§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Duff Cooper)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill is a very short one and admits of a very short explanation. I cannot think that it will promote criticism or arouse arguments. The present system of the Reserve Forces is that when a man joins the Army he undertakes service for a certain period, which is divided into the period that he serves with the Colours and with the Reserve. The period varies in the different branches of the profession, but in the Infantry of the Line, the largest branch and so far as the Reserve is concerned the most important, service is seven years with the Colours and five years with the Reserve. Therefore, automatically at the end of his seven years a man passes on to the Reserve. As the House is aware, the Reserve can be called up only in a major emergency by Proclamation; it cannot be called up without prior information being given to Parliament, and if Parliament is not sitting at the time Parliament has to be summoned.
That is the position with regard to the ordinary Reserve. But there is another branch of the Reserve, the "A" Reserve. Men can volunteer on leaving the Colours to join that branch of the Reserve. If they do so, they are paid 6d. a day extra during the period of their service with "A" Reserve. In return for that emolument they hold themselves liable to be called up for any minor emergency which does not involve a declaration or danger of war, and they can be called up by private application—letters to their own addresses—and if Parliament is not sitting it need not be recalled, though Parliament has to be informed at the first available opportunity. The two occasions when "A" reservists have been called up in recent history were in 1927, in connection with the trouble in Shanghai, China, and last year in connection with the disturbances in Palestine.
But there is a statutory limitation with regard to "A" reservists. It is laid down 244 by law that they can belong to the "A" Reserve only for a period of two years immediately following the date when they leave the Colours. If a man joins the "A" Reserve when he leaves the Colours he can be a member for two years, but if he does not wish to join the Reserve and decides to do so a year later, he can be a member of the Reserve for only one year. It is that statutory limitation on the "A" Reserve which is the cause of the present Bill. Last year when the "A" reservists were called up it was found that the whole of the Infantry of the "A" Reserve were required, and even then there was no excess in the numbers that returned to the Colours. If any other emergency had arisen in any other part of the world, necessitating the sudden dispatch of a small contingent which it would have been desirable to have had brought up to establishment by calling up "A" reservists, there would not have been any "A" reservists available so far as the Infantry was concerned. Therefore, it is our desire to increase, if possible, the number of this branch of the Reserve.
This Bill, which is really confined to one operative Clause, seeks to increase the numbers by two means, although by only one provision. It seeks to increase the period during which these men may serve, and at the same time to increase the field of recruitment from which they can be drawn. If the Bill is passed it will in future be possible for a man to belong to the "A" Reserve for five years instead of for two years, and men who are not now members of it and have already left the Colours for two years and cannot possibly now be recruited to the "A" Reserve, will then be available for the remaining three years of the five years after leaving the Colours. It may be said in criticism that if men hesitate to undertake the obligation to join the Reserve for two years, still more will they hesitate to undertake the obligation for five years. But that is not a valid criticism, because in fact any man may resign from the "A" Reserve by giving three months' notice. Therefore, the only obligation a man undertakes when he joins is for a period of three months; that is the only thing to which he pledges himself. So he is not in any way undertaking a bigger obligation now when he joins the "A" Reserve than he would have done in the past. He will still be in the position that 245 he can resign from the "A" Reserve on giving three months' notice, but he will be in a stronger position because he will be able to draw the additional emoluments for a period of five years instead of for a period of two years.
I ought to make it plain perhaps that though the Bill mentions five years, that is the maximum period for which men could, if this Bill is passed, be called upon to join the "A" Reserve. It will be in the discretion of the War Office to shorten that period necessary. If sufficient men come forward and we can have what we need, we can reduce that period to four, three or two years. It is obviously desirable that the men who belong to that Reserve should have left the Colours for the shortest time possible, for the longer they have been away from the Army the less efficient they are likely to prove as soldiers. The old statutory rules and provisions which affected the "A" Reserve in the past will not be altered in any way; that is to say, the "A" reservists can be used only for emergencies outside the country and cannot be called up for any special duty inside the country.
§ Mr. Cooper
The total number at present is 2,900 odd—just under 3,000. Of those 2,482 were called up for Palestine. They represented the whole of the Infantry reservists, but not the Artillery reservists.
§ Earl Winterton
My right hon. Friend is now dealing with all the reservists. How many "A" reservists are there in the whole Army?
§ Mr. Cooper
A little under 3,000 in the "A" Reserve. I do not know whether it is in order to say anything with regard to those who have returned from Palestine, but if the House will allow me, I am quite prepared to give some information on that matter. There are more of these men in employment to-day than there were when they were called up last September. I hoped to be able to give later figures, but these will not be ready till to-morrow. I have not had a single instance brought to my knowledge of any case in which a man was not taken back by his employer or in which any hardship was inflicted. I had one case of a municipal authority 246 who would not take a man back, but when I communicated with the authority privately, the matter was put right immediately. He was only a temporary employé, but they took him back and found another job for him at once.
It is the same throughout the country. I have not received from the men themselves or from any hon. Member any complaint of men not being re-employed immediately. I think the House may rest assured that those who undertake the obligation to serve in the "A" Reserve, who are called up—they have been only twice called up in the history of the Reserve, and they may never be called upon to fulfil the obligation, and they are to be paid 6d. per day while they are fulfilling this duty—are given extremely friendly, I will not say preferential, treatment when they return because all employers and municipalities are most anxious that they should not suffer for having done this duty. I hope that the Bill will enable us to bring up the "A" Reserve to a little greater strength than it is at the moment, realising that an emergency such as that which occurred last year may occur again, and that it has an important part to fulfil in our defences.
§ Mr. Duncan
What is the strength to which the right hon. Gentleman wants to bring up the "A" Reserve?
§ Mr. Cooper
I should like to see its strength doubled. There is a statutory limit of 6,000 under the Reserve Forces Act, 1907, and we should like to bring it up to that limit. It is not proposed to increase the establishment of 6,000.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Although the right hon. Gentleman has given the House a lucid explanation of the provision of the Measure, there are several matters which call for further explanation. It is quite clear from what he has said that the main purpose of the Measure is to increase the size of the forces. He spoke of the number of men who were liable for service under the original Act, and he has now said that he wants to double the numbers of those who are so liable. Therefore, the main purpose is to increase the number of men who will be liable for service. The first thing I want to say is that if the War Office have any plans to submit to the House and the country in relation to military organisation, they should 247 do so, but not in this piecemeal fashion. This matter is closely related not merely to events in Palestine but to the general world situation and the armament policy of the Government. This is not an appropriate occasion to discuss that matter, but we are entitled to express an opinion as to the means employed by the War Office to bring the Service under the control of the right hon. Gentleman up to strength. I suggest that the War Office should make up its mind as to what it wants.
