HL Deb 11 April 1918 vol 29 cc660-89

THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY rose to call attention to conditions affecting morals and health among soldiers of the Expeditionary Force in France; and to move for Papers.

The most rev. Primate said: Lords, I am anxious not to trespass long upon your Lordships' time in calling attention to the matter about which I have given notice, and indeed it is not necessary that I should do so, because the circumstances have changed somewhat since I placed the Notice upon the Paper. When the Notice first appeared my object was to join in a plea which was being raised by remonstrances all through the country, some of them well informed, upon this exceedingly difficult, trying, and unpleasant matter, some of them quite uninformed, yet remonstrances raised widely in the country by people who were distressed, at an announcement which had been made in the House of Commons, on behalf of the War Office, to the effect that the system which the French law permits of what are called maisons tolérées could not be interfered with by us as we were in the country where those laws prevailed, and that it was not our business, or at all events that it was not practicable for us, to interfere.

I shall come back to that subject in a moment or two. That was what was stated in the House of Commons. Then I placed this Notice upon the Paper, and a few days after an announcement was made in the House of Commons, again on behalf of the War Office, to the effect that it had been decided, with the permission of our Allies, to place these houses out of bounds for our soldiers in France. I was then asked, "Will you in these circumstances withdraw your Notice?" I do not mean that I was officially asked, but friends asked me whether I would withdraw the Notice, as they said the matter had fallen to the ground. After consideration I decided not to do so, because, though the point I have mentioned was really a very important one, there are other matters as well that I want to touch upon, and my Notice did not really cover the whole ground.

This, my Lords, is not a new question turning upon things which have been recently said or done. Taking my own experience, for more than three years now, I have given I am afraid a great deal of trouble to responsible men in Government Departments and in local administration, especially on the South Coast, with regard to the condition of camps both for English and Colonial troops about to proceed abroad. I have been in constant touch with military, medical, magisterial, and municipal authorities as to what needed amendment and what could and what could not be done. The Home Office, under successive Home Secretaries, has been very helpful, and other Government Departments have also interested themselves in the matter. I am grateful for the courtesy which one takes for granted and always receives in these matters. There has been, indeed, much more than courtesy. There has been a readiness to hear and to weigh what one has to say, and even on the part of some people, local and otherwise, to seek counsel as to what one's experience showed might conceivably be done.

As soon as this subject is handled one finds the close connection which subsists between what is required for our troops abroad and what is needed under conditions similar or dissimilar for troops in this country in connection with the camps or in our great cities. It is a truism to say that the war problems of these years owe their perplexity not merely, and perhaps not mainly, to then magnitude, but to their novelty. Never before in the history of the world have there been problems corresponding to those which we have to grapple with now, and we have no precedents to follow in the matter. A small, or comparatively small, professional army, well disciplined and under well-established rules, has been superseded by practically the whole British manhood, by men who have for the time become soldiers, men who five years ago had no more idea of soldiering or of military discipline or of finding themselves in the field than they had of changing their professional occupation. How to make the old rules and regulations which belonged to the old Army correspond with the new conditions was obviously a problem of the extremest difficulty. There was also the novelty of great quantities of non-combatant forces—labour contingents literally from all parts of the world, from China to Peru, including Chinamen, South Americans, and Africans, all different races and all kinds of people. There was further the enormous problem of the mixing up of the mercantile marine with what is being done, and the seaport difficulties; and, in addition, the most novel element of all—the inrush of women workers in thousands for whom proper arrangements have had to be made.

When one contemplates all these things, the marvel is not that there should have been confusion, mistakes, inefficiency here and there, but that the machinery is anything like as efficient as it is; because the problems are so complex, so varied, and so novel, and the precedents are so entirely lacking, that one is amazed often to find how far it has been found possible to grapple with them, and how well the thing has been done. I need not say that it is to the undying glory of our British manhood, in its self-surrender and its patriotism, that these citizens are the men to whom we are now looking, in life or in death, with admiration and gratitude for having maintained at a great hour the very noblest traditions of the British Army. To the young manhood of Britain to-day we owe now, and every coming generation will owe, a debt of gratitude which it is beyond the power of language to express.

We owe everything to these men. Are we doing everything for them that we can possibly do? Is England seeing to it that the conditions in which these men are prepared for their great enterprise—the conditions in which they are equipped in body, in mind, in professional knowledge, and the rest, both beforehand and in the non-combatant hours and days which they pass when across the seas—that these conditions are as good as they can be? Are we prepared to say that? Perhaps some people are, but there are things which give some of us grave anxiety, abundant perplexity, and even distress. Many of us are in touch—I was going to say every day of our lives, but quite constantly—with scores of men on leave, in hospital, invalided out, men of all positions and ranks, and we are not talking vaguely when we speak about what that constant intercourse has taught us. We are in touch with officers, intimate friends of our own, relations and companions of our own; we are in touch with medical men of the highest knowledge and character and wide experience, and we are in touch—I am specially in touch—with those who have been called as chaplains and workers of a kindred sort to deal with the problems which specially belong to them.

And from all these we learn a very great deal which cheers and inspires, a very great deal which evokes our admiration, our gratitude, and our sympathy, and we learn something, too, that gives us disquiet. To take one example. There are special hospitals on a huge scale—I need not name them or their character—where groups of lads can be seen by any one of us who will go to see them, lads who a little time ago were, many of them, clean and healthy, and who are not clean and healthy now. And we older men, we men who are perforce stay-at-homes, ask ourselves, "Have we, as representatives of British citizenship and British affairs at home, done all that in the country lies to prevent or to render unlikely the kind of change which object lessons like that present to us?" I believe there are some—indeed, I know there are some—who would answer, "Yes we have; everything is so arranged as to reduce to a minimum the risk of some high-minded lad losing his high tone and his pure life, and all arrangements were made which would have enabled him to avoid wrong if he had chosen." All arrangements are made! It may be so, but I wonder. Or rather, I am quite sure that there is another side. I have abundant figures here, but I am not going to trouble your Lordships with them; nor are they pleasant reading.

