§ Order of the Day read for resuming the Debate upon the Motion of Viscount Milner, viz., to resolve, "That in the opinion of this House it is necessary, in order to secure the objects for which the country is fighting, that an Act should be passed without further delay rendering all men of military age liable to be called upon for military service during the continuance of the war."
§ There was a pause before any Peer rose to continue the debate. Then
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY said
The noble Marquess the Leader of the House moved yesterday that the debate be adjourned until to-day, and that Motion was carried. Now we are upon the main question again, and the noble Marquess is in possession of the House. Does he move that the debate be again adjourned?
§ Moved, That the Debate be further adjourned.—(The Marquess of Crewe.)
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
My Lords, I feel in a position of very great difficulty. I am aware that there is a strong feeling among many of your Lordships that, in view of the fact that the members of the Government feel unable to take any part in this debate—which, of course, is to us all a great disappointment—the adjournment should not be opposed. I dare say if the adjournment is opposed it will nevertheless be carried, for the power of the Government when making an appeal such as the noble Marquess has made is a very great power. I am not complaining of that. But I cannot personally agree to the adjournment, and for this reason. If I have any feeling about this question at all, it is the overwhelming feeling of the fatal character—I am not using exaggerated language—of the Government's habit of delay. What I have been protesting against is the inability of the Government to make up their minds.
792 This question has been before the country, before the mind of the public, for nearly a year. We know that there have been acute discussions in the Cabinet upon it during the last week or fortnight, and that the Government are still unable to make up their minds. In these circumstances what are those of us whose minds are made up to do? It seems to me that, if this question is still hanging in the balance, that is all the more reason for our doing all we can to incline the balance in the direction which we are profoundly convinced is the right one, and we can only do that by going on with the debate, and ultimately, if necessary, supporting our views in the Division Lobby. If this action could be regarded as directed against the life of the Government, I should not take it. However anxious I am to put on record—and I am most anxious to have a chance of putting on record—the most intense conviction that I hold on this question, I would not press this course if it were directed against the life of the Government. Many noble Lords have come here to-day at great inconvenience, and to the neglect of other important duties, to express their views on this question. Moreover, a debate here does not affect the life of the Government, which depends upon the House of Commons. It is a matter of common knowledge that a debate, or even a division, in this House does not decide the fate of the Government. At a crisis like this that is the last thing I should wish to do. But the only opportunity which I and others have of influencing the Government, either directly or through public opinion, on this question, so pregnant with fate, is by the expression of our views in this House. If noble Lords will not support me I know that I shall cut a rather lamentable figure in going, perhaps with only a few members, into the Division Lobby against the further adjournment of the debate, but in my honest conviction and conscience I am not able to agree to the course proposed.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I find no difficulty in understanding the feeling of disappointment, perhaps it would not be too much to say the feeling of annoyance, with which the noble Viscount opposite and other Peers interested in this most important subject have received the announcement just made by the noble Marquess who leads the House. I will venture to say this to them. Do not le[...] them suppose that it is they alone who are 793 disappointed or vexed that it should have been necessary for us to ask for this further postponement. I can scarcely conceive a more mortifying position for members of any Government than to find themselves in the position in which the noble Marquess and I find ourselves this evening. That my noble friend's announcement should perhaps have the effect of causing hard things to be said of His Majesty's Government is a very minor consideration. What really matters is the loss of authority which I am afraid is likely to result from the apparent inability of His Majesty's Government to deal at once with a question of such national importance.
