§ Captain BERKELEY
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That", to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsin the opinion of this House, professional Ranker Officers of the Army should receive equal treatment as regards retired pay or pension.I should like to ask the indulgence of the House if I go somewhat carefully into the whole question involved. It is an important question which means a great deal to the body of men whose cause I am pleading, and if the House is to arrive at a just decision on the matter it will be necessary to make a somewhat detailed examination of how the state of affairs of which we complain has arisen. This grievance of the Army pensioner ranker officer affects some 2,500 persons, who have, I submit, considerable claims upon the goodwill of the State. There is more than one question of principle involved in the matter. There is, for instance, the question how far the State, in dealing with those who have at the least risked their lives and at the worst incurred disabilities in its service, ought to rely upon a strict and literal interpretation 2641 of the regulations that created the contract of service to the detriment of one class of men while, under regulations creating the contract of service with a similar class of men performing identical duties, a far more generous scale of provision is made.
The second principle is perhaps even more momentous. It is a question how far a Government which has been pledged by its head, specifically, not merely as a passing expression of opinion, but in the name of the whole party which he leads, to remedy a particular abuse and, in consequence, has received considerable support at the poll—how far such a leader is acting in a manner consistent with the traditions of public life in this country in repudiating that pledge and receding from the undertaking which he gave.
The case of the Army pensioner ranker officer has arisen in this manner. In 1914 there was great need for experienced people to come forward and take commissions. A large number of serving warrant officers and non-commissioned officers were offered commissions, and provision was made for these men under a Pay Warrant of 1914, amended by a subsequent Army Order in 1919, by which, on demobilisation, they received retired pay at a minimum of £150 a year. It is not the case of these men that comes before the House to-day, but it is necessary to refer to ranker officers of that class for the purpose of comparing their position with the status of the Army pensioner ranker officers, on whose behalf I solicit the interest of the House. Those I have described were serving-soldiers at the time. At the same time ex-Regular rankers—warrant officers and non-commissioned officers—were encouraged by the recruiting authorities and the War Office—indeed it is not too much to say that they were besought by the recruiting authorities—to apply for commissions.
The men who constitute the Army pensioner ranker officers fell into four classes. First, there were those who had been discharged to pension on having completed their service prior to the outbreak of the War. In regard to them it must be pointed out that many of them had only completed their term of service during the preceding year, and their case 2642 is well-nigh impossible to distinguish from the large number of serving rankers who benefited from the scheme to which I first made reference, who were just on the point of completing their service or had actually proceeded on leave preliminary to discharge. That is class 1.
Secondly, there were those who after completing their service, as in the case of the first class, instead of being absorbed into civil life, had continued their military service by taking commissions in the Territorial Force, in the Special Reserve, or in the forces of the Dominions, and continued to hold their commissions at the outbreak of war. These officers, therefore, at the outbreak of the War were still actually borne on the effective strength of units of the Imperial Forces. Their case was even stronger than the case of the first class. It may be taken that of the 2,500 Army pensioner ranker-officers these two classes comprise 2,000.
In the third place, there were those who at the time of the outbreak of war had completed the necessary 18 years' qualifying service to entitle them to a pension, and were serving on Regular Army engagements as warrant or non-commissioned officer instructors in the Territorial Force, and on the permanent staff of the Territorial Force. Subsequent to the outbreak of war they were commissioned into the Territorial Force. I submit that with regard to these officers it is practically impossible to distinguish between their case and the case of the serving regular warrant and non-commissioned officers, for nothing, except the requirements of the Territorial Force, prevented these officers from rejoining their units, from which they were only seconded, and taking commissions, if they wished to take commissions, in the same manner as any other serving regular soldier at the time. They were still themselves serving regular soldiers, but for some reason which has never been explained, as far as I know, the War Office drew a line between this class of serving soldier and other classes of serving soldiers, and decided that in their case they must be discharged to pension and granted temporary commissions. That laid the foundation for the whole complicated imbroglio which has resulted in the years that followed.
In the fourth place, there was that class which had completed the 18 years' service necessary to qualify them for 2643 pension and were promoted in the field to temporary commissions. These men, who had never broken their service, and were still serving soldiers, were promoted—let the House note the date—prior to 7th May, 1918, on which date a special Order was passed to which I shall make reference later. The men in these two latter classes number 500 or 600, and the four classes constitute the Army pensioner ranker officers who are appealing to the House to-day.
It may be convenient here to make a brief financial comparison between the status of the regular serving soldier who took a regular commission and the Army pensioner ranker officer, while serving and at the time of demobilisation. The regular ranker officer drew a higher rate of pay, and as a set-off against that, the temporary officer, the Army pensioner ranker officer, drew his pre-War pension, which amounted to something between £36 and £41 a year. The regular ranker officer received an outfit allowance of £150, while the temporary officer received only £50. As a result of this, the scale of pay was slightly in favour of the regular ranker. On demobilisation, both received gratuities, the balance in the case of gratuities being in favour of the temporary officer to an extent varying between £50 and £300, according to length of service and rank. I think that is a perfectly fair and accurate statement of the financial position of the two classes of men up to the time of demobilisation, but as from demobilisation a very striking difference is to be noticed.
After demobilisation the average pension drawn by the army pensioner ranker officer was £75 a year as compared with a minimum of £150 a year retired pay granted in the case of the regular ranker officer who had been given a regular commission. That is a very striking difference and it is made the more striking by the fact that in order to bring about an equalisation in their favour, the army pensioner ranker officers are willing, and they have always said that they are willing, to bring in for the purpose of adjustment any excess of gratuity on demobilisation to be allowed as a set-off against their arrears of retired pay. That is the financial case.
It is necessary now to deal with financial objections to remedying this inequality. The War Office case is that the army 2644 pensioner ranker officers have received what they contracted to receive. I shall submit a general proposition as to how far the State ought to enforce such a contract, having regard to all the circumstances, but before I do so there are one or two facts, very important facts, bearing upon the whole case which the House should have before it and which take away to a great extent, if not entirely, the force of the War Office contention. The first fact is that on 7th May, 1918, there was published Army Order 159 of that year. That Army Order provided for the granting of precisely the same temporary commissions to serving warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the regular army. The whole basis of the War Office case is temporary as distinguished from regular permanent commissions. On that day provision was made for the issue of temporary commissions to serving regular soldiers. In the case of these temporary commissions it was provided by the Army Order that the recipients should be entitled to the benefits of Article 572 (a) of the Pay Warrant of 1914, which allowed retired pay in lieu of pension. That is to say, it was provided that in the case of men with 15 years' or more service promoted to temporary commissions—those were the only ones in that Order entitled to retired pay instead of lump-sum gratuities—they were to obtain the retired pay precisely on the same rate as rankers promoted to regular commissions.
Let the House observe the anomaly created by this Army Order. Serving soldiers seconded for instructional duties to the Territorial Force at the time of the outbreak of war were discharged to pension and granted temporary commissions, and they had no claim to retired pay. Serving soldiers promoted to temporary commissions in the field prior to the 7th May were also discharged to pension before they got their temporary commission. It was a condition precedent to getting their commission that they took their discharge to pension. Therefore they had no claim to retired pay. Precisely the same class of ranker under the Order of 1918 was granted a temporary commission with the right to retired pay. In his case he was not discharged to pension as a condition precedent to the grant of the commission. What possible justification can there be for a differentiation of this character?
2645 6.0 P.M.
Another fact of importance is that the War Office has already departed from its attitude with regard to the contracts in the case of officers who, subsequent to the Army Order of 1918 received temporary commissions as quartermasters. That is an even stronger argument in favour of the case I am putting forward to-day. These quartermasters on demobilisation were actually granted the reassessed pensions of warrant officers and non-commissioned officers and continued to draw them whilst, protesting against the injustice of the decision. They have continued to draw them until within the last year. The War Office has consistently maintained that quartermasters did not come within the scope of Army Order 159, and then recently the War Office has revised its decision and granted the retired pay to these quartermasters. That is a very astonishing anomaly.
There is a further factor that is equally astonishing. Naval pensioners (Marines) who took temporary commissions in the Army under precisely the same conditions as Army pensioners. Yet in the case of the Naval pensioners the Board of Admiralty has again recently secured Treasury approval, not for Army rates of retired pay but for Naval rates of retired pay which are considerably higher, in the case of Marines who served in the Army as temporary officers, and that, notwithstanding the fact, that these Naval pensioners, throughout their service in the Army, drew their pre-War pensions, and received the gratuities on the higher scale on demobilisation. Will the House of Commons acquiesce in such widely different treatment in the case of persons who performed identical services as temporary officers of the Army, merely because in one case one Department invoked the Treasury and obtained the Treasury sanction, and in another case another Departmeent is unwilling to invoke the Treasury?
The War Office issued recently a statement in this matter, stating that its action was logical, and that the pensioners cannot have it both ways. There is little logic in the state of affairs which I have been describing, and if anyone is getting it both ways, it does not seem to be the ranker officer pensioners. They are in a cleft stick. When it suits the War Office to treat them as officers it does so, and when it suits them to treat them as war 2646 rant officers or non-commissioned officers it does so. For instance, when the Army pensioner ranker officer asks for retired pay the War Office says, "No, you are a warrant officer or a non-commissioned officer and you cannot have it. You must be satisfied with your warrant officer or non-commissioned officer pension." They even go to the extent of writing to distinguished officers who have commanded brigades in the field as "Mr." or "Sergeant." They refuse to accept their signatures on the life certificates of pensioners. But when the Army pensioner comes forward and says: "If I am a warrant officer or a non-commissioned officer, treat me as such. I have got the Military Cross, and the Military Cross entitles the non-commissioned or the warrant officer to an additional pension of 6d. a day," the War Office replies, "No, you are an officer."
Why, when one reads all these things, or discovers them by investigation, if they were not so serious, and if they did not make the blood of any man who has served in the Army boil with rage he would laugh at them as something which might be expected in a comic opera. These examples could be much multiplied in many directions, but I may summarise briefly the status of all the various Army pensioner ex-officers. You have got marines among these ranker officers drawing a minimum of £250 and £300 a year. You have got Army permanent ranker officers, who were commissioned in the Great War, drawing a minimum of £150 a year. You have got Indian Army pensioner ranker officers drawing £150 a year minimum.
§ Captain BERKELEY
My information is that the Army permanent ranker officer, commissioned for service in the Great War, draws a minimum of £150, and that the Indian Army pensioner ranker officer also draws a minimum of £150.
§ Captain BERKELEY
I am sorry if I have been obtuse, but that is precisely what I intended to convey. Then you 2647 have Army temporary quartermasters, commissioned after 7th May, 1918, also drawing a minimum of £150 a year. Then you have the man whose case I am pressing to-day, the Army pensioner ranker officer, who is drawing an average of £75 a year. May I give an illustration from the sister service. In the case of pensioners who took temporary commissions in the Navy, particularly in the case of ranker officers in the Royal Marines, there has been no distinction whatever. They were all entitled to retired pay on a far more generous scale than that allowed to the Regular Army ex-rankers whose standard we are asking for these men. It becomes really astonishing in the case of the Naval Division. Then you had, side by side, fighting in France under the command of general headquarters in France, but paid by the Board of Admiralty, pensioners who had come back and taken commissions, naval pensioners and Army pensioners.
A case came to my notice only to-day, which is a striking example and which I may briefly explain. A sergeant-major of the Scots Guards rejoined his battalion on the outbreak of War. On the 19th September, 1914, he was posted to a commission and put in command of a company in the Royal Naval Division. He had, in his company, a quartermaster-sergeant. This quartermaster-sergeant was a retired naval pensioner. More than a year later the quartermaster-sergeant was also commissioned. On demobilisation the quartermaster-sergeant drew retired pay of £268 a year and the ex-sergeant-major of the Scots Guards, who had served very gallantly with a company under his command, in the Naval Division, draws a pension of only £75 a year. White Papers or not, what can be said in defence of that?
The War Office contends that the Army pensioner ranker officer has got what he contracted to receive, and it has even gone to the extent of saying that he has got no legitimate grievance. I characterise that as a mean and inequitable contention. How did this ever become a question of contract as we know contract in the civil courts of this country? There was never any negotiation between the parties. No such thing took place. The facts were that in a period of dire national necessity there was no time for bargaining or arguing, and I am 2648 sure that the House will think that it would have shown a great want of patriotism on the part of rankers if they had stopped to argue and wrangle about terms, instead of doing what they did and hastening back to the Colours and taking the great part which they did in training the new Army. Far above these legal niceties, which the War Office brings forward to-day, there is this overriding fact that in a national emergency a national call was being sounded by every statesman in the land, and there was an implied promise that no one class of the men who came forward should be treated with less generosity than any other class. On these general grounds I submit that it is unworthy of the greatness of this country to rely on the strict letter of regulations laid down in these circumstances, and imparting so invidious a distinction.
I wish now to make one or two brief observations as to the specific liability undertaken by the present Government to deal with this case. At the General Election the Army pensioner ranker officers issued to all Members of this House a manifesto or questionnaire setting out four propositions, and I have very little doubt that most Members of this House gave some kind of reply to that. A considerable number of the occupants of the Treasury Bench pledged themselves, for instance, the Lord Privy Seal, the Postmaster-General, the Attorney-General, the Minister of Labour and many others. I need not go through the whole list, it is unnecessary to disinter the individual pledges given by Ministers or by my hon. Friends who constitute the Party in Office, because one who is qualified to speak in the name of all spoke in the name of all, and this is what he said:I am much obliged by your letter with enclosed questionnaire. You can depend on the Labour party doing everything it possibly can in the House of Commons to carry out the four principles in your questionnaire, with which both they and I are in hearty agreement.That was signed by the Prime Minister. The first of the four points was, whether the professional ranker officers ought not to receive equal terms as regards retired pay. The second was that the Army pensioner ranker officers were not given retired pay at the end 2649 of the War but were relegated to their former status for pensions, averaging £75 a year. The third asked whether this was not an anomaly; and the fourth asked whether, if elected, the candidate would not support any Measure in this House to remove that anomaly. There is very little room for misunderstanding in a questionnaire so simple in its terms. The Prime Minister, in a letter to the Secretary of the Glamorganshire Group of Army Pensioner Ranker Officers, sought to explain away the circumstances in which this pledge was given. As I understand the letter, he says that he misunderstood the case. No doubt the same explanation would be offered again. I will ask the House to accept no explanation. This is not the first time the Prime Minister has given a specific pledge on this question, and promised to deal with this grievance. There was a letter sent to him last June by Captain McNaught Davis. On 14th June the present Prime Minister wrote:DEAR SIR,—I am in receipt of your letter of the 11th instant. We have been interested in the subject all along, and will continue fighting for this until something is done.That again is signed by the Prime Minister. If the traditions of English public life are to be maintained, the word of a leader, given on behalf of his party at an election as a result of which he may find himself—in this case he has found himself—governing the country, must be his bond. If he gives it in circumstances of error, it must still be his bond. I hope that the House will forgive so junior a Member saying that there is a profound responsibility upon the leaders of great parties in the State to weigh well what they say, and if they give a pledge, specific, unequivocal in its terms, with ample time for consideration or review, the pledge must be given with the fullest sense of the obligation to implement it if that leader and his party are returned to power.
One concluding word as to the White Paper. It is not a particularly novel document. I understand that it has received far more attention from the Press than its merits entitle it to, because it is not a new document Apart from the finance, it is, as to the merits of the case, only a reprint with a few textual emendations. It is a reprint of a memorandum issued by the War Office 2650 last November, in reply to the efforts made by Sir Arthur Holbrook, whose work for these ranker officers entitles him to the thanks of the country. It was in reply to Sir Arthur Holbrook's efforts that these rather addle-headed arguments were advanced. They were available to the Prime Minister, and if he made his pledge with the sense of responsibility with which he ought to have made it, he knew of the existence of that document before he made his statement on 3rd December.
