§ Mr. COVE
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:this House regards with great concern the heavy expenditure upon the Army, and being of opinion that all such expenditure in preparation for warfare is wasteful, serving only the needs of capitalist imperialism, calls upon His Majesty's Government to realise a policy of disarmament by adopting a programme of annual extensive reductions in personnel and material of its military forces and the immediate withdrawal of all State grants for the maintenance of the officers training corps and cadet corps.Up to the present the House has been in comparative agreement, if not in en-time harmony. There has been a general desire to see that the troops are comfortable, that the Army is efficient and that recruiting is kept up to normal standards. This Amendment is a prelude to deeper and more significant differences, which are not concerned so much with the numbers and the effectiveness of the Army as to differences which are concerned with the purposes and functions of the Army in modern capitalist, imperialist society. The Amendment, in a brief and summary manner, sets forth the purpose and the cause of modern armies. Armaments are but the executive arm of modern imperialism and we call for a steady and progressive reduction; we call not so much for the exercise of sovereign right in increasing armaments and becoming more powerful, but for the exercise of sovereignty in the reduction of armaments.
The Amendment asks the Government in a most reasonable manner to take the initiative in disarmament. I know that 107 it is the official policy of the Labour party to secure disarmament by agreement, but I hope it will not be regarded as an offence against the Government, or as a sin against the Holy Ghost, if we dare to suggest that so far that policy has not brought much fruit. I hope it will not be regarded as disloyalty to the Government if we dare to say now that this Labour Socialist Government should set the example in doing good by itself taking the initiative in disarmament. Progress by agreement has been slow. If we judge by the results up to now I am afraid we shall have to say that the policy will need revision inside the Labour and Socialist movement, and, therefore, we ask the Government, in the most moderate and the most reasonable manner, to take the initiative and to go forward in the good cause of disarming this country, resting their case upon the great common sense and decency of other folk throughout the world.
Why it is that we have not disarmed? Why is it that armaments are still being piled up? Is the necessity of armaments to be found in the moral rottenness of men and women, to be found, in brief, in the psychology of people? Is it because men and women throughout the world are inhuman, are barbarians and are un reasonable? As a matter of fact, I think it will be agreed that, as far as the moral standards of mankind are concerned, war is morally obsolete. The moral sentiment of the world is strongly against the killing of men on battlefields or upon the high seas. I do not think we can find the cause of war in the moral rottenness or inhumanity of men. Then, I doubt whether there is any militarist or group of militarists in this country who, since the War, will say, as the German militarists said, that perpetual peace is a dream, and not a beautiful dream. No one in this House will say with the German militarists of before the War that war is the finest expression of human personality. No. The whole spirit of the times regards war as hideous, degrading and inhuman. If the humanitarian sentiments of our time were the deciding factor, if humanitarianism had to determine whether we should have no Army, Navy or Air Force, then the people would say let us have complete abolition of all 108 armed forces, and those who wanted armaments would have to look elsewhere for them.
The moral sentiment of our times is embodied in pacts and covenants, declaring that countries will not go to war. Almost every nation is pledged to put armaments on one side. We are members of the League of Nations, we have signed the Kellogg Pact, by which we forswear resort to force, and by which we agree that argument shall be the deciding factor in all disputes that may arise And yet, in spite of our membership of the League of Nations and the signing of the Kellogg Pact, we are still building up armaments. Is it hyprocrisy on our part that we have signed the Kellogg Pact and that we belong to the League of Nations and still go on building up our Army and Navy? I do not believe that it is hypocrisy. I believe that the desires of the common people are embodied in these covenants and pacts. The great mass of the people, the, ordinary decent citizens of every nation desire to see this world ruled by covenants, by pacts for peace. and arbitration. It is not insincerity. What I believe makes pacts and covenants null and void is a stage in our history when the interests of the few dominate the interests of the nation, and this makes the need for armaments more and more.
I remember reading a discussion as to the cost of the last War in connection with a society in America and someone asked, "What was the cause of the War?" The answer given to that question was, "Capitalism." Further discussion ensued, and it was argued that even capitalism was not the cause, because capitalism has not always desired war, although in its early days it was aggressive. Capitalism sought new territory and desired new markets and new fields for investments. After that, we had the cotton era and the Free Trade policy of the Liberal party. During the cotton era you had good peace men, because they recognised that if you killed their customers they could not sell their cotton cloth. During that era, "Peace, retrenchment and reform" was the slogan. The dominant factor about modern capitalism is not the sale of goods, but the export of capital. Then we had Imperialism, and the dominant factor about that is that as long as we have the export of capital we have behind 109 it the whole armed forces of the nation, and so long as that state of things exist you will need the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force.
I would like to give the House a very significant quotation. It is a quotation from a message sent by Lord Salisbury showing how the State has become identified with the interests of capitalism when capital is exported and invested in trade abroad. When capital is invested in railways, factories and workshops abroad, of necessity it brings to the rentier class a return which does not redound to the general well-being of the ordinary worker; the income from that source is solely beneficial to the few who have been able to make those foreign investments. I know very well that the interests of those people are sometimes said to be of national importance. I hold myself that, both from the point of view of workmen and employment, and trade interests, the rentier foreign investing class are not only not in harmony with the nation, but they are inimical to the best interests of the nation, and that class is no use to the ordinary workers of the country. [HON. MEMBERS "No!"] I see some slight indications of dissent on that point, but may I be allowed to point out that the investments made by people in this country in Japan and India in the form of cotton machinery are one of the great contributory causes of the unemployment which exists to-day among the cotton operatives in Lancashire.
To protect British investments of capital in India and Shanghai, or wherever it may be invested, stands the might and force of the British Navy and the British Army, and, in spite of the investment of all that capital in cotton mills, salt factories, and the iron and steel industry abroad, those very investments are one of the greatest contributory causes of unemployment in this country. The workers of this country are asked to maintain the Army and Navy to protect foreign investments in the shape of capital when such investments are really the principal contributory cause of unemployment. It is true to say that the maintenance of the Army and the Navy does not help to solve unemployment; its upkeep is not only a positive burden, but also a negative burden, because it is one of the main causes of unemployment. Our 110 national might and national arms are used to protect the private interests of the few who invest abroad. This is one of the dominant features of the times, and, although it is not the only cause, it is the root cause of war and the root cause of the need of armies and navies. I will read to the House a passage from a chapter dealing with the export of capital from a work entitled "British Imperialism in China." It says:In 1897, two years after the Japanese War, a Belgian syndicate secured a concession to build a railway from Pekin in the north to Hankow on the Yangtsze river, a distance of about 750 miles. Immediately British rival interests asserted their claim, and the British Government, acting as the tool of these interests, began to threaten the Chinese. Lord Salisbury informed the British representative in China that:'A concession of this nature is no longer a commercial or industrial enterprise, and becomes a political movement against the British interests in the region of the Yangtsze. You should inform the Tsungli-Yamen (i.e., the Chinese Government) that Her Majesty's Government cannot possibly continue to co-operate in a friendly mariner in matters of interest to China, if, while preferential advantages are conceded to Russia in Manchuria and to Germany in Shantung, these or other foreign powers should also be offered special openings or privileges in the region of the Yangtsze. Satisfactory proposals will be forthcoming if the Chinese Government will invite the employment of British capital in the development of those provinces.'When the Chinese persisted in granting the Belgian concession, the British Minister presented an ultimatum to the Chinese Government. He informed that Government that:'Her Majesty's Government considered that they had been badly treated by China in the matter of railway concessions, and now demanded from the Chinese Government the right for British merchants to build the following lines upon the same terms as those granted in the case of the Belgian line.'Obviously, here we have the announcement of the gospel of modern capitalistic Imperialism backed up by the armed forces of the nation. For these reasons, I want to say definitely that the fight against armaments must necessarily be a, fight against the capitalistic system of society; a fight against armaments must also include a fight against the unequalled distribution of wealth. There could be no investments abroad unless capital was allowed to accumulate. There are a number of us in this House who, while we do not think that force of itself is wrong, while we do not 111 believe that force is always wrong, as a matter of fact, and while we believe that force has at times been a liberating agent in the progress of humanity, at the same time, we say definitely that, under modern conditions, force in the shape of armaments can, only prove to be a reactionary agent. Force under modern Imperialism has been proved to be a reactionary agent used to buttress up the interest of the few who have been able to invest their capital abroad. We are asked to look at our needs and the miles of ocean we have to protect, and we are told that armaments are needed to protect our ships against people outside our own shores. On the basis of the sentiments of our people, there is no need at the present time to use force and armaments. What are the real needs that dominate modern society and determine the quantity of armaments? The real need is to be found in the personal interests of the privileged class who invest their money abroad in foreign fields.
I turn now to the last part of my Amendment in which I ask, as a little step in the direction of disarmament, for the withdrawal of grants from the Officers Training Corps. I understood the Secretary of State for War this afternoon to make some concession, but I should like to be quite sure as to what it means. He said, as I understood him, that grants were to be withdrawn from the Cadet Corps, and that the Officers Training Corps were to remain exactly as they are. I should be glad if the Financial Secretary, when he replies, would tell me—or perhaps he can tell me even now—exactly what that means. How much money does it mean? How many people will it affect? From how many people will the grants be withdrawn, and how many will that include who are now in school? As I understand it, this is a very small concession. Indeed, I almost agree with an interjection that was made to the effect that it is almost nothing. I would like, however, to be perfectly clear about it.
As I understand it, the Officers Training Corps are to remain exactly as they are. If I am right, what does that mean? It means, in the first place, that, in the case of the children of the workers, who are not in the generality of cases going to be officers, these grants will be 112 withdrawn, but that the "posh" schools, the public schools, are still going to have their grants maintained as they are now. Therefore, the suggestion of the Secretary of State for War does not touch in the slightest degree class distinction, class privilege and class rule inside: the Army. As I understand the Secretary of State—I am prepared to he corrected—the whole of the grant will still be given to the Officers Training Corps in these public schools, and I believe that, if the figures are examined, it will be found that the amount to be given this year is between £1,000 and £2,000 more than was paid last year. Hence, so far as the Officers Training Corps is concerned, we are still going to give more than the Tory Government gave in the previous year. If I am wrong, I shall be very pleased to be corrected.
Some people have suggested, and I believe that the Secretary of State for War suggested, that there was no force or compulsion so far as these training corps are concerned, hut I would like the Financial Secretary to listen to one or two extracts with regard to that question. The League of Nations Union were concerned, as I understand, some time ago, about compulsion in regard to the Officers Training Corps, and they sent out inquiries to headmasters throughout the country with regard to it. A number of replies were received, and l think that nearly all of them say that there is no compulsion, that is to say, that there is no compulsory regulation, but no other sort of compulsion is denied. I have some of the replies here. The following is one:As I expected, though not formally compulsory, it becomes practically so in many cases. What we used to call 'voluntary compulsory' is the common feature of public schools, and where the authorities do not exercise pressure, public opinion or custom among the boys is the equivalent.Here is another:The Officers Training Corps here is not compulsory, but in practice nearly every boy joins in the end, though not always at the age of 14. A few never join owing to ill-health, and there are one or two, especially among the day boy. whose parents object. At the present moment, over 80 per cent. of the boys in the senior school belong, and as long as we can keep it at this I personally should prefer not to have any compulsory rule.113 Another says:When a boy enters, he does so on the understanding that he will serve in the Officers Training Corps at the age of 15 unless the is medically unfit—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] The Tory party wants to deny educational facilities to boys unless they are prepared to join the Officers Training Corps. [Interruption.] Can anyone on those benches deny, after the cheers that we have heard, that the essential purpose of the Officers Training Corps is a military one? Will anyone put up the humbugging case that it is for educational reasons that the Officers Training Corps is formed? [An HON. MEMBER:" Health!"] If it is health, why not ask the medically unfit boys to join? As a matter of fact, the medically unfit are excluded, but, if it were for health purposes it would have been very good to take the physically defective and those a little below normal. No; I say, and on this all progressive educational opinion is agreed, that it is entirely wrong and unfair to make it compulsory—for that is what it means—that a child must enter the Officers Training Corps for military training in order that he may get into certain schools in this country.
§ Mr. COVE
The hon. and gallant Member knows quite well that what I am reading are quite genuine replies, of which I have a number here. I have deliberately not put any school down, because I do not want to single out any particular school, but, if the hon. and gallant Member wants to force me, I can tell him a few. [Interruption.] The contention of Members on the other side, and I believe, of the Headmasters' Conference—an intellectual body with unprogressive minds—is that it is justified on educational grounds. I have here a speech which was delivered—
§ Mr. COVE
This is an extract from the "A.M.A.", which the hon. Member who has just risen will know. [Interruption.] It is the Assistant Masters' Association. It is an organisation whose members consist of assistant masters in secondary schools, and the extract to which I refer is as follows:MILITARISM IN SCHOOLS.To the Editor of the A.M.A.Sir,—There has recently appeared on the Cadet Corps notice board in my school an article taken from a Sunday newspaper, and entitled Lord Allenby on Every Boy's Duty.' The Field-Marshal, who is stated to be 'the personification of the man which every boy would like to be,' states that the idea of the Cadet Corps Association 'is to teach boys to be self-reliant,' etc., 'as well as to give rudimentary ideas of military training.'For health and educational purposes you drill them, make them form fours, walk up and down, use rifles, dummy or otherwise—all for the sake of developing their bodies and their minds. As a matter of fact, military training, as is now admitted, cuts right across all modern tendencies in education, and cuts right across the fundamental principle of self development and self-initiative. [Interruption.] The drill-sergeant is an anachronism in modern educational systems. [Interruption.] I now find that it is agreed that it is military, and, if it is military, we say, as educationists, that the job should be done outside the educational system. If it is necessary to have an Officers Training Corps, do not intrude it into the educational system. It has been suggested that the schools should be used as agents for internationalism, for propagating the ideas and purposes of the League of Nations, but how can the schools perform that international function on behalf of the League of Nations when at the same time they are dominated by the Officers Training Corps and their militarism? All progressive educationists say that the Officers Training Corps should be kept out of the schools, that it should be carried on outside the school walls—[Interruption]. If you like, in the boys' holiday time. The letter that I was reading goes on:'When the boys grow too old to be in the Cadets they can pass to the Territorials'. He explains that the 115 masters of the various schools arrange 'rifle practice and all other adjuncts of military training'"—for the purposes of the education and health of the boys. It goes on:'It cannot be too often repeated,' Lord Allenby insists, 'that it is the duty of every boy to fit himself to become a defender, if necessary, of his country [...] I do not want to teach militarism,' he protests. 'I am not a militarist myself… But [...] the old proverb that the best way to ensure peace is to prepare for war is just as true to-day as ever it was.'That is the principle of the Officers Training Corps-that the best way to ensure peace is to prepare for war. That is what we are teaching in our secondary schools and our public schools in this country, and teaching it with a direct grant from the War Office. I am going to ask the Secretary of State for War, quite reasonably and nicely, whether he does not think that he is not touching the heart of the problem one little bit by what he suggested. Does he not think that it would do far more good in the cause of peace if he took half the money away from the Officers Training Corps and left as it is the money that he is now taking away from the Cadet Corps? The vital point of attack, to use a military phrase, is not so much the Cadet Corps, whose grant is to be stopped, as the Officers Training Corps in the great public schools and in the secondary schools of this country. I appeal to the Secretary of State, therefore, to tackle this problem, and to get away from class distinction in the Army, because it is only those who are in a privileged class who can go to those schools where the Officers Training Corps exists. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to get away from this class privilege and do a real bit of good work in the schools for the cause of peace and disarmament, by saying that in the case of the Officers Training Corps, and the Junior Section of the Officers Training Corps, the grant shall be taken away, and that it is not the business of the school to train men for military purposes, but that it is the business of the school to train our youth for the broader work of citizenship, to give them peaceful ideas, to train them in initiative and self-control, to give them the power of self-preservation, and to make their tastes 116 and pursuits such that they are not thinking of rifles, but of the arts and sciences that will bless humanity.
§ Mr. W. J. BROWN
I beg to second the Amendment.
