§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
THE LORD AREHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I understand that this is an appropriate and convenient moment for me to call attention—I yesterday intimated that I desired to do so—to one particular item in the Bill on which 1039 I believe the Government are absolutely right, but which, in consequence of the attention which has been called to it outside, seems to me to require a little elucidation in this House. I refer to the clause in the Schedule to the Bill which exempts those who are in Holy Orders or regular ministers of a religious denomination from coming under the compulsory provisions of the Bill. The point, very naturally, was not alluded to by the noble Marquess in introducing the Bill, but it did give occasion for considerable discussion in the House of Commons and I think it desirable that something should be said about it from the Episcopal Bench.
The proposal is contained in the First Schedule to the Bill, which simply says that among the exemptions are "men in Holy Orders or regular ministers of any religious denomination." That clause, in my judgment, goes exactly far enough and not too far. I am content with it, and I should not have proposed to call attention to it now but for the fact that both in the House of Commons and outside it has been in some degree misunderstood as regards the purport which we at least attach to it who are specially concerned in this particular matter. If we agree, as I do, to endorse absolutely the exempting clause, I am anxious that it should be quite clearly understood why we do so, and what are our reasons and what are not our reasons. The matter itself concerns a great many people, and it is only fair, I think, that our position should be made quite clear.
It has been suggested by some that we Bishops and others who further this want the clergy to evade the obligation of bearing their part and doing their share in this mighty national effort to roll back a great wrong and to establish what is right. Nothing could possibly be further from the fact. There is no question, if we look back along the history of Christendom, that the technical law of the Church forbids the clergy to be combatants. Canon law has been abundantly clear with regard to the shedding of blood by those who are in Orders, and naturally enough I should be the last to be little regulations which in an age quite different from our own and in circumstances and conditions of warfare very unlike those of to-day give a plain and peremptory expression to what most people, I think, still regard as a wholesome instinct respecting the Christian ministry and its duties, an instinct the 1040 application of which must be necessarily liable to exceptions, yet which remains in the main, in its substance, a wholesome one. But it is not upon that that I and those who think with me rest our concurrence in the provision which this Bill makes. We prefer to look at it in another way; at least I prefer to do so.
The nation at this moment has, I believe, recognised to the full that there is something other than physical force required for the successful conduct of this war—moral earnestness in our corporate life, deliberate self-denial and self-discipline in our homes, quiet and buoyant courage in hours of stress, anxiety, and sorrow, and an eager and high resolve on the part of a united people on behalf of what is just, righteous, and true. These, it goes without saying in this House at least, are assets not less important to our cause than even ships and guns, and every whit as vital to our securing the right kind of victory and the right kind of peace. I venture to say, my Lords, that if these assets are to be safeguarded they need to have a religious basis behind them, and if that basis or background is to be unimpaired at such a time as this we must have men in the field of war, in the preparation for the field of war, and in the home life of the country whose special business, or I would rather say whose special privilege, it is to help to make those principles a reality and to further and strengthen them in every possible way. The clergy are such men. They have that special duty, that special privilege, assigned to them. They may have inadequately discharged it mans a time. But they have that obligation upon them, and the nation, quite rightly in my view, declines to relieve them of it. First, they are wanted in the field itself, for discharging a ministry which is being eagerly welcomed there. Testimony is abundant as to its effectiveness and as to the admirable way in which it is being discharged by those to whom the trust is given. We have at this moment between 600 and 700 clergy of the Church of England, apart from those of other denominations, actually serving abroad, and we who have special responsibility for the clergy are ready to send a great many more as soon as the military authorities tell us that they will allow their preser ce and that they can find opportunity for the use of them. I rejoice to believe that we have not yet seen the end of the augmentation which has begun of the forces of our chaplains in the field.
