HL Deb 11 July 1918 vol 30 cc844-52

THE EARL OF MAYO rose to draw the attention of His Majesty's Government to the present arrangements for the training of disabled soldiers; and to move for a Return of disabled soldiers being now trained, and who have been trained, in the several areas in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I brought this subject forward in June and July of last year, and since then very much has been done in the way of organising the arrangements for training disabled soldiers. England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have been divided into twenty areas with a superintendent inspector for each area. The pamphlet from which I quote has for its object the giving of information for the local war pensions committees of the different centres at which facilities exist for the training of disabled men in various trades; and is dated May, 1918. The system is excellent, but I wish to ask about the results.

Mr. Hodge, the Minister of Pensions, gave returns up to the week ending June 5, in which he stated that there were 6,526 men under training and 7,613 already trained; and he added that in practically every case men who have completed their courses of training have been put into employment. The number of pensioned men at present is 350,160, and those men, of course, are out of the Army. What one wishes to arrive at is how those pensioned men have been trained or whether they have gone in for any training at all. Out of the numbers mentioned by Mr. Hodge we must deduct those at St. Dunstan's Training Home for the Blind and Lord Roberts's Memorial Workshops, both of which are entirely private undertakings. In those two institutions there are 1,316 men under training, and 1,807 trained men. Now as far as all this goes it is satisfactory, but considering the number of disabled men it is really not a large proportion. There must be thousands more disabled men who should be trained and Whose training should be at once undertaken.

I have said before in this House, and I say it again, that before a man is discharged from the Army he should commence to learn a trade, or at least be provided with books that would give him some knowledge of the trade that he has intimated he wishes to follow. This education, or better still instruction, should commence while he is in a convalescent home, where I know much idling is going on. The amount of idling is dreadful, especially on wet afternoons. One can then see the men crowding round the fire with nothing to do, when they might easily have instruction given to them or have lectures read to them by officers. I admit that it is rather difficult after what the men have gone through to get them to take up a trade. I do not mean for an instant that a man should be troubled with this kind of thing while in a regular hospital; it is only in the convalescent stage that this training should be taken up. The men should be gradually led into thinking of the future—I mean, of course, those who are sure to be discharged from the Army.

On July 18 of last year Lord Crawford, in answering me, said— At one time there were strong advocates for preventing the discharge of these men altogether after their health had recovered, in order that they should continue their civilian training under Army law. That idea, I think, has been abandoned; and the noble Earl only asks for a very small modification when he suggests that if a man's health permits while he is still in a convalescent home, notably in an orthopaedic hospital, he shall begin his training. I will put the ease before my right hon. friend Mr. Barnes, and will represent it as being strongly pressed by the noble Earl and others who are interested in this subject. I want to know whether anything has been done to carry out those suggestions. The truth is that if these men are not taken in hand they become neurasthenic; they get into the state at last when they become good for nothing at all. I do not say that the men are petted in the convalescent homes, but in some cases they are spoilt; and the idling that goes on is perfectly ghastly. I do not say that all the men are becoming neurasthenics—it would be too awful to think that; but you must not force the men to continue in idleness as is the case at present And there is a very strong inclination to do this, because our pension system is a very generous one, and when a man has a pension and his wife can earn a little bit of money he is rather inclined, when he leaves the Army, to do absolutely nothing at all and to scrape along the best way he can, or rather to muddle along. This, of course, should not be encouraged. In fact, it should be presented by every means in the power of our authorities that these men ought to take up a trade. I believe I am right in saying that in Germany every disabled man is trained as a substitute for an able-bodied man.

I wish to draw particular attention to what one of our Colonies does for disabled soldiers. I am speaking now of New Zealand. New Zealand is doing what I urged the Government to do in June, 1917; it is taking up the training of disabled soldiers before they leave their convalescent homes and are discharged from the Army. I was snubbed for what I said.


Not by me.


