Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceed-£100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge Which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940, for expenditure not provided for in the Army Estimates for the year:—
|—||Sums not exceeding|
|2. Territorial Army and Reserve Forces.||100||—"|
§ The Chairman
I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that there are three Supplementary Estimates on the Order Paper—the Army, Air and Navy respectively. There is a full explanation of the Army Estimate, and in the case of the other two, the explanation is given by reference to the Army Estimate, merely with the addition of certain details in respect of flying personnel. I think the Committee will probably consider that it would be convenient that all these three Supplementary Estimates should be allowed to be discussed on the Army Estimate. That, of course, can be done only with the general consent of the Committee, and if no objection is raised, I shall take it that is the wish of the Committee.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ The Secretary Of State for War (Mr. Hore-Belisha)
The principle of compulsory military service having been settled, we now come to a consideration of great human interest—the pay and allowances which should be provided for the men who will serve. We are here in a new field in which we have had no previous experience. The only relevant standard of measurement is the code of emoluments 1440 which has been established for the Regular soldier. In determining what is appropriate in the case of the militiaman, it is possible to take one of three points of view. You can say that he should receive more than the Regular soldier, you can say that he should receive the same as the Regular soldier, or that he should receive less than the Regular soldier. To give him more would be to do a patent injustice to the man who has adopted the Army as a profession, who has given up many of the securities and advantages of civilian life, who may be sent to any part of the world at any time, and who is frequently subjected to danger even in times of peace. To give the militiaman the same as the Regular soldier would be to leave out of account not only the more extensive liabilities of the Regular soldier, but also to leave out of account all the safeguards with which we have surrounded the brief period of continuous service of the militiaman in order to keep open his employment, and otherwise to preserve, as well as may be, unimpaired his civilian interests. There remains only the third alternative—and it would seem in the circumstances to be the natural one—and that is to adopt the policy which His Majesty's Government is pursuing.
This leads to an appraisal of what the Regular soldier receives on enlistment over and above his food, clothing and accommodation, and his health and unemployment insurance contributions, all of which are provided without charge. He has a kit allowance for the upkeep of his outfit and the requirements of his personal toilet. His pay is 2s. a day and is at his own disposal, except that he meets his own quota of 5½d. a week under the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, and may have to make some small contribution towards his sport and other regimental liabilities. It will be seen that if the militiaman is given is. 6d. per day, as is now proposed, he will not be invidiously placed in comparison with the Regular recruit, and this is particularly the case since the State will meet, in his case, his widows', orphans' and old age contributory pensions insurance quota under the Act and make arrangements to provide, on his behalf, such incidental expenses as I have already mentioned, which the Regular soldier finds out of his pay. There may, however, be certain financial obligations falling on the militiaman which we are anxious, in 1441 supplementation of his pay, to help him to discharge. The Regular soldier has hitherto received no allowance for his dependants, apart from the provision which has been made of 17s. a week for his wife, when he reaches the age of 26, conditionally on his making to her an allotment of not less than 7s. a week, and for his children.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
Yes, Sir. Five shillings for the first child, three shillings for the second, and so on, down the scale. The result of giving these allowances only at the age of 26 has been, broadly, that only single men under this age joined the Army. The militiaman, on the other hand, is to be called up regardless of whether he be married or not. We have considered it only just, therefore, to give him, in the event of his being married, a family allowance for his wife at the Regular rate of 17s. with appropriate rates for children, subject to his supplementing these by an allotment of 3s. 6d. a week. The soldier has to supplement it by not less than 7s. a week. This arrangement involves, as a matter of equity, the reduction to 20 of the qualifying age for family allowances in the Regular Army, and what I am saying applies throughout the other Services.
When we come to the question of dependants other than wives and children, we propose to make provision within certain categories for allowances for a militiaman, who, for a period of not less than six months before being called up, has made a net effective contribution of not less than 3s. 6d. a week provided he allots that amount from his pay and that the withdrawal of his contribution has affected appreciably the economy of the household. The allowances, including the militiaman's allotment, will be at the rate of 7s., 12s or 17s. a week, according to the circumstances. We are at the moment working out detailed arrangements for appraising the household conditions which will qualify for allowances. We are anxious to give as generous treatment as we properly can, but the question is novel, complicated and full of difficulties, and the Government do not wish to prejudice the position by a premature announcement of details. I should, however, welcome views from all quarters of 1442 the Committee which we can consider before the final settlement of the particulars is approved.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us exactly what is meant by these amounts of 7s., 12s. and 17s.? Is it intended that there are to be no intervening amounts, according to the circumstances?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
Within certain ranges we shall take those amounts. We shall not knock off an odd shilling or two, or add an odd shilling or two. We shall take a broad conception of it. As I have said, no such arrangements have hitherto been made for the Regular soldier, and they are not appropriate in his case. His service is not a brief interlude of six months during which he is taken away from his normal avocation. His general arrangements are related to his choice of career and his emoluments progress throughout his service. Nevertheless, the Government are anxious to apply to him also the spirit of any concessions that may be given to the militiaman. The Committee will recall that we have in this spirit, lowered the age of family allowances for the Regulars to correspond with that for the militiamen. We propose now to institute a system under which the Regular personnel may receive assistance in cases where hardship may occur, by reason particularly of a change of circumstances. The kind of situation we have in mind is where the father of a soldier may die, leaving the mother or children in such need as might call for help beyond that which the soldier himself can give. This new source of help and the knowledge that it exists, will serve, in those sudden and unforeseen contingencies of distress which may confront us all, to promote some ease of mind.
§ The Chairman
For the sake of the future of this Debate I ought to point out that these concessions to the Regular Army do not come under this Supple mentary Vote. I make no complaint of what the right hon. Gentleman has said so far. It is perfectly in order when he is dealing with the question of the consideration of remuneration and the allowances of the Militia that he should mention these matters, by way of reference or comparison, but I must draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that they cannot be debated on this occasion.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I anticipated that Ruling, Sir Dennis, and I did not intend to go into the matter deeply. The only possible standard against which we can compare what we are doing with the militiaman, is the Regular Army, and I use it to illustrate to the Committee what the soldier's position would be compared with that of the militiaman. It remains only to consider the subsequent period of service when the militiaman passes either into the Territorial Army or into the Reserve. It has been customary, as the Committee knows, in the Territorial Army, over and above pay in camp, to give certain sums for drills and other duties designed to secure proficiency. After 1st January next, men will be passing from the Militia into the Territorial Army and they will have reached a high degree of proficiency. Indeed, they will, we hope, raise the whole standard of preparedness of the Territorial Army.
Nevertheless, it is desired to continue to give some recognition, over and above pay in camp, to all proficient Territorial soldiers. Accordingly the Committee will see from the explanation attached to the Estimate, that the present arrangement will be kept in force until 1st January next and will apply throughout their engagements to all who join or who have joined the Territorial Army before that date, and that after that date a uniform grant of £3 for each completed year of service will be awarded to all Territorials, above the pay appropriate to their trade or rank, which they receive in camp, provided they comply with all the requirements. The militiamen passing into the Reserve will receive a similar sum provided that the conditions appropriate to their case are fulfilled.
The arrangements which the Government have felt called upon to make in consequence of the Military Training Bill are costly. Apart from capital expenditure of the order of £30,000,000 to be spent on accommodation and equipment, the maintenance charges of the militiamen, including their pay, is estimated to be some £10,500,000 in 1939, rising to some £26,500,000 in 1941. Those are maintenance charges. The cost of reducing the family allowance age in the Regular Army to 20, will, on the assumption that there are no more marriages, be some £400,000 a year. Of course, every additional marriage will add to that sum. The conclusion which the Committee may 1444 safely draw is that compulsory military training is not cheap. Another conclusion, and one which I should prefer to stress, is that the Government have straightforwardly endeavoured to make for these men who are to serve the State more generous provision than is made in any other country where obligatory service prevails.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £10.
This Supplementary Estimate is divided into two parts. One refers to the pay which it is proposed to make to the conscript soldier. The other deals with the allowances to the wives and dependants of those men. I propose to take each item in turn, and the Committee will permit me to make two preliminary observations. We are not, by this Amendment, proposing to prevent the Government making provision in pay and allowances for these men. We say that these men require to be paid for their service. What we are asking is that the Committee should reject this Supplementary Estimate on the ground that it is inadequate as regards both pay and allowances. The second observation which I desire to make is that, whatever may be our views as regards conscription, we are all anxious to do our best for these men, and our purpose in raising this Debate and asking for the reduction of the Supplementary Estimate, is to ease the position of these men while they are undergoing training. I believe that in this respect no special party interest is involved and that there will be complete unanimity. All will desire to do their best for these men.
I am bound to say that the Minister's speech, although lucid, as one would expect from him, was singularly unconvincing. The right hon. Gentleman spoke the other night in the Second Reading Debate and advanced certain arguments in support of the proposal that these men should be paid, not is. 6d. a day but is. a day. Those arguments seemed to be thoroughly convincing to the right hon. Gentleman himself, whatever they may have been to others. If they were sound and convincing then, what has happened since to change the position? It appears that the Government have been enlightened. Their education has been completed. There have been rumblings and expressions of public opinion up and down the country. 1445 The fact is—and we had better state it plainly and bluntly—that the Government were reluctant to drive their exceedingly reluctant supporters into the Lobby in support of the proposal for 1s. a day. If it had not been for this party, and the demands that we made when the right hon. Gentleman announced his intention of paying 1s. a day, the Committee would not now be confronted with this compromise proposal. That is a complete justification of the Labour party's demand for a Debate on this subject.
I desire to consider the arguments advanced by the Minister on the Second Reading and repeated to-day. He sought to justify differentiation between the Regular soldier and the conscript, on the grounds that the Regular soldier agrees to long service, makes the Army his career and may be sent abroad. Those were the three main arguments advanced for differentiation. I wish to make it clear on behalf of those who sit on these benches, that we do not regard the Regular soldier as being too well paid, nor do we believe that his conditions are completely satisfactory. But I would remind the Committee that the Regular soldier enters into his obligations freely, of his own volition. It is true that economic pressure often brings the recruit into the Army, but that is not the sole cause. The Regular is above all else a volunteer. I fortify myself in this regard by a publication issued by the right hon. Gentleman himself. Some three or four weeks ago I, in company with other hon. Members, received a booklet from the right hon. Gentleman, for which I am exceedingly grateful. The title is "His Majesty's Army." There is a foreword by the right hon. Gentleman, to which I will not refer, but this is what the right hon. Gentleman caused to be said, if he did not himself dictate it:In the first place (speaking of the Regular soldier) he is a volunteer. He serves because he wishes to, not because he must. That means that the British Army contains no misfits and no faint-hearts. A voluntary army also breeds a sense of companionship between all ranks which is entirely lacking in conscripted armies.I hope the meaning of this statement is abundantly clear to the right hon. Gentleman, and I presume that he still stands by this declaration. Perhaps he would care to repudiate it now; I am ready to resume my seat to afford him the opportunity. At any rate, that is a reflection 1446 on the men about to be called up—"a sense of companionship," in the Regular Army, "which is entirely lacking in conscripted armies." At any rate, this booklet does present to my mind, as I am sure it must to the minds of other hon. Members, that the Regular soldier, with the improvements that have been advanced recently in his conditions and pay, is much better off than he once was. Regular soldiers have the advantage of permanency, to which the right hon. Gentleman himself alluded; they can be trained for civil occupations on termination of service, they have pension rights, they have proficiency pay, and they can look forward to higher pay and promotion. I am glad the Government recognise the need for proficiency pay, but it so happens that proficiency pay can be awarded to the Regular soldier within six months of his initial training. It may be awarded on the ground that he has passed his third, or it may be his second, class examination. Therefore, the Regular soldier does not receive the bare 2s. a day, but in fact 2s. 3d. a day. We do not complain, but it is as well that hon. Members should understand the facts.
It is perfectly true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that the Regular soldier may be sent abroad; unlike these men who have to undergo six months' training, he may be sent to any part of the world. The right hon. Gentleman omitted to say that he is not usually sent to any other part of the world in the first six months, but that is by the way. The right hon. Gentleman dared to suggest to the Committee that that was a liability, that the fact that these men could be sent to any other part of the world was a reason why there should be this differentiation. This is what appears in the booklet:Such is service in His Majesty's Army to-day. Truly a man's life, hang about with golden opportunities to see the world.It is almost lyrical, and I attribute it, therefore, to the right hon. Gentleman. Everyone must have seen the posters up and down the country headed, "Join the Army and see the world." It is not a liability; it is an inducement; it is a bait to the men to join, and why the right hon. Gentleman should regard it as a liability, and on that basis ask us to accept the differentiation in pay, is more than I can understand. I beg to submit a few reasons why there should be no 1447 differentiation. First of all, the men will be trained together. They are not to be in separate units, but in the same units, and they are to be part of the Regular Army. That is clearly understood. Moreover, they are to be subjected to the same discipline, and they will undertake similar duty, the kind of duty which men in any unit of the Service undergo in the first six months. Over and above that, in the last War both the Regular soldier and the conscript were treated alike. There was no differentiation in pay. I believe the pay was 1s. 6d. per day. There may have been increases towards the later stages of the War, but I believe that that was the pay in 1916 or when conscription was put into force.
I would direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that tradesmen in the Army—and there are more tradesmen in the Army now than ever before, and for a good reason—receive higher pay. Many of the men who are to be called up are tradesmen, and they are highly skilled. If tradesmen in the Regular Forces are to receive, not 2s. a day, but in the majority of cases 3s. 3d. a day, if this booklet is correct—and the right hon. Gentleman agrees that it is—then it seems to me that the case for differentiation is completely disproved. Many of these men who are to be called up come from comfortable homes and are accustomed to spend. Nowadays young men spend more than we used to spend when we were boys, and quite rightly. But there are many men who will come from poor homes and who will desire to send some money home. If they do send some money home, they will have very little left to spend. I shall come shortly to the question of allotments and allowances, but clearly, if men are disposed to send a few shillings home to their dependants, they will have very few shillings left to enjoy, and I take it that the right hon. Gentleman has no desire to deprive them of any enjoyment while they are undergoing training.
I come now to a somewhat more substantial argument. The careers of these men may be arrested, and some may be permanently injured. It is true that on the Committee stage of the Military Training Bill many safeguards were provided in respect of reinstatement, but in spite of those safeguards employers 1448 may evade the provisions, and even the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of Labour recognised that that was by no means unlikely. I would also invite the attention of the Committee to the fact that while Army life may suit some, it may not suit others, and we may find that at the end of their six months' training period many men may have been permanently injured, mentally if not physically. It will have, probably, a beneficial effect on a majority of the men, but it may have quite an opposite effect on some, and a risk is being undertaken. Remember, too, that the men are not doing this of their own volition; they are being compelled to do this, whether they like it or not. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that ours is a much more democratic proposal than the one contained in the Supplementary Estimate? He argued, in the course of the Second Reading Debate, that the proposal to bring these men in and train them along with Regular soldiers was democratic. I ask him to observe that principle by rejecting differentiation in respect of their pay. Lastly, I submit that where compulsion is exercised—and it is being exercised now—it ought to be adequately compensated. I submit these reasons to the right hon. Gentleman, and claim that in these circumstances we are entitled to ask for the reduction of this Supplementary Estimate.
Now I turn to the second part of the Estimate, that which refers to allowances. The issue in respect of pay is a simple one, but that cannot be said of the question of allowances, which is highly complicated. I ask hon. Members to note what appears in this Supplementary Estimate. It is provided that an allowance of 17s. a week shall be granted to the wife of a conscript soldier, but on condition that he himself allots no less than 3s. 6d. a week. It is inadequate, in our judgment, for reasons which I shall advance later, but it is clear; its meaning is not obscure. When, however, we come to the allowances for dependants, there is no specific provision at all. It says:There will be a system of allowances for the dependants of men who before being called up for training have been making an effective contribution of not less than 3s. 6d. a week, provided that the withdrawal of that contribution results in need and that the man himself allots not less than 3s. 6d. a week from his pay.1449 I do not know what is meant by "a system of allowances," I am not clear what is meant by "an effective contribution," nor am I clear what is meant by "need." These are all preliminary conditions before any allowance at all can be made to a dependant, to say nothing of the 3s. 6d. a week which the man must allot before any allowance can be made. I have no desire to refer to previous Debates, but I find nothing in the Supplementary Estimate which relates to contractual obligations, nor did the right hon. Gentleman himself make any reference to them to-day; and it is a very important question indeed. No one will care to deny that many of the men who are to be called up have contracted obligations of a serious financial kind—endowment policies, other insurance policies, rents, mortgage interest on houses that have been purchased, school fees, hire purchase, radios, and other things.
§ Mr. Shinwell
A soldier might be a member of a family where there are other boys and where he has agreed to make a contribution towards the cost of educating his younger brothers. I am ready to agree that it is not, perhaps, the strongest argument that can' be advanced, but it is quite possible. The Government have made an important statement on this matter to which we are entitled to make reference. The Minister of Labour, speaking on the Committee stage of the Military Training Bill, made a direct reference to contractual obligations, and as the subject is so important I should like to quote it. This is what he said on 15th May:The whole foundation of the Clause is to secure certain things for him. The first thing is his civil rights, and the second his contractual liabilities. When men are called up for training things will have to be settled about their civil rights and their civil liabilities. The Committee may ask what kind of thing we mean. We mean the militiaman's pension rights, his insurance rights, his civil contractual liabilities. There are also other matters. …We have to consider what we can do and how best we can do it in regard to rents, to payments under hire-purchase agreements, mortgage agreements and periodic payments in respect of insurance, especially insurances with collecting societies. That is a formidable list. The Clause is directed to easing the position of the militiaman while on service, to make his mind easy while he is undergoing his training."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May; col. 1138, Vol. 347.] 1450 I hope the right hon. Gentleman has taken notice of that pledge, but nothing of this sort appears in the Supplementary Estimate. All we have there is a reference to a system of allowances. There is nothing about a minimum or a maximum payment in respect of allowances. All that we have had in that regard is a statement made by the Prime Minister in the Debate on the Second Reading when he said:In the case of allowances to dependants, which, if they were granted, would be at the rate of 17s. a week for total dependancy and 12s. a week for partial dependency, it is clear that these should only be paid" where the need for them was established."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May; col. 2103, Vol. 346.]Surely there is no relationship between that statement and what appears in the Supplementary Estimate, and what the Minister of Labour said the other night when he accepted contractual obligations. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to read the remaining part of that speech, because; he will see that the Minister of Labour was looking a long way ahead. On which leg do the Government stand? Do they accept the appendage of the right hon. Gentleman or that of the Minister of Labour? Perhaps the Secretary of State would care to say now. What does he accept—the Supplementary Estimate or the acceptance of contractual obligations? Apparently the right hon. Gentleman is not disposed to make a reply.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
The matters to which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour alluded are dealt with by Orders in Council under the very Clause we were discussing when he made the statement. The pay and allowances which we are now discussing are dealt with under the Votes of the Army, or the Air Force, or the Navy as the case may be.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That may be quite proper, but the question remains, nevertheless, do the Government propose, in addition to this system of allowances in the Supplementary Estimate, that contractual obligations are to be the responsibility of the Government? It is either one or the other, or both. Is there anyone who can speak for the Government in a matter of this kind? Perhaps the Prime Minister can express an opinion. Apparently, there is a great deal of doubt, and I am not surprised. We are entitled to a great deal more information on this matter than the right hon. Gentleman was disposed to give us to-day. When the Minister of Labour 1451 spoke it was the first we heard of the Government's intentions with regard to contractual obligations. There was never a word from the right hon. Gentleman or the Prime Minister in the Second Reading Debate or when the right hon. Gentleman introduced his proposal for is. a day and allowances. The first Member of; the Government to make reference to it was the Minister of Labour. May I ask whether he consulted the right hon. Gentleman before he made that speech? Has there been any consultation, co-operation or co-ordination of any kind, or do Ministers just do as they feel inclined according to their mood or according to the condition of the House or the Committee at the time?
