§ LORD GAINFORD had the following Question on the Paper—
§ To ask His Majesty's Government—What is the total number of soldiers who have been discharged during the war. How many are or have been trained in—
- (a) Semi-philanthropic institutions;
- (b) Institutions set up by Local War Pensions Committees, and where the training will be paid for out of Imperial funds.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is with some reluctance that I rise to occupy a few moments of your time in order to draw attention to the terms of the Question which I have placed upon the Paper; and I might 1012 say that I should have been content to leave it to the Ministry of Pensions had it not been for the fact that by correspondence I have failed to elicit anything in the nature of a satisfactory reply. I think your Lordships will agree that the importance of training disabled and discharged soldiers and sailors cannot be overrated, and that must be my excuse for pressing this question upon public opinion through your Lordships' House. Lord Charnwood, a few months ago, alluded to the fact that there were 225,000 of such men in the country, and presumably there are still more of them now. The Army and the Admiralty respectively are naturally responsible for the treatment of soldiers and sailors when they are wounded and up to the time they are discharged from the hospitals, but it has always seemed to me that Education Committees which have had experience of technical training, under the advice of the technical advisers of the Board of Education, would have been better bodies to whom to have been given the training of these disabled soldiers and sailors. It has been, however, left to a Statutory Committee under the Ministry of Pensions to provide the necessary assistance required for their training out of public funds; and my complaint is that up to the present there has been so little done in connection with the training of these men.
§ In many cases local initiative has been discouraged if not entirely stifled. Local committees have started full of enthusiasm and keenness and interest in their work, but owing to the way in which they have been treated by the Ministry they have been discouraged. The men themselves, many of them disposed at the outset to undergo a course of training, have somewhat suffered in the same way and have been discouraged. The increasing number of men who are disabled and mutilated may be seen in our roads and streets all over the country, and in many cases our ex-soldiers and sailors are appealing in the street for the compassionate charity of the public. These distressing spectacles, my Lords, excite our sympathy and commiseration, and I am sure your Lordships are as anxious as the general public that the power left to these men should be preserved and utilised. The Government, I am quite sure, desire as much as any of us that what remains to these men of their powers should be developed, that they 1013 should be given so far as possible an interest in life, and that in spite of misfortune and mutilation they should be trained to help themselves and to help others and to become good and useful members of the community. When men who are induced to select some subject for their training do not find opportunity for their training—when classes are not formed—they sometimes select another subject. Again, a scheme when it is put forward has been turned down by the Ministry. It is not any wonder that the timidity existing in the local authorities should be communicated to the men, and that they should hesitate more and more to come forward for a course of training. If a rider takes a horse up to a fence, jabs him in the mouth and turns him round, and repeats the process, it is not surprising if the horse becomes a confirmed refuser. So with the men. If men after leaving hospital are not grasped warmly and firmly by the hand and found employment, they will in some cases take up temporary employment in some blind alley of occupation, or in other cases become mere loafers and mendicants, and any disposition to learn a trade evaporates and vanishes. My complaint is that, so far as I can gather from figures supplied to me in my own county, there is not 1 per cent. of these men being trained at the present time out of public funds.
On January 9 I wrote the facts of the position of my native town of Darlington to Mr. Hodge, the Minister of Pensions. I drew his attention to the fact that for over a year we had placed at the disposal of the Ministry a technical college with 120 places, with machines properly equipped for the training of disabled men and the teaching of munition workers. From that time to the present that institution has never been full; all other classes have been stopped, the munition department has occupied never more than fifty places, and after they have been trained in that institution girls have not been found places in munition works. Sixteen of them have been there for over four months, although it takes only two months to train them. Seventy places have never been occupied owing to the way in which the Ministry have turned down all the schemes suggested. Mr. Hodge did not acknowledge my letter until my notice appeared upon the Paper of this House, and it was only this morning that I received this further reply, in which he said—
If the Darlington Committee will inform the Ministry of any cases of training required, efforts will be made to get the men placed in another area, but I hope that the Darlington Committee will themselves at an early date be able to put forward a scheme for training men in their own district.
It is a remarkable reply in view of the fact that for a whole year the Darlington local committee have been putting scheme after scheme in front of the Minister of Pensions, and one and all of them have been turned down. Major Mitchell, who is a director of the Training Department in the Ministry, wrote to Lady Gainford on the 18th of this month saying—
I can assure you there has been no scheme submitted by the Darlington Committee which has not been approved by the Ministry of Pensions.