I felt snubbed, and the matter was not taken up at all at that time. I should like to tell the Government what they are doing in New Zealand. I have here a Report from the Brigadier-General of Administration, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and it comes from 31, Bloomsbury-square— The Government and the people of New Zealand have resolved that everything possible shall be done for our soldiers who are disabled in this war, and legislation has been passed by Parliament to provide pensions on a liberal teak, not only for the disabled soldier himself, but also for his dependants. Employers of labour and labour unions have agreed to co-operate with the Government to afford facilities for every disabled soldier to obtain remunerative employment; Before I go on I should like to ask the Government whether labour unions in this country have put any difficulty in the way of these disabled soldiers working with union men. The Report continues— and, if necessary, to re-educate him for a new vocation, in order that he may improve his prewar earning capacity and become a valuable asset to the State. Then the Report goes on to say that disabled soldiers are keen to devote their spare time in hospital to study or practice training for their future careers in New Zealand. Now, this is the paragraph that is so very satisfactory, and which I wish to make a great point Of— An officer, appointed as Officer-in-Charge Disabled Soldiers' Department, visits the man while in hospital and ascertains his wishes in regard to his future employment on discharge from the Army. The medical officer in charge is consulted and asked to give his opinion as to whether the individual concerned will be able to follow the vocation he selects. When the man's future vocation is decided he is registered for admission to a school, or workshop, and, whilst still in bed, is given technical books to study in order that he may occupy his spare time by preparing himself for his future career. It is considered that by this means his mental condition is improved and that study under these conditions is not only curative occupation, but it causes the patient to minimise his disability, and makes him keen and ambitious regarding his future career. Nothing can be better than that, and if our Government would take up that particular line with our disabled soldiers we should not be likely to have trouble after the war with men walking about with nothing to do and even begging on our roads. The Report continues— When the man is certified by the medical officer as fit to receive practical training in the vocation he intends to follow on discharge, he attends a special instructional class held in the vicinity of the hospital. The hours of attendance are then given, and after those hours he is free to spend his leisure as he wishes. The Report proceeds— In a great many cases pupils continue, after school hours, to devote a great deal of their spate time to work and private study. I need not state the subjects taught, because they contain all sorts of trades.

There is another place which is actually carrying on work in England at this moment under the New Zealand Government, and that is Oatlands. At Oatlands a school has been established which embraces most branches of instruction that can possibly fit limbless men. This was sent me by a high official in New Zealand, and I want to draw attention to this paragraph— In cases where men have progressed well, they have been found situations in workshops or warehouses and offices in various parts of the United Kingdom. They have invariably done well. The British custom is to discharge Tommies when disabled and everything possible has been done to repair their infirmities, but these men are kept in khaki and receive their soldier's pay with their usual ration allowance of 28s. a week. That is what New Zealand is doing, and it is a most excellent example which I hope will be taken great notice of in future in this country. I also heard on Tuesday last from a very distinguished American General that the United States was going to begin training disabled soldiers before they discharged them from the Army. Of course, they have not got very many as yet, but they are following out that excellent principle.

Let me suggest this. There are officers in these twenty areas who have left not only the New but the Old Army long ago, and they could under the Superintendent Instructor in each area visit the hospitals and convalescent homes, find out what trades the men want to follow, and help them with their literature, and I believe that literature could be got either from the ward library or the camp library; and what I should like to see is a regular staff of officers. If there are not sufficient Army-men available I am sure you could get civilians to carry out that work and to deal with these convalescing men. You will get plenty of help I am sure. There are lots of old officers who would be only too happy to do this work, and who, if they were not able to write theirlectures might be supplied with a series of printed lectures. You want to push the idea of working at a trade into the men's minds, so that they may think of taking up work in the future and not becoming idlers. I am sure that they would welcome such instruction, especially during the long winter afternoons and evenings. In fact, you want a regular and consistent recruiting campaign among the men who will be discharged from the Army. We cannot have idle men after the war; otherwise they will fall a prey to socialists and agitators of all kinds. If they are given work and encouraged to work in every possible way, you will not only improve them in mind and body but make them useful and respectable citizens when the war is over. I beg to move.


My Lords, a Return of the men trained and in training in the several areas in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland has been prepared and I will hand it in. The numbers shown in areas are for those soldiers or sailors who are being trained in technical institutions and workshops in different parts of the country. Disabled men are, however, also being trained on munition work; and at St. Dunstan's Hospital, where blinded men are dealt with, and at the Lord Roberts's Memorial Workshops, where many men disabled in the arm are trained and subsequently employed. These figures are also shown, and the gross total of men trained and in training is 14,223. A certain amount of training of a preliminary character is given also in orthopædic hospitals, but has been ignored in the preparation of this Return. Training is now given to the men in the Pavilion Hospital at Brighton, and arrangements have been made whereby the local war pensions committee can begin the training of any man who is on furlough awaiting the fitting of his artificial limb, completing the course of training, if necessary, after his discharge from the hospital. Training was first begun under the Statutory Committee and continued when the Ministry of Pensions took over the arrangements. Since the Royal Warrant of March, 1917, came into operation the number of men under training has steadily increased, the most notable advance having taken place within the last six months.

