I would like to ask the attention of the House for a few minutes to a subject somewhat different to that which has engaged the attention of Members, but a subject which, to my mind, is quite as important at this moment, that is as to whether or not we in this country will not have, sooner or later, to consider the possibility of adopting compulsory military service. To-night is a particularly good occasion on which to raise the subject for consideration, as to-day we have already had two statements which, to my mind, point to the necessity for us turning it over in our minds. This afternoon the Prime Minister told us that we must consider that this War may turn itself into a contest of endurance. We have also heard from the Minister of Munitions that there are difficulties which may have to be faced in other directions. However, I do not raise the subject in an attitude which is at all unfriendly, or with any idea or object of embarrassing the Government. The Government at the present time carries on its shoulders sufficient burdens without anyone going out of their way to add to their cares, unless they feel they must try to put forward something in the shape of a suggestion. I think possibly those of us who feel the necessity for this innovation may be even of some use to the Government, because we possibly know some of the difficulties they may have to face and overcome if they undertake it. Anyhow, it seems to me that it cannot do any harm to ventilate the matter and discuss it openly. So much harm seems to me to be brought about by working behind the scenes. In any case, the ventilation of the subject, if it had the result of drawing anything in the shape of a statement of intention, or anything of that kind, or even an indication of its being seriously considered, would do a great deal to counteract agitation or to allay the anxiety of anyone who might feel inclined to write or speak in favour of it during the Recess. I think also it may induce the Government, when such time may come, to know that some who before the War were opposed to any form of 2396 compulsion are now ready, if necessary, to back them through thick and thin.
I do not myself put forward my change of views on any political grounds whatsoever. I regard the necessity for the close consideration of this matter by the Government purely on the ground of expediency. If I might say one word about the difficulty in which one finds oneself in being both a soldier and a Member of Parliament, it would be simply to say one appreciates the fact that one's position is difficult; but it seems to me some special use might almost have been made of people who occupy that dual position, instead of being, as it almost appears they are, regarded as a nuisance. If I give my word that I do not in any word I say represent any opinion other than my own I may claim the indulgence of the House this evening. Instead of adopting the attitude of embarrassing the Government, if such a thing were possible in so humble an effort, I would turn rather to hon. Members of the party with whom I have served, if I could but persuade them at least to keep their minds open on this subject. My object also would be to put forward the claims for the urgency of dealing with this matter. One cannot do it, I agree, without running two risks. The first would be, perhaps, in some way embarrassing the Government; the other—perhaps the more serious point of view—is whether or not it would in any way be of advantage to the enemy. I heard this afternoon some remarks about the performances of the Government during nine months of the War, and it seems to me that during that period, judging by the accounts one has read, they enjoyed the completest confidence and the most unquestioned support, and it was not until after they made some disclosures themselves of some shortcomings that the House took upon itself to ask questions. Therefore, it does not seem that any harm can be done by private Members putting suggestions forward.
Further, as to the point of view that it could be of any advantage to the enemy to discuss such an innovation, I must register my opinion that it is not only of no advantage to the enemy, but the mere fact that we are prepared even to consider the taking of so serious a step, in order to make ourselves more fully equipped and organised to carry the War to a conclusion, would be nothing but discouraging in the highest degree. The point of view to be realised, in my humble opinion, is that it would be of incalculable 2397 encouragement to our Allies, and I think that they would appreciate the fact even more than we can understand the fact that we are in real earnest. Another argument in favour of urgency seems to me the development at the end of twelve months of war. There is no doubt that many of us had hoped that the positions we occupy in different parts of the world would have been somewhat different from what they are to-day. I believe, without adding anything further, that is to-day one of the gravest reasons why we should consider the urgency of this problem.
Our problem is to win and to win quickly. We have special reasons why we took bur share in the great conflict. Perhaps I am right in saying that ours was, perhaps, more a matter of principle than it was of self-preservation. I think that the order of those two things is gradually becoming somewhat reversed. Our duty and the burden which we accepted of not sheathing the sword, as the Prime Minister said, until we had got back for Belgium even more than she had lost, will take, It seems to me, a great deal of doing. It seems to me it will require all the men, all the money, and all the organisation that we can possibly put into working order so as to bear the strain sufficiently long to bring that about successfully. It is for those reasons, perhaps as much as any other, that I recommend to the consideration of those Members with whom I worked for so many years to keep their minds open on the necessity of compulsory service. If I may say so, on land the burden—anyhow as we see it every day in the papers — in mileage has been undoubtedly borne up to now by our gallant Allies. It seems to me that an opinion worth considering and bearing in mind in this connection is the opinion of the soldier. I think if one realises that the soldier of to-day is the elector of a year ago, and will be perhaps the elector of to-morrow, we may eliminate from our consideration the influence of the professional soldiers, because, after all, they undertook to serve before the War—they do not complain; they merely do their work—but when we have an Army of the size that we possess to-day, knowing it to be composed of men who only undertook the job purely from the point of view of self-sacrifice, I think perhaps we have a right to consider what their opinions on this subject might be. The moral effect upon the troops, as I would imagine, both 2398 fighting and in training, would be very great, and very beneficial indeed. Anyhow, speaking from the point of view of what one hears out there, the cry is often heard, "When are those at home who have not come forward going to bear their fair share?" Whether the same opinion is held by those in training I am not in a position to say. Another consideration should be the effect of such an innovation upon our great Western Allies. If I may say so, it is a land which has produced a race of men every one of whom has proved himself to be a hero. They have surprised Europe by showing qualities of which perhaps they were not suspected, qualities of stoicism and tenacity. Her Army is splendid. A prolonged war may bring in its train in that country difficulties, political or otherwise, but I am sure that if we could give to France the encouragement which the adoption of this system would bring it would enable that country much more easily to ignore any such influences. If we took the final plunge I believe its effect in that direction would be very great indeed. I would like to ask hon. Members whether they are really satisfied, after reviewing the situation for the last twelve months, with the comparative efforts of the two countries. Take France, with a much smaller population than our own. It has produced a proportion of troops which those who know the numbers will agree is enormously in excess of our own proportion, and I imagine at an expenditure of probably half our own, and I should think, judging from the public debates, they have produced munitions many, many times in excess of those which we have been able to turn out. There you find men and women and boys have cultivated every square inch of their rich country, and one cannot help looking back over that period and wonder whether we can rest satisfied with the efforts we have made in the comparisons which I have put forward.
If I may be allowed to deal with a very practical point it would be this. I think the system of enlistment in operation today in England is probably responsible for a great deal of our difficulties in many directions. We have the dual system. We have the Territorial Associations enlisting on one side of the street and the recruiting sergeant on the other side, and it seems to me that this system is open to the charge of being indiscriminate and extravagant. I know a case which I 2399 imagine is merely typical of thousands of others. A wise Territorial Association on one side of the street refused to take a man because he happened to be a skilled worker, and he was told that the best way to serve his country was to work at the bench. The man is determined to have another try, and he goes across the street to the recruiting sergeant and pleads that he is a casual labourer, and in that way he gets sent to the front, and, as the Minister of Munitions has told us, it is very difficult after he has gone to get him back again. If one looks a little more closely into this indiscriminate enlistment one is brought up against the fact that we have in the last twelve months accepted the voluntary services of a great many people who would have been far more economically employed if they had been left behind. You find all through the Army men in the position of landlords who might use their influence amongst recruits to separate the useful from the useless, and they would have been doing greater service at home. There are numbers of employers who have given up businesses in order to take their part in the War. We find numbers of foremen who have left businesses which have run into a condition of chaos. I think also you will find, if you look into the matter, that men have gone below the level of the manager and the foreman, whom I should call the workshop "ganger," who at election times control the dinner hour meeting. Those are the men whom it is difficult to replace, and if there had been an organised system instead of all this indiscrimination, we might have been saved a great many of the labour troubles which have occurred during the last twelve months. From what we have heard to-night from the Minister of Munitions it is possible that we may recover a great many of these men. I admit that I am not quite satisfied myself, and I should be greatly reassured if we could have a somewhat stronger assurance than we have had from the Minister of Munitions that this fact is admitted by the Government, and that they intend to pay close attention to it with a view to remedying it before the matter goes too far.
I imagine that we must still have in this country hundreds of thousands of men who are still under training. It may be difficult to apply this suggestion to those abroad, but if it could be applied rigorously to all those who are in this country the evil might be overcome and a great 2400 deal of good might be done. We have often heard the argument of the economic mistake of taking married men so freely, but that argument is one which I think it is quite unnecessary for me to go into this evening. It has been most elaborately explained and accepted on all sides by the public generally. I must, however, put forward one more argument against the present system. The papers last night gave us the figures of the total casualties, and I imagine those men will mostly be unable to take much further part in the War. I imagine that those 330,000 men are probably the best, and those casualties are the result of holding the line, which is not very long. As time goes on, if that line is increased, and the casualties amount to anything like reasonable proportions, I think before we have been another year in this War we may have lost such a number of our best and most valuable men that the loss will be very great indeed. Surely it is not carrying the argument too far when I say that the Armies which come later, whatever their numbers are, as you get further and draw deeper from the pool, so it seems to me you will draw from a less good quality and leave a less good quality behind. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] I have heard, in answer to these suggestions which have been put forward, that it is too late to make a change, but I submit that that depends on one thing, and on one thing alone, and that is in your calculation as to the duration of the War. If one were satisfied that it were drawing to a close, I would be the very last to suggest such a great alteration, but I do not see how anybody can possibly maintain that opinion in the face of the events that have happened during the last few months.
The only other point I would like to ask the House to consider would be the effect it would have, first of all, upon our opponents. As I have already said, I think it would be most discouraging to them. The effect that would have upon neutrals would be of a steadying character, and I think it would satisfy them that we were prepared to go to any limits to win the War. Upon our Allies I firmly maintain that it would have an effect of instantaneous encouragement to even greater efforts still. I believe it would be, perhaps, even unnecessary to put the machinery in action. The effect of the mere fact that you told the country that you thought it was sufficiently serious to even consider shortly, under certain conditions bringing 2401 forward such a measure would be, I think, really to make them realise the altered conditions and the more significant considerations of the War. I think that as far as we are concerned here it would enable us to establish ourselves, both as the trusted servant and the respected leader of the nation.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I do not think anyone would complain of the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has introduced the subject. We are satisfied both from his actions in the past and the services he has rendered to the Army, that he is actuated by the highest and best of motives. I think I am equally entitled to say that we have now reached a stage, in discussing this question, when those of us who may take the opposite view can also take it without being accused of in any way doing anything to hamper or hinder the good work of our gallant men. It is hardly necessary for me to say that those of us who sit on these Benches, as responsible Labour men and Labour leaders, have shown throughout the whole of this War that we are not unmindful of our duties, responsibilities, and, if I may say so, our patriotism to the country in her hour of need, and in saying that I immediately join issue with those who assume that, simply because a speech is made in the House of Commons, or even a measure passed, it settles the question. I am a responsible leader of the largest trade union in the world, and, if I may say so without egotism, I think I can claim to at least say that my men follow me, and equally that I am not afraid to tell the men when I think they are wrong. It is, however, useless giving my assent or support, as a leader, to any proposition unless I am satisfied absolutely that I can carry my men with me. That is the all-important point to consider in discussing the question.
We entered this War as a voluntary nation with a voluntary Army and with all the environment and traditions of voluntaryism. I do not think the hon. and gallant Member would claim that our enemy, whether it be Germany or any other nation, whatever their system may be, has produced soldiers of more courage, valour, heroism, or sacrifice than our voluntary soldier has shown up to now. Have we, as a House of Commons, had any evidence yet submitted by any responsible Minister that any call that has ever been made upon the nation has not been responded 2402 to? Let us examine the facts. The very first call that was made for men was so magnificently responded to that Lord Kitchener himself, in order to check it, had to alter the height standard. It is true to say that in itself not only caused confusion, but also had the effect absolutely of retarding recruiting. Notwithstanding those difficulties, it is true to say that up to the last appeal that has ever been made on behalf of the War Office we have been assured on the highest possible authority that every response that was expected has been made. We are therefore justified in saying that until the responsible Minister comes down and himself says that the nation has failed to give him the material he requires there is no case made out whatever for the change.
I want to approach the question from another standpoint. Have we as a nation made or are we making a fair contribution to the War waged on behalf of the Allies? It will not only be generally agreed that our Navy is doing all that was expected from it, doing it silently under great difficulties, and doing it well, but it must be admitted that the real value of the contribution of our Navy to themselves cannot be calculated even by the Allies. It is probably true to say that the contribution of our Navy is one of the largest contributions of any of the nations engaged. It is equally true to say that we have raised, on our voluntary system, the largest Army that was ever contemplated by those who advocated military service. I have never yet read any speech or heard anyone say but what the contribution of our own voluntary Army sent to the front and raised in this country has been larger than was ever anticipated. Mark you, this has been so in spite of all the sinister efforts of the conscriptionists, because we have got to face this fact, that voluntaryism has not had a fair trial. We find one of the largest organs of the Press refusing point blank to accept advertisements, and we have seen the voluntary system decried from day to day. We have seen the sacrifice of the married man ridiculed, and when we talk about the cost of the married man it is no use saying that he is too expensive unless you admit that you are paying too much for his sacrifice. I put it to you that no amount of money can pay the married or the single man for the services he is rendering us to-day Therefore, I submit that these arguments are important, and most important of all is this, in my opinion, that the financing of this great 2403 War is probably the greatest and best contribution that this country could make. If we are to finance the War, and if the silver bullet is to win in the end, then to be producers is all essential, and the more people you make consumers and not producers, to that extent you prevent us being the financial stability we ought to be.
