§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON rose to draw attention to the future part to be taken by the British forces in the military operations in Europe, and to ask what steps His Majesty's Government intend to take to ensure a constant supply of reinforcements and drafts from Great Britain and Ireland.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I regret to say that I have received a letter from the noble and gallant Earl the Secretary of State for War, saying that he is afraid he will be unable to be in his place in your Lordships' House this afternoon owing to the very urgent pressure of business in his Office. I am sure we all sympathise with the preoccupations of the War Minister and would wish to make them as light as possible, but it is a matter of regret to us that in very important circumstances closely and almost exclusively affecting his office we have not the advantage of his presence. I hope that whoever undertakes to reply on behalf of the Government will do his best not to make this debate resemble the play without Hamlet, because the matters which we wish to advance are not put forward with a desire to make Parliamentary points but solely in order, so far as we can, to relieve certain anxiety which undoubtedly exists in the public mind, and, beyond that, to assist the War Office in organising recruiting and the resources of the country during the continuance of the present struggle.
§ I am sure that no one would feel it less a compliment than the noble and gallant Field-Marshal if I were to say that the statement with which he favoured us two days ago very much advanced our knowledge of the situation. It was marked by his usual grasp of the whole position and 'by that spirit of cheerful confidence which we all admire in his utterances. But so far as new matter was concerned 348 I very much doubt whether those of us who have studied the admirable daily résumé which the Military Correspondent of The Times gives us found anything very new in the speech of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, and there were some gaps which, without entrenching in the least on public interest, we should like to see filled. I do not know whether I may not venture to ask whether reticence may not go too far in the present crisis. If we are to keep up the nation to the high pitch of the emergency we must to some extent know the dimensions of the problem with which we have to deal. To say indefinitely "We want every man we can get" does not early us much further. What we want to know is what exactly you demand from us.
§ Although we are most anxious to accord to the Government all the usual considerations, I think they must be aware after the debates which have taken place on certain points—especially on the treatment of alien enemies in this country or on the organisation of the civil population in case of invasion—that there is a feeling, I think almost general throughout this House, that to say the least of it the action taken by the Government has been wanting in organisation and in persistency and to some extent in courage. There is the more reason, therefore, in asking for so very general a confidence as the Government require of us, that they should help us as far as they can to understand the problem. I do not say a word as to reticence in regard to the operations. All I would press is that events which are well known to have occurred and the details of which reach us individually from the lips of the wounded and others who come over from the Front ought to be officially put before us by the War Office authorities, and that we should not have to trust to the general statement of operations which comes to us from the French Headquarters. I hope that in that respect we shall be given a little more knowledge in the future.
§ With regard to recruiting, what I will try to show the House by some figures which I have before me is that if the war is likely to be prolonged—and some of the utterances of the War Minister certainly point in that direction—beyond the ordinary idea of a few months, we may find that we are imposing on some parts of the country too heavy a burden, while other parts are bearing scarcely any burden at all. We can only meet that 349 by some system of organisation, and in that respect I do not think we ought to think only of the effect upon our opponents of crumbs of information as to the number of recruits. We ought also to think of the position which we occupy with regard to our own Colonies and our Allies. I am sure everybody will admit that at this moment there is a sedulous desire on the part of the country that Great Britain should be adequately represented at the Front, and that we should no longer, or for as short a time as possible, have to fall back upon our own well-known un-preparedness to account for our contribution being, not small as compared to other nations, but small as compared to the expectations which have been held out I by the Government since the war began.
§ In what I have to say I will endeavour to keep entirely within the lines laid down by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House in replying to my noble friend on Wednesday last. The Leader of the House then told us that we should find from the Government an uncompromising opposition to any attempt to extract from them what force they intend to put in the field and what force they regard as indispensable for the maintenance of the war; but I do not think that that can be held to cover the question of what intake of recruits they desire in the near future. We have an immense force under training. Whether troops are to go out of this country, whether they are to remain here, or whether drafts merely are needed, are questions which the Government may keep to themselves; but cannot they state what is the monthly intake of recruits on which Lord Kitchener counts if he is to carry on the war, not according to a standard which they tell us, but according to the standard which they have in their own minds and which they wish to maintain. That is the first point on which I would press for information from the Government.
§ After all, we have to consider what is to be our future participation in the campaign. Five months ago the war was regarded as one between the Armies then existing on the Continent. It has now become a war between the peoples who are engaged in it, and of the ten nations involved we are the only one which has not the whole of its people available to be called up. I quite followed what the noble Marquess said as to our keeping in 350 mind the immense services rendered by our Fleet and the fact that we entered upon the Continental struggle on different terms. But still, what is in the minds of the public, what must be in the minds of our Colonists, what has certainly been put most prominently before our Allies, are estimates by members of the Government—I believe by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and also by the Prime Minister, but at all events most definitely by the First Lord of the Admiralty—assuring us of twenty-five Army Corps in the spring. These vague sort of expectations are backed up by the immense numbers under training. They are fortified also by the accounts made public of the large numbers recruiting in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. I a little wonder whether His Majesty's Government have fully considered the effect of these pronouncements by them, because if we are to make them good, or even to approximately make them good, we certainly ought to work to a recognised standard of recruiting per month, and we ought to endeavour, as far as we can, to ascertain that standard from the Government. What is much more important is to know that the Government will themselves initiate such operations as are likely to enable them to obtain the necessary number of troops.
§ There are two points, which have nothing to do with numbers, on which I would especially ask for information. The first is one as to which the noble Marquess gave me an answer as far as he was able two nights ago, but I would press it again. Will the Government undertake so to organise their resources that in the great intake of new troops they do not find themselves forced to keep troops who are fit to go abroad waiting beyond the period when they could go because of the diversion of the necessary equipment to the new troops? It is the wish, I am sure, of every one in this House that subject to securing the national safety at home we should not delay a day or an hour in despatching any extra regiments or guns that can be sent to reinforce Sir John French in the field.
§ I now come to my second point, and if your Lordships will pardon my quoting a few statistics in a moment or two you wilt I see their bearing. Have the Government satisfied themselves, in this enormous increase of recruitment, that the number 351 of men that a particular area can afford to lose has not been overtaxed to make up for what has not come from other areas? It has been pointed out in the course of these discussions that the industrial resources of the country for the maintenance of these great armies in the field have been enormously taxed, and that the presence of men in our arsenals, shipbuilding yards, steel factories, and in all the factories which have to deal with the clothing and feeding of the troops, is just as essential as the sending of fresh reinforcements to Sir John French. I think that the statistics which I shall give will surprise the House as to how much has been taken from the industrial portion of the kingdom and how comparatively little from the agricultural portion. Beyond that I think it needs some little investigation as to how far some of the agricultural portions of the kingdom have had from the Government the support which they ought to have had in order to induce men there to come forward.
§ The figures that I shall quote are not up to date, but they are official figures furnished to the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. I have not had an opportunity of conferring with the Secretary of State for War, but lest he should have any desire that the numbers should not be given I propose to state simply the percentages of recruits raised per 10,000 of the population, so that there may not be any power of exact discrimination by those who read them. The figures are remarkable. From August 4 to November 4, the first three months of the war, the southern district of Scotland furnished 237 recruits per 10,000 of the population, and stands at the head of the list. Then come Warwickshire and the Midland Counties, with 196 per 10,000 of the population; next come Lancashire etc., with 178 per 10,000 of the population; London and the Home Counties, 170 per 10,000 of the population; Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland, 150 per 10,000 of the population; Cheshire and part of Lancashire and the neighbouring Welsh counties, 135 per 10,000 of the population; the North of Ireland, which, in order to avoid any sort of political 'bias, has been made to include also Dublin, Wicklow, Carlow, and Kildare, 127 per 10,000 of the population; Notts and Derbyshire, 119 per 10,000 of the population. Then I come to the agricultural counties. In the 352 North of Scotland the number of recruits was 93 per 10,000 of the population; in the West of England, 88 per 10,000, in the East of England, 80 per 10,000; and in the South and West of Ireland, 32 per 10,000 of the population. My noble friend Lord Curzon asks me whether these numbers include promises to recruit. No, they are the figures up to November 4 of men who actually joined the Colours. They constitute an enormous body, as is well known. But the figures are subject to two qualifications. The first is that in some counties further efforts have been made, and no doubt the percentage would be disturbed; the second is that the counties which have given most liberally to the Army in the past, and especially the counties which have been drawn upon most largely for the Navy, naturally have not so large a surplus population for Lord Kitchener's New Army.
Do the figures which the noble Viscount has given include the men recruited through the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, and do they also take into account men recruited through the normal recruiting associations?
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
They include the men recruited by all sources—Regulars, including Lord Kitchener's New Army. Do not let it be supposed that I am trying to make a case against any part of the country. My object is to establish two points. First, that the industrial counties have been most heavily drawn upon, and I wish to direct the attention of experts in recruiting to the probability that if the war continues any great length of time, the industrial counties will have to draw from industries a number of men whom in the public interest it is not desirable should be withdrawn. I think that some comment must be passed on the extraordinary results in the South and West of Ireland. I ventured to call your Lordships' attention to this at the last sittings before the Christmas adjournment, and the noble Lord who replied, Lord Wimborne, was not able then to give us much satisfaction. A good deal has happened since, and I am afraid that the figures which I have just given have been rendered necessary by a speech which was made on December 7 by Mr. Redmond. Having asked the Government a little time previously to supply him with a return of men from every part of Ireland who were 353 serving with the Colours and had gone to the Colours since the war commenced, he claimed that 89,000 men from Ireland were in the. Army and in the Reserve, and that since war broke out 53,498 recruits and reservists had joined the Colours. I think he trotted out his reservists twice over. They first of all appeared to make up the large figure of 89,000, and then they were trotted out again as if they were new recruits. If we are asked to accept these figures, I am afraid I shall have to ask a rather searching question as to the number of desertions and discharges amongst the men who have joined since the beginning of August, because I am informed that in some of the regiments it has been quite phenomenal.
I am far from making a general indictment against the South and West of Ireland of remissness in this respect—I know what large numbers they have given and what excellent service the men have done in the past—but I do impeach those who have allowed the Irish people consistently up to the latest date to be grossly misled as to the whole object of the war and the position of this country. I am not going to expend rhetoric on this particular subject because the work has been done for me by much more competent persons, but I might trouble your Lordships with the actual facts. For four months the Government allowed four newspapers—Irish Freedom, The Irish Volunteer, The Irish Worker, and Sinn Fein—newspapers of a highly seditious character, to attack the British Army and the British nation and to place the whole cause of the Allies in the most violently hostile light, and they allowed those newspapers to be circulated throughout Ireland without let or hindrance. Countless seditious speeches were also made, and were for many months ignored. And during the whole time an illegal organisation, the Irish Volunteer Force, which does not take the oath of allegiance or use the Union Jack, which has no right of existence under any Statute, least of all under the Home Rule Act when it comes into law, has been permitted to exist, and, as I shall show your Lordships, it has been by the highest authority in the Government patronised and promised a position which by law the highest authority in the Government cannot promise to any body of volunteers in Ireland.
To prove that I am not exaggerating the facts I would cite a speech made by 354 Mr. Redmond about two months ago. In it he said—If you take up these wretched rags you will find praises of the Emperor of Germany in the same sentence as denunciations of my colleague and myself.Then on October 4, Mr. Dillon said at Mayo—From many parts of the country he had received information that agents of the Sinn Feiners and pro-Germans had been around among the people spreading the most malignant and shameless lies, and apparently supplied with unlimited funds.Sinn Fein, on October 10, published a leading article as regards Sir Roger Casement, strongly condemning recruiting and saying—Germany has never wronged Ireland; let Irish boys and men stay in Ireland.On October 17 the same paper published a manifesto which had been passed by eighty-eight votes to twenty, in which it was stated that—To urge or encourage Irish Volunteers to join the British Army is inconsistent with the work we have set ourselves to do. The force was founded to gain Ireland's rights and to guard those rights.Again, on October 27 the Freeman's Journal published a manifesto by the Clan-na-Gael of America, protesting against "the worst betrayal of Ireland since Castlereagh sold the Irish Parliament." What was that betrayal? It was Mr. Redmond's speech desiring that Irishmen should join the Army for the prosecution of the war. I ask, Where was the censor when these manifestoes from America were published? Why does the Press Censor allow the Freeman's Journal to publish most mischievous statements of that kind?
