Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 148,800, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom at home and abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions (other than Aden), during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1932.
§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
As on the occasion of last year, I desire to draw the attention of the Financial Secretary to the War Office to, and to ask him certain questions upon, the position of the men at the ordnance factories at Woolwich and at Enfield. I confess that I was disappointed to-day when the Secretary of State, in his opening statement, did not think that the position of these two factories was of sufficient importance to justify his making some allusion to them. As many Members of the Committee know, the last 12 months, particulary as far as Woolwich and Enfield are concerned, have been very black for many of the men. At Woolwich there has been a very considerable spell of short time which has involved 1086 a very heavy cut in the pay of the poorer paid workers. The minimum rate of the wages of the Woolwich Arsenal workers has been violated, and in certain cases, as a result of the Government's action, wages have been reduced to a sum of …2 3s. 10d. per week. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that, in view of all the promises and undertakings which were given to those men, particularly at the last General Election, there is no constituency in the country which has so many disillusioned and disappointed men in it as my constituency at the present time.
I remember well, and I have heard it for years, men occupying responsible positions in the Labour party saying that if only a Labour Government were seated on the Treasury Bench how, by administrative action and matters of that kind, there would be a full factory at Woolwich, or a peace factory; that swords would be turned into ploughshares, that other things would be substituted, and talk of that kind. Last year was a very bad year and none of those promises or undertakings—many of us pointed out at the time that none of them was capable of fulfilment—has been fulfilled. In addition to the cutting down of the wages of the poorer paid men within the last 12 months, the pensions scheme of the Woolwich Arsenal workmen has definitely been rejected by the Government.
At Enfield, the position is very bad. The Government have abolished piecework and changed over to time rates. Over 500 men are affected, and in the result there have been very substantial reductions in earnings. Since April last many of the poorer paid men have had their wages reduced by anything from 13s. to 20s. per week. I remember the hon. Member who represents Enfield (Mr. W. Henderson) propounding a most carefully-thought-out scheme how the problem might be solved and the position restored. He made a very earnest appeal to the Secretary of State for War and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that his ideas might be brought immediately into operation. From that time short time has prevailed, and a very large number of men who were promised such a lot by this Government have had their livelihood and their wages interfered with.
1087 I want to put certain questions to the Financial Secretary to the War Office on behalf of the men. I find from the Army Estimates that there is a reduction of wages for civilian subordinates in the stores, workshops and depots of £50,000. That is not a very cheering prospect for the people who are to be affected. That does not sound very much like a full factory, or swords being turned into ploughshares at a remunerative rate. I would ask the Financial Secretary how he proposes to effect this reduction, and whether it will particularly concern any of my constituents. When the Government introduced short time into Woolwich Arsenal, they gave a very definite undertaking. The hon. Member's predecessor in office, on the 24th March last, in defence of the suggestion of cutting down the wages of the Woolwich Arsenal workmen, said that he had either to introduce short time or that there would have to be discharges from the Arsenal. On column 176 of the OFFICIAL REPORT the hon. Member's predecessor in office made this statement:We came to the conclusion that whatever happened there would be no discharges."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1930; col. 176, Vol. 237.]That was a very definite statement. I can well understand the logic of the argument which says that it is far better for a great body of men to have their wages reduced than that there should be an arbitrary number of men dismissed. But I do not understand, in view of that undertaking, how it is that there have been a number of discharges during the past 12 months. They have been discharges of an unfortunate character. The Financial Secretary to the War Office may say that there have been discharges before. It is a favourite answer of the present Government to say that other Governments have done this or that, but these discharges follow a definite undertaking.
One of the mast unfortunate breaches of this undertaking has been the fact that since the beginning of this year there have been 135 discharges of employés under 21 years of age. I have put questions to the Financial Secretary and to the Minister of Labour as to the policy of the Government in regard to these young men. These young men are taken on at Woolwich Arsenal at the age of 1088 15 or 16, and they get their training there, and yet, in face of the undertaking that has been given, the Government have discharged 135 of them. What does the Financial Secretary expect to happen to these young men? At Woolwich we are in a most unfortunate position, apart from the action of the War Office. We have a borough council which has been quarrelling with the Government's own Minister of Labour as regards work schemes. As the result of State-aided schemes they have only 300 or 400 men working on them.
We have in Woolwich double the number of unemployed to-day compared with the number when the present Government took office. What opportunity and what chances are there for the young men who are being discharged in this way? I have asked the Minister of Labour how many of these 135 young men had secured jobs through her efforts or the efforts of the Employment Exchange, but no definite reply was given. I am very much afraid that these young men after spending three, four or five years at the Arsenal, engaged in training, have joined the mass of people who are unemployed. I want to know from the Financial Secretary whether this policy of discharging young men when they reach the age of 21 is going to be continued, and I beg of him not to say that he is following precedent, because I would remind him of the very definite undertaking which was given by his predecessor only a year ago.
I should like the Financial Secretary to tell us what he is going to do in regard to two or three important grades of men at Woolwich Arsenal whose claims I have endeavoured, in common with my colleague, to put before him during the last 12 months. There is a question which affects a very important grade of men, Grade 4 clerks, who have been agitating for some time as regards their promotion to established grades. I have put questions to the War Office during the last 12 months, without satisfactory results, and I hope the hon. Member will be able to say something in regard to their position to-night. What is the position of another body of men who have been constantly asking for relief? I refer to the position of the second class book-keepers. Their terms and conditions of service deserve the consideration of the Government. The only 1089 reply that I have received to what the Government must regard as just claims which deserve to be considered is that there has been a quarrel as to the representation of this particular section of employés on the Whitley Council. This deadlock has been going on for months, and as a consequence the claims of this section have, I would respectfully suggest, not had an opportunity of fair consideration.
Finally, I would again raise the question of the position of the Government Workers industrial Union. The hon. Member is well aware of the position of this union, that it has a membership of many thousands—
§ Sir K. WOOD
I do not know whether precedents appeal to you, but I raised this question at this time last year.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman may have raised it last year. I would remind him that he can mention it but not go into details.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I certainly will not go into details. I am always very anxious to keep within the Rules of this House. I will content myself, without going into details, by asking the Financial Secretary whether he has come to the conclusion to give due recognition to this union, which represents the majority of the poorer paid men in Woolwich Arsenal. I hope that the Financial Secretary will be able to give me a satisfactory reply to the questions that I have put. The Prime Minister when he was a candidate at East Woolwich, stated that men would be maintained in their positions; now, to-night, I have to express the dissatisfaction of many thousands of men in that area at their treatment by the Government and their desire to obtain some redress.
§ Mr. WILLIAM HENDERSON
I want to raise the same point which the right hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), mentioned in the beginning of his speech, when I thought that he was going to lend me support in the case that I have to present. Unfortunately, as is usual with the right hon. Gentleman, he spoilt his speech by introducing political partisanship into his statement. I entirely disagree with him in his criticism 1090 of the Government as regards these factories. Last year the conditions of the workers in the Woolwich Arsenal and the Small Arms Factory at Enfield were mentioned. About 500 skilled and unskilled men were affected by the change over from piece rates to time work, and at that time I made a strong appeal to the Financial Secretary, my hon. Friend's predecessor, and asked him to do his utmost to restore the position as soon as possible. Previous Governments had resorted to dismissals, but the present Government declined to resort to dismissals and adopted the change-over system, and very soon after were able to restore some of the men to the old conditions. I understand that a decision was taken that on the 18th of December the remainder of the men should be restored to the old conditions, that is piece rates.
While this promise has been in the main redeemed, there are still a number of workers at the Enfield factory who remain on day rates. The change from piece rates to time work mean a reduction in earnings of from 13s. to 20s. per week, and that is a very serious reduction in these days. If my information is right there are still a number of workers at the Enfield factory who remain on time work and have to bear this reduction in wages and, therefore, I want to make an appeal to him to make a personal inquiry into the matter and, if my information is correct, to see what he can do to place these men on the same footing as other workers in the factory. Another point that I desire to mention is this, that apparently a new practice has grown up recently of transferring men from the bench and the machine to what is called the traffic branch, or in other words to the labour gang. This change also means a substantial reduction in earnings and quite naturally produces a great deal of discontent. I am told that men after 20 and 30 years' service, who have come to be known as first grade mechanics or bench hands, have had to undergo this transference and join what is called the labour gang, with a consequent reduction in their wages. Representations have been made from time to time to the management but I understand that as recently as three weeks ago a further number of men were put on this labour gang work. The explanation of the management is that in certain sections 1091 there is ample work but an insufficient number of men and that in other sections there is inadequate work and too many men. On the face of it that would appear to be a reasonable explanation, but it seems possible for the management to take such action which might, if it does not prevent the need for this transfer, at least minimise it. I am informed that after 1918 many thousands of rifles were sent to the factory on the ground that they required to be repaired, but that they only underwent very slight repair and are still not in a condition for ordinary service purposes. The suggestion is made that if these rifles were brought out and put into thorough going repair it would give a great deal of work to the factory; and I mention this in the hope that the inancial Secretary will have inquiry made and if it is at all possible will provide increased employment by these means.
Finally I want to raise the question of the prospects for the coming 12 months. The Financial Secretary will remember the serious change that took place last year with the serious reduction in wages to which I have referred. I admit that the Government at the earliest possible moment have sought to restore the position, but what I am concerned about is to secure from the Financial Secretary a pledge or undertaking that during the coming 12 months there will be no return to the practice resorted to on 1st April last year. The War Office has shown great enterprise in seeking to cope with the difficulties at State factories, and I know that my hon. Friend has done a great deal to restore the position at the Enfield factory. I should be very glad if he can give me an assurance to-night that during the coming 12 months the War Office will not find it necessary to make the change which unfortunately they had to make last April.
