§ There is another question to which I desire to draw attention, and it is with regard 'to the matter which came up before the House last week. I refer to the Debate on General Maurice's letter. I voted for the Government on that occasion because, as I understood it, it was a matter which concerned the discipline of the Army. Now I put two questions to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War as to whether the procedure which has been adopted in the case of General Maurice was the one which was usually adopted in similar cases, and he gave me what I considered to be a very unsatisfactory reply. He told us that under some Royal Warrant cases of this kind did come before the Army Council. The first question I want to ask him now is whether he could give us any precedent, any other case which has been dealt with in precisely the same way, and 589 the second point is whether the Army Council is a judicial body. I have yet to learn that the Army Council in any way exercises any judicial functions. Another question I asked was whether any other similar offences have been committed during this War, and, if so, what were the punishments meted out in those cases to officers, non-commissioned officers or men who have written to the Press and have conveyed important information or secret information to the Press. The answer I got to that question was that my hon. Friend (Mr. Macpherson) had no information. I suggest to him that if he asks the Judge Advocate-General's Department he ought to be able to furnish us with some facts in order to show that the treatment which General Maurice received was on a par with the treatment which any officer, non-commissioned officer or man would have received in any case of a similar offence. That is all that we ask. We want to be assured by the War Office, because, I understand—and I believe it is true—that a great deal of misapprehension, or at any rate a great deal of feeling exists in certain quarters that generals are not accorded the same treatment as is accorded to other ranks in the Service; and in the interests of the discipline and moral of the Army the War Office must make it perfectly clear to the House and the country that that feeling is ill-founded, and that there is no real cause for its existence. I understand that General Maurice has had a very long and distinguished career in the Army, and I do feel the Government may have shown some rigidity in this matter and in dealing with this particular case. They have also dealt in a very rigid manner with the statements which have been made in the Press. I understand now that General Maurice has been appointed the military correspondent of the "Daily Chronicle" That is really a most extraordinary finale to this whole proceeding, that a distinguished officer, who has been in the innermost circles of the War Office and of the War Cabinet during the last four years, should now become the military correspondent of a certain newspaper. It would appear now as though instead of having one military correspondent thundering against the Government in the "Morning Post," we shall now have two, one thundering in the "Morning Post" and the other thundering in the "Daily Chronicle" We shall have General Maurice giving the result 590 of his experience and knowledge through the medium of the "Daily Chronicle," administered in small doses for the benefit of the War Office and the War Cabinet.
§ There is another matter on which I wish to endeavour to elicit some information from my hon. Friend, and that is in regard to certain facts and figures which have from time to time appeared in certain organs of the Press, giving away what I consider to be most valuable information to the enemy. I really cannot understand why certain officers—or people who call themselves officers—have not been prosecuted for having given away this information. We should also like to know what are the sources from which they received that information.
§ The "Morning Post" we are told, published the number of casualties which took place in the year]917, and we have been told of the deficit in the number of the establishment of the Army in France at the end of last year. I submit that these figures, if they were true, were of great assistance to the enemy. I did not wish to bring up these facts and figures because I felt that it would unnecessarily have drawn attention on the part of the enemy to them. But I think the House and the War Office should make it understood that they will not allow these things to be published in newspapers, and that they will not allow these articles, however highly placed may be the organs in which they appear, to be published, thus giving information broadcast, that damage the Government. There are two things to which we must look. The first is the discipline and moral of our troops, and the second is unity of command, but I maintain that if this sort of thing is to go on it will tend greatly to injure that moral and that discipline, while greatly prejudicing the unity of command. These articles have not helped this country in the progress of the War, and I hold that the Government are chiefly to blame. They have been weak. The Prime Minister has not carried out the policy which he declared he believed in, and which he was convinced was the policy which the Allies ought to pursue. We remember perfectly well, after the Italian debacle, that the Prime Minister made his Paris speech, in which he said that all our disasters, all our upsets, arose from the fact that there was no unity of Allied command.
§ The Prime Minister told us that he was going to set up an executive body in Versailles who would regard the Allied 591 line from the North Sea to the Adriatic as one line; the policy of the single front was to be adopted. He reinforced all that in this House, but a military section then commenced to kick against unified command, and immediately the Versailles Council was rendered down to an advisory body. Various steps were taken, and we were told that a great Army of manœuvre was going to be established, and that at last this Conference was to be given executive authority. Then the great attack came, and I submit that the Government has been the real cause of our misfortunes to-day. I hope that, in spite of the fact that a certain section of this House have taken up the attitude of backing up the military against the civilian elements, the Government will go on with the unified command and stick to it, and not put up with clamour and attacks. If the House is going to be worthy of its responsibility to the country and the Army, it must insist on putting an end to all these proceedings. I protest in the strongest possible way against the way in which the matter has been handled by the War Office. I could have understood it if Lord Derby had been at the head of the War Office, but now we have a new Minister, a great administrator, at the head of the War Office, and we may hope that reasonable reforms will be carried out, and that we shall see a strong hand and firm leading. In the interests of the Army, in the interests of discipline, in the interests of the moral of the Army, in the interests of moral at home, the Government must take a strong line and they must tell us—I hope they will tell us—why this procedure in the case of General Maurice was adopted, so that the House and the country may be assured that the same justice will be meted out by the War Office to other officers and men.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)
I will reply to my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down (Major Davies) in so far as what he has said relates to the Department for whose administration I am responsible to this House. The hon. and gallant Gentleman divided his observations into two parts, and I will deal with the smaller one first—namely, that which relates to the publication of facts and figures in the public Press. I am not aware to what particular facts and figures my hon. and gallant Friend refers.