The noble Viscount spoke just now of the "fatal habit of delay" which, he said, we had contracted, and my noble friend Lord Salisbury last night told the House that apparently His Majesty's Government thought that delay did not matter. Of course, we know that it matters; and it is only because circumstances of imperious necessity compel us to do so that we have to come here and ask for a further measure of delay. We have given with absolute frankness and sincerity the reasons which lead us to make this request. They are three. First, there have arisen within the Cabinet serious differences of opinion in regard to the question of recruiting; secondly, those differences are so grave as to threaten the break up of the Cabinet; and, thirdly, in our view the collapse of the Government at this moment would be a grave national disaster. As to the first and second of those three reasons, the House must take the facts from us. We tell them, and I am sure they will not doubt us when we do so, that these differences have arisen and are so serious as to threaten a breach of unity amongst us. Whether the break up of the present Cabinet would be, as we believe it would be, a grave disaster, is a question about which there may be differences of opinion. I can assure the House that we as individuals have no exaggerated idea of our own importance, that we put forward no claim whatever to infallibility. I feel indeed convinced that I speak the mind of almost every one of us when I say that we would gladly step aside if you could show us that at this moment there were other competent men ready to take our place and to carry on our work.
My noble friend Lord Salisbury made use of this remarkable expression last night. He said, "Ministers who cannot make up 794 their minds should stand aside." The trouble is that Ministers can and do make up their minds, and that some of them have convictions every whit as strong as the convictions which my noble friend himself entertains in regard to various subjects. It is precisely because they can make up their minds, and because their convictions are deep-rooted, that they are unable at this moment to find any middle course by which we could escape front the difficult situation which confronts us. At this moment there can be no doubt that we are face to face with a situation in which the alternatives are that we as members of the Government have to ask for an adjournment and cannot take a useful part in this debate if it continues, or the break-up to which the Prime Minister referred just now in the House of Commons. My noble friend Lord Salisbury told us that he and his friends were ready to support unity of action, and upon that condition to back up the Government. We have asked for delay solely in the hope that there may emerge from that period of a few days' grace an agreement which will enable us to meet Parliament again with united action and with a policy which the whole Cabinet can approve.
I venture to think that when the Prime Minister used the word "disaster" in reference to the possibility of the collapse of the Coalition Government he did not use too strong an expression. I am not speaking, of course, of its effect upon us as individuals. But of this I am sure, that a breakdown of the Government at this moment would have the most deplorable effects, not only in this country, but upon our Allies, who expect to find in this country stability of counsel and consistency of policy; that it would have an effect upon our great Dominions abroad; and, last but not least, that it would certainly afford the utmost encouragement to our enemies, who, as any one who watches the Press of Central Europe will know, are constantly on the look-out for every sign of household differences between us in this country.
I gather that the noble Viscount desires that the discussion upon his Motion should proceed to-day. It is, of course, entirely for him to decide whether that should be so or not. What we feel about it is this. For some reasons, speaking for myself, I should certainly have been very glad indeed to have continued the discussion 795 this evening. The noble Viscount said some rather severe things about the Coalition Government—a severity which was perhaps rather specially directed at the Unionist members of it. I should have liked very much to deal with some of those points. But, my Lords, the discussion would surely be quite unreal if when we are called upon to examine a substantive proposal—a proposal of policy put forward by the noble Viscount and believed in by many members of your Lordships' House to be the best and the only policy by which the war could be carried to a successful conclusion—if at such a moment we were not in a position to state what our own views were with regard to the noble Viscount's proposal, or what alternative proposals of our own we might desire to lay before the House. These considerations seem to me at all events to render it impossible for us who sit upon this Bench to continue the discussion; and it is for that reason, and because we believe that the discussion would be unprofitable and uninstructive unless we were able to take part in it, that we have asked the House to grant us a delay of three or four days, in the hope that when that short period of grace is over we shall be able to come here and place your Lordships in full possession of the proposals which we desire to make.