I suppose we may say that there are always three groups of men who have a responsibility for action and administration in these matters. The War Office comes first—the war authorities at home and in the field—and they remind us sometimes that it is the duty of the military authorities not to limit their attention to, but to concentrate it upon, getting and keeping physically fit men for the fighting line. I will not say they would claim that their responsibility stopped these, but that at all events beyond that it was indirect and not obvious. Then there are the medical authorities, and there is no one who knows what has been done by medical authorities in this war but marvels at the feats they have accomplished in practically annihilating some and diminishing other of the difficulties which have been so baneful in other wars with regard to hygiene, sanitation, dietary, and a great many others. They have done work that is beyond praise in that respect.

Then there is, thirdly, a body of men whose business lies with moral questions, religious questions, and with keeping up in every way that they can the spirit and the tone upon which, as we are constantly and increasingly reminded, so much depends—all that belongs to the educative, the recreative side of the soldier's life, upon which increasingly attention is now directed and the value of which is increasingly felt. Beyond doubt, the highest military authorities are dwelling far more than I, at least, think they did before on the value of the works of padres and agents of different kinds in the promotion, not of good men only, but of good soldiers. I am faced with that almost every week. I have had letters from men abroad, letters from men at home, interviews with those who can speak with authority, who keep reminding me of the same thing; we are learning more and more what an asset the work of these people is, and what it really does mean to the Army to have their help. Not merely does it mean that the men will be better men, but that they will be better fighting units. That is constantly before me. And I find the greatest interest in referring back, in that connection, to letters which were written on that subject by one whose life gives a fine example of it—by Lord Kitchener when he was in India. The letters of Lord Kitchener when he was in India, the full memoranda on that subject, are of quite exceptional interest and importance.

All the departments—military in the technical sense, medical, and what may be called religions or moral—are honestly doing their best. But what I want to know is whether we can be sure that there is coordination of action to the full extent that there might be for keeping the moral and spiritual as well as the physical side forward; that they are not needlessly overlapping, that they are not, above all, acting in rivalry with one another, but that the thing is really being taken in hand in a sane and large way, so as to make what is universally felt to be necessary in order that a course of action which is universally felt must be followed—may be followed in the wisest and most effective way. It may be so. Again we are told that that coordination is found, but it does not always seem so to the young officer who talks to us about these things, who speaks about France and its temptations, about the Paris leave, about the streets of the great base cities, perhaps above all about the condition of England itself, and of London itself to-those who are on leave. We know something of what our friends from the Dominions feel about these leaves and what they can mean. We know something very pointedly about what the Americans feel, and what they are saying and, I believe, doing in the matter at this moment.

This brings me to the point that the latest feature in all these new conditions that I have been describing is the incoming of the great forces from America. The military value of their accession to our strength as a contribution towards victory is more than equalled by its value in the assurance of fellowship as to the principles for which we are fighting and the principles which we wish to make our own in the process of fighting. These men come in speaking our own language; they come in from home conditions which correspond to our home conditions far more than to the home conditions of other nations; they come from an experience of a land where there has not been conscription or universal military training in former years; and in a hundred different ways they correspond closely to the conditions with which we are familiar in regard to our own men. They start in the war thoughtfully and determinedly with our experience to guide them, with our three years of warning or encouragement to follow, and to act as a stimulus or as a lesson to themselves. The authorities of the American Army, your Lordships probably all know, have given very close attention to the question of what we may call the morale, in the large sense of the word, of the Army; and the published letters of the naval and military authorities are remarkable documents, not very common in the world's history, though happily more common now than they were, perhaps, in the old days.

Some of those documents are of extraordinary interest. They are written with, perhaps, a less restrained style than our official papers are apt to have; but we read them now at a time when the words of the American President arrest the attention of the world and teach us to look with special interest at what American writers and American administrators have to say when they are giving their messages in a greater or less scale to the world. The interest of comparing these letters and these orders with such memoranda as those of Lord Kitchener, to which I referred a few minutes ago, is great. They are kindred in character but different in their mode of expression. There are two great letters, one written by the Secretary for War and the other by the Secretary for the Navy at the outbreak of the war. Since then three notable orders have been made public—General Orders No. 6, No. 34, and No. 77, all of which deal in detail with these moral questions and how they ought to be met. It occurs to one once to ask, Is there an adequate co ordination of the work that they are taking in hand, and thus advocating, and our own? Can our aid and our effort be mutual—the English and the American—in matters preventive, educative, recreative, and, if need be, curative?—for all these branches have to be handled and discussed. I shall he exceedingly glad if the noble Earl, when he replies, will give us some information about this, for I believe that counsel and co-ordination between the American authorities and our own in this matter might be of incalculable value.

It may be asked, Are not these purely military and disciplinary questions; what have you civilians to do with them? But they concern us most closely, not only indirectly in the consequence but in the actual operation, for many reasons. I will give two only. Remember that half the work at least in these fields of which I have been speaking—educative, recreative, curative, preventive, and the rest—is welcomed, I am glad to say, and encouraged and controlled by the military authorities in the field or at home. But after all they are voluntary agencies; they are civilian; they are done by us. The great work of the Young Men's Christian Association, the great work of the Church Army, the great work of those who have erected and run the huts at home and across the sea—and the former are as important as the latter—is largely not a military organisation but a piece of the general work for which the authorities in our civil life are responsible.

Your Lordships may perhaps know—certainly many of you know—that there is a difference between the way in which the matter is worked by the American Army and the way in which it is worked by our own Army as regards the relation to what I have called voluntary effort. In the American Army what is called "welfare work" has been handed over bodily and officially to the Young Men's Christian Association and other bodies recognised by the military authorities; and although the work is carried on at the cost and through the agency of the Young Men's Christian Association, none the less that body has the monopoly of that welfare work and is supervised and controlled in an official way by the military authorities in the American Army. With regard to ourselves, the military authorities, of course, do not take that responsibility, though they give valuable help and wise guidance and sometimes exercise censorship and control; but the agency is of a freer kind and less incorporated into the actual Army work. It is on the surface, or circumference, of it rather than interwoven with it.

