§ LORD ST. DAVIDS rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they would cause a roll to be composed of the names of the Peers and sons of Peers of military age who are serving their country in this war, and of the positions in which they are serving.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I presume that the usual way in which to obtain the roll that I am asking for from the Government would be to move for a Return. I specially have not done that, because I take it that the Department which would be asked to give the information would be the War Office, and it would be lunacy for any one to suggest that the War Office should have thrown upon its shoulders any unnecessary work at the moment. There- 54 fore I do not move for a Return, but ask His Majesty's Government whether they will cause a roll of the kind to which I refer to be composed. I think such a roll could best be prepared through the officials of the House, if the Government and your Lordships are of opinion that such a roll should be obtained. Since I came into the House one noble Lord asked me what service I thought should be included. Obviously all war service should be included. Another noble Lord said he thought that not only the service of Peers' sons but that of Peers' sons' sons should be included. I quite agree. For my part I have no preconceived notion as to the form which the roll should take, but I think the advantages of such a roll both for record and for example would be very great, and I. hope the Government will see their way to assent to its preparation.
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, I feel sure that the House would desire to give, a sympathetic reply to the appeal which my noble friend has made on this subject. It is a matter of pride to us all who are members of this House, and not least to those of us who for one reason or another have not been able to take a part in the actual military or naval service of the country in this war, that so many Peers and so many members of their families have come to the front for the service of the King on this occasion. I think that the most appropriate course will be, speaking generally, that which my noble friend has suggested. I should propose that my two noble friends who respectively represent the Admiralty and the War Office in this House should obtain from those Departments the technical details of service, which would not be at the disposal of those outside the Departments, and that then the roll should be prepared on principles and with limitations which may be a matter for some consideration, provided that all those included were taking part in the service of the Crown in the military or naval forces in some capacity or another. That, of course, is not to say that there are not; a large number of members of this House, prevented by one cause or another from holding actual commissions in the Services, who are devoting the most valuable energies and giving up in many cases the whole of their time to the service of the country in connection with the war; but I think it would probably be 55 more consonant with the feeling of the House if this particular return were confined to those who are holding His Majesty's Commission in some form or other in the Army or Navy. We should propose, therefore, to proceed on those lines. If the noble Lord will forgive me, I would suggest that the form in which the return is asked for should read, "Peers and sons of Peers of military age who are serving or have served their country in this war, and the positions in which they are serving or have served."
§ LORD DEVONPORT
My Lords, I should like to say a word, as a roll in the form suggested might be unfair and unjust in certain cases. To take a concrete instance. I have two sons of fighting age. One of them was travelling in Germany at the time the war broke out and was taken prisoner, and there he remains. The other has been suffering for two years from a continuing illness, and of course his name, under the suggestion of the noble Marquess, would not be recorded. I think a roll so prepared would lead to misapprehension and misunderstanding in time to come. I am moved to make these few observations because I cannot dismiss from my mind the character of the speech which Lord St. Davids made the other day. He laid it down that if we wanted to create an example throughout the country the only way of doing it was to start at the top, and he went on to relate an incident within his own knowledge of a certain Peer having given an entertainment which had been numerously attended by what are termed "young slackers." The sort of imputation cast by that speech makes me think that we ought to be very careful before, we assent to this proposal. I may, of course, be mistaken as to the noble Lord's intention. At all events, I am going to enter my protest against this roll being prepared unless at the same time we have an opportunity of placing on record the circumstances pertinent to those who do not come within the suggested classification. I see that the Motion in its original form not merely applies to sons of Peers but also to Peers themselves.
§ LORD DEVONPORT
I had overlooked that, and therefore will not pursue that point further. But why assail a class? Certainly the noble Lord did assail a class the other day. Those who constitute the membership of this House are a very limited class. The noble Lord, in his speech the other day when he was advocating either registration or conscription, said that if you were to go to the country and ask them to support you because the working men were not adequately responding you would be defeated; and he gave an illustration of the earnestness with which men were working in a dockyard near which he lives—Pembroke Dockyard, I think, was the one to which he referred. I am certain, if the noble Lord's objective to-day is what it was the other day—to bring about compulsory military service or something akin to it—that if he were to go to the country and say that the justification for it was that the sons of Peers and Peers of fighting age were "slackers" he would be defeated, because the newspapers show the contrary to be the case. We see from the records in the newspapers that the toll of life taken day by day from the families of members of the Peerage is very considerable. That at all events shows that they are rendering to their country a very full measure of service indeed.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the observations which have been made by the noble Lord who has just addressed the House certainly deserve very attentive consideration. While I am in favour of giving the kind of information for which Lord St. Davids has moved, I think we must be extremely careful not to give it in a shape which might have the effect of creating a prejudice in the minds of the public against those members of your Lordships' families who, although of military age, may, for reasons which may be amply sufficient, have been prevented from serving their country in the Army or the Navy. No case could be stronger than that which the noble Lord cited—the case of a son of a member of this House who has been actually interned in Germany, and who obviously, therefore, could not come forward to serve. I hope your Lordships will allow us to consider very carefully the precise form in which this information 57 should be given I am bound to say that I agree, with what was said just now to the effect that the reference made the other evening by Lord St. Davids to certain members of this House makes it doubly necessary that we should prepare this return in a way which cannot create any misapprehension in the public mind. We know that Lord St. Davids spoke under the influence of very strong feeling, but I thought when I listened to his speech, and I think now, that it was, perhaps, unfortunate that he should have made the kind of statement which he did make upon that occasion.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I would point out that the suggestion that this should be a record only of those holding military and naval commissions came from the Government. For my own part I would like to see service of every sort and 58 kind included. I can quite understand that it may be more difficult to get this full information, but my own belief is that this record will only be complete when, added to military and naval service, you have a record of every other kind of service, and also of incapacity for service. I was hoping that the officials of this House, say, would circularise every Peer. If a Peer had a son who was a. prisoner abroad, that would be recorded; and if he had a son of military age who had tried to enlist but had not been accepted, that also would be included. I think this sort of information ought to be added to the naval and military facts which the Government have offered to give us.
§ House adjourned at five minutes before Five o'clock, till Tomorrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.