§ LORD BERESFORD
My Lords, I am sure that no one in your Lordships' House can fail to appreciate the gravity of my noble friend's remarks. Those remarks had principally to do with the life of the Government. But I submit very respectfully that the life of the country is far more valuable than the life of the Government. If we go on as we are doing we are absolutely certain to lose this war. I would ask how are we to know, if we allow the debate to be further adjourned until next Tuesday, that we shall get the debate on that day. The Government have had twenty months in which to organise to win this war; and nobody in the country, much less in your Lordships' House, can be satisfied in any way with their control and conduct of the war. The Government say that they cannot make up their minds on the question of recruiting. I wish respectfully to tell them that they have not made up their minds on any single question material to the war. The public have been in advance of the Government on every single question, and have made 796 them carry out many things that they seemed disinclined to do. I hope that my noble friend Lord Milner will divide on the question of the adjournment, so as to show the country that if the Government cannot make up their minds there are some people in the land who can, who know what they want and how to get it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, it is impossible to exaggerate the gravity of the statements which the Leader of the House and my noble friend Lord Lansdowne have made. The appeal which they addressed has, of course, great weight with us. I cannot help thinking that there is hardly any appeal which my noble friend Lord Lansdowne might make to us on this side of the House that we should not feel most anxious to acknowledge and accept. My noble friend has told us how deeply he is sensible of the gravity of the situation, and he has lifted somewhat the veil which covers the position of the Cabinet by telling us that the differences of opinion in the Cabinet are differences of conviction—conviction held on the one side and on the other as strongly as possible. I had certainly thought that the differences, which, of course, were apparent to anybody, probably lay in this, that some members of the Government were timid and afraid of going the full length of what they knew was necessary, because they thought the country would not support them. I tried last night, as far as my humble voice would extend, to reassure the Government on that head. I will venture, even at the risk of repeating myself, to do so again. Depend upon it if the Government will lead the country strongly there is nothing that the country will not grant them to win the war. That is what I am certain is the truth of the situation. But, of course, if differences of conviction among members of the Government are as strong as my noble friend says, then no doubt the situation is very serious.
We are asked not to press the Government until next Tuesday. That is a very difficult appeal to resist. But depend upon it the members of the Government who do not agree must agree or go. There is nothing else to be done. There is no use carrying on with divided counsels. My noble friend Lord Lansdowne has spoken in words of deep and serious meaning of the effect abroad of what is happening in England. I am fully conscious of it. 797 But let me say this, that there is no difference of opinion at all in this country as to the necessity for carrying on the war, and if we venture to criticise His Majesty's Government, it is not because they are too warlike, but, if anything, because they are not warlike enough. There is no sign in any quarter of the country of weakening in regard to the war. Those abroad who watch our proceedings may be well assured that no changes which can take place—no changes in the Government, and no probable change in public opinion—will be in any but one direction, the direction of carrying on the war more vigorously than hitherto. Therefore I hope that these difficulties which have arisen will not prejudice us even for a moment in the eyes of our Allies.
I come back to the point before us, whether the debate on the noble Viscount's Motion should be further adjourned. It is true, as Lord Milner has said, that a large number of noble Lords have come to your Lordships' House this afternoon in order to hear the debate upon my noble friend's Motion, and there are many noble Lords present, I believe, who wish to speak in the debate whenever it does take place, and whose opinions will carry great weight with the country. I confess that I should have been happier if those opinions could have been given to the country. The country would then know that those who are able and willing to advise public opinion upon these grave issues have a strong view upon this particular question. I speak with very little authority, I know, in your Lordships' House. But I may say this, that if noble Lords desire to carry on the debate I do not think I, personally, could resist them. But, on the other hand, after the very grave words of the two noble Marquesses opposite, and after the appeal especially of my noble friend Lord Lansdowne, I confess I think that on the whole the wiser course would be to acquiesce in the proposal for the adjournment of the debate.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, I desire to ask a question which may facilitate the course of the discussion. As the noble Marquess the Leader of the House knows, it is difficult for many noble Lords to come up from various parts of England at short notice, and a good deal of inconvenience has been caused owing to the postponement of this debate. I should like to ask whether it is possible for the noble Marquess to give a definite undertaking that the debate will 798 be resumed on Tuesday next. I think his suggestion was that the debate should be adjourned until that day "in the hope that the Government may then be able to state their views to the House." It would be of great advantage and would assist many noble Lords in their action if we could be told definitely that the debate would be taken next Tuesday and would not be further postponed. I know nothing of the discussions that have been going on in the Cabinet; but, after all, the facts are fully known. The Government have every single fact before them on which they can base an opinion, and they have been considering the matter for some time. Surely if between now and Tuesday next, knowing all the facts, these gentlemen cannot make up their minds, they never will. There being this character of indecision in regard to this particular matter, I am afraid the Government may be losing authority in the country. As to what has been said, is it not possible, though there may be grave dangers from, I will not say the break up of the Government, but from the loss of certain members of the Government, that on the other hand something may be gained by the greater intensity of action of those who remain? At any rate, they would be united and vigorous in action, and that would be a great gain after all the compromises uniting everybody, phrases in which nobody believes and on which nobody can act with any energy, because they are simply bridges to bring the two Parties together. Therefore may I ask whether the noble Marquess is in a position to give an undertaking that, if the debate is now adjourned, the discussion will take place on Tuesday next?