§ Mr. OSWALD LEWIS
I want to say a word on the subject of recruiting. In the annual report of the British Army for 1930 we read that the intake of recruits during the year ending on 30th September, 1930, was the lowest since the War, only 26,550 recruits having been obtained. In Command Paper No. 3798, issued by the Secretary of State for War, we read further that, on 1st April, 1931, 1092the British Army, inclusive of British troops in India, will still be approximately 10,000 below establishment.A little later on in the same Command Paper there is this statement:As the British troops in India are approximatey up to establishment, the whole of the shortage falls on the Army at home, and the bulk of it on the infantry. In consequence, the task of finding the drafts necessary to maintain oversea garrisons has been accomplished only with great difficulty.I wonder what hon. Members opposite would say if any other big employer of labour were to come before this House at this time and complain that he was unable to obtain workers. I think they would be inclined to suggest that either he was not taking adequate steps to make known the suitable vacancies that he had, or that there was something wrong with the conditions of employment. Let me take the second alternative first, as to the condition of employment in the Army. Is the Secretary of State prepared to say that they are unsatisfactory? If so why has he taken no steps to alter them? From further observations that he makes in the Command Paper, where he speaks of a temporary improvement in recruiting during January, and says that this is encouraging, as it tends to show that the advantages of life in the Army are being appreciated—the "advantages of life in the Army" is how the Secretary of State described the position—I take it that he is satisfied, broadly speaking, with the conditions that are being offered. Very well. Why does he fail to get an adequate stream of recruits?
We are faced, as everyone knows, with a state of affairs in which there is unparalleled unemployment in this country, an unparalleled number of men seeking work and unable to obtain it. One would have thought that at such a time the trouble would not have been to find recruits, but to select from among those who offered themselves. It is no doubt a matter of argument as to how far the actual conditions stand in the way. The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison), in a speech earlier to-day, opined that the conditions were unsatisfactory, and suggested that that was in part the explanation. Again I say, if that is so, surely the Secretary of State can come forward with some proposals to improve them. No, Sir, I think 1093 the plain truth of the matter is that what is at fault is not the conditions of employment in the Army, but the lack of energy on the part of the Secretary of State. He is faced with this shortage of recruits. He can see from the unemployment figures every day that there are large numbers of men unemployed. He may, and does, speak of getting a high proportion of men applying as recruits who are not physically fit. He would hardly suggest that there are not only enough, but many times more than enough, men physically fit for the Army unemployed and not offering themselves as recruits.
That seems to me to be by far the outstanding problem that the Secretary of State has to solve—this shortage in the Army. I suggest to the Committee that the right hon. Gentleman is doing very little to attempt to solve that problem. I have yet to learn that he has taken the trouble to go himself and address a single recruiting meeting in the country. Why should he not do it? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why should he?"] Because he draws his salary as Secretary of State for War, and the nation has a right to see that he does the work. It is his job to get recruits and to see that the establishment laid down by Parliament is maintained, so far as that is humanly possible. No hon. Member can suggest that on the ground of scarcity there is any impossibility in getting these men. What is required is a little energy on the part of the Secretary of State for War.
I fear that the trouble lies even a little deeper than that. There is a very significant passage occurring a little later in this Command Paper to which I have referred, in which the right hon. Gentleman refers to something that is being done "in pursuance of the demilitarisation laid down by me." I think it is time we had a Secretary of State for War who was concerned, not with demilitarisation, but with carrying out the job which he has undertaken to do. Just consider the Debate to-day. I listened very carefully to the speech of the Secretary of State and I have heard the greater part of the Debate since. I can say without fear of contradiction that the only two practical contributions towards filling these vacancies in the Army put before us by the Secretary of State this afternoon were these: First, he proposes to cut 1094 down the estimate for the recruiting staff. If hon. Members look at the Army Estimates they will see that whereas in 1930£75,000 was allowed for the recruiting staff, in 1931 only £67,500 is to be allowed—a reduction of £7,500. That is the right hon. Gentleman's first contribution towards getting more recruits.
His second contribution is to tamper with the Officers Training Corps. He himself to-day told the House that the shortage of officers was causing him grave concern. I wonder whether there is in this House a single Member who, having passed through an Officers Training Corps, can be found to stand up and support the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to Officers Training Corps? I venture to say that there is not one out of the many in this House who have passed through Officers Training Corps in their day. The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose also referred to the question of compulsion and suggested to the Secretary of State that, if the objection felt by many hon. Members to the continuance of Officers Training Corps at public schools was the element of compulsion—which exists, at any rate in some of those schools—then the element of compulsion ought to be removed. I think few if any Members would object to such a proposal. I, for one, would never ask the House of Commons to provide specifically for a compulsory Officers Training Corps in any school.
The Secretary of State excused himself on the ground that he was not President of the Board of Education. That is rather a poor excuse. He himself said that the Officers Training Corps were originated at the request, not of the President of the Board of Education, but at the request of a former Secretary of State for War, the late Lord Haldane, and, surely, if one Secretary of State for War can go to the public schools and ask them to institute Officers Training Corps, there is nothing out of place in another Secretary of State for War going to them and saying, "I would like a modification in the arrangements as to these Officers Training Corps and I would prefer to have the element of compulsion removed." Even at this late stage I appeal to the Financial Secretary to the War Office, in the absence of the Secretary of State, to do what has been sug- 1095 gested from below the Gangway and to say frankly that a condition of recognition must be the removal of the element of compulsion, that a boy should be allowed to join or not to join as he likes and that the Corps should be allowed to function as they have functioned in the past and not tinkered with in the way suggested, boys of one age being told that they can have a gun and a tunic, whilst boys of another age are not to have any equipment.
It is hard to imagine how any man with the knowledge which the Secretary of State must possess of the services rendered to the country as a result of the training given in these Corps, should desire to cut them about in the manner suggested this afternoon. I do not know how far it would meet the objections of hon. Members opposite if this element of compulsion were removed. It might not meet the objections of all of them, but I should hope it would meet the objections of a great many of them and I suggest that it would be a better method of dealing with the problem. We recognise that the Secretary of State is in a difficult position in combining the duties of the head of the Army, with his position as a member of the present Cabinet, but I think, as far as the Officers Training Corps are concerned, he might, on the lines which have been indicated, secure agreement, and avoid doing a great deal of harm. On the general subject of recruiting, however, I consider it difficult to exaggerate the reflection which it is on the right hon. Gentleman that at this time we should still be short of recruits. It is not only serious to the Army, but it it also serious as regards national employment. If these vacancies were all filled, then, by that number, the sum total of unemployed would be reduced, so that on the ground of efficiency in the Army, as well as on the ground of doing something even at this late hour to diminish instead of increase the number of unemployed, it is desirable that the right hon. Gentleman should show a great deal more energy and vigour in the discharge of the duties of his office than he has shown during the past year.
§ Mr. WELLOCK
I appreciate very much the speech of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. O. Lewis) in which he has sought to arrive at an accommoda- 1096 tion in regard to the Officers Training Corps, but I think it must be admitted that the difference between us is fundamental. There has taken place during the last few years a tremendous change in public opinion in this country in regard to militarism. A large number of our young people have been brought up under the influence of a new and very powerful ideal in their homes and to a large extent also in the churches—the ideal of disarmament—and it is very unfair that these boys when sent to public schools should have thrust before them the alternative of joining Officers Training Corps or occupying an isolated position which is very distasteful to them. I do not believe it possible to do away with compulsion as long as you have military training in the schools at all, and, while I sincerely congratulate my right hon. Friend on having taken the step which he has taken, I do not think that he has removed the difficulty, and I shall not be content until the grant is taken away from the schools entirely.
I realise that the Secretary of State has no control over the question of military training in this respect, except in so far as his grants are concerned, but I think my argument in regard to the disinclination of a large number of boys to-day to join Officers Training Corps, is supported by the fact that only 7 per cent. of those boys actually join the Army afterwards. That is a very significant fact. On the other hand boys get much through the Officers Training Corps which we would desire them to retain. We would desire that they should have their jaunts into the country, that they should be able to camp out in the summer-time for a week or two, scouring the countryside and having their games and so forth, and, in place of going to see guns and the like at the arsenals, there are plenty of engineering concerns in the country to which visits might be paid.
The hon. Member for Colchester also raised the question of recruiting. There, again, I think we ought to be prepared to face the facts. I think they were faced by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Brighton (Major Tryon) who, speaking in regard to the shortage of officers said, frankly, that he believed it to be due to some extent to pacifist propaganda and ideals. I think that is true and that we should face the fact. 1097 The right hon. and gallant Gentleman added that he thought it was a passing phase. I remember three years ago the then Secretary of State for War, the late Sir Laming Worthington-Evans made precisely the same statement.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. WELLOCK
Precisely the same statement was made some three years ago by the late Minister of War. That being the case, I think it is very significant of the times, and it shows that we must prepare our mind and policies for a new kind of attitude on this very important question. Before I sit down, I should like to say a few words on disarmament and the reduction of man-power. The Minister of War said he believed in the policy of general disarmament, and not unilateral disarmament. I have come to the conclusion that the world will not be disarmed until we are prepared to adopt unilateral disarmament. My right hon. Friend said that there was nothing to prove that unilateral disarmament would be successful, but I think the contrary is the case. As a matter of fact, we all know that we have had the London Naval Agreement whereby America, this country and Japan decided on a certain policy of limitation. Within the last fortnight or so we have had France and Italy coming into line.
