§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [14th March], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Question again proposed. Debate resumed.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I must apologise for continuing the Debate last night. The reason was that during the whole of the discussion yesterday the question of the married and single men was hardly touched upon by a single speaker. I think it is desirable that we should take the first opportunity of dealing with the question. I desire in the first place to bring to the attention of the House the actual pledge given by Lord Derby to the married men on behalf of the Government. The Member for North-West Lanark contends that the Government have carried out Lord Derby's pledge, inasmuch as Lord Derby, in his letter to the Prime Minister on the 19th November, 1915, stated that there would be men who were indispensable to civil employment, and men who for personal reasons which were considered satisfactory by the local tribunals would be exempt. But the married men of this country are not lawyer-politicians. They are plain men, who look at the question from a broad standpoint. The circular issued by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee was headed "Single men first," and the belief of the married men was that when they attested under the Derby scheme they were not to be called upon to serve until the single men had been taken. The opening statement of this Parliamentary circular says:Married men are not to be called up until young unmarried men have been.It is in the letter written by Lord Derby to the Prime Minister on 19th November, 1915. The statement in the circular issued by the Central Recruiting Committee that married men are not to be called up until the unmarried men have been is clear and specific. It is also specific Inasmuch as the circular is headed, "Single men first." Lord Derby is an honest English gentleman, and on the faith of his character, known to many of us who sat in this House with him for 2104 many years, not only Members of Parliament, but the people of this country at large trusted Lord Derby. They knew that when Lord Derby had made a definite pledge to them he would stand by them and see that it was carried out. The married men would not have attested on the faith of a statement made by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is a professional politician. Lord Derby is not. Lord Derby is a man, despite what some hon. Members say, who has the confidence of the great majority of the country, and I believe that he is going to stick to his guns and see that the undertaking which he has given is carried out.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
My hon. Friend asks why did he exclude huntsmen? That statement is received with cheers by the pro-German party in this House. How many huntsmen are there in the country altogether? How many men are exempted altogether? If you take all the huntsmen and whips altogether and allow for those over military age there would be very few who are left. In the district in which I live there are very few. But if you ask the question, the answer is that there are thousands of men who have sacrificed their lives, and there are thousands of other men who have given up all they can to fight for their country, men who follow the hunt, men who have made their chief interest in the hunt. I spent the best ten years of my life hunting, and it was a much more profitable enjoyment than anything in politics. But let us come down to bedrock. Take the district in which I live. In that district there were large numbers of men who hunted who were soldiers, men who came to that district and who took their relaxation in hunting. What is to be the position when these men come back? You must consider the question in so far as it affects our Cavalry. Are you going, therefore, to encourage hunting in the country or not? I am not going into the question of horse-breeding. But in this particular case you are only dealing with a few odd men, where in the other case you are dealing with millions.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The hon. Member is welcome to these thirty or forty men, whatever they may be, for the purpose of 2105 his party propaganda in preaching peace with Germany. The Prime Minister has said that he is going to stick at nothing to bring this War to a successful conclusion. The only thing it seems to me that the Prime Minister is going to stick to—there is no doubt whatever about it—is his Parliamentary salary.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The hon. Member says that it is an insult to the Prime Minister. I hold another opinion. Can the hon. Gentleman tell me what has the Prime Minister definitely done in this War until he has been forced by public opinion or by this House? Every step in this War from the beginning has been a backward movement. The Military Service Act was late, and the whole unsatisfactory position has been arrived at owing to the Prime Minister.
§ Sir STEPHEN COLLINS
Is the hon. Baronet in order in stating that the Prime Minister is only sticking to office for the sake of his salary?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
There is nothing out of order in saying that, but we can all form our own judgment as to the value of it.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Prime Minister made a definite statement in this House. I am only repeating what he himself said. I will leave the hon. Member who represents the Nonconformist conscience, which voted for horse-racing the other day. Public meetings have been held in numerous places protesting against the action of the Government within the last few days. Meetings were held in South-port, Lord Derby's own territory, Windsor, Leicester, Coventry, Wigan, Oldham, Enfield, Manchester, and Tower Hill; and meetings have been arranged for Bristol, Liverpool, and London, in Hyde Park, where the hon. Member will have the opportunity of giving the public the benefit of his advice on Saturday afternoon next. The proceedings at these meetings are generally to the same effect. The married men are willing to serve, but the single men should be dragged out of their reserved jobs first, and a definite 2106 announcement should be made as to the moratorium. Most of the resolutions also demand compulsory service for all men. At the last meeting in Manchester the delegates of the Lancashire towns decided to form a national union of attested married men. [Laughter.] There is nothing for hon. Members to laugh at in that statement. These men have come forward at the time of their country's peril on the pledge given by the Government through the mouth of Lord Derby.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
If the hon. Member speaks with a little more clearness I shall catch what he says. I cannot hear what he is saying now. What has happened to cause the married men to take this step? The Government, as usual, with that wisdom which they have always shown even on this question of military service, have pursued the policy which the Minister of Munitions frankly told the House last December had brought this country nearly to the verge of disaster—the policy of too late. What has happened? The Government, to meet the wishes of the Simonite party in this House, have deliberately created these opportunities for men who wish to avoid military service. Thousands of men have gone out of their civil employment into these so-called reserved trades simply to escape the obligation of joining the Colours—and for that reason and for that reason only. Is that right? Was it the intention of the House when it passed the Military Service Bill that there should be large numbers of men, owing to certain jobs being reserved by the Government, able to evade the object of this Act? We all dislike compulsion. We all regret the necessity for it. But the object for which we are primarily fighting to-day is to win this War, and to do so as soon as possible. If you do not win this War all questions of liberty, which is, after all, the foundation of all our government in this country, fall to the ground. Therefore, all parties in the House, at all events all parties in this House who really desire this country to win the War, reluctantly came to the conclusion, probably notwithstanding all their previous declarations, that what the country wanted was men for the purpose of winning the War, and we were bound to bring in and pass a measure to enable us to get men by compulsion. I held the 2107 view long before the Military Service Bill was introduced, and at a time when the very worst form of intimidation was prevailing in every district in the United Kingdom, that the Government ought to have dealt with the matter much earlier. The only man who moved in the matter was the Minister of Munitions (Mr. Lloyd George); he was the only man who had got any courage among the whole lot of them.
What is happening to-day? In the munition works the Minister of Munitions requires a large number of men. What has been done by the Government; have they taken any steps to obtain labour from overseas, from the British Dominions overseas, to fill these munition works with the necessary labour? We are surely entitled to expect, in a time of great national stress, that, for the purpose of bringing this War to a successful conclusion, no labour man in the country worthy of the name would say that he would not allow the introduction of labour from our Oversea Dominions for the purpose of promoting and assisting the output of munitions necessary for the safety of the men at the front. [An HON. MEMBER:" Chinese labour!"] An hon. Member says "Chinese labour." Certainly I would use Chinese labour if it would bring the War to a successful conclusion, even if I had to put them in compounds. The position of the tribunals in many cases has been made more difficult than is necessary because a large number of single men, who have not attested, and who are following the reserved occupations, are to-day exempt from military service, while a number of married men, who have undertaken military obligations by attesting, in reliance on the pledge given in Lord Derby's circular, are still liable to those military obligations. I want to know why the Government cannot take these married men and put them in the places of these single men, and so deal with this question. The Government could say to the married attested men, "We are going to put you in the place of the single men who have not attested, where you are able to do their work," and by doing that they would get rid of the main difficulty which has been created in many districts. I have asked questions on this subject, but one can never get an answer in this House without asking half-a-dozen questions before getting a simple reply. Only 2108 yesterday I asked this question of the Under-Secretary of State for War:Whether, in order to carry out the pledge given by Lord Derby to married men, he will forthwith issue instructions to the tribunals, advising them that in cases where married attested men can carry out the work in reserved trades now being done by single men of military age, such married men shall, if they so desire, be forthwith exempted from military service to work in such reserved trades, the tribunals at the same time discharging from the reserved trades a corresponding number of single men?Mr. Tennant: It is hoped that the revision of the list of reserved occupations, which is now receiving the earnest consideration of the Government, will accelerate the substitution which my hon. Friend has in mind. I understand that under the proposed revisions far more protection is given to married men than to single men, and by this fact employers will be encouraged to allow their single employés to join the Army and till their places with older married men."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 14th March, 1916, col. 1866.]Is this being done? The tribunals in Nottingham, I am very glad to say, have taken the view, or are going to act upon it, that where they are satisfied that a single man in a reserved trade can be replaced by a married attested man they will allow that married man to work in the factory. That is only reasonable, and it is the only way to carry out Lord Derby's pledge. I am sure that the Labour party do not desire to put difficulties in the way of the country getting the necessary number of men, but what happens to-day? If a man goes into a reserved trade you cannot get him out of that reserved trade for a couple of months. The employer may say to him that he does not require him, or the trade may have been wrongly starred, but it is a fact that once a man gets into a reserved trade it takes two months to get him out. The Labour party say that we will be putting into the hands of the employer the power, if he wanted to get rid of an agitator, to send him to the Army. I quite recognise that is a point which ought to be met, but the difficulty with which we have to deal ought not to have been met in the way it was by getting power under the Act to enable a man, when he gets into a reserved trade, to be exempted for nearly two months. Take a man who drinks. The employer gets rid of him, and the man walks about for six weeks, and then goes to another employer, and, as soon as he is engaged, he is entitled to exemption for another two months. Take the case of our mines. An enormous number of men go into the mines. Why? Because it is a reserved occupation, and by entering it they escape the obligation to military service. There are thousands of men in the mines of this country who are only working two or 2109 three days a week. It is quite clear that when the Government created reserved occupations it was only for the purpose of enabling men to go into trades essential to the welfare of the country. I submit that it is the duty of the Government to make every employer of labour present to them a list of all the men who do not do their work, except where it is due either to sickness or ill-health, or because of circumstances outside a man's control. Hon. Members may think that a great hardship. Where is the hardship in the case of a man who habitually drinks and attends to his work only two or three days a. week? [Interruption.] Why should he escape his military obligations, while a married man, who could take his place, is to remain liable to them. The hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) represents a school of thought which, perhaps, is beyond my comprehension. It should not be forgotten that we have set up a great organisation in this country to deal with hundreds of thousands of men, and, when you have that great organisation set up before the whole country, you are bound to have cases in which difficulties arise. I would ask the House not to pay too much attention to all those trivial points. There may have been cases "where small officers in districts have failed in their duties because they have not carried out the strict instructions that have been given by the War Office. There is always bound to be, where you have a great organisation suddenly brought together, cases where trouble is likely to occur. The complaints brought forward by hon. Members when boiled down really amount to four. It is, stated that notice papers were sent to persons to whom they ought not to have been sent, and that rejection papers had been torn up by recruiting officers, and that men have been tricked into attesting, and that men who have been rejected are being re-examined and passed as fit. As to notice papers being sent to persons who ought not to have received them, that is not surprising seeing that we have two forms of notice paper, one to those classified on the Reserve, and another to those under the so-called Derby system. Owing to the heavy pressure of work on the recruiting officers it has been impossible to keep a record of every man rejected, and until the introduction of the Military Service Bill such a record did not appear to be necessary. It must be remembered, when general 2110 charges of this kind are made against recruiting officers, that they have had many difficulties to meet. As to the point about recruiting cards being torn up, I think that every man who has been medically examined ought to be called upon to be examined again. There seems to be some kind of fetish that once a doctor has examined a man and gives a certificate that he ought not to be examined again. I know of cases where men have received medical certificates who ought not to have received them. If that be true, why should you allow those men to continue to escape their military obligations because they have, by means which other men have not been able to employ, obtained exemption by having a medical certificate which ought not to have been given?
All these minor issues are beside the point. What the House ought to look at, and that which I implore the House to consider, is the main object we have in view, and that is, how are we going to carry the War to a successful conclusion? You cannot carry the War to a successful conclusion unless you get the men. All these side issues make it more difficult for the Government to get the men required, which is unfair not only to the country but to the men who are fighting at the front. The Government set up, as they always do when they get into difficulties, a Committee to deal with this matter—the Reserve Occupations Committee, which consists of a number of clerks drawn from the different Government Departments. Those clerks are practically deciding what men should be taken and what men should be exempted, and you are leaving to those permanent officials that duty of deciding who shall be exempted and who shall not. Why should we not have here a Committee such as they have in the French Government and French Parliament of Members of this House? There are many business men in the House who are acquainted with these matters, and who would be able to give the House the information which is necessary for the purpose of saying what trades ought to be exempted and what trades ought not.
There is a breaking point in this matter, and I would ask, have the Government yet considered how many men they require and how many men can be spared? What plan has been considered by the Cabinet, and have you told the War Office that, as we have to finance our Allies and provide munitions of war, not 2111 only for ourselves but for our Allies, the number of men we can give to the War Office is limited? While I would like to see every man not essential for maintaining those necessary services enlisted, yet you cannot go on drawing indefinitely on the manhood of the country without settling on the definite number of men that you are able to take from industry. We were told that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade were going to resign because the demands of the War Office were too great. I ask the President of the Local Government Board to tell us definitely whether the Government or the Cabinet have arrived at any definite number of how many men are required for the Army, and how many in the different Government Departments that can be given to the country without detriment to the essential services which must be carried on. The Government have not set a very good example in their own Departments in this matter. In the Customs and Excise there are 1,500 salaried officials who are on the pension list, and instead of taking those old pensioners back to employment, they have insisted on claiming exemption for men under military age. In many departments of the Government we find the permanent official again fighting for his own hand. It has always been a fight, not against Members sitting on the Treasury Bench, but against the permanent officials who rule this country, and the inefficiency of the permanent official has been fully proved by the results of this War, and by the mismanagement and misconduct of the War.
Where do we stand now with regard to the married men? I do not know where the married men stand, and I am quite sure they do not know, and I do not know whether the Government do. The Government have now, I understand, issued an Order postponing the calling up of certain groups of married men. Why have they done so? It is quite clear why. It is because there is an election pending in the Harborough Division of Leicestershire. As the Government received a smack on the jaw recently that may have awakened their tardy consciences to the carrying out of the pledge they have given to the married men. What happened yesterday? Lord Selborne is a Member of the Government. He is so I suppose because of his well-known competency which qualifies him for a seat in 2112 the Cabinet. We thought that Ministers were united, but this is what he said yesterday, and I think the House is entitled, and the country is entitled, to know where we stand. A fortnight ago Lord Derby made a speech in another place in which he said that some of the tribunals had done their duty and some had not. Lord Selborne said:The remarks he made were intended for all the farmers of the Kingdom. He had spoken about the agricultural position before, as he was speaking then, with the whole authority of the Government behind him. There was no divergence or variation of opinion of any sort or kind, and he had always spoken with the full consent of Lord Kitchener."'What does that mean? Lord Derby says one thing, and Lord Selborne says another, and Lord Selborne says that he had the approval of Lord Kitchener, and if Lord Selborne is correct, where do we stand 1 Lord Selborne ought to go, or Lord Derby or Lord Kitchener. [An HON. MEMBER: "All the lot of them! "] You cannot have one of them doing all that he can to obtain all the men necessary in the Army and another Minister, a Member of the Cabinet, coming down and saying that he, speaking with the approval of Lord Kitchener, takes a contrary view to that of Lord Derby. Lord Selborne went on to say:He had never advised a farmer to let his skilled men attest, and yet thousands of farmers went and attested, and allowed their skilled men to attest, merely because they saw in some newspaper, or some other Minister dealing with his Department, saying that attestation was the right thing to do. If they had kept their eyes fixed on him and had listened to his words only, they would have had no difficulty as to what the policy of the Government was. or as to what they ought to have done.Lord Selborne has a deputy who was known in this House by the name of "The Boy Scout." Farmers do not pay much attention to his opinion when he speaks on questions of agriculture. Lord Selborne proceeded to say:The difference between Lord Derby and himself was that, on a question like this, he was speaking for the Government and Lord Derby was not.What an extraordinary position! Lord Derby made an appeal to the married men of the country, and the whole question of recruiting lies in his hands, subject always to Lord Kitchener, who is his Commander-in-Chief. But Lord Selborne says, "What Lord Derby says is all nonsense. You farmers have to do what I tell you. If you had only listened to me you would have not got into the difficulty in which you now find yourselves." The position of Lord Derby becomes intolerable when a member of 2113 the Government acts in this manner. Let us proceed with what this Noble Lord said:Discussing the attitude of military representatives, Lord Selborne said it should be remembered that those gentlemen are not judges, but counsel. They were making the best case they could for the interests they represented. Therefore he did not blame them for their zeal, but he blamed them and criticised them very seriously when they took upon themselves to make statements for which they had no authority whatever. Lord Kitchener would be the first to repudiate them when they made statements which were absolutely mischievous and could benefit nobody except the Kaiser.He wound up his speech by saying:I have brought these cases to Lord Kitchener's attention, and Lord Kitchener repudiates these men thoroughly. I hope we shall have no more of these military representatives, in their excess of zeal, arrogating to themselves statements for which they have no authority, and which are wholly against the intentions and policy of the Government.If a farmer has six sons who have not attested, if they are not essential to the farming work, is there any man in this House who would say that all those sons should be allowed to escape? A great deal of this work may be done by women. Other speakers in the House of Lords, with longer experience of agriculture than Lord Selborne possesses, say that women can perform, at all events, a good deal of the lighter work on farms which is now being done by men. What is happening in France to-day? The whole of the work of agriculture in France, that great enlightened country which has shown such a splendid spirit in carrying on the War, is being done by women. But you here want every farmer's son, whether essential or not, to be exempted. It is true that in regard to getting in the harvest and certain other work the French Government send back a certain number of men to help in those particular operations; but with those exceptions practically the whole of the agricultural work in France is being done by women. Surely we ought not to be too proud to do the same here. I do not think that the women of this country would be too proud to do so. They would willingly give their time for the purpose of assisting agriculture, thereby setting men free for the Army.
