HL Deb 17 May 1915 vol 18 cc1012-4

My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government (1) Whether they will grant a Return of the number of men of a military age at present employed in the different Government Offices; (2) How many of these have been engaged since August, 1914; (3) Whether it is proposed to release any of them from civil employment with a view to their being enrolled in the Naval or Military Services.


My Lords, as regards the noble Earl's first Question, I am informed by the Treasury that they consider that the amount of labour which the preparation of this Return would involve would be out of proportion to the advantage to be gained therefrom. I think the House will recognise that at the present time Government Departments are very much overworked, and it is therefore undesirable to put extra labour upon them unless it is absolutely necessary. As to the second Question, I can assure your Lordships that as regards all temporary employees engaged since August last great care has been taken to ensure the appointment only of those who are not eligible for war service. In reply to the third Question I may say that a very large number of Civil Servants have already joined the Colours, and as far as I am aware every facility has been given for them to do so. I can only speak definitely of my own Office, and so far as that is concerned I have given every facility for men to join—I am afraid my anxiety to release men has caused great inconvenience to the Department—and two of those who have done so have already fallen fighting for their country.


I was sorry to hear the noble Lord say that he could not grant this Return. I do not know whether your Lordships recollect a Return, hitherto presented annually but which we have not had this year, of the large number of additional Government posts created. I do not know whether the noble Lord is in a position to-day to give us any information on the subject, but we have not heard hitherto that any single Government post has been suppressed out of the enormous number, running into thousands, which have been created during the tenure of office of His Majesty's present advisers. Not only are men of military age required with the Colours, but there is some reason at this time for exercising economy in those services which, for the purposes of the war, are entirely unnecessary. I ask the noble Lord whether it is proposed to continue such services as the Land Survey, which involves enormous expense. The noble Lord smiles, but I submit that the continuance of these services, carried on at an enormous expense and to a large extent by young men of military age, is scarcely congruous to the appeals which the Government address on every occasion to people of military age to join His Majesty's Forces, and certainly foreign to the co-ordination of public endeavour for the purposes of the war for which we are all pressing. Notwithstanding all the war appeals which have been addressed to us from the Government Benches and the enormous addition to the public expenditure which has been incurred, so far as I know, not one single service of a pacific character, which could be taken up with equal advantage eight or ten years hence, has been halted either to facilitate the Exchequer or to provide the necessary men or necessary facilities for men to join His Majesty's Army. I would ask the noble Lord whether some statement cannot be made which will allay a great deal of the anxiety that exists on this subject. If he finds himself unable to do so now, I will put a Notice on the Paper for an early day.


My Lords, the noble Viscount has couched his criticism in somewhat general terms. He named only one particular instance of a service which he thought ought to be curtailed in respect of the war—namely, the Land Survey and Valuation. If the noble Viscount desires to raise that particular subject—as to which I have not any figures by me— I have no doubt that we shall be prepared to meet him on that specific point when we have ascertained the facts. To what other services the noble Viscount was particularly referring of course I cannot say. But I am a little sorry that he worded his criticism in such general terms. He must know that certain services, such, for instance, as the Post Office and a number of others, have to be carried on even in time of war. From those services, certainly from the Postal Service, a very large number of men have gone to the Front, and all through it has been the object so far as possible to replace those who have gone by men who, for one reason or another—either age or physical disability—are not able to serve. I think, therefore, that the noble Viscount's general stricture on the Government for having apparently neglected to cut down a number of unnamed services is scarcely fair. It is, of course, open to him to raise the question in a concrete form at any future time, and if he really thinks that in Government Departments or in various other forms of Government service enormous numbers of young men of military age are being employed I hope he will lose no time in raising the point, because it is desirable that the public should not be misled into supposing that that is the case; and we shall not he sorry for an opportunity of showing the noble Viscount that he has, I think, spoken without full inquiry into the subject.


I quite accept what has fallen from the noble Marquess. Might I explain that what I complained of was not that a certain number of officials had not been allowed to join the Colours who desired to go, but that there has been no general review on the part of the Government of what in a time of war seem to us to be unnecessary establishments—I refer especially to the large number of officials who have been recently appointed.

House adjourned at ten minutes before Five o'clock, till Tomorrow, half-past Ten o'clock.