§ Mr. WELLOCK
I quite appreciate that, and I was merely trying to illustrate the possible success of the policy of unilateral disarmament. In my view this question is not one of arithmetic, but of morals. We are at the present moment really waiting for a change in the atmosphere of the world, which, in my view, can only be brought about by courageous action on the part of any particular nation. A short time ago M. Briand, speaking on the occasion of Germany coming into the League of Nations, said:No more war[...] Henceforth it will be the duty of the Judge to see that the law is observed. As the individual citizen submits his grievance to the decision of the Judge, so must we bring our international difficulties to be solved by peaceful methods. Away with our arms, our rifles, machine guns and tanks! Clear the way for conciliation, arbitration and peace!1098 There you have the right mind to peace which exists all over the world to-day as in our own country, and yet we are not able to bring ourselves to the point of actual disarmament. That is the condition of the world to-day. It is not a question of arithmetic, as I have said, but one of morals, and the nation which has the courage to take a strong line on disarmament of itself will affect the atmosphere of the whole world. Although the world may not respond immediately, there can be no question about it that a change in the atmosphere of the whole world will come, and that policy will be vindicated. I think that position was splendidly illustrated by Dr. Nansen in a speech he made at Saint Andrews University to the young men of that city in 1926. Appealing to the heroism of the young men of our land he was trying to take the mind of our generation away from militarism, as the chief avenue of heroism, into other directions, and he suggested that one of the greatest, if not the greatest, achievement during the next generation would be to clear the world of war and militarism, and he used these words, which are germane to the issue of unilateral disarmament:There must be no clinging to the old privilege of waging private wars. There must be no lingering thought that if the League is weak in some directions it may, perhaps, serve our private interests. We must have no reserves. We must set out on a new path in international affairs, a path opened to us at Locarno, and we must destroy the bridges behind us which lead back to the old policy and the old system, both of which are such utter failures. I have always believed that in the big things of life it was vitally important to leave no line of retreat.That is the point of view I have held for many years, and I am convinced we shall never have a warless world until we get the nations prepared to take that line of action. It is my firm hope that as soon as may be, and I hope, at any rate, when next year comes, and we are confronted with the conference, my right hon. Friend in his Department will be able to give a lead to the world in the direction of disarmament by saying what this country is prepared to do in undertaking a big measure of disarmament.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I do not wish to follow on the lines of the speech to which we have just listened, but I 1099 should like to call the attention of the Committee to one point already dealt with before Mr. Speaker left the Chair, which is of such transcendent importance that it requires further attention, namely, the question of the really critical position in which the whole Army is in at present owing to the shortage of medical officers. I am afraid the House generally and the public look upon this as a matter of minor importance. They always say that as soon as a force goes overseas for active service, you can always get young doctors to fill the places. There are two reasons why I think I can get Members of this House to unite with me in recognising that that does not fill the Bill.
What is the present position? We have it from the Financial Secretary that out of an establishment of 823 medical officers, we are 173 short, or 20 per cent. short of establishment. We have it said also that foreign establishments have to be kept up to the mark, and, therefore, the position is that medical officers going overseas come back after five years' service, and, after having only one or two years at home, have to be detailed for another five years' foreign service. When young officers, especially those who are married, have been sent back for a second term, they say they cannot take it any longer, and that they cannot stand constant terms of foreign service, for, after all, they have a family outlook as well as we have, and have an interest in staying at home. Therefore, it is with the greatest difficulty that the War Office can now fill the foreign service roster this year. I gather that it is most unlikely that next year they will be able to fill the roster.
I understand those who have been investigating this matter sympathetically, the British Medical Association Committee concerned, say that if the present arrangements continue, it is estimated there will be another 200 resignations within the next two or three years, and the service will be cut down to one-half. With increasing force, because it will be all the more necessary to keep the existing regular men abroad, all the more will they say they must clear out of the service at any price. Can we afford, as long as we keep up an army, to have that position, with the services of majors, colonels and senior officers, and being 1100 entirely dependent on men who are retiring rapidly? There are two reasons why one has to keep the service alive, and it is impossible to fall back on the cheap alternative and the idea that you can always supply the needs by the ordinary civilian medical profession. The ordinary civilian profession, as a matter of fact, are particularly comfortable in their ordinary occupation, and do not feel at all anxious to go abroad on expeditions for any length of time. Even if there were such an expedition, it would be doubtful, unless it were one of the first magnitude, that a lot of men would be prepared to go.
How can we possibly fill the roll? I have said that we must have a trained staff. We could fill it up to a certain amount with civilians who are good enough for treating men, but there are two reasons why we want a trained staff. Some of us remember the appalling scandals at the beginning of the South African war which I witnessed as a young civil surgeon in South Africa. The wounded came off the field of battle and went for 600 miles all heaped up in one train. It was a perfect disgrace to civilisation. Then there were the appalling revelations that were made at Bloemfontein nine months afterwards with the square mile of graves of men who died from typhoid fever. All the force and fury of public opinion were brought to bear against the War Office for not having made proper provision. Inside the War Office the full blast fell on the unfortunate Surgeon-General of the Army Medical Service, who had been making constant representations of the inadequacy of the provision made for him, but these representations fell on a deaf ear.
We are in exactly the same position now. The same representations have been made by successive Directors-General of the Medical Service ever since the War to every Secretary of State in each Government, and in each case they have said that they are asking too much, or that it does not matter very much as they can always get the young men. Finally, we have the Secretary of State to-day making the confession, which has never been made so clearly by any of his precedessors, and which we see in the White Paper: 1101The number of new officer entrants for the Army Medical Corps, which has been most unsatisfactory since the Great War, has fallen still lower during the past year, and the deficiency of regular officers is causing me grave concern.It is causing all of us who understand and who have had the privilege and honour and difficulty of serving with the Army, the gravest possible concern. We do not see the way out of it, and it seems that we are making headlong for disaster. I ask those who are going to move a reduction of the Army, which means practically the extermination of the Army—
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
You would not want medical officers if there were nothing to do. Inasmuch as they know that their Amendment will be defeated and that the Army will continue, I ask them to recognise, as we all do, that we are responsible to the nation which lends us something like 150,000 of the best and most healthy young fellows at the critical stage of their lives for three or five years. Are we not bound to supply them with the medical officers whose first duty in peace time is to tend to their health, to lead them in the way of a healthy life? The Secretary of State has pointed out how extraordinarily improved is the health of the Army; that is largely due to an efficient medical service. Up to the War we had a very efficient service, and the men who joined then are carrying on the good work. The numbers seem to be fading away; and the people are not paying sufficient attention to the seriousness of the situation.
We are bound to fill this gap. It is a difficulty which is common to the Army, Navy and Air Force, and it has been a severe grievance with all the Directors-General of the Army Medical Service. I have had the privilege of knowing them all, and of corresponding with a good many of them on this subject recently. The Secretary of State says that it is a question of money. He said to me in a supplementary answer the other day that the one thing that would cure it was money. I do not think that that sufficiently expresses the position. Money is undoubtedly one of the elements. You have to go into the open market and buy your article You must pay something 1102 either in money or kind that will attract the young medical officer, and, when you are asked to do that, you are at once met with the difficulty which the Financial Secretary mentioned, that other ranks in the Army say, "Why should these people be paid so much better than we are?" The reason is that their market value is different; the young medical student has to give up six or seven years of the best time of his life to a profession which is so grinding that it exterminates or prevents three-quarters of the men who enter it from getting to the end. If at the end of this six or seven years a student manages to get equipped, he is going to see that he gets the best terms for the rest of his life that he can get, and small blame to him for doing it.
When he is asked to join the medical services of the three Forces, he sees, first of all, that he has to be disciplined, and there is nothing a medical man likes less than being disciplined. There are some who will allow themselves to be disciplined, and who would go in for the Service if the other attractions were sufficient, but the one thing a young medical man is intent on—which was not the case with his predecessors 20 years ago—is to have two things at once, a wife and a motor car. He insists on these two things. The Army offers him a position in which he is at once jockeyed out abroad, and, if he happens to come home for a year or two year's service after two or three years abroad, out he goes again for another five years. No young wife will ever stand that. That is one of the difficulties. The other difficulty is that he naturally looks forward to the end of his career. The Army does not offer him a career; it is no career. Lieut.-colonels and majors retire from the medical service at the age of 45 on a bare £1 a day; that fact is a standing advertisement to him not to join the Army. He does not want to be unoccupied at the age of 45, and turned loose to the end of his life. He is looking forward at the age of 45 to being at the zenith of his career, and any youngster who has been through seven years of what is a scientific and humane profession, although he may enjoy the good things of life and the other delights of foreign service for a time, still wants to see good practical professional service.
1103 We have heard it said to-day that the three Services between them are appointing an inter-departmental committee to consider this question. I cannot help remembering that the Warren Fisher Committee undertook the same work six years ago in 1925 and come forward with certain proposals which at the time seemed to do what was required. This is repeating the same process. I am not sure whether it will come to any conclusion unless it goes wider afield. I believe that we shall have to look further afield, and to give a career to these young men if we are to keep them. That career must be something much more than anything that can be offered by the Army alone. There is also the possibility of combining the three Fighting Services. Until recent reforms unfortunately had the disastrous effect of destroying the most magnificent medical service that the world has ever seen—the Indian Medical Service—which was sacrificed on the altar of a false Indian Nationalism, we had looked forward to combining the Indian Medical Service with the services of the Army, Air Force and Navy. That cannot be done; but the Colonial Medical Services might possibly be joined on. I understand that since the War the Colonial Medical Services have managed to fill the bill we had hoped the Army Medical Service might fill. I believe 2,000 young medical men have been enlisted into that Service since the War, which has thus absorbed that section of the medical profession which otherwise would have gone into the Army, Navy or Air Force.
Perhaps we may be able to get some combination between these public services. The State must be master in her own house, and I cannot see why there should not be one comprehensive service. Whatever we do, we must go back upon the downhill course that has been trodden by successive Governments for 12 years. We must deal with this question of the repeated foreign tours of service for the men who join. They will not join if that is the prospect before them, and we shall have to have temporary commissions of five years, to include one tour of foreign service. We may be able to get young medical men to undertake a five years' commission, with a term of foreign service, if we give them 1104 good terms, especially a good gratuity at the end to help them when they are thinking of settling down in private practice. It has also been suggested that we may give them a wider field. The State contributes very largely to the employment of medical officers of health engaged in local government services, and it is possible to envisage some wider field of employment, with a common entry and with ultimate employment in the Civil Service as well as in those Services which take them overseas. In some big conception of that sort we may be able to find a way of supplying the men. Young men will then see that they have a future in front of them and will not have to finish their professional lives at the age of 46, and continue the rest of their existence in idleness on a small pension.
§ Mr. AYLES
I rise to oppose the provision of the whole of this number of men, not because I and those of my Friends who are associated with me are opposed to the men, but because we are completely and entirely opposed to the tasks that they are asked to perform. In the first place, we hold that to keep such a large number of men for the purposes of war is a sheer waste of our national resources, a waste of the man power as well as of the treasure of the nation. The second point is that the purpose for which these men are enlisted is one that is never achieved. We are told that we have our Army in order that we may have security. If there is one thing that armies do not provide it is security. There are many hon. Members in this House who are military, naval or aeronautical experts. In a perfectly friendly way I want to issue a challenge to them and I ask whether any one of them is prepared to get up and tell the Members of this Committee that they know of any way by which they can guarantee security to the men, women and children of this country. The right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) has told us that another war would mean the end of civilisation. If that be so, then to talk of security is to talk without a sense of the value of words. It not only means that we cannot guarantee the security of our women and children in this country by armed force, but in the carrying out of our purpose we actually have to menace the security 1105 of the women and children in other countries.