There is a dual policy operating. Men are required for police purposes in places like the North-West frontier of India, and men are being trained for the purposes of a major war. What is it that the War Office desire? Do they want an Army for one purpose or for the other, or for both, and is the training of the men to be determined by one category of service or by the other? Obviously there must be a difference in the training of men for police purposes and for a modern major war. The House has some ground of complaint as to the piecemeal methods employed by the War Office. The right hon. Gentleman has made several speeches on the question of recruiting and it has been suggested, even in some military circles, that he himself is the greatest obstacle to recruiting. I do not share that view—that prejudiced opinion. There are disgruntled men in the Service who are on half-pay and who, no doubt have a bone to pick with the right hon. Gentleman. They have their grievances against the War Office, but on the major question as to what is to be the military policy of the War Office the House is left in the dark. Instead of coming forward with a Measure of this kind, it would have been more appropriate if the right hon. Gentleman had submitted a plan which the House could discuss. I agree that this is not the time to discuss the general proposition, but I hope he will be able to express an opinion.
There are several minor matters relating to this Measure upon which I should like the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman. To begin with, in the original Act, which is not amended by the present Measure, the liability is conditioned by personal agreement. If the men agree to serve they may be called upon to do so; but if they refuse to agree, the liability disappears. I understand that is the position.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The first question I want to ask is, what is the inducement offered to these men to agree? The right hon. Gentleman says it is 6d. a day. I say, without any hesitation or qualification, speaking for this party, irrespective of our views on armaments or the military policy and foreign policy of the Government, that 6d. a day is not a proper inducement for the men. It is not in any sense the right kind of remuneration, having regard to the liability they are called upon to undertake. I say, further, that as regards all the lower ranks the rate of pay is insufficient. Certainly in this case we cannot regard 6d. a day as a proper inducement. I do not know how many men the right hon. Gentleman will obtain but in our judgment that is not enough. There is something rather more important. We have heard something from the right hon. Gentleman of the situation which arose in Palestine. Many men returned to this country without employment, although it is true that many of the men were unemployed before they left for Palestine. They still remain in that position. Men who are reservists and are unemployed, and who are under this liability, if they agree to serve receive 6d. per day; and this is taken into consideration by the Unemployment Assistance Board in assessing the amount of allowance they shall receive. In other words, reservists called upon to undertake this extended liability, which, by the way, means active service abroad, are subjected when unemployed to the tender mercies of the means test.
I submit that men who are called upon to undertake a liability of this kind, including active service abroad with all its burden and responsibilities, ought not to be subjected to such an inquisition, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give that matter his consideration. Much will depend, as far as our decision is concerned, on what the right hon. Gentleman has to say in reply to that question. The right hon. Gentleman has told us what happened to the Palestine reservists. What is to happen to "A" reservists under this extended liability? If they are sent on active service and return what guarantee is there that they will return to their previous employment, if they had any? There is no guarantee that the War Office will make an effort to provide employment for them. We cannot play 249 fast-and-loose with men who are rendering a national service. I do not put national service of this kind higher than national service in the industrial field, but, nevertheless, it is important in the eyes of the right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Members opposite, and in these circumstances we are entitled to ask what assurances there are that these men are to be properly treated when they return from active service.
This is not an occasion to discuss the major questions which arise out of War Office policy; that will come at a later stage, but may I observe that I had a period of service at the War Office in a role previously filled by the right hon. Gentleman himself, and in a very intensive experience of 12 months I learnt a great deal about War Office conditions. In my judgment it requires reorganising from top to bottom.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I entirely agree, and I will respect your ruling and therefore will not say what I was going to say, but I feel it is right that the right hon. Gentleman and the War Office should know what some of us think about the machinery at the War Office. I make no attack on the personnel of the Army Council—
§ Mr. Shinwell
In that case I will make no criticism whatever at this stage. Meantime, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the points I have put before him. At first sight it would appear that there is nothing in the Measure at all, but there are these minor though very important points from the standpoint of these reservists which fall to be dealt with, and of these matters we require some further explanation.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton
I agree to some extent with the earlier part of the speech of the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), though naturally I take an entirely different point of view from his. No doubt this Bill is introduced because of the attention focussed on the subject by 250 recent events in Palestine. As you, Sir, have just pointed out in regard to the hon. Gentleman's speech, we are not entitled to discuss the whole question of recruiting, but I must make this observation, that if it had not been for the appalling state of recruitment in which we find ourselves, the calling up of the "A" class reservists in the Palestine troubles would not have been necessary, and had it not been for that calling up, the position would not have been drawn to the attention of this House and of the War Office. Therefore, I must make this criticism of the Bill, though I support it. What we want to discuss in this House, and what we cannot now discuss, is the policy of recruitment for the Army as a whole, and not merely the question of the reservists. The two questions are inextricably intermingled, and I cannot understand the long delay on the part of the Government in making announcements which we know are eventually going to be made. Meanwhile the situation is a very grave one, and there is no harm in calling attention to this fact, that had the Army been in possession of the necessary personnel at the time, there would not have been any necessity to call up the reservists to deal with the troubles in Palestine. The effect of so doing was to do damage to our prestige in the Near East, for it naturally made people say, "Such is the state of the British Army that they have to call up their reservists." I, therefore, support the Bill, but perhaps I may have my right hon. Friend's attention when I say that, as an old Member of this party, I earnestly ask the Government at the earliest possible moment to bring in their Bill to deal not only with the Reserves, but with the whole question of recruitment for the Army, and to try to do away with the grievous situation which now exists.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Seely
I, also, agree with what has been said, as one who supports this Bill, not because it has been asked for as a necessity because of what happened in Palestine, but because we feel dissatisfied as to why this necessity should arise. It must cause a great deal of feeling, and it is not all right with the recruitment when you have to keep on bringing the forces up to strength. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) seemed to me to be like Bernard Shaw in one of his plays, 251 where he says that the British soldier can stand up to anything except the British War Office. Although this is not the moment for us to criticise the War Office, yet I think that everyone must feel that this Measure is a very small one indeed for dealing with a very big subject. If one looks back to the Debate which took place in 1898, one sees that this Measure was then criticised, because it was said that it would be a complete failure from the Army point of view. I do not think it was a failure—it was a success—but undoubtedly nowadays it has become a failure, and in order to get up the numbers, though not to increase the Army, as the hon. Member for Seaham seemed to think it was an attempt to do, they have had to take in some way rather a niggling point in dealing with a very big question.