I want to examine it from another standpoint, and I am going to take the four most important industries in this country. To commence with I will take coal. What is the position with regard to that trade today? The Government appointed a Committee representative of employers of labour, of representatives of the coal owners, and of the chief inspectors of mines to examine the effect of voluntary recruiting on the coal industry. The Committee presented a Report nearly two months ago, and this is one of the paragraphs:—The evidence before us is conclusive that if labour is further withdrawn from the collieries the output will be so reduced as to seriously affect, the industrial position of the country, and the time appears to the Committee to have arrived when very fall consideration should be given to the question as to whether further recruiting amongst the miners should he encouraged.And that is to be used as an argument for compulsory military service! I want to try and examine the question fairly as it appears to me, an ordinary working man. Here it is agreed that not only has the miners' contribution been a magnificent contribution, but one of the staple industries of the country would be seriously affected if you recruit any more men from the coal-fields.
Next we come to the railways. Out of 605,000 railway men at the commencement of the War 86,000 odd have voluntarily enlisted, and the position had become so acute in March of this year that the railway companies had to say to the War Office, "If you take one more man from the railway service we refuse to be responsible for the carrying of your troops." They actually did say that. It is no use the hon. Baronet opposite shaking his head. I know it is so, and, moreover, it was given in evidence before us as a Select Committee. The result is that no railway man to-day can be accepted unless he has a letter from his railway employer. That means that, so far as coal and railways are concerned, you have exhausted the men there.
With regard to munitions, need I argue that every skilled engineer, everyone who can make shot or shell, is essential at this moment? The Minister of 2404 Munitions has already indicated that they have had to bring men back from the front, and therefore you have got to apply compulsory military service to one industry again that has already supplied too many. Let me take the next case. Your arguments would be all right if you are going to say, "You take too many from one and not enough from the other." I am going to ask, Where are you going to get your men from? I have already given the cases of coal, railways, and munitions. Now we come to agriculture which is all-important. So serious had the position become that the Board of Agriculture had to arrange with the War Office for a supply of soldiers to help bring in the hay harvest, and they are now making arrangements for large numbers of soldiers for the corn harvest. In the opinion of the Board of Agriculture itself not another man can be recruited from that industry. I put it to this House that here you have four important industries, employing millions of men, which all go to show that so far as these industries are concerned no more men can be spared.
Let us take the unemployed returns. Can you point to any industry that shows a surplus of labour? Is not the difficulty to-day not only in the four industries I have mentioned, but in every other industry an absolute shortage of labour? Is it not true to say that every effort is being made to get women into these particular works? Therefore I submit, examine it from that particular standpoint, where do you get? You absolutely get to the position that, so far as military service is concerned, you are getting all the men that you require, and when responsible Ministers say they want more then will be the time for you to reorganise your methods and see if you can get them in a different way. But up till now there has been no evidence to justify that. I want to go further, and apply the practical side of it. The one evil of the change, above all others, would be a break in the unity of our people. I believe it is necessary to wage this War to a successful end, and I believe also the thing important above all others, is to have all parties, all creeds, rich and poor, absolutely united to that end. I am absolutely sure that at this stage— when the people have responded so magnificently, when, if any mistakes have been made, they have not been mistakes at the bottom but mistakes at the top, when if there have been any differences they have not been differences among the workers 2405 but differences which have been shown at the other end—the workers of this country will want more evidence than has yet been produced before they will agree to a system of that kind.
Remember, we are a free people. Our institutions are free, and we have fought for freedom in the past, I put this question: Who is going to choose? Try to apply the practical side of the matter. Let me assume that you have this system in operation. Apply it to the railways. Who is going to say whether this man or that one shall go? If the military authority is going to decide, then those responsible for the running of the railways will say: "You will have to take the responsibility for running the railways." On the other hand, if you are going to throw the responsibility upon the railway manager, he is going to be accused of picking and choosing and of victimising men, and you are going to have internal strife, strikes, and everything else. I therefore beg of you to realise the difficulties of the situation. You talk about compelling the workers of this country. What better illustration of the failure of that could you have than in what happened last week? You passed a Munitions Act. You put in operation the Proclamation, and in twenty-four hours the Act was an entire failure. Why? Because the men themselves resented it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I am not going into the merits. I hold very strong views on the merits, because I frankly say I would never abdicate Government responsibility, and I would never give way to any section of the people. I hold that strong view and have said so. But that does not alter the fact that your Munitions Act, with all its penalties, failed utterly and absolutely the first time it was put into operation. What is going to become of any Act in which you talk about compulsion? Therefore I say, let us continue our voluntary system; Jet us realise that the spirit which animates our gallant soldiers and sailors is the feeling that they are free men. They have entered into this War, they are making sacrifices and risking their lives, because they believe they are fighting for freedom and liberty and against militarism and all that it means. No words of mine could express my feelings of admiration for those gallant men. No words of mine could express what I felt about our women who are to-day mourning for the loss of many gallant people. But I am satisfied that if we were to attempt to depart from that system 2406 to-day it would be fatal to the best interests of this nation. I believe the overwhelming mass of the people of this country feel it. I believe you would be making a fatal step. I believe we will continue, under the voluntary system, to wage this War to a successful issue and not have to say we broke down the German military system to establish an English military system in this country. That is my feeling. I hope we shall go on with the Debate free from personalities and passion, but I sincerely submit to the House that the views that I have expressed in all sincerity are the views of the overwhelming mass of the working men of this country.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
This Debate takes me back to old times. In listening to the hon. Member's most eloquent speech, I have heard the echoes of all the fine old doctrines we preached for so many years before there was a war. After all, we are in a war now, and unless we see it through all these high and admirable sentiments will be washed away in unpleasantly thick fluid which I have no desire to see spilt in this country. But I ask the House to observe that in the magnificent speech to which we have just listened there was always reintroduced a very valuable safeguard. The hon. Member was opposed to compulsory service, but he always introduced this proviso—provided that the responsible Minister does not tell us we must have compulsory service. That is the whole point. He has not done it yet, but when he does it, will all these conclusive arguments about there not being a man to spare vanish into thin air because the Prime Minister has spoken? According to the hon. Member they will. If the Prime Minister says the state of affairs is so serious that compulsory service must be introduced, agriculture, and even the railways, will have to spare some of their labour in order to take its place in the fighting line. [Interruption.] The hon. Member (Sir William Byles) is older than I am. He ought to know that in the course of a lifetime we see many changes. He has seen an old colleague change his point of view, and he may even see a Prime Minister do the same. I want to follow" out these arguments used by the hon. Member (Mr. Thomas) and see what they amount to. Not a man to spare from the railways of the country! Let him go to France and see the ladies taking tickets in the trains.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
They do occasionally, at certain places only. I think the whole House will agree that even on the railways of this country there is large additional scope for female employment if necessary. Take agriculture. Let him go to France—he cannot go to Germany— and see how agriculture is being carried on there by women and prisoners. There is some possibility for agriculture in this country on the same lines. Is it munition workers he wants? I remember listening this afternoon to the cheer that went up from the other side when it was suggested that what we want is all our factories making munitions and no buying from America. We can buy from America and let all Englishmen fight, if necessary. An hon. Member asks, "How can we buy from America?" I reply, "We can buy on English credit, which is still good enough."
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Yes. Where? We are told that we must carry on industry in this country and that it is necessary that every man must be employed on the same old lines of "business as usual," which has been the biggest curse of this War. We are told we must make silver bullets. Who is going to fire them if everyone is going to be employed in making them? In times long ago we used to be able to find paid mercenaries to fight for us, but this is not a struggle in which we can buy mercenaries to fight for us to-day. We are up against a great proposition, in which we have got to fight for ourselves. We are not doing it badly, but we are doing it because of the patriotism and self-sacrifice of a part, though a large part of the population of this country.
What about the justice for these patriotic men of allowing them to be the only ones to make the self-sacrifice? I think we ought to see that there is a certain amount of fairness shown in this matter, and that not only the men who are prepared to lay down their lives for their country, but every man should have a chance of joining in that most glorious sport. It is rather unfair that only those who dare to fight for their country do so, and that those who do not dare are those who stay behind, content not only to stay behind, but to take the jobs of the men who have gone; so that when the men come back, after the War is over, they 2408 will find some junior whipper-snapper in their place, and they will have to go off to another country and seek a fresh opening there. That sort of thing is happening in many cases at the present time. That is the reason why I am sorry to see the House rising for six weeks without some statement from a responsible Minister, from the Prime Minister himself, that he does contemplate, if need be, the raising of an Army in this country on compulsory lines. I do not say that it is necessary yet, but I do say that what we want is a lead from the Prime Minister, from the only leader in the country, to say that when circumstances warrant it he will not shy at that possibility; but that he will expect from Englishmen that they shall all take their fair share and not satisfy themselves by cheering the devotion of others. I think what we want in this country more than money, more than shells, more even than men, is a leader, a leader who shall give the country a lead. Everybody is looking for a leader. Hon. Members laugh. I do not pretend to deal with the subject from a humorous point of view. Times of war are very different from times of peace. In times of peace I think one can get on very well without a leader. In times of peace we can qualify ourselves to be our own leaders, but in times of war you have got to sacrifice the individual to the community. You have got to have a dictator, if possible; a man who will direct. I do not care whether he runs risks or makes mistakes, but, for God's sake, give us a leader who will lead without fear of consequences. The whole world, not merely this country, but the whole world, from Vladivostock to San Francisco, is looking to see whether or not we can develop a leader.
They are watching to see whether it is possible for us to shape into line with the new conditions, whether we are prepared to face the test of giving up not only money, of which we have plenty, not only principles, which are easily shed, but of giving up the one thing which you are all afraid of shedding when it comes to the point—your life. That is the whole thing. Are you prepared to do what France has done? They have stood the test. You have in France a million men dead for freedom. They have stood the test well. A million men there founded themselves on the teachings of the men who came from the Gironde and from Marseilles. They have died in order that France may be saved 2409 and in order that freedom may be saved. I think that the majority of this country are prepared if necessary to go to the same lengths and for the same objects. But the majority should remember and insist that the same principle should apply all round, and that all citizens of England should be prepared to defend this country in the situation to which it has come just as the citizens of France have done. But I do not want to develop these questions. I am not asking the English people to be like the French. Nor am I asking them to be like the Germans, for I am profoundly grateful that they cannot be. But I want Englishmen to realise that every act of devotion and self-sacrifice is required at the present time, and is ennobling in spite of the fact that it involves compulsion. It is quite clear to me that what is really fine about compulsory service in time of war is that it involves self-sacrifice and devotion, and that it involves an exceptional measure of these qualities, and therefore the compulsion to which you have to submit is not degrading as it would be if it did not involve this self-sacrifice.
I think not only is that the view at the present time of the majority of the citizens of this country—of course, it is predominantly the view of the men who are already risking their lives in the trenches —but, in spite of what the hon. Member for Derby has said, I think that it is also the view of the best of the working classes in this country. I believe that in speaking to-night I should by no means put on a white sheet. I am by no means a radical renegade. I represent here to-day the views of all the fighting leaders of the labour movement during the last five years—Cunning-ham-Grahame, Ben Tillett, and John Scurr—and the leaders of every syndicalist movement. All these men are now in the fighting line. They are now talking as I am talking. They are all for smashing the German spirit. Smashing it with "silver bullets" and with "business as usual"? No! All these people—and I know them well. I have spoken day after day and week after week to labour audiences for five years—these people share my view because they have a hatred of slavery. They have been prepared, at any time, to lay down their life for freedom. All the more are they prepared to go to that length now in order to prevent a German domination of the world, which will mean not only the domination of the 2410 German Kaiser, but the domination of a German religion, wholly antagonistic to English ideas. That is why all the advanced parties of the labour movement are what may be described by some others as militarists at the present time. They are there to fight what they understand is the German spirit of militarism and materialism based upon the doctrines of Nietzsche. There is one particular reason why I Want an early declaration from the Prime Minister, why I want to hear as soon as possible the decision upon whether we are to make this sacrifice or not, and it is this: During last year we have not progressed so far as we thought we should towards our goal. One of our Allies is in a very difficult position at the present time. But what the year has taught us, the marvel it has shown, is the regeneration of France. A year ago they were flying before the Prussians into the centre of France. A year ago they themselves thought that they were a nation helpless in the face of German organisation. That has all gone. Now the Frenchman knows quite well that he is at least the equal of the German, and, man for man, can keep up with him. The French woman has shown that her endurance is superior to the endurance of the German frau. Their organisation of the munition service is every bit as good as that of Germany. When you consider that the industrial portion of France is overrun by the barbarians, it is a marvel to see her development at the present time. Their 75's are better than the guns used by the Germans. The French are not only the most dangerous military opponents of Germans at the present time, but Germany knows it. Is it not only too evident that they will do everything they can to buy off the French opposition? I have no doubt that they will offer France peace on easy terms. They will give them Alsace-Lorraine back; they will offer them half Belgium. These are the temptations that they will put before the people. Put yourselves in the place of the French. If your country were overrun, a million men dead, the risk of extermination—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no!"]—an offer of peace on such terms—[An HON. MEMBER: "Have you forgotten revolutionary France?"] I have not forgotten revolutionary France, but I have also not forgotten Buonaparte. France's Army will hold out, the women of France will hold out—I believe France will hold out. But have we any right to submit 2411 her to the temptation without taking just as big a share in this War as they are taking themselves?