In a House where so much respect is paid to precedent in the matter of procedure, we ought not to be forgetful of the experience of the past in regard to this matter. When our men, surely the finest men we had in the country, relatives of most of us who are in the House, were fighting in the last War, they were compelled to take part in a blockade of the enemy countries, not only up to Armistice Day, but after the Armistice. Why? Because when you are at war there is only one thing that matters, and that is to have a military victory; and in the last War we insisted not only that we should have a military victory, but have a military dominance that would enable us to impose the peace after the Armistice had been declared. So we maintained the blockade.
§ Mr. AYLES
I was giving an illustration to show why I was opposed to the provision of these men. We are asked to provide these men in order to use them to conduct war on our behalf if we so desire, and it is because of the nature of war and of the tasks that we should ask them to undertake that I am opposed to providing them. What I was trying to show was that not only do we not provide security for this country, but that we ask them to menace the security of other men, women and children against whom we may be at war. Our experience of the blockade after the Armistice was that it was the women and children who were slain, not only slain by the lack of food but by the lack of medical supplies which we refused to allow to enter the blockaded countries. Therefore, we who take up the pacifist position hold that you cannot justify the existence of an Army on the ground that it brings security to our women and children; and I challenge hon. Members who do know something about military tactics to tell me whether, if we gave them the whole £800,000,000 provided for in our Budget, they could even then guarantee the security of our women and children. If they cannot, I suggest that it is a cruel deceit for us to lead our women and children to believe that they have security. I am opposed to the supply 1106 of these men, because I believe that they cannot safeguard our lives or our markets. I am aware that we must have markets in order to live, and we must also continue to produce in order that we may exist. We have been told that the basis of modern wars is to be found in the economic relations between countries. It is quite true that during the last war we had to safeguard our markets in order that we might live as a nation.
We are told that we must be prepared to spend this money upon the Army because it is necessary as an insurance for our future safety and security, but I will challenge any hon. Member or right hon. Member opposite to prove that we safeguarded our markets as a result of the last war, or as a result of any war. As a matter of fact, the contrary is true, because we have lost our markets as a result of the last war, and those against whom we fought, and whom we are supposed to have beaten, have concentrated on the markets of the world, and they are in possession of those markets in spite of the fact that we wasted so much of our life and treasure during those dreadful years of war. I remember Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman stating 30 years ago that armaments depended upon policy, but in my opinion the reverse is true; policy depends upon armament. The fact that we have armaments dictates our policy, and those armaments are not a security.
I want to see a peaceful policy in this country based upon a progressive, creative conception of international relations. I want us to have a national policy. I want to see us disarmed in the midst of an armed world in order that we may assure the world that is armed and rapidly developing towards madness that we as a nation can live and prosper on the basis of dependence upon public opinion. I am chiefly against armaments and war and against the supply of these men because those things demand a sacrifice that no community ought to demand from any men. It means, in the first place, the sacrifice of human life. No one appreciates more fully than I do the magnificent courage of our men in the Great War. No one appreciates more than I do the sacrifices which they made. The soldier is trained to take the life of others and to save his own life, and that is 1107 where it seems to me that public opinion is in the wrong. The soldier has to protect himself in the trenches by every kind of subterfuge in order that he may be able to take the life of his enemy and save his own and thus achieve military glory. We are training men to slay their fellow men and blow them to bits, and yet those who are killed may be good fathers and exemplary husbands. Because politicians on one side feel that they have to do all this, those on the other side do it for the same reason. If we are going to buy civilisation at that price, then we are building up a civilisation that can never receive the sanction of religion, and a civilisation entirely opposed to all the dictates we have learned from the Gospel. By going to war we do not safeguard honour, but we sacrifice it. We have heard a good deal about secret treaties, and I know that after the War we did not keep the treaties to which we had set our hands though we went into the Great War for the sanctity of a scrap of paper—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dunnico)
I think the hon. Member is going far beyond the scope of the Question before the Committee.
§ Mr. AYLES
I am opposed to the provision of these men, because that policy will not help us to safeguard truth and honour, but will rather lead to the sacrifice of truth and honour. We cannot safeguard the country in this way, and the only result will be that we shall sacrifice mind and soul. References have been made in this Debate to War books which have been published since the War, and it has been said by those who have had experience of Army life in war time that many of those books are wrong. One must accept that statement and I am glad to accept it, but there are some facts in connection with our Army records that we cannot ignore and which do not lie, and they are the medical officers' reports. I suggest that, reading between the lines, we, as men of the world, know what they mean, and we know what war-time conditions mean for the weak. Those conditions sometimes mean the sacrifice of mind, body, and soul not only of our men, but of 1108 our women as well. I am not prepared to buy my security or the security of my wife and child at such a cost as that, and with all the passionate sincerity of my character I will always protest against the provision of any men or money for such a purpose as we are asked to provide them for in this Army Vote.
§ Mr. SANDERS
I think it will be convenient if I now reply to criticisms and questions with regard to Woolwich and Enfield. With regard to the point raised by the right hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), concerning conditions at the factory last year, it will perhaps be remembered that I pointed out that the short time that was organised was arranged for a short period of the year, and was ended by the provision of a new and special kind of permanent work which my predecessor was able to procure for the Woolwich factory—the repair of certain motor vehicles and motor tanks, which kind of work was in addition to the ordinary work of the factory, and will continue to be carried on there. That got rid of the problem of finding work for men in sufficient amount to prevent the necessity of carrying on short time, but it was not sufficient to enable us to retain the 21-year-old young men who have never, as far as I know, had a, guarantee that they would be maintained at the Arsenal beyond the age of 21. If it was found necessary in the past that anyone should leave the Arsenal, it was always understood that these young men would go first, because there was no guarantee that they should be continued after 21, and it was considered that they would have a better opportunity of finding work than older men who might otherwise have had to be displaced.
As the result of all the men and young men who have left the Arsenal during the year, all the men who have been retired because of reaching the age limit, and casualties, men dying and so on, I find that with that wastage, which is quite normal, the numbers now at Woolwich are 5,879, as compared with 6,046 last year at this time. That is only, as I have said, a normal wastage, so that there have been no abnormal discharges from Woolwich, and we have done our utmost to keep our pledge that we would do all that we could to maintain the 1109 existing number there, which number, I might say incidentally, is very much larger than a certain nucleus which was decided upon by the last Government.
With regard to the time-work and piece-work at Enfield, that was undertaken by us, as stated by the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. W. Henderson), in order to avoid the necessity for discharging men. It was a painful necessity, but it was a necessity that probably will arise at some future time, and if the other side is in office, I trust that, instead of discharging men in those circumstances, they will follow our example. It is much better to have those men earning even a smaller sum at time rates than they would earn at piece rates than to throw them on the streets, and I think the men, although naturally they did not like the reduction, were grateful.
I promised, when this question was raised last year, that I would do my utmost to see that the piece work system came back without discharging any men. As a result of the efforts of the War Office—and I may say I was very ably assisted by the Department concerned—we were able to secure extra work from a Dominion, which has enabled us to go back to the piece work system. On that point, I would like to say that I have personally investigated the matter that the hon. Member for Enfield raised, as to whether or not all the men who used to be on piece work and were put on time work have gone back to piece work, and I am assured that all the men have gone back, but that there has always been a certain section of skilled men at Enfield who have never been on piece work but have been continually raising the question as to whether they could not be changed from time work to piece work. Up to now neither their organisation nor the War Office can find any system on which we can base a piece work rate, and so the time work has to continue, but they are men whose wages are not worse; they are skilled men, and there is no particular hardship in the case.
Then I come to the question of the prospects for the coming year. I am able to assure the right hon. Member for West Woolwich and the hon. Member for Enfield that, as far as we can foresee, there will he sufficient work to maintain the Arsenal and the Enfield factory at 1110 the present strength during the whole of the year without any change of system, without either short time or changing from piece work to time work. I am therefore glad to know that the right hon. Member for West Woolwich will have no sleepless nights on this painful subject and will probably not be worried by his constituents, who are naturally very much interested in this question.
I come to the last point, which is the vexed question of a very special union which is under the very valuable care of the right hon. Member for West Woolwich. I have had some experience of administration, and I have always understood that a direction or a management that knows its business will insist on meeting one body of men to represent the whole of the staff, and will not have different organisations, representing the same kind of men, seeing them at different intervals and putting forward varying demands. The War Office, under our administration, has taken that line, and I think it is the proper line to take in these days, when there is in every sphere of life a painful tendency to split off in all kinds of directions, a tendency which I think all wise men ought to try to restrain as much as possible.
This union at Woolwich represents a certain number of the so-called unskilled men, and it desires to have separate representation and separate rights from all the other industrial staff, who are connected together, no matter whether they are skilled, unskilled, or semi-skilled, under one proper committee. It is not our business to compel this particular union to come into the same committee, nor can we compel the central committee to accept them. It is a quarrel inside the trade union movement, with which we are not able to interfere, but we say this, that when we are dealing with questions of hours of work, conditions of labour, and wages, we are going to prefer to deal with the great national organisation rather than any local, split-off body which for some reason or another will not come into line. All the other unions in the Arsenal with whom we deal as a whole are national unions, responsible unions, unions which have no pretence, but which are based on real membership and real service to their members. We deal with them without any trouble or friction, and our advice from the War 1111 Office is that this local union and the national union should get together and make up their differences, and come to us as a united body. As a small separate body we cannot recognise them for dealing with questions of hours, conditions of labour, and wages at the Arsenal.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to put a question to him. May I take it that the reason why the Government refuse recognition of this union is not the fact that it is not affiliated to the Trades Union Congress?
§ Mr. SANDERS
That is not the reason at all. There was a time when the old Amalgamated Society of Engineers was not affiliated to the Trades Union Congress, but there never was any difficulty, and there never would be any difficulty now.
§ Mr. CARTER
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) if he is vice-president of that union?