I want the Government to tell us why they are going to fix up all the conscientious objectors, all the shirkers and skulkers, with the sick and disabled men who are not fit for service in the field. I am not speaking now of men like Quakers or members of the Society of Friends, who have all their lives, before there was any question of war, conscientiously held that they could not take part in warfare. I 2114 am referring to those men who have suddenly discovered religious convictions against the taking of life even in defence of the flag under which they live. Is it true that the War Office, with their gross incompetency, have now decided to group all the sick and disabled men and men who are not fit for service in the field with these cowards and shirkers? It is stated in the Press that the Government are going to form a corps or a number of regiments composed of these gentlemen who have obtained exemption on conscientious grounds. I submit that it is an insult if you are going to put men who are physically unfit or who have received wounds in the same class as these others. Finally, are you going to play fair with the married men or are you not? I think you are not. I believe that the only thing that will make this Government do its duty is the force of public opinion. The Prime Minister has never done anything in this House until he has been forced by public opinion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Some hon. Members may think otherwise. The electors of the Market Harborough Division are going to have an opportunity of expressing their views on this discussion. Although the Government may twist and turn between now and the date of the election, and although the caucuses of both parties may join together in fighting any independent man who does not take his marching orders from them, I have no doubt that the enlightened electors of the Market Harborough Division will next week triumphantly return an independent Member pledged to do justice to the married men.
§ Captain EDGE
On rising to address the House on my second appearance here, I do so with feelings of diffidence, and therefore I ask for that tolerance which the Members give to a colleague totally unused to the Rules and Procedure of the House. I at once express my sympathy with the married men who have perhaps received an unexpectedly early call to the Colours. I regret the very grave necessity which has led to this step. I suppose it is inevitable that the War Office should receive some criticism on this score, but I think that in this case, at any rate, the War Office is entitled to some consideration under the circumstances. There was the necessity for men, and the War Office went to the only source at that time available to it. We must have men, and I am here this afternoon to urge that the House should give what I may call the Derby administration a real and fair 2115 chance. If that is done it will get you all the men you require for the Army, it will get them with the least injury possible to trade, it will get them under the best possible conditions for the men themselves, and it will get the men who are the best for the Army. I say this because the War Office, for the first time in its career, is intimately associated, by means of the Derby chain, with local feeling, local industry, and local conditions. I say this advisedly, because the keynotes of the Derby administration are civilian assistance and democratic procedure. Every possible effort has been and is every day being made to bring local knowledge to bear upon local problems, so that every man and every firm shall have a reasonable chance of stating their case , before a sympathetic audience. The military representatives, the very representatives of the War Office, are in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred civilian local men with local knowledge and local sympathy. The Advisory Committees sitting with the military representatives are always local men with business knowledge and business sympathy. The tribunals appointed by the Local Government Board are generally representative of the electors, and are undoubtedly well in touch with local sympathy and local procedure.
Why is it that the system, which has admittedly been drawn up carefully to take into consideration local needs, has not produced the results that were expected? I say at once from my experience of the working of the scheme that it is because it has been overloaded with reservations, exemptions, and badged trades. They are probably good things in themselves, but the provisions in regard to them have undoubtedly been most shamefully abused in many parts of the country by men, as the hon. Member for the Mansfield Division has said—not in all cases, but in some cases—endeavouring to avoid service. How can a machine possibly be expected to produce proper results if this is going on all the time? Too many single men have gone into the reserved trades. Young men belonging, according to their certificates of registration, to all sorts of professions, varying from solicitors down to grocers' boys, have an unhappy knack, when their groups are being called up, of suddenly disappearing and then blossoming forth armed with badges and certificates galore. I might quote instances which I have met with on the journeys I 2116 have unfortunately to take at the present time in connection with this administration. There was one on the North-West coast about a fortnight ago. A young man in a grocer's stores appealed to the local tribunal. The local tribunal, composed of local men with local sympathy, in fact the man's own neighbours, decided that he would be better employed serving the Colours than serving the customers. He completely lost his temper. He upbraided the tribunal, thumped on the table, and said, "If I had known you were going to refuse me this, I would have gone into munitions." I appreciate as much as anyone the need for munitions, and I yield to no man in my appreciation and personal gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of that Department. But I say that if this type of man can be used, and unfortunately in many cases he is being used, the privilege, if privilege it be, should be given to older and married men. If young men are allowed to escape into the reserved occupations, we must face the brutal fact that married men will have to go to serve in the field. There is no other way out of it.
I suggest to the Government for a start that, whatever the position was at the beginning of the war, no single young man, at any rate, is legitimately starred, badged, or reserved, unless the work he is generally doing is of equal value to carrying a gun. I see no possible chance of keeping the pledge to the married men in the spirit in which it was intended except by a drastic revision of the starred, badged, and reserved trades, and, I would add in passing, some method of expediting the dealing with the appeals which my hon. and gallant colleague near me will agree are rolling in almost like oceans. I submit that it is a very reasonable thing to ask that no single man who has joined one of the badged, reserved, or certified trades since 15th August should be allowed to stop there. Let the test of employment be the certificate of registration. If a man was not in a reserved trade on 15th August, bring him up where he ought to be for the purpose of serving in the Army. May I quote an illustration that I came across last week in Lancashire? There was a batch of six young men, textile workers, who had just received or were on the point of receiving their notice papers, calling them up under the Military Service Act. They went in a body to their employer, demanded their insurance cards, and told him that they were going to the first badged works that would 2117 take them in. I have no reason to doubt under the circumstances which exist today that those men at this moment are in a badged works. I would only point out that ultimately six married men from that district will have to leave their wives and families before their proper time to take the places of these young men in the field. I have a letter here—which I shall be happy to show to any hon. Member who would like to see it—from a firm of quarrymen, written to a cotton operative in Lancashire, inviting him to take service with them; and the sting of the letter lies in this, that they practically promise the man exemption from military service if he will join the firm's service.
It is a perfect scandal that any firm or employer should be found who, at this late hour of the day, will without question take a single man who is eligible for the Army, knowing full well that some other man, possibly a married man, will have to take his place. I am not averse to the enlistment of married men. The patriotism of the married has been proved over and over again. But I do assert my sympathy with the married man who has been called up, knowing all the time that probably in the locality there are scores of young men better fitted for the work, and with less responsibilities. We hear that the Government intend to do something in this matter, but I do want to point out to the House that the Govern-men are only now taking the suggested step to deal with the difficulties which we, who have been doing our best under the Derby system, have been struggling with all the time. The Government only apparently intend to do something now to meet the difficulties that have been hampering the Derby system right through from the start. I strongly urge, in order to meet the pledge, that no single eligible man, whether he is badged or not, shall primarily be regarded as being indispensable. There are thousands of single young men who may probably be accounted indispensable; but, at any rate, in order to keep the Government's pledge, let the employer prove the indispensability up to the hilt, not to a Government Department, but to the only men who are capable of judging the facts—that is, some local committee of commercial and trade union men. Let me offer a practical suggestion. This matter cannot perhaps be done in an hour or two, but it certainly can be done in twenty-four hours. I would suggest that the Government authorities should 2118 co-operate with the War Office, and a visiting committee should be appointed by them to go through these works at once and put one question only, "Are these men here at the present time the men who under all circumstances must be left; if not, can they be replaced either by married men or by women?" It ought to be a point of honour in our industrial system at the present time that no employer should employ a single man without being able to show a good reason to the local committee. I have no hope in centralisation saving this situation. We have not the time. I ask for decentralisation. I ask for localisation. I ask you to trust more to the power of local opinion. I ask you strongly to trust the good sense of the commercial men and of the trade union men of this country.
I am a democrat. I believe in democratic government. I am prepared to abide by the democratic faith. We preach democracy. Let us practise it. Amend the tribunals if you will, but, for Heaven's sake, trust them! I appreciate, and fully sympathise with, much of the concluding remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mansfield. I know there is to be maintained the balance between industry and the needs of the Army. I am no Prussian. I am a commercial man. I have had a commercial training. I am intensely sympathetic with the many difficulties, facing commercial firms at the present moment. But it is because of this that I ask the House seriously to give a real trial to the Derby system. Give it a fair chance. After all, the Derby system in the country really means a vast voluntary organisation of commercial and trade union men. I ask the House to give more power to these men to deal with abuses when they see them, and in the matter of indispensability not to report the cases to a Government Committee, but to deal with them on the spot. In asking for this power I am not asking for power to be given to the War Office. I am asking for power to be given to a great civilian organisation run by men of all classes and of all shades of political thinking. I have in this Chamber heard criticisms of the tribunals, but I must say, from my experience in travelling about, that the tribunals as a whole, and within their limitations, are doing their work well and honestly. In their deliberations in the large towns or villages of the British Isles one cannot but feel that, after all, the members are honestly doing their best, and in the spirit they are displaying they 2119 are determined to save England; they are desirous of saving industry, if possible, and by all means in their power they want to win, and speedily to win, the War. In conclusion, perhaps the House will forgive me as a new Member if I express my heartfelt conviction that in this War we are fighting for freedom justice, and peace. I believe in my heart that it was one of the great days of the British people when they entered the War to keep a pledge, and to do justice to our Allies. I ask, I implore, the House to trust the machine which is ready to your hand; a machine which, if you will, amend, but trust it. It will enable you to keep, in sincerity and truth, the pledge to our own men, and to do justice to our own people at home.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
After listening to the interesting, able, and forcible speech that has just been delivered by the hon. Member, I feel it extremely difficult to realise, if we had not been so assured, that this was the first occasion on which the hon. Member has addressed the House. The congratulations which will be offered to him will not be confined to those who are in agreement with the opinions that he has expressed. But I hope he will not consider me in any way lacking in respect to him if I venture for a short while to ask the House to pay some attention to quite a different topic from that which the hon. Member has been discussing—a topic to which my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary devoted an important, if not perhaps a very lengthy, part of his statement. I refer to the administration of the Army Medical Service in this War. This is a matter which, I am quite certain, every Member of this House, whether he is interested in the matter or not, will realise is one of vital importance to the welfare of our Armies in the field. On several occasions the Under-Secretary has expressed the opinion in this House that whatever other Departments of the administration of the War were open to criticism, the Army Medical Service called only for congratulations, and that in regard to it criticism was practically out of place. In his statement yesterday the right hon. Gentleman read a communication from a very eminent surgeon, who gave a testimonial, or spoke to the perfection in various respects of the medical arrangements at the front, and immediately behind 2120 the front. I have not the smallest doubt that every word read by the right hon. Gentleman from the report or letter of Sir Frederick Treves was absolutely correct. After all, however, a distinguished surgeon like Sir Frederick Treves, who crosses over to France on a visit to see what is going on and how things are administered, does not really have the opportunity of testing the system at work. He goes to one particular clearing station or hospital in a certain section of the line and sees things in a perfect condition, things up to date, provision for surgery, and so forth, and has explanation given to him of the way in which this scientific material is to be used. He comes back accordingly and tells the right hon. Gentleman what he has seen. What I have described must to a large extent account for such a report as we have had from Sir Frederick Treves. If it does not account for it, then all I can say is that there is a very great conflict of testimony upon this point, and that there are other authorities, hardly less eminent than Sir Frederick Treves himself, who are quite prepared to give a very different view. The right hon. Gentleman has often put before us—I have no doubt in absolute sincerity—that the Army Medical Service is really not open to criticism. I absolutely acquit my right hon. Friend opposite of any sort of responsibility in the matter. In the answers to questions which he gives on these points he has no personal knowledge whatever. He has from time to time to accept the replies which are put into his hands from some corridor in the great building in Whitehall.
I want, if I may, really to go to the root of the matter in regard to the organisation of the Army Medical Service, in order to show what has taken place. When the War broke out the Army Medical Service, like every other department of the Army, was on a wholly inconsiderable scale as compared with the things which very quickly confronted it. It was prepared for an Army of, at the most, a few hundred thousand. Within a few months it became an Army aiming at millions, and already numbering hundreds of thousands. It must, therefore, have been perfectly plain from the outset that the moment we were confronted with such a terrible ordeal as a war with Germany—the greatest military power on earth—it must have been perfectly obvious—or it ought to have been—that in 2121 order to meet the great problems with which this Service must be confronted, it would require a combination of the best organising brains, of the best scientific and medical brains, that the country could produce. The remarkable circumstances is that the machinery, or at all events the most important part of the machinery, which might have made this expansion of the Service easy, and which had in itself the material for the study of those medical problems which were certain to arise in the course of experience of the coming months, was already in existence. As the House will probably remember, the Army Medical Service came in for a good deal of hostile criticism during the South African War. It was, I have no doubt, deserved criticism. May I point out in passing that the criticism in the South African War came in the main from civilian doctors and surgeons whose services were placed at the disposal of the Army, and who were able to speak from their own experience. In the present War the civilian doctors and surgeons who have been taken into the Army have been put into uniform—of course, I do not say for a moment with the intention of closing their mouths. But it has had that effect, and the consequence has been that the source from which criticism might have been expected has not been forthcoming to-day as it was in the South African War. After the South African War, owing to the breakdown of the Army Medical Service, it was resolved, and very rightly resolved, that the whole Service should be reorganised, and for that purpose a Commission was appointed under the then Secretary of State for War. That Commission, which was a very strong one, including among its members Sir Frederick Treves and Sir Alfred Keogh, produced a scheme for reorganisation, and that scheme was subsequently accepted as the basis of the reorganisation of the Service. I want to read to the House the first Clause in that scheme of reorganisation:—The Royal Army Medical Corps shall be under the supervision of a Board, to be called the Advisory Board for Army Medical Services, and constituted as follows:Then follow the various members of this Board, the chairman being the Director-General for the time being, and it was laid down that there should be always upon that Board two civil surgeons and two civil physicians, and, as if to emphasise the importance of those civilians upon the Board, and to safeguard their being always included, it was put in that those 2122 civilians should be appointed by the Crown. They were not merely nominees of any passing official in the War Office, but were to be nominated by the Crown on the advice of the Secretary of State.