This Estimate is for some £40,000,000. On a similar Motion the other night we dealt with an Estimate of £50,000,000 for the Navy. On a similar Motion on Tuesday we dealt, in round figures, with an Estimate for £20,000,000 for the Air Force. Those three Estimates together make up a total of £110,000,00, or some £2,000,000 per week. It is 6.0 p.m. a striking commentary en the amazing and dangerous difference between our national professions arid our national actions that 11 years ago, after the end of the Great War, after a peace Treaty in which we bound ourselves to disarm, and after a whole series of disarmament conferences, we should now, in 1930, be voting £110,000,000 for armaments, and still more amazing that the first voice to draw attention to that situation comes not from the Government Front Bench or the Front Benches opposite, but from back benchers here. It is utterly inconsistent with the Treaty of Versailles, with the Locarno Treaty, with the Pact of Paris, with any one of the solemn undertakings we have entered into to repudiate war as an instrument of national policy that we should at this time be voting £110,000,000 for military preparation. I desire to do two things. The first is to show that, even upon the assumption of those who disagree with us and believe that military preparations may go on, we ought not to vote the money we are being asked to vote, and, secondly, that the assumptions upon which those who differ from us work will not bear investigation. I will take, first, my suggestion that, even on military assumptions, we ought not to vote this expenditure.
When the South African war broke out, the War Office discovered the need for cavalry on a scale that it had not contemplated before. The South African war was a war of horses and of movement, and we learnt, in the heavy loss of life, the need for the provision of cavalry on a scale that the War Office had not previously contemplated. The War Office learnt its lesson and it took cavalry and movement to its bosom. How 117 many millions of pounds were wasted between the end of the South African war and the beginning of the Great War on cavalry I do not know, but when the Great War came we found, as we might have expected to find, that it did not reproduce the features of the South African war, that it was not a war of movement and of horses, but of trenches and men. The War Office had learnt its lesson in 1902. The only thing it failed to learn was that the world does not stand still. I suggest for the consideration of the House that the next war, when it comes, will be even more different from the Great War than that War was from the South African war, and yet the bulk of this expenditure of £110,000,000 is based upon the assumption that the next war will be, at any rate in the main, like the Great War.
If that is not the assumption, I ask the House how it comes about that we are proposing to spend 2½ times as much on the Navy this year as on the Air Force, and twice as much on the Army as on the Air Force? The battleship has not merely become obsolete but has become a nuisance, but we are going to maintain it. The scene of war shifts from the land to the air, but we are spending twice as much on the Army as on the Air Force. All modern war experience shows that the old-time distinction between the soldier and the civilian breaks down in time of war, but we are still maintaining a standing professional Army on the apparent assumption that it does not. Even on the militarist basis, the assumption of those who believe that war cannot be destroyed, and that you must prepare for wars in the future, there is something profoundly wrong about the allocation of that £110,000,000 as between Navy, Army and Air Force for the coming year.
The views of those who sit on these benches go very much further than that. The last two decades have proved four things which have a most intimate bearing upon this matter. Three of them are proved up to the hilt, and the fourth is in process of being proved. The first is that you do not secure peace by preparing for war. If any shoddy doctrine was ever thoroughly destroyed, the doctrine that you make peace safe by preparing for war has been destroyed for 118 ever. The second thing is that the growing frightfulness of war does not act as a deterrent to war. I remember in the years before 1914 reading many articles, and listening to many speeches, designed to show that, with science and invention at its then stage of development, war had become so frightful a thing that its very frightfulness was a guarantee that it would not be resorted to. That argument has also been destroyed. The third thing that has been proved is that you cannot humanise war. War knows no Queensberry rules. You may have international conventions prohibiting this, limiting that, vetoing the other, but when war is once embarked upon and nations are at each other's throats, all your pacts and all your statutes of limitation go by the board and self-preservation demands of a nation that it shall use any weapons within its power.
The fourth thing, on which there will be more dissention than on the others, is that you cannot achieve disarmament by international agreement. If any evidence is wanted of that, I will quote what was said the other night by the leader of the Liberal party in his tribute to Lord Balfour. He referred to the Washington Conference, and, in a tone of voice in which there was more sorrow than humour, said the Washington Conference was the only disarmament conference that had ever produced any measure of disarmament. Admiral Dewar told us in another place not long ago that the only reason why that one achieved any measure of success was that the Secretary to the American Navy threw the experts overboard, a course which I urged we should take on the Navy Estimates the other night. You cannot achieve disarmament by international agreement because, so long as the contributions of any Power to disarmament conferences are based upon an estimate of that Power's needs, you get no further. The Prime Minister said recently in a magnificent preoration, "We must take risks for the cause of peace." The risk that these Army Estimates take is one of just under 1 per cent.—in round figures, or—500,000 reduction on a—40,000,000 Estimate. We may take risks for peace but, if these Estimates are any criterion, we are not taking much risk, and yet the result of not taking risks for peace is that war preparation goes on and on. All experience shows that, 119 when you build up Navies, Armies, and Air Forces, the time will come when those instruments of destruction will be used.
The last War shook European civilisation to its base over large areas of Eastern Europe. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that another 12 months of that War would have smashed civilisation in Western Europe as well as in Eastern Europe, and, whatever else is clear, it is clear that the next war, when it comes, will destroy civilisation, if only because in the interval between the last War and the next science and invention have progressed at a rate that has completely out-distanced any scientific progress between the South African war and the Great War of 1914. Lord Halsbury, armed with a copy of the War Office Manual, and speaking in another place not long ago, said that a new form of poison gas had been invented, one part of which mingled with a million parts of air world destroy all life within its radius of action in a minute. He went on to say that one bomb containing that gas dropped on Piccadilly Circus would wipe out all life between Regent's Park and the Thames, and I note with satirical appreciation that that area includes this House. Lord Halsbury said that he thought it would be a good plan if copies of the War Office Manual could be printed and circulated broadcast, because if that happened there might be such a wave of indignation and horror amongst our people that the use of these things in war would be prevented. Herr Nessler, an officer of the German gas corps, testified recently that it was a delusion to suppose that there was any adequate form of defence from poison gas attack, and added that the gasses which would be used in future wars would make protection of the civil population impossible, because they would be of a character which would destroy the very texture of skin and flesh itself. If the last War, with its instruments of destruction, robbed civilisation of its best, the next war, with its instruments of destruction, will destroy our civilisation.
We remain in a vicious circle where no one will move until somebody else moves, and because no one will move until someone else moves, none of us moves, or shall I say, we move only to the extent of 120 1 per cent. It is said that if you take a piece of chalk and make a circle on the ground around a fowl, the fowl will be afraid to cross the line of chalk, and will stay in the circle. Humanity at the present time is very much like the fowl in the circle. The chalk with which that circle is drawn is the chalk of fear, and if these Estimates mean anything, they mean that that fear is as heavy upon our Government as upon any Government, or, at the outside, only 1 per cent. less.
On behalf of those who are associated with me, may I say this in conclusion? There has been a good deal of Press speculation during the week-end as to whether we intend to carry a Division in the House to-night on this subject, and the answer is that we do. I want to make it clear that we are not doing that merely because it will be interpreted as cowardice if we do not do it. Do not let there be any mistake about that. We are doing it because between our point of view and the point of view which these Estimates embody there is a profound gulf. These Estimates mean no risk for peace, or only 1 per cent. The position of those of us on these benches is that we are prepared to take great risks for peace. Whatever are the risks involved in sweeping reductions of our naval, military and air forces, those risks are nothing to the certainty which is involved unless that line is taken—for the alternative to our line is continued military preparation—of war at the end of it all. For those reasons, I beg to second the Amendment and to ask the House to back us up in the endeavour to carry into effect the pledge which our Prime Minister made when he said that, in contradistinction to those who sit on the opposite benches, in our party, at any rate, we were prepared to take risks for peace, and would take them.
§ Mr. GODFREY WILSON
In accordance with the invariable custom of this House, I would ask for that consideration and kindly sympathy which are always extended to one of its Members who speaks for the first time. Perhaps it may seem strange that a representative of one of the older Universities should dare to address the House on a mater concerning the Army Estimates. The reason for my boldness is explained in the wording of the Amendment which is now under discussion. I wish to confine myself to 121 the latter part of the Amendment which concerns the withdrawal of all State grants for the maintenance of the Officers' Training Corps. I have always been particularly interested in the Officers Training Corps and I wish to show reasons why these grants should be continued. The speeches to which we have just listened seemed to cover a much wider range, and to refer rather to the necessity for having an Army at all. I do not propose to discuss that question, and will leave it to be argued by other speakers. The wording of the Amendment deals with the necessity for reducing expenditure upon the Army and proposes to reduce the expenditure in the first instance by the withdrawal of the grants from the Officers Training Corps. In my opinion—and I hope to give reasons for that opinion—the expenditure by the State on the Officers Training Corps in the past has been repaid many-fold, and any expenditure which it contemplates in the immediate future will most likely also be repaid over and over again.
I do not know whether there are many Members in this House who have served both in the old Volunteers and in the Officers Training Corps. I have had that experience. I refer to this because I want to compare my experiences as a volunteer with my experiences as a member of the Officers Training Corps. I joined the Cambridge University Rifle Volunteers in 1905, and served three years as an officer in that Corps. Then Lord Haldane, as part of his great administrative changes in the Army and the creation of the Territorial Force was faced with the problem in the year 1908 of the supply of officers for the Special Reserve and the Territorial Force, and he turned with great foresight to the schools and the universities of the country. He said that the only possible source from which he could get the men fitted by education, by training, by physical fitness, by the power of leadership, by the gifts of command were the schools and the universities of the country. He did not confine himself, as has been suggested, to class schools. There is no distinction of the kind. There are many schools possessing junior Officers Training. Corns units which cannot possibly be described as class schools.
122 It was clear, as Lord Haldane pointed out, that Sandhurst and Woolwich could supply only the Regular Army, and, therefore, he turned to the schools and universities for the supply of officers for the Special Reserve and for the Territorial Force. He changed at once the status of the old Volunteers and also the whole system of training to which the old Volunteer Corps had been accustomed. He decided that no longer should the school and the university volunteers be trained from the point of view of supplying men for the rank and file. He said that he wished in future to regard them as potential officers ready to assume greater responsibilities, to be prepared to take on leadership and the command of men. Men had to be led and they had to be commanded. He said that the best places from which he could get leaders were the schools and the universities. He changed, therefore, the training absolutely and fundamentally. He said that these young men should be encouraged to think that their future, in any great national emergency, would be in the Commissioned ranks of the Army and not amongst the rank and file.
I welcome the statement which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that he does not propose to accept this Amendment for the reduction of the grants to the Officers Training Corps.
It was obvious from the very start of the new movement that a new interest and a new spirit were to be seen and that there would be a much higher standard of military efficiency under the new conditions than existed under the old. I, myself, had to transfer to the Officers Training Corps, and I can speak from my personal experience of the very marked change which took place when through Lord Haldane's foresight this corps was first founded. Under the old conditions which existed there was at Cambridge practically nothing but infantry, a small body of men who were generally known under the somewhat derogatory name of "Bugshooters." They were not a very popular corps. They consisted of a rather small number of enthusiasts. As soon as the Officers Training Corps was formed, a very much larger number of men joined, arid the very best type of men. Every- 123 one in this House knows that great honour attaches at Oxford and Cambridge to the "Blues," the men who row for their University, play cricket and so on, and it had not been the custom for these men to have much to do with the Volunteer Corps. But under the new conditions when the new Corps was started, and owing to the personal influence of a very great rifle soldier, Captain, now Colonel, Leslie Thornton, these joined in large numbers. They did their work in the time that had usually been devoted to their games. This was a complete change from the old conditions, and the Corps became a very real and important factor in the life of the under-graudates at the university.
Another marked change that took place was the change in the view of the Regular Army officer. In the old days, he looked with a somewhat kindly tolerance and amused indifference at the efforts of the volunteer corps, but he was the first to recognise that under the new conditions a really important and most significant change had taken place. At once we received encouragement from the Regular Army which we had never had before. Opportunities for working in closer contact with the Regular Army were given, and I was glad to hear the Secretary of State for War refer to that fact to-night. I hope that he will encourage that development still further. For the first time, units of the Officers Training Corps were allowed to work side by side with units of the Regular Army. Another very important change took place. In the old days there was practically nothing but infantry, but under the new conditions we had every branch of the Army represented in the Officers Training Corps—artillery, infantry, engineers, signallers, the Army Medical Corps. It became the custom to allow these units to go into camp for a short period with a unit of the Regular Army and to work side by side with them.
I have confined myself so far to the question of the difference in training and the difference in outlook. I should have thought it unnecessary to remind the House of what took place when War broke out had it not been for what has been said by the Proposer and Seconder of the Amendment. Again, by a coincidence, I am personally acquainted with 124 what took place at the outbreak of War, because I was one of two or three men who were taken at once from Oxford and Cambridge to serve at the War Office. We served in the branch which concerned itself with the supply of junior officers for all units of the Army—the Regular Army, the Special Reserve, the Territorial Force, and the New Army. I am not exaggerating when I say that the demand for junior officers in the first year or two of the War was one of the most urgent, one of the most important and one of the most difficult demands with which the country was faced.
How did the Officers Training Corps respond to that demand? Eighty per cent. at least of the junior officers who received commissions in the first two years of the War came from the junior and senior branches of the Officers Training Corps. The boys leaving school, the young men already at the universities, and members of other Officers Training corps volunteered with enthusiasm. In the early days of the War they responded to the call of the country with practical unanimity. The consequence was that the establishments of junior officers in the Regular Army, the Territorial Force, the New Army, and the Special Reserve were all kept up to strength, and that was accomplished to the extent of 80 per cent. by the boys and youths whom it is now proposed by hon. Members opposite should no longer be trained to help the country should a similar emergency arise. Surely, after such an experience as that, nothing could be so foolish as to suggest a change in a policy which was so successful and which stood the strain of war in the way it did.
If the proposer and seconder of the Amendment had confined themselves to a general attack on the existence of the Army, and had not singled out for special reference the Officers Training Corps, I should have sees more reason in their criticism. I could understand the point of view of certain hon. Members opposite that we should have no Army and should simply trust to luck, and hope that other nations would be kind enough to leave us alone. I could understand to a certain extent their position if they had said, "We want a small Army but we want it to be first-class." The effect of their 125 proposal is that they realise we must have an Army, but they want it to be second-class. I can see no reason whatever for anyone giving support to that view. Why abolish the grant to the Officers Training Corps? Either hon. Members must prove that the Officers Training Corps is not giving the right alms of officers and that it is a waste of money, or they must admit that, on their showing, we must be prepared to be content with a second-rate type of officer and a second-rate Army.
Another statement is made, although it was not made by the proposer or the seconder, to the effect that the study of war has a bad influence upon character. Reference to that has been made in speeches from the other side of the House. It has been suggested that the mere fact of boys and young men serving in an Officers Training Corps instils into their minds the desire for war, that the effect is felt throughout the whole community, and we are encouraged to make war unnecessarily. I have heard that statement many times, but I have never heard any single fact or bit of evidence which supports it. When the War brake out in 1914 I did not notice a sign of any hysterical thirst for blood on the part of the undergraduates at Cambridge. The attitude of the regular soldiers did not suggest anything of the kind. There was no frothy talk about the glamour of war, or anything of that kind. Therefore, failing evidence to the contrary, we may brush that argument aside as not worth consideration. If evidence of a desire for war is to be sought for, it must be looked for in another direction. It seems to me that it only exists where politicians have misled their populations, where Ministers and Governments have lost their heads, and where those who are responsible for the policy of State have imagined that there is some easy path to honour, glory and conquest. That was a charge, I think, that we might make against some of our enemies in the late War.
If there was any evidence that military training and the study of the science of war encouraged people to desire war we should have found evidence of it in the writings of British military historians. I have read a good number of their books, but I have failed to notice anything that could bear such an interpre- 126 tation. So far as I have seen, there is no glorification of war in the writings of the British military historians. There is only a sober analysis of military tactics and strategy, of conduct and morale, with a good deal of humour, and nothing of a bloodthirsty nature. There is no encouragement in their writings in regard to war as a policy. I admit that you do get that in certain foreign writers, but we have to remember that we are discussing now British policy, the British Army and the British soldier. No charge can be laid either on the soldier or the statesman so far as the late War was concerned which would bear any interpretation that they had a desire for war for war's sake.
The military training of the boys in the schools and the universities, apart from the military efficiency which it gives, has a very good and important effect upon their characters. It encourages a spirit of discipline, of order, of regularity, of decency of conduct and of self-sacrifice. all of which are of value to the community as a whole. For these reasons, amongst others which I have not mentioned, I hope that the House will reject the Amendment when it goes to a Division. Various arguments have been made from the other side of the House with which I will leave others to deal. I trust that there will be a very substantial majority against the Amendment.