This White Paper is issued as an extenuation of the circumstances in which the Prime Minister's pledge was given. The Prime Minister and his Ministers have given us to understand that when they came to office they found a new state of affairs, something they could not have been expected to know before. They caused it to be believed in the country that they had been misled by the Army Pensioner Ranker Officers' Association. I lay stress, therefore, on the fact that this White Paper reveals nothing new, nothing that has not been published in the Press, if the Press cared to publish it at the time. It was sent to Members of Parliament, and it was available to Members of Parliament and to any man, woman or child in the country who choose to write to the War Office and make an inquiry about the case of these officers. An hon. Friend reminds me that it was published in "Truth." That is publicity indeed. As to the remainder of the White Paper, from paragraph 13 onwards—the preceding parts are merely a reprint—I would point out that it makes an important admission. It estimates that the financial effect of meeting these demands would be a gradually diminishing charge of £175,000 a year. For this admission we are extremely grateful; it places beyond all doubt what is the financial liability involved.
But there is a most astonishing attempt to import prejudice into the matter by an action that I, in my inexperience, had never dreamed of associating with an official Government publication. In the paragraph which deals with the finance—I cannot imagine for what reason—there is stated the aggregate sum of payments spread over a term of years. We are given two figures; we are given the annual charge and the capital value. Both those figures the House ought to have before it disposes 2651 of this Amendment. The cost is £175,000 a year, or, capitalised, a sum of £1,750,000. We -accept the figures entirely. That the aggregate payments spread over a term of years total £3,000,000 is a statement that could have been made only for the purpose of getting it taken up by the anti-waste Press. Really there should be limits to the manner in which the case against granting this claim is manipulated.
In the days when I practised at the Bar, there was—I am sure all members of the Bar will agree—always a wholesome rule that the Crown, whilst bringing out all relevant matters, never pressed unfairly for convictions. It is improper for the Crown to press points of this kind, which are really unfair points to make and only create prejudice in the minds of persons who have not the opportunity of analysing figures for themselves. As to the statements in the following paragraphs—I think they are numbers 15 and 16—with regard to possible claims that may be made by this person or that person, I beg the House to put them completely out of its mind. What the House has to decide is whether, taking all the circumstances into account, these men have a legitimate case for redress. That is the only point. So I shall leave the destruction of this extremely vulnerable document to later speakers. I will just make one reference to the last paragraph, because it seems to mo to call for unstinting condemnation from all Members of the House. I believe that when hon. Members understand the purport of that paragraph, they will accord it that condemnation. Let me quote the concluding words;The identical conditions consist merely of service side by side,Let the House observe that word "merely." Then the documents proceeds:but the War Office cannot admit the proposition that officers and men of the permanent regular Army, and officers and men engaged for the duration of the War under an entirely different contract of the service, should receive identical financial treatment as regards their gratuities and pensions, simply because they fought together in the War.I will make no comment on the rather curious and invidious distinction which that phrase appears to draw between regular soldiers and temporary soldiers. 2652 It is something we can leave for the country to consider. But I am bound to point out that the statement in that paragraph is a mischievous travesty of the facts and of the proposition put forward. The proposition is not that officers and men engaged for the duration of the War generally should receive the same financial treatment as the professional soldier. The proposition is that one class of professional soldiers, possibly junior in service to another class also of professional soldiers, should not receive a greater and more permanent reward than that second class for service indistinguishable in character and, for the most part, of lesser duration. That is the proposition, and those are the facts in their broad aspect. One would have thought that on those facts it would have been sufficient to appeal to the Government to give instant redress. But it was not. Fortunately there is a higher authority, the House of Commons. In the belief that there will be a ready response to the just claims of these men upon the gratitude of their country, I go over the head of the Prime Minister and come before the House of Commons to-day on their behalf asking for redress.
§ Mr. JOHN HARRIS
I beg to second the Amendment.
I cannot hope to follow, and I do not intend to attempt to follow, my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken through the technical details which he has given to us on this question. I can only venture to bring to the notice of the House one or two general considerations which appeal to me as a layman in these matters. In the first place, we are happy, in approaching this subject, to feel that this is just one of those subjects which appeal to members of all parties in the House. I believe there is no subject which appeals to the House so strongly as an allegation of injustice to any of His Majesty's subjects, and particularly does that appeal present a strong claim when it affects either officers or men in His Majesty's Army. From statements which have been made in the Press we understand that the Government propose to take the Whips off and to leave Members behind the Government Benches to give an entirely free vote on this matter. I appeal to the Prime Minister to take an early opportunity of giving us definite information upon that point.
2653 If we admit that a strict reading of the contract to which the War Office has referred gives to the War Office some justification for its attitude, we do say that in giving this strict reading to that contract, they have strained to breaking point our normal standards of equity. But, in order to realise all the bearings of this question, we have to get back to the War period; we have to realise the situation which was created in 1914. I have here two documents issued from the War Office in September, 1914. The first document was issued on 15th September to that large body of ranker officers who had retired into civil life. The second document was issued to the employers of the country. In the first document nothing whatever is said about these men being called upon to undertake the onerous responsibilities of commissioned rank. It says that the country needs these ex-ranker officers as drill instructors, and that is all. In the document issued to the employers they are urged to put pressure upon suitable men to come forward and volunteer in a great national crisis. I may be allowed to read one or two passages from this document, which is signed by Sir Reginald Brade:I am commanded by the Army Council to inform you"—that is the employers,that as a result of the great response made by the nation to the King's Appeal, over 600,000 recruits have enlisted into the new Armies since the outbreak of the War, and more men are being attested day by day.The document goes on to invite the employers to put pressure upon suitable employés to volunteer for this particular service of drill instruction. As I have pointed out, nothing was said in those documents about the possibility of these men being required to do anything more than become drill instructors. Nothing was said as to the possibility of having to serve in the Armies abroad. What was the result of that appeal? These men had retired after long periods of service; many of them had purchased businesses, some of them had settled down in farms, and others had become commercial travellers and had formed business connections all over the country. Large numbers of them had very important interests at stake, but the farmer forsook his plough, the commercial traveller threw up his connection, men sold their businesses and they rallied in response to the appeal. These men 2654 saw one thing only. They saw only a great national need. They did not stop to stipulate for terms. There are those who will say that in this they were foolish. There are those who will say: Why did not these fellows consider, first, their own interests? Why did not they form themselves into a trade union—[HON. MEMBEBS: "Or an employers' association"]—and insist upon specified terms? They did none of these things. Fools they may have been, but I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to realise that they were in the highest sense patriots. I have had before me a large mass of letters and records relating to these men, and there are two of these documents, of which I desire to give the House a brief outline because they are typical of the whole and will give the House an idea of the type of men who are concerned in this matter, and the conditions under which they are living to-day. They should help the House to realise the urgency of doing something for them. The first letter with which I shall deal is from a man to whom I shall refer as Captain R. W. Anyone who desires the name can have it. The first service of this man was in the attempt to relieve General Gordon at Khartoum. He was pensioned off in 1900. In September, 1914, in response to that letter from the War Office, to which I have referred, he volunteered for a position as drill instructor. In May, 1916, he was sent to France, where his commanding officer told him he was too old for active service and placed him in charge of an officers' school. This man is not complaining. None of these men complain, and that is one of the tragedies of the situation, but he winds up his letter in this way:In 1914 I was earning nearly £400 a year teaching gymnasium, physical drill, and at other work. When I was demobilised I returned and found my work in the hands of those who did not re-join. I have been unable to recover my work, and the small increase of pension is useless.The second case to which I shall refer is that of a man who became a lieutenant-colonel. He previously served 21 years and purchased a business on his retirement from the Army in 1909. He retired on a pension of 2s. 4d. a day, his character was marked "exemplary," and he had served in India and Africa. That was the first stage of his career. Then came the second stage—he bought a business. The third stage began at the outbreak of the 2655 Great War, when he threw up his business and undertook the task of instructing troops. In 1916 he was given a commission in order to proceed to France. He commanded a battalion at Messines and for his services was presented to His Majesty. In March, 1918, he was ordered to cover a retirement during the great retreat, and he was instructed to hold a cross-roads near Delville Wood. He succeeded, and by his courage saved some thousands of men from disaster. He concludes his letter:I was finally demobilised in 1919 on my pre-War pension of 2s. 4d. per diem, which, on appeal, was re-assessed at 4s. per diem."I ask the House, is that all a grateful country can do for that type of hero? In the White Paper dealt with so ably by my hon. and gallant Friend who moved this Amendment, there is set out on page 7 an Appendix in which is shown the great advantage which the temporary officer has over the regular soldier who is given a permanent commission. The most striking thing to my mind about that table is that the pension to which these officers were entitled for their pre-War service is actually included in it in order to show the advantages which they enjoy. Why should the pension to which these men were entitled in 1914 be set out and calculated in a table of that kind? What are the real objections to giving these men that for which we are asking? Is it finance? We know it will not cost more than a few hundred thousand pounds. Of whom is the War Office afraid? Is it the rich of the country? If so, I am sure their fears are unfounded; and if it is the poor whose opposition is feared, I am quite certain they need have no apprehension. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant), and those who have worked among the poor of London know that it is among the poor people you nearly always find the greatest measure of generosity.
A large number of Members of this House have looked into this question and have agreed to sign the four statements read by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Mover of the Amendment. I have here the whole list of original letters signed by members of His Majesty's Government. We have the Postmaster-General, 2656 the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, the Minister of Labour, and the Attorney-General. Therefore we feel that in making this appeal to the Government, we have on the Front Bench a solid body of those who believe in the justice of the claim which these men are making. Some hon. Members opposite have also signed documents signifying their support of this claim. It is one thing for a private Member like myself to go back on such promises. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] As I shall show presently in the Division Lobby, I have no intention of going back on my promise, but if I did so, that would be one thing, but it would be a vastly different thing for a British Prime Minister even to give the appearance of going back on his pledge. What would be the effect upon the young manhood of the country if to-morrow we found ourselves in another such national crisis, and they were asked to give their services upon the promise of a Prime Minister? In conclusion, I would remark that certain Members of this House have said they have some doubt as to the justice of this case. I appeal to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have any doubt, to give the benefit of that doubt to the ex-ranker officers to-night.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald)
We have listened to two very interesting speeches from hon. Members below the Gangway, but I really could not make up my mind whether either of them was the more concerned with the ex-ranker officer or with my moral character. I propose to deal with both, so that, whatever their intention was, they will be equally satisfied. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Nottingham (Captain Berkeley), who moved the Amendment, went into a very large number of technicalities. I am not at all competent to follow him there. That is not my job. I did detect, however, that here and there he observed a very careful limit in his explanations. For instance, when he accused the War Office of having departed from principle regarding quartermasters and their pensions, he must have known that that was owing to contract. He must have known that the reason why that was done was that the War Office found that, by the omission of the word "combatant," quartermasters were included in an order in which, perhaps, they were not meant originally to be included.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It may have done, but if it takes the War Office five years to be just regarding quartermasters, how long is it going to take to discover that the ex-rankers' contract ought equally to be carried out? The hon. and gallant Member cannot have it both ways. However, as I said, I am not going into these details. Both hon. Members were good enough to refer to pledges that I have given, and both wore good enough to preach a little to me regarding the fulfilment of pledges, the duty of a Prime Minister, and the great honour of our public life. I am glad they appreciate it, and I hope, I sincerely hope, that under the cloak of honour there is no suspicion of mere partisan politics. Now what happened? I, in common with a great many others, received a questionnaire. The hon. and gallant Member was very careful in not reading that questionnaire.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That may be, but I am going to read it. The first question is this:Do you agree that professional ranker officers of the Army, performing similar duties under identical conditions, should receive equal treatment as regards retired pay?The answer to that is "Yes"—"performing similar duties under identical conditions." The second question is even more important than the first. It is—Army pensioned ranker officers, numbering 2,500"—to gain electoral support. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh!"] I only make the point which was made against me. When it was made against my hon. Friends and myself, those below the Gangway cheered. When I make commonsense reflections upon it, they shake their heads in holy horror! The second question, I say, is even more important than the first. It is:Army pensioned ranker officers, numbering 2,500, all of whom are professional soldiers of long service, were not at the conclusion of the War included in the terms of Army Regulations governing retired pay of ranker officers. They were relegated to their warrant or non-commissioned status for pension, the average amount of which is £75 a year, whereas the minimum retired pay of 2658 ranker officers of junior service is £150 a year.Is that a complete statement of the case? No, of course it is not. If the case had been stated completely, then the answer given to it would have had more moral binding force than it can possibly have. The third question is:Do you admit that this is an anomaly?Of course, I do. Given the truth of those two questions, it is an anomaly. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain), told us the other day that he suspected—I am sorry I did not hear his speech, but I understood that that was the gist of what he said—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
He was not sure, and he inquired, and he found that there was something else, and he did not pledge himself. I wish I had been equally cautious. I took these questions at their face value, and I felt then, what I feel now, that if those two questions described accurately and fully and fairly the status of any body of ex-service men in this country, then they deserved my support, and the support of my friends around me, and would get it all the time. What is the effect of this? The suggestion is that a small body of men, only 2,500, neglected because they were small, had injustice done to them, because the War Office and the House of Commons did not pay any attention to them on account of their smallness. That is the suggestion. I saw those men at the end of the War, treated differently from other men, serving under the same conditions, in the same contracts, doing the same work precisely in every respect. I put it to hon. Members—they may make a party advantage of this, but I do not care—I put it to hon. Members, emptying their mind of any knowledge at all of what is concealed here, to read those two questions as a layman, as I was, and as I am, so far as the War Office is concerned. I came to the conclusion that these men had been isolated, that injustice had been done them. I said I would support them.
What did they conceal? They concealed a good many things. They concealed, for instance, that, unlike permanently appointed officers, they enjoyed their pensions whilst they were also 2659 enjoying their pay. Why should not they? They can only do that if they assume and admit that the period of service for which they were pensioned has come to an end. You cannot get pension for a continuing service. If a service is continuing, you get paid for it; if a service is finished, you get pensioned for it; and if, on their rejoining, those men said—as they were perfectly entitled to say—"We are going to close that bill, the book of our old service, we decline to regard it as a continuing service, we will insist upon retaining our pension for the closed service, we will insist upon the War Office regarding that service as absolutely closed, done with, and pensionable, and pensioned, treated quite apart," then the new contract is new, and they enjoy the pension of the old whilst performing the duties and receiving the pay of the new. I think, really, our questioners ought to have told us about that.
There is another thing about which they did not tell us. I only discovered it when my right hon. Friend came to answer that first question. There is no disclosure here, about what happened on demobilisation. On demobilisation they received special treatment, because they were not going to receive this extra pension. On demobilisation each man who had received this temporary pension got a gratuity equal to four months' pay for the first year of his service plus two months' pay for subsequent years of his service and for any broken year. Should not that have been disclosed to us? Is not that an essential point?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am dealing with the questionnaire. My right hon. Friend imagines that I, or, if he likes to hold himself up as an example of a man who never forgets anything he may have read, then I envy him, but he is far above me—I am dealing with the thing that was put in front of me in December. I am dealing with the literature that accompanied that thing that was put in front of me in December. I am dealing with information put at my disposal in the midst of an Election, which was given to me for the purpose of receiving from me a pledge, as an honourable man, that 2660 they could come to me afterwards and say, "Fulfil that pledge as an honourable man." Beyond that, I do not go, and I say that those two absolutely essential pieces of information were not there, were withheld, and that the suggestions made in the two questionnaires were misleading. That is my case. Now let us see exactly how we find ourselves. I have for some time come to the conclusion that this growing method of throwing long questionnaires at candidates—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
This method of throwing long questionnaires at candidates is beginning to be grossly abused. I should like—and I do not like coalitions—to throw out a hint to the other two parties, that we might, after such experiences as these, form a coalition to refuse to answer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!" and "Agreed!"]
§ Captain TERRELL
Will the Prime Minister introduce legislation with that object? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I could not introduce legislation to form a coalition. If these questions had been accurate, the promise I gave was a right promise, and it could have been carried out. But there it was, it was not fair. It was taking an advantage of candidates to throw these things at them, especially in the middle of an election. Now let us see where we stand. I should like to know why my hon. Friends are so anxious about this category of men alone. Why is the hon. and gallant Member for Central Nottingham anxious about the category of men alone?
