HC Deb 20 April 1921 vol 140 cc1972-9

Resolutions reported,


1. "That an additional number of Land Forces, not exceeding 300,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1922."


2. "That an additional number of Air Forces, not exceeding 10,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, exclusive of those serving in India, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1922."


3. "That an additional number of Officers and Men, not exceeding 25,000, be employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Services borne on the books of His Majesty's Ships and at the Royal Marine Divisions for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1922."

First Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

There were one or two questions asked about the internal economy of the Defence Force, which are of great interest to many people in this country, and which were not answered when this Vote was considered in Committee, because, no doubt, of the lack of time, and it seems to me that the Report Stage gives an opportunity for the Ministers responsible for the War Office and Admiralty to answer them now. I am not here attacking in any way the principle of the Defence Force. We had that out the other day in the main Debate. But I did then ask one or two questions about the position of men who joined, and in particular I asked about those who joined and are demobilised short of the 90 days. I wanted to know whether they will get the full bounty of £5, or whether men will be required to serve the complete 90 days in order to secure it. I have already had inquiries on this particular matter, and the War Office might now take the opportunity of answering my question. I do not propose to express any opinion as to the propriety of giving the money. I have a second question with regard to the Land Defence Force. Now that recruiting is stopped, and there are a great many men still eager to join, would it not be possible to release many of the shopkeepers who have been called up with the Reserves and take on a few extra men for the Defence Force? Many men in the Reserves are engaged in the retail provision trade and have been called up from their business, and not only are they injured financially, but their absence from home is causing inconvenience in the areas which they serve. Some of these men own the only shop in a village, and a good many, I am glad to say, who are in the Reserve have been enabled to take over retail shopkeeping businesses. Would it not be possible, therefore, I ask, to have some system of exempting these men in view of the admittedly altered condition of affairs, and to take on if necessary a few more men for the Defence Force, to join which there are still many thousands willing. Such a course would avoid the dislocation of business and social life caused by calling up the Reserves and it would also reduce the hardship in many individual cases.

I have just one general question to ask in regard to the Reserves themselves. Hon. Members will realise that the whole Army Reserve has been called up. It was promised by the Secretary for War that the Defence Force should be demobilises as soon as practicable, and as soon as the Government were satisfied that it could be dispensed with. Does that promise also apply to the Reserves, or are they to be indefinitely embodied? I ask this question because the European situation is not bright and the nearer we approach the 1st of May the more ominous becomes the international situation. If may be necessary to reinforce our army in Germany. I am not discussing the Government policy in regard to Germany, but if it is intended to keep the Reserves embodied, possibly in order to relieve regular troops and send them on the Rhine, the country ought to be told forthwith. The Reserves have been called up, as we were informed, in connection with the industrial dispute and if the industrial clouds roll by they will naturally expect to be allowed to return to their homes. If, then, there is any intention of retaining them for other service they have a right to be informed, and we ought to insist on frankness on the part of the Government.

Colonel ASHLEY

May I put a point with reference to Class D of the Navy Reserves which has been called up, very properly, as I believe, on this occasion? It is a naval question, but I do not see a representative of the Admiralty present.


We are now discussing the Army Reserves.

Colonel ASHLEY

I apologise for the mistake. I thought we were having a general discussion. I should like to reinsforce what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut. Commander Kenworthy) to the effect that great consideration should be given to the small shopkeeper and to the small man who has been called upon in this national crises. Now that the situation has been eased the Government might very well follow the advice given by the hon. and gallant Member and enrol some additional men in the Defence Force to take the place of these reservists. Perhaps that is not possible from a financial point of view, as it would cost more money—

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Not necessarily Colonel ASHLEY: At any rate, the Government should announce that these small traders shall be the first people to be released.

8.0 P.M.


We did not get answers to a great number of questions put on the Committee stage of this Vote, and this seems to be an appropriate opportunity for inviting them now. I would like to put in a case which has even more substance than that of the small trader. In the Reserve forces which have been called up there are obviously a number of men who served in the Great War. I have in front of me a particular case which seems to call for greater consideration even than the withdrawal of men engaged in the retail service of the food industry. It is the case of a university man pursuing his Degree course at a university. He is to complete his degree in this current session, but he has been called up in the Reserve, and if he is kept there obviously he will lose his opportunity. He is at the university, I believe, under an arrangement of the Government by which men were assisted to continue their graduation course after they had been demobilised. Obviously, if that man is kept in the Reserve, it will be a great financial and professional loss to him to have to lose the opportunity of completing his session at the university and of passing his examinations. I should be glad, therefore, if the hon. Baronet can tell us what type of exemption is now being made from the Reserve, particularly in view of the altered conditions which now obtain. A week or a fortnight ago the conditions might have appeared to the Government to be much more serious than they obviously are now, and one can, therefore, imagine why they jibbed at making exemptions, because they might be asked to extend them indefinitely. Now that the situation is eased, I should like to know if there are any categories of men who could get exemption from the Reserve if they make immediate appliation, or whether, if the Government are not willing to put them into categories, they will consider individual hard cases of this kind, so that these men can resume their university training.