Next I will take two speeches out of hundreds which have been supplied to me. The first is a speech by Colonel Warburton, a retired Royal Engineer, who wrote a series of articles which appeared in Sinn Fein on June 20, August 1, 8, 15, and 29. In these articles he sneers at the British Army as unfit to meet trained troops. He goes on to say—England's greatest peril is the stoppage of food supplies. Ireland is the key of the gate. She need not arm a rifleman, but a bargain for freedom with any Power at war with Great Britain which could send a dozen small commerce destroyers to take refuge in our 150 harbours would starve Great Britain out in three months. This policy has engaged the attention of Germany. England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
With regard to the manifesto published in the Freeman's Journal to which the noble Viscount referred, I should like to ask him whether it is not the case that in the same issue of that newspaper a leading article was published condemning the manifesto and upholding the principles which Mr. Redmond endeavoured to promulgate in Ireland?
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I am afraid I cannot say. But it is rather "don't nail his ears to the pump" to publish these things and then condemn them. The thing is to avoid these publications. I now come to the worst speech which has been made, and in connection with which I do think that an indictment lies against the Government. It was a speech made by Major McBride on November 30. Major McBride uses a good deal of strong language. Speaking at Cork he said—Irishmen would sing throughout the land 'Live Ireland. To hell with the Empire.' To his mind the Irishman who fought for England would be a meaner wretch than a Belgian who fought for Germany. The war on the Continent had nothing to do with Irishmen; they should stay at home and mind their own business. Let Englishmen do their own fighting and get killed, and be damned to them. He was sorry that the belief should be held that the Irish Volunteers were called into existence to fight the Volunteers raised by Carson. The Irish Volunteers sprang into existence for the assertion and maintenance of Ireland's rights as a nation and not to fight any body of Irishmen, no matter how they might be oppressed in politics.These remarks were received with applause. There are more in the same strain, but these give the position of the Irish Volunteers from the point of view of Major McBride, and his statement was loudly cheered by a large meeting.
I think I am entitled to ask, What is the position of the Irish Volunteers? Are they under the War Office? I said just now that they had not taken the oath of allegiance. What did Mr. Asquith say of them? He went to Dublin and made a recruiting speech, and this is what Mr. Redmond said of that speech—The Prime Minister the other day in Dublin declared that after the war the Volunteers would remain as a recognised permanent force for the defence of the country. Mark what that means. Under the Home Rule Act Ireland had no power to maintain such a force. It was a pledge that when the war was over this power would be given to Ireland, and the Volunteers would become a permanent defence force for all time.356 What authority, I ask the Lord Chancellor, had the Prime Minister to give that pledge, if he gave it? Has he been misunderstood? We know that at the last sitting of the House before the recent adjournment the Lord Chancellor undertook not to put one of the provisions of an Act of Parliament into force until after your Lordships had met again. That seemed to me to be a most extraordinary pledge to come from the Woolsack. But this is a much worse one, for a special safeguard was inserted in the Home Rule Bill that the Home Rule Parliament should not have a force of their own. The last answer which I saw from Mr. Birrell as to numbers was that the Irish Volunteers consisted of 80,000 men. These men, who are without allegiance and without discipline, within a week of Mr. Redmond's speech had caused a riot in Dublin between those who supported the old committee and those who supported Mr. Redmond. On October 15 there was a riot at Galway between the Volunteers and a crowd; on the same day, at Tralee, the Volunteers burned the Union Jack and waved green flags; on October 18 they came into collision at Athlone. And these are the Volunteers whom the Prime Minister had promised to give to the Irish people as their military force !
On January 3 a letter appeared in the Morning Post from Mr. William O'Brien, in which he made this statement—The War Office has surrendered to Mr. Redmond's demand for 'recognition' of his Volunteers in spite of their (the Volunteers') refusal to 'recognise' the military authorities or obey the wishes of the Commander-in-Chief … They consist of men who are unwilling or unable to go to the Front, and, being out of touch with the military, would be wholly useless in case of sudden invasion. Yet they are to be supplied with weapons, and without the necessary experience or discipline may, as they think fit, parade them before an astonished population. They announce that they are to be employed as sentries and may fire upon any wayfarer who refuses to recognise their passwords, countersigns, or challenges. They are to take no orders from duly commissioned officers."We," concludes Mr. O'Brien, speaking for himself and his colleagues, "prefer to abstain from examining the contingencies or provocations which must therefore arise in moments of excitement." I think your Lordships will hardly refrain from commenting upon, though we should certainly refrain from estimating, the effects of such I conduct.
357 I think I have made out in two or three particulars a case for grave consideration by the Government. I would ask these questions. Why were these seditious utterances in the Press and in speech and these disorders on the part of the Volunteers allowed by the Government to go on for four months unchecked? I know we shall be told that some of these seditious newspapers have now been warned, but warning only means that they are produced again elsewhere. The Irish Worker was brought to an end, we were told, last month, but I have in my hand a new Irish Worker published on January 2 in Glasgow; it is full of Irish advertisements and of articles containing exactly the same sentiments. The fact is that the Government have made their procedure under the very strong regulations which Parliament gave them a laughing stock. I would again ask, Why ale Colonel Warburton and Major McBride still at large? Why have steps not been taken to make them amenable to the law? If cannot help saying that the conduct of the Government has been both tardy and timorous with regard to this particular question. It has been reflected in the statistics which I have given and in the spirit shown in the South and West of Ireland with regard to the war. The war is not taken seriously, and the existence there of a military force, which fact in any other pert of the country has tended to increase the number of recruits, has in this particular part of the kingdom tended to diminish them.
A Liberal organ the other day made an attack on the War Office for "damping Irish ardour." I have seen nothing which shows that the War Office is open to that attack. I believe everything has been done by the military authorities and by the leading men of all classes throughout Ireland to counteract as far as they could a course of conduct which ought to have been dealt with at the first by the Government, and which has recoiled upon us in the reduction of the strength which we ought to have obtained. I would ask the Government what steps they mean to take to prove that their desire for recruits in Ireland is a reality. I press them to say what is the Status of the Irish Volunteers, and to explain the extraordinary promises which have been made to that body and the allegation that they are now being employed without oath as a military force. I would ask the Government also what 358 measures they intend to take, with regard to what I said at the outset of my speech, to organise recruiting and to safeguard the manufacturing interests which are so important to the country. And I would urge them to give us a standard of recruits per month up to which all parties in the country would do their best to work.
I hope that in what I have said I have asked for no information the giving of which could possibly be detrimental to the national cause. I would point out that now is the time to act. For the first few months of the war, with the immense changes and developments which took place, it was impossible, perhaps, to organise matters as successfully or as permanently as we can now do. What is happening to-day may be ancient history before the war is over. Unquestionably, if we are to hold our own in this struggle, and if we are to provide for that steady flow of strength which alone can enable us to cope with the immense armaments which lie before us, it must be by action on the part of the Government which will enable every citizen to estimate his responsibility and consolidate the work of the nation.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, a great reproach has been passed upon Ireland in the matter of recruiting. The reproach which I have to cast is upon the Government for allowing for four months seditious literature to be strewn broadcast over Ireland. It may be thought that that is not a serious matter, but the minds of many young men anxious to serve have been influenced by having left at their cottages in the South and West of Ireland pamphlets urging them not to join the English Army. I drew attention to this seditious' literature in November last, and my remarks were followed by very strong speeches from Lord Desart and Lord Meath, but nothing whatsoever happened with regard to this matter until the first week in December. And then it was not the Irish Government which moved.
This became so serious a scandal that the military authorities had to step in. They seized copies of Sinn Fein, the Irish-Worker, Ireland, the Irish Volunteer, and another paper, and in one case the printers were told that they were not to print the 359 paper any more. That put a stop to the scandal to some extent. The Irish Worker, the Irish Volunteer, and the Leader were warned that if they printed any matter which the military authorities considered likely to cause disaffection or to interfere with recruiting they would be liable to be tried by Court-Martial under an Order in Council. That took place on December 4. But on December 7 a meeting was held in Dublin at which 500 people were present, a fair proportion of whom wore the uniform of the Irish Volunteers, and at which anti-recruiting leaflets were distributed. Although there was a large number of police present, no efforts were made to arrest any of the leaflet distributors or to interfere in any way with the meeting. That gives some idea of how the Government of Ireland is carried on. In these circumstances I do not see why these people should not hold as many meetings as they like in Ireland and distribute leaflets. I ask the Government, Is this sort of thing to be allowed to go on? The object of the meeting was to protest against the suppression of these newspapers. I feel, with regard to the small proportion of recruits who have been raised in the South and West of Ireland, that a great deal of it is due to the supineness of the Irish Government in allowing this seditious literature to be distributed throughout the country for four months without taking the slightest action in the matter. I hope the authorities will stop this new paper which has been published in Glasgow, because it is only published in Glasgow in order that it may be distributed in Dublin. It is full of Dublin advertisements and full of sedition.
The noble Viscount drew attention to the position of the Irish Volunteers. Let me tell him that we in Ireland do not take the Irish Volunteers seriously. We do not think they are much good, and if they fight among themselves—well, that is the nature of Irishmen; they are very fond of fighting. The only armed Volunteers that I have seen there were the Guard of Honour who, with fixed bayonets, stood at the entrance of the Mansion House on the occasion of Mr. Asquith's visit. The Irish Volunteers, I can assure your Lordships, are not taken seriously. We think that if the Germans came the Irish Volunteers would most likely run away. I hope that the Government will take effective action to stop this seditious literature. 360 Imagine what would happen if a similar meeting took place at Bristol and the same I sort of thing was said as at the Dublin meeting held to protest against the suppression of these seditious newspapers. Why, the population would lynch the people concerned. But in Ireland we have to look to the Government to put a stop to these seditious meetings and utterances, which really have seriously affected recruiting in the West and South of Ireland. The fact that the number of recruits there per 10,000 of the population is only 32 is a reproach to the country to which I belong.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (LORD LUCAS)
My Lords, I have to repeat to the House the apology which the Secretary of State for War has already made to the noble Viscount opposite for his absence to-day, and I am to assure the House that it is only because there are matters of the highest importance claiming his attention that he has not been able to be present. I would next like to say that I do not propose to deal with Ireland myself, although that subject has taken up the greater part of the two speeches with which this debate has opened. My noble friend the Leader of the House will deal with that matter when he speaks.
I now come to the questions which the noble Viscount asked in the earlier part of his speech. Your Lordships will remember that two days ago, speaking in reply to Lord Curzon, who had asked some questions with regard to recruiting, my noble friend the Leader of the House said in most categorical terms that the Government were unable to provide figures with regard to either the strength or the composition of the armed forces that we have in this country, and also, I think he said, with regard to recruiting. The noble Viscount asked for some definite statement which could be given to the country with regard to what our requirements are in the matter of men and what our weekly or monthly intake of recruits should be for that purpose.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I did not ask what your total requirements were in the matter of men. All I asked was this. For such purposes as the Secretary of State has in view, what is the number of recruits monthly that he calls upon us to raise?
It would be a much easier task for me were I able to give the figures that are required, and I have no doubt it would be a matter of considerable satisfaction to the Press and to those people who are interested in discussing this question from the more or less abstract point of view. But I am not quite certain that if we did publish the figures they would be of very great importance so far as the large number of extremely public-spirited and disinterested people who are working throughout the length and breadth of the country at recruiting are concerned. I am sure those people require no assurance from us that we hope that they will continue their efforts and bring in all the recruits they possibly can, and that nothing will be done to check the flow of recruits in any way. The War Office is prepared to receive all the recruits that it can get.
There is only one course open to the Government in dealing with questions of this kind, and that is rigorously to abstain from mentioning figures in any form whatsoever. Perhaps I can best illustrate the importance of that in this way. We know that at the present moment Germany is raising a large number of new troops outside the original military organisation of that country. From that part of their male population which is not ordinarily trained to arms we have reason to know that they are forming a number of new organisations. There is no information that could be of greater value to us than to have some details as to how that work is proceeding at the present time. If we could know the number of men that they are taking weekly or monthly, or training, if we could know the exact number that they have or wish to have under arms in that way, it would be information of the highest military importance to the Allies at the present moment. And though you may say that if you give one particular figure and abstain from giving others the net gain to time enemy is not great, I do not think that any individual who does not know exactly what information is already at the disposal of cur enemies can say exactly what value the figures are going to be to them.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
It surely is open to us to remind the noble Lord that it was the Secretary of State for War himself who told us the numbers that were coming in per month.
I think the noble Earl will recall that when Lord Kitchener did give a figure he was referring to the intake that was going on at a particular time. He was asked across the Table what the intake at that particular time was, and he stated 30,000.
