§ MR. STANLEY'S STATEMENT.
§ Order for Committee read.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
I cannot claim that my task in introducing these Estimates is a particularly easy one as so many of the subjects which the House used to discuss upon these occasions in peace time, and which arouse the deepest interest, it is now clearly impossible, for national reasons, to discuss. It would be wholly improper and undesirable for me to attempt to forecast in war time, as my predecessors did in peace time, what tasks the British Army might be called upon to fulfil in future. It is quite true that in the discussions on the other Service Estimates both of my colleagues, the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for Air, have been under the same handicap, but they have had opportunities which are denied me. Owing to the course which the war has taken hitherto, both the Navy and the Air Force have had experiences about which it was right and proper that those Ministers should speak, but the Army has not yet been subjected to that same test or had that same opportunity for action which the other Services have had. I propose, therefore, to confine myself—as, indeed, I must—largely to a discussion of those wide problems of administration which, as I know, from Questions addressed to me at Question Time and from correspondence which I receive daily, arouse among hon. Members a very vital interest. I attempt to deal with these matters in answers and in letters, but this discussion to-day gives me an opportunity of dealing with some of them on a broader scale and in more detail than is possible on any other occasion; and I propose to avail myself of that opportunity.
But, before we come to particular problems of administration, it is well to look back, even for a few minutes, upon the history of the expansion of the Army in the past few years, because that history forms the background against 1028 which alone we can judge the progress that is being made in that expansion. In the last war, for the first time in our history, this country put into the field an Army on a Continental scale. It was an Army which drew its members from almost every household in the country. It was an Army which bore, during those four years, the bulk of the fighting, and which suffered the bulk of the losses. To the Army, therefore, was attributed to a large extent the desolation and the losses which almost every household experienced. The result, naturally, was that, when peace came, there was a tremendous reaction. In the years that followed the peace and, indeed, right up to last year, spokesmen of all shades of opinion expressed the view that never again should this country be involved in mass land warfare, such as we had experienced from 1914 onwards.
I remember, in 1934, my predecessor at that time giving, I think, the clearest and the best definition of what then was generally agreed to be the role of the Army. He said that it was, first of all, to protect our naval bases; secondly, to police our Empire; thirdly, to defend our own shores; and fourthly—only fourthly—to provide a force which might be called upon to defend the interests of the Empire outside the United Kingdom, a force liable to fight anywhere, and under conditions which were then unforeseen. That definition met with general acceptance; but that definition involved certain consequences. If an Army had to fulfil all those four roles, to which equal importance was attached, the nature of the Army must be, and to some extent was, a compromise. Since home defence seemed a far-off liability, the size, training and equipment of our Army at that time were governed by our Imperial commitments overseas. I will not weary the House with quotations, which I have in plenty from speeches by right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House, in Debates on the Army; but it is clear that not only was the idea of a Continental army not accepted, but that it was definitely and bitterly opposed. As recently as 1938, the impression still remained that there was no question of our intervention on the Continent; although I think the House, as well as the country, was aware that, at any rate, the possibility was then coming closer.
1029 But the events of the autumn of 1938 made many of us move from our former ideas. The events that led up to Munich showed many of us that, if a conflict was not absolutely inevitable, it was dangerously near. Also, it showed, if a conflict had to come, what the nature of that conflict had to be. We could see fairly clearly against whom we should be fighting, and with whom we should be fighting. It was obvious that, in any clash that was to come, we should be fighting by the side of France in the cause of liberty and justice. Therefore, the security and integrity of France would be bound up with the security and integrity of this country. But, if that were so, if our security were to depend—as, indeed, today it does depend—upon the security of France, it became clear that our resources in man-power and our great industrial strength demanded that we should contribute an Army on a scale sufficient to ensure our security and to be worthy of our position as a Great Power. The result was that early in 1939, little over 12 months ago, the decision was taken to prepare an Army on a Continental scale, for a possible Continental war. My predecessor at that time announced the re-equipment of the Territorial Army. In his speech, he drew attention to the solidarity of our interests with France, which he said—these were his words:makes it incumbent on us to consider and to prepare for the use of the field force in certain eventualities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1939; col. 2181, Vol 344.]By then, doubts which had been held by many hon. Members of this House had been dispelled. That view was accepted, as I well remember, by hon. Members on both sides of the House. The implications of that decision were inevitable. A few weeks later the establishment of the Territorial Army was doubled, and within two months National Service was introduced. But, still, that decision to equip the Army on a Continental scale was not taken until last year.
The debate as to whether we should or should not have an Expeditionary Force is, of course, now academic; there is an Expeditionary Force in France, and the wisdom of the decision to send it there is, I think, unquestioned. Our Army, which at first was comparatively small, is rapidly growing. We have a great Army in process of formation, and we hope—and, indeed, we are in duty bound 1030 —progressively to take a bigger and bigger part of the burden of the war on land from the shoulders of our Allies, who in the early days of the war had to bear such a very great part of the burden. But I think it is well, in the discussions that we shall have, to-day and in the future, upon the development and expansion of the Army to bear in mind those facts, which are known to all hon. Members but of which I would just remind them. Whereas the general decision to re-arm was taken in 1936, the decision to equip an Army on its present scale, with that mass of modern equipment and ammunition which modern warfare on the Continent entails, was taken only a year ago; and, therefore, the time of preparation for the Army has been much shorter than the time of preparation for other aspects of our national defence. It is not only the size, but, still more, the rapidity, of the expansion that we have undertaken which has given rise to so many of our administrative difficulties.
I should like to make a short reference to the Expeditionary Force which is now in France. A few weeks ago I had an opportunity of visiting the troops there, and of seeing some of their work. With regard to the troops in the forward area, I should say this. I remember my predecessor returning a month or two ago from a visit to France, and describing the conditions of the troops in picturesque phrases. I want to add only a few sentences, in order to bring that up to date. Since that time, the expansion of the Expeditionary Force has continued, and is still continuing. The numbers of British troops in France today are about double what they were at the time when he addressed the House. When I had the opportunity of visiting the troops, they had already experienced six or seven weeks of continuous snow and frost—climatic conditions which, of course, had made their life very difficult, had made work on the fortifications almost impossible, and had interfered with their training. It had made their working conditions cold and arduous. I had the opportunity of visiting a great part of the line along which they were engaged in putting up defensive works, and I must say that, to one who had before him only experience of the last war, the present system of tactics, and of defence works which those tactics call for, are strange indeed.
1031 I was struck during that tour with the amount of work which had been accomplished, and, even more, by the amount which was nearly completed. All that they needed then—and, indeed, all that they had needed for some time—to enable them to strengthen our line immensely, was some relaxation from these conditions of frost and snow, which made work of the type that they were called upon to do almost impossible. Fortunately almost directly after my visit, weather conditions did improve, and I have no doubt that the intervening weeks have seen a very great strengthening of our position. A great deal had been done to improve the billeting of our troops since the visit of my right hon. Friend. Minor repairs, structural alterations, and, above all, the provision of stoves on an adequate scale, had done a great deal to counteract the influence of the weather conditions on the men. Wherever I went, among all ranks and in all arms of the Service, I was immensely struck by the atmosphere of energy and confidence.
But I want, this afternoon, to devote rather more time to an aspect of life in the British Expeditionary Force which has not been fully dealt with. I had an opportunity not only of going to the Forward Area, but of spending some time at the bases, and, in particular, of going to the principal hospital area, and visiting in the course of the day five or six of the hospitals. I was able to spend a considerable time at each, and to talk to some hundreds of officers and men, and so to obtain an impression of how this important part of our work in France is being conducted. There is no doubt that when the war started, and the Expeditionary Force landed in France, our medical authorities were confronted with very great difficulties. It had not been possible to make any arrangements except on paper, before the war started. The French authorities had given to our people every possible help. I found that wherever I went. I had the opportunity of meeting two or three of the préfets in whose territory our troops were living, and several of the sous-préfets and other officials; and I was immensely struck by the difference in the relations between the French and British in this war and the relations between the French and British in the last war.
I think I can best sum it up by saying that in the last war we were Allies; in this 1032 war we are friends. In that area the French gave us every possible help, but, of course, they had their own requirements for the type of building which is suitable for hospitals, and we had, therefore, to make the best of what accommodation was available. The result is that these hospitals are of many different types. Some are accommodated in big buildings, such as hotels or casinos which have been evacuated and which are being converted as rapidly as possible to their new uses. Some are in newly-constructed huts, specially designed for hospital use, and some are in hospital marquees which are awaiting replacement by huts. Here too, work everywhere has been held up by the weather.
I do not pretend for one moment to be an expert in hospital organisation, but most of us in this House have had a certain amount of experience, and when we go to any kind of establishment, whether it is a factory, a school or a hospital, even if we are not experts in hospitals, schools or factories, we can form a pretty good idea of the atmosphere of the place. We can form an idea whether the people we meet and talk to are on their toes, and whether they are showing powers to improvise, and whether they have in their minds plans to improve. In other words, we can make a pretty good guess as to whether the thing is going to be a good or a bad show, and I want to say at once that I have been tremendously impressed by the medical and nursing staffs in these hospitals that I have visited. They have had a very difficult time creating order not out of chaos, but out of nothing. I found them cheerful, keen, full of ideas for development and improvement, and, to my mind, obviously on top of their jobs. I will not refer specially to the health of the troops there, because the health of the troops in France follows closely on the lines of the health of the troops at home, and I propose to deal with that more fully later on in my speech.
Now let me turn from the troops who are already in France to the even greater number of troops for whom we still have to provide at home. These troops are partly men in the permanent defences of this country, and, therefore, likely to be in this country for the duration of the war, and partly they consist of divisions which are now being trained and equipped 1033 in order, in their turn, to proceed overseas. The bulk of the first category is composed of those who are responsible for the air defence of this country from land. The anti-aircraft defences in many respects raise problems which are different in character from the problems connected with these other units who are now training, and who at sometime or other will proceed to France. In these anti-aircraft units thousands of men were moved out, even before the declaration of war, to their war stations, and they have been there ever since, many of them occupying the same plot or field which they occupied in the latter days of last August. In the intervening six months they have had to be in constant readiness, prepared at any moment to meet an attack, and, only in a very few cases, has the attack for which they have always been prepared materialised.They have had to live, because of that constant readiness, in conditions of active service, and the very nature of the deployment of the guns and searchlights means that these conditions have also been of extreme isolation and monotony. It is quite true that sometimes moves are necessitated by operational situations, but many thousands of these men engaged in our anti-aircraft defences are, as I said before, in the same spot in which they have stood since September. I do not think that it takes much imagination on the part of hon. Members of this House to realise that it is very possible that that sort of conditions, without so far an element of danger, places a far greater strain upon people than conditions which may be more dangerous but which at the same time are more exciting, and, therefore, offer more satisfaction. All of us, I am sure, would wish to unite in paying tribute to the way in which the men engaged in the anti-aircraft defences have stood this hard test.
I would now like to pass to some of the broad administrative problems which affect the Service as a whole, and I want to deal, first of all, with the provision of personnel. As the House knows, and as the country appreciates, we have already received, and shall continue to receive in the future, very valuable assistance from the Dominions overseas, from India and from the Colonies. Canadian troops have been in this country for nearly three months. They are now well advanced in their training. I had an opportunity of 1034 spending part of a day with them a week or two ago, and no one could have failed to be impressed by their physique, intelligence and obvious keenness. The fine traditions of the Indian Army are represented by Indian troops both in France and, of course, to a greater extent, in the Near East. The Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Special Force will be worthy successors to the Anzac Corps of the last war. General Smuts has reorganised the Union Defence Forces with a view to the defence of South Africa and South African interests in Africa. Southern Rhodesia and the African Colonies have also produced their contributions, while the Colonial Empire as a whole have provided for their own defence and thereby have relieved the Mother Country of the necessity of doing so. All these are very substantial contributions, for which this country is proud and grateful.
But still the majority of the personnel of our new and expanded Army has to be provided from these islands. In discussing that problem, it is well to begin by looking at the position as it was when the war commenced. In April of last year the Territorial Army was doubled. A special appeal was made for recruits, and between 1st April and 31st August no fewer than 215,000 recruits were added to the existing strength of the Territorial Army. In May my right hon. Friend had secured the passage of the Military Training Act, and the first contingent of Militiamen had already been called up on 15th July. The position, therefore, when the war began was that we already had a large number of men actually in the Army, although they were at very different stages of training and experience. And, at the same time, we had in being a system which was already working and which was capable of, and indeed designed for, great and smooth expansion. Obviously, it is upon that system—the system first set up by the Military Training Act—that we are looking now, and we shall have to look upon it in future for the main sources of supply of the personnel of the Army. The whole process of registration and calling-up by classes enables one to take people as and when they are required, and not before they are wanted, and not after they are wanted. The process of the machinery with regard to the classes which have 1035 been called up since the war is moving smoothly and well.
But I think it was to the general satisfaction of the country that it was decided that, side by side with this new system—the system upon which other continental armies has always been raised—we should continue with our old system, a system which has produced some of the finest Armies the world has ever seen, of voluntary recruitment. At the beginning it was only possible to open this voluntary recruiting for a limited number of specialists. A great flood of recruits in the early days of the war could not have been properly accommodated; they could not have been properly equipped or trained. Gradually, however, voluntary recruiting has been thrown open, and now, with certain limitations, it is open for all arms of the Service. Up to date about 200,000 volunteers have enlisted since the beginning of the war. Hon. Members will realise that neither in the voluntary system nor in the system initiated under the Military Training Act have we been completely calling up the civilian population. Very wisely before the war a Schedule of Reserved Occupations was prepared. Proper weight was given to the demand of civilian industries, which, in many cases, may prove just as vital a part of our war effort as any of the Armed Services, when a demand was made to ensure that the workers who were vital for the continuance of the important part of our civilian industry should not be taken away. Now, of course, it is not only in civilian life that skilled men are needed. We need skilled men, too, in the Army. The Army of to-day is very different from the Army of 25 years ago. It has a much higher degree of mechanisation. It calls, therefore, for many more skilled men than we then had need of, but we have devised and put into operation a scheme for training these men ourselves. The result is that we hope to provide in the Army all the skilled men that the Army will require for its expansion without having to call upon the skilled men who are so urgently needed in civilian life, and without therefore having to trench in any way upon the Schedule of Reserved Occupations.
There is one matter connected with the personnel of the Army which I know has caused considerable anxiety among many 1036 hon. Members who are interested in Army matters and have some experience and recollections of the Army in the last war. When they see, first of all, the class of the 20-year old men being called up, and then the 21's, 22's and 23's they see an Army growing up of young men, and they remember that in their battalions or units it was very often the older men who gave the stiffening to the battalion and who made the better non-commissioned officers. I share their anxiety fully. I think that a unit which had not a proper age distribution and had not a proper stiffening of older men would be one in which I would have less confidence in times either of physical strain or of acute danger. Therefore, it is a position which needs very careful watching. I would remind hon. Members that, when the war started last September, we had in the Regular Army a large proportion of mature non-commissioned officers and men, and that as far as the Territorial Army was concerned members could serve up to the age of 38 with, of course, non-commissioned officers of older ages. It is true that it is now largely the young men who are being called up, but when they are trained and posted to units they will at any rate find themselves mixed up with soldiers of experience and of considerably greater age. They are not only the older men with whom the Army started at the beginning of the war, but the number of volunteers who have enlisted since the war began. A large proportion of the 200,000 to whom I have referred are older men and they therefore have gone to increase the percentage of older men and to make the stiffening more satisfactory. As a matter of fact, at the present time, the average age of the infantry is 25, while for all other arms it is over 26, and that means that a considerable body of men are much older than the average, and to my mind at the moment the age structure is satisfactory and the stiffening is sufficient. But it is a situation which requires constant watching, and if further expansion of the Army makes any considerable difference, it will be necessary to take special measures to obtain a further stiffening of older men.
If I had been addressing the House a year ago, by far the most important items in the Debate and the most important item in the speech that I had to make would have been the question of 1037 supply. It is still the most important item. Above all, it is the limiting factor both as to the size and the speed in the expansion which we can undertake. Today I am no longer allowed to discuss it in detail. The responsibility for production is now that of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, but whatever the Parliamentary or legal position may be, no one in my place can wholly divest himself of responsibility. After all, it is the Army that uses the materials, it is the Army which is going to suffer if they are not delivered, and it is the Army which will gain if they are increased. At any rate, the situation does warrant and indeed demand the very closest co-operation between the War Office and the Ministry of Supply. Just as the Ministry of Supply must know our requirements, so we must know their difficulties. We can never accept for our armed Forces weapons which we believe will lack military value, but short of that it is, I believe, the duty of the War Office and those responsible for the Army to bear in mind always not only what is desirable, but also what is possible, and to have regard, in putting forward our demands, to the difficulties and the possibilities of production and of material.
On the creation of the Ministry of Supply, certain branches in the War Office had to be reorganised. I am not yet quite satisfied that that reorganisation is wholly satisfactory, and I am taking steps to make such additions as are necessary in order to ensure that there is real, effective co-operation between the two Ministries. Meanwhile I can assure the House that my Department are doing, and will do, everything possible to facilitate the immense task which my right hon. Friend has undertaken.
Now I would like to turn, not perhaps from the sublime to the ridiculous, but to something which is at least more homely than the subjects I have been discussing, and that is the question of catering and of feeding the troops. It is just as important a problem of administration as supply, and it is perhaps in some ways almost as difficult. The difficulty has not been the provision of adequate and whole some foodstuffs. They have been available in sufficient quantities. The difficulty is not so much the provision of adequate and wholesome foodstuffs as the transformation of adequate and wholesome foodstuffs into adequate and appetising 1038 meals. Before the war the Regular Army had plenty of well trained cooks, and an excellent school of cookery, and largely as a result of the efforts of my right hon. Friend the cooking in the Regular Army had admittedly reached a high standard.
But the position in the Territorial Army was not quite the same. In peace-time they were extremely short of trained cooks but as they spent only a short period in camp I think their deficiencies were rather apt to be overlooked. Many units, on their own initiative, used to obtain civilian help or at times borrowed cooks from the Regular Army. With the doubling of the Territorial Army, who had no previous barrack or camp experience at all, and on the outbreak of war, with the creation of a large number of new units and expansion of existing units, there are to-day well over 500,000 soldiers in billets, camps or barracks for whom cooks had to be found. Every effort was made to enlist professional cooks but it is clear that there is only one remedy—training. Intensive efforts in training have been made since the war began and instructors have been drawn from the master cooks of the Regular Army, or by special enlistment from the catering trade. Already 3,000 cooks have passed out from these schools, the monthly output is now over 1,000 and is being raised to 2,500. I hope the effect of this intensive drive will be increasingly felt in the future.
I cannot leave the question of catering without saying a word about waste which is, after all, a by-product of catering. I do not think there is any dispute as to the necessity for the avoidance of waste wherever possible. It would be quite intolerable if, when civilians were being put under greater and greater restrictions as to foodstuffs, there was gross waste of these same foodstuffs in military camps all over the country. It is never so easy, of course, to avoid waste in a large military unit. Neither the numbers nor the appetites of the men are always constant and in the effort to avoid having too little there may be occasions when you have too much. But, whatever the difficulties, there is no excuse at all for gross waste, instances of which are sometimes brought to me, or have appeared in the Press. The first thing to remember is that the primary responsibility for avoiding waste of this kind rests with the Commanding Officer of the unit. He 1039 is there on the spot and with the Messing Officer is responsible for the catering and can pay for inspections from time to time. It is through that means that gross waste is most easily checked.
Instructions have been sent out to commanding officers of the units with regard to their responsibility in this matter. Some cases of waste which have come to my notice show such wanton carelessness that they can be, and are rightly, made a matter of discipline. But the real remedy, I am sure, lies not in punishment or even in inspection; it lies in knowing how to cater. In the vast majority of cases this waste is not a matter of viciousness but simply that the people concerned do not know how to cater and, therefore, are left with a surplus on their hands. There are and have been, since the days of peace, catering officers in the Army. Some people write to the papers and ask why we do not start what we did last time. The lessons we learned in the last war were continued in peace time. These advisers are approximately on the scale of one to 25,000 men and their duty is to visit every unit, inspect the catering arrangements and advise on them. In peace time they had to deal with unit commanders and messing officers who had considerable experience of these problems, but to-day many messing officers have no experience at all and are struggling along gallantly with unfamiliar and, in most cases, wholly unwanted jobs. In these circumstances I have come to the conclusion that the scale of catering advisers, although adequate in peace time, is not now sufficiently strong. I am, therefore, increasing their number and at the same time considering the possibility of appointing whole-time messing officers of experience and training to certain large permanent units.
There is just one more point in regard to waste, and that is the assistance which the public can give. I have seen many complaints sent on by Members of the House and from the public in the Press, but they are very general in their terms and talk about great waste, without mentioning a specific unit or any date. I have sometimes written to the people who have published letters in the newspapers and 1040 have asked them for particulars but have failed to get any reply. That is not assistance at all but if, when cases do come to the notice of individuals, instead of writing to their papers they will bring them to the notice of the unit concerned, or the area commander, it would be easy to put the matter right at once. I do hope that people who see these cases will, instead of writing about them in general terms, report them immediately in order to enable effective action to be taken.
I would like to pass on to the question of our medical arrangements. This is, I know, a subject which has aroused deep interest and caused some anxiety both to Members of this House and to the public at large. We have in this section of administration, as in all others, met with great difficulties and improvisations coming from this sudden expansion. In the first place, when, last year, the Territorials were doubled we did not double the medical services with the result that there has had to be an enormous expansion since the war began. To-day nearly 90 per cent. of the medical officers actually serving were, a few months ago, civilian doctors with no military training at all. That does not mean that they were bail doctors; a great majority were excellent, but it does mean that they knew nothing about military administration or the way in which to get the things they required. Secondly, they have to-day to deal with the sort of problems which civilian doctors do not have to worry about in the care of the sick. So often a military doctor is responsible for care of the sick in a way in which, in civilian life, the responsibility would be that of the wife or mother of the patient. These medical officers are, however, tackling the problem splendidly and are learning fast, but we were bound to have difficulties to begin with.
Even more than this question of experienced personnel has been the difficulty of accommodation. The Army medical system cannot be the same as the civilian system. In civilian life, for most of us, there is nothing between our own bed and the hospital. If we are mildly ill we go to our own bed and if seriously ill to a hospital. That is not suitable for military life. The billet or the barrack room is neither suitable nor comfortable for a man who is fairly ill but not ill enough to go to a hospital. Therefore, in the 1041 Army there are small medical establishments taking 3, 10, 15 or 30 patients, according to requirements, and which are called reception stations or medical posts. They have a good scale of equipment and are looked after by one or more medical officers, with a staff of orderlies, but they are not hospitals; they have no microscope, no X-rays and no laboratories. If a man is seriously ill the place to treat him is a proper hospital and instructions have been issued that, in general, a man should not be kept in these reception stations for more than 48 hours and that if he is likely to require a longer time he should be sent to the nearest hospital accommodation. It is not always easy to find suitable accommodation for these reception stations. Troops are put down in a particular area for tactical or training reasons and the result is that you have to make use of the best accommodation which is available for these posts, and it is not always very good.
It is in connection with these posts that most of the criticism has been received. There have been two main kinds and one consists of a type that, when examined, has no value at all. I am continually receiving stories which are sent on "unimpeachable authority" by most respectable people—stories which are so fantastic and baseless in character that one really wonders out of what type of mind they can possibly originate. There have been stories of wholesale deaths of soldiers in a particular camp, from a particular disease, when there has been not one case of that disease since the war began.