§ Captain BERKELEY
We are anxious about these men, because of the astonishing state of anomalies created by the War Office in treating some of the ex-rankers in a different way to other ex-rankers. There are 50,000 altogether. 47,500 have received the retired pay and there are 2,500 men who were relegated out into the cold.
§ Major-General Sir J. DAVIDSON
May I ask whether the Prime Minister proposes to treat all the pledges he gave at the General Election as he is treating 2661 this pledge? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Let us see where we are. Do hon. Members imagine that they are going to treat this category of men apart from every other section of men treated or not treated in the same bad way, from the field marshal down to the humblest Tommy?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Well, then, let us understand. This is the situation now. We are asked to pass this Amendment, not on its merits, or not only on its merits; but, having passed this Amendment, the War Office is going to be pressed again and again to refuse every contractual relationship—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—both for these men and non-commissioned officers whose request that they should become temporary commissioned officers was refused. The whole point is this. The House is being asked to commit itself to a subject that it does not understand in the least, nor does it understand how far it is going to go, and what are the commitments it has taken on itself in consequence? There are large categories other than these. A friend of mine to whom I was talking said about this Amendment, "Well, I hope you will carry it"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes; he is a brigadier-general and has a pension of a major. What I want to face is this. If there be a problem and the War Office is doing injustice in respect to this category of men, let us know. The speech made by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment is full of in accuracies [HON. MEMBERS: "What are they?"] I have pointed out one. The questionnaire is not full. We are told that the White Paper issued by the War Office is partial. Well, the accusations seem to be pretty catholic. If the House of Commons is wise, it will inquire into the whole thing. Let us see what is in this Amendment. The hon. Member who has drafted this Amendment has been very careful to leave out the essential parts of the questionnaire. The hon. and gallant Member's Amendment reads:That, in the opinion of this House, professional ranker officers of the Army should receive equal treatment as regards retired pay or pension.2662 Now, my conception is not exactly that. Equality is based upon equal conditions. I think it is convenient to repeat it again. What does the Amendment mean?That, in the opinion of this House, professional ranker officers of the Army should receive equal treatment as regards retired pay or pension.Equal to whom?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
But one of the great points made by the hon. and gallant Member was that the treatment was to be equal to that given to naval officers. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"]
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Well, the hon. and gallant Member made it a strong point. Are we going to be so innocent as to assume that in any readjustment on this basis the treatment given to naval men is not going to be taken into account in a further agitation and probably in another Amendment? The thing is absurd—dealing with it in this sort of piecemeal, haphazard fashion. I therefore suggest—and I have never retired from my declaration—that men suffering from a wrong should receive justice generally. If ranker officers suffer, I would support the adjustment, but if they do not suffer I would not support it. Taking that attitude, I do not abate one jot or tittle from the pledge I gave. I therefore suggest that we should come to some agreement over this matter. The House wishes to do the right thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] We all want to do the right thing, both to the ex-service men and to the taxpayer. We want to see fair play and that equity is done all round. It is not enough for men to make a claim in order that they should get it. They must establish the ground upon which they make the claim. If this Amendment be carried the only effect would be that Mr. Speaker does not leave the Chair. Then we waste a day. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, I must be very careful. Let me put it in a way that will not offend the susceptibilities of hon. Members. We shall take two days to do what we could do in one day. I prefer, when the House of Commons comes to a decision, that it does not use its thumbs in order to draft its instructions, either to the Government or to the War Office. If this Amendment be 2663 passed, the House of Commons is only making a declaration affecting an admittedly small section—2,500 men. It is admittedly a small section right in the middle of the whole range of the Army service. You have left out the men at the bottom, and you have left out the men at the top. If this House of Commons decides to pass this Amendment this is what will be done. I would suggest that we ought to do something better than that. My suggestion is this: When I saw the position in which this question was—I have no majority; hon. Members opposite have no majority; hon. Members below the Gangway on this side have no majority—it is impossible for the Government to say, "We have decided to do so and so, and are putting on our Whips and we shall make this question one of confidence." That is impossible. I should certainly not make this question a vote of confidence. I considered how best to approach the matter and I suggested that a Select Committee should be set up drawn from all parties in this House, with an appeal to hon. Members who compose it to sit as severe judges listening to the evidence and coming to an independent decision. That suggestion, however, for one reason or another, has been rejected. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I have more faith in some hon. Members than they apparently have in themselves. It was my intention to get hon. Members of the House of Commons to do their duty and come to an independent decision upon the matter, so that they could guide the whole House as to what its duty was. I suggest now that the thing should be done in a somewhat better way.
The late Government, I think it was, was in difficulties in a similar way about the Civil Service Entrants. In order that the whole thing should be taken away from party pressure and the suspicion of party pressure, a Committee was set up of outsiders presided over by Lord Lytton. That Committee became known as the Lytton Committee, and the people concerned by it. [Interruption.] If hon. Members condemn that I make a present both of their minds and arguments. I suggest again that this matter should be dealt with in the same way. But it is not enough that this small middle section should be dealt with. 2664 Before this House comes to a decision about that section, and before this House comes to a decision about the 2,500, the House ought to know exactly to what it is committing itself. That is business in a thing like this with its inevitable consequences.
I have already had two deputations from other sections expecting the success of this move, and asking that their cases should be considered, and that they should be treated in the same way as it is proposed in the case of the ranker temporary officers. Of course we must do it. There are no hon. Members in whatever quarter of the House who are under the delusion that you are going to vote on this thing to-night, and leave it in exactly the condition in which it will be left by this Amendment. I, therefore, suggest—I do not know whether I might appeal to hon. Members on that understanding—that a Committee be at once set up, say, of three good representative, influential men to consider this question—I do not commit myself exactly to the terms of reference, but they will be something of this kind:To consider the claims of professional ex-ranker officers, having regard to the general conditions of service in the Army during the late War, and to report.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD
As I understand it, that excludes the private soldier, the non-commissioned officer and the warrant officer, all of whom have equal claim. Is that so?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
If that be so it must be changed. That is not the intention, because I think the effect of the wording of the suggestion is to consider the claims of the professional ranker officers having regard to the conditions of service in the Army. I am informed that that best covers the points. But do not let us boggle over any form of words. The intention is not to confine inquiry merely to the case of the professional officer. I can assure hon. Members that the terms of reference will be so wide that the whole question can be considered.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Will it include the other ranks who never became officers at all, and who started, we will say, on the old pension as sergeants and finished up as warrant officers?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes, Sir, I referred to that in that part of my speech 2665 in which I dealt with the intentions of the Government. If there is any doubt about it, as this has been hurriedly drafted, I will see that they are included. I desire that we should be agreed upon the wording of the terms of reference.
§ Major Sir BERTRAM FALLE
Will the right hon. Gentleman include the corresponding ranks in the Navy?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am afraid I have not got the technical knowledge to answer that off-hand, but the intention is to include men of all ranks who engaged in combatant service during the War and who were influenced by the same conditions and considerations of service as the ex-ranker officers. As I said, I am quite sure that everybody who cares for the House of Commons will deprecate a decision on a matter like this with so many consequences and so much involved. The case is not quite straightened out. It is not quite clear. Many ex parte statements have been made. These need to be sifted and carefully weighed before being finally concluded. How many have been? None! Under these circumstances the House will consult business if nothing else, the best business way of doing its work, if it will agree that the whole matter should become before an authoritatively agreed committee so that this House can act upon whatever report the committee present to it.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I only propose to occupy the House for a very short time. If this question and discussion lead to a lengthy Debate my right hon. Friend who has been Secretary of State for War will take part in it. I merely rise to say a few words on the proposal which has been put before the House by the Prime Minister. The suggestion is in a way a novel one, but the situation is also a novel one. There is no question, to my mind, whatever the distribution of parties may be, that this is a subject on which the Government ought to have made up its mind and given a lead to the House of Commons. We have to deal with a situation. They have failed to do that. 2666 The question is what is the best course of action for us to suggest to the House? Under these circumstances, I am convinced that the best course of action is to accept the committee described to deal with this question, and for this reason: I was not in favour, and I am not now in favour of a Committee of the House of Commons. I think it would be a most risky proceeding to leave a question of this kind to the open vote of the House of Commons, so many among us are pledged. The difficulties of leaving it to an open vote are obvious. Will the House take that from me who have had some experience in the last few years. This question, and the questions attendant upon it, are questions of extraordinary complexity, not only in themselves, but in what they involve. It would be perfectly impossible for a Member of this House who has not had the opportunity of studying the evidence of all sides to come to the conclusion which would be alike fair, and we have to deal fairly as between the soldiers and the taxpayers.
But the Prime Minister, I think, touched a very serious and difficult point when he spoke about the questionnaire. Apparently some hon. Members sign these questionnaires without inquiry. My right hon. Friend who sits beside me sometimes signs a questionnaire, having made an inquiry. Surely, however, the best course is the course I invariably pursue—I never answer! The most timorous may take heart, for I have done that time after time. We have a question which, as the Prime Minister has explained, is one of very great complexity and which brings in its train a series of other questions equally difficult. It will be invaluable for this House to have these matters sifted by an expert Committee. The result of their investigations and the evidence on which they base their conclusions will come before this House in their Report. We shall then, all of us, be in a far better position than we would be after a couple of hours' Debate to decide what is the best thing to do. If the Report should be in favour of making considerable concessions, and if it is adopted, it will have to be embodied in an Estimate, and then full and free discussion can take place in the House. If the Report turns down all the demands of those interested, and if the Government support the Committee, then it will be open to anyone to put down 2667 a Motion to censure the Government, and in any case we shall get a Division upon it. I hope what I have said will commend itself to the House, and will induce a majority to fall in, under these very singular circumstances, with the suggestion which has been made. I think I am speaking for the majority of those who sit behind me in what I have said. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed."]
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I hope I may be allowed to express my views for a few moments upon this matter. No one desires to make a personal attack upon the Prime Minister, neither have we any particular desire to make a partisan attack, but we are concerned with seeing fair play to a body of men to whom this nation can never fully requite its obligations. I was brought up amongst their predecessors, and I am entitled to speak on behalf of them. The Prime Minister is very solicitous about his honour, and so are all of us, but surely we can say a word on behalf of the honour of those with whom we are dealing. To speak of concealment in the questionnaire, and the suggestions being misleading is not a fail-way of putting it. May I read a letter which has been sent on behalf of the Prime Minister to a ranker officer in the Glamorganshire group, who complained that the Prime Minister had suggested that these good people had done something quite unworthy. The letter I am going to quote is dated 19th February last, and it is as follows:The Prime Minister is obliged for your letter of the 16th instant, and is sorry beyond words for the little incident which has been and which is being exploited for purely partisan purposes. Mr. MacDonald knows perfectly well that you had no intention of deceiving him.After that, what is the use of talking about concealment? The letter proceeds:But the way in which the question was worded rather misled him"—that is not concealment—as to the position of his friends. He came amongst a mass of stuff, and, glancing through it, thought the grievance was that you had been specially left out of the re-grading of pensions. The Prime Minister would not for the world break a pledge which he had given"—of course, I accept that statement. The letter proceeds—and he is having the matter looked into still further. As you are aware, the War Office must have the last word"—2668 I think that is quite an improper observation, because it is for the House of Commons to have the last word—and if anything can be done, the Prime Minister will do it as a matter of duty. He is desirous of impressing upon you, however, that he never had in his mind the fact that you had done anything that was improper.I thought I might read that letter in reply to the charge of concealment. I am amazed and dismayed at the decision of the Prime Minister, and if I am the only one to vote for this Amendment I shall go into the Lobby alone. I hope the late Prime Minister will re-consider his decision. What was first proposed to us was that this matter should be referred to a Select Committee, but I understand that was not agreeable to hon. Members, and then the Prime Minister said: "If you do not think a Select Committee will not meet the case, I will not put on the Whips, and the matter can be left to a free vote of the House." The stage was set in that sense. The War Office issued a White Paper, which says the worst that can be said about this matter, and I will not put it stronger than that, although I could do so. The War Office issued that White Paper, and now we are invited to send this matter for consideration to a Committee of three outside experts.
As far as I am concerned, I shall not agree to that course, and if the Government is going to contest this point they must defeat it in the Division Lobby. The facts of the case are fully before us. The War Office has stated its case, and now this urgent and acute matter is to be mixed up with all sorts of other questions put by hon. Members, who got up in all quarters of the House and suggested that the inquiry should include naval officers, warrant officers and barrack wardens. Where is there going to be an end to all this? Here is an acute problem, long overdue, and if we are going to have this endless vista of inquiry, goodness knows when it will end!
I should have thought that this would have appealed particularly to the Members of the Labour Party, because the Front Bench are themselves ranker officers, and we are very proud of it. For myself I have a class conscience enough to make me admire them for being proud of that. I should have thought that 2669 they would have backed up this point at once. This House of Commons should not allow this kind of thing to go on any longer, and we ought to tell the War Office and the Treasury, with the House of Commons compliments, that they had better pay up and look cheerful.
§ Sir J. DAVIDSON
I think this question is getting extremely confused. This is an important matter, and I would suggest to the Government that they should extend the terms of the reference to this Committee to cover all the pledges made by the Prime Minister at the last Election. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh! Oh!"] I am speaking quite in earnest, and I mean what I say. I have in my hand a pledge signed by the Prime Minister to remove the means limit in the case of pre-War pensions, and why not include that in the terms of reference? I am fully in sympathy with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and if this Amendment goes to a Division I shall support it in the Lobby, not upon any question of the merits or demerits of the case, but from a standpoint upon which I feel very strongly, and that is that a pledge is a pledge and ought to be fulfilled. When you sign a pledge you ought to understand it or not sign it. For these reasons I think hon. Members ought to go into the Lobby in support of this Amendment.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I do not intend to give a silent vote on this question. I think it is monstrous that an attempt should be made to push this matter down our throats. I think the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have a responsibility in this matter which ought to have been fulfilled last year, when this matter was brought up time after time. I never sign any questionnaire without trying to understand it, and when this one came to me at the previous Election I took the trouble to ask some of the men concerned, and who had a grievance, to come and see me about the matter. My own view is that they have made out, their case. I have listened to what the Prime Minister has said, and I do not think he has destroyed their case. You do not destroy one case by throwing out a whole lot of others and saying: "If you remedy this injustice you will be called upon to remedy all these others." The grievances of these men have been put forward quite clearly by the two hon. Members who 2670 moved and seconded this Amendment and the Prime Minister has not replied to the points that were made. As to concealment, the one thing that we are told has been concealed is the fact that these men had a gratuity when they left the service. I may say that if the House is willing to deal with these men on the lines they are asking for, they are perfectly willing that that gratuity should be a set off. That is something which everybody knows the men have agreed to, and it does seem to me that the House itself ought to decide this question. With regard to pledges, I think myself that the electors have a perfect right to ask anyone who is asking for their suffrages whether he will support this, that, or the other in which his constituents may be interested.
I would like to point out that it is no greater crime for these men to ask their representatives to support their claim than it is for those interested in agriculture to ask their Members of Parliament to support matters which are of interest to that industry. The House of Commons is in quite a different position to that in which it was placed in days gone by. You legislate upon more questions which affect the life of the people, and they are entitled to ask us what we intend to do in regard to them. Another thing I want to say is in regard to the difficult position that persons like myself are placed in by the Prime Minister's proposition. Up to this evening we all imagined that we should have a free vote on this question. Only yesterday I met some of these officers, and the day before I met some more of these men, and we agreed to take certain action. I cannot play fast and loose with my promises, anyhow. I do not think that any of us, once having made a pledge, ought to go back upon it. Much as I hated the War, and much as I would have done to stop the War, those men performed a service which no other men in the country could have performed, and I think it is the height of meanness to treat them in this fashion. For those reasons I propose to go into the Lobby in support of the Amendment.