§ Dr. HASTINGS
Although I am a junior Member of this House, it falls to me to have the privilege of congratulating the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. G. Wilson) upon a very excellent maiden speech. He has put the case of the Officers Training Corps very clearly and, although I cannot completely agree with him, I should like to say that he has put his case in an exceedingly lucid way. I wish to thank the Secretary of State for War for the concession which he has given to us in regard to Territorial Cadet Corps, but I should like further information as to what he means by his statement that cadet corps as recognised by the War Office will disappear. For many years I have had a lot to do with boys' organisations which were not recognised by the War Office. Our experience has been that the Church Lade Brigade, for instance, has been in many cases preferred by boys not so much because it 127 earned a grant from the War Office of 5s. a year, but because the Church Lads Brigade, like other Territorial Cadet Units, had various other privileges. I should like to know whether those other privileges are to be withdrawn. Those privileges include the use of Government camp equipment, and of camp sites and also the use of a certain number of Government rifles. Then there is the possibility of being trained by members of Territorial units and the further possibility of getting their equipment moved to camps at special rates. But what appeals to the boys most of all is that they are allowed to wear Territorial uniform and to take part in ceremonial parades with other Territorial units. I hope that the Financial Secretary, when he replies, will say quite frankly that all these privileges are going to be withdrawn because these units are no longer recognised by the War Office as part of the Territorial Army.
I should like to refer in the next place to the Officers Training Corps. May I remind the House that there are two sections—a senior and a junior? I am going to say nothing at all about the senior section. This is composed of young men from the universities and medical schools who are at an age when they should be able to think for themselves. When they join the Senior Officers Training Corps they know exactly what they are doing. But I submit that the junior branch of the Officers Training Corps is a very different organisation. The object of this junior branch, I contend, is to force children to become soldiers before they are able to think for themselves.
§ Dr. HASTINGS
Yes, I will tell the hon. and gallant Member where the compulsion comes in. I maintain that the object of the Junior Officers Training Corps, as the Secretary of State for War has clearly indicated, is to provide officers. Let me call the attention of the House to a provision in the rules and regulations of the Officers Training Corps. Section 122 says:A grant of £1 will be made to school contingents for every certificate A gained after 1st April, 1920.128 The same Section goes on to say:In addition to this, a further grant of £9 will be made to school contingents for every cadet who has obtained his certificate complete while a member of the contingent and who is afterwards granted a commission in the Supplementary Reserve or Territorial Army.I take the view that this extra £9 will be very useful to those concerned with contingents of the Officers Training Corps, and that its object is clearly to induce those responsible for these unite; to use every reasonable pressure to get their members when they leave these units to become officers of the sections I have mentioned. There is no doubt at, all that the object of the Officers Training Corps, junior as well as the senior section, is to get officers for His Majesty's Army. Now comes the question of compulsion. I submit that directly and indirectly a great deal of compulsion is used. Let me read one or two extracts I have from certain school prospectuses.
§ Dr. HASTINGS
One is on the authority of the Women's International League—[Interruption]—and my quotation is taken from the prospectus of the Birkenhead school:All boys not specially excused are expected to take part in school games. All boys over 14 years of age who are medically fit are expected to join the Officers Training Corps.I have extracts from the prospectuses of the Monmouth Grammar School and Edinburgh Academy. Further, it seems to me that there is clear evidence of a great deal of indirect pressure. For instance, boys are excused unpleasant, lessons while they are doing Officers Training Corps drills. Marks are given for the work, and if they do not attend. they do not get these marks, and so their place in school is affected. In some schools boys are not allowed to become prefects unless they join the Officers Training Corps.
§ Dr. HASTINGS
In other schools they are not allowed to joint the Scouts. I have been informed directly by the boys of a school which I know that when the Officers Training Corps are doing drill, those who do not attend are set to do menial tasks, and in this particular school 129 are given the job of weeding the lawns. Yesterday I met a man I know very well, who told me that when he was a member of the Officers Training Corps at his school the boys were set to do bayonet drill. They were informed that the proper way of attacking an enemy was to get the bayonet right through his throat. This upset a boy very much and made him sick, and he applied to his parents to be allowed permission to withdraw from the Officers Training Corps. This was only obtained on the payment of £5. Whether these regulations exist at present I do not know.
Let me deal next with what the Secretary of State for War has said in attempting to justify what seems to me a most unjustifiable position, that whilst he intends to withdraw Government support from Cadet Corps he intends to maintain it in connection with the junior Officers Training Corps. His words were that a boy attending a public school was certainly not too young to join an Officers Training Corps at an age which has been considered high enough for a working class boy to join the ranks. A working class boy joins the ranks at 18, but I submit that a working class boy of 18 is very much more mature than a boy of 18 of the middle classes. A working class boy leaves school at 14 and either starts work or becomes unemployed. During those four years, between 14 and 18, for good or evil, he learns a great deal of the world as it really is to-day. The argument might hold good and would hold good, perhaps, if the entry age to the Officers Training Corps was 18, but the age of entry to the junior Officers Training Corps is 13, and from the age of 14 grants can be obtained. I read that a small capital grant to assist in meeting initial costs and the provision of ranges, etc., will be granted in respect of all cadets who are 14 years of age or over. A boy when he is 15, or in the case of a rate-aided school when he is 16, earns grants for his Officers Traning Corps. If we accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that a boy is not too young to join the Officers Training Corps at an age when a working-class boy joins the ranks only at this age, I submit that it rules out completely the junior Officers Training Corps.
130 Finally, let me briefly reiterate what has been said with regard to the junior Officers Training Corps. In my experience boys, if they are allowed to play as they like, very often imitate adults. A boy who joins the Officers Training Corps feels that he is a member of the Army, and indeed he is. At the same time, if he is at school, he goes to lectures on the value of peace, on the Kellogg Pact and the League of Nations. The boy is taught by inference therefore that there is nothing incongruous between being armed to the teeth and universal peace. That is a very dangerous doctrine to teach. A short time ago I had occasion to visit a big public school in the Midlands intending to enter my boy. I asked if there was an Officers Training Corps and the headmaster said there was, and for some 10 minutes tried to show me that training boys for war was going to make for world peace. I was so impressed by his logic that I decided to enter my boy elsewhere. I want the right hon. Gentleman to stand by the words he has used and prevent the training of boys in schools at an earlier age than the age at which boys of the working classes join the ranks of the Army.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Shinwell)
We have had a very full Debate so far, and, with a desire to expedite your removal from the Chair, with great respect, Mr. Speaker, I venture now to intervene. Before I proceed to deal with the issues involved in the Amendment which has been moved from the benches behind me must reply to the several point's which have been raised by the late Secretary of State for War and by the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison).
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Member that he would be out of order if he replied on the Amendment to the questions which have been raised on the main Question. We are now on the Amendment, and he must confine himself to the questions which are raised in it.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member can reply on the other points when we have disposed of the Amendment and get back again to the Question, That I do now leave the Chair.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I am entirely in your hands, but I understood that, so far as the Debate had gone, I might be entitled to reply on the points raised. That, however, can be done at a later stage. Until then, the right hon. Gentleman must possess himself in patience. Obviously, my reply will be very much curtailed in consequence of the decision which you have just given. I shall confine myself, therefore, to the points which have been raised in the Amendment now before us. I confess to considerable perturbation of mind in consequence of the arguments addressed by my hon. Friends behind me. So far as the particular Amendment now before us is concerned, it is perfectly pacific in its terms, though somewhat vague in its implications. The ordinary course of Debate is to be expected, but what I cannot understand is the attitude of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton West (Mr. W. J. Brown), who, in arguing his case, informed us that pacts and understandings and the League of Nations and international negotiations and discussions were of no value. I was almost inclined to the view, when I heard the hon. Member speak, that nothing was of any value beyond himself, nor did he seek to agree with his hon. Friends beside him, and for whom, curiously enough, he professed to speak.
Surely the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) is not reconciled to the view which was expressed by the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton. It is only a year since that a Debate proceeded in this House on a Motion for Disarmament. It was moved by the present Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means, and it read as follows:This House considers that national security, and therefore international peace, can only be assured by international agreement for a substantial all-round reduction in military forces, and according urges His Majesty's Government to put forward and support proposals at the preparatory commission for the Disarmament Conference at Geneva for the drastic reduction of personnel, and for the reduction both of military expenditure and of material.That resolution is consistent with the policy of the party for whom I speak—disarmament by international agreement. Not to assume that by cutting off a few men here or some material there you will bring about an era of peace, but a policy broadly based on the assumption that 132 international security will be best secured by a readiness to resort to arbitration. That is our policy, but the hon. Member for Aberavon will be pleased to learn that he supported in the Division Lobby the Motion which I have just read out. To put it shortly, the hon. Member supported 12 months ago a policy of disarmament by international agreement, the policy of the Labour party, and now his, con. Friend beside him, speaking for the hon. Member for Aberavon, claims that that policy is no longer adhered to by him and his friends. Whom are we to believe? What is the policy of my hon. Friend? Is it a policy of disarmament by international agreement or is it a policy which implies voting against all war credits? The hon. Member for West Wolverhampton stands alone in relation to the somewhat strange policy which he has enunciated. It is not a policy which ever found acceptance in the Labour ranks. It is an academic policy, and it is not practical politics. There are few, if any, of those for whom he claims to speak who accept it. I would remind the House that some of the hon. Members, who were associated with the Division the other night in relation to our Air personnel, voted for this Motion last year.
I understand that the First Commissioner of Works voted for the Motion to abolish the whole Army.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Not at all. The Noble Lord should pay a little more attention to me than he does to his Friends beside him when I am speaking. He would then be able to follow. May I clear away a little misunderstanding from his mind? The position is as I have described it. There was a Motion last year on the Army Estimates when the Noble Lord and his Friends sat on these benches. Several of my hon. Friends voted for that Motion which implies disarmament by international agreement and not by the abolition of war credits. They included the hon. Member for Aberavon, the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). Yet the three of them went into the Lobby the other night demanding a reduction of 30,000 men in the Air Force. No doubt they will seek to reduce these 133 Votes to-night, but, if they do, their conduct requires some explaining away. What is it that in the course of 12 months has caused a change of heart? I leave it to the House to decide. The hon. Members ask for a reduction in armaments. The hon. Member for Aberavon asks for a programme of annual extensive reductions. The hon. Member for West Wolverhampton asks that we abolish the lot. Nevertheless, he is associated with a Motion that is down on the Paper and will be discussed in due course, which will leave us in possession of 50,000 Regulars, 100,000 Territorials, all our war materials and accoutrements and some poison gas. Where is the consistency of such a policy? I have no doubt hon. Members who sincerely believe in the pacification of the world by such means as I have indicated—
§ Mr. W. BROWN
The hon. Gentleman has said that my name is associated with a Motion that will come later on in the day for a reduction of the vote by 100,000 men which will leave us still with a considerable regular Army, a volunteer force, and some poison gas. Would he mind looking at the Order Paper?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I am all the more pleased to have this recantation. If my hon. Friend the Member for West Wolverhampton is not going into the Lobby to-night all the better.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Naturally one assumed, after the hon. Member had made his speech, that he certainly looked with favour upon such a proposal, however drastic. why was it—I ask this question in all seriousness—that the hon. Member who are now pressing for drastic disarmaments and who are asking for the abolition of war credits—that is what their speeches imply—when the Navy Estimates were before the House Navy Estimates were before the House merely stated their case and did not go to a Division? What is the virtue in a battleship which does not reside in a tank? One can be just as 134 effective, just as dangerous, just as death dealing as the other. We are entitled in these circumstances to ask that question. So far, we have had no clear expression of opinion from the hon. Members.
Some very strange arguments have been adduced in support of the Amendment. We have had the philosophic dissertation from the hon. Member for Aberavon as to the causes of war. As to war itself, I shall say something before I sit down. What did he say? He said the fight against armaments is a fight against capitalism. It may be, but I am not here to-night discussing economic or social problems. The hon. Member may be right, but does he seriously suggest that, if we cut off a little here or there, reduce our reserve stocks, we are going to prevent war? We do not prevent war, according to the hon. Member himself, by annual extensive reductions in armaments. If his argument that capitalism is at the root of the trouble is sound, we may reduce the Army by so many men, we may cut off some of our war material, but, if capitalism still remains, war is just as possible in such circumstances as it would be if no interference was made with the personnel and material at the disposal of the War Department. Moreover, we have been told that force—I speak of what the hon. Member for Aberavon said—is not wrong in given circumstances. I entirely agree. I can conceive of circumstances in which force would be wholly desirable. I hope the Noble Lord will never give us an occasion for using it. [Interruption.] The Noble Lord has made a threat to resort to arms before the evening is over.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I wonder whether the hon. Member for Aberavon would allow us to use the Army against a recalcitrant House of Lords? We have had quite a lot of talk from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, West (Mr. W. J. Brown) as to the risks that we must take in the reduction of our Estimates. The hon. Member was hardly fair to us. It is perfectly true that the net reduction upon our Vote is something over £600,000, but if the hon. Member had studied the Estimates, as he might have done, he would have discovered that the bulk of the 135 reduction effected relates to materiel, and that to a very large extent we have disarmed. It is a very strange thing that we should have had complaints from the other side that we have gone too far, and at the same time complaints from our own side that we have not gone far enough. I entirely agree that we are not going far enough. But there are commitments for which we are not responsible—commitments the world over—and we are not able to abandon those commitments until such time as we have had an opportunity to assist, for example, by our readiness to resort to arbitration, in the pacification of the world through international agreement. That is our policy.
So far as we are concerned—I speak for the Government in this connection—we regard war as being as objectionable now as ever it was and we shall certainly spare no effort to avert its horrors. But in our judgment success cannot be achieved by theatrical and futile gestures which deceive no one. I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will not seek to extract too much enjoyment from that observation. When I refer to theatrical and futile gestures I mean the assumption underlying the argument that simply by reducing our Estimates by a few hundred thousand pounds we can lead to the pacification of the world. It is not enough. Nations, not one nation but all nations, must be swept into the pacific net. That is our policy. When the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for War seeks to advance a policy of that kind it will be time enough for him to cheer the observation that I have just made. We shall continue to effect economies and reductions as circumstances warrant. There is ample room in the War Department for reorganisation. I hope the right hon. Gentleman has taken note of that statement. There was much that he might have done in that direction when he was at the War Office.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
To produce material for production's sake in our judgment is of little value. To build up huge stocks is equally so. The right hon. Gentleman when Secretary for War made no effort, so far as I can gather, to effect 136 any reorganisation which might have led to economy. We seek every opportunity of effecting reductions. The approach to peace is broad based on security against aggression. The policy of the Government is to avail itself more and more of international negotiation and understanding. The Government has already proceeded far along that road. I would remind my hon. Friends of certain things—the League of Nations and our efforts before the Preparatory Commission, the Five-Power Naval Conference itself, our signature appended to the Optional Clause. In a variety of ways this Government has made a real contribution to the cause of peace and it will continue its efforts. However much my hon. Friends who support this Amendment may value their method above ours, I beg them not to take action which might imperil the advancement of the cause that I have adumbrated.