I would very much sooner that we did not make a debating point of this, because I wish to emphasise that I am absolutely unable to state any figures and nothing is going to draw them from me. With regard to this question of recruiting, the reason why it has been stated by Lord Kitchener and others that we have grounds for being satisfied with the rate at which recruits are coming in at the present moment is this, that when you are forming an Army it is not merely a question of the number of men that you require. There is the question also, as the House is well aware, of the vast amount of equipment of all sorts necessary. It has been the policy of the War Office to supply, as far as possible, the necessary equipment at something like a commensurate rate with the intake of recruits. I do not mean that it has been possible to adhere strictly to that. I do not mean to say that every individual when he has come in has been at once equipped. But with regard to the completion of the larger formations the line the War Office has hitherto successfully pursued and hopes to continue to pursue is that of supplying equipment and men so that these larger formations shall approach completion at more or less the same time. That is being carried out at the present moment.
In order to meet the very much increased rate of recruiting there has been, as I have no doubt your Lordships are aware, enormous efforts made by the War Office to increase the provision of equipment of all kinds. I suppose that it has been one of the main tasks of every belligerent country to increase the sources of supply to the utmost limit; and the War Office has, from the very outbreak of the war, done everything it possibly could to tap every possible source of trade and every possible source of industry in order to supply itself with the enormously increased requirements in the matter of everything which may be 363 classed under the heading of equipment. You do not, of course, set a great machine like that in motion very rapidly; you cannot do it at once; but the machine is producing at an increasingly rapid rate. As time goes on we shall be producing equipment at a faster rate than we are doing at the present moment, and what we hope is that recruiting will follow the rate at which the equipment is being provided. Up to the present that has been achieved, and our hope is that it will continue to be so. The time may and very possibly will come when we shall have cause to make a special call for recruits, and in that case we hope that there will be a special reply, and a largely increased ratio of recruiting.
Then there is the question of the actual recruiting. I do not think that anything which is said on behalf of the War Office with regard to recruiting would be adequate unless some acknowledgment were made for the work that has been done in this regard by the County Associations, by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, by local authorities, by Members of Parliament, by public men and private individuals of all sorts and kinds. The work they have performed has been of the most admirable kind, and the: most excellent results have been obtained from it. I am sure that nothing that has been done in this war deserves the gratitude of the country more than the unceasing and indefatigable work of all these various recruiters.
The noble Viscount drew attention to the fact that recruiting has been by no means equal throughout the country. Well, recruiting never is equal. As no one knows better than himself, there are always some districts which recruit much better than others. I am bound to say, however, that I was not able to follow his argument that the industrial districts had so very far outstripped the agricultural districts. I admit that there has been a certain amount of patchiness. There have been some districts which provided recruits much more freely than others. Take the list which the noble Viscount gave us of districts in which the percentage was highest. The first one was the South of Scotland. The South of Scotland, as we know, contains a large number of industrial districts, but also a considerable amount of agricultural country. The same can be said of the second district mentioned, which contains 364 a group of Midland counties famous equally for their agriculture and for their industry. The first district which you may call purely manufacturing, or as purely manufacturing as any district can be, is the third on his list—Lancashire. I am glad to recognise the work that has been done there by Lord Derby; it has been magnificent. But you also have to remember the fact, with regard to Lancashire, that probably the cotton industry is the one industry that suffered at the beginning of the war more than any other. That was bound to have a certain effect. But take it all in all I am afraid I was not able to follow the distinction that the noble Viscount drew between agricultural and manufacturing districts.
We have at any rate under our system, though it may be uneven and may fall heavily on some districts and lightly on others, avoided the enormous dislocation of industry which has followed the mobilisation of large conscript armies in the belligerent countries. The information which has reached us with regard to that, where they have had to call up men because they fell into certain categories or were a certain age, and so on, has gone to show that the effect upon the various trades has been of the very worst kind; and in certain cases we know that special measures have had to be taken to enable men who occupy leading and important positions in their industries to go back. The noble Viscount says that certain industries have suffered more than others. For this purpose you can divide industries into only two classes—(1) industries which are essential to the turning out of war material, and (2) all other industries; and I think you can only say that, while it is of the utmost importance to prevent the industries which turn out war material from being in any way crippled by recruiting, with regard to other industries, always speaking within limits, the first duty of any man is, if possible, to serve his country, and the second to continue his industry.
The noble Viscount asked a question with regard to the equipment of new troops, and though he did not state it very specifically, he gave me the same impression that the noble Earl did when he was speaking two days ago—namely, that he thought that we had for some reason not sent our troops as readily as, or to the extent that, we might have done to the 365 scene of operations, and that—for some reason which he did not define—it had been the policy of the Government to maintain a smaller amount of troops at the Front than they might have done. I should like most emphatically to repudiate any suggestion of that kind. There has been no case either of holding back troops in this country when they could be spared and when wanted abroad, and there has been equally no case of keeping troops in this country because the equipment which would enable them to go abroad bas been passed on to other and newer levies.
I think I have now dealt with the points raised by the noble Viscount. I can only repeat the regret with which I began my speech that I am unable to supply those definite facts for which he asks, and which no doubt many other people would like to have. But, as I endeavoured to show, it is a matter of the utmost importance that these things should not he given, and they never have been given. The noble Viscount mentioned the speeches that had been made by various members of the Government during the early stages of the war. I have looked up some of those speeches. I found, for instance, that Mr. Winston Churchill did not state at all that we intended to have one million men or twenty-five Army Corps. He was urging the meeting which he was addressing to throw themselves into the work of recruitment, and he then said that he saw no reason why, if they set themselves to do it, the Army which was then fighting so valiantly en our behalf and on behalf of our Allies could not be raised to 250,000 men, and from that figure later to a higher figure, and from that, again, in the early summer to the full figure of twenty-five Army Corps. There was nothing more in that than a pious aspiration that those numbers might be attained. From a military point of view there is all the difference in the world between expressing what might, in the speaker's belief, be possible some months hence, and specifying the actual number of troops that have been and are being raised at the present time.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken has laid down a very definite doctrine about the non-production of figures. I am not at all sure that it is not a sound doctrine. Certainly if the Government come to us 366 and say it is against the public interest that figures should be given, I am not going to press the noble Lord. But I ask that the Government themselves should be consistent. After all, Mr. Winston Churchill is First Lord of the Admiralty, and if he speaks of a million men as an aspiration—well, foreign Powers think that that is a figure to pay attention to. Again, the War Office itself tells us one day how many recruits are being got in a week; on another day it actually publishes in The Times a list of the armies going to be formed; and on another day we are given the number of officers appointed. Well, all that is quite inconsistent with the doctrine now laid down by the noble Lord. I submit that it is not fair, when the Government themselves do these things and make these statements, to come down here and assume an air of special virtue when we of the Opposition ask to have these figures made more intelligible. Let us have a clear understanding about this. If there are to be no figures, let the Government themselves set the example to the country and know and prove the value of silence in their own persons.
I want to supplement the observations of my noble friend behind me and press further some of the points which he made. This question of recruiting entirely depends on what is the military task before the country and whether our people really understand what is the gravity of that task. The Government, through the persons of some of its most distinguished members, have told us what that task is. I think it was Sir John Simon who said that the Government would never make peace (1) until they had freed the soil of Belgium from the invader; (2) until they had successfully asserted the sanctity of international obligations; and (3) until they had so dealt with the Prussian military party as to render a recurrence of such a war impossible. I think the whole country agrees to those definitions; but what I want to know is, Have the Government done everything in their power to make the people at large understand what is implied in that policy? I ask the Government to impress on our people the immense gravity, the enormous difficulty, of the task that lies before them, and I would ask the Press to do the same thing. I do not think that the Press give our people sufficiently clearly to understand the 367 immense difficulty of the task which lies before us. The perspective of the matter is somewhat lost in the daily accounts of successes which bear only a small proportion to the magnitude of the whole war. Again, I wish that the Government would explain to the nation that the task of the Allies in the West, of the French, the British, and the Belgians, in their own task, and it is a different task from that of the Russians and Serbians in the East. We all feel the greatest admiration for the work of the Russian Army, and we all admit that the performances of the little Serbian people are among the most extraordinary in the history of war. But our task is our own task, and we cannot be dependent for its accomplishment on the success of the Russians or the Serbians in the East.
Look at the position both of Germany and of ourselves in the West. The immediate object of Germany was to take Paris and to crush France. Germany had ulterior objects, no doubt, but that was the immediate object at the commencement of the war. We can all measure the great distance that separates Germany from the successful completion of that primary object. What I would ask your Lordships and the nation is this question, Have we not a primary object, too—namely, to free Belgium from the German invader? And are we not just as far at this moment from the completion of that primary task of ours as the Germans are from the completion of their primary task? My noble friend opposite shakes his head. I should be only too delighted and gratified if he could show me that we are comparatively close upon the accomplishment of that task. Do our nation understand what turning the Germans off the soil of Belgium means? The Germans have shown themselves to be possessed of the most wonderful war machine any nation has ever had. As the noble Lord who has just spoken reminded us, they are turning into soldiers the whole of their physically capable male population not required for other services, and they are doing that with wonderful success. We have all read the stories of how the new levies are taking their place in the East and West beside the old levies; and we must all admit that the German soldier, whether of the first line or of the second line or whether newly recruited, has shown himself to be a splendidly brave man. If 368 we do not admit that, we are taking the greatest proportion of the credit due to our own soldiers away from them. We admire our own men to the degree we do because of their success in meeting soldiers so brave and so capable as the Germans. We have also learned from the course of this war how great is the power of the defensive under modern conditions. We know that the Germans have prepared position after position in Belgium which they are prepared to hold and in which they will have the advantage of the defensive. Therefore I say with a full sense of responsibility that the military task before the Allies in the West is one of immense gravity and difficulty. I wish I thought that our people thoroughly appreciated how great and how difficult that task is; because the whole of this recruiting question turns, as I have already said, upon whether or not they really appreciate it.
Before passing to the recruiting question itself I want to put one or two other points, all germane to the situation, before the Government. Germany and Austria possess a great advantage in having the central position, and also, so far as we can tell, in having only one commander. So far as we can observe the Austrian command has been practically eliminated, and Germany has not only the advantage of the central position but she has also the advantage of unity of control. That makes it all the more incumbent that the arrangements for strategical co-operation between the Russians and the Serbians and the French and ourselves and the Belgians should be complete and constant; and not only the co-operation between the two sets of Allies fighting on land in the West and in the East, but also everywhere between the Fleets and the Armies—and when I say strategical co-operation, of course I mean political as well as military.
Then I wish to draw attention to the significant feature of this war which must have occurred to all your Lordships, and that is how many technical problems are arising out of it—new technical problems which can only be solved by the engineer or by the chemist, and with which no doubt the German organisation is thoroughly prepared to deal. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government 369 whether we are equally well equipped for dealing with those problems. What I fear is this, that our Commander-in-Chief and his staff in Flanders are so occupied with the immense responsibilities of the daily warfare, and our Secretary of State and the War Office at home so absorbed with the gigantic task which lies before them in the administration of our armies here, that there is no body of men left free to do that "thinking" work about which, in connection with the Army, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has so often talked to this House.
That brings me back to the question of recruiting. All that I have said hitherto has been directed to showing the magnitude of the task which lies before us, and to suggesting the fact that the war may be a long one. I think one of the matters for which we have most to thank Lord Kitchener is that he had the courage from the very beginning to tell the nation that this was going to be no short war and that we had to measure it in years and not in months. That means a tremendous stream of reinforcements and of drafts; and no one knows better than the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that if you have a certain number of troops trained in this country it does not mean that you can send that number of troops to the Front, because you have to provide the drafts to maintain those whom you have sent. Therefore the figure you can send is something very much less than the number you have trained in this country; and also we have to keep here an organised Field Army. I know that the Army in Flanders is critical on that subject. They think, or some of them think, that there is no necessity for keeping a mobile thoroughly organised Field Army here in England. I say to the Array in Flanders, with great respect, that they really have not the material on which to form a judgment. The only people who can form a judgment on that subject are the Government. The responsibility as to what number of troops must be kept in this country must be the responsibility of the Government; it cannot be passed on to any one else.