Having regard to that, I want to call the recollection of the House to some answers given with regard to this Board by the Under-Secretary. On the 22nd November my right hon. Friend, in answer to a question, said there had been no formal meetings of the Board, but all the paid members had been constantly consulted. A few days later he was asked, as a supplementary question to that, why no meetings had been held since the War began, and his answer was:—I think my hon. Friend will agree that it is desirable to modify administrative machinery created in peace to meet the requirements of War.I must say I think that is about as amazing an opinion and answer as it is possible to conceive. Imagine a Department of the Army bringing into being deliberately an organisation suitable for peace but not suitable for war. Why, the very purpose of the Army is war! If it is an organisation no good for war, then it is no good for peace. Not only that. The Army Medical Service had not broken down in peace, so far as I know. It had broken down in war, and it was because of this breakdown in war that this reorganisation took place. The scheme setting up the Advisory Board was deliberately set up arising out of the breakdown in war. Of course, it is perfectly clear that the War Office, even in its palmiest days of imbecility, never did anything quite so absurd as to set up deliberately after a war, in which defects had been brought to light, an organisation which the moment the next war broke out was to be cast on one side. But I think my right hon. Friend and the House will agree, from the scheme itself, that nothing is further from the truth than to suggest—suggested, of course, to my right hon. Friend—that this organisation was not intended for war. Clause 5 of the Scheme says that the Advisory Board shall report to the Secretary of State—not to the Director-General. It has a permanent and important position, and it is brought into direct contact with the Secretary of State on all matters of surgery, medicine, etc., as they affect military services. On another Clause they shall advice the Secretary of State upon adequate provision of hospitals "and whatever concerns the well-being of the sick and wounded." Does my right hon. Friend think that the 2123 wounded for whom provision was to be made were Tommies who broke their shins in football matches, and not the wounded in war? Clause 7 in the same way says that the Board shall prepare and submit to the Secretary of State a scheme for the expansion of the service to meet the needs of War, such scheme dealing with questions of ambulance, transport, equipment, and so forth. Clause 14 is important:The promotion of officers, or their retention in the service, shall be referred to the Board for consideration, before submission by the Director-General to the Commander-in-Chief.Or, in the language of to-day, the Army Council. I want to know if there has been any promotion of officers since the War began. If so, this rule cannot have been adhered to, because my right hon. Friend has said, in answer to questions, that this Board has never met from the day the War began. The Board was directed to exercise a general control over the nursing service, and it is worthy of remark that in the constitution laid down there was a woman member of that Board. Clause 17 says:The Director-General shall be appointed by the Secretary of State on the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief, acting with the advice of the Advisory Board.Therefore, the Advisory Board in that clause was really a superior authority to the Director-General, and the Director-General derives his own authority from appointment by the Army Council, who are only entitled to do so, "acting with the advice of the Advisory Board." Finally, the last clause with which I need trouble the House is Clause 19:After reference to the Advisory Board, the Director-General shall bring forward to the Commander-in-Chief the names of officers whom he may judge worthy of promotion.Throughout all those clauses it is quite clear that the Advisory Board, set up by the scheme of reorganisation was regarded as a vital and integral part of the administration of the Medical Service. It was a great deal more than a consultative board. My right hon. Friend, in answer to the question I have already quoted, excused the non-meeting of this Board by saying that certain members of it—the paid members—had been from time to time consulted. But it is not a consultative body, or not exclusively so. It is a governing body. It has in itself definite authority, control, and responsibility, and it was deliberately planned, as I have pointed out, to be in operation when the next 2124 war should arise, in order that the defects experienced in the South African War might be avoided.
This War was obviously going to bring to the front unprecedented problems: medical, scientific, hygienic, bacteriological, not to speak of the problems accompanying them of housing, supply, commissariat, and so forth. Yet, with all those problems to confront them, and with this machinery in being, only requiring to be expanded, improved, and put to use, what did the War Office do? They scrapped it. The moment war broke out that Advisory Board, with all the authority which I have shown the House it possessed, was thrown on one side, and it has never been called together from that day to this. I hope to be able to convince the House that terrible evil results—I do not say necessarily follow from the abandonment of that organisation, but I do say that the maintenance of that organisation gave the best hope of avoiding the worst mistakes that have been made. Such a body was extraordinarily necessary under the circumstances which were arising. Take an ordinary London hospital with a few hundred beds. It is not exclusively controlled and governed by a resident surgeon or physician. It is in the hands of a governing body controlled by able laymen. How much more should a service of this sort be under the control, not necessarily of a physician or a surgeon, no matter how eminent he might be, but the best organising brains—quite a different thing—which you can find in the country, because we have never had any reason to suppose that the possession of an "M.D." degree necessarily conferred organising genius.
I maintain that the smallest particle of foresight on the part of the proper authorities—even a small amount of common sense and ordinary intelligence, would have shown them that the first step to take, if they were not to come to grief, was the calling together of this Board, the expansion of it, and, above all, the improvement and strengthening of it by including among its number some of the best of the younger generation of scientific men and the younger generation of vigorous administrators. Such a Board would have been in a position to overhaul the whole of the organisation, for nothing could have been more certain to any man of foresight than that the organisation which was prepared out of the experience of the South African War would be wholly 2125 unsuited in many respects to deal with the problems of a European war at the present day. That Board should have met in constant—I do not say continual—session, and should have been in a position to discuss any problem that might arise. Even then there would probably have been some failures to deplore, since we could not expect perfection in such a task. But, at least, the best possible would probably have been done. What was the actual course pursued with regard to this vital service? The very first moment war broke out the Board was scrapped. Its very important functions were usurped by an individual. Any individual under those circumstances must inevitably fail in many respects, I do not care what his zeal, his industry or his knowledge may be. It would be beyond the task, I should think, of any individual to take the place of the governing body of such a service as this in face of such a war as this. Now who was the individual who undertook it? Was he a man who combined the organising skill of Napoleon with the scientific genius of Lister and Paget? I think that that would be rather an exaggerated estimate of Director-General Sir Arthur Sloggett. It is not pleasant to have to mention the names of individual officers, but I think my right hon. Friend will not disagree with me when I say that this matter, which, after all, does concern the lives of hundreds of thousands of men in our Army, is much too serious and important to justify timid consideration for the susceptibilities of individuals. Therefore I shall give my view for what it is worth of this Napoleon, who was considered sufficient by his own genius to direct the Army Medical Service and to scrap the proper governing body. I do not like to say quite freely what my own opinion is of Sir Arthur Sloggett, and I will content myself with saying that he is an officer who, both on professional and personal grounds, I am surprised to find that some short time ago my right hon. Friend expressed admiration for in this House. I can only say that so far as my judgment goes this officer in that admiration has won a distinction to which he has "very little claim. This is the gentleman who was given complete control over the administration of the Army Medical Service when war broke out. Within a week he was sick, and took sick leave from the War Office, and he left his position. Let the House recall what that moment was. 2126 It was the first week of the outbreak of the War, with all the awful possibilities which this War has brought into the immediate forefront. Just imagine the one man who had scrapped the governing body of the Army Medical Service, and was therefore responsible for everything and for seeing that the service was properly administered, went on sick leave, and for nine weeks, I believe, he was absent from duty, his place being filled by someone else! Those were nine critical weeks. I do not know exactly when it was that the first honours list came out, but in that list this gentleman blossomed out as a K.C.B., or something of that sort, as a result of the nine weeks he was absent from duty.
Was advantage taken of this gentleman's disappearance to appoint to this tremendously responsible post some young, vigorous, and up-to-date surgeon of the new school of medical ability which has been brought on during the last few years? Not at all. That is not the way with the War Office, and they appointed in his place a stop-gap deputy, Surgeon-General Macpherson, undoubtedly a man of very considerable ability in many respects. I understand that he was appointed temporarily as Director-General. This gentleman was a very able man in many respects. He possessed many academic degrees, he had seen service in many parts of the world, he was knows to have a considerable knowledge of Army medical history and other branches of learning, but if my information is correct, and it comes from responsible quarters, he was recognised throughout his profession as a man with many engaging qualities, but utterly unfit for heavy responsibilities or high command. At the end of nine weeks he left the War Office, under what circumstances I am not certain. I do not know whether he was dismissed or whether there was any other reason, but he left at the end of nine weeks, and he went as Surgeon-General to the First Army in France, and in that position he was responsible for a most terrible breakdown of the medical arrangement at the battle of Festubert. So bad was the management of the medical service there under Surgeon-General Macpherson that he had to be removed, and the War Office followed their invariable rule when they dismiss a failure, and he was transferred to another command of equal importance and dignity. He was removed from the First Army in France to another Army, 2127 where, a year later, he was responsible for the still greater failure at Loos. I shall have a word to say about the facts of the breakdown at Loos later. A second time this distinguished officer had to be removed in consequence of his failure, and he was then removed to a place where, so far as I know, he still occupies a responsible post at the head of our Army Medical arrangements at Salonika. I can only hope for the sake of our Army there that there will not be very many casualties, because I can hardly imagine, unless this gentleman has learned a great deal by his past failures, that the arrangements there will be very efficient.
When Surgeon-General Macpherson left the War Office his place was taken by the present Director-General, Sir Alfred Keogh. I wish to speak with all due respect of that distinguished officer. Apparently at some stage Sir Arthur Sloggett appeared on the scene again. It appears that Surgeon-General Macpherson was only appointed temporarily. I suppose that Sir Alfred Keogh was also appointed temporarily, but when Sir Arthur Sloggett emerged from his illness and had to be provided for I suppose it was not considered compatible with his dignity that he should be anything less than a Director-General, and they did not want two. Consequently they got over the difficulty by a sort of double arrangement that Sir Alfred Keogh should be Director-General in London and Sir Arthur Sloggett should be Director-General in France, and it was like having two commanders-in-chief. I do not know which of these distinguished Directors-General took orders from the other. My own information is that neither of them did this, and very great inconvenience and confusion resulted from it. I am told that Sir Alfred Keogh's arrangements and orders, devised with the wisdom of Whitehall, are sent out; they are orders as to what is to be done with this and that material and this and that organisation, but I am told that it is all a matter of chance when these orders get across the Channel whether Sir Arthur Sloggett will think it right to carry them out. I wish to speak with great respect of Sir Alfred Keogh, but there is one respect in which I cannot help blaming him. Sir Alfred Keogh was a member of the Brodrick Commission which drew up this scheme 2128 of reorganisation to which I have referred, and therefore he was himself one of the creators of the Advisory Board, and I say that the moment he got into the position of Director-General it was his duty at once to have rectified the neglect of his predecessor and to have restored the organisation, the value of which he himself knew because he had been one of its actual creators, the reasons for the creations of which must have been fresh in his recollection. A really efficient governing body such as Sir Alfred Keogh might have brought into being might have saved an immense amount of breakdown and failure which followed.
Let me first of all point out the radical unsoundness which I submit exists in the present organisation. The Army Medical Service, as a matter of organisation, is based upon the combatant division as its unit. As the House can well understand, that was a very proper and wise organisation in past years. In all our past wars the British Army only took the field with a few divisions, and the troops were mobile. A divisional-general, for instance, never knew in South Africa, Egypt, or on the Frontiers of India, whether one division would be sent up one valley and another up another valley, and another might stay on the lines of communication; they never knew the direction in which they might be moved, and therefore it was essential that each division should be properly equipped and provided independently with its medical equipment. For more than a year past in France there has been no movements of divisions in that sense at all. It has been one rigid line stretching over hundreds of miles, and where a division has been moved it has generally been in a lateral direction for the mere convenience of employing one body of troops to-day and another to-morrow for the purpose of rest, and the actual position of the line has remained the same. Consequently to-day, if you have each division independently provided with medical equipment, not only is this system unnecessary, but it is inconvenient and cumbrous. Suppose, for example, that a division for military reasons is moved from the neighbourhood of Ypres to the neighbourhood of La Bassée. Its place is immediately taken by another division from England or from some other part of the line. Is it not ridiculous that when that division is moved from Ypres to La Bassée it should be 2129 necessary to move all its medical equipment and motor cars and take them to another part of the line, while the incoming division which takes its place has also to carry with it a similar medical paraphernalia? Why is the medical equipment not kept in its place to do the same service to the incoming division as it did for the outgoing division? That is a sensible arrangement which the experience of the War has taught to a great many very competent observers, and this would have entailed very little dislocation, and could have been done with very little more than a few orders on paper. This arrangement could be carried out in the Medical Service so long as the fighting goes on upon its present lines. Of course, if mobile warfare were to return, I agree that the medical equipment would have to be based again upon the combatant unit, but so long as the fighting remains of its present character, it is obvious that the Medical Service ought to be absolutely independent of any particular combatant unit, or should be based on nothing smaller than an Army.
I submit to my right hon. Friend the fact that, after all this long experience of the present fighting, we should be still maintaining a system based upon South African experience is only proof of the utterly stupid conservatism amongst those who are managing this service. It really shows, and it is not the only indication, that in this as in other respects the War Office has a most persistent preference for what I might call the static wisdom of age rather than the dynamic adaptability of youth, a preference which has prevented them from making their methods up-to-date, and therefore more efficient. My right hon. Friend, I know, has told the House, in answer to a question, that this system of medical service based upon the division is not rigidly worked as a watertight system. Notwithstanding that, I believe it certainly has been to a very great extent and a great deal more than is necessary, and it has been responsible for some of the worst failures. It has not been responsible, I agree, for the absolutely scandalous failure in some respects at Gallipoli and for a failure which, if the information now coming to hand is correct, in Mesopotamia bids fair to be nearly as bad as that at Gallipoli.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
It has nothing to do with the War Office.
§ Mr. McNEILL
Mesopotamia may be a matter for the India Office, but it is a matter for the Government, and when I am criticising the Government I never care in the least myself what particular right hon. Gentleman is responsible. We are endeavouring here to complain that something has been omitted or that something has been done which ought not to have been done by the Government, and although it may concern my right hon. Friend which department is responsible it does not really concern anybody else. My right hon. Friend incredulously asked where these mistakes occurred. Let me give him one or two examples. I will take, first, an example from the first battle of Ypres in the early part of the War. A clearing station in that battle was placed at Poperinghe. I do not know who was responsible for selecting that place, but it was a very unfortunate circumstance that there was only one available road by which it could be reached. The consequence was that the troops and supplies being brought to the front naturally and necessarily blocked the road to such an extent that there was interminable delay in getting away many of the wounded, and untold suffering resulted from the mere selection of a wrong place. I know of one lot of motor cars which took ten hours to cover nine miles to that place in consequence of the delay, and all that time within easy motor drive of the same place there were no less than six empty hospitals and two totally empty roads leading to them. There you have an example of mismanagement. I do not say that it depended upon the organisation of that particular division, but it is an instance of the stupid working of even such organisation as existed.
At Hooge at the same time—this was a matter of organization—the doctors of one division whose troops were engaged were working for thirty, forty, and fifty hours on end. They were overworked, of course, but they worked as the doctors have always done throughout this campaign—with a devotion, with an energy, and with an industry which are beyond all praise as far as the individuals are concerned. They were working these thirty, forty, and fifty hours, and there were numbers of doctors of other divisions actually in the town at the time not doing a hand's turn, simply because they belonged to other divisions, 2131 the troops of which had not been engaged. Two hundred patients had to be taken to a convent at Ypres. A 120 of them were removed by their divisional ambulances; and eighty were forgotten, and left for seven days without any medical attendance whatever. They were simply forgotten and overlooked. Thirteen wounded were taken to a farm in that neighbourshood and absolutely forgotten, left there in the care of a peasant woman, who did the best she could for them. Thirteen is not a very large number perhaps when dealing with millions, but, after all, every man has his own life and his own suffering. After nine days, by some good fortune, the Duchess of Sutherland heard of these men, sent motor cars for them in the night, and took them away to her hospital at Dunkirk. All through this battle there were numbers of motor ambulances doing nothing at Calais and at Boulogne, and the only reason I have heard assigned for their idleness is that at that place there was some dispute going on between the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Red Cross.
The right hon. Gentleman or the authorities of the Medical Service may perhaps say that the Battle of Ypres was early in the War, and that they had not perfected their arangements. Let me, therefore, give an example from the Battle of Loos, a year later, only last October. The arrangements at Loos, as I have already said, were in the hands of Surgeon-General Macpherson, who the year before had totally broken down at Festubert. When the fighting was going on at Loos thousands of wounded men were left lying all night out in the open in the fields and streets of Chogue, Lapoguy, Delair, and other villages there, because all the hospitals were overfull and the staffs were overworked. The saddest part of it—and this again brings it back to the question of organisation—is that within a very short distance, within a few miles, there were hundreds of doctors of other divisions, who could easily have been brought there by motor cars, doing nothing at all. I want to emphasise that I am not laying the smallest blame upon the doctors. These men were there, almost as it were within sound of the groans of dying men, doing nothing—not because they were not anxious to do every mortal thing they could for them, but because in the scheme of organisation they belonged to some other division, and were not allowed to be drawn 2132 upon. There were a good many doctors at the base only too ready to come, and I should have imagined that a telegram would have been sent, "Fighting is going on; let us have all the doctors we can." If that had happened, they could have been there within three or four hours. What did happen? A telegram was sent, but it was four days before the doctors there were able to get the necessary papers signed to enable them to work, and when they did get them signed and they got down there the wounded who had been suffering from want of attendance had been removed. That is the way the organisation works, and I have given those examples in answer to the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman, "Where do these things occur?" I can tell him, further, that during the fighting there were large hospitals empty at Haasbruck, Bailleul, and elsewhere, within a few miles as motor cars go in a lateral direction. These hospitals were empty, and within a few miles men were lying out in the open on the battlefield—
§ Mr. McNEILL
Yes, at Loos. Let me give a little example of the sort of thing for which these old men who have been put into command are responsible. I shall have something to say on the general principle of their selection presently. In a way I do not want to blame the wretched officer himself in this particular example. I am sure that he was a patriotic and zealous man anxious to do his best, but there comes a time in the development of a man's mind when the one thing he seeks to do is to follow rule and thinks he is doing the best that can be done in doing so. Some days before the attack at Loos some of the field ambulances, probably under the direction of zealous men with common sense, collected a large number of stretchers, a very natural thing to do, but three days before the fighting began Surgeon-General Macpherson ordered those stretchers to be taken away. Why? Because they were over and above the regulation number. No man will ever be able to tell the amount of unnecessary suffering and the amount of avoidable loss of life which occurred simply because of that bit of foolish red tape on the part of that superior officer.