1041 When I speak of more than 600, I am speaking of those in the Army only. When the number of clergy serving is spoken of the very large number in the Navy is sometimes forgotten. In the next place, the clergy e wanted, too, and wantedintensely, in our camps and barracks, and especially in our hospitals, at home. There are between 500 and 600 men serving now and giving their whole time in our home camps, hospitals, barracks, and elsewhere. And again the ministry of those men is, as I can say from abundant personal knowledge, being welcomed with an almost pathetic readiness, sometimes even with enthusiasm, by men from whom a little while ago such enthusiasm would not have been expected. In addition, many hundreds more are combining work on behalf of our soldiers and those about them with their ordinary parochial work. I doubt whether the extent to winch that is taking place is at all appreciated. I had a curious instance of it to-day which occurred quite accidentally, if I may say so. This morning I had to see, on a subject wholly unconnected with this, fourteen clergymen in succession, old and young. I talked to them on this subject, and I found, quite to my surprise, that out of those men, all deeply engaged in parochial work, ten were spending a considerable time in ministering to the Forces, although they do not appear on any lists or become counted amongst he chaplains to whom we ordinarily refer. That is a mere instance of what is happening everywhere.
I have spoken of the need in the field and in the camps and hospitals at home. In the hospitals in a very marked degree the need is immense, and is being, I think, splendidly supplied in all parts of the country. But besides all this, men are wanted no less—some would say most of all—at this particular juncture in our ordinary parishes up and down the land. There never has been a time Then the strain of anxiety, the cloud of sorrow, and the need of personal counsel pressed so heavily on practically every Ironic, rich or poor; and a great many of the barriers which have at ordinary times, partly from mutual shyness, partly from other causes, made difficult in some homes the work of the parish priest are at present largely, and happily, swept away by the flood of an absorbing engrossment in the mighty interests which are surging all around us. For that reason the clergy have access at this moment to a degree hitherto quite 1042 unwonted to the ear and heart of the people, who are eagerly claiming ministry of every kind, public and private, at their hands. The opportunity is there to an extent that has never been known in our social life before.
That we, the ministers of the Faith, who should be consolers of the sorrowing, strengtheners of the weak-hearted, and—no small matter—encouragers of thrift and of self-sacrifice, are using our opportunity to the utmost I dare not: say. Who would dare to make such a claim? But I confidently maintain that we are trying to use it to our very best, and we are finding the opportunity daily grow in the using. We want earnestness and resource, and earnestness and resource are at present forthcoming. We realise the sacredness of the trust that is given to us; we think the country is recognising it too, and we undertake to do our very best. Call these men, the young and active among them, away wholesale to active militant service—because in their youthful strength they are keen and courageous and ready to go wherever they are sent, and even eager for danger—call them away and on whom do you mean the duties to devolve winch they for the time would necessarily have to put upon one side? There is literally nobody who can possibly fill their places. For the religious ministry to our men in the field and at home we are as I have said, sending eagerly and gladly as many men as the military authorities will find a place for or will permit us to despatch to the region where their help is wanted. By hook or by crook we will supply their places and do their work. It never shall be said that we were not ready, and more than ready, to send in full abundance every man for whom in that kind of ministry there is a call or claim in the field or outside the field at home to-day.
From engaging in non-combatant service of other sorts we have no wish to hold men back if it can be shown they are really! wanted—it has not been clearly shown! for that kind of work, and if there be means of filling adequately the places winch I have spoken of as requiring their work at home. We are bound to remember that to their calling these men have been solemnly set apart on the greatest day of their lives, set apart in a sacred fashion to which no other profession or calling offers any parallel. I wish our critics, and our people generally, would read afresh the Ordination service in our Book of Common Prayer. To take wholesale from those duties at the very 1043 moment when they are more urgently needed than ever they were before the men who have been thus solemnly set apart would be to misunderstand or miss one great part of the meaning and character of a time of war, one great part of the nation's need, one great secret of what will be the nation's path to victory. For these reasons I believe the provision in this Bill to be absolutely right, and I am grateful to your Lordships for giving me the opportunity of explaining my reasons for so thinking.
THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I need not tell your Lordships that I have no intention of delaying the final stages of this Bill by making a long speech. It is now sixteen months since I had the privilege of listening to a debate in this House—not since the early anxious weeks of the war when the whole world was staggered by the blow, and when we ourselves hardly realised that the long-expected event had at last come about. Since that date many events have taken place and many hardships have been undergone which would have justified a much sterner measure of compulsory service than the Bill now before your Lordships' House; nay more, which would have justified the putting into force of a Statute which believe is still alive—I refer to the Militia Ballot Act in order to replenish our Army in the field.