Now how is this immense and constant supply of men to be assured? That is really the question. As the noble Lord opposite has said, there has been a wonderful response under the voluntary system; and having told us that, he then said 370 what difficulties had occurred on the Continent in enforcing universal service. I want to put this point to the noble Lord and to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, that so long as you are dealing with the comparatively small number with which we have been accustomed to deal in times of peace voluntary service works very simply; but exactly the same difficulty that has arisen, and must arise, in enforcing obligatory service is already arising with our voluntary form of enlistment now that we have got up to these large numbers. I want particularly to make that point, that many men have enlisted and gone to fight in the trenches who ought not to have enlisted at all and who are required for other work. I can give two very remarkable illustrations. I have been told of one case in which a great many men enlisted from one industry that was essential for the supply of the Army. Those men had to be hunted by the War Office itself out of the regiments into which they had been enlisted and sent back to civil life. And I only heard to-day of the case of one of the largest businesses in the country, many men in whose employ at the present moment want to enlist. The board of directors do not know what to do. They want guidance from the Government. They say, "We do not know what the Government wish—whether they think it more important that these men should enlist or that our industry should be kept on at its full strength."
On the other hand we have a great number of men who ought to enlist but have not enlisted. I do not think any better words could be used than those of Dr. Macnamara, a member of the Government, the other day. I should like to read them. He said—There still remain many thousands of young fellows without dependants who have not answered the call. The sooner they make up their minds to answer it the better. If they think they are going to enjoy freedom to live under the British flag at some other fellow's expense—if that is to be their line, they won't enjoy it very long. I say this in the most deliberate manner, that the man who is prepared to enjoy life under the British flag without, at a time like this, having the grim determination that he will hand on that flag as free as he found it, is not worthy of the name of a British citizen.It must be in the minds of all of us that if our voluntary system does not pro- 371 duce all the men that are required for the completion of this tremendous task, and produce them soon enough, we may have to fall back upon that inherent obligation which lies on every citizen to defend the hearths and homes and the liberties of his country. The United States of America had to do that in the Civil War. They had to enforce that inherent obligation in order to complete that war, and we may have to do the same. What I want to point out to the Government is this, that if the moment should come when the nation was convinced that to perform the task it had taken in hand it must call on all its able-bodied citizens to fulfil this inherent obligation, and this subject had not been thoroughly studied beforehand and organised, the enforcement of that obligation would produce nothing less than national chaos. The noble Lord himself admitted that.
It must be patent to all of us that under no circumstances could the men who are engaged in building our ships of war, or making the cartridges, or the rifles, or the guns, or the hoots, or the clothes for the Army, be allowed to go; and there are any number of what you may call subsidiary industries which also have to be considered. Again, there is the whole mercantile marine, the railways, coal mines, and agriculture. The Government would have to see that enough men were left to carry on all those industries. It requires only the mention of these facts to show how very complicated a question the enforcement of any obligation would be, and what would be the result if that obligation were enforced without previous organisation. But if the study of this question is delayed until the moment when the nation 'has become convinced—if it does become convinced—that it must enforce this obligation, then at the most critical moment of the war there might be interposed weeks or months of unnecessary delay. My plea is this, that whether we shall have to have resort to obligatory service or not the whole question should be studied now.
I will summarise the points that I have tried to make, and I would ask the noble and learned. Viscount on the Woolsack, who I believe is going to reply, to be good enough to answer them. My questions are these. Is His Majesty's Government 372 satisfied with the present machinery for ensuring continuous strategical co-operation between the Armies of the East and West and between the Fleets and the Armies? Have the Allies in the West fully measured their task and made their calculations accordingly? Is His Majesty's Government satisfied that proper provision exists for the constant and complete study of the technical problems which arise out of the peculiar conditions of modern warfare? And, lastly, have His Majesty's Government arranged for the complete study in all its details of I the problem of the best organisation of our national resources which is involved in the supply of the vast numbers of soldiers required to bring this war to a successful termination, whether that supply be furnished on the voluntary or on the obligatory basis? The whole of our motive in conducting these debates is the same as that of the Party opposite. We desire to bring this terrible war to a triumphant conclusion, and we wish by every means in our power to give our support to Lord Kitchener in his colossal task here in the United Kingdom, and to express our supreme confidence in Sir John French and in the Army which he has so magnificently led all through these five months of campaign in France and in Belgium.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, the noble Earl concluded by saying that he had spoken with no desire to embarrass the Government, but with the purpose of obtaining information that he thought might be given on certain questions which he specified. It is certain that no one could take exception to the tone of his speech, or, indeed, to the tone of this debate. I will go further and say that I think the Government and the country have every reason to be deeply grateful to the Opposition for the consistent moderation of tone and reasonableness of statement which its leaders have pursued during these most critical times. Therefore if I cannot give the noble Earl all the information for which he asks, it is not because of any want of appreciation of the spirit in which he has put his questions, but because there are reasons, on which we must be guided by our most responsible military adviser, a man with a vast experience in these things and, I think I may add, of proved wisdom, which make him desire, perhaps, that 373 we should be more reticent than appears even to experienced men of affairs to be incumbent.
No one who is not in constant contact with the modes of procedure of General Staffs can quite realise how much in these modern times may be got from the merest scraps of information. The way in which we in this country study every small detail of information which we can obtain, the extraordinary divergence of the estimates, and the way in which the view is determined by some comparatively chance statement which reaches us, convinces me of the danger of making statements which may appear to be innocent until you are conscious—which you never can be—of the exact point at which the knowledge of the enemy stops. I have myself seen things appear in the newspapers which seemed quite likely to be known, yet which the information that came to us showed were not within the knowledge of the enemy. I am not saying that any serious evil has yet happened from that, but it has made me, speaking for myself, very anxious to be guided by the man at the helm and not to press him with questions for information as to his course, however innocent they may seem, if he is even doubtful about the result of disclosing that information. I am quite aware that that is an attitude which the noble Earl will not controvert. But the question is what other things which seem perfectly harmless may be spoken about freely without coming upon the dangerous side of the line. There, again, you are very much in the hands of your military advisers; and I can only tell your Lordships that if I pursue a tone of reticence, speaking about some things fairly freely and other things very little or not at all, I am doing so after consultation with the statesman and soldier whom I regard as the person by whom it is my duty to be guided.
The noble Earl began his speech by alluding to the gravity of the crisis through which the nation is passing and the tremendous nature of this war. I entirely agree. I am one of those who hoped that the better strain which was disclosing itself in international affairs might in the end prevail, but I was aware that there were those who desired otherwise, and who wished, by the exercise of might, to establish a position for the country with which 374 we are now at war by means which were not moderated by those precepts which most of us think should be the governing precepts of the whole world. While I had hoped that the more peaceful party in Germany might prevail I was yet aware of the danger, and of the extraordinary extent to which military notions had laid hold of the minds of that people, and I felt all along that our duty was to frame a naval and military organisation which was capable of expansion. That we sought, as far as we could, to do during the years of peace. But no one could foresee the tremendous extent to which a world-wide war would impose obligations upon us, and what we have to do is to make the most of the foundations which have been laid by successive Parties during the last few years and build upon them and expand them. It is upon those foundations and with those materials in his hands that Lord Kitchener is now working.
I quite agree with the noble Earl that the task in front of us is a colossal one—a task that will require every energy of the nation; and these energies are not energies which we can a fiord to waste, for we are fighting for nothing less than our life as a nation. We are fighting under circumstances which make it the duty of every Englishman to put everything that he possesses in the world, everything that he values dearest, into the scale that makes for success; and not one of us, in whatever position he may be, dare flinch in the slightest from a duty which he owes not only to his country but to his deepest self. I say that because I do not desire to be behind the noble Earl in the least in the recognition of the gravity of the task which confronts us.
The noble Earl spoke of the problems which are in front of us. First of all, there is the immense problem of winning the war; that is a problem we must solve. No question comes across our minds as to this, that no victory in the war will be sufficient which does not preclude the recurrence of the situation in which we now find ourselves. That being so, the task is an enormous one. It is a problem which is not merely concerned with Belgium, though that must come into it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Earl would not say a turning movement, if I may use the term, may not possibly be the best way of dealing with the Belgium problem. I am not expressing in the smallest degree any opinion on strategical questions. I merely say that this is not a war which you can bring to an end in a week, or a month, or a year, or possibly even two years. It is a war in which we must make up our minds that it is our duty to press on, however long, for the accomplishment of our purpose, and therefore it is a war in which it would he unwise to lay down any particular sequence of events or operations which we mean to pursue to attain our task.
The noble Earl truly said that the task of the East and the West presents great difficulties. The task of our ally Russia is a different task from ours, although it is directed to the same end. The task of France is one which more closely resembles ours, but that, again, presents points of difference. The military burden rests upon France, but upon us rests a burden which preponderates over that of both our Allies, and that is the burden of keeping the command of the seas. I am glad that in the debates in this House there has been appreciation of the obligation which not only we, but our Allies, are under to the British Navy for having established that remarkable control of the seas, which, with comparatively little loss so far to our commerce or to our supplies, has enabled not only us but our Allies to carry on matters in a way which it would be impossible to achieve without the Navy. Therefore the preponderance of the British Navy and the great magnitude of its work in this war is something which must be kept in mind when you are estimating the amount of means which you are bringing to bear upon your task.
Then the noble Earl spoke, I think very truly, of the powers of modern defence. That is one of the most formidable factors. We have seen what it means when the enemy has sought to hurl himself against the Allied lines in France and Russia. And we ourselves know that the strategical problems of which the noble Earl spoke require not only the enormous resources of science but resources in Artillery and other means of attack to a degree by far exceeding anything we have seen in any previous war. The noble Earl said very truly that 376 scientific questions count a great deal in this war. I entirely agree with him. I have often expressed in this House and elsewhere the desire that the British people were more serious than they have been in the past about the matter of their scientific education. We have been behindhand in the application of science to industry, and we should be better off to-day if we had put anything like that devotion to the task of applying science to industry that has been notable on the Continent. It is not the habit of the Anglo-Saxon race to think out things in advance to the extent which it might, and for that it looks for compensation to its remarkable power to adjust itself to circumstances as they arise.
However that may be, science has been brought to bear in naval and military matters in this country for years past in a way far exceeding what many people suppose. In the Committee of Imperial Defence we have one of the most valuable institutions this country possesses, because out of that Committee there comes a spirit which permeates everything; and the spirit of the Committee of Imperial Defence has been brought to bear not only upon strategical problems, not only upon those problems of co-ordination of which the noble Earl spoke, but it has even extended to the organisation of the industries of this country for producing the materials of war. Talent here of the highest order is concentrated upon providing the munitions of war, and I am glad to be able to assure your Lordships that great progress is being made, and that supplies are coming in with a rapidity which was not the case a little while ago. I should be doing what I should not do if I went in any detail into this, but I can tell your Lordships that whether it be explosives, shells, or rifles, or whatever it be, the position is very much better to-day than it was a little while ago.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Of course, the noble and learned Viscount will not answer me if he thinks he ought not to. But I should like to ask him specifically whether in his opinion the machinery exists for the continuous study of these fresh technical problems as they arise?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
About that I would say that we cannot improvise that machinery all at once; but the new Universities, in which I have been myself very much interested, and the old Univer- 377 sities, too, have furnished us with certain distinguished assistance which has been brought to boar on some of these problems in a way which I hope will be permanent. I believe that one of the greatest benefits we shall derive from this war is the extent to which it has awakened us up to a sense of our deficiencies, and I believe that people who have been working against a great deal of discouragement in the past will find not only that their work has been appreciated, but that they will be much encouraged in pursuing it in the future. That very scientific talent of which the noble Earl spoke has been brought to hear in every way practicable upon these problems. I have had occasion to see a good deal of that side of the preparation for war myself, and if it were proper to do so I could give the noble Earl details of things winch have been done which are very remarkable and certainly very satisfactory.
The noble Earl asked, Is there a thinking Department? My answer is, Yes. The Committee of Imperial Defence has branched out into a War Council and is in close relation to the General Staff of the Army and the War Staff of the Navy; but unfortunately there are thinking Departments in other countries besides our own, and therefore it requires every effort in our power to keep pace. Therefore my answer is that there is a thinking Department and that it is satisfactory, but too much account must not be taken of that, because other countries have thinking Departments. But I can say that probably as much organised thought is being brought to bear on the problems we have to face to-day as there is in any country. The noble Earl made another point which I think a very important one. He said, "Do not let us run away with the notion that all we have to provide for is war oversea; a Field Army is needed for home defence." That was, of course, a favourite doctrine of mine, if only for the purpose of keeping the enemy from coming, and it is a doctrine upon which Lord Kitchener holds views certainly not out of sympathy with the noble Earl's.