In a few words I wish to refer to that part of the Amendment which relates to the Officers Training Corps and Cadet Corps. There have been allegations this evening about compulsion, and the allegations have been confuted by hon. Members opposite. For our part—in this I speak for any right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—we do not wish to take sides in this matter. The allegations may be well founded or they may be fallacious. We have already received from hon. Members certain evidence which indicates that compulsory methods are introduced at public schools and universities. Hon. Members who have spoken from the Labour Benches, and in particular the hon. Member for Reading (Dr. Hastings), will no doubt be good enough to furnish us with further particulars. Those particulars will be closely examined. One thing I can say: My right hon. Friend will use his best endeavours to prevent anything in the nature of compulsion. With regard to the maintenance of the Officers Training Corps we had to consider bow far the Corps provide training ground for officers of the Army. We were assured by eminent military experts that the Corps did provide such training round, and in the circumstances we are not disposed to make a change. But just as the question of compulsion or the allegations of compulsion will come under review, so will the general question not be overlooked. 137 As to my right hon. Friend's decision to refuse further financial grants to the Cadet Corps and Church Lads Brigade, we have made up our mind. In our judgment, there is no military value in furnishing such grants or in the maintenance of these Corps. We have been asked for certain explanations in relation to the matter. When we speak of the Cadet Corps to whom we refuse in future to furnish grants, we mean the Church Lads Brigade; among school units those of public secondary schools and industrial schools; and in non-school units the Jewish Lads Brigades and the Catholic Cadets—probably in all more than 50,000 boys, involving an expenditure of more than £16,000. Reference has been made to the provision of funds for these purposes, as outlined in the Estimates. The explanation is that the Estimates were prepared before this matter was considered on the representations made to my right hon. Friend. The representations were made by hon. Members of this House, and substantial arguments were adduced in support of the withdrawal of the grants. In short, the case was made out, my right hon. Friend was responsible for a decision, and here is the decision.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Is it intended to withdraw the facilities which would be given to these cadets for the use of Government grounds, transport, etc.?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
So far as existing contracts are concerned, they must be allowed to expire in the normal way. We shall not interfere with contractual obligations entered into.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Contractual obligations which are to expire on a certain date will be allowed to remain until that date, but when they expire we shall not render any service whatever to these Corps. In our judgment these Corps are of no value whatever for military purposes.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
More and more we wish to prevent the mind of the child 138 from being destroyed by military training. Before I sit down, let me say to hon. Friends on the Government side of the House that, so far as gradual disarmament is concerned, they are pushing at an open door. That is our policy. To those who are a little apprehensive lest we are not proceeding rapidly enough in relation to the training of the young, I would say that in the few short months we have held office many changes have taken place, and I hope my hon. Friends will accept those changes in the proper spirit and go on demanding more.
§ Mr. MANDER
I hope that, as a humble Cambridge graduate, I may be permitted to congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. G. Wilson) on the admirable speech which he delivered just now and to say that, if, at any time, one were looking for a justification of University representation, it would be found in the fact that our ancient Universities send to this House men of the type and the character of the Master of Clare. We shall look forward with pleasurable anticipation to his future contributions to our Debates. The hon. Members who have put forward this Amendment have raised an issue of first-class importance namely, the issue between disarmament by example, or one-sided disarmament, and disarmament by international agreement. I do not think that anybody sitting on these benches has any sympathy with the idea of one-sided disarmament. Certainly, it is not my view. I have no intention of supporting the Amendment, and I am afraid that the representation of Wolverhampton is divided on this issue. It seems to me that the right course for the Government is to press forward, at the earliest possible moment, for a meeting of the Preparatory Commission on Disarmament at Geneva, to insist that the Governments of the world shall carry out their pledges on disarmament and make those countries, who will not take part, stand out before the public opinion of the world. I think when the peoples of the world come to realise that the only alternative to disarmament is a new race in armaments, and a new war, that we shall hold these countries and Governments responsible who are not willing to come in and combine with all the other nations, anxious to play their part. I 139 hope, that as a result of the present disarmament conference in London it will be made clear who is obstructing the onward march to peaceful disarmament.
I should like to refer to the question of the Officers Training Corps and the cadets. I was very glad to hear the statement of the Secretary of State that he proposed to withdraw the grants from the cadets, and, personally—I am not able to speak for anybody else on this matter—I regret that the right hon. Gentleman did not go further and say that he would withdraw the grant from the Officers Training Corps also. I quite agree that we must have officers for the Army, and keep it up to the necessary standard. My only quarrel is with the particular method adopted for obtaining officers. It may be that in the old days before the Great War when most people regarded war as the ultimate method of settling disputes between nations, it was legitimate and desirable to make this training part of our educational system, and to work through the Officers Training Corps, but I submit that the outlook on the matter has wholly changed. The idea about settlement by force has gone and every nation is pledged through the Kellogg Pact not to fight. It seems to me a wrong psychology that a boy going through school should find it a normal part of the educational process that he is expected to join an Officers Training Corps. It naturally tends to make him think that war is a, normal, natural thing—that, as war always was in the world, so war always would be in the world.
I say that that outlook has changed. I well remember, a year or two ago, listening to Lord Cushendun speaking in the Assembly of the League of Nations on a point of this kind and he said that the children of the future would be taught not to think that war was a glorious adventure, but to think that it was a national dishonour. Those were very wise words and they give us cause to wonder whether it is wise at this juncture to make Officers Training Corps part and parcel of the educational system of the country. I ask the Secretary of State to consider, during the next year, whether it is not possible, if they must have Officers Training Corps—as I dare-say they must—to separate them from the 140 educational system and, possibly, attach them to the Territorial Force, or in some way operate the system so that it is not connected with the educational system of the country. It is said that this method gives very good discipline and affords very fine physical exercises to those at school. That may be so, but there are many other methods of getting physical exercise at school, as we all know, and in any case it is not the job of the War Office to devise physical exercises for schools. Their job is to get recruits and when they go beyond that, they are getting out of their depth.
Looked at even from the purely military point of view, from the point of view of getting recruits, the Officers Training Corps system does not seem to be very economical or effective. On 1st October, 1929, there were 39,878 boys and youths in the Officers Training Corps and during the same period 1,052 were granted commissions. I know that all of the first-mentioned number were not available but, taking the spread of years, there must have been tens of thousands of boys available for commissions who did not take them and whose military training therefore, for that purpose, was wasted. I suggest that from that point of view alone we are getting very poor results from the military training which we are giving and the money we are expending. In regard to the cadets there were 51,262 on 31st October, 1929, and the number who joined any branch of His Majesty's Forces was 1,848—again a very small proportion. In the case of the Church Lads Brigade of 19,515, only 433 went to the Army—and the Church Lads Brigade is associated with the King's Royal Rifles. I am very glad that the grant has been withdrawn from the Church Lads Brigade, and I venture to think that there are many, closely associated with the Church Lads Brigade, who did not realise that it was receiving State grants; that it was part of the Army, and that these followers of the Prince of Peace were being trained for war. I venture to think that when they do realise it, many of them will be only too glad to be clear of any association of the kind. Let us keep everything in its right place—the Army in its place, and education in its place. 141 With regard to the issue of compulsion, I was very glad to hear the Secretary of State make a clear pronouncement that it was not the desire of the Government or the War Office that there should be any compulsion applied to boys in schools to join the Officers Training Corps. I hope that headmasters, assistant masters and boys in our schools will realise this or have it brought to their attention, and that no effort of any kind will be made to apply compulsion. I do not think that anybody who thinks about the matter, or who has close association with schools, can deny that there is inevitably in many schools—not in all by any meane—a form of indirect compulsion which makes it impossible for a boy, unless he is of outstanding character, to resist the pressure which is put upon him. We know that in many prospectuses it is said that the boys are "expected" to join the Officers Training Corps. In many cases that means that they are expected and nothing more, but in some cases the word is a euphemism for a much stronger term. I have had an opportunity of looking at the originals of a number of letters on this subject from the parents of boys in different schools. It is impossible to mention names, for obvious reasons, but I am convinced that what I am saying is true. Reference has already been made to this matter by the hon. Member for Reading (Dr. Hastings) and I would only mention a few examples of the kind of pressure which is put upon boys.
Headmasters very often feel that it is their duty to make the Officers Training Corps "go," and one cannot blame them if they are led to assume that the State and the War Office attach importance to the use of the educational system for producing recruits for the Army. With that point of view they do their utmost to make it a success, believing, naturally, that they are doing a patriotic duty. There are headmasters and others who take the opportunity of speech days to make recruiting speeches, and to urge every boy, if he possibly can, to join the corps, and who jeer and sneer at boys who have not joined the corps, and make things as uncomfortable as possible for those boys. That is the system—I am not so much blaming any individual. In some cases, unless a boy joins the corps—voluntarily, of course—he is never allowed to become a prefect. In some 142 schools they have also Scouts, but unless a boy will join the Officers Training Corps, he is not allowed to join the Scouts. There is no rivalry to be allowed there. Then, when the Officers Training Corps goes out on parade the other boys are kept indoors at very dull work, almost a sort of detention work, in order to make it quite clear to them that, although there is no compulsion, they are going to be made to feel the fact that they have not joined the corps. Boys have been openly accused of shirking because they did not join, and it is no exaggeration to say that in some schools—I am not speaking of every school—a boy's future is prejudiced by the fact that he declines to join the Officers Training Corps.
I wish the right hon. Gentleman had been able to go further and to amend the regulations governing these grants so as to make it quite clear that there must be no compulsion of any kind. It may be that the clear indication of the Government and the War Office policy on the matter which he has given will have some effect throughout the country, though I am much afraid that, from the nature of the case, and in the circumstances, you will never be able to prevent compulsion of some kind. After all, we are proud in this country of our voluntary system for the Army, and it would be a shocking thing if compulsion were allowed to creep in by the back door and if people, hardly realising what was going on, permitted a system of that kind to grow up in the schools. I hope that the statement of the Government and the force of public opinion on all sides of this House will be sufficient to prevent any pressure being applied in schools in the future. Let us keep our different national objects separate and distinct. If we want an Army, let us concentrate on the military side as regards getting recruits and officers, but let us keep it separate from education and from the question of physical exercises.
I hope it may be possible for right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they come here next year—as of course they will—to state that they have given this matter careful consideration and have been able to devise some other method. The speech of the Financial Secretary to the War Office was very interesting from this point of view, that it was a public and full-dress 143 rehearsal of what is going to take place privately at the meeting of the Labour party next week—I mean when he was addressing hon. Members on the back benches behind him. I quite understand that at the present time there is a strong feeling among members of the Labour party, and there appears to be some doubt as to how long they are going to be allowed to remain members of the Labour party, but we shall watch developments with the greatest possible interest, and I have no doubt that a satisfactory solution will be reached.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
I should like to begin by expressing appreciation of the announcement which has been made from the Front Bench of the withdrawal of the grant to the Church Lads Brigade and to the Cadet Corps. I want fully to recognise that, and I think the Financial Secretary to the War Office can be sure that we shall accept his invitation in urging that that preliminary step should be taken further next year. About the Officers Training Corps, I only want to say that I have in my hand half-a-dozen prospectuses from public schools which include the definite statement that it is expected that the students of those schools shall belong to the Corps, and in effect when the headmaster and those who control the school give a lead in that direction, the Officers Training Corps becomes compulsory. Even before a reconsideration of this matter next year, may I express the hope that the War Office may not only make clear to the schools that they are opposed to the principle of compulsion, but that they will issue regulations so that where evidence of compulsion is produced, the grant which they expect to have will not be given to such schools?
My intention to-night is rather to raise the bigger issue which has been discussed from these benches. The Estimates before us announce a reduction of £600,000, and probably a reduction of that amount is the best administrative reduction that can be secured within the terms of the present policy, but I want to suggest to the Front Bench that when the Labour party contested the last election, rightly or wrongly, hopes were aroused among the electors that the return of a Labour Government would lead to really sub- 144 stantial reductions in armaments; and the argument that the reductions which are now offered are the best possible reductions administratively within the present policy is the greatest argument in favour of a new policy to yield more substantial results. The issue that is before us is not really the Cost of the Army, it is the effective power of the Army for destruction; and when we approach the problem in that way, we find that instead of a reduction having taken place, actually an increase in military power has occurred. This point was made in a speech by the Financial Secretary to the War Office in the last Government, when a similar Debate took place last year. He pointed out that mechanisation was taking place in all spheres of the Army, and he concurred in the view that although during the last five years there had been a reduction in Army expenditure by 11 per cent. the actual fighting power of the Army had been increased by over 100 per cent.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
The Financial Secretary to the War Office last year used these words:The argument has been made by hon. Members that we have increased the fighting power of the Army. That is so. They say that we are justified in saying the Army may be no larger than is wanted, but that with all these mechanical inventions, and tanks, and various new appliances, it has twice the fighting power which it had before. That is true, but it applies equally to every other army.'—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1929; col. 2304, Vol. 225.]During the course of that Debate it was agreed from the Conservative Front Bench that though there had been this reduction in expenditure, the actual fighting power of the Army had been increased by 100 per cent. The present Financial Secretary to the War Office hopes I will not suggest that a similar process was in operation during the past year. Upon that, I would remark that during the present year the process of mechanisation, which had the effect of increasing the fighting power of the Army by 100 per cent. during the 4½ years during which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues opposite were responsible for the Army, has continued, and if one is going 145 to have an Army at all, there can be no quarrel with that process. Rationalisation is proceeding in the Army as it is in business, and rationalisation means less expenditure, but more capacity. When we face the problem of the Army, it means less expenditure, but greater destructive power and greater power for death; and that brings me to the heart of the problem which we are trying to raise from these benches.
In the quotation which I have made from his speech last year, Mr. Duff Cooper emphasised the fact that a similar process was taking place in all Armies, and that we recognise, but we wish to point out that a new stage is now being reached in the method and technique of warfare which makes new policies absolutely necessary if the world is going to be saved from destruction. I remember immediately after the War speaking to a very well known scientist in this country, who had been engaged by the Government during the War in the preparation of new methods of destruction by chemical and other means, and he. said this to me: "Remember, the Government have only asked the help of chemcial science within the last two years of this War, and during those two years we have made discoveries for death and destruction which have increased one thousandfold the power of death through the military machine."
Those researches are continuing, and the next fact which we must face in reference to the problem of war is that the application of science to the methods of war brings mankind before a situation where mankind must either control science and determine that science shall be used for construction and life, or else, if science is to be used for destruction and death, that power will overcome the moral and intellectual control of mankind, and mankind will be destroyed by those new forces which will have been let loose in that kind of way.
Side by side with this development of the scientific method in warfare, we have the fact that the Governments of the world, owing to the pressure of popular opinion, are increasingly making treaties renouncing the method of war. We have had the Covenant of the League of Nations, we have had the Pact of Paris, we have had the signature of the Optional 146 Clause, and we hope next September at the League of Nations that we may have the signature of this country to the general Act. I hope the Financial Secretary to the War Office will not imagine that any of us are opposed to those constructive measures towards arbitration and peace. We are enthusiastically behind them, and we recognise the measures which the Government have taken in this connection, but side by side with measures of that type, we face the fact that the nations of the world, while renouncing the method of war, still base their ultimate security upon the method of armaments. We are seeking to press the point of view that, so long as the nations of the world base their security upon the method of armaments, research rivalry will continue between the nations, and one day that rivalry will lead to another terrible explosion, in which the new scientific measures to which I have referred will be let loose for human destruction.
The hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office has tried to suggest that there is a fundamental difference between the policy of disarmament by example and the policy of disarmament by agreement. I would say this to him, that those of us who are desiring to see a disarmed world, those of us who are desiring to see a warless world, will support with the utmost enthusiasm every proposal made for an international policy, every attempt to obtain international agreement towards the reduction of armaments, but we have to point out that that method so far has not had conspicuously successful results.
I will not refer to the Naval Conference which is now proceeding, but I will refer to the Preparatory Commission on Disarmament, which sat for two years at Geneva, in connection with the League of Nations, and sought to find a basis of international agreement on arms. It discussed whether the method of the Budget should be used, whether the method of the strength of personnel should be used, whether the method of military research should be used, whether the method of various forms of ammunition should be used, and for over two years that purely preparatory body discussed all those proposals and failed to find any possible basis of agreement. The 147 task is extraordinarily hard, but even if it were successfully achieved, the sense of security upon armaments would remain; and it is that sense of security upon armaments in the world which we must destroy if we are going to move towards a disarmed world and a world in which there shall be war no more.
It is the psychology of fear in the world, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. W. Brown) has so well said, that is responsible for the competition in armaments and the imprisonment of war which now encircles the world. Those of us who urge this policy are not urging as an hon. Member opposite said, that we should disarm and merely take our luck. We have a positive policy as well as a negative policy, and our positive policy is that we should base security, not upon armaments, but upon the justice of our relations with other nations. If we pursued foreign policies towards other nations, if we pursued policies within our own Empire to the subject peoples of those nations which were based upon justice and upon freedom, then we could, with perfect security, follow the course of disarmament by example, because it would be seen in our actual foreign policies that we were carrying out policies which were not dependant upon force, upon domination, upon military power, in order that they might be carried out. Our appeal to this House and to the Government is to base the peace of the world upon the justice of our policy rather than upon placing security upon the basis of armament. The right hon. Gentleman, in presenting the Estimates, suggested that those of us who take this view are speculative philosophers. I wonder whether in the future, if this Debate is read by the citizens of that time, it will be those of us, faced by these new methods of war, who will be thought to be impracticable, who will be thought not to be realists; or whether it will be those who are still living in a mental world, where the method of war and the method of armaments can safely be used. Our view is that all the creative forces in civilisation are destroying national
§ frontiers. Politicians are maintaining them, but politicians, in maintaining national frontiers, are standing against those forces in civilisation which are making for a world order, an, international order, an order which is based upon co-operation. Even in industry today national frontiers are becoming of less and less account. Modern transport with the airplane, is linking up all parts of the world, while education and travel are making national frontiers of less and less account. A new generation is growing up which has not only a national consciousness, in the sense of desiring that its own nation shall lead in the arts of peace and of science, but an international consciousness, in the sense of feeling a unity with the people of other nations.