We have no right to ask them to sacrifice their sons and not ourselves take our share in the line. We are holding only 40 miles; our casualties are one-tenth of theirs. We saved them last year, and we saved ourselves at the same time. This may be called by some an indiscreet speech, but is it not an indiscreet attitude that this country is taking up? There are plenty of people to say that we are doing everything in the War. Is it not time to put ourselves in the shoes of our Allies, and to consider what some of them may think of our efforts at the present time? I believe that this is the pledge we ought to give to our Allies, to say that we will undertake national service if necessary in order to hold a fair share of the line, and take upon our shoulders a fair share of the slaughter of this War. This is not a war out of which we can stand now. In the beginning we might have stood out of the War, not with honour and safety, but now we are in this War and we are the nation the Germans hate, we are the people who are in most danger, and I think it is about time that we should realise this more fully than we do, and show that we realise it in the only practical way. This is not a war about the balance of power; it is not a war got up by dynasties; it is not a war engineered by Statesmen to deal with some national aspiration. It is a war of two different creeds—two fundamentally different creeds, it is a war of religion. Here we stand at the present time, and we know it in this House, we stand as we have often pretended to stand in the past, but as we really stand now—for those old-fashioned doctrines of liberty and justice, individual and national freedom, for the faith in the rights of man, for the faith in the perfectability of mankind, undisciplined, uncontrolled. They stand for a religion based upon force, the right of force; the right of the sword; the right of one man to control his neighbours, to force them to his point of view. Those are the two points of view which are warring at the present time. They are so fundamentally different, they go down to the bedrock of human nature. Those two points of view are warring together. I, for one, am prepared to make any sacrifice, to go to any length, to see that the German ideal is crushed.
Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
Seldom, I suppose, has this House listened to a more deplorable speech. The main portion of the speech was devoted to what the Prime Minister earlier to-day called a calumny on the people of this country. The Prime Minister spoke with prescience, as, I suppose, he knew that somebody like my hon. Friend would get up here to-night to make these aspersions on the honour of this country, and which is supposed to be a form of patriotism in these days. And, knowing in advance what some ill-advised and foolish persons said, he described it in one sentence as a calumny upon the people. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] The portion of the speech, which did not amount to calumny on the people of this country, was devoted to caluminating the people of France, our glorious Ally. What did the hon. Gentleman say about France? He said that, in spite of the fact that we entered into this quarrel mainly in order to maintain the integrity of France and her possessions—[An HON. MEMBER: "He never said anything of the kind."] I remember well the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary told us that Germany guaranteed the integrity of France, they offered not to bombard the coast towns of France, but they refused to maintain the integrity of the French possessions beyond the seas—an infamous proposal, as the Prime Minister called it on the 6th August last year—and because of that infamous proposal made to us we, the people of this country, like one man sprang to arms to defend and help our Allies. The hon. Gentleman is one of the men who refused to support the Government at that time. [An HON. MEMBER: "He has fought for his country since."] Yes, and I dare say a great many more of us would be glad to do the same but for accidents over which we have no control. The hon. Gentleman said that, in spite of that, France might be tempted to make a separate peace without consultation with or the approval of this country. A more dastardly suggestion could not be made against the honour of one of the greatest countries of Europe. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am in the recollection of the House. If his words meant anything, they meant that. Although I am not French, I love and honour that great country as much as anyone, and I say that such a suggestion is to cast dishonour and discredit upon France. [An HON. MEMBER: "You misunderstood altogether."]
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I do not think it ought to be suggested that I made a dastardly attack upon France. The way I put it was this: The temptation was very great, and we ought not to inflict such a temptation upon an allied nation.
The whole burden of the hon. Gentleman's speech was that this country had done practically nothing. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Nothing commensurate with her ability and capacity. Let me ask the House to be fair to the country. It used to be said that there was a party of "Little Englanders" in this country. Where are the "Little Englanders" to-day? [An HON. MEMBER: "There is one!"] I venture to say that no country in the world has ever done so much as England has done during the last twelve months. Three million men have joined the Colours. [An HON. MEMBER: "Out of twelve million!"] I do not care out of how many. You have three millions who have volunteered. I ask the House to reverse the position for a moment. Suppose England had been invaded by a foreign foe; suppose the fairest parts of Kent, Sussex, and Hampsire were in the hands of the enemy; sup pose London had almost been invested how many men from any Continental country do you think would have volunteered to come forward to help this country? Yet before the foot of a single invader has trod English soil we have 3,000,000 men who have volunteered. That is a spectacle which no country and no age has ever before presented. What else have we done? We have sunk our domestic differences. Is that a small thing? There is not a single measure which either the late Government or the present Government has asked the House of Commons to pass which has not been passed. I will not say with enthusiasm, but at all events with a reasonable amount of unanimity. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] There has hardly been a Division on any controversial subject since the War began. If you search the history of any country; if you search your own history during the Napoleonic Wars, the Seven Years' War, the Wars of Louis XIV., or the time of the Spanish Armada, you never had such a spectacle of national unity and solidarity as has been presented by England during the past twelve months. What has England done? What has England suffered, that we should be forced to listen to men who traduce her honour and fame? Is there a single Vote of Credit—
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
On a point of Order. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman, who opposed the War at the beginning, entitled to traduce the motives of hon. Members who have previously addressed the House?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is present. If he takes any exception to what has been said he can defend himself.
The hon. Gentleman described himself as a renegade-Radical. In spite of what has been said I am still a Radical—without a hyphen! I do not shed my principles. I cannot get rid of the principles which I have been taught to revere simply because we are in the middle of a great war, and unless it can be shown to me, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the winning of the War depends upon the abandonment of those principles. In regard to the hon. Member for Northampton, I am not surprised that he should feel perturbed when he hears good old English principles. I come of the oldest race in this Island. I suppose I am racy of the soil. What history proves above all other things is this, that freedom, individual and collective, is racy of our soil. I remember reading a short time ago an account by an Italian visitor to England in the fifteenth century. What struck that visitor most of all was "the spirit of freedom; of free, independent liberty which pervaded all these fierce islanders." That, thank God, has continued down the centuries. Freedom is the breath of our nostrils. Though you may say that in a time of war the fact that we are a free people does not help to carry on the War with as much efficiency as the dragooned and well-disciplined hordes of Prussia, I am quite sure of this, there are other things that make up for the deficiency of our organisation. Organisation is not everything. The Prime Minister, about 6th June, made a short speech here welcoming the advent into the field of our latest Ally, Italy. He described that country as the custodian of the free traditions of Europe, and he went on to say that, because she was the custodian of those free traditions, she had maintained her genius and her initiative, which was foreign to the very idea of the Prussian militarism we are fighting. If there had been conscription in this country ten years ago I am not prepared to say you might not be able to 2415 adapt the circumstances of the moment to conscription, but gratefully I say England has not had conscription, and I say that in a time of great national emergency like this, when the War has been started, you cannot alter the whole constitution and basis of your society. It is all very well to say that if we had conscription and organisation as in Germany we might, for instance, not have had the strike in South Wales. You may say, if you like, that a strike is a very bad thing. I am quite sure that such a thing as that would have been impossible in Germany. I say further that, though the strike may be a bad thing in itself, it is evidence of a spirit of victory.
Treachery to whom? [HON. MEMBERS: "TO us!"] Who are the traitors? The men who strike out for themselves or the masters who force them to do it? I do not wish to have any controversy on that matter. I am willing to concede for the moment—for the sake of argument—that the strike is a bad thing. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) that a section of the community has no right at a time of great national emergency to dictate to the Government, or to attempt to dictate to the Government, but I say this: it is all very well for a Government, if it has a well-disciplined, a well-drilled and dragooned people such as the Prussians for two centuries and the Germans for two generations to apply those methods; but you cannot apply them here. It is not a question of argument. People talk of compulsion of labour and conscription. I say you cannot do it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because the people of this country will not have it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, you tried last week compulsion in South Wales. You had your Munitions Act passed only three weeks ago. You had, I suppose, one of the most popular Ministers administering that Act, a man who is universally respected—certainly in Wales, and I believe all over the country. The South Wales district was proclaimed. Yet events showed that you cannot dragoon the people of this country. Their traditions and whole instincts are against it. They have been brought up in a free atmosphere. You cannot dragoon the people of England by passing an Act of Parliament or talking in this way. Our 2416 Allies are in a different category. They have had to face a great military Power on their border for generations, and they have become accustomed to conscription. The only answer to the argument about the necessity of being prepared to put every man in the field is this: You have appealed to the voluntary patriotism of the people of this country and it has hitherto been found sufficient to carry us through. Do not change your tactics now. This country has done things which no other country in the world has ever done or could do. This country has shown what people can do when they are fighting for what they believe to be right and just, and when they do it of their own voluntary free will. I hope and believe that the Government will go on in the way they have started and not allow themselves to be deflected from a course which in the past has yielded fruits which nobody would have believed possible twelve months ago. I hope the Government will not allow themselves to be deflected from this course, and then I feel sure they will achieve ultimate victory.
§ Mr. AMERY
The greater part of the speech which the hon. and learned Member has just made, and the much more serious and reasoned and convincing speech of the hon. Member for Derby, have been based on a certain supposition, which is, that we are fighting on behalf of France as the result of some bargain with France, or as the result of some philanthropic consideration which bids us defend the integrity of French territory. If that were the case, then I think we have done our fair share, and our contribution has been far more than we ever gave France to understand we should provide. But that is not the question at issue. We are not fulfilling an obligation to France. The question is are we fulfilling our obligation to ourselves? We are engaged in a struggle for our existence and not for the existence of any other country in the world, and the whole issue which has been raised by hon. Members who have had the courage to say that they were wrong in the past and look upon this question differently to-day, is that we have not yet put forward a sufficient effort, and are not yet fighting in the spirit that is necessary to bring this War to a successful issue.
Before touching upon the broader question, I should like to say a few words in answer to the suggestion 2417 which has been made by previous speakers that the system which we had in peace time of leaving enlistment to the voluntary inclination of the individual has been a success. Look to the past! Supposing we had had some national system, even of the mildest kind, we should at any rate have had uniforms, rifles, and guns, and the whole question of munitions would have been started on an entirely different basis. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) spoke about winning this War with silver bullets. Does he realise the immense and unnecessary waste of money which the present system involves? Does he realise the dissipation which it involves of our financial resources, which are by no means so inexhaustible as some people thought at the beginning of the War? Again, take this very question of munitions, to which so much anxious attention has been devoted, upon which so many committees have concentrated, last of all, a Committee which is striving, with how little success the Minister of Munitions has told us this afternoon, to undo the "evil results of unregulated enlistment, and to try and bring back from the ranks the men who have been waiting unequipped for a whole year because the equipment which they could make themselves was not being made.
We heard something from the Prime Minister this afternoon about the trouble it causes the War Office Departments to be inundated with questions. I wonder if hon. Members have any conception of the difficulties which the system of voluntary recruiting has forced upon the War Office. It is not only a question of the Members of the War Office Staff who are actually engaged in the work of recruiting; it is the immense difficulty which it has caused in every department. The fact is that nobody has ever had any solid ground to go upon, and nobody has ever known what scale he has to work to. Every department of the War Office has been making bricks without straw. There has been a great deal of criticism—I do not know much about it, because I have been away —about certain departments. I ask hon. Members just to consider the position in which the heads of these departments have been placed. It has been suggested that in August last they ought to have accepted orders for plant and other things for an Army of three millions. I beg hon. Members to remember that in August last it "was a question of "another hundred 2418 thousand men." Then Lord Kitchener appealed for a second hundred thousand. Again and again, a new scale has had to be devised, and again and again the men doing the administrative work have had to change their whole conception. You cannot blame Lord Kitchener for it. How was Lord Kitchener with his experience of Egypt and India to know how many men were coming forward in response to the appeal for voluntary recruiting? I have heard people say that we ought to wait until Lord Kitchener comes and asks for compulsory service. This is a question which involves the industry and the finance of the country. It is a question of national policy. It is not a question for the Secretary of State for War; it is a question for the Prime Minister. It is the Prime Minister upon whose responsibility this great change can be carried out. The hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. L. Williams) said that you cannot make a change like this during the course of a great war. Another great and free people, the United States, fighting for freedom and union, as we are, made the same change, and it was Mr. Abraham Lincoln, as head of the State, who introduced that change just as I hope that the Prime Minister of this country will come to this House and introduce it before long.