§ Sir GERALD HOHLER
I do not propose to continue the Debate at any length. The case has been admirably stated by my hon. Friend. The only reason I rise is to explain to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition 2671 exactly why I cannot accept the view he does. I was aware that this question was a live question at the last election and the previous one. I knew the difficulties that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has indicated. I gave no pledge that bound me to do anything in regard to the matter at the election, but, since the election, having seen the pledge the Prime Minister had given, I did pledge myself to support these men. That being so, I shall vote in the Division accordingly.
§ Sir B. FALLE
I shall not detain the House more than two minutes. I only want to say that I support what my hon. and learned Friend has just said. If we are to have a Committee, at least they should investigate the points which refer to the Services, and if the Junior Service, why not the Senior Service? It would not take up the time of the Committee for any considerable period. If the Prime Minister will allow the Senior Service also to be included, I shall give him my vote. If not, I shall vote for these officers.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 220; Noes, 201.2675
|Division No. 26.]||AYES.||[7.50 p.m.|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Kennedy, T.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Kirkwood, D.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Gillett, George M.||Lane-Fox, George R.|
|Alexander, Brg.-Gen. Sir W. (Glas, C.)||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Law, A.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Gosling, Harry||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lawson, John James|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Leach, W.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Lee, F.|
|Banton, G.||Greenall, T.||Lindley, F. W.|
|Barclay, R. Noton||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Barnes, A.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lowth, T.|
|Batey, Joseph||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Lunn, William|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Grigg, Lieut.-Col. Sir Edward W. M.||M'Entee, V. L.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Groves, T.||Mackinder, W.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Grundy, T. W.||McLean, Major A.|
|Briant, Frank||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Broad, F. A.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Bromfield, William||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||March, S.|
|Buchanan, G.||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Marley, James|
|Buckie, J.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Maxton, James|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Hardie, George D.||Mills, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Harland, A.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Harris, Percy A.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Montague, Frederick|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Haycock, A. W.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Hayday, Arthur||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)||Mosley, Oswald|
|Clarke, A.||Hemmerde, E. G.||Muir, John W.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Murray, Robert|
|Climie, R.||Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfield)||Murrell, Frank|
|Cluse, W. S.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Nixon, H.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hirst, G. H.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hoare, Lt. Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Paling, W.|
|Costello, L. W. J.||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Palmer, E. T.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hoffman, P. C.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Crittall, V. G.||Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.)||Penny, Frederick George|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hudson, J. H.||Perring, William George|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Perry, S. F.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Isaacs, G. A.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Potts, John S.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Purcell, A. A.|
|Dickson, T.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Raffety, F. W.|
|Dukes, C.||Jewson, Dorothea||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Duncan, C.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Raynes, W. R.|
|Egan, W. H.||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Rentoul, G. S.|
|FitzRoy, Capt. Rt. Hon. Edward A.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Richards, R.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Ritson, J.||Steel, Samuel Strang||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Weir, L. M.|
|Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)||Sullivan, J.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Romeril, H. G.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Westwood, J.|
|Ropner, Major L.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)||Whiteley, W.|
|Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Wignall, James|
|Russell-Wells, Sir S. (London Univ.)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Williams David (Swansea, E.)|
|Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Williams, Lt.-Col. T. S. B. (Kennington)|
|Scurr, John||Tillett, Benjamin||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Sexton, James||Tinker, John Joseph||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Toole, J.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Sherwood George Henry||Tout, W. J.||Windsor, Walter|
|Shinwell, Emanuel||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Smillie, Robert||Turner, Ben||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Varley, Frank B.||Wright, W.|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Viant, S. P.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Wallhead, Richard C.||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Spence, R.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Spoor, B. G.||Warne, G. H.||TELLERS FOB THE AYES.—|
|Stamford, T. W.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)||Mr. Arthur Henderson, Junior, and|
|Stanley, Lord||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Mr. Walter Samuel.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Meller, R. J.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Ferguson, H.||Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Finney, V. H.||Middleton, G.|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H.||Mitchell R. M. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Foot, Isaac||Mond, H.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Forestier-Walker, L.||Morrison-Bell, Major Sir A. C. (Honiton)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Franklin, L. B.||Moulton, Major Fletcher|
|Baker, W. J.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase||Gates, Percy||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Nichol, Robert|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Gilbert, James Daniel||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)|
|Berry, Sir George||Gorman, William||O'Neill, John Joseph|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Owen, Major G.|
|Birkett, W. N.||Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)|
|Black, J. W.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Harbord, Arthur||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Bonwick, A.||Harvey, C. M. B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Pielou, D. P.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Hillary, A. E.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Hogge, James Myles||Rathbone, Hugh R.|
|Brunner, Sir J.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Rea, W. Russell|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Horlick, Lieut. Colonel J. N.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Burman, J. B.||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Johnson, Sir L. (Walthamstow, E.)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Royle, C.|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool, W. Derby)||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Collins, Patrick (Walsall)||Kedward, R. M.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Compton, Joseph||Keens, T.||Savery, S. S.|
|Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)|
|Cope, Major William||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Seely, Rt. Hon. Maj.-Gen. J. E. B. (I. of W.)|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Lamb, J. Q.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry Page||Laverack, F. J.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Lessing, E.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Linfield, F. C.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Darbishire, Charles W.||Livingstone, A. M.||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lorimer, H. D.||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Loverseed, J. F.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Deans, Richard Storry||Lumley, L. R.||Stranger, Innes Harold|
|Dodds, S. R.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||McCrae, Sir George||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Duckworth, John||MacDonald, R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Macfadyen, E.||Sunlight, J.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Sutcliffe, T.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Ednam, Viscount||Maden, H.||Tattersall, J. L.|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Mansel, Sir Courtenay||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Elvedon, Viscount||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)|
|England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Falconer, J.||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Thurtle, E.||Wells, S. R.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Tichfield, Major the Marquess of||Wheler, Lieut.-Col. Granville C. H.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Vivian, H.||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.|
|Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)||Williams, Maj. A. S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)||Willison, H.|
|Warrender, Sir Victor||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.)||Winfrey, Sir Richard||Mr. John Harris and Mr. Lansbury.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Lieut.-Colonel HODGE
I find in these Estimates that references are made on various pages right through the book to the accounts for the year 1922–23. I should like to ask why the accounts for this period are not yet in our hands? The period up to 1922 ended on 31st March last year. It is conceivable that information has to come into the War Office from the uttermost parts of the earth, but I submit that a whole year is ample time for that account to have been made up and for that document to be in our hands. In any event, I submit that the Secretary of State for War has no right whatever to refer to that document unless it is in our hands. It evidently is a complete document. I pass from that to the Estimate itself. The Estimate on page 5 shows that there is a reduction of £7,000,000. I suppose, in spite of the fact that the Labour Government have merely taken over a legacy from the late Government, it will be believed in the country that the Labour Government is saving £7,000,000 on reduced Estimates. Before we call that a saving at all, I should like to ask how much of a surplus was anticipated from last year The reduction is £7,000,000, but if there is an anticipated surplus of another £7,000,000, then there is no reduction at all in the current year. If, in fact, the anticipated surplus for last year exceeds the sum of £7,000,000, then I am going to tell the Government that their expenditure for the current year is rather move than it was last year. The country never discusses the Army Account when it comes out; the country discusses the Estimate, and only if there is a reduction. We have had no evidence at all that there is a reduction.
I should like to refer to page 5 of the Estimates, and I want to say that here I think there is a gross misrepresentation of the cost of the Army. On page 5 under head 5, Capital Accounts, there is a sum shown in the column for the year 1924–25 of a credit for £1,701,000. 2676 That item represents an amount which was drawn on the reserves of stock which the Government has held. If reference is made to the Estimate Accounts, Volume 21–22, on page 123, it will be seen at the bottom that the stocks in hand which the Government hold amounted to £126,000,000. That sum is being gradually reduced. It is being taken from by the Army and is not being shown in the Army Accounts. Of course, it will be said that this is a cash statement. The expression is used, "Heads of Cost." We want to know what the Army is costing. The word "cost" includes more than cash payments. It includes the amount of stocks you are taking from the Army stocks. I am going further. You will see on page 2 of the Estimates that for the last four years the real cost of the Army has been misrepresented and under-represented to the amount of nearly £34,000,000. I make that suggestion, and I would like to have an answer from the Secretary of State for War on that point. I cannot congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the form of the accounts. I do not think it should be necessary to have to hunt in at least three different parts of the account when you wish to discover how much a particular Department is costing.
Let us take, for example, the cost of the remounts. If you look at page 130 you will find that cost of maintenance is shown at £119,980. On page 132 is shown the cost of horses boarded out, £13,150, and then I have to turn to another page, page 272, and I find that several retired officers engaged in this department cost £22,674. That sort of thing makes us rather suspicious as to why these charges should be tucked away in different parts of the account. These retired officers are three inspectors of remounts costing £2,100 a year. They get £700 a year each, in addition to their retired pay. There are six deputy assistant inspectors of remounts costing £2,214. There are 50 district remount officers costing £18,360. I should like to know what these retired Army officers are doing. The Secretary 2677 of State for War spoke at considerable length this afternoon about mechanicalising the Army. He even referred to the fact that he has mechanicalised the Field Artillery. I understand these 69 officers are costing over £22,000, and they are engaged up and down the country in seeking where a supply of horses can be obtained in the case of another war. That is, in my opinion, a scandalous misuse of £20,000. That is one of the reasons why we have so much trouble in finding out exactly what each Department costs. I commend to the Secretary of State for War that he should try to see that in future as little trouble as possible is given in finding out what the real cost of things is. I want to refer to Woolwich and Sandhurst. I notice on page 47 that the cost of a cadet last year came out at £46 18s. 6d. per head more than was expected, and the reason given is that it was due to the reduction in numbers of from 260 to 140. That may be quite a good reason.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ Lieut.-Colonel HODGE
I was referring to the excuse given in the Estimates for the increased cost per head at Woolwich, and to the fact that the Estimates give as a reason that it was due to the reduction in numbers. I find, however, that at Sandhurst, although the number of cadets has fallen from 660 to 620, the cost per head has remained practically the same. That requires some explanation. It would almost appear that any excuse is good enough except the right one. I also notice, as far as Woolwich is concerned, that it is anticipated that £29,650 will be received from parents in respect of 240 cadets, but that last year, in respect of 265 cadets, only £22,728 was received. The same thing applies to Sandhurst, and it suggests that the Government anticipates receiving this year a good deal more from the parents of cadets.
Much reference has been made this afternoon to the Haldane Report—the Report which is to democratise the Army. On page 3 of that Report it is stated that:The type of education in the secondary schools available for the children of parents in comparatively humble circumstances is now higher than it has been at any time in the past, and barriers, social and intellectual, 2678 have been and daily continue to be broken down.I see no signs at all of these social barriers being broken down. I find that Wellington College sent 49 boys to the Army last year, that Eton sent 22, Harrow 18, Marlborough 13, Charterhouse 10, and Rugby 8. From six schools of the country, therefore, 120 men go to Woolwich and Sandhurst, and it means that from these six schools are supplied one-third of the commissions in the Army. Two ex-Secretaries of State for War have stated that we are not getting a sufficient number of cadets for Sandhurst and Woolwich, conceivably owing to the high fees. I wish we knew a little more about these fees. The Haldane Report suggests that the sum of £300 is enough to see a boy right through Sandhurst or Woolwich, and he is fit to get a commission at something well over £300 a year. It would be rather interesting to know how the sums receivable from parents are really derived. We find that, if a man happens to be the son of a serving lieut.-colonel, his fees are £80 a year. If he is the son of a serving colonel, the fees are the same, namely, £80. If he is the son of a major-general or a lieut.-general, his fees are £95, and if he is the son of a serving general they are £105; while in the case of the son of a private gentleman—which, of course, includes the private working man—the fees are £200 a year.
I have no objection at all to the sons of deceased officers getting it for nothing, if necessary, and I have no objection to the sons of active officers up to the rank of major being allowed certain reductions; but, when I regard the fact that the salary of a serving lieutenant-colonel is £1,256, of a serving colonel anything from £1,400 to £1,500, of a major-general over £2,000, of a lieutenant-general £3,300 and of a general £4,300, I object to these men getting any reduction at all on the fees for the education of their sons for the Army. Talk about a close corporation! It is nearly as bad as the House of Lords; it has been so wrapped up in the hereditary system. That is what they call democratising the Army. I remember asking last year if the son of a working man was allowed to go to Sandhurst, and at once the answer was given, "Oh, yes, we are 88 short." Great play has been made with the statement 2679 that 32 rankers went to (Sandhurst last year. It is rather interesting to know how a ranker gets a commission in the Army. He has five steps. First of all—and I do not object to this—he must be in possession of a Special Army Certificate of education. He must be at least an unpaid lance-corporal of six months' standing; his commanding officer must certify that he has shown promise of leadership, and that he, the commanding officer, would be willing to accept him as an officer in his regiment. Then the brigade commander must see the candidate and state his opinion as to his fitness and suitability; and then the general officer commanding the division endorses the recommendation. That is the equivalent for the poor man's son being without the £300 which it is suggested would pay for an 18 months' course at either Woolwich or Sandhurst. On that I have a suggestion to make. The Haldane Report, at page 4, states that:The evidence that has been submitted to us makes it clear that the present mode of supply cannot be relied upon as likely to prove sufficient in the future.Much has been made of the influence of the lords-lieutenant in matters military, and I would like to make the suggestion that, if possible, the different counties in the country might see their way to establish scholarships for the Army, of the value of, say, £500 a year, which would enable a young man to get through either Sandhurst or Woolwich and fit him up with uniform. The winner of such a county scholarship could join the county regiment—there could be no question of his not being good enough to join it—and those entitled to sit for such a scholarship ought to consist of boys whose parents have means not more than, say, £200 a year. I think that if the Secretary for War followed that up with the lords-lieutenant, he might meet with a degree of success which possibly he little anticipates.