§ I suggest that the really practical people are those who are seeking to bring political policy into line with these forces, because as policy is brought into line with these forces, we are speeding progress. If we continue to withstand them, we are obstructing progress, but we shall be overthrown by these forces making for that new world order. We hope that the day will come when there will be a Government which will place itself in line with these forces, and will express them rather than be the destructive force which armaments and the reliance upon methods of war mean. In view of the character of this Debate and of the Amendment which is before us, although my name is down in connection with an Amendment later on the Paper, I shall be satisfied in taking a Division on the Amendment which is now before the House.
§ Mr. SHAW: In order that Mr. Speaker may leave the Chair, and that we may get on with the business, I appeal to the House to come to a decision. The question at issue important, and the two sides have been plainly stated, so I appeal to the House to let us get on with the business.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 274; Noes, 21.151
|Division No. 236.]||AYES.||[8.3 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Aske, Sir Robert|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (File, West)||Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Atholl, Duchess of|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Arnott, John||Attlee, Clement Richard|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)|
|Bellamy, Albert||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Palin, John Henry|
|Bennett, Capt. E. N. (Cardiff,Central)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Palmer, E. T.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Benson, G.||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Penny, Sir George|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Perry, S. F.|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Hanbury, C.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Harbord, A.||Phillips, Dr. Marion|
|Blindell, James||Harris, Percy A.||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Bowen, J. W.||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Purbrick, R.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Pybus, Percy John|
|Brothers, M.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H. C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Herriotts, J.||Remer, John R.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Hopkin, Daniel||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Burgess, F. G.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie.||Ritson, J.|
|Butler, R. A.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Rothschild, J. de|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Rowson, Guy|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Charleton, H. C.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Salmon, Major I.|
|Chater, Daniel||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Church, Major A. G.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Clarke, J. S.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merloneth)||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kennedy, Thomas||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Compton, Joseph||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Scurr, John|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Lang, Gordon||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Shield, George William|
|Dagger, George||Lathan, G.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Dallas, George||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Shinwell, E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lawrence, Susan||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)|
|Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Sinkinson, George|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Leach, W.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lee, Frank (Derby. N. E.)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Dickson, T.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Snell, Harry|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Longbottom, A. W.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Dukes, C.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Somerset, Thomas|
|Duncan, Charles||Lowth, Thomas||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lunn, William||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Strauss, G. R.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||McElwee, A.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Egan, W. H.||McKinlay, A.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Eillot, Major Walter E.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Sullivan, J.|
|Eimley, Viscount||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|England, Colonel A.||March, S.||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Evans. Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Marcus, M.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Foot, Isaac||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Marshall, Fred||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Mathers, George||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Fremantle, Lieut,Colonel Francis E.||Mellar, R. J.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Townend, A. E.|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Mills, J. E.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Vaughan, D. J.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Montague, Frederick||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Viant, S. P.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Walker, J.|
|Gill, T. H.||Morley, Ralph||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Gillett, George M.||Morris, Rhys Hopkins||Wallace, H. W.|
|Glassey, A. E.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Goseling, A. G.||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Gould, F. Mosley, Sir||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Mulrhead, A. J.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Murnin, Hugh||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Granville, E.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Gray, Milner||Noel Baker, P. J.||White, H. G.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Oldfield, J. R.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)||Womersley, W. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley||Mr. Hayes and Mr. William|
|Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel||George Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.||Whiteley.|
|Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||Wright, W. (Ruthergien)|
|Withers, Sir John James||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Ayles, Walter||Kinley, J.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Kirkwood, D.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Bromley, J.||Longden, F.||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||Maxton, James||Wise, E. F.|
|Haycock, A. W.||Owen, H. F. (Hereford)|
|Horrabin, J. F.||Scrymgeour, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Kelly, W. T.||Simmons, C. J.||Mr. W. J. Brown and Mr. Brockway.|
Question put, and agreed to
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE
The Financial Secretary during his speech made the remark that military training destroys the mind. If that is his opinion, I am rather surprised that he accepted his present office, because I do not understand how he can do his duty to the great Department to which he has been privileged to be appointed, if he holds such a view. It is an offensive thing for him to say to the distinguished military officers with whom he has to work. I should like to support what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's (Sir L. Worthington-Evans) with regard to the reductions in warlike stores, more especially with regard to the reduction of nearly £120,000 in small arms ammunition. It must mean one of two things—either that stocks have been dangerously decreased, or that musketry training is being cut down. I think either of those alternatives is very unfortunate.
Can the Secretary of State tell us anything as to any combined naval and military exercises that may have been going on during the past year? The First Lord of the Admiralty, in his statement a week ago, referred to something of the sort having taken place, and I should be glad to know, from the Army point of view, what has happened, and whether there has been any combined naval and military practice of disembarkation. It is of the utmost importance that the Army should have practice in disembarkation. It requires practice, and both Services would get to know each other's limitations and each other's point of view. I would like to know what is the position as regards the supply of candidates for Sandhurst and Woolwich. A short time ago there was a considerable shortage. We have had considerable debate on the subject of the Officers Training Corps, and there- 152 fore I do not want to go into that in any detail, but I would like to know a little more about the results. On page 63 of the Army Estimates we see the number of cadets who have taken commissions during the past year.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Dunnico)
I am afraid we cannot revert to matters contained in the Amendment the House has just voted upon.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR - CLIVE
Then I will pass to the question of the falling off in recruiting. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's has referred to certain possible causes, and I would like to know whether it can be due in any way to any failure on the part of recruiters. Many of them are permanent staff instructors of Territorial units. In these days more and more work is put upon the Territorial Army, and I wonder whether these permanent staff instructors have so much other work to do that they have not time properly to carry out their recruiting duties. The Secretary of State himself referred to reports about bad barrack accommodation, and that may also have had some effect upon recruiting. A third possible explanation is that potential recruits are afraid that if they join the Army they will not have such a good chance of getting employment in civil life. Is their seven years in the Army a handicap in getting work afterwards? The Secretary of State has said something about vocational training, and I wonder whether the opportunities for such training are made sufficiently well known by recruiters. If it were possible, I would like to see the Government in a position to give a guarantee of employment, to every man of good character when he leaves the colours. One thing certainly the Government could do, and that would be to allow the time a man has spent with the colours 153 to count towards Civil Service pension. That would make a great deal of difference in attracting the right class of men to the Army.
I have one other point, and it is not a party point, because I put it to the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office. Are the Government satisfied that in the event of war they would be able to maintain the strength of the Regular Army, and more especially of the infantry, during the first few months of war? If the late War is any guide, the Army Reserve would be used up before very long. In the late War we had the Special Reserve units to fall back upon when the Army Reserve was used up, but now the Special Reserve units have been abolished, and there is nothing to take their place. If such an emergency did arise, I am afraid there would be a temptation to use the Territorial Army for drafting purposes, and in my opinion that would be absolutely fatal. If the Territorial Army has to be used, it must be used as units, and Territorials must not be used to supply drafts to the Regular Army. If the right hon. Gentleman would resist that temptation, as I hope he would, then I would like to ask how he would maintain the strength of the Regular Army between the time when the Army Reserve is used up and the time when recruits first become fit to take their places in the ranks.
§ Mr. MARCH
I have given a good deal of thought to the reply made by the Secretary of State to the Amendment standing on the Paper in my name. He said there was no compulsion for men in the Army to attend church parades. I have been given to understand that there is. At all events, I understand that if men do not attend the church parades when they are ordered to do so their refusal involves them in a good deal of barrack intimidation and persecution. It is not the case that the man has a choice of whether he will attend church parade or not. If the Minister says there is no compulsion, it seems to be very much like what happens in other cases we have been considering, such as boys attending school; there is no compulsion, but woe betide the lad who refuses to go. Years ago it may have been useful to have church parades, because of the demonstration, 154 because the beautiful uniforms of the troops were useful in inducing others to join up. Even now some hon. Members are very desirous that the troops should have a more decorative uniform. They hope it would encourage young men to say, "That's the suit I should like to have, and I shall have to join the Army or I shan't get a suit of that kind."
Some time ago a great number of hon. Members opposite seemed to be very much incensed about intercession services and so on, but I notice that a good many of them fail to come in to prayers in the House. Evidently they like liberty and freedom for themselves, and we desire that the men in the Army should have the right of saying whether they will go to church or go for a walk or engage in any other kind of recreation, because the time is past when we need to have church parades as a demonstration. I ask the Secretary of State for War to look into the matter, and see what is the effect of the present regulation. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may alter the regulation and submit something under which the men would have a choice in regard to this question. I am fortified in my view by a cutting from a newspaper which I saw a few days ago. It was the statement of a Nonconformist minister, who said that it was not a question of the men being forced to go, but a matter of what the men did when they got there. The point is do the men take any interest in what goes on at those services? So far as this Nonconformist minister is concerned, he says that the men might very well be away from the service, and that he does not like preaching to men who do not want to listen to him. He writes:Why should this obsolete system be continued? I speak as a man who has preached very many times at compulsory parade services. I have always resented the fact that some of my congregation were there against their will. I suggest that the Government abolish the compulsory element, making arrangements for parades as at present, except that no soldier or sailor be compelled to attend. Then the question of the right of the Archbishop to issue orders for political prayers would not arise.OWEN A. RATTENBURY.Grosvenor Road, Muswell Hill, N.10.Many people know this Nonconformist minister, and I have had the pleasure 155 of listening to him at a service. When I was a boy attending school it was a condition that the boys must go to church, and we all had to go not only on Sundays but on other days. I had so much of being compelled to go to these services that as soon as I got old enough to leave school I went to a chapel service instead, and many other boys did the same thing. When you compel either boys or men to go to a service where they do not want to go, as soon as they get an opportunity they keep away altogether. I want the Secretary of State for War to say whether it is compulsory for these men to attend church parades.
§ Mr. SHAW
I hope we shall not waste much time upon this question. Nobody in the House wants a man to be compelled to attend a service. We all know that if you compel a man to attend a service you are only doing something that will turn him against religion altogether, and you cannot compel a man to take tip a religion against his will. The question put to me is whether it is a fact that men are forced to go to church against their will? I am also asked if it is a fact that they are forced to go to these parade services against their conscience? I am told that the men object en bloc to attending these services. 1 am also asked if it is a fact that the forcing of the men to attend these church parades leads not to religious observance but to the very opposite? None of these things has been proved to me, and, if proof of them is given, I am willing to go into the whole thing again. Up to the present, having no proof, and having only the allegation which has been made without a scintilla of evidence, how can I be expected to break down a custom which seems to have the support of a vast majority of the people concerned? If hon. Members will furnish me with proof of these allegations, I will agree to go into the whole question.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. LAMBERT WARD
I hope the Secretary of State for War will maintain the attitude which he has adopted in regard to these parade services. In reference to what has been said by the hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March), his experience is certainly diametrically opposed to mine. My experience is, first of all, that there 156 is no objection on the part of young men to attending these church parade services. Of course, things being as they are, the men naturally want to get off attending parades if they possibly can, but my experience is that they display far less anxiety to get off church parades than they do in regard to route marches or any other kind of parade.
I hope that I have not misunderstood the Secretary of State for War with regard to what he said about compulsory attendance at these services. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that no man was compelled to attend the service of any denomination to which he did not belong, and I believe that is the actual state of affairs. In a battalion or unit where the men are predominantly, shall I say Church of England, there is a Church of England Chaplain and a Church of England parade, service every Sunday morning; but those who are not members of the Church of England are fallen out, and they can attend the services of the denomination to which they belong.
Every man on joining has the opportunity of declaring the denomination to which he belongs. In a unit where the majority of the men may be expected to be Presbyterians, there is a Presbyterian padre attached and a parade service is held for Presbyterians every Sunday morning. In that case, the men belonging to the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church are fallen out, and they march to the service of their own denomination. The only instance where there seems to be any difficulty is where a man is an atheist, and within my knowledge such men have been sent to the services of all denominations. If a youth of 16 or 17 came to me and said that he was a confirmed agnostic, I should say to him that it the other side. What ever may be the opinion of the hon. Gentleman who raised this subject, I am quite convinced that in the majority of cases the mothers of these young men of 17 or 18 would be only too pleased to know that their sons were being taken to a religious service on Sundays.
After all, what is the position? Some of these soldiers are very little more than boys who are suddenly are very little more than boys who are suddenly taken away from home influences, and placed in the maelstrom of garrison life. If you take 157 away this religious guidance, they have little left to keep them straight. If you remove them from the influence of the chaplain, there are many temptations which garrison life holds out to them which may prove too much for them. By attending these services many of the men come to know the chaplain of the denomination to which they belong personally and intimately, and more often than not he proves to them to be "a guide, philosopher and friend."
Not only is the chaplain invaluable to the troops, but he performs useful service among the officers, and he exercises a restraining influence upon the perhaps too exuberant spirits in the mess, and acts as a friend to the officers. I think it would be little less than a disaster if the parade services were done away with. Antiquity may be worth something or it may be worth nothing, but I would like to point out that these parade services are not by any means of recent origin. They were introduced, I believe, before the Regular Army came into existence at all. I think I am right in saying that they were actually introduced by Oliver Cromwell—a name which this House, although it may not treat it with affection, will certainly look upon with respect. Ever since that time a compulsory religious service has been held every Sunday morning, year in and year out.
There is, however, another aspect of this question. Supposing that these parade services are done away with, what are the men to do? I am one of those who believe that Sunday should be a day of rest, or, at any rate, a day of recreation, but what form of recreation can be provided for the men from eight o'clock in the morning till 11 o'clock at night? As it is, the parade service occupies them until dinner-time, and they have the rest of the day free, which, in my opinion, is quite as much as the average young man of 16 or 17 can have without getting into mischief. Of course, a good many people will say, "Organised games"; but the people who talk so glibly about organised games seem entirely to lose sight of the amount of prepared space that is necessary for carrying on organised games on a large scale. It takes at least an acre of prepared ground to provide organised games for 20 men, and no garrison town in this country or in the world has sufficient prepared space 158 to provide organised games or recreation for anything like the number of men who are in that garrison town at any one time.
There are many other arguments in favour of the retention of these services. The principal one, in my opinion, is the fact upon which I have already dwelt, that the mothers of these young men, who, as the Secretary of State said, join the Army at 16, 17 or 18 years of age, will be glad to feel that, at any rate, on Sunday mornings their sons are going where they will certainly hear nothing that will do them any harm, and where they will, in all probability, hear some thing that will do them a great deal of good. For these reasons I sincerely hope that the attitude on this matter that he has displayed to us this evening, because I honestly believe that to do away with these church parade services would be to strike a very deadly blow at the moral welfare of the troops.
§ Mr. WILLIAM HENDERSON
I do not wish to pursue the subject which has been raised by the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Hull (Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward) and by my hon. Friend the Member for South Poplar (Mr. March), but I want especially to direct the attention of the House to a matter to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a very brief reference in his earlier speech, namely, the changes which are proposed in reference to the State factories at Woolwich and Enfield. I want, in Particular, to deal with the proposal as it Enfield. There it is proposed, as from the 1st April next, that the men engaged on piece-work shall be changed over on to time rates. I understand that the number of men likely to be affected is approximately 500, representing about 160 skilled workers and 340 unskilled workers.