§ Mr. Stanley
They are sometimes forwarded by Members of Parliament. That type of complaint is, for us, merely an irritating waste of time and tends to reduce the value of criticism in general and makes people less careful in inquiring into complaints than they otherwise would be. I have also received from hon. Members of this House and members of the public criticisms which, although sometimes a little exaggerated or proved to be ill-founded, do give definite and helpful suggestions about the conditions in various posts. Such criticisms are investigated at once and I frankly say they have sometimes revealed 1042 conditions which needed remedying, and have been remedied. But the real complaint and the real difficulty is not medical inefficiency in the way of bad treatment by the doctors but unsatisfactory buildings, equipment and attendance—things which do not endanger the life of the patient but often cause him quite unecessary hardship. These are the things which can be, and which must be, remedied. They arise from some particular human failure due to inexperience or lack of thought.
To my mind the first remedy for any difficulties of this kind is constant inspection. You must have experienced medical officers who are able, not only to criticise, but also to help people and you must have them going round continually, keeping these posts up to a high pitch of efficiency. In order that such inspection can be carried out with greater frequency than in the past I have made additions to the medical staff at area headquarters in order that they can go out and see these places for themselves and help to advise and criticise. In the second place we have to remember that the responsibility for these posts is not entirely the responsibility of the medical officer. To some extent it is also the responsibility of the commanding officer of the unit. Every commanding officer is responsible for seeing that the men in his unit, when they require it, get medical attention, and get proper medical attention. A commanding officer may have no technical knowledge. He may not know how to put a thing right, but if he knows that a thing is wrong it is his duty to kick up a row until the person who does know puts it right. I am not sure how far, under the new conditions, this responsibility has always been fully realised and I am calling the attention of all commanding officers to the responsibility which rests upon them in this matter.
In the third place, I have not been satisfied that up to now the fullest advantage has been taken of the great benefits which can accrue from a close understanding between the military medical authorities and the various voluntary bodies which have been wishing to co-operate with the medical authorities in helping in this work of caring for the sick. I am speaking particularly of the Red Cross Society, and I believe that these voluntary bodies can be of the greatest help in exactly those places where we need help 1043 most. It is not so much in the provision of extensive medical equipment and surgical equipment but in the provision of those small comforts which, in these posts make all the difference between the sick having a comfortable time and having perhaps an unnecessarily hard time. This co-operation has not always been guided and directed, by one side or the other, as clearly as it might have been, and I have sent instructions to all medical officers to get in touch with the local Red Cross and leaders of other voluntary bodies in the area, to get to know them, and to discuss with them anything they can do to help. I am certain that they will be only too glad to help where possible.
Fourthly, there is the question of the provision of supplies. With regard to drugs and medical equipment there is not and there never has been any difficulty at all. There is no shortage in bulk, owing to the foresight of the Army medical authorities who bought largely before war began. Wherever there is a shortage it is due to faulty distribution, very often to the fact that the medical officer has let his stock run too low before indenting for new supplies. With regard to the Quartermaster-General's stores, there have been some shortages owing to the sudden and enormous expansion of demand, but they have been coming forward now in more satisfactory quantities. I want to emphasise a point which I have already stated in the House, that if any medical officer who is short of some medical equipment to which he is entitled and cannot get it through the ordinary channels, he is entitled to go out and buy it and the expenditure will be authorised and reimbursed. Similarly, if other authorised equipment for one of these reception stations cannot be got in the ordinary way, it can be bought locally by the local ordnance officer and the expenditure will be passed.
To sum up. The fair view of the military medical arrangements is that the medical authorities have been faced with great problems due both to the expansion of the Army and to the location of troops in unaccustomed areas for various military reasons. These difficulties have been aggravated by the severe weather and the accompanying epidemic of influenza and German measles. But, on the whole, these problems and difficulties have been 1044 tackled with great energy and with a great measure of success. The military medical authorities are not, however, blind to the fact that there has been much which could be improved and they are determined to take every step to see that it is improved. If I turn from the medical services to the actual health of the troops, I am glad to say that on the whole the health of troops has been extremely good, but for the two epidemics to which I have referred.
With regard to the first epidemic, influenza, I am told that I ought not to call it influenza at all. Apparently the doctors cannot find any virus. But it has fever, pains, and everything else which makes 'flu for the ordinary man, and I shall therefore go on calling it influenza. This epidemic began at the end of December and had a very heavy incidence during January but began to drop off in the middle of February and is now much diminished. Of course the great fear of a large number of people in any influenza epidemic is the development of pneumonia. There have been a number of cases, but it is very satisfactory to know that the rate of admission of pneumonia cases per thousand is only slightly higher in January. this year, during this very large influenza epidemic, than it was in January last year when there was no epidemic, while the rate of mortality from pneumonia is lower in January this year than it was in the five years 1932–36, and only one-half of the mortality rate of pneumonia in the last influenza epidemic in January, 1937. It is very satisfactory to note these figures, because if there was any truth in the allegation of inefficiency or carelessness in the medical services the one place where you would expect to find it is in an increase in the number of cases of influenza which develop into pneumonia. The figures I have given disprove that allegation entirely.
The other epidemic has been German measles, which, despite its name, has been very mild. There have been also some cases of cerebro meningitis. The cases of this serious disease have been completely sporadic in character. They have occurred in barracks, in hired buildings, in billets, and in huts. In only very few instances has there been any connection between cases, or more than one case from the same barracks. This, of course, is a serious and anxious disease, 1045 but there is one comforting feature in connection with it that due largely to the use of improved drugs and of early diagnosis there has been a very startling fall in the mortality rate. During the last war the mortality rate from this disease was 40 per cent. in the Army and 60 per cent. in the civilian population, and in particular areas and at particular times the mortality rate rose as high as 80 per cent. Up to date, on this occasion the mortality rate has been eight to nine per cent. I am glad to say that in the last few weeks there has been a fall in the number of cases, which leads one to hope that the peak of the disease was reached about the beginning of February. With these exceptions the incidence of other notifiable diseases has been considerably lower than it usually is in the Army in peace time.
Let me now pass to the question of education. It is a question which has aroused considerable interest in this House and in the public outside and is of particular interest to me as I was concerned for many years in the adult educational movement. I have given this matter a great deal of thought and I have given some study to the various schemes which have been suggested. Before we can come to any useful conclusion on this matter I think it is necessary to recognise the different circumstances and the different possibilities of various parts of the Army. All of us, of course, remember the Gorell scheme in the last war. It was a fine conception and a great success, but we are apt to forget that it only came into effect after the Armistice, when fighting was over, when there was no point in military training, and when with the exception of a few initial moves units were settling down on a more or less permanent basis until they were finally brought home. Conditions to-day are quite different. Troops in the British Expeditionary Force at any moment may be engaged in heavy fighting, and the troops at home, when the weather improves, will be finding their training more and more intensified, while tactical and training reasons will necessitate frequent troop movements. On the other hand, there are some units who are in much more the condition in the Army to which the Gorell scheme applied, units which are permanently located and whose training is less arduous.
1046 I feel that the right thing to do is to start with a general scheme which will not be too advanced or on too rigid lines, while at the same time beginning an experiment of something more ambitious under selected conditions, where the possibilities are greater. The obvious machinery for the development of a general scheme is that which has already been created and announced to the House, and which in fact is already operating, under which there is a central committee representative of bodies on adult education and regional committees, representative of the same bodies, in the areas set up by the vice-chancellors of universities or principals of university colleges in their respective areas. They can lay their hands on men who are accustomed to the provision of adult education in civil life, they can call on a mass of tutors whose life work is adult education, and it seems to me that they are the people who are most suitable to do this kind of work in time of war.
This scheme has already made considerable headway, but before there can be any development it needs two things. First, it needs additions to the Army educational corps in the Commands, to make certain that opportunities for this kind of thing are brought home to all units, and that the demands for these facilities are notified to the regional committees. Secondly, I am afraid that it needs money. I do not think there is any need to be extravagant. I do not want to start it with a cumbrous organisation. I would rather see the organisation grow out of the education than wait for the education to grow out of the organisation. I have every reason to believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will look if not with benevolence at least with not malevolent eyes on any reasonable request put forward to him for these facilities. At the same time, let me try to develop this general scheme. I want to see if it is possible to start some more ambitious experiment in the anti-aircraft defence or in the coast defence. Conditions there are quite different from those in the field force, units are largely static, their training is not so arduous, the monotony is very great and there may well be more opportunity for a more continuous form of education than the field forces are likely to ask for or get. I have asked the Board of Education, and my Noble Friend has agreed, to lend me an official 1047 of experience in adult education. I want to join him with a soldier who knows something about the conditions of Army life and the necessary limitations and restrictions, and also with someone with experience of welfare work and the provision of recreation and the filling up of leisure by non-educational means. I have asked them to prepare such a scheme for I believe that education and recreation must go together. It is impossible to draw a hard and fast line because you then get overlapping and certain facilities may not be covered at all.
I have so far spoken of the troops at home. The British Expeditionary Force presents a much more difficult problem. At the bases the work is extremely hard and I am doubtful whether after it is over the people will be anxious for much education, but I hope it will be possible to do something on these general lines. As regards the forward areas, my own view is that all we can do is to start with recreation, and then it is possible that something more educational will develop. The lines of the welfare scheme announced by my right hon. Friend in November last are well known. I believe that scheme has been a tremendous success. There were certain suspicions of it in the beginning. People were doubtful whether it would interfere with the ordinary responsibilities of unit commanders. I believe to a large extent those fears have been dissipated and it has been a very great success. It has hitherto been run only on a voluntary basis and at little or no expense to the State. I believe the experiment has been so successful that it will have to be enlarged and I am disposed to think that in this enlargement, while of course we shall be anxious to see voluntary assistance carried still further, and indeed increased, the State must be prepared to take a larger financial share. The improvement of recreation in the Army is to my mind one of the essential defences against one of its most deadly enemies. I rank boredom at least as high as the tank in the danger it presents to our Forces. Our object must be to give full opportunity to the troops in their spare time. One thing is certain. You will find in the modern Army an immense variety in its members and in their interests. It is not going to be at all easy to cater for all of those different tastes. The existing activities, and new 1048 ones when started, have to be co-ordinated, to be fitted into a general policy. I am going to ask this same Committee to see how this can best be done and to see that no possible means of enabling the leisure time of the troops to be filled will be omitted. But let me give a word of warning. Vital as is the occupation of the leisure time of the troops, the first concern must be their training as soldiers and, in anything that we do, the vital question of preparing the Army for the task of defeating the enemy must not and will not be relegated to any second place.
I want to say a few words on a subject to which normally I should not have addressed myself. That is the question of dependants' allowances. It is the subject of the Amendment which will subsequently be moved, and normally it would not perhaps have been appropriate or courteous for me to anticipate the opening of that discussion but, when I spoke on the subject previously, I gave a personal pledge that I would go into these complaints and report what change, if any, ought to be made. Therefore I feel that it is right, as it was a personal matter, that I should briefly report the result of my examination to the House. Complaints were voiced in the House last January that, while my predecessor has from time to time improved the condition of the soldier's wife and family, nothing has been done to meet the criticisms of the original scheme for dependants' allowances. I know that my predecessor was contemplating, before he left office, exactly the same sort of inquiry that I have since made and I have no doubt that, had he made it, he would have arrived more or less at the same conclusion that I did. In making this investigation I have had the benefit not only of the Debate in the House but also of a very large daily correspondence with Members, which has given me a very good chance of finding out what are the major grievances in relation to this scheme.
Both from the course of the Debate and from subsequent correspondence it has been quite plain to me that one of the provisions in the present scheme which has attracted the most criticism is the provision which lays down that, generally speaking, allowances will only be granted if the dependant is incapable of self- 1049 support. I remember that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), in winding up the previous Debate, stressed particularly that condition and asked me, above all, to consider whether it was not possible to remedy it. I can see the theoretical reason for the criticism. If a person can support himself, there should be no need, especially in war-time, for the State to make an allowance, bat this is a case where, after investigation, I am convinced that theory and practice just do not meet and that, whatever the theoretical justification may be, experience has shown that in fact this condition must and does work hardly. The dependant may be unable to find work, even though he is capable of doing the work if he could find it, but even if he is in work the household income may be at such a low-level that on a purely financial basis he would be entitled to an allowance if it was not for this incapacity condition. I have come, therefore, to the conclusion that, as far as allowances are concerned, I am unable to support this particular condition. As a result of discussion with the other Ministries concerned the Government, therefore, has decided to waive this condition in future so far as dependants' allowances are concerned. I need not point out that the conditions which may very reasonably govern these temporary service allowances and those which must govern permanent and continuing pensions are completely different from each other. This concession in this form is confined to allowances, and the question of pensions is being separately examined and considered by my hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions. [Interruption.] It will not be retrospective but anyone can make an application.
It has also been represented that, even if you grant the desirability of some consideration of household means—and I say again that we do in fact attach great importance to this principle—the standard applied is too severe. The present rule is that a dependant's allowance is not issuable where the household income, in the case of a dependant not living alone, is 15s. or more a head a week, after allowing for rent and rates. I do not think that that is an unreasonable standard but, to my mind, it offends against something which I learned a great deal about when I was in another office. One of the things I saw then which caused 1050 the greatest hardship was that the whole of the earnings of sons and daughters were taken into account in calculating the household's income, and one of the alterations we made then was to allow something to be kept back. In future it has been decided that one-fifth of the earnings of each member of the household, other than the dependant or the dependant's husband or father, will be disregarded.
I think this is a concession of real value. I am considering whether any similar deduction would be appropriate in the case of the dependant's husband or father. The deduction will be, therefore, one-fifth in the case of the other members, and I am considering whether any deduction should be made for the dependant's husband or father. There have also been complaints about the upper limits of these allowances. They do not allow sufficiently for those cases where the soldier's contribution to a dependant has in the past been substantial. There are at the moment two ordinary ranks of allowances, 12s. and 17s., and there is a special allowance, for a dependant living alone and wholly dependant on the soldier, of 20s. 6d. We are extending that range to 24s., the rates being 12s., 17s., 20s. 6d. and 24s. If, therefore, a man made a net contribution of over 20s. and the household circumstances justify an allowance, that allowance will be at the rate of 20s. 6d. in future instead of 17s.
Another relaxation of the present rule which has been decided, and which I hope will be welcome, is the removal of the bar, for which I can see little justification, which prevented the dependant receiving an allowance from more than one member of the Services. There is still the test of the household income and of the pre-war contribution of the soldiers concerned, but in principle, if there have been contributions from two members of the Services, and the household means justify it, two dependants' allowances may be in future issued. [Interruption.] I say "two" although there may be circumstances where three would be possible. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I doubt whether within the limitations I have described there would be more than two.
I now come to a very important case which was raised very vividly in the last Debate by the hon. Member for West 1051 Willesden (Mr. Viant). That is the question of apprentices. It is one of the most difficult questions that have been raised. It is a question of the son who is just finishing an apprenticeship, who has contributed nothing in the past and who is called up to the Army. You cannot say that he has been helping the family, and yet the family have been providing for his education at considerable sacrifice to themselves and have been going through lean years, counting on the better years when he is going to help them. It is impossible to fit these cases, where there is no certainty that the boy would have earned anything or paid anything, into a scheme which is based on a question of fact, the actual amount which the soldier contributed. I do not think these cases lend themselves to general treatment by regulations. They have to be considered in relation to the individual circumstances of each case. We realise that those cases warrant special and sympathetic treatment, and we have therefore decided to extend the powers of the War Service Grants Advisory Committee to cover such cases. Hitherto they have not been able to deal with cases where no contribution was being made when they were called up. That will be removed and they will be able to deal with those cases. The exact lines on which they should be dealt with will be a matter for the consideration of my hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions.
There remains one question, perhaps the most difficult of them all. That is the case which hitherto has been known as the case of the unmarried wife. I say, "hitherto" because, in deference to opinions which are strongly held and loudly voiced, I have decided to make a change, at any rate as far as regulations are concerned, in the term that is used. No one can pretend that the term "unmarried wife," although it has been used for some 20 years, is a satisfactory one. It is just about as full of meaning as talking about a "childless father." The only difficulty has been to find an alternative. I am not prepared to accept any suggestion which is offensive to the person named. I should have liked, if it had been possible, to find a term which was no more cumbersome than the present. I cannot pretend that any ideal alternative has been suggested, but the best I have heard was suggested by His Grace the Arch- 1052 bishop of Canterbury, and it is that of "unmarried dependant living as a wife." As far as the regulations are concerned, that cause of offence will be removed. We propose to introduce this term as and when new forms are printed. Quite frankly, although many people have made a great fuss about the name, in this difficult class of case I have been more interested in the term than in the name. In this matter, any one in my position is faced with an obvious dilemma, and certainly, I have been. I have not judged, and I do not think I am entitled to judge, this question from the point of view of the moralities alone; the humanities have got to be considered.
§ Mr. Stanley
I have already said that. The main reason for the granting of allowances is that the soldier for whom I am responsible should feel that those for whom he cares most are being adequately looked after in his absence, and we should be blind to the facts if we did not realise that on many occasions it is not the legal wife for whom the soldier cares most and about whose welfare he is thinking most when he is overseas in the line. At the same time, it is impossible to ignore both the legal and the moral obligations which he had undertaken when he married, and the rights of which the legal wife can never be deprived.
The House, of course, is familiar with the present arrangement. The soldier can, if he likes, make an allotment to the unmarried dependant living as a wife, which carries with it a dependant's allowance for a wife, and for the children, but that may have a most unfortunate effect on the separated wife and on the payment of the court order which she may have obtained. Under Military Law that court order can only be met by stoppages from the soldier's pay, and the discretion of the military authorities is limited to three-quarters of the total pay in the case of ranks below sergeant and two-thirds for higher ranks. It is clear, of course, that if the soldier has already made an allotment from his pay to an unmarried dependant living as a wife, he is thereby unable to satisfy any court order which may have been obtained by the separated wife, and the assistance 1053 given to the dependant from Army Funds has to some extent, at any rate, been at the expense of the legal wife. I do not, and cannot, regard this position as satisfactory. In this dilemma the only person who could help me was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he has been very generous in his assistance. [An Hon. Member: "Marvellous."] There will be quite a number of people who will be grateful, and who will say "Marvellous" with conviction.
In future, it is proposed as a temporary war-time rule—I would emphasise that the rule is not one which will be appropriate to the conditions in peace time—that where there is a court order the wife, whatever the soldier may have done with regard to an allotment to an unmarried dependant living as a wife, shall receive from Army Funds the amount of the order, subject only to these two conditions: first, that the charge shall not be greater than any sum which by agreement before the soldier came up the wife had accepted in settlement of the court order; and secondly, that the amount of the court order shall not exceed either the family allowance and allotment issuable to a wife living with a soldier, or the limit of the stoppage that can be made from the soldier's pay under the Army Act, whichever is the greater. At the same time the provision will continue that the unmarried dependant living as a wife will be entitled to receive from Army Funds what the regulations now provide. The soldier himself will be called upon to pay towards the cost of these double allowances the maximum amount permissible under the terms of the Army Act and the Royal Warrant for pay.
§ Mr. Stanley
They are the same. There has been no alteration. I hope that hon. Members on all sides will agree that this is a reasonable and generous settlement of a very difficult question. The general changes in the dependants' allowances scheme which I have announced, will apply equally in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the Royal Air Force.
§ Mr. Stanley
From now. The fact that, for reasons for which I have explained, I 1054 have confined my speech largely to administrative matters, does not mean that I am blind to the still wider issues. Important as are the matters which I have discussed this afternoon, much as they contribute to the well being, and therefore, to the morale and the efficiency of the Army, they are not an end in themselves. We have raised a large Army, not merely that it may be well fed, well housed and well cared for, but that it may be able to fight, and to fight successfully. On this score I have no doubts; from all sides one hears of the magnificent human material of which our Army is now composed. Twenty-five years ago this country, for the first time in its history, put a great citizen Army into the field. We had at times to pay a great price for our tardiness, our inexperience, our lack of training, and our lack of equipment, but we carried on the traditions of the old British Army, and we fought through to victory. To-day, our sons have taken over the same task. I am confident they will repeat our triumphs; it is for us to avoid our mistakes. It is not alone on the sea or in the air or on the land that a decision will not be sought, nor will it be only military weapons which will count. Our economic and our financial power will play their part too. It is only a combined effort, with no section over-emphasised and with no section starved, an effort in which all our resources can be fitted, it is only such an effort that will break the enemy's will to win and open the way to a peace which will be both just and durable. In that effort the British Army, expanded and re-equipped, will play a part not unworthy of our traditions and of our power.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith (Keighley)
This is the first speech which the Secretary of State has made on the Army Estimates, and I should like to take the opportunity of expressing our good wishes to him in his great office and his great responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman began by pointing out that he could not yet tell us, in the case of the Army, the same stories of feats of war as those which have been related in the case of the Navy and the Royal Air Force. He went on to give an account of the British Expeditionary Force. In point of fact, there has been in that connection a feat of war organisa- 1055 tion on which we can look with great pride and satisfaction, and which indeed we now have an opportunity of discussing, formally, for the first time. The original dispatch of the British Expeditionary Force was marked by a precision, a secrecy and a freedom from any accident or mishap which show that we have a power of organising war as encouraging, in the long run, as many more spectacular achievements.
A large part of his speech, the Secretary of State told us, would be devoted to what he described as homely subjects, but subjects on which he had received hundreds of letters from Members of Parliament and others: subjects such as allowances, medical arrangements, cooking, and conditions in billets. He was right about this. These may be homely subjects, but they are not small or unimportant subjects, because it is upon our method of dealing with them, that the attitude of the public to the Army will very largely depend. The right hon. Gentleman concluded with a very good account of the amendments that he proposes to make in the scheme of dependants' allowances. I recognise the great importance of what he said, and, as his statement was so full and indicated such a large number of amendments, I think it would be better for us, having gone into the matter very carefully in the meantime, to return to the subject later. We shall probably ask to return to it on the Report stage on Thursday, when we shall be able to give our considered view based upon a careful examination of what the right hon. Gentleman has said.
Meanwhile, I turn to one or two other of those homely subjects to which reference has been made. From these I wish to draw a very large conclusion to which I shall ask the right hon. Gentleman to give his careful attention. I suppose that, apart from the dependants' allowances, the question on which the right hon. Gentleman has received most letters has been the billeting conditions in different areas. I would say that, putting aside cantankerous or exaggerated statements, in some of the billeting areas the conditions could be described as atrocious. I mention this because the right hon. Gentleman gave an account of the medical arrangements, and it is the case that bad billeting conditions have 1056 their worst effects on men who are ill. I was interested to hear the Minister speak about the case of men who, not being quite ill enough to go to hospital have, in the past, in a great proportion of cases, been left in their billets to get well as best they could.
Before drawing a conclusion from that statement I would like first to make this comment on the medical position. I have had an opportunity of examining a great many accounts of billeting conditions in different areas of the country, and this is what has struck me about military administration. The rules, the regulations and the instructions of the War Office are so exhaustive that they allow for nearly every contingency and are almost a code of law in themselves. Yet I have found that, at the end of it all, when a contingency does arise, the question of whether it is properly dealt with or not depends, finally, upon the man on the spot, upon whether, as the right hon. Gentleman said, he is "on his toes." It is upon his resourcefulness and particularly his willingness to take personal responsibility, that the comfort and health of the men depend.
What has struck me in looking at a number of letters on this subject is that in different areas there are striking differences in the conditions, not due to differences in difficulties, but to differences in efficiency of unit administration. I will give an instance, based on a personal conversation with a young friend of mine. It refers to the case of a billet in a pigeon loft where there were a good many mice and rats, but not so many rats. When the boy received a Christmas hamper the mice ate into it, and practically all that was left was the tinned food. There were cobwebs hanging from the ceiling—and he had been billeted there for three months. About 15 men were down with minor ailments in the billet—the boy was on leave then—in 15 degrees of frost. I may say that this has been put right, and I am not raising the question again to call the attention of the Minister to it, but largely to draw deductions from it and from what the Minister himself has said. Of course, it is said that all this is provided for at the War Office, that supervision is made and that the medical officer has established a reception station and medical post to deal with cases of this kind. But it was not done in that in- 1057 stance. No doubt, the medical officer was one who had not had previous military experience. Looking at all these cases, it seems that there are two types of commanding officer, the one who, faced with these conditions, indents for what is required and then sits back for the conditions to be solved, and the other who is on his toes, waits for three or four days and then rings up the brigade and says, "I cannot have my men in these conditions. Look here, I have the authority to purchase these things; let it be put right."