I now come to what is, perhaps, the most important subject to-night—the financial administration of the Army, and, in particular, the Lawrence Report. I congratulate the Government, in the first place, upon issuing this Report. I remember that last year I expressed the hope that the Lawrence Committee would do its work, and that, the Committee having reported, the Army Council would 2680 do its work; and it has begun to do its work by publishing the Report. I now want to express the hope that the Army Council will be strong enough to see that the recommendations in the Lawrence Report are carried through. It is very undesirable, when we hear of Departmental Committees examining into very important questions, to be told, as we have been told, "You cannot expect this Report. You have no right to expect it. It does not concern you." That is what it amounts to. However, we have the Report. I wish to strengthen the hands of the Secretary of State in pushing home the recommendations contained in this Report by informing him of a few facts. This is one remark that the Report makes.It is proved to demonstration that, by a proper system of accounting, economies to an extent at present unrealised can be effected.I remember last year speaking to benches just as full as this, but I am getting rather nicer treatment to-night for the reason that I regard the Lawrence Report as an absolute justification of the attitude I took a year ago. I was jeered at by the Opposition. When the then Financial Secretary to the War Office, the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gwynne), got up he admitted that he had been four days in office—not a wonderful testimonial to answer for anyone—and yet I said, "I do not blame you. I throw these out as suggestions." But I was met with nothing but untrue statements. When I was jeered at I told them, "I wish your constituents were here to see you laughing." I hope the Under-Secretary for War and the Financial Secretary to the War Office will take any suggestions I make to-night in the best possible spirit. They may feel that I am wrong in my suggestions, but the facts I am going to lay before them ought to convince them. The Lawrence Report further states:The fact is that prior to the introduction of the new system there was nothing in the Army outside the War Office worthy to be called by the name of accounts.When you are asking this House to consider an expenditure of £45,000,000 and you read those two remarks, no language of mine can be strong enough to condemn the people who are in charge of that organisation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colchester (Sir L. Worthington-Evans), 2681 who deserves thanks for having instituted the Lawrence Committee, spoke of the cost of accounting two years ago as being £1,900,000 and somewhere about £800,000 to-day. The cost to-day is £961,068. If the Under-Secretary would like to know how I arrive at my figures, on page 166 is shown the cost of the Royal Army Pay Corps, £431,500, and on page 29 is shown the cost of the Corps of Military Accountants, £215,600. Add, from page 30, the cost of civilians, £31,100, making the total cost of the C.M.A. £246,700. On page 251 you find the financial staff of the War Office, £154,484, and on page 262 it gives the Department of the Finance Member, £34,774. On page 252, there is also the Finance staff on out-stations, £103,610. That is how I arrive at my total. On page 10 of the Estimates the number of men on the establishment of the Army is shown at 157,500, so that accounting in the Army to-day costs each soldier per annum £6 2s. I spent a few hours last week looking at the Army Estimates of 50 years ago. The strength of the Army then was 82 per cent. of the present Army, the whole Estimates amounted to 30 per cent. of the present Estimates and the accountancy cost 14s. 10d. per man per annum, or only 12 per cent. of what it costs to-day, and I question very much if the accounts were then kept much worse than they are to-day. If tenders were invited for looking after the accountancy of the War Office, any city firm of repute could tender for £500,000, which is a saving of £450,000, and the firm tendering would then make a profit of £100,000. Of that I have not the least doubt, and the work would be done very much better. The Lawrence Report has dealt with decentralisation of the unit. That is really the most important part of the Committee's recommendations. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colchester said, difficulties will be placed in the way of getting these recommendations through by gentlemen whose interests will not be served by getting them through. You have one recommendation, an extremely difficult one to carry out, one that I myself recommended a year ago, the amalgamation of the Pay Corps with the Corps of Military Accountants. The difficulty we have is this. The Pay Corps is the older body. I find it has nine colonels as against one in the Corps of 2682 Military Accountants, 34 lieutenant-colonels as against five, 15 majors as against 10, 73 captains as against 94, and 41 subalterns, a total of 172 against 110, and mostly senior officers. In the Pay Corps you have, I think, five qualified accountants out of 172, and in the Corps of Military Accountants you have, out of 110, 60 either chartered or incorporated accountants. The point, in other words, is that in the amalgamation you are going to find a highly qualified man with a junior rank having to serve under a dud with a high rank. That is your difficulty. I call him a dud because he has been proved a dud over and over again. He is a gentleman. I say nothing about that. I am simply talking about finance, and it is no use calling him by gentlemanly names when you do not mean it. It is very interesting indeed to read the evidence given before the Select Committee on Public Accounts by the late Joint Secretary to the War Office on the financal side. His evidence is rather illuminating. I want to drive this home. The evidence I am trying to bring before the House I want to be so strong that there can be no excuse whatever for this Government not carrying through the suggestions of the Lawrence Report. That is my whole point, and I cannot make my case too strong. On the question of amalgamation, the joint Permanent Secretary of the War Office was asked a question. He said:I should inform the Committee that as soon as this scheme is something more than an experiment and is definitely approved, my intention is to amalgamate the paymasters who keep the cash accounts with these accountants who keep the accounts, and in that way we shall get very considerable reductions of expenditure, because there is undoubtedly a certain amount of overlapping between the duties of the two staffs.Not a word this afternoon from the Secretary of State for War as to what recommendations he was going to carry through. I do not want to be too unkind to the present Secretary of State for War, but I would point out that it was nearly five months before the Army Council considered the Report after it came out. That is not progress as we want to know it to-day.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Major Attlee)
Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest that the 2683 present Government is to blame for that?
§ Lieut.-Colonel HODGE
I said, first of all, that I did not want to be unkind to the present Government or the present Secretary of State for War. The next thing I said was that it was nearly five months from the time that the Report was issued to the date when it was considered by the Army Council. I did not apply any fault to the present Government. I went on to say that that is the sort of progress we would like to see altered, and I say that again. Turning once more to the evidence given by the Joint Permanent Secretary to the Select Committee on Public Accounts, I would point out that the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir F. Wise) asked:Why cannot this be done now?Because the amalgamation of two military corps interferes with the prospects of everybody in the service. When I come to amalgamate the one hundred accountants who keep these accounts and the two hundred or more paymasters who keep the cash, I shall interfere in a very serious way indeed with the professional prospects on the faith of which these men have come into public service. If it has to be done, it has to be done, but I cannot do it as an experiment.That is a very poor reason for keeping back economies which are going to save this country many hundreds of thousands of pounds a year—the careers of a few officers, men who never had a career. That is the sort of reason which I hope will not be accepted by any future Accounts Committee if it is trotted out as a reason for not causing the amalgamation to take place.
Last year I referred to the local audit staff, and I then said that that staff ought to be abolished, that it was costing a great deal of money, that if it were abolished we would save much money, and that the work the staff was doing was a mere duplication of work which was already well done by the military authorities. The report speaks of uneconomical methods, and goes on to say:In the course of investigations made on behalf of the sub-committee, the following points, involving unnecessary duplication or other waste of effort, were observed: (a), (b), (c). (d), (e), (f), and (g).I submit that on the question of duplication we do not need any more evidence. These gentlemen have to be swept away, 2684 no matter what it costs. We have poor ex-service men complaining that their services are being dispensed with, yet there are people at head offices like the War Office who slither themselves in and stay there and you never can get them out.
I should like to say something of a class of men in the Pay Corps for whom I have always had profound respect. I refer to the men who got a commission from the ranks, in other words, the Assistant Paymasters. When you visit a Pay Office and call upon the Colonel the first thing he does is to call out "Sergeant Major." When the sergeant-major comes, the Colonel says, "Send Lieutenant so-and-so here," "Lieutenant so-and-so" being the Assistant Paymaster. These Assistant Paymasters are the cream of the Department. There is no question about that; there can be no two opinions about it. You cannot get on without them. Yet these men can never rise higher than the rank of captain, notwithstanding their knowledge and all the work they put in. Why? Mr. Under-Secretary, I ask you to note the reason. The reason is that, being rankers, they are never supposed to have money in their hands. When one remembers that the officers who get into the Pay Corps get there for the reason that they are hard up, one can see the inconsitency of the whole matter. I hope that a Labour Government will take in hand that particular question. These men regard it as a deep insult to their characters that they should never be able to rise beyond the rank of captain. I hope that will be put right.
About three weeks ago a question was put to the Secretary of State for War by the hon. and gallant Member for Salisbury (Major Moulton) as to how much money had been proveo to be lost to the public during the three years ending 31st December. 1923, by reason of misappropriation of Army money? The answer was that the loss amounted to about £38,000. That answer was rather a petulant one, I thought, having regard to these perpetual questions about chartered accountants. Can there be any surprise that questions about chartered accountants should be perpetual? I want to refer to the Army accounts for 1921–22, and to draw attention to the actual amount of money lost to the public. On page 169 we find that the 2685 losses during 1921–22, due wholly or in part to theft, fraud, arson, or gross negligence, amounted to £830,059; due to causes other than these, £1,077,180; and due to incidents of the Service, £544,179. That is a total of £2,471,412. There was lost to the Army during the War period and prior to the 31st March, 1920, £181,050; during the year 1920–21 the amount was £1,313,414; during the year 1921–22 the amount was £973,950, so that in the four years after the War no less than £2,287,864 was lost owing to the three instances which I have given.
Following on page 169 of the Army Accounts for 1921–22, there are 26 pages with details as to how this money was lost. I have analysed them and I find that faulty accounting is given as the reason for £193,542 and Pay Office inefficiency £201,632. In other words, general inefficiency and general had accountancy have cost the country £395,174 up to last year. I think that I have said enough to indicate that the country will be satisfied with nothing less than the early carrying out of the suggestions contained in the Lawrence Report. If a man takes these Army Accounts and puts on top of them the Lawrence Report, as to how the Army is administered, he will come to the conclusion, in my opinion, that the financial administration of the War Office is one of the greatest scandals of modern history.
Hon. Members opposite of late have been asking the President of the Board of Trade frequently for an inquiry as to why we are losing contracts. The taxation of the country to-day is due to the sort of thing to which I have been referring, for by adding to the cost of production it is one of the main reasons why manufacturers cannot sell their goods. I apologise to the House for having taken up so much time, but I am anxious that the Government, having done well enough to get this Report through, should go further and face the necessity of carrying through these suggestions one by one. I believe that in the course of the next 12 months a clean £500,000 could be saved if these men would at once get down to their jobs. I hope that they will insist on the formation at once of this Committee—they have got a terrific job—to carry out these recommendations. In the constituencies we preach economy. We also do it in this House. Let us carry it 2686 out. If I have detained the House for a half hour in making definite references and definite charges as to instances in which economies can be effected I do it for no other reason than to help the Government, in the expectation that they will carry through these reforms.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
In rising to take part in this Debate, as an ex-service Member I would like first to say that, whatever the opinion of hon. Members opposite may be, we in the Army realise that in the person of the present Minister for War we have a friend on whom we can rely and who will not let us down. I would ask him whether there is any co-ordination between the War Office and the great industrial organisations, and whether in reference to armaments and numbers of men, and arms and equipment, the immense possibilities of certain industries and civil undertakings to provide for military requirements at short notice and on a large scale in time of war are generally considered? Under this heading I include civil air service and the dyeing and chemical industries, in respect of which we had most striking examples during the late War from the Germans. If we are to consider these possibilities, I am inclined to think that something might be done by way of paying a subsidy in certain cases to keep in existence plant which otherwise would be scrapped, so as to have all in order, should the occasion arise, for the provision of such things as gas and high explosives.
The Army Estimates show that the reasons affecting the shortage of supply, in the case of both officers and men, are very much the same. It is security of tenure which is required. The Army must be a profession which the parent and the lad can look on as something which will give them some prospects in the future. With regard to officers, we have had a certain amount of assurance. The same arguments apply to the rank and file. I believe that there might be some reconstruction as to the term of service. Before the War, nearly 90 per cent. of the men who joined the Army did so because they could not get work, and, to a great extent, owing to lack of food. The remainder were generally men who were the sons of old soldiers or who wanted to see the world, and who had the spirit of adventure. Now conditions are altered, because of the unemployment 2687 pay which is given. When men receive that money they will be unwilling to surrender their independence and submit to Army discipline. Even before the War there was never a very brilliant look-out for the seven and five year men.
The Army has never had a better chance than now of being up to strength, with all this vast amount of unemployment, and yet sufficient recruits are not forthcoming. The White Paper states that the recruiting of the Regular Army during the current year has not been entirely satisfactory. Will it be more so during the coming year, when trade recovers, if it does recover? At the beginning of the financial year the total strength of the Regular Army was approximately 5,500 below establishment, which is a considerable number considering the size of our Army. The Army Reserve shows an increase over the preceding year, for it seems doubtful whether it can be satisfactorily brought up to strength. Even if, as is suggested, it is held that some further growth will be secured during the coming year by allowing a certain number of men in the ranks to complete their remaining Colour service in the Reserve service, will there be sufficient men to take their places in the first line? After all, it is the man that counts, and we are getting to an age of mechanical warfare when we want thoroughly trained men who will be able to use that mechanism. We cannot improvise an Army as we have done in the past.
Another point relates to the terms of enlistment of the private soldier. On enlistment a man has to serve the Sovereign so long as his services are required within the period for which he agrees to serve. Consequently the Crown always has a right to discharge a soldier. He can be discharged under King's Regulations for being medically unfit, for misconduct, or as unlikely to become an efficient soldier. That is all very proper. But in addition he can be discharged because his services are no longer required on reduction of establishment. There is a great lack of security in that, and it might be reconsidered. A contract should be made a contract, and a man should not feel that if he joins the Service there is some likelihood of his being discharged on reduction of establishment. Of course, there may be other reasons for the short. 2688 age There is, to a great extent, war weariness after a long and bloody war, but I do not think there is so much in that now, because the War is five years behind us, it is becoming a historical fact, and the young fellows that are coming on now should be quite fresh and full of enthusiasm, and that war weariness should not have any effect. When a man joins the Army he should rest assured that there is a real future before him, and that he has a career. The short service man might very well be allowed to count his service for pension just as he would be allowed to do so if he entered the Civil Service.
As to the Reserve, could we not replenish it to a great extent by men, now out of work, who are physically fit and have war service to their credit? We know where we can put our hands on them, and could give them their 12 days' training, and so bring them up to date. I wish also to ask whether we advertise the Army as we ought to do. I often wonder whether we do that enough. Are there enough posters showing the advantages which the Army offers? Do the people realise that, if a man joins the infantry, before he has passed his drills at the end of a week he has nearly £1 in his pocket after everything is found? That compares very favourably with any branch of the unskilled labour market. I asked someone in this House the other day whether he had seen a recruiting sergeant lately. I have not seen one for many years. The advertising of the Army might be a little more extensive than it is. The whole point of view with regard to the Army has to be altered. We have to make it as much a career as any other profession, and we shall never do this until we treat our ex-service men fairly, and guarantee to men who leave the Army, relatively early in life, some opening in civil life, and prevent the abject spectacle of the old soldier on the streets with barely enough on which to live.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Brigadier-General SPEARS
Although I have some criticisms to make on Army administration, I hope that it is not out of place for me to say that I feel convinced that the right hon. Gentleman who introduced these Estimates has not only the interests of the Army at heart, but 2689 that the great Service of which he is the head is in safe keeping in his hands. I think I am speaking for Service Members on all sides, when I say that we all have a feeling that the right hon. Gentleman will know how to defend the Service if it is attacked unfairly from any quarter. The criticisms that I have to make are not aimed at the Army itself, but are made rather in the hope of making good certain defects and bringing to light certain facts in themselves detrimental to the efficiency of the Army. A few days ago I put to the Secretary for War a question. I asked him whether he would make a statement as to the purpose for which our Army was being organised, whether it was with a view to possible intervention on the Continent, whether colonial warfare alone was being envisaged, or whether it was being organised purely for home defence. The answer of the right hon. Gentleman was that now, as before, the British Army was being organised with a view to the military defence of the Empire, wherever the necessity for action might unhappily arise.
The impression intended to be left on my mind by that answer was that the Army was ready to meet any emergency. Here I must join issue with the right hon. Gentleman. I hold, and I hope to prove, that the Army is in a far worse position than it was before the War, from the point of view of possible intervention on the Continent, from the point of view of colonial warfare, and from the point of view of home defence; further, that the cost of administration is out of all proportion to the Army's numbers. It may be said, of course, that the likelihood of intervention on the Continent is remote. Certainly nobody hopes so more devoutly than I do. But the right hon. Gentleman himself does not rule out this possibility, as his answer to me shows, and as was borne out by his speech this afternoon. I rather gathered from that speech that he did not feel quite so confident now as he felt at the time when he made that answer to me a few days ago. If it be accepted that our fighting forces are much reduced, it certainly will be agreed that our Army ought to make up what it lacks in strength by extraordinary efficiency and the utmost use of scientific and mechanical invention. Also the question of expansion ought to be most carefully considered. In theory, the 2690 Minister is in agreement with this, but in practice, does our Army fulfil these conditions? I very much fear it does not.
Everybody knows what fearful weapons were developed during the last War and what appalling losses were sustained in attacking fortified positions. If there is one lesson which stands out with particular clearness from the last War it is that the best infantry in the world will suffer fearful loss if attacking positions held by even indifferent infantry with a sufficient number of machine guns. The lesson we ought to deduce is that our infantry ought not to be used to attack these positions at all. It should be considered as the garrison of positions, and as it is necessary to drive the enemy from positions if you mean to win battles you ought to attack those positions with artillery and tanks and the infantry ought to move up afterwards to hold and occupy those positions. That I submit is what we ought to aim at. In other words, I suggest we should aim at rapidly moving infantry—caterpillars and lorries—in conjunction with powerful artillery and a great number of tanks, which would assault the positions to be occupied and held by the infantry. Such is the most intelligent use for any army and it certainly is the only intelligent use which can be made of a very small army such as ours. Is our Army trained and organised on those lines? I very much fear it is not, and if it is not then we shall have the disaster of 1914 all over again, and in a very few weeks after the declaration of a war practically the whole of our Expeditionary Force will be wiped out. If the War Office conception is to base itself on attacking positions with infantry or if its artillery, machine guns and tanks are deficient, this will inevitably be the case.