This change will mean a very substantial reduction in their earnings, varying, I believe, from 13s. to 20s. a week. Such a substantial reduction in weekly wages will be easily appreciated by hon. Members, and I do not think it is necessary for me to stress the point unduly. Nor do I wish to make any accusations against my right hon. Friend and his colleague, of indifference to the interests and well- 159 being of the Government factory workers. To do so would be to make a grotesque and unjust representation of their attitude. Both of them have received deputations representing the men, and throughout the discussions they have not only shown a ready sympathy but have expressed an anxiety to avoid as far as possible, or rather, to minimise as far as possible, the ill-effects of any change which they may find it necessary to make. I say that because I want my right hon. Friend to know that, while we have been very persistent in our efforts to influence him on this matter, we have not been unappreciative of the ready and sympathetic understanding which he has shown of the case submitted to him by the men. Both he and his colleague have had industrial, factory and trade union experience. They know from first-hand knowledge what unemployment, short-time and reduced wages mean to the average working-class home, and I personally feel convinced that, if there is any avenue of outlet from the change which has been proposed, they will not hestitate to explore it.
As I understand the position, it is that the volume of work available and in prospect for the coming year is not sufficient to enable the factories to be continued on their present basis—that there is a gap between normal capacity and ascertained requirement; and, as the Financial Secretary cannot be expected to create or invent needs where none exist to fill the gap, the gap is to be closed by making the change to which I have referred. I can quite easily understand the problem which confronts the Financial Secretary. We have been fortunate not to have been engaged or involved in war for some years. I do not think that any Member of the House will regret that. On the contrary, I think that it should have been so. Consequently, the consumption of stocks and the wear and tear of equipment and implements have tended to fall to a minimum, while at the same time there has been a steady building up of reserve stocks and a falling off in the requirement for replacements and repairs.
As I have said, we can easily under stand the problem which has faced the 160 Financial Secretary, but to me, at any rate, it is to be welcomed in so far as it is evidence of the developing condition of security in which we have been living and will, I hope, continue to live. I do not imagine that any intelligent person will regret or complain about the diminishing need both for the use and for the piling up of munitions of war. I do not believe the factory workers themselves would demand steady and continuous employment on munition work if that could only be obtained by the steady consumption of their output in war. I do not think the factory workers look for security of munition employment, nor their wives for security of wage income, at the cost of security of life and happiness for their children and those of the nation as a whole. My knowledge of the factory workers leads me to say with confidence that they and their wives are at one with the workers in other industries and services in the desire that national security should be obtained and safeguarded by international agreement and by international co-operative organisation. That is the policy for which the present Government stand, and, in their endeavours to give practical effect to that policy, I am convinced that they can count upon the earnest and wholehearted support of the Government factory workers as of the workers in other industries and services.
But in seeking to give practical effect to that policy, the Government are expected, and I think rightly expected, to take every possible step to ensure that, while the blessings and the benefits of that policy are shared and enjoyed by the nation as a whole, that section of the community which is dependent at present for its livelihood on employment in Government ordnance factories shall not be called upon to bear any avoidable hardship during the period of transition. In the present case, which arises from the inevitable decline in the consumption of munitions, due to the absence of war rather that. from any specific and positive accomplishment in the direction of disarmament, the Government are anxious to minimise the ill-effects of whatever ultimate decision they may have to take. They do not intend to select, quite arbitrarily, a number of the workers and dismiss them. They do not propose that a proportion of the men, chosen at 161 random, shall feel whatever consequences flow from their decision. They desire to avoid dismissals and to keep on all the men at present engaged in the factory, but, in order to do that, the War Office hold that it would be necessary to make the changes on 1st April to which I have referred.
If the changes were inevitable, if there were no practical alternative, if every avenue of escape had been explored without success or promise, I should feel reluctant to persist in pressing a view which in such circumstances might seem to be an unreasonable one. But is the War Office satisfied that the proposed change is inevitable? Has the Financial Secretary convinced himself beyond any doubt that there is no step that could properly be taken that might enable him either to drop the proposal or to modify it and temper its effect? I am not going to suggest for a moment that orders should be given for work which is not required now and will not be required in the future. That sort of suggestion, which involves wasteful expenditure of money, a useless application of labour and a false conception of the duty and responsibility of a Government in the running of State enterprises, has little or nothing to commend it. It might, indeed, be cheaper financially, though perhaps more foolish socially, to take a section of the men, give them their wages, and not trouble to put them on to making things which are not wanted. Production, whether of munitions or of other articles, merely for production's sake and without any reasonable prospect of consumption or use, either now or later on, is not a policy which I am prepared to advocate in connection with the running of State enterprises.
There is, however, one suggestion which, I think, is worthy of consideration. The Government factories at present are run on what is called a peace basis, that is to say on the smallest nucleus from which the maximum number can be reached without delay in case of emergency and without hampering the work of production. This nucleus is fixed at such a point as will effect economy of production in time of peace and ensure power of expansion in time of war. For the Enfield factory this nucleus was fixed in 1907 at 2,000, and its war capacity at 3,500. I believe its war capacity was expanded 162 during the Great War to something like 10,000 or 12,000 workers. But its nucleus or minimum capacity at present is not 2,000. It is slightly over half that number. Yet we are told that the factory must either change over from piecework to time rates or else a still further reduction must be made in the nucleus.
I want to suggest that in peace time, and as the necessary complement to the pursuance of a disarmament policy, no Government contract that can be efficiently handled by a State factory should be given to the outside trade unless and until the State factories have received sufficient work to keep them fully occupied at their minimum or nucleus capacity. That is the policy of suitable alternative employment. After all, State factories have only one customer, and that is the State itself. So far as War Department contracts are concerned, there is a growing opinion throughout the world that the private manufacturer of munitions and implements of war is open to grave objection and should be concentrated, wherever possible, in State factories. That view is definitely expressed in the Covenant of the League of Nations, and I need hardly remind the House and the Government that this country is one of the signatories to that Covenant.
My suggestion goes further than that. I am fortified in my view that other types of Government work should be given to these factories by the reluctance or the objection of Governments to allow State factories to compete with private establishments in the production of articles for sale in the open market. I am not concerned at the moment with the objections to that competition, though I can readily understand, in existing circumstances, the special objection that it would not increase the volume of employment but would rather merely change the incidence of hardship from one group of workers to another. But if there is to be an embargo on State factories competing with private factories in the open market, it is fair and proper that private establishments should not be given Government contracts until those Government factories have been given sufficient work to keep them fully occupied at their minimum establishment. The War Office, the Admiralty, the Air Ministry, the India Office, the Post Office, and other Depart- 163 ments spend very large sums annually on their various requirements. There should be set up, and without delay, an interdepartmental committee charged with the responsibility of co-ordinating different Government requirements and allocating Government contracts—
§ Mr. HENDERSON
If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to explain, the particular type of committee to which I am referring is different from the one which is now in existence. The sort of committee which I want is an inter-departmental committee definitely charged with the responsibility of co-ordinating all State requirements, not merely war contracts, and to be responsible for allocating the contracts involved and working specifically and definitely to the accepted policy of feeding State factories before any contracts are given to the outside trades. I think that I am right in saying that that is not being done at the present moment. It is one of those developments which are essential in the present situation. The different spending departments are each responsible for making their own contracts, and where they are, in addition, producing departments also, like the War Office and the Admiralty, you may find them competing against one another in their endeavours to secure contracts from other State Departments. I believe that if this co-ordination were arranged it might be possible, even in the present circumstances in the particular case with which I am dealing at the moment to ascertain some existing requirement in one or other of the State Departments which would enable my hon. Friend to avoid having to make a change—to enable him to cancel or suspend or modify the change contemplated.
I want to make an appeal to my hon. Friend. I know that he must have been very active in his approaches to the different Government Departments already, and I daresay that he is feeling, like his distinguished colleague the Lord Privy Seal, that he is rapidly qualifying for membership of the Commercial Travellers' Union. I want to ask him not to grow weary in well doing. I believe that if the course I have indicated could be 164 followed, if there were there this centralisation of State requirements, this centralised allocation of Government contracts, it would be possible for the Financial Secretary to avoid having to put into operation on the 1st April the change in the wage conditions which is proposed in the Small Arms Factory at Enfield. I ask him, when he comes to reply, to give me an assurance that between now and the 1st April he will do everything he possibly can with a view to finding new work which will enable him to avoid having to carry through the change which is proposed to operate as from that date.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield (Mr. W. Henderson) has spoken for the first time in this Parliament although we have been able to hear him on other occasions in the Parliament before this one. I was very glad to hear him speak again, especially as an old friend of mine, but I must confess that I do not think that I have ever heard in this House such a string of apologies as I have heard on this occasion. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be wrestling with himself and endeavouring to convince himself that all was well both with regard to his constituency and with regard to himself. I wish that I could think so. The hon. Gentleman represents a division which includes Enfield and I represent a division, in conjunction with the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. (Snell), which includes Woolwich, and I can say that things are very serious as far as both these divisions are concerned. The action of the Government—and there is no need to minimise it, or apologise for it, or to endeavour to explain it—has caused the greatest possible anxiety. [An HON. MEMBER: "The same as your Government did."] That remark does not help. The action of tie Government has caused the greatest possible anxiety in those divisions.
What has happened as far as Enfield is concerned? I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield—and I am sure that he is desirous of doing the best be can for the men of his division—would have explained to the House what exactly the Government have done. It is not a question of proposals. as far as Enfield is concerned—and the Financial Secretary will be able 165 to tell us later whether it is correct or not—for I understand that there has been an official announcement posted at the Royal Small Arms Factory that the Government have definitely decided to effect economies by abolishing piece-work at the end of the month. [Interruption.] Let me assure the hon. Gentleman that it is no laughing matter.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I know that the hon. Member represents a division which has other interests outside the interests of Woolwich, and where, no doubt, he will be pressing the claims of private contracts as befits a Member of the Socialist party. I am concerned with my own division.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Has this official announcement been made? If so, I should be glad to hear that the matter is to receive further consideration.
§ Mr. W. HENDERSON
The right hon. Gentleman is now inquiring whether this official statement has been made. He accuses me of not looking after the interests of my constituents in not blaming the Government for issuing such a statement, and now he is inquiring whether there has been such an official statement. He cannot have it both ways.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am asking the Financial Secretary whether such an official announcement has or has not been made. It was announced in the "Times" newspaper and other journals, and I think it was also announced in the official organ of the Labour party that that had been done. If that has not been done, so much the better for the men concerned. What is the position so far as Woolwich is concerned? The first that we heard of the matter was in answer to a question which was put in this House as to the possibility of discharges at Woolwich Arsenal. We were informed in February, that this question was receiving the close personal attention of the Secretary of State for War and of the Financial Secretary. Therefore, anything that may have been done or that may be done has received their personal attention, and has been done with their 166 authority. Since then the Financial Secretary, I understand, summoned the representatives of the men and informed them that there must be a considerable number of discharges at Woolwich or that a certain amount of short time must be worked at the Arsenal. The representatives summoned a meeting of the men and put before them the suggestion which had been made by the Financial Secretary, that it would be far better that instead of there being a large number of discharges, short time should be worked. That was the proposition of the Financial Secretary. A mass meeting of the men rejected that proposition.
I was considerably surprised when I asked the Financial Secretary in this House what the proposition meant as regards the reductions in the earnings of the men concerned, that he seemed to have a very hazy idea of the proposition which he had made. It is apparent to anyone who gives a moment's thought to that proposition that if short time is to be worked at Woolwich Arsenal there must be reductions in the earnings of the men concerned. I understand that, following the rejection of the Government proposals by the men at the Arsenal, the Financial Secretary made a further proposition, and I hope that he will explain to the House exactly what that proposition is, and whether that, in its turn, does not mean a reduction in the earnings of the men. This is a matter to which the fullest publicity should be given in order that the men may be fully apprised of what is proposed by the Government concerning them.
The matter is very serious so far as the borough of Woolwich is concerned, because in Woolwich we have a Socialist majority on the borough council who have declined to adopt any of the schemes of the Lord Privy Seal. I asked last week what was the position in regard to the unemployed in Woolwich, particularly in relation to disarmament, and the reply of the Lord Privy Seal was of a two-fold nature. He said that he much regretted that, contrary to the decisions of the great majority of local authorities up and down the country, the local authority at Woolwich had declined to take any steps to promote special schemes of work for the Woolwich unemployed. In an optimistic moment the right hon. Gentleman invited me to use my influence with the Socialist 167 council of Woolwich to get them to adopt the Lord Privy Seal's proposals. He flattered me. I hope the Lord Privy Seal will endeavour to make another effort with this particular council. The Socialist members of the London County Council have agreed to adopt schemes for London as a whole, which mean bringing in what is called transferred labour, and so have other local authorities with Labour majorities. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will, I think he may, make another effort with this particular borough council. The second part of the answer which he gave to me dealt with the question of disarmament. I asked him whether he was going to make any special arrangements for discharges due to disarmament, and he replied that he could not make any special arrangements for any particular class of discharged labour.
Therefore, we find ourselves in this position at Woolwich, that the borough council have not adopted any special schemes for unemployment, and in view of the decision of the Lord Privy Seal we can expect nothing by way of any special scheme for any men who may be discharged on account of disarmament. That means that in the case of a considerable body of men who have been employed at Woolwich Arsenal all their lives, and who have nowhere else where they can look for employment except in the direction in which they have been engaged for the whole of their careers, their opportunities of getting employment must be very circumscribed. I hope the Financial Secretary will be plain and open about this matter and tell us exactly what is intended, because I cannot share the enthusiasm of the hon. Member who has just spoken as to the statement which has been made this afternoon by the Secretary of State for War. I hope the Financial Secretary will reread the statement made by the Secretary of State for War with reference to ordnance factories and their employés. When he reads it in the morning he will probably agree with me that it does not take the matter very much further.
The hon. Member who has just spoken has applied his mind to the question as to what should be done, and ought to be done, in circumstances of this kind. His main point was that some committee 168 should be appointed. I am informed by the late Financial Secretary to the War Office that there has been a coordinating committee in existence for some time, but whether that is the case or not I am surprised that the hon. Member has come forward with such milk and water proposals this evening. What is the matter with the proposals in "Labour and the Nation"? Why has there been no reference to them in the course of this Debate? So far as this matter is concerned the Government cannot go to Woolwich or Enfield and say that they are only a minority Government. This is a matter upon which they have acted, and are acting, through their executive authority. I should have thought the hon. Member, when dealing with a proposal of this kind, whould have looked up that great document of which we have heard so much at the General Election and of which we hear so little to-day—
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Mr. Montague)
What was in it?
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Air has joined in this Debate, because we are expecting some work at Woolwich from the Air Ministry, but it is rather strange that he should ask me to tell him what was in "Labour and the Nation." I think there was a hint that contracts were no longer to be given to private individuals. That would strike a note of terror into the heart of the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Mills), who is naturally looking about for orders for private contractors. [Interruption.] There was a hint that so far as work on armaments was concerned it was not to be entrusted in the future to private firms but to the State alone. No doubt the hon. Member before he retires to rest to-night will verify that reference. There is another matter upon which I invite the hon. Member to think before he makes the proposals he has suggested to-day. He is not in the position I was at the last General Election. In Woolwich we heard all. sorts of things as to what the advent of a Labour Government would mean so far as Woolwich Arsenal was concerned. It was to mean a full factory. [Interruption.] We were rather familiar with it in Woolwich because only a compara- 169 tively short time ago we had the present Prime Minister as a candidate at East Woolwich, and at no time in his career did he devote himself—[Interruption]—so much to the position and needs of the munition workers of the country. The Financial Secretary to the War Office, and the Secretary of State himself, might with profit endeavour to obtain all the undertakings and schemes which were put—[Interruption.]
On a, point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I should like to ask if your attention has been called to the hon. Member's insulting remark to an hon. Member on this side of the House in which he called him "an insolent young cub." I should like to ask whether it is in order for an hon. Member to use terms of that kind and whether it is not a gross abuse of the Rules of the House?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I did not hear the words myself, but, if words of that kind were bandied about the Floor of the House, they certainly are out of order.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I do not think any words of mine provoked so peaceful an hon. Member as the hon. Member for Erdington (Mr. Simmons) to enter so violently into this Debate. I was calling 170 the attention of the Secretary of State—and I hope the hon. Member himself will turn his attention to really vital matters—to the schemes and statements made by the present Prime Minister at Woolwich, and if he has any difficulty in regard to the present position he may think there is something to be gained from those particular statements and undertakings. The Prime Minister when he was a candidate at Woolwich—[Interruption.]—made very many promises to the munition workers. He said that if there was any difficulty as regards reduction in armaments they could turn the war factory into a peace factory. [Interruption.] The majority of the electors did not believe it because they rejected the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion. Perhaps the Financial Secretary, or whoever is going to reply to the Debate, will tell us whether the Government propose to undertake the rather big programme which was presented at that time. At all events the hon. Member is, I think, very fully apprised by this time of the difficulty and anxiety in which the action of the Government has placed Enfield and Woolwich.