I should like to say a few words—in addition to the arguments on behalf of national service which have been so well stated by the hon. Member who opened the discussion, and by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood)—upon the question of the whole method on which this War is conducted. The subject of national service touches only one aspect of that question. The conclusion to which I have been forced by my experience during this War is that as a nation we are not making the effort which the seriousness of our situation demands. That may sound a hard saying; it would be very much easier for me to win the cheers of the House, as did the Prime Minister this afternoon, by talking about the miraculous transformation, the wonderful things that have happened, and the sound of the tramp of armed men. Of course, it is wonderful when you look at it in comparison with our ordinary state of peace. It is wonderful that hundreds of thousands have flocked to the Colours, where it was difficult to enlist thousands before. But if you look on the effort of this country, not from this end 2419 but from across the Channel, where a small section of our people are fighting side by side with the whole manhood of France, where they are up against the whole manhood and the whole organised industry of Germany, then the thing wears a very different complexion. And it does so even more when you look at it from the outside, as I have been doing for some months, from some of those neutral countries, where both combatants appear in more equal perspective, and where the people form a very shrewd and sometimes unpleasantly frank judgment on the efforts and attitude of the different parties to this conflict. There you find what they are impressed with is not the miraculous transformation, but the miraculous slowness with which the people of this country are waking up to the War; not by the greatness, but by the smallness of our effort; not by our amazing energy, but by our amazing slowness; not by the miracle of our transformation, but by the miraculous fact that we still go on living and talking as if we were really in a state of peace, when we are in the midst of a great struggle for existence.
The neutral looks at results, and not at the change of affairs in this country, and what strikes him is that at the end of a year of war, with a population here in the United Kingdom very much larger than that of France, we hold barely one-tenth of the French line of trenches. Not once or twice, but on many occasions, the question has been asked me by some friendly neutral a Greek or Roumanian— who honestly wished information, "Why is it you only hold this line? Why cannot you do more?" I have given such explanation as I could. But I knew it was not convincing. Men have asked why we, with the greatest engineering industry in the world, cannot yet produce anything like the quantity of munitions produced by France, let alone by Germany? Why we still have wage disputes and trade-union practices, as though war was being waged in the planet Mars? The only answer I could have given was, because we did not mobilise our industries at the beginning of the War, and had not done so yet. In other words, that we did not take the War seriously enough at the beginning; we are not taking it seriously enough now.
I do not know if I shall be accused also of being a calumniator of my country when I ask whether any Member of this House, or whether the people of this 2420 country, have yet to any extent envisaged the possibility of defeat in this War. The Prime Minister in his speech certainly did not. I think it is time we did face that contingency, because it is to defeat that we are drifting, unless we wage this War in a very different spirit and by very different methods. I do know what many-neutrals who have opportunity of judging, and who are not swayed so much by their wishes and hopes in this matter, think. There is a very large body, including not only unofficial persons but even Governments who have come to the conclusion that we are not winning this War and are not likely to win it. Indeed, I ask why should an impartial observer imagine that our half-hearted, belated methods should overcome the immense determination, devotion and self-sacrifice of a country like Germany? Why should he be convinced that we are going to win and Germany be defeated?
It is not the patriotism of the people of this country that is at fault. I do not think there is anything you can ask from the people of this country that they will not willingly and gladly give. I believe that the people of this country have a truer and more intense patriotism than that of any country in Europe. It would be monstrous if it were otherwise. It would be monstrous if British freedom and British justice could not command the same self sacrifice and devotion as Prussian militarism and Austrian bureaucracy. What the people of this country need, and what they are clamouring for, is direction, guidance, leadership. They have not had direction or guidance ever since this War began. They have had plenty of miscellaneous exhortation, in eloquent speeches, in gaudy posters and from earnest canvassers. But that is not direction. It does not really help a man, who is distracted by the various responsibilities of home and business, or tell him what he ought to do. When a man sees some poster asking him to fill the ranks and pile up the shells, or a poster which looks like a hatter's advertisement asking him what cap he should wear, or some poster in eloquent language asking him to "take up the sword of justice," or in rather more homely phrase "to be a sport"— does that really tell him what he ought to do? Or for that matter, if some zealous ill-informed lady canvasser comes round, or if his employer tells him, half-threateningly, that he ought to go to the Front, is that guidance to a man? What 2421 a man wants at a time like this is the authoritative order embodying the nation's will, telling him in which battalion or factory he is to serve. That is the way to appeal to a man's patriotism, to his sense of duty, to his good practical sense and to his sense of fair play.
The same applies not only to this question of recruiting, but applies also to all these other industrial questions. This afternoon the Minister of Munitions made an eloquent appeal to trade union leaders to ask trade unionists to forego their practices. It is no good appealing to people to sacrifice either the interests of capital or what they conceive to be the interests of labour unless you are prepared to take measures that will compel them to make that sacrifice. It is not pure selfishness in this matter; it is a conflict of duties. A director has a duty, direct and personal, and a responsibility towards his shareholders. The trade union leader, and any man who is a leader among working men, feels he has a duty towards members of his union, and towards members of his own class, including not only the man in the factory to-day, but the man at the Front to-day, whose prosperity may depend on the conditions to which he is likely to come back after the War. You cannot by mere exhortation get rid of these difficulties. What you have to do is to pass measures which will eliminate the whole possibility of either capital or labour making a profit out of the needs of the nation. The one thing the nation is looking for to-day is guidance. This is not a time at which you can afford half-measures, and belated half-measures at that. It is not a time for waiting and seeing whether recruits or victories will turn up. You may very possibly find that we shall not get either. It is a time of immeasurable urgency. Every day that we delay putting forward the whole energies of this nation, as Germany is putting forth her energies, inclines the scales of war against us. We cannot go on drifting as we have been doing. This afternoon I heard the Prime Minister end his speech with an eloquent peroration bidding us to persevere as we have been doing—as he added towards inevitable victory. If we do persevere in conducting the War in the manner in which we have conducted it hitherto, if we persevere in postponing decisions, if we persevere in waiting and seeing, if we persevere in half-measures, if we persevere with this dogged irresolution on every question of importance, the 2422 only end of our perseverance must be inevitable defeat, inevitable failure. We are now adjourning for seven weeks, a period which some hon. Members apparently think too long. To me it does not seem a matter of very great importance whether our reflections and our criticisms are suspended for a week or two longer or not. What matters is that during this period of leisure Ministers should definitely make up their minds on this question of recruiting and of all the other groat outstanding questions, have done with half-measures, and make up their minds to fight this War with the whole strength of a united nation. Let them confront this House from top to bottom a Ministry decided on action and determined to lead. This House and the country will not be slow to follow them.
§ Mr. MORRELL
Those of us who are inclined to believe that the voluntary system is best suited to the genius and temper of this country, and has worked well hitherto, and that it would be madness to exchange it now for a compulsory system which has not hitherto been tried will, I think, not regret that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Guest), has thought fit to raise this question. I have listened to the speeches which have been made on behalf of compulsory service, and I listened especially to the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Wedgwood), who in the old days was known as one of the staunchest advocates of individual liberty in this House, and I have asked myself on what grounds, apart from questions of sentiment, it is suggested that we ought now to make this tremendous change in our system. It has not been suggested by any speaker hitherto that there is an immediate military necessity for this change. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Guest) thought it was desirable to face the question in case some day we might have to make the change. That was the tendency of his remarks. Certainly my hon. Friend (Mr. Wedgwood) did not treat it as an immediate necessity. He did not, for instance, suggest to us that at the present time we have not got men in numbers amply sufficient for the equipment and the material we possess. On the contrary, my hon. Friend who has worked in the Munitions Department, knows very well that the War Office have a good many more men at their disposal than they are able properly to equip and prepare for war. The arguments which are used in favour of this compulsory 2423 system are almost entirely of what I might call a psychological character. We are asked candidly by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) to make this change because it will encourage our Allies — the hon. Member who opened the Debate used the same argument—and because it will put fresh force and courage into our troops at the Front to know that other men are being compelled to go into the ranks in order to take their place. I am not going to enter into the question of whether that is a sound argument or not; whether it is really necessary that we should make this change in order to encourage France, or whether it is really necessary that our men, who have already done so magnificently at the Front, should have this extra stimulus. I am prepared to admit, for the sake of argument, that it might have that effect, and that there might be that advantage, but I do really ask hon. Members whether they think the general results would justify this tremendous change in our system. If this Debate has shown nothing else, it has shown one thing, and that is that a change of this sort cannot be carried without absolutely breaking up the present harmony that exists in the country. Hon. Members are perhaps sanguine that they will be able to carry the country with them. At any rate, even they will not suggest that they will have an unanimous country at their back when they proceed to introduce compulsory service.
If the strike in South Wales proved nothing else—I regret that strike as much as anybody—it proved this fact clearly, that large numbers of workers in this country are determined to go through this War as they began—upon the voluntary principle. They will not listen to any idea of compulsion now. There is another point: we are told that we ought to have more men in the field. The Prime Minister this afternoon reminded us that it is not merely the duty of this country to put men in the field. We have two other very important duties to perform. We have, first, to keep command of the seas, and thank God we have been able to do that. Secondly, as the Prime Minister reminded us, we have to play a very important part in financing the cause of the Allies. This country is practically the only Western European nation that has its system of currency and of credit in a sound condition to-day. Why is that? It 2424 is because we have been able to keep our industrial system practically unimpaired during this War and we have done that upon the voluntary basis. We have hon. Members like the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire (Sir Leo Chiozza Money) and the hon. Member who has just spoken (Mr. Amery) coming to us and saying that by the system of voluntary recruiting great harm has been done to this and that industry; that many men have been taken out of one village, and that so many men have been taken from this or that industry. I am not prepared to suggest that the system of voluntary recruiting as it is now carried on, is carried on under the best possible conditions, and that some guidance may not be necessary; but will anyone tell me that if we have a system of compulsion we are not going to have a very much larger interference with industry than we have to-day under the voluntary system? We are told sometimes that in Germany they have succeeded in raising an enormous Army and at the same time in maintaining their industries. In Prussia they have got this system working. They are well accustomed to organisation. But at any rate, let us remember that in France at the beginning of the War French industry was almost dislocated as the result of mobilisation. They found that even in the case of the doctors whom they required for the troops, they had great difficulty in withdrawing them from the ranks on account of the mistakes that were made under the compulsory system. All through France they found the same difficulty as the result of this system.
Possibly if the system had already been in operation in this country for a long time, we might be able to manage it without crippling our industries. But to tell us that now we are going to introduce a new system of this sort, and at the same time not paralyse our industries, is to tell us what is obviously untrue. It may be that in the last resort we shall have some system of this sort. I am not prepared to deny that; but they will have to go a great deal further to prove its necessity than anything that has been said in this day's Debate. We have carried on this War, I believe, hitherto, through our adherence to this system of liberty, in a way that would have astonished those who have most advocated compulsory service in the past. We have raised by the voluntary system an army of a size that would have 2425 been incredible to our forefathers. Are we to-day, in order to crush Prussian militarism, to turn aside and to introduce into this country an imitation of Prussian militarism for which we are not suited, and to which the large proportion of the workers of this country will never willingly submit? I am glad that this question has been raised, because I think that it will make the Government and the authorities pause, even if they have any idea of doing so—I do not believe that they have— before they allow a relatively small number of men, who have an influence in the Press and in this House out of all proportion to their real weight, to force this great change upon the country.
§ Major HUNT
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down made a great point about individual liberty. His idea of individual liberty is liberty for a man to get somebody else to fight for him. That is what was said in effect by the other two speakers against compulsory training, because they talked about freedom. The hon. Member for Derby said that we are a free people. Well, I do not know that we are freer than other people. We have to pay taxes by compulsion. The one thing apparently about which we are free, and for which there is so much rejoicing among certain people, is that we are free not to lift a little finger in defence of our country and our women and children. That is really what our boasted freedom means. One of the Members who spoke against compulsion accused the National Service League of sinister action in favour of conscription. I think that that is a very unfair charge. Members of the National Service League did their very best to encourage recruiting. I myself held several meetings for the purpose of encouraging recruiting, and I think that the necessity for compulsory training has been very strikingly shown to-night. The hon. Member for West Derby kept on telling us of the number of industries that could not have any more men taken out of them. That may be so, but surely there are great numbers of other men, single men, shopkeepers, men with nothing particular to do, that could have been and would have been taken if we had a fair system by which everybody not wanted by the Goverment for Government work had to do his fair share of duty in defending the country. The real effect of it was that we took the wrong men because we could not get the right men. We took the men that were really wanted, according to the 2426 Minister of Munitions himself, thousands of them, because we could not get the others, the young unmarried men in shops and so on, who ought to have gone and did not.