In regard to these questions of conference and discussion between responsible American and English people, it seems to me to be most desirable to have interchange of experience and unification of effort at the time when the Americans are working side by side with ourselves and American soldier citizens are fighting alongside our soldier citizens. Such intercourse is invaluable, and it concerns us because it is not exclusively military work at all. It concerns us very closely for another reason, because the moral mischief affecting the tone and health of the Army largely has its occasions and imbibes its poisons not in the fields of France but in the streets of our English cities, especially London. This applies to Paris as well. There is absolutely overwhelming evidence from officers and men, from medical authorities, from chaplains, and from patients in hospitals, as to the home region being the source of the mischief which develops and is brought as a great object-lesson to the fields of France. If these facts are so—and I think they are indisputable—it surely is impossible to deny that the problem is one for which we as English public men must accept responsibility, and it would be grossly unfair to cast the burden of it all either upon the War Office or upon any other shoulders.

I, for one, accept responsibility in these matters, but if we are to accept responsibility we must have knowledge. We must be able to understand through and through, and be given all such sources of information and statistics as exist. Of course, there are branches of this health question—I mean of the special health question due to immorality—which, however keenly we feel about details (and we do feel keenly), we are hound to leave to the military authorities, and which I do not consider we have any right to attempt to dogmatise about. For example, the degree and the character of the penal consequences which should follow to a soldier upon wrong-doing of a moral sort that has induced illness or incapacity. That is a matter which belongs to the authorities, in whose hands I, for one, should be prepared to leave it. Again, the rules and methods of what is called prophylaxis, which I should prefer to call early treatment, because my view and the view of those who are associated with me is— and I think I understand the subject—that it is the treatment which follows and not what precedes the act which makes the thing important. It is now becoming known by the name of "early treatment," and I think it is better than the word prophylaxis, because that is ambiguous. Then another point—the manner and the process of medical inspection, a thing about which I have been quite startled lately by the information I have received regarding the difficulties found in breaking down the natural reserve or modesty on the part of the men, which I feel to be really a military question. The military authorities must know all about it, and I do not think we have a right to do more than say what seems to us on the surface to be desirable. On all these points we have facts which set us thinking and caring, but they are matters which the military authorities must decide, and are not matters to be discussed in detail here and now.

But, my Lords, there are some points upon which we are prepared—I am prepared—to claim a right to speak as on matters of principle, matters of ethics, matters which have their religious and social aspects of a very definite kind. Quite foremost among these is the whole system of what I referred to at the outset—what has given rise in part to this discussion—the existence under French law of what are known as maisons tolérées, or in the larger and technical sense what has for the last fifty years throughout Europe been covered by the word "regulation." Upon that matter we can now dwell with quite unhesitating emphasis, on the strength not of what is said and thought by moralists only, or religious thinkers only, or perhaps chiefly, but by what is now agreed upon by real scientific investigators belonging to almost every land. If any one feels doubt on that subject, or has not yet found it necessary to investigate it and desires to do so now, let him take only one book—the book by Abraham Flexner, the great American scientist. He has written a book known by the title of "Prostitution in Europe," which deals with the whole of this subject from the most scientific, statistical point of view. He is a writer who has no axe to grind or cause to advocate, but simply is a man who wishes to collect facts scientifically, to set them out, to demonstrate what has happened and is now happening, and to show how statistics bear upon the present facts. If the arguments there marshaled do not convince the man who reads them, I find it difficult to think what arguments of any kind would prove to be convincing.

We feel with intense earnestness, religiously, ethically, and as a matter of fundamental principle as regards giving a quasi imprimatur—a licence or sanction—to wrong-doing which we believe to be not inevitable in the least, though very widely spread, that what we can say about it is supported absolutely by the very latest facts of science as put together by the foremost investigators. They tell us on every side—and there are chapters in the book to which I have referred to prove this up to the hilt—that such small measure of supposed security as is given by the existence of a licensed house of so-called inspected women (and I do not in the least deny there is a measure of supposed security; there is slight gain to the good) is outweighed five or ten times—I think Flexner says more than that—by the actual statistical evidence that where these houses exist there is an encouragement to vice which has led to an increase and not a decrease of the habit of vice in these places; that the supposed gain of the little safety incurred is overwhelmingly outweighed by the encouragement given by the existence of such places to those who would not otherwise have followed that course at all.

What Flexner argues and brings out is that the statistical evidence from Paris, Vienna, Brussels, Geneva, and Scandinavian countries shows that by giving a sense of quasi security you stimulate among men the acquiring of the habit, and that once the habit is acquired it constantly increases. When five years ago the Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases was appointed—the noble Lord who was chairman sits opposite—the terms of reference to that Commission were, after stating that an inquiry was to be made into the prevalence of venereal diseases and so on— … it being understood that no return to the policy or provisions of the Contagious Diseases Acts is to be regarded as falling within the scope of the Inquiry.