The Regular Army officer, although he has many limitations, is professionally and technically trained, and, I believe, one of the doctrines instilled into him is that he must look after his animal first, his men second, and himself third. That is a doctrine I have heard all my life, and I believe that in spite of other defects that he may have, the Regular Army officer acts according to it. It is also taught in the Officers' Cadet Training units which have now been set up. The Secretary of State for War should ask himself the question, whether a Territorial whose experience has been limited to a fortnight's camp—a prepared camp in summer-time, with the catering very often put out to contract—has had this idea instilled into him or has learned how to carry it out? I have been impressed with the fact that most of the worst examples brought to my attention have been those of Territorial units commanded by Territorial officers. They have their advantages over Regular officers, but obviously this kind of training and experience cannot be among them.
I therefore make two suggestions: Firstly, that there should be a short course for all Territorial officers before they go to the Front—not for so long a period as the Officers' Cadet Training units—in the essentials of unit administration. Secondly, I want the Secretary of State to inquire whether it is inevitable that a commanding officer who for some years has spent two weeks in camp in time of peace possesses the experience or is technically suitable to command six or seven hundred men at the Front. I greatly respect the zeal and expenditure of time and money of Territorial commanding officers and their hospitality, and I should be glad to see them recognised by some sort of distinction, but at the same time they should not be recognised, unless they are suitable, by giving them control of 1058 the lives of our men. I therefore suggest that the Minister shall adjudge all officers in this position by the simple test of their technical capacity to command troops in conditions of war. Even if he found that more than half of them could not pass that test, he would receive no criticism from this side of the House.
I have raised these issues as a result of a good many inquiries and from experience, and I now turn to the account which the Minister gave of the cooking arrangements for the Army. He told us that there were at present 3,000 properly trained cooks and that they were being turned out at the rate of 2,500. But I understand that one cook is needed in the Army to every 50 men, so that even at that rate of output—
§ Mr. Stanley
I did not say there were 3,000 trained cooks. I said 3,000 cooks had passed out of this training centre. That is, in addition to the trained cooks we had before and those enlisted, and is not a gross figure.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I understand that, but it is quite clear that at the rate of output it will be very many months, perhaps 12 months, before there will be enough trained cooks for the entire Army. We shall have to rely, therefore, on men taken from the ranks who are put to this particular job. It has been suggested that women should do it, but I am not at all sure that in fact they are suitable for cooking for 300, 400, or 800 men. Although it may seem an obvious way out, I do not think it is the right way out. The Minister said he was going to establish full-time messing officers, and it is the case that if a unit has a full-time messing officer it enables the cooking and catering to reach a fairly satisfactory standard.
§ Mr. Stanley
I did not say a full-time messing officer for every unit. I said I was considering the appointment of full-time messing officers in some permanent places where there might be a number of permanent units.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I should have thought it would require a full-time messing officer in a battalion to deal with some 1,000 men and that it would be an economy. The amount of waste the officer might find would probably in the end repay his pay. There is a messing officers' training school 1059 at the Army School of Cookery, and I have spoken to some of the men I know. They tell me that they really do not learn anything. They are only there for five days and have only an elementary knowledge of this side of life. It might be argued that if you have a five-day course you may get a great many more through, but I wish to point out—and this will be appreciated by the Minister from his past experience—that the Board of Education has specialised on short five-day courses, and it has been found that a surprising amount can be taught if those entering the course are prepared for it before the lessons begin. Therefore, before the messing officers go to the courses, if a syllabus and a text book were sent to them and they were given a certain amount of correspondence tuition, they would not be wasted. The men would see with their eyes what was in front of them, and their minds would assimilate what was being done.
The general outline of the new scheme for education in the Army described by the Minister appeared to be the best experimental system with which to begin. I do not think we ought to be discouraged if at this stage of the war the scheme does not meet with a very special response. I know the Army is bored, as the Minister said, but it is also unsettled as to the future. Education is best conducted in an atmosphere of peace, which at present is too indefinite for men to concentrate sufficiently on work of this kind. As the Minister said, the scheme in the last war was a surprising success, but it came into operation at the end of the war and was taken advantage of when men were thinking of preparing themselves for their civilian careers. I think there is a danger of a scheme of this sort being too ambitious. Universities are to have a large share in taking control, and they will arrange lectures by experienced lecturers. The number of lectures held in a year might make a very striking total, but, on the other hand, the number of times a soldier heard them might be very small. I therefore believe that in the early stages simple subjects should be taken up. There have been experiments in one or two units and it was found that the soldiers wanted French, German, shorthand and typewriting, which do not require highly trained university lecturers. Under present conditions the 1060 soldier will most use something which is easy to his hand, something he can do at any moment during his time off duty, and it would be best to encourage, for those who want it, some sort of correspondence tuition so that, with the aid of a little book which he can carry in his pocket, he can do written work in his own time. That is much better than a lecture once a year. He should also be provided with a quiet room in the camp away from the wireless, which blares all the time in the institutes, and have in charge some officer whose mind happens to be specially interested in a question of this kind.
I come to a question which raises a large issue and into which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to make some inquiries. I refer to the scheme for the democratisation of the Army. There is a great danger that this scheme is going wrong, and that it is more impressive on paper than in reality. The machinery is all there and all the men who now get commissions come from the ranks. That however, does not mean democratisation unless every man in the ranks has an equal chance of getting a commission, irrespective of his income or social origin. The system is this: The selection for commissions of men in the ranks is made by the commanding officer, naturally on the recommendation of the officer of the unit. The candidate goes before the brigadier and finally is interviewed by the general of the division. The first effective selection, however, is made by the commanding officer, and what we have to guard against is this. The commanding officer is a man, probably a successful officer, who is the prevailing military type, and he will regard as a man likely to make a good officer another man who is of the type he finds it easy to recognise. I know of a young soldier who went up to the commanding officer, having been recommended for a commission. He was asked whether he had any private means and what his father's income was. One result of this is that a number of soldiers who would make good officers cannot take commissions because they do not feel they can afford to do so. The right hon. Gentleman might make some inquiries about the expenses of officers in their units. He has sources of information and so have I. In the units of which I know an officer cannot get on on less than £1 a week.
1061 The democratisation of the Army cannot go through on those conditions. I am not saying that the men who are chosen would not be good officers—they would be—but what I am saying is that in this country the ability to command is widely spread, and it is not confined to any one particular type of man and it is not confined to the type which prevails in the best kind of officers' mess. It is much wider than that. It is the Secretary of State's duty to insist that those who are selecting these men shall have an attitude of mind towards the selection which will enable them to recognise the powers of leadership in types of men who are different from themselves. Unless that is done, I am convinced that along the present lines it will be found that the scheme for the democratisation of the Army will largely evaporate in smoke and that large sums of money which are being spent by the public in order to make it possible will be misused.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Spears (Carlisle)
I should like to take up the last point which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) has mentioned about the democratisation of the Army. It is an important subject, which clearly ought to be faced. It will be admitted by all that the important element in any Army is that of the officers, for without a well-trained and specialised corps of officers the bravest troops must fail. What happens in the Army of our ally, France? France is a democracy in which every career is open to the poorest man's son. The brother of the President of the Republic tills his own fields. Marshal Joffre was the son of a cooper. General Georges, who commands the North-Eastern front in France, was telling me the other day that he used to go to school in sabots. The Republic has a magnificent Army, which is her pride. The existence of the State depends upon its efficiency. What is the French view on this subject of officers? Have they ever allowed democracy, much less demagogy, to interfere in the matter? They are much too intelligent for that, and too much depends upon the Army to allow any but common sense solutions being adopted.
Any young man who is intelligent enough to pass the examinations at 18 can enter St. Cyr, the French Sandhurst, 1062 or the Polytechnic, which corresponds to what used to be Woolwich. There is no restriction whatever, but once he has entered one of the military colleges he is made into an officer in the sense that he is moulded in to the officer caste. Once there, whatever his origin—and nobody minds what his origin is—he is treated on a footing of absolute equality with all other young students and he comes out an officer. St. Cyr is designed to foster military traditions, to develop a sense of military honour and to mould young minds so that they will become leaders, however youthful, whom men will look up to and follow. This part of their training is looked upon as being infinitely more important than mere technical learning. I would like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley to the fact that in the democratic French Army, which comprises to-day many hundreds of generals who command its millions of soldiers, only one general in effective command has risen from the ranks.
We are facing the same perils in this country as are the French, whose Army is defending the very existence of the State. But what have we done? Somebody must have the courage to say it. We have given way to calls and slogans. We have given way to demagogy on this question. This cheap popular cry, "Democratise the Army," may raise a cheer in the public-house and give a Minister a sense of popularity, but the way in which it is being interpreted is fatal to the Army. When the French heard that we had to all intents and purposes closed down Sandhurst and were not training boys of 18 to be officers, they were appalled. By all means do not send out boys, either as officers or as men, to France until they are 20, but let us train them from 18 to 20 so that at the later age they will be efficient officers. Let us make no mistake; in a citizen Army such as ours, which is forced to expand suddenly, and which, among the Territorials especially, must have many excellent men who, nevertheless, are not possessed of the qualities required of an officer in war-time, the officer question is bound to be a difficult one. By the very nature of present-day warfare more depends upon the leader of small units than in former days. By the very nature of the fighting small units have to defend pillboxes and follow or repel tank attacks, 1063 and the staunchness and coolness of young officers commanding these small units is of the greatest importance. Staunchness comes of tradition and coolness of practice in the habit of command.
Incredible as it may seem, not only have we done away with the two years' training course at Sandhurst, but we have actually reduced the number of officers per battalion. Non-commissioned officers, instead of second lieutenants, are now commanding platoons in many cases. Everybody knows that however important the non-commissioned officer is in the Army—and his importance cannot be exaggerated—he cannot take the place of the officer.
§ Brigadier-General Spears
If the hon. Member knew anything about the Army, he would not have put that question.
§ Mr. Stewart
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that during the last war, in thousands of cases when the subalterns went down, non-commissioned officers took charge and admittedly did the work the officers would have done?
§ Brigadier-General Spears
Of course, it is the part the non-commissioned officer has to play, and it is one of his invaluable qualities that he is able to follow up his officer. Russia made the mistake of putting non-commissioned officers in the place of officers in the Russian Revolution, and the result was the peace of Brest-Litovsk. [Interruption.] I am not brushing it to one side, but to anyone who knows, it is a question beyond discussion. I beg the Secretary of State to look into this question and reappoint without delay the requisite number of junior officers, so that our infantry battalions will attain the efficiency which we expect of them. It is a vitally important question both from the point of view of the men, whose lives depend on good leadership, and from the point of view of the conduct of the war. The fate of nations has often depended upon the winning of battles, and the winning or losing of battles has always been a question of leadership. I think I am well enough known in this House for hon. Members to realise that I am no hide-bound militarist. I am far from pleading that com- 1064 missions in the Army should be the perquisite of a class. I love the Army. I spent the best years of my life in it, and I want it to be capable of carrying out its high traditions in a changed world. Nothing could be better for the Army to-day than to draw its officers from the whole nation. Let every man's son who has the capacity and the yearning for a soldier's life have a chance of entering a military college, but once he is there let us follow the example of the French and make an officer of him.
Abolish this nonsensical idea which precludes training during the vital years between 18 and 20, an idea which, in my view, was only accepted so as to be able to say that all started equal and that every officer had risen from the ranks. The would-be officer ought to have a harder training than any private, because, after all, he is going to be a professional soldier. Would it occur to anybody to attempt to build up, say, a chemical industry by refusing to train chemists before they were 20 years old, and then only after they had swept the floor of the factory? Has anybody ever been so mad as to apply that system to the Navy? There is another point which seems to me to be important. To resume the training of young men for the Army between 18 and 20 will help many parents to solve the problem of what to do with their boys during those critical years. Our democracy is surely big enough to disregard the dictates of Demagogy. We surely realise that equality of opportunity should not mean a lowering of standards or a levelling down, any more than liberty means licence, and I hope the Minister will review the whole position.
My second point, and it is a short one, is this: I have seen from the newspapers that it was revealed in the French Chamber that about half the wheat sown in the autumn had been spoiled by the weather and that an immense effort is being made to sow afresh now. The Army is making every effort to help the civil population, and in the zone of the Army the different corps and divisions are lending a hand, and I hope that our own Army, in so far as it is possible to do so, will lend a hand in the zone in which it is stationed. Last autumn when our Army arrived in France the sugar-beet was standing. The French Army, which is an army of peasants, instinctively 1065 pulled the beet for the farmers who had been called up. Our troops did not do so; nobody had suggested that they should; they would have been delighted to do so had it been suggested to them; but the local farmers did not understand the position nor appreciate that our own troops—
§ Mr. Stanley
I do not think that is a fact. When I was over there I was told by the Commander-in-Chief that help was given by our troops—it was arranged through headquarters—in the lifting of the sugar-beet crop.
§ Brigadier-General Spears
I am delighted to hear it. My informant was not the Commander-in-Chief but the local deputy in a part of the world where our troops are stationed. It may be that some troops did help and others did not. In any case, I hope that in the present circumstances our troops will do what they can to help the French farmers.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Horabin (Cornwall, Northern)
I will not follow the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears) in the subject which he has raised, because it is one upon which I feel rather strongly, and I wish to avoid any controversy. I should like to congratulate the Minister upon the excellence and the frankness of the statement he has made to-day. I congratulate him, in spite of the fact that he has blunted all my points for me and destroyed what I thought was going to be rather an excellent speech. I am one of those who feel that the War Office, no less than the Admiralty, requires a strong civilian Minister at the head of it. I have some little hope about that after to-day. Of course, the things which I should like to discuss can only be suitably discussed in a Secret Session; they are not suitable for an open discussion on the Floor of the House at the present moment.
I was particularly delighted to hear the Minister refer to the need for older men in the various units of the Army. I went through the last war, as the Minister did, and I am very conscious of that need. I was going to make it my primary point to day. I suggest to the Minister, from what I have seen of units marching along the road, that there is still room for older men. I suggest that the unmarried men in some of the older age- 1066 groups should be called up at the same time as the whole of the younger groups are called up. I think also there is still room for a freer use of our voluntary system in that respect. Many men have approached me who have been desirous of getting into the Army but have been consistently turned down, and some men who, it seems to me, out of the little experience I gained in the last war, would be suitable men in the present Army find it impossible to join at the present moment.
Another important question, one on which the Minister did not say quite so much, is that of training. To-day men are drawn into the Army from all classes and large numbers of them are intelligent and critical. They regard their Army service as a very necessary but an annoying interference with their ordinary life. Some of those lads are, as they say, "Fed up to the back teeth," because they feel they are not getting regular methodical training. I realise the difficulties, and I do not want to stress the point too much, but nevertheless that feeling exists among them. As one of them put it to me, it seemed as though the N.C.Os. and officers were saying, "Well, let us see what we shall do with these lads to-day "rather than giving them a methodical training. I am told that men who have received training in specialised units such as motor-training battalions are not passed out as efficient or otherwise, and a man who is obviously efficient may be drafted into an infantry unit after he has done his training instead of being drafted to some job in which he would drive either a light tank or a motor lorry. Certainly in one motor-training battalion which I know there is no progressive scheme of training. Up to a fortnight ago, at any rate, the men were simply put on light tanks to be taught by the more proficient among their fellows. There was no methodical training proceeding from A to B and C to D and so on.
Another point I should like to raise is whether all the units have received their various training manuals. Some of the men in the ranks feel that there is no definite training programme in certain directions. I understand also that there has been some shortage of modern equipment, which is understandable in the early stages of war. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that this 1067 deficiency is being made up now. An other thing which rather surprised me in connection with the motor-training battalion to which I have referred was that there was no maintenance organisation. The light tanks were simply used for training and were "run to death." Nothing was done to them until, as one man said, they "conked out." Surely that is bad from every point of view. A man ought to be taught to take the same care of his vehicle as we were taught in the last war to take care of the animals. What is to happen on active service if a man is not proud of his vehicle in the same way as we used to be proud of our horses? In this connection I should like to be satisfied that there is someone on the Army Council who has an expert knowledge of mechanised warfare.
I was pleased to see that the Minister has shown himself fully alive to the need for good cooking in the Army. We had the same problem in the last war, and I should like to deal with the question in the light of the little experience I then had. Now, as then, Army rations are excellent in quality and adequate in quantity, but, as the Minister said, their quality is sometimes ruined and their quantity reduced by bad cooking, which makes them too often unpalatable and sometimes uneatable, so that much has to be thrown away. That bad cooking is a result of carelessness more than anything else, and in my experience that carelessness is a reflection upon the way in which the commanding officer of the unit carries out his duties. If he takes a close personal interest in the welfare of his men, as of course he should, he will see that the cooks take the necessary care over the cooking. In the last war I started my Army life in the ranks of a battalion where the cooking was dreadful, and whenever we had the opportunity every one of us bought our dinners outside. While I was still in the ranks I was attached to a unit commanded by the late Colonel Danford Thomas, who was the City of London Coroner. When I joined it that unit was holding a very sticky part of the salient, and yet there I had the finest meals that I ever had in the Army. In the front line the meals came up hot on every occasion, and they were always palatable. The reason was that Colonel Danford Thomas took a deep per- 1068 sonal interest in the cooking of the rations for his men.
The Minister has told us that there has been a considerable improvement in Army cooking. Trained cooks are not available to-day. When there was a shortage of trained cooks, I presume that the same thing happened as happened in the last war: the least efficient sergeant was told off for the job and had to take it on. Of course, these men show a lack of interest in the cooking, and the cooks under them are thoroughly careless. The whole secret of palatable food is the avoidance of carelessness and seeing that cooks do their job properly. If that standard is not achieved, the dixies are not properly cleaned, and therefore the tea always tastes of soup; or salt instead of sugar is put into the pudding by mistake. I have heard of that happening, when, of course, the whole of the pudding is thrown away. Frozen meat is not properly thawed out. That is a very potent cause of rations being unpalatable. These and similar careless nesses are a main cause of wastage of food in the Army.
I suggest to the Minister that he could do a great deal to bring waste to an end and to prevent food from being unpalatable if he made it clear to commanding officers that bad cooking in their units was regarded as a reflection upon themselves. With care, Army cooking can be good even in the most difficult circumstances. You could not have worse conditions than we had, when men were put to all kinds of inconvenience and had to adopt all kinds of expedients in order to cook meals and get them served. As long as care is taken and the commanding officer insists that his men get good meals every day, there is no problem about it at all, because the cooking required is very plain and the rations are always good.
There is one other point. I think it was Napoleon who said that an Army marches on its stomach. That is only partly true, because an Army marches also on its boots. When the Minister replies I would like him to tell us whether or not all the men in this country now have their regulation two pairs of boots. I have a short letter here which I would like to read to the House, because it brings out this point very strongly. This man says: 1069Dear Sir, I wish to complain of the treatment I have received at the R.Q.M.S. I am reservist recalled to the Colours. I am in possession of one pair of boots."—That was written at the end of February.—During the last few weeks of bad weather my boots became the worse for wear. I was told that I had been drying the soles against the fire and I must buy a new pair. I offered to have them repaired at my own expense; the offer was refused. My complaint, Sir, is this. I am not in a position to pay for boots from my 1s. 6d. per day. Must a man go about all day in wet boots without a change? I wish, Sir, you would look into the matter on my behalf and men in a similar position.That seems a point that should be looked into. In the early days of the war I knew of sentries walking about in other men's boots because they were swapping their boots round to keep the sentry going. I hope that that is no longer the position.
I was disappointed that the Minister had not something to say about children's allowances, the ordinary allowances for soldiers' children. I attach a great deal of importance to this matter. As I understand the matter, the total allowance made under the present scale to a wife with four children amounts to about 35s. a week, including the 7s. allotment. That is made up, of course, of the 17s. for a wife, the 7s. allotment from the husband, and 5s. a week for the first child, 3s. for the second, 2s. for the third, and 1s. for the fourth.
§ Mr. Horabin
That brings the allowance for the four children up to 12s. a week, and I think betters the position.
§ Mr. Horabin
It still does not destroy my argument. I was comparing the allowance of 15s. a week with the scale allowances of the Unemployment Assistance Board. Under these, the typical family containing four children, aged 14, 12, 9, and 6, would receive an allowance of approximately 20s. a week.
(Sir Dennis Herbert): When the hon. Member began to deal with this point, I fear I was not listening very carefully, but I hope he will not pursue this subject to the extent of anticipating the Debate upon an Amendment which is on the Paper. His 1070 present argument is out of order for that reason.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
On a point of Order. The Minister spoke about these allowances; shall we not also be able to discuss them?
Yes, but at the proper time, which is when we reach the Amendment which has been put on the Paper to deal with that matter. The subject can be quite properly and sufficiently debated on that Amendment.
§ Mr. Kingsley Griffith (Middlesbrough, West)
The Minister has raised the question, and before we reach the Amendment the Debate is still open to the House. I was wondering whether it was not in Order for hon. Members who speak in the same part of the Debate to pursue the same subject.
I am certain that it would be, if nothing worse, at least most inconvenient, if hon. Members referred to the subject matter of the Amendment while the wider Debate is still open. In a sense the Debate will be still open when the Amendment has been called, in that after the Amendment on this particular subject is disposed of the general Debate can be resumed, but certainly it at least would be very inconvenient to anticipate the Amendment by discussing that same subject now.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
We shall be at liberty to discuss what the Minister said when we come to the Amendment; are we not allowed to discuss it now? To tell you the candid truth, Sir Dennis, I want to get at him now.
The hon. Member cannot always get at what he wants when he wants. He must await the proper time.
§ Mr. Horabin
In the circumstances I will not pursue the subject any further. I will conclude by thanking the Minister for the concessions he has made on the subject of allowances. I was merely anxious to deal with this question of the soldier's family. We are calling upon our younger generation to bear the brunt of these times, and I am anxious that the still younger generation which will be taking its place in a few years' time should receive adequate nutrition to enable it to play its part in the life of this country after the war.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Captain Markham (Nottingham, South)
When I last had the privilege of speaking in this House, just before Christmas, I did not expect to be in a position to speak here again for a very long time; but the ways of the War Office are mysterious. Many an officer and man have had their expectations upset by being kept home when they expected to go overseas and by being sent overseas when they thought they were most set. I think we can say that the Minister's speech was the greatest of a number of really great speeches that we have heard from that bench for a good many months on the subject of the Army. As one who has rejoined comparatively recently after an absence of 18 or 19 years from the Army, I can testify to the extraordinary change that has come over it in the interval. It is a change not merely in clothing and mechanism, but in tone. There is now not only the efficiency that one would naturally expect, but there is a growing courtesy and a humanity in the ranks, between the ranks and the N.C.Os. and between the N.C.Os. and the officers. One of the greatest tributes one can pay to the War Office is that the Army has been made a thing of intense humanity, a living and fine force to which a man may be proud to belong. It is no longer, as it used to be regarded in certain quarters before the last war, something only fit for the rascals and scoundrels of the community. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I certainly shall not withdraw that, because I can remember distinctly what a disgrace it was considered in the country villages for a man to join the Army. He was looked down upon. It took some time for that attitude to pass in some of the rural districts of this country. [Interruption.] Hon. Members who care to deny what I say should, I suggest, read the Parliamentary Debates of 1912 and 1913, when they will find my statement borne out by the Minister of War at that time.
