Armies, but the vast bulk of our manhood was entirely untrained. We had our small Regular Reserve, which was just as liable, to service, having once enlisted, as the forces of the compulsory service nations on the 2027 Continent, and we had our Territorial Force, our Special Reserve, and our Yeomanry, who had different liabilities and varying amounts of training. But the great bulk of our population was entirely untrained.
I venture to suggest that, whilst sticking to our voluntary enlistment for service, we should contrive that that great reservoir of men should in our case, as in the case of other nations, be a trained reservoir of men. In fact, what I would venture to suggest to this House as the basis of our post-bellum Army is voluntary service coupled with compulsory training. I am well aware that, while I am asking for an agreed-upon Army policy, I shall find a good many people who disagree with me in what I have suggested, but I have a certain amount of hope that some such scheme may be possible, because the disagreement, I think, will come mainly from, those at the opposite ends of the scale—the extreme military party and the extreme anti-military party. Both, I think, view with suspicion, if not dislike, the scheme I have put forward. The extreme military party will dislike it, I think, because they say, "We want to know the number of men we shall have available when we go to war, if we have to go to war again, and that one cannot have from this voluntary scheme which you are suggesting." I quite agree that from the point of view of a soldier, who is anxious merely to provide the best weapon possible in the shape of an Army, this objection is quite right, but I would suggest to my hon. and gallant Friends who take this view that one cannot look at it only from a soldier's point of view. One also has to look at it from the point of view of the citizen and of the Parliamentarian, and we have to take into account that compulsory service is practically ruled out. It is not only ruled out by statements which have been made by the Government, but by the fact that with compulsory service you would not get an agreed-upon Army, if you could get even a majority of the House and the country to agree. At the other end of the scale there are those who object to compulsory training, because they say it inculcates a spirit of militarism. I would point out that if we are really going to make our people Prussians by training them, we must have a very poor opinion of the people of this nation.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid this would open up a question which would need legislation. The hon. and gallant Member has, no doubt, not yet learned that in Committee of Supply we only deal with matters of administration which are within the, powers of the Ministry under the existing law. The proposal to deal with compulsory service or compulsory training would need an Act of Parliament, and, therefore, that subject does not come up in Committee of Supply.
I apologise for my ignorance in these matters, and will endeavour to turn my attention to some other point which may be in order. I should like very much to support the remarks which were made by the last speaker with regard to the position of retired officers, and with regard to their prospects now that the cost of living has so greatly decreased the monetary value of their pensions. I am afraid I have nothing really very much to add to what has-already been said, and as the remarks I hoped to have made are out of order, I will resume my seat.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I should like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down on his maiden effort in this House. I am quite certain Members of the House always value the opinion of those who have served in the Army so long, especially those who have served as regimental officers. I rise to support the Motion for the reduction of the Vote, and I do so, as he did, in no sense of hostility, but because there are certain matters to which I am rather anxious to call attention. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down raised the question of the after-war Army. I understand a Committee has been sitting which either has reported, or is about to report, on the position and conditions under which that Army should be formed. I notice, with a certain amount of disquiet, that the divisional commanders have been appointed to the same number of divisions as the pre-war Army, that the same number of Territorial divisions have been formed and commanders have been appointed to them, and that there is also an equal number of mounted brigades. It seems to me rather to point as if we were going back into prewar conditions as regards the Army, and I am not at all satisfied that the system which we had before the War was suffi- 2029 ciently elastic to provide for our needs We have also got to remember that the pre-war Army cost, I believe, about £29,000,000. The same Army to-day would cost well over £60,000,000. But we have learned many lessons in the War, and, in addition to the equipment which we had five years ago, it is now necessary to increase the number of machine-guns, field guns, and heavy artillery, and, in addition to all that, you have to provide tank battalions, machine-gun battalions, trench mortars, and so on, and I cannot help thinking that if we have that replica of the Army which we had in pre-war days we shall not find it sufficiently elastic to provide for our needs. It will be a great expense, and will not expand in a manner which we should naturally desire should an emergency arise. I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster) that he will use his influence with the Secretary of State to cause the Report of this Committee which has been sitting to be published, or, at any rate, to be laid on the Table of this House. I feel that it is a matter which concerns all of us, and about which many of us are extremely anxious, and I hope we shall have some word from him, if he replies to-night, that it is not the intention of the Government to advert entirely to the pre-war system. I should like to associate myself with some of the remarks which were made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman in regard to the retired pay of officers who retired previous to the Wax, and who were not re-employed. I am not going to labour the point. I am quite certain that everyone of these retired officers, nine out of every ten of whom were not accepted because of advanced age, gave their services voluntarily in some form or other during the War. I do think that attention should be paid to their needs, as to the needs of the retired officers of the Navy and Civil Service. for I am sure that their needs are extreme owing to the present rise in prices.
On the question of canteen profits, which has been raised, I notice that a communiquè which was issued to the papers, I think on Saturday, explained that a certain Committee had been appointed. It was said that this was a more or less independent Committee. By that does the right hon. Gentleman mean that it is independent of all control by the Government or by the War Office?
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
was understood to indicate the affirmative.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would give us some information on that point. I notice, with a certain amount of alarm, that the objects to be taken up and considered by this Committee include, firstly,the benefit of disabled and discharged officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, and secondly, the benefit of the widows, children, and orphans of deceased officers, non-commissioned officers, and men.Is there any hope that in forming this Committee the Secretary of State did not wish, or intend, that any of the burden of the State should be shifted to this Canteen Fund. That should be clearly and categorically stated—tlhat no money should be found to relieve those who fall into distress—not one penny of the Canteen Fund should be given—the money required should be found entirely from State funds. There is the question of gratuities referred to in the excellent maiden speech that we listened to this afternoon. I cannot understand the principle as to why payments to the officers should be calculated on a different principle to that of the men. I realise that it is difficult to reopen so many millions of accounts. At the same time I think the Warrant for Pay should be amended so that on a future occasion, if we have the misfortune to be engaged in a war, the principle of right treatment for the officers and men should be adopted.
The question of uniforms is one I should like to deal with briefly. It has been already mentioned. The hon. Member said he hoped there would be officers' clothing stores from which uniforms could be purchased at a reasonable rate. We must all agree. We cannot expect young officers nowadays to spend £300 or £400 if pre-war uniforms are going to be once more adopted. The right hon. Gentleman may perhaps tell us whether the Committee that has been set up to consider the question of uniforms has reported, and whether any decision has been arrived at as to whether we are going back to prewar uniforms at the present expense, with also the difficulty of obtaining the necessary cloth and material, or whether there is to be a more qualified adoption of Service dress. Just one word more. It is very invidious to clothe the part-time soldier in a different way to the Regular soldier. The Territorial and Special Reserve Forces should be clothed in exactly 2031 the same manner, because we owe a very great debt of gratitude to them. It is somewhat of a slur if they are clothed in a different fashion to members of the Regular Army. There is great disquietude, I think I may say, in this matter of uniform. We count it a very small thing, but it is a very big thing to people who are thinking of sending then sons into the Army. The Armistice has now been signed a good many months. I understand this Committee has been set up for some months. I am sure it would be in the interest of all concerned if the Financial Secretary could tell us this evening whether any decision has been come to. I realise that the Secretary of State for War has during the time he has been at the War Office rendered signal service to the country. Most of us who heard him this afternoon admired the outspoken manner in which he dealt with the situation in Russia. That situation, I feel quite sure, has filled most people in this House and outside with considerable anxiety, especially in regard to the British forces. I am certainly not going to revert to that question, but I do sincerely hope that the questions I have brought forward will be dealt with as early as possible and will receive the earnest consideration of the Government.
Major J. EDWARDS
On this, the first occasion I have addressed the House, I crave the indulgence of Members for a few minutes in bringing before the notice of the House and the Secretary of State, or his representative, some of the grievances which I have come across when on active service on the Western Front. One of the duties of the officer, and not one of the most pleasant, is sometimes to pass judgment upon his fellow-man. What struck me very forcibly was the lack of uniformity in the award of punishments and also in their execution. Very often you would have in the same division or in the same brigade different battalions awarding quite different sentences for the same offences. For instance, you would have in one battalion a commanding officer giving as a regular thing Field Punishment No. 1— from five to seven days, it might be, for a dirty rifle—whereas the commanding officer of another battalion would, in the first case, perhaps, give what is called a "ticking off" to the offender, and in the second or third case punish him with "C.B." or some extra fatigue of some 2032 kind. It very often occurred, when a man changed his battalion, that you would discover on the conduct sheet all kinds of sentences for very minor offences. The commanding officers were, in very many cases, quite inconsiderate in the manner in which they dealt with offenders, particularly first offenders, and when once an offender was started along the track of committing offences it was very difficult indeed to stop him.
There was also, very often, an inequality, or lack of uniformity, in the execution of the sentences. This could be seen most clearly in the case of Field Punishment No. 1, in regard to the tying-up part of that punishment. In many cases this was only casually done by some commanding officers, whereas it was very strictly done by others. Although orders wore issued that the punishment was to be carried out very strictly they were very rarely obeyed. Particularly was this the case when a battalion happened to be in the line. It seemed to be a most ridiculous thing to issue an order that Field Punishment No 1, in respect to the Lying up, should be carried out in the trenches. But that was so. There were also what one might call paper awards given. These were punishments which appeared on paper only, and which were never carried out. This occurred whenever the Assistant Provost-Marshal, or his police, were implicated in the arrest of a soldier. The commanding officer very often would give his decision just before the battalion went into the line, and would award a man perhaps fourteen days' C.B. This would look very well on paper but nothing happened. No one could possibly carry out C.B. in the trenches. It was sufficient to be confined to trenches in that case. On account of these inequalities it follows that there are very many men who are doing punishment to-day who, had they been awarded punishment by another commanding officer, or another Court-martial, would not have been undergoing punishment at all. I would ask the Secretary of State to consider seriously the question of having special scales of punishment laid down for all battalions on the same lines. Then we should get some kind of equality, and particularly we should be more careful with first offenders. There should be special treatment for first offenders, and a scale so that every man knows what he is going to get if he commits a certain type of offence. I think the degrading part of Field Punishment No. 1, 2033 that of tying up, should be abolished altogether, and as soon as possible there should be an amnesty for all those who are now doing imprisonment for military offences. I am certain that in regard to those who are doing imprisonment now there are quite as many in prison who ought to be out and as many out who ought to be in.