The Government must speak clearly on this matter. Before the end of this Debate I shall invite them to reply to this question, What do they intend to do about these obligations? The conscript soldier is entitled to know. Many of them are apprehensive of the position that will arise when they are undergoing training and they want to know whether their dependants will be safeguarded and their commitments met. Not only the conscript soldiers, but their dependants in many cases have undertaken certain liabilities, and they are anxious to know who will meet the Bill when it is presented. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind something in the nature of a moratorium. Is that the point that he has in mind? Apparently he has nothing in mind beyond what appears in the Supplementary Estimate, which is vague, disconcerting and likely to cause considerable apprehension in the minds of those who are called up, and of their dependants. The machinery proposed in this Supplementary Estimate is most unsatisfactory. Apparently the matter is to be left to the military. I have a high regard for some of those gentlemen who are at the War Office and were there when I was there, and I have no doubt that the successors of those who have left are equally good men, but I am not prepared to leave a matter of this kind in their hands. There must be the utmost tolerance and sympathy, which Only a specially selected tribunal can give.
We have a precedent in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman said that we 1452 had no previous experience. May I remind him that during the last War we had ample experience of dealing with a situation of this kind? There was then the Military Services Civil Liabilities Committee set up by the Government to deal with the obligations incurred by men called to the Colours, and the circumstances in which assistance could be given are set out in the Government publication which I have before me. Assistance could be granted to men serving with His Majesty's Forces, whether married or unmarried, in respect of rent, interest and instalments payable; interest on loans including mortgages; instalments payable under agreements for the purchase of business premises, dwelling houses and furniture; rates and taxes, insurance premiums, and school fees. There was a proviso that assistance would not be given for the discharge of ordinary debts, and there was a limitation placed upon the amount of the obligation that could be accepted by the Government so that no more than £2 a week could be granted. Do the Government contemplate anything like that figure, or are the men to depend on the 12s. a week for dependants? It may be impossible for a conscript soldier to continue with payments on account of obligations he has incurred. In the case of married men I doubt whether, certainly in London where rents are high, a married woman with 17s. plus 3s. 6d. allowance will be able to meet her liabilities. She will have to live—perhaps she will have children—and pay her rent and meet her bills. Obviously, she will have to go to the public assistance committee. Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not want that to happen?
The same applies to those who are dependent on unmarried men. There are several cases I can bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, and I will submit two classes of cases that might arise. Take the case of the boy who has just completed his apprenticeship and is about to become a journeyman. He is about to earn a reasonable wage and make a proper and effective contribution to the home. During his apprenticeship he was contributing practically nothing. His parents have accepted the sacrifice and have been looking forward to the period when he could contribute a few shillings to the home and so raise the standard of living. Just at that time he is taken 1453 away, and unless it can be proved, according to the Supplementary Estimate, that he has contributed 3s. 6d. a week for the past six months, and unless he cares to contribute 3s. 6d. from his Army pay, dependency will not arise. Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not mean that to happen? Let us take the case of the one-man business. Several cases have been brought to my notice of young men who have been placed in business either through their own efforts or because of external assistance. They have undertaken commitments of various kinds, perhaps purchasing a horse and cart or a motor for the purpose of carrying on their businesses. If these men are called up, what is to happen? A man may have purchased a motor on which he is paying instalments, and he may not only lose that when he returns, but may find himself without a business and without any prospects. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not want that to happen. Certainly hon. Members on this side are determined that it must not happen.
If there is one thing that we shall set our faces against, it is anything in the nature of an inquisition based on the means test. I do not rule out the possibility that at some point the question of need will have to be taken into consideration. Because of the complications which are certain to ensue, a great deal will depend on the pay of the men themselves. If we gave the conscript soldier 14s. a week instead of 10s. 6d. it would not be asking too much of him to send a few shillings home to his dependants. If the pay of the men is adequate questions of need and of dependency will not arise in such an acute form as they will with the pay as inadequate as is proposed.
I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that the last thing we desire—and in this respect I think I can speak for hon. Members in all quarters of the Committee—is that the men who are undergoing training should be disturbed by sordid economic considerations. If they have little spending power, and learn by letters from home that those from whom they have been torn away are in dire straits, it will be very natural to expect discontent, and men who are discontented because of their own economic privations or those of their dependants are not likely to make good soldiers.
1454 There is a great deal more to be said, but I forbear, because my hon. Friends will fill in the gaps. Wehave not discussed to-day the principle of conscription, nor are we entitled to under the rules of order, but this is an experiment of a far-reaching character, and it is very difficult to envisage what may happen after the first six months training period. What happens in that period may have its repercussions on the next six months and on the men who are to be trained then. Moreover, it is admitted that this is a striking departure from our traditional policy, and, further, it may become permanent. I know that the Bill is for three years only, but we must be exceedingly careful and exercise the utmost prudence in accepting pledges given by this Government. I do not want to go into that point, but we are very sceptical about this Government's pledges.
Let there be no mistake about it, these men are being conscripted owing to blunders in the foreign policy of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends are to blame for all this. If these men, who have no vote, and therefore cannot exercise any influence on our decisions, are, through no fault of their own, being torn from civil life, perhaps to face dangers to which we older men and women are not to be subjected, we must accord them treatment on the most generous scale, certainly treatment which the nation can afford. As the Government are disposed to spend hundreds of millions upon rearmament and on obtaining the necessary men, surely a few millions more is not too high a price to pay in order to ensure that these men are contented during their training. That is the object we have in view—to raise the pay of the conscript to that of the Regular soldier, and to afford at the same time the utmost protection to his dependants.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Acland
If my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) will allow me, I should like at the outset to congratulate him upon the speech which he has just made, because, although I do not agree with everything that he said, it was a speech full of very practical points. I should like to suggest that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if the Government could clear up one or two points regarding certain classes 1455 of contractual obligations. I am told that the Minister of Labour has made a statement, which no doubt represents the policy of the Government, in which he said that wireless licences and things like that would be continued, by which he means, I suppose, continued not by the militiaman himself but on his behalf. There are some contractual obligations which may not amount to very much, but rent and rates amount to very considerable sums, and we want to know what the position is to be regarding them. It is not possible to go into the question—on which I thought the Secretary of State for War was quite candid to-day, particularly when he said he would welcome suggestions from different parts of the Committee—regarding the actual scales of dependants' allowances, but we ought to know to what extent there is to be a dovetailing of the pay and allowances made under the Royal Warrant with any provision made by the Ministry of Labour under the announcement already referred to.
The state of the benches to-day, except those above the Gangway on this side, shows that a great deal of the interest which this Debate would have aroused if the rate of pay of the militiaman had remained at is. a day has disappeared now that it has been raised to is. 6d. and there are to be what in the view of many people will be fairly reasonable allowances for wives. Whether the fact that polling takes place to-day in three by-elections had any effect in changing the Government's mind one does not know of course and no doubt it would be unfair to suggest anything of the kind; but it is a happy coincidence that the improved rates have been announced just in time to be made known. They were widely rumoured yesterday, and no doubt they were conveyed to the proper quarter before the official announcement to-day.
While travelling up from the West of England yesterday, at that time not knowing the Government were to give any increase on is., I was thinking that if the single man could depend on is. 6d. a day entirely free of deductions he would not be badly treated. In view of what I knew of the regular rates I felt there ought to be some differentiation, and the figure I did have in my humble mind was the same as that which I found subsequently had been fixed upon by the Gov- 1456 ernment. I thought also that if a man had not been warned by the experience of an old married man—"I never knew what it was to be happy until I was married, and it was too late then"—and had taken a wife, the £1 0s. 6d. a week which she would receive would provide a sufficient allowance in most normal cases. There will be, of course, hard cases, and the hon. Member for Seaham was right in pointing to the extraordinary high levels of rent in London. A married couple may have to pay for accommodation at the rate of 10s. a room, and needing two rooms will have to pay £1 a week, and that leaves only 6d. out of the allowance a wife will get. It would be possible for the Government to legislate so as to cover cases of that kind, and I have no doubt there will be adjustments. One can imagine, also, that wives who are to be left alone for six months may take in friends as lodgers to help to pay the rent. In some cases it may be necessary for the wife to go back to mother for the six months, although that will be a bad thing, because it will mean getting new rooms and starting all over again when the husband returns. However, the more one knows of the lives of those who are poorly off the more one learns of the extraordinary kindness they show towards one another in times of difficulty and I am certain that that spirit will be displayed once again, whatever line the Government take on this matter.
I have tried, from my recollections of old calculations in the realm of Army Estimates, to reckon up what the total cost might be, and I thought it might run up towards £30,000,000 by the end of the third year, and the figure of £36,000,000, excluding anything in the nature of capital expenditure, is an extraordinarily high one. One regards oneself as all the more responsible in making suggestions as to an increase.
I have heard it suggested that men ought to have more than the 1s. 6d. a day which is now laid down, because of the life which they will be called upon to undergo and in order to supplement the food or to purchase comforts to help them over the hardships. I do not take that view. I think that the Army standards of food and other things that are necessary, such as warm accommodation and bedding, are very reasonable, and I feel certain that the War Department will not want to take in men until they can pro- 1457 vide for them well. Of course, winter will be coming on and it will no doubt be difficult, for example, to get hutments sufficiently warm, but it will have to be done. Although there will be difficulties, I feel certain that the general standard of the soldier's life is now so high that many of the men will live upon a much better scale with regard to food and other requisites than they have been accustomed to, and that they will flourish on it. It will do them a very great deal of good physically, and they will not need to supplement their ordinary rations out of their Pay.
Rather than urge, as has been urged from above the Gangway, that more money should be paid, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it is not necessary gradually to do something of a different sort in respect of this class of man. It cannot, admittedly, be done all of a sudden and it will cost money, but I think the House of Commons ought to be willing to contemplate the extra cost. Let me describe in my own way what I mean. The class from which the Regular soldiers come consists of those who have voluntarily devoted the years of their lives to the Regular Army and to activities which they knew from the beginning would be mainly physical. The class who will now be taken into the Army under the Bill is very mixed, but it will include a great many people whose lives are spent in intellectual and non-physical occupations, and they will come back to those lives. Their main interests will be mental and intellectual rather than physical. The mainly physical training and the mainly outdoor life which they will get in the Army will do all the good in the world in an enormous number of cases, and there is no doubt that many of them will benefit from it a very great deal; yet I believe it will be very desirable to look after the mental side of their lives during their six months' training. There should be provided places where they can read and get books which they can read, and there should be for them things like wireless, wireless discussion groups relating to the talks, and educational and other films for them to see and discuss.
Such things will show them that, although the six months' period for which they have been taken is, and must be, primarily for their military training, yet we recognise what, I think, is a great 1458 truth at the present time, that the more highly the intellectual and all the other interests of your soldiers are stimulated, the better those soldiers will be. A great change has been coming over military life. I was a very keen Volunteer and Territorial. I went through the ranks, starting as a private, and I enjoyed the emergency camps which were set up during the Boer War when I was a private, far more than I did any subsequent period of my training. I was a lieutenant in the Officers Training Corps. I went from private to lieutenant in the war. Despite what I learned then, I was astonished the other day to find how different things are now.
What we knew as barrack-square drill has disappeared entirely. The mystery of "At the halt, facing left, form close column of platoons," has disappeared from the drill books, and so have many similar things in which we took a great interest and delight, and had to learn with some trouble. Now, apparently, the soldiers simply form threes and march off. In proportion as a man is less regarded as an automatic machine who has to obey an order, often rather barked at him from the parade ground, it has become necessary for him to learn all about the complicated machinery of the new weapons. That kind of thing has enormously developed and it has become necessary to do everything we can to stimulate the soldier's mind and keep it alert. His interest is more apparent than it was, I imagine, with soldiers even six months or a year ago. I would, therefore, urge—this is the only time in which the point would be in order, and I even doubt very much the extent to which it is in order now—not an increase in the rates of pay, because I think they are, on the whole, reasonable although they will not cover all the hard cases, but that it will be well worth while for those concerned to attend to the other matters which I have mentioned.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
This Supplementary Estimate covers a token grant, but we gather from the statement made by the Secretary of State that the money will be an enormous sum before the whole thing is settled. We realise that that is so, but we are not yet satisfied. I would have preferred that serving soldiers and the men who are to be called up should be 1459 treated on the same basis. There should be no differentiation. Therefore, we cannot accept what has already been stated by the Secretary of State. I am glad, in one sense, that he has increased the amount which was at first offered. I remember making a speech on a previous occasion and arguing that 1s. per day was not high enough, and naturally we appreciate very much the slight increase. We should have appreciated it much more if the right hon. Gentleman had given the full amount for which we asked. Hon. Members on this side of the Committee oppose the Bill as a whole because it does not give equality all round.
I want to put one or two questions to the Secretary of State. He said that where the father of a man had died and the son would, in ordinary conditions, become the sole support of the household, recognition would be given. What will be the position of the household where the son is now the sole support? I want to give several cases which I have in mind. When it was known that the Bill was going to pass, several mothers in my division approached me. I will cite one case in particular of a widow who is receiving the 10s. a week pension. Her son, she said, was just turned 20 years of age, and had just got a position as a tram driver. The position of the, home was much better in consequence than it was before. She was very much upset and asked me what her position would be after her son joined up. Did it mean she would lose all that he was bringing into the household and that she would be left with her 10s. pension? I had no idea then what the Bill would contain, but I assured her that the House of Commons would have some regard to cases of that kind.
I would like the Minister, or whoever is to reply, to make clear what will happen in cases like that, and to give an assurance which will help people whose sons have to join the Army. What will be the position of those who are not the sole support, but contribute to a partial extent to the upkeep of the home? Can the Minister give us some idea of the recompense they will have? At a time like this such things should be made clearer to the people concerned than they have been made up to the present. What will be the position of the young man who is out of work at the present time and who 1460 has to join up? If he had been in work he would be one of the main supports of the home. Will some regard be given to that kind of case, or will it be treated upon the basis that as he was out of work and only his unemployment benefit was coming into the household, that is all he can expect from the State?
I hope that the Minister will give me some indication as to what may be expected. I recognise, as we all do, that the Bill has to go through, and since the Second Reading we have attempted to improve the lot of the people who will be called up. If the Measure has to go through let us at least give the greatest amount of comfort to the families whose sons will have to join. I have put these questions in the hope that the Minister will tell us what the position will be. I assure him that if the reply is satisfactory it will help those homes. I have tried to put practical points in order to help the Minister to provide some assurance for those whose sons will have to join.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Captain Sir Derrick Gunston
I should not have been bold enough to try to catch your eye, Sir Dennis, if the Secretary of State for War had not asked for suggestions from the Committee. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), who made a very valuable speech, said that the success of conscription depended to a great extent upon what happened in the first six months, and I entirely agree with that observation. In regard to the marriage allowances we must try to meet some of the harder cases, and I shall try to put forward a suggestion in a minute. Before I do that, may I say to the hon. Member for Seaham that I do not think his suggestion that the basic rate should be increased from 1s. 6d. to 2s. a day would really solve the problem? We must admit that there must be a differentiation between the Regular Army and the militia. The Regular Army have undertaken great obligations, and I should have thought that the Labour party would have been the first to admit that, because they are always keen quite rightly, to protect the professional workman against the amateur.
The hon. Member chaffed the Secretary of State for War with having written a certain pamphlet explaining the advantages of a voluntary army as compared with a conscript army. Although I have no objection to the word "con- 1461 scription," I would point out that we are not really setting up a conscript army in the Continental sense. The type of army that we need in our special circumstances must remain essentially a voluntary long-service army. What we are now doing is setting up a compulsory reserve. I would ask hon. Members, both on these benches and on the opposite side, to be a little careful of the way in which they use the word "conscript," and not to use it in the sense in which it was used in the last War, when the conscripts were called up because they had not joined voluntarily.
Among these militiamen nobody will know whether they are willing to serve or not, and so we must try to make no differentiation. I think that, as regards the pay of the man who is serving under this scheme, apart from the question of allowances, 1s. 6d. is about right. In the barrack-room you will have young men of all classes thrown together, and there is a danger, if the pay is too small, that those who have some private means will be able to lead a different social life off duty from those who have none. That would be anti-social. But on 1s. 6d. they can all lead the same life off duty. If, on the other hand, the pay were on a very generous scale, there would be a real danger that some of the men would have more money than they had been accustomed to have, and this would create difficulties for them when they went back to civil life. I should like to make a suggestion to the Secretary of State for War. Of course, one cannot put it down in black and white, but at any rate I think that well-to-do-parents should be discouraged from giving their sons allowances when they are called up. It is vital that all classes should try to live on their 1s. 6d. a day.
I come now to the real problem that is worrying this Committee, and that is the problem of allowances and the problem of the married men. On the Continent, a man tries to do his period of service before he gets married, and obviously the same thing will happen in the future in this country. But we must recognise that at this moment there are young men who have got married never expecting that the Bill would be introduced. If, in the future, a man gets married before he is called up, he will know that he will be called up, and he will know all the difficulties, but at the present moment these men have contracted obligations not know- 1462 ing that the Bill would be passed, and so they are under a very special difficulty. The same thing applies with regard to allowances. I think it might be possible to make some differentiation in favour of those who are already married and had no reason to expect that the Bill would be introduced. The Minister might meet hard cases by making, if necessary, special allowances to those who are already married and to others who have contracted obligations. I would not suggest that too hard-and-fast a scale should be laid down in black and white, but rather that my right hon. Friend should reserve to himself a certain elasticity under this heading; but I would plead that these men should be specially considered, and I would reinforce the argument of the hon. Member for Seaham that what happens in the first six months will be vitally important. I believe that the Act may go on for many years, and that the people who will ask for that will be the Labour party, because they will realise that if it is wisely administered it will become a Measure of the highest social importance.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant
I should like to ask hon. Members in all parts of the Committee, but particularly hon. Members opposite, to appreciate, if they can, just what eighteenpence a day means from the point of view of purchasing power. [HON. MEMBERS: "We know."] It is the privilege of many to spend that on just a simple meal, or a drink, or a few cigars. I mention this in order that none of us shall at any time magnify the value of this eighteenpence. Already I have heard suggestions from the other side of the Committee that eighteenpence, when you consider that these young men are being fed and clothed, is considerable. I do not think so. I agree that it is desirable that we should have a sense of proportion, and we are all too apt to judge the position of others by the position in which be find ourselves. Under the Bill we are dealing with young men the circumstances of whose homes have in many cases been such that they have been compelled to accept considerable responsibility. Others have not been required to accept so much responsibility, and some have been in the position of having a reasonable amount of money to spend on themselves. We want to try to take a broad and general view of the circumstances. Many of us on this side of the Committee feel that 1463 2s. a day would not have been too much, but nevertheless we are pleased that the amount has been raised from 1s. to 1s. 6d. If it had been possible to make it 2s., we should have welcomed it all the more.