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, in response to the appeal which the noble Viscount has just made, I am able to say quite clearly that if the debate is adjourned until Tuesday next and it is then desired to proceed with it, certainly from this Bench no opposition will be raised to that course. What may happen before Tuesday is, of course, another matter, and upon that I cannot venture to express an opinion. But in any case I can say that, so far as my noble friend and I are concerned, we shall interpose no obstacle in the way of proceeding with the debate on the noble Viscount's Motion on Tuesday next. Perhaps I might enforce once more what fell from my noble friend Lord Lansdowne, because the noble Viscount repeated that 799 the Government were in the position that they could not make up their minds. The fact is precisely the contrary. If the members of the Government were purely undecided on this question it would obviously be infinitely more easy to come to an agreement one way or the other than if strong but differing convictions were held. I desire, therefore, to protest against the imputation of indecision as concerns this particular subject, whatever view noble Lords may like to hold on other circumstances, either in the past or in the present, upon which they regard us as unable to make up our minds.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I do not understand the position which Ministers are likely to take up supposing that my noble friend Lord Milner agrees to the further postponement of the debate until Tuesday. Does the noble Marquess mean that when the debate then takes place we shall hear the collective views of His Majesty's Ministers as to the course which is going to be taken to remedy what I understand to be the deficiency in recruiting? Are Ministers coming down to your Lordships' House next Tuesday to tell us whether the Government are going the whole hog or not? That is what we should like to know. I did not understand from what the noble Marquess said just now whether Ministers were going to take part in the debate then or whether it was intended to leave it to noble Lords on this side of the House. I do not wish to make a speech now upon compulsory military training. I have probably made far too many. I am not like the Cabinet, who, however strong may be the views they hold individually, do not appear to be able collectively to make up their minds. I made up my mind about compulsory military training ten years ago. The Government cannot make up their minds until next Tuesday—and probably not then. Since I made up my mind on this subject I have listened to many speeches by Lord Roberts, whose departure from among us we all deeply regret, and it has been borne in upon me with increasing force from time to time that it is impossible for this nation to take part in a struggle on the Continental scale unless the whole of the nation is organised from top to bottom. Ministers know best what they want, but I should say they would be very glad if pressure were put upon them this afternoon by carrying opposition to the adjournment 800 into the Lobby. Perhaps if we took that course it might assist them collectively to make up their minds before Tuesday next. I came here yesterday and again to-day for the purpose of supporting Lord Milner's Motion, and if the noble Viscount thinks fit to carry his opposition to the adjournment into the Division Lobby my vote will be at his disposal.