There have been many grouses or complaints with a view to attempting to got remedies of all kinds. We have received many letters from soldiers from time to time. I know many hon. Members of this House have received them, and they have often been used as arguments in this House. It is unfair to use those, methods of argument, because when a man is very tired and has had no sleep, and when ho has been pushed about a good deal, he will write anything. I have frequently written lots of funny things myself, and it is ridiculous to produce a letter from someone at the front and use it as an argument for this or for that.
I think there was a lack of elasticity in our higher command, and they were not very good at picking up new methods quickly and giving up the old ones. It took a long time for the one man per so many few yards in the trenches to be done away with, although any regimental officer could have told them, and I am fully convinced did tell them very long ago, that it was better to hold the front line thinly. Instead of learning the lesson that should have been learned in the Armentières district, we had in consequence terrific: bombardments of the men crowded up in the front trenches, and the whole front system became overwhelmed. I remember in a northern retreat we had to dig a second line of defence four or four and a half miles behind the front line, and that was the next stopping-place to stop the Bosche, but he reached those defences in one day.
Another complaint which I should like to bring to the notice of the House is one which shows the inelasticity of the mind of the Staff, for example, its persistency, in spite of bad conditions, in going forward with an attack. That was particularly noticeable in the northern attack towards the end of 1917. Of course, British persistency no doubt is a very good thing, but in a case like that, where the ground and the weather conditions were so abominable, it would have been wiser to 2034 have been a little bit more slim. One brigade went forward at eight p.m., and it was raining, and they took up their jumping position in shell-holes half-filled with water, and the result was that not a single rifle would shoot when they did advance at two p.m. the following day, and this in spite of representations made by regimental officers that it could not succeed.
Another complaint was in regard to the fire-eater. The Infantry had no objection to doing raids with some particular object, such as obtaining a prisoner in order to see whether there had been any change opposite, or to do a retaliatory action, but the fire-eater, the general who would go for the Bosche continually generally wore out his division. It is useless to speak about men constantly wanting to go for the Bosche, and you do not want to do it when you are up to your waist in water and feeling very cold. The objection was not to raids for which there was a purpose, but to the raids which were solely meant to test the fighting qualities of the opposite side. We had plenty of opportunities of doing that without going constantly into raids and losing valuable lives.
There were one or two points of inefficient administration. I remember taking a battalion along with all its cooking utensils and rations, and we could not get a lorry for it, while at the same time corps headquarters were moving up with forty-five lorries. Again, when cement was very scarce and we wanted to build protective dug-outs and asked for it for that purpose, we were told that it was impossible to supply it; yet when we went round headquarters we saw them making gutters with it.
There are many different views as to how to make good soldiers, and my view certainly did not fall in with those advocated in France. In my opinion there was too much drill. I remember on one occasion, when a high officer commanded the men to stand at attention while instruction was being given. Having been a schoolmaster, I know very well that to stand to attention under such circumstances simply made the instruction a failure. There was excessive cleaning insisted upon—the cleaning of buttons, for instance. We were taught at the Army schools that if we could get a soldier to clean his buttons he would be all right. All that had nothing to do towards the making of a good soldier. Again, leather is pre- 2035 served by the use of grease, but in order to give a battalion a good appearance, orders arc often issued that it should be polished. I remember on one occasion, just before going into attack, the battalion I was then associated with, wore web equipment, and the chalk in the soil of the locality was used to whiten it. What was the result? That night, when the men were ordered up to the attack, they offered the most perfect target to the enemy. I submit that the cleaning of buttons and the polishing of leather are not essentials towards the making of a good soldier. We learnt that from contact with the French soldier.
I would like to say a word as to the aloofness of the higher commanders, who never get into absolute contact with the regimental officers or with the men. I do not know whether some of them regard themselves as supernatural, but, while the regimental officers and men were obliged either to wear or carry a gas helmet, very often you would find these higher officers without them, and coming round with a dog instead.
A matter which we, as Welshmen, felt very much while we were in France was the break-up of our battalions. We had been promised during the recruiting that cur language should be respected, and that we should be kept together for fighting purposes, and although on paper our language was respected it was still very difficult for some Welsh soldiers to get their letters in Welsh passed by their commanding officers, and orders were often given that the letters should be written in English. In the early part of March, Welshmen were dispersed amongst the English battalions. At that time, in reply to a question in this House as to whether the Welsh Regiments would be permitted to keep their badges, the answer was that they would be permitted to do so, yet at the moment. the men were actually being handed out new badges for English regiments. It is useless to expect to maintain a proper esprit de corps when the soldiers are continually changed from one battalion to another. At the very time when the Welsh soldiers were being scattered among English battalions, the authorities in France were forming the Czecho-Slovaks into one regiment, and it seemed to us to be quite inconsistent that the rights of small nationalities on the Continent should thus be considered while the wishes of our own men were being disregarded. I have not 2036 uttered these remarks in any peevish spirit, but simply in the hope that some of these grievances may receive attention. It is absolutely essential in a national Army with modern education to have a broad and sympathetic spirit among officers and men and, it is because during three years in Franco in four different battalions and four different divisions I have noticed a lack of that spirit that 1 have ventured to make these suggestions.
§ Major PARRY
I wish to make a few observations on the subject of demobilisation, feeling on which is still very acute. I would like at once to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War for the very great improvement he has already introduced into the demobilisation scheme. I realise what a difficult task it is to take up such a big system as he did in the middle of its operation, and I am sure he has earned the gratitude of all the Members of the House by the kindly consideration he has always given to the cases submitted to him. But I want the right hon. Gentleman to go a little further and make more improvements still in the system. I want to draw attention to what I think to be the unfairness that still exists in regard to the compassionate grounds for demobilisation. The paragraph in the Circular which deals with the case of the widowed mother is one to which I would invite attention. Sub-section (1) provides that the son who has a widowed mother in necessitous circumstances, having two or more children dependent on her, neither child being capable of earning anything and she herself being incapable of earning, is entitled to have his discharge at the request of his mother. But how many Members of this House have come across cases which fall within the four corners of that definition? I have not had a single case, and I consider it is very hard indeed that a widowed mother in addition to being in necessitous circumstances should be required to have two other children dependent on her before she can claim her son's discharge.
Then I would like to draw attention to the disparity which exists in the Regulations as applied to the widowed mother and to the wife. A husband whose wife is in necessitous circumstances, she being a-chronic invalid and dependent on him, with or without children incapable of earning anything, may at the request of the wife be discharged. But suppose a widowed mother is a chronic invalid and 2037 in necessitous circumstances, she cannot get her son out of the Army unless she has two children dependent upon her. This is a. small matter, it may be, to put right, but I do suggest that the widowed mother should be put in exactly the same position as the wife, and that the Regulation which says with regard to the wife that if she is a chronic invalid and in necessitous circumstances she can claim her husband, so the widow who is in a similar position shall also be able to claim her son. In each case it is the. breadwinner who has to be brought out of the Army, and I suggest that on compassionate grounds that breadwinner, whether he be a son or a husband, should have this Regulation applied to him. I submit, with very great respect, that these "compassionate ground" Regulations ate much too rigid. It is impossible, in fact, to lay down hard and fast regulations by which you can deal with demobilisation on "compassionate grounds." Let me give one instance that came before my notice to-day. There is a soldier who has been asking for leave for some time. His father is eighty-two years of age and his mother is seventy-four, and both are chronic invalids. Two of his brothers have been killed in the War and he is the sole person who is able to look Fitter these people. He is their sole means of support and yet, according to these Regulations, it is impossible for him to obtain release upon that ground. There are many similar cases. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he will not at. this stage depart from hard and fast Regulations and give to the War Office or to headquarters at various places in the Army some discretionary power to deal with all these cases upon their merits. In the Memorandum of 16th July I see this paragraph:All sorts of suggestions have been made as to the order in which men should now be re-leased from the Army, and there are many hard cases, both compassionate and pivotal, which deserve attention, but the time is getting short now. The end of the task is coming into sight and it is better to keep to a certain set of rules which everyone can understand even if individual cases of hardship occur.I must join issue with the right hon. Gentleman in regard to that. It is an injustice and certainly a hardship if great Government Departments are unable to recognise injustice, but when you have once recognised that injustice, without an. hour's delay the matter should be put right. Once that statement in the Memorandum has been issued, that the War Office recognise 2038 that there is hardship, it should be removed without an hour's delay. I am sure it is cases of that kind that really make people take certain attitudes which they do.
I should like to draw attention to grievances that still exist in regard to the demobilisation of the Royal Army Medical Corps. Everyone who has been in the East particularly will know that this is a very grievous hardship. Last year all class A men in the Royal Army Medical Corps were combed out and cent to fighting units. They fought with us all through the last campaign in Palestine, and did exceedingly well. The moment the Armistice was signed they were recalled to the Royal Army Medical Corps—many of them 1914 men and a considerable number 1915 men. This is where the grievance arose. Had they been allowed to remain with the battalion to which they had been drafted they would have been demobilised during the early days of this year. There were many miners, many students, and many pivotal men, but because they were recalled to the Royal Army Medical Corps and became part of the machinery of demobilisation they were not allowed to be demobilised. According to the Circular of 27th June, although there is no specific mention made of the Royal Army Medical Corps, I think they will be demobilised. This matter wants hurrying up. Up to the issuing of this Instruction the men of the Royal Army Medical Corps have been compulsorily detained and I hope the right, hon. Gentleman will give this matter his very serious consideration, and see what can be done to make up for the arrears in regard to the demobilising of these men.