§ Sir K. WOOD
If I am permitted to answer questions, I shall be very glad to do so, but I am not paid to answer them.
§ Mr. SANDERS
With regard to the main question, which I think is the most important, namely, the future of these two great workshops, I can say that for the next twelve months their existence under present conditions is, as far as I can see, completely assured.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE
It is rather unfortunate, after the very sensible remarks of the Secretary of State for War, that they have been so little appreciated by some of his followers. Nobody could question the sincerity of his desire for peace, and, when he stated in such very convincing terms that there is a case against unilateral disarmament, I think it ought to have carried weight with anyone who had anything resembling an open mind on the subject. I give full credit to the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Wellock) and the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Ayles) for the sincerity of their convictions, but I believe them to be utterly mistaken. They believe that if we were completely to disarm, regardless of what other nations are doing, peace would be assured. I do not think 1112 so. If we were to take that course, I believe it would merely be an invitation to anybody who wanted to do so to come and collar our possessions—an invitation of which they would not be slow to take advantage. The hon. Member asked whether the Army gave us security during the Great War. It prevented defeat, and that was what it was meant to do.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE
I do not know whether the hon. Member has studied the terms which Germany would have imposed on us. If he had, I think he would agree that, if we had been defeated, we should have suffered a good deal more than Germany. Of course it is very easy, sitting here in comfort and safety, to talk about disarmament, but, if the hon. Member were an inhabitant of one of the villages on the North-West Frontier of India, exposed to the raids of the tribes of the hills, I do not think he could be very glad to see the total disbandment of the British and Indian armies, so long as those tribes hold the views and employ the methods for which they have so long been notorious. The Secretary of State showed very clearly that unilateral disarmament is a policy that we cannot possible adopt. May I ask him if he would try and exercise his persuasive powers upon his colleague the President of the Board of Trade, with a view to showing him that it is equally futile to pursue a policy of unilateral free imports? The hon. Member for North Bristol, just at the end of his speech, gave me the impression—I may have been mistaken—that he was adopting a rather self-righteous attitude towards soldiers, and suggesting that soldiers were less respectable than other people.
§ Mr. AYLES
No; that is what I was very careful in endeavouring to avoid, and I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member will challenge that statement. I said that our attitude was not directed against the men, whom we consider to be some of the finest amongst us. Our attitude is that we should save these men from being put into conditions where we ought not to put any man, especially such fine men as these.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE
I can only say that is the impression that 1113 the hon. Member gave me. Soldiers have no more faults than the rest of the community. The Secretary of State has told us that 52 per cent. of those who applied did not come up to the physical standard, and that that was probably due to the influence of the War years. I think that is very likely the case, and, if it is so, I suppose it means that the proportion of rejections on this ground is likely to apply as long as we have recruits coming who were subject as children to the privations of the War years. Evidently there has been a slight improvement, because in the first seven weeks of this year we got something like 2,000 more recruits than in the corresponding period last year, which is satisfactory as far as it goes. We are told that the estimated intake of recruits will only be enough to counterbalance the outflow and that we shall have to continue to make exertions during the whole year.
I should like to make a suggestion. There are some infantry regiments which have no difficulty in getting recruits of a perfectly suitable type. In fact, they have to refuse applications. I wonder whether it will be possible for an infantry regiment in that position to recruit men over the establishment as a temporary measure while there is a shortage. Of course, we have to consider how we can possibly induce recruits to come forward, and the Secretary of State has indicated one way, which is by refraining from saying or doing anything which will discourage men from joining. I believe one of the best ways of getting a better supply of recruits is to make it more certain that, when a man leaves the Colours, he shall get employment in civil life. I notice in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State the statement that the proportion of men who passed through the training centres and got employment immediately was 81.5 per cent. in 1928, 76 per cent. in 1929, and only 69.4 per cent. in 1930. It is rather discouraging to find that the proportion of men getting employment immediately on leaving the training centre is gradually getting less and less.
What we want is that the man who has had a creditable term of service in the Army, Navy or Air Force shall have a better chance of getting employment when 1114 he goes back to civil life than the man who has not had that experience. It is true that we need an extra supply of recruits this year, but that will mean that there will be an abnormal outflow to the Reserve in seven or eight years' time unless some steps are taken to see that there is a fairly even proportion between the number of men enlisting for seven and five years and the number enlisting for three and nine. An abnormal intake of recruits always means a difficulty when those men go to the Reserve, and what we want to aim at is a steady supply every year of more or less the same numbers.
The Secretary of State alluded to the supply of officers, and the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said he would like to see all officers going through the ranks. He gave us one or two historical examples from times past. He mentioned the French Army in the days of Napoleon, when all officers went through the ranks, and he thought that we ought to follow their example. Assuming that what he said is correct, I do not think that that is a very good example from his point of view, because in the Peninsular War the French Army was beaten in every battle by the British Army, who were officered under an entirely different system. There is also the question of the supply of reserve officers. We have had a very considerable Debate to-night on the Officers Training Corps, but I do not think that anybody has mentioned that it is our only means of getting training for possible reserve officers. I had something to do with the Officers Training Corps in the years before the War, and I know its value. There can be no question that during the War the Officers Training Corps was of the greatest possible value, because at the outbreak of War we had a certain number of people who, at any rate, knew something about the duties of officers. I believe that the Officers Training Corps is an extraordinarily cheap force, from which we get very good value indeed.
Finally, with regard to the numbers in the Army Reserve. The Memorandum says that the strength has declined to 128,700, and that the fall will he more rapid this year. I would point out that the diminution of strength in our Reserves is more serious now than before the War. Before the War we had Special 1115 Reserve infantry battalions to fall back upon. Suppose we had a general mobilisation now, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentlemen how many of those 128,700 men would be required to bring units up to war strength, how many would be left available for supplying drafts later to make good the wastage of war, and, in that event, how long would it be before the Army Reserve was used up altogether, and what would happen them? I have asked this question on many previous occasions, but I have never yet had an answer. We have no Special Reserve battalions to fall back upon when the Army Reserve is exhausted. What is going to happen between the time the Army Reserve is used up and the time recruits are fit to take their places in the ranks? I am very much afraid that if that position ever arises there may be a temptation to use the Territorial Army for the purposes of drafting. To my mind, that would be absolutely fatal. I hope that this matter, which is a very serious one, is really being seriously considered by the right hon. Gentleman and his Department.
§ Mr. SHAW
As the discussion has taken a turn in which part of the speeches has been devoted to the subject of the Amendment to be moved by the hon. Lady the Member for North Lanark (Miss Lee), I think that it would be better if I answered on the general position, and left the hon. Lady to move her Amendment, and then for me to reply to it. I think that that would be courteous on the part of the Committee. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Windsor-Clive) has asked a number of questions as to how, in cases of emergency, the present state of the Forces would work out if drafts were called for. I do not think there is any need to fear any immediate emergency, nor do I think there is any need to fear that in case an emergency did arise, there would he any shortage for the immediate moment, and that we should be hampered in sending out the divisions that are ordinarily accepted as being ready for service in the time which has generally been laid down by military authorities.
§ Mr. SHAW
I will deal with the medical services afterwards, if the hon. and gallant Member will permit me. The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. O. Lewis) raised the question of the Officers Training Corps and supported the views of the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) in supporting the idea that compulsion should be abolished in the public schools. I have already pointed out that I am Minister for War and not Minister for Education, and I want to have as little to do with the internal life of the schools as I can. I have announced the view of the Government, that for boys at the age of 12, 13 and 14 we shall take no responsibility whatever, and we shall be no party either to compulsion or lack of compulsion. We shall simply have nothing to do with boys of that age, and only in the most modified form possible, in order to enable boys to go to training in camp, shall we have anything to do with boys of 15. If compulsion exists at the beginning of a boy's life in a public school, it is a matter for the parent and the school. I shall have nothing to do with it. The parent and the school must settle between them what the conditions are to be. I understand that objection was also raised by the same hon. Member about my lack of energy in recruiting.
§ Mr. SHAW
Boys of 15 will get no equipment. There will be no recognition so far as equipment is concerned for any boy under 16. I understand that objection has been raised to what has been termed the apathy of the Secretary of State for War and his want of energy in recruiting. The Adjutant-General's Department is responsible for recruiting, and I think the Adjutant-General and his Department are quite capable of doing their own work. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why do they not do it?"] I have already reported to the House that they have tackled the problem, and with very successful results, and that recruits are coming in at an accelerated rate. I am not going, if I can avoid it, to create in this country an impression that there is a violent crisis, which needs extra special attention. I believe that the staff at the War Office is quite competent to do this work, and that it is doing its 1117 work, and I am going to let good rest where it is. The hon. Member for Stour-bridge (Mr. Wellock) will forgive me if I make no reference to his speech, because it will properly come on the subject which is to be raised by the hon. Member for North Lanark (Miss Lee).
The hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) has raised a very vital matter and one which, I must admit quite frankly, has not only baffled the present Minister for War but has baffled previous Ministers for War. It is a problem which concerns at the present time not only the War Office but the Air Force and the Navy. It is one of the most difficult problems that the three Ministers have to face, and I agree with the hon. and gallant Member that no one Department alone will be able to face it successfully and arrive at a solution of the difficulty. I have heard with great interest the suggestions that the hon. and gallant Member made as to what will be the possible consequences if these matters are allowed to drift. I heard with the greatest interest his remarks with regard to the terms of foreign service and how they discourage any medical man from taking service in the Army or in the other Services. I can assure him that what he has said will have the closest investigation and attention.
I listened with interest to his remarks about the unbalanced condition of the medical services, where you have the service composed almost entirely of officers of major rank with a very few subalterns at the bottom, and also to what he said about the scandal of South Africa. As to his ideas of the future and his broad general proposition that there should be a medical service so large as to embrace everything in the shape of public medical services, civil, military, naval and air, that is a question rather too big to be dealt with at a moment's notice. We shall have to do the best we can in the circumstances, and I still think that it is largely a case of money. The hon. and gallant Member himself pretty clearly laid it down that owing to the Insurance Acts, which, incidentally, his profession did not welcome very warmly, the young medical man finds himself in a position in which he can very quickly, so far as finance is con- 1118 cerned, be in a better position than if he had joined the Service. I admit that that is the case.