I want to refer to the position of the young apprentice, or the young man who is continuing his education. The young apprentice at 20 is looking forward to completing his apprenticeship at the age of 21, and then to enjoying the full rate of wages. Those hopes will now have to be deferred, and the circumstances in his home may be somewhat embarrassed as a result. I know of many homes where the parents have even borrowed money for the purpose of enabling the son to be apprenticed to a trade. I have in mind one home in particular, quite a humble home, where the father's wages are comparatively low, but where they were prepared to make this sacrifice in order that the son might have a reasonable chance in life. In such circumstances I think the position of the parents should be met. Again, I am aware, having served on an education authority, that in cases in which it has been desirable that a young man should continue his education with a view to a professional career, the parents have obtained a loan from the education authority for that purpose. In that case also the hope of the young man's education being completed is deferred, but the obligation of the loan remains, and I think the House should be prepared to see that a committee is set up to deal with these cases. I hope that the Minister, when he replies, will say that he will be prepared to meet circumstances of that kind.
Again, I know some young men who have married at the age of 20. Some of us would say that that is far too young, but none the less the obligation has been accepted, and I want the Committee to appreciate what this Measure is going to mean to the young wife, confronted with unexpected circumstances over which neither she nor her husband has any control. Here in London, and in many provincial towns, rents range from 15s. to £1 a week, and in some cases in London more, for an ordinary three-roomed flat. In my constituency, anyone who could get a three-roomed flat for £1 a week would be exceedingly fortunate. It would be grossly unfair to leave young people confronted with circumstances of 1464 that character which we are imposing upon them, and I think the position should be met in a fair and generous way. We can afford to bear in mind that, while these circumstances have come upon them quite unexpectedly, if the difficulties of the situation are met for this year there is every reason to expect that they will not recur, because a young man of 19, knowing that he was likely to be called up for these duties at the age of 20, would think twice and make up his mind that in the circumstances he was not entitled to take on the obligation of marriage.
A number of Members on this side of the Committee, and probably on the other side as well, have received letters from widowed mothers who are much concerned as to what is to happen to them when their sons are called up for six months. We can afford to be generous to them, and I hope the Minister has already given some consideration to their circumstances, and will be able to give us some idea of the Government's intentions. We must also be prepared to meet such circumstances as will confront the young wife with an income of 20s. 6d. a week. It may be said that the wife can go out to work; but I think she should be encouraged to remain in the home, look after it, and make it all it should be when the man returns from his training. We should do our utmost to ensure that these young fellows can do their training in peace of mind, knowing that their dependants will be looked after.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
The hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) began by asking hon. Members on this side to try to visualise what is. 6d. per day meant. That will be almost as much spending money for one day as I received at that age for one week. I do not want the hon. Member to assume that we on this side do not know what is. 6d. a day means. I wish to congratulate the Minister on increasing the pay to 1s. 6d. per day. My own view was that 1s. per day was not enough. I have been a private in the Army, and I know that when these men leave home their expenses are much greater than when they are following their ordinary avocations. A young boy at home can remain in the house and read or listen to the wireless, but when he is put into the Army his expenses are much more. I felt that 1s. was inadequate, 1465 and I must repudiate the idea that the increase is simply the result of pressure from the other side of the Committee. I see no reason to criticise the Minister because he has been wise enough to listen to the advice tendered to him from all sides of the Committee. I want to congratulate him also on what he said with regard to the extension of some of these increases to members of the Regular Army. I know it would be quite out of order to follow up that subject at any length, so all I will say is that I think it will be a tremendous advantage to a man serving in the Regular Army to feel that those at home who are in need will be assisted. That is a step in the right direction.
I could not help admiring the speech made by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell). I say that in all sincerity. It was delightful to listen to as an effective contribution to debate. But I am bound to say that I think he did, in many particulars, exaggerate his arguments. When I interrupted him about contractual obligations it was not because I did not realise that some few of these men would have made contractual obligations, but because I thought that not many single individuals would have incurred that long catalogue of contractual obligations that he gave. I am aware that some men, not knowing that they are going to be called into the Army, will have made contractual obligations, and I would press for the information which the hon. Member asked for, as to what is to be done on this question.
But the thing to which I want to apply myself mainly is the question of dependants' allowances. I feel grateful to the Minister, rather than critical, because he asked that the views of Members should be expressed. It is far better to get the views of representatives of the people, expressed freely from their own knowledge of cases outside, and then try to meet them. On this subject we are not conducting a polemical discussion. We all want to see every lad who is to enter under this scheme not only treated well himself but assured that those dependent on him will not suffer owing to his service. Hon. Members who represent Yorkshire constituencies will agree with me that a lad in Yorkshire up to the age of 21 usually puts the whole of his wages into the family pool. [An HON. MEMBER: "And in Lancashire."] Well, I must 1466 leave Lancashire for Lancashire Members. The boy's mother then gives him pocket money, and in 99 cases out of 100 the boy is subscribing a substantial amount to assist the father and mother to give an opportunity to those younger than himself. Take the case of a boy earning 30s. a week. If we take the public assistance scales, it is idle to argue that that boy is paying more than 10s. for his food. His mother may give him 5s. a week—which I think is a generous allowance to a boy of 20. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is it more than you got?"] A lot more. Suppose one makes an allowance of 5s. for other requirements. That leaves as a subscription to the family income 10s. a week.
I understood from the Minister's speech this afternoon that there were to be three grades of dependants' allowances. The minimum allowance, if any was made at all, was to be 7s. a week; the intermediate was to be 12s.; and the highest, 17s. I want to appeal for generosity so far as these allowances are concerned. A lady constituent of mine whose boy is going, probably in the first batch, told me she did not worry so much about the boy doing service but she was concerned about the economic position. There are two boys in the house, and the mother and father, right from the date of their marriage, have found it difficult, as thousands do in this country, to make ends meet. I have looked into their circumstances, and I know what it means. Just when the burden has become a little lighter, the lad who is subscribing to the family income is suddenly taken away, and the family go back to where they were some years ago, facing these tremendous financial difficulties. The hon. Member for Seaham made a very vital point, as to who is to decide the allowances, and what shall be the machinery created to distribute them and to assess the amount to be given? I do not want to cast any aspersions on the military authorities, but they have a limited knowledge about civilian life, and I do not believe that they are the people to decide these allowances.
The hon. Member for Seaham spoke of civilian liabilities. I think he will agree with me that, in the main, he did not refer so much to dependants' allowances as to contractual obligations. It would be far better to set up local committees of people representative of all sections of 1467 the community, who really understood the life of the working people and what tremendous difficulties they have to face; and to assess the thing on that basis, rather than on a public assistance scale. I would like the Minister to assure us that this need is not going to be assessed merely on the basis of keeping body and soul together on the lowest calculation. Due attention ought to be paid to what people have previously gone through, and to what the boy is subscribing and its meaning in the family income; and there ought to be a generous assessment of need.
I want to thank the Minister for raising the pay and for his receptivity of mind. If there is one thing that I admire about the Secretary of State for War it is that he will listen. We are often too glib in condemning a man because he does not know his mind as he has not put everything down in black and white. I would sooner a Minister come here and listen to Members of the House of Commons than have him come with everything prepared in writing with all his t's crossed and i's dotted. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not only pay attention to what has been said on this side of the Committee but to what has been said in every quarter of the Committee, that the allowances will be generous and based upon what a boy has been contributing to the house and not merely on the question of need in the narrowest sense. Then I am certain we should find little or no opposition to these men rendering what is after all a great service, namely, service to their country.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Burke
I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) that it is good for Ministers to listen to what is said in all quarters of this House, and if the right hon. Gentleman pays particular attention to what is said from this side, I am certain that he will find himself proceeding on right and proper lines. I do not know how he will feel when he contemplates the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, because the speeches which the hon. Gentleman delivered when he used to sit on this side of the Chamber were of an entirely different character from the speech he has delivered this afternoon.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
There is not the slightest difference, and this is the first speech I have made on this subject.
§ Mr. Burke
I want to raise one or two important points, particularly with regard to the first batch of these men who are to be called up. They and their dependants will find themselves in a different position from the men and their dependants who have more time to contemplate what is likely to happen. This thing has happened with such remarkable suddenness that people have not been able to budget in advance. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the contractual obligations of these people who are called up without being able to budget ahead, especially in the case not of those who are married, but of those who are supporting their parents. Reference has been made to what happens in Yorkshire, and the same sort of thing is true also in regard to Lancashire. There, as the Minister probably knows, the poverty of the home has been such that young men and young women have had to contribute the maximum amount towards the upkeep of their homes. The particular type of case which I would like the Minister to bear in mind is that of the young man who is reaching the period when his apprenticeship ends. Instead of his being able to afford only a little in the way of contributions, the household had been looking forward to his paying a matter of 30s. when his apprenticeship ceased. But that will now go by the board. This in itself means that the household will be very much prejudiced.
There is a further point. In anticipation of the fact that the young man's income would jump from about 12s. to 35s. a week, the household perhaps contracted all kinds of obligations, which they would 1469 never have dreamed of contracting otherwise. I have a letter from one of my constituents telling me that they are in a terrible fix. They have contracted to let their young daughter remain at the high school and complete her education after having won a scholarship, because they felt that the extra money that the young son would bring into the home would help. Just at the time when they had been expecting this extra amount of money they are to be denied it for a period of six months at least. That kind of obligation should be noted when the Minister is considering contractual obligations. There is another kind of obligation to which the Minister might also have regard, namely, that of persons who have made contractual obligations in respect of hire purchase.
I will give a particular instance of a young man who will be called up in the summer. He has some talent as a musician. His parents, thinking that he would be able to earn money as a consequence of his talents, spent a considerable amount upon a musical instrument in order that he might practise. When the boy has gone away they will be left to make the payments for the instrument without having the assistance from the boy's wages that they expected. The Minister should have particular regard to the unfortunate circumstances of these people who have had this position suddenly thrust upon them and who cannot budget in advance as some other people may be able to do. The Minister, having listened to the advice from this side of the Committee and raised the amount from 1s. to 1s. 6d., might very easily go a little further and at least make the amount equal to that which the Regular soldier is receiving, and so make no distinctions in the Army such as we have sometimes in civilian life.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Anstruther-Gray
On the simple question of the rate of pay of the militiaman, the Government have to make their case from two points of view. They have to justify raising the rate of pay from 1s. a day to 1s. 6d. and they have to justify keeping the militiamen's pay at 1s. 6d. a day instead of increasing it to the 2s. a day that the Regular soldier draws. Before I approach that question, I would like to satisfy myself that the militiaman will in fact draw the 1s. 6d. a day that he 1470 is intended to receive. Looking at the White Paper, on page 3, I find it says:Apart from the allotments mentioned below, this pay will be subject to no deduction (other than deductions for desertion or other disciplinary reasons).I would ask my right hon. Friend what is meant by that? I take it that it refers to barrack damages which, as he will know, is an average deduction made from the pay of the Regular soldier. I am glad that the Secretary of State meets my point. He now assures me that deductions will not in fact be made for barrack damages. I am much relieved to hear that because the average deduction from the pay of the Regular soldier for barrack damages amounts to 1½d. a week. It would be unreasonable to expect that these young militiamen would not throw things about occasionally and do a little damage, or even destroy some of their kit inadvertently, but I would urge my right hon. Friend that, if disciplinary action is taken—and I take no exception to that—it should not take the form of a deduction from the man's rate of pay of 1s. 6d.
On the point of justifying the decision of the Government that 1s. 6d. a day should be the basic rate as opposed to the suggestion of the Opposition that it should be 2s. a day, the same as that received by the Regular soldier, we should, first of all, examine what money the Regular soldier in fact draws during his first six months. There is a compulsory deduction amounting to a 1d. a day for contributions to widows', orphans' and old age pensions insurance and barrack damages, and a further compulsory deduction, which on the average amounts to another 1d. a day for the regimental sports fund, and regimental associations and magazines. That takes 2d. off the 2s. so that he has is. 1od. a day left, and, therefore, the difference between those Members of the Committee who want the Regular soldier and the militiaman to have the same amount and those who do not is now reduced to 4d. instead of 6d.
I ask the Committee whether that 1s. 1od., which the Regular soldier draws in the first six months, should rightly be regarded as pocket money in the same way that the 1s. 6d. of the militiaman should be rightly so regarded? Whereas the militiaman can look forward at the end of his six months to going back to 1471 civil life and possibly to good employment, he can defer any thought of saving for holidays until he returns to civil employment, and receives bigger wages, and he can also defer any capital expenditure until that time. The case of the Regular soldier is different. He looks forward to a fortnight's furlough in his first year. It is no use looking forward to a holiday unless you can save some money with which to enjoy it, and it is reasonable to anticipate that the Regular soldier will try to save something out of his 1s. 1od. a day towards his holiday, and also if he wants to buy anything in particular. He might want to buy a civilian greatcoat or a hundred and one things, but that capital expenditure would have to be met out of his ordinary daily pay, and he could not put off the time until he returned to more remunerative civil employment.
I therefore support my right hon. Friend in deciding that the militiaman should receive less than the Regular soldier. I should like to emphasise the point that the Regular soldier does undertake a much greater liability than the militiaman. The militiaman is not liable to go abroad during his first six months or during his subsequent three and a half years, in days of peace, but the Regular soldier is under an obligation to go abroad for a period during the whole seven years of his service with the colours. Furthermore, during the remaining five years of his reserve service he is under an obligation to return, in peace, if the Government call upon him to do so, and having done so he may again have to go out on foreign service, in spite of the fact that he may have married and settled down and may have been looking forward to a peaceful life at home.
I return to the point as to the Government deciding to review their first decision that the pay of the militiaman should be is. a day and increasing it to 1s. 6d. I welcome most cordially the Government's decision to do that. It has come not only as the result of pressure from hon. and right hon. Members opposite but it has been the result of very sincere pressure from all quarters of the Committee, and it reflects the feeling in the country. So long as the Government are susceptible to public opinion we need not have much fear for democracy. I am very glad that the rate of pay has been raised from 1s., because I believe that the whole success 1472 or otherwise of this militia scheme depends upon the young men who go there having a reasonably good time. It is not going to be a holiday by any means, but their standard of comfort should not be less than they have been accustomed to.
Some of the people we are considering to-day have been earning perhaps between £2 and £3 a week, and out of that they have perhaps made allowances of £1 to 25s. a week to their families, which still left them with pocket money of considerably more than the original pay of 7s. a week which the Government intended to give them. We must welcome the fact that their standard of living is not to be worse. If the rate of pay had remained at 7s. a week there would have been an invidious difference in the pocket money of boys lucky enough to get allowances from their parents, as compared with the majority who would not have an allowance. It would have been a thousand pities if through lack of means youths had been prevented from mixing with one another because when they went to the canteen perhaps only one would be really able to afford to buy things and the others could not. In that case they would have been faced with the alternative of accepting charity, having a drink with a person and not being able to ask that person to have a drink in return. That position has been largely avoided by this small increase of 6d. a day. [Laughter.] I agree that that may appear humorous and that you cannot get many drinks with 6d. a day, but these are very young men and we do not want to encourage excessive drinking among the young. I welcome, as other hon. Members have done, my right hon. Friend's susceptibility to our encouragement that he should review the position, and I am delighted that he has arrived at such a satisfactory conclusion.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I am labouring under considerable misapprehension in listening to speeches from the other side and their congratulations to the Minister about the increase of pay from 1s. to 1s. 6d. We are very pleased that there has been an increase as the result of pressure and agitation from this side of the Committee. The hon. Member who has just spoken derived a great amount of satisfaction in speaking of the equality that there is to be among these young men who are to be called up. It does not seem to me that 1473 there will be such equality as to provide the satisfaction that the hon. Member seems to have derived from it. The hon. Member for Thornbury (Sir D. Gunston) seemed to think that the young men might run loose as a result of getting so much pocket money under this scheme. I do not think that they will take the bit in their teeth because they are to get 1s. 6d. a day, nominally, or go off the deep end and get "lit up," as it were.
Let me compare the position of three men, say, from a mine in Northumberland, called up at the same time and going to the same camp. One of the three is married. The second has parents, or someone else dependent upon him, and the other has no obligations in that sense. They each receive, nominally, 1s. 6d. a day, but the married man has to send 3s. 6d. home, or his wife will not get the benefit as a married woman. That will leave the married man with is. a day. The other young man who has dependants has to prove dependency of at least 3s. 6d. a week and the parents have to prove need, and he has to send 3s. 6d. home. That reduces him to 1s. a day. The third youth is not in that position. I cannot see how hon. Members opposite can get such a tremendous amount of satisfaction from that position. I agree with the opinion expressed that the young men will naturally desire not to feel hard up and that they should be able, if they want, to stand each other a drink of grape juice, or something of that sort.
The hon. Member opposite said that the success of conscription will largely depend upon what happens in the first six months, and I noticed that the Secretary of State for War nodded in agreement. I think there will be a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction, where you have, say, two young men left with a shilling a day and the other with 1s. 6d. There you will have the seeds of a considerable amount of dissatisfaction. If we cannot bring up the pay to that of the Regular soldier, at least the young man who has been doing his duty at home by paying into the pool to help his dependants, and the young man who is married, should have special consideration. We ought to have regard to the honourable obligations that they have undertaken before the nation dragged them into this military service, and we should leave them at least with 1s. 6d. a day.
1474 I would ask hon. Members to consider the contractual obligations of the young man who is married. Seventeen shillings a week is an inadequate allowance for the wife. I know that it costs something less, but I do not think that it costs much less to run a home when the husband happens to be absent for a period. The only thing that matters is the food of the husband. The standing charges of the home have to go on. The rent, the rates, the insurance have to be met. Then there is the cost of clothes, and in the case of young people who are married before they reach the age of 21 they will often be getting their furniture on the hire-purchase system. That charge has to be met. It seems to me that 17s. a week will not go far in such a case.
We hear a great deal about rents in London. The rents are certainly very heavy in London, but they are not light in the provinces. Rents in the provinces for young people who marry before they are 21 will represent more than 50 per cent. of the 17s. Our local authorities have done a splendid work in building houses, but since the National Government withdrew the subsidy they have slowed up house-building, apart from slum clearance, and there is not a district in the country to-day where there is a waiting list of less than a thousand. The young men of 20–21 who are married are on the waiting list, and the result is that they have to rent a house from a private landlord. Rents in many cases run from 12s. to 14s. and 15s. a week for this class of persons. Therefore, the dependency allowance of 17s. a week is not adequate.