These are not the days for reproach. Reproach never did any good. In the early days of the war the reins of Government were in the hands of those who we knew had all along expressed themselves opposed to military service; and since the Coalition Government has been in existence I take it that there has been some difficulty I say it with all respect to noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite—in coalescing over the terms of compulsory service. Anyhow the Bill has come, and it is a Bill which will be welcomed throughout the length and breadth of this mighty Empire. I do not think there are many men to be found to-day who will dare to hold up their hands in opposition to this Bill. Public opinion has been educated—educated by adversity, educated by needs, educated by appeals, and not least by that patriotic section of the Press which has endeavoured to carry the importance of compulsory service into the humblest and most remote home. Because I have the honour of wearing His Majesty's uniform I do not pose for a moment as a military expert. In fact I say at once that there are already 1044 too many self-created military experts in khaki to-day, and I have no desire to add to their number.
This Bill will be welcomed by two classes. First of all it will be welcomed by those amongst whom I am proud to find myself who have advocated military service; secondly, it will be supported actively by those who all along have had considerable doubt in making up their minds as to whether or not they ought to enlist. I have had opportunities of observing the course of recruiting in this country. As far as I was able, I have carried out the duties of chairman of a recruiting district and of a joint recruiting committee for more than a year; and I only resigned because I found it impossible to attend the meetings. I can assure your Lordships that the excuses we often had raised were, "Why should we go and let some one else stay behind and take our job?" "Why should we go and risk our lives when other men have not the slightest intention of going at all?" "When we are told we must go we shall be glad to go, and we will undertake the liability with the greatest pleasure." This Bill has eased the situation. Although the noble Earl, Lord Derby, said yesterday that the response to his appeal was to a certain extent influenced by the fear that compulsion was coming—I do not doubt that that was so in many cases—at the same time I am perfectly certain that this Compulsory Service Bill will be welcomed by a great many men who only objected to enlist because they knew their places would be taken by others who had no intention of serving.
One of the most important effects of this Bill is the moral effect it is going to have all round—the moral effect upon our enemies, who will see that we are determined to finish the war; the moral effect upon our Allies, who will see that we are determined to support them; and, finally, the moral effect upon the whole nation, which I believe is at last and only now beginning fully to realise the magnitude of the task we have undertaken. I believe this Bill more than any other will teach the nation as a whole the enormous and vast character of the struggle in which we are engaged. It is hardly a military subject, this. The subject of military service, although it may seem rather paradoxical to say so, is hardly a military subject at all. The obligation to serve 1045 is a civil obligation which rests upon every citizen. Now, the voluntary system had obviously broken down. It had broken down because it was expensive and because we were recruiting the wrong class of men. We were recruiting the men who in many cases could ill be spared from other occupations; and I venture to add, as far as the moral effect of the voluntary system was concerned, that the last claim of that system over the compulsory system has been entirely taken away by the results of the war. I do not think any one has a greater admiration for our soldiers than I have, but at the same time we cannot deny the fact that our Allies and even our enemies have furnished admirable instances of the effect of compulsory service. I do not think that the conscripted soldier is one whit worse than the man who has joined the Colours voluntarily.
Now I come to the question of the married versus the single man. The country has had to face an enormous expense which would have been saved if we had had tins Bill long ago. You could not, of course, ask married men to enlist without making ample and even generous provision for their dependants. But although somebody said to me a short time ago that the reason why the married man enlisted was that he was by nature a less timid person than a bachelor, I do not think that is an argument for enlisting him when you have young single men who ought to go first. There is, however, the question whether you ought not to ask young married men to go before bachelors many years their senior. Take the case of a young married man of twenty-five. Personally I consider that the young married man ought to go before the unmarried man of thirty-five or forty. Then we have to draw a distinction, as Lord Derby in his scheme more or less does, between the men who married before and after a certain date. I regret that those dates were not carried a little further back. I know from experience that during the early months of the war many men married in order to avoid service.