The character of the training is now rapidly undergoing a change, the tendency being for courses to be longer so as to render a man really skilled and qualified to enter the various organisations of workpeople.


Before he leaves the Army?


After he leaves the Army. In collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, Reports on openings in industry have been issued in fourteen distinct trades, many of the trades having large numbers of processes. For instance, in the building trades there are seventeen distinct processes; in the engineering, fifteen processes; and in the printing and kindred trades, fifteen processes are provided for. The terms laid down in respect of periods of training and of wages to be paid during certain periods of training, &c., have been agreed to by the trades advisory committees which have been set up in each trade. The issue of these Reports setting forth the conditions under which training shall be given renders any conflict with labour on the one hand or employers on the other unlikely, while up to the present disputes have been avoided altogether.

Within the last month or so the conditions for training in the building trades, engineering trades, and the printing and kindred. trades have been issued, but the effect has not yet been felt. It may reasonably be assumed, however, that training in these trades will increase to a very large extent as the facilities become known. The conditions under which training shall be given in the electrical and chemical trades are now being negotiated with the trade advisory committees concerned, and still further opportunities for excellent training will be afforded to the disabled man.

Certain difficulties, naturally, present themselves in a question so new and with so many ramifications as the re-education of disabled men. Perhaps one of the most serious is the lack of teachers, and this difficulty presents itself in many parts of the country, especially as the question of man-power becomes acute. The accommodation available in technical institutions is sometimes of a somewhat limited character, thus precluding comprehensive schemes of training being set up. Then, again, under existing Regulations it is not always possible to give the disabled man the training he desires or the training that the local committee desires for him. The Pensions Ministry deals with the disabled man in consequence of his disablement and not in consequence of any change of conditions or of desires which he may have in common with very many men who will leave the Army without disablement. It is, therefore, not considered that the Ministry should train men when they have not been rendered by their disability incapable of pursuing their former occupation. For instance, if a man has been a clerk and can continue to work in that capacity, it is not considered to be part of the Ministry's functions to train him to be a teacher or a doctor, and generally the professions requiring courses of study extending over a number of years are considered to be outside what the Ministry can ordinarily provide.

Another obstacle to training is that in this country employment has been very good and men have experienced little, if any, difficulty in obtaining remunerative work. This, while satisfactory from some points of view, has militated against the desire for training. In conclusion, I may say that those misconceptions regarding training which at first seemed to have deterred men from seeking training are gradually being removed and more and more men are recognising the great desirability there is to enter upon a course which shall render the man a skilled worker and ensure him permanent employment with decent wages. The Return I am handing in deals with the men in training, and with the men who have completed their training, separated into the different areas to which my noble friend alluded.


For each area?


Yes. It also adds those trained and training in Lord Roberts's Memorial Workshops, at St. Dunstan's, and under the Munitions Department.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

The following is the Return handed in by Lord CRAWFORD:—



Area. No under Training No. completed Training. Total.
Northern Area 158 64 222
Yorkshire 342 126 468
N.W. Area 582 252 834
Cheshire 91 28 119
East Midlands 102 29 131
West Midlands 365 169 534
South Midlands 48 7 55
East Anglia 113 43 156
Home Counties, North 216 145 361
Home Counties, South 574 172 746
Southern Central 177 88 265
South Western Area 277 87 364
North Wales 93 17 110
South Wales 242 48 290
North Scotland 100 65 165
Central Scotland 106 43 149
South East Scotland 99 13 112
South West Scotland 111 33 144
North Ireland 46 13 59
Midland Ireland 54 17 71
Area. No under Training No. completed Training. Total.
South Ireland 6 1 7
Jersey, Guernsey, I. of Man 9 6 15
London 327 320 647
4,238 1,786 6,024
Note.—The above figures date from September 1,1917, to July 3, 1918.
Number reported as having undergone training previous to September 1,1917, about 1,550. 1,550 1,550
Lord Roberts's Memorial Workshops till June 27, 1918. 471 966 1,437
Munitions to May 31, 1918 795 3,272 4,067
S. Dunstan's and Annexes 644 501 1,145
6,148 8,075 14,223

[From Minutes of July 10.]