Some of us have been asking questions about the young men of 18–21 who come under the Unemployment Assistance Board. While we have not the exact figures relating to those between 20 and 21, we know that a total of about 57,000 have been signing on. Assuming that there are 20,000 signing on between the ages of 20 and 21, that number will be called up. Where the young man has been on the means test he is probably getting only 10s. a week, but he might have got a job had he not been called up. He might have become a wage-earner and have been able to contribute to the home. In that case the right hon. Gentleman might have some consideration in regard to the dependency allowance 1475 for the young man who has been called up. I have from the beginning thought that the choice of 20–21 as the age for the beginning of conscription in this country in peace-time was made because the Government believed they could do it more cheaply at that age. Even after the increase of 6d. a day, I am confirmed in my opinion that the Government have tried to do it in the cheapest way possible.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Commander Bower
I suppose it was only natural for the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) in his very lucid and in many ways constructive speech to have a dig or two at the Secretary of State for War, but at the same time he must have realised, as most of us do, the tremendous complexity of the problem with which the War Office are faced, particularly in respect of allowances and the almost infinite variety of contractual obligations which some of these young men may have entered into. The hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) suggested that there were some hon. Members on this side who did not know the value of 1s. 6d. At any rate, he could not have been referring to me because I am one of the few hon. Members who have gone through an experience similar to that which will have to be gone through by a militiaman. At the age of 17 when I first went to sea as a seagoing naval cadet, I was clothed by my parents, housed in an ancient cruiser by the Admiralty, given a hammock to sleep in, and a chest about three feet by two in which to keep all my possessions; and 1s. a day, and it was not for six months but for nine months. It was a long time ago and the standard of comfort I had then was a good deal less than a militiaman will have. The is. a day was not enough for me, and 2s. a day would not have been enough for me either. Later I rose to the dizzy height of 1s. 9d. a day, with 3d. deduction, as a midshipman; and I had that for two and a-half years, but again it was not enough. Therefore I can support the decision of the Government in raising this sum from 1s. to 1s. 6d.
But when all is said and done, the really important problem is the question of allowances for dependants and the arrangements which are made for the con- 1476 tractual obligations which have been entered into. The question of allowance for dependants is undoubtedly causing a great deal of anxiety in many working-class homes throughout the country. It is true as the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Holdsworth) has said, that in Yorkshire and Lancashire it is still the habit of young men of that age to put all their money into the family pool and then their mothers give them pocket money. That obtains, I know, in my own constituency; and there is great anxiety on this matter. I should like to read the Committee a letter which I received only to-day:I am writing to ask you to give all the support you possibly can to the Bill for more than 1s. a day for our lads of 20 who have gone away for six months. My own is only one case, but I am deprived of £2 per week, my son's wages, which in itself would be a hardship, and then for them to offer 1s. a day is causing a lot of discontent amongst people, and particularly in my own house.That is typical of letters which must have been received by many hon. Members. I see in the White Paper that menacing word "need." I do not think these parents should be placed in any worse position than they were before the boys went away. It would not cost a large amount of money but, of course, how it should be done is a very different matter, because there is such an infinite variety of different cases which will have to be dealt with. I want to ask the Secretary for War whether he cannot give his most earnest consideration to the particular point that this should not be regarded as a kind of public assistance or means test need, but that they should leave these people in the same position as they were before the boy was called up. I was glad that the hon. Member for Seaham Harbour (Mr. Shinwell) referred to the one-man business. I wanted to raise it last night as regards reservists but did not have the opportunity. There will be quite a number of young men of 20 years of age who have committed themselves—I know one or two—to starting as, say, electricians on their own account. They may have worked up a successful business, and the little goodwill which is represented by the business is probably in terms of money about £500. They will have to go away and lose the whole thing. How is that type of case to be dealt with? Surely these 1477 people who have enterprise enough to start a business deserve as much consideration as the man who is in a job.
In dealing with all these problems I think there has been a tendency for hon. Members to forget that after all we are dealing with a period of only six months in respect of each particular individual and, therefore, that the hardship will not be of long duration. In conclusion all I can say is that I hope the Secretary for War will give consideration to the number of material points which have been raised on all sides in the Debate and will do his best to see that this scheme is the success which it certainly ought to be.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Riley
I was interested in the speech of the Minister when he attempted to justify the differentiation in pay between the 1s. a week for the conscript and the 2s. for the Regular soldier. It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman completely failed to establish his case. If there is any case at all to be put forward one must assume that it is on the grounds that the reason why the Regular soldier has higher pay than a militiaman is that in some ways he has undertaken greater hardships and greater sacrifies than the militiaman who is to be called up. I want to submit that on an examination of these two classes, this distinction cannot be maintained. For instance, one must not forget that in the case of the Regular soldier who has joined the Army it is a perfectly voluntary act; it is a matter of choice and he is not called up. He enters the Army in peace-time for two reasons, either because he sees in the Army an attractive career or is pressed into it by the economic reasons of unemployment. But, clearly, the Regular soldier joins the Army absolutely as a matter of free choice and entirely from the outlook that it will provide a career for him.
Therefore I do not see in what way the Secretary for War can in any sense justify differentiation in pay as regards the conscripted man, who does not join of his own free choice, who has to sacrifice a career upon which he has entered, who has to leave the work in which he is engaged, whereas the Regular soldier chooses the Army as his career and is able to progress to 2s. a day and later 1478 on gets 3s. and 3s. 9d. per day. It is clear that there is no justification for drawing this distinction on the ground of greater hardship and giving increased pay to the man who voluntarily joins the Army as against the conscript who is to be called up. Not only is that the case, but it must be remembered that the man who chooses the Regular Army as a career and enlists for seven years, as a matter of free choice, is able in the course of years to retire into ordinary civil employment with a pension and with all the advantages which accrue to him during his service in the Army. On the other hand, the conscript, who is to get 1s. 6d. per day as against 2s. for the Regular soldier, is a young man in ordinary civil employment. In Lancashire and Yorkshire there are thousands of young men of 20 years of age who are in skilled industries.
Take the case of the printing industry. In the last year an apprentice of 20 to 21 is receiving 35s. and 36s., even as much as 39s. per week. If he is working in a textile factory in the West Riding of Yorkshire he is receiving 37s. and 38s. and often £2 a week before he is 21. What is going to occur in a case like this? He is called up under the Military Training Bill and gets 1s. 6d. a day or 10s. 6d. a week. He is taken away from his home to which he was making a substantial contribution towards the maintenance and assistance of his parents, and I submit that there is no foundation whatever for the contention of the right hon. Gentleman that a conscript should be paid less than the Regular soldier. As a matter of fact the boot is on the other leg. I am not suggesting that the Regular soldier is paid too much. We all agree that he is not paid too much and we should all support a substantial increase in the scales of pay for Regular soldiers.
I want to pass now to the other issue which has been raised in the debate but which was not referred to specifically by the Minister, although it was implied, and that is the question, what is to be done with regard to the recognition of liability for contractual obligations? I want to ask the Minister to face up quite definitely to the question whether they are now standing by the declaration of the Minister of Labour on Monday, when he said:When men are called up for training things will have to be settled about their civil rights and their civil liabilities. The Committee may ask what kind of thing we mean. 1479 We mean the militiaman's pension rights, his insurance rights, his civil contractual liabilities. We have to consider what we can do and how beat we can do it in regard to rents, to payments under hire-purchase agreements, mortgage agreements and periodic payments in respect of insurance, especially insurances with collecting societies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1939; col. 1138, Vol. 347.]To-day the Minister has made no reference to that undertaking at all. There is nothing in this Order Paper that indicates what the Government are prepared to do. I want to give an actual case which came to my notice a day or two ago and which I sent to the Minister yesterday. It is the case, typical of thousands all over the country, of a young man just over 20. Up to six months ago he was working in a blind-alley occupation at a low wage. He was dissatisfied. His father, an invalid, took him out of his occupation, put him into a small greengrocery business and bought him a horse and cart. For several months he struggled along, making hardly any remuneration beyond covering his costs. A month ago the father said that, as he was now getting on, he ought to have a motor van in place of the horse and cart, and they have embarked on the purchase of a van costing something like £240. It is not paid for. They have entered into a contractual obligation to pay for it at £7 a month.
I want to know what are the regulations that are going to be put forward and what are the specific methods by which these cases are going to be met? The Minister of Labour said they would accept responsibility for contractual obligations. We want to know what that means. If it is argued that to deal with all these cases will involve a very large financial provision, I am certain that we all want to see these people who are liable to be called up for military service on behalf of all of us have a square deal. If the money now budgeted for is not sufficient to give that square deal, why do the Government not recognise it and make every one of us contribute properly by legislative enactment? An obligation is put upon the conscript to make his sacrifice. Why do we not all sacrifice in the same way? Why do not the Government bring forward an adequate Measure and lift from every one of us who have the substance an equivalent for the sacrifice which these conscripts make? I 1480 hope the Government will not try to shuffle out of the undertaking that they have given but that the Minister will make a clear statement as to how these obligations, contractual and otherwise, which ought to be met, are to be met.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Sir George Schuster
I, like many others, have listened with a good deal of admiration to the speech of the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), but I could not help feeling that he tried to prove too much, because it seemed a somewhat small conclusion to arrive at that all his troubles would be met by raising the pay from 1s. 6d. to 2s. per day. And that comment leads me to the point which I wish to make. It seems to me that, in the proposals of the Government making the pay 1s. 6d. a day, they have arrived at a very fair and reasonable level for the normal standard of pay, but looking at the matter as an employer who will have several hundred men called up, I feel that what we really have to consider is the hard cases, and from that consideration I should like to put two points. The first is that there should be a very generous interpretation of need in settling the rate for dependants' allowances, and that the Minister should take into account the fact that so many of these young men are contributing to the cost of their families.
The second point is this: It seems to me that, in dealing with these 200,000 young men who are going to be called up this year, we have to consider very special circumstances. They are being called up with no warning at all, and they may very well have entered into commitments from which no prudence could have kept them. When we come to the second year, when this becomes a practice to which young men have to look forward, different considerations would apply. If it is possible to translate the consideration that I am putting forward into practical action, I feel that it would go a long way to make the introduction of the Measure in the first year successful and would avoid grievances. Could the Minister devise some elastic measure for taking into account special circumstances of hardship in the case of young men on whom this obligation has come suddenly and without warning? There may be many contractual obligations, many circumstances which will 1481 greatly increase the hardship to this particular class. We all want this first step to be taken smoothly, and with acquiescence, and generally in a form which will make these young men proud to be citizen soldiers and to be treated as such. It will go a long way to make the Measure successful if my right hon. Friend will give special consideration to circumstances of hardship in the case of this first class.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
I certainly agree with Members on both sides that the allowances for dependants are creating anxiety in many homes. I should like to give one or two illustrations. I was recently in a mining district, and people showed me how anxious they were over this Measure and what was likely to happen to their families. For instance, there was a father, on compensation, receiving 17s. a week, and a lad engaged in a mine drawing 35s. a week. He now has to join up and that 35s. a week is taken from the home. There is another case of a young man who is the only support of a widowed mother and there are a brother and sister at school. What is going to happen there? When you come to contractual obligations, in many homes the furniture is on hire-purchase. With regard to rent, if it is allowed to fall in arrear it must be made good at some time and, if it is allowed to fall in arrear for six months, so much extra has to be paid each week afterwards and that certainly would be a hardship.
Jumping from Durham to London, here is a case that came before me the other day. A lad works in the City. His fares amounted to 6s. a week. He thought it would be cheaper and better if he got a motor bike. He got it on hire-purchase, and he is naturally anxious to know what he is to do about that. As far as I can see, the average conscript will be no better off under the new proposal than he was before, because the addition of 3s. 6d. a week has to go into the home. For himself he still has only the 7s. mentioned when the Bill was first introduced. Then there is the question of the one-man business. I hope the Government will do something about that. Here is a letter that I received this morning from a young man:I purchased just before Christmas a small milk retail business. Since then I have doubled my round and, with hard work, and 1482 by putting my savings into it, I have now made myself secure of a living wage. I have no trade at my fingers' ends and, if I am called to the Colours, my whole livelihood will have gone, and after six months I shall be left I do not know where.He is unable to employ anyone to look after his business. He will be 20 on 24th June and, naturally, he is anxious as to whether there is any way out of it. I wonder whether cases like that cannot come before the hardships committee. If not, why not allow them to go into the Territorials and do their training there and so be able to continue their business? It is decidedly hard that a man should be deprived of his livelihood entirely because he has no one to look after his business. I hope the Government will take these cases into serious consideration.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Sir Adam Maitland
The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) has voiced feelings which, I am sure, are shared by many hon. Members. Having listened to most of the Debate, what has struck me with regard to the cases of extreme hardship is that it might well be the better course for the authorities to consider the possibility either of postponing the calling up of the men concerned—placing upon them the onus of proving their cases to some appropriate authority—or of meeting the cases in such a way as to reduce the hardship to the home. One hon. Member opposite said that this Bill has been introduced as a cheap way of providing adequate military forces. I hope that statement does not represent the views of many of my hon. Friends. I am certain that is a factor which has not influenced the Government, and I am sure it is something that would be repugnant to hon. Members on all sides of the Committee. We all appreciate that this is a novel Measure which has been introduced as a result of causes external to this nation, but seriously affecting it. I am sure there is no question as to the cheapness or otherwise of the new system which is being introduced; that system has been based upon the fact that it is the most convenient and effective way of meeting our additional military commitments
Many hon. Members opposite have claimed that they were responsible for the increase from 1s. to 1s. 6d. a day. I would merely observe that the constant 1483 reiteration of a statement does not necessarily make it true. Hon. Members opposite are entitled to say that they have had some share in influencing the Government to change its mind, but so can Members in all parts of the Committee. I think the Government also is to be congratulated on showing an elasticity of views on this matter. I have great sympathy with what has been said about its being necessary to give the utmost consideration to the dependants of the young men who will be called up. We have accepted a principle which ensures as far as possible the position of the young man in his industrial life; we have secured, in the Bill, that after his training he will be reinstated in civilian life in the same position as he would have been in if he had not been called up. It seems to me that on grounds of logic it is not unreasonable to say that the young man's domestic responsibilities should have similar consideration. I appreciate that in the position in which we are to-day, it would be an almost overwhelming task, from the administrative point of view, to deal with individual cases, and therefore, I was glad to hear the Secretary of State give a broad conception as to the way in which it was intended to deal with these cases of dependants.
I would like to direct my right hon. Friend's attention to this point, in addition to the hard cases. I hope that, especially in view of the fact that the first group will be called up suddenly, without having had the slightest indication that their status in life was to be changed, it will be possible to take a most sympathetic view of the first year's operations. It may be that in succeeding years and after experience we shall have a better idea of the best financial arrangement to make. I ask that there should be as much generosity as possible in framing the groups to whom additional allowances will be given and that, having regard to the general rather than to the particular, there will be the greatest possible generosity in the treatment of those who are leaving their homes to undergo this training. I am sure that the Minister and those responsible for the finance will have the support of hon. Members in all parts of the Committee if the allowances that are finally given are as generous as possible.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Colonel Nathan
I wish to add my voice in reinforcement of what was said by the hon. Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland) and the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), and other hon. Members on this side of the Committee, regarding the treatment of those who will have to be considered from the standpoint of need or hardship. I will not ask the Minister to consider exceptional or extraordinary cases, but there is a great run of cases where a very considerable element of hardship is inevitable, even with the most sympathetic working of the scheme. We are still in the dark as to precisely how it is proposed that the hardship difficulties shall be overcome. We have not been told how the Minister proposes to operate the provisions of the Bill in that regard. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will adopt a very generous attitude and that, in framing the regulations or giving the instructions as to the carrying out of the provisions of the Statute, he will bear in mind that it is the desire—I feel sure, the unanimous desire—of the Committee that those who are called upon suddenly to leave civilian life shall suffer the least possible hardship, compatible with a reasonable regard to the requirements of public service and the public purse.
One may be a little apt to underestimate the great difference that will be made to people in every position in life by reason of the taking out of ordinary civilian life of 200,000 persons of the age of 20 to 21. Does the Minister intend to operate the hardship provisions by way or a moratorium? I scarcely think that will be the method that will be universally applied, for a moratorium, while relieving the militiaman of hardship, might very well inflict great hardship to the other party of the contract. If the right hon. Gentleman is not going to operate it in that way, is it to be done by way of a cash payment, and is that cash payment to be a sum paid out of the public funds and to be absolutely a debit to the public funds? If so, how is it to be adjusted as between one militiaman and another so as to do substantial justice? I do not know how far the Department has considered in all its intricacies and details the operation of these hardship provisions, but I think the Committee will be interested to know what are the general views of the Government on that particular aspect.
1485 The Government have taken a step in the right direction by increasing the pay from 1s. to 1s. 6d. a day. It is only half a step, but at all events it is a movement in the right direction. In some respects the increase is a little illusory. One way of putting it is that in the case of a married man, the militiaman is to have 1s. 6d. a day instead of 1s., and his wife is to have an allowance of 17s. a week; but another way of putting it, in the light of the explanatory statement, is that the pay still remains, in the case of a married man, at 1s. a day, but that the marriage allowance is now to be, not 17s., but 20s. 6d. It is important to look at the matter from that point of view, because it is an indication that, on the whole, the Government think 20s. 6d. is the right allowance for the wife, leaving the real amount of pay at 1s. a day. Very much the same thing applies in the case of other dependants. There is a compulsory deduction from pay so that the dependant's allowance will not be 12s., as was announced the other day, but 15s. 6d; but that will still leave the militiaman with only 1s. a day.
The only person who will have an advantage from this increase to 1s. 6d. is the militiaman who has no outside obligations—who has no wife and no dependants. In other words, those who have the greatest responsibilities will be those who, as regards their own private resources left to them under these arrangements, will be the least well off. It is important to appreciate how very little the 1s. 6d. a day means as compared with 1s. a day, when considered in the light of the explanation given and the manner in which it is intended to deal with the 1s. 6d. a day. It has already been said that this Bill involves a sudden change in the whole manner of life of these young men. For some of them it may mean, looking at it from the financial point of view, a slight improvement in their economic position; and for some also it will mean a great deterioration in their economic position. One of the great motor car manufacturers was telling me the other day, much to my surprise, that in his works there are large numbers of youngsters of 20 to 21 earning as much as £5 or £6 a week.
§ Colonel Nathan
I have satisfied myself by cross-examination of this particular 1486 manufacturer, whose name is a household word, that it is the case that there are large numbers of young men of 20 in his works earning £5 and over a week. Unless some arrangement is made to tide over the change, that sudden change from £5 a week to the allowance under this Bill will be a very great and startling one, especially when taken in relation to the duties of life and the obligations which will have been undertaken by the man of 20 who has been earning that sum of money, as compared with one who previously has had very small earnings. It will involve great hardship to people of that kind. It is not a hardship which they are unwilling to accept, but I ask myself whether it is one which the House of Commons ought to inflict upon them. There are many who, while not earning such large sums as I have mentioned, are still in receipt of substantial salaries or wages and who will be very adversely affected by this sudden change. I emphasise the suddenness of the change. There has been no time to make arrangements to meet the contingency, and it is not to be presupposed that there has been any lack of prudence in the undertaking of obligations, in a situation which might have been expected to continue.