These examples show two things: First of all, they show that the organisation which was quite adapted for old-time warfare under other conditions is utterly unsuitable for the fighting of to-day. They 2133 show, in addition, that even with that faulty organisation there is a rigid adherence to formula and rule which prevents us making the best of it. This system would certainly have been radically changed, if as experience had shown us the way, we had introduced in the direction of the service a number of young, vigorous up-to-date men. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman and the House of the fact that before the South African War the Royal Army Medical Corps was a sort of poor relation of the medical profession, and there is no doubt that the highest class of medical practitioner was not attracted to it. It was largely for the purpose of altering that sort of thing that the reorganisation of 1902 took place, and in that particular the reorganisation was very successful. Since 1902 a large number of the very best class of medical scientific men have been attracted to the Army Medical Service, and they have attained in it the highest decorations of the profession, such as the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians, and so forth. But those men when the War broke out had not yet got to the front up the ladder of promotion. They were in junior positions. They are in the prime of life and in the prime of their scientific knowledge and skill—the very class of men that are wanted, not merely to do the work under the direction of others, but to take the whole of the direction into their own hands. Unfortunately, when the War broke out, instead of employing these men in positions of command, the War Office brought back old pensioners of the Royal Army Medical Corps, who were survivors of the ante-South African régime, and they put these old "dug-outs" in commands where they are to this day drawing the full pay of their rank and the full pension they had earned before. Can anybody wonder that class of men—I do not care how well-intentioned or zealous they may be—have proved in many respects nothing more than obstructive to the younger and more scientific type of men who have been put under their control and command? Let me take an example in the vital matter of rapidity of getting to the operating theatre the patient who requires an operation. My information on this matter is obtained from very eminent surgeons. They tell me that the supreme aim of modern surgery is to get patients under operation at the earliest possible moment, before the wound be- 2134 come septic. Sepsis means certain death in abdominal cases and inevitable amputation in cases of compound fractures. These two classes of cases cover a very large proportion of the casualties in the field. It is clear that an immediate operation is of vital importance. It is agreed upon all hands that it must be immediate.
I asked my right hon. Friend the other day in this House, with a view to finding out how much was known on this matter, to give me some statistics as to the number of wounds received in the hospitals in this country which were in a septic condition when they reached this country. My right hon. Friend told me that such statistics are not to be had, and that it would take far too much labour to supply them. I am quite sure my right hon. Friend had the answer given to him by somebody at the other end of Pall Mall. But I am bound to say that if it is the case it shows very bad management in the hospitals here, because everyone conversant with the working of hospitals will admit that the first thing is to keep, in the form of a chart or note, a record of every case that comes in. Therefore to be told that Private Smith was received on such-and-such a day, and that the hospital has no record whether his wound was septic or not at that moment, is to indicate a complete breakdown in the management of the hospital. I doubt very much whether it is impossible to get the statistics. I have been told from more than one quarter that in point of fact a very large percentage of the wounded when they reach this country are in a septic condition. The difficulty is that you cannot, under our present system, get the rapidity which is necessary between the infliction of the wound and the operation, and this is due to a system which is based upon experience in South Africa, in India, and in Egypt, where, owing to the conditions of warfare, the various stages were necessary which are still retained in order to move the wounded from the scene of the casualty to the hospital at the base. In former wars it will be generally agreed this was necessary and proper, but in the present War the best opinion says that it is unnecessary and mischievous.
In fact, motor transport has now revolutionised conditions, and what was necessary when we were dependent on horses cannot be necessary to-day. It is characteristic of the methods of the War Office that when this War broke out, 2135 although the motor car was a well-established institution, yet the Army Medical Service resolved that they would remain loyal to the horse, and they actually went so far as to refuse the offer of a large number of motor ambulances made to them by some generous individual. Eventually they did accept them, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Waltham-stow (Sir J. Simon), who is not at this moment in the House, may be shocked to hear that the acceptance of these motor ambulances was due to the activities of the Harmsworth Press, and if it had not been for those activities I am not sure the Army would have had them at this moment. I do not desire to take up the time of the House too long, but my case is a very big one and a very important one, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will really give it due consideration. Men with whom I have talked, and who are qualified to judge, tell me the first line in the various grades of medical equipment—the field hospitals close to the front—are perfectly useless, and that they serve no particular purpose. I can quite understand that there is no possibility of having that scientific cleansing of wounds which is so essential. The best opinions I have come across are to the effect that these field hospitals ought to be done away with, and that there ought to be in their place, combining the functions of the field hospitals and the clearing stations behind them, a system of movable hospitals all the way along the front, within easy access by motor car of the firing line, placed as far as possible off the main road so that that may be kept clear for the transport of supplies and troops, and with easy lateral communications between one part of the line and another. If that were done, it would not only improve immensely the administration from the point of view of the wounded, but it would give a system of movable hospitals, which ought to be in charge of a first-rate surgeon and thoroughly equipped with up-to-date surgery and scientific means of cleansing wounds. This would enable the authorities to do away with the so-called field hospitals or field ambulances—except so far as they are true ambulances for carrying the wounded. These field hospitals are now under the charge of a senior surgeon whose time is entirely taken up by administration, and the method I am suggesting would not only improve matters at the front from the 2136 point of view of the wounded, but it would also introduce economies in the use of doctors. The wounded in that case would be taken to the movable hospitals, the operation cases would be retained, and the other cases be sent to the base.
I must refer to an answer which my right hon. Friend gave me with regard to this very matter. I asked him the other day whether the organisations were such as to enable these rapid operations to take place, and he quoted Sir Frederick Treves as saying they could now operate within two or three hours of the casualty occurring. I know it is so. Sir Frederick Treves has given the same information to me. But that is merely an exceptional circumstance. It is only done here and there, and if my information is correct there is no organisation enabling it to be done as a matter of ordinary routine of Army practice. It is only quite recently that operations in abdominal cases have been allowed at all. I recently asked as to an order forbidding abdominal surgery, and the right hon. Gentleman told me that that was merely a piece of fertile imagination. But Army doctors have told me that they have in their possession the order I refer to. I may have used a wrong term in referring to it as an order, but as recently as the 1st January this year Sir Anthony Boulby, writing to the "Lancet," emphasised the possibility of saving life by immediate operations in abdominal cases. There could have been no occasion to do that unless it was the case that the practice had not become established and he was agitating for its adoption.
My right hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that I have only one more complaint to make, but it is by no means the least grave. It is that the organisation and the working of it in this War has failed—as I maintain it has failed to a large extent—to make the best use possible of the medical talent at the disposal of the nation, and which might be at the disposal of the Army. Only the other day the "Daily Chronicle" published an article in which it gave a considerable catalogue of examples arising from sheer stupidity, and I could double that catalogue from instances in my own knowledge of the way in which they do not put the doctors to the best possible use. Hon. Members may remember the story of the lady who was asked the breed of a terrier belonging to her. She replied, "I think it is just dog." In the same way the War Office apparently looks on 2137 medical men as "just doctor." It does not appear to matter to it whether a man be a surgeon or a physician, a heart specialist or a lung specialist, a chiropodist or a dentist. They just send him to a job, and tell him he is wanted there. There is no sort of co-ordination, and no attempt to use his special qualifications at the points where those special qualifications are most wanted. I was told of an eminent Glasgow specialist that he had only been employed on work with reference to which he used a somewhat contemptuous phrase, and he added that it would take some considerable time before he would be able to get his hands into a condition to perform a delicate operation.
With regard to dental surgery, exactly the same thing is true. There seems to be an idea that you only want a dentist for the purpose of pulling out a man's grinders. But I am told that dental surgery is of vital importance in this War, and I read of a case only the other day in which a man had half his jaw shot away and the surgeon took out a portion of the man's rib and made him a new jaw. That sort of operation is, of course, only possible by co-operation with very highly-skilled dentists. The wounds can only be filled up by the aid of dentistry. The British Dental Institution is a highly organised and respectable body which was willing to put at the disposal of the Government the whole of its resources. Quite recently the Director-General of the Medical Service refused to receive a deputation from that body, and there are very natural complaints that that is because they do not want to make full use of dental surgeons.
I hope these are sufficient examples to show my right hon. Friend is under a delusion if he thinks that the medical service is not open to criticism of any sort. He will no doubt say I am entirely misinformed. He will tell me that Sir Frederick Treves holds a certain opinion as a consequence of the visit he paid to one part of the front. But somebody else holds another opinion, and all I can tell the right hon. Gentleman is that a very large body of highly-instructed medical opinion holds to-day the views which I have been trying to put before the House. The facts are becoming known to the public, and, having regard to the interest that the public have in knowing that the medical service is as good as it can be made, I will make this appeal to my right hon. Friend, an appeal 2138 which I do not think is unreasonable, and one which I hope he will be prepared to consider very carefully indeed. Is there any reason why the Government should not—I do not like to use the word "appoint a Commission," but why they should not ask three or four thoroughly competent persons, not necessarily doctors, but perhaps including one doctor among the number—persons quite disinterested, so far as any member of the public can be disinterested—to go to France and to visit the hospitals there, to examine practitioners who have been in the hospitals here and at the front, to investigate this matter, and to discover whether the impressions formed by distinguished surgeons by occasionally visiting a particular point at the front really present the true aspect of the general working of the whole medical service throughout the War; or whether, in the light of the knowledge so gained, they will not report to the right hon. Gentleman that there has been a very considerable and avoidable breakdown, so that in the coming months, when we expect and believe that the fighting will be more serious than any we have yet seen, the people of this country may be a little reassured in regard to this matter, and may not, at all events, feel that the Government have refused to listen to criticism, have refused to try and find out for themselves what the facts are, and have refused to give to the sick and wounded in the Army the best Medical Service which the country can procure.
§ Major ASTOR
We have listened to a very interesting speech from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, a speech containing very grave charges connected with the Army Medical Service. I am not going to deal with those points, although I do occasionally run up against the Medical Service unofficially, and I have had the privilege of being associated with a fairly big hospital. It has been my privilege also to see the way in which the wounded are brought over from France, the way they are landed at Southampton, and to visit some of the hospitals. Although a great deal of what my hon. Friend has said may be true, I do not think, from what I have seen, that matters are quite so black and serious as we might be led by him to believe. My hon. Friend mentioned three names. Personally, I do not know and have not seen the work of General Sloggett or General 2139 Macpherson, but I have had to see on numerous occasions, sometimes connected with perfectly trivial matters and sometimes on questions of policy, Sir Alfred Keogh, and all I can say is that on every occasion I have found Sir Alfred Keogh singularly accessible, particularly anxious to investigate any question whether big or small, and a man who, in spite of his age, is remarkably fresh in mind. My hon. Friend mentioned various breakdowns in the Medical Service. I am not certain that the method he suggested, namely, that when a division moved it should leave behind its motor ambulances and Medical Service, would, as a matter of fact, diminish the breakdowns. He based his suggestion, as I understood it, on the fact that we are now waging a stationary mode of warfare, and that, although the present system is suitable when warfare becomes mobile, it is unsuitable for a stationary mode of warfare. I imagine the difficulty is that in warfare you cannot say when you are going to leave the stationary and be driven or go into the mobile form of warfare. My hon. Friend mentioned a case of wounded being left neglected in farm houses and forgotten. It may be some satisfaction to know that similar occurrences happened in the early stages of the War with our opponents. I know of an officer who was taken to a farm house near Mons, looked after by the Germans, his wound dressed, his leg put right. He was forgotten entirely by the Germans, so that when his leg got right he was able to escape from Belgium and return to England. I have no very intimate personal knowledge of the Medical Service, and I can therefore only give the House the result of my experience through running up against it occasionally.
There is another question intimately connected with this matter, that is the presence in the Army of medical unfits. We are continually having cases brought before us of men absolutely unsuited to serve as combatants finding their way into the Army. Some months ago a commanding officer told me of three men who were recently sent to him. One was obviously under age, the second had two fingers missing from his right hand, and the third was suffering from chronic alcoholism—I think the official designation was "muscular tremor." Anyway, all three were absolutely unsuited for combatant service. I do not want to deal so 2140 much with the question of these particular men, or with the responsibility of the medical officers who in the past have sent absolutely unsuitable men into the Army. It has been proved over and over again that this has happened. What I wish to put before the House is the fact, not that these men have been allowed by overworked medical officers to get into the Army, but that the War Office have kept these men in the Army when they have been discovered to be unfit, and that they have not discharged them. This involves a very great loss to the community. If you have a soldier, a married man, who is unfit and keep him when he is practically of no use as a combatant, you are running up a heavy bill in the way of separation allowances. You are also further injuring the country in that you prevent a man who-might get employment from now getting a job. You keep him in the Army, and if you keep him long enough you make it impossible for him to get employment, because when eventually the Army comes, back from France and sound men are available in the labour market, it will be exceedingly difficult for the unfit to get work. Therefore, in the national interest, the War Office should do all in its power to get rid now of the unfit from the Army. Let these men go and get employment. Let them increase the production of the country, but do not let us keep them in the Army.
I can only imagine that these unfits are kept in the Army in consequence of the policy, or rather the absence of policy, of the Government over recruiting. The Government in the past have not taken us into their confidence in dealing with the men that were needed for the Army. We have often been told that there were so many million men under Arms, or so many million men in uniform. It is no good having a man in uniform when he is so unfit that he is not suitable for the mildest form of Home defence. There have in the past been thousands, tens of thousands, and I suppose even hundreds of thousands of unfit men kept nominally for Home defence, who in fact and in practice would have been unsuitable for defending our homes if the Germans had been so venturesome as to appear. It might have been thought necessary to do this in order to deceive the Germans. I suppose the German spies reported that there were so 2141 many men in uniform, and were not able to listen to their hearts, or thump their lungs, or ascertain exactly if anything was the matter with them. The reason I bring the question forward is that this seems to me another case of deceiving the people. It is all very well to deceive the Germans, but we do not want at the same time to deceive the people by telling them that we have a huge Army, when a considerable proportion of that Army is unfit for service. I suggest that it has been mixed up with the whole policy, or absence of fixed policy, in connection with recruiting in the past. If the Government had not been able to point to the large number of men in uniform there would have been a stronger case for dealing at an earlier date with the problem of recruiting. It is part of the general policy of sham, of make-believe, and of not trusting the people. During the last few days we have listened to numerous interesting speeches on the subject of recruiting. It seems to me that the War Office, or rather the Government—because on this we are touching a matter of Government policy—have failed hopelessly in not making up their minds what number of recruits will be needed for the Army to carry out the operations upon which they have embarked. It is no good having your barracks, camps, and huts full and overwhelmed during January and February, to have them empty during March and April, and to have only 25 per cent. of the rooms occupied during the other months. You want a steady flow into the Army. You do not want to be overwhelmed with men in one month and wait until the whole question of recruiting becomes a public scandal before dealing with it again.
Leaving that particular point, I wish to deal with another. An hon. Member opposite speaking to-day referred to the fact that in a large number of cases the military members of the local tribunals were civilians. That is another proof, if proof were needed, of the intimate association between the Army and the people. Listening to the Debate during the last two days, a Debate which has stretched from matters of strategy to the most domestic details of the individual, I have been much impressed by the fact that a great deal of the criticism directed against War Office administration was really criticism directed against Government policy. I regret to say that I see in the War Office many of the faults that we 2142 are continually noticing in the Government. We frequently find in dealing with War Office administration the same indecision, the same inability to make up their minds rapidly, and the same lack of personal example. The Cabinet have never yet realised the value of personal example. They do not realise even to this day the value of striking the imagination of the people of the country.