§ LORD GAINFORD
He is the man placed at the head of the Training Department by Mr. Hodge, the Minister of Pensions. I sent that letter to the town clerk, who is the secretary to the Darlington Local Committee for Naval and Military War Pensions. He replied—It is not a fact, as Major Mitchell states, that there has been no scheme submitted by the Darlington Committee which has not been approved by the Minister of Pensions. If you refer to my letters of the 11th and 29th January, you will tee that I inquired whether approval would be given to training in munition work. This proposal was not approved. Again on the 18th August I applied for approval for training men as motor drivers, and pointed out that the local committee had received a number of applications. This was also refused, and in such a way as to lead the local committee to believe that the Pensions Ministry did not wish the local committee to undertake that action with respect to training. However, I made a further attempt on October 29.I turn to the correspondence, and this is what I see happened on August 28. The town clerk, in his letter, said—I am desired by the local committee to inform you that several discharged disabled men have applied to them for training as chauffeurs.On September 6 the Ministry replied—The Minister is unable to sanction a general scheme for training men as chauffeurs.1015 On October 29 the town clerk, in his next attempt wrote:—The local committee are informed that training can be successfully provided in engineering, engine driving, clerical work, carpentry and joinery, commercial work, drawing, and tracing. You will accept this letter as a formal application for your approval.On November 7 the Ministry again replied—The Minister is desirous that the course in carpentry and joinery should remain in abeyance. Engineering and engine driving must also remain in abeyance. The Ministry is prepared to consider any course in clerical work, commercial work, drawing and tracing.The town clerk tells me that a formal scheme of training in clerical work, drawing, and tracing has been submitted for approval, but no approval has been secured.
With these facts before me it seems to me necessary to draw public attention to this matter. I do not complain of the policy of His Majesty's Government or of their desire. Their proclaimed desire is excellent. The instructions which they have issued in Circular No. 30, signed by one of their important officials, is most excellent in tone. It was issued in November. It said—Up to the present the proportion of men who are taking up the training course is comparatively small.Mr. Hodge, in addressing a meeting in December last, is reported to have said—There were many things they could do locally very much better than they could by instructions from London. His main object was to decentralise as much as practicable.Then, in an interview, reported in the Daily Chronicle of January 5 last, he said—Our training schemes aim at re-educating the man and restoring him to as high and if possible a higher state of physical efficiency than that which he possessed before the war. Training of disabled men appeals to me as a paramount obligation resting on this Ministry, and hence my description of the Department as a Ministry of Restoration.The result of this policy can be shown by an article which has appeared in the Municipal Journal. I take merely two extracts from an article which appeared on January 11, from the pen of the Mayor of Darlington, who said—In conclusion, I may say that I am very reluctantly coming to the conclusion that instead of every encouragement being given to local committees to provide training for our disabled men, all their efforts are discounted and a premium is put upon voluntary organisations which are able and willing to accept men for training without having to comply with all sorts of unnecessary 1016 and irritating restrictions and conditions. With regard to training, I am afraid that unless some step is taken we shall find the same weary round of form-filling and sanction-seeking—wasteful alike of paper, printing, time, and patience.Well, my Lords, policy is one thing; administration is another. There has been a great delay in the past and there has been a great deal of discouragement suffered by local committees. Unless the committees are encouraged they cannot canvass the men and find out how many of them they can get into a course which they are ready to provide. Here you have an institution with seventy or eighty places ready, and while every scheme has been turned down, the Ministry do not know of it, and when you write they merely say "Well, let another scheme be put forward." In my judgment too much has been left to voluntary and semi-philanthropic effort. It is the duty of the State to provide public funds to establish a system and encourage local effort, and as up to the present only about 1 per cent. of these men have entered in these training classes, I thought it my duty, even though I have occupied more time than I intended, to draw the attention of your Lordships to the position of affairs.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF CRAWFORD)
My Lords, I regret that I am not in the position to give the noble Lord the information asked for in the first part of his Question. I should like to confer with him afterwards as to the approximate numbers of persons who are now discharged. I gather from his speech that he desires to know the number in order to contrast the total number of discharged men with the number who are now being trained under the Ministry of Pensions. May I say that the Ministry of Pensions has no power to compel a man to undergo training? It seemed to me rather to underlie the speech of the noble Lord that the Ministry could enforce training upon men. That is not the case, and the exceptional demand for labour at the present time and the inducements to take up temporary work tend to lessen the number of men who would normally desire to undergo instruction which would lead to permanent employment. There are to-day many thousand vacant places in classes and technical institutes and so forth, for which, unhappily, no candidates are available. In spite of this a considerable number of men have received a course of 1017 training or are now receiving it. Under the head of "semi-philanthropic institutions" mentioned by the noble Lord, there is St. Dunstan's Hostel, where 887 men are receiving full pensions and other assistance from the Ministry of Pensions. These men have been trained there. In Lord Roberts's workshops the number is 1,198. In institutions coming under heading (b)—those set up by local War Pensions Committees—the number is 3,000, and 1,950 are being trained now for special munition work. This makes over 7,000 altogether.
With reference to Darlington, the noble Lord said that the Ministry of Pensions have discouraged local energies and activities. I assure him that that is far from the intention of Mr. Hodge. Indeed, if Mr. Hodge was answering for himself, I do not doubt he would say that his efforts are largely directed to stimulating local activity, which in many cases he finds somewhat slow to move. In the Darlington case, as long ago as July, 1916, the War Pensions Statutory Committee—the antecedent of the present Ministry—wrote to the members of the College regarding facilities for training disabled soldiers and sailors, and, in reply, were informed by the secretary of the. Darlington Education Committee, that their workshops, which would accommodate about thirty men at a time, had been transferred to the Ministry of Munitions for the purpose of training men who wished to enter munition work. While expressing sympathy with the object of the Statutory Committee, which was to press on the training of disabled soldiers, the authorities of the College said that all their energies were being used up in training men for munitions.