This was felt by the Government of the day to be the indisputable result of the frequent discussions in Parliament. But the remarkable thing is that the Commission nevertheless, having got that direction, felt that they could not leave the matter entirely unwitnessed to, and they say therefore— Although the Commission are precluded by their terms of reference from considering the policy of the Contagious Diseases Acts, they wish to place on record their view that the evidence they have received, which includes that of several Continental experts, points to the conclusion that no advantage would accrue from a return to the system of those Acts. So far from this being the ease, it is to be noted that the great improvement as regards venereal diseases in the Navy and Army has taken place since the repeal of the Acts. That is for our own country. But we have to look much wider than that, and I should like, if you will allow me, to quote two sentences from the book to which I have referred. I want you to note that these sentences are concluding sentences of pages of statistics and detail, where the whole thing is argued out. It is summed up after considerable discussion in these words— Regulation, needless on the score of order, is thus seen to be positively harmful in its bearing on disease. As a system, therefore, it runs counter to the modern spirit in ethics, in polities, and in hygiene. And he goes on to show in what way this is true. Then it is said, "Well, is it not going on? Are not countries which are as learned and as thoughtful and as clever as we are still carrying it on? If these are the conclusions arrived at by scientific thinkers, why should the thing go on as it does?" May I read his words?— For the reasons just summarised, regulation has lost and is still rapidly losing ground. As recently as a quarter of a century ago it was in vogue throughout the Continent of Europe; in the 'seventies it enjoyed a brief currency in Great Britain as well. It is decaying in France, where, of 695 communes having over 5,000 inhabitants, it has entirely disappeared from 250 and practically from many others. That was two or three years ago, and the evidence is stronger since— In Germany, of 162 cities, forty-eight have dispensed with it, while it is moribund in others. In Switzerland it survives only in Geneva; it has been wholly abandoned in Denmark, Norway, and Great Britain. A special Commission has recommended its total abolition in France; and a similar body in Sweden, far from unanimous at the start, has unanimously come to the same conclusion. In the face of these facts—I have merely given a summary of the conclusions—will any one be found to say that we were wrong in refusing encouragement to such regulation by any direct or indirect sanction that we could give to it?

It may be said that it is not a practical question for us now, and it may be asked, Why do you dwell upon it? I have thought that while there was a discussion upon it at all it was well to mention some of these facts, because it is not mischievous that the world should know that attention is thoroughly given to it, and that we are acting not merely on the advice of enthusiasts, who may possibly be discounted, but on that of scientific thinkers who are prepared to support their statements by their arguments. There has been, and there is, a great deal of ignorance and much shallow opinion—shallow, superficial opinion which thinks of the apparent result on an individual man or woman—and the strength of the scientific, statistical, and eugenic argument is overlooked, owing to people's dislike to the whole subject. I do not want it to be supposed when I alluded to scientific and similar arguments that I based what I wanted to say upon them rather than upon the ethical and moral side, but they should he remembered. It is only a small part of a great question that I have tried to refer to to-night—a small part, my Lords, even as regards the incidence of the vice itself. Many of those who write and circulate memorials talk as if it was through the maisons tolérées that vice was rampant in France among the civilians or military. That is a trifling incident in the matter. The overwhelming mass of the mischief that exists does not pass through those walls at all. That has nothing to do with it. The mischief has been in many cases stimulated by the existence of them, because it has encouraged the habit which has found its vent elsewhere.

I have detained you, my Lords, longer than I intended, but the main point is that we have an immense responsibility to do all that can be done to keep up the morale and spirit of the Army, not merely because our sons and brothers and friends whom we love and honour are in it, but because to make an Army efficient we want the morale and spirit to be as high as they can conceivably be. We are further sure that one of the best ways to help them is by reducing to a minimum either the occasion or the opportunity of doing what would deteriorate that spirit or coarsen it in any way. We want to co-ordinate and establish firmly the work of all, both British and Americans, who are eagerly attempting to do what they can. We are fearful that strength is being dissipated now by the multitudinous agencies—musical, dramatic, educative, lecturing, and all kinds—which, as it seems to me, have no adequate coordination. Especially is this marked where the English and Americans overlap. Very much is being attempted. Our Army authorities are themselves taking in hand a good deal of what had been largely done by voluntary agencies without checking these agencies, but it all seems very embryonic, and we want to harden and hasten it. We are learning by experience how to do it better. We believe the work of the United States in this endeavour is a matter of the supremest importance, and if the Government can give us encouragement we believe that by such co-ordination of effort and unity of action by ourselves and our brothers from other lands we can produce something more effective than we have at present on the preventive, educative, and recreative side, we shall not merely bring strength to a great many of those to whom we owe everything for what they are doing in the field, but comfort and encouragement to thousands of English homes.


My Lords, I rise to say a few words in hearty support of what has fallen from the most rev. Primate, Like him, I feel that we can never repay the debt that we owe to our soldiers in the field. They are at this moment standing between the Empire and the greatest I peril it has ever experienced. Everything we can do for them we must do as soon as possible. The question which permeated the most rev. Primate's speech was this, Are we doing all that is possible at the present time to shield our men from temptation in their unguarded hours? I think that was really the keynote of his speech. He spoke at some length of what is called the regulation of vice, which of course, includes what we know as maisons tolérée. All that he said I can absolutely confirm. The whole of the evidence taken by my Commission from authorities of importance on the Continent was absolutely unanimous on that point. It was made clear to us that these places gave no real security, but that by giving an illusory security they no doubt led a great many men into temptation and into sin.

The fact is that when the great war broke out we none of us could possibly foresee the full extent of its effects for good and for evil upon the life of our nation, and one evil result has been unquestionably, as the most rev. Primate said, the increase of venereal disease, which has affected both the Army and the civilian population. It is impossible to separate the Army and the civil population, because action and reaction occur between them. The increase of infection in London, which has certainly taken place, and in some other of our large towns, has undoubtedly told upon the health of the Army, and conversely some of the infection in the Army has carried disease into other parts of the country among the civil population. I am afraid it must also be said that infection has been carried from the French towns which have been used as our bases behind the firing line, and that in too many cases this infection has been brought back and communicated in this country. In towns, as we know, the difficulty of dealing with this question is enormous, but in camps and in areas which are under full military control the difficulties are certainly less.

In the early stages of the war I am doubtful whether quite enough was done in the direction in which the Archbishop wishes to go. I do not believe it was brought home sufficiently to commanding officers that they must be held responsible for protecting their men as far as possible from the dangers of disease, and I do not think it was sufficiently recognised that very heavy responsibility rests upon us, most especially in connection with the young troops who come from the Dominions, and now in connection with the young troops coming from America. But latterly much more has been done, and I agree with the most rev. Primate that it is wonderful, considering the complications and difficulties with which the War Office is faced, that so much has been accomplished. I am afraid, however, that there are still places in which the conditions are not satisfactory. A case was brought to my notice only the other day in which some precautions which I think should have been taken have certainly been neglected.