Apart from the question of whether 1s. 6d. a day is reasonable, there is the additional question of why there should be this differentiation between the Regular soldier, or the Territorial when called up, on the one hand, and the militiaman on the other. I know it is said that the Regular soldier has undertaken vastly greater obligations. He has undertaken with his eyes open, as a matter of voluntary contract, to give certain services in return for a predetermined reward. On the other hand, in the case of the militiaman, no such bargain has been entered into by him voluntarily. This duty and this obligation are being compulsorily imposed upon him. I should have thought that that was a reason why he should be paid more and not less than the Regular soldier, but I am not contending that he should be paid more. My argument is directed simply to the point that he should be paid the same. The Regular soldier gets substantial advantages. In certain circumstances he is entitled to a pension and, in any event, he gets the opportunity of vocational training. Greatest of all, he is not withdrawn, willy-nilly, from his ordinary occupation and 1487 his civilian life. The service of the Regular soldier is not an interlude in his ordinary life, but, in the case of the militiaman, his service upsets the whole of his social and economic situation. That, in my judgment, ought to put him on a par with the Regular soldier, as regards justification for paying him equal wages.
It has been said that in foreign countries where there is a system of conscription, the conscript soldier gets, I think it is, i½d. per day in France and up to 1od. per day in Germany. The Government have tried to impress on the Committee, however, that this is not in the ordinary sense of the term a conscription Bill—that it is a temporary Measure. This is something new to our manner of life. It is not a part of our ordinary social and economic outfit and it has not become as in other countries a regular expectation, in relation to which lives have been framed, that at a certain period a young man will be called upon to undergo a period of military service and will be cut out of civilian life. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, even at this late hour, to consider paying the militiaman on the same basis as the Regular soldier and the Territorial.
There is one isolated point to which I would direct attention. I understand that the Regular soldier, at the end of his term of service, is entitled to an allowance for civilian clothing, or alternatively to a civilian kit. There is no provision for anything of that kind in the case of the militiaman. Why should not he be entitled to some allowance for civilian clothing at the end of his service? The Committee will allow me to read an extract from a very pertinent letter on this subject written by one of my constituents. He asks:What happens if a young man, after serving his six months, discovers that the Army has made him far too big for his civilian clothes? It has always been one of the Army's boasts that it brings a man out.My constituent, who will come within the scope of the Bill, is afraid that he will be so much brought out by the Army, that he will have grown out of his civilian clothes, and I am asked to inquire from the Secretary of State whether such a one is to be put under the additional obligation of acquiring, at his own cost, a new suit, new underclothing, a new overcoat 1488 and the rest to fit him, expanded as he will be, after his period of training. Therefore, I ask for a civilian kit for the militiaman at the end of his service.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson
There has been a fundamental unity throughout this Debate. Although hon. Members in different parts of the Committee have differed on particular points, in general we are agreed that these men should have a square deal and that, as far as possible, conditions should be made reasonable for their dependants. Hon. Members have shown considerable ingenuity in discovering cases of hardship and appealing to the generosity of the Minister, but surely the prize for ingenuity in that respect must go to the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan), who suggested that his constituents who found that the Army had treated them too well should be provided with civilian kit on their discharge. The Minister has been pressed on all sides to be generous, and I have no doubt his inclination lies in that direction. He realises that in introducing the Military Training Bill he is doing a big thing, and I am sure he is anxious to do it in a big way.
Three problems arise in this connection, first, that of the pay of the men; second, that of allowances to their wives and families, and third, that of allowances to other dependants. If the issue as to pay had been between the original proposal of 1s. and the suggested pay of 2s., I should have preferred the 2s. proposal, but the Minister has realised that is. would not be enough, and has compromised on 1s. 6d. Hon. Members opposite have asked why should there be this differentiation. I am not much impressed by some of the reasons which have been given against it. I can see the inconsistency of saying, on the one hand, that the Regular soldier accepts service abroad as a liability, and, on the other hand, urging men to join the Army and see the world. Personally, I think that one of the advantages of joining the Army is the opportunity of going abroad.
I would, however, like to put forward a reason for differentiation which, I hope, will appeal to hon. Members opposite. One of the regrets expressed in connection with this Bill is that it is a compulsory Measure. Hon. Members opposite have praised the voluntary system. If you pay 1489 the Regular soldiers and the militia exactly the same, what inducement is there to a man to accept the longer period of service in the Regular Army? It seems to me that we help to preserve the voluntary system by preserving the difference in pay between the Regular Army and the militia. When a man joins the Regular Army he has to join for a number of years. If pay and conditions are exactly the same, a man may say "Why should not I be called up as a militiaman and see how I like it, before deciding whether I shall join the Army or not?" In fact, the actual cash difference is not considerable, but I hope it is enough to make men think it worth while to join the Army.
With regard to the commitments of the men who are called up, I thought the Government were generous in undertaking to pay marriage allowances to the men called up under this Bill. I can see that in the case of men who are called up now, and who had married before they knew that they might be liable for military training, that was necessary, but if the amount of money which the Government propose to spend is limited, I would prefer them to be more generous to dependants. I think a distinction can be drawn between those commitments which were entered into by men before it was known that they would be liable to service, and commitments entered into afterwards. I think the point might be made that, although marriage allowances should be paid for a period, it is not necessarily the policy of the Government to persuade men to marry before the age of 20 by offering inducements of this kind. Anyhow, I hope that as regards commitments into which men have already entered the Government will be as generous as they can be. In particular, I support the appeal for generosity towards dependants. The obligations of a man of 20 to his dependants are very great and should be recognised. At the same time, we cannot expect the Government to do the impossible.
When we talk of the hardships that will be involved, we must remember that the period of service will be for only six months, and we have also to take into account the fact that the purpose of the Military Training Bill is to preserve peace and that if unfortunately there was to be a war, the sacrifices which everybody, including those affected by this Bill, would 1490 have to make would be very much greater. Therefore, I think some allowance must be made, in estimating the nature of the sacrifices that people would be called upon to undertake as a consequence of this Bill, for what sacrifices they would have to make in the event of war. As this is a peace Measure, and its object is to make this country so strong that war may be avoided, I think the sacrifice should be looked at in that light, and, therefore, undue stress should not be laid upon it. Within the limits of what is financially possible, however, I am sure the Government will have support from all quarters of the House, and from the country generally, if they are prepared to recognise that those men who are called up have the right to expect at least that their homes shall be maintained during their period of service and that such contractual obligations as they may have entered into before being called up shall be met. Also, I believe that the Government have a right to call upon employers to help in this matter. I do not think the whole of the obligations should necessarily fall upon the Government. I believe, for instance, that so far as men who are engaged in local government service are concerned, an example might be set—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I am afraid the hon. Member is going back to one of the Clauses of the Bill.
§ Mr. Lipson
I am sorry if I have transgressed the rules of order. I will content myself by saying that I welcome the decision of the Government to increase the payment to the men from 1s. to 1s. 6d. a day, and I hope the Government will see their way clear to make such arrangements with regard to the dependants of the men who are called up as to secure that no unnecessary hardship is caused.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald
It is generally agreed that whatever else this Bill should do, it should not disturb family life too much. Therefore, the financial provisions must be judged from that aspect. To what extent do they leave things in the home as they were, with the exception that the boy of 20 has been called up? My hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) put the case as we see it 1491 very clearly, but it may be helpful to put specific points arising from one's own experience. I have in my division boys of 20, sons of miners, and I want to ask whether they would receive any allowance under this financial provision. First of all, however, let me refer to the pay of 1s. 6d. per day. I agree with the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) that 1s. 6d. a day is a fairly generous provision. For a young man to have 10s. 6d. a week to spend on himself in any way he thinks fit cannot be complained of on any side of the House. But let it be clearly understood what the position is. In most cases he will be expected to send 3s. 6d. a week home, and that will leave him 1s. a day. I do not want any hon. Member opposite to suggest that that is a generous provision. I quite agree again that it may be possible to show that these young men have not had 10s. 6d. to spend on themselves before they were called up, but in some cases they have had more than 10s. 6d. for themselves, if that is the argument.
Let me take some specific cases with regard to allowances. I will mention first the case of a boy of 20, a miner in Lancashire, receiving to-day between 35s. and £2 a week, with a father, also a miner, receiving round about 45s. That is roughly £4 a week going into that house, for three persons, to-day. This young man is called up, and his 36s. or 37s. goes, which leaves 45s. between the man and his wife. I know that it is imposible to prove that there is need there, if we accept some folks' conception of need, because they will say, "What, 22s. 6d. per person? Surely there is no need there." But the position in that house will have changed tremendously, from £4 for three persons to 45s. for two persons. I want the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, when he replies, to be quite straight with this Committee. Is it conceived that under the circular which I have in my hand there will be any allowance granted to that family, or is it to be said that because 45s. a week is still going in for two persons, they are not too badly off? I submit that the standard of comfort in that house will be reduced if no allowance is made.
The other case that I want the hon. and gallant Gentleman to consider is a case within my knowledge of permanent 1492 compensation. It is the case of a man who will receive that compensation as long as he lives. He is to-day receiving, as compensation, 26s., half his pre-accident earnings, and the son in this case is receiving 36s. There, it is obvious that the parents will be expected to live on the 26s., for man and wife. It may be said that in this case the circumstances are different, but is it the idea of the Government that there will be a difference of treatment in those two cases? We on this side want to get an idea of what the Government idea of need is. In one case there is 45s. earnings, and in the other case there is 26s. compensation, with the same loss with regard to the calling-up of the son. Cannot we be told whether it is intended that in the one case, where 26s. a week is the income, there will be some allowance granted, and that in the other case, simply because ihere is 45s. income, there will be no allowance? We have argued throughout that there ought not to be any difference at all in family comfort after a boy has gone away, except the mother's grief for her absent boy.
Let me put it that the cases of married men at this age are exceedingly few. We are not legislating here for millions, but, in my opinion, for hundreds and no more. Take the case of a man who was married before 27th April or before the date on which this Bill becomes law, and he lived in a house with his wife, paying 10s. to 12s. a week rent, with the furniture in the main on the hire system. I want the Civil Lord to tell us what the Government intend to do in such a case. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Sea-ham covered nearly the whole ground, as an opening speech generally does, and all that subsequent speeches can do is to emphasise the points made earlier, but will the Civil Lord deal with this case? It is a case of £40 worth of furniture, with a weekly payment for it of 6s. I want to know, when the husband has been called up and his wife is called upon to make this weekly payment of 6s. to cover the £40 furniture on the hire system, what the Government intend to do in such a case. Do they intend that the whole of that 6s. shall be met out of allowances, that that man's furniture is to be paid for while he is away for six months? For those six months are any payments to be made at all towards the cost of his furniture, or is his wife to say, "We shall have to suspend payment for six months, 1493 and this debt must stand over till my husband's return"? I hope the Civil Lord will make it clear to the Committee and to the country that the standard of comfort in every home from which a boy is taken will be just as high as it was before he was taken away.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to emphasise the fact that the effort of the Minister to prove a case for differentiation against the conscript was absolutely without any argument that any intelligent Member of this Committee could accept. We, of course, agree that the volunteer soldier does not get sufficient pay, and we consider that he should get a far greater rate of wage than he is getting now, but when it comes to the question of a conscript, we contend that he should get for himself and for his family a rate equal at least to what he was having in the particular occupation in which he was engaged before being called up. While reference has been made to the commitments that a conscript may have if he is married, we should remember that thousands of these conscripts who are not married will have commitments in the form of instalments to pay. When you are considering this question of conscription, you have to take your own rotten system into account, and a young man cannot look at a paper or an advertisement, or go around any of our cities and through the main streets, without having continually presented before him the temptation to get clothing and other odds and ends on the instalment system. Thousands of these lads will be drawn up who are paying weekly instalments for clothing and one thing and another. Are the instalments to pile up while these lads are in the Army, or are they to get the amount they were already earning, so that they can meet all these contractual obligations? It should not be a question of the Government, through some of their civil officers or Departments, meeting these contractual obligations. The Government should give the conscript a sufficient amount to ensure that he is able to meet every obligation, whether it is the maintenance of his wife, the maintenance of his parents, or the meeting of any debts that he may have incurred before he was called up.
I have experience of very many young men who will be faced with difficulties of this character, and it will be necessary to 1494 consider them, not simply from the point of view of men who are being conscripted and who are to be paid simply in relation to the ordinary wages of the soldier. As I say, the soldier's wage should be far more than it is, but the conscript should be ensured that no change whatever for the worse will affect him while he is carrying on his training, and that he will not be faced with a burden of debt when his training is finished. Nobody can say a word against the argument of the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) with regard to the man who is married or who is assisting his parents. The hon. Member drew attention to the fact that the heavy overhead expenses go on. The parents of a conscript may be old age pensioners who have to go to the public assistance committee to get additional relief. Are these young men to be called up and, as we are told, be prepared to defend the country—which means being prepared to defend the wealth and property of the country—are they to be paraded as the potential defenders of the country while their parents, who may be old age pensioners, have to go to the public assistance committee for supplementary relief? Are we to have a situation where the widowed mothers of these lads have to go to the public assistance committee?
We are told that it is the duty of these lads to serve the country. If that be so it is the duty of the country to see that they and their mothers, fathers and wives are cared for as they should be cared for. Of course, it will take a lot of money if they are to get the treatment we consider they should get, but the money is obtainable. We contend that the ordinary soldier does not get sufficient, and that it is no argument to say that because the ordinary soldier gets 2s., 1s. 6d. is enough for the conscript. During the War when the Australians came here they had the most harsh things to say about the treatment of the soldiers in this country and about the allowances they got. The same applied to the Canadians and the Americans. It is almost unbelievable that we can build up an Army on the cheap in the way in which it is done in this country.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It has been ruled that we must not discuss the pay of the Regular Army, and I think that that is what the hon. Gentleman is about to do.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I do not want to wander from the subject we are discussing. I am trying to show that when the Minister makes a comparison and tries to justify the 1s. 6d. for the conscript because it is only 6d. less than what is paid to the ordinary soldier, when the ordinary soldier is getting only half what he should get, the argument falls to the ground. I would like to know whether when these lads are called up the ordinary soldier will have any right to make a protest at the introduction of cheap labour into this particular occupation. We are told that the soldier has political rights and has now the vote. Generals and lieutenant-colonels take an interest in politics and particularly in questions which affect their own particular class.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I would remind the hon. Member that we are discussing the pay of the militiamen, and that he is now getting rather wide of the subject.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am sorry if my illustrations seem to have got rather wide of the mark, but I can see that many problems of this kind can easily arise by this introduction of cheap labour. There is another point of some importance. I suppose that the Minister will be aware that the introduction of conscription and the calling up of all these lads at 20 years of age will mean that we shall have a large number of young Communists in the Army.
§ Mr. Gallacher
We will come to that in a moment. On several occasions I have had to put questions about young Communists being put out of the Army, but now they are going to be drawn in. I am certain that with the training that these young Communists have had—for they have had a good training in trade unionism, politics and economics—they know what cheap labour means. Will these young Communists who are being drawn into the Army be allowed their fundamental right of agitating against the 1s. 6d. a day? They will be very bitterly opposed to it. Will they be allowed to organise against it?
§ The Chairman
This might have been in order on the Second Reading or the Committee stage of the Bill, but what he is saying has nothing to do with the question of the men's pay.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In any case, the young Communists will be there and whether I can argue the question here or not I am certain they will raise it. We are for ensuring that all these lads will get the fairest possible financial treatment while they are under training, and that they will have no worry about the conditions which obtain at home. I know from my experience in going about the country of the unnecessary worry and suffering endured by many mothers and wives because of the parsimony of the ruling classes towards the soldiers.
§ Major Procter
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether Russian mothers worry over the still smaller pay of their conscripts?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I continually try to keep in order, but temptation is always put in my way. It is not permissible for me to discuss that question now, but if the Chairman would allow it, I would be prepared to prove that you do not know what you are talking about.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am sure that you do not want me to indulge in any discussion of that character, so I will leave it. I would like the parents, wives and families of the lads who are conscripted to have the same conditions as obtain in the Soviet Union. We want to see the best conditions obtainable. We are opposed to this Bill, but if it is to operate we want to see the utmost protection, not only for the conscripts, but for their families. I know it would cost a lot of money if the proposals we bring forward were put into operation. We cannot call up these young men, the sons of the working class, who have always been able to work and earn their own livelihood, and say that they have a service to perform to the country unless we can show by our conduct that the country has a service which it must render to them. The only service that the country can render to them is to guarantee that there will be no reduction in the standard of living for them or for their families, and, above everything else, that it can never be said that the parents, grandparents or widowed mothers of any of these men have to go to the public assistance committee. If these young men have a duty to serve the country that duty embraces the protection of wealth and 1497 property. Therefore, let those who have wealth and property produce the money that is necessary. Let us have in connection with this Estimate the conscription of wealth about which we heard the Prime Minister and others talk. Let those who have the wealth contribute to this expenditure.
§ Mr. Gallacher
We are discussing an Estimate for the pay of the conscripts, and I thought that in the process it might be permissible to make a suggestion to the Government as to where the money could be obtained, because I am well aware of the fact that the Government are lacking in ideas about that or are diffident about considering them. The speech made by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) presented an absolutely foolproof case for higher pay for the conscript soldiers and for the greatest possible protection for those dependent upon them. We ask the Government to recognise the service they are forcing these young men to give, and to recognise also what it means to their families, and so recognising it to take the necessary steps to provide an Estimate which will suffice to meet what we on this side of the Committee demand.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Colonel Burton
I do not know whether we may look forward to seeing the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) in command of a Communist battalion. If he were and they acquitted themselves on the field as well as he does in this House, we should, I am sure, not be disappointed. An hon. Member has said that service in the Army will cure anybody of Communism.
§ Colonel Burton
I do not often agree with what the hon. Member for West Fife says, but on one point I do agree with him, and that is that we must make more generous allowances in some of the particular cases of hardship. This morning I received a letter from a widow in receipt of a pension. Her son earns 32s. a week. The rent is 6s. a week.
§ Colonel Burton
It is a low rent, but it is. a poor part of the country. The son 1498 is liable to be called up in July. He is an agricultural worker. When he goes Heaven knows what is to happen to the farm—but that is another matter. With his 32s. a week and her pension of 1os, there is 42s. a week going into the home, out of which comes 6s. for rent, leaving 36s. If the son goes 32s. comes off that 36s., and the mother will be left to live on 4s. a week. That is not the sort of thing that we want to see in this country. One realises that it will cost a lot of money to provide the necessaries for some of these people, but I feel that the Minister cannot intend that a poor widow should be left in that condition. She tells me, further, that her son has a bicycle bought on the hire-purchase system, and they also have a wireless set on which they are paying a weekly sum, and she fears that she will lose her wireless and the boy his bicycle. If under the proposed arrangements she gets 17s. a week she will be left to try to live on 21s. a week, with rent to pay and these odds and ends of contractual obligations. I hope we are to have a tribunal which will be more generously-minded than some of the tribunals we see about the country at the present time. I have been a soldier nearly all my life and I should not like to bring before a military tribunal persons who are in what one might call indigent circumstances. I suggest that, as the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) said, we ought to have on the local tribunals persons who understand local conditions, and although the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) is not here this evening, I cannot help thinking that we should also have a woman on these tribunals.