The system is not only wrong, but it is unfair; and it is surely very plain that there has been an enormous amount of money wasted by the Government in advertising, providing posters, and posters very unworthy of a great nation, and added to that, there is the enormous amount of work done voluntarily, and which would not have been necessary under a compulsory system, and therefore, could have been applied in other ways more useful to the country. And then one must remember that hundreds of thousands of married men, as well as men who have enlisted, but ought really to have been kept at home, where they would have been more useful than even at the War, are a great expense now, and will be a great expense in the future. Probably there are at least a million or more in Great Britain—I am not taking Ireland—who could very well be enlisted — young men, unmarried, who are doing absolutely nothing at the present moment to help to defend their country. The Prime Minister said that we were going to fight to the last man and the last shilling, yet he has not compelled all our available men to be trained so that they can be used before we have lost our last shilling. I think it is perfectly notorious that very many people in France are very much dissatisfied with the part we are taking in the land War. They say, and say rightly, that we are not pulling our weight, that we are not really putting forth as much as we might. The late Government, I suppose I ought to say, tried to blame for lack of munitions the greed of the employers and the idleness and drunkenness of the men. But the real reason of our difficulty in getting men and also munitions was, and is, that they are afraid of losing the votes of a certain number of persons if they take a resolute course and give a lead to the people.
Ministers have been loyal to each other; they have been disloyal to the country. They have refused to tell the people the truth; they have hidden disasters and shirked compelling every eligible man that was not wanted for Government work to do his duty. I do not think the present Government is much better than the last. They are still drifting, and they are still shirking. The 2427 Government's duty is to make every man in Great Britain do his duty, and they refuse to make full use of our power at sea. They let off the man who signals to the enemy submarine with two or three months imprisonment, and they call it grossly offensive if a poor Member of this House suggests that it is quite time for them to take the gloves off and really make strenuous war. Look how the soldier at the Front is treated in comparison with the man who signals to the enemy submarine. The soldier at the Front, after months of weary nerve-wracking war, if he goes away from his regiment for a few days, and if he is caught, is shot as a deserter. That is the way the Government treat our own soldiers, and the way they treat traitors at home. I think I am perfectly justified in saying that the Government at present are fighting with the gloves on. The patriotic married men who enlists, and who is sent home wounded, is still compelled to go back to the firing line directly his wounds are healed. The unpatriotic single man can stay at home in comfort and safety. I say that to allow that sort of thing to go on, as our system admittedly does, is absolutely wrong, and T believe the Government know as well as I do how unfair it is. Lord Lansdowne the other day in the House of Lords put it fairly strongly. We are going to be sent away now for seven weeks, and this is going to be left undone. There is another thing about what is called the voluntary system, and I really wonder the Labour Members do not take more notice of it. All sorts of indirect coercion are used to compel men to join the Army, there is no doubt about that—to compel married as well as unmarried men to join the Army. The Government still calls it the voluntary system. Now we are going to have this House shut up. The Prime Minister's excuse apparently is that the permanent officials need a rest. He did not trouble about the permanent officials in the days when we sat nearly all the year round, while he was driving his party Bills through the House. The real reason is that having muzzled the Press, he is determined that there shall be no criticism of any sort for six or seven weeks. In my opinion the House ought not to adjourn till compulsory training is made the law of the land and cotton is made absolute contraband. The effect on our Allies of bringing in compulsory training would be enormous. They would know then that we were really going 2428 to do our best and that we really meant busines. If the Government are going to gain and retain the confidence of the country, no matter how much money they may vote, they must be just as well as generous. It is not enough to reward the brave, to compensate the efficient, and pension illustrious placemen; they must also punish the inefficient and the wasteful, and hang, not intern, traitors. They must place a baton in the knapsack of every soldier of labour. In other words they must give our working people a fair chance of permanent prosperity in our own country. I hope that after what has been said to-night, the Government will seriously consider this question of compulsory military training. It ought to have been brought in at the beginning of the War; it ought to have been brought in ten years ago. But there is still time to show our Allies that we are going to put our whole force into helping them to conquer the worst enemy that any nation has had at any time within the last five hundred years.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am, of course conscious that this is a matter of great importance, and one upon which the House would rather hear the authoritative pronouncement of a Member of the Cabinet than anything I can say. But there are some considerations which I should like to put before the House before it comes to any definite decision upon this important question. My hon. and gallant Friend who raised this question talked about winning the War and winning it quickly. I would ask him whether he considers that any different position would have been attained in the military situation to-day by this country's having put more troops into the field. I am extremely doubtful myself whether any such result would have been achieved up to the present moment. All of us feel that the crisis in which we find ourselves is so great, and so urgent is the position that all preconceived ideas formed in peace time, must necessarily be reviewed. I have endeavoured to review and reconsider any preconceived ideas of my own upon this subject. Of course hon. and right hon. Members in all parts of the House entertain their views upon this difficult and important subject with strength and tenacity. But I would ask whether any real necessity for an alteration of our voluntary system has yet been demonstrated? My hon. Friend (Mr. Wedgwood), to whom I 2429 listened with pleasure, asked us, and all patriotic citizens, to undergo that ennobling self-sacrifice which to-day was so essential. There is no man in this House who is not ready to undergo anything in the way of self-sacrifice which he really thinks would be helpful to bring this War to that conclusion that we all desire. I do not really think that there is any sacrifice which we are not, each of us, prepared to make. But, as we have heard to-day from the Prime Minister, recruiting is very satisfactory. The numbers of men that are coming forward, as we know, have been very large, and although the hon. Member for Derby stated that we are getting all the men we want, that perhaps is rather an exalted, an exaggerated, view of the situation. I do not want it to go forth authoritatively from this House that no further men are required. That I should deplore. I say this with a full sense of responsibility: that as we put larger and larger numbers into the field, so we shall require larger and larger reinforcements. That is an important consideration that I should like the House and the country fully to apprehend. We have to consider not only the question of the number of men, but also the industry and labour of this country from the point of view of finance. This is a difficult and complicated subject. It must be obvious to the mind of any man who has given this subject any consideration that our industries must not be depleted to the extent of our not being able to pay our way, and to effect exchange with foreign countries for those munitions that we buy from them!
That leads one to the consideration whether or not we can take more men from the civil occupations of this country. Here I would point to the Registration Act, which will enable us to see whether or not we can recruit further from those engaged in civil occupations. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Carmarthen Burghs (Mr. L. Williams), and while I am not at all unsympathetic— far from it!—to his point of view, I rather regretted his attack upon the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood). That hon. Member and the hon. Member who spoke last (Major Hunt), have both been willing to make the great sacrifice. Both have joined the Army, and my hon. Friend behind me has been wounded in the service of his country. Each of them also said that we are not making the 2430 sacrifices necessary to this War. I do feel inclined to repudiate that. I do believe the people of this country have made great sacrifices, are making great sacrifices, and are prepared to make still further sacrifices. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not all of them."] You have only to look at the situation as it confronts us in the most patent manner to know that our fellow-countrymen have in all walks of life made sacrifices. The hon. Member for Ludlow spoke about the Government being afraid of losing votes. I really thought he might not have descended so low as that. I really repudiate such a suggestion with a good deal of warmth, because I feel that it is far from the actualities of the case. No human being has ever thought of that in the last twelve months, and I resent such a suggestion. And then to talk of fighting with the gloves on, when you consider that we have voted 3,000,000 men for the Army and 350,000 men for the Navy; when you consider what has been actually achieved; when you recall the situation in September, which was largely saved by the British forces—largely saved is not to put it too strongly—and when you consider the naval situation over the whole of the high seas, then, I think, to talk about fighting with the gloves on is rather an absurd suggestion. The hon. Member went on to complain that our voluntary system was really not a voluntary system, because the people are being coerced. I understand that is the process the hon. Gentleman desires us to take.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I really do not know that I follow that. I have stated that in my judgment and belief there is no sacrifice that this country is not prepared to make. If it becomes necessary to compel people to undertake something they do not desire to undertake, then it may possibly be we may have to take that course. Whether that policy is desirable or not, whether it would achieve the results which are expected of it or not, of course remains to be seen. I would remind the House that we have at the present moment a voluntary army, which is really a glorious possession. We have achieved in the field a position which, I think, must always remain with us as a great national possession. Whether the inter-mixture with that voluntary army of a compulsory army will have to be undertaken or not I cannot say. I do not wish to close the door to it. Of course, 2431 the House realises it is not in my power to close the door to it, nor do I wish to say anything which will in any way embarass any Member of this House or the Government in taking such action as is deemed to be necessary for the successful conclusion of this War. I would say that the Government are prepared, in the words of the Prime Minister, to achieve that successful issue upon this War even though we have to spend our last man and last shilling or the last drop of our blood.
§ 12.0 M.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
I have listened to the speech of the Under-Secretary of State for War, and I say, with very great respect, to him that I do not think we are very much wiser as to where the Government stand in regard to this important matter. My complaint is that it is high time that the Government should make up its mind. If we had taken the munitions matter up some nine or ten months ago we should have been in a far different position. My fear is that there is a tendency to delay these matters until the last moment. Hon. Members opposite have said that the course we are suggesting should only be adopted as the last resort. What is the last resort? The moment the Prime Minister comes down here and demands these men the principles of hon. Members are all gone. Do not put this question on the ground of principle, but on the ground of expediency and then we shall understand where we are. My own position is that I do not look upon this matter from the standpoint of necessity, but from the point of view of justice, and that alone. As I have said elsewhere it is not necessity that makes it just, but justice that makes it necessary. Do not all those hon. Members who have spoken against national service agree that every citizen ought to contribute to the defence of his country according to his ability to render service? Is that not an elementary principle and almost a platitude which ought to appeal to hon. Members who have spoken against national service. We are now defending England in France. Is this a war of aggression? If not then it is a war of defence, and at this moment we are defending England as truly in France and Flanders as if we were fighting in the fields of Kent. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about our Fleet?"] I notice that those who now look most to our Fleet in a moment of peril are the very men who voted against providing a stronger Navy.
I know that has been a common habit in the past, and generally those who are now the loudest in their praises of the Fleet are the men who did not contribute much by their votes in this House towards maintaining it. When the country is in peril I say that it is the duty of every citizen according to his capacity to render service to his country. I do not see why the burden should fall more upon some than others. I do not see why one family should send all their sons to the Front while another family should have three or four sons at home. Is that just? There is not an hon. Member in this House who will stand up and say that that is just. In these circumstances, other things being equal, I think this duty falls upon all equally. A good deal has been said about compulsory military service. My idea of national service is this. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Tennant) said truly that everyone is willing to render any sacrifice for the sake of his country. Yes, but it is the duty of the Government to tell every man in the country what sacrifice the country wants from him. This is what we are looking up to the Government to do. Every man has got a right to be told what his allotted task is in the present moment of peril. It may be that one man who is an agricultural labourer will remain an agricultural labourer; it may be that a man who is in the coalfield will remain in the coalfield; it may be that a man who is on the railway will remain on the railway, but there are a great many men who are more fitted perhaps for military service than for any other service, and a man who is more fitted for military service than for any other service ought to render his duty to the State and give that military service to his country.
Let him do it! He does not do it. I suppose we all live a part of our time in London. Does any body say that he can go along the streets of London without coming to the conclusion that there are thousands of men at any rate—
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I want to understand from the right hon. and learned Member what becomes of the principle of 2433 justice if the agricultural labourer is to be left working in the field and the miner is to be left working in the mine? I thought the right hon. and learned Member was putting it on principle.
I said "render service to his country," the service which be is best able to give to the State. If that man renders the best service he can to the country in the field he remains in the field; if he renders the best service to the country in the mine he remains in the mine; if he renders the best service to the country on the railway he remains on the railway. That is what I say, and it is quite a consistent thing. It has been suggested that we Liberals who take this view have departed from the traditions of Liberalism. I repudiate that altogether. I think that it is a mistaken view of the whole principle that governs the situation. You compel the poor parent to send his child to school. Is that a humiliation or a degradation? You compel a man to pay taxes. Is there anything humiliating in that? Does anybody believe in voluntary taxation 2 Do not you ask people to pay taxes according to their capacity to pay? Is it not an old Liberal doctrine to put it on the shoulders best able to bear it? I seem to have heard that phrase some where. What were we Liberals doing a little more than twelve months ago 2 We were exercising compulsion against men who differed from us. I was engaged particularly on a particular Bill. There are many in Wales who want to belong to a Church associated with the State. My hon. Friends and I were for compulsion, and said to them, "You shall not belong to a State Church; you shall belong to a Church which is dissociated from the State." It is really elementary; it is the very essence—
There was an Established Church in Wales, and my friends and I were going to use the forces of our majority in this House to disestablish that Church against the will of the minority. We were also trying to compel the Unionists in the North of Ireland to depart from the particular form of allegiance they had to this country and to make them live under a Home Rule Government. We were going to use the forces of compulsion for that 2434 purpose. And what about compulsory insurance, the great triumph of the Liberal Administration? We compel you to insure. Is that a degradation or humiliation? As a matter of fact the very essence of legislation is to be found in the forces of compulsion and to say it is degrading—[An HON. MEMBER: "That is Prussianism."] It does not matter what label you attach to it. We are now discussing the principle of the situation, and that principle is that both parties in turn, the Liberal against the Conservative and the Conservative against the Liberal, are using the forces of compulsion to compel the minority to obey the will of the majority of the day.