There are two ways of dealing with this great evil in the Army. The first is by bringing the men under the best moral influences that are possible, by giving them warnings, by providing the healthy recreation of which the most rev. Primate spoke, and then by keeping them as far as possible away from temptation and keeping temptation as far as possible away from them. The second is to insure that every infected man is put under treatment at the earliest possible date, and not discharged from hospital until he has been rendered non-infective to others. In all this, military discipline is a very great help, and I know that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for War fully realises the importance of these measures and is doing all he can in the direction of which I have spoken.

But when you come to the civil population, difficulties of which your Lordships are aware at once present themselves, and in these cases the War Office can do nothing. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill would have been very helpful had it been passed, but it was held up by an agitation which I cannot help thinking was not a reasonable one, and I hope we may he told that this Bill will be further proceeded with. Meanwhile the Local Government Board has done an immense work in setting up treatment centres in various parts of the country, and every effort is being made to induce infected persons to go to these places for treatment. Then there is the question of which the most rev. Primate spoke as to early treatment, and I can assure him that steps are being taken to ensure that early treatment should be made available as widely and as conveniently as possible throughout the country. The propaganda which the National Council has been carrying out for some time has caused the knowledge of the dangerous nature of these diseases to be spread widely in the country, and I believe one result will be that before long public opinion may demand that venereal disease shall be rendered notifiable, as is the case already with other diseases less insidious, and, I believe, not more dangerous.

Already I hear from several parts of the country that there is alarm as to what may happen when demobilisation takes place, and the noble Earl only yesterday very kindly received a deputation dealing with that subject and promised to give it his fullest consideration. There can be no doubt that the light of present knowledge which we have gained in late years, and especially by the investigations of my Commission, has shown conclusively that venereal disease constitutes a real and grave danger to the whole life of the nation. These diseases tend to weaken its vitality and lessen its working power. They threaten the life and health of the generations unborn, and they act as a severe check upon our birth rate. They produce a very large and incalculable total loss of economic power in the country as a whole, and we must all feel that we have an evil which must be strongly combated. In the first place it must be combated by all the religious bodies, by the Churches, and by all right-thinking men and women throughout the land. And, on the other hand, we must use every measure which science has placed at our disposal. I believe it will be found necessary before long to apply some drastic measures to check the freedom of communicating disease which now exists. It seems to me to be one of those cases in which the freedom of the individual cannot be allowed to injure the vital interests of the nation as a whole.


My Lords, I desire to put a question to the noble Earl before he replies to the debate. Having been in a Yeomanry regiment since the war began, I should like to endorse with the greatest respect every word that the most rev. Primate said in his extremely interesting, and, if I may say so without impertinence, very well-informed speech. I do not know whether Mr. Macpherson, the Under-Secretary of State for War, had read Flexner's book when he talked about the security that registered women gave, but it cannot be too clearly pointed out by those who have studied and taken some interest in the matter that this question of the examination of women is at the best, even if it is most carefully carried out, a very illusory form of guarantee against venereal disease. There is evidence in Flexner's book that an examination carried out most carefully and most scientifically in the morning yielded a totally different result when carried out on the same woman the same afternoon. I am purposely laying stress on this point because I want to ask the noble Earl whether the War Office, the War Cabinet, or what particular authority in the country, is responsible for the new Regulation called "Defence of the Realm Regulation, No. 40D." I am putting this question with all the seriousness at my command, because a great deal is going to be heard about this in the near future. It has already aroused a very considerable amount of opposition amongst serious people who know what they are talking about, and I think this opposition is very well founded. I have not the Regulation by me, but no doubt the noble Earl has, and he will correct me if I put a wrong construction upon it. The Regulation contains a provision that any woman who is seen soliciting a member of His Majesty's Forces may be apprehended by the police, and remanded for a week.


The noble Lord is wrong, because he has left out the important qualification—" any woman suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form."


I am much obliged. She may be remanded for a week, and if she so wishes may be examined by her own or the prison doctor. How are you to know whether or not she has venereal disease? You say "by examination." The medical evidence to which we have access in Flexner's book and other works will show you that at the best medical evidence is of comparatively little account. The point that will be put forward, I submit with great respect, will be this. Supposing the woman refuses to be examined during that week, what are you going to do? Are you going to conclude that if she does not wish to submit to the indignity of an examination you may assume that she has this disease in some form or another? Is the policeman to know beforehand when he arrests her that she is suffering from venereal disease? These and a great many other questions are going to be brought forward.

I have not the Regulation in my hand, so I cannot give that accurate attention to it this afternoon which I should wish to do, but I submit to the noble Earl that this places a very formidable discretionary power in the hands of the police. In the police of this country we have the most profound confidence, but it is the experience in other countries where they either employ their ordinary police or have instituted a special form of police to manage and regulate this system, that eventually the door is open surely and certainly to blackmail. This Regulation will be resented in this I country. I know that there will be considered opposition to it on the part of serious people. I beg His Majesty's Government, in the interest of public health, to pause before they insist upon following up this new Regulation known as No. 40D. Another reason on which opposition to this Regulation will be based is that it is in fact an attempt to revive in essentials the old Contagious Diseases Act. If you are going to examine people to see whether they have venereal disease or not, I submit that it is closely akin to reviving the Contagious Diseases Act which was abandoned by public consent fifty years ago, and which had been found not only valueless but positively dangerous to public health by the Commission presided over by Lord Sydenham. I am sure that if his Lordship intervenes again in this debate he will bear out what I have said. For these reasons and a great many others, to which, if necessary, I will call attention in your Lordships' House on some other occasion, I earnestly beg the Government to consider this new Regulation carefully from all points of view before they insist upon proceeding with it.