It may not be out of place to see what other countries are doing in this matter. I have taken as a basis of comparison the French Army, because it is the most efficient army on the Continent to-day. The French Army is evolving, whereas the lessons of the War seem to have made extraordinarily little impression upon our own War Office. If ever there was a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth it is to be found here. Take the case of the cavalry. Our cavalry is exactly the same as it was before the War, save that a few machine guns have been 2691 added. What is the case with the French cavalry? A French cavalry division has ceased to be called a cavalry division at all, and has become a light division, and the horse is merely a means of transport from place to place. In other words, the French cavalry has become mounted infantry. A French cavalry division or light division now consists of three brigades of two regiments reinforced by heavy and light machine guns; two brigades of field artillery; one brigade of howitzers, which will be added eventually; one cyclist battalion; three squadrons of 12 armoured cars each, and one squadron of aeroplanes. On mobilisation, heavy artillery and tanks will be added to the light division. That is what the French have done, but in the six years that have elapsed since the War our cavalry seems to have gradually relapsed into the state in which it was before the War. The French cavalry has developed into a formidable instrument which is capable of the greatest results in the hands of any capable commander. Our cavalry, in spite of the lessons of the War, remains an instrument almost entirely useless under the conditions which obtain in modern warfare.
How are we off for artillery? I understand, as far as peace-time equipment is concerned, we have practically the same equipment as the French, but where we are terribly short as compared with them is in the matter of reserves. The French consider that, taking the forces in the field as a whole, it is necessary to have at least 150 guns to a division. I am perfectly certain we have not anything like that number, and I should like to hear some statement from either the Minister or the Under-Secretary on this matter. In view of the thousands of guns which must have gone out of use when the Army was demobilised, I should like to have the right hon. Gentleman's assurance on this point and to ask him whether or not this is the case, and, if so, if he will see that the deficiency is made good. As regards heavy artillery, I reckon we have somewhere about 40 heavy guns for our first three divisions. The French for a similar number of troops would have at least 100 guns, or 2½ times as many. If this is the fact, is it fair to refuse to afford to our own men the protection which the French are prepared to afford 2692 to theirs? I should also like to ask what provision has been made for reserves of heavy artillery and reserves of munitions. As to tanks, we have four battalions and the French have 40. I believe the Territorial Army has no tanks at all, in the same way as it has no heavy artillery, which it needs if it is to light at all.
I wish to know what means have we of expanding our tank battalions on mobilisation. The French Tank Corps has a reserve of machines and men. Again, what about mechanically transported artillery? We heard the Minister announce with some pride that one brigade had been experimented with successfully, and another brigade was going to be introduced. It seemed to the right hon. Gentleman to be a great discovery, but meanwhile the French have 13 regiments of this particular form of artillery, and it appears to be incredible that this form of artillery, whose usefulness was established beyond question during the War, should not have been sufficiently developed. The fire power of our infantry seems to be good, but over and above the infantry formations would it not be wise to examine whether we ought not to have battalions of machine guns. The French Army has 12 such battalions, and I am certain the number would be doubled or even trebled in case of mobilisation. It is surely worth while considering whether our Army should not possess a similar formation which means such additional strength and saving in man power. I have taken the French as the basis of comparison, not only because they have the best Army but because they have the same problems as we have in the matter of colonial war. Cater-pillers or "dragons" and tractors are used by them very largely in connection with the transport of artillery. One thing we must remember is that if tractor-drawn transport of artillery is useful, and even necessary in Europe, it is far more important in countries where there are no roads.
That seems obvious to me, and it would be the most utter folly to contend that because our Army is likely to be used mainly for colonial warfare, we should not make use of these mechanical inventions. I believe that in advancing this I am in full agreement with our own Staff College. You might as well say that the French had no need to use tanks because 2693 they were bordered by the Alps and the Pyrenees. The smaller our Army, the more use we should make of machinery, and surely, as long as we have an Army at all, it is our duty to see that everything is done to protect our men. Troops may be engaged in distant countries, where the ground is broken and difficult, and the more transport by "caterpillars" we possess the more rapidly will those particular operations be terminated. If we cannot use one weapon, we can use another, and if, in the last resort, our infantry has to attack with little support from the artillery and mechanical devices, owing to difficult country, it will go in and drive the enemy out as it has always done before, but that is no reason, and would be no excuse, for not having afforded our men every help and every defence known to modern science. We cannot accept that our infantry should not be as adequately provided for as that of any Army in the world, and surely this House considers the lives of its soldiers as well worth protecting as those of any nation in the world.
As for the Army itself, how does it compare with that which we had in 1914? I fear that the comparison is as unsatisfactory as I have shown the comparison in regard to equipment to be. In 1914 we had six infantry divisions and two cavalry divisions, mobilisable in three weeks, with a Regular Reserve at full strength, and behind these a Special Reserve, also at full establishment, and a Territorial Army of 14 Divisions and a cavalry division. What have we in 1924? We have four infantry divisions and a cavalry division, and a fifth division is, I understand, mobilisable on declaration of war, and our Regular Reserve is, we are told, much below establishment. The old Special Reserve has disappeared, and all that has taken its place is a Supplementary Reserve, which only aims at providing us with technical units and additional officers for the fighting services. Nominally, the Territorial Army still consists of 14 divisions and a cavalry division, but I believe these to be so much below strength as not to be mobilisable at all unless there were a rush of men enlisting on an emergency arising. In other words, if there were an emergency which called for our Expeditionary Force to be sent abroad, I think I am 2694 right in saying that we could not send more than half the infantry we sent abroad in 1914 in the same space of time.
I do not think that is a, particularly satisfactory result for an Army that is costing us £17,000,000 more than did the Army of 1914, and the truth is that the situation is even worse than it appears. In 1914, not only did our Army have full reserves, but it had a fairly well-armed Territorial Army, according to the knowledge we then possessed. Now, deficient as is the Regular Army in this respect, the Territorial Army is, I believe, not only not mobilisable owing to lack of men, but completely lacking in those weapons which would enable it to meet on equal terms any civilised foe. It is better to have no troops at all than to make believe that you have a force worth reckoning with, when such is not the case. I think the House will agree with me that these facts, as I have given them, reveal a very serious state of things, and I should like to press the representative of the War Office to make a statement at the first opportunity and, if the facts are as I have stated them, to assure the House that these deficiencies will be made good; and I should like to ask whether he still maintains that the Army is capable of dealing with any emergency that may arise.
Finally, I want to say a word about the War Office. The Secretary of State has given some reasons for the increased cost of the War Office. The Army has been cut to the bone. It is less numerous and much less efficient than it was before the War, but the War Office has managed to thrive and increase while the Army has dwindled. In 1914 there were 1,300 people in the War Office; to-day there are 2,600. It is a very striking fact that whilst the total of the whole Army to-day, including Reservists, Territorials, etc., is 450,000, much smaller than in 1914, when the figure was 720,000, the War Office is double the size and costs 125 per cent. more. I should like to draw the attention of the Minister, too, to the fact that the French War Office of about 1,300 people has to administer a standing army of nearly 700,000 men, which compares very unfavourably with our own War Office, which has 2,600 people to administer a standing army of 160,000 men—a War Office twice as big to administer an Army a quarter the size.
2695 There are, in addition to the figures I have given for the French War Office, some 600 military clerks, which I have not counted in that total, but I have not counted, either, the 2,000 people who, in out-stations, also help to administer our War Office. The Secretary of State urged that this large increase in the War Office was to some extent justified by the fact that we had these wonderful new developments in mechanical warfare. I hope that I have at least proved that it is not the case, and that the French Army, which is far more developed in this way than is our own, manages to be administered by a far smaller staff; and it should not be forgotten, either, that the French War Office has to deal with dilapidations, with requisitions for building, and so on, because the War was fought on the soil of France, while our War Office has never had, thank goodness, anything of that sort to deal with. I am personally persuaded that the greatest increase and extravagance is on the civilian side of the War Office, and I have no hesitation in saying that I am convinced that the civilian personnel of the War Office could be reduced by 50 per cent. without any loss of efficiency whatever.
§ Brigadier-General SPEARS
In this connection, I was glad to see that the Lawrence Committee has recommended in its Report an amalgamation of the Army Pay Corps and the Corps of Accountants, a reform which was much pressed in this House last year, and one which would undoubtedly lead to great economies in administration. It is quite clear that the War Office is too large. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will insist on a reduction of these ridiculous overhead charges, and see that the Army is administered in proportion to its size. I gather that the Weir Committee considered that the necessary economies could only be effected by complete reorganisation. This completely meets my view. There seems to be no reason why this reorganisation should not take place as soon as possible.
§ Colonel Sir CHARLES YATE
I listened with great interest to the very illuminating speech which has just been made by the hon. and gallant Member. I 2696 am only sorry that the Secretary of State for War and the Under-Secretary are absent, and have not heard that speech. I hope however the Financial Secretary will bring it to their special consideration. I entirely agree that our Army has been reduced far too much for safety. Look at the Memorandum the War Office has issued! On page 5 the first thing we notice is that the present Army is 5,500 men below establishment. The next sentence goes on to say thatmuch will remain to be done in the way of building up the Army Reserve before it will be adequate to mobilise the whole of the expeditionary force of one cavalry division and five divisions.Before the War we had six divisions all ready to start, as the hon. Member said, in three weeks. Will the Financial Secretary tell us if we have one division which we could send abroad in three weeks? I ask that question particularly. Can he send one division abroad in three weeks, and in how many weeks can he send a second division? I put this question, and I hope he will reply, because we want to know exactly how we stand in our present state. Now we hear of a new supplementary reserve, and on the next page of this memorandum—page 6—it is stated that this supplementary reserve is to be formed on a militia basis. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colchester (Sir L. Worthington-Evans) as to the extraordinary name the War Office has given to that reserve. Who on earth wants to join a supplementary reserve? Remember, we were told after demobilisation after the War that the militia was to be reformed. Here you have a supplementary reserve formed on a militia basis. What is the meaning of this? The militia, to my mind, is the most important thing we have to think of. I welcomed the idea of a militia, because, as the Financial Secretary may remember, we were told that the Army was to be reformed on the supposition that there would be no great Continental war for ten years. On that assumption the next endeavour was made to raise a Territorial Army. Remember that the Territorial Army is for the defence of these shores against foreign invasion, and that we were told it was not possible to have a foreign invasion within ten years. Why then spend so much of our time on a Territorial Army? We want men available 2697 for foreign service in any part of the Empire to which they may be called. It is far more important to have men available for foreign service than men only available for home service. I am glad to see we make this small beginning, and I ask the Financial Secretary to put before the Army Council how important it is to have more men available for foreign service than we have at the present moment.
There is another question. A little further on we have the question of the shortage of officers. I would especially ask that the old practice of giving commissions to Territorial officers, which existed before the War, should now be brought in. I think a certain percentage of commissions should be held out to give Territorial officers, well reported from their commanding officers, a chance of getting permanent commissions in the Regular Army, when they are recommended for them. I hope this will be taken into consideration and that the Territorial Army will be thrown open as it was before the War. The question of a supply of officers depends on a great many things, and I am glad the Financial Secretary is here, because in his charge is the payment of the officers of the Army. One important point I would bring to his notice is that the married allowance given to the officers in this country is not paid to officers when they are sent abroad to India. That must be altered if we are to get the supply of officers we need. It is not fair to send a man off to India and put him on less pay. I brought the question to the notice of the Secretary of State for India the other day, and I gave him particulars to show, that the married captain gets £22 less a year in India than at home, and the married subaltern of reserve seven years' service loses £68. The quartermasters lose in every grade and the married warrant officers and non-commissioned officers and the men lose respectively £48, £20 and £16 a year each. I ask, is it fair to send men to serve abroad when they lose this pay? I do not ask that the married allowance may be given and arrangements made with the India Office that a marriage allowance should be given to the officers and men there on the same scale as at home.
Similar cases arose with the air forces. I put a question to the Air 2698 Minister, and he had to acknowledge to me that the married flight lieutenant, who gets £68 in Egypt, goes down to £59 in India. Is that fair? I bring these things to the hon. Member's notice because we cannot expect service in the Army to be popular when men are subject to this great loss of pay. Finally, I would draw attention to another matter—the statement on page 12 of the Estimates regarding the strength of the British troops in India. The Memorandum states that one of the cavalry regiments, not required in India, is to be sent to Palestine. Why "not required"? The whole of our British troops in India—I am not talking of the men—has been reduced to 57,000. The whole strength is 57,000 men. India is just the same size as Europe without Russia. It has far more different countries and races than the Continent of Europe, and could we go and rule the Continent of Europe with 57,000 men? The whole thing is impossible. I would ask the Financial Secretary to tell me—for there is no one else here to tell me—what is the proportion of native to British troops now, and how does it compare with what it hsed to be. I believe that the native troops in India will be really loyal to England, but what we have to have in mind is possible revolution and rebellion. What have we seen in the papers during the last few days? Note the telegrams from India in the last day or two. I read in a telegram from Delhi that Mr. Patel in the Legislative Assembly—frankly admitted that their plan was to make the Government govern by certification, and that the Swarajists' next step would be mass agitation, followed by civil disobedience and non-payment of taxes.Then there was a speech by another man, Pandit Malaviva, who, criticising the military expenditure, demanded the disbandment of the British troops maintained for internal security. When we have that going on is it safe to reduce the army in India to 57,000 men? We may have mass agitation and civil disobedience and any sort of revolution at any time. Could you now send one division out to India if a rebellion arose in three weeks? That is the point we have to consider. I honestly say I am bringing this to the notice of the hon. Member, for it seems to me that our defence forces are far below the margin of safety at the present 2699 time. I do trust that this question may be taken into consideration. I have only mentioned these few cases; but these points I do put before the Financial Secretary. I trust he will take them into consideration, and that he will be able to give me some satisfactory answer.
§ Mr. T. HENDERSON
As one who is bitterly opposed to war and all its horrors, and as a supporter of the Labour party, I regret very much that the War Minister is unable to reduce these Estimates by a greater sum than he appears to have done. I am very much surprised that we should have to raise the point in this House—but I am surprised at the class of men that have been put in positions like that of the War Minister. Look at the Labour War Minister—one of the meekest and mildest men at the head of the most bloodthirsty Department of the State. Take, too, the first right hon. Gentleman who replied to the Minister for War, the hon. Member for Colchester (Sir L. Worthington-Evans). He is one of the most genial men to be found in this House. I venture to suggest that when the Labour Minister for War goes home at night and looks in his mirror he will not be able to recognise Stephen Walsh! I said I regret the Estimates are so high. I am surprised, because I know nothing at all of the difference of the services in the British Army. I have been listening this afternoon to men who represent the different arms, one man the cavalry, the other the artillery, the other the infantry, and others the different branches of the Army. It is, however, a very strange thing that we should be arguing about the cavalry and the artillery and not one hon. Member has mentioned poison gas! Why should you require an increase in the Army? If we understand the greatest authorities rightly, they hold that the next war is going to be one where whole tracts of country, with the people in those tracts, will be destroyed by poison gas. If that is the case what is the use of increasing your Army? I do not see any use at all in it.