There was one point dealt with by the hon. Member for Seaham, and that was as to the reason why the present system has failed and whether it does not lead to the question of the means test and the difficulties about this 6d. a day. It is no good merely thinking that it is because people do not like the Army. There may quite easily be something which is in their life outside being in the Army and which affects them to such a degree that they do not want to continue in the Reserve. There is no doubt that we ought to have more information as to how this 6d. a day does affect people who are on the means test, because it is a very live question to-day and was certainly not one when this Measure was first introduced in 1898, nor again in 1907. Other questions were asked as to the future. We were told that the Reserve numbers 2,900 now and that the Secretary of State hopes to get up to the full strength. I hope he does, but one does feel that he might have dealt a little more fully with the difficulties, as to why this has not brought us up to the strength needed, not merely by extending and thinking that that is going to produce it, because you get rather more people into the scheme. As the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said, so do we here, that we think the whole question of recruiting, as soon as it is gone into carefully, needs revision, and the sooner the promised reforms can be produced the better it will be for the efficiency of the Army and for really dealing with the matter and not raising it on this single, rather small, point.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Captain Macnamara
I rise to support this Bill, because I realise that it is a matter of urgency, and I do not agree with the hon. Member opposite that it is necessarily piecemeal legislation. The Minister for War is going to deal with the Army Estimates very soon, and I do not think we can expect him to anticipate now what he is going to say then on the whole question of recruiting. We know that he is going to bring in certain reforms—at least, we all hope so—and I do not think we can expect him to anticipate them now. At the same time, I agree that it is absolutely necessary, owing to what was revealed by the urgency of the Palestine operations, to increase the Army Reserve, and I shall support this Bill. I would like to point out to the hon. Member opposite, on the question of the amount of 6d. a day, that this is a voluntary Reserve. The amount is only 6d. a day, it is true, but no man is compelled to extend his service in this Reserve unless he wants to. It is purely voluntary. Secondly, I would point out that that 6d. will bring in roughly about £9 10s. a year, which is two or three times the amount of the Territorial bounty. If you look back over the last 30 years or so and see the number of times on which the Army reservists have been called out, and compare it with the number of times on which the Territorials have been called out, you will see that the extra payment for the Army reservists is in about the right proportion to the amount that the Territorials are getting in their bounty; and both are absolutely voluntary, so that I do not think the money factor in this case is out of proportion.
I think, however, that the Minister would be very wise, if he could do so, to look into the question of the reservists coming back from their service when they are called up, as they were in the Palestine affair recently. I think that above all what is necessary is a period of full pay for about two months, or in any event six weeks, after they have been demobilised. For instance, the men brought back from Palestine should have been kept on full Army pay with Army rations for that period.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does not the hon. and gallant Member realise that if they received full pay and were still unemployed, 253 that amount would be taken into account by the Unemployment Assistance Board?
§ Captain Macnamara
Yes, I do realise that, but I am trying to point out that what is required is that for about six weeks after they are demobilised they should be exceedingly well treated financially by the War Office, so as to give them a chance of taking their place again in civilian life. There is one other point that I would like to bring out. I think this Bill has shown us one serious lack in the question of our Reserve forces, and that is that we have no military police force in this country. It should not really be necessary for us to be asked for these powers under this Bill, but for the fact that we do in this country lack something that should take the place of these Reserves for which we are being asked. Every other country in the world—Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada even; it does not matter what country—has some form of military police force, and such a force could have been sent to Palestine to do the job there. I think we do need some form of military police force here.
§ Earl Winterton
Some of us were instrumental after the War in drawing up a scheme for some such a force, which would have been stationed in Egypt and which could doubtless have dealt with all the troubles in Palestine.
§ Captain Macnamara
I am glad to have my Noble Friend's support, but I think we need some form of carabinieri, or police force. I am going to make what is perhaps rather an odd suggestion. It is that we should have some form of extension of the Royal Marines, who would be able to take on just that kind of trouble in Palestine. If we had that, we should not need to have this Bill for the extension of the Reserve Forces, but in the emergency with which we are faced at the moment I shall support this Bill.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
Several speakers in this Debate have referred to the petty nature of this Bill, but it is exactly its very small nature that arouses my interest, and indeed my suspicion, and that has made me do a certain amount of study into a branch of political work that I have not previously done. I gathered from my study of it that every man who has served a period of time in the Army goes on to the Reserve and is liable to be 254 called up at any time during the period of his Reserve service, admittedly not for any or every purpose, but he is liable to be embodied for regular, day-to-day service if he is a member of the Reserve. That right to call them up is, I understand, in the discretion of Parliament, and the big distinction made between this lot of men and the general Reservists is that the War Office is claiming power and has the power to call up these men at any moment at which it desires them and for the full purposes to which a serving soldier may be put. I agree with the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) that there seems to be room for some investigation as to why the appropriate number of men would not engage on the one-year basis. The Minister now says that, because the men finishing their time would not take on the additional two years of responsibility, he will see whether he can get them to take on five years' responsibility.
I want to ask whether every man finishing his period with the Colours had the offer to re-engage in the Special Reserve. Was every man in every branch of the Service, when his period of Regular Service expired, asked whether he was prepared to continue in the Special Reserve? If so, was any investigation made as to why a very large proportion of them refused to have anything to do with it? I should have thought that the House might have been informed as to why men who had done five years in the Regular Army and who had no special prospects of a decent appointment in the ordinary civil life of the community, were so disinclined to take on one or two more years' responsibility, which was in fact, as the right hon. Gentleman explained, only a three months' commitment, since the men could always withdraw at any moment—and I understand can still withdraw at any moment—by giving a written intimation of three months' duration. Why is it that men who had done five years in the Regular Army wanted to get as far away from it as they could get and were not prepared to take on the additional limited responsibility for a period of three months?