I also noted what the hon. and gallant Member said about the hatred of the young medical man for discipline. My hon. Friends and myself have not a very strong love for discipline if it is carried too far, and I do not think we should blame the young medical man for objecting to discipline. The problem is a difficult one and is not easy of solution. It is a mere platitude to say that it is not unique to one service, and is not to be solved by any easy method. If you had all the wealth of the world and you gave it to the medical service it would create dissatisfaction in other arms of the service, and you would be not at the end but at the beginning of your troubles. I will take note of everything the hon. and gallant Member has said, and the three Services will consider their problems together and endeavour to find a way out of the difficulty, which I quite frankly admit ought not to exist for a moment longer than is necessary. It is a question that has baffled other War Ministers and for the present has baffled me.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether this departmental committee may possibly be widened in order to consider the possibility of making arrangements with the colonial medical services?
§ Mr. SHAW
I have said that I have listened with the keenest attention to the suggestions the hon. and gallant Member has made, and I give him my personal assurance that they will be examined to see whether it is possible to work on the lines he has suggested. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow to allow certain regiments to recruit beyond establishment in order to balance shortages in other parts of the country, it will be examined, and I will see whether anything can be done to meet the case. I think I have replied to the points raised in the discussion, with the one exception of the point of the abolition of the Army, which I think I had better leave until the Amendment has been moved.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
I would like to put a further question with 1119 regard to the Officers Training Corps. I understand that permission is withheld up to 15 years of age. Does that mean that boys of 15 in the Corps will be allowed to wear the uniform of the Corps? Can they wear the uniform and carry rifles and receive the grant?
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by 130,000 men.
I move this Amendment with very considerable regret. I should be infinitely happier to-night if my duty were merely to congratulate or support a Labour Minister of War who was bringing before the Committee an Army Estimate showing a substantial reduction on the previous year, and I wish to say at the very outset that if this year's Estimate had shown anything which could be considered as in the nature of a genuine reduction, the drastic Amendment standing in my name would never have beer moved. It is with deep concern that some of us see that, far from being called upon to support a reduction in the Army Estimates this year, we are being asked by our own Government and by our own Minister to go into the Division Lobby to-night in support of an Estimate which means, in effect, that the fighting strength and the killing force of the British Army is to be greater than it was last year. I do not think I am making any rash statement, or any statement that cannot be borne out by anyone who cares to analyse in any detail the Estimate that has been given.
I listened with considerable interest to the skill with which Members on the Government benches, and Members of the official Opposition, and members from the buffer state below the Gangway, were able to talk in support of the Estimate without a single one of them referring to the outstanding fact about this Army Estimate—that it does not represent 1120 merely a marking of time in our fighting strength, but a definite advance. Consider the comparison that can be drawn between this Estimate and another Estimate that this House has considered a lot recently, regarding the wages of civil servants. In these Estimates we were told that wages had to be reduced from 4 to 6 per cent., or an average of 5 per cent. We were assured by the Ministers responsible for that reduction that it does not represent any lowering of the standard of life of those workers, but that it is merely a matter of adjustment. We have been told that that reduction merely brings wages into line with the reduction in the cost of living. If that is a fair and proper argument to apply to Civil Service wages, it is also a fair and proper argument to apply to the Estimate now before the Committee. Without touching on the question of the reduction of armaments, and considering merely the maintenance of the status quo, it seems reasonable to consider that comparison, and I am glad to have the moral support of the Secretary of State for War himself on this point, because in the White Paper he says:In meeting the expenditure on replacements … I have been helped by the fall in the prices of commodities and certain consequential reductions in payments in respect of the cost of living.If the same reduction had been imposed here as that to which I have already referred, we would have been entitled to look for more than £5,000,000 of a reduction on the total for the fighting services and between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 on these Army Estimates, while merely maintaining ourselves in the present position. Instead of that, we find merely a £500,000 reduction in nominal expenditure, and if we consider, not the nominal amount but the purchasing power, it means we are actually proposing in these Estimates to spend more than was proposed in last year's Estimates. Further, when one leaves the general Estimates and turns to the statistical abstract one find that, unfortunately, there have been reductions in the pay of the Army; there have been reductions on the medical service, on the educational establishment, in the amount for clothing and in the amount for general stores. I look down one column in this return to find those decreases. Then I look down a column opposite to it, which 1121 gives increases, and I find that the outstanding figure of £293,000 of increases is in the column headed "Warlike Stores." An hon. Member has referred to the little pink slips which are in this book as being very helpful in enabling us to see what each of these sums is concerned with, and they enable us to see that, while we are actually increasing our nominal expenditure, apart from the increase in real purchasing power, the increase is almost entirely related to the experimental side of warfare and the mechanisation of the Army.
When I found that, I was tempted to explore the Estimates of preceding years regarding mechanisation. I find that two years ago the late Sir Laming Worthington-Evans—to whom reference has been made by other hon. Members, but I am not an old enough Member to have close personal memories of him—when he introduced the Estimates made a main feature of his speech the mechanisation which was going on in the Army, and stressed the fact that, in that year, an additional £99,000 was being spent in that direction. He went on to say that since 1921 a very definite advance had been made. That does not seem to tally entirely with the general expressions we have heard to-day that this country, among all the nations of the world, was really going forward with a policy of disarmament. Here we had a responsible Minister pointing with pride to the fact that in this, the most modern and deadly side of our preparations for future warfare, we were making a definite advance. He went on to say that not only were we making a definite advance, but that in the next few years even greater progress should be possible owing to the sure foundations which had already been laid. I examined again the Command Paper which is given us by the Minister for War, and I find on a later page he refers to the mechanisation of the Field Artillery and says that we are embarking on a three years' programme that is going to bring the Army to a high pitch of efficiency in this direction. It is rather a sorry comment on our sense of values that we can deride a nation like Russia for carrying on a five years' programme for industrial and economic reconstruction, but pride ourselves on this programme for the mechanisation of the Army. I submit that when hon. Members go into the 1122 Lobby to-night they have definitely got to make up their minds whether they are going to support Estimates which make our Army a stronger fighting force than it was even a year ago.
Turning from the money to the men involved, I looked eagerly at the Estimates to see if there was to be any reduction. I found there was to be a reduction of 100. I understand that is an accident, and the Minister has apologised for it, and said he did not intend it to happen and that he will do his best to see it put right, and all that kind of thing. In this Labour party in the British House of Commons, every Member has told the British public that we stood for radical disarmament, but I do not think there are many individuals on the bench from which I am speaking or on the general benches on this side, who either said or believed that that reduction had to be strictly limited by the reductions that other countries were going to make. This mechanisation can be fairly compared with the rationalisation of industry, and therefore one would expect that there would have been a very considerable reduction in the numbers of men simply by the process of rationalisation. Instead, we find the actual numbers maintained, and, more than that, we find the Minister of War promising this House that he will act as a recruiting sergeant, and will attempt to get the number of recruits increased. Mechanisation has even engulfed this Command Paper, because I cannot imagine that our very kindly Minister of War would have been guilty of a sentence which contains so much irony and is in such gross bad taste, especially coming from this party, that the improvement in recruitingtends to show that the advantages of life in the Army are being better appreciated.At the same time that we have an insulting, sardonical, ironical sentence like that put in the Command Paper, we have protests made from every part of the Committee about the slum conditions in which many of the soldiers are forced to live. We also have the statement that, of the men who offer themselves for recruitment, no fewer than 52 per cent. are physically unfit. Again, the Minister was careful to point out that most of those men who offer themselves for recruitment do so 1123 because they believe that they have a reasonable chance of being accepted. So I cannot escape the conclusion that our fighting service is more efficient, more deadly, more highly mechanised than it was even a year ago, and this Debate comes to-day when only yesterday we were talking about a general arbitration clause, when we were saying that never again was there to be war, and that we were going to send all disputes to international arbitration. It shows that the god of chance has a queer sense of humour—
The presiding power in these matters is not a woman. I should hate to think that any woman would want to be associated with an increase in military strength. I am concerned about this Estimate, not only because of the effect on this country, but of the effect in other parts of the world. I was brought up in the belief that, our nation was one of the most peace-loving in the world. It came to me with a shock of surprise when first I travelled on the Continent to find that such sentiments were greeted with shrieks of derision by young Germans, young Austrians, young Frenchmen, young Russians and those of other nationalities. Far from believing that we were a peace loving nation, they regarded us as one of the most aggressive, one of the most predatory, one of the most Imperialistic nations in the world.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not want unduiy to restrict this Debate, but I would remind the hon. Member that we had quite a general Debate on the Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," and we had a much more general Debate on Vote A. This is a restrictive Amendment, and we cannot discuss things which are outside it.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. AYLES
May I point out that when I was speaking on the general Vote, I indulged in a general argument which Mr. Speaker said was too wide for the general discussion upon the Estimates, but would be in order on the Amendment to reduce the number of men. Whereupon, I immediately sat down and said I would reserve my remarks for the place where he suggested they would be more 1124 appropriate. May I suggest that in those circumstances the widest latitude should be given to the hon. Lady?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I cannot accept that interpretation. Mr. Speaker does not rule upon !natters arising in Committee and on more than one occasion has declared to the House that matters in Committee are outside his jurisdiction. I can only say that so long as the hon. Lady keeps to the terms of her Amendment I shall not rule too rigidly, but she must not cover too much ground in presenting her arguments for and against the retention or the present number of men in the Army.
The last thing in the world I should desire would be to show a belligerent attitude. Earlier in the evening I was informed from the Chair that it was preferable that we should leave the more general discussion to this Amendment; but I will confine my remarks as strictly as I can to arguments which are relevant to the plea I am putting before the House for a reduction of the British Army. I had started to say that in our own minds we believe that we are a thoroughly peace-loving people, though it would seem that we must have tremendous powers of self-deception; but in many quarters abroad there is a very different conception of this country. If we are to make the Disarmament Conference a success next year, it is absolutely essential that we should conquer that feeling which is abroad. We should, not by pacifist or anti-war speeches, but by our actions in this House, show that we are willing to lead the world in a new direction, in the direction of peace. A plea was made from the opposite side of the House that we should try to convert our friends and colleagues abroad to this idea of peace among the nations and disarmament. From what nation in the world do they expect that lead to come? Do they expect it to come from young Germany, which is already partially disarmed, and is beginning to have a rankling feeling of distrust and of resentment, a feeling that it has been cheated under the Treaty of Versailles, and that we are not keeping our word of honour when we said that we were going to disarm? If we do not give a genuine lead in disarmament we shall 1125 see a growth of the warlike spirit there, and we shall have our share of the responsibility.