§ Major-General Sir Alfred Knox (Wycombe)
Is it not a fact that the officers turned those scallywags into one of the finest Armies in the world?
§ Captain Markham
I am not saying that it is my view that they were scallywags, but that it was the generally accepted view about the Army: whereas, to-day, 1072 the Army is a career and a profession to which no one need be ashamed to belong. Indeed, the great majority of us are proud in our hearts of being associated with it at the present time. Those responsible for the change have begun, not at the bottom and worked up, as has been the case with so many other changes in this nation recently, but have begun at the top and worked down. There has been, it is true, great pressure in this matter in this House, but I regard this House, in its association with the War Office, as being at the top rather than at the bottom. I would also pay a tribute to the Opposition for the way in which they have pressed, during the last few years, for great changes in the direction of the democratisation and humanisation of the Army.
I was particularly interested in the remarks of the Secretary of State for War in connection with military hospitals. If there is one feature of Army administration that is unsatisfactory at the moment, and might, indeed, have created a great scandal had the war taken a different turn from what it has taken, it is the medical services. I, for one, was horrified to learn that during the cold snap sick men had been placed in hospital marquees which, as everyone knows, are almost impossible to keep warm in the depths of the winter. Men who were just able to get up preferred to do so, sick as they were, and to stagger back to their billets, reporting themselves fit rather than endure the cold and the bitter misery of the hospital marquee. One felt rather ashamed that headquarters' troops were housed in really comfortable chateaux and billets while sick men were housed in marquees at a time when the thermometer was well below freezing point. I hope that the Minister, in pressing his reforms in this direction, will mark down the hospital marquee as one of the things that should be abolished from the Army. They may be all right in England in the summer, because our summer is not usually hot, but one has to reckon on the summer being many degrees warmer overseas, and conditions in a marquee can be unbearable for weeks on end in the parts where one might normally expect military operations to take place. I hope we shall see that sick troops are given preference with regard to billets and that if by any chance marquees and tents must be used 1073 they should be used by the comfortably billeted headquarters' troops and not by sick men.
There is another special subject to which I want to refer, and that is the conditions of A.M.P.C., commonly known as the Pioneer Corps. I do not think they have been mentioned before in Debates in this House. Conditions are by no means happy in this Corps. Hon. Members will remember that this Corps was opened to men between the ages of 30 and 50, and it was understood that when these men joined up they were doing so, not as fighting soldiers, but rather as workers. A good many of them were very surprised when they found in a very short time that they had a rifle and a bayonet placed in their hands and were given the full pack and so on, and were expected to do almost the normal work of an A.1 infantry soldier, for a time at any rate; I do not say all the time. When you consider the age of these men—remembering that the age limit is between 30 and 50—one must bear in mind that many of these men are considerably over 50 and have got in by a deliberate understatement of their age. The average age limit of the Pioneer Corps is not 40, as one might expect, but considerably higher. Many of these men have been passed in with the lightest possible medical test, a test so low indeed that it makes one wonder whether the doctor did anything except look at the man's tongue and pass him fit.
I have under my command at the moment a man who a few weeks ago fell down on the ice while carrying a sack of potatoes, and the result was a double hernia. The medical officer at his base passed that man as fit to go on a draft for overseas. He is with me now, and we are expecting movement orders at any moment. It is only two days ago that I succeeded in getting that man classed in Category E, which is the new arrangement under A.C.I. 184, which came in on 29th February. The position has grown exactly as the Minister has said. The whole of the Medical Corps in the Army has been expanded by a very rapid infiltration of civilian doctors, and they have not quite learned their way about. There are hesitation, doubt and delay. In the meantime the men of the Pioneer Corps are suffering acutely, not from mismanagement, because I think 1074 that is not the right word, but from misunderstandings with regard to the powers of medical officers and what they should do.
There are under my command at the moment 61 men of the Pioneer Corps. Of those, seven have been marked either Category E, which is permanently unfit for any form of military service—and that is most extraordinary after only a few weeks of military service, with no heavy drills or long route marches, and no hard work—or else they have been placed in Category D, which is temporarily unfit, or alternatively they have been marked for a medical board. Moreover, I have it on fairly good authority that of the men returned unfit for further service from France in the past three months, if you placed on the one hand all the infantry units, specialized units, cavalry units, and mechanized units and on the other hand the Pioneer Corps—that is one unit only—the two figures would be nearly equal. In other words, there are nearly as many permanent cases of unfitness from one comparatively small corps—I do not know the numbers of the corps, and I do not think it would be possible to obtain the numbers—as in all the other units which I have mentioned; nearly 50 per cent. of the men invalided home from France come from this one corps.
I suggest that the main reason is that the men are taken in without their ages being checked and with only a very light examination of physical fitness. The men rapidly find that although they have been passed B5, which means fit for severe exertion—that is, able to do a long route march with a fair amount of equipment or something equivalent—the men find that they cannot stand the strain, they report sick, the numbers grow and the doctor gets to the point where he has to put the men before a medical board or class them as permanently unfit. From the point of view of the War Office, there should be an inquiry into the conditions of the Pioneer Corps with regard to recruitment in the light of the age limit—I mean with regard to the wrong statement of age—secondly with regard to the physical standard of the men, and thirdly in getting the men out as quickly as possible the moment it is found that Army service is not good for them. No man nearing or passing 50 years of age who has anything wrong with him will get 1075 better in Army barracks or hospital so quickly as he will at home, and there should be some machinery for getting the men out once it is found that they cannot stand up for a few weeks to the rigors of Army life.
At the same time I want to stress a point about the equipment of these men. I have already said that they were brought in as workers and not as fighters, and yet they are cumbered up with the paraphernalia of fighting soldiers. I can understand a man having to be able to handle a rifle, because one never knows what will happen in war-time, but a bayonet and a pack are different things. I do not think a bayonet was used much in the last war, and as far as Official history is concerned, I do not think it was ever used by troops in reserve or in the line of communication. A lot could be done in the way of lightening the equipment of the troops by seeing that such things as the bayonet and the excessive weight of ammunition are eliminated from their kit.
Finally, in connection with this corps and in relation to other specialised corps, such as the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, the Royal Army Service Corps, and the Royal Engineers, the Army seems to have the idea that these men can work seven days a week throughout the year without a break except for such leave periods as are occasionally given. This operates particularly harshly to men who belong to units such as field bakeries. When men work continuously without a break for many months on end, one finds that not only boredom but considerable inefficiency comes in. I suggest that the whole establishment for units such as these, from ordnance supply depots to field bakeries, should be increased by 15 per cent. so that the men can have one day off in seven. A soldier is entitled to his day of rest, although he is doing a civilian's job in the Army.
I hope that no one will read into my foregoing remarks that I am at all distressed about the Army of to-day. I am not. I have already said that I think it is a great improvement on the Army of yesterday and a much more humane and well-equipped Army, but we must realise that as fast as the Army is changing from above, the influx of recruits under the Military Service Acts is changing the 1076 Army from below, and what we have to deal with now is not the old type of soldier, who, when his work was done, went off to the public-house perhaps or to the NAAFI canteen, but a type that is better educated than any previous type, a type which needs something different from British beer or American films for their entertainment. I was glad to note that the Minister is considering some new form of education for the troops. I was education officer to a brigade after the last war, and the aim of education in the Army then was two-fold; to fit those leaving the Army for civilian life and to enable those who were going to stay in the Army to get through their examinations for their future promotion.
The task to-day is different. The idea is to enable the well-educated militiaman coming in first of all to keep contact with his civilian studies and secondly to expand the range of his interests. Thirdly, if a third is needed, you should have something light and interesting to cater for the older men who have not been so well educated as the younger men who are now coming in. To do that, the Committee should consider the need for beginning with the actual material that they possess. There is no need to bring in a highly paid organisation at the top. You can begin at the bottom. There is not an infantry soldier who is not keenly interested to know what is the function of the Air Force so far as he is concerned, and talks by Air Force officers—and in the same way by naval officers, officers of the Tank Corps, of the R.A.S.C., and so on—to bodies of infantrymen would have a very practical influence. You could begin, as it were, your adult education in the Army by using the material already to hand. You do not require great machinery or very much money to get a scheme going. Obviously there must be a superstructure of some kind, and to that end I wonder whether the Secretary of State has consulted the acknowledged experts in this country on the difficult and disappointing subject of adult education. Have there been consultations with the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, the British Board of Adult Education or such bodies as the Library Association? These bodies have built up a great fund of information on a very difficult subject and I hope they will be consulted on the more recondite aspects of this matter.
1077 I desire to stress, as I have endeavoured to do many times in the past, the importance of the Secretary of State for War paying greater attention to meteorology. There is no doubt that if the Army Council or whoever is responsible paid some attention to the weather figures for France, and indeed in other theatres, over many years we might have prepared more adequately for the things that have been happening to the troops over these last few months. It makes one wonder whether adequate preparations have been made for the summer. The present equipment for the troops—the battle dress and so on, the trousers, which I think are a definite improvement, though the blouse is simply awful—will be entirely unsuited to the sort of weather which one might expect between, shall we say, Luxembourg and Switzerland in the summer months. I wonder whether alternative forms of clothing are being considered, such as the pouched shirt, which is one of the most comfortable things that a soldier can carry in hot weather, and whether it is not possible to anticipate the troubles that come from changing climatic conditions by a more intense study of meteorology. I wonder, indeed, whether the Army has any advisers in this field. Few things affect the troops more in the long run than the weather, and the bad effects of weather can be countered by intelligent anticipation based on a scientific use of scientific data. We want no Crimean scandals in this war, but I feel certain that the present heads of the War Office will consider these points, and make the Army even more efficient than it undoubtedly is to-day.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Henderson (Manchester, Ardwick)
The subject of this Debate reminds me of a Question which I asked the right hon. Gentleman on 27th February regarding commissions from the ranks and which appears in column 1889, Volume 357, of the OFFICIAL REPORT. On that occasion, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War showed a little irritation at my Question. I assure him that I am not raising the matter again in order to embarrass him, or in any carping spirit. I raise it in order to ventilate a genuine grievance. If any doubt had existed in my mind when I placed that Question on the Order Paper, the letters which I have received would have removed that doubt. There 1078 is a feeling amongst non-commissioned officers—at least, among the many with whom I have come into contact—that there is a disproportion between the promotions of non-commissioned officers of the Territorial Army to commissioned rank and the promotions of non-commissioned officers of the Regular Army. The right hon. Gentleman could give me no figures, and, therefore, I have no concrete evidence to put before the House.
The men concerned do not raise this matter in order to decry the Territorial Army. We all admire the public spirit and patriotism and the high traditions of the Territorial Army and recognise that they are an integral part of the war machine; but we must recognise that this is a time of war. What are the essential qualifications of an officer? First, he must have a knowledge of his job. He ought to have military experience, if possible, both in war and in peace. He ought to have an understanding of men. He ought to display initiative, power of command, and, above all, leadership. The Regular Army puts facilities at the disposal of thousands of eager young men to qualify as officers. The young men are highly trained and very self-reliant. Non-commissioned officers are trained at various schools of instruction. Their technical training has been brought to a high degree of efficiency. They serve under all conditions, both at home and abroad. While the text book says that the standard of a battalion is measured by the quality of its officers, there is a school of thought in the Army to-day which says, rather, that the standard is measured by the quality of its non commissioned officers.
These non-commissioned officers have to train the men who subsequently go over their heads as commissioned officers. In the industrial sphere, I know that in the railway industry it has been the bitter experience of men who, by study, have qualified themselves for supervisory positions to find these positions given to other people, because of influence or prejudice. Sometimes they have the additional mortification of having had to tutor the people who have superseded them in these higher posts. While these non-commissioned officers have a genuine grievance, I must make it clear that failure to remedy that grievance will not cause them to deviate from 1079 the path of duty. There is a well-grounded feeling in this country that the "old school tie" influence is as powerful in this connection as ever it was. I wish that that were not the case, but I have had instances given to me which prove that there is the same kind of social prejudice in the Army as was responsible for the system in the cricket world under which amateur players came out by one door and professionals by another. These non-commissioned officers are, in the main, men of great character. They are ultra-loyal, they are capable, and their training in the ranks gives them the qualification most needed, in my judgment, by men who are to be entrusted with the lives and well-being of our young men. I am not an expert in military matters, but I believe that if we were faced with a period of supreme military stress, these men's qualifications, properly used, would be a decisive factor.
One of the best soldiers in the British Army, a man who was recently decorated, has given me this instance, as typical of what is going on in the ranks of the Territorial Army. Two men were interviewed, as a preliminary to recommendation for commissions. One man, from a working-class family, had been educated at an elementary school and then at a secondary school. He had joined the Territorial Army and, by study and perseverance, had attained promotion very early, and, in the opinion of the non-commissioned officer who told me of this case, had the makings of a very brilliant officer. He was asked about his family, his wages, and his schooling. He said that he had attended a secondary school. On being asked where he had been after that, he said "At work." The officer, I am told, looked at him in disdain, as if work were an ignoble thing. The second man went in, and was asked the same question. Fortunately for him, he was able to satisfy the officer that, in addition to having been at a secondary school, he had been at a university. On the strength of that, he was recommended for a commission, while the first man—who, I am assured, far out-distanced him—was turned down.
If the Minister thinks this complaint unfounded, will he make an inquiry, privately, so that no one may be victimised? I ask him not to leave a wide 1080 open back door to the officers mess. We are involved in a great struggle; and, other things being equal, we should let ability be the deciding factor, not social standing. I implore the right hon. Gentleman to inquire into this discrimination, which, I can assure him, is causing a great deal of irritation among the men concerned. If he does, the Army, efficient as it is, will, I am sure, become much more efficient.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Sir A. Knox (Wycombe)
I should like to congratulate the Minister on his excellent speech in introducing the Estimates, and to refer to one point which he made, quite justifiably, at the beginning of his speech. He explained that the difficulties of supply have very largely arisen from the change in our policy. A few years ago—I think up to a year ago—he said, we had not thought of sending a large Expeditionary Force abroad. He said that he could quote politicians on both sides of this House who were enthusiastically against sending a large force to France. Some of us miserable back benchers were not so enthusiastic. Some few of us ventured even to raise our still, small voices to point out that it was very difficult to see, when the Prime Minister of that time was speaking of our frontier being on the Rhine, how the French, with their dwindling population, could hold that frontier against the enormous hordes of Germany without some help from us. It seemed to be unnatural that the French should take their sons from the field and the factory, and send them to risk their lives, holding the trenches, knowing all the time that they were fighting our battles as well as their own, and that we should allow our people to be content to send a small Expeditionary Force.
I suppose it is too late now to ask questions about the change in our policy. I do not expect an answer, but it would be interesting to know to what extent the military advisers of those times were responsible for the military policy pursued, or whether that policy was founded on the exuberant sentimentality of the politicians in this House. Or was there no better foundation than the defeatist advice of the military correspondent of the "Times," who, at any rate, has told us—if people will trouble to look at the current issue of "Who's Who"—that he wielded enormous influence on the military policy of this country? I wonder 1081 whether that was one of the 62 items on which he succeeded in pushing his points.
We have had in this Debate many references to the democratisation of the Army. It is a matter in which we all take an interest, from different points of view. I was very glad to hear from one hon. Member, who spoke from the other side of the House, that the Army has become more humane since the days, many years ago, when I served. I do not remember much inhumanity then. I think the shouting sergeant-major and the bullying officer were really found more in the music halls than on the parade ground. Politicians on all sides can take courage from the fact that, when it comes to real fighting, the real men come to the front, no matter what class they come from, whether they come from secondary schools or elementary schools or were promoted because of the old school tie, as the hon. Member for Ardwick (Mr. J. Henderson) suggested. I should like to reed a quotation from the final despatch of Lord Haig in the last war, to show to what extent officers were drawn from every class of the population, and how they came to very high positions. He said:Promotion has been entirely by merit, and the highest appointments were open to the humblest, provided he had the necessary qualifications of character, skill and knowledge.I entirely agree with the definition given by the hon. Member for Ardwick as to the qualities required in an officer. The most important thing is that he should be a leader of men. I think the men who have to follow him would agree with that more than anything else. They want somebody they can look up to and trust. Lord Haig went on:Many instances could be quoted of men who from civil or comparatively humble occupations have risen to important commands. A schoolmaster, a lawyer, a taxi-cab driver, and an ex-sergeant-major have commanded brigades; one editor has commanded a division, and another held successfully the position of senior staff officer to a Regular division; the under-cook of a Cambridge college, a clerk to the Metropolitan Water Board, an insurance clerk, an architect's assistant, and a police inspector became efficient General Staff officers; a mess sergeant, a railway signalman, a coal miner, a market gardener, an assistant secretary to a haberdasher's company, a quartermaster-sergeant, and many private soldiers have risen to command battalions; clerks have commanded batteries; a schoolmaster, a collier, the son of a blacksmith, an iron 1082 moulder, an instructor in tailoring, an assistant gas engineer, a grocer's assistant, as well as policemen, clerks and privates, have commanded companies or acted as adjutants.Even in those days long ago democratisation was in progress. I hope that very few officers who inspect candidates for commissions would ever ask a man about his origins or about his private means. If any officer did so he ought to be run out of the Army.
There is one other subject I want to raise. The Secretary of State spoke of the difficulties of hospital accommodation and of providing for the great amount of sickness in the month of January. I put to him two cases in which I am deeply interested because they concern constituents of mine. Two men who joined up lost their lives about 12 days later. The right hon. Gentleman acknowledged my communications, and gave an explanation about one which I cannot regard as altogether satisfactory. I hope he will look into it again. I would like to give the House brief details of the two cases. One was the case of a gardener who joined up early in January. He was quartered at Arborfield in an anti-aircraft unit. He went sick and was sent to what, I think, the Minister would call the receiving hospital. From there he was sent to the Cambridge Hospital which hon. Members will know is an old-established hospital at Aldershot. After, I think, two days there, he was said to be all right and as there were other cases coming in, he was put in an omnibus and sent off to a hospital at Basingstoke. I believe that hospital at Basingstoke is very well run and that he received every care there. He arrived at Basingstoke, I think, on 12th January and he was dead on 19th January.
I would remind hon. Members that the hospital at Basingstoke is only about three-quarters of an hour's drive from Aldershot. The man was supposed to be fit for travel. At the inquiry it was stated that there were blankets in the omnibus in which he travelled, but he told a relative on the day before his death that he travelled in his ordinary working clothes, and he said he had to walk a certain distance when he got to Basingstoke. On arrival there his temperature was found to be 103. He had early signs of pneumonia and he was dead seven days later. What I want to know is who at the Cambridge Hospital was responsible for letting that man go out of the hospital 1083 in that condition? I am not a medical man, but I cannot believe that he would develop those symptoms in a drive of three-quarters of an hour. Searching inquiries are needed and if necessary there should be punishment for the authorities at Aldershot who were responsible for that man's death.
The other case is in a way, even worse. A man at High Wycombe in my constituency, a rounds man of good physique, with a wife and child, joined up as a volunteer. He joined on 10th January and was attached to the Worcester Regiment and sent to Norton Barracks at Worcester. He was put into a tent the flaps of which did not fit. It was, as hon. Members know, bitterly cold on 10th January. He said that for 30 men there were only four blankets. More blankets were issued afterwards. He said, further, that when breakfast was brought to them it was almost frozen. They were never inspected by an officer but a non-commissioned officer is said to have looked at them. In a few days he was taken ill and was sent to the barracks infirmary. Now comes the extraordinary part of the case. It was on 18th January that he went to the infirmary and on 20th January he was told that as his case was a serious one, he was to get up and walk three miles to Worcester City Infirmary as his place in the reception hospital was required for other men. He died two days later. I want to know why it was necessary to make that man walk three miles in the condition he was in. That is another case that wants searching inquiry in the public interest.
There is only one other word I want to say. We old soldiers are rather doubtful whether training is proceeding on the right lines at the present time. I hope the Minister will give his attention to that point. We are very glad to hear that there is humanity in the Army and a civilising influence between officers and all ranks, but we want to be quite sure that discipline, which it is perfectly possible to have combined with the utmost humanity, is going on, and that men are being taught to believe in their regiments and to have pride in the regimental traditions.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Colonel Nathan (Wandsworth, Central)
I was glad that the Secretary of 1084 State in his most interesting speech made reference to the anti-aircraft units, to the long time they have been on duty and to the difficulties they have had to confront. Alone, I think, of all the units in the Army the anti-aircraft units have been mobilised three times in less than two years. The first time was in September, 1938, when they were mobilised on account of the Munich crisis. The second was in the middle of the summer of last year, and the third was on the outbreak of war, in the case of those who had previously been sent home. They thoroughly deserve the tribute which has been paid to them by the right hon. Gentleman. It is, I think, the first tribute of that kind that has been paid to them and I know it will be appreciated. They have had a pretty grim time in many ways. They are always on duty and they are no less at their war stations than the troops who are performing precisely similar functions on the other side of the Channel. They have not the glory of being at war in the same way as those in France, but they are performing exactly the same duties and they have exactly the same responsibilities. As the right hon. Gentleman said, those responsibilities are likely to last a long time. But there was one omission from the right hon. Gentleman's catalogue of units deserving of mention. He made no mention in his speech of the A.T.S. I know it was not an intentional omission.
§ Mr. Stanley
May I interrupt the hon. and gallant Member to say that I was not making a catalogue. The only units I singled out were the anti-aircraft units.
§ Colonel Nathan
That is a perfectly fair explanation. I was not trying to score a point against the right hon. Gentleman but to score a point for the A.T.S. They deserve mention on this occasion, because they are performing in valuable service in circumstances of very considerable difficulty and some hardship, in many branches of work here at home. For instance, there has been some discussion on the question of cooking. In regard to cooking, the A.T.S. are rendering valuable services, A new experiment is being tried in centralised cooking for the anti-aircraft units and other dispersed units. It is an interesting experiment and I think it will be successful. It is well worth watching, because it may be that the system can be applied to many other 1085 units besides those for which it was originally intended. My experience so far—and I have had many opportunities of judging—is that the men find their food far better cooked than before, and that there is far greater variety. There is certainly far less waste, and the men eat the food with much greater relish. I am not suggesting that it is a system which is applicable universally—obviously it is not suitable for troops in the trenches or in the field—but for those units which are more or less stationary, it seems to me that this new method opens great possibilities.
The A.T.S. are doing very useful service and I think a good deal more will have to be done for the women. Some of them, at present, I believe, are not too comfortable in their billets and in other ways, but that may be the result of inexperience on the part of their officers and others who are new to a very difficult task. I hope it will not be very long before, in one way or another, those troubles will be largely if not completely remedied. I know that those concerned with the welfare of the troops are just as much interested in seeing that the women are well cared for as in seeing that the men are well cared for.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to medical arrangements and I want to say a few words about that subject. I have seen a good deal of various units and organised formations since the war began, and one of the things that has struck me, in regard to the medical arrangements, is the tendency to apply to the conditions of units to-day arrangements which were suitable and still are suitable in somewhat different conditions. For instance, in a compact and concentrated unit which may be in a village or in one set of barracks, a single regimental medical-aid post may answer, but such a post is of very little use, relatively, when it is applied to one of the detached and dispersed units spread over an area of perhaps 1,000 or 1,200 square miles. There is in such a unit—and this applies throughout the anti aircraft formations as far as searchlight units are concerned—where the area covered may be anything from 800 to 1,200 square miles, a single regimental medical-aid post, competent to take a handful of sick for a short period. That is not adequate. The distances are so great that it is not possible, without great 1086 hardship, difficulty and delay, even if there is a vacant bed, to remove the soldier to a medical-aid post.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the secret was inspection. I agree with him, but you must have a sufficient number of inspectors to enable them, regularly and adequately, to cover the vast area which the regimental medical-aid post is supposed to serve. It is a very difficult problem, and I believe that one solution maybe to have a greater number of medical officers attached to these widely dispersed units. At present the officers have far too much to do, and it is impossible for them to carry out their duties, even with the best will in the world—and they give most devoted service. The true solution may be to establish rest houses or something of that kind in various neighbouring villages, not too far from the huts in which the troops are living. I would rather like to see that done for two reasons. There is the case of the soldier who is ill, and there is also the case, where billets are concerned, in which the billeter becomes ill. You do not want the soldier to remain in the billet where he may contract an illness and perhaps carry it among other people. There ought to be a sort of rest house where a soldier could spend a few days away from a billet, until illness in that billet has disappeared.
