§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
I desire to take advantage of this opportunity to call attention to a subject which I believe to be of the utmost importance, and one which is really gradually becoming a danger, and that is the proportion of married men who are being enlisted in the Army. I raised this question a few days ago, but I desire to raise it again from a somewhat different point of view. I have intimated to the Under-Secretary of State for War that I intended to raise it to-day. Those of us who have steadily advocated a form of National Service, by which we mean the employment of all able-bodied men in some way useful to the State, whether in a civil or military capacity, are invariably met by the argument that recruiting is quite satisfactory as it is, and is doing very well. Recruiting may be satisfactory, and may be all that you desire, but the whole point is: what men are you recruiting; which are the men you are taking, and which are the men you are leaving behind? The second question is: how far are you using compulsion now, or a sort of compulsion, to take the wrong men?
Some time ago a Parliamentary canvass was taken of men throughout the country who were willing in a case of emergency to serve their country in a military capacity. A good many men who were between the ages of thirty-eight and forty, and were, therefore, at that time not of military age, probably accepted that liability, and we believe that they would serve their country in a military capacity in case of emergency. I have not the slightest doubt that those men patriotically desired to put themselves in a position to meet considerable changes which might arise from the existing circumstances of their time. But those men—many of them now of military age—who have signed that order, are now being called upon to join the ranks of the Army, and I venture to submit that no sufficient emergency can have arisen which would entitle you to call up these married men between thirty-eight and forty with families, so long as you have so many millions of men kicking their heels in the great towns of this country who have not so far come forward to do their share of duty. And I say, these older married men 1006 are being called up, on the strength of having signed that Parliamentary canvass, to offer themselves for enlistment in a sort of way which makes them think they are compelled to do so. I am sure a good many of them feel that, having signed that paper, they are compelled to do so, and I agree that morally there is a compulsion on a man who signed an undertaking of that sort, provided the emergency really has arisen. But I venture to repeat that, so long as there are large numbers of single young men who have not offered themselves to the country, it cannot be said that a sufficient emergency has arisen to put compulsion on men between the ages of thirty-eight and forty to join the Forces.
The other day I pointed out from the financial side the extravagance of increasing the number of married men in the Army while you could possibly have got single men to take their places. The difference in the cost of the separation allowances I then said was probably as much as an average of a pound a man in the case of a married man, as compared with the case of a single man. It is true that many single men do get separation allowances for an aged mother and so on, but there is no disputing the fact that a large contingent of married men in the Army is extremely costly to the country and adds quite a material number of millions a year to the cost of the War. I cannot be specific either as to numbers in the Army, or married men, and it is obviously undesirable to use anything in the way of figures; but I think it will be readily admitted that the extra cost of the War will be quite material owing to the fact that we have such a large number of married men in the Army.
There is another aspect of the case, and I think it is one which we really ought seriously to consider. This depletion of the married men from the country side, amounting to a very considerable fraction of the total married men in the country, is one which must have a serious economic and also moral effect on our national life. The census figures show that there are between 3,500,000 and 4,000,000 married men of military age. I think that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have all the figures at their disposal, will see we have already taken a very considerable number, to judge from the separation allowances only, of the total of married men of military age, whereas, of course, it is undeniable that we have very large numbers of single men of military 1007 age on whom we can draw. I believe that this indiscriminate taking of men who are the heads of families has already done irreparable harm—a harm which could have been avoided under a better system of recruiting for the Army. But my point is not to find fault with what has already been done—that is past—but I do appeal to the Government to reconsider the position and think whether it is not better that this system should be discontinued, and that in future some steps should be taken to get the unmarried men who still remain in the country.
The first step, of course, towards this or any other scheme of the kind is to get a national inventory of our personnel. We want to know how many men there are, where they are, what they are doing, and what are their ages. The first thing, obviously, is to get facts as to the numbers of men who are in the country, classify them, and then, above all, get the right man in the right place, and not, as we have done up to now, put the round pegs in the square holes, and keep men most suitable to the Army at home, while many of the men now serving in the trenches would be much better in this country. If we once knew the numbers and the classification of the men we have in the country, it would of course be possible to put the stronger and younger men where they are most suitable fitted, in the Army, while many of the older and married men would be better fitted for doing the work of industry, munitions, and transport in this country. I suppose one of the most glaring instances of the incongruous employment of a man is the fact that the late Chief Whip of the Conservative party who, whatever the Members of this House may think as to his personality, will be generally admitted to have been a man of considerable organising power and mental force, who would be useful in dozens of different capacities in this country, and he is serving as a private in the R.A.M.C. It is true that Lord Balcarres took this work up from patriotic motives and went voluntarily to the front. I admire him for doing so, but because he went voluntarily I say you want compulsion to bring him back in order that he may do something more useful to his country.