I particularly drew attention to only one sample of many others, where the figures relating to the-casualties in France, in 1917, and other theatres of war, were published; and secondly, I drew attention to the facts and figures relating to the deficit in the establishment of British troops in France at the beginning of this year, and which were given in an article in the "Morning Post" of 24th January.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am obliged to-my hon. and gallant Friend for drawing my attention to the particular facts and figures. I can only say that the publication of any of these facts and figures, which have not been given to the House of Commons, is most reprehensible, and I, for one, cannot find out how these leakages take place, though I have made inquiries. But, so far as lies in our power, we have consistently refused at the War Office to give figures of this nature to be made public by any journal.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The publication of the facts and figures to which my gallant Friend has drawn attention seems to have taken place some months ago, apparently towards the end of January. I am afraid I cannot promise that the authorities would take action in the case, but I can assure my hon. Friend and the House that we regard any publication of this sort as being against the best interests of the country and as being in every way very reprehensible. I can only repeat that neither do they nor do I know how these facts have leaked out, but I can state that no authority for the publication of these facts and figures has been given by any person who is in charge of that kind of information at the War Office. In regard to the second point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend, he seems to think that we treated that able and distinguished officer, General Maurice, whose case was before the House last week, rather too gently. I take the view that we treated him not by any means gently, but that we punished him—there is no other word for it—for the action he took, both quickly and effectively, and in accordance with our powers. I pointed out to my hon. and gallant Friend in answer to a question, that there are two ways in which an officer in circumstances of this sort can be 593 punished. One is a longer way, and the other is a shorter, and the latter, in my judgment, is the more effective way. The longer way is by court-martial. As the House will appreciate, that is a very difficult form of inquiry in the case of a general of the standing of Sir Frederick Maurice in the Army.
But the Army Council has power under a Royal Warrant to take immediate action as a judicial body, and this action was taken in the case of General Maurice. The House has always looked upon it as desirable in these cases to come to a quick judgment and to inflict quick punishment, and I think we have been quick in both judgment and punishment. The punishment which General Maurice has received is that he should be retired from the Army, and I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend realises what that punishment means. General Maurice is placed on the retired list, but not with the retired pay of his rank, and at the present moment I do not think that General Maurice will be receiving annually more than £225 a year. When one reflects that his brilliant future has been spoiled and that his very brilliant prospects in the Army have ceased, I think it will be seen that the punishment under Royal Warrant was a swift and severe punishment, and that it will do much to reassure regimental officers and men in the British Army that there is no inclination on the part of the Army Council to favour anyone however exalted the rank. I am quite sure that if you put this case to any general of the British Army at the present time he will say "This is a much more effective way and a much quicker way of dealing with a general than is trial by court-martial" My hon. and gallant Friend asked me whether I have any precedent for this course of action. I tell him quite frankly that I do not know personally of any case where an officer has been punished for sending communications of this sort to the Press. But undoubtedly there may have been occasions when an officer or a soldier had to be tried for this offence, but there are no means by which the War Office can find out definitely information as to the exact number of punishments which have been inflicted under that particular Section of the Army Act or under the Royal Warrant. I can, however, go so far as to say that even distinguished and gallant Members of this House who are or may have been on the Territorial Force Reserve came on one or 594 two occasions pretty near it. I need not mention the cases; my hon. and gallant Friend may know of one of them. I can. assure my hon. Friend that I think the-action which had to be taken in the case of General Maurice will have a very great effect, and that it will make generals in. distinguished positions hesitate long before they take the action which General Maurice took. I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend raised any other question, but, if so, I shall be only too glad to let him have an answer. Before I sit down. I should like once more, to make it perfectly clear that in the action that we have-taken in regard to General Maurice there-was no attempt on our part to show any favouritism of any sort or kind simply because he happened to be a distinguished general and rendered distinguished service-to the State. I think it would be a calamity if the idea got abroad that because a man occupied a very high rank he received from the Army Council or any other military authority any preferential treatment.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
That may be so And if that is true I think it points to the-facts that in General Maurice's case we-have effected a just punishment, because if the people in the country are divided as to what the effect of that punishment has been it goes a long way to show that a just medium has been reached and that, in the interests of all concerned, particularly in the interests of the discipline of the Army, we have taken a most proper and effective course.