The Financial Secretary to the War Office, in reply to a question of mine yesterday, stated that the War Office were still considering the question of the double pay given to officers who, before August, 1914, were on the retired list, but who are now receiving the pay they were then drawing as retired pay and, in addition, are being paid by the War Office their full pay as officers on the active list. I know why it is that the War Office came to this conclusion. The point I wish to make at the present time is that the hon. Gentleman gave the same answer some weeks ago, namely, that the War Office were considering this question. We have now been at war eighteen or twenty months. This particular problem has been before the War Office presumably on and off during the whole of that time. Perhaps it is not an easy question to settle, but it is not an insoluble question. Either the War Office should make up its mind to go on indefinitely paying these officers from two sources, that is, go on giving them their pay as active officers and also the pay which was due to them when they were on the retired list, or the War Office should come to a conclusion, cease considering and announce what their decision is going to be. We have heard a good deal of abuse and criticism from outside of Members of this House because we are not setting a better example to the country in connection with our salaries. I am not going to deal with the question of the payment of Members. During the last few months, while I have been temporarily moving in military circles, I have heard very frequently the expression "those dashed politicians," though the epithet used was rather more military. The criticism has been levelled against us, is not that we are being paid more than we deserve, not that we are overpaid, because every Member of this House obviously could earn more than he is receiving by way of salary, but that we are not giving the country an example. The reason I put forward the question of the double pay of officers is not because I think 2143 that these officers do not deserve the combined pay they are now getting, but because the War Office, like the House of Commons and like the Cabinet, has failed to realise the importance of giving the country a personal example. I should be far from saying that officers who receive this double pay do not deserve it. I have seen many of them, and gallant officers they are. Many of them have been on the retired list for a large number of years, and they have come, like Cincinnatus from the plough, to serve their country, realising that it will never be their good fortune to go to France, and yet undergoing hardships—and the hardships in the early days of the home camps were very great—with far less grumbling often than the younger officers, and doing their best. Many of them have told me that they did not want this double pay and they thought it was ridiculous, and I suggest, if this matter really is still under consideration, it is worth while for the War Office to give the country, not exhortation, but a practical example of economy.
I listened yesterday, going from the more domestic points to the wider sphere, to a speech from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Lambert), in which he dealt very comprehensively with the strategy not only of the War Office but of the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman criticised the War Office, and of course he was really criticising the Government, for the way in which they have carried out little expeditions and were having little engagements all over the world. It seems to me that the criticism against the Government is not with the quantity but with the quality of the expeditions, not with the things they have done but the way in which they have done them. With the British Empire fighting against the German Empire and with the German Empire stretching, as it now does, from the Baltic to the Dardanelles, we cannot possibly say that we shall attack Germany only on the Western front, in France and in Flanders. We are bound to attack the Central Empire in many different spheres. Where the Government deserve criticism, where they have laid themselves absolutely open to it, is the way in which they have carried out these expeditions. Mesopotamia! They sent one expedition insufficient for the job. They sent out a second expedition insufficient for its job, 2144 unable even, as we are now learning from different sources, to give that attention to the wounded which the wounded in that sphere, as in other spheres, deserve. We find exactly the same policy in Gallipoli—doing it; but not doing it adequately. We find the same at Salonika. Before leaving this I should like to say one word on the Balkan question and on the Salonika Expedition. The right hon. Gentleman who was speaking yesterday, as I understood him, advocated the withdrawal of our force from Salonika. His reason was that our main door into Germany is in France on the Western frontier. If you cannot get into a house by the front door, you have to try to get in by the back door, and if you cannot get in either by the front or the back door, you have to try to creep in through the window. Another reason. We are pressing on the Western front, and the Russians are pressing on the Eastern front. If we were to withdraw from Salonika the first result would be that the Bulgarians, the Austrians, the Germans, and the Turks would concentrate upon Roumania and Greece, and would force them to abandon their neutrality and come in against us. If Roumania came in against us, Russia would be attacked in her rear flank. She would be attacked through Bessarabia, through the Black Sea, and through the Caucasus, and we should be looking in vain for the Russian offensive which we are all counting on in the near future when our gallant Allies are ready once again to take up the offensive.
Another point I wish to deal with is the principle on which pensions have been given to soldiers who are discharged from the Army disabled. I am not now talking of pensions for soldiers discharged through disease. That was dealt with yesterday at considerable length. I raise this question to-day because there is a very prevalent feeling among disabled soldiers that their pension, when they get it, will depend very largely upon their skill and aptitude. That is the impression, and it is because there is this very prevalent impression that I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to make a statement which will dispel this particular opinion. A pension can be granted to a man to supplement what he can earn for himself. His earning capacity depends partly upon his skill and partly upon his physical disability. I hope that in giving pensions the Chelsea Commissioners will not take into consideration the skill 2145 and aptitude of the individual, but will only take into consideration his physical disability. At present it looks as if they were taking into consideration the skill which he either has or might acquire. Only the other day I saw a man who had his leg off. When he was first discharged he was granted a pension of 14s. Then he had a pension of 18s. 9d., and subsequently it was raised to 25s., and when I saw him it had been reduced to 10s. 6d. That man was not suffering from heart or lung. There was no disease which might get better or worse after a period of twelve months. No amount of waiting would make his leg grow. That man was not a loafer; he had learnt a trade, and when I saw him he was earning 20s. a week. He was firmly convinced that his pension, which once was raised to 25s., had been dropped to 10s. 6d. because he had learnt a trade. Next to him in the workshop where he was working was another man who had also lost a leg—not quite so much of it. He had no skill and he was drawing a. pension of 25s. It is most important that the policy of the War Office should not be to allocate a pension to a man according to the skill which either he has or may acquire. I cannot emphasise too empratically that it is most important that my right hon. Friend should make a perfectly clear statement to sweep away this misunderstanding, which undoubtedly exists at present. This question, of course, is involved with our Pension Bill at the end of the War. I would far rather have a huge Pension Bill and, at the same time, have the pensioners adding to the production of the country by their skill and aptitude. I would far rather have a man drawing 20s. a week and producing 15s. worth of goods every week than receiving a smaller pension and producing less. We are going to pay for this War, not by our economies, but by the increased production of this country after the War. We want to make every man realise that when he leaves the Army he can serve the State by increasing the production of the country. It is far better to give a man a pension based entirely upon his physical disability and to ignore entirely the skill which he has or which he may acquire. Further, a man should not receive the same pension if he loses an arm or a leg or a foot. The other day I saw two men; one of them had his arm taken off at the shoulder. He was getting the same disability pension as another fellow who had 2146 lost his foot. It is quite obvious that a man with a wounded foot is able to earn a great deal more than a man who has had the whole of his arm taken off. I sincerely trust the right hon. Gentleman will look into the whole principle on which these pensions are being allotted.
Another point connected with this is the grant given to a discharged disabled man for the support of his children. I ran across a case the other day of a man who was receiving 25s. and each of his children was getting 2s. 6d. The Chelsea Commissioners decided to reduce the pension to 10s. 6d., and at the same time they reduced the grant to the children to 1s. 3d. It is perfectly true that that man may have been able to earn sufficient for himself, and had only lost a foot or an arm or whatever it might be. But although the man's pension might perhaps have bean reduced, there was no justification for halving the grant he was getting for his children. They required just as much food, they will in the future require more food. I trust this will be another point which will be considered.
There are now in this country hundreds, probably thousands, of men housed, clothed, and fed at the Government expense in hospitals, men who are going to be discharged from the Army as disabled—men being maintained at the expense of the Government. Everyone in the hospitals knows that they are of no further use to the State as combatants. They may have lost their arm or their foot. I have seen many myself spending months in hospital before they are discharged. They are undergoing treatment. During the whole of these months nothing is being done to assist them in the way of getting employment and in the way of acquiring skill which will be of use to them when they leave the Army. Why wait until they have left the Army? Why wait until the whole question becomes infinitely greater and then have again to feed and house them, and only then, when they have left the Army, begin to give them some training? This is a really important question, and one which I hope the Government, when dealing with the whole problem, will look at. The representatives of the War Office who spoke yesterday told us their sympathies were with the disabled, and that it was the policy of the War Office to help the disabled. I trust that this question of assisting the disabled will soon get beyond 2147 perorations, that it will soon pass from the consideration stage, and that in the near future we shall get action.
§ Captain AMERY
I concur most heartily in what my hon. Friend has said about the folly and the dishonesty of enlisting into the Army by the ten thousand, and even by the hundred thousand, men who are of no possible use for any kind of military service, The subject has been a great Scandal for very many months. A certain group of Members on the other side of the House seem to have discovered the question of the enlistment of unfit men since the introduction of the Military Service Act, and they, and that portion of the Press which supports them, seem to think that it is one of the consequences of what they call conscription that men who are of no use for any military purpose should be haled into and compelled to serve in the Army. I would remind these hon. Members that for the whole of a year past, in order to conceal the failure of the voluntary system, men utterly unfit for military service have been recruited, and have clogged the whole of our military machinery right through the country. I remember very well that when some of us called attention to that matter last autumn we were accused of slandering the Army in the interests of a base conspiracy for Conscription. I wonder if hon. Members opposite have any idea of the magnitude of this evil. I have been told from various sources, in which I have confidence, that the number of men we have been keeping in the Army during the past year who are unfit for any military purpose, who are a sheer waste and a burden upon the Army Estimates, is something like 200,000. The other day the Prime Minister told us that the present cost of a soldier was something like £250 a year. If that is true, and if that is the average cost, then we have wasted in that way alone something like £50,000,000 of public money in the mere cost of keeping these men, apart from the waste involved in withdrawing them from civil occupations, and apart from the waste involved in the interference with training caused by their presence in the ranks. Why was such a large sum as £50,000,000, taken from the taxpayer, thrown away in this manner? I will tell the House. It is because the Government were not prepared last year to face the urgent decision which" they ought to have faced long ago. It was to enable right hon Gentlemen on the Front 2148 Bench opposite who held views diametrically opposed to each other on the most urgent and important question as to the conduct of this War, to go on sitting in the same Cabinet, to go on pooling their salaries, and paralysing each others activities in the Cabinet and outside. That is only part of the whole system of procrastination, make-believe, and muddle which has resulted in the recruiting difficulties with which we are confronted to-day.
It is no new mess with which the Government are confronted. It is a mess which has been a whole year in coming about. It is just about a year ago that the voluntary system of recruiting began to break down. I am the last person to disparage the splendid effort of voluntary patriotism, which in the first months of the War created the New Armies. The trouble is this, that when the New Armies were created, and when their framework was established in the early months of last year, voluntary recruiting was not able to maintain the Army that voluntary recruiting had provided. From about this time last year onwards our Army, instead of increasing, was steadily and slowly beginning to dwindle. Instead of being able to perfect its training, its training was progressively being disorganised by want of men. Battalions for service at the front were broken up and converted into battalions for training, and battalions for training were so skimmed of all their men who had had anything like adequate training that men were sent to the front by tens of thousands who were utterly unfit for active service. Second line Territorial divisions intended to take their place in the fighting line were converted into mere feeders of first line Territorial units at the front, and only now, after they have been spoiled for their purpose by months and months of depletion, they are supposed to be reconverted for fighting purposes. All this time the Army at the front have been suffering from shortage of men. This was the situation, and we all realise it now. It was known to a great many of us as far back as the early months of last year, and when we endeavoured to raise it in the House, what happened? The Prime Minister, before the House separated at the end of July, assured us that there was nothing amiss, and that recruiting was better than ever. I wonder what authority he 2149 had for that statement. It was a monstrous statement. It was a scandalous statement. Its object was to reassure the House of Commons. Its object was to avoid dissension on the Treasury Bench. I wish we sometimes realised the true, inward meaning of these reassuring, bland statements from the Prime Minister, and realised what they mean in thousands of good men killed, and what they mean in the burden imposed on this country which we shall have to bear for generations. That is the true meaning of the bland assurances from the Prime Minister. Some of us endeavoured, in face of a great deal of obloquoy and of the accusation of being intriguers and conspirators, to bring before the attention of the House of Commons and of the country the urgency of the situation. We also tried to bring home the fact that no changes that could be carried out could be carried out over night, and that the administrative consequences of any legislation dealing with the problems of recruiting would take months to develop. It was for that very reason that we urged that something should be done early last autumn. What were we met with? Evasion and procrastination.
At the end, the seriousness of the situation was so universally known that something had to be done, and in view of the facts and of the feeling in the House of Commons and the feeling in the Cabinet, the Prime Minister, to avoid the agony of a definite decision on the question of compulsion, snatched at the straw of the Derby scheme. That scheme was supposed to be a voluntary scheme. It was a voluntary scheme for a few days only, because the voluntary scheme collapsed from the very outset. Its appeal to the married men and to the older classes fell hopelessly flat from the outset, unless these classes could have the assurance that the younger unmarried classes were going to be called up before them. So, after the usual evasion and the usual wrigglings, we at last got the Prime Minister pinned down to a definite pledge. From the moment that pledge was given voluntary service was at an end. The pledge was compulsion, latent compulsion it may be, as indeed, is compulsion in any country that has universal service where men came forward willingly. What was the meaning and the effect of that pledge? That pledge told the single men that unless they came forward in sufficient numbers to satisfy the married 2150 men they would be dealt with compulsorily. Some single men under that impulsion enlisted straight away. Others joined the group system; others were content to think that if they moved about often enough they would not be discovered and would end in avoiding any compulsory service. Tens of thousands took the opportunity of drifting away, as we have already been told this afternoon, into the reserved and badged occupations, where they hoped they would be safe. Is not that a situation which could obviously have been foreseen, and which it must have been seen would occur? Why were no measures taken to prevent that happening? Was it fair to the married men that unmarried men by tens of thousands should escape their obligations to serve by going into the protected industries? On the other hand, is it fair to industry, does it conduce to efficiency, and does it conduce to economy, that after you have allowed men to go into these industries and to learn the rudiments of these industries, and to some extent become proficient in these industries, you should drag them out again? You began by enlisting skilled munition workers in the Army and you have been compelled to drag them back again. By refusing to face the question involved you allowed another lot of men to drift into munition industries, and then in order to fulfil your pledge to the married men you have to drag them out again. I think that that alone is a sufficient condemnation of the manner in which the Government have dealt with this great problem of recruiting.
Let us take the pledge as it affects the married men. I admit that if you look at the words of the Prime Minister the pledge said nothing more than that the married men would not be called upon to serve until the unmarried men had been dealt with, whatever "dealt with" means. Certainly the married men understood it to mean that they would not be called upon to serve until the overwhelming mass of unmarried men had been called upon to serve, not "dealt with" by being protected in reserved industries, not "dealt with" by having appeals made which may be months before they are settled. When we consider the attitude of the married men at this moment we have got to take into account not only what the Prime Minister pledged in this matter, but what was said to the married men by the whole body of recruiters and canvassers throughout the country. They may not have been 2151 officially authorised, but the fact is that, whether the authorisation was official or not, men who, on the strength of certain representations, are staking all their interests and their lives feel very strongly when they find that those representations were misrepresentations. We know very well that enormous numbers of these married men enlisted to be an example to the rest of the country, men who were told they could not possibly be called up, that their circumstances were such that they were bound to be exempt, but that if they only attested in sufficient numbers the younger classes of the married as well as the unmarried men would be compelled to come forward, and, therefore, you would get, without the need of compulsory law, the universal service of a patriotic nation. Now we find that of these attested married men the first eight groups were called up within a day or two of the calling up of the first single men under the Military Service Act. An hon. Gentleman asks why? It is because of the bitter need of the Army for men. Do you suppose they would have been called up for any other reason in the world? They have been called up, and, in consequence, they are worse off than single men who have attested and appealed. They are worse off than single men who have gone hiding away in reserved occupations; they are worse off than single men who moved about and of whom no track was kept. They are worse off than the married men who have not attested. The feeling among married men who have attested in this country is immensely strong, I do not think that the strength of it is half realised in this House or by the Government. It is a feeling with which we have got to deal. I, personally, have always looked upon the whole question of dealing with the needs of the country by pledges as a ridiculous one; but that pledge having been given it has got to be fulfilled, and the first question, the question before this House to-day, is how the problem of the married men is to be faced and how the pledge is going to be made good.