There are thousands of men, skilled workmen of various classes, who would be far more useful if they were brought back to the industries and the making of munitions of war in this country, and they would be far more useful here than doing 1008 the work of soldiering. I admit that when the emergency does arise and becomes far more acoute, then, of course, you may have to take every man to fight for his country in the ranks. But before you can take every man—if ever that emergency arises—you will still require the machinery which I am advocating now. You still require the register or inventory of the men of the country. If any emergency arises you will require it. The getting up of that register must take time, and it should receive immediate attention. If this is done, it will be ready should the occasion arise.
The success of war has been said to depend upon having two men working at home to one in the field. That may be a proper proportion, but the principal point is that the man who works in the field and at the front should be the right man of the three, and the two men left behind should be those who are best adapted for the work at home. I believe a good deal of harm has been done by not taking this step sooner; but I plead with the Government to seriously consider whether the time has not arrived when a step should be taken at once to provide an inventory of the men. I would also ask whether the whole question of the employment of more single men in the ranks cannot be carried a good deal further than it is now, and so relieve the older and married men who are heads of families of a form of moral compulsion to which they are now subjected, and which should not be continued. The whole of this subject does not allow of any further delay, and unless the matter is seriously considered we may increase an evil which already exists, we may augment damage which has already been done to our national and moral life, and we may, I will not say perpetuate, but enormously accentuate the evils which have already been brought about by this, as I think, mistaken policy.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I can appreciate the interest which the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down takes in this particular question, but as it has already been discussed in the House, and this is only a partial phase of a much larger question, I hope he will understand that it is not discourtesy on my part if I raise quite another point. I put a question to the Financial Secretary to the War Office this afternoon which raises a point of great importance to a large number of our constituents, and the hon. Member kindly consented to [...]borate his answer in the 1009 discussion on this particular Bill. A new Army Order has been issued from the War Office dealing with the separation allowances of the dependants of our soldiers, and the position taken up in that Order is that from now onwards any soldier joining the Army must make application for his separation allowance for any dependant inside of one month from the date of joining the forces. I wish those things could be made more plain to every hon. Member of the House when the War Office takes a fresh step. For instance, I only saw this Army Order referred to in the newspapers several days after it had become an accomplished fact. In this House we do not get the usual papers that are issued from the War Office, and perhaps hon. Members are glad that they do not. I should like to suggest to my hon. Friend that while he is in his present post he might arrange to send to hon. Members of this House those publications that deal with the rights of our constituents, and matters affecting them. It is very much easier to deal with correspondence about separation allowances if one has the information in one's own hands than to trouble unnecessarily my hon. Friend who presides over the financial section of the War Office.
I should like to ask for my hon. Friend's sympathetic attention to some of the points raised by this new Order. I think he will admit that the average man who joins the ranks is not accustomed to filling up any elaborate forms, and the form he has now to fill up is, in all conscience, elaborate enough. I have a copy of it in my hand, and I dare say it is familiar enough to my hon. Friend. There are quite a large number of questions and details which must be filled up. It is the very man who joins the Army, whose dependants require a separation allowance most, who is the least accustomed to the filling up of those forms, and he therefore is the least likely to take care that the form is filled up in order that the separation allowance may be obtained. I think that ought to be borne in mind, and we should also remember the fact that the excitement of joining the Army, going down to the camp, and getting into the regimental uniform, takes up the mind of the man so much that he does not pay too much attention at the moment to accurately filling up these precise forms. The fact that the War Office has now limited the period within which he can fill up that form to one month makes it in every way likely that the single man who joins will 1010 be put in a worse position than the married man, whom we have just been hearing about in the previous speech. After all, the married man must make his allotment, and as a logical consequence must get his separation allowance for his wife and children. That goes through automatically; nobody can make any mistake about that. But in the case of the single soldier it is not necessary, unless he wishes it, to make an allotment in order to get a separation allowance for his dependants, and, therefore, unless his attention is called to it very particularly, as particularly, for example, as his attention is called to his attestation paper, it may be that inside that short period of time he does not fill up the form which is necessary to secure what is his right and due.
This seems to me to be almost the most important point of the whole case which I am trying to make. A great many single men who join the Army are in a position which enable them to dispense with the necessity of making any separation allowance at the moment they join. Again, a great number of their dependants, or rather of their friends, who might ultimately become dependants, do not wish the soldier to make an allotment, and they prefer that he should have his pay at 1s. or at 1s. 2d. a day for his own particular purposes. Things alter during the months which a man is attached to the Army, and the people who are not dependants when he joined often become dependants later on. Perhaps the father dies, and that is one of the most glaring cases of all, and it is one which I know has the sympathy of the Financial Secretary to the War Office. The father dies, and the young single soldier, who has not previously made an allotment, and who, therefore, could not on that account have a separation allowance, is placed in a position of being the main support of his widowed mother, and perhaps his sister. Under present conditions that soldier is not entitled to make an allotment, or to get the separation allowance. I do think that that is an extraordinary position for the War Office to take up. As a matter of fact the nation is saving money at the moment because a single soldier does not make the allotment and does not take the separation allowance. He does not take it because he does not want it until his dependants need it, but when his dependants need it, owing to the death, say of his father, then the single soldier cannot get the allowance because he has not made 1011 the allotment at the moment that he joined. I know it is difficult to alter a large scheme of separation allowances to dependants, and I appreciate the point which the hon. Member made in answer to my question that it was better to have the circumstances looked into at the moment when the man joined. At the same time I hope he will take this view, that if I put it on the minimum request—and perhaps we shall be more likely to get it—he will try and persuade the War Office, if he cannot agree with me this afternoon, that in the case of a soldier whose mother becomes dependant upon him through the death of the father, he should be given the separation allowance. That would be an enormous advantage in that particular case.
