Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £28,000,000, 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, 1923, namely:—
|Heads of Cost.||Amount required.|
|Head I.—Maintenance of Standing Army||15,500,000|
|Head II.—Territorial Army and Reserve Forces||2,500,000|
|Head III.—Educational, etc., Establishments and Working Expenses of Hospitals, Depôts, etc.||2,750,000|
|Head IV.—War Office, Staff of Commands etc.||500,000|
|Head V.—Capital Accounts||750,000|
|Head VI.—Terminal and Miscellaneous Charges, etc.||4,000,000|
|Head VII.—Half-pay, Retired pay, Pensions, etc.||2,000,000|
|To be voted||28,000,000"|
§ Captain C. CRAIG
I desire to put a question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War as to the statement he made in his speech just before the Division. I understood him to say in reference to the Ulster regiments, which are supposed to be involved in the reductions to be made in the Army, that of the six battalions making up the three regiments in question, four battalions would be retained. Did I hear aright? Secondly, can he give the House any information as to how these four battalions are to be distributed between the three existing regiments? May I point out to the Committee that there are three regiments, the Royal Ulster Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and we understood as a result of the negotiations with the War Office that at least a part of a battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles, and a battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers would be retained, but we were left in doubt as to what would be the fate of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. I want particularly to know what is going to be the fate of the Royal Irish Fusiliers? Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to retain four battalions out of the six 569 composing these three regiments, and will he be able to retain at least one battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers? That regiment, I need hardly point out to military Members of the House, is one of the most distinguished regiments in His Majesty's Service. One has only to look at the Army List to see that its list of battle honours is second to none in the British Army. It has served King and Country for 200 years in a way which no regiment need be ashamed. I trust my right hon. Friend will be able to re-assure the officers and men of that regiment, who are anxiously awaiting to know what their fate is to be, that at least one battalion of the regiment will be retained in the Service.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
My hon. and gallant Friend was right in thinking that four out of the six battalions are to be retained, at any rate for this year, and as the Estimates are for one year that is all I can say. Whether the Irish Fusiliers should have one battalion left, in which case it will be necessary for the Inniskillings to lose one of their own battalions, or whether some other combination should be made so as to produce the four battalions out of the three regiments, I am not in a position at this moment definitely to say; and for this reason: that I am going to confer with those connected with the regiments, and I hope that the final arrangements I make will be done by agreement. It is better to at least retain one battalion of two regiments than to have a regiment having two battalions.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £1,000,000.
I do not want to follow the right hon. Gentleman and comment on what he has just said, except to say that I quite agree with the policy that the War Office has announced of trying to keep the traditions of the regiments enshrined in their names, and to keep up the esprit de corps, which everyone knows is fundamental; I fully agree that the identity of these regiments should be preserved. Up till about eight o'clock to-night what I may call the military party in this House had a very fine innings. They complain that the Army is too small and too weak, that the Empire is going to be lost, and all the rest of it. I must say that the 570 Unionist party showed up very much better than its traditional policy suggests on the Army Debates than on the Naval Debates. It may not be apparent in my proposed reductions of £1,000,000 that much good will be done, and it may be thought that it is very small, but if the proposals I suggest are carried out we shall, without any loss of security in relation to our legitimate interests or our own home, achieve something fairly considerable. I am going to content myself with £1,000,000, and if the House will support me at any rate will be something done.
The reason I am moving this reduction is that we cannot afford to spend £28,000,000 a year on the Army. There is no doubt whatsoever about that. Every hon. Member is getting resolutions from all over the country, from trade societies and association, and so on, saying that they cannot endure the present scale of taxation, and that it is ruining industry. The poor man has to pay this out of his loaves, his sugar, his tea, his beer, and then there is the Income Tax. My hon. Friend near mo (Dr. Murray) points out that the amount is not £28,000,000 but £62,000,000, and I am obliged to him for it. The Government, as I say, is contemplating reductions in educational services and health services, and it is perfectly iniquitous for them to come to this House and ask for £62,000,000 for the armed forces.
These reductions can be made, but how? They can only be made by a change of policy. I do not want to go into policy at length, but I must touch upon it, because it is policy which controls the land armaments. The case of the Navy is somewhat different. There are our sea communications and our commitments overseas, and we must always have certain naval forces, but our land forces are absolutely dependent upon policy. We must have a sufficient force for keeping internal order in the country and supporting the civil power, and we must have certain garrisons abroad. Outside those comparatively small forces, the rest of the Army depends entirely upon policy. Our present expeditionary force is quite insufficient to be used on the Continent of Europe, and therefore, presumably, it is to be supported in the future by naval force and the latent strength and resources which our Empire contains.
571 First of all, may I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that in the Cabinet he should urge in season and out of season and on every possible occasion a change of policy in regard to the Army of Occupation in enemy countries? In respect to the Rhine Army we have had some admirable articles in the "Times" lately which describe some of the conditions there, and these give, I think, a very fair picture judging from what I myself have observed of our Armies. Our troops in the occupied territory are popular with the local inhabitants. The English soldier is generally so. There is a great contrast between the behaviour of our Armies and certain others. I have seen at close quarters the very fine regiments that were sent to Silesia. They were Highland regiments, and apparently they were sent out there because it was thought to be a mountainous country, because the name is, in German, Ober-Schlesien, or "Higher Silesia"! The real fighting troops in the Rhine gave a splendid impression. They are, as I say, very popular with the local people, but—and I say this with great diffidence, though I know I will carry with me military opinion—that service in these Armies of Occupation is bad for the troops. They are not doing real soldiering. They are accommodated in billets, and they find themselves, owing to the rate of exchange, very well off indeed. The English private soldier gets as much pay as a German Cabinet Minister to-day. When they come back to leaner days at home, or are ordered off to India, or some other part of our legitimate Empire, they get discontented with the change.
Another thing which may be a minor matter, but which certainly is not unimportant. Our soldiers are marrying the girls of the country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, it may be very well in the cause of peace, but in view of the surplus of women and girls in our own country it is a serious matter. I know it means better relations with the country. Our soldiers are treated very nicely, and finally they come back with German wives. That is not good. It is not as if the parties met naturally and in the course of travel. They have only married because they happened to be stationed in the country. These armies of occupation 572 are not being paid for and they are a direct loss to the Treasury. The payments made so far, including the 31,000,000 gold marks we receive for ten days, the ships, the coal, the dyes and everything we have received, do not anything like pay for the Army of Occupation. Now that the Americans have asked for £50,000,000 for their Army of Occupation there is no chance of the other armies being paid for many a long year. I think that is a serious reason why our Army-should be withdrawn. The reparations are not going to relieve home burdens or provide compensation for the people who have sustained damage in the War, and that is another reason why the Army of Occupation should be withdrawn.
There is an additional reason why the Army in Silesia should be withdrawn. There will be perpetual intrigue and a stirring up of trouble while there is an Allied force there for obvious reasons. Apart from financial and military reasons, these isolated troops should be withdrawn for purely political reasons. I have visited that country myself, and I am in close touch with people there, and everyone will agree that there is no chance of the award of the League of Nations in Upper Silesia working until the Allied troops have been removed. In addition to that there is the constant irritation of having an Army of Occupation, however well behaved, planted in your country. The object of statesmanship after a war should have been to have healed the wounds and get rid of irritation. What I have suggested would be a great economy, and I think British policy should be directed to that end. The Armies of Occupation in Northern Europe ought to have been withdrawn.
My second economy would be the removal of the garrison from Constantinople. This is a subject which has been alluded to by the hon. Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson) and the hon. Member for Bournemouth (Lieut.-Colonel Croft), and both of them agree that this occupation is unproductive, and it is only a sign of the vacillating and unsuccessful and, I am afraid, altogether objectionable policy pursued by our Government. That would be a great saving and it would strengthen our general military position. This matter has been so threshed out that I need not go into it again. We have no business to have this great force with its barracks 573 and special transport arrangements garrisoning Iraq. I will not go into the policy because it would take too long, and it is certainly well understood in the country. We have no business there at all. If we cannot afford to clear our slums in London and Glasgow, which are the worst in Europe, if we cannot afford to build houses for the men who fought and won the War, or give a decent education and a University opportunity to our young people, if we have to cut down the milk supply to nursing mothers, it is ridiculous to ask us to vote £62,000,000, part of which is spent in keeping up a useless garrison in a part of the country where we ought not to be at all.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I know it has been transferred. We are not going to have another war for ten years, at least that is what we have been told. I admit that we need a certain force in this country. We have a certain garrison abroad which has to be kept up, but if we could put down our commitments on the Rhine, in Upper Silesia, and in Constantinople, we could save many millions of pounds which would help to bring peace and contentment to a sorely tried world, and we should also be able, through better trade and increased revenue, to afford money for many other things. I think we should be lacking in our duty on the Opposition Benches if we did not make a protest against this expenditure of £62,000,000 on the Army three-and-a-half years after the Armistice. I am sorry that I have to make these protests. The fact remains that we cannot afford this money. It is expenditure on a mistaken policy, and our only way, apparently, of doing anything to prevent it is to vote against the Government. It is with that object that I move this reduction of £1,000,000.