The other day certain suggestions were made in the House of Lords by Lord Derby, and there is one other suggestion which I would make myself before coming to those. I would suggest that the Government should, through the Home Office or the War Office or whatever means are thought proper, take steps that no man can dodge the Military Service Act by 2152 just changing his address and not presenting himself. There seems to be no reason why the authorities should not visit works and should not be empowered to visit houses, stop men in the street, find out where is their registration certificate, find out whether they are liable for service under the Act, and if they are so liable for service and have not got an exemption certificate and have not appealed to the tribunal for exemption, arrest them there and then. That may seem somewhat drastic, but it is certainly not drastic when you think of the case of a man on the other side of the Channel who has voluntarily come forward and who, in a moment of weariness or exhaustion or depression, shrinks from joining his battalion in the trenches for a week and hides in some village; such a man is shot, and in comparison it seems to be a very small thing to ask the Government to take measures to find out the men who are dodging the Military Service Act and arrest them on the spot. Lord Derby has suggested that we should get rid of all badged, starred, and reserved occupations for unmarried men under thirty-one years of age. Not a few of us felt when this measure was being passed through the House of Commons that the right to give Government Departments power to exclude vast classes of men even from the purview of the tribunal was bound to lead to a breakdown. I am glad to say that with a score of others I divided against the Government on the subject, and I am glad to say that the Government have now seen the force of that. At least, I gather from what has been said in the House of Lords that they have, and that now the wholesale reserving must cease and that the burden of proof should rest on the individual before the tribunal as to his really being indispensable, and that failing, that he is to be regarded as a soldier; that naturally and normally the man is to be regarded as a soldier and that he himself has got to prove before the tribunal that it is in the interests of the nation that he should be exempted.
Another suggestion made by Lord Derby is, that all those, either single or married, who have joined reserved occupations since the 15th of August last should be taken out of those occupations and be made liable for service. I think that that is fair. I think it would have been much fairer to the men themselves and to the industries which have taken those men if the Prime Minister when he gave that pledge had 2153 warned men that they were not going to dodge the Act by entering into reserved industries, so that some steps would have been taken to prevent this immense waste of effort, this waste of efficiency caused by men joining these occupations for a few months and then being dragged out. Another difficulty confronts us in dealing with these men. Under one of the provisions inserted in the Military Service Act, in order to get rid of the bogey of industrial compulsion, it was provided that if a man's certificate lapsed or was taken away he was to have two months in which to look round for another occupation and to get another certificate. That means that even if by administrative measure you now withdraw all those certificates of exemption from those men, as regards those who are under the Military Service Act, you cannot get hold of them for two months, while the men who voluntarily attested before the Military Service Act, as an example to others, can be got hold of at once. The married men who attested before, who have gone into reserved occupations, of course can be got hold of. They are Reservists. They have none of the privileges of the men who hung back. The married men who held back you cannot get out of their industries. You have no legal power to do so.
Another very serious problem which has to be faced is, "Are you, after all the promises that have been given in this respect, again to make the position of the men who attested voluntarily worse than the position of the men who waited until the Military Service Act compelled them? Are you to compel one lot to serve at once by withdrawing their certificates and give the other two months' postponement, or indeed give them total exemption which they acquire in virtue of the fact that they are married men?" There is a wider problem which has got to be faced than satisfying the married men with regard to the position of the single men. You have got to satisfy the attested married men as to the justice of their being called out now when 1,000,000 unattested married men can snap their fingers at the recruiting officers. That is a very concrete, practical question which you have got to face. I will give one instance of the kind of reasons which make it necessary to face that problem. Suppose you now haul out of those reserved industries the single men. Those industries will want to be refilled. With whom are you going to refill them? Are you going to 2154 refill them with older men, with women, with men who are not physically fit, perhaps with the older married men, or are you going to let the younger, hardy married men of military age, thoroughly fit for military service, go into those industries and find that in two or three months, when you want more men, you have got to haul them out again, thus causing the greatest dislocation?
These problems cannot be put off. You have got to face the whole problem now and envisage it as a whole. Above all, I wish to press this point. We are dealing not merely with the question of satisfying the indignant feelings of the attested married men, though you have got to satisfy them. But you have got to satisfy something else—you have got to satisfy the bitter urgent need of our Army for men who will go out to defeat the Germans. That is the real point, and that is one which the Government has refused to face. It refused to face it last year. It refused to face it in the Military Service Act when some of us urged an Amendment which would have been to some extent an improvement in that Act, but which would have been inconvenient, as it was felt that forty or fifty men would go into the Lobby against the Government. Then we had the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) coming down to this House with a message from Lord Kitchener to this effect. "Lord Kitchener authorises me to say that this Bill will give him, by bringing in the unmarried men, all the men he requires. It will enable him to provide the troops that the nation requires. It will enable him to do all that we can and all that is necessary to be done to secure victory." It is impossible for me to say how far that represents the actual meaning that Lord Kitchener wished to convey or how far he may or may not have been misunderstood by my right hon. Friend. All I say is that, whoever it may be who was responsible for that statement, it was a gravely misleading statement, and one that ought never to have been made in this House, because it was not true. And the fact that it was not true has been proved already when we find that this Act is not producing the men required, and that if we take in all the single men, as I gather Lord Kitchener said in the House of Lords within the last hour or so, even then you would have to call upon the married men within a few weeks.
2155 And even then does anyone suppose that you will have enough to carry through this War? Why? I need not go into figures, but I have heard on every hand that we are short of troops at the front and in the training brigades at home. Only the other day I had a letter from one brigadier who told me that his brigade was still 3,600 short out of 8,000. I do not think that that is an exception or an isolated instance. Remember another thing. A tremendous battle has been going on during the last few weeks around Verdun, the whole stress and cost of which has fallen upon our gallant French Allies. The object of that battle is to paralyse the offensive of the Allies in the West within the next few months, and though the casualties are not falling upon us during these weeks, still the French Army is so many thousand men short, and will be by so much the weaker for the offensive when it has got to come; and it is upon us that the task devolves of replacing the men who are falling around Verdun. We have got to face the problem as a whole. What is the problem? To find the men who will win this War and will give us peace in the shortest possible time, who will do it consistently with the production of munitions to the highest degree of efficiency and with the smallest amount of dislocation of labour and of industry. Is it conceivable that this country can do that if we leave on one side, entirely out of account, 1,000,000 unattested married men mostly fit for active service, a very large proportion of them in industries which have nothing to do with munitions or the export trade? You cannot leave those men out of account. We have left Ireland out of account for political reasons. From the military point of view it is a serious thing. But in refusing to take account of that 1,000,000 unattested married men you are leaving out of sight three times as many combatants as are still left in Ireland. The Allies have prided themselves greatly within the last few months on the fact that they have managed to save for the future conduct of the War a considerable part of the gallant Serbian Army. But we do not face the fact that we still have six or seven times as many men fit for fighting whom we do not want to touch—dare not touch. They have left out in these unattested married men—I dare say as many as the whole reserve of untouched men in Germany, and enough to 2156 turn the final scale of victory in the course of the next few months. Why do they not touch them? It is because the Government are afraid to take certain steps, are afraid to go against the prejudices of the member of the Cabinet who discreetly inspired the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Alden) in his action. The Government will have to face this question.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is forecasting what may possibly need legislation, and legislation cannot be discussed in Committee of Supply.
§ Captain AMERY
I do not suggest that any particular universal service measure should be passed. It may be possible that the unattested married men might be dealt with by a lavish use of posters, by more vulgar posters, and by money; it may be possible to put difficulties in the way of the life of unmarried men who are unattested; they might be boycotted in the streets, and a great many things might be done to drive them into the field, so I do not necessarily suggest legislation. I do submit, however, that this problem has to be met in an adequate way, whether by administration or legislation. The Government must face the problem to-day, and not let these men get into the reserved industries, or in other ways make the problem more difficult. You cannot do these things from hand to mouth. You must prepare beforehand to enable your legislation to be followed by proper administration. The Government are still hesitating, and still unable to make up their minds. We have in this country resources in wealth, in numbers, and patriotism, which ought to make victory absolutely beyond doubt. I confess that "when one contemplates the way in which a problem like this of recruiting has been dealt with by His Majesty's Government, I doubt if any resources or any degree of patriotism would overcome the handicap of the leadership under which this country suffers.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Long)
I am quite sure that the House will regret as sincerely as I do the absence of the Prime Minister, who, had he been well, would have taken part in this Debate, and obviously anything said by him would come with greater authority than it could come from any other member of the Government even speaking with his approval and even on his direction. Personally, I may remind the House—I do not suppose 2157 it has forgotten it—that I do not happen to belong to the particular political party of which the Prime Minister has been the distinguished chief for so many years, but I regret, as an old Member of this House, that it should be thought necessary in our Debates to make personal attacks upon the Prime Minister, especially when he is absent, and when his absence is caused by illness. I do not regard it as my duty, as one who has the honour to serve under him, to defend him from charges of this kind. That is unnecessary. I only regret that hon. Members think it necessary to make them. The speech of my hon. Friend (Captain Amery), so full of interest, and marked by that ability which he possesses in so great a degree, was marred, if he will forgive me for saying so, in my humble opinion, by his peculiar characteristics. He is always cocksure that he is right, and not only that the other fellow is wrong, but that the other fellow is certainly a fool, and may be even a criminal, and, therefore, his arguments lose some of their force, weight, and importance, because he attributes to those who happen to be so unfortunate as not to be so brilliantly endowed as he, and to differ from him, every vice on earth, and the commission of every kind of crime. Really, as I listened to my hon. Friend's speech, I wondered how he could sit in the company of men of such gross incapacity, as if their one object, and one object alone, is to lose the War and to destroy for ever the foundations on which this Empire rests.
I will deal with some of the recruiting problems raised by my right hon. Friend later on. I want just to say this, that surely he has lost sight, in the latter part of his speech, of the fact that the duty of the Government is not only to look at this question, as he looked at it in his speech, solely from the point of view of soldiers in the field. It is our bounden duty to get soldiers to fight alongside those splendid fellows who have won undying laurels on the various fields of battle, but it is not only that. We have another duty, and the hon. Gentleman would be the first to denounce us if we sent soldiers to the front and did not supply them with the munitions of war, without which they would be useless. It is not only munitions of war that have to be supplied, but every equipment of the soldier in the field, as my hon. Friend well knows, has to be provided in this country by our own people to a very large extent. My hon. Friend knows these problems in and out, and he has an advan- 2158 tage which is not always enjoyed by those who speak here, because he spends his mornings in the War Office and his afternoons in criticising it. He is no doubt able to speak with an authority which is not always enjoyed by the ordinary critic. I intervene in this Debate now to make a few general remarks on the topics which have been raised in the discussion begun yesterday, and also to make special references to recruiting and recruiting problems. I may perhaps be allowed to call the attention of the House to the fact that some of the questions that have been raised, notably the one raised in a powerful speech by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Augustine's, with some other questions, solely because my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for War, who made a speech yesterday on introducing the Estimates, cannot reply to those questions concerning his Department until Mr. Speaker is out of the Chair and we are in Committee. Every topic that has been raised in this Debate can be continued when we are in Committee. No Member suffers any disability by allowing Mr. Speaker to be moved out of the Chair, while there will be a distinct advantage if my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for War can soon proceed to deal with some of these topics which have been raised and which are now suspended and await his reply. Therefore I thought it right to rise, in order to make a general reply on behalf of the Government upon the Debate as a whole. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol (Mr. Hobhouse), in his speech, said that his one desire was to help the Government in the prosecution of the War. He repeated that several times, and I am sure he honestly meant it, but I was irresistibly reminded, as I listened to him, of the lines—It is all very well to dissemble your love,But why did you kick me downstairs?"—because my right hon. Friend delivered a very serious criticism of the Government policy, and he indulged in mysterious and sombre prophecy, especially as regards our own fate as a Government, but when he came to his remedy I found it wholly inadequate. His remedy is this: that we should adopt here a system that has never yet been adopted in this country—a secret Session of the House, and that the Government should follow, as he told us, the example of France and Germany, and take the House entirely into their confidence. I should like very much to know where my right hon. Friend obtained the 2159 information that leads him to suggest that this plan adopted in those two countries has satisfied the people. What does he know of the communications by the German Government to the German Reichstag? What does he know of the communications to a secret Session by the Government of France? What does he know of the satisfaction produced in Germany by this practice?
§ Mr. LONG
I do not deny it at all. My right hon. Friend was not listening to me. I was proceeding to deal with the effect of the communications made by the Government of those countries to their assemblies. What knowledge has my right hon. Friend got of the effect produced by this policy? The mere information as to the fact that these things take place is no good. It is no good to follow their example unless we are shown by evidence that they are doing better than we are doing, and that we believe this to be one of the reasons. What evidence is there that they are satisfied with what they are told in those countries, that they are doing better? What does he know of the result of the policy? What evidence is there that they are satisfied at all, or that, as a nation, they are doing better than this country, where, in this great War, more has been accomplished by the unity and combination of the people than has ever been known in any country of the world in so short a time? The only difference of opinion, if there be a difference, is whether the Government is active enough, and whether it is a matter of driving them still further. To suggest that our people are to be satisfied if the collective Members of Parliament are told by the Government how everything is going on, is to make a suggestion which I submit, with all respect, is one which the Government have no intention whatever of adopting. The suggestion is strangely inconsistent with one which is frequently made, that we should be governed by a smaller body than a Cabinet of twenty-three members, but my right hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol takes a different view.
2160 7.0 P.M.
He is not satisfied with twenty-three, but wants 670 collected into secret session, in order that they may be made parties with the Government 7.0 P.M. as to the policy of conducting the War. That is a suggestion which is not, I think, likely to commend itself to the people of the country as a whole. We were asked questions by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Sir J. Walton), in the very eloquent speech he made yesterday, and by the right hon. Member for Essex (Colonel Lockwood) as to the wounded in Mesopotamia. Nobody can regret or deplore more than the members of the Government do the fact that there should have been any suffering in any field of war for which they are responsible which could by any possibility have been avoided. The circumstances of that warfare are very well konwn, and I think it will be sufficient for me to say that every effort that can be made, whether by the Government of India or by the Government at home, is being made to see that everything that is possible is done for those who are the unfortunate victims of warfare in that part of the world. I am asked by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India, who I am sorry to say is also laid up and cannot be present, to say that the Viceroy of India and the Commander-in-Chief in India decided some weeks ago to send Sir William Vincent, a distinguished Indian Civil servant, and General Bingley to Mesopotamia to conduct an inquiry into the medical arrangements, and to take the necessary steps to remedy deficiencies. The War Office have supplied to the Indian Government two Indian general hospitals, complete with personnel, and the personnel of two more Indian general hospitals, one British stationary hospital of 400 beds, and one British general hospital of 1,040 beds, and 10O doctors and 100 orderlies. I hope this will satisfy the House that the Government are doing their utmost to see that every possible alleviation is provided for the sufferings of those who are unhappily wounded. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant) reminds me that the War Office here have offered to supply and to meet any demands, and believe they are fully able to meet any demands that can be made upon them. I hope, whatever reason anybody may have to believe in stories that may have reached them, that they will be satisfied that no effort has been spared, or will be 2161 spared, to do everything that should be done and that ought to be done under the circumstances.
§ Mr. LONG
About a month ago. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley made a powerful appeal to the House, which I am sure impressed us all, when he told us of a version of the history of the Battle of Loos. He spoke in language in no degree exaggerated—and it would be impossible to exaggerate language in this matter—of the magnificent heroism of the 15th Division. He told us that they had suffered awfully for want of support, and he asked if the generals who were responsible for that had been brought to book. He condemned heavily the Staff work. My right hon. Friend was, I think, unduly severe upon both generals and Staff. He will forgive me for reminding him that it is very easy to be wise after the event. The responsibility resting upon a Commander-in-Chief on the field conducting a great fight is tremendous. If it be when the battle is over, or if it turns out that some disposition has been wrong and proves so by the after effects, are you going to say at once that the man in command ought to be broke, until you know what all the facts of the case are? I can assure my hon. Friend—and I am speaking for the Government and the Secretary of State—that whether it be in the case of the Commander-in-Chief on the spot or his subordinates, or the Staff as a whole, records of what take place are sent home and they are most carefully studied by the Secretary of State with his advisers here; and I can assure my hon. Friend that he need be under no doubt whatever that if lives of gallant soldiers at the front were sacrificed by the incompetency of generals, the Secretary of State would not hesitate to exercise the powers he possesses, in conjunction with the Commanders-in-Chief, to remove such men from their commands, and, as a matter of fact, as my hon. Friend probably knows, men have been removed from commands during the duration of this War, and will be again if it appears that remaining there would be injurious to the best interests of the Army and of the country as a whole. I do not believe there is really any foundation for my hon. Friend's alarm. The sentiments he expressed were highly creditable to him, and in the interests of our Army, and, as he said, in the interests of the private 2162 soldier, the hero of this War, who has done such splendid and wonderful work for us, it is necessary that there should be no doubt whatever that inefficiency—culpable inefficiency—will meet with the punishment which undoubtedly it deserves.