Then the noble Earl came to the question of voluntary service. He said that voluntary service was east with comparatively small forces in times of peace. The experience of this country with voluntary service is that it is a very remarkable one. Since the war broke out there has been no 378 unwillingness on the part of the nation to respond; but my noble friend Lord Lucas went, very properly, into the importance of recruiting and equipment going hand in hand. You often get one going ahead without the other. That is one of the reasons why some reticence on the part of the military authorities is to be observed regarding numbers, because if you say anything about numbers it tells also something about equipment. But so far we can see no reason to anticipate the breakdown of the voluntary system. But I wish to add this—I have said it before, in Parliament and out of Parliament—that by the Common Law of this country it is the duty of every subject of the realm to assist the Sovereign in repelling the invasion of its shores and in defence of the realm. That is a duty which rests on no Statute but is inherent in the Constitution of the country.
It has been laid down—noble Lords can look up the authority for themselves—that any subject at a time of emergency may be asked to give himself and his property for the defence of the nation. Therefore compulsory service is not foreign to the Constitution of this country. Given a great national emergency I think it is your duty to resort to it. I can conceive a state of things in which we might resort to it. Therefore I do not want to take up any attitude based on abstract principle about this. In time of peace I have always told your Lordship; that I thought that to resort to compulsory service would be a bad thing; and at this time even I do not think it would be a good thing. Unless it becomes a final necessity, which it has not as yet, it should not be resorted to. We hope to solve our problem by this magnificent response which is being made, and which gives us, after all, men who are to a certain extent picked, who come because of their enthusiasm, and men who are better than the dead level which compulsory service gives you. Therefore it is with reluctance that we should go to that. But at a time of national necessity every other consideration must yield to national interest, and we should bar nothing in the way of principle if it should become necessary.
The noble Earl concluded by summing up his questions in a series, and I will refer to them to see that I have fully covered the ground over which his speech extended. He asked whether we were satisfied with the present machinery for 379 ensuring continuous strategical co-operation between the Armies of the East and West and between the Fleets and the Armies? Well, you cannot in time of war get the various Commanders-in-Chief to meet together; you cannot get the Commander- in-Chief of the Russian Army to meet Sir John French and General Joffre somewhere at a convenient place in Europe; and if you cannot arrange that you cannot get that complete consultation which is most desirable in those cases. But adequate and very careful machinery is provided for communication between the Staffs of the two Commanders-in-Chief; and I think on that head, so far as I have been able to see and to judge, there is no cause for apprehension. They are very fully in formed of each other's intentions, and the co-operation between the Allies has been so far admirable.
Next the noble Earl asked, Have the Allies in the West fully measured their task and made their calculations accordingly? My answer to that is that our task is an enormous one, and I do not think you can measure it. But all thought that can be brought to bear on the question of how to solve the problem and what are the strategical measures which should he taken has been brought to bear; and if the noble Earl wishes for an assurance that things are not being left to chance, or even to one man, and that there is close consultation between the Army and the Navy and those members of the Government who are responsible, I can give him that assurance.
The next question of the noble Earl was, Is His Majesty's Government satisfied that proper provisions exist for the constant and complete study of the technical problems which arise out of the peculiar conditions of modern warfare? I think so, at any rate so far as we can make them. There are the great artillery problems with which we are concerned. I am glad to say that we started in the beginning of this war with an Artillery service which was in very thorough order. Sixteen thousand men had been added to the Artillery on mobilisation in the years immediately before the war broke out, and we were able to put in the field Artillery which was completely adequate, judged by ordinary standards, to the requirements of the Army. But during the last few months immediately before the war, with the aid of large moneys which were levied and with the aid of 380 science, there were suddenly produced by Germany new guns of a certain kind, some of which were of a very remarkable order. I see that a certain Professor received an honorary degree of a University for his work in connection with the production of the new 42-centimetre gun. That is the sort of thing in which, in the few months before the war, we and our Allies were rather left behind owing to the remarkable secrecy with which the Germans succeeded in conducting the[...]e operations at Krupps' in the town of Essen. But at any rate in energy we have not been behind, since we discovered the type of these new guns and the ideas embodied in them. Efforts are being made in this country, regardless of expense, to produce a satisfactory equipment to meet the new form of equipment which the enemy have put in the field.
The final question was, Have His Majesty's Government arranged for the complete study in all its details of the problem of the best organisation of our national resources which is involved in the supply of the vast numbers of soldiers required to bring this war to a successful termination, whether that supply be furnished on the voluntary or on the obligatory basis? I have already said what I have got to say upon that; and I would conclude by adding that I am fully conscious of the extraordinary difficulty of the problem which we have before us. I am certain that when we come to look back hereafter upon the efforts we are making at the present time we shall see many things which we might, had we been wiser, have succeeded in doing. That is always so with everything we endeavour. But as against that I can say that no pains are being spared—no part of the resources of the nation is being spared—for the purpose of getting together the organisation which is required for bringing our task to a successful conclusion, and about the importance of which I am in whole-hearted agreement with the noble Earl.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, I desire, with the permission of the House, to make a few remarks upon that part of the speech of the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Midleton) which dealt with the question of recruitment in Ireland. In the first place, I wish to remind your Lordships that over a long series of years no fault could be found with the contribution which Ireland made to the Imperial Forces. I have examined the military 381 returns dating from the year 1883. I find that in that year the contribution made by Ireland to the Army was 25 per cent. The contribution in 1893 was 15 per cent. In 1903 the percentage was 12; and it was only in 1913—the last year of which I have figures—that the contribution sank to 9 per cent.. Taking the male population of Ireland between the ages of twenty and forty-five the proportion is a fraction over nine per cent. upon the similar figures of the population for Great Britain. So that if the contribution of Ireland to the Army does not fall below nine per cent. no complaint can be found with it. I have endeavoured to ascertain what the recruitment in Ireland has been since the beginning of the war, but on this point I have entirely failed to obtain any official information. Of this fact I make no complaint, because from the statements made by noble Lords here to-night the reasons for secretiveness are sufficient. Nevertheless, it places in a difficulty any one like myself who is anxious to say what be can in support of the efforts of his country upon this great occasion.
The noble Viscount said to-day, as I understood, that from the whole of Ireland since the commencement of the war the recruitment was 54,000. Sir Edward Carson, in a speech on Tuesday last at Bangor, gave the recruitment for the Ulster Volunteer Division as between 16,000 and 17,000. Deducting this figure from the total given by the noble Viscount, the recruitment over the Nationalist portions of Ireland is between 3,000 and 38,000. I am willing to confess that when Mr. Redmond made his speech in the House of Commons I expected a larger response than even 38,000 signifies, and in my recent visits to Ireland I have endeavoured to ascertain what the cause was. I make no complaints. I believe that the, policy of the Prime Minister was directed to the best ends, but I am satisfied that if the Home Rule Bill had at that moment been placed upon the Statute Book recruitment in Ireland would be greatly more than it has been. What is the reason? The political quarrel between England and Ireland has lasted over centuries, and it is impossible that all traces of the contest should immediately disappear on the placing of the Home Rule Bill on the Statute Book. And there is in Ireland an extreme faction, the Sinn Feiners who desire to have complete separation from Great 382 Britain. That faction is in an infinitesimal minority, but it affords the enemy an instrument upon which to play. Money has been expended through the agency of the Sinn Fein section which could never have come from the people who compose it. Motor cars were hired for the purpose of distributing disloyal leaflets, and the organisatioe was such as required large sums of money. If the Home Rule Bill hail been earlier put upon the Statute Book there would have been no opportunity for that appeal to disloyal sections. But suspicion was engendered, and the idea found eredence that, after all, there was to be no Home Rule Bill: so recruitment was withheld. But if a Home Rule Bill had not been placed on the Statute Book it is my conviction that you would have no recruitment at all in Ireland or amongst Nationalist Irishmen in Great Britain. As to the extent of that recruitment I will say a word or two in a moment.
Reference was made by the noble Viscount to the publication in the Freeman's Journal of the manifesto from the Sinn Fein orgarisation in America, and I must say that I consider he was mistaken when he designated that newspaper's publication of its condemnatory article as of the "don't nail his ears to the pump" order. I am not in any way prejudiced in favour of the Freeman's Journal. My connection with Ireland—I am a born Irishman but am speaking of my intimate acquaintance with the administration of Ireland—has extended over fourteen years, and during that time the Freeman's Journal has never made a remark to the appreciation of myself or my colleagues, so I have no reason to say anything in favour of that journal. At the same time it is now the mouthpiece of Mr. Redmond. The Sinn Feiners were trying, by furtive suggestions here and there, to get an acceptance for their policy and for their intentions which, if expressed iii the light of day, would never be received by the Irish people. It was therefore decided to publish the manifesto, and then the editorial article pointed out what the adoption of it would mean. That, I believe, is the explanation of this particular episode.
I come back to the question of recruiting. Ireland is mostly an agricultural country; the industries are few, and are concentrated in the North-East corner of Ulster. When the noble Viscount lumped together the counties of Dublin and Meath and Kildare 383 with Ulster he was not presenting the case in the manner in which an Irish Nationalist would present it. In the North-East of Ulster the Ulster Volunteers are largely furnished from Belfast—they were organised before the war was declared. Sir Edward Carson, taking advantage of the organisation, quite rightly placed at the disposal of the Government a certain proportion. They are now being drilled, and I understand will soon go to the Front. As an Irishman I look forward with the utmost anticipation to their meeting and fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Nationalists, because from that community of interests I expect the removal of many of the prejudices which have hitherto prevailed.
Had the Home Rule Bill not been passed there would be, as I have said, little or no recruitment of Irishmen in England. It is very difficult to ascertain how far that recruitment has gone. The military statistics do not distinguish between Irishmen, Englishmen, Scotsmen, or Welshmen. The only possible approximation one can get to the number is through the idea of religion. In this difficulty, being anxious to get as closely as possible to the exact figure, I applied to the Home Rule organisation to ascertain whether they could let me know the number of Irish Nationalists who had enlisted since the passing of the Home Rule Bill. I was surprised at the perfection of their arrangements. They showed pie long nominal lists of names. These lists have been published in some local newspapers which I have seen—for instance, in the Edinburgh Evening News, the Paisley Daily Express, the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, and the Cambria Leader of Swansea. It may, perhaps, astonish your Lordships to know that the total number for Great Britain reaches 115,000. In round figures, 25,000 Irishmen have enlisted from Scotland, 45,000 from Lancashire, Cheshire, and North Wales; 20,000 from Yorkshire; 15,000 from the North of England; 5,000 from South Wales and the Midlands; and 5,000 from London. I desired a further verification of these figures, and last night I received information that in the case of Lancashire, Yorkshire, the North of England, South Wales and the Midlands, all the figures I have mentioned have been verified. Now I do not ask you to accept these as official figures. The sources from which they come may not commend 384 themselves to noble Lords opposite, but I can assure the House that the arrangements made for collecting the figures are such as to inspire confidence. If you consider that from Great Britain you have been furnished with 115,000 Irishmen within the last four months; that, according to the figures of the noble Viscount, there have been 38,000 Nationalists recruited in Ireland; that you began the war with over 20,000 Irishmen with the Colours besides Special Reservists—you have nearly 200,000 Irishmen with the Colours. When it is borne in mind that the male population of Ireland between twenty and forty-five years of age in a comparison with the male population of Great Britain of similar ages works out at a percentage of nine, it must be admitted that Ireland has done her share. I have not the least doubt that an equal response has been made by England and Wales and Scotland. If it has, then, my Lords, at the present time you have an armed force in this country of over 2,000,000 men.
§ LORD CHANNING OF WELLING-BOROUGH
My Lords, I hope I may be permitted to offer one or two observations on this debate, and especially to congratulate the House on the last three speeches to which we have listened. My noble friend below the Gangway (Lord MacDonnell) directed his remarks to the question of Ireland, and gave, I think, a very natural and effective reply to some of the suggestions—I will not call them more than that—which were contained in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton. But we are grateful to the noble Viscount for having initiated this debate. The speech of my noble friend who has just sat down is a contribution which could hardly be exaggerated for its weight and significance in showing the extent to which Ireland has shared and will share in carrying out the great duty which this war has put before the whole of the United Kingdom. I attach the greatest importance to the remarks which fell from my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack and from the noble Earl who preceded him. May I, as a humble and rather junior member of this House, express to the noble and learned Viscount my own gratitude—a gratitude which must, I think, be shared by many noble Lords—for his having made the speech which he has to-day. I say so because to my mind it was a decisive speech. The noble Earl who preceded him referred, in terms 385 of approval, to the speech of Sir John Simon defining the objects of the war without the accomplishment of which England would never make peace. Now we have that pledge reiterated in stronger and more forceful terms from the Woolsack, and we are deeply grateful to my noble and learned friend for having so clearly defined the attitude of the Government and of the country. Because, let us not make a mistake, there never has been a war—not even in the days of Pitt and Napoleon—behind which the heart, the brain, and the conscience of the whole people were so absolutely set with determined and solid conviction and resolute courage. The country will stop at nothing short of bringing about the results foreshadowed in the speech to which the noble Earl referred, and defined more clearly and more definitely in the pledges just given from the Woolsack. Perhaps the House will forgive me, as one who for many years has taken an interest in the subject and who followed closely the debates in another place in 1908 in which my noble and learned friend was the leading figure, in at least recalling to his credit the splendid work done in that year—without which where should we be? We have the whole of the Volunteers in this country trained into an organised force, and, still more, we have had the Expeditionary Force made possible, which, without the passing of that Act of 1908, could not for months have been sent into Belgium to right the terrible wrongs which we are now combating.