Another question to which we did not get any answer was a question of policy, and I do not know whether the hon. Baronet can give the House any reply upon it. It is as to whether the Government are going to respond to the appeal which was made in Committee that, in view of the Triple Alliance having called off the strike to enforce the demands of the miners, the Government are now going to call off the Defence Force. One urges that for a very obvious reason. The whole question is held up until the miners' delegates return from their districts and discuss the issue which is in dispute at the moment, and the question of a favourable decision does depend to a large extent upon the atmosphere in which the decision is come to. Many of us feel, and I think the Committee felt, that the atmosphere would be very much better if the Government, following the withdrawal of the Triple Alliance, would themselves immediately disband the Defence Force. We were told that some 78,000 men had been enrolled in the force. The hon. Baronet may say, for reasons of which the House it not at the present moment aware, that it would be impossible, in view of the circumstances, to demobilise the whole 78,000; but, in order to ease the situation and create, as I say, a better atmosphere, could he not say that a certain number of that 78,000 should be demobilised forthwith? I suppose that a force of that kind must have some sort of skeleton-organisation, and it might be proper to maintain that skeleton organisation in being until after this week, when we shall know what decision has been come to by the miners. But, in the meantime, are there not a large number of men in that 78,000 who must be simply kicking their heels at the present moment? We were told—I think it was by the Prime Minister—that the Government would rather support a scheme of over-insurance than one of under-insurance, and the cases of riot in Fife and South Wales were instanced as two examples of the type of case which the Government had to meet if the dispute went on. Members like myself, of course, get our information from the Press, but I believe that there have been no disputes there since those two rather alarming outbreaks, and, so far as one is made aware by the daily Press, there is no tendency in the other coal areas for any riot to take place. Surely, therefore, it must be within the compass of the existing police forces, with the assistance of the special constabulary, to deal with any cases which might occur. If the hon. Baronet cannot say that the whole force will be disbanded, it would go a long way towards creating the atmo sphere which I am suggesting should be created if-he could say, here and now, that those members of the Defence Force who are not required for maintaining the skeleton organisation of the force until the whole crisis is over can be demobilised at once. There is, of course, the question of the expense of the force. We were told that it was costing £1,000,000 a week. I do not suppose that that was all expended on the 78,000 men, but that was the complete figure given by the Prime Minister. This week is going to pass without anything happening, and we are going to drop £1,000,000. I do think that, in the interest, not only of the public honour, but of public economy, it would be wise on the part of the Government to state, if they can, what reduction can be made at the present moment.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Colonel Sir R. Sanders)

The hon. and gallant Member (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) asked whether the bounty of £5 would be paid to every man called up, irrespective of the period for which he had served? It will be paid. It will be like the labourers in the vineyard.


Even then it caused a dispute.


I am afraid that my hon. Friend's knowledge of divinity is a little defective. Then the suggestion was made that we should release men from the Reserve and take on more men for the Defence Force, if necessary.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

May I interrupt the hon. Baronet? I did not suggest that that should be done unless it was necessary. I wanted the shopkeepers released.


I said, "if necessary." That is exactly what I said, namely, release men and take on more for the Defence Force, if necessary. That would be, financially, exceedingly inexpedient. After all, the men of the Reserve are paid 1s. a day all the year round, which is a substantial sum, and we are going to consider cases of hardship. I cannot put the matter into Categories, but the case of university men has been specially considered, and I can assure my hon. Friend that everything that is possible will be done in that case, which is a very special one. As to the retail traders, I cannot say more than that they must be considered with other people. As has been said before, if you once begin making exceptions of particular classes, you never quite know

where you are going to stop. Without pledging myself, and still less anyone else, to exempting categories, cases of hardship will be considered on their merits, and, as I have said, the question of university men is already being considered.

The hon. Member raised the larger question of demobilising the Defence Force. We cannot say yet that all is quiet in the coalfields, and I think hon. Members will agree that it would not be right to put down the Defence Force. Partial demobilisation is suggested, but it would be very unwise to demobilise partially if there is any chance that we may want all these men up again, and I think that that would be a foolish course to take. It is suggested that we can keep a skeleton, but skeletons cannot put down riots. We hope that this will not last very much longer. We are ready to consider special cases of hardshipp, but I cannot give any promise that either complete or partial demobilisation will take place until the trouble is settled. I do not agree that a settlement is more likely to come if we demobilise this force. I believe that a settlement is more likely to come if the Government show that they are prepared for eventualities. I do not think that, by throwing away a resource that may be required, we make it more easy. On the contrary, I believe that we should make it more difficult to get a settlement. I hope that with this explanation the House will give us the Report stage of this Resolution.