I think the money aspect is certainly one of the considerations. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Captain Macnamara), who has more knowledge of these things than I have, thought that 6d. a day was adequate remuneration. I would like to have some information on 255 the point raised by the hon. Member for Seaham and by other hon. Members. I know of scores of cases where the reservist was a member of a family group that was submitted to the means test, but where he himself was the unemployed person, I should have imagined that, during the period of his first 12 months out of the Army, he would hive been on standard benefit, and would have been entitled to the whole of the standard benefit and his Reserve pay on top of it. At a later period his Reserve pay stops, and that seems to me to be a double menace. In any case 6d. a day, or £9 a year, seems to me to be a trivial offer to make to a man. I do not know what it costs to maintain an infantryman when he is in the Regular Army, but it must be somewhere in the neighbourhood of £100 a year when one considers that he has to be housed, fed and clothed. Here we have a cheap soldier who, for the first 12 months after he has left the Army, must be practically as efficient, for all effective purposes, as he was during the years of his service. The right hon. Gentleman wants to get for £9 a year what he got for £100 a year. He is trying to run the Army "on the cheap," and I think the remuneration should be substantially increased.
There is another point I wish to raise. I was glad to have the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that the majority of the men who were called up for service in Palestine have been reabsorbed into civil employment, but I gathered from his remarks that it was more by luck than by good guidance, more because of the general decency of the employers of the men concerned than because of any steps that were taken by the War Office to ensure that they should get back into their employment. To turn to the point I want to raise: What is the position of the men who went out there and became casualties? One of the men killed in Palestine was a native of my home town in Scotland, and until a week or two ago—it may have been changed since then—his parents, who were to a certain extent dependent upon him, had received no notice from the War Office of any gratuity, compensation or pension that would be paid to them, as would have been the case if the man had been engaged in a major war. I would like to ask the spokesman for the War Office whether, if 256 these men called up for active service meet with death or with serious injury, they and their dependants will be treated, in the matter of pensions, gratuities and allowances, in precisely the same way as were those who took part in the Great War.
I know a case, which I can only cite as an example, of a man in the Navy, who was called up from a voluntary Reserve for service in the Navy in the Palestine operations. He was a volunteer in the same sense as these men are volunteers. He left his civil employment and was taken on as a perfectly fit man, and he went out and did his 12 months' service. He came back a complete physical wreck, although in the beginning he had been passed as physically fit. The Admiralty have said that they can do nothing for him. They have sent him a letter telling him to get into touch with the local authority for treatment for tuberculosis. He has no job, he is without a penny of gratuity, he is without any hope of treatment at the expense of the Admiralty, and he is turned back on to the local services in the city of Glasgow. That is not the way to treat men if you want them to feel that they can confidently place their lives and services in the hands of the Departments of State dealing with national Defence.
I want an assurance that men volunteering in this way for an additional period in the Reserve Forces of the Crown will be treated with the same consideration, should anything happen to them, as would be given to them if they were in Regular Service and as was given to men who met death or injury in a war that was attracting more of the interest of the nation and in which larger numbers of people were involved. I agree with the remarks of other hon. Members who have said that this is an instalment plan for increasing the strength of the armed Forces of the Crown, and I agree that this is not the way to do it. We ought to hear in this House what is the whole scheme. What is the intention of the War Office with regard to recruitment? What is their intention with reference to the total available Fighting Forces? Let us have a complete proposition, and let us examine it in order to see whether it is a reasonable proposal or an unreasonable one. This Bill fails to give us any complete picture of what it is intended should be done.
257 There is one other minor point on which I would like to have an answer. Again I plead complete ignorance of the technical side of this matter, but I was struck by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman said, in his opening statement, that a large proportion of these men belong to the infantry of the line. I think that in the figures he gave he showed that all of the 3,000 men were infantry of the line except a mere hundred or two. Does he regard that as satisfactory? I had understood that army organisation called for infantry, artillery, and Army Medical Corps in proportion. It seems to me that it is all lopsided to have 2,000 or 3,000 infantrymen and not to have the other men who form the ancillary services without which the infantrymen cannot operate effectively.
Is the 6d. a day bribe or tip, or whatever it is, the same for all sections of the Army? Is the reservist's pay of 6d. the same for an artilleryman, a Royal Army Medical Corps man and an Army Ordnance man? Is it a flat rate or is there any attempt to make the pay in ratio to what was the pay of the man in the particular branch of the Service in which he was serving? Is the right hon. Gentleman endeavouring to see that the 6,000 additional soldiers for which he is asking the House to-day—[An HON. MEMBER: "Three thousand additional soldiers."] I do not think I am putting the matter unfairly when I say 6,000 additional soldiers, because the right hon. Gentleman is not getting his men regularly under the existing plan and the numbers seem to be diminishing. He is asking for a sure 6,000 instead of an indefinite figure which at this moment is under 3,000. When he asks for 6,000 men, is he taking any steps to see that those men come from different branches of the Service in appropriate proportions, or is it infantrymen alone that he is trying to get? Those are the points on which I wish to have an answer, particularly on the one relating to the right to a casualty pension or allowances for dependants and relatives in the event of injury in a war. I want answers to those questions before I can know whether I will support or oppose this Measure.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Duggan
I hope the House will forgive me if, for a moment or two, I discuss the provisions in the Bill itself rather than the general question of re- 258 cruiting in this country. Primarily this is a Bill the only purpose of which is to increase the number of people in the Reserve. How hon. Members regard the emolument of 6d. a day as not really so important as how the men themselves regard it. That we shall be able to tell in a year or so from the response which they make to this plan, and we shall then know whether or not 6d. a day is regarded by them as being an adequate attraction for staying on for an extra five years. It is true, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has said, that we are asking people who have already arranged to be on the Reserve for two years to extend that period by a further three years, but I do not see any reason why we should not allow those people who are willing to serve another three years, to do so, rather than to have some other scheme which would be either more expensive or possibly less purely voluntary in order to increase the numbers.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War ought to derive considerable encouragement from the fact that most of the criticisms against the Bill to-day have been that it is too small and does not go far enough. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), who spoke for the Labour party, criticised the Bill as being piecemeal. I can readily understand the embarrassment of a party which, as long as a year ago, was raising in the country the cry that we were out for conscription, and which now finds, at the end of a year, it is only faced with so mild a Measure, out of which it is not able to make any party capital. Others, not necessarily those holding Labour views, have criticised the Measure on the ground that it does not go far enough. If the Secretary of State is to draw the conclusion that he has hitherto not laid sufficient emphasis on the question of recruiting, then we hope that his efforts will be augmented, and that people will now be treated to a real recruiting campaign. It seems to me that before we spend money on any large scale or go in for any form of compulsion, we ought to do our best to exploit the resources which the country already possesses in willing service. We already have a number of men on the Reserve who are prepared to serve for the longer period. If we can, without any great additional expenditure, see to it that these people serve the longer period under purely 259 voluntary conditions and if they are satisfied—as will soon be shown by their response—with the emoluments paid to them, then it seems to me that this is a simple and indeed very small scheme and one to which the House should willingly agree.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
The Secretary of State said he thought the Bill would provoke no controversy and went on to state that the infantry of the line constituted the most important part of the Service. As an old artillery man I venture to doubt the accuracy of that statement, but I do not propose to discuss it, otherwise I might provoke considerable controversy.