There is one other matter upon which I want to ask one or two other questions. The Financial Secretary has been conferring with a number of representatives of the Woolwich Arsenal employé. He has received a request from the largest trade union at the Arsenal asking for permission to make representations to him concerning the Government's proposals. The union in question is the Government Workers Industrial Union—[Interruption]—and it is a registered trade union.
§ Sir K. WOOD
It is the largest trade union of employés in the Woolwich Arsenal. I think it numbers over 3,000. This Union has asked the Financial Secretary—I think it is not an unreasonable request—for an opportunity to place before him the views of their members, who include a very large number of the more poorly-paid employés at the Arsenal, at this critical time, when there is, of course, so much anxiety among them. They have not asked to go along with the representatives whom he has already seen. All that they have asked is to be permitted to put their case 171 before him. As I understand it, up to the present moment the Financial Secretary has refused to receive them.
It is perfectly true that this Union is not affiliated to the Trade Union Congress. Whatever the hon. Gentleman's views may be from his own party standpoint in that particular connection, I hope he will not for a moment allow that particular deviation to stand in the way of this very large body of men making proper representations to him. It may be that there is some mistake in this matter. I hope there is, but I hope at any rate the hon. Gentleman will say that any representative body of men, who are deeply concerned from the point of view of themselves and their wives and families, will be gladly received by him and that he will only be too glad to listen to any suggestions they care to make. I think that is a proper and decent attitude to take up, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to assure us that he is at all times ready and willing to receive representations and will give us a full and complete statement of what he intends to do so far as these two important areas are concerned, with their many thousands of men who are so anxious as to their position at the present time.
§ Mr. SNELL
Although the Division which I have the honour to represent has within it the vast majority of the workers of the Royal Arsenal, I will endeavour to confine what I have to say to a very few minutes, because the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. W. Henderson) has put with great force and striking moderation the general claim which we desire the Government to consider. Before I make a plea on my own behalf, I would like to indulge in a few words of criticism in regard to the speech to which we have just listened. I do not detect any similarity between the fierceness of the right hon. Gentleman opposite towards the policy of the Government and that complacency with which he regarded a similar policy of the Government which preceded it. If it would not be thought rude to say so, the right hon. Gentleman seems to have got the last election somewhat on his mind, as though one side alone made promises. I understood that at the election every- 172 body had a scheme for the cure of unemployment. I think things relating to the Woolwich Borough Council are better argued in Woolwich itself than on the Floor of this House.
It was refreshing at an earlier period in the Debate this afternoon to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's (Sir L. Worthington-Evans) recognise the responsibility of the Government for the welfare of their employés in the Army and elsewhere. He was quite correct when he said that recruiting was not successful, because it did not offer a career. The soldier always wondered what was to happen to him after his Army period was over. Life is a continuous thing, and business men require men to have a tradition of service behind them, and that they do not always get from the Army itself. If that is true in regard to soldiers, it is no less true in regard to the civilian people whom the Government employ. We welcome, as the whole of the House will welcome, a reduction in the expenditure upon the Army and Navy services, but let us be quite sure that redactions in expenditure are real and nit spurious economies. You may economise in figures without economising so far as the nation is concerned. The nation may make a cut in expenditure, if it can do so, and it is a very good thing if it can, but it ought not to make the workers bear the burden of that economy. If you save £1,000,000 and it means that the poorest-paid workers in His Majesty's service are to bear the burden, it may appear on the face of it to be an economy, but from the point of view of the nation it is not an economy at all, because it means a reduction in the standard of life, and it may mean a reduction in efficiency. I am led to say that, because I desire to make a plea on behalf of the poorest-paid workers in the ordnance factories. The hon. and gallant Gentleman for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) said that if a cut was made in an officer's income of £200 a year it would be a cut to the bone, but if you make a cut in the wages of men who earn only £2 9s. a week, however small the cut may be, it cuts through the bone, and almost through his life.
I only wish to say that I accept all the arguments that were advanced by the hon. Member for Enfield, and I do not 173 propose to repeat them, because I desire to economise in time. But there is this plea to be urged on behalf of the average worker in the Royal Arsenal and the yards. They are budgeted up to the last shilling in their income. They have their little houses to buy through building societies, insurance to pay, children to educate, and they have to pay to their trade union, and so on. Up to the very last shilling their income is budgeted, and if a cut is made in their wages, it really is a most serious thing for the happiness and welfare of the family concerned. I* cannot help hoping that it will be possible in the near future to secure what we may call a stabilised state of employment. The man who takes service in the Arsenal and other factories is specially trained for a particular piece of work, and, when he is thrown out of that work, he is at a real disadvantage in the market for reemployment. It must be remembered that, so far as boroughs like Woolwich are concerned, there is no alternative employment to which a man can go. It is either the Government yard at Woolwich or it is nothing at all. Therefore, I hope that the Government will give, as I am sure they will give, their best attention to the matter, and see whether it is possible to arrange for the security of employment of these men, free from dreaded cuts in their income. They are paid at a rate which does not allow of any reduction. Even a drop of a shilling or two shillings in income represents not only a very serious disadvantage to the individual and the family, but reduces the whole prosperity of the community in which they live; and it may have the result of economising so far as the taxes are concerned, while representing a corresponding charge upon the rates. I ask the representatives of the War Office to continue to give their sympathetic attention to the matter.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Perhaps I may be permitted to reply, shortly, to the observations addressed to me in relation to the ordnance factories. I must confess that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) seemed to me something like a death-bed repentance. Certainly the right hon. Gentleman, during the time that he was a member of the late Government, never expressed disapproval of 174 the frequent discharges that resulted from a reduction in the output of warlike material at Woolwich. To make doubly sure of the position of the right hon. Gentleman I have looked up the figures relating to discharges in the past five years. This is what I have found: The number of industrial, that is manual, workers in 1925, the first year of the late Government, was 7,980. When we took office in June last 'the numbers were down by close on 1,500. So that while the right hon. Gentleman was a member of the late Government approximately 1,500 men—I am submitting net figures—were discharged from Woolwich, ordnance factory. So far as I know not a single word of remonstrance was uttered by the right hon. Gentleman. On, this matter his hands are not very clean-Whoever has the right to speak about these discharges at least he is not the right hon. Member for West Woolwich. I understand that there is some mis understanding as to the figures I have just submitted. They are net figures after allowing for the annual wastage—the actual discharges effected at Woolwich during the late Government's term of office.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
My recollection is that there were 250 or 350 a year to represent wastage at the Arsenal. Do these figures allow for that wastage Does the hon. Member remember that during the period of the late Government £4,000,000 a year was cut off the Army Estimates?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The annual wastage certainly never amounts to 200 a year, and I am surprised at the right hon. Gentleman giving such a figure. I join issue with him at once in relation to that. Indeed I wish that it did reach that figure, because our difficulties would be very much less than they are. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that I had a very hazy idea of what was about, in happen in relation to the ordnance factory position. I have a very clear idea of the position. I have been very much troubled, as no doubt the right hon. Gentleman is as representing a section of the workpeople in the Woolwich area, about the position. As the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. W. Henderson> very properly said in a thoughtful and very constructive speech, for a number of years we have had no war. War material has 175 been accumulating all the while. The time comes when we find ourselves with excessive stocks and a curtailment of production is forced upon us—as indeed it was forced upon the right hon. Gentleman himself, otherwise there would not have been the reduction in personnel in the last five years.
Before I proceed to deal with the actual position in the factories I want to reply to the right hon. Gentleman's observation regarding meetings with representatives of the workpeople at Woolwich. He suggested that we had refused to meet a section of the workpeople's representatives described as the Government Workers' Union because they were not affiliated to the Trade Unions Congress. I reply at once that that is a consideration which we have ignored entirely. We have had other considerations to take into account. As far as Woolwich is concerned we do not deal directly with the trade unions; our negotiations are with the shop stewards' committee. There was at Woolwich for a considerable time a combined shop stewards' committee which claimed to represent the work-people there. Two or three years ago, in some dispute, a number of workpeople divorced themselves from the main body and formed a separate union, and apparently also formed another shop stewards' committee of a rival character.
What is our position? We met a body which claims to represent the bulk of the workmen. It is true that that claim is disputed by the other body. But who are we to decide about the rival claims? 1 have ventured in the past few days to address communications to both sides, asking them to table their claims. When I have them before me, and I can get at the truth I shall be only too pleased to make a pronouncement. Meantime I refuse to treat with two bodies. I have dealt all through with the combined shop stewards' committee. I have told the others that until we can have proof to the contrary regarding the claim of the combined shop stewards' committee to represent the workpeople, I must maintain my original decision. That is all there is to be said on the matter.
In the few moments available I want to put the position of the War Office before the House. We were faced with a substantial reduction in warlike stores. 176 I have already indicated the figures. Therefore we were forced to consider whether we should indulge in discharges or, alternatively, spread the available work over the widest possible area. We came to the conclusion that whatever happened there would be no discharges. That has been the policy of the late Government. We asked the representatives of the workpeople to meet us. We stated quite frankly what the position was. We pointed out that we had taken almost everything that we could from the private armament firms. Therefore to that extent we had met the views of my hon. Friends the Members for Enfield and East Woolwich (Mr. Snell). Having done that, we found ourselves unable to maintain the whole of the personnel without some curtailment of production. As far as Woolwich is concerned nothing has been definitely settled. There have been propositions and alternative propositions, and the representatives of the workpeople have given us the promise that after consultation on these propositions they will come back and see us again, and we hope that a definite agreement may be reached.
May I say at once that we regret having had to curtail production and hours of labour and consequently, to some extent, the earnings of the men. But short time is not unusual in the industrial concerns of this country. Miners and cotton operatives and all sorts of workpeople have been forced to work short time, and, thought we are far from being pleased at the prospect, and would wish it to be otherwise, yet there is no alternative. At the very worst, I may tell the House that in the case of Woolwich there will only be a reduction of little more than three hours a week and we hope that that will be temporary. As regards Enfield, no definite decision has been reached there either. Proposals have been made to the workpeople; we have not yet received their reply, but we hope to have it shortly. In that case also we have refused to discharge men, although we could do it quite easily, taking military considerations into account. Discharges could be affected without any prejudice to such considerations. At the same time, we have decided to spread the work over as wide a field as possible, and we may have to resort to time-work instead of piece-work. That will mean a reduction in the earnings of piece-workers but there 177 will be no change at all as regards the unskilled people. We hope in this case also that it may prove to be temporary. Practically nothing is being given to the outside private armament firms, and that is a constant source of trouble to us because of the military considerations involved. Nevertheless we cannot help ourselves, and, in the circumstances, we believe that we are doing the best thing.
Reference has been made to the need for consideration and review of the whole problem of alternative employment. We have had the matter constantly under review. The right hon. Gentleman opposite interpolates, "They will have a Committee on this." Well, even having a Committee is better than discharging 1,500 men which the late Government did. They had not even the wisdom to set up a Committee. The matter is being considered now by an inter- Departmental Committee, not of the kind referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Paddington (Commodore King). It is not the Contracts Co-ordination Committee which has been in existence for quite a long time, but an inter-Departmental Committee. They are now considering how much work can be secured from other Government Departments, and much success has been achieved. We have been able to provide both Woolwich and Enfield with a considerable volume of work which would not otherwise have been available.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The Committee is sitting at the moment, and we propose to go further, and, if we find that the Committee is not able to expedite operations in that direction, we shall assist it to some extent, but that question will come later. My last point is that we believe that much work of an alternative character can be found for Woolwich. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Woolwich will assist us in this matter. If his protest means anything at all, if it is not mere empty talk, mere verbiage and criticism, he will be willing to assist us in regard to alternative work in the interests of his own constituency. But we must remember that it is not possible at this time for a Government Department to engage in deadly competition with outside firms. 178 we must be careful therefore, and all these factors must be considered. They are now being considered, and, in the meantime, we hope that the men will only be required to work these shorter hours for a temporary period, and that that period will soon pass. We hope that we may have the opportunity, with the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his friends, to find work which will provide these men with full employment. There has also been under consideration a pensions scheme which would have the effect of inducing many of the older men—and there are very many old men working in the factories—to retire on pension. A scheme has already been submitted. It will be considered in the light of the criticisms levelled against it, and if we can find some means of inducing some of the older men to out, it will, naturally, provide more work for those who are left. I have done my best to meet all the point which have been submitted and I appeal to the House to meet us on this point, because the Votes on account have yet to come, by allowing Mr. Speaker to leave the Chair.
The speech to which we have just listened may, without offence, be described as being vigorous without being convincing. The hon. Gentleman evidently regards this as a matter of considerable electoral importance, judging from the earnestness with which he addressed himself to it. I do not blame him for taking that view, because when the electors of the various districts in which these arsenals are situated learn of the record of the Government and hear of the speech of the hon. Gentleman to-night, they will find that there is a great difference between the promises made by Members of the party opposite at the last Election and their performances. But I have not risen for the purpose of engaging in any recriminations on this matter. All I would say is that the arguments which have been brought forward from this side have been, not so much on the question of whether this Government or the last Government discharged more men from Woolwich, as on the question of what this Government are doing to provide alternative work for the men who have been discharged. The gravamen of the charge 179 against the Government is that at the last election, in the constituencies in which these arsenal men work and live, they promised distinctly, and claimed that it was the policy of the party opposite, that, if it were necessary to reduce the numbers of men employed on account of reduction of armaments, alternative work would be found for those men. It is hardly necessary to ram home that charge because the promise can be found in the election literature of the party opposite and more especially in their famous book called, I think, "Labour and the Nation."
To-night, I wish to refer to some other matters of considerable moment. I take, in the first place, the question of the Territorial force. I have some qualification to speak on this subject, because ever since the creation of the Territorial Force Associations, I have been a member of the association of my county. I was a pre-War Territorial. I was with the Territorials in the War—as it happens, I have the long service medal—and I wish to speak on the position of the Force to-day. I would preface what I have to say on that subject by remarking that, though this is not the time to speak of it, I hope that some day full historical justice will be done to the, as I claim, indispensable service which the Territorial Force rendered to this country and to the whole Empire in the early days of 1914. It enabled the Expeditionary Force to be sent overseas. The history of Europe and the history indeed of the world would have been very different had it not been for the existence of the Territorial Force in this country, and I hope that, when that history is written, not only will full justice be done to the Territorial Force, hut that some thing will be said on the subject of the attitude which was adopted by certain distinguished persons in high places towards that Force, an attitude which had lamentable results in after years and which caused, in the minds of many who were serving in the Territorials at that time, a feeling of grievance and of resentment. But the time has not come to deal with that.
We see a considerable shortage, both in officers and in men, in the Territorial Force. I want to make it plain that I 180 do not for a moment place the blame for that wholly or mainly upon the right, hon. Gentleman opposite and the Government. There has been such a shortage since the War, and it is only partly set off by the improved training and, I venture to think—and, after all, I am not biased in the matter, because I was a member of the Territorial Force before the War, and am not now—by the improvement in the personnel which the Territorials have had since the War. The fact of the matter is that a Force like the Territorial Force cannot live without encouragement, and without very constant encouragement, and I fear that that encouragement has not recently been forth coming. I am, therefore, very glad that in certain quarters attention has recently been called to the need for giving encouragement to the Territorial Force; and in that connection the "Times" newspaper has done valuable service in calling attention to the need for authoritative statements by Members of the Government on the subject of the Territorial Force, by which I mean statements encouraging the nation to support it in every possible way.
Before dealing with that matter more fully, I would like to make reference to the lamentable decision which the right hon. Gentleman has come to in refusing grants and, as far as I know, recognition too, to the Cadet Corps of the country. I think I am speaking for all my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side with whom we have had a private conference since this announcement was made—and it was entirely new to us—when I say that we are seriously perturbed and alarmed at the decision which the Government have taken. I want to develop the reason why we object to this decision.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This particular question was dealt with on the Amendment. If the Noble Lord desires to raise it again, it had better be done on Vote A, and not on the Main Question.