The noble Earl opposite gave utterance to many things with which I heartily agree. I do not, however, know that it is wise to throw the least doubt on the outcome of this war, even in the very indirect way some of his words seemed to imply. I have the utmost confidence that, with the nation on fire as it is, so determined, so full of resource and so full of men, there can be no doubt with regard to the issue of this war. But I wish to refer specially to one point in the noble Earl's speech on which I think I can throw a little further light. He dwelt, and dwelt very forcibly, on the splendid contribution of recruits from the great industrial districts—I presume he referred to some in the North of England—the great success of recruiting among the industrial population and especially in some of those works where the Government and the War Office had to a certain 386 extent to discourage enlistment because it interfered with the supply of necessary materials for the general equipment of the troops. I happen to have been for many years connected with one of the districts in the County of Northampton which has supplied and is supplying now a most important part of the Army equipment. The number of men engaged in that county making boots for the Army—not only for the British Army but also, I believe, for the French and Belgian Armies—is very great and diminishes the area of recruitment by, I am told, some forty per cent. Yet in that county it is said that the percentage of enlistment has been and is continuing to be greater than the general percentage of the whole country. I think that is a very satisfactory fact. It illustrates what I think the noble Earl perhaps lost sight of—namely, that where you have this great enthusiasm and devotion on the part of men working in industries in the interests of the country at a time of war, you have also that enthusiasm spreading to other classes in the same district and leading to great results.
We are all as one man determined to have an end of the Prussian despotism and tyranny which the German Emperor is threatening to impose on the whole world. But I think there is also another side to this matter. We do not want to introduce the Prussian system into this country. After this war, if we have attained the results which we desire, we do not want to have a Prussianised England, an England which, if it fell into the hands of an ambitious man, might adopt a policy similar to that of Germany at the present time. That is a possibility which ought to be considered and which, in my opinion, ought to be resisted. I was glad of the noble Earl's felicitous reference to the example of the United States in 1862 and 1863 when, under the influence I believe of General Grant, the Militia Act was set in force and the citizens of the United States made, by legal process, to serve and defend their country. I have dwelt on the facts in my own county, and in other parts; and the encouraging speeches of the Secretary of State in November, and the other day, confirm the point of view that recruiting is going on satisfactorily at the present time. Nevertheless I welcome what fell from my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack—that, while at present the urgency is not so 387 great, we should not hesitate if need arose to call upon the citizens of this country to carry out their duty to the nation in bringing this war to a successful and triumphant issue. The only point I wish to insist upon is that the illustration of what was done in America should be fully borne in mind—namely, that the employment of this great engine of compelling the people in a dire hour of necessity to discharge their supreme duty should be of a temporary and not of a permanent nature causing to be imposed upon this country a cast iron system which would be just as great a curse to Englishmen as I firmly believe the German Army is to right-thinking Germans.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I agree with almost, everything that has fallen from the noble Lord in the speech, characterised by so much fire and force, to which we have just listened. In the old days when he and I sat on opposite sides of the House of Commons I cannot recall that I listened to his speeches with quite so much enthusiasm, but it appears to me that since he came to your Lordships' House his development has been proceeding on lines that have now made our opinions almost identical, and really as I heard his eloquent words to-night I felt disposed to embrace a long-lost brother.
Before I pass to the main subject which is occupying our attention this evening there are three quite subsidiary points upon which I should like, with the consent of the Leader of the House, to ask him questions. I am not going to say anything about the part of the speech of my noble friend Lord Midleton which dealt with the question of Ireland, but incidentally he mentioned the name and case of an individual which has excited a certain amount of publicity and about whom perhaps the noble Marquess will allow me to ask him a question. I refer to the case of Sir Roger Casement, which is one in which I take a personal interest because in the old days at the Foreign Office I was his official superior. This gentleman went to Germany after the outbreak of war, where he has been accused of having indulged in very disgraceful and disloyal acts. His friends wrote to the papers and said that not too much attention should be paid to those acts, as they were doubtful about his mental balance. Since then his 388 proceedings, which have been continued, appear to have been characterised by a perfect possession of his faculties. The last thing we have read is that he has prepared a pamphlet which has been officially printed by the German Government in Berlin and which is now being circulated by the German Foreign Office, pleading for an alliance between Germany and Ireland—America being thrown in—against the common enemy, England. I do not wish to comment on that; it is unworthy of comment; but I desire to ask the noble Marquess this question, whether this ex-official, who has been honoured by a title in this country and has been for some years in the enjoyment of a pension, will be allowed to continue to retain that pension.
The second question is one that does more directly spring out of the discussion to which we have listened. My noble friend Lord Midleton made some reference to the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee and to the returns of recruits which have been furnished by them. I do not, to tell the truth, quite understand upon what principles that Committee is acting. I believe they have been sending out their letters in military commands. This, at any rate, is true, that many parts of the country have received and acted upon those letters for weeks and months, while in other parts of England—take London, for instance—the letters have not been received at all. When the answers are given to these appeals what happens? Is a register drawn up, and by whom is the register kept? Is it kept locally, or is it sent up to the War Office? And perhaps an even more important question, by whom is the selection made? Your Lordships will understand that when the appeal is issued, A, B, C, or D says he is or is not willing to serve. By whom is he liable, having indicated his willingness to serve, to be called out? I ask this question because while in many parts of the country householders have not received the letter at all, in some cases of which I am cognizant a man has received the paper on Monday, sent it in on Monday, and been called up on Wednesday—whether he has been called up by the War Office or the local military authorities no one seems to know. The question is of importance for more reasons than one. This sort of case may arise. Many a man puts his name down as being willing in certain contingencies to serve, but it does not follow that 389 he is fitted by health or other reasons to do so. I am aware of a case Which occurred a few days ago where a man was called up, and he was at that very moment lying in bed suffering from rupture. Yet he received his command to join the Colours. I ask this question because I think it is desirable for the information of the public that there should be some knowledge on the point.
The noble Marquess may also remember that in November last I referred in this House to a speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which, alluding to the impending recruiting campaign, he appeared to suggest that the principle of the county quota might be adopted with a view to stirring up a spirit of emulation. I asked if this speech bore the interpretation that the register would be published in order to give an idea of the relative quotas being contributed by the different parts of the country; and the noble Marquess, in reply, said he thought it did. Whether right or not, I think we ought to know whether there is any intention on the part of the War Office of publishing these returns with the object that I have described.
The third small point which I wish to put to the noble Marquess does not arise directly from this debate but springs out of a passage between him and me in the discussion two days ago. We were speaking about the removal of aliens from the East Coast, and I referred to a case in which I said that, according to my information, the Police had issued an order for the removal of aliens, naturalised or otherwise, from the East Coast after the bombardment of Scarborough, Whitby, and Hartlepool, and that this order had been acted upon partially, if not in whole, and had then been suspended by the military authorities, and I thought that this showed some lack of local co-ordination. The noble Marquess was unable to reply to me at the moment upon the point, but I have now ascertained what I believe are the facts, which I think it is only fair I should give and which represent the case in a more serious light than I had imagined. I am informed that the order for the removal of the aliens from the coast to a certain distance inland was issued by the General Commanding under powers conferred upon him by one of the Acts which have recently passed through 390 your Lordships' House. I am told that this order was suspended, not by the superior military authority, but by the Home Office, or at any rate through the influence of the Home Office in London. Well, only a few months ago we had the Home Secretary in the House of Commons disclaiming any responsibility in the matter, saying that it was one for the military authorities; but here appears, unless I am incorrectly informed, to be a case in which the military authorities—the very men the noble Marquess told us to trust the other day—take a very definite step, and it is alleged that the order was suspended by the influence, if not by the direct action, of the Home Office. The point is really one of so much importance as a precedent for what may happen elsewhere that the noble Marquess will no doubt allow me to put the question.
Now a few words about the issue that has been raised by the debate this afternoon. My two noble friends Lord Midleton and Lord Selborne started with the same object, although they pursued a rather different line of argument. They brought before your Lordships the fact—admitted in most powerful mid eloquent language by the Lord Chancellor later—that this country has with supreme seriousness entered upon the greatest task that has ever lain upon it since England became a kingdom. We believe that the Government were right in going to war, and our forces will be behind them to the end. The objects of the war have been stated by the highest authorities. My noble friend behind me quoted the speech of the Attorney-General. He might equally have quoted the speech of the Prime Minister. And from to-day it will be possible to quote the speech of the Lord Chancellor delivered from the Woolsack. Those three speeches have been repeated in almost identical terms, speaking for his own country, by the Prime, Minister of France. Therefore it is quite clear that the Allies are together committed to the great task which those words describe.
If we are to realise these objects, not only shall we require immense numbers of men, but we shall want to continue the supply of men not merely for a few months, but it may be for six months or a year. That is the point which my noble friends have been trying for the last few days 391 to bring before your Lordships' House. It is not quite fair, as my noble friend Lord Lucas did, to turn off that issue into what is really a side track—namely, the degree to which it is or is not right to ask the Government to produce figures. The noble Lord was exceedingly emphatic to-night. He said that the War Office would rigorously abstain from mentioning all figures in the future. They are entirely at liberty to do so if they please; and if in the public interest they do so, of course we can but support them. But it is only fair in reply to ask, Since when did this abnormal sensitiveness about figures begin? The noble Lord airily brushed aside his colleague the First Lord of the Admiralty as having only indulged in a pious aspiration. I have noted, from a considerable experience in politics, that if any one of your colleagues says something rather compromising, you always describe it as "a pious aspiration." But I do not rest my case on the First Lord of the Admiralty. After all, who is it that has been giving us figures and laying down standards of figures all the way through? At the Guildhall on November 9 the Secretary of State for War, who will not now give us figures at all, himself told us that he had one and a quarter million men in training; and he has since informed the country that recruits are coming in at the rate of 30,000 a week. Then, as a Christmas message to the nation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in an interview with a French journalist, said that at the present time we had two million soldiers and sailors under arms, and that the numbers would shortly be two and a-half millions; and, further than that, that nearly one and a-half million men had come in since August 2. So that we are not trusting to the "pious aspiration" of Mr. Winston Churchill, but we have the definite statements of persons not less important than himself.
I do not desire to pursue this point, because I do not think that what we want are precise figures, certainly not precise figures which it would be at all injurious to the public interest to give. What we say is this. Here you have this great task which I have described. In order to carry it through you are preparing, and will want to continue to maintain, certain great armies. One army is at home, one abroad, and the third must be ready to fill the drafts for the Front. Are you getting 392 the men to supply those three hosts? Do you want more? Are you satisfied with the present methods of obtaining them? Do they give you the numbers you require? If not, what steps do you propose to take to fill up the deficit? Those are our questions, and I do not think they are either unfair or unreasonable; and to them Lord Lucas, in reply, uses the somewhat obscure phrase, "The War Office will take all it can get." It is really like the child and the plum cake. Of course, the War Office will take all it can get. We want to know whether it is getting all that it expects and desires.