§ Mr. Cooper
I stated that they were the most important part of the "A" Reserve, being the largest part. I do not wish to be committed to the other statement attributed to me by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Bellenger
In any case, I will not go into details on the matter, otherwise I might have a great deal to say. I do not know what hon. Members who support the Government think of the apologetic manner in which the Secretary of State introduced the Bill. If it is necessary to have a standing Army, surely it is also necessary to have adequate reserves for that Army. There does not seem to be any reason to apologise for this proposal and to say that the reservist can give three months' notice if he wants to repudiate his contract. It is essential that not only our reserves but also our main forces should be up to establishment and although it would be out of order to go into the question of strength to-day, I think we are entitled to refer to the subject in passing, when we are discussing this Measure. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Captain Macnamara) seemed to suggest that this was a matter of no urgency—that is, the general subject of recruiting—and rather implied that it could wait until the right hon. Gentleman had introduced his Estimates. I submit that it is a matter of grave urgency and that it is not only a question of providing a certain force for Palestine. Events in Central Europe must indicate to hon. Members that the whole question not only of the Reserve but of the main body of the Defence Forces is one 260 of great urgency, and I sincerely hope that at an early date the right hon. Gentleman will indicate his proposals for bringing the Army up to its proper establishment.
The point made by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) on the question of reservists' pay is a concrete illustration of the reason why the right hon. Gentleman has not been able to keep the Reserve Force up to strength. If 6,000 is the figure laid down in the original Act, why has the Reserve been considerably under strength during all this time? It ought not to have needed the Palestine trouble to draw attention to this state of things. The right hon. Gentleman himself mentioned that in 1927 there was trouble in China and that it was then indicated that we had not sufficient Reserves to provide the force necessary to protect British interests in China. I submit that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have raised this matter far earlier instead of leaving it until this late hour.
As regards this retaining fee of 6d. a day, do hon. Members really imagine that a man is going to prejudice his job, which he has probably had hard work in finding, and prejudice his chances in the future, for the sake of 3s. 6d. a week? This figure has remained stationary for a number of years. We have increased the rates of pay in civil life and even in the Army itself. Why, then, has this 6d. a day not been increased? Surely on the ground of the increased cost of living alone, it ought to have been raised. Further, the question of the reservists' meagre pittance being taken into account by local authorities or public assistance committees when considering relief is one which ought to occupy the right hon. Gentleman's attention. I believe there is considerable agreement among Government supporters with the view of hon. Members on this side regarding that question, and I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should take this factor into account and see whether we cannot effect some amelioration of the conditions under which reservists suffer when, unfortunately, they are compelled to apply for assistance. There is one point in the wording of the Bill to which I would call attention. Clause I providesThe liability to be called out … may if it is so agreed extend to the first five years,261 I suggest that there should be inserted the words "If so agreed by the reservist." I think that would better express the Government's intention. If the reservist agreed to extend the liability to the five years then this provision would come into operation. It may not be a large point but I think it would make for accuracy and clarity if those words were included. I, personally, and I think I can speak for all my colleagues on this side of the House, am in agreement with the general principle of the Bill. If it is considered necessary to have 6,000 reservists in case of emergency then we ought to have that number but I think we have submitted one or two substantial points on the Bill which are worthy of the right hon. Gentleman's attention.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Sir William Davison
Had this Bill been a Compulsory Service Bill or a Conscription Bill the Opposition could hardly have expressed more anxiety about it. The majority of the speeches this afternoon seemed to me to be wide of the proposals which are before the House. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) both described it as a Measure for increasing the strength of the Army on a side-issue. But the Bill does not increase the strength of the Army by even one man. All it does is to enable certain men who are already on the Reserve to say voluntarily that they will continue for a certain period under the liability to be called up without the assembling of Parliament.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that he proposed to increase the number of those so liable from 3,000 to 6,000.
§ Sir W. Davison
Even if the Bill dealt with 10,000 or 20,000 instead of 3,000, I maintain that it would not increase the strength of the Army. All these men are on the Reserve and are liable to be called out in a case of national emergency. All the Bill does is to enable them, voluntarily, to say that even if Parliament has not declared a state of national emergency they are prepared at the request of the Government, through the War Office, to 262 offer their services in what may be regarded as a minor emergency such as recently occurred in Palestine. To state that it is increasing the Army even to the smallest extent, on a side-issue, is inaccurate.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton and I think the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) said that 6d. a day was inadequate remuneration, but it is not remuneration. It is a bonus to any man who likes to respond to the offer, "We will give you this pocket money, or tip, or whatever you like to call it, of 6d. a day if you hold yourself ready, in case of a minor emergency to rejoin the colours." There is no compulsion about it.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I did refer to it as a retaining fee and not as pay, but I said that as a retaining fee it was not sufficient to make a man prejudice his future career.