My Lords, I understand that the noble Earl is somewhat pressed by public business this afternoon, and I am therefore anxious that he should reply, if he desires to do so, at once. But if he can allow me to say a few words first I shall be glad. I think that the discussion we have had to-night need never have been raised and probably never would have been raised had it not been for the action of the War Office themselves in another place. The most rev. Primate said that largely the matters of which he complained had now been satisfactorily dealt with. But your Lordships, I am sure, have observed from the public sources of information the very curious, and I think I might almost say evasive, answers which were given when questions were put on this matter in another place. I think the form of these answers rather disturbed the public conscience, and caused an uneasiness and a doubt which led to this matter being much more agitated than it need have been had it been met frankly one way or another.

There were two possible attitudes which might have been taken by His Majesty's Government when they were challenged on the particular facts at Cayeux. One attitude was what you might call the man of the world attitude—that these things were expected in an Army, that it was as well, as Mr. Macpherson somewhat rashly said, to provide more secure places for the soldiers than were afforded without them; and that therefore the Government did not propose to interfere. I do not very much wonder that they did not take up that attitude. Then there was the other possible attitude indicated by the most rev. Primate—that the authorities, so far as they had anything to do with the matter, would not expose those over whom they had jurisdiction to these temptations and risks, and would do everything they could to put a stop to them. But Mr. Macpherson in the answers he gave, varying rather from day to day, made suggestions that we could not interfere with the arrangements of our French neighbours—suggestions which I rather gather were repudiated by our French neighbours themselves. I am told that the municipality passed a resolution against these maisons tolérées. That is what appeared in the public Press, and I know nothing beyond what I have seen there. That, however, did not apply to our own soldiers, because it is obvious that the War Office always have had it in their power simply to put the places out of bounds had they thought fit to do so, and I think that if they had adopted either one line or the other the matter would have come to an end; certainly it would had they adopted the line that they have taken now.

They seem also to have adopted the policy of dealing with this matter as one which should not be discussed or adverted upon at all—what I might call a policy of hushing up. This always, I think, is a very disastrous policy, and one that in a matter about which there is strong feeling is never likely ultimately to be successful. Your Lordships have probably before now heard of a paper called the Tribunal. That paper published an article headed "The Moral Aspect of Conscription." The larger part of this article consisted of observations upon steps that had been taken by the most rev. Primate, and of extracts from things that had been said by the Bishop of London, whom I do not see here to-night, and it contained also certain comments very unfavourable to the Military Conscription Acts and to their administration. The comments were, I understand from what has been said in another place, within the province of anybody to make; it was admitted that it was legitimate to agitate for the repeal of these Acts. I do not agree with the comments in the least, but the Government took the unusual, and I think the unfortunate, step of suppressing the whole of the issue of that paper, and they suppressed it with such care that I am told not only did they seize the plant and the copies of the paper, but they actually stationed emissaries on the doors of the people to whom the paper was to be delivered by post and stopped the copies in the course of the post. As a result I did not receive the copy which the people who publish it generally send to me, but I have obtained an extract from it. The comment ends by saying— What is to be the effect on the future of humanity of the conscription of our fit young men into such conditions as these where vice is not only condoned but encouraged and made easy? The noble Earl may think, and the House may think, that this is a totally unjustifiable thing, but the way to make it unjustifiable is to take steps to deal with it so that the comment can no longer be made, and at the time that comment was made these steps were not taken.

When questions were asked about this article in another place, and about the suppression of this paper, an answer was given by the Home Secretary that one of the reasons for the suppression was that the article was written by a person who had been convicted of a criminal offence the week before. I know that we have the lettres de cachet in this country. I did not know that we had gone back to the practice of the Ecclesiastical Courts of enjoining perpetual silence on any one because he had been convicted of saying something of which the Government did not approve; and I suggest to your Lordships that it is unwise, because something is said which the Government do not like, to attempt to suppress discussion. It generally leads in the end to a worse view being taken of it than the facts probably warrant, and the Government would have been wiser to have allowed people to say even intolerant things, even untrue things, about the matter we are discussing and to meet them by frankness and by stating what was actually being done. The best refutation of a slander is obviously to state the facts. If the statements made were entirely untrue the Government could easily have refuted them, and I merely rise to suggest to the noble Earl that the greater part of the prominence which has been given to this unfortunate subject in the instance which caused this discussion has really been due to the attitude of the Government themselves, and could have been avoided by taking the country a little more into their confidence.


Your Lordships will, I am sure, forgive me if I say that I have not been able to prepare a speech, first because I did not know exactly what line was going to be taken, and also because I have had many other duties in the last fortnight or three weeks, and have not been able to get some of those statistics which the most rev. Primate would like to have, and which, I can assure him, are always at his disposal. I do not know why the noble Earl (Lord Russell) thought there was any wish to keep silence on this subject. It is not an agreeable topic, and is not one on which anybody wants to speak if he can help it; but at the same time I believe that the more the subject can be ventilated the better it will be for the country as a whole.

Before dealing with the question of the maisons tolérées at Cayeux, may I say—it is only fair to Mr. Macpherson, the Under-Secretary for War in the House of Commons that I should do so—that I take the full responsibility for the answers that were given in that place, and if any blame is to be attributed let it be attributed to me and not to him. Although I am sure the most rev. Primate and those who spoke afterwards did not mean it, there was an undercurrent in their speeches, corresponding to what seems to exist in the country, that it is the Army and the Army alone which is the immoral part of the community. [The ARCHBISHOP of CANTERBURY dissented.] I am sure the most rev. Primate did not mean it. Therefore I am going to deal with the subject as affecting not only the Army, but as affecting the country as a whole.

I am perfectly certain of this, that if you went into a big city and took a thousand men haphazard, and took a thousand men from the Army, you would find that the diseases which are the greatest scourge that any country can possibly have are just as much, if not more, prevalent in the civil population than they are in the Army at the present moment. If, therefore, you are going to deal with this question, you cannot put the whole responsibility on the military and naval authorities. The civil authorities have to do their share, and, unless they do, the work of the Army and Navy authorities is practically useless. Speaking as the Minister responsible for the Army, I have to look at this matter from a slightly different point of view from that of the most rev. Primate. We have both to look upon it from the moral and the health point of view, but it is his function, perhaps, to put morals first, and it is perhaps my function to put health first. But the two go together, and we can perfectly work together.