Ah! I understand. If there is a majority in this House in favour of compulsory service the objections will all go. If a vote in this House goes in favour of compulsory military service the objections to it of my hon. Friend opposite are gone.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
Did the hon. Gentleman put anything about compulsory military service in his election address?
Now we have the question of the mandate. I am not going into that. Of course I did not put it in my election address. Remember we have had no election since the War began [Interruption].We might certainly try to make up in reason what we do not lack in passion. I did not intend to raise any controversial matter and I spoke with my usual moderation. I thought I was putting the case as reasonably as was possible. If I have shown any undue heat I will only say this to the House—I have been here a great many years. I have a great many friends on both sides, and I have taken my part without any fear in debates on motions in which I have believed. In the last twenty years, I can say honestly and sincerely, there never has been a motion, there has been no topic, no subject in which the case has been so irresistible as is the case for compulsory national service in this the gravest moment of our national history.
§ Mr. P. O'BRIEN
I do not often intervene in debates in this House. I understand that what is really before us now is the question of Conscription. One of my hon. and gallant Friends who has spoken 2435 has referred to people who want other people to fight for them. I claim that the Irish soldier does not want any one to do his fighting for him. He does it better than anybody else can possibly do it. And in the records of the "War there is voluminous evidence of that fact. I say further—and I speak with authority for the Irish party with which I have the honour to be associated—that any proposal for Conscription will meet with their most deadly and determined opposition.
§ Mr. P. O'BRIEN
I accept at once the authority of my hon. and gallant Friend. I know whoever may be Prime Minister for the time being he is going to keep him straight on that question. But I repeat that we will not be troubled with Conscription in Ireland. We may be led but we will not be driven. We can claim by the records of the volunteering and of the fighting that our people are ready to fight for what they believe to be the interests of this country, but they do not want any compulsion, and they will not have it. I know that I can speak in the name of Irishmen and say that in whatever form it comes up their opposition to it will be determined and deadly.
§ Mr. GEORGE TERRELL
This Debate seems to have degenerated into a wrangle between different sections of Radical thought, some holding to their original opinions, and others having changed their opinions. I am not going to follow the line which this Debate has taken. The Debate originated with a statement by the Minister of Munitions as to the progress which was being made with his Department, and I shall go back to the subject of munitions, because that is of far more importance at the present moment than the subjects which have been debated. I must say that in some respects the Minister of Munitions has made a statement which has filled my mind with the gravest apprehension. He stated that the Government had started sixteen Government factories, and that they contemplated starting ten further factories. In the course of his statement he told the House that there were two great difficulties. One was that of staffing with men the factories 2436 at present in existence, and the other was the shortage of machinery. I should have thought that the first thing he would (have done would have been to see that all the existing factories were properly equipped and running to their maximum capacity before entering upon fresh adventures in the form of starting new factories. Because a factory is not merely a question of machinery and men. You have to get managers, a staff, draughtsmen and a drawing office, and you have to make various tools, jigs, and all sorts of things, which in the ordinary course take manufacturers time to accomplish, before a factory can be made a going concern. When the right hon. Gentleman tells us in one breath that the existing factories are not properly equipped or working to their maximum capacity, and in the next breath that he is launching out into this new venture, then, in my judgment, the situation is one of the greatest possible gravity.
The right hon. Gentleman stated that he had taken advice from competent people in connection with his work, and that he had engaged upon his staff something like seventy men who had previously been engaged in the manufacturing industries of the country, who were competent men and were of the greatest value in his new Department.
But I cannot help feeling that he has not conferred with or consulted the firms which are engaged in the manufacture of munitions as he should have done. They may be divided into three groups. In the first group there are the firms which constitute the armament ring. Apparently they are the only people who have been consulted. Then there is the second groups the big firms, electrical and mechanical, which are engaged in peace time in competitive business. Then there is the third group of small firms. The difference between the big and the small firms— there is very little in common between them—is that the big firms are self-contained as regards the different articles which they manufacture. They are all equipped with automatic plant of different kinds, and they are able to turn out, with every part complete, the articles which they manufacture. The smaller firms, of which there are a very great number in the country, are capable at present of rendering the greatest possible aid to the Minister of Munitions, but they are not self-contained. They are mostly firms which have been started to manufacture 2437 a speciality, and they are not equipped with all the automatic machinery which it is desirable in circumstances like the present they should have; but they are efficient mechanical and electrical manufacturing firms, and as far as I have been able to ascertain they have not been consulted at all by the Minister of Munitions on the problem which he has now to deal with.
They want a little help. Their men have been taken by the recruiting officer and they now could be of the greatest benefit to the War Office if arrangements were made by which these men could be returned to them or by which they could be helped with machinery or material which many of them sadly lack. I had occasion only recently to visit one of the new officials in the Armaments Department, and I was agreeably surprised to find an officer with a very intimate knowledge of his particular branch of the engineering trade. He was a complete master of it. He knew every detail, and the reflection occurred to me that if this was a sample of the officers who had been secured in the new Munitions Ministry there was every prospect of it proving a great success. A day or two afterwards I had occasion to call on the same individual, and I pointed out how a great deal of help in the direction in which he wanted it could be obtained if he could grant to a certain firm an order for the return of men who had enlisted and were still in the country, or if he could give them help for these Munition Volunteers. Then it appeared that this gentleman— he was an extraordinarily capable man— had been appointed to hustle contractors but had no power at all. He could not do a single thing on his own initiative. All that he could do was to make recommendations that men should be returned, and there was a possibility that at some distant date these men might or might not be returned to their civil employment. If the Minister of Munitions had had any knowledge of organisation, the first thing he would have done would have been to appoint an officer, such as the officer I have described, to visit the various factories which were behind in their deliveries, and not to blame and abuse the heads of these factories but to help them. Every manufacturer in the country to-day who is on War Office contracts, is doing his best to help the country and Government by giving the greatest possible output of the articles 2438 required. A great deal of that output is delayed through the want of a little systematic help from this new Ministry. A little sympathetic help in the direction I have indicated would do far more towards the production of munitions of war than the abuse and hustling such as the right hon. Gentleman suggested. He has failed in his attempt to hustle the working-men, and he may depend upon it that he will fail in any attempt to bully or hustle manufacturers. You want to get them to work with you. You want to get the best out of your people, and the best way to do it is to help them and not abuse them. There is another branch of this subject to which I wish to refer, and that is the question of badges for workmen. That is a most important subject. If badges are fairly and equitably given to the workmen it will encourage them. It will also get over a great deal of this trade union trouble, because the men will be encouraged to disregard their unions and union regulations and you will get a better feeling and a better output in every direction. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that under the new rules badges were to be given to the men engaged on war work who were irreplacable. I do not quite know what he meant by that, because it is only a few days ago that some regulations were issued by the War Office on the subject. The regulations are dated 12th July, and according to those regulations badges are only to be given to men who will undertake to enlist when their services cease to be urgently required at their trade; also they are only to be issued to men who were of recruitable age. To my mind that is hardly a wise way of dealing with this matter, because if you only issue badges to men of recruitable age you give very little encouragement to the old men or the men who are not physically-suitable for the Army. You give very little encouragement to these men who do the best in their power for the country in the hour of its need.
Let me explain more clearly to the House what I mean. You have a man of recruitable age who is working, we will say, forty hours a week, working short time, not turning up till after breakfast, leaving early, and perhaps not turning up on Saturdays. You give him a badge; he swaggers about with his badge. You have in the same factory old men who realise the gravity of the situation, who are putting in sixty- 2439 five—I have instances of these—sixty-six, sixty-seven, and sixty-eight hours of work a week—no badge. Well, I think the old men who are setting a splendid example to the young men, who are doing their duty to their country, are worthy of a badge. I know, because men have spoken to me on the subject, that they bitterly resent these restrictions or rules which are made, and I am perfectly sure they will bitterly resent the new rules which the Minister of Munitions has announced today. If I may make a suggestion to him, as a practical way of dealing with this difficulty, it is that he should entrust the distribution of badges to the employers. They are the people to be entrusted with it. He wants the good offices of the employers, the employers want the good services of the men—entrust the distribution of badges to employers. Make it a regulation that no badge will be granted to a man of less than three months continuous service with an employer. Fix a limit, that the badge shall not be granted to a man of less than fifty hours a week service; and then you might go on by way of reward, and I am sure it is a reward which the working classes would appreciate, and give to a man who works long hours, say to every man who works over fifty hours a week—say fifty-five—in addition to a badge, a bar. For sixty hours a week give him two bars, for sixty-five hours a week give him three bars, and to a man who works over sixty-five hours a week give four bars, and the men will treasure those bars, will wear those bars, and be proud of those bars. You will encourage the men, and the way to get the best out of them is to encourage and not to abuse them. They would get some reward they would value, and I am perfectly sure that if the right hon. Gentlemen who have the handling of these matters would take advice from people who have to deal with men, whose business it is to get the best out of their men, they would come to the conclusion that what I have suggested is the right way of dealing with this matter, and that these conditions which they propose—that badges should only be given to men who are irreplaceable—will not work, will cause a feeling of jealousy and annoyance, and will in the long run do more harm than good.
That is, in substance, all I wish to say and I hope the words I am now using will have some weight with those who are 2440 responsible for dealing with this matter. If you once adopt the principle of trusting the employer you can impose what conditions and penalties you like upon the employer who commits a breach of his trust. But trust the employer; let him award the badges; let the badges be such that they are to be returned if, after three months, the man slacks or falls off in his hours of service. The employer can do that. If a man quits his employment he surrenders his badge. He will earn a new badge in a new place. You will help the employers, the men will like it, and in the long run the State will get the benefit by extra work out of the men and increased munitions of war.
§ Mr. NEEDHAM
I venture to introduce a new subject to the attention of the House. I put questions from time to time to the Financial Secretary in regard to proficiency pay for members of the old Volunteer force who in their membership of that force were efficient, and who since the War have re-enlisted in His Majesty's Forces. These excellent Volunteers do not get paid proficiency pay, which is given to members of the Territorial force. The answers the Financial Secretary has given are to the effect that they are not able to revise the decision to continue the present system, and therefore they continue to refrain from giving this proficiency pay. I think this is a very great hardship on a large number of old Volunteers who made themselves proficient according to the standard demanded by the War Office in their time, and whose Volunteer service to the country is now not regarded as having been given at all. The provisions of the Army Orders that exist to-day are that a man who has been in the Territorial Force and has been present) at two camps of fifteen days is entitled to proficiency pay. There are many many thousands of Volunteers in this country in the service to-day who in their time as Volunteers served fifteen-day camps, and particular injustice is done to many of the Manchester Battalions who during the last years of the Volunteer force were year by year going to fifteen-day camps for a period, I think, of seven or eight years, and I am quite sure the same remark can be made with equal definiteness with regard to other battalions throughout the country. I have had, and I expect many other Members have had, many letters on the subject. I might say I have been deluged by letters from old Volunteers on 2441 the point, but I content myself with reading one case. This is from a man in the 3rd/7th Manchester Battalion Regiment:As matters now stand I am denied proficiency pay, with a record of practically twenty-seven years' service, while a man who joined this unit in July 1913, attended training in August 1913 and May 1914, draws proficiency pay, with less than one-tenth of my service. This is a special injustice to Manchester Volunteers, as from 1900 to 1907 they were doing precisely the same training as the Territorials have since done.This hardship is all the greater because the arrangements and conditions for Territorials have only come into existence since the War commenced, and I think the House can give its cordial assent to the request of the old Volunteers that their case should be still once more reconsidered with the expectation that reconsideration will bring a favourable answer to their request. I hope the Financial Secretary to the War Office may be able to indicate some hopes in that direction.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I would not intervene while these interesting and important subjects were under discussion because I wanted to make a reference to two totally different subjects. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Munitions both made impassioned appeals to the House this evening that Members should curb their criticisms and questions, give up backbiting, and refrain from plotting and plot-mongering. If important Ministers of the Crown, like the two to whom I have referred, are under the impression that the administration of this War by the present Government is meeting with a very wide measure of public approval, I can assure them that they are living under a very great misapprehension. As for Members like myself—and I believe I am almost the only one on this side who can possibly fall under their ban—who see things being done in a wrong manner, and who know that people who are making sacrifices for us in this country are not getting a fair show, and that money is being wasted unnecessarily—is it not our duty frankly and openly, so far as we conceive it to be in the public interest, to bring these matters up? For my own part, whilst I desire in every possible way—and I think, so far as munitions are concerned, that the complete absence of any question or criticism from me for over a month past is some evidence that I do desire—only to serve the best interests of the country, on the other hand, as long as I represent here some 100,000 people of this country, whenever I feel that any criticism can be 2442 made or question can be put to the general advantage of the country and not against its interest, such observations as we have heard from these two right hon. Gentleman this evening will in no way deter me.