I hope the period of one month will be lengthened, because I do not think it is fair to limit it to that period. I would suggest to my hon. Friend that he might meet the case by saying that if the single soldier did not make the request inside the month that he would not be entitled to arrears when he did make the request. It ought to be open to him to get the allowance from the moment of his application. Of course, I prefer that he should get the arrears, but if my hon. Friend thinks that in that case he is entitled to lose those arrears because he has not made the application, then I do not think I should complain. I do hope he will not strictly limit that period to one month, but, if he feels he must do so, I hope that he will extend it further than 30th June. This Army Order was only made public at the beginning of this month. There are a great many Members of this House who do not even yet know of its existence. It is conceivable therefore that the men who are joining know less about its existence, and before it is put into force it ought to be more widely advertised. I would suggest that if he could not make any other extension he should at any rate agree to the extension of the time to the end of July, which would give two months for this new Order to become known. It has been disclosed at the end of ten months of recruiting and it does seem rather hard to introduce something entirely new which it is difficult to distribute among the men concerned at the beginning of the eleventh month. I do not raise this question except in the interest of the men concerned, who ought to know. It is brought before us every day by our constituents. I am free enough to admit that we get every help from the office over which my right hon. Friend presides, but if 1012 this matter were cleared up it would help us enormously and do even-handed justice to men who are sacrificing a great deal in joining the Army.
§ Colonel YATE
I would like to say a word in support of what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. James Mason) and to say how much I regret the extension of the age limit for recruiting from thirty-eight to forty and the extension of the large number of married men we have now in the ranks. The proper ages for men to serve at the front, as we all know, are the seven years from nineteen to twenty-five, extendable during the War to thirty in cases of necessity. Instead of extending the age I would very much prefer to see the height lowered, if we could get young men of suitable age by that means. There are an enormous number of young men in the country who cannot come up to the present standard of height. Personally, I am all in favour of the short soldier. We have seen the little Ghurkas of the Indian Army doing grand work during the winter. It takes much less time and trouble to dig the small soldier in, and he can fire a rifle as well as the tall soldier. I do hope, if any further extension is called for, that the age limit will not be increased but the standard of height reduced. I would also like to join my hon. Friend in urging on the Under-Secretary the necessity for a speedy register of all the men in the country who may be eligible in future to take their place in the ranks. I would just like to mention the question of the treatment of the Cavalry soldier under the late compulsory rules introduced by the last Army Act Amendment Act. The Under-Secretary will remember that when that Act was introduced I urged upon him how desirable it was the Act should be administered with great discrimination and care. I pointed out to him what terrible discontent would be roused in the Service if these compulsory powers were imposed on the men in the Cavalry regiments against their will.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman refer to transfers?
§ Colonel YATE
To transfers from Cavalry to Infantry regiments. I have heard of Cavalry regiments being mustered and some 400 men being selected and told that they must go and at once join an Irish Infantry regiment. They asked if they might be allowed to join their own 1013 county Infantry regiment, and permission was refused. They were compulsorily sent to an Infantry regiment for which they had neither volunteered nor enlisted. If you would allow the Cavalry soldier to go as a dismounted Lancer or a dismounted Dragoon he would willingly give up his horse and sword and go as an Infantryman, but to call out a Cavalry soldier and say, "You must take off your spurs and give up your sword and go into an Infantry regiment," of which he knows nothing, gives cause for serious discontent. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to seriously consider this question. You enlist the men under voluntary service but you no sooner get them than you use the strictest compulsion. If you are going to introduce compulsory service, let it be general. Do not use compulsion to the Cavalrymen alone. I would ask that Cavalrymen should not be taken against their will and sent to Infantry regiments of which they know nothing. You might form out of various Cavalry regiments dismounted Lancers, or dismounted Dragoons, regiments with names and traditions like their own; but to refuse them permission to join their own county regiment and to send them off to join Irish Infantry regiments must cause discontent and may cause serious trouble.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to answer his last point first, the point relating to the transfer of men from one arm of the Service to another. I am sure that he will sympathise with the necessity for any such action. It is obvious that no military authority would wish to embark upon a policy such as this unless there were clear cause shown for its desirability and even for its necessity. To come to the other phase and to see how it has operated in the immediate past, I would call my hon. and gallant Friend's attention to the very splendid voluntary action of the three Cavalry regiments in the brigade of my right hon. and gallant Friend the late Secretary of State for War (Brigadier-General Seely) who volunteered for the Line, took off their spurs, and went into the trenches to fight as Infantry. There could not be a better example of the splendid spirit of our troops, whether they come from British Dominions across the seas or whether they are soldiers who have been born and brought up and trained in this country.