The most rev. Primate mentioned the word, and therefore I have no hesitation in doing so—you have to recognise that from time immemorial there has been fornication; it exists now, and will go on existing. Moral forces may gradually stop it; but as a matter of fact, taking the world as it is, you have to recognise that it exists, and from the point of view of the Army the two principles that it is my duty to follow are, first, to prevent any inducement being put before the young soldier, or the old soldier if you like, in the way of prostitution; and, secondly—and here is where my greatest difficulty is with those who will not see (the most rev. Primate did see it)—to provide for those who will go with prostitutes that early treatment which may prevent them from having these fearful diseases.

The whole subject is difficult to deal with, because the question of what I will call professional prostitution really enters to a very small extent in the amount of disease that is disseminated. When I was Under-Secretary at the War Office I was taking up this question with the Home Office, and I sent down to a particular hospital where there were venereal cases to ask the authorities there to find out privately from the men how they had got their particular disease. I was astonished to find that more than four-fifths of the cases had been contracted from what I will call the unprofessional class—from servant girls to a certain extent, and from other different classes; extraordinary examples I found when I had the whole thing written out in front of me. And I believe that in a great many of those cases the disease was given without the woman having the very least idea that she had the disease.

This is an experience that is not peculiar to this country. The noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, did me the honour of bringing a deputation to see me yesterday on kindred subjects to this, and I showed him a report about the Germans. They are having far more difficulty with venereal cases than we are. In 1914, from the beginning of the war until the end of December, they had more cases of venereal disease than they had in the whole of the campaigns of 1870 and 1871. This shows the difficulty. They have been trying to find out, apparently where this disease is obtained. At first the reports noted that two-thirds of the cases were in the unmarried, but subsequently the married equalled the unmarried; the total number of married and unmarried in all the German Armies being about equal. The married women gave a history corresponding with the return of the husband on leave, he having recently acquired the disease at one of the halting places on his way back from the front.

I come now to one thing which is significant when we are talking about maisons tolérées. The ranks of the recognised prostitutes were supplemented by girls whose work had taken them away from home, as well as by married women whose husbands were away on service. Then there are certain statistics given as to this. Among the women brought up by the police as a result of their raids on the unlicensed prostitutes 45 per cent. were girls under twenty, and amongst these a proportion afforded no signs of veneral disease, nor could a history pointing to venereal infection be obtained; yet when these women, apparently not infected, were tested to the Wassermann reaction 15 per cent. gave a positive result. Then there are some other statistics given with which I need not trouble the House at the moment. But the report shows that other countries are having the same difficulties as ourselves.


But they constantly have Regulations.


The curious part is that they infer that most of the disease comes from the unlicensed prostitutes. Therefore in this case you cannot look upon the simple registration of prostitutes as a security against the disease.


Hear, hear.


I think we all agree upon that.




I do not pretend to say how you can deal with it, but you have to deal with it by some other manner than licensing prostitutes if you are going to stamp the disease out of this country. The noble Lord spoke about the new Order. I agree with him that we shall probably hear of it again, but I think that it is an entirely justifiable Order.


May we hear the Order?


I will read it— No woman who is suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form shall have sexual intercourse with any member of His Majesty's Forces or solicit or invite any member of His Majesty's Forces to have sexual intercourse with her. If any woman acts in contravention of this Regulation she shall be guilty of a summary offence against these Regulations. A woman charged with an offence under this Regulation shall if she so requires be remanded for a period (not less than a week) for the purpose of such medical examination as may be requisite for ascertaining whether she is suffering from such a disease as aforesaid. The defendant shall be informed of her right to be remanded as aforesaid and that she may be examined by her own doctor or by the medical officer of the prison. The noble Lord (Lord Willoughby de Broke) is commanding a regiment. We will say that three of his men come in and declare themselves to be suffering from venereal disease, and each one says, "We obtained it from the same woman living just outside the camp." Does the noble Lord object to such protection being afforded to his men as will enable that woman, if she is infecting the men of his regiment, to be treated in the way that is suggested at the present moment? The reverse is done with the men. If a private soldier admits that he has venereal disease, he is treated for the disease; but he undergoes certain punishments—that is to say, hospital stoppages, stoppage of his proficiency pay, and of his increase of pay on pre-war rates, and so on. Therefore, roughly, a private of Infantry, unmarried, gets 5d. a day instead of his full pay. That is a big penalty; but there is a still bigger penalty in France. In France the soldier at once loses the privilege of his leave, and goes to the bottom of the list for leave when he comes out of hospital.

Then suppose that a man conceals the fact that he has this disease—and here, if I may say so, is where the opposite side, the woman's right against the man, comes in. A woman has only to write to a commanding officer and say that she accuses a certain soldier of having given her venereal disease. She need not appear, and her name need not appear. If the man is in hospital being treated for the disease after having acknowledged that he is suffering from it, the penalties to which I have already referred are imposed. But if the man has not given in his name as suffering from the disease, and an accusation is made against him by a woman (without the woman appearing at all) he is medically examined; and, having been so examined, if the woman's statement is found to be correct he is tried by Court-Martial and can be sentenced to up to two years imprison- ment. Therefore your Lordships will see that the two things are reciprocal. The man can be punished, and also the man himself can bring to the notice of the civilian police—the military police will have nothing to do with it—the case of a woman who is deliberately infecting men with this awful disease.

I am afraid I have dealt only somewhat briefly with the various points raised in the speech of the most rev. Primate. Although I look at the matter, perhaps, from a different standpoint, I am in entire agreement with what the Archbishop of Canterbury has said; and I can assure him, if indeed he requires any assurance, that I will do my best to help him and the noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, and those who are working in this direction, to take this opportunity of having so many men under military discipline to see how far we can eradicate this fearful curse. A deputation introduced by Lord Sydenham yesterday had a discussion with me and with some of the officials of the War Office, and I think I may claim that that deputation was at all events convinced of our readiness and our wish to do all that we possibly can to avoid the transfer on demobilisation to civil life of men who are suffering from this disease; and a small Committee has been formed, through the body with whom Lord Sydenham is working, together with War Office officials, to work out the best way of doing this.