§ Sir W. Davison
The word "remuneration" was used by the hon. Member for Bridgeton, and I think the hon. Member for Bassetlaw did correctly describe it as a retaining fee. But I am not much concerned about whether it is a retaining fee or remuneration. It is an offer by the Government to any man who cares to accept. Nobody need accept it unless he wishes to do so and when a man comes off his ordinary term of service he can give three months' notice to get out of the liability. The Secretary of State pointed out that only twice in a great many years had minor emergencies arisen. I think the right hon. Gentleman was right when he described it as a non-contentious Measure. Speeches from both sides have drawn attention to important matters in connection with recruiting and other subjects which have, I submit, nothing to do with the Bill. However I am not complaining of hon. Members jogging up the Secretary of State—indeed I am in favour of doing so.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton said this was an example of trying to run an Army on the cheap. The hon. Member must know that ours is the most expensive Army in the world. There is nothing to touch it. If conscription came and every one among all classes took his turn for a year, we could run it a great deal more cheaply and save money for social and other services. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. 263 Gentlemen opposite do not like that. It is not, however, the proposal in the Bill. It does not add one man to the strength of the Army. It is simply an enabling measure so that a soldier who goes on to the Reserve can say that he is prepared, if he is given 6d. a day, to be called up for any minor emergency apart from the liability to be called up for a national emergency. The Opposition have no grounds for opposing the Measure unless they do not want any Army Reserve at all.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald
I am very pleased with the modest tone of the Bill. I had been led to expect from the speeches of the Secretary of State for War that when he brought in a Bill to deal with the Defence Forces it would be of a drastic character. I am glad to find that things are so satisfactory in the Army that the Secretary of State is able to bring in this Measure. I hope that he will bring in no bigger Bill than this, and I compliment him on the modest character of it. The hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) must realise that the 6d. is given as an incentive, and if it is proved to be ineffective there can be nothing wrong in suggesting that the Secretary of State might consider increasing it. I have a number of friends on the Reserve and they approach me occasionally as to their position with regard to the means test. I agree that there may not be a great number, but the Secretary of State will fail in this endeavour to increase the Reserve unless he deals with those cases. As he asks for an extension to five years the number of reservists on the means test must increase.
The case has been brought to my notice of a man who lived in Wigan, where no deduction was made from his unemployment allowance in respect of his Reserve pay. He removed from Wigan to my division, which is governed from Preston for purposes of unemployment assistance. The whole of his Reserve pay was then deducted, and for two weeks following the receipt of his pay he received nothing from public assistance. The Secretary of State must realise that that kind of case will not help him. That man will circulate his case throughout the Wigan district and those who would otherwise probably 264 go on the Reserve will not do so because of the treatment that he is getting. The Secretary of State may experience some legal difficulty owing to the drafting of the legislation dealing with unemployment benefit, but I want him to look at the question of the reservists from that point of view. I want him to do it in order to further the intentions that he himself has in introducing this Bill.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Sanders
The suggestions and criticisms made from this side of the House are made with the desire to help the Secretary of State in the undertaking he has in hand. The first criticism that has been made will have to be met if the numbers required by the Secretary of State are to be secured. It has been said that this is not a Bill to increase the strength of the Army. It is, and it is not. This Reserve is not allowed to be counted as a part of the strength of the Army, and yet that strength is increased potentially by the number in the Reserve. The question that will occur to any of the doubtful men who have not yet gone on the Reserve when they read the new circular is, "What new inducement is offered to us to join this Reserve?" As far as I can see, the only inducement is that they will be allowed to join for five years instead of two, but that only means that they have to add to their liability three years to the two which they have already undertaken. As one who has had a little to do with the War Office, I suggest that what is required to get men to join the Army as regulars or as reservists is some concrete material inducement in the form of increased pay or privileges. Sixpence per day was paid before the War. It is, therefore, at present worth only about 4d. as compared with the pay before the War. Would it not be worth while for the Secretary of State to consider getting the Treasury to allow him to offer a larger retaining fee?
The other point that has been pressed from this side is one that I want to press also, because it becomes more and more important. It is the question of the means test in regard to all kinds of emoluments received by men who have seen war service or have been in the Army. There are many instances in my constituency of men who, rightly or wrongly—and very often rightly—think they have been badly treated after the service in the 265 Army and during the War by the way in which they are served owing to the means test when they come before public assistance committees and other bodies which have to administer relief. It is a serious grievance and it operates not only against any attempt to increase this Reserve, but against recruiting generally. I therefore urge the Minister to induce the authorities, either by legislation or by circular, to give more generous treatment to these men when they are unemployed and have to go before the public assistance committees.
When a reservist is out of work and part of his 3s. 6d. a week is taken into consideration when he applies for relief, the total amount that he gets is not sufficient to keep him fit for the job he will have to do if he is called up as a reservist. It is obvious from what we have learned from food experts, some of whom are employed by the Government, that the sums allowed in the circumstances I have mentioned are not sufficient to keep a man in physical efficiency. No matter how much exercise a man may be given, unless he has a proper amount of food, which necessitates a proper amount of money with which to buy it, we shall not have efficient men when the unemployed reservists are called up. From the point of view of the men themselves, and from the point of view of the War Office, I urge that the attention of the War Office and the Treasury should be given to that question.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
I hope that what I am going to say will not be treated as too acrimonious by hon. Members. I have listened to almost the whole of this Debate, although I did not have the privilege of hearing the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I cannot claim to be an authority on the technical aspects of this matter, and I shall make very little reference to them. There are only two ways in which we can acquire an Army or a Reserve. One is by conscription and the other by voluntary methods. If we adopt voluntary methods we must offer inducements to people to join the Reserves voluntarily. If the inducements are not high enough to enable us to get the numbers required, we must increase the inducements. I am sure that the Government require no prompting from this side of the House to increase the inducements if they are not high enough.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and, 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Bevan
The inducements to hon. Members are obviously enough to bring in a quorum, although the inducements are not perhaps quite as prominent as the penalties that might be imposed. We must trust the Government to increase the inducements if they are not large enough to obtain the necessary number of men, and therefore I shall not spend any time on imploring them to make them higher. It can be left to them to do it in their own good time.
In passing, I entirely agree that it is most unjust to take into account the reservist's pay, 6d. a day, in assessing the income under the family means test, but I do that on the ground that the means test as a whole is unjust. I must not by my silence—and that is why I rose—have it assumed that I believe the inducements offered to reservists should take the form of creating them into a priviliged class of citizens. If the Government want to increase the numbers in the "A" Reserve they should do it by increasing what has been described by some as pocket money, by others as remuneration and by still others as a retaining fee, but I object to the reservists' pay being treated in any sense differently from the way in which other income is treated in the case of other recipients of unemployment assistance. I deplore the fact that some of my hon. Friends have seen fit to ask that this pay should be exempted from assessment on the ground that it would induce more men to join the "A" Reserve.