I do not think there is any class of officer in the British Army who has more of a grievance with regard to demobilisation than the Royal Army Medical Corps. There are hundreds of men in the Army of the Rhine, in Italy, in Egypt, apart from India and Mesopotamia, who have been serving since 1914 and 1915, and cannot be released. May I give a case that came to my notice this morning. An officer, who is a pre-war Territorial went out with our battalion four years ago. He was our doctor, and has been ever since. He has been all through the campaign in Gallipoli, in Egypt, and in Palestine. He has not been able to get home once because he could not be spared. He has been compulsorily detained, and has only now been able to get his demobilisation papers through. After a good deal of pressure and representations made at this 2039 end his demobilisation was ordered, and on 6th June a message was received from the War Office saying that he was to be demobilised. The next day General Headquarters in Egypt turned it down, and the A.D.M.S. and the D.M.S. told him he could not be demobilised because he could not be spared, and that it was impossible for him to have leave unless he volunteered for the Army of Occupation I know that is an isolated instance, but it shows that, though definite instructions may be issued, there are ways in far distant theatres of the War of getting round these Regulations, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will use every endeavour to see that the orders of the War Office are adequately carried out.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to make a statement to-night, if he can, as to how apprentices whose apprenticeship has been broken, and students, will be released. With regard to the broken apprenticeship class, these young men in many cases joined up before they were due to join up, and I trust, when the opportunity occurs, they will be allowed to resume their trade. As an amateur soldier of five years standing I know how difficult it is to come back to your civil occupation, and day after day I get letters from young men who want to take up something new. They say they are unable to go back to their pre-war occupation. I want to guard against this, if I can, with regard to young men who have embarked upon certain careers, such, for instance, as engineering and the law. The sooner they are allowed to be brought back and to carry on their training the better it will be for them and for the State generally. With regard to the students, in October next the universities will be commencing their session, and if they are not allowed to resume their studies they will have to postpone them until next year. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will use every endeavour to see that that state of things does not come about, and that they will be released in time to take up their studies next session. I have offered these criticisms in the most kindly spirit. We who have been in the East, far from our home, for a long time, come back with no spirit of bitterness, but we are indeed anxious that those people who served with us in the various theatres of the War should have every attention. I earnestly com- 2040 mend these observations to the kind and earnest sympathy of the right hon. Gentleman.
Colonel LAMBERT WARD
My reason for intervening is to deal with a subject which has been on my mind for a considerable time. It was impossible to bring it forward during the War, but now that Peace is signed and to all intents and purposes ratified, I feel that no harm can be done by bringing the matter forward. The subject is in relation to the graves of our men who fought and died in France and Flanders. I am not arguing whether or not it is just or advisable that their relatives should be allowed to bring their bodies to England. I know that in many cases if the dead could only speak they would tell us that they would much rather maintain that companionship and comradeship which they formed during the closing days of their lives. I am not going to argue as to the form of monument or memorial which is to be placed over their bodies. Perhaps it is well that a Christian memorial should not be placed over a Jew or visa versa. It is a very easy mistake to make. On one occasion I read the Christian burial service over one of my men who was a Jew and bad been killed in action. All the same, I do not believe for a moment that the poor fellow was any the worse off.
I should like to obtain an assurance from the Secretary of Slate for War that there shall be no difference made between the graves of those men who were killed in action or died of wounds or disease, and the graves of those unfortunate men who paid the penalties of their lives under (sections 4 and 12 of the Army Act, or who, in other words, were tried by court-martial and shot for cowardice or desertion in the face of the enemy. I bring this forward because it has been on my conscience for some time, as, unfortunately, during the very early days of the War, the early winter of 1914, it was my unfortunate duty to sit on a court-martial at which five men were sentenced to death. I do not know in how many cases that sentence was commuted. I felt I could not inquire, and I thought it better not to ask; but now that the War is over I want, if possible, to make amendment, because during the whole sitting of that court I had the uncomfortable feeling that, even with my limited knowledge of law, I could have go teach one of those men off on a technicality if I had been in a position to act as their friend. I knew nothing about courts-mar- 2041 tial in those days. What does an ordinary Territorial captain know about courts-martial? Nothing; less than nothing. I was sitting on the court-martial for this reason, that the brigade had been decimated; indeed, it had been practically annihilated. Out of 130 officers who left England a month or two previously there was scarcely one left of sufficient length of service to entitle him to sit on a court-martial. The battalion to which I had the honour to belong was called upon to find a very large proportion of officers for court-martial duty, and I was called upon to serve.
I ask the House not to dismiss this petition by the remark that these men were cowards and deserved their fate. They were not cowards in the accepted meaning of the word. At any rate they did not display one tenth part of the cowardice that was displayed by the crowds in London who went flocking to the tube stations on the first alarm of an air raid. These men, many of them, volunteered in the early days of the War to serve their country. They tried and they failed. Surely it is better to have tried and to have failed than never to have tried at all! In many cases they were the victims of circumstances. Admiral Byng is not the only man in history who was shot pour encourager les autres. In many cases it was necessary to make an example of them. The division had gone bad in an attack. They had been a bit sticky, and the higher command felt that something had to be done. Soon after that the divisional commander was sent home. Two or more of the brigade commanders quickly followed suit. The battalion commanders were replaced by younger, harder men from other units; men for whom the soldiers' lives were merely pawns on a chessboard. The division was trained and they were sent forward into the attack. They were watched and if anyone showed signs of faltering they were "for it." They knew they were "for it." It was well known on the first occasion. Anyone who was found behind the battalion headquarters was driven into a cage and had to account on the following day for not having been sufficiently near the line.
Please do not think that I am indulging in any outbreak of morbid sentimentality. No one knows better than I do that it was absolutely necessary. We had to win the War, and that was the only way to do it. If a division did not want to fight they had to be made to fight. That is the only way 2042 we succeeded in defeating the Germans and in keeping the doors of this country free from invasion. I dare say a good many Members of this House, and very likely some of those members of the Service to which I have the honour to belong, will consider that it is grossly bad form and a gross breach of faith on my part to bring forward such a subject as this. I do not agree. I think that it is well that it should be made publicly known and that the people of this country should understand what war is, and that hon. Members of this House who have done well in the War, without perhaps having been very near the front line, should understand that from the point of view of Tommy up in the trenches war is not a question of honours and decorations, but war is just hell. I ask the Secretary of Stale for War to give an assurance that the graves of these men shall be treated in the same way as the other graves in the battlefield. I should like to ask him for a further assurance, and that is that nil the records of these trials shall be destroyed and not kept permanently as records of the War Office. Now that the War is over and we have got peace I do not want people in this country to think that tucked away, stored in some dusty corner of the War Office, is a record of how their husband, their father, their brother or their son was tried by court-martial and shot for cowardice or desertion in the face of the enemy. By granting this petition of mine the Secretary of State for War will be doing a kindly act, and will be doing a tardy act of justice to these men who did their best but still failed.
§ Brigadier-General COLVIN
I wish to draw attention to the services performed by what used to be known as the National Reserve. The recognition they have received is not in keeping with their deserts. I am aware that recently, since considerable pressure has been brought to bear, a letter has been sent round to each individual thanking him for his services, But I would like to point out, what is not generally known, the services which these men have performed. Shortly after the outbreak of war they were called up, and they came up beyond everybody's expectations. They were placed in the Home Defence Corps, and they were sent to guard various points. Later on a large number of them volunteered for foreign service and they were sent overseas to France. When they were there they were drafted off to India. They were men of 2043 medium age, a great many of them past middle age, and they suffered very severely from the climate in India. Some of them are out there still, and many of them have been invalided home in shattered health. This National Reserve is a great national asset. It supplied a great number of trained men in the first emergency, and it is an asset that we shall depend on I am quite sure in the future, and it is most essential that every encouragement should be given to them. Though I know that a great many of them who served overseas received medals, those who served at home should also receive a medal. I realise the difficulty there would be in giving these men a medal exclusive of other men who served at home. Therefore I would urge that all home service men should receive a medal. A great many men who served at home were under fire when our coasts were attacked, a certain number of men were wounded, and it seems an anomaly that a man who is wounded and wears a wound stripe should not be entitled to a medal, and on those grounds I do urge that all men who bore arms during the War and underwent training, including the Volunteers, should have a modal given to them.
While on the subject of medals I would also like to plead for the Territorials who would have been entitled to the efficiency medal if they had completed their twelve years' service. There were a great many trained Territorials who had left the Territorial Force before the War. On the outbreak of war in the great emergency they rejoined. They served three or four years abroad or at home, but owing to the break in their service they are not entitled to the efficiency medal. I would plead as a recognition of the great services which they rendered at a critical time that they should be granted the efficiency medal. I understand that those Territorials who served during the War have been allowed to have continuous service on rejoining the Territorial force, and it would be only fair that the same allowance should be given at the other end of the War. As regards the new Territorial Forces it is as an hon. and gallant Gentleman said just now, very important that the. Regulations should be issued as soon as possible. A very liberal allowance should be made to Territorials in the matter of travelling and other expenses 2044 connected with preliminary drills. The Territorial is quite ready to give his time, but he ought not to be out of pocket in any respect, and the proposals which were submitted I do not think are nearly sufficient. You must remember that the value of a Is. to-day is only equivalent to that of 6d. in pre-war days. Then the Territorial Force was drawn very largely from the poorer classes. The pay did not attract the more well-to-do tradesman class, and it is very desirable that they should be attracted. We want those men for the ranks just as much as anybody else. For that reason I urge that the pay and allowance of the Territorial Force should be on a very liberal scale. The Territorial Force has proved of great value, and should be treated in a liberal and not a parsimonious manner.
Captain TUDOR REES
I have read a great many reports of Debates in, previous Parliaments and have heard most of the. Debates in this on the Army Estimates, but I do not recollect ever seeing or hearing a word of praise for the War Office. There have been a great many criticisms of that Department, and even to-night there is no question that that well-established rule has been observed. The hon. Member opposite, with his usual assiduity has compiled from the speeches already made this evening a large numbed' of notes to be presented to the Secretary of State for War. I am sure that those notes and observations will receive pious and perhaps benevolent attention. I am not at all hopeful that the reforms suggested will be carried out or that any of them will receive that consideration which will lead to successful fruition. I should not have intervened in this Debate but for some observations that fell from the notable, if unconvincing, utterances of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. He said that the brigades sent to Russia have received the comforting assurance that they would be brought home from that unpleasant climate before another winter has set in. I want to test, if I may, in the light of experience what is the value of that assurance. Is there any value in it?