My Lords, I venture to ask my noble friend Lord Milner to accept the suggestion of the noble Marquess opposite. On several occasions strong attacks have been made in this House upon the Government, and for the first time on one or two occasions we have then heard the other side of the question. I remember the debate on the subject of the blockade and contraband. In the course of that debate we heard for the first time what the Government case was, and, with great respect to my noble and gallant friend on my right (Lord Beresford), I never heard an attack so completely frustrated and crushed as that was by the speeches of Lord Emmott and Lord Faringdon. That was the first time that we had heard what the Government had to say on that subject. I could not support the noble Viscount's Motion tonight if I am not to hear the other side of the question. And, after all, if some of us are put to the inconvenience of coming here again, surely that is our first duty. All of us, I suppose, are doing work for the nation in other parts of the country. I went down to a Tribunal this morning, and managed to get back. Surely our first duty is here on a question of this kind. Therefore I do not think any of us should grumble if we have to come up again. I agree so far with my noble friend that I should object if it were to be a case of perpetual post ponement. In that event I think that, so far as I am concerned, I should have to go without hearing the other side of the question and should be prepared to support Lord Milner's Motion. I see many of the difficulties which would have to be faced if his Motion were carried, but I believe those difficulties are not insurmountable, any more than were the difficulties in connection with the questions that are now being tried by the Tribunals all over the country. In the circumstances, however, I could not support Lord Milner's Motion to-night if he insisted upon pressing it, and I hope that he will consent to defer his anxiety and accept the advice of Lord Lansdowne.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I desire to answer the question put to me specifically by Lord Willoughby de Broke. I think he will see, on reflection, that the form in which he put the question caused it to be scarcely a fair one. My noble friend and I stated that there exists in the ranks of the Government deep-seated disagreement on certain points connected with the subject of the noble Viscount's Motion. Lord Willoughby de Broke asks me to give a pledge that these disagreements will be settled before Tuesday next. If I were able to give that pledge, it would scarcely have been so necessary for us to announce the fact of a disagreement or to ask that this debate should be adjourned.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, some of us have come from Flanders, and we have to return in the course of a few hours. It is not quite fair to us that this debate should be postponed from day to day, as appears to be the wish of His Majesty's Government. I have listened with as much attention as I possibly could to the speeches which have been made, but I have heard no reference whatever to the Army in Flanders. I have heard nothing but what is the effect upon the Cabinet, what is the effect in the Dominions, who, after all, have their own Governments, and what is the effect in neutral countries and amongst our Allies. I might suggest to the noble Marquess opposite that, after all, our chief Ally, France, has thought fit to change her Government on more than one occasion, and I am not aware that France has been tern asunder by any such change of Government. Indeed, France is more convinced on the prosecution of the war than at any previous period since the war began.
I would insist upon this, that the Army point of view has to be considered. Very few, perhaps, realise what it means to have battalions below their establishment in the trenches. It means that a section, instead of being composed of twelve or more men, is composed of six or four men. A battalion has to hold the same length of front whether it is strong or weak. Every battalion headquarters and every company headquarters have to be connected by telephone, and every cable has to be buried, and the work of burying cables is not one that can be undertaken every few weeks. The strain on battalions that are below establishment is obvious. Men are doing double duty in consequence. 802 They have to do the same amount of "sentry go," the same amount of reclaiming trenches destroyed by weather and shell fire, the same amount of wiring destroyed by shells, and the other work has to go on. Yet not one single word has been said in this House of the effect on the Army of being below establishment. It is not surprising that we at the Front, if we wish to be abusive to each other without being libellous, call each other "politicians." That is the result, I suppose, of the policy of the present Government. We look for some thought of those who are fighting the battles of the country at the Front.
We had hoped that at last we had a Cabinet that were agreed. If the noble Marquess opposite is right in saying that convictions had been formed on this question of recruiting, am I to understand that certain members of the Cabinet are prepared to change their convictions in order to remain in the Cabinet? That is how it appears to me. Surely on a matter of principle, if members of the Cabinet have made up their minds and are convinced and cannot agree with their colleagues, the only honest thing for them to do is to go. We want to have a Government, not that follows, but a Government that leads. We have realised the advantage of leadership in the Army. It is for noble Lords to realise the advantage of a Government that leads in the affairs of the country. This is a matter that brooks of no delay. We are not forcing the hands of the Government, but merely putting before them our views in the hope that they will realise how strongly those views are held, not only in this House and outside but throughout the Army, which is no longer a small one but is a large part of the nation. In that way we shall enable the members of the Cabinet to come to an agreement, and those who are not able to come to an agreement should give place to others.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD BUCKMASTER)
My Lords, I am sure that no words of mine are necessary for the purpose of assuring the noble Earl who has just sat down how poignant is an appeal made to any one over here from a man who has come straight from serving in France. On more than one occasion, when debates have been proceeding in this House, I have thought to myself how unreal the situation is in debate between 803 one Bench and another here when the real issues lie between long lines of armed men only a few miles away. I myself would gladly answer to any request that was made from a man, whether the noble Earl or any one else, who came back speaking with the right to command the attention of every one over here which a man has who has placed his services at the disposal of the country in this great struggle. None the less, I trust that the noble Earl will forgive me if I say that his speech was directed far more to the substance of the Motion of the noble Viscount (Lord Milner) than to the appeal of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House that the resumption of this debate should be postponed until Tuesday next.