There is also the case of the man who is not ill enough to necessitate his admission to hospital, or who, having been in hospital, is convalescent and is told that he can be discharged, but that he must have two or three days leave and can go home. This may entail a man travelling from Essex to Scotland or from Scotland to Essex, and the expense of travelling is very often not within the competence of the soldier. There ought to be sick bays or rest houses, something like, though not quite the same as, convalescent homes, so that the soldier can be accommodated for a limited period. I put that suggestion before the right hon. Gentleman as one that is worth considering. The idea of a sick bay or rest house is not entirely in the air. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I have some modified responsibility for a certain area in relation to various matters affecting the troops. There, we have actually tried it out in practice. It has worked admirably, not in one place only but in several places. I know from ex- 1087 perience that a good deal is to be said for it.
That brings me to refer to what has been said about the Red Cross organisation. There has been difficulty in dealing with the Red Cross organisation not because it is not willing to co-operate, but because it is not permitted to co-operate. Owing to its charter it cannot furnish personnel or supplies in this connection.
§ Sir Joseph Nall (Manchester, Hulme)
That is not general. The opposite is the case in certain areas. They do give help.
§ Colonel Nathan
The best of reasons have been advanced—that it is contrary to the charter, and that the society can only help in case of casualties or where soldiers become ill on field duty. It cannot do anything with regard to cases of influenza, sore throat and such like illnesses. That has been my experience. I am not dogmatising, and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will look into the matter.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft (Bournemouth)
That surely does not apply to the V.A.D. in connection with air-raid precautions. They have been doing marvellous work.
§ Colonel Nathan
Where we have not been able to use the Red Cross, we have used the V.A.D., and they have done admirably. The Red Cross is the only organisation which, within my experience, limited as it may be, we have not been able to use for the reason I have mentioned, but admirable work has been done by the V.A.D. in co-operation with other organisations.
I ask the House to consider these questions: What kind of Army is it that we have to-day? and, What are the objects we ought to have before us with regard to it? Those are pretty broad questions, and I do not propose to examine them in detail. In the last war all classes were represented in the Army, but, broadly speaking, it is also true that there were class units and working men's units. On the whole, there was a separation of classes, but in this war that is anything but true. It is of the nature of the case that every unit represents a cross section not merely of the Army as a whole, but of the community. That is extraordinarily important, because I feel as I go round 1088 that there is within each unit a better spirit of fellow feeling—magnificent as it was during the last war—in the Army today.
I believe that one of the reasons for this is that during the last 25 years—and this brings me on to another point to which the right hon. Gentleman attached great importance—enormous changes have taken place in our whole social outlook. This has been largely due to the effects of the Fisher Act. The Gorell Scheme, which, as the right hon. Gentleman has already pointed out, only came into operation immediately before demobilisation or on demobilisation, was a scheme which had to be carried out when the Fisher Act was still in its infancy. We have had 25 years of improved education, and the general standard of education, understanding and outlook is far higher than it was during, or at the end of, the last war. That is a matter of very great importance because it flows from that, that one cannot slavishly follow the precedent of 1918 and the Gorell Scheme. What was applicable in the circumstances of that day is not applicable to the cross sections of society in the Army of to-day. It will have to be modified. I am not sure that I quite follow what sort of a committee the right hon. Gentleman has in mind for dealing with this subject. I rather gather that it is to be a committee representing the Army Council, the Board of Education and social workers. I would like the right hon. Gentleman, in the terms of reference, to differentiate between what is and what is not education.
I have been charged with the duty of assisting and supplementing the work of Commanders of units and formations in looking after the welfare of the troops under their command. What is the dividing line between education and recreation? I will suggest the answer to the right, hon. Gentleman. A formal compulsory, or even a voluntary, organised and progressive course of instruction is what I would call education. Everything else I would look upon as recreation. Recreation is not merely mental relaxation. It also involves mental stimulus, and the Army of to-day wants mental stimulus as well. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman knows how much is already being done for the Army? I speak only from my own knowledge of the places 1089 for which I have some responsibility. There are classes in French and so on already on foot, and lectures are being arranged as part of the necessary mental stimulus of recreation. Scores of subjects are being dealt with now, and it would be a pity if the work which has been set on foot with so much care and devotion were to be set peremptorily on one side.
One wants to avoid undue duplication. If an organisation is doing the job pretty well, it should not be displaced. You should hesitate long before displacing it by another, perhaps even more formal and more competent organisation having the same object in view. Do not let the better be the enemy of the good. Commanding officers have already an enormous amount of work with which to cope, and a great variety of functions with which to deal. Duplication will send the commanding officer mad. I do not mean that he will be mad with rage but he will not know where he is, because of the vast volume of paper from the various organisations with which he is asked to correspond. So I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to limit the number of organisations which are imposed on the Army. I believe, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that this work of welfare—I do not like the word but we all know what it means—is making some impression and having some effect. We have been talking about lectures and I want to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that we should do even more than we are already doing to mobilise the good will of the public towards the troops. There is a sort of shyness between the soldiers on the one hand and the public on the other. I want to see them in one unity, with a national Army which is a real part of the nation.
I would like the public to be told how the Army works, what are the medical arrangements for the troops and what are the arrangements for rationing, messing, catering and their welfare. I want to see that friendly feeling and keen interest between the public and the troops which I regard as essential. We have not merely to make the troops as proficient and efficient as possible in their function of fighting. Let us remember that just as peace will one day follow war, soldiers have their roots in civilian life and one day, whatever our casualties may be, the 1090 vast majority will go back to civilian life. We want to preserve their quality while they are in the Army and maintain and improve it so that when demobilisation ultimately comes, they will have benefited by their experiences in the Army as men of strength and quality and vigour.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
I am sure we have listened to the Minister with very great interest in the review which he gave of the Army services. Naturally the Army has taken something of a back seat at the moment, and my right hon. Friend and the Financial Secretary are not quite under the same halo, as it were, as their corresponding Ministers in the Navy and Air Force. No doubt it is more than we can expect that that will continue. I am quite sure that if it meant that the Army would not suffer any casualties, my right hon. Friend would be prepared to continue without the halo, but no war yet has been won without troops in the field, and I shall be much surprised if the Nazi spirit of domination is exorcised before there are some casualties on quite a considerable scale in our Army. The right hon. Gentleman had, necessarily, to make many omissions from his speech, some of them on account of the very situation we are in to-day. I feel sure that we regret many of these omissions, and I, personally, endorse what was said by the Leader of the Opposition Liberal party, that we ought before long to have another Secret Session of the House. At present Members are completely handicapped in much that they wish to say. We are in touch with our constituents and are asked a great number of questions. There is a good deal of anxiety on different points, and I think the House is entitled to get, at first hand, more knowledge of the situation.
There were other omissions from the right hon. Gentleman's speech which were inevitable, and there was, especially, one thing I rather missed. I wished that the right hon. Gentleman had paid a tribute to his predecessor in office, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devon-port (Mr. Hore-Belisha). After all is said and done, he did initiate and carry out considerable reforms in the Army and Army services, testimony to which was, given by the Prime Minister even on the very day of his resignation, and I rather expected that the right hon. Gentleman, 1091 with his usual courtesy, would have paid him some tribute.
§ Mr. Stanley
I think that is perfectly unfair. I called attention to more than one reform which was started by my right hon. Friend and paid tribute to the success which had attended them.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
I do not consider the remarks which I made were in any way unfair, and I certainly have no intention of withdrawing them. I listened to my right hon. Friend referring in general terms to some of the things which have been done in the Army, and I challenge him to find, on reading the verbatim report in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, where he has paid special tribute to the work done by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport, who preceded him in office. Ministers know of the difficulties of other Ministers in office, and perhaps my right hon. Friend knows the difficulties in connection with the resignation of his predecessor which are not known to the public. One might have expected that he would have gone out of his way to have paid him a rather more generous tribute than he did. But I will not continue the point.
I would like to continue by referring to the question of congregating together, as far as possible, units of a national and county character. With other Members from Wales, I have seen my right hon. Friend on this matter, and I shall be glad to get his assurance that he and the War Office will endeavour to do what they can in order to see that national and county sentiment is not only established but maintained and fostered. The Principality of Wales in the last war sent to the Army, in proportion it its population, as large a number of soldiers as any part of the British Isles, and in spite of there being in Wales now a somewhat nationalistic tendency—which, like all these movements, is louder than its real status and extent—I hope my right hon. Friend and the Government will not give any encouragement to that sort of feeling by diminishing or curtailing the troops remaining in their own county and country units.
With regard to the question of Army medical services, there is grave disquiet. The "Times" is not a newspaper which is accustomed to take up any case without very considerable consideration and 1092 knowledge of facts, and testimony of evidence, but on two occasions it has published a leading article on this particular question. We have information from our colleagues in this House who are soldiers about the appalling state of some of the operations of the medical services of the Army, especially hospital accommodation and treatment. I had brought to my notice this afternoon, by means of a letter giving detailed facts, the case of a daughter of a distinguished Member of this House who himself belongs to one of our Services and whose daughter belongs to the V.A.D. She was taken ill and was taken to hospital, where scarlet fever was not diagnosed for many days, and, I am sorry to say, she suffered treatment which was unquestionably wrong and discourteous. It would appear that the Army sisters and nurses on this occasion are not quite free from responsibility in regard to this matter. A deputation which my right hon. Friend received last week from the Parliamentary Medical Committee was treated with great courtesy, and it was shown that all these facts are well in his mind, but I would like to emphasise one aspect: I mean the separation of Army treatment from the treatment undertaken by the Ministry of Health and the Emergency Medical Services.
There is no doubt that there is over-lapping, which will continue until the Cabinet, or whoever is responsible, reviews this whole question. I take it that the policy was adopted because of the serious possibility of casualties in this country due to air bombing. I have taken the view for some time that there would be no bombing of this country at all, and if we are so to adapt our reforms on the basis of waiting for an indefinite period for bombing at the expense of seriously affecting some of our vital services, then I think this is a policy which we ought to reconsider. It is impossible to get continuity of medical services in the Army with this dual treatment, and I trust that this policy may be reviewed. I think there is every reason to know that the Army Medical Service is improving, but that there is a lack of adequate personnel and experience. There are some difficulties in the Army nursing services, and a lack of continuity between the service and treatment given to troops in France and to those who, already accident casualties, have arrived in this 1093 country. In the last war the Army Medical Service was one of the few services which emerged, not only with credit, but with great prestige. There was no reflection whatsoever on its capacity. It is rather unfortunate that in this war, with no wound casualties at all and when it has not been put to the supreme test, there should be great public anxiety and misgiving. I feel sure, however, that under the administration of my right hon. Friend, who has the fullest sympathy with some of these problems and complaints, we shall soon see a considerable amelioration and improvement in the whole nature and character of the Army Medical Services.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I desire to deal with the medical aspects of the speech of the Secretary of State for War, which I followed with great interest. I sympathise with him, because I have had precisely the same kind of correspondence which has been addressed to himself, and I like his classification of the valueless and the useful correspondence. We have a great deal too much of the former. Any complaints which are not specific, with the name of the unit, the place and the occasion, are no good. But I should like to say to the right hon. Gentleman that when I have asked my correspondents to make the complaint quite specific, they have said they are afraid to do so because the man concerned might be victimised. I see no reason why the man should be victimised, and I think it should be recognised that he would not be victimised for a complaint which was legitimate. I find a certain amount of difficulty in speaking after the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, South (Captain Markham). I not only served in the Army from 1914 to 1918, but I had a certain amount of military experience before that date, and the hon. Member, referring to those who have had experience, rather suggested that the general opinion of those who had been in the Army was that they were the scum and the riff-raff. I must be one of the scum and the riff-raff, but I can only say that I found all those with whom I associated in the ranks and among the officers extremely good fellows.
Let me underline one line in the Minister's speech. He paid a great deal of attention to the medical services, and his speech shows that they are now taken 1094 very seriously indeed; that the medical point of view is seriously considered. I will not go into the history of other wars, but I might mention that the cause of the tremendous typhoid epidemic in the South African war was the failure on the part of the commanding officers concerned to take into account medical experience, knowledge, and suggestions. The right hon. Gentleman also said that some of the difficulties which have arisen in medical matters have been due to the fact that a large number of the medical officers are civilians and inexperienced in military matters. That contributes, I am sure, to some of the difficulties, but I do not know the details of the case referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox). He mentioned one of the hospitals, and it appeared to me that it was the Cambridge Hospital at Aldershot, which is presumably not staffed by civilian medical officers, but by Regular Army medical officers. I do not think that this lack of proper handling of these affairs is always confined to civilian medical officers.
The right hon. Gentleman proposes to remedy the difficulties which have arisen from lack of experience on the part of civilian medical officers by constant inspection and association with army medical officers. I know from my previous experience how valuable that can be, if the officer is not only experienced but is sympathetic and understanding as well. I hope that this policy will be extended overseas. It is just as necessary overseas as it is in this country. But if medical officers are inexperienced in military matters, a good many of the commanding officers are not too expert and experienced, particularly in correlating their functions with those of the medical officers. If it is desirable to give medical officers information as to the military medium in which they are working, it is just as important to make commanding officers realise what medical officers can do for them. In fact, it is very necessary that the commanding officer and the medical officer should get together.
Let me make a suggestion as to the way in which this can be carried into effect. There should be definite suggestions for the duties of medical officers, especially those attached to definite units. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about cooking, a most important subject. In the period 1914 to 1918 it was not recognised as part 1095 of the ordinary routine duties of a medical officer that he should concern himself with the diet of the troops. I do not say that he was not sometimes consulted or that he did not inspect the rations which were given. He constantly did that, but for the medical officer to concern himself with the actual use made of the rations, and to see whether there was a sufficient proportion of fresh food, and also whether the rations given might be improved by a reasonable application of commonsense, was not habitually done in that period, and I do not know whether it has been made one of the duties of a medical officer at the present time. I suggest that it should be made his duty to see that the diet is properly balanced, and that there is a proper proportion of fresh food.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air, speaking on the Air Estimates, mentioned that certain classes of apprentices of the junior ranks had half-a-pint of milk a day. Milk is a valuable ration. We have all been amazed at the great valour, the resistance and the fighting capacity of the Finnish Army. It is interesting to note that in the daily ration of the Finnish Army there are 2¼ pints of milk. Another suggestion is that the hours of work of the troops should be carefully scrutinised. That is a matter on which the opinion of the medical officer ought to be sought. On one occasion, when a certain division in France was preparing for an advance, I had a conference five days before the advance began with the chief medical Officer of the division, the A.D.M.S., and pointed out to him that the men were being so terribly overworked and overstrained that when the time came to go over the top the probability was that they would not be able to do the job. The chief medical officer said, "It is no good talking to so and so"—meaning the general in command—and nothing was said, but when the men did go over the top there were terrible losses in casualties—out of all proportion to what would have been the case if the men had not been exhausted by their previous work, which, in the opinion of the medical men, was unnecessary. I do not think that even under active service conditions the opinion of the medical officer should be disregarded, but, in this country, under training conditions, the opinion of the 1096 medical officer ought to be taken as to whether the men are being overworked.
A very valuable suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman is that there should be close co-operation with the Red Cross and the Order of St. John. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan) spoke of difficulties with the Red Cross. I confess I thought he was misinformed, but perhaps in certain areas they have different methods on occasion. I want to comment on one phrase which the Secretary of State for War used. He said: "Turning from the medical services to the health of the troops." That indicates an attitude of mind. The health of the troops is the chief function of the medical service.
§ Mr. Stanley
I think the hon. Member is a little too precise. I was talking about the medical services and their organisation, and then said that I wanted to deal with the health of the troops.
I do not want to overemphasize the point, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will acquit me of attempting to do so, but it seems to me that the preventive aspect of medicine rather than the curative aspect should be emphasised. In fact, the health of the troops is the first duty of medical officers, and in that connection the commanding officer should be asked to consult more with the medical officer. There is in this country and in France the question of venereal disease, to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer. That is a matter on which the commanding officer and the medical officer should consult together to take what steps they can to prevent an occurrence of the condition. I was glad indeed to hear, from the health point of view, what the right hon. Gentleman said about education and recreation. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth spoke of the dividing line between the two. I should be sorry to have to define the dividing line with the Army of to-day, being so differently constituted from what it has been in the past; with probably a larger proportion of men of better education, because the general level of education in the country has risen since 1918. The Army of to-day is just as much in need of exercise of the mind as it is of exercise of the body. If you are to avoid boredom, which is one of the difficulties 1097 of this war up to the present, there must be more exercise of the mind.
How are you to get it? I do not think adult educational methods will do. How are you going to get it for isolated units, for aircraft units, and for men in isolated front line positions? I have a suggestion to make to the right hon. Gentleman. I suggest that he should study the special branch of the British Broadcasting Corporation's schools broadcasting system. They have a special schools broadcasting department and have invented a method of teaching children by giving lessons to children in an extremely interesting way. They take incidents in history. They do not give you a lecture upon it, but they dramatise the incident, and it has proved to be a very valuable method. It has been applied in other ways. They have dramatised the lives of villages most successfully. I suggest that something should be done on the same lines for the Army. It would provide education and also recreation. I suggest that dramatised versions of regimental history should be made for individual regiments. Every regiment has certain famous occasions with which its name is connected, each one of which could be dramatised and made into a fascinating story, giving education and recreation. I am certain that the British Broadcasting Corporation could do it, and probably the present Minister of Information, who has had some connection, I believe, with the British Broadcasting Corporation, might be able to offer some suggestions. I know that he is fully conversant with it.
I know that the arrangements for the treatment of men in this country and overseas, in and out of hospital, are actually more efficient in this war than they have ever been before. I also want to say how very glad I am, because it seems an improvement in general organisation, that medical officers have more equality of status with combatant officers than they have had before, because on health the efficiency and morale of the troops depend. A good medical officer can be of the greatest value in any unit to which he belongs, and, if the commanding officer and the medical officer only got together on all these points, the morale and efficiency of the unit would be raised still higher. It is this combination of medical and military knowledge that we must aim at. I welcome very heartily 1098 the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion to have more inspection, and I believe that, if these methods are carried out, the difficulties and the deficiencies in the medical service which have up to the present shown themselves will before long be swept away.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I am amazed how much better the medical services are in this war than in the last. In spite of all the mistakes that have been made, it is very encouraging to see how few have died. We are far ahead of where we were in the last war. A very able doctor was telling me of a plan for shell-shock cases—because already we are getting shell-shock cases. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would consider getting a large farm, for instance, and putting the men on it immediately they come back—away from the war, away from hospitals, away from everything connected with war. I hope very much that he will do it and will not make the same fatal mistake that was made last time. After the last war, I asked French officers where were their shell-shock cases. They said they had none. Apparently their method was to send men straight back into the line. Our men came home and got worse and worse. If you are riding or hunting, you can get a bad fall. If you want to keep your nerve, you get on your horse and ride again. I have seen one or two cases which I am sure were treated in the worst possible way. I hope the Secretary of State will look into it.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having looked into two disagreeable subjects. The first is that unfortunate phrase "unmarried wife." It could never have been coined by a properly or happily married man. It arose in the last war and I do not know who was responsible for it. We have had a good many bachelor Secretaries of State for War—including Lord Haldane and Lord Kitchener—but very few married ones until now.
§ Viscountess Astor
A more unfortunate and ridiculous description than "unmarried wife" could not be imagined. It is said that no outcry has been raised but, if we had wanted, we could have had a most terrific row about it. I did 1099 not want to make a, "stunt", of it because I do not believe in "stunts," but a great many people who read this regulation are rather horrified by it. It says:A woman who has lived with a soldier as his wife and is maintained by him on a permanent domestic basis for a period of not less than six months. This period may be modified in exceptional case with special War Office authority.It looks on the face of it, like an encouragement to immorality. [Interruption.] That is a little strong but it is a good Biblical word. "Concubine" would be better and more polite than "unmarried wife" but it comes to the same thing. I am certain that not a man or woman in the House wants any girl to think that, because she has been living with a soldier for six months, whether he is married or not, she can get the same allowance as a properly married wife. That is not what the War Office meant but it looks extraordinarily suspicious. It ought to be made clear that that is not what is meant. They mean to deal with the difficult question of people who, for some remote reason, cannot get married and have lived together on a domestic basis. I agree that there are hard cases. On the other hand, I am convinced that the country does not want a woman who has lived for six months with a soldier, in a case in which the couple have not married when they could have done so, to get the same allowance as a married woman.
§ Mr. Woodburn
In Scotland the law is that a woman who was recognised by the general public in the neighbourhood as a wife, if the man dies, is regarded as being legally his widow. Technically, during the time that she lives with him she is his wife, and she is an "unmarried wife."
§ Viscountess Astor
The Secretary of State has recognised the difficulty of those women who have maintenance grants. It has been a shock to find cases in which wives have been given maintenance orders for themselves and their children and the man, when he joins up, does not mention that. He only mentions the woman he is living with. The wife's allowance stops and she has to get public assistance. I am glad the Secretary of State has put that right. But what I want to understand is this. The right hon. Gentleman said the Treasury had 1100 been very generous. I understand that, having once granted this, they cannot go back on it, but I want to know whether the House approves of what is rather a new code of morals. If a man goes to the recruiting office and is asked if he is married and has a maintenance order against him for his wife and children and he says, "Yes," it is the duty of the State to say, "All right, you have to pay that." If he says, "But I am living with another woman," they ought to say, "You can give her what is left, but you cannot expect us to support the other woman." That is a fundamental principle. I am sure this arrangement is not what the country wants and I doubt whether the House wants it.
I do not see why we should be taxed for a man who is keeping a woman other than his wife. I do not think it is right and the country does not want it. It is a new standard of morals, and remember that we are fighting a moral war. This is a spiritual war. Let us be certain that we fight it on a moral basis. Do not say, "What about the humanities?" You can go too far with the humanities. No one wants to be hard, but we do not want to weaken the basis of civilisation, which is a decent home, for the sake of the humanities, and this House cannot afford to do it. I should like to know whether this rule is to apply now to all the men who join up. I should also like to know whether this applies to officers or only to the men. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says that officers can get divorces. There may be something in that, but a great many who are serving in the ranks could also get divorces. Here is something which happens among better-off people. A man and his wife have separated, not legally, and he is supporting her. He goes to the war and ceases to give her any support. What will happen to her? Has she any legal right if she is not legally separated and there has only been a voluntary allowance? I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to think that one is raising this matter from hardness, but people feel very strongly about it. It is really a moral issue. We do not want, in war, to get things like this which will operate after the war. One of the tragedies of all wars: is that people get so loose morally, during war. It is not for the State to make that process easier. I am grateful to the Archbishop for having found a new name 1101 for these people and I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his reference to it.
I should like to say a word about catering. The Army cooks at Aldershot are splendid. I heard to-day about an advertisement for a woman who knew about catering, in reply to which there were 12 applications. Some were catering experts who made £400 or £500 before the war and they were quite willing to take this job for £150. I do not know whether it would be technically possible to appoint women, but we know how well the A.T.S. have done. Someone said they were not as comfortable as they might be, but the reason is that whereas the other women's Services had women at the top from the first the A.T.S. had not. Some of us implored the authorities to employ women, but they did not do it. The War Office said that they did not want women in these posts, and it took two months' hard work to get a woman appointed. The A.T.S. will get their comforts now. They have had difficulties, as a result of the time wasted before the appointment of a woman head.