In 1914, a large number of Territorials, including the Wessex division were inspected on Salisbury Plain. A general was sent down by Lord Kitchener, and in his review of the men he said that if they volunteered—they were not obliged to leave the country at that time, being Territorials—and went to India he had the as- 2045 surance, and he gave the men that assurance, direct from Lord Kitchener, that they would be brought back before the termination of hostilities, and before the rush for jobs at the conclusion of the War, so that they would not be prejudiced by reason of their patriotism. Everyone of those men volunteered to go abroad. They went abroad. They have been abroad ever since, and I bring very sincerely and earnestly to the notice of the Secretary of State for War the position of these men who are out in India at the present moment. Not the men themselves, but their relatives are very anxious to know when they are to be brought home. They are also asking, "What is the value, what is the virtue of any word given by or on behalf of the War Office I How far can it be trusted?" I venture to say, having regard to the way these men have been treated, that the word of the War Office in this respect is not exactly a word that can be relied on, and if the men who have been promised similar consideration on going to Russia are to be treated as the men who went to India were treated, then indeed their plight will be very serious and lamentable. There has been a very serious breach of faith. I ask the Secretary for War to give those related to the men, and the men themselves, some definite and final assurance as to what is going to happen to them.
There is one word I am going to say with regard to demobilisation generally. I have had something to do with it. I dare say every right hon. and hon. Member has been receiving from the first day of the Session large numbers of letters with regard to the harsh terms of demobilisation. I have come to the conclusion that the whole thing is one colossal muddle. During the War a Reconstruction Committee sat, and we were assured that immediately hostilities ended there was a plan ready to be set in motion, that demobilisation would be easy, and would be worked according to the plan. The War ultimately ended, and the plan was put into operation. It lasted a fortnight, and the machinery broke down. Then another plan was devised and another and another, and so we went on, and only last week a revised plan was brought forward. We do not know exactly where we are. The people do not know where they are, and the men themselves do not know where they are. There is a total lack of confidence. I would urge upon the Secretary of State the advisability of bringing forward immediately 2046 some coherent, simple, and understandable plan with regard to demobilisation. The conclusion I have come to is that if the principles applied by the War Office to this question were applied in the Stock Exchange there would be panic in ten minutes. I am very anxious, both in the interests of the men and of their relatives at home that we should know when we may expect these fellows back. An hon. Member opposite talked about compassionate grounds. I should like with all earnestness to substantiate and emphasise what he said.
There is one other observation I wish to make, and that is with regard to the administration of the War Office—a very big subject, and much too big for me to tackle at this late hour. It would require greater eloquence and power and time than I have at my disposal. But I do urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of considering some alteration in the present system of administration in the Department. At the beginning of this Session Members communicated with the War Office and received a certain amount of courtesy and attention. I am afraid, however, that as the Session wore on, and communications from Members to that Department grew more numerous, that courtesy diminished. Only a few days ago I heard of a colonel in the War Office—I believe he did very valuable service in the last Zulu War making the remark that the next people to be demobilised, he hoped, would be the Members of the House of Commons, and he added, "As far as I am concerned, they have become a (unparliamentary word) nuisance." Whereas in the beginning of the Session it was possible to do something for one's constituents, now it appears to be perfectly hopeless. I will cite one case. Last December I had occasion to communicate with the War Office and ask that attention might be given to facts that I mentioned. I received no reply except the usual form, buff slip No. 1, saying that my communication would receive attention. The conclusion I have drawn from this case is that if the War Office receive ten thousand letters a day it sends out ten thousand lies a day. I have not come across many cases that have received any attention at all. I received form No. 1, as I stated, and, not having had any further reply in February, I communicated with the War Office again. I had no reply until the May following, and then a communication formally acknowledging the receipt 2047 Of my letter of February, and stating that the writer would be very pleased to receive further information relating to the facts stated in my letter of February, because they were unable to trace the man in question. That means that from December to May I received no serious reply to my communication. It had relation to the demobilisation of a man. The last I heard from the War Office was that they knew nothing about the man. But having proceeded in another way I had already secured his demobilisation, although they told me they knew nothing about him. It might be urged that this was a serious matter, and that I should have brought it to the notice of the Secretary of State. I did a few days after, the first week in May, and I am still awaiting his acknowledgment. It seems to me that Members of the House of Commons and those outside as well are not treated by the War Office as they should be. Industrially, it must surely be accepted as an axiom that you cannot get the best out of a man unless that man is made to realise that there is sympathy and co-operation between him and his employer, and I would urge that as between the soldier and the War Office the soldier should be made to feel, not by statements but by facts and realities, that there does exist between him and the War Office sympathy and co-operation. In that way you are going to get the best out of the men and out of the Army.
§ Major-General Sir J. H. DAVIDSON
I cannot altogether agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down in his reference to the treatment by the War Office of a great many cases of demobilisation, because my experience has been that they have treated these cases with great sympathy, and I fear that the hon. Member must have struck some unfortunate cases. I do not propose to go into a large number of details which have already been dealt with by the Committee. But there are one or two matters I would like to mention. I am not at all clear why officers were not given twenty-eight days' leave when they came back from France just the same as the men were. There were considerable numbers of them who, when they came home, were put straightaway on half-pay. That is particularly hard at any time, but harder than usual under present conditions, with the high cost of living. As regards pre-war pensions, I 2048 cannot see myself why a certain section of the community, that section which is in receipt of pre-war pensions, should be the only section which is not receiving higher pay. It is extremely hard on them. The wage-earning classes are receiving much larger emoluments than they have received in the past. Officers and men are also receiving higher emoluments than they would have done-years ago. That is owing to the high cost of living. That applies equally to pre-war pensions and retired pay, and it applies also to pre-war widows, whose cases are, I think, exceedingly hard. I know of a case of a widow with four children who-is in receipt of a pension of £70 per year. She had some capital which brought in another £70 per year. During the War she expended the whole of that capital on the education of her children, and she is now left with £70 per year and nothing else to keep the family, and it is impossible to do so on that amount, as everybody will recognise.
I should like to refer to the treatment of our soldiers since Peace has been declared. There is no doubt that the soldiers are the people who won this War and secured peace and victory, and there is no doubt also that they have had an extremely hard time and they have earned the gratitude of the country; but they have earned something more as well. They have earned a proper and decent life for themselves and for their families for the rest of their existence, and I do think that they have not received adequate treatment. Discharged soldiers and sailors at the present moment number over 3.000,000,and that number will be increased as time goes on. They are a force to be reckoned with, and in these days I think it is essential that they should be made a contented body, apart altogether from the fact that they are entitled to every sort of recognition that it is possible to give them. Probably no one in the House is more impressed with the necessity for financial economy than I am, but I think we are penny wise and pound foolish if we do not treat those ex-soldiers and sailors properly. Several hon. Members have mentioned various matters in which there is a grievance as to gratuities, pensions, and so forth. I think it is false economy to try a cheese-paring policy with these men, and a wrong policy. Money expended now, even if we expend several millions will be money well expended in every possible way. I am sorry to say 2049 there is in the Finance Department of the War Office, an atmosphere of pre-war days. I do net like other hon. Members who spoke, put the blame altogether on the War Office. I do not think it is the fault of the War Office, but of the Treasury, who go in for economising in the Army, because there is no question of strikes or other trouble, and they have got into the habit of dropping matters connected with benefits for soldiers or for officers. I do think it is essential that we should get away from this habit of treating the men who have in reality won the victory for us, and that we should treat them in a really adequate manner and with a due sense of the gratitude that we owe to them.
§ Lieut-Colonel POWNALL
I desire to say. a few words as to the Territorial Force, but, before doing so, there are two suggestions I should like to make to the War Office, based on my four years' experience in charge of a battalion during the War. The first is as regards the Army Chaplains' Department. We battalion commanders had attached to us during the War a good many chaplains of all denominations. I do not think I met a single one of them who did not think it would have been very much better if, instead of being an officer with officer's rank badges, he had been simply a padre. That was the general impression of the civilian padres who put on uniform during the War. It stands to reason that it should be so. Take the case of a soldier who is in barrack, smarting from a sense of injustice at having been given seven days "C.B." by an officer with three stars, and the padre, also with three stars, goes to him to have a talk about church or other matters, and naturally enough the man brackets the one with the other. There is a very rough-and-ready line drawn up in the Army between those: whom you call "Sir" and salute and those to whom you do neither. I think it would be very much better for the welfare of the men, and in order that the Army chaplains might be more in touch with them than they can be at present, if the chaplains were to sink their rank badges and were just to be plain padres. I suggest to the War Office that they might do worse than obtain the opinions of a number of those temporary Army chaplains who have recently been demobilised and find out whether in future it would not be better to work the Army Chaplains Department on the lines I have suggested.
2050 An hon. Gentleman who spoke just now said that it was difficult to ensure cooperation and good feeling between the War Office and the serving Army. I can assure him that that is also a difficulty with regard to commanding officers and the men who are serving under them, especially when, during the War, many soldiers served only from nine to fourteen weeks in this country and then went out to France to do their bit. While I was serving a couple of years ago, an order came round that commanding officers should arrange for a meeting once a month of the president of the Regimental Institute, the messing officer, and certain delegates from the men. I took two, and as many more as cared to come along and ventilate any grievances or make any suggestions that they wished. I found those gatherings of the very greatest possible use, especially in the way of knowing what the men were thinking about. To start with, there was a considerable air and atmosphere of suspicion. Some of the men rather scorned to think that the authorities made profits out of the compulsory rations in the same way as a housemaster at one of our big public schools, who, if he can economise a little bit on the board of the schools, puts a little bit more into his own pocket. In fact, they obviously were under the impression that one's messing officer was building rows of cottages from the savings that he was making out of the messing money at their expense. Those ideas very soon went. It was not only as regards the men's diet, it was as regards their amusements, recreations, if possible, hours of meals, and all those small points which are very little in themselves, but which do conduce so much to the welfare and the happiness of the men who are serving in a battalion. I understand, from inquiries that I have made, that other commands have not sent out similar orders to those sent out by the Southern Command. I should like to suggest to the representatives of the War Office that they issue orders from the War Office that these periodical gatherings should be held regularly, so that any man who think she would like to make some suggestion—other, of course, than the formal complaint which is made through the commanding officer in the battalion orderly room—should get a chance once a month of bringing forward any little suggestions on the lines T have mentioned. I am sure that would do a 2051 great deal towards making each individual battalion what we all wish it to be—happy and contented.