And so we come to the issue raised by my noble friend Lord Selborne. My noble friend says, "Assuming the facts to be as I have stated them, are the Government looking ahead? Supposing the supply fails, what are you going to do? You are relying at present upon the voluntary system. It is giving you, or was recently giving you, 30,000 men a week. If that continues, well and good. But if it fails, have you made any preparations for an alternative course?" He points to the fact—in which he was corroborated by Lord Channing—that, as all history shows, if the voluntary system fails you have but one alternative, the alternative which he says Abraham Lincoln was obliged to have recourse to in the Northern States of America; it was the alternative also, he might have added, of our great statesman Pitt, who also was forced to adopt it. In America Abraham Lincoln resorted to the Draft, and Pitt in England resorted to the Militia Ballot; and not only did they get the men they required, but both those statesmen succeeded in running side by side the compulsory and the voluntary systems, and the paradoxical part of it was that the voluntary method was actually encouraged rather than thrown back, the numbers of those who joined as volunteers being increased by those who did not wish to come in under compulsion. With these precedents in his mind, my noble friend Lord Selborne says it is conceivable that you may be driven to consider some form of compulsion. Has that been in your mind? Are you taking the steps to deal with it? He says this, not being so far as I know a National Service man. He has never been a member of our League; therefore he speaks with complete detachment on the matter. I have always been and am now a National Service man, but 393 I am bound to say that since the beginning of this war, so supremely important did it seem to give the Government all the backing necessary, have kept my own private views in the background and been, for the purposes of this war, as great an advocate of the voluntary system as any noble Lord can be.
But to-day the matter has been carried a good deal farther than ever before by the speech of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, in the frank and sincere and statesmanlike admissions he made on this point. What did he say? I am not going to carry his declarations one whit further than not merely the words but the spirit of the words involved. He said that there has not been at present any failure in the voluntary system, and that so far there is no reason to anticipate that it is going to break down. He went on to refer in emphatic and significant, language to the Common Law of this country giving to the Crown the right to call upon the services of any of its able-bodied citizens to take up arms on its behalf. And then he used these significant phrases, speaking for himself and no doubt for his colleagues, too, that he would bar nothing as to what might happen in the future; and, further, that he could quite conceive a state of affairs in which compulsion might be necessary; it was not yet a necessity, but he could quite conceive it. I am content to leave those words as they were delivered, because it is perfectly clear from them that it is in the minds of the Government that a situation may conceivably arise—I will not put it more strongly than that—in which their existing methods may fail them, and they may have to fall back upon that Common Law right, fortified by the precedents and action of our own country and others in the days gone by.
Now we come to my point. Supposing that possibility is in the air, even if it be at present remote, what my noble friend had in his mind in putting this Motion upon the Paper was to learn whether the War Office, in the midst of all its overwhelming labours, has had the time, or if it has not had the time whether it will find it, to take those preliminary steps which are absolutely necessary to prevent what my noble friend called chaos in the event of compulsory service becoming 394 necessary. Let me say in a sentence or two what ought to be done by the War Office in the contingency of which I am speaking. Let us suppose that in July next or at any time you like in the autumn the Government, the voluntary system having broken down, have to fall back on this Common Law right. What is the machinery they would have to set in operation? They would want, in the first place, a complete list of all the males in this country between the ages of eighteen and thirty-eight, or whatever the limits they choose to adopt. They would have to divide these into categories of, firstly, unmarried men; secondly, married men without families; and, thirdly, married men with families. Then—and this bears somewhat on the question I addressed to the noble Marquess just now—if the county quota were to be adopted as the basis of contribution, as it always has been in the past and as in all probability it would have to be again, you would have to know how many each county had given already so that your distribution might be fair.
And then—an even more difficult task—you would have to decide upon the principle upon which your exemptions were based. As we must exempt the men referred to so often this afternoon—the men engaged in productive operations connected with the war—the men also who are employed in mines and on railways, and also the large force, not by any means to be ignored, who are carrying on the educational and scientific work of the country—to work out a principle of exemption is a matter alone of several months. Then when you have done that you have to proceed with your medical examination of the persons to be selected; you have to provide your machinery for calling them out and for incorporating them in the Army. I believe the noble and learned Viscount, who has great experience of the War Office, will not deny that I have given a fairly accurate account of the steps which have to be taken by any Government contemplating a resort to compulsion at any time. The object of my noble friend in putting his Motion upon the Paper this afternoon is, without requesting the Government to give any inconvenient pledge, to call their attention to these matters, and to ask them in the public interest to bear them in mind.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, bearing in mind the kindly expressed warning which the noble Earl opposite gave me yesterday as to the somewhat excessive part which I appear to be taking in the debates of your Lordships' House, I will endeavour to confine my few remarks, in what I presume is concluding this debate, to the specific subjects which have not so far been touched upon in the course of the discussion and upon which information is still desired by noble Lords opposite. But there are one or two general observations that I should like to make. The noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, in starting the discussion, spoke of the consideration which he and his friends desire to extend to His Majesty's Government. The Government, as such, does not deserve and does not demand any particular consideration. The consideration which noble Lords opposite and their friends in the country are good enough to extend to us is understood to be not in any sense for our sakes but in obedience to what they believe to be the interest of the country; and more particularly, of course, do they desire to extend that consideration in the case of my noble and gallant friend the Secretary of State for War, who is not a member of our Party. That we clearly understand. The result of his position is that less than ever is the War Office to be regarded as a Party Office, though there have been, of course, times when its proceedings have been the object of severe Party criticism and censure when both Parties in turn have been in power.
To one observation of the noble Viscount I should like to call attention, because he used a term which I cannot help saying I somewhat resent. He spoke, if he will allow me to say so, in an almost mechanical way as though it was a generally accepted term, and a matter of common knowledge, of our "unpreparedness" when the war broke out. That is, if he will forgive my saving so, a rather random and conventional adoption of a term which has been sometimes used in public and in the Press without, I think, any very definite meaning being attached to it. I have already taken occasion to point out more than once that it has always been, if it was a question of the whole nation becoming armed for the purposes of a great European conflict, that such a result could only be brought 396 about gradually and after war had broken out. We must, in fact, create a military nation if we are to be one. But I venture to assert this—and I am sure the noble Viscount would not contradict it—that there never has been a time in the history of the country where so large a force could have been sent to take part either in a great European conflict or in a conflict in any part of the world, and sent so speedily and with so little friction as the force which started for France in August. I am certain that no noble Lord would attempt to contradict that; and, without laying any further stress on the extent to which that result is due to the exertions of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, I feel that we are entitled to resent what I call the conventional use of the word "unpreparedness"; although, of course, the noble Viscount is quite entitled to think if he likes that, as compared with Germany—and I most frankly admit it if we were so compared—we were not prepared for this particular conflict.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
The noble Marquess will, I am sure, forgive me for interrupting him. We have all endeavoured most carefully to keep off the dangerous ground which has formed the subject of many discussions in this House in the last few years. From that point of view, and that point of view only, we have urged great increases. We have not, however, been able to get the Government to undertake them, and we did consider that to some extent there was a lack of preparedness when war broke out.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
A great many suggestions have been made from different quarters of the House, mainly, I think, as regards home defence. Not many suggestions have been made which would have brought about a larger Expeditionary Force than that which we were able to send away when war broke out. The noble Earl, Lord Curzon, towards the close of his speech, in a manner which I am sure must have greatly interested the House and will interest the country, spoke on the question of recruiting and the possibilities involved in the great number of men who are certain to be required and the almost unlimited number who conceivably might be required before the results of the war upon which my noble friend spoke so clearly can seem to be imminent. There is one observation that I should like to 397 make with regard to the limits of recruiting which as a nation we have to observe. The noble Earl alluded to certain categories of men of military age who ought not to be too freely drawn upon, categories which have been mentioned both here and elsewhere before. He referred, of course, to those who are actively engaged in the production of munitions of war and the supplies necessary for the upkeep of an army in the field, and also those engaged in such industries as mining, which, though perhaps not directly concerned with the supply of munitions of war, are required for keeping a particular industry of the country going.
I would point out to the noble Earl that there is a further set of considerations which has to be borne in mind; and it is this. We produce in normal times a vast number of commodities, some which would come under the head of necessaries and some which would come under the head of luxuries, which are exported to foreign countries. Those exports pay for the imports which we still have to receive in this country in time of war as in time of peace, and the only way in which these necessary imports can be paid for is by the production of those exports here. The only other methods in which they could conceivably be paid for would be either by the export of precious metals, which we know is impossible on a large scale, or possibly in some cases by the sale of securities held abroad—that is to say, by parting with the results of British energy and enterprise in foreign countries. The effect of any operation of that kind would be to diminish British credit and it is on that account that I mention this further matter because we never can forget that in the conduct of this war the maintenance of British credit is no less important than the supply of British men. Therefore we have to go further in placing possible limits upon the number of men who can properly and profitably be recruited in this country, and say that a system of recruiting which brought about a cessation or even a disparagement of British industries engaged in the export trade might in the long run prove to be more disastrous to the ultimate success of the British arms than the failure to put so many more thousand men into the field.
I leave this topic for the moment, except to say that I was somewhat surprised to hear 398 the noble Earl say that the experience of the former great wars showed that it was possible to carry on pari passu with perfect success a system of compulsory and voluntary recruiting. The noble Earl did not quite sufficiently indicate the great difficulty which arises in the consideration of all these systems—namely, the distinction between home and foreign service. I think he will find, if he looks back to the history of those days, that the recruiting of men for foreign service was not carried on with complete ease even when a system of compulsion was introduced; and I entirely agree with the noble Earl that one of the questions which we ought to bear in mind, and which those who have to contemplate the possibility do bear in mind, is this particular question not merely of the fact of compulsion but the degree of compulsion which you may have to impose upon individuals in order to secure the ultimate safety of the country. The problem, as the noble Earl pointed out, is an exceedingly complicated one, and I can assure him that though my noble and learned friend has said that we do not regard the possibility of compulsion as being within the landscape, as we now see it, yet those who are qualified to form opinions upon these subjects will not of course neglect to consider the matter in the different bearings, some of which have been alluded to by the noble Earl.
Then the noble Earl asked one or two specific questions, one relating to this subject of recruiting. He asked some questions, which I am afraid I am not able to answer with any very direct knowledge, on the subject of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. He drew attention to what is undoubtedly the fact, that its activities have been exceedingly sporadic, as many of us have had occasion to observe from our own experience. I understand that there are a large number of voluntary workers, something under 2,000 people, who are giving gratuitous service for the purpose of collecting these returns. The returns, I take it, are supplied to the local recruiting offices when they are received, and it is they—of course acting under the authority of the War Office—who, knowing that a certain number of men are required or would be acceptable in a particular district, call up those who are chosen for the purpose. What I understand happens is that when called up they undergo a tolerably rigorous medical examination, 399 and a considerable proportion, I am told, are rejected under that inquiry. The case which the noble Earl mentioned of a man who, suffering from a severe and disabling ailment, was called up, I can only suppose was the case of a man who had been medically examined and passed and subsequently stricken with this illness after having been apparently well when examined. But I understand that the noble Earl only used that as an illustration of the difficulty which might occur, and is actually occurring, in certain instances.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
The point was not merely that the man was ill, but that he had only given in his name, I believe, on the Monday and was called up on the following Wednesday, before there had been any time to examine him medically or to consider the case.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
As my noble friend behind me points out, he is called up and examined after. He is called up for the purpose of being examined; that is to say, he is called up in one sense, but is not placed in the ranks if medically unfit.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My point was rather different, and as it is important I should like it to be cleared up. What I want to get at is the principle on which the calling up is based. There are places in the part of the country where I live in which all the people have given in their names three months ago; yet not one of them has been called up. But here is a man, whose name I could give if necessary, who gave in his name on Monday and was called up on the following Wednesday—and so did a number of people living round him. The noble Marquess says he was called up by the local authorities, but there seems to be some lack of system in the matter which ought to be corrected.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I will inquire into the particular point the noble Earl has raised. Then he went on to ask, with regard to the numbers forthcoming from particular districts, whether the returns would be published showing the response which had been made in the case of particular districts. So far as I know, the only difficulty that attaches to taking 400 that action is in connection with the fact that in the case of ordinary recruiting a man's place of origin—to speak of him as if he were a commodity—is not specifically stated, and it does not necessarily follow that the man belongs to the place in which he is recruited. It might therefore be thought that the publishing of a nominal and local list of this kind would be rather unfair to some localities owing to the manner in which their general recruiting is carried on. But I will also cause inquiry to be made to see whether I can satisfy the noble Earl on that point.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
It really is of great importance that if any such return is published—and I hope very much that it will—it should not be a partial return giving only those men who have joined since the war began, because the county which bears the greatest burden with regard to the Army and the Navy in normal times has the smallest margin left to draw upon, and might, having really deserved best of the country, apparently come out worst under such a calculation.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
That is in conformity with what I was saying, that it may not be perfectly easy to do justice in each case to those who had supplied a number of labourers in the vineyard, so to speak, at an early hour, owing to the form in which recruiting returns are kept. Therefore I imagine that the War Office would not produce the return at all unless it were in a way which would be fair to all localities.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
If that can be done I have no doubt it will be a desirable thing to do. Then the noble Earl asked a further question about the removal of aliens. Without knowing the precise circumstances of the particular place to which the noble Earl alluded it is not easy to give a full or categorical answer, and for this reason. It is quite clear that the original removal of aliens from the area could only be undertaken under the Act by the military authority and ordered by them. Equally, under the Act, no one but the military authorities has the power of replacing the chessman, so to speak, from one square back on 401 to the other; but to what extent the military authorities may have been induced to take the second action on the representations of the local police I am, of course, unable to say. I have no doubt they would employ the local knowledge of the Police, and be glad to do so, in order to ascertain the facts about the possible local usefulness of particular aliens. But I confess that I am altogether unable to believe that any order could have been sent from the Central Department here, the Home Office, which really has no voice in the matter, which hampered the discretion either of the local Police authorities, who are not under the Home Office at all, or, still more, the military authorities with whom the final responsibility alone would rest.