I want to say something about welfare. A great deal could have been done long ago; the plan was ready, but there was slowness in carrying it out. Where it is doing well is where there is voluntary co-operation from the people around, particularly the women. When it is a question of the welfare of the men, you have to get women in if you want it to be a success. The War Office made an elaborate plan, but they did not bring in a woman to help them. Afterwards, they had to call in women volunteers to help them. I wish they had done so before. In conclusion, I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He has a very difficult job, and he took office at a difficult time. He has been generous about his predecessor, and I think he pleases everybody, and in part even me.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Sloan (Ayrshire, South)
I did not quite follow the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) in her disquisition on morality. I have considerable sympathy with her point of view, but I advise her not to go to the Old Testament for support of her theory, because she will not find much support there. I think one 1102 individual in the Old Testament had 700 wives and 300 concubines, and I believe there was a separation allowance for each one of them.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on his speech, although I do so grudgingly. I admire the skill, eloquence, persuasion and accommodating tone of the speech. The right hon. Gentleman succeeded to a certain degree in disarming suspicion, and he attempted dexterously to represent that all was well inside the Army. Personally, I am against the whole of the circumstances that led up to the war. I should be very glad to hear hon. Members on both sides of the House making suggestions as to how the war could be brought to an end instead of making provisions for it to be carried on. Their names would then be written in the pages of history, and the nations would arise to bless them. It is a serious reflection on the House that, faced with this horrible crime against humanity, a bold endeavour is not being made to find a way out, to discuss the matter reasonably, to secure an armistice and to call together, not a few nations, but all the nations of the world, irrespective of size, creed or colour, in order to find out the points of difference and to make an effort to heal the wounds and bind the sores of a sorely stricken world.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I must remind the hon. Member that the House is not now discussing peace terms, but the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. Sloan
I am sorry if I got off the rails. The points that I want to raise required some sort of introduction, and I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for having allowed me to go so far. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan) spoke highly of the efforts that are being made to improve cooking in the Army. These efforts must have been made south of the Border, because I do not know of a single camp in Scotland that is above suspicion. The sleeping accommodation at the camps is deplorable. The sanitary arrangements are primitive and in many cases non-existent. In the conditions in which these lads have to live, medical supervision is impossible, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, for he has had many letters from me on the matter, the position leaves very much to be desired. The policy, which has been largely 1103 adopted in Scotland, of securing old disused factories and throwing the lads into them, ought to be most seriously condemned. I say with confidence that the places which have been secured as camps in many places in Scotland are worse than the very worst slums that are to be found in our cities.
We have heard something about medical supervision. I visited Ayr barracks to see a lad who was ill in the hospital. While I was with him, his milk was brought up to him. It was milk that had been taken out of a tin. In Ayrshire, of all places in the world, he was served with tinned milk. It is well known that Ayrshire farms are the best in the world, that Ayrshire farmers are the best in the world, that Ayrshire cows are the best in the world, and that the Ayrshire milk supply is the best and cleanest milk supply in the world—for there are more certified herds in the county of Ayr than in the whole of the rest of Scotland put together. Imagine my surprise when, on visiting a patient in the barracks hospital in Ayr, I saw him supplied with tinned milk. I visited one of the camps in Ayrshire on Saturday afternoon and saw the cooking arrangements. I suppose that even if you have the best food in the world, it would be impossible to cook it in an open kitchen, but that was how it was being done for the soldiers at that camp. The men there were also supplied with tinned milk, and I asked the commanding officer why this was so. I asked him why he could not send out for milk to the dairies in Ayrshire, but his answer was that he was powerless and had to take the supplies sent to him.
It may be that Scotsmen are supposed to be tough and people who will put up with things that would not be tolerated on the other side of the Border. I put three Questions to the Secretary of State for War last Tuesday, and owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the replies, I gave notice that I would raise the matter on the Adjournment. Instead of doing that, I take this opportunity of putting the facts before the House and of stating the conditions under which soldiers are living in Scotland. The first Question I asked was whether he was aware that in camps at Ayr Dam Park and Hawick:the sleeping accommodation is of the most primitive condition, and that serious complaints are being made against both the 1104 quantity and quality of food; and will he inquire into the complaints with a view to remedying them?The answer I received was:I called for a report regarding the camps referred to, and am informed that the sleeping accommodation and messing conditions are satisfactory, that full rations are being issued and that there is no record of any complaints."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1940; col. 197. Vol. 358.]I stated then that I had letters in my pocket that would disprove entirely the answer given, and I will give a quotation from a letter in regard to the camps at Ayr Racecourse, Ayr Dam Park and Hawick. In the first camp most of the soldiers sleep in stables, and the writer states:While it might be all right to say that Christ was born in a manger, it does seem hard for young men to be trailed into the Army after being reared in comparatively decent accommodation to fling them into a stable to sleep where there is no comfort whatever, and it is impossible for men to sleep under the conditions owing to draughts, etc. The food is of the poorest kind and not even in sufficient quantities. So bad for a time was the food that most of the boys from Ayrshire, and, indeed, from Glasgow, visited their homes as often as possible in order to get fed, and the bulk of the boys from Ayrshire, when they visit their homes, take parcels of food back with them for their colleagues who are unable to go to their homes. While the food, I believe, is not very good, the bad organisation does not improve matters. The food in the main is served in tin plates, and by the time it is passed up from the cookhouse to the boys it is stone cold.The same complaints regarding food are made at Dam Park and Hawick. At the racecourse the lads dine in an old hangar, the most awful looking place anybody could possibly see. Apparently it is considered quite good for the youths of Ayrshire whose fathers gave their lives in fighting for their King and country in the last war. The stables were built for 600 horses, and before the last nail was knocked in the Yeomanry was mechanised and the horses were taken away. I do not know how much money was spent, but perhaps the Secretary of State for War will be able to tell us what was the cost of erecting the stables. The next question I put to the right hon. Gentleman was in regard to a camp at Perth:whether he was aware of the conditions prevailing at a military camp in Scotland of which he has been informed; that 700 men sleep in a barrack building with cement floors where the beds are laid out four feet apart; that the atmosphere is bad and the rate of sickness high; that only four sinks are provided for 700 men; and that there are neither water- 1105 closets nor hot water; and will he institute an immediate inquiry into the conditions prevailing at this camp?The answer I received was:I have obtained a report to the following effect.I do not know where these reports come from. It would be illuminating and interesting to know if any individual or inspector is sent to the camp or whether the report merely comes from the Commanding Officer. I rather think that the report is compiled by the Commanding Officer, who would, of course, attempt to justify conditions in his own camp. The right hon. Gentleman said in his reply:I have obtained a report to the following effect. This camp has ample floor space and good ventilation. There are no water-closets, but bucket latrines with good accommodation. Hot water is not laid on, but there are facilities for boiling water. Ablution arrangements are adequate, and shower baths are being provided. The cook-house and dining room are satisfactory and all meals are good. The rate of sickness is not above the average."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1540; col. 199, Vol. 358.]I will read extracts from the letter of a lad in that camp:I never told you any real facts or glaring mismanagement of Tulloch Works. I sleep in a large barrack place; cement floor; 700 men, two companies sleeping less than four feet between each bed. The roof and windows are blue glass, the lights dim red. It is impossible to study, read or write with them. There are only four sinks for washing 700 men.The right hon. Gentleman said that the provisions for ablution are all that are necessary, but a lad writing from the spot says there are only four sinks for washing 700 men. He continues:Water pipes all burst. The walls are whitewashed and brick, and it is falling off. We live in a humid atmosphere of sweated breath and stifling dust. There is a continual draught from lour ever-open doors. There are no water closets, no hot water anywhere. If I were to stay under such conditions throughout the week without going out I would have my discharge in a month or daft in two. It is of the utmost necessity if I desire to keep my personal hygiene and cleanliness, I have to take hot baths at my own expense. I have to use outside lavatories in order that I may escape the various heinous diseases one finds and catches when proper sanitary arrangements are not available. We dine—what a lie!—in a wooden shack and sit on benches without backs eight to a table. Two courses of food taken from the same plate. Food is usually burnt, tea singed. I saturate my blankets with Keatings. An average of two men are carried out on stretchers each day. This I avoid, I think wisely, by refusing to completely accept Army life's intolerable conditions meekly, but fight stout-heartedly against 1106 them in order that in the years to come I may be able to look back with a clear vision.That is a letter written by one of the 700 people who are in this camp.
§ Mr. Sloan
This letter is dated 26th February. I want to know how we are to be satisfied that a decent inspection is made of these camps, or whether Members of the House are to be allowed to make an inspection of camp life in Scotland. It is deplorable and abominable and ought to rouse, not only Members of the House, but people throughout Scotland. Here is a letter dated 7th March:I observe that the Minister stated in the course of his reply that inquiries had been made, but that no complaints had been received.I think that the men themselves must be to blame for failing to make complaints. If no complaints are made how are we to understand the conditions? This letter goes on to say:Boys from Scottish border towns were billeted at Dumfries in a derelict woollen mill"—Why in the name of conscience should derelict factories and woollen mills, of all places, be used for the housing of Scottish soldiers? The letter continues—which is in such a state of disrepair that it is a common occurrence for men to find on waking that they have been sleeping in a pool of water.Surely we are entitled to an investigation here.The sickness rate at this billet was high, and that this was recognised is proved by the fact that rum had to be issued to the men to keep them warm. In Galashiels troops are billeted in several old woollen mills, which are, I believe, fairly wind and water tight. The food, however, is absolutely vile. There seems to be neither quantity nor quality, and more than one man has been so disgusted at the revolting mess served to him that he has refused to eat the stuff and has of necessity had to purchase his meals at an outside canteen.There are reams of this evidence. I have attempted to discuss this matter without an unduly hot temper. I am raising it because I have had no satisfaction at Question Time from the Minister and with the sole purpose of having improvements affected. I want an assurance from the Minister that each of the camps I have mentioned will be inspected and that we 1107 shall be satisfied that improvements are to be made. While I am not anxious for war and want it brought to an end at the earliest possible moment, I cannot as a Scotsman allow these conditions to remain without raising my voice in protest and hoping that something substantial will be done. I ask that these old factories, these stables with their cement floors, these buildings which are an abomination, shall be immediately discarded as places for housing our Scottish soldiers, and that efforts shall be made to provide premises with some decency and comfort, some show of hygiene and sanitary arrangements.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Sir J. Nall (Manchester, Hulme)
One realises that conditions such as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) has just been describing, do occur in certain instances and do require investigation, but I think it would be a mistake for it to go forth from this House that they are anything like general. Nor do I think we should be talking about matters which can be taken up by "Lord Haw-Haw" and which, if they were represented to the Department would, as I have always found, be immediately investigated and put right if there was anything wrong. I intervene in this Debate, not to inflict any premeditated speech on the House but to take up the threads of a few matters which have been discussed. The hon. Lady the Member for the Sutton division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has dealt with the women's services. I think she got rather off the lines about the women heads of the A.T.S., but I feel that that organisation does need a direction at the top, which is a little more in touch with the ideas of the present-day girls serving in that force. I do not wish to say anything unkind or derogatory of any of the eminent ladies who are helping, but there is a contrast between the women's service under the War Office—the A.T.S.—and the women's service under the Air Ministry, and I venture to say that the Air Ministry administer their women's service in a rather more enlightened way than do the War Office.
I am informed by women who are qualified to tell me that there are matters which require review and adjustment in connection with the A.T.S. These women and girls were supplied with a khaki 1108 uniform, consisting of a coat and skirt, when they first joined up—and in the case of some of them that was over a year ago—and that one uniform is all they have to work in and to cook in, sometimes in field cook-houses, under mere sheds. They are not supplied with any other outer clothing except a light coat. It is high time those who joined over a year ago were given their second uniform.
§ Sir J. Nall
No, it is a matter of administration to see that they are adequately clothed and housed, and I venture to say it is high time that the bulk of these women, who were recruited more than a year ago, were supplied with a second uniform. Further, let us remember that they are very poorly paid. Their rate of pay was apparently related to the 2s. a day of the militiaman, but the conditions under which they serve are entirely different. In the ordinary way they are not taken far away overseas, but the conditions under which they serve, on an engagement rather than an enlistment, are such that they have to supply many of their own needs from their own cash and the small pay they get is hardly adequate. Therefore, supplies in kind, especially of clothing, ought to be at least as generous as the scale allows.
A good deal has been said about cooking. If there is one topic in the Army which is exciting a good deal of public interest it is the question of feeding and cooking. It should be realised that there is no shortage of rations. If anything, there is an over-supply of rations, and when things go wrong it is largely due to some fault in the regiment or battalion. A number of persons are concerned. There is the commanding officer, the second-in-command, who is supposed to be primarily engaged in looking after the internal administration, and the quartermaster. There are those three at the head of every battalion, and one or other is to blame if the cooking goes wrong. In the four companies of most battalions—or the four sub-units, whatever the formation is—you have again the company commander, the second-in-command and the quartermaster, three more persons with responsibility in this matter. It is no good blaming the War Office every time the rations are badly cooked. There 1109 are three people at the top of every regiment and battalion in charge of the job and somebody is failing in his job if the cooking is going badly.
That brings me to the question of waste. There is great perturbation in some quarters about the waste of rations. It is due in part to the over-drawing of rations, which are generous rations when drawn in full for a concentrated unit—I will deal later with scattered units. There is quite a lot of instances of waste, nor. only waste by bad catering but sheer waste by the throwing away of joints of meat which have gone bad because the rations had been overdrawn and could not be consumed. That ought to be stopped. What inspection is there over catering in the units? Is it left to the divisions and the brigades to see that the regiments and battalions do their job? I have said that where there are complaints, somebody in the unit is at fault. Who is checking things to find out where the fault lies? Is the brigade taking any interest in this? In most cases apparently not. Is the division taking any interest in this? In some cases the divisions certainly are, but there are other divisions which I know of, where, definitely, they are not. Is the command taking any interest? Is there anybody at command headquarters to go round and make spot inspections of camps and cook-houses?
Next, I wish to raise some questions regarding training. As one goes about the country, one finds a marked contrast in the way training is being carried out in different areas. One comes across a division in which everybody is busy, keen, alert and well advanced in training, with divisional or regimental schools for driving and musketry and other specialist instruction, and another division where there is nothing going on at all. I was horrified recently to find that one or two units, billeted in one locality for over three months, had not done a drill or parade the whole time they had been there. The answer to my inquiry was that they were to do it when they went overseas. There ought to be somebody looking into that kind of thing. The division or the brigade is at fault there. The regimental commander may be at fault, but there is something wrong when neither the division nor the brigade insists on drills for a whole period of three months.
§ Sir J. Nall
Yeomanry—cavalry. They have not done a mounted drill in three months, nor a foot drill. I believe there is in the War Office an organisation under the Inspector-General of Training. The Inspector-General with half-a-dozen assistants should get right down to this question of the training in units. I do not expect my right hon. Friend to tell me what the organisation is, but I do urge that he should look into it, in order to secure more uniformity in the training of units at home. In the last war, at this period, we were working under the stress of battle. To-day the stress of battle does not immediately overhang the training, and it is difficult for us in this House to get a sense of reality in this matter. Conditions are not subject to that stress of war and battle which we experienced in the early stages of the last war. The result is that, in this matter of training, the degree of efficiency which is put into it, is left entirely to the division or brigade formation. There ought to be more uniformity throughout the country.
In the matter of billeting, I hope that my right hon. Friend will be good enough to look into the question of barrack stores. Have we a properly organised system of barrack wardens? It is obvious in some districts that barrack wardens do not exist. There is tremendous loss to the public funds if the barrack warden system is not working. In this matter, why not make more use of the county Territorial associations? The War Office have been very remiss in the matter of these associations. There was a determined drive from the War Office to shut them down and get rid of them altogether. They were to have nothing more to do with the maintenance and administration of drill halls because the R.Es. were to take this over; but the R.E. system broke down. The county associations had to come back, either officially or unofficially. In every county there are such associations. Why not make some use of them? They could help a lot. They have their surveyors and officials able to look after and maintain the drill halls and they could take over barrack stores and stop the waste. What happens now is that as a unit goes out, it takes the keys to the village police- 1111 man, but nobody checks up as to loss, until supplies are wanted. I suggest that the county associations might help in this matter.
I am sure that the House was very gratified to hear the Secretary of State refer to anti-aircraft units as he did. They are engaged in the air defence of Great Britain but one can fairly say that the A.D.G.B., or at least the R.Es. who are engaged in it, have been the Cinderellas of the War Office. That has been very unfair. Since the creation of the anti-aircraft units, which were started by conversion of the existing Territorial battalions, the War Office has never quite got down to the question of what the role of those units was to be. Take the searchlight detachments. When they were first formed, somebody apparently said that, as they had to do with electric lighting and generators, they had better be called Royal Engineers. That had not gone on for very long before somebody remembered that they had to do something with guns, so later units were called Royal Artillery. Now we have some units called R.Es. and some called R.As., although they are doing the same job. Whatever they are called, they are not under the command of the War Office at all. They have been handed over to the Air Command.
I suggest—again I do not expect any answer—that as time goes on, and probably the sooner the better, the War Office, in consultation with the Committee of Imperial Defence ought to consider whether the whole of the units of the A.D.G.B. should become Air Forces. At present there is a complete anomaly. You have the searchlight regiments, which are not armed with ordinary armaments but specialise in lighting, in the Army, while the balloon barrage units are in the Air Force; but both those sections are on the ground. We can pursue this anomaly into the anti-aircraft batteries themselves. In the Air Force we have a new branch of gunners who spend all their time in the air. Surely the men behind the guns, especially in the anti-aircraft batteries, would be of much more use, if they understood from personal experience the aerobatics of the men in the air than if they had never flown. I suggest that this matter of the air defence of Great Britain and provision 1112 for the maintenance of the units should be brought under one command.
No words used in this House can alter the fact that the response of the troops, notwithstanding matters of which we may complain, has been magnificent and that the Army to-day is vastly more prepared for defence than it was at a similar stage in the last war. Although we raise matters of this kind in this House, making suggestions or raising matters of complaint, let it go forth to the public that in our training, our preparation, and our equipment we are well advanced. Let us not make the mistake of thinking that all this will not be needed, and that economic warfare or the war of nerves, will end the struggle. Equally, do not let us suppose that the Armed Forces alone will end it. It is becoming increasingly clear that the war will be terminated as and when the two phases of our attack reach their climax, that is, the pursuit of ruthless economic siege, accompanied by the relentless force of arms.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley
Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I replied now to some of the points raised in the general Debate. There is, as hon. Members know, an Amendment on the Paper on which some hon. Members will wish to talk, raising a particular issue. I would remind hon. Members that further opportunity will arise for a more general discussion when we reach the Report stage of these Estimates. I have no complaint at all of the tone of the Debate or of the advice that has been offered. It is extremely valuable that suggestions should be made and that many hon. Members should be so much interested, as well as that they should show such considerable knowledge of these various military problems. I would make one suggestion. Where hon. Members feel that they should raise a particular case, whatever it is, which lends itself to criticism, it would not only be fairer to me but would be more in the national interest if an opportunity were given to me beforehand to learn something of the case, in order that I might be able to given an answer to it, rather than what happens now. Now I have to say, on a particular case, that I cannot give an answer at the moment, and let the accusation remain there permanently while the answer is very likely never seen.
1113 First of all, we had a most useful and important speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). He was quite fair and very understanding in his analysis of the difference between the Regular officer and the Territorial officer, and the effect that that had had, at any rate in the early stages of the war, on the administration of units. He imputed no blame to the Territorial officer, but he said that the circumstances of Territorial Army life do not give the same opportunity nor enforce the same lessons for looking after the comfort and well-being of the men as does life in a Regular unit. After all, the Territorial officer meets his men so many days a week in a drill hall and so many days a year in camp, but there is none of that continuous responsibility for or continuous association with the unit which is the ordinary lot of the Regular officer. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that to some extent this matter could be remedied by holding short courses for Territorial officers, and that is a matter which the War Office has considered and has in fact accepted. We have set up a school of military administration, and I understand that the first course has just terminated and a new course is beginning.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to deal with a subject which obviously is of the very greatest importance. He asked whether in every unit of the Territorial Army the commanding officer, whatever his merits may have been in peace-time, was suitable to command in a war, and he urged, as he said, that the War Office should be relentless in cases of that kind. I agree with him in one way. In the last war. I saw men killed, as perhaps other hon. Members of this House did, because they had been allowed to go out under a commanding officer who was not up to his job, and, so far as I am concerned, I am determined that that shall not happen again. That question concerns not only Territorial officers but officers of the Regular Army. None of them should be allowed to take the troops to France, whatever their merits may have been in the past, however good they may have been in peace-time or however successfully they may have been in training, unless those who are responsible are convinced that they are competent to do the job. It is no reflection upon a man who may render most valuable service in an- 1114 other way if in this particular way he is held not to be up to that particular responsibility. No questions of personal feeling should be or can be allowed to stand in the way of ensuring that the troops go out to France with the very best officers that we can find in command of them.
Then the right hon. Gentleman passed to the question of catering, and he asked how far the Auxiliary Territorial Service could make up the deficiency in regard to cooks. As has been pointed out by other hon. Members, they are doing a considerable amount of work already, but the House will realise the limitations of the use that we can make of them. The unit which is being trained here in preparation for going abroad to become part of the Expeditionary Force in France cannot be helped out with the women in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, because it will only mean that when they get to France they will once again be in the same position. They must have their cooks trained and ready to operate under the conditions they will meet in France. There is, therefore, no alternative but to train men cooks. With regard to the question of centralised cooking, which was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan), there is great scope for this Auxiliary Territorial Service, and it is doing extremely good work. I noted the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to a short course for messing officers; we have to keep it short in order to get the biggest "run-through" possible. He said that the value of the course might be improved by sending the men beforehand something in the way of pamphlets or instructions. That is a suggestion into which I will certainly look.
With regard to education, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. I shall not be discouraged if we cannot do much now; I fully realise the great difficulties. Nor do I want to be too ambitious. I think that the opportunities for what we have perhaps regarded as adult education will be very limited. As the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth said, there is going to be a very great demand for something in the nature of a mental stimulant. Whether you call it recreation with an educational purpose or education with a recreational flavour, it will be the same. The fact 1115 remains that a number of people will want something which stimulates the mind more than mere amusement, without being bothered about going into the higher ranges of education.
The final point which the right hon. Gentleman made was in connection with the democratisation of the Army. He said the machinery was all there, and while he recognised that the officers now come from the ranks he wondered whether they all have an equal chance. If the suggestion is that all those who are now going to the Officers' Cadet Training Units and from there getting their commissions are all public school boys—I do not know if you would say, born with the old school tie in their mouth or round their neck, it just is not the fact. Owing to the way in which the records are kept I have not been able to obtain detailed figures of the actual schools from which many of these boys came. Very often a boy who has been to an elementary school and who has got a scholarship, say, to a secondary school, will only put the last educational establishment to which he has been, and therefore we cannot trace the first school. What we can do is to trace how many of these boys in fact came from what we regularly and naturally call public schools, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman from the test samples that have been taken that there are very many of these boys getting commissions through the O.C.T.U. who have not been to public schools. The training they receive assists them in practice as well as in theory and a fair chance is given to youths with ability and who show qualities of leadership to go to a training unit and get a commission, whatever school they may have come from or whatever their social scale may have been.