§ Lieut.-Colonel D. WHITE
I only rise in consequence of what was said by the Secretary for War in the concluding part of his speech. I agree with the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), who alluded to the speech made last week by the hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson) with regard to what is necessary to guard us in the event of a European war. I think 574 it necessary to make these observations because there may be some misconception in the Committee and in the country in reference to this matter. Those of us who acted and voted with the hon. and gallant Member for North Down, and opposed the Government on this matter, were in no way wishful to provide against the chances of a European war, but we had simply in mind our commitments for the Empire and for the defence of its frontiers. Every member of the Army Committee agrees that economies are absolutely necessary, and that therefore a reduction of military expenditure is inevitable. Immediately after the Geddes Committee reported, I happened to be in my constituency, and I told my constituents that I was prepared to take large risks with regard to reductions in the Army provided that other Departments were reduced pro rata, as recommended by the Geddes Committee. We have seen that practically the whole of the recommendations of the Geddes Committee with regard to the reductions in the Army have been accepted by the Government.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WHITE
Four-fifths of them have, at any rate, while in the case of other Departments, and certainly in one particular case, less than one-third of the recommendations were adopted. It should, therefore, I think, be made quite clear that those of us who felt it our duty to oppose the Government on this matter did not desire, although we were prepared to take risks, to court disaster to our Empire. The whole thing hangs on the matter of our commitments and our policy, especially in the Near East. Even if we were to withdraw from Constantinople and Palestine, we should be still taking risks in a military sense. Of course, the really important matter we have to decide is to try to conciliate Moslem opinion throughout the world. If we do that, we shall diminish our risks in Egypt, in India and elsewhere. The late Secretary for India made a speech the other day. I did not often find myself in agreement with him in his management of Indian affairs, nor am I in agreement with him on his action in regard to his retirement, but I do agree with him in deploring what he called the calamitous pro-Greek policy 575 of the Government. I am sure that until we do try to conciliate Moslem opinion in this matter, we are, by the reductions in the Army, running very great risks for the Empire. There is one minor point on which I should like to say a few words. The Secretary for War alluded to the reduction of cavalry regiments, and I understood him to say that two squadrons are to be taken from both the First and Second Life Guards. I wanted to know if the Horse Guards were also to be reduced.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I rise to raise a question on a Government scandal that can only be discussed on a Vote in which the salary of the Secretary for War is involved, because it does not directly figure in the Estimates. I allude to the question of the Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes—a great Government trading monopoly which has been set up and which is now operating on a vast scale throughout the British Empire. I should like to give the Committee a short account of the genesis of this very peculiar body whose operations have not previously come under the searchlight of Debate in this House, although there have been many questions put and answered about it recently. The Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes are the successors of the Navy and Army Canteen Board which was started during the War, and which took over the Expeditionary Force Canteens on the 1st May, 1919. The first point I desire to make is that the present organisation with which we are dealing, and which I am about to criticise, is a purely peace organisation. It has nothing to do with our policy during the War. Whether the Expeditionary Force Canteen constituted a right organisation for the War I do not propose now to discuss. Personally I think it did. But these Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes have been deliberately established by the Government as a peace canteen policy for the British Army, Navy, and Air Force. This body is controlled by a Board of Control appointed by the three Departments concerned. It was originally 576 floated with an advance from the Treasury which has since been repaid, and it enjoys a complete monopoly in all our camps throughout the British Empire. To show the Committee the magnitude of the scale on which this organisation works, I may mention that for the year ending in 1918 its turnover was no less that £40,000,000. No doubt since the Armistice, the figures have been on a very much smaller scale, but we are unable to state what they are because the Government have refused to publish any balance sheets in connection with the undertaking since that date. The balance sheets for 1919, 1920, and 1921 have not been published, and later on I propose to make a few remarks on that point.
One further point of explanation I should like to give the Committee is this: That this body does not confine its operations to the usual activities of the canteen, but, on the contrary, deals in every conceivable object under the sun. I hold in my hand one of their price lists, and I will just read to the Committee a few of the items that are offered for sale by this Government organisation, which possesses a complete monopoly throughout the Army. It contains the following: Women's outfitting, blouses, blouse collars, ladies' bodices, camisoles, combinations. Every conceivable article of female underclothing is offered for sale by the Government through this organisation of the Navy, Army, and Air Force institutes, sometimes at artificially cheap prices, and sometimes not. I will deal with that point later on. Then, if anyone wants to get a motor car, motorcars, and all accessories for motor cars, can be obtained from these institutes. The most expensive brands of champagne can be obtained, and, as an hon. Member says, grand pianos. In fact, there is not a single article that is sold by Messrs. Selfridge that cannot be obtained from this State trading department.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Wedgwood) on the front Opposition Bench remarks that this is a cooperative society, but I will point out to him, if I may, where he is mistaken. In the first place, a co-operative society is a democratically-managed body, and that, I venture to say, is a vital factor in the nature of a co-operative society. There is no democracy in the Navy, Army and Air Force institutes, and there cannot be, by the nature of the case, until you have 577 a democracy established in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force themselves. The institutes are controlled by a Board which is not elected by the troops, but which is appointed by the Government. That is the first distinction between them and a co-operative society. The second is that co-operative societies claim to operate on an equality with all other traders, but this organisation does not wish to accept that condition at all. It claims a monopoly in all our camps, and all sort of privileges which co-operative societies do not claim. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where do the profits go?"] There have not been any profits yet, and it may be that the losses will have to be borne by the taxpayer. I am coming to that point in a few moments. I wish the Committee in the first place to realise the magnitude of the scale on which this organisation operates, and the diversity of the articles which it sells.
When the Navy, Army and Air Force institutes—or rather, their predecessor, the Navy and Army Canteen Board—took over the affairs of the Expeditionary Force Canteens, the Government intended that this organisation should be the new peace canteen organisation of the country. I should like to remind the Committee that before the War every regiment managed its own canteen, and the profits of that canteen went to a benevolent fund, over which the colonel of the regiment presided, and which gave help to soldiers on their return to civil life. I am afraid there is no prospect of help of that sort coming from the Navy, Army and Air Force institutes, at any rate for a long time to come, for reasons which I propose shortly to give to the Committee. I should like to point out, therefore, that by the abolition of the old system the soldier has lost a valuable friend. When the new institution took over the Expeditionary Force canteens, it was laid down by the Government that when the accounts of the Expeditionary Force canteens were drawn up some reserve should be made in the final balance-sheet for the possible relief of the Navy and Army Canteen Board, that is to say, if it- made a loss. I am quoting now from the Report of the Committee presided over by the hon. Baronet the Member for Eccleshall (Sir S. Roberts), to which the Secretary of State referred in the course of his answer to a question this afternoon, and 578 of which I do not think he gave a perfectly accurate summary. I should like to remind the Committee that the Expeditionary Force canteens, which did all the canteen business for our troops abroad during the War, made a profit of about £10,000,000 up to the Armistice, and it was intended—in fact, it was promised—that this money should be handed over to Lord Byng's Fund, officially known as the United Services Fund. This £10,000,000 was to go for the benefit of the men who fought in the War. But here we see that, when the Navy and Army Canteen Board was set up, the Government said that part of the £10,000,000 made by the Expeditionary Force Canteens should be set aside for the possible relief of the Navy and Army Canteen Board. That is the next point against which I desire to protest. I do not think the Government had any right to take, for the purpose of floating their new State trading monopoly, a single penny of this money which was due to the men who fought in the War, and which was promised to them. The final liquidation of the Expeditionary Force Canteens was completed on the 31st August, 1920, and full balance sheets were then furnished to the Government by the auditors.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I am quoting from page 4 of the Report, where it is stated thatThe liquidation of the Expeditionary Force Canteens was to a large extent completed by 31st August, 1920, and an interim statement of account up to that date was presented to the Army Council in October, 1920, together with certain Resolutions of the Expeditionary Force Canteens Committee.It was subsequently stated in the House of Commons that no balance sheet was then furnished, but the auditors, Messrs. Maxwell Hicks and Company, wrote a letter to "Truth" on the 7th January, 1921, in which they said:Our attention has been drawn to a written reply to a question in the House of Commons. … We therefore ask you to be good enough to give publicity to the following facts:—The point which I desire to make in that connection is that the Government have persistently refused to publish this balance sheet which was drawn up to 31st August, 1920. If that document were published it would show the public what the profit of the Expeditionary Force Canteens was and how much money is due to Lord Byng's Fund from that source. I want to ask my hon. and gallant Friend why the Government have refused to publish that balance sheet that Messrs. Maxwell Hicks & Company drew up and presented on behalf of the Expeditionary Force Canteens on 20th August. If that is published it will show how much money is due to the ex-service men. But it has not been published, and I will tell the Committee why. The Committee which the Government appointed last year to inquire into this matter said in their Report:
- 1. The 'statement of accounts' referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary to the War Office is, in fact, a balance sheet of Expeditionary Force Canteens made up to 31st August, 1920, and certified by us.
- 2. In the preparation of such balance sheet specific reserves have been made to the extent of over 50 per cent. of the cost price of all the Expeditionary Force Canteens stock belonging to the Organisation, and general reserves have been made sufficient, in our opinion, to cover any further losses on such stock which could possibly arise."We understand that it was anticipated that, should the overseas business continue for an appreciable time, the Navy and Army Canteen Board would probably make a sufficient profit to enable them to wind up without calling upon the Expeditionary Force Canteens' past profits, but these anticipations were falsified by unexpectedly rapid demobilisation. In any case there appears to be no doubt that considerable losses have been incurred.So what really happened is this. You had during the War the Expeditionary Force Canteens. They made about £10,000,000 profit, which was to be distributed to the ex-service men, but instead of distributing that money to the ex-service men, the Government started this Navy and Army Canteen Board on a peace basis and kept back part of the money of the Expeditionary Force Canteens in order to finance this Navy and Army Canteen Board. And what happened? The Navy and Army Canteen Board proceeded to make colossal losses.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The Government made bigger losses than most people; and 580 if you get a trading organisation which is controlled by gentlemen appointed by the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Force, three Departments which are not noted for their business efficiency or their success in business transactions, I do not think it is a matter for surprise that the losses of the Navy and Army Canteen Board were enormous.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I do not know about that, but the losses were enormous according to all reports. Of course we are not able to quote the exact figures because the Government have refused to publish them and there are no figures since 1918. Again quoting from the Report of the Committee appointed to investigate:On 17th December, 1919, the Army Council addressed a letter to the United Services Fund stating that all funds formed of the accumulated profits of canteen trading during the War and up to 31st December, 1919, as far as they were derived from the Army and the Air Force"—Why not from the Admiralty I do not know—would be placed at the disposal of the fund.It was thought that the profits made by the Navy and Army Canteen Board up to 31st December, 1919, would finance the business on a peace footing and would be regarded as a permanent loan from the United Services Fund. Therefore the War Office informed Lord Byng's Fund that this great portion of their money which the Navy and Army Canteen Board had temporarily got hold of would be retained as a permanent loan from the United Services Fund. I want to know, what right has the Government to take this money, which was promised to the ex-service men and the beneficiaries of Lord Byng's Fund, and lend it permanently to this great State trading monopoly in order to finance it? This Committee, over which my hon. Friend the Member for Ecclesall (Sir S. Roberts) presided, say in their report:We consider that it would be far preferable that the Navy, Army, and Air Force institutes should not be financed from money derived from the pockets of ex-service men even if this money is regarded us being a loan at interest.That is a very strong statement from a Committee and I protest, on behalf of the 581 ex-service men, against the money that is due to them being used to finance this organisation. The Committee which was appointed to inquire into the matter consider that steps should be taken to get this money away from the Navy, Army, and Air Force institutes as soon as possible by fixing a date and that the money, as soon as practicable, should be handed over to Lord Byng's Fund. They here speak of £7,000,000 as all that is likely to accrue to Lord Byng's Fund and I want to ask what has happened to the remaining £3,000,000. Are we to take it that £3,000,000 is the sum which the Navy and Army Canteen Board, now called the Navy, Army, and Air Force institutes, has lost during their trading operations of the last two years, because if that is so it is a scandal of the first magnitude. I am sure the ex-service men will have something to say about the matter.