I should have sympathised with the case, and should not have risen, had they based their objections to the proposal on the ground that the means test itself is iniquitous, and that this would eat into it to some extent, but on the grounds advanced I cannot agree with them. To my mind it is utterly inequitable that the 6d. a day granted to reservists should be exempted from assessment under the means test and a blind pension or workmen's compensation payment be taken into account. It is absolutely deplorable to create in this matter a favoured class of citizens, to treat this form of income as different from any other form of income. It is perfectly improper to treat it as being of the same rank as a pension, 267 because a pension is compensation for something which has been lost and is supposed to some extent to bring the recipient's earning powers to what they would have been had he not received the injury. The same thing is true of workmen's compensation payments; but here is a net amount of money which is not paid for any physical injury and is not compensation in any form. It is net income, and if we are to have a means test it should rank as income in the same way as any other form of income, although I must again guard myself in this matter—I am by no means certain that this ought to be taken into account, because I hold the view that the means test as a whole ought to be abolished, but I cannot agree that there are exceptional grounds for excluding this payment from assessment.
Towards the end of his speech the right hon. Gentleman said that many, or almost all, of the reservists who went to Palestine and were in jobs before they were recalled to the Colours had returned to those jobs, and that a number who were not in jobs when called up had since found jobs. He instanced a man who was in temporary municipal employment, and said that although the occasion of that temporary employment had lapsed, by his own statement to the local authority they had found work for the man. To that, again, I must take exception. As a trade union official I had a lot of experience in dealing with preferential employment given to ex-service men immediately after the War, and I know of no preferential consideration which caused greater difficulties in the workshops and mines. I cannot agree that an "A" reservist can have any claim to have employment over and above any other person. Such reservists must take their place at the Employment Exchanges with other citizens, but I, and, I am sure, my hon. Friends on this side of the House, would not have it said abroad that we hold the view that a man who joins the "A" Reserve has per se a greater title to employment than any other unemployed person. If we take up that position we shall find that our trade union colleagues will be in great difficulties in many parts of the country. If that reservist had happened to be in the employ of one of the local authorities in my constituency and had been in temporary employment, his 268 case would have upset all our most intricate arrangements for distributing employment fairly among unemployed persons—if he had been given exceptional treatment.
If a reservist is in employment when he is called up it is manifestly unjust that he should not return to that employment when he comes back to civil life. That is perfectly fair. He should be treated in a perfectly just manner, and an employer would be open to the gravest reproach if he victimised him by not giving him employment upon his return; but as a trade union member I cannot subscribe to the principle that because a man is a member of the "A" Reserve he should be given preferential treatment over and above the rest of the unemployed. The Bill is a comparatively small Measure. I did not think any more ambitious Measure would be brought forward now. I do not suppose that we shall find ambitious Measures put forward in connection with the Army. Most of the effort will be concentrated on the other two branches of the Defence Forces. But I do not think we on this side need have any apprehension at all. If you do not coerce men you have to buy them, and if the amount given is not at present sufficient we can rely on the enthusiasm of hon. Members in other parts of the House to increase the inducement.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
When the Army is being discussed I am always deeply interested, and I am more interested this afternoon when we are discussing the Reserve and the fact that the Minister, with all the resources of a great Department at his disposal, cannot get 6,000 reservists. I admit that much could be said about the small consideration that is given to those men, this 6d. a day, and much about the operation of the means test, but, after all, those are side issues and not the real thing. The Minister and this House will not, however, face the real question. I know a whole lot of reservists, fine fellows—[Interruption]. Yes, I know a lot who are Socialists, but while the more respectable Socialists on this side of the House would immediately repudiate any suggestion of having any relationship with any representative of my party, the pundits of the War Office and their fossilised agents in different parts of the country classify them all as "Reds" I would remind the Minister that there has been 269 a big change in the world since 1914, and an extraordinary change in the minds of the people of this country. Millions of men and women are taking an interest in politics to-day who never did so before, and every reservist when he returns to civil life becomes associated with politics of one brand or another. He may get into the British Legion. In some places the British Legion is in the unfortunate position of being dominated by Tories, but in many parts of the country the British Legion is continually discussing progressive politics. He may get associated with co-operative guilds, with trade unions and with the Labour party. He may take part in all shades of politics.
There are in every area—I know it—those associated with the military machine who have got whole numbers of reservists classified under the general heading of "Reds" We had the incident which was related by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), when he was dealing with the men discharged from the dockyards and the letter sent out by the Employers' Federation giving their names to all employers. We have the same sort of thing within the Army—that reservists, because of the fact that they are participating in a certain measure of political activity, are all marked. While that process is going on I do not care what inducement is offered. You can increase the 6d. a day or you can give them privileged treatment and remove the operation of the means test in their cases, but while you have in the War Office the spirit which you have just now, you will not get your 6,000 reservists. The Secretary of State knows that, because the general impression is being created by the Minister and by the Department that these reservists, like the main body of the Army, are wanted not for the defence or care of the people of this country in general but for the defence of certain capital interests in the country. The speeches made by the Minister have shown that there is that tendency and they have had the effect of holding back instead of helping recruits.
I ask the Minister to deny, if he can, that the War Office, and the subordinates of the War Office throughout the country, have got large numbers of men classified as "Reds" and who will be kept out if they try to get in. I know many who have tried at different times to make approaches but they are shut off, and so 270 I want the Minister to state clearly what these reservists are for, and whether they are a class force, as suggested by the Member who spoke from the Front Bench—that instead of these Reservist Forces there should be a military police. The distinguishing feature of a military police is that it can be used at home against the people, as well as abroad. That spirit and that tendency are exhibiting themselves everywhere. While you are trying to build up a class Army, not for the defence of the people but for the defence of capitalism, you will not get your reservists or your recruits for the Army in general. I ask the Minister to state whether it is not the case that those men are kept off the voluntary reserve because of their political opinions.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Sir Victor Warrender)
If it had not been for some years of enforced listening to Debates, and for the experience I have gained, I should rind it difficult to believe that a small Bill of this kind could produce such a varied Debate as has been the case this afternoon. One thing which I have learned since I have been in the House of Commons is that it is the unexpected which always happens. Much of the discussion this afternoon might have been curtailed if hon. Members had been a little more intimately aware of what is proposed to be done by the Bill. I may be able to answer many of the points which have been made in a few short sentences. In the first place, hon. Gentlemen are quite mistaken in thinking, as did the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), that the Bill increases the number of the armed Forces of the Crown. It does nothing of the kind. If hon. Members will look at the Estimates for this year, they will find that the maximum numbers of the Army Reserve for this year are shown as 121,200 men. Section "A" is but a part of that Reserve, and whether you put 3,000 men or 6,000 men into it does not in the least alter the total of the whole Reserve. I saw a little conversation going on upon the Front Opposition Bench, but hon. Members apparently came to the conclusion, from what I could see, that the Government's arithmetic was as reliable as theirs.