In February, 1917—that is seven or eight months later—the Ministry of Pensions again approached the authorities at Darlington to inquire whether conditions had changed so far as to permit of their assistance in training disabled men at the College. The Committee replied that they would give special consideration to individual cases suitable for training in munition work, but again emphasised the point that the sole and immediate object of their classes was to produce munition workers. They expressed the hope, however, that the Government might allow the machinery to remain after the war for training disabled men in engineering. That is what they asked for—that the machinery should remain after 1018 the war. Meanwhile, the Ministry has been in communication as to the training of disabled men with the Local War Pensions Committee, who are specially charged by Statute with this responsibility. In October last the Committee informed the Ministry that they were in negotiation with the Education Committee about facilities for training at the Technical College, but, though recently reminded of this, they have not so far submitted any scheme or any definite proposal regarding the institution of such classes. A general phrase, such as that used in the letter quoted by the noble Lord, "May we do munitions or engineering work," or half a dozen other things like that, is not submitting a definite scheme, and the responsibility of these committees is to submit definite and specific schemes to the Ministry for sanction.
§ LORD GAINFORD
May I interrupt the noble Earl for a moment in order to say this—that when they have submitted these subjects one after another to the Ministry, they have been told "these subjects are not approved." Therefore it is no good sending forward schemes when the Ministry will not approve of the subjects.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
The noble Lord knows more about Darlington than I do about the Ministry of Pensions, but I cannot help feeling, with the information before me, that the Minister of Pensions has a case on the Darlington problem. In conclusion, let me say that the Minister of Pensions has not been able to verify the figures representing the total number of disabled men on the Register of the Darlington Committee, but he has no reason to doubt the accuracy of the figures quoted by the noble Lord. There are ten men in that area who are now receiving treatment. With regard to training, the Ministry are still awaiting the submission of a scheme by the local committee, and when it is received it will be given the promptest attention.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
May I say a word on this subject, as I know a good deal about the question? The noble Earl who has just spoken has said that Mr. Hodge has a very good case. I quite agree with him, but it is a most tremendous subject for Mr. Hodge to tackle, and a very difficult one as well. As regards disabled soldiers 1019 and sailors I cannot see that anything has been done by the Government to give them any training classes. A private body, a philanthropic body, has started to supply these classes, but recently we have been told that the Government will not allow any private philanthropy in this direction. Meanwhile they have done nothing themselves and the men get discouraged. It is difficult to trace these men when they once leave hospital.
Only this morning I have seen a man who was in hospital for eighteen months; he underwent twenty-two operations, one leg being taken off, and four inches taken off the other; was shot in the body, and is deaf. About three weeks ago he was discharged from hospital, and the sister said she did not know what the man would do. He was given £1 and sent out into the wide world with that only. He had no friends or relations. The only thing to do was to bring him into a private home and give him training. In the case of this man there was no offer on the part of the Government to give him instruction; he was simply turned adrift into the wide world, with £1 in his pocket, in a perfectly helpless and hopeless condition.
My contention is that whenever men are leaving hospital they should be given some information as to what institution they can go to in order to obtain training and enable them to earn a living. I will not go into the point in detail, but I think it is most important that, when they are leaving hospital they should be directed where they can get treatment and training which will enable them to follow some career. Also there should not be a long delay in giving them a pension. This particular man of whom I have spoken has not, I am told, had a single penny from the Local War Pensions Committee, and he does not know what amount he is going to get.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
May I ask leave to say one word in reply to what the noble Lord has just said. I know nothing I of the case. I assume, from what he said, that, seriously wounded as this man is, I he is capable of being trained for something. If he can be trained for anything his local committee is under statutory obligation to look after him. Every hospital, on the discharge of a man, is under the obligation of letting the man know where his local committee is, and any post-office in any parish in the United Kingdom will 1020 give any discharged soldier the address of his local committee. If the man can take up training he is entitled, during his absence from home, to a separation allowance, and, if he cannot be trained, is entitled to it while living at home. After that training, which may extend over weeks and months, he is entitled to a bonus in money, and during his training is, of course, looked after by the medical superintendent provided by the committee—the treatment committee—which again has a statutory obligation to look after these men. Meanwhile, while he is getting his separation allowance and being trained and watched medically after his discharge, his normal pension is, of course, maturing, although there may be a slight delay. If the noble Lord will give me the name and address of the man I will submit it at once to Mr. Hodge and undertake now that any other man leaving that hospital shall not fail to receive proper information as to the course he should take to secure proper training. At this moment, in London alone, you have upwards of 5,000 vacancies in institutions and polytechnics where these men can be trained.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
We cannot hear anything from the local pension committee at Birmingham. We cannot get any reply from them.