Then the Committee go on to discuss the possibility of what is to happen if the Navy, Army, and Air Force institutes continue to make losses, and I should like to read the passage in which they deal with this matter at the end of their Report.At the same time we realise that in special cases, or in special circumstances, canteen facilities have to be provided for the forces under conditions which render loss inevitable, if reasonable prices are to be charged, and although we agree that, generally speaking, the rough must be taken with the smooth, we see no alternative to recommending that where, under abnormal conditions, the organisation is unable to make both ends meet it should be indemnified from public funds. We understand that this principle has already been accepted in the case of the forces in Ireland.May I ask whether that is the case. Can my hon. and gallant Friend tell the Committee whether the Government have in fact paid money to make up the losses of this organisation in Ireland, as is apparently stated by this Committee. I should like to ask also whether the Government endorses the general recommendation of the Committee and whether they are prepared to stand behind the Navy, Army, and Air Force institutes and make good, out of the Estimates, any losses which these institutes are themselves unable to meet. Then this Committee go on to say:As regards Ireland, not only is canteen trading at a profit impossible in that country at present, but the concentration of troops 582 there has its reflection in the reduction of the Navy, Army, and Air Force institutes trade in the larger garrisons in England.That is perfectly true. Owing to the depletion of the English garrison towns it appears from the Report of the Committee that the Navy Army, and Air Force institutes are not only making losses in Ireland, where the troops are, but they have been making losses in England also, where the troops are not. Therefore, there is a double loss which is falling on somebody. On whose shoulders is this loss going to fall? Is it going to fall upon the shoulders of the taxpayers of this country, or upon the shoulders of the ex-service men? It must fall on the shoulders of one or the other. In so much as the Government have refused to publish the figures, we are completely in the dark in regard to the matter.
There is another side to the question. I have tried to show that this is a State-controlled organisation, that it owes its original financing from the State, that it is now being financed partly from funds that ought to be given to the ex-service men under Lord Byng's fund, that it enjoys a complete monopoly in our camps and enjoys privileges that no other trader enjoys, and that in itself constitutes a very unfair competition against the private trader. This is a point which, naturally, the private traders feel acutely. This organisation, which is a monopoly, does not pay rent for its premises in the camp, it does not pay rates, it does not pay Income Tax, it does not pay Corporation Profits Tax, and yet it has managed to make a loss. I think that is a very remarkable performance. In the course of doing so, it has also damaged the trade of the private trader to a very large extent. Although I do not think that is a question of first magnitude, yet it is a matter of great injustice that in places such as the constituency which I represent, and also on Salisbury Plain, where whole communities have been called into being by the action of the Government in dumping a camp down on a perfectly barren spot, the Government should then come and hit the trading community by action of this sort, and leave them in great financial distress.
This organisation is not operating for the benefit of the troops. I can illustrate that point by taking up a remark which 583 was made by an hon. Member sitting on the Labour Benches and explaining how it works. He asked whether it was selling at a cheaper rate than private traders can? and the answer to that question is, that in regard to some articles, that is to say, articles in which they are in competition with the shops outside the camp, they are able to offer terms with which the private trader cannot compete, but in regard to those articles for which they have a compulsory monopoly, they give very bad terms. Let me take the case of rations. The Committee knows that in respect of the rations an allowance is made for groceries by the Government, which is valued at 8 7/10d. per man per diem, and that comes to about £13 5s. per man per year. If you take the number of soldiers, sailors, and airmen at 200,000—I think that is a great underestimate, but I have not more accurate figures by me—it means an annual sale of £2,750,000. An organisation which has a monopoly in supplying these groceries, supplies them to the individual men at retail prices, and is making a 20 per cent. profit on every transaction with the individual soldier. That is really a scandal. These goods ought to be supplied to the troops at bed-rock prices. Instead of that, the Navy, Army and Air Force institutes treat the groceries as though they were part of their retail trade, and make a big profit out of every transaction. The result is that they are bound to make a very big profit out of the grocery rations of the troops, which they ought not to make, and which is, in that sense, taken from the pockets of the soldiers.
I will give an incident which arose in the police court at Andover quite recently. On the 17th November a prosecution was heard at the instance of the Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes, in which the chief witness for the Institutes gave evidence on oath that the price charged to the Institutes by the brewery for a barrel of beer was 100s., and that they were selling it to the men at 144s. In addition to that, the barmen had to make what was called an unaccountable profit of between 5 and 10 per cent. Therefore, the Institutes are apparently making a gross profit of over 50 per cent. on their beer, which is sold as a monopoly to the unfortunate troops. When you have a monopoly that 584 is an excessive sum, and it shows that these Institutes are not being operated to the advantage of the soldiers. Never in the history of the world has a monopoly been found to be to the advantage of the consumer, and in this case the troops are the consumer. The Government have maintained that this organisation is for the benefit of the troops, and that the profits that will accrue will go for the benefit of the troops, but there have not been any profits, and it does not look as if there was likely to be any profits for a great number of years. Just in the same way as the Government have mismanaged every other business transaction which they have undertaken, they have mismanaged this, and made tremendous losses upon it, and how those losses are going to be met is a question which I ask to-night, and which I hope will be cleared up. These losses have been made in spite of the fact that this organisation enjoys a monopoly and uses that power as I have shown in some cases to obtain very high prices from the troops, although it undercuts in regard to a great many other articles. Finally it deals with a sphere of articles out of all comparison with anything which the Government have ever attempted to do before. As I have said to the Committee, there is nothing that you can purchase at Sel-fridge's or the Army and Navy Stores that you cannot get from this organisation, and the extent to which they are selling is collossal.
§ Mr. MORRISON
As one who is a silent Member, may I claim the indulgence of the Committee for a few minutes. This matter is of great interest to my constituents and I wish to join in the protest which has been made by the Noble Lord who represents Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer). I have received a lengthy communication this morning from a body representing trade and commerce, including men of every shade of polities of my constituents. Private traders are having a very trying time. They have to bear a heavy burden of rates and taxes and they object to having to compete with State trading competitors who pay no rates and no rents and, I believe, up till recently paid no Income Tax. The Noble Lord has explained the points so fully that there are only one or two things to which I wish to call the attention of the Committee. It is well known there are many religious 585 and philanthropic institutions doing very good work round our military camps, especially on Salisbury Plain, and the operations of these bodies are considerably hampered by restrictions, which they think unfair, in favour of the Navy, Army, and Air Force Institute. It seems hardly credible that these traders are unable to suppy Tommy Atkins with some simple articles of diet unless those articles are first purchased from the Navy, Army, and Air Force Institute.
Another matter which was brought to my notice only this morning is the case of a certain number of cinemas on Salisbury Plain in my constituency. Up to recently these cinemas paid no Entertainment Tax, but I understand that, probably because of this Debate, the tax has been imposed, beginning last Monday. Then there is another point to which I wish to refer. A number of traders in my Division put up expensive buildings at a cost of £2,000, pro-War prices. They expected to be able to trade for a reasonable time. The hours of trading are subject to military regulations of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, and they are also subject to the Shop Hours Act. I understand that the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute are not subject to these regulations anywhere. I wish to protest against this system of trading by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute. The lot of back-benchers who support the Government is sometimes a hard one. I heard with great interest the speech made by the Leader of the House, who stated that one of the principles of our party was that they believed in private trading and private enterprise. It is difficult to reconcile those principles, which were laid down so admirably, with the attitude which has been taken by the War Office and others on this question.
§ Sir ARCHIBALD WILLIAMSON
I think that the question before the Committee is a wider one than should be considered upon the various small points that have been made by the Noble Lord. The question is whether we, as a nation and as people interested in the welfare of our soldiers, should provide these canteens, as they used to be called, for the benefit of the troops, or should revert—that is the end of the argument of the Noble Lord—to the pre-War conditions, a condition which I think this House and the country re- 586 pudiated as not suitable and not beneficial to the soldiers who served in our Army. Short of reverting to that, what is the meaning of the Noble Lord? I would ask him to remember the various deputations which have been to the War Office on the subject, and when they have been asked "what limit are you going to place upon what you are going to supply to the troops?" no definite answer has yet been received from any of these trading bodies beyond this vague statement, "You should supply the necessaries." What are the necessaries? We begin by supplying a club. After all, remember that these institutes are not only shops. They are clubs. They are social institutions. They keep the soldier out of trouble and out of public-houses. That is what they are there for primarily, and it is natural that the soldier wants some sort of refreshment.
If he wants a cup of coffee, he may then want lemonade, or a sandwich, or a bun, or some cigarettes and matches. Then it goes to soap and so on. No one in this Committee can begin to lay down the line and say where the necessities of the soldier and his family begin and end. After all, we are trying to improve the life and lot of the soldier and keep him out of temptation. That is really the long and the short of it. There is no use in these traders at Aldershot and other places coming here through the Noble Lord or other people and standing between the benefit of the soldier and the House of Commons. I have gone into this matter carefully and very deeply, and I feel strongly that this Committee ought to support the War Office, the Admiralty, and the Air Force in making the lot of the soldier better, in improving his condition, in giving him all we can in the way of helping him to amuse himself when he is not working, and in also providing him with the necessaries of life at reasonable cost. The Noble Lord talks about 20 per cent. profit. Has he ever considered the percentage on these things? Is he taking the margin between cost and what you get for an article and taking that as profit? The Noble Lord would make a bad business man if that is the way he conducted operations. You have to consider the cost of distribution, and what is the cost of keeping up these institutes in places where there is only a handful of men, and if you can make a margin of 20 per cent. 587 at Aldershot, what about the margin in Ireland, or in the North of Scotland, or in other places?