You can get no debate this afternoon. You can get the strong, and, I doubt not, the important and convincing expressions of opinion of noble Lords who are convinced that for our national safety an immediate measure of compulsion must be adopted. But, as Lord Harris said, those expressions of opinion cannot carry the weight that they would if they were put forward after explanations and answers on the other side, pointing out reasons as to why, at this immediate moment, without further pause or hesitation, such a measure as that advocated by Lord Milner should be instantly introduced. I feel satisfied that every noble Lord in this House will agree that if a measure of compulsion is to be passed, nothing could be better than that it should be heralded by the general consent of the people who have to consent to the exercise of its powers. And if it be possible to secure the end that we all have in view—the provision of the necessary men to carry this war to a successful issue—without doing unnecessary violence to the opinions of large groups of people in this country, I am satisfied that every noble Lord would agree that this was the better way of securing our end.
At the moment all that is suggested is that this debate should be adjourned until next Tuesday; and while I recognise to the full the difficulty and even—to use a strong phrase for a comparatively small subject—the injustice of preventing people like the noble Earl who have come over from France to take part in this discussion from being able to express their views, yet, on the other hand, I am quite satisfied that there is no noble Lord present who would 804 like to have it suggested that his personal convenience was urged as a reason why the debate should not be adjourned if in fact its adjournment was for the public good. Is it for the public good that this debate should be adjourned until Tuesday? Surely it must be for the public good that the Government should be able to come to a united opinion upon a matter of this grave importance. It is barely fair, when a number of people are honestly striving to reconcile divergent views upon one of the most delicate and difficult questions that can divide opinion in this country, to accuse them of indecision. It is not indecision. It is an attempt to make groups of people who started from different points of view co-ordinate all their views into one united opinion. It is not an easy thing to do. Every one recognises that. But surely it is a great thing if you can accomplish it; and it is in the hope that that may be accomplished that the noble Marquess has asked that this debate may be adjourned until next Tuesday, when it may be resumed in conditions of reality, and not, as it must be to-day, merely as the individual expressions of opinion of a number of noble Lords who have not had the opportunity of hearing what may be said on the other side and who cannot be familiar with the circumstances which are present to the minds of each member of His Majesty's Government, some of which may possibly be stated at a later date. It is for this reason that I would humbly add my small appeal to that of the noble Marquess, and ask your Lordships to consider whether it is not more in the public interest that the debate should be taken on Tuesday than that it should be pursued now.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
My Lords, I happen to have just returned from a year in Egypt, where the atmosphere, although it was, perhaps, hot all last summer on the Suez Canal, was at all events of a refreshing and pure description, free from the nauseating influence of politics at home, of which we read too often in the newspapers which reached us. I cordially echo what fell from my noble friend Lord Stanhope as to the feeling which is prevalent in the Army with regard to what are known as Party politicians at home. I am afraid that What little I have learned since I came back with regard to the general situation has not by any means changed the opinion which I was forced to form from reading things at a distance.