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that certain Cavalry regiments or certain men in Cavalry regiments have objected to 1014 go into Infantry regiments. While one appreciates the complaint, one cannot help rather deprecating it, because surely it is better that the Cavalry soldier, with all his special skill and knowledge, should have the advantage of a few weeks' or perhaps months' training as an Infantry soldier if he is going to be so employed. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will appreciate it is desirable that they should have the advantage of Infantry training. We all know it is so. I can only say what I have said so often: I recognise that an emergency must be proved before you can transfer soldiers from one arm of the Service to another. I recognise that it may be rather an unpopular thing to make great Cavalry regiments with fine historic traditions behind them into Infantry regiments, but, then, I would remind the House that there has arisen a great emergency which requires extreme measures to be taken, and I would ask my hon. Friends in all quarters of the House not to emphasise this discontent, if one may use such a word, or the complaints of individuals, in this transaction, but rather to encourage them to believe that by their patriotic action they are rendering great assistance to the State and to their country in a time of difficulty and emergency. That is the attitude of mind which deserves encouragement rather than the attitude of saying what hardship it is. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree with me in wishing to encourage that spirit.
§ Colonel YATE
I would only ask, if I may, that the Cavalry regiments should be allowed to go as they are and that the men should not be transferred to Infantry regiments.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The answer to that is that where it is possible no doubt the regiments will be used as units as a whole, and in no case will the Cavalry soldier or the soldier who is not an Infantryman, in the event of a casualty, be put down, because he happens to be attached to the Scots Guards, as a Scots Guard, or any other fanciful definition of that kind. I will leave that point and come to the point raised in a very interesting speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. James Mason). I am bound to admit at the outset that the matter which he has raised is one to which I can give no answer which, I am afraid, will be satisfactory to him. Our system of recruiting is the relic of peace time. It is the legacy which we found when mobilisation took 1015 place, and I am not aware, except for the purpose of filling up papers for separation allowance, that the recruiting officer ever stopped to ask whether a man was married or not. In the old days recruiting officers were only too glad to get any recruits who came along, and the question whether or not he was enjoying matrimony never entered the recruiting officer's mind at all. If the man was unfortunately a widower with children, I do not think that or any question of the kind ever occurred to the recruiting officer. Now my hon. Friend comes to us and asks us to use discrimination in the matter and to revolutionise our system. He asks us to use discrimination where no discrimination has ever existed in the past, and he asks us to say to certain classes of men, "No, we will not take you, however eager you may be to go to the front, until we have taken that man and that man who have no encumbrances." I think that my hon. Friend ought to consider that aspect of the question. I do not know whether it has occurred to him. It may be a deprivation to the married man who is anxious to serve his country.
It is not really as if men were reluctant in this business. My hon. Friend adduced a case of an elderly man who put his name down from patriotic motives, because he was determined, when an emergency does arise, that he will not be lacking or backward in coming forward to serve his country, but who is rather presuming on the emergency not arising for a few months; yet, suddenly, the tyrant of a recruiting officer comes to him and says, "Come along with me," and drags him along. I need hardly point out that the recruiting officer would be somewhat exceeding the powers Parliament has conferred upon him if he did that. But I should like my hon. Friend to realise that the great bulk of recruits who now join the Army are not quite of the type of the man whom he has in his mind.
The hon. Gentleman asks us to consider whether we cannot revolutionise our system of recruiting, and whether we have fairly considered the effect on the nation, from a sociological point of view, of the recruiting of married men. I admit very large questions do arise when we come to consider the exact effect or the precise result that may ensue from the indiscriminate method of recruiting hitherto adopted. It is, of course, almost impossible to say. But if my hon. Friend asks me whether I individually think it more 1016 desirable that the recruiting officer should make his first call on the unmarried young man, of course I answer in the affirmative. But this has never really be done, and, as a good Conservative, I know my hon. Friend will realise how difficult it is to get a thing done which never has been done. I was interested to hear him advocate a scheme—I do not know whether to call it compulsion or not—by which we could withdraw the service of our Noble and gallant Friend who used to Whip the Conservative party not long ago—a scheme of negative compulsion—and ask him to leave the ranks in order that he may come home and fill a more important part in the business of the nation.