I low to your Ruling, but I was under the impression that on this matter we could deal with the whole question. Should I be in order in dealing with the question of the Territorial Force?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Noble Lord has misunderstood me. I think the particular question which the Noble Lord was then raising with regard to the Cadet 181 Corps was dealt with on the Amendment. If he wants to revert to that subject he should do it on the actual Vote which concerns it, but he can, of course, raise the question of the Territorial Force on this Motion.
§ 10.0 p.m.
May I point out my difficulty? I need hardly say that I am not attempting to controvert your ruling in any way, but the situation is that it is almost impossible to deal with the question of the Territorial Force without dealing with the Cadet Corps, because it is the Territorial Force Associations which are responsible officially for the Cadet Corps, and it is difficult to deal with one without dealing with the other.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think it would be better for the Noble Lord to deal with the Cadet Corps on the Vote.
I bow to your ruling in the matter of the Cadet Corps, but in regard to the Territorials I do not understand you to rule that it is out of order to refer to them now.
Then I am afraid I must avail myself of my right to raise the question of the Territorial Force now, and trouble the House with another speech on the Cadet Corps when we come to Vote A. Those who, like myself, were in the House at the time when the Territorial Force Bill was first passed in the year 1907 or 1908 will recollect that an essential part of the scheme of Lord Haldane, who, as Mr. Haldane, was the founder of the Territorials, and whose memory, if I may say so, is entitled to almost as much respect for what he did in creating the Territorial Force as it is for the action which he took in creating the Expeditionary Force—Lord Haldane, in the course of the very interesting discussions which we had in the House at the time of the creation of the Territorial Force, made it quite clear that he based his idea, in forming the Force, on the idea of the integral connection between it and the counties and towns of the land. Indeed, the very name of the Force presupposes that. The Force was to be supported by the enthusiasm of the towns and counties, the localities, of the country.
182 While it is quite true that some towns and counties, and especially such places as the City of London and the City of Manchester have given every possible encouragement to the Territorial Force, it is unfortunately also the fact that other towns and counties, including some of the largest municipalities and some of the most densely populated counties, have given no assistance in recent years to the Territorial Force, and have treated it as if it were a hostile body connected with militarism. I think that there is a special responsibility resting upon the Members of this Government, because the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War is the official defender of the Territorials, and it is in the localities where those of his political faith are in power that there has been, not universally, but in some cases, unfortunately, this cold shouldering of the Territorial Force.
The Force not only lacks encouragement, but unfortunately it meets with actual discouragement, and the House will be very interested to know that in the past one of the people who have given it very considerable discouragement is the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War himself. On an earlier occasion to-day, when the Financial Secretary was speaking on the Amendment, in the first of his two speeches, he was very indignant with me when I interrupted him on the subject of the vote given by the First Commissioner of Works. He said that I had got hold of the wrong end of the stick, and that the Resolution for which the First Commissioner voted was not a similar Resolution to that on which we voted this afternoon. That was not the point at all. Let me quote to the House the vote that was given. On the 31st July, 1928, there was a Vote for the whole cost of the Territorial Army and the Reserve Forces. That Vote was opposed by a number of Members of the present Government. It was opposed by the Minister of Agriculture, by the First Commissioner of Works, and by the Secretary of State for War, so that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, on the 31st July, 1928, voted for the abolition of the Territorial Force.
The hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary was highly indignant this afternoon, and has been throughout this De- 183 bate, at the attack which has been made on the policy of the Government by his supporters below the Gangway. The hon. Gentleman should have been more sparing in his indignation, considering that his own chief, the Minister for War himself, voted for the abolition of the Territorial Force on 31st July, 1928. I can give him the reference if he wants it; it is in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Of the two, I prefer the honest pacifist, such as we have below the Gangway, rather than those of a more disingenuous kind who, because they now sit on the Front Bench, have to defend and support something against which they voted a short time ago. We have never had a case before where a Secretary of State for War has sat in the place where the right hon. Gentleman is now, and who only a short 18 months before voted for the abolition of a considerable portion of the Force which he is now willing to defend. That certainly does not look very much like an encouragement of the Territorial Force.
It is not only the influence of the Minister for War, important no doubt as that influence is, which has been thrown into the scale against the Territorial Force in the past. There is no question that in the last few years there has grown up a school of writers and playwrights who have sedulously conveyed the idea that the profession of arms is itself a degrading profession, and it is natural that the result of the propagation of their views is to discourage recruiting. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to have that assent from below the Gangway. If you represent to the public that there is something discreditable in being prepared to serve your own country, you cannot expect to get recruits for the Army. I am glad that the honest pacifists below the Gangway cheer that statement.
§ Mr. SIMMONS
I did not cheer the sentiment that it is wrong to serve the country, but that it is wrong to kill.
I was not referring to the hon. Gentleman but to the general cheer. If the profession of arms is represented in that way, we cannot expect to get good recruits for the Army or for the Territorial Force.
How can the hon. Gentleman say it is not discouraged when his own party have voted for the abolition of the Territorial Force, and when the Amendment which was moved earlier in the evening speaks of service in the Army as being in the interests of capitalist Imperialism. Let hon. Gentlemen be honest in the matter. They have done everything they can to discourage recruiting in the Army by the attitude which they have taken up.
§ Mr. SORENSEN
My interruption was not what the Noble Lord imagined it to be. What I said was, "Do not discourage war then," for to discourage war is to discourage recruiting.
When the right hon. Gentleman referred to the question of the difficulty of recruiting from the point of view of physique, he was referring to what was only partly true. It is true that a number of recruits have to be rejected on the score of physique, and it is unfortunate that it should be so, but one of the causes that makes for bad recruiting in the Territorials and the Regular Army is unquestionably the attitude which a section of the people in this country take up that the profession of arms is a degrading one. Everyone knows that the profession of arms is not a degrading one. Those of us who bore arms in the War had the satisfaction not only of defending our own kith and kin, but of enabling those who now criticise us on the benches opposite ant elsewhere to be alive and well in this country. Every time I see a conscientious objector in this House, I cannot but feel that I helped to keep him alive. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the soldiers?"] I feel somewhat sorry for the soldiers who have to sit on the other side of the House.
Some astonishing statements have been made during the Debate on the subject of the preparation for war. I do not want to refer to them in detail. I to not often pay compliments to the Financial Secretary, but I think that he has answered them very effectively, with a vigour and vehemence which does him great credit, and which I hope will he helpful to his party at the next Election. One hon. Gentleman said that preparation for war 185 does not give security against war. Of course it does not; whoever said it did? But the converse is also true. It has been proved again and again in history that a lack of preparation for war does not give security against war. It has been proved over and over again, and what is the use of making a statement of that kind without having regard to the circumstances? Let us never forget that the small professional Army in this country, backed as it is by the Territorial Force and by the Army Reserve, is responsible for police work on a scale that has never been exceeded or equalled in the history of the world.
We have Africa, Asia and our mandated territories—what would those who have voted, and are going to vote again, for practically the abolition of the Army, have done had they been in office and faced with the situation with which the present Government were faced in the mandated territory of Palestine last August? Who saved the situation there? Was it the conscientious objectors or the pacifists? It was the soldiers, the sailors and the airmen of His Majesty's Forces. How would they have prevented what might have taken place had it not been for the armed forces of the Crown? I am very glad of one thing about the present Government; it is almost the only thing about them that makes me glad; it is that when they were in Opposition it was easy enough for Members opposite to vote in the most irresponsible manner against the existence of the armed forces of the Crown, but now that they are in office they have, even though it may be against their own wishes and intentions, to support what they know is absolutely essential not only to the continued existence of the British Empire and of this country, but to their own safety. They know it, and so do hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question of a specific character in regard to a matter which has been raised at Question Time from time to time. I refer to the question of Army bands. While the right hon. Gentleman has resisted efforts made by his supporters to abolish the opportunity which Army bands enjoy for obtaining private engagements, nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman, without saying very much about it, has made a rule that no Army 186 band of less than 20 performers shall be allowed to perform. I understand that that comes very hard on some bands, including certain bands of the Brigade of Guards, who have been in the habit of taking engagements for dinners and engagements of that kind, where less than 20 performers were required, and where it is impossible, owing to the size of the hall in which they were performing, to have as many as 20 players. I should like to know why the right hon. Gentleman has done it. It looks as if it were an attempt to hinder the progress of Army bands. The agitation which has been put forward in some quarters against Army bands is ridiculous. Why should the Musicians' Union object to the competition of Army bands, and why should anyone object to engaging gentlemen who are good enough to serve their King and country in the Army? Are the men out of the Army better men than those in it? I do not know what right anybody has to say so. In my opinion a regiment has a perfect right, under military regulations, to use its band to give performances to the public.
I am informed, though I hope my information is not correct, that though this restriction upon Army bands of less than 20 performers has been imposed that the Secretary of State for War has given orders that the massed bands of the Brigade of Guards are to take part in a conference to do with a poultry show to be held at the Crystal Palace next July. If that is so, it seems to be rather inconsistent. Surely he should engage his friends of the National Musicians' Union to play to the assembled poultry at the Crystal Palace next July. It is appropriate that there should be a band of some sort, and that they should play, because I think it will probably drown the remarks of the Minister of Agriculture when he is trying to explain the policy of the Government. I should like to know whether the information which I have had is correct. All of us will be very much interested to hear the reply which we are just about to have from the right hon. Gentleman as to the reason for his very fortuitous change of view on the subject of the Territorials between the 28th of July, 1928, and to-day; and we hope, further, that he will be able to give us an assurance that, if he voted against the Territorial force in its entirety in the 187 past, that in the future he will be as anxious as we are to resist the efforts of those who wish to destroy this most useful and esssential force.
§ Mr. SHAW
May I claim the indulgence of the House, before you leave the Chair, to answer a few of the questions, some of them serious and some of them flippant, which have been put during the discussion? The ex-Secretary of State for War was afraid that the cuts in warlike stores were reaching the danger point. May I assure him that we are perfectly satisfied that that is not the case, and that the warlike stores in this country are quite sufficient to meet any emergency that can be foreseen? In fact, it is the intention of my hon. Friend, who on my instructions has taken a great deal of trouble in this matter, carefully to review the whole position with a view to seeing whether it be not the fact that we have a surplus of stores that under no circumstances could be said to be necessary in the present state of affairs.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON - EVANS
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the point, will he say whether that observation applies to mechanical vehicles and mechanical instruments?
§ Mr. SHAW
As regards mechanical vehicles, we are quite satisfied that our policy is the right one. There is no finality in regard to these vehicles. They are purely experiments. We are using them in the proportion that we consider necessary to give the experiments a fair trial, arid we believe that it would be the grossest mistake, particularly in view of the developments taking place in mechanical science, to get stocks that might cause us to use an obsolete machine because we had it rather than get the best that science can produce at the moment when necessity arises. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we have not acted in a reckless way, that things have been very carefully considered, and that we believe we are taking steps that are not only economical but will be more efficient in the long run than the policy of manufacturing, perhaps rather too largely, machines that are experimental rather than machines that have reached something like a degree of efficiency that could be relied upon.
188 Then the right hon. Gentleman was very anxious about the saving on works. He pointed out that in my speech I had alluded to reports that had reached me about the condition of some of the buildings in which men were housed. May I point out to him that his record with regard to works is pretty much like my own? I will not willingly be a party to British soldiers being accommodated in buildings that are not reasonably comfortable and healthy. I say that without hesitation, because what is not good enough for me is not good enough for the soldiers, or any other body of men. With regard to Egypt, so far as the contribution is concerned, I think the right hon. Gentleman tried to involve me in a discussion that would he more apposite to the Foreign Office than to the War Office. I will call the attention of the Foreign Office to the fact that this matter has been raised, and that Egypt has made no contribution since 1923. If I find we have been making a mistake since that time, I will ask my right hon. Friend to reverse the engine.
With regard to the training of men for civil life, I am at one with what has been said, and I am prepared to receive suggestions from anybody that will help to devise a method whereby the men who leave the Army will leave it properly equipped for entering civil life. It is one of the worst things that can happen to a man, whether he is an officer or comes from the ranks, that when he goes hack into civil life he finds himself an extra wheel on the coach. Vs do not care from whom the suggestion comes, if it is a practical one we shall be glad to accept it. I am sure the members of the Army Council will be very glad of any help that can be given in this respect. The question of cadets will be discussed later if the necessity arises, and I will not deal with that matter at the moment. Time will not permit me to go into long details with regard to many other questions which have been raised. The question of the relation of the War Office to the other services has been discussed, but that is a question of general policy that can only be dealt with by the Prime Minister. The question as to whether all the services should come under one head, or should be redistributed in some other way, is not a matter for any in- 189 dividual Minister to deal with, and it must be dealt with by the head of the Government.
§ Mr. SHAW
It can be arranged through the usual channel. As far as the question of another uniform is concerned, 1 am very doubtful as to whether the suggestion is practical, and whether the expense would be at all justified. The hon. Member made certain suggestions with regard to units dealing with their own finances, or part of their own finances, on a somewhat similar system to that which exists, apparently, in the Territorials, and also with regard to officers refusing to use their own cars at a certain mileage rate, and the country being called upon to pay rates three times as high as those offered to officers for their own cars. Those statements I will submit to the Staff at the War Office, and will ask them carefully to examine what it is possible to do in the matter. The hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown) asked if there had been naval and military exercises, and with what results. There have been naval and military exercises during 1929, in the North of Scotland, and very valuable experience was gained, but I think that the hon. and gallant Member would be the last man in the House to ask for a detailed statement of what the valuable experience was.
§ Brigadier-General CLIFTON BROWN
I did not ask that; it was my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Windsor-Clive).
§ Mr. SHAW
I beg pardon; I confused the constituencies. The hon. and gallant Member also asked questions with regard to Sandhurst and Woolwich. There is at the present moment a shortage of cadets at Sandhurst, but there is no shortage at Woolwich. With regard to the Territorials, the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) may take it for granted that the present Secretary of State is quite aware, as, indeed, was the late Secretary of State, of the importance of the Territorial side of the Army, and I tried my level best in my speech to convey, perhaps in halting fashion, my appreciation of the services of the Territorials; and I asked the House 190 to join with me in asking Lord Derby, as head of the Central Organisation, to convey to the Territorials the appreciation of the whole House. I think, therefore, that I have done some little to let the Territorial side of the Army know that their services are recognised.
§ Mr. SHAW
I have not time to deal with the Noble Lord's interjection, but the only Vote was a block Vote, in which the Territorial Vote was a section. The Noble Lord knows perfectly well what takes place when block votes are dealt with.
I turn now to the question of military bands. The instructions have been explained to the House more than once, and I have said to the Musicians' Union, in effect, that the military band has been an institution in our life, at any rate ever since I remember anything, and that in a sense there is nothing like it, and I am not prepared to interfere with a practice that has gone on, certainly, to my own knowledge, for half a century. But it was brought to my notice that some men in the Forces were taking outside engagements, and it was alleged that they were being taken at rates that cut out of competition the man who had to depend for his living on the practice of his art. I do not think that members of His Majesty's Forces, drawing the pay and having the accommodation due to their rank, should act in the labour market—that was the allegation—as competitors, and sometimes unfair competitors, of men who have to practise their art for a living. I ask the House to agree that that is wrong.
§ Mr. SHAW
If it was not true, nothing has been done. If those things have not been done, there is no change. The only action I have taken is to make it as nearly impossible for it to be done as human skill can make it. [An HON. MEMBER: "How about the limitation of numbers?"] I have said a military band ordinarily consists of, I think, 22 players. 191 [Interruption.] If it has been reduced, it is perfectly justified, because I do not believe individual Army musicians should enter into competition with private musicians. The full Army band has been a national institution for generations and with the full Army band I do not feel inclined at all to interfere. But, even with the smaller number of players, there have been exceptions which will meet every reasonable case. For instance, there is no opposition to portions of the band playing for bona fide charities. There is no opposition, of course, to anything they do in departmental buildings, or even in private buildings, which belong to members of the forces, even retired members of the forces. There is no objection to Army bands, or parts of them, playing, whether with or without fees, in places of worship, and every engagement that had been entered into for three months subsequent to the date of the letter that had been sent out was allowed to be completed. I do not think that is an unreasonable position to take up. I have tried to reply to the chief points that have been made. I suppose pretty well every other point that needs to be put can be put on the separate Votes. I ask the House now to allow you, Sir, to leave the Chair and let us get to the discussion of the Votes.
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. ROBERT YOUNG in the Chair.]