There is no use talking about the difference between what goods cost and the amount which you get for them in one particular place. We have got to consider the broad question. I ask the Committee not to be led away by statements on small points which are prejudiced or ex parte. Every one of them has been investigated by the War Office. The Noble Lord has come to the War Office several times on these deputations. He has been listened to. Every argument which he has put forward has been weighed not only by the War Office, which might be fallable, I admit, but also by the Navy and the Air Force, and all these bodies have come deliberately to the conclusion that it is for the advantage of the Service that we should encourage the continuance of these canteens, as they used to be called, or institutes, as I prefer to call them. My argument is based also largely upon the social side of the work which is conducted at these institutes. Do not let the Committee think that the margin between what goods cost and what is paid for them by the soldiers is profit which goes into some shareholders' pocket. If there is such a profit, where does it go? It belongs not to ex-soldiers, but to the serving soldier of to-day. It goes to supply him with various games and entertainments, and things which prevent his life from being, perhaps, injured by the conditions in which he has to live. It is for the benefit of the soldier and of the country. We are the custodians of those interests here, and we must not primarily regard the interests of private traders, but first and foremost the interests of our soldiers.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
I challenge entirely the last words uttered by my right hon. Friend. I think it is an extraordinary proposition to lay down, as if it were a general truth, that we have to disregard the interests of traders and look after the interests of soldiers. Why? I say exactly the opposite. Certainly I have no wish to be behind anyone in the desire to do everything that is legitimate and proper in the interests of our soldiers, but, after all, it is really raising them into rather a privileged class to represent that they are above the inter- 588 ests of the trade of the country and that here our first and only consideration is what is to be considered for the advantage of the soldiers. To begin with, I doubt whether it is to the advantage of the soldiers. I certainly do not think the last speaker went any way at all to meet the very strong case put by my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer). My Noble Friend appeared to me to make an extraordinarily strong case against the management of these institutes. He showed conclusively that they are not for the advantage of the soldier. By reference to the actual prices he showed that the soldiers alone, without taking any wider view, do not get from these institutes the advantages to which they are entitled if the institutes were properly managed. The case made appeared to be unanswerable with regard to the diversion of the profits that accrued during the War and with regard to the concealment of the accounts.
A most extraordinary procedure was revealed by my Noble Friend. If any other business except the Government conducted its affairs on the same lines, very damaging epithets would be applied to it. I know that the last speaker is a business man. What sort of language would he apply to a business which concealed its balance sheet in order that the amount of profits and the use made of those profits might be hidden from the public? That is what has taken place. My Noble Friend pointed out inferentially that probably a profit of £3,000,000 has been lost, and that it is part of the £10,000,000 made during the War. He alleged that it had been frittered away, although the actual facts have been so concealed that we cannot speak with certainty. £3,000,000 has been frittered away in losses. It appears to me that the Government have a very strong case to meet.
On one point I wish to lay stress. If you are to have no regard for the interests of the trader, and if you could prove that by doing so you were benefiting the soldier, I could imagine certain friends of soldiers, who have no regard for trade, taking up that attitude. But it is not the attitude that the House ought to take. It seems to be extremely-unfair and damaging to the trade of the country that these privileged institutes 589 should be able to carry on trade side by side with the ordinary trader, but on privileged terms, and with exemption from taxation and rating. There is nothing that is causing a greater amount of discontent and trouble in the country to-day than the terrible burden of rates. What can be thought of the sentiments of an ordinary trader in a country town where there is one of these institutes? He is probably having a great struggle to make any profit. He is heavily rated on his premises, and finds great difficulty in paying his rates. He knows that a large part of the custom on which he might naturally depend is being lost to him because that custom is going practically next door to some building which is not paying rates or taxes, and is supported by Government finance to enable it to undersell the ordinary trader in many classes of commodities. The Government ought to consider this matter very seriously. It is a matter which is causing a great [...] of feeling throughout the country. As the case made is so strong, and till now has received no answer from the Government, I shall certainly support my Noble Friend in the Lobby.
Mr. T. THOMSON
As one who experienced considerable benefit when in the ranks overseas from the presence of the canteens, I sincerely hope that the Government will not go back to the customs that were prevalent in pre-War days. Anyone who served must know that the canteens supplied a very real need of the soldier. [HON. MEMBERS: "That was during the War."] We still have soldiers. With all respect to the arguments of the last speaker, I say that the first charge on the War Office is surely the welfare of those who are serving under it. I hope, therefore, that the War Office will not be debarred by criticism from supplying what is a real need to those who are least able to help themselves and will hold that the interests of the British trader, great as they may be, should be subservient to the welfare of the larger number of those to whom the traders look to protect them in the hour of need. At the same time I must say that I do not think the right hon. Member for Moray (Sir A. Williamson) met one of the points of criticism, namely, as to the balance of £10,000,000 which was left as a profit of the Canteen Boards overseas and which has not been handed 590 over to Lord Byng's Fund as was promised. That profit should go to the benefit of ex-service men, for it was made out of the ex-service men.
There, I support the Noble Lord, much as I differ from him on other points. The Government have only themselves to blame for the secrecy which attaches to this particular fund. Questions have been asked time and time again, and no satisfactory answer has been forthcoming. I hope that to-day a representative of the War Office will tell the Committee what has become of the £10,000,000. If he suggests that he has to carry forward a balance to finance the new institutes, I submit with all respect that the financing of the now institutes should be a charge on the Army Vote and should not be taken out of the profits which were made overseas from ex-service men. That was a fund entirely separate, or should have been, and if a profit was made under these abnormal conditions it should have been expended on the ex-service men, as was, indeed, promised. I see that the loss has been greater than was anticipated and that the fall in values over an extended period is considerable. The correct thing would have been to strike a balance at the time, to strike out the loss, and not to carry forward a loss which has increased as the years have gone on. If that loss had been dealt with at the time of the Armistice it would have been considerably less than it is to-day.
I support the reduction of the Vote moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), and I submit that the reduction he has moved is really well within the mark when you take the findings of the Geddes Committee. I consider that when the Geddes Committee tell us that without sacrificing efficiency in any way, and realising our present liabilities, there could have been a reduction from £75,000,000 to £55,000,000 and yet we find to-day that we are asked to vote £62,000,000, without including Iraq, there is good cause for this reduction. At a time when we are groaning with the burden of taxation and are sacrificing some of the Services which many think go to the upbuilding of the nation—such as in housing, health and education—for Services which do not produce that result, and which the Geddes Committee say can be efficiently carried out on a much smaller scale, it 591 is only right that a protest should be made. If we look back, we find that in 1913–14, £28,000,000 sufficed for this purpose, and to-day we are asked to spend over £62,000,000. Surely, allowing for the difference in the cost of things, that is far too much. After we have fought a war which was to put an end to war, the irony of the thing is that we are asked to pay more than twice what we paid before when Europe was an armed camp. I think we should show we are in favour of a pacific policy by setting an example to Europe, and by leading, as we did before the War. We led the nations to victory; let us lead now in peace, and let us set an example, so that when the Prime Minister goes to Genoa he will be able to show that we are really anxious to have a pacific policy and to have economy that will be for the well-being of the world as well as of ourselves.
I should like to refer to a much minor matter, but one in which considerable, interest is felt outside, namely, the policy of the Government in refusing to give those men who only saw home service any recognition whatsoever. I know this matter has been before the House and the Government before, but I submit there is an entirely new factor in the situation, inasmuch as the Government, by issuing to special constables a medal for war service, have created a sense of grievance and injury amongst those many men who, through no fault of their own, gave much greater service, and yet have received no recognition whatsoever. In answer to a question the other day the Minister for War said that the medal which had been given to the special constables was not an Army medal. That is perfectly true, but it is a medal for war service issued under Royal Warrant, and described in that Royal Warrant as being in recognition of devoted service rendered by members of the Special Constabulary during the War, and the medal has a clasp On which is inscribed "The Great War, 1914–18." I hold that if the special constables—who did excellent service, but under very different conditions from those who served at home, or the Territorials, or pre-War Army men who, over age, came up and spent many years and long days as drill instructors and drill sergeants licking our 592 new Army into shape—are to have these medals it is a serious reflection on those men that they should have no recognition. Do not give them necessarily the same medal as is given to men who served overseas, but do give them some recognition. Hon. Members must have seen many, many cases which have involved particular hardship. You have a Territorial Force which mobilised immediately that war was declared in 1914, and containing men who volunteered for overseas service, and who, through no fault of their own, were detained at home, some because of their excellence as drill or musketry instructors, men who were willing to go overseas but were not allowed to do so. These men, who have many years' service behind them, some over 4¼ years, have been denied any recognition whatsoever, because an unkind fate kept them here.
I am quite certain those of us who served overseas, and who get the medals for that service, would not in any way grudge the home service men having some recognition, and surely at a time when you are anxious to increase your Territorial Force and to make it attractive you are doing a bad turn to the officers who are raising the Territorials by giving this obvious slight to those who have done that service. I had a letter the other day from a Territorial who had put in 35 years for his country, and who was not able to go overseas through ill-health. He enlisted in 1914, and his division was not called for overseas till July, 1916. In the meantime he had been in Ireland in troublous times; when the Territorials were mobilised ho was an A1 man, but when he was called before the doctor for service overseas he was turned down on account of strained heart due to his service in the Territorials. He gets no recognition whatever. I have another case showing another anomalous position. A British subject in the Western States of America as soon as War was declared travelled the 5,000 miles to come here, enlisted, although he was over age, and, although he was unable to go overseas, served for 4½ years, and received no recognition whatsoever. The irony of the thing is that he goes back to America, and the United States authorities issue to him a medal for service with an Allied Army. 593 That is to say, the United States authorities give to a British subject that which the War Office here refuses to allow him to have. In this manner you can go through a large number of cases.
