HL Deb 27 July 1915 vol 19 cc722-4

My Lords, I rise to ask the noble Lord who represents the War Office to what date the statement made on July 21 of the number of married men enrolled in His Majesty's Army applies, and what is the actual or approximate amount of the separation allowance paid weekly since June 1 to wives and other dependants of married soldiers.

Last week I asked His Majesty's Government whether they could grant me a Return stating the number of married men enrolled in the Army since the outbreak of war in August last, and the amount of separation allowances paid to the wives and other dependants of these men. Lord Newton, who replied, was not able to grant the Return, but he gave me some figures. It is in relation to those figures that I have ventured to put this Question on the Paper, as I want, if possible, to elicit further information which is essential to a proper appreciation of the situation as we find it. The first figure which the noble Lord gave me was in relation to the number of married men who had been enrolled since the outbreak of the war. All I now ask him in connection with that is this, whether he can inform me as to the date to which the numbers apply. The second point to which I refer in my Question is this. The noble Lord gave me a figure of the cost of these separation allowances to wives, but not to dependants. He gave it in the shape of an aggregation—that is to say, he aggregated the cost from the time of the outbreak of the war to the date that the figure had application to. What I venture to ask now is whether he can give me the weekly cost within a reasonable period—I suggest the weekly outgoings from June 1; but I do not wish to be difficult in my inquiry, and I would be quite satisfied if the noble Lord could give me a weekly figure of any reasonably recent date, but the aggregation of the cost does not convey the information which we desire to have. We want to know what is the vivid and real cost of those separation allowances week by week. Whatever they may be to-day, there is no doubt they will continue to grow. As the Army becomes larger, the numbers of married men will increase, though I hope not in such a large proportion. If the noble Lord can gratify me to the extent of giving me the information I seek, I shall be indebted to him.


My Lords, the statement which I made on July 21 may be taken as applying to that date; and with regard to the payments at the present moment, they approximate to something like £750,000 a week. I am unable to give the exact figure, but I take it that that will be near enough to satisfy the noble Lord. I should like to assure him that as far as I am concerned I have not the least desire to minimise or to conceal the amount of the expenditure in this direction. On the contrary, it seems to me highly desirable that the public should have as much information as it is possible to give them in the circumstances. In that connection I would venture to submit that the attacks which have been made, not by the noble Lord, but in various quarters, upon the War Office in connection with this question are not only unjustifiable, but totally illogical. When I made the statement last week upon this question I explained that the War Office was not in the same position as the War Offices of other countries to select whatever men they chose. The War Office has not, as appears to be imagined in some quarters, any predilection for married men. But the fact that Parliament has decided that the relatives of married men are to be treated with more than average generosity has resulted in the fact that special inducements are thereby held out to married men to join the Army. And it is not an exaggeration to say that the larger a man's family the greater are the inducements for him to join the Army, and not only are those inducements offered to men who are not in the Army in order to get them to enter the Army, but men who are in the Army now are to some extent induced to marry because they are soldiers. It is not surprising, in view of these facts, that the expenditure should be very large and should continue to increase. What is surprising is that the very people who urged and insisted upon this expenditure are now the very persons who turn round and denounce the War Office for extravagance. I venture to submit that the responsibility for this heavy expenditure is not with the War Office. The responsibility attaches to Parliament, which urged and insisted upon this generous treatment of dependants. It is altogether unfair and unjustifiable to make the War Office responsible for this expenditure, which, as will have been gathered from my remarks, amounts to something like £40,000,000 a year upon this branch alone.