Reference has also been made to Russia, and to the size of the army there. In Russia, rightly or wrongly, there is a widespread belief that this country is preparing for war, and it is that feeling of hostility, that feeling of fear, that, in turn, encourages large armies in that country. I can see a realistic type of young Russian reading our Parliamentary Debates, reading first the Debate on Monday and then reading this Debate to-day. What we are doing to-day will have a thousand times more influence upon his mind than what we said yesterday. Russians will treat it as another example of what they are pleased to call "British hypocrisy" if we pledge ourselves to general arbitration one day and on the following day vote for Army Estimates which show us in a stronger rather than in a weaker position. I hope hon. Members will believe me when I say that if the Secretary of State for War had brought in Estimates showing any genuine reduction at all, that we on these benches would have been the first to congratulate him.
We know that disarmament is not an easy job. If the Minister replies to us by talking about the unemployment which would result from radical disarmament, I am entitled to say that it would be no more expensive to keep men doing nothing at all than to keep them doing things which we think are damaging and harmful. A Government which had the vigour and boldness to put through a policy of radical disarmament would also have the vigour and boldness to see that there was a saner organisation of our industries, and provide a relationship between the hours of labour and the work to be done under which men displaced from the production of armaments would have a far greater chance of being taken care of than have the men now being displaced from employment in piecemeal fashion, and put in corners while the rest of the nation tries to pretend they are not there. If we did disarm we should have to undertake other necessary national reorganisation and to find a place for these men. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) represents a diametrically opposite point of view, 1126 and he goes about the country saying that the country is going down; he is fixed to the conception of Britain leading the world in the old-fashioned way, and he wants the younger generation to be a mixture of boy scouts and Al Capones. On the other hand, the attitude of the Minister for War reminds me of an awful book that I read as a child, entitled, "How Eric won salvation, or Little by Little." That is a spineless way of getting on. We want the type of positive constructive efforts that are needed for new world conditions. With the Disarmament Conference coming next year and with this country still in many ways the natural leader amongst the countries of the world we plead for our Government to do much more, and at least really begin to do the work which we are called upon to do in preparing for disarmament, not by shuffling about and saying that "What others do we will do," but by showing that we have the courage to take the lead, and we are prepared to take the lead. In doing that, I think the Government would be showing a far greater sense of self-confidence in our nation and the integrity of our people. In a properly-organised world we do not need to fear Disarmament, and if we have the courage to lead the world in Disarmament we shall still occupy an honourable place among the nations; but if we go dribbling along in the way represented by these Estimates with the Minister of War being little more than a passenger in the Department for which he is responsible, then it fills some of us with despair not only for the hope of peace throughout the world, but for the future of our nation.
I beliee the right hon. Gentleman is a passenger not because of himself, but in spite of himself, and that if he were on this bench, he would be as belligerent in the cause of disarmament as we are on this bench.
§ Mr. SHAW
That is another way of suggesting that I am a passenger because I have not sufficient ability to be anything else. It is another kindly way of the comradely spirit. Let me turn to the facts of the case, because there is no monopoly in this House of a desire to abolish war, and there are people who believe that the policy suggested by the hon. Lady is precisely the worst policy in the world—persons just as consistent and with perhaps as much knowledge of the problem as the hon. Lady herself, who know the nationalities she has spoken of as well as she does, who have conversed with them as well as she has, and have heard remarks which do not exactly coincide with her experience.
§ Mr. SHAW
I can talk to Hitler if need be. We are told that this Amendment would not have been moved if the Government had proposed a substantial reduction, but I thought the policy of the hon. Lady and her friends was to abolish the Army. Then what is the use of talking about the Amendment not being moved if a substantial reduction had been proposed? It is a contradiction in terms. I much prefer the attitude of the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Ayles), who frankly says that he would prefer us to be an unarmed nation in an armed world. That is frank, that is straight, that is correct, that is comradely, and one knows where he is. He makes no bones about saying that if such a thing had been done, he would not have objected. He says he remains convinced that the proper way for our country is to be an unarmed nation in an armed world. We know exactly where he stands and what he means.
Now let me look at substantial reductions. In 1921 the Estimates of this country stood at £82,000,000; to-day they stand at £39,930,000. That is a reduction of well over 50 per cent., well over half. Is there any nation in Europe that can show a record like that? What is the use of saying that if we show an example, other people will follow. There is the example, and other people have not followed. Then what is the use of pretending that facts do not exist? We do not gain anything by shutting both eyes and talking with eloquent phrases 1128 falling out of our mouths. What is the use of them if we will not look facts in the face? There are the facts. This country has shown an example, it has shown a desire, and that example and that desire have not been followed, and all the talk and all the eloquence in the world will not get rid of the brutal facts. I hate as much as anyone in this House to use a brutal fact to destroy a beautiful theory, but there is the fact, and I cannot shut my eyes to it. We are told that the Russians think we are going to prepare for war against them. The Russians think that every other country in Europe is going to prepare for war against them. There is no more danger of our going to war with Russia to-day than ever there was. There was a greater danger, perhaps, a few years ago, but does anyone seriously believe in Russia that this country is going to prepare for war against them?
§ Mr. SHAW
I have nothing to do with hon. Members opposite. I am asking a plain question—is there any sensible person in Russia who believes that this country is preparing for war against them? Certainly not. We are told that there is only a [...]06 per cent. reduction of men in the Army. Is that to be wondered at The statement of the Government has been perfectly plain for the last two years, that unilateral disarmament has not produced the effect it was expected to produce. It has gone as far as it can go in the opinion of the Government. It is not producing the effect we desire, and in our opinion it is not making for universal world peace. There are some who believe that you cannot act as an individual nation with success, and that the only way to produce peace in the world, the only way to produce disarmament in the world, is not by unilateral action, but by combined international action by agreement. We are told that one day we are proposing pacts which will abolish war and the next day we are producing Estimates. I made a statement right at the beginning of my speech to the effect that this Government is prepared, not only to enter into compacts with other nations for the reduction of armaments, but to take the lead in 1129 making arrangements, and I repeat that we are ready and willing at any time to take the lead with other nations in a disarmament that would be by agreement, which in my opinion and in the opinion of the Government is the only right way in which we can arrive at peace in the world. Let us have no more talk of hyprocrisy. Hypocrisy is not confined to any one section. None of us have a monopoly of clear-cut, snow-white purity. We are all more or less spotted by the world, and, when I hear any person protesting too loudly about his or her purity, his or her conscience, and his or her soul, my experience has led me to distrust them.
§ Mr. SHAW
I thought that the hon. Gentleman would have to intervene. He, of course, stands on the mountain quite alone, absolutely unapproachable, the one white lamb in the whole world. I give him my respect, and advise him to keep his comments to himself for the moment while I am dealing with arguments that have been used. To me they appear to be uncalled for and pharisaical. After all, as I say, I do not claim to be unspotted by the world; I do not claim to be absolutely pure and snow-white; but I have lived my life in the Labour movement, and the men I have worked among trust me, and that is something.
§ Mr. SHAW
The hon. Gentleman is one of the few men in the House with whom I do not care to argue. When we are asked where we expect the lead to come from in disarmament, my answer is in these figures. We have given a lead. We are prepared to continune to lead. We are prepared at any moment either to take the initiative or to work with others in a general scheme for a comprehensive disarmament by agreement. Anyone who questions that after the work done by the Foreign Secretary must be guilty of not giving credit where credit is due. We may be hypocrites in the eyes of some of our foreign colleagues. Whatever we are, there is no hypocrisy about a diminution of more than 50 per cent. in the time I have. spoken of, and there is absolutely no 1130 challenge to the statement I have made that there is no nation on earth amongst the principal nations that can show a record like it. Facts are greater than mere theories. There is the blunt, startling fact—50 per cent. of reduction unmatched by any large nation in the world. What is the use of talking about our hypocrisy in view of the figures? [Interruption.] I wish our friends would try for once to be fair to their people. I have never understood the frame of mind that wants to be generous to everyone except its own. It is beyond me. Does anyone doubt that the same developments have been going on in other nations that are going on in this? Does anyone who has consulted the facts and figures, does anyone who has access to international documents doubt it? Can there be in any part of the House a single doubt that our disarmament policy has been an example to the world? What is the use of pretending that it is not so? Rather come and help the Government to get what it desires, an arrangement of an international character, which is the only way in which we can really disarm the world. You cannot do it by unilateral action and the proof is evident to anyone who consults the League of Nations annuals. Anyone who looks at the figures, and studies the developments knows that what I am saying is true. The Government position is plain. It is a pacifist Government but not necessarily an unresisting Government. It will move Heaven and earth, as it has done, to get agreement internationally. It will take the initiative in getting an agreement which will mean a real reduction of armaments. But in view of the fact that unilateral action has not had the result that we hoped for and that we have not produced by our example what we were told we should produce, we ask the House to agree with us that the only way to get success is by international agreement and arrange with other people for a diminution of armaments which will make the world secure.
§ Mr. BRACKEN
Those of us who listened to the speech of the Secretary of State for War and noted his unworthy gibes and jeers against the hon. Lady the Member for Northern Lanark (Miss Lee) must have felt that he was doing penance for the disingenuousness 1131 of years. For years he came to the House and made speeches like that of the hon Member for Northern Lanark, and now he rates her to-night in long heavy and rather truculent tones for making a speech such as he used to make a few years ago. The right hon. Gentleman is, to adopt the words of the poet,round as a globe and bluff in every chink,and his tenure as Secretary of State for War has been one long exhibition of humbug which is unrivalled in these Islands. When he comes down to the House and asks us to accept him as a great protagonist of peace and economy, he is asking too much of human nature. We look at him to-night, and we think he is like a great whale floundering in crocodile tears.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That kind of language is not strictly out of order, but, in the interests of ordered and peaceful debate in this Committee, I must ask the hon. Member to speak in language more subdued.