What I want to know is: How is our Army placed so far as a supply of poison gas is concerned? Can hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench who represent the Army assure us that at least our poison gas is as dangerous as that of any other country? Are we to understand now that 2700 we can take our supplies down to the nearest point to France, and, if the wind be favourable, be able to kill half the people in France by one discharge of our poison gas? It is quite true that, if the wind blew the other way, the French might return the compliment and destroy half of the British people, but, again, the day following, we might again return the compliment and destroy all the French people, and still have some of our own population left. I want to know from those in authority, if it is the case that the next great war is to be carried on with poison gas, what arrangements are being made by the Minister of War to train the civil population in the use of gas masks. The thing is very important. I quite understand that many hon. Members on both sides of the House will at that time have some planks to get on, but the average person will be placed in a very dangerous position. I say that provision will be made to meet the condition of things, but that certain hon. Members, as usual, will see to it that they will be protected, while other people will have to do the suffering. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"]
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir PAGE CROFT
May I ask if the hon. Gentleman can give a single case where in the late War any provision was made for giving to a single class any advantage which was not given to the other classes?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
My hon. Friend beside me has answered that question, and I am not going to. What is the War Minister going to do in regard to having organised gas-mask drill for the civil population of this country? I am quite sure of this, that you may make any arrangements you like through the League of Nations or by any other method, but once war breaks out the conditions laid down will be broken, as they were broken in the late War. Recognising that fact I want to see some protection given to the masses of the people, and I want the War Minister, much as I regret the necessity for such a small decrease, to tell me what they are going to do in a case of that kind.
Lieut.-Colonel LAMBERT WARD
I very strongly resent the remark which has just fallen from the lips of the last speaker. If he had had any experience in France during the War I am sure that 2701 he would have known perfectly well that the private soldier received exactly the same facilities for protection from gas as anyone else, and I consider the remarks which he made—
I rose to say a few words with regard to the Territorial Army. The Secretary of State for War referred very eulogistically to the services which can be and were being rendered by the Territorial Force. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman is not in his place, because I was anxious to place before him one or two suggestions with regard to the efficiency of that Force and with a view to improving it. The first suggestion I have to make is with regard to the annual camp. I think that permanent camps should be established in suitable parts of the country which are not, so to speak, to be taken up at the end of every camping season. What happens at the present time is that a suitable site for a camp is selected, and you make every arrangement for its occupation by infantry, artillery or cavalry. That entails the laying down of a water supply in many cases. Many miles of pipe have to be laid to supply the water, and no sooner is a fortnight's camping over than, in the majority of cases, all these water pipes are taken up again at a very great cost to the country.
A case which I have in mind happened the year before last at a divisional camping ground which was established at a cost approximately of £4,000. That camp was used for a fortnight, and at the end of that time the whole of the pipes and arrangements for the water service were taken up, and £4,000 of the taxpayers' money was practically lost to the country. This is going on year after year, and I suggest that if we purchased the land, and this could be done at no very great cost, we should save these additional annual expenses of organising and laying down the arrangements for these camps. This would effect very considerable economy, and there would be the additional advantage that one would know where they were going to, and we should have less difficulty in getting our men to attend the camps. The next suggestion I have to make is also in regard to camps—I refer to the Easter 2702 camps. A very large number of battalions have camps at Easter, and there is an extraordinary regulation in force that if any musketry training is done there the men do not receive any pay. If any musketry training takes place in order to improve a man's efficiency he at once automatically loses his pay.
At Easter the evenings and the days are long, and it is quite impossible to keep the men on active training the whole time. As a rule, we start at 8 o'clock, and by 3 o'clock one will have done as much drill and route marching as it is possible to do, and there will be four or five hours daylight left which could very well be utilised on the range. But if we do that the men are deprived of any pay which they may earn, and I suggest that at these Easter camps musketry training should be allowed without the men forfeiting their pay. This would be a saving to the country and the War Office, because as things are at present, the men will have to make two journeys down to the range, the War Office paying their fares, whereas if this training were allowed to be done at the Easter camps the nation would be saved the expense of a quadruple journey to the range and back. By altering the existing Regulation a very considerable saving in money could be made without in any way sacrificing the efficiency of the unit.
The last suggestion I have to make deals simply with the clothing of the unit. As a good many people know, it is not a very easy thing to keep up the numbers of the Territorial Force, especially in London. Some of us think that if it were possible to give them a more attractive dress for walking out in the evenings it might, and probably would, be easier to keep these units up to their establishment. The suggestion put to the War Office, and which has been turned down, is that a cap corresponding to the one issued to the Guards should be also issued to the Territorial Force for walking out purposes. Arrangements could be made so that no great expense would be incurred to the country, because this is a suggestion by which this coloured cap could be made to take the place of the khaki cap which is issued every three years. If that could be done no great cost would be incurred, and some of us feel that we should have less difficulty in maintaining our units at their proper strength. I hope the Under-Secretary 2703 will put those suggestions forward, because I have had consultations with a great many people who are supposed to be well informed on these subjects, and they agree with me that the cost would be infinitesimal, and the advantage to the Corps might be very great.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
I want to put one or two questions to the Secretary of State. My first question is in regard to Supplementary Reserve, which is to cost them £500,000 and is to consist of 350,000 men. In this Estimate I see that there are 2,158 officers to be attached to the Territorial battalions, and if that is so will they not be rather left in the air, and there will be no esprit de corps. I see that 7,900 men are to be trained. Could not these men be formed into some kind of battalions after the form of the old Special Reserve in order that they might be given some kind of esprit de corps. Under present arrangements they are very much left to themselves, and this is not an arrangement which is likely to prove attractive to the officers. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Melton (Sir C. Yate) drew attention to the strength of the Army in India. That has been reduced in the present year from 71,109 to 61,964. Has that reduction been made with the full consent of the Commander-in-Chief in India? The Secretary of State for War, in answer to a question I put to him the other day, said the British cavalry in India had been reduced from nine regiments to six. What has happened to those six? So far as I can make out from the Army Estimates, two regiments have come home and one has gone to Palestine. Is that one in Palestine going to remain there permanently as a garrison, are barracks to be built there for them, and on whom does the charge of those three regiments which have been brought from India fall at the present time? They used to belong to, and were on the strength and in the pay of, the Indian Government. I fully realise the Army accounted for nearly one half of that Budget, and that they were very anxious to get rid of a certain number of troops, but have they thrown, at the present time, the whole of the expense on to the War Office Estimates? Besides that, the artillery in India has been reduced by over 1,000. 2704 Does that mean each battery has been reduced by a few men, or that a whole brigade of artillery has been brought over? The infantry in India has been reduced by 5,500 British troops. Are they battalions which have been brought home, or a few men from each battalion? Then the signal corps has been reduced by 1,000. Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman give us an explanation as to whether the whole of the charge has been thrown on the War Office Estimates, and whether it has been done with the full consent of the Commander-in-Chief in India?
There is another point in the Army Estimates which rather puzzles me. Why do Mauritius, Ceylon, Hong Kong, and the Straits Settlements pay contributions for the upkeep of the garrisons, whereas Bermuda, Malta, Jamaica and Sierra Leone pay nothing? Why should one pay a contribution and not the other? Why should Hong Kong pay a contribution and not Malta? Why should Ceylon, and yet Jamaica, a rich island, pay nothing? That is a little point I would like to put to the War Office for information. I see in the Estimates that the Germans are to pay £1,250,000 for the upkeep of the British Army at Cologne. How are they raising that money? Is it by requisitions, or is it purely an estimate they hope they may get, and see very small promise of fulfilment? As the Secretary of State said, and we on this side all fully agree, our Army is not aggressive or Imperialistic in any form or sense. It is purely for our protection. It is our police force, and when we realise that we have no less than one-fifth of the world to protect, and a population of over 400,000,000, I think an Army of 209,000 is a very small force indeed to look after those populations. We are responsible for those people, and for the defence of those countries, and should we reduce our Army by any large amount, we should be responsible for the fate of those countries. I feel quite sure that the General Staff is taking a careful interest in the happenings in the Near East. Great changes are taking place every day. We have seen the Caliph expelled from Constantinople, and there are more surprising things than a great revival of Mohammedan religion in the East. We may again see the Arab assert his forces. The House really has no idea of how the breath of religion can sweep 2705 over the whole of the East. Now that the Caliph has left Constantinople, we may see a vast revival of Arab religion throughout the East, and I would ask those responsible for the strategic defence of our Empire to watch this matter most carefully, and as conditions and times change, so to change and keep up with those conditions. All that we desire on this side of the House is to see our British Army second to none in the world in its efficiency and in its training. It is not Imperialistic; it is not aggressive. It is purely for the protection of our Empire, and for that of our peoples to whom we are responsible. I feel quite confident that, in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman, after the speech to which we have listened to-day, he is the first to take advantage of all those changes and new-conditions, and of all the inventions as they turn up, and, by doing so, he will uphold that reputation which we, and all of us who have fought in the Army, and I believe most of those in this House, desire to uphold, and that he will continue to carry on those traditions that we have always had in the British Army, and which we desire to see remain.
§ Mr. HARDIE
In dealing with the Army Estimates, it would seem that the serious part of the subject to-night has been that of dress. The first reference to the subject was that of the Secretary of State for War, who said that he was going to hand out free sporrans and spate. Then we had the last hon. Member pointing out the great advantages that will accrue from having a special walking-out attire. When the Secretary of State for War talked about handing out free sporrans and spats, there was one little thing he forgot, so far as the Scot is concerned, that is, he may have a great objection to knee breeks, while he may don plus fours, there is nothing can get a Scot into changing his national dress. The point between the sporran and the spat is this, that it is quite possible the Secretary of State for War may yet suggest that the sporran and the spat, so that they may not be lost, should be sewn together. That done, it would not only give a certain sense of security to public property, but would certainly ensure a certain amount of propriety on windy days. What struck me seriously in a discussion on the scientific methods of taking life is that every little detail for dealing out death is minutely 2706 examined, and yet in this House, when anyone wants to examine in detail the better methods of increasing production as applied to industries we are looked upon as having bees in our bonnets. The last hon. Member who spoke referred to the necessity of the Army Department taking advantage of every invention. The divine gifts of God, passing through the vehicle of the brains of men and women, were sent to help the people of the world, but what do you do about applying inventions to industry? You want to nationalise every invention that is to improve war, but what do you do with inventions for civil life? If you go to your patent library you find the shelves there crowded with these things. There is no place makes me so sad as that library, except that it is a cemetery. There the gifts of the brain and of genius are locked away in the dust of time. The only inventions we hear about are the inventions to displace labour and increase profits.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
Is, the hon. Member in order in referring to those inventions in civil life on the Army Estimates?
§ Mr. HARDIE
And what about medical inventions? What does the Army do for them? Like other Members, I am always receiving letters with regard to medical boards. What about the supposed perfect science when you get often a dozen boards differing? What about the correctness of that science? Why has it not been applied in every case due to the late War? Getting back to invention, if it is right that every invention that is to improve death-dealing should be seized by the nation, why should not every invention be nationalised if it is to make our lives happier and more secure? The more you apply invention to industry the more you get away from what is called war to-day. You have long-distance guns spoken about on the coast of France. Questions were asked about them to-day. These guns may drop bombs perhaps on Mr. Speaker's Chair. They ask for "Long Toms" to be placed on our shores. Who knows? I do not hear from the benches opposite any enthusiasm for the application of genius and invention to industry to make homes better. What happened before the War? 2707 The training of a chemist was then looked upon as something that was very doubtful. When the War came, the cry of the army men was, "Ah, we have been lax. We have not the chemists we ought to have, and we have not the engineers. And when the war is over we will see that our Estimates are big enough to include training to produce a sufficient number of skilled technical chemists and engineers." What is happening now? Your skilled chemists are only given a job if they can make something that is not butter look like butter, or by an injection of something into rotten meat make it look like fresh meat, or if they can produce something that increases profits and displaces labour. If you do not give way in face of science your ignorance will overtake you.
From the other side of the House we had a beautiful picture drawn of the good things that were to be got by training boys for the Services. Then we had the last speaker saying that we were not to have an army that was military; it was only to be a police force, but he added that it was to be second to none. How can you have an army that is second to none and expect other nations to remain in the second place? He knows that the very effort to be second to none is the impetus that gives the power to drive on to war in the world. Underlying all that has been said to-night is that fear in the heart of the man who knows that the first man to shoulder a gun is an enemy to the human race.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I hope the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down will forgive me if I do not follow him in the various questions regarding invention to which he has referred, but I should like to make one or two observations in reference to what he said. First of all, he spoke somewhat sneeringly about what is called "walking-out dress," I think that, probably, most of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues know that "walking-out dress" is a very well-known term in the Army, and has been for very many years. After all, when men are serving in the Army, and when they have to have two suits of clothes, why, on earth, should not one of them be more attractive than the other?
§ Sir H. CROFT
The hon. Gentleman may rest satisfied that every soldier has two suits, and, since that is so, and it will involve no increase in cost, I do hope that something will be done in order that the second suit may be a little more attractive to our soldiers, as a whole. Again, the hon. Gentleman referred to the observation of my hon. and gallant Friend who said that the British Army must be second to none. My hon. and gallant Friend, however, laid great emphasis on the words "in efficiency," and I venture to hope that there is no Member of the party opposite—even among those who would reduce the Army until it is absolutely no Army at all—who does not demand that the efficiency of our Army shall be as great as, and, if possible, greater than, that of any other Army in the world, as it really is. It is not helpful to men in the Army, or to the people of this country as a whole, when a responsible Gentleman in this House suggests that it would be a good thing if our Army did not aim at being the most efficient in the world.
One point with which, I think, we are not sufficiently conversant, is as to what is going on in the rest of the world. I doubt if there is any man or any party in this House that does not echo the cry, "No more war!" We should all like to see no more war. But we are not being really high-minded, and the bishops who take that text are not, in my opinion, being really spiritual, if they encourage a false hope in the minds of the people of this country, because one might just as well try to convince people, by reiterating the words "No more war" day after day, that there will be no more war, as one might say "No more earthquakes," or "No more snow." I suggest to the spiritual leaders of this country that they are quite right to offer up prayers for no more war; but let us not suggest to our country, which is the only country in the world that has really made a great reduction in armaments, that there is no more consideration of war so far as the rest of the world is concerned.
I should like to refer to one or two facts with regard to our Army position. No man 2709 who desires to see world, disarmament can fail to realise that this country took a tremendous step in the right direction over the Washington Conference. I would remind the House of what has been done with regard to the British Army and trained troops, and of how our troops stand to-day in numbers as compared with our establishment in 1914, at the time when our statesmen were all telling us that never was peace more likely, and that the understanding between European countries was so great that they hoped there was no such thing as a great war in the near future. I want to address these remarks particularly to the supporters of the Government who, on a future Vote on the Army Estimates, will be making suggestions which are very serious for the people of this country. The Regular Army in 1914, before the War, was 250,000, and last year it was 214,000. I think it has now been reduced by 3,000 or 4,000 more. The Army reserve in 1914 was 146,000, and last year it had fallen to 84,000. The special reserve, which is better known to most Members of the House as the old militia, in 1914 was 63,000, and now is nil. The Territorial Force was 265,000, and to-day it is 165,000. I want the House to realise, when we are discussing this question of armaments, that in the trained men of the British military forces, compared with 1914, we have brought about a reduction of 266,000 men. No other country in the world has attempted to do anything on a like scale. I want to ask the House to consider for a moment how our Regular Army and our Reserve compare with the principal Continental countries, and I should also like to quote Japan. These figures may astonish some hon. Members opposite who seem to think the time has come when we might really disband the British Army, because that is what in effect 15 of them have tabled in their Motions. Our active Army and our Army Reserve numbered 309,000 last year. Jugoslavia, which was not a great military power till quite recently, numbers 859,000, Czechoslovakia, 400,000; Belgium, 630,000; Rumania, 1,425,000; Poland, 2,675,000; France, 4,785,000; and Russia—here I should mention I am including an active army of 750,000 and a reserve, although they have not the same reserve as is regarded in France, of 8,000,000 men who they claim are trained and fit men available, but who are not definitely classed as a reserve— 2710 Russia, 8,750,000. The figures I have mentioned, I think, must be regarded by every hon. Member as very serious.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HODGE
Do you really consider that that is a fair comparison unless you mention at the same time the size of the fleets of the various nations?