The noble Earl mentioned the case of Sir Roger Casement, but I will deal with that in replying on the main subject of Ireland, on which I think nothing has been said in reply to the noble Viscount. The noble Viscount did not altogether spare the Government in what he said about their conduct with reference to recruiting in that country, and I frankly admit that he was entirely within his rights in criticising the action of the Irish Government. The consideration of which he spoke need not extend, and nobody imagines that it will extend, to the withholding of all criticism of that kind. But there are one or two matters concerning the way in which the noble Viscount put his case in which I think he is open to some criticism. Speaking generally, we are all aware, as the noble Lord below the Gangway who is not in his place now (Lord MacDonnell) pointed out, of the unhappy divisions of opinion in Ireland which have admittedly made the recruiting question there a special one and a more difficult one than it is in other parts of the United Kingdom. And I venture to say that any public man who can state, if he has had anything to do with public life affecting Ireland, that he has never done anything to make that state of feeling more difficult, or, still more, if he can say that the Party to which he belongs is altogether free from blame, on whichever side of the House he sits, in causing those differences of opinion in Ireland—well, then, he is entitled to throw the first stone at Irishmen in connection with these recruiting difficulties, but not, I think, otherwise.
402 The noble Viscount himself said that he did not wish to draw a general indictment against Ireland in the matter of the supply of soldiers to the British Army; and my noble friend on this side (Lord MacDonnell) produced some very striking and remarkable figures about the number of Irishmen in England who have enlisted in the Army, figures which I believe would stand a tolerably close examination. We can also say, speaking generally, that recruiting in Ireland for three divisions of the new armies has gone on and is going on to the satisfaction of the War Office. That, of course, is in addition to the fact that regular drafts have been supplied for the Irish regiments in the Service, and I may remind the House that every single Irish Infantry regiment is now at the Front in Belgium. The noble Viscount animadverted in terms by no means too strong on the seditious newspapers and leaflets which have been giving the Government of Ireland a great deal of trouble, and he repeated a criticism which we have heard before that they ought to have taken drastic action sooner than they did. He made a complaint against the Freeman's Journal for having reproduced a hostile article from an Irish-American organisation, thereby, as he implied, giving it an advertisement. The noble Viscount might think the advertisement, unfortunate, but he was not entitled to say that the reproduction of it by the Freeman's journal showed the slightest sympathy with the views which it expressed, no more than the advertisement which the noble Viscount has given these matters this afternoon by producing them here shows that he entertains himself—as we all know he does not—any shadow of sympathy with the views expressed. He, I know, would be delighted to nail any number of ears to any number of pumps or inflict any form of Carthaginian punishment upon the people who do these things if he were able to get at them. But we know, as my noble friend pointed out, that there are and long have been a certain number of revolutionary Irishmen, insignificant in number and, as I believe, decreasing in number, but always vocal out of proportion to their number. They have worked for long in concert with possibly a somewhat larger number of men of similar views in the United States of America, and they have been able in some cases to do mischief out of proportion to their real power. But lately—and this is a newer development—these 403 men have been joined to some who are not so much Nationalists or revolutionaries as anarchists, developing a different sort of activity, working through some of the methods of the extreme Anarchical Socialist Party, and inventing methods which are novel in Irish agitation.
The noble Earl mentioned the case of Sir Roger Casement, as to which I have no particular information. Even if he is still entitled to a pension—as to his position with regard to that I will inquire—it is evident, if what the noble Earl says of his whereabouts is correct, that he is not in a position to draw it or, I imagine, likely to become so. But I entirely agree with the noble Earl that such an action as he is reported to have taken is one which not only is subject to the most severe blame but which also ought to be followed, so far as possible, by the infliction of severe penalties; and it is a melancholy reflection that a man who did some good service in the past should, assuming him to be in the possession of all his faculties, have fallen so low as he appears to have done. As regards the particular instances of the publication of seditious leaflets, as my noble friend Lord MacDonnell stated the distribution of leaflets was for a time carried out with great skill and with an apparently lavish expenditure of money which could not have been the money of those who were responsible for their dissemination. It was done by an elaborate system of motor cars travelling at night. There was distribution in public places, dissemination through the post in small numbers in carefully sealed envelopes, and by other similar methods; so much so, that it was only in quite a small number of cases that it was found possible to take proceedings. In a few cases, however, proceedings have been successfully taken. But what is more important is that the regulations that were issued by the military authorities making it clear how severe the ultimate penalties in this action might be have, as I hope, succeeded in practically putting a stop to this dissemination of seditious literature.
The noble Earl, Lord Mayo, alluded to the presumed apathy of the civil authorities in contrast with the activity, even though that was somewhat tardy, shown by the military authorities. But I must remind him—it is true that the action taken was 404 delayed for some time—that the particular Statute under which the action was finally taken placed the powers in the hands of the military authorities, and of them only, and it was therefore only they who could take action. It was not in the power or the competence of the Government of Ireland to take it. Therefore I can assure the noble Earl that there really is no point in drawing any distinction between the action of the one department and the other.
THE EARL OF MAYO
I hope that if there is a public meeting in Ireland and those seditious leaflets are distributed the authorities will arrest those concerned and stop the whole thing. As I stated, this offence was committed after the authorities had seized the newspapers.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I can assure the noble Earl that we are not likely to object if severe action is taken by the military authorities under the powers which they possess under the Defence of the Realm Act. I should just like to say this about Lord Mayo's speech, that I was rather sorry to hear him speak in quite so contemptuous a tone of the Irish Volunteers. It may be that a certain section of them are not deserving of the profound respect of the noble Earl. But, on the other hand, as I believe, a large number of them are worthy of his respect, or of that of any other man; and I would remind the noble Earl that a considerable number of them have enlisted in His Majesty's forces and therefore receive the respect which we all extend to those who are giving their services to the country at this time. As regards the question of the newspapers, in one or two cases—
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
The noble Marquess has not told us what their status is, nor has he explained to us the Prime Minister's speech with regard to them.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
The speech of the Prime Minister on the subject of the 405 Volunteers has, I think, been somewhat misunderstood and possibly misrepresented from two points of view. It appears to have been assumed by some that the Prime Minister had especially picked out the Nationalist Volunteers and spoken of them as likely to constitute the Irish Army in the future. What the Prime Minister actually said—and I think if the noble Viscount looks at his speech he will see that this was the Prime Minister's meaning—was that it seemed clear to the Government, after all that has happened, and assuming, as we do, that a number of men both from the North and the South of Ireland either enroll in the Regular Army or are prepared to enroll themselves for home defence, that it was not possible to suppose that when peace was declared and the Government of Ireland had to be carried on in pacific times the embargo which had been placed in the past upon the existence of an Irish force of Volunteers could permanently continue. That appears to me to be an almost necessary implication in the circumstances as we know them. The noble Viscount said, very truly, that the Home Rule scheme does not contemplate the raising or the maintenance of an Irish Army by the Government of Ireland. The Prime Minister never said that he was going to amend the Home Rule Act in that respect. What he said did not amount to more than I have stated—that the veto which has been placed upon the general existence of an Irish Volunteer Force in the past, in fact you may say since the Union, would undoubtedly not survive the improved spirit and the changed state of things which would be found to exist at the close of the war; and I do not think the noble Viscount is entitled to draw any more definite conclusion from the Prime Minister's words.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I quite accept that; but it is a subject to which we ought to return on another occasion. In the meantime, could the noble Marquess give us a pledge that these troops, unless they are enrolled and take the oath of allegiance, shall not be given any authority over civilians in Ireland or be given arms? It is really a serious position. The statement made by Mr. O'Brien in his letter of January 2 which I quoted is echoed largely in the South of Ireland, where they have an absolute terror of being under men who have neither discipline nor been enrolled nor taken the oath of allegiance.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I am quite certain that the view which the noble Viscount has just expressed will have the full attention of the Irish Government and of the military authorities. I do not understand that the noble Viscount is speaking of any immediate dread of what may occur, but of what might conceivably happen in what at any rate cannot be the near future. I take it that that is so. Therefore if he likes to raise the subject when the House meets again we could have a discussion on it with more knowledge than we possess at this moment.
I shall certainly raise the matter as soon as Parliament meets again. But I hope in the meantime that the noble Marquess will see that this is a very serious question.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I think I have now covered all the ground I desired to cover, because I did not wish to go beyond the various points raised by two or three of the noble Lords who have spoken. Therefore I will not attempt to say more in closing this exceedingly interesting debate, as I am sure every noble Lord who is here will agree it has been. It has produced several speeches of great moment and weight, and I have no doubt that they will be read by the public with interest to-morrow. I hope that the noble Viscount who introduced it is in the main satisfied with the discussion, although perhaps we have not been able—indeed, he may have anticipated that—to give him all the information to which he conceives he was entitled. As I have ventured to say, I do not think that we shall achieve complete agreement between the two sides of the House as to the precise extent of the information which it is right and proper to give: The authorities at the War Office take a very strong and definite view on the subject; and, as my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack pointed out I venture to think with great force, there are a number of items of information which seem perfectly harmless in themselves and are in fact harmless if taken singly, but which enable our intensely ingenious antagonists to piece together bits of information, like a Chinese puzzle, and thereby arrive at something which is of service to them. I do not, of course, say that there may not be cases when we are wrongly reticent—where we refuse to announce something, or state the mime of some place, or give some figure, which might in the event prove to be 407 harmless. But I hope that noble Lords will agree that if there is to be an error it should be on the side of security and not on the side of rashness in making revelations and statements of any kind. I think we must leave the matter there, and ask the Opposition and the country generally to judge as fairly and as generously as they can the action of the Government in maintaining such silence as we do. I can assure noble Lords that it is no satisfaction to us to maintain silence on particular details. I have no doubt that we are sometimes credited with a great deal more knowledge than we ourselves individually possess, as I think I have before stated in this House. I can only repeat that we have to ask the country to trust us in these matters, and even though we seem sometimes not able to satisfy what appears quite legitimate curiosity and interest, we beg the country to believe that we are actuated with the best motives and with no desire whatever to keep them in the dark.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
My Lords, I have one question to ask the Government, and I think it is of some importance. The Prime Minister of France has stated in specific terms that the Allies have certain objects in view and will not lay clown their arms or make peace before those objects are attained. The country wants to know not so much the number of recruits we have got or expect to get, but whether the Government will take whatever number of men may be required for the attainment of the objects we have in view by voluntary enlistment, if they can, hut, if not, by compulsion, so that we may be sure that by one system or the other all the men will be obtained. I ask whether the Government have given this subject consideration, as it is one of supreme importance to ourselves and our Allies.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I do not know that I can say anything to my noble friend beyond what, as I think noble Lords opposite admitted, was explicitly stated by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack on this subject. I am not quite sure whether my noble friend heard the speech of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack?
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
When he sees it in print I think he will admit that it gives an answer to his question of a kind 408 to satisfy all that he can reasonably ask. The mere form in which a statement of that kind is phrased may be misleading in the sense of giving rise to a wrong impression in accordance with the desires of particular people. There are individuals who hate the idea of compulsory service, although they would be willing, in the last resort, to accept it for the safety of the country.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
There are others who are longing for compulsory service and would desire to introduce it by any means. On any statement that is made the professors of those two schools are liable to put a somewhat different interpretation in accordance with the state of their own minds. Therefore I should prefer not offhand to make a categorical promise on behalf of the Government, because the form in which it is put ought to be the subject of careful deliberation by all His Majesty's Ministers sitting together, and even then they might not arrive at the precise terms which they ought to use. Therefore I hope my noble friend will forgive me if I do not go beyond what my noble and learned friend said to-night.