Sir A. MARK HAM
The Chancellor of the Exchequer was not referring, I am sure, to the hon. Member, or to anybody in particular.
§ Sir R. COOPER
At any rate, I know that I am guilty of asking questions on munitions, and recently questions on the aliens. What the Government appear to lose sight of is the fact that the public are watching with mystification the different changes of attitude during the War which the Government adopt towards this problem. For a long time they did very little. Then they interned a number of people; and then they let them out. Now, apparently, they are getting a little bit more backbone. Why I raise this question to-night is because I have asked one or two questions on very important matters, in my opinion, with regard to the conduct of the War; and I find that the attitude of the Government, and apparently their policy, is that they will not take any action against anyone in this country, whether in a Government Department or outside of it, unless they have a primâ facie case of grave suspicion that such a person is undesirable. I think that as long as that is the basis on which the Government is going to act, they will never rid this country of the dangers— which have not been known to the public, although many Members of the House know; the cases which are very properly secrets, and I am not going to refer to them to-night—from which the country has suffered. Our Allies have suffered in the same manner, especially Russia, in connection with her munitions, through treachery by aliens. Our Allies are acting in a very much more drastic manner than we are, and I suggest to the Government that the backbone which, as I understand from the Home Secretary, they are now displaying, ought to have been manifested a long time ago, in the early stages of the War. I suggest, further, that it should not be applied only to the residents and to those living privately in this country. 2443 Their attention might equally be drawn to the various Departments of the State. In looking through the list of the staff in the War Office, in the July Army List, you will find such names as these, serving the country: Schlich, Bovenschen, Dannreuther, Rueker Munich, Underlin, Varrelmann, Ackermann, Umlauf. If any one will take the trouble to look amongst the list of officers in the Army List for July, he will find that there are 135 officers whose names begin with "Sch." There is no really British name, to my knowledge which begins with "Sch." It is quite probable that a large number of these people—the vast majority, one may well believe—are loyal to this country, and it may be all right if such people are kept to the positions of ordinary officers. But when, as in the ease to which the hon. Member for Mansfield referred this afternoon, a man of enemy extraction, who is the son of Krupp's agent in London, is serving in the Intelligence Department, I think the sooner a stop is put to such folly the better.
There is one other matter in regard to aliens. That is, that whilst—and I think it is quite a right thing too—a very great 'deal of solicitude is shown for the feelings of aliens, it is an extraordinary thing that one can find nothing like the same consideration being shown to British-born and loyal people of this country. I have been investigating a very extraordinary case within the last few days. It is that of a British workman of a superior type —an engineer—who lives at Crayford, in Kent. He has some small works there, where he is turning out something in the nature of cooking ranges. He is a man of sixty-five years of age. He received from the military authorities a notice that within seven days he must leave the Thames and Medway district. I am certain that everyone will be sure that, rightly or wrongly, the military authorities would think, and would feel sure that they had good cause for taking such action. But, my point is this. That man has not the faintest idea why he has been sent away from the district where he has lived, where he works, and where his employment and home are. He is, as I said, sixty-five years old. He is absolutely British; I have seen his birth certificate. There is nothing of any German or Austrian nature connected with him in any shape or degree. At present, that man has no redress, no means 2444 of appeal, and he has to obey the authorities. Yet those aliens who have been in our midst right up to date, have a special Court of Inquiry, presided over by a judge and, from the cases reported yesterday to this House, one-half escape from the order of deportation. I do not know if the Financial Secretary will be good enough to look into that case, as I am quite sure he and his colleagues in that Department would very much regret if they did injustice to any individual, either to a Britisher or to anyone else. I have given some attention to this matter, and I am convinced that this man is absolutely innocent. So far as it is possible for anyone, who tries to be fair-minded, and to have a full consideration of the interests of the State, to speak, I am convinced he is innocent. I hope the Financial Secretary will take some little trouble to look into the case.
I wish to make a reference to the question of munitions. I was very-interested in hearing the right hon. Gentleman (the Minister of Munitions) make his statement this afternoon, and I particularly appreciated his reference to the desire of the Prime Minister and himself that the people of this country should, this afternoon, be taken fully into the confidence of the Government. If only they would do that a little more freely in other directions I think there would be a good deal less criticism and questioning and a better feeling on the part of the public. I have, probably, a very much closer knowledge of what goes on in that Department than the right hon. Gentleman imagines, or perhaps desires, but I can say this, that why I have been so glad to leave this subject alone for the last month is because I have known that he was getting hold of the job. There has been an enormous improvement in that Department, and whilst there is plenty of room for criticism in a great task like that, more especially in detail, for the moment, and taking a broad view of it, I regard the progress made in the last five or six weeks as being, on the whole, very satisfactory. There is, however, one point which I desire to raise, and I raise it, not from any idea of carping criticism, but solely because it is an illustration of the way in which the right hon. Gentleman can, if he will take the trouble, save this country a very great deal of money, and do something substantial towards protecting the gold reserves of the country. I want to take a case where an order 2445 was placed in America for two million shells, actually part and parcel of the offer I made on the 17th June last. But I can leave that aspect of the order alone, because these two million shells were offered to the Government by a firm represented in London on the 8th May last, and the price was seventeen dollars each, ready for the gun, f.a.s., New York. They were to be prepared by the firm of Barnes, Basset and Company, of New York. The first point of interest is that the reply to the offer made on the 8th May was sent from the Department on 19th July, thus it took two and a-half months to answer the offer made. What has-happened in the meantime? Before that reply was sent from the Department, acting under instructions from the Munitions Department here, Messrs. Morgan, of New York, have bought these two million shells from the British Government at eighteen dollars each. What does that mean financially to this country? It means a direct loss of £400,000, and a commission to Messrs. Morgan of £180,000, making a total of £580,000. I think also the fact should be considered that the man who is acting as agent in London and made this offer on behalf of the Government would have received a large commission of 75 cents per shell, or the total very big commission of £300,000. What we are concerned with in this country is how we can get the shells we want at the lowest price and with the greatest advantage to the gold reserve. If you had given the order in London you would have saved half a million, more or less, the £300,000 would have been paid to the agent in this country, and would have stopped in this country, and been spent here, so that the gold reserves would not have been depleted. You would not only have saved half a million on that order, but, in addition, you would have had that £300,000 spent in this country which now will be spent in the United States. I pointed out in the memorandum which I sent to the Prime Minister, in the middle of June, what I am quite sure all those responsible for dealing with this problem of shells in Canada and the United States appreciate. I heard the Minister of Munitions state not long ago in this House that the arrangement with Messrs. Morgan was saving this country millions. What is the simple fact? When Messrs. Morgan approached these people in America with reference to this offer of shells to which I have referred, these people were keen enough to see that Messrs. Morgan wanted 2446 these shells for this side and asked a dollar more each than the price offered in London. So that placing this order with Messrs. Morgan actually had the effect of increasing the price over and above the price at which these very goods were really at offer.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
What does the hon. Member mean by saying that these goods were really at offer?
§ Sir R. COOPER
I have corresponded with the War Office; I do not want to take up time. The offer was made on the 8th May. I think my hon. Friend misunderstands me. I will put it clearly again, for it is a very important matter. What has happened is this: On the 8th May the London agent of an American firm offers shells to be made in the factory of Barnes, Basset and Company, New York. On the 19th May Mr. Hanson, the Director of Artillery, promises this firm that if after inspection of the works in America they are considered satisfactory the order will be made with the English agent. Then the offer is refused on 19th July. But before that date, some days before, I believe, Messrs. Morgan in New York actually secure those very shells at eighteen instead of seventeen dollars each for the Munitions Department. What I say is, that that order was placed to the detriment and disadvantage of this country.
§ Sir R. COOPER
No, the price quoted on the 8th May was f.a.s., New York, loaded ready for the gun, no commission of any description to be paid. I do not know whether the agreement with Messrs. Morgan would require the Government to pay a commission of £180,000 upon that or not, but there was no commission to anybody else.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
Are we to understand that this firm in America made an offer to the Government at seventeen dollars a shell, which offer was open for some time, and that while that original offer was still standing they made a further offer of these same shells to Messrs. Morgan at an increased price?
§ Sir R. COOPER
This offer lay before the Munitions Department until it was 2447 rejected by them to the London Agent on the 19th July. Whilst this offer was lying at the Department they instructed Messrs. Morgan, and, before they refused the offer, Messrs. Morgan approached this firm for these two million shells. The firm at once knew, they were clever enough to guess, that Messrs. Morgan had undertaken to buy them for the Munitions Department, and they promptly asked eighteen dollars and got that price.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
How can they offer the same goods over again when their offer was on the books of the Department?
§ Sir R. COOPER
That is exactly what happened. I think the hon. Gentleman must allow that when their representative in London made the offer on the 8th May, and they had heard nothing in July, they are perfectly free to make the second offer. These shells had in the meantime been offered to the Russian Government, as a matter of fact. Does the hon. Gentleman think that a firm in America capable of making two million shells can sit still month after month awaiting the pleasure of the British or any other Government?
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
May I suggest that if they had made an offer of these shells that offer was open and that they must take the price originally offered for the shells?
§ Sir R. COOPER
They would if the Munitions Department were smarter in their business. Mr. Hanson on the 19th July wrote to the effect that he was directed to express regret that the offer of the 8th May had remained so long unanswered, and that the offer was declined.
I regret to take up so much time, but I wish merely, briefly, to put before the House another curious fact in connection with munitions. The shipyards in Canada are not working full time at the present moment. The Canadian Vickers is a company at Montreal, entirely of British capital and no Canadian in it. They are not fully employed; they are grumbling; they have only one cruiser to repair, and there is this additional fact, that of the work which they have got in hand about one-half are orders that have come to them from the United States for small boats for the British Government. Perhaps the Financial Secretary will be good enough to just bear that in mind, or to pass that information on. Whilst we are complaining about the enormous difficulty 2448 of getting engineers and labour in our shipyards in this country, British yards in Canada with British money in them are not being properly employed, and the people are grumbling because they cannot get more work to do for the British Government, whilst people in America are making ships for the British Government. That is not strictly right, because they are making parts of ships. Orders are being placed there which might very well be placed in Canada and carried out under British capital. I have one other matter in connection with munitions to which I must make a reference. It is a month ago now since in this House I endeavoured to get the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Munitions to withdraw a very unpleasant personal attack he made upon me in accusing me of making false misrepresentations, misleading this House and misleading the country. On the 28th June he would not withdraw the statement he had made, although I had given him evidence which I think ought to have satisfied him that he was entirely misled in the information given him and that my representations on that matter were absolutely bonâ fide. He read a letter from this firm of George Mann and Company, of Leeds, which was to this effect: "We have reason to believe that we are the Leeds firm referred to, and we wish to entirely dissociate ourselves from the statement, which contains a wrong impression altogether and is not consonant with the fact's." That is all there is in that letter, with the exception of the heading of two lines, which made it clear to the right hon. Gentleman that that letter did not refer to the subject for which he used it, and he has since had information brought to his notice to remind him of this and to show that the use of that letter in the sense in which he used it was absolutely wrong. I am not going to mince words over this. I consider that the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion behaved badly to me in not having withdrawn his accusation on the information which he then had, but when he went a step further and with a two-line heading on a little letter showing it could not possibly refer to the subject for which he used it, he was not only misleading the House, but in my opinion he acted in a very unscrupulous manner. Let me go a step further. I have taken one month since this in which I have endeavoured in the public interest to keep off these personal matters and to try and let the right hon. Gentleman get on with 2449 his munitions and not be worried by a Back Bencher like myself. Even his own friends have appealed to him to clear this matter up, but for some peculiar reason of his own he has shown what appears to be a very obstinate determination. All I have to say is this: He is a gentleman with very high responsibility and with very great power. If he will not withdraw and do simple justice to a fellow Member of this House I can do nothing but leave it to the judgment of my colleagues and of the public; but the whole fact is based on this, that I represented Messrs. George Mann and Co., of Leeds, as being ready to make half a million shells for the British Government. The right hon. Gentleman ridiculed me after making some very unnecessary and what he thought were offensive personal remarks about my own business, which I can pass over. He then tried to make me look extremely foolish by ridiculing me for bringing to the Department a firm who printed coloured pictures to make half a million shells. The fact is that he has replied to me in a question to-day that the Leeds Munitions Committee are at the present moment negotiating with this firm for the placing of these very shells with them. The Government are therefore trying to place an order for shells with this firm, but he will not withdraw his attack on me for representing this firm to him as a proper firm, ready, able, and willing' to make shells for the British Government.