As regards the Territorials, I may, perhaps, say that this is my last speech as a Territorial officer, because, after twenty-three years' consecutive service, my time is up, and therefore this is something in the nature of a swan song of a Territorial officer. Before the War, I think, we Territorials had—possibly legitimate—grievances against most people. We certainly had against the Members of this House. The Radical party was mortally afraid of helping the force at all, for fear that it should be charged with being tainted with militarism. The Unionist party were, many of them, very keen indeed on National Service, and they were rather anxious, many of them, to crab the Territorial Force in order that there might be more chance of National Service coming in. I do not think that the Territorial Force—I am speaking of before the War— had fair play from either side of this House. I hope, if for no other reason than the part it played—as Lord French bears testimony—in the early days of the War, that the attitude of this House will be very different in the future from what it was before the War. It is most important to get, in reconstituting the Territorial Force, the right men as commanding officers. You want men who commanded their battalions in the field. We have many of them, 1 am proud to say, who have done well in the field. It also requires a considerable amount of tact to make a good Territorial commanding officer. Moreover, you do not want more delay than you can possibly help, because the men are very keen now. As was shown by the march of the Territorial and other London troops through London, there is a considerable amount of enthusiasm, and you do not want to let that enthusiasm grow cold. Therefore I hope the War Office will do all they can to speed up the recognition of the Territorials. As affecting London Territorials, before the War the regimental colonels of Guards became automatically brigade commanders of four of the six brigades of London Territorial troops. We were proud to be connected with the Guards. We had not at that time men who had the experience to command brigades. Since that time a fifth regiment— the Welsh Guards—has been formed, and I think senior Territorial officers, many of whom commanded brigades in the field, 2052 will have a very serious grievance in London if five out of the six Territorial brigades are given automatically to regimental colonels of the Guards. You would only have one vacancy in two complete divisions—there were four divisions in the field—available for Territorial brigadiers, and, inasmuch as some fifty Territorial officers have commanded brigades during the War, I do not think that would be fair to the Territorials as a whole.
As regards the finance of Territorial Force Associations, the association that 1 know most about was making, before the War, very considerable sums, running into five figures, on the clothing of its men. It was the only way it could make both ends meat. On the establishment charges there was a loss of £14,000 a year on the average, and it was only on the clothing that they could make both ends meet. I understand that the War Office in future is not going to give a grant for clothing, but to give-the clothing in kind. I think 80 per cent of the Territorial Force Associations throughout the country will not be able to carry on on these lines. It will be absolutely necessary greatly to increase the establishment grant to Territorial Force Associations for the reason I have just mentioned, and also because you have to make the headquarters comfortable, places for the men to go to. My idea is that the best form of Old Comrades' Associations will be to have the men continuing as serving members of their Territorial Force battalions, spending, not the whole year together, but a fortnight together during their annual training. I think, if we only give the men decent headquarters. it will be found that there will be a very large rally from those who served together during the War, and who will be glad to keep up their acquaintanceship with their friends and do a bit of soldiering in a fortnight's training in peace time.
A further suggestion that I want to make with regard to the Territorial Force is that it is absolutely essential that you should have direct representation on the Army Council, by the Director-General of the Territorials. He ought to have the rank of Lieutenant-General. He ought to be a Regular soldier, and one who has commanded a Territorial division, and therefore knows something of the aspirations, and, in peace time, the limitations of the. Territorial Force. He ought to be domiciled at the War Office, and not, as I believe is at present the case, at Adastral House, or some place of that kind. It is 2053 absolutely essential that there should be a liaison officer—I think the best person would be the Director-General himself— between the War Office and the Territorial Force. The Territorials should be no longer what they were before the War, the stepchild of the War Office. After all, if Territorial divisions have been good enough to fight side by side with Regular divisions throughout these four and a half years, it is not unfair of us to ask that our headquarters should be alongside those of the Regulars at the War Office and that we should be given fair play there. I know something, from my twenty-three years of soldiering, of the difficulties which the Territorials had in the past, and I only hope that my successors will be given a better chance than we were given, if for no other reason than for the sake of those tens of thousands of Territorials who gave their lives before the War.
§ Lieut.-Colonel CAMPION
The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken said that he had twenty-three years' service in the Territorial Force and that his time is now up. I have had thirty and a half years, and my time, I hope, is not up. Furthermore, I feel obliged to say that I cannot agree with some of the remarks that the hon. and gallant Member made. I hope very much that the War Office will not further interfere with commanding officers' management and administration of their battalions. I want to make one or two brief observations with regard to the reconstruction of the Territorial Force. First of all, may I endorse very strongly what has been already said by one or two hon. Members as to the great necessity that the Regulations and terms of service with regard to the new Territorial Force, or the reconstituted Territorial Force, should be issued and made known at as early a date as possible. At the present moment there arc undoubtedly a number of men who have served in the Army who are willing and ready and waiting to re-enlist in the Territorial Force, but if they find that the Regulations are not issued at an early date they will begin, to be unmindful of their duty and to wonder whether, after all, they are wanted, and it will be all the more difficult to enlist them. Therefore, I strongly urge on the right hon. Gentle man the importance of issuing these Regulations as early as possible. I would also urge the importance, now that Peace is signed. of getting the first line Territorial units home at as early a date as possible, in order to facilitate and accelerate the work of reconstruction.
2054 May I say a word or two with regard to training? Before the War training during the winter in the Territorial Force consisted of only ten drills for trained men. I do not know, but I imagine that the idea is to continue that system for the future. It is all too little to preserve efficiency. and sufficient only for keeping the men of the platoon or the company together, and for seeing that their uniform or equipment is complete, and so on. I gather, and if it is so I am graceful for the suggestion, that the War Office contemplates devoting a great deal more attention to what are called week-end camps for training. I believe that they can be very considerably developed for the benefit, efficiency and training of the Territorial Force. You get men together for two or three nights; you get them into camps, close to a range, to practise their musketry. You also get them under discipline, and they practise their drill, and increase their smartness of turn-out. Before the War the difficulty was that the authorities were not sufficiently generous in the way of allowance and pay for the week-end camps, or in the matter of equipment, such as tents, and so on. That was so also as regards musketry and ammunition. Before the War I had the good fortune to be a company commander, and I know that if I wanted to maintain anything like a good state of efficiency in musketry in my company I had either to put my hand fairly deeply into my own pocket or to ask my friends and those in the neighbourhood to subscribe. That should not be the case. Before the War money was only supplied in sufficient quantities to enable a man to perform his annual course of musketry. No allowance, or only a very small allowance, was made for practice on a range. I do hope and suggest that in the future-a generous allowance of ammunition per man will be given, so that we may be able to make our men efficient by having a good deal of practice on the range.
One word with regard to Imperial service obligations. I understand it is suggested that in future all men, and, I presume, officers also, of the Territorial Force are to remain fit for general service. I welcome that suggestion very heartily indeed. They will, of course, enlist for service in this country alone. They will not be liable, I take it, for service oversea, unless a General Military Service Act is passed. So far as that goes, I consider it an excellent suggestion, because it means that the officers and men will 2055 realise that, whatever happens, if they should be called upon to go on active service, they will all serve together as a battalion. If the General Military Service Act is passed, they will all go abroad as a battalion; their organisation will be the same, and it will be a premium on efficiency generally and on esprit de corps. I hope, if that is the case, that no suggestion will be brought forward that the men should sign the Imperial service obligation, because, if so, it will have a tendency to divide a battalion into two factions, those who sign the Imperial service obligation and those who do not. It is not always the best men or not all the best men who will sign the Imperial service, obligation. A great many men very naturally, are shy of committing themselves unduly. They will not give a blank cheque to the Government, and so they will not be ready to sign the Imperial service obligation. We had experience of it at the beginning of the War. We had the men who volunteered and who signed the Imperial service obligation and we had those who did not, and it was not good for discipline nor for efficiency. Take the case of a battalion at the outbreak of war which stands at the strength of 600 men. Two hundred men have signed the Imperial service obligation. The moment war breaks out these 200 men are taken, before the General Military Service Act is passed; and the result is that the whole organisation of that battalion is thrown out of gear, and considerable delay is caused in consequence in getting the battalion ready and fit for general service abroad. I suggest that if the War Office want to be able to rely on a certain number of men to go abroad on foreign service at the first commencement of the war, they should not rely on the Imperial service obligation. They can always count readily if the war be a just one, and the country is behind the Government in that war, on a large proportion of men of any Territorial battalion volunteering for service oversea if they are wanted.
I would like to say one or two words with regard to the question of officers in the reconstituted Territorial Force. I hope the matter of officers' expenses will be considered. I think it has been mentioned before, and I will not labour it, but I endorse what has been said with regard to the importance of every help being given to officers in the way of uniform, and 2056 of equipment, such as revolvers, field glasses, compasses, and so on, which are expensive things, and which are very often rather a heavy item in a Territorial officer's equipment, in very many, if not in most, battalions officers are obliged to live some way away from their company headquarters; they have their work to do in civil life; and considerable expense is entailed upon them if they are to do their duty and to attend the drills and training. Therefore I suggest that free warrants should be issued to Territorial officers when they are traveling on duty. One word in regard to the question of Regular officers, brigadier-generals, adjutants, and so on, who may be attached to the Territorial Force. Before the War it was, perhaps, possible for brigadier-generals of the Regular Army to command a Territorial brigade who might not be quite the very best Regular soldiers that could be found. I do insist that after the War nothing but the best will suffice. After all, Territorial officers served throughout the War, they are men of experience in warfare now, and they will very soon spot a dud officer. I hope that every pains will betaken that those who are made brigadier-generals of the Territorial Force or who arc appointed adjutants of that force will be men who are really keen and good soldiers, first-class at their job, men particularly who are good at, imparting instruction, and particularly that form of instruction in which the Territorial Force as a whole was somewhat deficient before the War, namely, instruction in the direction or administration, and so on, of a battalion. I make these few remarks not in any spirit of criticism or fault-finding, but because I feel myself—and I think I speak for all Territorial officers—a spirit of gratitude that now the Territorial Force is being sympathetically regarded by the War Office and by the Army generally, that our difficulties are being recognised, and that we are being at the present time, and I hope we shall continue in the future to be, treated seriously.