§ Sir V. Warrender
That is the whole point of the Bill. We realised from our experience in Palestine, that the figure of 3,000 to which we had been working, was not sufficient. If, for instance, another emergency had broken out in any part of the world where we had interests and responsibilities, we should have had no Section "A" Reserve with which to meet it. It must not be forgotten that if, next week, or in a short space of time, another set of circumstances similar to that which occurred in Palestine were to arise, and we had to call up the Reserves, we should have to make a call on the men who went last time. Apart from the question of the numbers being adequate it would, to my mind, and I think hon. Members will agree, be a definite hardship on the men, who, having done their duty and returned to their homes, had to turn out a second time, because of the shortage of Reserves, for a second term of duty. The underlying purpose of the Bill is to improve the machinery which exists and to avoid having to crack nuts with sledgehammers. We have plenty of men on the Reserves, but we have not sufficient for minor emergencies without causing a very great deal of dislocation.
§ Sir V. Warrender
All the infantry Reserves were. The chief criticism of the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) was that he did not like the piecemeal fashion in which my right hon. Friend was altering the disposition of the Forces at the disposal of the Government. He thought that the method of dealing with it by a small Bill of this kind was—I will not say an underhand way, but more or less a concealed way, and that it was an improper way of proceeding. I think he will see, on reflection, that this is our only course. This matter cannot be dealt with either in the Army Annual Act or in the Estimates, because it requires special legislation.
§ Mr. Shinwell
My point was that, as the disposition and strength of the military Forces were in the process of reorganisation, in order to be adapted to modern circumstances, the whole plan of the Government should be put to the 272 House of Commons instead of a Bill of this kind.
§ Sir V. Warrender
No further legislation will be required. This is a small Bill so that the Government can have at their disposal a larger number of Reserves, who can be called up immediately, without legislation or Proclamations. Another point that has been made is that, if recruiting had been better, we should have had no need to bring in this Bill. That is not a very sound argument, because the falling off in the figures for recruiting will not be felt, so far as the Reserves are concerned, for some years to come, nor indeed will any immediate increase in recruiting. The men who are leaving the Army to-day and going on Reserve, so far as the infantry are concerned, were recruited seven years ago.
While I am on the subject of recruiting, the House might be interested to know that the figures for January have proved to be very much more satisfactory than anybody expected they would be. In the Territorial Army there has been an increase of 150 per cent. Over the figures for the same month last year, the largest there has been so far, and, for the first time for many years, this January has produced an increase of 13 per cent. in the figures for the Regular Army. Hon. Members will be reassured and satisfied that there is definitely a very substantial turn in the upward direction in recruiting during the present year.
§ Sir V. Warrender
I have not them here at the moment. The other point which I would like to make clear is that it has been suggested that we are having great difficulty in getting men to join Section "A" of the Army Reserves and that the rate of pay offered is insufficient. The rate of pay for the ordinary Reserve is 1s. per day. A man on Section "A" Reserve gets an additional 6d a day or, in other words, 50 per cent. more than his late comrade who is on the ordinary Reserve but not in Section "A" That 50 per cent. is a very substantial increase. [Interrup- 273 tion.] If hon. Members feel that it is not sufficient, this is not the moment to discuss rates of pay. They will have ample opportunity when the Estimates come along. Hon. Members will be deceiving themselves if they think that it is because of such reasons that we have only 3,000 men in this section of the Reserve at the present time.
The reason we require legislation is to alter the terms under which men can serve in this section of the Reserve. A good many men complete their two years on Section A, and would like to re-engage, but, under the law, they are not allowed to do that. Those men will all be available to us if the Bill is passed. There is a certain number of men who go into the Reserve and do not sign on in Section A, but who subsequently feel that they would like to do so. Under the present law they can only do so during the first two years of Reserve service. We are extending the period and we shall get those men too. We are very substantially widening the field of recruitment, and, according to the response we get, we shall make regulations, and either lengthen or curtail the period, according to the total Reserve service—five years or whatever period it may be.
One or two questions were asked by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), whose chief point was as to the treatment meted out to men who were unlucky enough to be wounded and to the dependants of those who were killed in the Palestine emergency. Naturally, those men were subject to exactly the same Regulations as other men serving in the Regular Army, and who got killed, maimed or wounded in the service of the Crown. I can definitely give the hon. Member the assurance for which he asks me, that they are being treated in exactly the same way. He then asked me about the proportion of the infantry in the Reserves, because it struck him as being very large. The reason we require more infantry in Section A is that the infantry are far less up to strength at the present time than other corps in the Regular Army. We can, of course, spread the personnel in Section A to suit our needs, and if and when the strength of the infantry in the Regular Army improves we may find it unnecessary to have such a large force of infantry. That is a matter entirely to suit our own needs and requirements. Those are the 274 points which have been put by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and now that I have—
§ Sir V. Warrender
As regards the means test, the position is that we now have an agreement with the Unemployment Assistance Board. It has been in force for some time. Where reservists are employed, and members of a family in which, perhaps, the father is unemployed, the reserve pay of the Reservist is not taken into account. If the reservist is himself unemployed, and a member of a family, in assessing his needs, 50 per cent. of his Reserve pay is not taken into account.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Has the decision of the Unemployment Assistance Board arising from that agreement been recorded in any Regulation issued by the board?
§ Sir V. Warrender
I hope hon. Members will excuse me if I do not answer in detail, but those are not matters which concern the War Office. I know the question only as it affects men for whom we are responsible.
§ Sir V. Warrender
Broadly speaking, where the reservist is himself the head of the family and is not unemployed—
§ Sir V. Warrender
When he is on the means test he would be unemployed, and in that case I imagine that 50 per cent. of his reserve pay would be taken into consideration. These, however, are really not War Office subjects, and the Bill does not deal with them, so that hon. Members can hardly expect me to be primed to the full with all the information that they require. I can only hope in the meantime that they will settle their differences on their own Benches, because, as I understood the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), he semed to take quite a different point of view on this subject from those who spoke more officially. I have endeavoured to answer all the points which have been made by hon. Members, and would ask them now to give us the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Thursday.—[Sir H. Morris-Jones.]