§ Sir R. COOPER
It was four to five weeks. I am speaking from memory, but I think they were to start with two to three thousand a week, and after four weeks they were going to turn out ten thousand a week. That is speaking from memory, but virtually it is something like that. I am only sorry to have to bring forward these things at a time like this when the right hon. Gentleman has such an enormous task on his shoulders. All we want him to do is to get the munitions, and we want to do everything we can to assist him. I can only say for my own part that it has been a matter of enormous regret to me that I should have had any occasion to raise a personal matter like this. It is still more unsatisfactory inasmuch as when absolutely straight, clear, clean facts are put before him he will not do me the simple justice for which I have asked.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I am surprised to see the men leaving the House who yesterday came and canvassed us to sign a requisition to suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
That is quite right, and I am afraid the hon. Member who-last spoke would have got in very much earlier if such long speeches were not made by the hon. Members who have just left the House. It seems to me that Members really come to ask other Members of this House to sign requisitions to suit their own convenience, and that when their own convenience is suited, and they have made their speeches, they depart and leave the House without any regard to anything else apart from what they themselves bring before the House-That I consider as being a very selfish policy on the part of any Member of this-House.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Well, it does not matter. I was going to call attention to a matter, and I am very glad to see two Members of the Government present in the persons of the Financial Secretary to the War Office and the President of the Local Government Board, because I am quite sure that if the President of the Local Government Board was sitting oa the other side of the House, the same as he did before the Coalition Government came into power, he would render good service to the soldiers and sailors in calling attention to some of the defects in the payments to them. I am going to call attention to a matter which to me is very, very serious. I am going to refer for a few minutes to the suspension of the passing of the Pensions Bill, and I am going to try to show the House what the effect will be on a very large number of men. It is not correct, I may say, to state what was stated to-day by the two leading Members of the House, namely, the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary, that by the suspension of the passing of this Bill we shall revert to the status quo and' that things will remain just as they were- 2451 Now, that is not so, because this Committee was set up for a definite purpose; this Bill set up two Committees for a definite purpose, and that was to recommend the payment of pensions to dependants, and to those men who were partially or totalled disabled. We are in this position by the suspension of this Bill: that all the men who were wounded in the War before last October are due at the present time to receive their full pension if they are entitled to it. The position is, that all these men at the present time are either receiving their separation allowance, at least their wives are in eases where they are married, or the dependants, the mothers or sisters, are receiving their dependant allowance. I want to point out what the effect of the suspension of this Bill will be. Take the case of dependants, or the wife of a man who was wounded and is now disabled. In the case of the dependants they will receive their dependant allowance, according to the first Report of January of the Select Committee, for twenty-six weeks. It is the same with a man who has a family: the wife will receive the separation allowance for a period of twenty-six weeks, and after that it is expected that the separation allowance and dependant allowance will lie stopped.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Yes, well, that is the very point I want to ask my hon. Friend about; whether the payments will be continued until the case is settled.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I am very glad to hear that. I should like to point this out. Take the case of a wife. The husband is wounded. I will assume that he is permanently or totally disabled. Under the separation allowance she will receive J 2s. 6d. a week for twenty-six weeks, according to the first Report. He will receive 4s. 6d. Be has paid 3s. 6d. towards that separation allowance. He will get 4s. 6d., which will be 17s. for the wife and husband. Under the pension scheme, if the local committee came to the conclusion, and recommended to the statutory Committee, that that man was totally disabled, he would receive a pension of 25s. a week, and he would be entitled at the present time, if this Committee had been set up, or within the next month, to a pension of 25s. a week.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Long)
made a remark which was inaudible in the Reporters' Gallery.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
No, he would not. I have come across cases. The facts are these. The War Office will not decide any pensions. They will only decide temporary pensions—that is to say, Chelsea Hospital are considering temporary pensions. I have appealed to the War Office several times, trying to get pensions for men totally disabled, and I am told by the War Office, or the department in charge, that they cannot fix these pensions until the statutory Committee is set up, and the Committee report to the War Office as to that to which this man is entitled. Really that is the absolute object and intention of this Pensions Bill.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
What I am arguing is quite right. I should be very glad to hear what the President of the Local Government Board has to say, but my contention is this: that this man who is totally disabled, who was wounded before last October and as not yet had his pension fixed, that man and his wife ought to be entitled to 25s. They are only getting 17s., according to what I make out, and are practically losing 8s. a week until his pension is fixed. The only pensions fixed under the Report of 14th April, the second Report, are those of the wives and children. Apart from the wives and children, no pensions are fixed up to this date. If you take the man with a wife and one child the case works out in this way. At the present time she would be paid twenty-six weeks separation allowance after the man is wounded. Take his weekly payment of 4s. 6d., after making the allotment, and that will come to 22s. If that man were totally disabled he would be entitled to a pension of 25s. a week, he would get 2s. 6d. for his child, that is his first child, and that comes to 27s. 6d. a week against the 22s. he is now receiving. That man and his wife and child are losing 5s. 6d. a week. I contend that if this is going on for a period of at least three months before we can set up the statutory Committee and the local committees who are to investigate all these cases and make a report, it is a very serious matter to the country, and I believe it will cause a great deal of dissension in the country. There is only one 2453 way to cure it. I am appealing to the Financial Secretary. I hope he will look into this matter. What I have said is correct, because I have been to the War Office several times to make inquiries. These people should continue to receive separation allowance. He should give an undertaking that if they are entitled to a total disablement pension the War Office will undertake to pay them the back pay to which they are entitled. If they are going to wait another three or four months before the pension is fixed I believe they are entitled to the back pay, because of the delay in setting up these committees. I have considered it my duty to call attention to this because it is not right for anyone who knows the subject and what is to be done under this Bill to say that this delay is leaving matters as they were. It is a very serious delay to the country, and I hope the War Office will undertake to make reparation to these people.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I think, at any rate, I hope, I can reassure my hon. Friend. I think from the speeches which were made earlier in the day the House will realise, and I am sure the House will support the Government in their decision, that the postponement of the Pensions Bill will not be allowed to affect the financial position of anybody disabled. With regard to the specific case the hon. Gentleman has put to me, the case of the widow or the dependants of a man killed, he says that under existing arrangements—
§ Mr. FORSTER
I thought the hon. Gentleman made the case of the man killed whose dependants get the separation allowance for twenty-six weeks.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Excuse me. In the case of the man who is killed, the wife is entitled to a pension fixed under the Report. I was speaking of the wounded man who was totally disabled.
§ Mr. FORSTER
The Bill does not touch the position of the men at all. The pension of the soldier is entirely outside the scope of the Bill. The statutory Committee, which will be created when the Bill becomes an Act, has nothing to do with the pension of the soldier. The pension of the soldier is fixed by the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital now. The same practice will obtain after the Bill is passed into law, and the amount of the pension which 2454 the man draws is fixed by the Commissioners of the Hospital on the assessment of the medical authority. If they assess the man's incapacity at one half, he gets 12s. 6d. a week; if they assess it as total, he gets 25s. a week. It does not depend on the Bill at all, and I want my hon. Friend to understand that quite clearly.
Well, then, in regard to the points which have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, whom I interrupted in order if I could, to make a point which he was putting before the House clearer. I shall, of course, do all I can to bring the statements he has made before my right hon. Friend the Minister of Munitions. The control of these matters has passed out of the hands of the War Office into those of the Ministry of Munitions, and I will undertake to see that the matter is brought to my right hon. Friend's attention. My hon. Friend referred to one matter with which I am concerned, and that is that, after quoting the names of a number of gentlemen who are part of the permanent staff at the War Office, and making some comment upon those names, he referred to the position of a workman in Kent, whose name he did not give—
§ Mr. FORSTER
If my hon. Friend will communicate by letter the name and the circumstances I will undertake to have the case examined and looked into. Then, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester raised the question of the decision, which I reluctantly announced a couple of days ago, in regard to the extension of proficiency pay to members of the old Volunteer Force. He commented on the sense of grievance under which these gallant men suffer on this account. I can assure him, as an old Volunteer myself, that I personally have done what I could to secure proficiency pay for men of the old Volunteers. I can go further than that, and say that the members of the Army Council have done their best to secure that the proficiency pay should be given to the old Volunteers. I cannot go into this question at any length at this time in the morning, but I want to give the broad essentials. The essential elements in the grant of proficiency pay are: length of service, camp qualifications, and military tests. Proficiency pay is given to men of the Regular Army who have two years' service; for them there are service and military tests alone. For men of the Territorials, the Army Council 2455 insists upon full attendance at two fifteen-day camps; and it is in respect of these men who are outside the ranks of the Regular Army itself that this camp test is regarded as absolutely essential as the prime qualification. Now, when we came to consider the question of the Volunteers, we found the difficulty of applying the camp test. My hon. Friend referred to some of the Manchester regiments who voluntarily went into camp for fifteen-day camps. But he must bear in mind that you cannot extend proficiency pay to individual battalions. You have got to settle whether or not you are going to allow service in the old Volunteer Force to count. If you say it may count, you have got to apply it to all the old Volunteers who are qualified. I think it would be quite impossible to say that it could only be applied to a particular Volunteer. My hon. Friend will appreciate the point when I remind him that there was no kind of compulsory camp for any Volunteer battalion. I helped to start a Volunteer battalion, and we used to go into camp of our own free will, and we had to make our own arrangements, and there was no compulsory obligation about it.
When I found I could not apply the camp test to the old Volunteers I tried to see if I could apply some other test, and whether we could not extend the proficiency pay to the Volunteers in return to an extended period of service. Instead of giving it in respect of two years' service, I tried to see whether we could give it to them in respect of four years' service. But the moment I abandoned the camp test I was brought face to face with the inclusion of all the Territorial Force who are not at present qualified, because they have not got the necessary camp qualification. You have thousands of men in the Territorial Force who, not because they were unwilling to do it, but from force of circumstances, had never been able to attend for two fifteen-day periods. The moment you abandon the compulsory camp qualification I do not see how it is possible to avoid the extension of the proficiency pay to such men as well. And if you are going to do that, you are going to make an enormous demand on the Exchequer; it would be very difficult to calculate exactly what it would come to, but it would approximate to £1,000,000 a year. Now, I say, in the present situation, that is a burden that we cannot lightly 2456 assume. I speak as an old Volunteer when I say that, if my words can reach them, I appeal to my old comrades of the Volunteer Force not to allow any sense of grievance to interfere with the full performance of the duty which they have voluntarily undertaken. They, I believe, will feel a legitimate pride in being able to turn to account now the military experience which they gained at a time when they were not very fully encouraged, and I am quite certain that, even although they do cherish some sense of grievance, they would never allow it for a single moment to interfere with the full discharge of their duty to their country.
§ Mr. BOWERMAN
I only rise for a couple of minutes to endeavour to elicit a fuller reply to a question I addressed to the War Office this afternoon. A Volunteer Training Corps has been raised in Deptford, as in many other parts of the country. There is a large battalion, 500 or 600 strong, and their officers had arranged for a three days' camp in Kent, to take place next week. They were under the impression that no difficulty would arise in carrying out the arrangements. They were prepared to march to Orpington, to convey their tents, food and everything of the kind; it would not have cost the War Office a brass farthing. And then having made all those arrangements to start on Sunday next for a stay of three days in Orpington, they found that they were to be denied permission to camp. They were going to camp on private ground so that there again no expense would fall on the War Office; and you may imagine their surprise when they received a letter from the War Office to say that they would not be allowed to camp. When I put a question to the Minister this afternoon, I received the answer that they were denied this opportunity to camp because it was in a prescribed area. I understand the term "prescribed area" to-mean that aliens would not be permitted to go there. It is quite new to me to find that men who have volunteered to serve their country if required are placed in the same category as aliens. This action has created consternation among the men. When I put the question this afternoon I thought I would have received some explanation why these men were denied the opportunity of going to camp. I hope my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office will give me and the men of Deptford some explanation.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I also am interested in the question of the Volunteers to which my hon. Friend has alluded, and I went into this question at the War Office to-night when my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for War was busily engaged here, to see whether or not any arrangement could be made by which the grievance to which my hon. Friend alluded might be removed. I think there has been some misunderstanding about the actual instructions given by the military authorities; at any rate, I think I may say that, while the general prohibition with regard to camping in the county of Kent and in other neighbouring counties still holds good, Volunteer Forces will be allowed to camp within the Metropolitan Police area. I think that Orpington is included in the Metropolitan Police area so that they will, I-think, be allowed to carry out their original arrangement.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That To-morrow, Mr. SPEAKER, so soon as he has reported the Royal Assent to the Bills which have been agreed on by both Houses, do adjourn the House, without Question put, until Tuesday, 14th September.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.