I think the Debate today clearly proves the new interest taken in the question of the future of our Army, and it is obvious that it is due to one simple fact, namely, that whilst prior to the War none of us could claim to speak for very many soldiers, to-day there is no constituency but has got a very large proportion. I only desire to make one or two observations with regard to the future of 2057 the Army. The first I would make is this, that just as I believe there is a general recognition to-day that the soldier in the past has been badly paid and his position must be improved in future, so I believe the same principle must equally apply to the officer. One thing above another that the War has clearly proved is the fact that a grave mistake was made and will be made in the future unless we adopt a system which enables the poorest and the humblest man who has got brains and ability to rise to any position in the British Army. In other words, we have got to remove what was well known before, the system that prevented non-commissioned officers taking a commission merely because they did not have the means to keep up the dignity of the position. With those two observations, I will now proceed at once to deal with the speech of my right hon. Friend, and I think that no apology was needed from him or anyone else in demanding that every question that occupies public attention and is a source of public agitation should be debated in this House. We want to see the House of Commons remain the tribunal of the people, because in a democratic country like ours, where men and women have an opportunity of moulding, of influencing, yea, of determining, the character of this Parliament, we are entitled to say that whilst they have that privilege and whilst that is a prerogative that they can exercise, we are entitled to demand from them that this House of Commons and those elected are equally entitled to see that the majority rule of the people must always be maintained and respected. That being so, I think that Parliament must face fairly and squarely the demand on the part of a large section of the people existing to-day, encouraged to-day, and which indeed may ultimately come to a struggle, to say, in substance, "No, we have a better means; we have a shorter means; in fact, we are going to defy Parliament, because Parliament fails to do what we demand."
I think, stripped from everything else, that is the short issue that is occupying the attention of the country at this moment. My right hon. Friend attempted to deal with in. and, as I. hope to show quite fairly, I think he made a very serious mistake. In the first place, I would beg the House to make due allowance for the five years through which we have just passed. There is a tendency to forget that the past five years are unprecedented in the world's history. There is a tendency to forget that 2058 all of us were working under a strain and a pressure that must find a reaction of some kind, and it is just as well, however much we may deplore the industrial situation, to make some allowance for the circumstances I have mentioned; and similarly, when we are tempted to blame the working classes for their mass action and their massed strikes, which we are inclined to misunderstand, I would also urge that due regard should be paid to what is called the spirit of comradeship, because every Victoria Cross won in this War, every hero whose deeds we most applaud was guided, influenced, and actuated invariably by the spirit of comradeship. Therefore, the same comradeship that wins honours on the battlefield is invariably the saint; spirit that is responsible for the working classes themselves—sometimes mistakenly —standing by a comrade because they believe that an injustice has been done him.
Having said that, I will proceed at once to examine shortly the four questions. What is it that the workers are complaining of with regard to Russia? They say, first, that the British Government or the Allies have no right to interfere with, dictate to, or attempt to mould the form of government in another country. All history proves that the Government must be a reflex of the people themselves. We make a great mistake if we assume that the overwhelming mass of the working classes agitating on the Russian question to-day is merely influenced by what is called sympathy with Bolshevism. It is not because they are sympathetic towards Bolshevism, not because they believe in Bolshevism, but because they believe that an attempt is being made to interfere with the form of government which another people desires. I do not want to argue whether it is right or wrong at the moment. I merely want to state what is in their minds. That is exactly the kind of feeling that is operating in the mind of the industrial classes to-day. Secondly, they say—and rightly say—that in that interference men who were conscripted for an entirely different purpose are being used by the Government. My right hon. Friend gave the figures as eleven to six. Shortly, I presume by that he means that for every throe soldiers in Russia to-day two are volunteers and one is a conscript. I presume that, would be the rough proportion. But that merely means this: it is not a question of eleven to six, bill it is a fact that thousands of men who were conscripted, and who accepted Conscrip- 2059 tion, for the purpose of fighting the Germans find themselves to-day used for an entirely different purpose. It is use less to argue that the purpose is essential. It is useless to argue that it is necessary to fight in Russia. That is all beside the question so far as they are concerned. Their complaint is, "Why should we be used as conscripts for a purpose that is foreign to the intentions of the Conscription Act?" That, shortly, is the situation so far as Russia is concerned. When one comes to the question of Conscription, the answer of my right hon. Friend again is not an answer to the claim of those thinking on this question. It is not sufficient for him to say, "If we had not passed the Act, so- and-so would have happened." That is an explanation, but that is not a defence. That is not a justification for the fact that in December those responsible for the War Office, my right hon. Friend included —
§ 10.0 p.m.
But you were a member of the Government. That aggravates the situation. That is exactly the claim, that in December of last year, after four and a half years of war, a General Election took place, about which there were very divided opinions as to the justification or necessity, but when the election took place; the people were told clearly and definitely that, so far as Conscription was concerned, there was no intention whatever to introduce such an Act. They were told that, and no amount of legal quibbling will get over the fact. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Churchill) says they were not told anything of the kind. [HON. MEMBERS: "They were told!"] It is a very curious thing that, following the Prime Minister's speech in Bristol, in reply to my speech at Manchester. I am assured that nearly every candidate put out a special poster the next morning, "Vote for the Coalition candidate and no Conscription." I do not want to debate a technical point. I merely want to try to get the House of Commons to understand the kind of feeling that is operating, because we are much nearer a remedy if we really understand the case. I am merely putting the point of view of the working classes on that question.
Now I come to the third point, namely, the question of using soldiers during industrial disputes. My right hon. Friend's 2060 answer on that point shortly was this. He said, "As a matter of fact, neither I myself nor the Cabinet knew a word about the Circular that was issued." I gather that was his answer. But my right hon. Friend cannot divest himself of responsibility for his office, It is no use the head of a Department saying, "I know nothing of what is happening in my Department," because he is held responsible for that Department, and on this question of using the Army for industrial disputes, I atleast want to make my position perfectly clear. I have no hesitation in saying than in a struggle between the State and a section of the people, the State Is entitled, and it is their duty, to say that all the forces of the Crown must be at their disposal. I do not hesitate to say that, and it is a position I have never disguised from my mind, because I believe in facing facts. But that is not the complaint of the working classes. That is an entirely different thing from using soldiers, or threatening to use soldiers, not in order to preserve law and order, not for the purpose of defending the State, but for the purpose of using them to break a strike. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the difference?] I will show the difference in a moment. I will give an illustration which will prove my case. When the crisis happened in 1911, Mr. Asquith, who was then Prime Minister, met us at the Board of Trade. We intimated that a strike was going to take place in a few hours. He gave a reply which was not satisfactory, and on behalf of my side, I gave an intimation that the strike was going to take place. He immediately said. "I only want to warn you that the whole resources of the State, civil and military, will be placed at the disposal of the Government in order to ensure the food supplies of the people." I did not challenge it, although it was resented, but I immediately said to my people, "If I were Prime Minister. I would do precisely the same. "It is a logical position, i am asked, "What is the difference?" I will tell hon. Members the difference. If troops are used, not for the purpose of preserving law and order, not for the purpose of supplying food, but for the purpose of blacklegging, that is an entirely different thing. That is the whole point that the workers feel in this matter. [An HON. MEMBER: "It has not been done !"] Anyone who reads that Circular cannot help reading it as the masses of the people read it, reading it as the working classes read 2061 it. Looking at all the circumstances surrounding it, it conveys absolutely the impression I have suggested.
I have tried fairly to state the three points. I come to the last part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. 1 am bound to say a profound mistake was made by him in the manner in which he dealt with the subject. What did he say? he said, "Now, as regards the Triple Alliance, what is it they complain of?" He recited the things I have just mentioned. He said, "If they do not hurry up their grievances will be gone." It is an easy matter to be flippant in these things. I know, and know all too well, that there are a large number of people who believe the best way of dealing with this question is to fight and "damn the consequences." But I would beg the House just to ponder for a moment on the facts. The State could have a fight. The State may say, "It is tar better that we should have the fight and get it over." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, I know that I correctly interpreted that feeling. "But let me beg the House to remember one or two facts. You could have the fight, and you could win. But the problem that we are faced with immediately, and the only problem that will save our country, is increased production.
Yes; but if that is so, is fighting and damning the consequences the way to get that production? Is that the way to get good will?
I ask the House fairly to consider that side of the question. Do not make any mistake. The task of those of us who are leading is not an easy one. We have got these facts outside of this House. We have got to deal with the situation with these masses of people. I am as certain as I am here that the way in which—I hope in a way my right hon. Friend did not intend—I am certain that that is the kind of interpretation that will be put on she speech. After all, the working classes of this country are not cowards. If they are deliberately challenged they will accept the challenge without question, never mind what the consequences may be. I believe, as I said earlier, that a mistake was made—I hope my right hon. Friend did not intend it—because I believe, what ever our differences of opinion may be, it is the duty of every responsible man to- 2062 day to try first to understand the situation, and to do or to say nothing calculated to upset things. I repeat that the temper in the country is bad. Everyone knows it. The House of Commons knows the difficulties, economic and financial. We are all agreed that the sooner we get the wheels of industry started the better for everyone—no one more than the working classes themselves. It is our duty surely to contribute anything and everything we can to that end. I believe it can only be done not by threats to the working classes, not by surrendering the power of the Government, but rather by trying to understand the case and to establish good will on both sides.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Everyone is very glad indeed to see my right hon. Friend back in his place. The speech which he has just delivered makes us feel confident that now he has returned to this country labour politics at a critical moment will receive the due guidance of one who has never failed to champion with courage the interests of his class, and of the trade unions, and at the same time has never ignored the great common 'interests of this broad land and its permanent future amongst the other nations of the world. I have known my right hon. Friend a good many years in the rough and tumble of political life—sometimes in agreement, sometimes in acute opposition—but I have always soon him advance on the same lines of pushing the political interests of the British Empire and of the working-class democracy, at the same time keeping the show together so that it should not be unworthy of the greatness and splendour of the British Empire. That being so, I feel it my duty to reply in a very few words to the-remarks he has addressed to (he Committee, because, after all. there are several points purely of a military and technical character, and also largely of a, financial character.