§ Mr. BRACKEN
I apologise for saying that the right hon. Gentleman is like a floundering whale. If I have used any excess of irregular language, I can only say the excuse is the right hon. Gentleman's own performance.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not want to continue this Debate on lines which, I think, are quite unjustified by anything which was said by the hon. Lady who moved the Amendment from these benches to-night. I regret that the Secretary of State for War has so badly lost his temper over a matter which might have been discussed very seriously and in an intelligent way. He points out to me that the Army Estimates have been reduced by 50 per cent. since 1921. I am not such a youngster in the House as not to know that there have been several Governments in office during that period, and I am afraid that he cannot take any credit for disarmament carried out by his predecessors.
The matter at issue is not one of how much we have reduced, but—and it is what we want seriously to be discussed by this House and by the country—whether it is not possible, by taking 1132 bigger steps still to get the nations of the world to see that the nation which has the greatest Imperialist history of any country in the world and the greatest record of conquest in the world, the nation that has dominated ultimately by force the greatest territory and the greatest population in the world, has reached a stage when it realises that a true Internationalism is better than a strong Imperialism. We can only base a sound Internationalism on a disarmed world when we ourselves, as the greatest offenders and the greatest aggressors, are prepared to give definite evidence to the world that we are ready to make such a drastic reduction in our preparations that no nation in the world need fear us. That is our purpose in bringing forward our Amendment to-night.
There was no necessity for any heat or accrimony to be raised in the matter at all, and no necessity to throw out charges of hypocrisy because my hon. Friend referred to the fact that the Russian people believed that our attitude towards peace was hypocritical, because, while talking about peace, we maintain the biggest navy in the world and a very efficient and up-to-date army; we are carrying out experiments along other directions in order to make war more effective and deadly, and we are carrying on a forward policy in connection with our air service. The nations of the world see we are still a warlike nation, making warlike preparations, and Russia regards the preparations of Great Britain as being very menacing to her future welfare. The right hon. Gentleman may say that while this Government are in office there is no danger of that. He does not know what his tenure of office may be. In any case, I have very grave recollections of the part that he played in the Labour movement during the late War, and I would not regard him as being one of the great pacifists either at that time, the present time or at any time in the near future. I support the Motion, and I hope that the Committee will support it wholeheartedly.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
I have listened with a little surprise to the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). [An HON. MEMBER: "You have only just come in!"] I heard the speech, and I am always delighted to hear his speeches. There is no oratory in the House which I more enjoy. In 1133 the speech which be has just delivered the hon. Member has forgotten certain very serious factors. I recall in particular the broadcast which the Prime Minister gave to the world, and to the United States in particular, at the beginning of the Naval Conference which assembled not many months ago in this country. He pointed out that we had reduced our forces both in the Army and the Navy to a far greater extent than any other country, and that we had got into such a position of weakness that we were bound, if other countries did not follow us, not only not to reduce further, but that we should have to consider an increase of our military strength. That was a striking demonstration of the effect that has been produced upon the mind of the Prime Minister by a close study of the armaments of the world.
I am as peacefully inclined as any Member of this House, and I am prepared to vie with my hon. Friend in the desire to see armaments decreased everywhere, but there is nothing that so conduces to war as an appearance of weakness. You are not going to reduce the armaments of other powers by entirely disposing of your own. There is an old fable, which my hon. Friend will recollect, of a fox which lost its tail. It did very valiant service in trying to induce other foxes to believe that the loss of a tail was a great advantage to a fox, but the other foxes did not believe it, and they kept their tails. It is certain that if we go on diminishing our strength, the only result will be that we shall become an object of such weakness that every other country wail take advantage of us.
One hon. Member mentioned the case of Russia. Russia to-day is increasing its armaments more than any other country in the world, and it is doing it upon the most fallacious premises that have ever been put before any country. Russia controls all the news that reaches its own people, and never are the people of Russia allowed to believe that any diminution of armaments is going on in the world. On the contrary, they are allowed to believe that all the other nations are increasing their armaments for the purpose of destroying them. Is there any hon. Member opposite, even the most ardent believer in Russia, who 1134 gives any credence to the statement which the Russians have put before their people, that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and M. Poincaire in France have arranged a great attack upon Russia by military force? Is there any hon. Member opposite whb believes the story spread abroad in Russia that a certain gentleman, who is now proved to have been in Germany all the time, has been in Moscow trying to stir up trouble?
§ Sir R. HORNE
I have only followed the suggestion which came from the hon. Member for Bridgeton. The point is that Russia has been stirred into military preparations by the most fallacious assertions ever made by a Government to its people, and the sooner we realise that it is necessary to keep our military forces in a state of preparation to resist the activities of hostile forces the greater will be our own security and the prospect of peace for the world.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I desire to put a point of view which has given me considerable anxiety. I intend to vote for the Amendment. It may be perfectly true that our Army is less than it was, but we must not forget the process which is going on, not only in the Army but throughout industry as a whole. Our production has increased but the number of men employed has decreased. It is the same in war; our capacity to kill is greater, although the number of men engaged is less, because of modern mechanised machinery. I am disturbed from the point of view of my constituency. Let me put this view before my colleagues on this side of the House. I do not address the Tories or the Liberals because their views on military matters were made up years ago, whereas we of the Labour party are comparative new comers into the political arena. You say that disarmament must be done by international agreement. That must take years and years. Indeed, you say that our example has not been followed and that until we give an international agreement we must have an Army, a Navy and an Air Force. I ask my colleagues on this side of the Committee: Who is to be in that Army? 1135 If you go round the Labour benches and ask each individual Member if his son is in the Army, you will find that there is not one. Ask anyone who has been a leader in the Labour movement—not one of their sons is in the Army. But go to a poor constituency like mine and you will see hundreds and hundreds of young lads coming home for leave at Christmas and other times. It is the poor who are driven into the Army.
If we must have an Army why is the career reserved for the poor? Is it because constituents who file into the Army like to kill better than the rich? Not by a long chalk. These men like the joys of life as much as anyone. What you are doing is asking other people to do dirty, cruel work that you think beneath your own kith and kin. I have never asked a man to join in a trade dispute or strike unless I took part in it myself. I am asking no men to pass Votes for an Army that none of them believe in as a career for themselves; I am asking no man, who is driven by unemployment to enter an Army, to kill other men.
Behind strikes and lock-outs what is it that beats the men, and prevents them from winning? It is not the police, but the knowledge that there is an armed force, behind them. You ask people who are unemployed, people living in the slums, people who have nothing to defend but their rags, to do this killing. You do it by proxy. It is not honest, not straight, not decent, not comradeship. I say to the Secre-
§ tary for War, "What does your comradeship mean to them?" This is not comradeship of the poor and needy. It is a shocking thing to do and a disgrace. If we are to vote for an Army I hope that the occupants of the Front Bench—the Secretary for Mines for instance—will send their sons into the Army to show an example in killing.
§ Major GLYN
Now we have an opportunity to judge what is the opinion of certain hon. Members opposite with regard to the Forces. I think we ought to be grateful to the Secretary of State that he has maintained the efficiency of the Army, as he has done. The hon. Lady who moved the Amendment suggested that the efficiency of the Army should be let down. But her Amendment would still leave a small proportion of the Army, and she will agree that, whatever the numbers, they should have every chance of acting efficiently in competition with other countries which have a most efficient military machine. I should hate it to be left unsaid by someone who has spent some years in the Army that there are not in the Army the sons of most enthusiastic Members of the Labour party. I have frequently met them, and I know that it is so. Moreover, I have yet to learn that those who serve their country do so for the purpose of killing. [Interruption.]
§ Question put, "That a number, not exceeding 18,800, all ranks, be maintained for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 19; Noes, 216.1137
|Division No. 188.]||AYES.||11.45 p.m.|
|Ayles, Walter||Lees, J.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Longden, F.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||McShane, John James||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Buchanan, G.||Maxton, James||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Messer, Fred||Wise, E. F.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Sandham, E.|
|Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Scrymgeour, E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Brockway and Mr. Kinley.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Benson, G.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Bean, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Bullock, Captain Malcolm|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Birkett, W. Norman||Burgess, F. G.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Bowen, J. W.||Butler, R. A.|
|Arnott, John||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Caine, Derwent Hall|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Campbell, E. T.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Bracken, B.||Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Charleton, H. C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Bromfield, William||Chater, Daniel|
|Batey, Joseph||Brooke, W.||Church, Major A. G.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Brothers, M.||Clarke, J. S.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Colville, Major D. J.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Remer, John R.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Richards, R.|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lathan, G.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Romerll, H. G.|
|Daggar, George||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Dallas, George||Lawrence, Susan||Rowson, Guy|
|Daiton, Hugh||Lawson, John James||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Leach, W.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)||Shield, George William|
|Dukes, C.||Logan, David Gilbert||Sh[...]aker, J. F.|
|Duncan, Charles||Longbottom, A. W.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Edmondson. Major A. J.||Lunn, William||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Smith, Rennle (Penistone)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Ferguson, Sir John||McElwee, A.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Foot, Isaac||McEntee, V. L.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Freeman, Peter||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Manning, E. L.||Sullivan, J.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley)||Marley, J.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Gill, T. H.||Marshall, Fred||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Glassey, A. E.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Mathers, George||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Gossling, A. G.||Middleton, G.||Toole, Joseph|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Milner, Major J.||Townend, A. E.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Montague, Frederick||Viant, S. P.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Morley, Ralph||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Muff, G.||Warrender, sir Victor|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Murnin, Hugh||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nathan, Major H. L.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Naylor, T. E.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Westwood, Joseph|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Noel Baker, P. J.||White, H. G.|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||O'Connor, T. J.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Hayes, John Henry||Oldfield, J. R.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Herriotts, J.||Palin, John Henry||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Paling, Wilfrid||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hopkin, Daniel||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Horns, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Phillips, Dr. Marion||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Womersley, W. J.|
|Jenkins, Sir William||Pole, Major D. G.||Wood, Major MeKenzie (Banff)|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Potts, John S.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Johnston, Thomas||Price, M. P.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Rathbone, Eleanor||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Raynes, W. R.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Thomas Henderson.|
Original Question put, and agreed to.