There were two other questions raised, one by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Epping Division (Colonel Lockwood) the rations question, and the other by the hon. Member for Plymouth (Major Astor), who referred in the interesting speech he made a short time ago to the discharge of unfits from the Army. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Plymouth exaggerated in his statements at all. There is no doubt that there has been, and is to-day, an accumulation of men here at home who are unfit for foreign service. A Committee of which I have the honour to preside has been sitting at the War Office for some weeks and taking this matter into its immediate investigation, because it is a question of finance and economy. It is bad finance to enlist and train a man for the Army and then find when he has done weeks of service that he is only fit to remain at home here. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are taking men of the same stamp still!"] I am not quite sure of what my hon. Friend says, that they are taking a great many more still, but I am afraid it is so. Notwithstanding the tremendous efforts made by the Secretary of State and those working with him in the War Office, and notwithstanding that they have given most explicit directions and the clearest orders in regard to this question, I am afraid there are still cases where men are being taken who ought not to be admitted into the Army at all. I can only assure my hon. Friend that this matter has been under my own personal investigation at the War Office from the finance point of view, and it is engaging the attention now also of the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief of the Home Forces, and the Adjutant-General in the War Office. Only this morning I saw returns from various units in the country, indicating where these men under various commands have been found, and that they were being at once placed under order of discharge. I have seen the orders which have been sent out to the various officers commanding, and I know they are as clear as they can be. I hope, especially after the references to the subject in this Debate to-day, that the discharges of these men 2163 will be expedited, because if they can be discharged without delay it will help us enormously in this question of recruiting. Most of them are men who, though useless as fighting men, can be used in industry, whether it be on the land or in factories.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolver-hampton East (Mr. G. Thorne) made a very practical suggestion yesterday in regard to our difficulties in this respect. He pointed out that we are taking married men, and that they will be very costly, and he said, Can you not so arrange their training as to make them into what I may call "half-timers." I am not in a position to say more about that suggestion than this. At all events it has this advantage over much that has been said in this Debate, namely, that it is a suggestion and not a mere criticism. I very much doubt whether it would be so possible to train our men. We have not very much time in which to train them and make them efficient. They are, as everybody admits, wanted at the front to take their places alongside of the splendid fellows who are fighting for us. I doubt whether it would be possible to establish a system of training which would allow of the proposal put forward by my hon. Friend. It is, I think, closely related to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth. I think it is a mistake to blame the War Office for not having discovered all these remedies and plans in a moment. They have had a gigantic task before them, and they have accomplished it in a manner which deserves our eternal gratitude. We have to learn as we go along. What we really want is that the men being taken shall be used in the most economical manner, and that when you take a man you should judge of what he is qualified for, and that you should make the best use of him from his point of view and from the point of view of the State. I believe, without any diminution from military strength or lessening of the numbers, it may be possible to apply a rather better regulated system. I am confident by getting rid of the unfit men, and by trying to put every man into his right place, when you have got the men, that you will do more to help recruiting than by some of the more violent methods which I understand some people in the country think ought to be adopted.
Let me make one other general remark. The Government has been criticised for what is called its strategy. I am bound 2164 to say I should be very hopeless as to the end of the campaign if I saw that the House of Commons was called on to decide what should be the strategy of the Government in this War. We have been told we are dissipating our forces. As an old Member of this House I was rather impressed by and interested in the fact that the most emphatic Member about the dissipation of our forces, who is not now in his place, was my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. G. Lambert). He talked about our bad strategy and about having campaigns going on all over the world. I only joined the Government at the end of last May, and when I joined all those campaigns were going on. My right hon. Friend who appears now as a critic of the Government was a Member of the Government at that time.
§ Mr. LONG
Salonika is the only one which was not going on then, but I do not think it is one I should be prepared to run away from. The criticism that we are dissipating our forces and have too many campaigns going on does not come, I think, with good grace from those who were actually responsible from the very beginning of the War and in one of the fighting Departments, but, at all events, that is not a matter which we can debate here. So far the critics who have attacked us on this score have said, "The Government must remember that this country can do this or ought to do that." With great respect, it seems to me that that kind of criticism ignores the most important fact in this great War, namely, that we are fighting in conjunction with our splendid Allies. It is quite obvious that, in any consideration of our policy, whether on land or on sea, we cannot possibly approach the question from the point of view of Great Britain only and of what it would be convenient or desirable for Great Britain if she were standing alone to do. These are questions of the utmost delicacy and of the greatest difficulty. They are questions in regard to which probably the least said on the floor of the House the better. I shall certainly say nothing about them except this: Our Allies, or some of them, are separated from ourselves by many thousands of miles. The difficulties of Governments of countries so separated carrying on a joint war need no description. Yet there is this great 2165 fact for which we cannot be sufficiently thankful, and for which I really think hon. Members might give the Government some small credit, that after eighteen months of war, with all the different views which are held in these different countries, and all the different interests which these separate countries must have, the alliance to-day is probably stronger, more enduring, and more real than it has ever been, and the relations between our great Allies and ourselves are such as to give us full confidence, not only that to the end of this bitter struggle shall we stand shoulder to shoulder and fight as one nation, but that when it is over, when we have won the great victory, and when peace by the blessing of God has been restored, the alliance, friendship, and affection will not be ended, but will remain for ever as a proof that we have stood together as a common people and fought as if we were one nation. That, to my mind, is a most valuable fact. I venture to say that, in criticising our policy, or in suggesting that we have done this or that which is wrong, our critics are forgetful of our responsibility towards others in alliance with whom we are fighting, and that they ought, in fairness, to remember that these questions have to be decided from a broader point of view and on more general lines than would be possible if we had only ourselves, our own interests, and our own concerns to bear in mind.
The Government have been criticised in various directions. Personally, I think that criticism is a wholly excellent thing. I have been a member of one Government or another for a good many years, and I am sure that criticism spurring on is always a good thing, and as an old Parliamentarian I welcome it with all my heart. We need it, no doubt. On the other hand, the part of critic is so easy to play that I think sometimes Members assume it with greater willingness than the part of defence. In these criticisms upon the Government and their policy it might have been remembered that great changes have been made. In the first place, no reference has been made to the appointment of the War Committee, presided over by the Prime Minister, and attended by some leading Members of the Government, who have full power and authority to do what they think right, who meet daily, and who have before them always and everlastingly the problems which my hon. Friend opposite thinks 2166 the Government never consider. They can and do act. That is a change which has been effective and real, and one which ought, I think, to give some confidence and satisfaction to the House of Commons. We have also made another change—that is, the arrival at the War Office, as Chief of the General Staff, of Sir William Robertson, who is an enormous addition to the resources of the Government in deciding the many problems with which they have to deal. Anybody who has followed the career of that distinguished soldier must feel that the value of his presence at the War Office cannot be estimated, by those who do not know him, what his work has been, and what his work is to-day. These are changes which have been made and which we believe have helped to a more successful prosecution of the War. I do not think that, on the whole, we need plead guilty to the charges brought against us. I am not myself ashamed of our record. When the time comes—it has not come now—I do not think that these wholesale charges are really helpful to us in prosecuting the War; I do not think that they help either the Government or the country; but when the time comes, if I am in the House of Commons then, I shall be neither afraid nor ashamed to defend the part the Government have played during the last few months. I believe, notwithstanding the criticism which has been made, that it will be found that they have made the best use of the forces at their disposal.
In the course of the Debate we have had two speeches from new Members, who addressed us from practical and different points of view. I venture to say that all those who heard them will have felt as I felt, that both these hon. Gentlemen have proved themselves well able to take an effective part in our Debates, and that on this particular occasion we are all the better for the two speeches we heard. I believe that those speeches will have their effect, one upon the Air Service and the other upon recruiting. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for East Hertfordshire (Mr. Billing) I think that hon. Member was in error when he referred to the position of Lord Derby. I understood him to say that he believed that Lord Derby had disclaimed responsibility or power. That is a mistake. Lord Derby, when he made that statement, was referring to the air defence of London. He is 2167 not responsible for the air defence of London. That is under the Commander-in-Chief and the general officers responsible for London. But he has full power on his Committee and already, I am in a position to tell the House, very valuable work has been done in regard to air machines. He is now hoping to add to this Committee one or two members whose names will shortly be made public and who will carry great confidence. I can assure the hon. Member that if he likes to make suggestions to that Committee and to carry out the offers which he made here yesterday—short only of one—I am convinced that they will be warmly and gladly accepted by Lord Derby and his Committee. But I do not think the hon. Member will find that his offer with regard to bombs will be any more acceptable there than it was to Mr. Speaker here when it was made yesterday afternoon. As regards the hon. Member for Bolton (Captain Edge), I know the admirable work that he has been doing in connection with Lord Derby's scheme. We are very much indebted to him for giving a proof in this Debate that he is able not only to do good work in the country, but to make in a powerful speech some admirable suggestions here.
There has been a great deal of criticism about the Derby scheme, the pledge, and the action of the Government. Political memories are very short. I have listened with surprise to the charge that we have broken our pledge. I have taken the precaution to have a copy of that pledge on my table, and I challenge any fair-minded man to prove that I am wrong when I say that not only in the letter, but in the spirit, that pledge has been kept. The hon. Member for South Birmingham (Captain Amery) not only accused us of not having fulfilled our pledge, but made some references to a statement of mine here when I quoted Lord Kitchener's language. I am not quite sure whether he said that I misunderstood or misquoted Lord Kitchener. I am not sure whether he meant that I was a fool or a knave. I should very much like him to tell me. I took the precaution of bringing down the statement. Does my hon. Friend think that if I misquoted Lord Kitchener, Lord Kitchener would not have taken an opportunity long before this to put the matter right? My hon. Friend went on to say that the statement ought never to have been made. I did not understand whether 2168 my hon. Friend challenged my veracity or my opinion. The latter I should not mind; the other I should resent very much indeed. The one is a matter which concerns myself, and does not worry me at all.
§ Captain AMERY (indistinctly heard)
I certainly was not challenging either the right hon. Gentleman's veracity or his opinion. I still maintain that the statement was a very unfortunate one to make, and has proved to be inaccurate.
§ Captain AMERY
If I said it was not true, I meant that it was not accurate. I meant to say that it had been proved since not to be true by the fact that the men have not been provided. I certainly did not make the suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman attributes to me, and I do not think really that the House thinks I meant to make such a suggestion. All I said was that, whether the words used by him conveyed exactly Lord Kitchener's meaning or not—of which I was in doubt—unfortunately those words were used, and that statement was made, and the statement was not correct, as the facts have since proved. I leave it at that.
§ Mr. LONG
I only wanted to know who was the criminal. Apparently, what my hon. Friend meant to say was that events have since proved that Lord Kitchener's forecast was not correct. Of course, that is a totally different matter. That is an issue he and I can fight out on another occasion, and that Lord Kitchener will be quite able to deal with in due course. At the time when I made the quotation I used these very words which my right hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) has just been good enough to hand to me:"It will enable him to do all that he can, and all that is necessary to be done—to use his own words—to secure victory.I actually said at the time that I used his own words, so that really there can be no misunderstanding. Let me remind the House that we were dealing at that particular time with an Amendment in regard to men of a certain age. It is perfectly 2169 well known to everybody that it was limiting in its effect. Therefore, I really do not think that any such objection need be taken either to Lord Kitchener in using that language, or in criticism of me for giving that message, which it was my duty to give, to the House of Commons.
We are asked as to Lord Derby's position. I am glad here that nobody has thrown the smallest doubt upon Lord Derby's position or action. He has, as a volunteer, done a magnificent work in working what we now know as the "Derby scheme." That has produced for this country a very large number of men who have joined the Colours, or who are joining them now. From beginning to end Lord Derby has acted, as everybody who knows him knew he would act, in the interests of his country, and absolutely straightforwardly. If there was the smallest justification for the rather offensive charge so far as Lord Derby is concerned, that the pledge has not been kept, Lord Derby would be the very first man to refuse to have any further connection with those who had broken their promise to him, and their promise to the country. If anybody will read—I am not going to quote it in the House now, although I have it here—the terms of Lord Derby's famous letter which contained the pledge, which he wrote to the Prime Minister, and which the Prime Minister endorsed, he will find that my hon. Friend is really inaccurate when he says, not to-day, but, on another occasion, that this pledge has not been kept, and that the Military Service Act provides all sorts of loopholes which have destroyed the compulsory part of the service. In Lord Derby's letter there is reference to every one of the exemptions which were given effect to in the Act—every one of them. Lord Derby makes it perfectly clear that when he refers to unmarried men he does so, excepting those required for other purposes. Therefore Lord Derby, when he made that pledge, and the Prime Minister when he assented to it, did what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Birmingham (Captain Amery) did not do this afternoon, surveyed the whole requirements of the country, and the possible needs of the country, and made his pledge in perfectly clear terms, so as to make sure that there should be reserved for the needs of the country a sufficiency of men.
The Act gave effect to that pledge. So far as the Act is concerned, I am happy to say that up to the present there has been 2170 only one weak spot about it. That was the weak spot referred to by two or three speakers and by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Birmingham. I refer to the Clause in regard to what we know as industrial compulsion. The House remembers very well that our intention was to make it impossible for an employer to get rid of a man for some reason connected with his employment and then go to the recruiting officer and so get the man enlisted because of his discharge from his employment. That is what we desired to prevent. It was essential that it should be prevented. I think my hon. Friend is right when he says that that Section in the Act is rather too wide. At all events, I am quite clear of this—
§ Mr. LONG
I am quite clear that it is capable of some abuse. We have to watch that point very carefully. I do not think that up to the present it has been the cause of any real or serious trouble, but the Government are watching it very carefully, and if it should turn out to be true that it has been used improperly, that the Clause is being stretched in a way it was never intended to be stretched, then it will be for us to amend it. I do not see there is any anxiety on that head. There is certainly none in the figures before us. The essence of our pledge is that unmarried men are to be got to serve—subject to the other necessities of the country, as I have said. I have said that all through. The unmarried men have got to serve. Are the unmarried men of the country coming forward under this Act in the way anticipated? If not, why not? There is no doubt that in some places of industry, whether it be munitions or other factories, there are men who have gone there, not necessarily as shirkers, but who have gone in there, and these are men who ought to be eligible for the Army. But there are a great many who are not in these works at all, who are not attested, who are medically unfit, or who are actually in this new reserve, and therefore are giving potential service. It may be that they are actually serving. Many have not yet come forward, and that is one of the reasons why these numbers are short.
§ Mr. LONG
How can I give the figures when the thing is going on every day?
2171 Apart from that, I do not think it would be desirable to give the figures. It is quite obvious you could not have them, because there are these numbers short. This is only the middle of the month, the 15th March. The Act of Parliament came into force on the 2nd March. It is quite a new principle, a new form of legislation for this country. There is no machinery here, as there is in the countries where conscription is part of the general law of the land, which fits in with the carrying out of conscription. Is that unreasonable? Should we be surprised, much less amazed, if in ten or twelve days' working of the Act it does not go quite so smoothly or so rapidly as we should like? It is the business of the Government, and of the War Office, first of all to find these men who are not in munition factories, or in reserved occupations, who are actually there to-day, and who ought to be with the Colours at once. They have been proclaimed. They have had their notices. Every condition has been complied with, and these form a very large number of those absentees who are bringing about the result to which my hon. Friend referred. May I hope that not only in this House, in Debate and in speech, and not only outside this House, but in the country, where this recruiting is going on, the Government will have the whole-hearted support of hon. Members and their friends in compelling these men to do which the law says they have to do: that is, to join the Colours and take their place in the ranks.