In the first instance, let me say that I do not think my right hon. Friend made any serious case against the policy of the Government, or against the policy which I unfolded this afternoon. He surveyed these grievances one after another like any impartial man dealing with such a situation. But I think that those grievances, as he put them forward, are pretty thin when compared with the agency which it is proposed to call into operation. I am not going to say any 2063 more about Russia. I really cannot improve upon what I have said. I might go further and fare worse. I have been asked about the conscripts that are in Russia. The conscripts will come away with the others, and first. They are coming away; only we must be given that reasonable latitude that any trade union gathering or political public meeting in the country would gladly give, once they had realised the task —reasonable latitude and discretion, so that no discredit is brought upon the good name of our country, for which the working classes have sacrificed so much and embellished with so much honour and fame in the War. My right hon. Friend spoke of the Circular. I do not in the least repudiate the responsibility for that Circular. I said I had never seen it. I took full responsibility, and I do now. But the Circular is as dead as mutton. It no longer exists. It is not relevant to affairs. We cannot have a national strike, or the country hit, before it has recovered from the strain of the War, just because of a circular of no political significance which has long ceased to exercise any influence upon our affairs.
I think I understand the distinction of my right hon. Friend. I think it would be odious that forces of the State should be used to interfere in a dispute between capital and labour to advance the interests of the private employer or a particular group of workmen. The whole idea is that they have a right to fight it out within reasonable limits, and the inconvenience has often the effect of inducing a more friendly state of mind and a harmonious solution. Never must the forces of the State be employed where private interest is the motive power. The right hon. Gentleman, with the greatest courage and frankness, has accepted the position which the Government has taken up. When the State as a whole is challenged, when the life of the community, the feeding of the people of our great cities, communications, the supplies of fuel, on which the whole existence of our industries depend are endangered, then obviously the State must use all the resources at, its disposal and fight to the bitter end, and then the victor must assume the responsibility for the conduct of affairs.
The other matter raised was Conscription. I do not agree that Parliament has broken its faith by one hair's-breadth in 2064 relation to that matter. The Prime Minister said distinctly that we shall fight for the abolition of Conscription at the Peace Conference, but our attitude must depend upon what other Powers do. We are talking about Conscription as a permanent feature for the life of this country. We did fight at the Peace Conference for this principle and we made a very notable advance. At any rate, we made the Germans give up Conscription, and that enabled us to give it up, and it passes away completely. But whoever supposed at the General Election if we required to make arrangements to carry on the Army during the next few months to enable us to create our voluntary Army in order to replace our Army abroad with long-service men, voluntarily, that that was a breach of our election pledge?
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean by a few months that it is the intention of the Government to repeal the Act?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
No, Sir. I mean that the Act will lapse when it runs out. As far as I can sec, unless some extraordinary thing arises, it w ill expire in the ordinary course, but long before it expires anybody who was conscripted in the War and who fought in the. War, will be liberated. It may be that some of those young boys who have not yet been in the fighting will have to remain in the Army for a little time longer. We cannot turn the country upside down with a national strike which has the aspect of a definite challenge of a revolutionary character for the sake of something which, in a few months more or less, is going to pass away altogether. I gladly welcome this opportunity of a discussion across the floor of the House with my right hon. Friend, because if there is an opportunity of showing that there is a real union of thought and policy between parties in the House and the country, and between the Government and the masses of the people, it is better for the country as a whole to know it. The right hon. Gentleman was very much upset at my having said that if they did not hurry up their national strike they would have to get a brand-now outfit of grievances. Now, I have gone about the country for a period of twenty years or more; I have in that time been in contact with great masses of the British people, and I am quite sure of this that whatever else some of us may think, they are not deficient in the sense 2065 of humour. If the Labour party is going to come forward, if it is going to win a great electoral victory, let their leaders place their case before the electors, let them argue it out with the electors, and if they get a majority in Parliament, let them, for the general good of the country, use this mighty instrument of Parliament- an instrument admired all the world over. But do not let them break it up. We will take the rough with the smooth, and if they win we will assist them to the best of our ability. We will lot call a general strike in order to upset them. Let thorn submit their proposals of liberty to the nation. We have a franchise which represents the absolute will of the people as a whole. Let them use: these great rights, these great liberties, with a sincere desire to advance the public interests as a whole, to preserve the long-continued British history, and let them use them also with that saving sense of humour and that sense of proportion which have never been lacking from the consciences of the British people.
§ Colonel YATE
I have listened with much pleasure to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Thomas), who has just returned to this country, and also to the reply of the Secretary of State for War. The main point on which we started this morning was the question of the use of conscripts in Russia, and I am glad to think we have had a definite reply from the right hon. Gentleman to the effect, that the conscripts are to come back and that no more will be employed in Russia. I should like to say a word about Russia. I learned with pleasure that the Americans are going to remain in Siberia, but I listened with very great discontent to what the right hon. Gentleman said— that we were going to evacuate the North-West and Archangel. I have a great belief in Russia. I am a well-wisher of Russia. I have seen a good deal of it. I know the feeling which has existed in Russia in old days towards the British nation. I know how the Russian people admired the British, and I hope that feeling may come back. But it has for the moment been destroyed by the Bolshevik Government, and I cannot understand the attitude of certain Labour leaders in this country in their desire that no action should be taken, against the Bolshevist Government. When I was last in Moscow and Petrograd I saw a large number of our working men in the cotton and other factories.
2066 They have come back with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Those are the-men we ought to help to return. Nothing has been done for them. The working classes of this country should do their best to destroy the Bolshevist Government and reinstate all these British working men who have been ruined. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will encourage the use of volunteers in this country to go and help to restore Russia in the way we all wish to see it restored. We wish to see the Bolshevist Government of Jews and all sorts of people driven out and the real Russians come in to make whatever Government they desire, but we want to see the Bolshevists destroyed and a stable Government formed where the Britisher will be welcomed as he was in olden days.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration the question of promotion of officers in the General Reserve. Officers in the General Reserve never get any pension, but it is very hard that men who had retired before the War and came back to serve as officers during the War are not allowed to get their promotion to major when they have completed their fifteen years of service. The rule, which was brought, in by the War Office, of deducting half of the period after their retirement acts most hardly on them, and I see no reason why a man, if he is on the General Reserve and has completed fifteen years on full pay, should not get his promotion the same as anyone else. Another question which I hope is under consideration, is that of the kept-on officer. The naval authorities have now settled the question. The kept-on officers under the new rules are to be treated as retired and called up with retrospective effect from 4th August. 1914. I hope that same rule is going to be brought into the Army. We cannot have differential treatment in that way between the Navy and the Army, and I trust all these officers who have completed their full time of service during the War and were not allowed to retire will be treated in the future as retired from the date they were entitled to. As to canteen funds I hope arrangements will be made by which some help may be given to disabled officers to enable them to complete training in their endeavours to get into civil life. There is a great demand for that sort of thing, and I hope some giant will be given them on that account. I hope, as soon as the Regular battalions have all been filled up, the first line Territorial regiments 2067 will be brought home and filled up too. I hope special consideration will be given to the Cadet Corps of the Territorial Force. I am honorary colonel of a Cadet Corps raised a few years ago in my county. It consists of boys from all the secondary schools in my county—some thirteen or fourteen. What we want to catch are the boys who do not go to secondary schools. I trust something will be done to encourage the universal calling-up for physical training of all boys from fourteen to eighteen. The Australians have their junior and senior cadets and we ought to have the same. We all hope the rates of pay of officers will be increased in the near future. No retired officers and no pensioned widows of pre-war days can possibly live on their pensions at present, I trust that will be seriously taken up and altered. Increased allowances must be given to officers on removal to fresh stations. Owing to the frequent changes in the Army, I have seen officers with three houses on their hands. They have enormouse expenses. I trust that something will be done for them. Officers' uniform is another important matter. I trust that special arrangements will be made to give cheap uniform and equipment to officers in future. I do not know what arrangements are being made, but there must be some arrangement made to provide the cheapest possible uniform and the cheapest possible equipment in the way of revolvers, glasses and belts, etc.
§ Mr. FORSTER
The latter part of the Debate has ranged over a great variety of topics. I should like to join with those older Members who have congratulated the new Members who have addressed us for the first time. It is always refreshing to welcome and to hear hon. Gentlemen speaking as the result of firsthand knowledge, and I have been interested in many of the remarks that have fallen from hon. and gallant Members. The Committee will realise that it is impossible for anyone holding my position to deal in detail with all the great number of complicated questions which have been touched upon, and if I omit to refer to some particular question that some particular Member has brought forward, I trust he will not take it as being due to any lack of courtesy on my part or to any unwillingness to look into the matter and see what can be done.