We wish to see this compulsory service as popular as possible. When it was said some time ago that the Government would have regard to the contractual obligations of the men called up, that went a great way to ensuring its popularity, and any parsimonious attempt to cut down these allowances and to place people in a very much worse position than they are at the present time will make it so unpopular that we shall regret our action to the end of our days. I hope that the Minister, having been generous in putting up the pay by 50 per cent., is not going to use that as an argument for cutting down the allowances. Having said that, 1499 I should like to congratulate the Government on having had the pluck to bring in this Measure. I have found that it is extremely popular in the country, that the only thing which worries people is, as they put it, "Are we going to find that a large number of people who were in comparatively comfortable circumstances and undertook legitimate contractual obligations which they expected to be able to fulfil are suddenly to be placed in a less comfortable position?" If we can give the people assurances on that point I am certain that this Measure of compulsory service will be the success that we all desire it to be.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern
The more I hear of the demand for decent conditions for the militiamen and see the resistance to it on the part of Members of the Government, the more I am driven to recall that little saying which we heard towards the end of the last War.Your King and country need you,To fight on foreign soil.Will your King and country need you,When they're sharing out the spoil?I am sure that it cannot have been a great comfort to the representative of the Government on the Treasury Bench to hear from the hon. and gallant Member for Sudbury (Colonel Burton), that while he approves of this Measure he sees the inevitable brutality which will be meted out to many of those who are being conscripted for service. Being against the Measure myself I am in a different position from the hon. and gallant Member, but at the same time I say to the Government, if you conscript young men, tear them away from their family associations, from their employment and from their decent home conditions, in order to prepare them to defend the vested interests of the country, you ought to give them decent conditions in return for the service you expect of them.
I note with amazement the suggestions in the Press and elsewhere that because the Government have decided to give an extra "tanner" a day, opposition to this Measure ought to be withdrawn. I do not believe that it was ever the intention of the Government to give the militiamen 1s. a day only. That was just a little trick to try to break down opposition to the Measure. The Government announce 1s. a day. Then, from all over 1500 the country comes the cry—from the capitalist Press and from some of their own supporters—that we must be generous in our treatment of the men and give them a square deal, and that means in the end this concession of an extra 6d. a day. A little less than the price of 10 cigarettes extra is being given to the militiaman, and we all have to go down on our knees and thank the Government for having made a great gesture.
I am reminded of an incident which illustrates the Government's attitude. In Parkhead Forge, before the labourers were organised, a demand was made that the labourers should have an increase in wages. They met in the factory and workshop and decided to send a spokesman to see Sir William Beardmore. He went in as representing the labourers and said: "I am sent with a demand that the labourers should have 3s. a week as an increase, but I believe the men will take 2s." Sir William Beardmore said: "I will give you 1s.," and the opposition broke down. I do not accept 1s. 6d. as a square deal for the militiaman whether he has outside obligations or not. I can never back a Bill like this which says to a man who is being trained for the most dangerous occupation in life: "We shall take you from your employment where you may have decent wages and conditions and shall employ you at 1s. or 1s. 6d. per day." If the man is to be trained to defend the interests of this country he ought to be paid during his six months' training the trade union wages that he was drawing when he was in employment, and nothing less than that should be demanded by the working-class movement of this country. A man is entitled when he is being disturbed in his life to at least the conditions that he had before he was conscripted.
I hear talk of the great enthusiasm for this Measure and that there is only a little demand for an extra copper. I say that Members of this Committee are living in a fool's paradise. Every week-end in the heart of my Division I continually meet people in the streets and at my home, and I have never had so many people at my door as I have had in the last two weeks in connection with this Measure. They have all complained about their sons being conscripted. They are opposed to conscription, and most of them are under no delusion as to the purpose for which the sons are being conscripted. 1501 They tell me the conditions applying to their own homes, and there is a definite fear on the part of a number of those people. Whether that is the case with 20, 30 or 40 people in a Division, the position has to be faced. The fear of some of the women whose sons are now the mainstay of the home is that they will be evicted during the six months, when the son is conscripted to defend the rich class.
Let me give the Committee, as typical, the case of a woman who came to see me last Sunday. It can be multiplied many times in every working-class Division in the country. The woman is a widow, and because her husband had not had sufficient stamps on his card she does not receive the widows' pension. That was the first injustice. She has three children under 14 years of age and there is a son of 20. The son drives a motorcar for a warehouse in Glasgow and his employer pays him £3 a week. The son will be conscripted under the Bill. The rent of the home is 14s. a week and the woman estimates that in their new municipal house, coal, gas and electricity cost her nearly 6s. a week. That makes a total of £1 before anything is paid for sustenance or for clothing, insurance, church dues or anything else. Assume—and I am not at all clear about this aspect of the matter—that we give 17s. a week to the mother as is to be given to the wife, and children's allowances in addition; she would then draw only 27s. 6d. per week. It is not clear that she will get anything like that sum, but, in any case, it will cost her £1 for rent, coal, gas and electricity and she will have 7s. 6d. left in order to maintain the home. She will have to go upon public assistance as soon as her son is called to the Army.
Is that the sort of thing we are to have in this country? Are we to have widowed mothers going to the Poor Law and appealing to local rates to give them assistance while their sons are being trained to kill in defence of the rich men in this country? That woman is brokenhearted. She said: "I did not get the widows' pension, and now this is the final injustice being meted out to me after all the brutal acts that I have suffered during the last few years." Young women of 20 years of age will suffer. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) said there would not be many of them, but I do not accept that statement. Many 1502 young men in Glasgow of 20 years of age have been married since they were 17 and some of them have two or three children. Those women will be driven to public assistance in order to maintain the children. Up to the introduction of the Bill young women with families and whose husbands were in the Regular Army went for public assistance, but you will now extend that to the women affected by the Bill.
What will be done to meet the rents of the men who are called away, and of the widowed mothers, and the fathers and mothers when the father may be ill in the home? How is the home to be maintained? Will the rent be met, or shall we have what we had during the last War—women hauled to the rent courts and in danger of their furniture being thrown on to the streets while their sons were being conscripted for service? Is that to be the law? I do not usually put questions to Ministers, because one never expects to get satisfactory answers. I understand how the system operates, and I know that nothing is obtained from a Capitalist Government by grovelling to them; but on this occasion I ask, Is anything to be done or any protection to be given that will ensure that the widowed mother and the dependants in the home will not be adversely affected during the period of training of these young men? I regard this question as vital to the interests of the people who are to be left behind and I expect some answer that will satisfy those who are demanding from us knowledge that we do not possess. I am being asked many things about the effects of the Measure, and I cannot answer them because I do not know the answers. I do not know whether even the Minister knows. We are expected to advise the people who come to us as to what is going to happen to them.
There is no need to reinforce what has been said about those who have other commitments in the home, such as an ailing father or mother for whom special nourishment and sustenance is required. The allowance will not meet the needs of these people, and I cannot accept this 1s. 6d. as anything other than an insult to the conscript and his family. Nobody need tell me what is paid in France, or Russia, or Belgium. That is not my job. It is the job of the workers and Socialists, in those countries to demand decent conditions for their people. I am here to 1503 demand decent conditions for our people, though I am against the Measure, I loathe it, and would smash it to smithereens if I had the power. It is being forced on unwilling youths in this country who were not consulted and who do not agree with it. I wish a referendum could be taken among these young men; if that were done, you would get the shock of your lives.
It must not be thought that there is agreement because there have not been wholesale demonstrations. The history of this country has shown that the working class, outside a few pioneers, do not realise the viciousness of an Act until it is upon them and in operation. Then you begin to feel the pinch and hear the shouting in the country. I am voicing the claims of the working man. Take the case of a young man who has served his time at his trade. When he reaches the age of about 20, after five, six or seven years at his trade, his parents have suffered a low wage, his time is just out, they have built on that boy being able to recompense and indemnify them for the sacrifice they made to bring him there. Now, in the first six months of his time as a journeyman, he is seized, at the very worst period of his life, before he has been able to practise his trade as a full-fledged journeyman, and is taken away and pressed into service; and, instead of the wage he would have been getting, say in the building trade, of £3 8s. or £3 12s. 6d., he is put into the Army at 1s. 6d. a day, and the smug people lie back and say, "Oh, yes, we must pay for the defence of the country; we must be generous to these men; we will give them an extra 6d." The generosity of the Government towards these men is like the handing of a penny to a blind man at the street corner. They actually imagine that they are being charitable and decent in giving these men 1s. 6d. a day, but they are robbing the man of life, they are putting him into an environment that is demoralising; because the young man who is placed with a gang of other men away from family life and the influence of his mother and his other womenfolk, is demoralised, whatever people may say. Therefore, my plea to the Government is that, when people like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) want these men to defend their African possessions and 1504 bonds, they ought to be prepared to pay them generously, because these men are going to place their bodies between Hitler and their selfish possessions. But they are soulless in their attitude to the worker. They are thinking in terms of a means test army, of a conscript army on the same standards as the unemployed at the labour exchange. They cannot find it in their hearts to pay for the services for which they intend to conscript these men.
I am opposed to this miserable pittance of 1s. 6d. a day. I say that the rich class in this country ought to be compelled to pay for the defence of their interests, and that trade union standards ought to be maintained, that the men ought to be given a living wage, that their dependants ought to be supported, that an Act should be placed on the Statute Book prohibiting the eviction of the family of any of these men for non-payment of rent, and that they should be given decent treatment. But this miserable, pettifogging, brutal Government which is operating in this country on behalf of the capitalist class knows nothing but miserable, shameful, soulless treatment of the workers. It looks upon them as the slaves of a rich section of society. While I will advise them not to go and not to serve, I say that those who do go to defend your African possessions and your colonial possessions against Hitler ought to be given the maximum of decency of treatment that a generous country ought to give to men who are prepared ultimately to sacrifice their lives to defend its wealth.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
When the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) demanded for these young men what he called a living wage, and for their dependants sufficient allowances and protection against eviction, I imagine the whole Committee was with him; but when he described the service that these young men are to undertake as robbing them of life, as something with a demoralising atmosphere, I thought that he was at a distance from realities that was unworthy of the hon. Member for Shettleston. I generally admire him. I do not believe in his views, but I admire his sound sense and practical outlook. In this case, however, he is not anywhere near the truth. I speak as one who has served in the ranks, and, so far from the atmosphere being demoralising, I believe that these 1505 young men will find it stimulating and invigorating, that it will make men of these young fellows who may need it.
I think that this Debate has been exceptionally well worth while. The hon. Member for Shettleston said—in one of his wiser moments, if I may say so—that the subject of pay and allowances is one on which all of us have been asked to give information to our constituents. I remember well how vital to us it was in the last War to secure all that we were entitled to in the way of marriage allowances and children's allowances. My father had gone to the War, and hundreds of thousands of others went through that ordeal. The pennies, sixpences and shillings that the wife and children bring home on behalf of the man are as important as food to these people, and, therefore, it is absolutely necessary that we should get these various matters clear.
The advantage of the speech of the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) this afternoon was that it asked certain very pointed questions and sought from the Government information on a number of matters. I am one of those who find it impossible to justify a difference of payment between the young conscript and the regular soldier. This young man is going to serve with Regulars, who may have joined up on the same day as himself; or he is going to serve his six months with Territorials, and, when he has served his six months, he may serve again with Territorials; and in each of these three cases he is serving with men who get 6d. a day more than he does. I do not know how that is justified. There is only one possible justification that I can see. This young man is to get not only his pay for this military training, but one or two other things of even greater importance. That is what the hon. Member for Seaham brought out, as I thought, so splendidly. There is, first, the allowance to be paid to his wife and children. Secondly, there is to be an allowance to his dependants if he is not married. The Minister told us that there were certain grades of dependants' allowances: one would be up to 7s. a week, another 12s., and the third 17s. We ought to know more about that, and I hope the representative of the Government who is to reply will make it abundantly clear what is intended. There is a third factor with which the new conscript is vitally concerned, and that is 1506 a matter which, again, was brought out by the hon. Member for Seaham, namely, the considerations mentioned by the Minister of Labour on 15th May, when he said:We have to consider what we can do and how best we can do it in regard to rents, to payments under hire-purchase agreements, mortgage agreements and periodic payments in respect of insurance, especially insurances with collecting societies. That is a formidable list. The Clause is directed to easing the position of the militiaman while on service, to make his mind easy while he is undergoing his training."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1939; col. 1138, Vol. 347.]I can justify this differentiation between the pay of the militiaman and that of the Territorial or Regular soldier only if I am satisfied that the allowances to be made to the militiaman in respect of the needs of his wife and children or other dependants, and in respect of contractual obligations, in sum amount to as much as that extra 6d. If that is the intention of the Government, as I hope it is, I do not think we shall have any fair ground for criticism. This young man is quite unlike the Regular soldier. The Regular soldier leaves his home and is away for perhaps six or seven years. He goes because he wants to go. It is his career. He has a field marshal's baton in his knapsack. [Interruption.] I believe that he has; and more so than ever today. With the new system of promotion from the ranks, he has exceptional opportunities. He is concerned only with himself and his family. He has no ties from which to wrench himself. The mitilia-man is in an entirely different position, and, while it may be possible to say, "We shall not give him quite as much as the Regular," that can be justified only if you make it up in his allowances.
The right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) dwelt at some length on the conditions under which the militiamen would be brought. He expatiated on the provision of wireless sets, libraries, lectures, and so on. He was thinking of their intellectual development. Would I be justified in referring to another important element in the attempt to make the militiaman contented? If I was given a neat uniform that fitted me, in which I could appear in public without feeling ashamed, I should have a certain pride in my regiment; I would walk out with others in uniform, and perhaps help to bring in recruits. But I maintain that the uniforms provided now for the Army are 1507 shoddy and cheap, and in many cases ill-fitting. I will not develop that further now. I will only say that I have good ground for the assertion that the men now in the Army are not too proud of the uniforms they have; and if these new militiamen are to gain esprit de corps they must be provided with better uniforms. A few days ago the Secretary for War was asked whether there were sufficient uniforms available for the Army. He said he thought that there were. My information is that that is not so, and I invite him to give an assurance that there will be sufficient uniforms available for these men.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Shettleston that it is an unwilling youth whom we are about to conscript. That may be his experience, but it is not mine. I have not met one young man yet who would not give his services. I should be quite willing to accept a referendum on the question; I believe it would show a very large vote in favour. But the Government ought to assure us that, having made this great break with tradition, which to many has been a painful break, the conditions under which these young men enter the Army will be the best conditions possible, and that the homes which they may leave shall not in future grudge the service of their sons, but shall feel proud that they have served their country, and, in that pride, shall recognise that the country has done fairly by them.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubert Beaumont
I was particularly interested in the speech just made by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). I felt that if he continued his remarks much longer I should be disposed to oppose the payment of even 1s. 6d. a day, and would consider that these conscripts ought to pay for being allowed to come into the Army. One gathered from the hon. Member's speech that the virtue of having a well-fitting uniform would be sufficient compensation for all the discomfort of being torn away from home, because we heard from him of the great delights of being able to walk out in a well-fitting uniform. I wonder whether the men to be conscripted will have the privilege extended to them of being able to go out in civilian clothes.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member will, perhaps, have noticed that I had to stop an hon. Member who preceded him on this point. He is going much further in talking about soldiers going out in civilian clothes.
§ Mr. Beaumont
I want to get down to the fact that, however good the conditions of service may be for these conscripts, however efficient may be the organisation, and however good their feeding, if these men are torn with anxiety as to what is happening to their families they will not turn out to be good and efficient soldiers. Therefore, I submit that the fact that the Government have already seen fit to increase the rate of pay from 1s. to 1s. 6d. is a recognition on the part of the Government that their first estimate was not only wrong but that it would not have been acceptable to the country at large. It is very evident that, as a result of the insistence of Members on this side of the Committee that the 1s. a day was an inadequate sum to pay, the Government have deemed it wise to submit the proposal that the payment shall be 1s. 6d. a day. I gather from what I heard in Birmingham last night that the Government are now to take credit unto themselves for having increased the conscript's wage from 1s. to 1s. 6d. They are going around as the people who have increased it from 1s. to 1s. 6d. If they want to get full credit, why do they not increase it to 2S., as we suggest? We are prepared to allow them to get all the kudos they can, if they will submit to our suggestion and increase the pay to that of the ordinary soldier. The hon. Member for East Fife argued the comparison between the Regular soldier and the new conscript. He missed out one fundamental point that the new soldier, the militiaman, is being conscripted at 20 years of age and onwards, but that the Regular soldier enters the Army at 17½ years of age and upwards. At that age he has in very few cases any great commitments or people dependent upon him. Therefore, the comparison is an entirely false one.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
The hon. Member is developing better the argument which I tried to develop, namely, that the needs of the two men—the Regular soldier and the militiaman—are quite distinct, and therefore should be met in different ways. I agree with the hon. Member in that.
§ Mr. Beaumont
I am endeavouring to put the argument in such a form that the hon. Member will find himself, if a Division takes place, in the Lobby with us on this particular Amendment. That will be the acid test. Now we are told of all these supposed advantages of the conscript soldier and that the reason why there is a difference between the wage paid to the new militiaman and the one paid to the Regular soldier is the fact that the militiamen are only being trained for soldiers in peace time and that the Regular soldier accepts obligations of war and of service overseas. We have been told in this House within the last few weeks that we are not living in a state of peace, that we are living in danger of war and that these men are being trained not to preserve the peace, but, in the eventuality of war, to be ready to take up service for their country. If that argument be true, it adds weight to our demand that, as far as possible, the conditions of service should be the same. The present position is that there is great anxiety. Cases have been quoted in this House of men who will be subjected to great deprivation of income and whose families also will suffer. Is it not possible that there will be a considerable amount of dissatisfaction and disaffection among the new troops because they are, first of all, not receiving the same wage as the Regular soldier, and, secondly, because their dependants will suffer because these men have been forced—they are not coming voluntarily—by the law of the land to enlist in this new army?