I must, however, impress upon hon. Members, because I think there is a misunderstanding upon this point, that getting into an Officers' Cadet Training Unit is not necessarily the same thing as getting a commission. The original basis of selection is by the commanding officer who sends the men to the training units, but the training unit is not meant to be used merely for a few months of brushing up. It is meant to be a place which really sifts out the people who have been sent there and passes on only those who are considered to be fit to have commissions. I have come across various cases of people 1116 who thought that because their sons had got into a training unit they were certain to get commissions. If any man does not come up to the standard, there is no reflection on him, but in our search for the greatest efficiency in officers, if he fails in his course, he will not get a commission. With regard to the expenditure of money, I have no doubt that many cadets, if they can, like to spend a pound a week, but I am informed that there is no need for any cadet to spend any money at all beyond his ordinary pay and allowances.
We had an interesting speech from the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears). He attacked what is called the democratisation of the Army. To me democratisation of the Army means, and must mean, equal opportunity for all, going through the ranks as they do, to get a commission. What we can never allow the democratisation of the Army to mean is reduction in the authority of an officer when once a commission has been granted. If democratisation means the former, I am entirely in favour of it, but if it means the latter, I should regard it as a catastrophe for the Army. I believe that the new method of selecting officers gives much greater safeguards as to efficiency than the very haphazard method by which persons like myself were selected as officers in the last war, so long as the new method maintains the authority of the officers once they are commissioned. If a man has been through the ranks, it gives him a greater understanding of the problems and difficulties in the ranks, but when he becomes an officer there should be respect for his authority.
Another point to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred was the reduced number of officers and the appointment of the warrant officer class. That change was made at a time when there were considerable difficulties about officers and when there were fears of a shortage. I am considering now, when an example supply of officers is available, whether to revert to the old scale. The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Horabin) had a certain criticism to make. He talked about the shortage of trained men. There has, I am afraid, been a shortage, but it has been due largely to training difficulties and we are trying to speed up. He referred also to the question of boots. Not every man in this country yet has 1117 had an issue of a second pair of boots but the Ministry of Supply is pressing on with the matter as fast as possible and we hope that shortly there will be a full issue.
The hon. and gallant Member for South Nottingham (Captain Markham) dealt with the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, the physical standards of which certainly have resulted in a considerable amount of sickness in France. I am having the standard of new recruits very carefully watched to see that we do not admit men whose physique is such that they are really unable to stand the burdens which they are called upon to discharge. The hon. and gallant Member was a little in accurate when he said that this Corps were all equipped like infantry soldiers. Only 25 per cent. have rifles, and I think hon. Members will agree that in a unit which has to work in the forward area there should be some proportion of rifles for defence. I am sorry I missed the speech made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), but I have a note taken by my hon. Friend. I see that the hon. and gallant Member claimed that he at least had consistently supported the need for a large force, and he is, I know, correct in that. At any rate, he can share the melancholy satisfaction of so many other true prophets in history who have been disregarded.
He went on to give particulars of two medical cases. He had already communicated with me about one. As I did not hear his speech I do not know whether he told the House that I had written him a full account of the circumstances, stating that after very careful investigation the medical officer in charge had come to the conclusion—which I supported—that this case did not show individual neglect on behalf of any officer or of any person where disciplinary action ought to be taken. It was an unfortunate case of influenza where the patient appeared to be convalescent. His temperature had gone down to normal, and when he was being removed to another hospital his temperature flared up again which has been a quite common experience during the recent epidemic.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Wandsworth referred to the A.T.S. I have to disclaim the charge he made that in a long catalogue of other Corps I had missed this one. I very care- 1118 fully did not go into a catalogue because I could not mention all and I knew that for every one I did not mention some hon. Member would get up to point out the omission. Certainly these women have done most valuable work, and I will look into the questions raised as to the comfort of their billets and the sufficiency of their medical arrangements. The hon. and gallant Member also mentioned the Red Cross charter. I am told that by that charter the Red Cross are enabled to provide comforts for the sick in this country. I knew cases where they had in fact already been doing so, but I did not attempt to answer the point at the time because I was not sure whether they were doing it without authority or whether they had power to do it. I find now that they had power to do it. I should like to allay his apprehension regarding the general question of education and welfare. I am fully conscious of the immense amount of good work that has already been done by the welfare organisation in the various commands. You have there a good-will which it would be very silly to throw away. He can be perfectly certain that we are not going to try to scrap work that is already done just in order to build a nice new neat machine. It is because we want to dovetail the two that I have asked people who can look at it from all sides to consider the problem as a whole.
The hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) opened his speech in a rather curious way by accusing me of having failed in the course of my speech to pay a tribute to my predecessor. On that, I would say frankly that we do not come here as a mutual admiration society. I came here to give the clearest account I could of the situation in the Army today. If the charge against me is that I have not given my predecessor credit for any of the things to which I referred today which he had started, and the success of which, therefore, redounded to him, I would ask hon. Members, and especially the hon. Member who raised the matter, to read the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. They will then see that I went out of my way on more than one occasion to give the credit that was due to my predecessor.
The hon. Member touched upon the question of the hospitals and the relation of the Army to the medical services. That is a very important question, which I 1119 should like at some time to hear discussed and further ventilated. There is the question of whether too much emphasis was originally put on the probability of civil casualties coming first, in greater number, and military casualties coming afterwards, in smaller number. We cannot say that that probability has entirely disappeared, but it has not happened yet. I shall be prepared to discuss with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, not the revision of these arrangements, but some modification of them, which will meet some of the diffities that we are experiencing. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest) had a number of interesting suggestions, all of which were helpful, and I will look into them, and see whether we cannot adopt them. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has made her speech, and gone away.
§ Mr. Stanley
It is not a very good job for me, because I have rather a good answer for her. I will conclude first by saying a general word in reply to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan). We have a War Office building programme, for the express purpose of getting as many people as possible out of billets as soon as possible. At the beginning of the war we were faced with an immense number of people under arms, many of whom had to be in a particular part of the country, and the best use had to be made of the accommodation available. The hon. Member spoke of men being billeted in a disused woollen mill. There are many hon. Members of this House who in the last war had to put up with very much worse accommodation than a disused woollen mill. There is a war on, and the people in the Forces cannot expect the comforts of home.
§ Mr. Stanley
I only know that the hon. Member's complaint was that people were accommodated in a disused woollen mill. It was inevitable at the beginning 1120 of the war that the people who went on service should not live as comfortably as they had done in peace-time. The only thing we can do is to reduce that discomfort as much as possible, and the only way we can do it is by going on with a building programme which will provide as soon as possible hutments, specially designed for housing soldiers, instead of billets, which at best have to be adapted to that purpose. We are pressing on as fast as we can with that building programme. It is not, and cannot, be designed to provide accommodation for all the troops in the country. Many of them will be going to France, but we have a programme which will cover the more permanent units, and reduce the necessity of using billets, which are often unsuitable, however much we adapt them.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams (Ogmore)
Is it not possible to use drill halls to a larger extent, particularly in parts of South Wales, rather than the welfare institutes which are now being used for military purposes?
§ Mr. Stanley
The hon. Member could not expect me to answer that general question. It must depend on the relative suitability of the particular buildings and their location. Generally speaking, I would rather see a drill hall used than a civil building. There may be cases, however, where the other building is more suitable than the drill hall, and the other building may happen to be in the place where the unit is stationed. The hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) said that one of the causes of waste was the over-drawing of rations. He knows perfectly well, as every hon. Member knows, that there is no issuing of rations to troops in this country at all. What happens now is that a certain sum is allocated to the unit per head per day, and the messing officer, with the advice of the messing committee, can spend that money as he likes for the purpose of feeding the troops. It is true that the sum is calculated with the idea of giving a certain amount of certain staple commodities to the troops every day, but there is no question of there being issued to the troops every day a certain ration of bread or of meat, as the case may be, as used to be done, and as a result of which there was a certain amount of waste in the last war.
§ Sir J. Nall
I thought I had made it clear that the trouble about waste is really due to the arrangements of the units, and not those of the higher authorities.
§ Mr. Stanley
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman quite heard the point that I made about catering advisers, because he asked whether there was anybody going round to see about it. I said that there were these catering advisers, but that I did not think there were enough of them, and that I intended to see whether the number should be increased. Finally, the hon. Member referred to a yeomanry unit which, in three months, had not done a drill or a parade.
§ Sir J. Nall
I did not say that they had done nothing at all. I simply said that there should be more uniformity in training, and that this unit had not done any mounted drill in three months.
§ Mr. Stanley
I thought the hon. Gentleman said that they had not done a drill or a parade in three months. I should be glad if he would give me the name of the unit, and I will inquire into the matter. I think I have answered nearly all the points raised in the Debate. There will be another opportunity on the Report stage for any more general questions to be raised, and I am sure it would be for the convenience of the House now if we passed to the important subject to be raised by the Amendment which is to be moved.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant (Willesden, West)
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:in the opinion of this House, a reform in the system of dependants' allowances is urgent and necessary, particularly with respect to the position of parents of serving soldiers, the scale of allowances generally, and the delays in administration.It will be observed by Members who are present that the latter part of the Amendment on the Order Paperand the treatment of claims by the Special Grants Committeehas been deleted by virtue of the fact that that is a subject which comes under the administration of the Minister of Pensions and must, of course, be discussed on his Vote. But before discussing the Amendment, may 1122 I appeal to the Financial Secretary to the War Office to consider the advisability of publishing as a White Paper the concessions which have been announced this afternoon? I believe that it would be for the advantage of the House, as we would then see them in print and be able to consider in detail the application of the principles embodied therein.
I make no apology for moving this Amendment in the House this evening. I am persuaded that each and every Member present is sincerely desirous that the best possible conditions shall be given to the men in the Services, but we do not seem to possess the necessary knowledge, understanding and imagination which would enable us to lay down conditions to meet the existing circumstances, and the main circumstance operating to-day is the increase in the cost of living. Since the allowances were first announced the cost of living has gone up considerably, probably from 15 to 20 per cent. Our machinery makes no allowance for that. The allowances are static. There is no elasticity. I make my first point, and ask that the Government shall at least give some consideration to that aspect of the problem. On the other hand, despite the activities of the Government in their endeavours to peg down prices, increases are being sought by the organised workers in this country. As it affects the organised workers in general, so it affects the dependants of the men in the Services.
The second point is that I think we have failed to appreciate the fact that we are now conscripting into the Services men who have entered into obligations and contracts in civil life, which the Army allowances do not in any way meet. That is another point which I feel has not been given adequate consideration by those who are responsible for laying down the allowances to be meted out to the men in the Services. If our men in the Services are to continue their duties and are to go forward, as we hope they will, to victory, it is essential to remove every anxiety of these men concerning those whom they leave behind. No one can enter upon a task such as these men are being called upon to endure light-heartily, but if the conditions at home are not satisfactory it makes their task doubly hard and retards their every activity. I hope that that is a point of view which will not be lost sight of by 1123 Members of this House, and more especially by those who are charged with the responsibility of administration. It will be said and argued that such proposals as might emanate from the Debate this evening would be costly to the country. I am quite aware of that, but we have to remember that we are conscripting the lives of these men, and we have not as yet made any attempt on any reasonable scale to conscript wealth. I also know that it will be argued that taxation is heavy, but nevertheless we are taking these men from their homes and their families; we are conscripting their lives in many instances, and we ought to be prepared to treat them, if not generously, at least justly.
In order to reinforce the case that I am submitting to the House this evening, I have brought with me a number of household budgets of wives who are resident in my own constituency. The first case is that of a wife and her four children, aged seven years, five, three, and one year and a half. The Army allowance is 39s. The rent amounts to 14s. 9d., electricity 2s. 6d., washing 1s. 6d, sundries 2s. 8½d., insurance 1s.10d., coal 2s. 6d., logs 1s. 9d., clothing clubs 3s., making in all 30s. 6½d., and leaving 8s. 5½d. with which to buy the essentials of life. Application has been made to the public assistance committee from whom they have received 7s. 6d., and so that wife has 15s. 11½d. a week upon which to maintain herself and family.
§ Mr. Holdsworth (Bradford, South)
Do I understand from the hon. Member that they have received public assistance, as my experience of Bradford is that we cannot get any help from public assistance?
§ Mr. Viant
Those are the facts. Relief is being given to the extent of 7s. 6d. by the public assistance committee. The relieving officer was under the impression that special assistance would be given, and an application was made, and an allowance of £5 8s. was given with which to pay off the arrears of rent, but nothing more. This wife was thrown back on to the resources of 8s. 5½d.
§ Major Owen (Carnarvon)
Would the hon. Gentleman mind saying what was the pre-Service income of that family?
§ Mr. Viant
I am not concerned with that at the moment, but with what they are expected to live upon at the present time. Whatever he might have had before, I have not the least doubt that the allowance here would compare very badly with the wages received in civil life. That is general throughout the country. Here is the second case. A woman receives an Army allowance of 36s. a week and pays 20s. 7d. rent, although it should actually be 21s. The arrears of 5d. a week, therefore, accumulate. Hire purchase costs her 2s. 6d. a week, insurance 2s., coal 2s., gas 2s. 4d., electricity 1s. 2d., sundries 2s. making a total of 32s. 7d. a week and leaving 3s. 5d. per week for food and clothing. The woman went to the Assistance Board and from them received a letter stating that as she was receiving the limit of allowance nothing more could be done. I sent her again to the Board suggesting that there must be something wrong, but again she was advised by them that nothing could be done. There was, therefore, no alternative but for her to apply to the public assistance committee.
Here is another case: A woman whose husband had passed his trade test received an allowance of 36s. a week, paid rent of 21s., insurance 3s. 10½d., and spent 10s. a week on special food for her young child, who was very ill. Hire purchase cost her 3s. a week, coal 5s. 10d.—because fires had to be kept going night and day—gas 1s. 6d., electricity 6d., and sundries 2s. 3d., making a total expenditure of 44s. 5½d. For the time being the woman is paying only part of the rent, 10s., and the weekly arrears are mounting, while the landlord is insisting on payment in full. Even with this rent at 10s., this leaves only 2s. 6½d. per week with which to feed and clothe this woman and child. Extra assistance was sought, and she was given a grant of 10s. a week, but because, I presume, there was a rise in the cost of living, it was reduced to 5s. 6d.
Here is yet another case: A woman with two children, aged two years and five months respectively, received an Army allowance of 33s., paid a rent of 14s., insurance 1s. 6d., clothing club 3s. 6d., coal 4s. 3d., gas 2s. 4d., washing 2s., and 6s. for special food for her youngest child, making a total expenditure of 32s. 7d., and leaving 5d. to feed the woman. What is the mental 1125 condition of those men who receive letters from home telling them what their wives have to do in order to maintain themselves? Do the men feel free and light-hearted and put their hearts and souls into their tasks? Certainly not. The trouble is that the machinery is far too centralised. We did not approach the problem in this manner during the last war; we had our local civilian liabilities committees, consisting of men and women on the spot who were able to interview applicants, knew their conditions and their homes, and made recommendations. The matters were dealt with as a human problem and not by the card-index system such as obtains at the present time. Furthermore, in addition to these committees we had our old age pensions committees dealing with dependent parents. The result was, of course, that you had, again, the human touch which we are lacking in the early stages of this war. It is bound to have a retrogressive effect on the morale of our men in the Services.
I come to another aspect of the problem, and here, possibly, the Financial Secretary will be able to inform us this livening just how the proposals given to the House this afternoon will ameliorate or meet the difficulties in these cases. I know of a widow, aged 54, who is drawing a pension of 10s. a week and who applied for a dependant's allowance. The Army regretted that it could not allow more as the son did not contribute sufficient to the home before joining up. But he was working in Birmingham, and paying his landlady there, so that he could not afford to do much. He did what he could, however, and made a contribution of 7s. 6d. a week. This young man was serving his apprenticeship at Wolverton, in a railway shop, and then had to leave and seek work elsewhere. He gave his mother more than the ordinary allotment of 7s., but the point is: What is the use of telling his widowed mother that because he did not contribute sufficient to her home she must seek assistance from the Poor Law authorities? That sort of thing does not inspire the men who are serving. Then there is the case of a woman who was left a widow in the autumn of 1938, with one son, single, at home. When he was 21 he was called up for the Militia and left a job at which he was earning £4 per week. He contributed very liberally to the home. This woman made application for an 1126 allowance, but because, it was argued, he was not contributing sufficient to the home, nothing could be given. The matter was pursued further, and they did make an allowance of £1 per week. Is that sufficient? This woman cannot go out to work. Her rent will be approximately anything from 7s. 6d. to 10s. per week. We need some imagination and understanding of the problems with which we are confronted in dealing with these cases.
I have another case, a widow with two daughters and a boy. I took up this case with the Department some time ago. The Department evidently took into consideration, not what the two daughters and the boy were contributing to the home, but the full wages of each. As a matter of fact, one daughter was contributing 15s. a week, the other 30s. a week, while the widow had a 10s. pension. There was a total of 62s. a week coming into the home. The rent of the flat was 25s. The son when he was conscripted into the Army was contributing to the home £2 a week. This widow's case was turned down because, assessing the whole of the gross income, it works out at more than 15s. per head per week after rent and rates have been paid. I shall be pleased to hear how the concessions announced this afternoon are going to meet a case of that kind.
Let me deal with the question of delays. From every corner of the House there have been complaints about delays. I do not want to be unkind to the Minister, but if he has not an adequate staff I hope the Debate to-night will help him to increase his staff. Here is a case about which I wrote on 2nd October, 1939, of a wife separated from her husband—not an easy case, I agree. She had a court order of 21s. a week, and the soldier had made an allotment to the other woman with whom he was living. She had the full allotment. The wife is expected to live on 3s. 6d. a week. I am still waiting a reply from the Department as to what proposals they are prepared to make to meet that case. The woman has, of course, to seek assistance from the Poor Law authority. Such a thing ought not to be the case, and should not be condoned by this House. The sooner we decentralise the machinery the better for everyone concerned. The sooner we get the human touch, as we did in the last war, the better.
1127 All the proposals which have been offered this afternoon, if I have understood them, do not in any way remove the means test, which is still to be applied to the allowances. I know of nothing more irksome or more resented by men in the Services than the application of a means test to those whom, they leave behind. We did not do this in the last war. We gave a flat rate to dependent mothers and fathers, and in addition there was the special liabilities committee, who were also in a position to apply the human touch and give a flat rate. No means test was applied, and I hope that as a result of this Debate we shall have proper consideration given to the question of allowances and shall hear from the Minister that the Government are at last going to make concessions which will make it unnecessary for the dependants of our serving men to seek Poor Law assistance.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths (Hemsworth)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I want to congratulate the mover of the Amendment on the facts that he has given to the House. I want to go back a little in history, to 17th December, 1934, when the Secretary of State for War, who has spoken this afternoon, brought forward a means test when he was Minister of Labour. He then said that he was going to give the unemployed an additional £3,000,000. We on these benches said he would not give that £3,000,000, and there was such a hullabaloo about this means test from all sides—the hon. and gallant Member for Clithero (Sir W. Brass), an hon. Member from one of the Newcastle divisions and other hon. Members—that the right hon. Gentleman said he would withdraw the means test and suspend it for a period. There were cries of "Resign," but the Minister said that was not the moment for resigning—"We will reconstruct and talk about resigning later." As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman was promoted. I listened to what the right hon. Gentleman had to say about these special allowances. Let me read our Amendment.To call attention to the question of allowances; and to move. That, in the opinion of this House, a reform in the system of dependants' allowances is urgent and necessary, particularly with respect to the position of 1128 parents of serving soldiers, the scale of allowances generally, and the delays in administration.You have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that the tail end of the Amendment on the Paper is out of Order, otherwise some of us would be talking about it to-morrow morning. You have ruled that the treatment of claims by the Special Grants Committee cannot be discussed. We bow to your Ruling, but I want to say that while hon. Members have been talking about the medical side of the British Expeditionary Force and about the educational side, we want to speak about the home front, and to say emphatically that at the present time there is seething discontent throughout the country on the home front as far as soldiers' wives and mothers are concerned. The Government must make no mistake about that. If the Financial Secretary and the Secretary of State are sitting at ease in Whitehall, I would like them to go with me some week-end to visit the homes of some of the wives, and they would find out. I am sorry to say that people are not as enthusiastic over the war now as they were six months ago, and the reason is the way in which wives and parents are being treated in the matter of allowances.
The very essence of this thing is the means test. We abominate the means test, no matter from what source it comes. There is a means test before the child is born and as soon as the old age pensioner is put inside his coffin. We are putting the means test here to the soldier's wife and parents, and it is being applied to the lads. The Minister said that one-fifth of the income of other members of the family is disregarded, but it is not worth a pinch of salt. I was in a widow's home last Saturday. She is in a terrible state of health. They have taken one son away, and she has another at home. The father fought in the last war and has now passed over to the other side, because of the effect of the last war, with tuberculosis. I shall never forget the night when I saw him bid farewell to his wife, and she got hold of him and almost held him until the train had gone out of the station. He had to wrench himself away. It lives in my memory as if it was only last night. This self-same man said to me inside 12 months, "If there is another war, I shall go again." I have been fishing about with this case because I have been interested in the boys ever since they were born. The second boy was born after the 1129 father came back from the last war. We applied for the widow to get something besides the 7s. that the first lad had signed for. She cannot get anything because there is more than 15s. a head coming into the home. The soldier was bringing in 45s., and the mother cannot get anything because of the other son, who is bringing in 55s. a week.
Let us figure it out. A fifth of 55s. is 11s., and that is knocked off, leaving 44s. to be counted, and 10s. which he is getting. That scale would apply in thousands of homes. This fifth is a myth. There is nothing real in it. You can bring it down lower than that. You can bring it to a lad getting £2 a week. Our lads are now earning better money than they have earned for some time. My hon. Friend the Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) has dealt with cases in detail. I am only dealing with mine in the rough. The Minister said there are 12s. and 17s. for parents—12s. if the lad gives 7s., because unless the soldier makes an allowance there is nothing got. He pays the first 7s. and, after they have applied the despicable means test to the soldier mother or wife, they may get 5s. If they get 17s., they are in clover. There are very few that I know who have been able to get the additional 10s. The Minister says they are going to make it better. They are to put another scale on, but they will put the means test on it. The additional scale is that it will be 20s. 6d., but they cannot get the 12s. or the 17s. I should like to be told how they are to get the 20s. 6d. I am asking that greater attention shall be paid to the home front. If we want unity, the wives and parents have to be treated differently. Here is a case of a foster mother whose husband has been in the Leeds Infirmary for 12 weeks. She had to attend twice a week to take certain things in. The lad is getting 54s. a week and turns over 44s. to the foster mother. We get the 5s. added.
I hope the Financial Secretary will pay attention to what I am saying, and not carry on a conversation with the noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor): She is like a scratting hen under a haystack. I was speaking about a foster-mother. She was allowed 5s. on top of the 7s. We made an appeal to the Special Allowances Committee, and that committee gave her an additional 5s. 1130 The week they gave her the additional 5s., the 5s. allowance from the Army was taken off. Why? Because they wanted to know how long she had been the foster-mother of that lad. The lad was 21 years of age and he had been brought into the home at the age of six months. The 5s. allowance has been stopped ever since. Such things will set the parents against the Government.
I want to say a few words about two cases that are still more pathetic. A widow's son joined the Forces voluntarily. Her husband was one of the best colliers that ever worked in a pit. He was a fine fellow. But he caught influenza, and went back to work too soon, and passed away suddenly. His four children had won scholarships. The oldest lad went into the Forces. He allowed his mother, first of all, 7s. a week, and when he got promotion, 10s. 6d. a week. Because he joined the Forces voluntarily and was not conscripted, his mother cannot get a penny piece allowance, and she is on the poor law to-day.