2068 The most convenient course would be to refer to those topics which have engaged the larger share of attention. The first one which was mentioned in point of time, and certainly not the least in point of merit, is the question of the education of the future Army. My hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Mildmay) spoke with considerable knowledge as to the value of the system of education now being given in the Army of Occupation. He was very anxious, and so were, other hon. Members, that the system which is now in practice should be carried out in the post-war Army, so that the soldier may feel that, while he is discharging his military duties, he is fitting himself for return to employment in civil life. My hon. and gallant Friend asked for a definite assurance, if such could be given as to the organisation for the future education in the Army. I am afraid I cannot give him details, because it has been impossible until recently to get really to grips with the size and constitution and general arrangements of the post-war Army, but I can assure him that the foundation is well and solidly laid and upon that foundation we all look forward to seeing a most useful educational edifice erected and brought into being. The next question, referred to by a considerable number of hon. Members, was the question of the disposal of the canteen funds. It is a very important question. The amount of money involved is very large, and I know that the interest which is taken in it is very widespread. Considerable thought has been given to the best way in which to dispose of these huge funds, which have been accumulator mainly as a result of trading overseas. It was thought of such consequence that we referred it to the Government rather than deal with it off our own bat. After mature consideration, it has been decided that the best way to dispose of these funds would be to create a new body independent of any Government Department, on which will be represented those both serving and ex-Service men and women, officers and others, whose contributions have built up the great fund in question. The Committee will welcome the announcement that General Sir Julian Byng has undertaken to act as chairman of the board of management. Anyone who has had experience of General Byng, of the deep interest which he has always taken in the welfare of the men under his command, and of the great industry and grasp of detail which have characterised his in 2069 valuable work throughout the War, will realise that in him we have secured a chairman who will carry the organisation to success. Then our idea is that we should not go building up a great new Department centralised and administering this great fund from London. Our idea is that there should be committees in every county, on, which, again, there should be representatives of the serving and ex-serving men and women, officers and others, and that they should work as far as possible through existing agencies— regimental aid societies, Comrades of the Great War, the National Federation, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Help Society, and so on—and that they should be able to secure an enormous amount of voluntary assistance in the detailed work of the organisation. I think that by working on those lines we shall avoid much of the criticism which might have been directed against us if we had attempted to deal with the disposal of these great-funds ourselves. Even if we had attempted to deal with them ourselves we should have welcomed the assistance of men of all ranks, but I think that the organisation which I have outlined is a better one, and I hope that it will prove satisfactory to the, men concerned, and to those who have spoken on their behalf.
The next question to which reference was made was that of the Territorial divisions in India. I sympathise fully with all that has been said in their favour, because the Territorials from the county of Kent, part of which I have the honour to represent, were amongst the first to volunteer for foreign service and among the first to go to India, where they have been ever since. I am most anxious that we should do everything we can to make up to them the hard luck which they have had. Various questions with regard to them have been asked, and I was invited to say whether or not it is proposed to give a special decoration to those Territorial divisions. They will, of course, get the War Medal, but I am afraid that beyond that I am not in a position to hold out any hope of a special decoration. Every effort, as my right hon. Friend said earlier in the Debate, is being made to get these men home at the earliest possible opportunity, and I trust the House will believe me when I say that he is pressing the question of their relief with the greatest possible vigour.
I have been asked to give details with regard to the constitution of the post- 2070 war Army, and to say something as to the question of the future uniform. There again the difficulty that we have had in coming to definite decisions with regard to the post-war Army is easily intelligible, I think. As the House will readily see, it must depend to a great extent on the question of finance, and until we were able to see more or less clearly what the future pay of the Army was going to be, we really found it almost impossible to get along with the settlement of the various details. It has only been within the last few days that the necessary decisions have been given by the Government, with regard to the future pay of the Army, to enable us to get to the detail work which is necessary before we are able to issue a comprehensive statement such as has been issued by the Navy. I hope we shall be able to do that before the end of the Session. We are all working under the greatest possible pressure in order to get that done, so that before Parliament rises it will have the opportunity of seeing what the future pay of the Army is to be. Now that the future pay of the Army is in course of settlement and is on the eve of being finally decided, I hope it will be possible to make more rapid progress with the settlement of the various questions connected with the constitution of the post-war Army. With regard to the question of uniform, I have consulted my right hon. Friend as to whether it will be possible to publish a Report of the Committee which has been going into that question, and I will do my utmost to see that a very early announcement is made as to the decision with regard to their recommendations. I think my hon. Friend behind me (Sir Samuel Scott) suggested that we might issue a leaflet.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
What I wanted to know was whether, when the uniform is issued by the Government, officers will have the opportunity of buying it at the Government price?
§ Mr. FORSTER
I think there is a very great deal to be said in favour of that, and also of issuing equipment from the Ordnance Stores. I am afraid I cannot make any definite announcement in regard to those questions, but they are receiving very careful and close attention, and I hope to be able to make an announcement in regard to them shortly.
A question has been raised as to the war gratuities payable to the men of the Army, 2071 and I am asked why do you not calculate the gratuity to the men in the same way as it is calculated to the officer. The House must remember that there are officers and officers. If hon. Members will look at the gratuity which is payable to the Regular officer they will find that in the method of calculation the basis is the same for the officer of the Regular Army as for the men. What creates the anomaly is the fact that for officers holding temporary commissions there is a special provision in the Royal Warrant which prescribes in their case that they have a war gratuity of so many days' pay for each year of service. I say quite frankly if the framers of the Royal Warrant could ever have foreseen a war of this magnitude-- and T must remind the Committee that the provision of the Warrant in question was drawn up shortly after the South African War—andif they could have foreseen the introduction of compulsory service, or the conditions under which the War was fought, and the way in which the Army has been manned and officered, I am quite certain that article of the Royal Warrant would never have been incorporated in it. I think I can undertake to say this in future, and I am referring to future wars, and I am not referring to the future treatment of officers and men who have served in this War, it is quite certain that the gratuity for officers and men must and ought to be calculated on the same basis, and we should not find ourselves in the anomalous position in which the Warrant has placed us at the present time. When a comparison is drawn between the case of the man and the case of the temporary officer, I think the Committee should in all fairness bear in mind the whole facts of the case. The man gets a good deal more than his gratuity when he is demobilised, the officer does not. The man gets twenty-eight days' furlough, and also full pay and separation allowance and so on, and in addition to that he gets six months out-of-work donation. That is a substantial provision. There is nothing of the kind for the officer, and therefore when the Committee is comparing the two cases I think it should bear in mind that a good deal more is done in some directions for the man than for the officer. I have been asked whether we cannot assimilate the treatment of both classes of officers and men even at this period of the War. I 2072 wish we could. To anyone who has to administer those financial affairs it is, I do not mind confessing, extremely irksome to find oneself running against the situation which has arisen in this connection. I wish to goodness we could. It sticks in my gizzard, to use a colloquial expression, that we should treat officers of the Regular Army so infinitely worse than officers who hold temporary com missions.
I agree that if we were to treat the Regular officer in the same way as we have to treat the temporary officer, we could not possibly resist the claim made by the men to receive equal treatment, and to have their gratuity calculated on the same basis. I say at once that the cost of such a revision would be absolutely prohibitive. It would mean far over £100,000,000, and, when the Government were faced with the great cost of treating the men and the Regular officers in the same way as the Warrant had prescribed for the temporary officers, they were driven to the conclusion that they were not able to do it. The temporary officer secures the benefit of his high gratuity owing to the fact that the Warrant was in existence before the War began, and therefore constituted an element in his contract of service. That was not the case with the Regular officer or other ranks. In their case there was no provision of that kind, and the Government dealt with them with free hands, and I am afraid could not always treat them in the generous way they would have wished. The hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone asked me a question with regard to the pay and the retired pay of the quartermaster. I hope when the scale of revised pay and retired pay is published, as I trust it will be in the course of the next fortnight, that my hon. and gallant Friend will find satisfaction in the arrangements that have been made with regard both to pay and to retired pay. I have been asked to consider whether or not something cannot be done to increase the retired pay of officers who retired before the War and have rot served in it. There, again, I greatly wish that I could. It is not in any way from lack of sympathy. This is not a question which falls to be decided by the Army Council alone. Obviously, it is one 'which is common to the other services, to the Civil Service, and all the pre-war undertakings generally. The Government have decided that it cannot be done, and I am afraid I Can- 2073 not hold out any hope that they will reverse their decision, which, I am sure, has been taken with reluctance.
I should like to say one word with regard to the remark that fell from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Barn-staple, who said that the word of the War Office cannot be trusted, and referred to Lord Kitchener's promise to the Territorials when they were sent to India. I know we are pretty bad. One cannot have represented any Department of the War Office for four years without having heard a good deal of the sins of that particular Department. But I should be sorry indeed if my hon. and gallant Friend were really serious in saying that he cannot trust the word that was given, I think it must have been obvious, and I am sure it is accepted by the Territorials in India themselves, that Lord Kitchener fully intended to carry out the promise that he had made, and it was only the force of the circumstances of the War that prevented him from doing it, I am quite certain that no soldier who knew Lord Kitchener would doubt it for a single moment. Hitherto, I have said nothing about the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the reduction of the Vote. I con fees I was filled with alarm when I heard the grounds upon which he moved the reduction, but I understood him to say that he was influenced by a desire to call attention to the shortcomings of the Finance Department of the War Office.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I think really that the criticisms are directed more to the failings of the Treasury then to the administration of the Finance Department itself. I am confirmed in that by the very admirable description given by my hon. and gallant Friend opposite of the normal working of the Army Council machine, in which the Finance Department takes its necessary and constantly difficult part, criticising where it would be only too glad to give with both hands, and finally takes the decision of the Army Council or the Secretary of State with all the philosophy it can command.
I should like to say one word with reference to the difficulties of administering the Finance Department, both during the War and now. It has been a work of enormous importance; it has been a work that has tried all those who have had to 2074 take part in it; it has been a work of very great responsibility, and it has been only the good temper and the feeling of comradeship which existed between my military colleagues and myself that has enabled us to carry on at all. I am quite sure that if the normal working of the War Office is fully maintained, if the good feeling to which I have alluded still continues, the Finance Department will be, as it has been, a very useful part of the War Office administration.
§ Sir A. HUNTER-WESTON
After the statement I desire to withdraw the Amendment. I wish to make it quite clear that there was no attack intended or made by me on the War Office as a whole. I merely desired to bring what I thought were two necessary points to the view of the right hon. Gentleman who is now in charge of the Department, knowing full well that one who has such energy and knowledge would be able to make the small improvements necessary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were rend and postponed.