I have a case of an ex-Guardsman who has done great services. He was over age, volunteered, and spent the whole of the four years on the drill square licking into shape the raw recruits who came along. As a drill sergeant he had over 16,000 men through his hands. His younger son had gone abroad just before the Armistice, landed in France, and, being in the Signal Service of the Post Office, he was called home, and only saw a few months' service. He gets his medal, and then he says to his father, "What did you do in the Great War?" His father replies, "I did this," and the son answers, "Where are your medals?" This lad, a mere stripling, has his medals, but the father, an ex-Guardsman, four years on the drill square, training thousands of men, gets nothing. If you are to have medals at all, and if you are to have the same medals for men who were in the firing line as for those who were on some cushy job at the base, who never saw the end of a gun, you are not stretching the point considerably if you grant a medal to the men who saw home service. I do urge that the War Office and the hon. and gallant Gentleman should realise that outside there is a very sore feeling on the question, and having given the medal—whether you call it an Army or a War medal—to the special constables, it does give a reason for the whole matter to be reopened and to be considered again in order that these men who did grand service, and especially the Territorials, shall not be deterred in the future by what so far appears to be unfair treatment at the hands of the Government.
I should like to say one word on the question of the Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes, and I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill) said on that subject. I think the private trader is unfairly handicapped in competition with these institutes. The staff of the institutes are paid differently, they have particular advantages in buying all their stores, and the system hits the private trader uncommonly hard. In my own constituency there is a case in 594 point, and that is the canteen of the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. They purchase stores under exceptional conditions and the staff is employed under special conditions.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would point out to the hon. and gallant Member that he is now dealing with a matter which does not arise on this particular Estimate.
I was only quoting that as a case which is exactly on all fours with that of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes. The private traders of the towns are being very hard hit, and it is especially severe on them in these days when business is so slack. I will not, however, pursue the matter if it be not in order to do so, although I am absolutely convinced in my own mind that these institutes are very unfair on the private trading system. I wish to take the opportunity of thanking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War for the statement he has made about the cavalry regiments. Naturally, I am pleased that my own old regiment remains as it was. I congratulate him on having listened to the appeal which I made when the subject was under discussion at the end of last year, and when it was first proposed that these four cavalry regiments should be disbanded. From what the right hon. Gentleman paid to-day, I understand the cadres of these regiments will remain, so that the regiments will really retain their traditions and prestige, and it will be a very simple matter, should the necessity arise, to fill up the vacancies and place them as they were before, in a state of efficiency and ready to go on service. It is satisfactory to know that these distinguished regiments will retain their titles and will practically remain in being.
I suggest that, as regards the infantry regiments which it is proposed to disband, consideration should also be had for distinguished regiments which have rendered admirable service to their country. I fully realise the necessity for economy. Economy comes before everything, in those days when from the house-tops, everybody is crying out about the burdens of taxation they have to bear. A reduction of expenditure is necessary now, more than ever, but I claim that these regiments should not be allowed to disappear altogether. In their case also the 595 cadres should be allowed to remain. All that is required is a cadre, one or two officers and a nucleus of men, and the expense which that would involve could very easily be met, in the first instance, by putting more regiments on very low establishments. If you have the nucleus of a regiment, vacancies can be filled up very quickly when the necessity arises, and provided an efficient reserve is kept, you will have there the material with which to make up these regiments when they are required. I feel convinced that such a course would give great satisfaction throughout the Army. I also agree with hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate and who are satisfied that if the evacuation of certain places were carried out, the money saved by that evacuation would more than pay for the retention of these regiments in the Service. The British Army, small as it is, has always been the most efficient army of any country in Europe, or, indeed, in the world, and efficiency counts for a great deal. Once the spirit of efficiency is infused in an army, however small the beginning may be, you always have the right spirit continuing to imbue the men as the regiments are increased to war strength. We had an example of that in the early days of the War, when the "contemptible little Army," small as it was, proved its real value by stemming the advance of the Germans on Paris.
I should like to know exactly how we stand as regards France. What is the understanding between this country and France? In my belief, a compact between France and Great Britain would make for the peace of Europe more than anything else, and while it may not be thought wise to enter into a real alliance, at the same time we should be able in the quickest possible time to put a force in the field in the event of necessity arising and be in a position to assist our friends. We have heard a great deal about our overseas Dominions. Some of us know-that there was a section in this House who looked on our overseas Dominions as an incubus to this country, to be got rid of at the first possible opportunity. I think that view ought to have been dispelled by this time. Anyone who served in the War and knows what the overseas Dominions did for us must realise fully that without the forces which they sent to our assistance we should 596 have been in a very bad way. These are a few points which I claim to be worthy of consideration, and I trust the powers that be, will give them that full consideration which they deserve, and will always remember that what we have to stand by is the prestige of our country and Empire.
§ Sir CHARLES BARRIE
I have listened to this Debate with great interest and to the remarks of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) with considerable amusement. He may not be aware of the fact that, although I am a Member of this House, I am, unfortunately or fortunately, as the case may be, chairman of the Navy, Army and Air Force institutes, which have been so much maligned to-night. The Noble Lord talks of these institutes as not being democratic. As chairman, I consider myself a democrat in every sense of the word, and after the Noble Lord has heard the few remarks I intend to make I hope he will change his mind as far as the merits of the canteens are concerned. I take it the basis of the Noble Lord's attack is nothing more nor less than that certain traders in his constituency do not find it convenient that the soldier should trade with himself. Has my Noble Lord ever heard of the co-operative system? I do not know what his vote was when we were dealing with co-operative matters here some time ago, but I certainly have a very lively recollection of those Debates, and the Labour party, I should think, from the attitude which they then adopted, would support en masse any such co-operative system as the soldiers, sailors and airmen have chosen to inaugurate among themselves. Why, if any body of men choose to trade—
§ Sir C. BARRIE
The Noble Lord dealt at random with so many points that I do not think the Committee was really able to pick out what he really intended to say.
§ Sir C. BARRIE
The canteen system is no new one. I understand, from information which I have had, that for about a hundred years the forces in this country had endeavoured to institute some such system as we have to-day. It only became acute, however, in 1899, when a Committee of the various Departments endeavoured to grapple with this matter. The time was evidently not ripe at that moment, and nothing succeeded, but what was the consequence? The South African War took place, and Sir Redvers Buller, immediately he got to the front, had to institute nothing more or less than the field canteen force system. At the end of the South African War a Committee was set up, presided over by Lord Grey, and their reference was as follows:
This Committee at that time made certain recommendations, but unfortunately, for some reason or other, they were not given effect to. What followed? In 1914 a well-known firm of canteen contractors and certain military personnel were prosecuted, and in a leading article which I have by me I find the following:
- "(1) Whether it is advisable to alter (canteen) conditions with a view of obtaining for soldiers similar benefits to those now gained by co-operative societies for their members.
- (2) If the above is considered advisable, by what method it should be carried out."We shall draw but one conclusion from the case. The time has manifestly come when the whole of the present canteen system, under which abuses … of the kind disclosed in this trial have grown up and flourished, should become the subject of scorching investigation on behalf of the Government … We trust that out of evil good may come.As a result of the canteen scandals of that date, Lord Rotherham's Committee was appointed, and in 1914 it came to the conclusion that the canteen system must stop. What has all this resulted in? Simply this, that when the Great War broke out it became absolutely essential that some sort of canteen system should be adopted. The contractors' system by that time had broken down, and something had to take its place. Before the arrival of the Expeditionary Force canteens in France, the prices to the soldier had gone up by 50 per cent., but immediately the canteen system arrived prices, of course, were very much reduced, so far as the soldier was concerned, and he got his articles at what 598 was then the proper price. To continue, the end of the War came, and a Committee presided over by the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Sir S. Roberts) came to the following conclusion:From the evidence that we have heard, we are convinced that the maintenance of a permanent organisation of the kind is most desirable as a matter of policy, both because of the amenities which it affords to members of the forces, and more particularly because it provides the nucleus of a service capable of immediate expension on mobilisation.I think, from what I have said, that the Committee will see that this is not a matter that has been entered into lightly. No fewer than five Committees have sat on this subject. They have all recommended that a canteen system should be adopted, and, surely, if the soldier, the sailor, and the airman choose to trade amongst themselves, to keep the profits amongst themselves—
§ Sir C. BARRIE
—and to use such profits as they may make in order to further their own systems of amusement and relieve one another, is there any reason why they should not? What is the option? To go back to the old canteen system, which has been condemned? I think the Committee will agree with me that, after all the Committees that have sat and examined these matters, and after the experiences of the South African War and the late War, this is not the time of day to go back to an old system which has been condemned and whose transactions will hardly bear the light of day. These are the only general matters I should like to touch upon with regard to the maintenance of the canteen system, for the main reply to the questions put by the Noble Lord will come from the Front Bench. Suffice it to say, that during the time I have been Chairman of the Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes, we have had nothing but praise from the whole of the Services with regard to the maintenance of the system, and expressions of goodwill from them all that it may long continue.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
It is not my intention to follow in the discussion relative to the merits of either State socialism or private capitalism. The discussion of that subject so far reminds me 599 of a meeting of shop assistants where they had been quarrelling about the respective merits of voluntary co-operation and private trading. I hope the Debate will rise to a higher standard than that. The Amendment before the Committee is to the effect that the Vote on Account should be reduced by the sum of £1,000,000, and I desire to support that Amendment. It is customary on the Government's side, I notice, to use an argument like this when they are dealing with economy in connection with any of the public Services. They say, in effect, that they spent last year £100,000,000, and this year they propose to spend only £62,000,000, and they draw the conclusion that they are making a saving to the National Exchequer of about £40,000,000. I think the basis of their argument is wrong. They ought to correspond the expenditure, not with what happened last year, but with the expenditure, say, in 1914. That, I think, is the proper method of making comparisons in this connection. Let us turn to the figures for a moment. The figure of the total expenditure on the Army for 1914–15 was £28,845,000. It is now proposed to spend £62,300,000, in spite of the fact that the War was supposed to end in 1918.
That was not exactly the point to which I rose to draw the attention of the Committee. I want to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman representing the War Office one or two very pertinent questions. I understand that there is in existence, in connection with the War Office, what is termed a Chemical War Committee. This Committee has concealed its operations very much from the public, but I happen to be a member of an authority to which this Committee made application some time ago to use a very large municipal college of technology in order to conduct research into poison gas, and I do not think it would be right if I did not express the abhorrence of the people of that city—the best of them—against the promotion of this part of research work by the War Office. I think that hon. Members ought to know exactly what is transpiring in connection with chemical warfare. We have been told here this week that some time ago the Navy was regarded as our first line of defence. The military Gentlemen in this House have combated that view, and argued that the soldier was the most im- 600 portant unit in our forces. Then the Gentlemen connected with the Air Service came along and said that the airmen were the people to defend our shores in the near future.