On this point there arises a large question, that of compulsion, or, perhaps, firstly registration, and secondly, compulsion. I quite agreed with the hon. Gentleman when he stated that registration does not necessarily involve compulsion, and I would not be one to say a word against any scheme of registration—in fact, I consider it a not undesirable policy at all, as it may perfectly well keep the door of voluntaryism open. I have never said a word here or anywhere by which the door of voluntaryism would be, I will not say slammed or barred, but even closed at all. Upon this question of compulsion I would refer the hon. Gentleman to some observations I made in this House not so very long ago when I asked hon. Members to consider a long time before they abandoned this system by which we have got a glorious Army, which we are never tired of being proud of, at the present day, in favour of a system which may produce a different Army of which we might not have so much just cause to be proud.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
I was glad to hear the last words of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the statement of the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. J. Mason). It seems to me if we had registration on the lines he suggested it would mean separating the sheep from the goats. It would also mean of necessity some form of compulsion, because if single young men are separated from married men, and if they decline to enlist, of what good will the register be without some form of compulsion. It would be absolutely useless, and I was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared to go so far as to admit even the suggestion of compulsion at the present time. With regard to 1017 married men, I am not quite certain whether the hon. Member for Windsor has thought this matter out. If he had visited a number of recruiting centres during the past three months he must have realised that a large number of the men joining now have the appearance of single men. They are very young, at any rate. The hon. Member has not perhaps taken into consideration the fact that a large number of men who are married now, married immediately before they enlisted, while others have married since they enlisted. Would the hon. Member prevent men getting married? I take it he is not prepared to do that. But the large percentage of married men enlisted in the Army may be accounted for on the grounds I have just suggested.
I should like to say a word or two regarding the new Regulations issued to the Army which makes it compulsory on men who enlist to give certain particulars within a month of their enlistment. I think the hon. Gentleman made out a good case for some special treatment with regard to a man in the Army whose father may have died after his enlistment. I think the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office might get out a special form which could be supplied to soldiers in which these particulars could be inserted, and the War Office could then, on the strength of that special form, make some allowance. Take the case of a son who joins the Army and gets an allowance paid to his mother of 12s. 6d. per week. Some three months afterwards the young man's father also joins the Army and makes a compulsory allowance to his wife. The Army authorities, when they hear of that, stop all the allowance made by the son excepting perhaps 6d. per day. It seems to me that, in a case of that kind, where it is acknowledged that the son has helped to keep the home together, the mother should be entitled, even after the father joins the Army, to retain the son's allowance. I trust that when such cases come before the hon. Gentleman he will give them most careful and generous consideration.
I want to say a few words on a matter of rather ancient history—the huts for the Army. Trades unions have been supplying men direct to the contractors for this work. Months ago they came to a certain arrangement with the contractors, but now we find that the conditions then agreed upon are not being observed by the contractors. Take the firm of John Jackson 1018 and Son, Limited. They are responsible for the camps at Salisbury Plain, and I have in mind one camp—Heytesbury—where this firm is sub-letting the work not to another contractor but to an individual workman. They have sub-let, I am told, certain lining work inside the huts at what are really sweating prices. We cannot expect men to interest themselves in the Army or to join it if they find that the conditions of working agreed to by the contractors are not observed, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will use his influence to compel firms in the future to observe fair terms. The Government has made a strong appeal to trade unions throughout the country to practically suspend the operation of their working rules and conditions. Many of them are doing it, and we say that unscrupulous contractors should not be allowed to take advantage of this suspension of rule with the object of scooping more profit into their own pockets. I hope the hon. Gentleman will give attention to that fact.
We find also that Royal Engineers are being utilised to do work which up to the present time has been done by civilian labour. It is absolutely impossible to keep our men in hand when they find the Government allow soldiers to be used for the purpose of doing work which has hitherto been done by civilians. In consequence of these things the Army gets an extremely bad name among working men, and some are ready to use their influence with their fellows to prevent them joining the Army by pointing out that, if the Government is not fair in its action towards civilian workpeople, it is not likely to be fair in its attitude towards men who join the Army, and therefore it is not worth supporting. Some of these men, indeed, confound the word "Government" with the word "Nation." They do not realise that it is not the Government that requires their services, but that it is the nation. I, as a trade unionist, have been doing my utmost during the last ten or eleven months to induce men to join the Army, believing that, as far as possible, the conditions that obtain in civil life will continue to obtain, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give careful consideration to the points I have raised, because, while I would like to pay a tribute to those contractors who are doing their utmost to conform to the conditions agreed upon, and I am extremely sorry that the Government did not make the condition which should obtain apply to the 1019 whole of these contracts. If they had done so we should not have had the trouble we have had with certain contractors. Among them there are firms of bad repute, and yet the War Office seem to go out of their way to defend the action of those firms. I hope that the Financial Secretary will use his influence with the object of compelling firms which, at the present time, are not observing the conditions agreed upon to observe them in the future, and I make a strong appeal to him to see to it that, so far as he is concerned, firms which are known to be bad firms shall conform to the conditions which the good firms are observing.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir GEORGE TOULMIN