With regard to the Bill itself, it is not for me to suggest to the noble Marquess who so lucidly explained its provisions yesterday any alteration, or in any way to find fault with its clauses. At the same time it seems to me that unless the Tribunals which are going to be set up are given definite instructions certain 1046 hardships not intended by the Bill are likely to arise. First of all I am thinking of the agricultural interest, the one with which I am most familiar. We all know what part the agricultural community has played in this war. I do not think many people will deny that the agricultural community—I speak more especially for the South of England—the agricultural labourers and others connected with the land have enlisted in very large proportions. I know it would be the last wish of the noble Marquess and those who act with him that any hardship should be inflicted upon the agricultural any more than upon the industrial class. Therefore I hope he will consider when he comes to set up the Tribunals the instructions to be issued with reference to the land agents, who, after all, are responsible for a large revenue, a revenue which has contributed more than its fair share to taxation. It 'is very important that the interests of those should be guarded. In my own case my agent has taken a commission, and I dare say lots of other agents all over the country have taken commissions, and as far as possible they have got military unfit men to take their places; but it would be a very serious thing if land agents and fainters were taken at a moment's notice, although I believe there is an intention to leave farmers out and also an intention to extend exemption to land agents under certain conditions. I go further than that. If a land agent is left in his position he could very easily give part of his time to Government work. I can imagine many instances where a landlord would be only too willing to allow the agent to give part of his time to, say, buying timber, or to food organisation, or even allowing the Government to use the estate office for that purpose. I think that- without seriously inconveniencing local conditions the services of these men could be largely utilised.
I regret that Ireland has been left out of the Bill, though I do not want to dwell on that point. I dare say some noble Lords know the condition of Ireland more intimately than I do, but I confess I cannot see any reason for denying Ireland the opportunity of taking the same part in the war as is granted to the other parts of the United Kingdom. With regard to the question of medical exemption, suppose it was necessary that a date should be taken, and I notice that the date taken 1047 was August 14. It seems a little hard that men who held a certificate of exemption before the Derby scheme was introduced should not be entitled to the same privilege as those men who came up, if I may say so, with their hearts in their mouths. But there are obvious reasons why some date should be taken, and I dare say any suggestion that it should be altered would very properly be met with opposition. But I do say this—and this is another matter for the Tribunals or the authority which will have to manage these things—that the districts should be searched for those young men in every trade and industry who are perfectly fit to serve and who should not escape service, before the men who happen to have been rejected before August 14 last year are taken.
With regard to the conscientious objector, I regret that this clause should have been inserted in the Bill. Perhaps I shall be regarded as speaking rather strongly, but I consider that any man who has a conscientious objection to taking up arms for his country is sailing dangerously near the very ugly word "traitor." There may be some men who really have religious conscientious objections to taking life. I do not wish to speak disrespectfully of such; still I most emphatically hope the authorities will take severe and stringent steps to prevent the increase of the individual who is found in every walk of life—the conscientious objector, who is nothing more nor less than a man who dislikes discipline of any sort whatsoever. I would much sooner that a wider medical exemption were given and the conscientious objector clause taken out altogether.
This Bill has come late. It has come at a time when many men will say, "Is it not too late?" Personally I do not think so, and I believe that the results of this Bill will be manifold. I believe it will bring us as good recruits as we got before. It will bring in a class of man who never had the slightest intention of enlisting voluntarily. Finally, it will do what is most important of all—it will show the world that we intend to carry this war to a successful issue.
My Lords, I ask leave to say a few words on the attitude of Labour with regard to this Bill. I venture to do so because I had some experience of a Labour Government in Australia, and also because it was during my term of 1048 office there that universal training, which was based on the principle of compulsory military service, came into operation in that country; and I can answer for it that its introduction was attended by none of those unfortunate results which its opponents anticipated, and which opponents of this Bill like my noble friend Lord weardale appear to anticipate will occur from the passing of this measure into law. In Australia it is true that compulsory service was for home defence only, but just the same arguments were used against it there. It was denounced as conscription, as an infringement of the liberty of the individual, and so forth, and it was sought to get up an agitation against the Act some time after it had passed into law; and I am sorry to say the agitators were assisted by emissaries sent out by a society from home. However, the agitation did not amount to much; and now universal training is just as much the law of the land in Australia as the Education Acts or any other Acts which impose duties on the citizen for the benefit of the community as a whole. The opposition did not amount to very much because the measure had the support of both the great political parties in the Commonwealth. It was initiated by the Liberals, and Mr. Cook and Sir John Forrest, who are prominent in Federal politics to-day, had a great share in the initiation of the measure. But it fell to a Labour Government to administer the Act, and it was owing largely to their tactful administration that a considerable share of its success is in my opinion due.