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 195; Noes. 39.

Division No. 8o.] AYES. [8.13 p.m
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Curzon, Captain Viscount
Ainsworth, Captain Charles Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay) Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)
Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James Butcher, Sir John George Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)
Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S. Campbell, J. D. G. Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)
Armitage, Robert Carr, W. Theodore Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)
Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W. Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H. Doyle, N. Grattan
Bagley, Captain E. Ashton Casey, T. W. Edgar, Clifford B.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston) Edge, Captain William
Barker, Major Robert H. Chadwick, Sir Robert Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)
Barlow, Sir Montague Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood) Evans, Ernest
Barnett, Major R. W. Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W. Farquharson, Major A. C.
Barrand, A. R. Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Fell, Sir Arthur
Barrie, Charles Coupar Churchman, Sir Arthur Fildes, Henry
Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart.(Gr'nw'h) Clough, Robert Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.
Bigland, Alfred Cobb, Sir Cyril Ford, Patrick Johnston
Boles, Lieut.-Colonel D. F. Cohen, Major J. Brunel Forestler-Walker, L.
Borwick. Major G. O. Conway, Sir W. Martin Forrest, Walter
Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith- Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely) Fraser, Major Sir Keith
Breese, Major Charles E. Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South) Gange, E. Stanley
Brown, Captain D. C. Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Gardiner, James
Bruton Sir James Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.) Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham
Gilbert, James Daniel Lort-Williams, J. Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Gilmour, Lieut-Colonel Sir John Lowe, Sir Francis William Seager, Sir William
Glyn Major Ralph Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.) Seddon, J. A.
Gould, James C. Lowther, Col. Claude (Lancaster) Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)
Greenwood, William (Stockport) Lyle-Samuel, Alexander Shaw, William T. (Forfar)
Gregory, Holman Lynn, R. J. Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Greig, Colonel James William M 'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A. Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)
Gritten, W. G. Howard McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern) Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Guest, Capt. Rt Hon. Frederick E. M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W. Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)
Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E. Macquisten, F. A. Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Mallalieu, F. W. Stevens, Marshall
Hailwood, Augustine Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.) Sewart, Gershom
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Middlebrook, Sir William Strauss, Edward Anthony
Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton) Mitchell, William Lane Sugden, W. H.
Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent) Montagu, Rt Hon E. S. Sutherland, Sir William
Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston) Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J. Taylor, J.
Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Moore-Brabazon, Lleut.-Col. J. T. C. Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)
Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.) Moreing, Captain Algernon H. Thomas-Stanford, Charles
Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon Neal, Arthur Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Maryhill)
Hinds, John Norris Colonel Sir Henry G. Thorpe, Captain John Henry
Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Oman, Sir Charles William C. Townshend, Sir Charles V. F.
Hood, Joseph Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry Tryon, Major George Clement
Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn. W.) Pennefather, De Fonblanque Waddington, R.
Hopkins, John W. W. Perkins, Walter Frank Wallace, J.
Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Perring, William George Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)
Howard, Major S. G. Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W. Waring, Major Walter
Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B. Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.
Inskip, Thomas Walker H. Pollock, Sir Ernest M. Warren, Lieut. Col. Sir Alfred H.
James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Purchase, H. G. Weston, Colonel John W.
Jameson, J. Gordon Ramsden, G. T. Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.
Jephcott, A. R. Rankin, Captain James S. White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)
Jodrell, Neville Paul Raper, A. Baldwin Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson
Johnson, Sir Stanley Ratcliffe, Henry Butler Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)
Johnstone, Joseph Rees, Capt. J. Tudor-(Barnstaple) Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)
Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Remer, J. R. Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert
Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Lianelly) Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend) Wise, Frederick
Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham) Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor) Woolcock, William James U.
Kidd, James Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford) Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Larmor, Sir Joseph Rodger, A. K. Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward
Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd) Roundell, Colonel R. F. Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Lister, Sir R. Ashton Rutherford. Sir W. W. (Edge Hill) Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)
Lloyd, George Butler Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n) Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Lorden, John William Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A. Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. Parker.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth) Sitch, Charles H.
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hallas, Eldred Spoor, B. G.
Cairns, John Hayday, Arthur Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield) Hayward, Major Evan Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)
Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe) Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes) Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Hirst, G. H. White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
Edwards, C.(Monmouth, Bedwelity) Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Wilson, James (Dudley)
Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South) Hogge, James Myles Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)
Galbraith, Samuel Irving, Dan Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Gillis, William Kenyon, Barnet
Glanville, Harold James Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy and
Grundy, T. W. Royce, William Stapleton Major Watts Morgan.

Remaining Resolutions to be considered To-morrow.