I wish to make a brief reference to the subject raised by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogg)—Army Order 126. I am afraid that Members of Parliament are frequently unacquainted with Army Orders of this kind, and only hear of them when cases are brought to their notice by their constituents. At the date when this Army Order came into force, I understand, there were a large number of cases in which payments had been made to dependants from the 1st October, but where Army Form 1838 had not been received from the soldier. That arises, I think, from the fact that the soldiers were serving with the Expeditionary Force when the allowance became payable to dependants, and applications would be made independently of the soldier. When the new Order of 11th March was issued, in very many cases, for instance in connection with the Territorial Force Associations, the treasurers were still awaiting the return of this Army form, and, as I understand the Order, if these forms are not received, although the case has been inquired into and payment has been made, say to a mother, that payment will be stopped after giving a month's notice unless this form is received. It appears to me that there will be very many cases of hardship if this course is pursued. I know it is suggested that dependants should apply to the local branch of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, but I should like some other course to be considered, so that where there is evidence of real dependency, and other evidence can be found, and the case is once put upon the books, the allowance should not be stopped. Take a case which has come under my notice, where a soldier went to 1020 Egypt in September. He is now serving in the Dardanelles. It is rather difficult to communicate with him and to get him to send this order before the end of June. This is a case similar to the one mentioned by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, in which, apparently, the circumstances have changed, and it becomes more necessary than before that the payment of the allowance should be continued, because the father is entirely disabled, and no other member of the family is bringing in the income which he was bringing in. In that case the family was living in a condition of comparative comfort, but it is now in circumstances which require consideration. In his letter the soldier says that he has made the allowance, but the treasurer has not received it, and if this Order is carried out the allowance will be stopped. I hope consideration will be given to the suggestion that where the payment is now being made, other evidence should be accepted as to real dependency. If something of that kind is not done, cases of real hardship will arise.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
I desire to support my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), the hon. Member for Bury (Sir G. Toulmin) and others who have spoken in regard to this matter. Indeed, I would appeal to the Financial Secretary to not merely study hard cases, to which attention has rightly been directed, but to reconsider the whole matter of the issue of this Order. In practice this is an Order the strict enforcement of which cannot possibly permanently be maintained, and, if that be so, it is as well that it should be reconsidered now rather than that there should be cases of grievance arising throughout the country, and a stream of public opinion so strong should be started that the War Office would be compelled to give way. Like most hon. Members, I have taken great interest in the local administration of the Prince of Wales' Fund. The local committee which acts in the matter in my district acts with the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. In those cases where the wives of soldiers desire to approach the paymaster, what is almost universally done is that they advance the separation allowance, where it has not come to hand, until it is paid by the War Office. Let me put this case to the Financial Secretary: Very often two or three weeks at least and nearly a month elapses before the wife of a soldier approaches anybody. She knows that her husband has enlisted, and expects 1021 that in due course an allowance will be made to her. She is ignorant of all the formalities that have to be gone through, but after the lapse of three weeks or a month, when no separation allowance has come to hand, she approaches somebody in the neighbourhood, either the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association or the local representative of the Prince of Wales' Fund. Before that body can take action the month has elapsed.
If, in these circumstances, the wife of a soldier, probably with a large family depending upon her, is to be paid nothing during the whole period of the War, but is to rely entirely on her own resources, I am sure public opinion would not tolerate such a state of things for many weeks or months. On the other hand, if the Prince of Wales' Fund is called upon to pay to her, not only for a week or two but permanently during the whole period of the War, the amount of the separation allowance which ought to be paid by the War Office, I submit that is a drain upon the Prince of Wales' Fund for which there is no justification, and the subscribers to that fund would have every reason to express a strong sense of grievance. Either one or other of these courses must be adopted. I would respectfully point out to the Financial Secretary that while the negligence, in every case where there is negligence, is that of the soldier, the hardship is not upon the soldier, but upon his wife, children, and mother, or his other dependants. This cannot go on. The sentiment of the country will not allow these people to go on without any means of support merely because there has been some negligence. I welcome the indication given to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh this afternoon in reply to a question put by him that the War Office is willing to consider the hard cases which arise on change of circumstances. I hope we shall be able to get a definite promise with regard to that in reply to a question which I myself have put down for Thursday. At the same time, I hope the Financial Secretary to the War Office will be able to go further, and if the War Office can entirely repeal the Order it will be much the better way. If the hon. Gentleman is unable to do that, I suggest that the period should be extended to at least three months. That would give an opportunity to those interested in the case of a wife or mother or any particular dependant to communicate with the paymaster.