I venture to suggest that the man who will count most in warfare in the future will not be the sailor, will not be the soldier, will not be the airman, but will be the scientist, and I want to ask, with due respect, that, instead of spending more money in trying to find out a formula to secure a gas that will poison thousands of people, the Government will spend their energies in something better. Towards the end of the War the War Office sent a mission to that part of the Continent that was conquered by our Armies, and they visited several chemical factories that were left intact by the Germans on their retreat. I was astonished to read the report of that mission. They say:In the future, it is clear that every chemical factory must be regarded as a potential arsenal.10.0 P.M.
I rose in this Debate, not because I understand military manœuvres, not because I am interested so much in military adventures, not because I am so much concerned with the growth of this Empire, and the policing of the Empire by airships, bombs, and so forth, but I want to raise my protest—and I think I have a considerable number of people behind mo in this connection—against, the diabolical idea that the next war, as we have heard from some of those benches, when it comes will be more infernal than ever. I think Members on this side of the Committee, at any rate, are not prepared to accept, in the cool fashion it has been mentioned on the other side, that we are to have a great war within the next five or 10 years. I trust the nations of the earth will come to the conclusion that wars do not settle anything in the end. They settle nothing. You have had the biggest war in the history of the world. The people of this country are poorer today than ever they were, and I want to raise my voice, at any rate, against the idea that Gentlemen on that Bench are now prosecuting their researches in order to find out how they can poison thousands of people—probably people who are not connected with the Army at all. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) yesterday pictured what 601 might happen to Paris or London, and let me remind the Committee that in the past, when nations were fighting each other with navies and armies, Gentlemen in this House probably felt quite comfortable at home in their mansions, but if war were to be conducted, as has been hinted in this House already, by dropping bombs containing these chemicals, then I feel sure it behoves some hon. Gentlemen opposite to think what might happen to their own homes if a great war in future occurred on these lines. I trust that the Secretary of State for War will regard this protest, at any rate, as being made with all the sincerity I can offer, and I trust he will withdraw that little staff he has in the Manchester College of Technology, where they are now conducting research in order to find out a formula that will help in the next war. I want to raise my protest against the whole infernal and diabolical business that nations are making researches to conduct war with poison gas.
§ Lieut.-Colonel STANLEY
I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken into the matter he has raised, except to say that it may, perhaps, occur to him that it is worth our while to pursue chemical research in order that, if we are attacked by poison gas, we may have some resources with which to defend ourselves. Perhaps he does not realise that we were not the first to use poison gas. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) moved a reduction of £1,000,000, and remarked that I seemed surprised. I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman I am never surprised at anything he does. He then went on to discourse about that on which we have already had a long discussion, which was entirely answered, I think, by the Secretary of State when he made his speech. The hon. and gallant Member for Southport (Lieut.-Colonel White) only asked one question, which, I think, I answered at the time. Then we come to the subject about which most of the discussion has taken place.
The Noble Lord the Member for Alder-shot (Viscount Wolmer) raised the question of the Navy, Army and Air Force institutes. I have heard the Noble Lord on several occasions on this matter. He speaks with considerable feeling—I might almost say with considerable vehemence— 602 about it. I know he feels very strongly on the matter, but the unfortunate thing is that he makes certain assumptions, and then states them as facts—a rather dangerous thing to do, I think. He talks about this as a scandal. I quite expected him to say that. I have heard him say that before. He talked about a Government trading monopoly. I have also heard about that before. He also spoke about the genesis of it. He was a little wrong in his facts, but nothing to speak of. They were fairly accurate. And then he said that out of that arose this peace organisation, and he wanted to know whether the War Office intended to carry on this peace organisation. I may as well tell him at once that we do this for the benefit of the Navy, Army and Air Force, and that we do propose to continue it. I rather want to deal with some of the definite charges that the Noble Lord made about these institutes. He said that we had absolutely refused to publish any balance-sheet.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I am sorry if I gave the Committee the impression that in 1918 a balance-sheet was not published. I do not think I could have done so, because I quoted the turnover of £40,000,000 from the 1918 balance-sheet.
§ Lieut.-Colonel STANLEY
I apologise to the Noble Lord. I thought he said it had not been published. I took his words down and I understood him to-say we have refused to publish any balance sheets since 1918.
§ Lieut.-Colonel STANLEY
That is not so. We are doing all we can to get these balance sheets out. I have spent many, many hours myself with various people, including the liquidators, endeavouring to get the whole of these matters settled up, so that we can produce balance sheets, and I tell the Noble Lord that we are doing the best we can. When the Noble Lord says we are not doing the best we can then he is talking about something he does not know anything about.
§ Lieut.-Colonel STANLEY
I have already told the Noble Lord we are doing the best we can to get them out as soon 603 as possible, and when we do get them out the Noble Lord will not have so much to talk about. The Noble Lord told us several other very interesting things. He said that every regiment managed its own canteen and that there were some nice little funds derived by the regiments in consequence. Is the Noble Lord quite sure about that—that every regiment manages its own canteen?
§ Lieut.-Colonel STANLEY
I was only asking the Noble Lord as to whether or not he is perfectly certain? If he had gone into the history of some of the times when the tenant system was in vogue, he would possibly agree that it would not be a very pleasant system to go back to. He will possibly remember some of the scandals in 1914 and some of the people who were implicated, and I do not think he would be particularly anxious to go back to the state of affairs we had then. The Noble Lord drew some funny assumptions—I will not say that—but he said there were 10 millions of the money left over when the Expeditionary Force came home again. He quoted certain paragraphs from the Report presided over by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ecclesall (Sir S. Roberts) which said it was anticipated that the Army and the Navy Board would possibly make sufficient profit to enable them to wind up.… Does the Noble Lord think that the men who were demobilised because the War had apparently ended—the men of the Expeditionary Force—went straight home and were not provided with anything as well as the men that were left out? These men had to be provided for just as much as during the War. Then the Noble Lord told us that there were £10,000,000, and he said that the statement had been made that £7,000,000 would be handed over to the United Services Fund; then he went on to say that that meant that we would lose £3,000,000. Why does he think that? That is the sort of assumption that the Noble Lord makes, and puts it forward as a fact. He does not realise that certain commodities and comforts were given to the troops during the War, nor does he realise what was done for the Colonial Forces, who were treated much the same 604 as the Expeditionary Force had been, and just the same as our own troops. This sort of assumption put forward as fact makes it impossible to deal with the Noble Lord in this matter.
§ Lieut.-Colonel STANLEY
Where it goes to? The Noble Lord states that there will be no profits. I agree. Yes, but does he know why? We give an 8 per cent. rebate on the gross turnover, and we do not intend to make any profit. If any profits are made, they will be set aside for a definite fund. Up to date there have been no profits. The Noble Lord said nothing about the 8 per cent. rebate. He talks about the tremendous advantages of the arrangement. The canteens have had no more advantages than the tenants had under the old tenant system of canteens. What we have been doing is to put up decent places where the men can go and spend their time of recreation. Any hon. and gallant Member who served before the War will, I am sure, bear me out when I say that the places the men had to go to were perfectly horrible. The only place was the canteen bar, and the canteens were really run to make a profit on the sale of beer. I think it is a matter of congratulation all round that the sale of beer has decreased since pre-War days to a remarkable extent, and that the coffee sales are most remunerative. This alone, in my opinion, would be sufficient to justify the experiment—if we may term it an experiment. It is rather a system we are carrying out in our canteens at the present time. The Noble Lord said that these canteens were State-aided. That is not so, nor do they get any more privileges than did the tenant of the canteen under the old system, except as arranged by the Roberts Committee that where under normal conditions the organisation is unable to make ends meet it should be indemnified out of public funds. That is the only case in which that is done. They are receiving no privileges that the tenant could not have had under the old system. We have referred to the Law Officers for their opinion as to under what conditions we could pay over the money to the United Services Fund. I am not sure that we have actually received their verdict, but 605 I ask the Noble Lord to take this as a statement of fact, that they are under the impression that we will have to do this by Vote of the House or by Act of Parliament.
§ Viscount WOLMER
This surplus remaining above the Expeditionary Force Canteens' expenditure can only be transferred by Act of Parliament or Vote to the United Services Fund?
§ Lieut.-Colonel STANLEY
I said by Act of Parliament or Vote, and I ask the Noble Lord not to press the matter beyond that point. But do not let the Noble Lord run away with the idea that it is not going to be paid. Now let me turn to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Thomson). He talks about the home service medal.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves the former subject, may I remind him of a question he has not answered? Can he explain why the balance sheet of the Expeditionary Force Canteen of August, 1920, has not been published, and whether it does not show that there was £10,000,000?
§ Lieut-Colonel STANLEY
I am not sure about that, but I will try and find out. There were all sorts of different plans by various authorities, and I have spent hours trying to get them settled up, and to give a complete balance sheet and pay out the money as soon as we can to the United Services Fund.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I do not want to be discourteous, but I wish to say that I pointed out that in the report of the Committee presided over by the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Sir S. Roberts) they dealt with the balance-sheet of 31st August, 1920. I read out a letter from the auditors to the newspaper "Truth" in which they said that this balance-sheet was a complete statement up to that date. I asked why that balance-sheet could not be published, and I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman has given me a full reply, although it is not the first time the question has been asked.
§ Lieut.-Colonel STANLEY
I was not there at the time, but I will find out and let the Noble Lord know. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) spoke about home service medals. Has the hon. Member ever con- 606 sidered that once you embark upon such a policy as that, you cannot possibly limit it, and no one begrudges the money after having decided to do it. I think, however, it is rather a commentary on the action of the hon. Member that he should now join with the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) in support of an Amendment reducing this Vote by £1,000,000 when the hon. Member himself is perfectly ready to spend a large sum of money on a matter which is dear to his heart.