I doubt whether a good many people in this country realise the strength of the Labour Party in Australia at the present time. Since the year 1908, with two intervals of a year's duration, the Labour Party has been in power in the Commonwealth. A Labour Government is also in power in every State in Australia at the present time; and at the last elections for the Senate, the Second Chamber, which corresponds in some degree to the position of this House in the Constitution, out of a total of thirty-six members only five Liberal Senators were returned, the remaining thirty-one being representatives of Labour. It is under the auspices of a Labour Government that Australia has come forward and rendered such powerful and generous support to the Mother Country. And it is also significant— 1049 although it is not so easy for people living 12,000 miles away to realise what this war means as it is for us who can enjoy from time to time the thrills of Zeppelin raids and can hear the thunder of guns in Flanders from our own South-Eastern coast—that some of the prominent and most advanced Labour men have lately announced themselves in favour of compulsory service for this war, although, as I say, the country is so far away from the scene of action.
So far as I can understand, the only serious opposition to this Bill came from the Labour Party, or perhaps I should say from a section of the Labour Party; and opposition has been threatened in some quarters to the administration of this measure when it has become law. I should be the last to underrate how important such opposition might become. But there is this, I think, to be considered. We are immersed, all of us, in the prosecution of this war. What will happen after the war is, after all, a purely secondary consideration. But I think that anybody at all familiar with the political life of this country must have noticed how great has been the accession of power to the Labour Party since this war began, an accession of power, I venture to say, well earned by the great sacrifices that Labour has made, and by the great services which it has rendered in the workshops and the factories as well as in the trenches. But see signs in this increase of power, in the attention, one might also say the deference, which is paid to speeches of Labour Members in another place, in the prominence given in the Press to the reports of what happens at Labour gatherings and Labour conferences, in the powerful co-operation given to the noble Earl (Lord Derby) by Labour Members and Labour leaders—I think the noble Earl himself acknowledged it in this House—and also in the fact that Ministers have gone down to different parts of the country to address Labour congresses and Labour conferences, sometimes in secret session, although I have noticed that they have never bestowed such a mark of confidence upon your Lordships' House—hearing in mind all these things, I think it is obvious that after the war is over Labour is bound to play a very prominent part in the political life of this country. It is at least possible that a Labour Government, or at all events a Government composed very largely of 1050 Labour men and relying for its support mainly upon the Labour Party, may be in power within a few years of the end of this war. But if Labour failed now to rise to the full height of their responsibilities, and if they or any considerable section of them—for, after all, Labour has done splendidly in this war—failed to realise that they are Englishmen first and trade unionists second, and if they hampered in any way the administration of this Bill once it has passed into law, then it seems to me that their advent to power must be for many years delayed; and I am quite sure of this, that the country, bearing in mind the great sacrifices it has made and the sorrow and suffering which this war has entailed, will not lightly forgive those who add to our difficulties in this hour of trial.
It is rather difficult to discuss these Labour questions, as there are no representatives of Labour in your Lordships' House; and if there were I would certainly not presume to give advice to a political Party which has its own difficulties to face and its own problems to solve. But as one who has been in close touch with Labour Ministers on the other side of the world comparatively recently and who has been on just as friendly terms with them as with their Liberal opponents, and as one who by no means shares the distrust of Labour which exists in some quarters in this country, I would appeal to the Labour Party, or at all events to that section of it which has hitherto opposed this Bill, not to continue their opposition after this Bill has passed into law, and to do nothing to hamper or to hinder the administration of the Bill after it has been placed upon the Statute Book.