The most rev. Primate referred to the great desirability of co-operating with the Americans in this matter. I have to a certain extent anticipated that. I have seen Bishop Brent, who is the Acting Chaplain-General with the American Forces, and I suggested to him that although each country has rather different difficulties to face, at the same time there is a great similarity between them, and they have to deal with this disease very much to the same extent as we have to deal with it. He told me that he wished to co-operate in every way that he could, and I have therefore suggested to him—and he has telegraphed to the President on the matter—that a Staff Officer, and perhaps a legal officer and a medical officer shall come to this country and act with him, when I hope that his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury will be one of those who will meet them, and that with other ministers of religion, with our doctors, and with those who would have to deal with the legal part of any Resolutions we may come to, we shall be able to arrive at an understanding by which the two nations should be enabled to work together for the common good not only of our Armies but of the countries to which those Armies belong. I sincerely hope it will be possible to have that Committee within the immediate future.

I do not think I have anything to add to what I have said. But I wish your Lordships to understand this, that realising what, these diseases mean to the future of our race I should indeed be failing in my duty if I did not do everything to assist those who are endeavouring to deal with these evils. Do not let us deal with these evils by simply shutting our eyes and thinking that they do not exist. They do exist, and they will exist perhaps long after we have all passed away. But there is much that we can do, if we will only disregard some of these prudish people who hate to hear the words that we have used to-day mentioned at all; and I am perfectly certain, with the co-operation of the persons who are dealing with the civilian population with those who are dealing with the Navy and the Army, whether it; be here or in America, that although from this war very few blessings that we can see have come, we may be able to do something in this direction which may be of incalculable value to the generations which follow after.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl for the answer he has given. I should not have pressed the Motion on the Paper after what he has said, but I desire to thank him for the information which he has given us. There are many points which I should wish to have further investigated as time goes on, and the noble Earl has offered us an opportunity. I feel quite as strongly as he does that it would be utterly monstrous to speak of this as an Army wrong-doing. The men fighting now are citizens of this country, and I should protest against any kind of imputation against them because they wear khaki. I could, if necessary, produce figures proving the point. American statistics have not, I think, been published, but I have them, and an examination shows that the preponderance of disease in the men entering the Army is reduced very largely afterwards, and that the process of Army service, instead of being prejudicial, has been beneficial as regards the health of the men. As one prominent American writer on the subject wrote only within the last fortnight, a thousand men taken from ordinary citizenship in the great towns of America were found to be in a far less clean condition than a thousand men after they had served seven or eight months in the American Army.


My Lords, before the noble Earl says anything in reply, may I ask him, without entering into the general subject-matter of the debate, whether he would be willing to devote some further attention to the subject brought before us by Lord Willoughby de Broke with regard to the particular Regulation No. 40D. I cannot help thinking that the noble Earl may somewhat underrate the force of the objection which is likely to be raised to this Regulation. The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, is in close touch with many of those who are likely to express themselves strongly upon a point of this kind, and I hope the noble Earl will think it right to consider carefully whether that Regulation, in the form in which it has been read out, does not go very near the wind indeed in its approximation to the former legislation to which he knows so much objection was taken. It is quite true, of course, that there is in form an option for women accused to submit or not to medical examination; but it is possible that the indirect pressure to do so may be so strong that it may become almost an obligation on a woman who for one reason or another ought not to be subjected to such an examination. The noble Earl mentioned what would be an extreme case in one direction—namely, that of an infected prostitute who had communicated disease to a number of soldiers—and he asked the noble Lord what a commanding officer could do in such circumstances. I am sure, however, that the noble Earl will be told by the critics that those are not by any means the only possible cases. There is the case of unjust or malicious accusation brought against a particular woman, and the danger, which cannot be disputed, of blackmailing charges and other dangers of which I am sure he is quite as cognisant as any of us can be. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will consider whether it is not possible to modify this Regulation in some form before the storm predicted breaks upon his head.


My Lords, may I say a word about Regulation 40D, which Lord Willoughby de Broke mentioned? The two main criticisms against that Regulation are these. First, that it differentiates sharply between the cases of men and women—rousing strong indignation among a large number of women—and, secondly, that no provision is made for treating a woman if found infected, and therefore she might return to her previous occupation and go on infecting more men. Besides that, if the woman is not treated she may be consigned to what can only be described as a living death. In the Criminal Law Amendment Bill there was a clause which made the knowing communication of venereal disease a penal offence. That clause would apply indifferently to both sexes. I believe it would pass without any great opposition anywhere, and it would, I think, do away with the rather invidious and possibly dangerous provisions of Regulation 40D.


My Lords, I can speak again only with the permission of the House. I quite understand the danger of this Regulation and realise the difficulty, and I quite recognise the storm which may be raised. The necessity for it was carefully considered not only by the Army and Navy at home, but also by our Colonies, whose wishes in such a matter as this must be taken into account, as I am sure the House will agree.


Will they be represented on the Committee?


What Committee?


That which you proposed to the House.


I am talking of something quite different. I am referring to the Regulation. We have been in consultation, naturally. Of course, they do not deal with the form the Regulation should take but with the object for which the Regulation is made—namely, that when a woman is known to have infected men with venereal disease some step should be taken to endeavour at all events to limit the scope of her operations. With regard to what the most rev. Primate said, I am sorry if I stated anything from which it might be thought that it only concerns the Army. What I said was that there is no doubt an idea in the country that the Army is the body that must be dealt with. It is a sort of "try it on the dog" argument. I say, and I adhere to it, that if we are to make a stringent Regulation and deal drastically with these matters, we have to make up our minds that it is not only the Army but the civil population with which we have to deal at the same time. With regard to what the noble Lord said about the Dominions, I will ask them; but I do not know whether they will want to be represented on the Committee, because it really affects England and France more. If they want to be represented I shall be only too glad for them to attend.