We have now the Army Estimates before us, but I think we have far too little time given us to consider the details of this great expenditure. Personally I support the Vote before the House because I think we ought to maintain our fighting forces. I think, however, there should be strict economy in administration. One reason why I am in favour of maintaining the fighting forces of our Army at the present time is because I think that the turning out of the Army of such a large number of men is only going to add to the number of the unemployed. When I heard the hon. and gallant Member for Chester-le-Street talking on this question, I felt largely at one with him when he said he was anxious for economy in all these directions. He told us he believed that every penny saved in this way could be spent in bettering the conditions of the people. But I felt inclined to question whether in making these economies we were not going to do ill to rather than benefit the people who are at present without houses. If these suggestions are carried out we are going to turn out of the Army, which they joined voluntarily, 20,000 men, who will have to find houses. Will not that be a hindrance to rather than a betterment of trade and employment?
I wish to pass on from the point that we want to maintain our fighting forces to a point where I believe economies can be effected. I very much regret the statement made in the paper circulated to-day in regard to the recommendations of the Geddes Committee. By the way, I do not agree with their recommendation for cutting down the forces. I think they might have gone far further in other directions in their recommendations for economy. The statement to 607 which I refer is one to the effect that the consideration of the Cardwell scheme is not necessarily involved. The Secretary for War, in his speech to-night, warned us that there were many arguments against doing away with the Cardwell system, and that one of them was that if he had a long-service Army abroad we would have no reserves at home. But surely you can have home service battalions in lesser numbers. You could get men to come in and train when employment is bad in the country. We are going to start our Militia again. That was a very fine force. It was one of which we were all proud. I was a member of it myself. We are going to restart it. Why should we not form a reserve in times of unemployment and enable men to come into the force and have a chance of acquiring knowledge which can be used in defence of their country if necessary? A small sum would have to be set aside for the purpose of forming a reserve upon which we could call. Personally, I should be ready to go further than some hon. Members, perhaps, would, and to allow, in times of bad employment, men who were ready to come and learn the elements of what is necessary for the defence of their country to do so without any obligation. I would suggest that, when the unmarried men of this country were out of employment, and were ready to show their patriotism by learning how to defend their country, they might be taken, say, for six months, and, if they found a job might be allowed to go when it came along. I feel sure that men allowed to serve with that amount of freedom would be ready, should a time of necessity come, to serve in defence of their country. I feel that we have now reached a time when it is necessary somewhat to moderate the system which obtained in the Army during the days when I first joined. It is absolutely necessary now to explain to men why you wish them to do things. Steps of that kind are now being taken, and I believe that, if the men who are now in the Army thoroughly understand why certain restrictions are put upon them, and why they are required to do things, they will do them. The education of the men in that way will improve the efficiency of our Army. I believe that its efficiency is being improved now, but this should be carried further, 608 and I feel sure that we should be able, at small expense, to get a reserve of men ready to serve if during certain months we opened recruiting to our militia on these lines.
I should like to point out certain methods by which I believe economies could be effected, and, in the first place, I desire to refer to the question of education. On the last occasion on which the Army Estimates were before the House, I pressed upon the right hon. Gentleman several reductions, but did not get much satisfaction. He said he was going to look into everything this year. I cannot help bringing a certain reproach against the War Office, against the Financial Secretary, and against the Minister himself, for not looking into these things a little sooner, and bringing in these economies before they were absolutely forced upon them by the Geddes Committee. I think it would have been well if they had paid a little more attention to the speeches which we have heard from all quarters of the House, and had tried to bring in these economies without waiting for the Geddes Committee to come along and say what economies should be effected. As regards education, I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that the School of Education is done away with. It is an absolute waste of money, and to waste money simply for some fad is ridiculous. I am certain that if you were to ask any officer who commands a battalion, and who knows his business, or any non-commissioned officer, he would tell you the same thing. It is no use, however, listening to the people who have to administer these theories.
Then the School of Administration ought certainly to be done away with. Why should you teach soldiers political economy? If they want to learn it, they can go to civilian schools and pay the fees. It is no part of the business of the Army to teach political economy, and if army officers have to learn it there are plenty of schools for them. There are various other directions in which economies might be effected. Overhead charges ought to be reduced in the Army, and I will at once take a point which has been mentioned by the Geddes Committee, namely, the construction of depots. We have heard nothing about depots being reduced. They ought to be 609 combined, as I believe has been proposed by an hon. Member to-day. We are now going in for economies. What is being done? We are doing away with battalions. You can keep one depot with the same staff which trains two battalions. It is ridiculous to keep the fixed staff of these depots only training troops for two battalions. These depots could be combined and it would certainly reduce the staff. At present we have two captains and two subalterns teaching the recruits of two battalions. It is too many. These points want dealing with. I apologise for going into details, although the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord K. Cecil) says details ought to be dealt with in the House. It seems to me the big questions are dealt with, but these smaller details are points on which great economies could be effected, and they are not brought to the notice, I believe, of the Secretary of State by the War Office because all the interest of the War Office is to keep up the establishment. Soldiers who have been through company and regimental commands know that many of these economies could be effected, and it is in the House of Commons only that these facts are brought to the notice of the Minister.
Having dealt with the depots, hoping the Secretary of State will look into the matter and do something, I should like to pass to the question of the schools. No one who was in the Army before the War will deny that we had in Hythe one of the most excellent schools, which brought musketry to a high state of efficiency. Anyone who went overseas with the Expeditionary Force knows that the control of musketry was absolutely amazing. Why on earth should a school of musketry now have an unusually increased staff? We have now far fewer men to be trained in England, and the school of musketry has a far bigger staff than it had before the War. These things ought not to be. Hon. Members opposite believe in their Empire, though our methods are different, and I am certain they will agree that you must not have excrescencies of this sort while at the same time you are cutting down battalions and batteries of artillery. The school of musketry was very effective before the War, and it ought to have the 610 same staff now. The school of musketry before the War was also a machine-gun school. Why are these things going on I It is simply to employ people. It is not right that jobs should be found for everyone who is employed on the staff. The straffs in the War were very much too big. We can not afford in times of peace to keep the same staff. I know the War Office will tell me it is not possible to reduce it, but let the right hon. Gentleman take his courage in both hands. If he brings the machine gun school to Hythe and has an added course, so that a certain number of officers can be kept on for the machine gun course and the Lewis gun and ordinary musketry is still taught, he will cut down a great many overhead charges and reduce the staff of the two colleges by a considerable number. I am willing to admit that the machine gun school has done very good work, but the battalions have their own machine gun sections and a sufficient number of officers and men have been trained to do their training in the battalions, and it is now absolutely unnecessary to keep a separate machine gun school. I shall probably have the War Office against me when I refer to the question of Sandhurst. We are told that the Government is going to make an economy, but what is that economy to be? It is to be effected by making the man who sends his son to serve his country pay more for his education. The man who sends his son into the Army is often not rich, and if we are going to save the taxpayer £100 by making the man who sends his boy into the Army to pay an extra £100, I am not sure that that is altogether fair and equitable. The man who sends his son into the Army to defend his country has no more right to be taxed an extra £100 than the man who keeps his son at home and puts him into business in which he makes £1,000 a year. I question whether it is good policy to put an extra burden upon the men who send their sons either into the Army as officers or into the ranks as private soldiers. There is a great doubt in my mind as to whether it is necessary to keep a boy at Sandhurst for two years. I was not at Sandhurst myself, but I know that the course there has been continually changed. At a time like this, when we require economies, the duration of the course at Sandhurst should be cut down. It should only be 611 for the duration of a year. I know that I could put up many arguments on the other side.
That is so, but you have to come to the facts, and if you are going to save money you must give a little less education. This is not the best method for training an officer for his military duties before he has been to his regiment. Let the boys go to Sandhurst for a year. I am told that the drill at Sandhurst is the best drill in the world, better than the drill in the brigade of Guards. I do not deny that. If you take some of the best educated men from our public schools, and put them through a high course of training and drill, and they are very keen and willing, if they drill better than a body of men who enter the Army without education, and perhaps some of them without that quickness which education is able to give, it is not surprising that it should be so. It is far better for a boy to go and learn the command of men than to drill smartly in a battalion. The boy goes through all this drill at Sandhurst, and when he goes to his regiment he has to go through it all again. It is a waste of time. What we require is that a boy should be taught his military duties, and it is of far more value, to him to learn his drill in command of men, and learn how to lead others, than to spend his time in drill under a drill-sergeant at Sandhurst or at Woolwich. If you cut down the course to one year you could combine the courses at Sandhurst and Woolwich. Why keep there two big establishments? In Sandhurst you can have 700 cadets. If you have only one year's course you only want 350, and it would be a great advantage to the infantry and the artillery to start their life together, so that in future they may be friends, and whenever the opportunity occurs they may work together in the close cooperation which we all desire. These are all points that affect the regimental officer. The right hon. Gentleman said the other day that old-fashioned infantry officers were against the Air Force. Though I may be old-fashioned, there is nothing more untrue as regards a person 612 like myself. The infantry soldier formerly had to do all the dirty work, but things have been changed greatly of late. Infantry officers at the beginning of the War were often left in the trenches for 21 days. When it comes to the pinch, the infantry soldier is the man who has to bear the brunt of these things, and I would press the right hon. Gentleman not to cut down the number of men who are going to defend the country in case of need, but to look for those economies which can be effected with other branches of the Service.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I under stand that the Secretary of State for War wants to get a couple of votes this evening and therefore I will be very brief. Everybody will agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Rutland that we did not cut down the expenditure on the fighting men necessary for the defence of the Empire. What we really complain of is the increase of expenditure on the body of subsidiary Services which have very little relation to the fighting men proper at all. We have got a smaller force by 20,000 than we had before the War and yet we find that there are 845 military accountants where before the War there were none. Then we have got 175 chaplains as against 115 before the War, an increase of 50 per cent., though there are 20,000 fewer men. We have got a provost staff of 245 as against 173 before the War. For Army education we have 435 as against 286, and for miscellaneous establishments 3,745 against 967. I do not understand why in what you may call these entirely subordinate services you should have such an enormous increase in personnel and expenditure as compared with before the War, seeing that you now have 20,000 fewer men. If you look at the cavalry figures you will find that before the War you had 14,500 and that now you have a little over 7,000. That is to say, you have half what you had before the War; but in spite of that fact the veterinary establishment has gone up from 348 to 392. Why on earth should you now have a larger veterinary establishment than you had before the War? I have here a couple of pages of instances in which the personnel and the expenditure have increased with these entirely subsidiary services, although we have a smaller Army than we had before the War. This matter calls for investigation. 613 No one complains about spending money on necessary fighting units, but we have every right to complain of what seems to be grossly extravagant expenditure on services that are not required at all.