All of us are aware—I hope that I shall not be out of Order in mentioning this, Sir Dennis—that a certain amount of discontent existed during the last War because of the differences of pay between the soldiers that came from overseas and our own soldiers. I myself experienced being in a camp in which there were a large number of Australian soldiers and a number of British and also American soldiers, and the differences in pay was the cause of resentment between these soldiers. One knows the reason in this particular case, but I submit that it is possible that there may be differences and discontent arising when the members of the new conscript Army come into association and contact with members of the Regular Army. They will not be annoyed because the other soldiers are getting more; they will only be annoyed because 1510 they themselves are getting less. I notice in speeches that are being made upon this matter we are being informed that these soldiers are to get a large number of advantages in addition to the actual money that they will receive and the actual allowances that may be granted. The hon. Member for East Fife referred to certain provisions in the forms of entertainment and of the enjoyments of life, and so forth. These things are common to the Army at the present time, and we are all very glad that they are, but the conscript soldiers are to get no other advantages additional to what the present Regular soldiers enjoy, and I do not see why they should, but they are certainly to get a less wage for the service that they render. The Prime Minister in a speech delivered in London last week tried to remove a certain apprehension, which, he said, existed among widows and people who were dependent upon the earnings of their sons. He said:These young fellows are going to have a good time. They will come back having lost nothing, but so strong, so good looking, so fit that their mothers will hardly know them.I did not know that the course of training was to include beauty treatment. It might be an advantage, perhaps, for some hon. Members of this House to undergo this beneficient treatment—I mean hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Beaumont
I am looking at the other side. If this training is going to make these men fit and strong, is it not a tragedy that, under our present economic system, they cannot be made strong before they go into the Army? If I am not going outside the bounds of order, may I suggest that, if this conscript Army is to be as efficient as it is desired that it shall be, it would be of advantage to the Government to bring in some Measure which would enable the necessary food and comfort to be provided for these men before they reach 20 years of age, so that when they come to be conscripted they will be fit?
§ Mr. Beaumont
I will come in front of it. Much as we deplore this Measure, we are determined, as far as lies within our power, to see to it that if it becomes law 1511 the conditions for the conscripts shall be the best possible. We say emphatically that it will be a disgrace to Members of this House if the new conscript soldiers have to go through anxious periods, knowing that people who are dependent upon them are having to resort to Poor Law assistance. Every soldier's dependant who has to resort to the Poor Law system will mean a blot upon the honour of this country. I hope that the payments that are made and the hardships that are taken into account will be considered from that point of view, and that not one man shall have any state of anxiety about the care of the people whom he has looked after perhaps for a number of years. It is on those grounds that I ask that the pay should be increased to 2s., and that the most generous allowances should be given and the most favourable conditions provided in cases of extreme hardship.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Sloan
I hope I shall be excused if I say that I think it strange that the House of Commons, the Mother of Parliaments, should be spending all this time considering whether soldiers are to get 6d. extra—the humble tanner. This position has its comic side. You have the brains of the community attempting to devise this scheme, you have Cabinet Ministers, law officers and financial experts all trying to see how near they can be and how little they can pay to these militiamen. It reminds me of a saying that I used to hear in my part of the world when I was a boy, and knowing the conditions under which the old Militia existed:Take in the hens' meat; here is the Militia coming.It looks to me as if we are going to place the new militia on the same status as the old. The Secretary of State for War said that there were three alternatives, that they might have paid them the same as suggested, that they might have paid them less, or that they might have paid them more. There is a fourth alternative. They might have paid them nothing, and that would have been less of an insult to the militiamen than the amount it is now proposed to pay them. I wonder how the Government have come to fix this amount of 10s. 6d. a week. As I walk through the streets of London I see notices of a theatre supper at 10s. 6d., or an orchestra 1512 stall at 10s. 6d. That is the sum that the Government intend to pay to these men, who are to defend the country—a highly skilled occupation, which requires highly trained men.
I submit that the hardship of this scheme will bear only on one section of the community. I deny that there is an equality of sacrifice involved here and that the sons of hon. Members sitting opposite who may be called up will make any sacrifice at all. The sacrifice applies only to working-class families whose sons are to be called to the Army. There will be enormous sacrifices. Take the position of my own people, the Scottish miners. In Scotland, a miner is considered an adult when he reaches the age of 18. He is an adult worker then, and entitled to adult pay. If you take away a young miner of 20, who is earning 10s. a day, or £3 a week; you intend to substitute for that pay 10s. 6d. a week. That will bear exceptionally hard upon our mining community. Miners become prematurely aged, and miners who have sons 20 years of age are often unable to earn full wages, and to a large extent they are dependent upon the earnings of their sons. Miners are a prolific race. They are venturesome and enter early into the bonds of matrimony, which bring shoals of trouble upon them. The result is that when the oldest boy reaches 20 years of age there are usually quite a number in the family below him. You take away the main wage-earner of the family and you leave the father himself, who is not now able to earn the same wages in the mine. You are, therefore, making a considerable inroad upon the income of that family.
Again, we have a tremendously high ratio of accidents in the mines. Not infrequently you find the father on compensation, or on partial compensation, working at a light job, when he can get it. The income of that family is therefore considerably reduced. I suggest that you have no right to go into a Scottish miner's family, into a working-class home and take away the main wage-earner, without considering adequate compensation. I have not heard any suggestion that these cases are to be seriously considered. The position then will be that my people, who still have Scottish independence and do not care to go to the public assistance office, may be forced to do so. The mother in this miner's family may have to go to the public assistance 1513 office, because the Government have taken the main wage-earner out of the family.
Is there any valid reason why, when these boys are taken, they should not be paid the trade union rates of wages of the industry in which they are occupied when they are called up? Soldiers are not the only people that the Government have to pay. You have an army of civil servants, all very highly paid. You would never think of paying an office girl the scandalous wage that you are proposing to pay to these conscripts. These men, if war should break out, will be asked to place their bodies in front of the Army, and I cannot understand why there should be any difficulty whatever in seeing that they are decently treated. We have had sympathy from hon. Members on the other side but it only goes to the length of giving 1s. 6d. per day. Something much more is required. We say that if you are to call upon the boys of the working classes there should be no dubiety in the minds of any one about their receiving the trade union rate of wages of the industry in which they are at present engaged.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) will permit me to say most respectfully that he has put the miners' case in such a way as completely to satisfy me and, therefore, I shall have no reason for detaining the Committee for more than a few moments. I want to return to the question of the differentiation between the pay of the Regular soldier and that of the conscript. I have not been in the least impressed by the many efforts which have come from hon. Members opposite to try and prove that the hardship of the Regular soldier is far greater than that of the conscript. That contention has already been very effectively answered from this side of the Committee, and, therefore, I will only say this, that the Regular soldier generally enters the Army at a younger age than these conscripts of 20 and 21. More than that, he generally has time to adjust any little difficulties he may have at home, any domestic responsibilities he may have, so that he can enter the Regular Army more or less satisfied that domestic conditions at home will not be worse as a consequence of his becoming a soldier.
The conscript is not in that position at all. He will have to take up this training 1514 whatever may be the domestic hardship and perhaps the possible destruction for some years to come of his livelihood upon which his family may be dependent. I have received a number of letters from mothers of these prospective conscripts, and I will read a portion of one because it illustrates the type of case for which so far the Government have not proposed to give any assistance, apart from that which is provided in the Bill:I am writing on behalf of my son. He was 20 years of age last December. I would like you to let me know how my son stands now as a conscript. He borrowed money and opened a grocer's shop two miles away, 12 months ago. He prospered in business and so he has also opened another shop here in the last three months. He runs the two small shops with the help of his sister 16 years of age. He delivers all the orders himself, and I can assure you that the boy is working frightfully hard from morning until late at night, and he has just worked up what is comparatively a good business. Now if the Government conscript him what will become of his business and also of the money that he borrowed? We have no one to manage the business and if he is called up the business will certainly go to ruin.Later on she speaks of certain automatic scales which have been bought and are being paid for on the hire-purchase system. I happen to know the family. The father manages to work very infrequently, he suffers from a weak heart; and the family depend almost entirely on this young lad of 20 and his sister of 16. I refer to this case because it is typical of so many who will be conscripted within the next few months. It is useless to talk about a moratorium in cases of this kind. If this lad is conscripted, taken away from the business, the whole livelihood and prospects of the family will be destroyed. He is the business, and he cannot place a substitute in it. He looks after it himself, delivers all the orders and the contacts with customers are purely personal. If you conscript him you will do away with the business, and I see no alternative but for this family to be driven on to the Poor Law of the locality.
In passing, I would mention that in Merthyr Tydvil we shall watch carefully and jealously that the dependants of any of these conscripts shall not be thrown upon our Poor Law. The Government have already burdened us by forcing certain obligations upon us, and our rates of 30s. 6d. in the £ cannot possibly bear any more. Incidentally, we have to supplement old age pensioners to the extent of 3s. 5d. in the £. I want to 1515 emphasise most strongly that the provision as it is now in this Bill is too small, and that before the Debate ends I hope we shall have something concrete and definite as to what the Government propose to do, not only in the type of case I have mentioned but in the other types of cases which have been mentioned during the Debate.
I have found it very difficult to put this typical case before the Committee because I have a complete and absolute detestation of the whole Bill and of the whole idea. It is nonsense for hon. Members to say that these conscripts will not be unwilling soldiers. The fact that they have to be conscripted is a proof to the contrary, and the hardship which will be inflicted in innumerable cases will cause a great deal of resentment which, as the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has said, will grow in the process of time as sons of the working classes are conscripted. Unless the Government show a great deal more generosity, more good sense, more knowledge of working-class life and some appreciation of the economic embarrassment which the Bill will inflict during the first year of this great and devastating experiment, I can tell them with absolute certainty that there are very populous industrial areas which will show their resentment in a way that none of us would like to see, but they will be compelled to do it—the areas which have suffered under that inhuman instrument, the means test. I warn the Government not to enlarge upon that system by taking these youths away from these impoverished homes with nothing more in return than the miserable pittance laid down in this Paper.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
Inside this White Paper there is one side devoted to the total sum of £100, a page of explanation, and on the back page we have mentioned again that magnificent total of £100. It is a very meagre sort of White Paper. I think it is symbolical of the smallness and the shabbiness of the National Government in their treatment of the conscript. I have looked again and again at this £100 and I wonder if it bears any significance to what you are going to pay the conscripts whom you are calling up. It seems a pity that the Amendment to 1516 give them the vote was rejected the other day, because the question of pay and allowances would have been settled by a Parliament elected partly by these people who, as it is, have no voice in the matter at all. The principle of no conscription without representation would be more democratic, and those who were elected would have considered the question of pay and allowances knowing that they represented, at least partly, the young men who would have been given the vote.
The question of remuneration for these men, it seems to me, raises two fundamental issues. What has the youth to give, and what is the value of the service to be given? The conscript must give much. At least he must live six months out of his life, six months away from his ordinary freedom, six months out of his liberty, and in many cases leaving home for six months will prove a hardship for those who are left, so that while he is away he will be sacrificing his peace of mind concerning his dependants. If war happens to come, which God forbid, during his term of service—the term is not only six months, because he is tied up for three years at least—he may be called upon to make the great sacrifice and forfeit his life. That grave hazard, with all its contingent risks, ought to be weighed very carefully in assessing the pay and allowances.
Who is to estimate the value in cash of such service, especially when the service is forced upon the conscript? We have the onerous task of assessing the work of what is taken from these young men, and we ought to consider carefully before making such an assessment. I do not know what the estimate will be for the cost of the conscript, but if you place it at £100—I believe that is an outside figure—surely six months loss of freedom, six months away from his ordinary occupation and from his home, with the possible loss of life, is worth far more than that estimate which has been placed upon it. If the cost to the State equalled six months' salary of a Member of Parliament it would not be too high. The service to the State of Members of Parliament is highly valued. The service to the State of the conscript in my opinion should be equally highly valued. At any rate, 1s. 6d. a day is far too small, even allowing for any compensation or allowance to dependants. The question of 1517 equal pay for the conscript and the ordinary Regular recruit has been thrashed out pretty well. The conscript has been called an amateur, but the Regular recruit, when he joins, is an amateur as well. The Regular recruit's initial pay is 2s. Equal pay for equal service ought to demand 2s. for the conscript as well as for the Regular. I understand that during the 1916 conscription period no differentiation was made between those who volunteered and those who were conscripted.
When it comes to the question of machinery and how the allowances are to be allotted, much will depend upon the assessing tribunal. I hope that the personnel will be carefully considered and that those who assess the needs of the people who are left behind will be in close touch with the workers' conditions and the workers' lives. I hope, too, that the methods that they use will be far removed from any pauperising taint and further removed still from the "nosey-parker" type that we find under the means test. The pledge has been given that the conscript will be no worse off while he is serving and no worse off when he returns to civil life. Let the tribunals see to it that those who are left behind are in no worse case either. Let the Government treat these youths and their dependants in the same spirit as the shareholders in Imperial Airways—give them more than their worth. These young men also are shareholders, and the people who are left behind are shareholders. The young men are compulsory shareholders in the nation's defence, and certainly their services are worth a great deal more than 1s. 6d. a day, plus their keep and the allowances that are to be given to the people at home.
There is another matter about which I want to speak. The people who are left at home ought not to suffer the indignity of having to go to the public assistance committees. I have a letter here from a person living in one of the remote dales of this country, who says that rather than go to the public assistance committee, he will go outside and hang himself from the nearest tree. Those people are the yeomen of England, the old rural type, reserved and modest, who cannot face going before these committees and being interrogated and put through an inquisition. I hope the tribunals will see that those who are left behind have 1518 not only the assistance mentioned in the Estimate, but something far more worth while.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Pearson
My hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) made out a case for altering the Supplementary Estimate in order to increase the pay of the militiamen to more than 1s. 6d. a day. I was very interested earlier in the Debate to hear the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) say that he felt that the Secretary of State for War was very anxious to deal with this question in a big way. I do not know what yardstick the hon. Member was using in order to measure the bigness. It was the Prime Minister who first announced that the conscription of these young men would be introduced, and that they would receive pay of 1s. a day. Obviously, that was a Cabinet decision, and surely the Cabinet would have gone as far as possible in that bigness about which the hon. Member for Cheltenham spoke, so as to give the Prime Minister the honour of announcing the maximum amount of pay that the young men would receive. However, within a week of that, we find that the Government have changed their mind. Why is that? I think it is largely due to the pressure that has been brought to bear through the ordinary channels of the House and the information which the Government have been given that they would be in for a very warm time if the pay of 1s. a day was not increased.
The Secretary of State for War was at pains to show that there was very little difference between the pay of the Regular soldier and that of the conscript. Hon. Members will remember that the right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the Regular soldier's pay was 2s. a day, but that he had 5½d. a week deducted for certain pension allowances and a further small sum deducted for sports and so on, and that these things made the difference between the pay of the two types of soldiers a very narrow one. If there is such a narrow difference, why do not the Government make a clean breast of it, pay the conscripts 2s. a day and put them on the same footing as the Regular soldiers? I think there ought to be equal pay for equal work. Good conditions of life are as essential for soldiers as for civilians, and I am sorry that the Government are approaching this matter in such 1519 a parsimonious manner. After all, this conscription is a revolution in the life of these young men, and one big pillar of their comfort would be that they should receive a reasonable amount of pay. Hon. Members on this side of the Committee do not consider that 1s. 6d. a day is sufficient to keep these young men in a reasonable state of comfort as far as spending power is concerned.
With regard to the dependants' allowances, there is one particularly important group who should be borne in mind—the people who are on compensation and who [...] already that they have a grievance because they are not receiving enough in compensation for the injuries which they have received in the course of their employment. They have made superhuman efforts to rear their families, and now, at a time when the sons are able to give a goodly sum into the family pool, they are to be called up to serve their six months. How are these people going to be treated by the Government from the point of view of dependants' allowances? What machinery is to be set up? I was glad to hear that some hon. Members opposite are very concerned about dependants' allowances, and I hope we shall receive adequate replies to the numerous cases that have been put forward in this respect.
§ 9.44 P.m.
§ Mr. Montague
The Secretary of State for War has informed me that, owing to an engagement of an official character which he could not possibly avoid, he would not be able to be present to reply to the Debate. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty is to conclude the Debate in the place of the Secretary of State for War, and as we are supposed to be discussing not only the Army Supplementary Estimate, but also the Navy and Air Force Supplementary Estimates, I take it that is quite in order. However, with all respect to the Civil Lord, I wish that the Secretary of State for War had been able to reply, because naturally the Debate has dealt more with matters coming under the purview of his Department than under either of the other Services. Certainly, I should have liked the Secretary of State for War to have replied to certain questions that have been put to him. I will repeat those questions in the 1520 hope that the Civil Lord will be able to give satisfactory answers to them.
I believe it was Dr. Abernethy who on one occasion prescribed for a rich patient by telling him "Live on eighteen pence a day and earn it." I should imagine that for one who had been overfed, that was a very good prescription. One or two hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate, have stressed the value of austerity and the kind of physical and moral advantage to be gained by being restricted to a daily allowance of eighteen pence. That is all very well and I dare say there is a great deal of truth in it, but it amuses me to hear so many hon. Members opposite telling the Committee that they have been through the mill themselves, and know all about it. The hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) began it. Some of us on this side also know something about it and we would remind hon. Members that we are now discussing conscripts and that we are in the year 1939. When the conscript has paid his 3s. 6d. a week allowance, if he is called upon to do so, he will have just 1s. a day. It is not the price of a packet of cigarettes—the Government have just put up the price of cigarettes—and in this year of grace most young men, even if they do not drink, enjoy their cigarettes. They will not have much to play with on a shilling a day. I wonder whether the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has had anything to do with the decision of the Government in this matter?
I am not so much concerned, however, about that aspect of the matter as about other considerations. When the Government decided to advance from 1s. to 1s. 6d., why did they not make a job of it and bring it up to 2s.? Why should we spend hours here in the British House of Commons over such a paltry matter when there is an obvious case for the higher pay from the standpoint of the soldier's amenities, and not much case against it from the standpoint of cost. The cost to the nation of this concession would be less than £500,000. I know the Civil Lord will tell me that that is not the cumulative cost. I have not worked it out myself, but I have discussed the matter with others who have gone into the figures and I am told that the total cost, taken over a year, would be under £1,000,000. The Government might have 1521 seen their way to have allowed the conscript soldier the same chance of reasonable amenities as that enjoyed by the voluntary soldier. But, as I have said, I am not so much concerned about that as about the question of allowances. I am very much concerned indeed about the question of allowances to wives and to other dependants.
The problems involved in the machinery for these allowances show, in very clear relief, the advantages of the voluntary over the conscript system. If the Government had offered its voluntary recruits the same advantages—advantages in the sense of the six months period—as they propose to give under this Measure, they would have avoided a great deal of trouble and had an even better and more willing response. Whether that be so or not, I would point out that there are two aspects of this question. It is not exclusively a matter of extremely poor families. There are also the families who have probably, after a long struggle on the part of the parents, reached a certain stage of comfort above that of the poor families of whom we all think when we are discussing unemployment assistance and similar questions.
I put this consideration to the Government. They have either to bring down the status of a family of that type or make up the difference in some way. What do they propose to do? We ought to have a clear answer to that question. Are the Government prepared to see that the family standard which is higher than the standard of the very poorest, is maintained, and that the conscript goes back to the same home and the same amenities and the same sense of security? If the Government are prepared to do that, then it is desirable that they should tell the nation how they propose to do it. The first levy of conscripts will be called up within a month or so. It is not too much to ask that a month's grace should be given to the conscript himself and his parents, or his wife and family, as the case may be. Incidentally, it will probably be found that many more men of 20 and 21 are married than hon. Members think. They ought to have a month's grace so that if they are not to enjoy file same security and the same standard all the way through, they shall have time to make some arrangements to modify their status in life. We ought to have 1522 clear answers on these points and we ought not to be fobbed off with talk about regulations.