I wish to refer to a case which has been brought under the notice of the Financial 1022 Secretary by my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Wing), which he assures me is a common case in the county of Durham, with which he is associated. He has informed the Financial Secretary that he has received some hundreds of complaints. It is the case of a man who makes an allotment, and concludes that the separation allowance will naturally follow. It is practically the same case as that referred to by the hon. Member for Bury, and is a very common case. It is indeed a case of hardship that when a man finds out his mistake, and signs the proper form, there is no payment of arrears. That is the point pressed by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring. But the grievance is infinitely stronger if what it means is not only that there is no payment of arrears, but no payment of separation allowance of any kind, because it happens that it is only after the month has elapsed that the soldier realises that it is necessary to take other action besides merely making an allotment. For all these reasons I hope the matter will be carefully considered by the Financial Secretary, and if he is not able to give us an assurance to-night that this Order will be entirely withdrawn, I hope he will at least promise us that he will give the matter his sympathetic consideration and later in the week will be able to make a more definite announcement.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
I desire to associate myself with the remarks which have been made by the hon. Member who has just spoken and other hon. Members as to the hardship that may result under the new Order which has just been issued. I feel quite sure it was not in the contemplation of the authorities that there should be a serious hardship resulting from the Order, but, in point of fact, it must necessarily follow, because there are a great many cases in which full information as to the period which is attached to the Order will not be brought home to the parties making the allotment. I therefore hope that the Financial Secretary may be able to give us an undertaking that either the period will be extended for a very considerable time, or that the Order will be withdrawn.
I rise chiefly, however, to draw attention to a question affecting recruiting, which perhaps the Under-Secretary may be good enough to consider. I have received information from my own Constituency which leads me to believe that at the present 1023 time many speakers who are sent down to address recruiting meetings are taking a line which is extremely detrimental. Some are sent down as representing the local depôts or the Army. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will be prepared to consider this suggestion: that no speaker should be allowed to go down to address recruiting meetings unless he is fully conversant with the facts regarding the particular constituency or the particular district in which he is addressing the meeting, and that he will also be careful to avoid anything which will create friction in that district. I should like to give my right hon. Friend an illustration. In the centre of my Constituency there have been recruiting meetings held recently at which speakers have made a serious attack upon men working in munition factories in the district, men who have obtained the use of a button to indicate that they are rendering the State very considerable service in other capacities. It is most objectionable that any recruiting speaker should come forward and suggest, as has been done recently, that these men are sheltering themselves behind this button, and that they were not rendering service to the country they ought to render by going to the front. There are many districts in which the men are doing far better service to their country by working on Admiralty and War Office contracts, therefore they should not be exposed to any slight on the part of recruiting speakers.
Again, let me draw attention to this fact: that an unnecessary slur is being cast in many cases upon Irishmen in some of our Scottish constituencies. I want my right hon. Friend to realise that there are speakers going about at the present moment who are suggesting that young Irishmen are coming across to take the places of men who have gone to the Front to serve their country, and that this suggestion is entirely without foundation. Speaking for my own Constituency, I know the Irishmen there have made a magnificent response, as I believe they have elsewhere throughout the country, and it is very unfair indeed that any such suggestion should be made as has been made at some recent meetings in this particular district. I would also ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will take into serious consideration the recommendation made by the Committee recently appointed to deal with the coal industry at the present 1024 juncture. One of the recommendations which they made in regard to recruiting was that great care should be taken in avoiding districts where there has already been a phenomenal response on the part of miners, as there has been in Lanarkshire, to the call made for men for active service. There are many other districts of which the same can be said. I am not mentioning any particular district, because I know it has been characteristic of the action of miners throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. I think, therefore, it would be very desirable in future, when recruiting meetings are held in large industrial districts, that the greatest care should be exercised, not only in regard to the demand which is being made where there has already been such a large depletion of the ranks of the local industrial workers, but also where there is any important industry involved which is essential at present to the conduct of the War. I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the extreme courtesy which he has always shown me, in common with other Members of the House, in regard to any matter which we have laid before him, and I feel assured that in regard to this particular point, which is one of substance, he will be anxious to do all he can to prevent the possibility of friction arising at recruiting meetings or anything occurring which will reduce the effect of the appeal made by those who speak for the country at this time in asking for more recruits.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
My right hon. Friend asks me to assure the hon. Member that very careful consideration will be given to the points he has raised. The hon. Member (Mr. Tyson Wilson) raised the question of a son who enlists and allots, and subsequently the father enlists and allots, and he wants the War Office to consider whether or not it is possible for the combined separation allowance to be paid to the mother of the son. I do not think while I have been at my present office such a case has come before me, but I will give very careful attention to it. The hon. Member also raised the question of sub-letting. I think, at times like these especially, those who are responsible for the conduct of Government business ought to see that fair conditions of work as well as fair conditions of wages should apply in the case of all Government work. I will look into the point that 1025 he has raised. I was not aware of this practice, but I will look into it and ascertain the facts. The hon. Member's third point was the employment of Royal Engineers upon construction work to the exclusion of civilians. The employment of a certain number of Royal Engineers upon construction work has been tried only in one case, that of the factory being built by Messrs. Vickers at Erith. The Royal Engineers were there employed because it was absolutely essential that there should be no delay in the construction of the factory, and it was impossible to get civilian workmen at that time, so I was given to understand, and I thought I was assured that no civilians had been displaced. The Royal Engineers were employed for a limited time only, and as soon as they finish, if they have not already finished, the work upon which they are engaged they will return to their strictly military duties.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I think they are rapidly approaching completion, if they have not already done it. What I think may have happened is that within the last few days or week or two there may have been applications for work made by a small number of civilian workmen, and it may have happened that those applications have not been entertained. I will look further into the question if the hon. Member desires me to do so.