§ Mr. MILLS
The last speaker has brought forward certain matters as to which the House will agree with his demand for information. Probably the Secretary of State for War will have an answer regarding the sky pilots that was not available before the War, because he can point to the Air Force, which was net in existence before the War. I wish to refer to a more parochial question—the policy of the Government regarding Woolwich Arsenal. Before the War it was the custom of the Government to allocate a certain percentage of orders annually to Woolwich, and, as usual, a far greater proportion to the various armament firms. Seeing the possibility of the sword being turned into ploughshares some of the workshops of the armaments trust were turned into shops for the making of locomotives and sewing machines, in anticipation of an Eastern European trade which so far has not developed. The people of Woolwich Arsenal, the Woolwich Chamber of Commerce, and the Woolwich Employment Committee successfully appealed to the Prime Minister in the days following the Armistice. Speaking of the future of the Arsenal, the Prime Minister then said that, having regard to the service that had been rendered by the workpeople at Woolwich during the War, he could do no other than promise that in future all war work that might be required would be given to this national factory. I do not come here to plead for extra orders to be given for men who might be employed. I do merely suggest that if you have a huge area such as Woolwich is, with a vast mass of population entirely dependent on the Government for its employment, its local business men willing and anxious to develop the land which the Government, apparently, will not use or will not make up its mind about, then the local Chamber of Commerce and the people dependent on the Government for employment have a right to know what is the Government's policy.
Mention has been made of the Geddes Committee, and that is apparently to be the peg upon which the excuse to reduce Woolwich still further is to be hung. I 614 only want to say in connection with that that the same people who speak about a so-called loss on commercial work are the very Committee whose Chairman, when Minister of Transport, successfully pleaded to this House and outside that the cost of production of a railway wagon inside Woolwich was £100 less than the quotation of the wagon trust in the Midlands. I suggest that if when he was Minister of Transport one article of production was costing less than the cost of production outside, there must be some very greatly altered circumstances which converts the other items of production into a loss. I would like to ask the Secretary of State for War, if, in the future, he will not condescend to give the business people of Woolwich some consideration in the matter of the future of the town, will he at least take into consideration that since the Armistice postal carts, railway wagons, locomotives, milk churns, and many other things have been manufactured at Woolwich, and that if chemical research, gun research, the Ordnance Committee, and the one-hundred-and-one essentials to the carrying on of the nucleus of war in times of peace were brought forward as a so-called war measure, then I venture to say the cost of production in Woolwich would not be so heavy as to make it appear necessary to distribute the work all over the land. At the present moment works for the Army and Navy on a peace basis take £9,000,000, and if they are to be allocated to firms up and down the country and at the same time you will not use your workshops or part with the land, then we in Woolwich have a grievance against the Government.
After all, you claim the whole of the foreshore for a matter of seven miles. The community depends solely on the Government for its means of livelihood, and the business people depend on the workpeople in that way. If it is not the intention of the Government to utilise that land that stretches right down to the division I represent, it is high time that the Government made up its mind what it is going to do and that it stated in no uncertain terms what is its policy. The Secretary of State for War will be interested to know that this so-called deficit of £900,000 in the matter of locomotives is a deficit actually entered upon and can be explained by the amount that it costs to dismantle shop after shop that 615 had been in existence for generations for gun-making, breaking up machinery, then laying down pits for the construction of locomotives, and putting into the various workshops all the necessary impedimenta for the production of locomotives. I venture to say that the cost of the transition of these shops from ordinary gun-producing shops to the putting in of machinery and the alteration to the work of peace-time would more than absorb the £900,000 which is spoken of as a deficit on the manufacture of locomotives. At the time the order for locomotives was placed the Prime? Minister, speaking, I presume, on behalf of the Government, stated that during the years of War they had visualised their duty to agriculture and because of their duty to agriculture they proposed to alter the gun shops of Woolwich for the production of railway material—their duty to agriculture having imposed on them the necessity of building locomotives and railway material, heavy and light, to link up the countryside with the various great cities.
We know that policy has been abandoned and the Government might at least take into account this presumed promise of the Prime Minister and not attempt to ride off on the pretence that the scheme is being cancelled because of the utter worthlessness of the men employed in Woolwich. Men are there who have spent a lifetime in the production of munitions. Whether that is good for the nation or bad, I submit, if you are going to get rid of men who have spent 30 and 40 and in some cases 45 years in the service of the State, the manly thing to do is to say to these people, "There is no future for you. We thank you for your services, but we have no alternative but to give you notice of discharge." The Committee has been bringing in young men of no pre-War experience or even War experience of the working of the ordnance factories, and paying them salaries five
§ times in excess of the ordinary post-War salaries, in order that they may insult men who have given a lifetime to the State. These men are having the miser able amount which they get as bonus for services rendered, reduced week after week, and are being insulted, instead of getting an honest, straightforward notice of discharge.
§ This matter of Woolwich should be taken up by every Service Member, because anyone who refers to the War period will find that alone of our workshops producing munitions during the War, Woolwich was the only one, from August, 1914, to 11th November, 1918, which put out its contracts ahead of time and not five, seven, or 11 months after the stipulated time. There is the nucleus there, but only the nucleus, but they are at less than pre-War strength now, and the idea is still further to reduce the staff by 2,000, while the rates due to unemployment arising out of the policy of the Government are 29s. 8d. in the £. A constituency which was dependent on the Government for so many years has a right to be treated with a little more consideration. If the Government have no future for Woolwich, let them part with the land and allow people who are willing to develop the land to have access to it and give employment to those who must have work of some kind. I hope the Secretary of State for War will do his best to meet that case.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir Edwin Cornwall) rose to put the Question—
§ Sir L. W0RTHINGTON-EVANS rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 166; Noes, 56.617
|Division No. 55.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Barnston, Major Harry||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.|
|Amery, Leopold C. M.S.||Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Carew, Charles Robert S.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Carr, W. Theodore|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Calvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Breese, Major Charles E.||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Brown, Major D. C.||Coote, William (Tyrone, South)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Bruton, Sir James||Cory, Sir I. H. (Cardiff, South)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Buckley, Lieut-Colonel A.||Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Johnstone, Joseph||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Pratt, John William|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Preston, Sir W. R.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Kollaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Purchase, H. G.|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Kidd, James||Rae, H. Norman|
|Ednam, Viscount||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Lloyd, George Butler||Rankin, Captain James Stuart|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Evans, Ernest||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Renwick, Sir George|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Lort-Williams, J.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Fildes, Henry||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||McCurdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Forestler-Walker, L.||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Forrest, Walter||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Gibbs. Colonel George Abraham||Mailalleu, Frederick William||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Manville, Edward||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Taylor, J.|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Mond, Rt. Hon, Sir Alfred Moritz||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Grelg, Colonel Sir James William||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon Frederick E.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Waddington, R.|
|Hallwood, Augustine||Morris, Richard||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Hall, Lieut. Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Morrison, Hugh||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Munro, Rt. Hon, Robert||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Hancock, John George||Murchison, C. K.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nail, Major Joseph||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Haslam, Lewis||Neal, Arthur||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Winterton, Earl|
|Hinds, John||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Wise, Frederick|
|Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Parker, James||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Inskip, Thomas Nalker H.||Perkins, Walter Frank||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Jameson, John Gordon||Perring, William George||Dudley Ward.|
|Johnson, Sir Stanley||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Halls, Walter||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hartshorn, Vernon||Spencer, George A.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayday, Arthur||Sutton, John Edward|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hirst, G. H.||Swan, J. E.|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O (Anglesey)|
|Bramsdon. Sir Thomas||Kenyon, Barnet||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lawson, John James||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cairns, John||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham. Mansfield)||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Myers, Thomas||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wilson. James (Dudley)|
|Finney, Samuel||Rendall, Athelstan||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Gillis, William||Rose, Frank H.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Royco, William Stapleton||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Major Entwistle and Mr. Mills.|
|Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Sitch, Charles H.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That a sum, not exceeding £27,000,000, be granted for the said Service."618
§ The committee division: Ayes, 58; Noes, 162.619
|Division No. 56.]||AYES.||[11.10 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedweilty)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Cairns, John||Entwistle, Major C. F.|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Finney, Samuel|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Gillis, William||Myers, Thomas||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Rendall, Athelstan||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Halls, Walter||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Hancock, John George||Rose, Frank H.||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Royce, William Stapleton||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, Charles H.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Johnstone, Joseph||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Spencer, George A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lawson, John James||Sutton, John Edward||Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy and|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Swan, J. E.||Mr. James Wilson.|
|Mills, John Edmund||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Hailwood, Augustine||Parker, James|
|Amery, Leopold C. M.S.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)|
|Astor, Viscountess||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Haslam, Lewis||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Perring, William George|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Hinds, John||Pratt, John William|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Preston, Sir W. R.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hopkins, John W. W.||Purchase, H. G.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Rae, H. Norman|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Hurd, Percy A.||Randies, Sir John Scurrah|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Rankin, Captain James Stuart|
|Bcwyer, Captain G. W. E.||Jameson, John Gordon||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Renwick, Sir George|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Roberts, Samuel (Herelord, Hereford)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Jones. J. T. (Carmarthen. Llanelly)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Kidd, James||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Lloyd, George Butler||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Ht. J. A. (Birm. W)||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Lort-Williams, J.||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, South)||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith).||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Lunn, William||Sugden, W. H.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||McCurdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.||Taylor, J.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Dawson, Sir Philin||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Waddington, R.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Evans, Ernest||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Manville, Edward||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Morltz||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Fildes, Henry||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Willoughby. Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Morris, Richard||Windsor, Viscount|
|Forrest, Walter||Morrison, Hugh||Winterton, Earl|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wise, Frederick|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Murchison, C. K.||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Nail, Major Joseph||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Neal, Arthur||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Grelg, Colonel Sir James William||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Dudley Ward.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.620
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.