We are discussing to-night, token Estimates which include the cost of the arrangements and machinery for these allowances and whatever terms are to be offered. The Government should tell the nation exactly what they propose to do. The three sums of 7s., 12s. and 17s. have been mentioned and these seem to represent the three standards or levels by which need is to be adjudged. We are told there is to be a system of allowances for the dependants of men who, before being called up, had been making an effective contribution of not less than 3s. 6d. a week, provided that the withdrawal of that contribution results in need. What kind of need? Are the Government thinking of need in terms of unemployment assistance or in terms of our social services and our Poor Law, or in terms of the standard of life enjoyed by the recruit and his family before he was called up. How is it to be determined, and by whom is it to be determined? We on this side will protest very strongly indeed if there is any flavour of unemployment assistance or Poor Law about this business, and, on the other hand, we want something rather different from the proposed military authorities. With all respect to the "brass hats" of the Army, we think the earlier idea of a civil committee would be better, and we would like to have some details as to the kind of machinery that is likely to be set up.
We have had in the discussion a great number of illustrations of potential hardship that will be the result of anything in the nature of a standard such as is suggested by the figures given to the Committee. The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Sudbury (Colonel Burton) was well worth listening to by every Member of the Committee, and those who were here will remember that although he sits on the other side, he had a very human understanding of this problem, especially from the point of view of the poorer families. Then we had the cases that were given in very close detail by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald), and I would ask the Minister who replies—I imagine that notes of these cases have been taken—to go quite closely into the matter of how the arrangements that are to be made in respect of dependants will work out and 1523 how much hardship is likely to be created. I would refer particularly to a custom which is very prevalent, I believe, in South Wales and other parts of the country, where fees and amounts of money necessary for the purpose are loaned by local authorities for the purpose of students going through the training colleges for the teaching profession. That is a very big thing in Wales, I know, and that is one point. Will those students, when they come out and start upon their educational career, have that burden put upon them to pay back the £60 or £80, which, I believe, is about the average that is borrowed from the local county council? Some of them will be beginning to pay back those loans. Will the Government accept responsibility for things of that character? I ask the question categorically, and I think we ought to have equally categorical replies. As I have already pointed out, we want to know who is to determine the need, whether the Government are to appoint the local civil committees, whether they are to accept contractual obligations, and, if they are not to accept them completely, to what degree.
And what about the question of rent? According to the figures that are given us, 17s. a week will be given to the wife, plus the 3s. 6d. of the allotment, and the children will have the same weekly amounts as are applicable to the Regular Forces. For a man with one child it is 21s., with two children about 26s., and I believe it goes up to about 28s. What about the differential rents in different parts of the country? The amount that a wife will get with one child will be very little more than will have to be paid in rent in London even in county council flats. For man, wife and child—because the man will come back and will have to be accounted for—in a reasonable county council flat anywhere near the centre of London it will cost almost as much as the wife will get for herself and child. We want to know whether the Government are going to make further allowances on account of rent, and upon what principle these further allowances will be made, if they are made. Will it be geographical, or will it be a question of how much is paid over and above some standard rent which is accepted as perhaps a general average all over the country? Then there 1524 are the questions of insurances, of one-man businesses, and of what happens in the case, which I understand is very serious in many parts of England, of the young men upon farms.
Finally, I want to challenge the Civil Lord to give us an answer to this question: Does he, or does he not, representing the Government, accept the Minister of Labour's statement in reference to the question of contractual obligations? That statement was pretty wide, and pretty satisfactory so far as it went anyhow, and if that can be confirmed by the Government now, with a month to go before the first levies are called up, it will be exceedingly satisfactory to the country and will relieve the minds of many thousands of mothers, parents, and conscripts themselves. Please let us have a direct answer to that question. There is no reason why we should not have it to-night, and I think the Committee is entitled to be treated justly upon this matter.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Colonel Llewellin)
Perhaps I may start by congratulating both the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague), who has just sat down, and the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), who opened this Debate from the Opposition benches, on their speeches. If I may say so, I thought the hon. Member for Seaham was in very good form. He twitted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War on a book that had been published, I understand, with his authority, and that was all quite delighteful and good. Perhaps hon. Members will allow me, therefore, to say that in all my time in this House I have never sat through a Debate during which I have heard industrial conditions in this country praised in the way in which I have heard them praised this evening by hon. Members opposite. Further, I think I have never heard from either side of the House such fervent pleas for the man who owns a one-man business. But, if I may now come down to the more serious points that have been raised, let me say that we are all at heart agreed that we want to see these men, whom we are calling up compulsorily to step into the gap and to provide for the nation's needs, properly dealt with. That is certainly the aim of the Government. It is rather natural that people should say that in one way or another we have not, 1525 in our proposals, dealt properly with them, and I think that that part of the Debate divides itself into three main headings, which I will deal with first, and then pick up afterwards a few individual points rather outside those headings.
The three points are—and they were first made by the hon. Member for Seaham—first, whether the pay of 1s. 6d. is sufficient; secondly, the whole question of the rate of these allowances; and thirdly, how matters not covered in the White Paper referred to by the Minister of Labour will be dealt with. Several hon. Members, and the right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Liberal party in particular, praised the Government's decision to raise this sum from 1s. to 1s. 6d. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman said he thought we had done it with a view to the by-elections and, therefore, rather claimed that it was an excellent thing to do and would give, as I understood from him, complete satisfaction. The point which the Government have to meet is why the men who are called up for this six months' training are paid less than their colleagues in the Regular Forces. I believe that it is quite right. They are getting this 1s. 6d. free from the usual stoppages which other soldiers have to pay. Let us remember, when we are comparing it with what a man was receiving in civil employment, that the man is housed, fed and clothed and that the 1s. 6d. must be looked upon as pocket money.
Ought the man to have more pocket money than that 10s. 6d.? That is really what we have to decide, realising, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War said, that this provision will cost the country some vast number of millions. There is a difference between the man who for his pay undertakes to serve anywhere where he is sent in the world and the man who is merely being called upon for training for six months at home. If we said that we are going to call these men up for 1s. 6d. a day and make them liable to go to Palestine, I can hear the question from the other side of the Committee, "Are you going to take these men at this cheaper rate and send them out there where things are not as easy as in a depot at home?" Indeed, another hon. Member remarked that we would have got more volunteers if we had given them more home service. People do not mind as a rule serving at 1526 home so much as they mind serving abroad, where there is a certain amount of discomfort, such as there is in service in Palestine and such places in these days. In my view we are right to differentiate between these men and the Regular soldier who, after all, still goes on earning his 2s. for some time after he has completed his first six months and, indeed, long after he has become a recruit, which the militiaman will be for the greater part of his six months' training.
I come to the question of allowances. In the case of dependant's allowance we differentiate in favour of the militiaman, and that differentiation, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) pointed out, goes to make up for the 6d. a day which the militiaman will lose by our ensuring that those who have dependants will get dependant's allowance. Whatever may be said about the scale of the dependant's allowance and the marriage allowance let us remember that for the first time the Government are giving to the sailor, the soldier and the airman marriage allowance at the age of 20, and also for the first time giving anybody in either of the three fighting services a dependant's allowance. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War could not go further than he did in saying how the machinery for this would work, and asked for the advice of the Committee before he, and, indeed, the Government, came to a conclusion on the machinery, hon. Members will not expect me to make a pronouncement upon it to-night. My right hon. Friend will carefully consider all that has been said in the Committee on that matter.
§ Mr. Montague
Does the Minister suggest that the Minister of Labour disclosed to the House more than he should have done?
§ Colonel Llewellin
I am coming to that. I am on the question of allowances at the moment. I am merely dealing with the two things with which the White Paper deals, that is, pay and allowances. I do not think it would be wise of me to make pronouncements on individual cases that have been raised to-night before we know what the machinery is. I can assure hon. Members, however, that in cases like that mentioned by the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) of a son who is the sole support 1527 of his widowed mother, if he has been contributing to her support for a period before he was called up, she will receive the maximum scale of the allowance. It is our aim in these allowances to see that with regard to dependants the militiaman is placed on the same footing as the Regular soldier as far as he can be, so that the wife who is completely dependent on her husband will get the marriage allowance, and where there is complete dependency the full dependant's allowance will be paid. Where the contribution, as often happens, has not been substantial before the man was called up, the household cannot expect to get out of the Government more than the man was contributing before. Now I come to the question put to me as to whether I can affirm what the Minister of Labour said.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman answer one specific question, whether the deciding authority will be a civil or a military authority?
§ Colonel Llewellin
I said at the opening of my remarks that that is a point on which I thought the Committee would not expect me to make a definite statement. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, as regards the machinery, that discussions were still going on, and that he would bear in mind what was said in Parliament on these matters before that machinery was eventually decided upon. Therefore, I do not think my hon. Friend can expect me to anticipate that decision.
§ Mr. Montague
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman seriously say that the Government have adopted an important scheme of conscription for the first time in the history of this country without having the ghost of a notion how it is to be administered and what is going to be done? Does he really say that?
§ Colonel Llewellin
I do not say that at all. What I was saying was that in connection with this form of compulsory service we were adopting for the first time in any of the Services a new system, dependants' allowances, and it was only with regard to this that we thought it was necessary carefully to think out the machinery by which they could be worked and to take this House into consultation before the final decision of the Government was made. In regard to the main 1528 measure of compulsory service the Government know how they are going to administer it and to a great extent where they are going to put all the various people who come up, whether they are for the Royal Naval Special Reserve, the Auxiliary Air Force or for the Militia, which we have been mainly discussing. I want to get back to what the Minister of Labour said. Of course the Government intend to carry out what he said when Clause 10 of the Military Training Bill was discussed, but that will not be done by administrative action in this way. It will have to be a matter of Orders in Council. Clause 10 enables Orders in Council to be made, and those Orders in Council will in due course be brought before Parliament, and no doubt those particular matters will be better discussed then. If I were to go into them to-night I should be out of order, because they are not included in the terms of this White Paper.
§ Mr. Shinwell
For the purpose of clarifying the position may I ask whether it is proposed, in addition to the allowances, which are contained in the Supplementary Estimate, to meet also contractual obligations?
§ Colonel Llewellin
I have the report of what the Minister of Labour said and have read it twice this afternoon, and, as I understand it, what he said was that contractual obligations will fall to be dealt with by Orders in Council. The Government were taking powers under Clause 10 of the Bill to deal with such matters as they arise. How they are to be dealt with I do not think the hon. Member will expect me to say to-night. I will only say that it is the intention of the Government to deal with them, and that when we deal with them the proposals will come before the House as Orders in Council, and then will be the proper occasion to tell the Government how far they may have been thought to fail in their duty.
§ Mr. Shinwell
At first the hon. and gallant Member gave a negative response to my question, and then, in his further reply, seemed to agree with what I had suggested. There appears to be a little 1529 doubt about the matter, and perhaps we may have a little more clarity. I am not concerned about the machinery. I recognise that the Minister of Labour did say that this matter would have to be dealt with subsequently—that is the question of machinery and of how far the Government could meet contractual obligations. The only point I make now is that under the Supplementary Estimate we do provide that dependants may receive allowances. That is clear. The question I asked was whether, in addition to supplementary allowances, contractual allowances, in part or wholly, would be made. Is that what the Minister means?
§ Colonel Llewellin
I understood the hon. Member to ask me whether the Government would undertake a financial commitment for any or all of those contractual liabilities, and I said that I certainly could not give that undertaking. I do not know how those liabilities will be met; some may be met by postponement and some may be met in other ways. I have certainly not given any undertaking that the Government will put its hand into the nation's pocket and pay an undetermined amount of obligations, and I, standing here at this moment, have no knowledge as to how far the hon. Gentleman wishes to go and of the extent of those obligations. If asked, the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be able to give a reply, but I certainly cannot give a reply to that question.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I would put one final question, because the Committee will be anxious to be clear on this matter. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman accept on behalf of the Government the principle of the acceptance, in part or wholly, of the contractual obligations?
§ Colonel Llewellin
No, Sir, I do not go any further than the Minister of Labour went; just as far as my right hon. Friend and no further.
§ Mr. A. Edwards
Do we understand that the hon. and gallant Gentleman stands by what the Minister of Labour said? Is there any withdrawal from that?
§ Colonel Llewellin
I thought I said it as clearly as I could. There are a few minor points which the Committee will perhaps allow me to pick up. The hon. Member for Seaham asked what would happen to anybody who was injured on service and what allowances he would get. He will 1530 be dealt with in exactly the same way as the Regular soldier. If he is in the Royal Air Force the regulations will apply to him as to the Regular airman or to the airman in the Fleet Air Arm. The next point was that put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland).
§ Colonel Llewellin
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thornbury (Sir D. Gunston) asked whether rich parents would be discouraged from making allowances to their sons. I can give the Committee an assurance that the Army Council is very anxious that there should not be some people with motor cars and motor cycles and others without.
§ Colonel Llewellin
The matter will certainely be brought to the attention of commanding officers, and the Secretary of State for War will consider including a reference to the matter in the booklet which he will issue to the militiamen. I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for North Lanarkshire (Mr. Anstruther-Gray) what the reduction would be for barrack damage. My right hon. Friend said that there will be no reduction for barrack damage. By that he meant to say, he tells me, that there will be no share of the general barrack damage. Nevertheless that would not get a man out of responsibility for, say, the deliberate smashing of a window and of his being mulcted by fine after his commanding officer had taken disciplinary action. But he will not be mulcted for general barrack damages. The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) raised the question of three people, all miners, as I understood—the bachelor, the married man, and the man with dependants. The hon. Member complained that they would all be different, because the married man and the man with dependants would have to make allotments when they came up for training, and he asked whether there would not be a lack of equality. That shows that this is a civilian Army, because there is no equality between these three classes of persons in civil life. The bachelor has not to support a wife, and the man without any dependants is also free of having to support anybody.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
We know that there are many inequalities in civil life; they can be seen over there.
§ Colonel Llewellin
One or two hon. Members objected that there should be any deduction from the man's pay for the allowances. Personally, I think it is rather a good thing to have that deduction, especially in the case of dependants, because it does mean that the man is in earnest. At any rate, it always obtains in the Regular Services, and it may interest the Committee to know that in the case of one particular rank in the Navy the man, after making his compulsory allotment, is left with only 5s. 3d., or less than the 7s. with which these militiamen will be left.
One or two hon. Members said they hoped there would be no question of these men's dependants or wives coming on to the Poor Law, and I am certain that every Member of the Committee will share that view. That, indeed, is why the Government have started, for the first time, this dependants' allowance, and intend to implement, if they can, the assurances given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, which have been assented to once again to-night by a humble person like myself. That is why we are doing our best to see that the families of these men, when they are compulsorily called up, are not left in any way destitute. I am certain that that is the view of the whole Committee. It is certainly the intention of the Government. I hope that, as I think the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan)
§ suggested, the men will need a new suit of civilian clothes when they come back, because of the results of the good food and the exercise they will have had during their six months' training. I am afraid we cannot guarantee to give them a new suit, but, at any rate, I hope we shall give them that better health which will result from good food and exercise.
§ Mr. G. Macdonald
Is it the intention of the Government that the families of these men shall be as well off at the end of the six months as if the men had not been called up?
§ Colonel Llewellin
No. We have been quite frank about that. The dependants, if they are completely dependent, will get the rate of 17s., but in some cases they may be worse off. I think, however, that many men will realise that, in coming forward to do this service, they are doing a service to their country, and may well be saving the country from being plunged into a war, when the losses to them and to us all would be far more than any small loss they will be asked to suffer by reason of their service.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. and gallant Member said that the dependants will not be allowed to go to the public assistance committee. Can we take it that any parents or dependants who are on the public assistance committee before the men are called up will be taken off the public assistance committee?
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £90, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 130; Noes, 214.1535
|Division No. 137.]||AYES.||[10.32 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Cocks, F. S.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Collindridge, F.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Cove, W. G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Hardie, Agnes|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Daggar, G.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Dalton, H.||Hayday, A.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Barr, J.||Dobbie, W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Bartlett, C. V. 0.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Batey, J.||Ede, J. C.||Hopkin, D.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Jagger, J.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Gallacher, W.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Benson, G.||Gardner, B. W||John, W.|
|Bevan, A.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Broad, F. A.||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Bromfield, W.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Kirby, B. V.|
|Buchanan, G.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Burke, W. A.||Grenfell, D. R.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Cape, T.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Lathan, G.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Lawson, J. J.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Groves, T. E.||Leach, W.|
|Lee, F.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Stephen, C.|
|Leonard, W.||Oliver, G. H.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Leslie, J. R.||Paling, W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Logan, D. G.||Parkinson, J. A.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Lunn, W.||Pearson, A.||Thurtle, E.|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Han. F. W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Price, M. P.||Tomlinson, G.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Pritt, D. N.||Viant, S. P.|
|McGovern, J.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Walkden, A. G.|
|MacLaren, A.||Ridley, G||Walker, J.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Riley, B.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Marshall, F.||Ritson, J.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Mathers, G.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Westwood, J.|
|Maxton, J.||Sexton, T. M.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Messer, F.||Shinwell, E.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Milner, Major J.||Silkin, L.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Montague, F.||Silverman, S. S.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Sloan, A.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Sorensen, R. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Anderson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Ellis, Sir G.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Emery, J. F.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||McKie, J. H.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Magnay, T.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Findlay, Sir E.||Maitland, Sir Adam|
|Assheton, R.||Fleming, E. L.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Furness, S. N.||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Balniel, Lord||Gluckstein, L. H.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Goldie, N. B.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Gower, Sir R. V.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Munro, P.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Grimston, R. V||Nall, Sir J.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Hambro, A. V.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Hammersley, S. S.||Owen, Major G.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Bull, B. B.||Harbord, A.||Peake, O.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Patherick, M.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Radford, E. A.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Hepworth, J.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Christie, J. A.||Higgs, W. F.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Holdsworth, H.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Holmes, J. S.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hopkinson, A.||Remer, J. R.|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Horsbrugh, Florence||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Hunter, T.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Cross, R. H.||Jennings, R.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Crossley, A. C.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Rowlands, G.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Keeling, E. H.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|De Chair, S. S.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Denville, Alfred||Kimball, L.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Lamb, Sir J. O.||Salt, E. W.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Latham, Sir P.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Sandys, E. D.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Little, J.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Scott, Lord William|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Loftus, P. C.||Seely, Sir H. M|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Lyons, A. M.||Selley, H. R.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Tasker, Sir R. I.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Tate, Mavis C.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Smithers, Sir W.||Thomas, J. P. L.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Snadden, W. McN.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Titchfield, Marquess of||York, C.|
|Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Turton, R. H.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Spens, W. P.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Mr. James Stuart and Major Sir James Edmondson.|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Sutcliffe, H.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
Question put, and agreed to.