§ Mr. Griffiths
He has had something from me once, and he can have it again if he likes. Two of the children are now going to a secondary school, and the other girl has got a job and is getting 18s. a week. The lad is proud to be in uniform, but there is poison in his soul because his mother is on the Poor Law and the Government will not give her a penny piece. I know something about this, because I have had correspondence on it all along the line. I know of another case that is similar. A pal of mine, serving on the same council and president of my local miners' branch, rushed away from the pit one day, and dropped dead in a street in Barnsley. His lad, a secondary school boy, went into the Forces. The mother gets 10s. a week. We made an appeal to see whether we could get anything for her. She is getting 7s. a week which the lad allows her. She cannot get another penny piece because he joined before he was conscripted. This woman has to go out charing. With such things happening, do the Government think they will get unanimity and the same spirit to-day and henceforth as we had on 3rd September, when the 1131 Prime Minister decided that we must try to stop the aggressor? We are not only going to stop the aggressor in Germany, but stop the starving at home. Unless we do that, candidly, we shall not get a united nation in the future as we have had in the past.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth (Bradford, South)
There is no subject to which this House ought to give more attention than this Amendment. I always listen with great interest to the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths). Although I do not always agree with all that he says, I would pay him the tribute that so often what he says arises from a great heart and is for his own people. With regard to the cases mentioned by the Mover and Seconder, I cannot think that there is a single Member of this House who has not had the same experience. My heart has bled as I spent hour after hour meeting constituents and listening to the cases put before me. I thought it was the duty of every Member, irrespective of party, because this is not a party issue, to state in this House that if there is one class which ought to be treated not merely justly but generously, surely it is the person who is prepared to go out and lay down his life in order that you and I can live in comfort and in peace.
It would be ungenerous if we were not to recognise the allowances stated by the Minister in his opening speech. I think that every Member will agree that it was a speech full of humane considerations, but there are one or two points I wish to put to the Financial Secretary. I took the trouble one day to go and see a widow who had brought up six children. She lost her husband immediately after the last child was born. All her life she worked and struggled in order to give this nation six healthy children. One by one they married until she has only two left, one of whom was called up. One lives at home. He is 27 years of age, with a weekly wage of 45s. per week, but because there was more than 15s. per head after the rent had been deducted not one penny can be given to this woman. I suggest that the Financial Secretary should really listen to these cases. We all remember 1934, when we tried to give advice, and I think it should be listened to now. This 27-year-old lad is courting and wants to get married, but what opportunity has he 1132 for saving a penny if he has to give 36s. to the house to count before any allowance can be made? That lad has to clothe himself. I cannot speak for what they do in the South, but I can for our own county of Yorkshire, where the normal thing is for a lad to pay board money. I suggest that it would be better if a sum were ignored rather than a percentage, and that the sum should be a reasonable one. It is not enough in the case of a widow with 45s. a week to ignore 9s., leaving 36s. as the total income of the house. Out of the 36s. the lad has to have spending money, to keep himself in clothes, and probably try to send some comforts to the lad who is away.
Although this one-fifth allowance is an improvement, it is a mistake to have a flat-rate percentage. I would rather see an allowance of a fixed amount. I am asked what I would suggest; I would make it at least £1 a week. I am not saying that is enough, but I am saying that 9s. is far too little. I will give another case, that of a widow with no pension who is dependent on the lad who has been taken away. She gets 20s. 6d. I understand she is now to have 24s. Is that to be an automatic increase, or will she have to make a fresh application? That 20s. 6d. was never enough to enable a woman to pay rent and keep herself, and as a matter of administration it ought to be automatically translated into 24s. There is another type of case, again that of a widow. I had a case brought to me of a woman whose husband, crossing the road one night, was knocked down. Nobody knew the number of the car, and there was no compensation.
She was left to bring up a family of two or three lads. She bravely faced her tragedy, went out to work and gave each lad a trade. She told me she was determined to give them what they would have had if their father had been alive. She is finally left with one boy. He has not finished his apprenticeship, but in three weeks' time, if he had not been called up, he would have been earning £4 as a plumber. The circumstances were gone into, and it was said that this lad was not keeping his mother. That is true, but what was her reply? She said, "For almost 20 years I have given every moment of my life for my boys, and I have reached an age when I am 1133 not fit to go out to work. I declared the truth when I was asked what I was earning; I said that I was earning so much washing floors and so on." She has been industrious; she is the type of woman who has made this land what it is. Then you say to her, "No, you were not dependent, you are not dependent," and the moment of hope which had been pictured has to be put off for an indefinite period. Those are human tragedies.
I do not want the Minister to feel that I do not appreciate the announcement he made this afternoon, because I do, but I do say that I hope there will be no delay in these cases coming before the Special Grants Committee. I know of a dozen cases in which there has been a delay of months; indeed, I believe that I have had to wait for two months for replies to some of my letters. I recognise that the Department have a tremendous task, but I hope there will be some speeding up. As for the ordinary dependant's allowance, I do not think it is high enough. I realise all the financial problems that we have to face, but I suggest that the last economy should be at the expense of the men who are fighting our battles. A woman with two children gave me a list of her expenditure showing that she had only 6s. a week left on which to feed the three, and there was a woman with three children who had only 9s. a week left.
There are few hon. Members who do not believe that we are fighting this war for all that we believe to be best for humanity. In doing that let us not destroy for lack of nourishment those who will be the next generation. I would sooner be called upon to make more money sacrifices if that would ensure giving these people allowances which would permit them to get at least the necessities of life. There are many more things that I wanted to say—I think we are all in that position—but I finish on this, that I do appreciate the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, not only that part of it dealing with this subject but the tone of the speech as a whole. It was so humane; the outlook was so different from what it was in the Debates of which we used to read, and we thank God for that changed spirit. While recognising the cost of the war and the financial difficulties of the Exchequer, I suggest that we should err on the side of 1134 generosity in dealing with those who are making the greatest human sacrifice that man can render to his fellow men.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Mr. George Hall (Aberdare)
I am very pleased that the Secretary of State returned in time to hear a portion of the speech of the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth). I wish he had been present to hear the two preceding speeches. Then he would have realised that once again the House is faced with one of those great human problems interest in which is not confined to one side of the House. I was interested in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and his review of the work which was done for the troops, but it was strange that throughout the speech there was, with the exception of the announcement of the concession made towards the latter part of it, little or no reference to the dependants of the soldiers and the men who are serving in the other Armed Forces. The right hon. Gentleman rightly said that during the last war there was scarcely a household from which men were not drawn to serve in the Forces. We are reaching that stage during the course of this war. Day after day we find greater pressure being brought to bear upon the Government to do the right thing by the dependants of men who are prepared to sacrifice their all.
I do not know why it is that, on every human problem with which the nation is faced during this war, the Government are not prepared to do the generous thing towards dependants, whether of soldiers, sailors, airmen or old age pensioners, or even the unemployed. That is why, late as it is in this Debate, we are raising this matter in this way. We do not want to cut out other speeches; as a matter of fact, there is sufficient matter in the announcement made by the right hon. Gentleman to continue the Debate for a full day. It is the intention of my right hon. Friends to return to this matter on the Report stage of the three Services Estimates to be taken on Thursday.
There must be between 1,250,000 and 1,500,000 men serving in the Forces of the country at the present time. A proportion of that number is of married men, and their wives and families are receiving allowances, without very much trouble. I am not arguing, for the moment, that their allowances are in any way adequate, 1135 but, with the calling up of the age-groups of men from 20 to 24, it must be admitted that the large majority of the men who are going into the Forces at present are single. In the main, they had dependants, wholly or partially dependent upon them, before they were called up. These men have been drawn from industries and from the professions, and were, earning anything from£210s. to £5 a week. [Interruption.] It is suggested that some were earning more. One could put it at £6 or £7 a week, but, for the sake of my argument, I am content to leave it at from £2 10s. to £5 per week. They were making their contributions to the households. These were maintained, the rent was paid and fuel costs and other expenses were met. Does any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite say that it is not necessary for a household to be maintained, now that the son has been called away? Of course, it is. Here we are faced with allowances for dependants, or non-allowances, surrounded by factors not for assisting soldiers or their dependants to get allowances but to deprive them of the opportunity of obtaining them.
The right hon. Gentleman, almost within a fortnight of taking office, promised that he would himself inquire into the difficulties which had arisen in connection with the payment of dependants' allowances. He did so. He has made an announcement to-day as to the concessions based upon that inquiry. We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making that announcement. But I would say here and now that the concessions which he has made are far from adequate. We know that the first factor which deprived so many parents from getting any allowance at all was the fact that the person had to be incapacitated before becoming entitled to receive the allowance. If it was the father, he had to be over 65 years of age, and if it was the mother, she had to be over 60 years of age, unless she was a widow. Now, the right hon. Gentleman has abolished that, but that was not the only factor which deprived the dependants of getting any allowance at all. There was the operation of the household means test. As it was put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Bradford and my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths), the concession which the right hon. Gentleman has made in con- 1136 nection with the household means test counts for very little.
Is there any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite who will support the household means test as it operates under the Unemployment Assistance Board? Time out of number we have had speeches from the opposite side condemning the household means test in operation under the Unemployment Assistance Board. Even after the concession which has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, the operation of the household means test for dependants of men who are giving their all to fight for this country is even worse than the household means test operating under the Unemployment Assistance Board. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I will give him one or two instances. Take the case of a son living at home with his mother who is a widow, the other son having enlisted. The son is earning £2 10s. a week. Under the household means test in operation under the Unemployment Assistance Board that son will have 33s. a week for himself out of the £2 10s. What is he to receive out of the household means test with the concession made by the right hon. Gentleman? The average of 15s. a week still stands after rent and rates have been paid. We will assume that rent and rates have been paid, and his share would amount to 5s. a week. He is allowed 10s.—one-fifth of the 50s.—making 30s. a week. Therefore, under the operation of the right hon. Gentleman's means test for dependants of soldiers the household is 3s. a week worse off with a wage of 30s. a week.
If you take a wage of £3 10s. a week, the difference is much more marked. I am convinced that the House will not stand for the household means test, even with the concession given by the right hon. Gentleman; it is worse than the one in operation under the U.A.B. I will give the figures so far as a wage of £3 a week is concerned. Under the U.A.B. a member of a household earning £3a week can retain 38s. for himself, and 22s. must go into the household pool. Under the operation of the means test suggested by the right hon. Gentleman let us cut out the rent and rates and fix the average at 18s. a week. Add to the 18s. a week the one-fifth of the £3 that he suggests—12s.—and that makes the total amount for himself 30s. a week. In a case of that 1137 kind the operation of the household means test for the dependants of men called to the Colours makes them 8s. a week worse off under the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman than under the U.A.B. There are so many other things which are disregarded under the U.A.B. There is the disability pension of £1 a week; there is half the workmen's compensation for a member of the family; 7s. 6d. from National Health Insurance; and there is 7s. 6d. for superannuation. Not only that, but there is much more that the U.A.B., at their discretion, could do, and which the Special Grants Committee, judging from their record up to now, are not prepared to do for the soldiers' dependants.
I was pleased to note that the right hon. Gentleman had increased the upper limit of dependants' allowances to 24s. per week. I could not understand why the War Office made any discrimination against the widowed mother, who is solely dependent on the soldier, as compared with the soldier's wife. In the case of a widow who is solely dependent on her son, the maximum allowance was 20s. 6d. per week. That maximum has now been raised to 24s. That is not too generous, but it is an improvement. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the concession which is being given for the unmarried wife. That will meet a real need. I have had case after case in my division, as other hon. Members have had in theirs, of anomalies in connection with this matter. There was one case which I intended to deal with, but I will not take up the time of the House except to say that the legitimate wife of a man living with an unmarried wife had a court order for 25s. a week, and she was given by the Special Grants Committee an allowance of £3 per month. Why the amounts paid to the legitimate wives of men who are living with unmarried wives should be paid, not weekly but monthly, is beyond my comprehension. In this case, the legitimate wife had to seek public assistance in order to supplement the amount she received from the Special Grants Committee. Many dependants will be denied any allowances at all, because the right hon. Gentleman is still keeping the limit of dependency fixed at 9s. a week. I hope he will abolish that limit. It would be better if he would do what was done in the last war, when any dependency at all that could be proved was met, and in many cases, even where 1138 dependency was not proved, there was a flat rate of 5s. a week for parents.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the concession that is to be made by providing for dependants of men who had just completed their apprenticeship and were waiting to go into their trades; and when I asked whether it was intended that that should apply to ex-students in a similar position, he agreed that it should. I would now ask, does the right hon. Gentleman intend to extend the concession to unemployed men? The position at present is that if a young man has been unemployed for six months and has been receiving unemployment benefit, it is argued, when he is called up and his mother applies for a dependant's allowance, that there is no dependency; and no allowance is paid.
I was a little concerned about the right hon. Gentleman's proposal to transfer the administration of dependants' allowances in the case of students and apprentices to the Special Advisory Committee which is now administering certain of the special allowances to dependants. I would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there is a storm blowing up with regard to the administration of grants by that committee. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen the correspondence in the "Times" during the last three weeks. That certainly is an indication of the criticism which is levelled against the administration of grants by this committee.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member must not go into that question to-night, as it does not come under the War Office.
§ Mr. Hall
I did not intend to, but I thought I was entitled to refer to the administration, seeing that the right hon. Gentleman himself referred to the Special Grants Committee. I warn him that those of us who have knowledge of that administration are very dissatisfied. I cannot understand why the Government will not do the big and generous thing in handling this problem. The right hon. Gentleman rightly said that he was making some concession. It is a small concession, and we are not satisfied with it. He himself has had experience of the administration of the household means test and must know the bitter feeling which exists in every working-class home regarding the operation of such a test. Here he is ordering the operation of a 1139 household means test in the case of the dependants of soldiers. I beg him to take this matter back and to reconsider the difficulties which have arisen in connection with the administration of dependants' allowances. I am convinced that if he did so, he would bring in a much more generous scale than that which is now before the House.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Sir Victor Warrender)
Perhaps the House will allow me to reply to some of the points raised in this Debate. I must ask for indulgence because I am suffering from a sore throat. If I am inaudible it will not be because of lack of effort to make myself heard. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment asked whether it would be possible to issue a White Paper explaining the changes brought about as the result of my right hon. Friend's consideration of this problem. We were not intending to issue a White Paper but we have set out the changes in a communication to the Press from which hon. Members will be able to see to-morrow more clearly than from my right hon. Friend's speech exactly what the changes amount to. I am not casting any reflection on my right hon. Friend, but obviously it is much more simple to understand the information when it is set out in tabulated form. I think it would be almost impossible to get out a White Paper before the Report stage next Thursday. I was a little disappointed with the reception which these, what I would have called far-reaching changes, which my right hon. Friend has made received in the House this evening. [An Hon. Member: "You would be disappointed if you received them."] I notice that hon. Members opposite intended very much to concentrate upon those changes which they thought were most open to criticism and most suited their arguments, and they studiously avoided referring to other changes which I think can be shown to be very sweeping indeed.
Every speech to which we have listened from hon. Members opposite has consisted mainly in denouncing the incorporation of the means test in the system of these allowances. Not one hon. Member opposite, with the exception of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall), has even referred to the change 1140 which my right hon. Friend has made in abolishing the capacity to work bar. That we believe to be a very far-reaching change indeed. In fact from the sample of cases which we had taken the other day, it is no exaggeration to say that somewhere in the region of 20 per cent. of the claims which are rejected will now be admitted as a result of this change. Hon. Gentlemen, who this evening have been spending their time describing these proposals as niggardly and meagre, may be a little surprised to hear that figure.
I am not going to attempt to-night to argue the virtues or the sins of the means test issue. The means test is an institution, which, whether hon. Members opposite like it or not, has come to stay.
§ Sir V. Warrender
No hon. Member opposite can really defend a system under which allowances could be paid to the dependants of soldiers without any regard at all to their needs. It would be a system which, in my view, no sincere and responsible Member of Parliament could follow for a moment.
§ Sir V. Warrender
The whole system of allowances was entirely different and was not so advantageous to the dependant. We are in danger of losing sight of the fact that we are discussing the need of the soldier's dependants and the emphasis is on the word "dependants." We are not discussing the need of the soldier's relations or of his family but the need of his dependants and it is the essence of this scheme of dependants' allowances that dependency should be proved. Any scheme is bound to provide borderline cases and hard cases. The hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) stated a large number of cases. I did not attempt to take them down in detail because they were far too many for that but as regards some of them, let me say this. Complaint was made that the allowances were not on a sliding scale and made no provision for a possible rise in the cost of living. That is true but, if the cost of living were to rise substantially, not only these allowances would be affected and I do not think 1141 that is a subject which we can profitably discuss to-night. The hon. Member said that the soldier should be made to feel that those dependent on him before he joined the Army were—as he described it in homely fashion—"doing well at home." This is the interest which my right hon. Friend and I always have at heart. But he was rather inclined to use that argument to make out that the scale of allowances was inadequate. Out of the claims for allowances over 50,000 cases were refused because the soldier expressed himself unwilling to make any allotment to his dependant. This conveys, to my mind, that the soldier, in those cases, was not unduly distressed about the circumstances of his family and the household with which he was associated at home. The fact that he did not make any allotment tended to show that affairs in his home were not so disturbing as the hon. Gentleman opposite suggested.
§ Mr. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)
The hon. Gentleman has given us figures of those who have not made any allotment. Can he give us figures of single men who have made allotments?
§ Sir V. Warrender
No, Sir. I am saying that where claims for dependants' allowances have been made, 50,000 cases have been refused because the soldier expressed unwillingness to make any allotment—which goes to show that he was not unduly concerned about the state of affairs at home. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment quoted a large number of cases, and I found most of them difficult to understand.
§ Sir V. Warrender
I was not clear whether the hon. Member was referring to the War Services Grants Advisory Committee or the public assistance committee.
§ Sir V. Warrender
It was not very clear to me but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will let me have the cases. There may be cases which he has already given me, and if they are they must have been referred to the War Service Grants Advisory Committee. If they have been refused by that committee, the matter has passed out of my hands, and the hon. Gentleman must get an answer from my right hon. Friend.
The next criticism was that our system was too centralised and it was stated that we should have done much better if we had resorted to the system of the last war. I do not think our system is as centralised as all that. It is certainly not centralised so far as investigation is concerned. Taking it by and large, it is the most efficient way of dealing with the matter; the officials engaged in the task are experienced and understand it. In that respect there is decentralisation, and it is a great mistake for hon. Members to assume that all these cases are administered centrally. Paymasters' offices are distributed all over the country and are not in one central bureau.
The hon. Member's next point was on the question of delay. I know the irritation which hon. Members feel as the result of delays but I think that almost, all hon. Members understand the difficulties with which the Department have had to deal in the early stages of the war. There was an enormous influx into the Army, and the staff which had to deal with the cases were totally inexperienced and the burden placed on them was thus very heavy indeed. We have now instituted a new system under which men make their claims for family and dependants' allowances at the time of their medical examination. Under that system we hope that all these claims will be investigated and settled before the man joins for duty. The first batch of recruits who came in under the new scheme came in on 8th March, and we have not yet had time to see whether the scheme will work satisfactorily. Such information as I have been able to get shows that in the vast number of these cases all the claims will have been investigated and settled before the man actually joins for duty. I would ask hon. Members to be patient. We are working through the cases much more quickly now: the latest figures for the last fortnight show that in respect of de- 1143 pendants' allowances 13,234 new claims were received, and in the same period 13,793 were disposed of, so that we are disposing of them faster than we are receiving them.
His final point was, why should we not revert to the fiat rate of 5s. to parents as was the case at the end of the last war? I am not sure that that would be to the advantage of dependants. It must not be forgotten that a soldier's pay to-day is double what it was in the last war, and a soldier receiving 2s. a day can allot to his parents 2s. more than the 5s. they had in the last war and still have 7s. in his pocket. And this is at the lowest rate of pay.
The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) made a very sincere speech, as he always does, but I for one despair of ever being able to convince him that there should be an ascertainment of means before you come to a decision in the case. I think he was exaggerating a little when he said that the reforms which the Secretary of State announced to-day were not worth a pinch of salt. A change which affects 20 per cent. of the cases which have hitherto been disallowed is worth a little more than a pinch of salt. In his speech he referred to the case of a mother who was penalised because her son joined up voluntarily. I wish he would let me have particulars of the case. I am at a loss to understand why, if the son was contributing the necessary amount towards the home before the war, the mother should not be entitled to an allowance. I hope we shall be able to clear it up between us.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
The son went straight from a secondary school four and a half years ago and they have not a penny piece.
§ Sir V. Warrender
It seems to be a case which would come under the other concession announced by my right hon. Friend covering apprentices and students when he said he was looking into the possibility of helping those cases with the Minister of Pensions. The hon. Member
§ for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) also made an appeal for generous treatment. The payment of separation and dependants' allowances in the last war amounted to a very large sum indeed. It is money well spent. It is an essential form of war expenditure but, like every other form of war expenditure, it has to be controlled and kept within reasonable bounds. I think the scheme which, as amended, is now before the House fulfils that qualification. I believe as far as humanly possible it provides against hardship. It may not prevent hard cases arising but, so far as humanly possible, I believe it is so drawn as to provide against hardship, which is its chief object.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
It is essential that a minimum allowance of something more than that fifth should be counted. Would the hon. Gentleman look into it?
§ Sir V. Warrender
I do not know that the hon. Member's suggestion would be acceptable. I am not sure that it will always be to the dependant's or soldier's advantage, but' I certainly think, in spite of what has been said, that an allowance of a fifth of the earnings of each member of the household other than the dependant's husband or father is a concession which is worth a great deal. It has been said that these changes do not go nearly far enough and are quite unacceptable. The right hon. Gentleman opposite intimated that he did not wish to express a definite opinion to-day because they wanted time for consideration. I should hope, when they see the full implication of the changes, they will be able to record a less pessimistic verdict than that given by the right hon. Gentleman. There are other points that I should like to refer to but time is getting on and I am getting hoarser. In order that you, Sir, may be allowed to leave the Chair, I ask the House to reject the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 136; Noes, 90.1145
|Division No. 53.]||AYES.||[11.15 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Boyce, H. Leslie|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Beechman, N. A.||Brocklebank, Sir Edmund|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Blair, Sir R.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)|
|Assheton, R.||Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Bull, B. B.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Boulton, W. W.||Cary, R. A.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Christie, J. A.||Keeling, E. H.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Colfox, Major Sir W. P.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Lamb, Sir J. O.||Rowlands, G.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Crooke, Sir J, Smedley||Lindsay, K. M.||Salt, E. W.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lipson, D. L.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Little, Dr. J. (Down)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Selley, H. R.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lloyd, G. W.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Loftus, P. C.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Doland, G. F.||Lyons, A. M.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Duncan, Rt. Hon. Sir A. R.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir. C. G.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||M'Connell, Sir J.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Etherton, Ralph||McKie, J. H.||Strickland, Captain W. F|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Molson, A. H. E.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W)||Munro, P.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Hambro, A. V.||Nall, Sir J.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Nield, B. E.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Palmer, G. E. H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wragg, H.|
|Holdsworth, H.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Holmes, J. S.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Procter, Major H. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Pym, L. R.|
|Jennings, R.||Radford, E. A.||Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and Major Sir James Edmondson.|
|Joel, D. J. B.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Hicks, E. G.||Ridley, G.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Ritson, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Isaacs, G. A.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Jackson, W. F.||Silkin, L.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Jagger, J.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Barr, J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Sloan, A.|
|Batey, J.||John, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees-(K'ly)|
|Benson, G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Burke, W. A.||Kirkwood, D.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lathan, G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cooks, F. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Collindridge, F.||Leonard, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Daggar, G.||Leslie, J. R.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Dalton, H.||Macdonald, G. (Inoe)||Viant, S. P.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McGovern, J.||Walker, J.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Maclean, N.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Dobbie, W.||Mathers, G.||Watson, W. MoL.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Milner, Major J.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Ede, J. C.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Mort, D. L.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Naylor, T. E.||Wilmot, John|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Oliver, G. H.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Paling, W.||Woodburn, A.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Parker, J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N)||Parkinson, J. A.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pearson, A.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Price, M. P.||Mr. Adamson and Mr. R. J. Taylor.|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [SIR DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]