I now come to the other questions which have been raised, and which have found support from nearly every Member who has spoken, questions arising out of the issue of the Army Order. The hon. Member (Mr. Hogge) suggests that, while it would be undesirable to circulate all the Army Orders which are issued to Members of the House of Commons, I might, at any rate, attempt to circulate amongst Members those Orders which affect and raise questions interesting their constituents. It is not always easy to say what questions do interest one's constituents, but I have already begun to see what I can do in the way of supplying Members who desire to have copies of Army Orders, and I shall be quite prepared to do anything I can to meet the hon. Member or any Member who desires to have these Orders circulated. If he or any hon. Member who takes an interest in the matter will discuss it with me privately we will see what can be done. There is no desire at all to withhold any information.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I should think that might easily be done. I am quite willing to do anything I can to meet hon. Gentlemen in the matter. Then I have been asked, Cannot the limit for claims for separation allowances for dependants be extended beyond 30th June?
§ Mr. FORSTER
There are two points, the point that all applications from a given date must be received by 30th June and also that in future all applications must be made by the soldier within a month of his enlistment. Let the House bear in mind the object for which this Order was made. I am very glad the question has been raised, because I want to be quite frank about the whole affair. This Order has not been issued with a view to withholding the separation allowance from anyone. It has not been issued with a view to a saving on the part of the State. It has not been issued with a view to preventing anyone from getting the separation allowance or allotment to which he is entitled. The object with which we have had to impose a limit within which these claims are made is simply and solely in order that investigation may be carried out promptly, if investigation is necessary, and that there shall be therefore less delay in the separation allowance reaching the dependants. Any hon. Member who has had anything to do with questions of this sort knows that the longer the period between which the man enlists and his application is made, the more difficult it is to investigate the actual facts. It is not a law of the Medes and Persians, but we insist, as far as we can secure it, that application should be made promptly. We are not going to administer this in any harsh or overbearing spirit. What we urge is that men should make their applications as quickly as they can by taking possible steps to have the need for this prompt application brought home to them. When my hon. Friend says a month is too short a time, I think, if he will throw himself into camp life, he will know that this question of allowances to dependants is very freely discussed. The commanding officers are specially instructed to see that the need for making these applications is fully brought home to the men, and I 1027 think, upon the whole, it is not unreasonable to ask that they should make their applications within a month. At the same time, if in the application of the Army Order we find that there are any hard cases, they will be dealt with. We are not going to freeze anybody out by means of this Order, but we do ask that applications should be made promptly.
The other question which was raised was, I think, an extremely hard case, and one which must appeal to anybody with any sort of human sympathy about him. It was the question of the mother of a soldier who becomes a widow after the soldier has enlisted. In that case he is prevented by the rules from securing a separation allowance for his mother, who may have become dependent upon him. While one sympathises with the position of the mother and of the soldier, the House will recollect that the matter was carefully investigated by the Select Committee. The hon. Gentleman himself raised this very question when the Report of the Select Committee was adopted by the House.
§ Mr. FORSTER
At any rate the question was brought forward. These particular cases of a mother who becomes a widow after the son enlists, was specifically raised, and it was carefully considered, and the Committee came to the conclusion that whereas it is always difficult to assess the degree of dependence, even where the son has been contributing prior to the outbreak of war, it is practically impossible to assess the degree of dependence when you leave the realm of fact for the region of hypothesis. It is difficult to assess what the man has actually contributed, but it is almost impossible to assess what he would have contributed if the circumstances had been different. While I sympathise most strongly with the whole attitude of the hon. Gentleman towards this question, I am afraid that the War Office cannot depart from the present practice until the House decides to reverse that practice. The War Office cannot undo what the House itself has done. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would be one of the first, and he would be right in so doing, to attack me if I were to alter an arrangement which the House itself had adopted. I do not know if I shall be talking treason, but I say quite frankly that no one would 1028 be more pleased than myself if, when the opportunity arises to review the decision at which the House has arrived, the House comes to a new decision in this matter which every sympathetic man desires.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
There is the case where the mother was dependent on the son and no claim was made by the son, notwithstanding that dependant. Will this new rule prevent the son making a claim in the event of his father's death, where there is real dependence on the son? No claim was made for separation allowance, because the father was alive.
§ Mr. FORSTER
That is a case where the son was actually contributing. As I said this afternoon, that point is being considered now.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Does not the War Office realise that if they persist in this course the men will make their applications now, and get separation allowances from the War Office when they do not need them? The man will argue to himself this way: "If I wait until the separation allowance is needed, then I shall not get it; therefore I will make out a claim now and get hold of money which I do not want." The War Office would save money if they would allow the option to these men to make the claim when they need it.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for to-morrow.