The House will rest content that every step which can possibly be taken is being taken now. The War Office are on the track of many of these men. It is our determination that the law which has been passed, and which says that these men ought to be soldiers and ought to be preparing and beginning their training, shall be fulfilled; it is our determination to find these men and bring them up. Let me come to the other side of the question. I do not agree with some of the speeches made to-day. I do not disagree entirely, but I am inclined very much to agree with the resolutions which I find the married men are passing in the country. They do not talk, like my hon. Friend, about a breakdown of the whole thing, and so on. There is no whining about them. There are no wholesale charges made against 2172 the Government. Here is a resolution passed by a town in my own county on Monday last:That a very careful scrutiny should be made in the cases of single men in reserved occupations.
§ Mr. LONG
My right hon. Friend might allow me to continue my speech uninterrupted, for the subject is a complicated one. I want to make it perfectly clear, and I do not want to be longer than I can help. In this matter it is already known that we have what are called conferences. These conferences are attended by representatives of the Government Departments concerned and of the Secretary of State for War. We work through a Committee, largely composed, as was suggested by an hon. Member this afternoon, of permanent officials. I need hardly say that, I have known the permanent officials of this country much longer than my hon. Friend. I have been much more closely associated with them. I refuse altogether to accept his attack upon them as in any way justified. Knowing the public officials of this country as I do, I venture to say that there does not exist a finer or more capable body of public servants. All my hon. Friend suggested was that we should have a Committee of this House. What would be the very first thing for which a Committee of this House would ask? They would inquire for these very permanent officials to come and give the information without which they could not do their work. This would only mean prolongation of their labours and delay. Full power, however, does not rest with this Committee, as my hon. Friend seemed to think. The duty of that Committee is drastically to cut down these reserved occupations, and to find wherever they can men who can be released from these occupations in order that they may come to the Colours. I at least am confident that the result will be that we shall gain very greatly. This small Committee reports to our conferences, if necessary. Unless there is a difference of opinion, they make their recommendations and the men concerned are released, so that the first thing that is necessary we are doing now, and have been doing. In addition to this, inspectors both from the Home Office, from my Department, and from the Ministry of Munitions are inspecting factories, going right through in order to ascertain whether 2173 there are men there who ought to be released for service—men who are doing work of this kind who ought really to be with the Colours. They are making exhaustive inquiries in the factories, and also in the munition establishments. I believe the result of their work will, at all events, be to give us accurate information. We shall know better whether the statement is true that in these factories there are a great many men who ought to be with the Colours.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield made a very general charge that there are a great many men in mines who ought not to be there. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has called for a Return, through his inspectors, of the names of all men in the mines who have gone down since 14th August, 1915, and these men will lose their exemptions unless they can prove that they are essential to the employers at the present time. Consequently you will get rid of one of the sources of escape to which reference has been made, namely, mines or other places of industry to which, it is said, men have only gone in order to escape compulsion. As regards the recruiting officers, they have instructions that it is their business to investigate the cases, and to appeal against men who claim under what is called a general exemption. We were told to-day of a factory which is regarded as a reserve factory and that its men get exemption. The burden of proof is thrown upon the men, who have got to show they are entitled to have a certificate of exemption, and that they are indispenable to-day to the employers with whom they are working. Here again I am quite certain there is a wide field for improvement. That is what we are doing at the present time, and, short of a policy which, let me remind the House, nobody has suggested, and which we could not debate here if it were suggested, namely, a policy of universal compulsion, I do not know what more the Government could do to get at those men who are hiding themselves from the law. I do not know what more could be done vigorously and drastically to deal with the reserved industries. I do appeal to the employers in the country—I do not care whether they are in factories or on farms.
I am afraid the hon. Member for Mansfield was right when he said this afternoon that they did not realise in all parts of the country what the real gravity of this War is. To say they cannot spare a 2174 man here and they cannot spare a man there is no answer to the country in this moment of her need. They have got to spare them, and to substitute for them men who are not eligible or women. I saw the work done by the women in France when I was there. It was wonderful work, and, if I had not seen it, I could not have believed it. What the women of France have done, the women of England can and will do. They are offering their help on all sides, but the difficulty in some cases is that employers are unwilling to take them. It is up to every employer not to be content with criticising or blaming the Government—not to content himself by saying that the Government ought to do something and pass fresh powers. If we are united in our action, we have got the men and we can get them, and we must get them without destroying our industries, without lessening our power to find the equipment which is as essential to the Army as are the men themselves. This can be done, and I believe that if Members of this House and people in the country will be as vigorous in support of our action as they have been in criticism, our task will prove to be a much easier one than it may seem at first sight. I hope the House will agree that I have made the alterations in our procedure clear. I hope the House will agree that we have not let the grass grow under our feet, but that we are taking vigorous steps to do what we are determined to do, and that is to get the unmarried men who can be spared to the Colours, and to get them there as promptly as may be possible.
We fully understand the promise we have made to the married men. We appreciate their patriotism, but I must say I do not think their cause is helped by those who suggest that when they attested, they attested without meaning to give effect to the promise they made. I do not think that represents the case of any but a very small minority. We have a loyal and united people who have already given abundant proof of their desire to bear their fair share of their country's burden. My last words to-night will be these: If each one of us takes care to do his utmost to secure success for our arms by getting men wherever available or suitable all over the country, I believe our policy in the end will prove to be a successful one, and that you will get men in full numbers, and I have no anxiety as to the future. I realise the pressure and the 2175 difficulty of the present, but, relying on British pluck and British common sense, I believe we shall not only win through, but give our soldiers in the field that support to which they are so justly entitled.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
The right hon. Gentleman in his very eloquent and able speech referred to the suggestion which had been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol (Mr. Hobhouse) in his speech of yesterday. I heard that portion of his speech, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, in which he suggested that it would be an advantage to this House and the country if by means either of secret Sessions or secret Committees Members of this House could be kept in closer touch with what the Government are doing, and the results the Government are obtaining in the various important questions which we are discussing, than they can be at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman was very sarcastic at my right hon. Friend's expense. He said, "How does the right hon. Gentleman know that any advantage accrues either in Germany or in France by this system?" I was informed in Paris, and I believe it was true, that the brilliant success of the munitions supply of our French friends is entirely due to the fact that the Committees of the House of Deputies, which had this question brought before them, forced on the Government of that time action which we delayed for many months, and which was forced on us to some extent by newspaper agitation. Why it should be considered better by the Government that grievances or difficulties should be ventilated by the newspapers, and that newspaper editors should receive confidential information which Members of this House are debarred from having, I have never been able to understand.
We have been discussing to-day, as on many previous occasions, the question of recruiting. The right hon. Gentleman in the latter part of his speech made a number of very interesting statements. The right hon. Gentleman was not in a position, any more than the Under-Secretary for War, to give us one solitary fact or figure on which we could work. Why? Because it is not in the interests of the country that these figures should be public property. What an absurdity this House is reduced to, and what a farce the position of the private Member becomes! We had a short time ago issued to us as a White Paper 2176 Lord Derby's Report. On the strength of that Report this House was induced to pass a Conscription Bill, but apparently we are not to know, and we are never to be told, what is the result of the figures—whether the figures which Lord Derby estimated are or are not anywhere near the actual facts. Many of us do know the facts, and it is an ostrich-like policy that we are not to have a secret Session while privately we are to receive the information if we ask for it. It is one of the extraordinary Front Bench ideas which I have never been able to understand. The facts are that the results which were anticipated have not been secured. The facts are below what was anticipated. I am not going to exaggerate the grievances of the married men. The married men undoubtedly feel very strongly that they have a grievance, and I think one of the reasons why they think they have a grievance is that there is no intelligent statement given to them why they should be called up now at all. If anybody will examine the figures of the Derby Report, he will see, if the figures were approximately true, that the Army establishment of 4,000,000 men which we are shortly about to vote would be more than exceeded. What the married men cannot understand is how, as the establishment is not being increased numerically, they are now called up, when, according to Lord Derby's figures, they ought not to be called up at all until you increase the establishment over 4,000,000 men. That is one of the things the right hon. Gentleman cannot tell us here, but he could tell us something more about it were the proceedings of the House kept confidential. Why it should be assumed that Members of this House are less capable of keeping important information to themselves than the members either of the German Reichstag or the French Chamber of Deputies, I entirely fail to understand. You are continually in this whole matter fighting in a fog, struggling absolutely with the impossible. We have days of discussion which are ridiculous. All our discussion is vitiated by the fact that we have never had a basic figure to go on.
The right hon. Gentleman said something about the discharge of unfit men, and I am very glad he has taken this matter in hand; but he ought also to be concerned about the enlistment of unfit men, because I can give him cases of men attested under the Derby scheme 2177 who are now to be called up, but who are absolutely physically unfit for any kind of military service at all. And I should like to know who gave the most extraordinary instructions to medical authorities. I know one district where a man went down in the morning and was rejected because he had a rupture, and yet, if that man had gone down in the evening, he would have been passed by the doctor; and another man, with a much worse rupture, was passed by the doctor and was about to be called up. That is one of the instances, of which there are thousands, and it would be a great saving if all those men who will never be of any use to the Army could be eliminated as early as possible, because you have these difficulties: An employer has a man who has attested under the Derby scheme. He does not know whether he will have to replace that man or not, and if that man is finally eliminated from the Army it would save the immense dislocation which is taking place. There is point I would like to mention, and that is, you cannot possibly eliminate all your single men from your munitions and other factories. One reason is obvious, and it is that you cannot guarantee any manufacturer of munitions to-day that he will be able to replace any single man who leaves by a married man.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Munitions knows better than anybody the difficulties his Department has had in finding men for munitions work, and I think it Would be fatal now to begin disorganising the work which the right hon. Gentleman has so carefully built up by taking out a number of single men, thus creating a hiatus which will be enormously disastrous to the work, simply in order to deal with a temporary agitation. That might lead to a catastrophe, and although naturally such single men as can be spared ought to be spared, the fact cannot be got away from that a number of these men are now trained in their particular job, and if you are to start taking married men and training them all over again you get into very great difficulty. I would like to say a word about Lord Derby's position in this matter which is difficult to understand. Some hon. Members have expressed anxiety about the recruiting returns, very largely on the grounds of a speech which Lord Derby made in the House of Lords on 2nd March. On that date Lord Derby complained that he was not getting the 2178 results which he had anticipated, and he made very drastic proposals which he said were necessary in order to enable him to carry out his programme. I might point out to the President of the Local Government Board that when he gave us his account of what the Government is doing he did not go as far as Lord Derby asked for on 2nd March. I would like to know whether Lord Derby is satisfied that all the steps taken are sufficient for this purpose, because the steps that are being taken seem to me to have been taken rather tardily. I understand the difficulty is that the number of men we are getting under Lord Derby's scheme is very much smaller than was estimated, and Lord Derby attributes this to the enormous increase of reserved occupations. Apparently Department after Department have been adding to the number of reserved occupations, and with all due respect to those in the Civil Service, whose work I do not undervalue, I think if some practical opinion had been brought in upon these points, instead of leaving them so much to the Departments, a good deal of the trouble would not have arisen. When one Department has got some trade exempted another Department tries to do the same, so as not to fall behind its competitor. I understand that some bargaining has been going on by one Department to exempt certain people if the Board of Agriculture would do the same.
§ Sir A. MOND
I think it was rightly felt that a Departmental Committee was required, and since the right hon. Gentleman has taken the matter in hand a very considerable improvement has been made. Does that not rather shake the right hon. Gentleman's belief in the infallibility of permanent officials because it has been found necessary to bring in persons who were not permanent officials in order to deal with these matters. It must have been apparent for a long time, and, indeed, it is becoming more apparent every day that we cannot carry on a war calling for such large numbers of men without some cessation of a certain amount of industries. I stated this fact many months ago, and I urged that we should have a 2179 register of industries and that the Government should decide what industries they wished to be carried on. One of the difficulties is that you have always scheduled your people by occupations, and the result is that you have people classified as fitters who are simply gas-fitters doing domestic work, and you have people classified as metal-workers who are merely tin-smiths mending kettles. These are all scheduled as fitters and metal-workers, although they are not doing work which is necessary for the carrying on of the country. Not only will more trades have to be dealt with, but the present list of trades will have to be largely revised, and a great deal more power will have to be given to the tribunal. With regard to munition workers, a great many people have been exempted who are not really doing munitions work at all. I do not for a moment underestimate the difficulties, and no one who is engaged in carrying on industries like myself can fail to realise that it is wonderful how greatly invention is stimulated by necessity, and how people find that they can get things if they have got to.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the women working in France, but if the French Government had gone on and said, "Who can you spare for the land?" and had left the matter to farmers and the Board of Agriculture to decide, those women would never have been doing the work to which my right hon. Friend has referred. It is exactly the same here. If you go to the farmer he will say that he cannot employ a woman, but if he found that he had no other form of labour he would soon discover some kind of employment for a great many women. I hope the Government will not be so much bluffed in the future by people who declare things to be indispensable, because indispensability is much more elastic than even the most inventive could imagine. With regard to Lord Derby's Air Committee, the right hon. Gentleman threw a little more light On the functions of that Committee, but I hope he will give us a little more information, because it is a very important point. I do not know whether the Committee's functions have been extended or not. Lord Derby is in no way responsible for the Air Defence Committee, but I would like to know has this Committee any kind of advisory position with regard to manufacture?
§ Sir A. MOND
Then that is all to the good, and I am sure it will be able to do valuable work, particularly now that Lord Derby has invited Lord Montagu of Beaulieu to join the Committee. He will be able to give the Committee a great amount of expert assistance, and that is most important. I am not going to join in any fierce denunciation of the Government, although I do not think they have always done the best thing. If the Government had swallowed compulsion at one bite, these difficulties would not have arisen, and I find now that those who opposed the course I suggested on a former occasion are now coming round to my view. The difficulties which the Government have to meet are many, but as long as the country feels that they are dealing with them in a practical and an energetic way, I am sure they are willing to make great allowances, for the fact that we were not organised at the commencement of the War. The people will make great efforts so long as they are not asked to do things in a manner which is not suited to the temperament of the people of this country. If you want the married men to realise that their services are really seriously required, they ought to be told so authoritatively, and informed that no amount of combing out of single men will diminish the fact that married men will be called upon to do what they have volunteered to do, and what I believe they are perfectly ready to do. If that is done a great deal will have been accomplished to put an end to agitation. There is an idea that the married men have not been quite fairly treated. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Prime Minister's pledge, but I would remind him that people will not take the trouble to read what is said in the House of Commons, and they do read the headlines in the newspapers.
§ Sir A. MOND
People do not read tracts. This has led to a certain amount of misapprehension and misunderstanding, but a good deal of that will be relieved by what has been said to-day. It ought to be emphasised that whatever yield of single men you may get, you will require in a reasonably short time the married men who have attested to come to the Colours. If that is done, and if the Government give some indication that some of the reliefs the married men have asked for will be forthcoming, I think all these questions will 2181 proceed a great deal more smoothly, and with less agitation than has been the case up to the present moment.
§ The MINISTER of MUNITIONS (Mr. Lloyd George)
I rise not to take part in the discussion, but to make an appeal to the Members of the House to resume the Debate in Committee. We have had a discussion with the Speaker in the Chair for a day and a half, and if we now go into Committee of Supply exactly the same questions can be raised. There will be no limitation at all which will not be equally applicable with Mr. Speaker in the Chair. Then my right hon. Friend who is in full possession of the facts will be able to give any further explanations that are required in Committee of Supply, which he would not be able to do if the Debate were continued with Mr. Speaker in the Chair. It was hoped by the Government that we should get the Speaker out of the Chair last night. I am not pleading for the discontinuance of any particular discussion, because the discussion may be resumed in Committee of Supply, and there is nothing to prevent hon. Members having an opportunity of speaking again in Committee. I hope the House will see its way to do this, and it will certainly be for the convenience of the Government in answering any questions which may be put, as well as for the general convenience of the House.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am quite willing to respond to the appeal of my right hon. Friend, especially as he has so pointedly referred to me. The objection which I took in the early part of his speech was not made in my own interests, but in the interests of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who has sat through the whole of the afternoon without being called upon, although four Members of one particular group have been called upon almost successively and have monopolised two and three-quarter hours of the time of the House. It must have been known that they represented one particular view, and were going to put that view, and that they had had the advantage of a consultation with Lord Derby on Monday afternoon.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Can we have an assurance that the Naval and Military War Pensions Bill will not be taken at all to-night, and that the House will know when it is going to be taken?
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.