§ Sir H. CROFT
You would, but I am not. I have already mentioned, I thought with the approval of hon. Members who sit round the hon. and gallant Gentleman, that we have reduced our Fleet from a two-power to a one-power standard as far as capital ships are concerned.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HODGE
You should compare it with the fleets of the countries whose armies you have compared.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Obviously I made my position quite clear when I said we had led the way to the world in the direction of the reduction of the Navy and the Army. What I want hon. Members to realise is this. I am not suggesting that we should be fighting any other Power, but vis-á-vis Czechoslovakia, Jugoslavia, Poland and Rumania, to take no other countries, it would be absolutely impossible for our Army at its present strength to contemplate action against either. If you take the larger Powers, you will see that where our active Army and Reserve have been reduced by 266,000 men since pre-War times, the military strength in bayonets of the countries that I have mentioned in Europe is 1,000,000 greater to-day than it was before the War. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] I am not suggesting for one moment that that is a desirable or happy state of affairs, but what I do say is that, when you are demanding of your fellow-countrymen, which is practically what is demanded, that you should disband your Army or reduce it still further, you ought to remember the enormous reductions we have already made. We must remember that our commitments to-day are much greater than they were before the War, that at the present time we have an army on the Rhine, commitments in Mesopotamia, small commitments in Palestine, and we have unsettled states of affairs in Egypt and India, and in the latter 2711 country we have reduced the Army to a very great extent.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Yes, there is the Treaty of Lausanne. I only mention these figures because I think they are not generally known. We cannot do our duty to our country in considering these Army Estimates without considering these facts. There are large numbers of people in this country who speak very vociferously on the question of no more war. I hope they will believe me when I say that there is no section of the community who desires to see no more war to a greater extent than the men who have actually been through the War, but we are not going to make war less probable by actually rendering ourselves naked to possible attack. We have reduced our military forces to the bone, and we ask that the Secretary of State shall be supported in maintaining all the forces that we have and that he should not give any countenance whatever to the dangerous proposals that are made by some of his own supporters.
§ Mr. CLIMIE
Is the hon. and gallant Member keeping in mind page 5 of the Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State for War, in which he says:The special measures taken during the current year to increase the strength of the Army Reserve should result in the number of reservists being nearly 10,000 greater on the 1st April, 1924, than at the same time last year.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am quite aware of that fact, but the hon. Member must remember that the Reserve had practically gone to nothing at the time the Army was demobilised. The Army Reserve before the War numbered 146,800, plus the militia, 63,000. Last year it was down to 84,000.
§ Major ATTLEE
I do not think that I have very much to reply to in the way of general criticism of these Estimates. I can certainly join with the hon. and 2712 gallant Member who has just sat down, in his plea for no more war and in his insistance on the point, which I believe is true, that those who have been through the last War are those who are most agreed that it should be the last war. Dealing with the discussion, I will take first of all one or two points made by the right hon. Member for Colchester (Sir L. Worthing-ton-Evans). He asked about the Supplementary Reserve and did not much like its name. I do not think it has been particularly happily baptised, but the name does express what the Reserve is. It is a reserve to fill up certain gaps in mobilisation. It is raised under the old Militia Act, but it is not quite the same as the old militia, and therefore we cannot call it that. It is not the same as the special reserve, and so we cannot call it that. It is difficult to see what we could call it that would express exactly what it is except Supplementary Reserve.
The right hon. Gentleman raised a point about the Haldane Committee. The principles of the Haldane Committee have been accepted by the Army Council and are gradually being put into force. They are most important recommendations. They will, I believe, make for the better utilisation of the brain power of the Army. I believe that Report to be extremely valuable in regard to what it points out as to the actual utilisation of brains in the organisation of the Army, and particularly the training of officers, the younger officers and the older officers. My right hon. Friend referred in his speech to the support which is being given by the heads of Woolwich and Sandhurst and of the Schools. We will all agree that the more we can continue education in the Army on the broadest possible lines, the better it will be for the Army and the country. I mention particularly "the broadest lines" because I wish to emphasise that general education in the Army should never be allowed to get very far away from the general outlook of the mass of the people of this country.
I believe we are getting our education away from the very narrow technical basis on which we used to have it when boys left school when very young to go into the Army and therefore had very little opportunity of matching their brains against those of people in other walks of life. With regard to vocational training that is a matter in which we are extremely interested as a practical step. I agree 2713 with what several hon. Members opposite said with regard to vocational training opening up better prospects for the men who join the Army, and I hope that we shall have an advance in that. It is a most difficult problem. We have had committee after committee in the War Office working on the matter, but we are trying again, and I believe we shall make further efforts to see that vocational training is on the right lines, so that while in the Army a man may be not only trained as a soldier, but be trained as a citizen, and be able to take his place in the work of the world when he comes out.
§ Major ATTLEE
That is a most important point, which occurred to me as soon as I entered into office. We are looking into this matter, and I think that we should have a conference with the trade unions on the whole question of vocational training. I believe that this is the time when it could be done, and that we could have a conference as to points which have been put forward on both sides. I believe that a full and frank discussion of the whole question would result in our coming to an agreement on the various points. We have had a considerable amount of discussion by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, by the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway and by the hon. Member for Preston (Lieut.-Colonel Hodge), who is an expert accountant, as to the Lawrence Report. We are considering that Report, but, while we have every desire to push on as quickly as possible, it takes some time to adopt the new system, and I think it a little dangerous to suggest that you are going to make definite economies in the actual cost of your accountancy and pay departments. The true lesson of the Lawrence Report is that if you get a sound accountancy system you will get your economies in administration. That is the point, and the detailed way in which that could be worked out is a matter in reference to which we have appointed a committee. I think that one hon. Member was rather drawing the long bow in comparing the cost of accountancy to-day with what is was 30 or 40 years ago, and working it out per head. The enormous 2714 increase in the Army has been in material rather than in personnel, and he did not allow for that at all.
The right hon. Member for Ross (Mr. Macpherson) raised a point about getting a more democratic selection of officers. I believe that everybody who has looked into this matter, in the War Office and outside it, is convinced that we ought to draw our officers from as many different strata of the population as possible. That was the view of the Haldane Report. That is the endeavour that is being made to-day. We have non-commissioned officer classes going through Sandhurst, we have the prize cadet-ships, and we are endeavouring to draw the officers from as wide a range of schools as possible, not from some six or eight of the oldest schools in the country, not even from those that are generally called the great public schools, but right round from all the secondary schools. We want to have a competition for officers, but they should be officers of the right stamp as far as brain power goes. We do not want to lower the standard; we want to cast our net very wide in order to get the best men. On the question of the fees charged, I might say that that point has been under discussion quite recently, and it will be discussed again.
The need of security of tenure for those in the Army has been emphasised. It is impossible for anyone explaining the Army Estimates to give any absolute guarantee of security. We do not know what the future may bring forth. Many of us hope that international arrangement will permit of a far greater disarmament of the nation than we have to-day, and it may come rapidly—more rapidly than many of us may think. It is obvious that you have to consider that when you give any guarantee of security. Everyone knows now that security is a relative term, particularly when applied to military matters.
The hon. and gallant Member for Loughborough (Brigadier-General Spears) made a series of comparisons between the French Army and the British Army. In this country we have never professed to set up an army on the Continental scale; we have never set up a one-power or two-power or any other power standard against which to measure 2715 ourselves, because our conditions are totally different from those of the Continent. The hon. and gallant Member made this sort of comparison: that where we have one battery the French have 40, and that where we have one tank the French have more. The comparison would have been far nearer if he had given us the percentage of the total rather than a comparison between the French army and our own. From what I have seen at the War Office, I am convinced that, as far as invention is concerned with regard to these modern weapons, we are well up to the standard of any other Power. That is an important matter. As long as we have an army we want that army to be as economical as possible, and the more we can economise by wise research and the use of invention, the better.
§ Brigadier-General SPEARS
I took as a comparison divisions, units, and I maintained that in the French army they were able to protect their men more than we were, because they allowed more guns and more tanks and more artificial and mechanical means of defence per unit than we allowed. I made a comparison by unit, and the unit I took was the division.
Before my hon. Friend replies to that question, may I ask him for a specific reply to the question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty, as to how far he can go in assuring us that further provision of machine guns will be made in order to carry out the principle suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Loughborough, that we should have even more mechanical means in our small Army than other armies have?
§ Major ATTLEE
I am very sorry if I have in any way misrepresented my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Loughborough. Without going into details, I think we are proceeding on absolutely right lines with regard to the increased use of mechanism. We want to experiment thoroughly and to see that we do not build up enormous expenses on wrong lines. I think we are doing wisely in proceeding on the present lines. Regarding the specific point put by the 2716 hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight (Major-General Seely), I cannot answer at the moment, and he will excuse me, I am sure. Reference has been made to the shortage of officers, and an hon. Member has asked whether it has been arranged that some officers are to come through the Territorial Force. The recommendation to give a certain number of commissions in the Regular Army to officers of the Territorial Force has been accepted.
§ Major ATTLEE
I cannot state any definite percentage at the moment. Points have also been raised with regard to certain cavalry reductions in India. One of these regiments is now in this country, one in Palestine and the other is in India.
§ Major ATTLEE
I could not say. It will depend on our commitments there. Questions have been asked about islands such as Mauritius, Hong Kong and the like, and to answer the question as to why some pay and some do not, would be to go into an interesting historical study. For historical reasons some pay and some do not, and from time to time those who do not are asked to contribute. The reason for the difference is that they fall into different historical categories.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HODGE
Will the hon. Gentleman deal with my point, that the cost of the Army is being misrepresented by more than £1,700,000.
§ Major ATTLEE
I have not yet dealt with the main point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. I agree that that question may be raised again, and probably will be raised again. To go in detail into the long and interesting speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Lieut.-Colonel Hodge) is rather difficult for me. He went into a large number of technical questions of accountancy, and what struck me throughout his speech was that he was rather in the position of forcing an open door. I think he will agree that the Lawrence Report goes a long way 2717 towards meeting some, if not all, of his points, and he knows that the Lawrence Report has been accepted in principle and that the details will be worked out.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HODGE
Will the hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that the recommendation to set up a Committee will be carried out?
§ Major ATTLEE
I can guarantee to the hon. and gallant Member that we intend to set to work to deal with this accountancy matter just as soon as we possibly can. As soon as we have got through the business of the Estimates we should be able to get on with this work very soon, but I want him to realise that the matter is being taken seriously. He knows very well the practical difficulties that have to be worked out. Let me take one that he himself mentioned. He mentioned a considerable amount about the Royal Army Pay Corps and the Corps of Accountants. Naturally, I could not subscribe to all that he said about that matter. He seemed to me to reserve his greatest strictures for the colonels of the Army Pay Department, and I understand he was himself a colonel in that department.
§ Major ATTLEE
I think that the hon. and gallant Member knows very well the difficulties there, but it is not quite a matter of saying that one lot of people know all about accounting, and that the other lot of people do not. He knows that there are certain differences of function, that the Pay Corps are dealing with entitlement, and the Corps of Accountants with accountancy, in the main.
§ Major ATTLEE
Yes, but in the main there is that distinction, and to reconcile these two Corps is not so easy, and is not to be done all at once. While it is easy to get up and say, "Scrap the older Corps," if you scrap anyone, you are very apt to raise great trouble for yourself in the country, and claims of injustice will be made which we are particularly desirous of avoiding. Whatever changes may be brought in by the Lawrence Report will be done with due regard to the personnel. As to the 2718 detailed points, I think the hon. and gallant Member will agree with me that it is very difficult to follow detailed criticism of Army Estimates page by page, and separate figures, unless one is a very highly trained accountant, and those criticisms are perhaps better reserved for the Committee stage. I do not think there are any other specific points that I should answer.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HODGE
On a point of Order. The Under-Secretary has stated that there is no other point to reply to, but twice I have stated that the Army—
§ Major ATTLEE
I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend can say that there is a falsification of the accounts because the accounts are not done exactly as he wishes. The form of accounts is one that may be criticised by Members of this House, and any criticism of the form of the accounts will be, I can assure him, carefully looked into.
§ Major ATTLEE
One or two points were raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Brigadier-General Makins), and one was on enlistment, the question of lack of security there, and some suggestion with regard to the effect of the doles. I think the right way of dealing with difficulties of recruitment is much more in securing a continuous career for the soldier rather than by any other way, because that is the real difficulty in a short service army. Ever since the Cardwell reform, that has been the difficulty, and it is one which we want to see seriously tackled. I hope the House will now allow us to proceed to the Committee stage, after the full discussion we have had on the various points that have been raised.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir WILLIAM ALLEN
I only want to take up about four minutes of the time of the House, and the reason is that I do not believe that, if I spoke for 2719 40 minutes or four hours, I should get any more satisfaction than has the hon. and gallant Member opposite. What I want to raise, as I am sure the House will have guessed already, is an Irish grievance. That grievance will be found on page 4 of this Command Paper. I have not the slightest hope that that grievance will be remedied, because I think the War Office and the Secretary of State for War have quite made up their minds regarding it. But it is a grievance. A good deal of it, I must confess, is sentimental, but some of it is practical too. It is the fact that one of the very oldest depots in Ireland is being transferred from the county which I represent to another. That has been occasioned by the reduction of the Army forces last year, and the reduction of the regiment of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the Royal Irish Fusiliers. These two regiments having one battalion strength at the moment, it is considered right that they should have only one depot. The result is that the depot in my county—a recruiting ground for many, many years—is now being entirely done away with. I cannot possibly pass that by without expressing my regret that that has been found necessary. The county which I represent has been noted for its voluntary recruiting powers. The town where I was born has a population of 12,000, and it sent upwards of 3,000 men to the Great War. I think that is a record in enlistments in the British Army. I am very proud of it, and it is a great grief that this depot is being transferred. However, it is now decided by the War Office, and consented to by my right hon. Friend. May I stress just one point? It is hardly fair in this Command Paper to state that these changes would save some £40,000 a year. It is misleading the House to say that the change of this depot will mean a saving of £40,000 a year when, as a matter of fact, it will only save £4,000. It is hardly fair that a statement like that should go uncontradicted. I am satisfied with having made that protest. At the same time, I wish to express great regret that such a change should have been found necessary.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I wish to call attention to the very serious condition which the Army is in owing to the position of the Royal Army Medical Corps. I drew 2720 the attention of the late Under-Secretary of War to the lack of candidates to the R.A.M.C., and at that time the result was given as follows:I would point out"—said the then Under-Secretary for War,that the examination of candidates for the Army Medical Corps was unavoidably held at the very short notice of one month. I think it would be best to see what are the results of the examination held in more favourable conditions.There were 15 vacancies advertised and only four candidates came forward. There are still 11 vacancies left unfilled. There was no selection whatsoever. What has happened as the result of the experience of giving longer opportunities? Two months' notice was given, and we do not know what the result has been in candidates. I shall be glad if the Under-Secretary for War could really give some information on this particular point. The result has been, I believe, that for 40 vacancies there were only eight candidates. The result is that the whole force is being starved of officers from the very start. This matter requires serious inquiry, and I hope that the Under-Secretary is taking note of my remarks, for what would happen if we really had to go again into war, again to go on active service? The results have been to block promotion. The thing is utterly top-heavy. You have 101 colonels, 343 majors, 422 captains, and only 7 lieutenants. I believe we have the same difficulty with regard to the naval and the Colonial medical services. We want really a competent inquiry into the recruitment of medical officers for the public services.
There is one other point on the subject of the Medical Service which goes to the root of the whole efficiency of the Army. This was a matter also raised last year. It was raised, too, by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn), who asked a question as regards co-operative working between the different Services of the Crown. He got a very tentative reply; a professional reply that was useful so far as it went. The answer was given on 13th May of last year, when the hon. and gallant Gentleman asked whether the Report of the Weir Committee on the education of the Fighting Services had been published, and whether its recommendations had 2721 been given effect to? He received a very full reply, which went into the arrangements laid down, but those arrangements were for the future. They were in the air, if one may say so. What is being done? What has been done to secure co-ordination, particularly, I say of the Medical Services, medical stores, medical personnel, medical institutions, and all these different services, which would allow them to be used with the greater economy and efficiency that would be the case if they were properly attended to now?
§ Supply considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. ENTWISTLE in the Chair.]