805 As to the Motion for the adjournment it may, perhaps, be advisable to wait until Tuesday for the purpose of obtaining a satisfactory debate. I do hope, however, that everybody will realise that it is not merely a question of what effect the fall of the Government would have upon our Allies, but the effect which it would have upon our Allies if it became apparent to them that this country, not the Government, could not make up it its mind as to whether or not it was going to carry on the war to a successful conclusion. That is the whole question. The question whether the Government falls or not appears to me to be a secondary matter. If we could get another Government that would represent the mind of the country with regard to the prosecution of the war, and make it clear that they were going to sweep away the ridiculous exemptions, conscientious objectors, and puerile nonsense of that sort which goes to show that the country is not whole-hearted in the conduct of the war, then I say I cannot conceive that it could have anything but a good effect upon our Allies; whereas, if it becomes clear that we are not whole-hearted in the war and our Allies are faced with a continuance of the enormous losses which they are suffering and which I believe are considerably greater than the public is aware of, we may be faced one of these days with the very serious question as to whether they consider that we are a partner with whom it is worth while continuing the war. What is going to be our position then?
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack appeals for further time to enable one of the sections of the Cabinet to change its opinions. That is what it comes to. I am afraid that the niggers in the fence are those politicians and members of the Cabinet who from the first set themselves against anything in the nature of compulsory service and obstinately refuse to give way now; and the whole of the negotiations which we have been witnessing of recent months are nothing more than attempts for the purpose of enabling these politicians to save their faces. I sincerely hope that if this debate is adjourned until Tuesday, no matter whether the Government falls or whether it does not, we may be given something of a stronger lead in the country, and that it will be made clear to our Allies that whatever happens we are going to conduct the war in a better fashion in the future than we have done in the past.
My Lords, although strongly sympathising with the two noble and gallant Lords who have spoken as representing what I believe to be the feeling of all sections of His Majesty's Service on this subject, I do not think this is a matter to be debated at the present time. If your Lordships go to a Division I shall support the noble Marquess opposite in the adjournment of this debate. I submit that the only thing that really counts now is the question whether the Army Council consider that they will have enough men. Everything else is secondary. What the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack referred to as "bringing the different sections of opinion together" means, I believe, a further bullying of the Army Council. Whether or not they stand firm in their representations, it will mean three days further trial, no doubt, for these gallant gentleman. But if we have the facts on Tuesday, and if the Army Council say that the numbers to be produced by your new scheme are not only sufficient to deal with the matter at the present time but will provide enough trained men for the remainder of the war, it will be satisfactory. If, however, we are not given satisfaction on that point I am sure that a large section of the House will follow Lord Milner into the Division Lobby.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I would ask to be allowed to add my appeal to the noble Viscount to accept the Motion for adjournment. Had we proceeded with the debate I have no hesitation in saying that I should have gone into the Lobby with Lord Milner, and I should have given my reasons, as I shall, I hope, next Tuesday; but it seems to me that it would be a very unreal debate if we held it to-day. By Tuesday one portion of the Cabinet will either have converted the other, or will remain in possession, I presume, and the other part will have disappeared. In other words, on Tuesday we shall either have to preach to the converted, through this Motion, or else endeavour to convert those who are not ready to accept it. My sole reason for rising at this moment was to beg the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, not to think that those of us who for the moment admit the justice of the appeal for the adjournment are inconsiderate of the views of those who are serving their country in France. I can assure him that there are many of us here—most of us here—who are only too anxious to do all we possibly can to send 807 them the reinforcements and all the support that they require; and as far as I am personally concerned I shall be ready to express my desire to give them such support by supporting the noble Viscount if he goes to a Division on his Motion on Tuesday.
My Lords, while not desiring to oppose the Motion for the adjournment I should like to know what is to happen to officers like the noble Earl on my right and myself who have come over from France on special leave to attend, and, if possible, to take part in, this debate. I do not suppose for a moment that our leave will he extended until next Tuesday, and if we start back and cone over again we shall spend all our time on the road. It seems to me in these circumstances that the views of officers who are serving with the Army in France, which, I suppose, are worth something, will be entirely shut out of the discussion.
§ On Question, the further debate adjourned to Tuesday next, and to be taken first.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.