§ Lord STRACHIE
My Lords, I will detain the House for only a few minutes on the Motion to go into Committee, as I do not propose to move the Amendments standing in my name. My noble friend Lord Derby tells me that be would refuse all such Amendments, and that being so I naturally should not desire to press them. My only object in putting them down was that from my experience as chairman of a Parliamentary Recruiting Committee and also as chairman of an Advisory Committee I very much fear that this Bill, which was very weak when introduced into the Commons and has been made even weaker since, will produce the maximum of friction and the minimum of good 1051 results. I think it has been rather lost sight of that the men who come in under this Bill will be in as good a position as the men who were recruited under the Derby Scheme. I know that in the pronouncement of the noble Earl (Lord Derby) there was nothing said on this subject, but it was held out to the men that they would be in an infinitely better position if they attested voluntarily.
As regards the general machinery of this Bill, your Lordships will see that it is merely a skeleton which will have to be clothed by Orders in Council. No doubt, as the noble Marquess said, these Orders in Council will be laid upon the Table of this House and it will be open to your Lordships to criticise them. But you will have no power to do anything except to criticise them. Any objections that may be made will have no effect, because there is no provision that Orders in Council, or any parts of them, which are not approved of by Parliament shall cease to have force. The Bill, if it is to be of any real use, will entirely depend upon Orders in Council, and we have no knowledge what those Orders in Council will be like. I should not have any fear of the Orders in Council if the matter were in the hands of my noble friend the President of the Local Government Board, but I have a suspicion that these Orders in Council will have to be placed before the Twenty-two, and we know the opinions of some of the Twenty-two with regard to this Bill. I noticed to-day that Sir John Simon and his group are going to take good care that in the working of this Bill it shall be criticised in every direction. No doubt they will take good care to exercise their powerful influence to try and whittle down the Orders in Council, and in many cases great difficulties will arise if they are not in the hands of the President of the Local Government Board.
As regards the question of the public being admitted to the Tribunals, I submit that the right of individuals to have their cases heard in public should not be left to the ipse dixit of a Minister, but should be embodied in the Bill. There should be no secrecy in this matter, unless in the interests of the man himself when his private affairs are being inquired into. At the present moment you have some Tribunals saying that they will in all cases have secrecy, and the public shall not know what is going on. 1052 I very much fear that a good many of the Tribunals, if that is so, will not have the confidence that they ought to have from the public, who will entertain the fear that some men will be let off and others pressed in and that decisions will be given which, if the public had had access to the proceedings, would have been different. I am sorry there is nothing in the Bill to make it certain that there will be publicity in every case where if is right that there should be publicity.
Again, I am sorry to see that there is nothing in the Bill as to what the position of the Advisory Committees will be. There are no Advisory Committees in the Bill. An Advisory Committee is very useful indeed; it sits very much like a Grand Jury, hearing evidence on the side of the military authorities without calling before it the defendant in the case; and of course in the particular case there is no reason why there should be publicity any more than there is in the case of a Grand Jury. But the Advisory Committees up to now have been constituted informally, and I understand that if they are to be appointed at all they are not to be statutory bodies but merely informal as they are at the moment. Great difficulties have occurred from the fact that contradictory orders have continually been issued by the military authorities. I will give an instance. The Committee of which I have the honour to be chairman was first directed that Advisory Committees were to spend no money at all; the whole of the money was to be spent by the military representative, who had power to investigate cases, to spend money upon the hire of motors to visit men who claimed to be exempted and see what their position was. But within the last few days we have had exactly the opposite order issued; the military representative is not now allowed to spend a halfpenny upon motor hire or upon making inquiries, but on the other hand the members of the Advisory Committees have full power to spend money upon making inquiries. It has gone a step further. Previously the members of Advisory Committees were not only not allowed to spend any money but were not to be paid for their services. Now an order has come out that the men who may be called the Labour representatives on those Committees have the right to be paid for their services at the rate of a shilling an hour for the time they are occupied on the Committee, and all 1053 members are allowed to charge their expenses going to and from the meetings. There you have absolutely contradictory orders issued within a few weeks. That is why I should have liked to see in this Bill the Advisory Committees made statutory. Then we should know exactly where we were, and we should not have these contradictory proposals issued to us. I expect the noble Earl behind me will say he prefers not to have the Advisory Committees in the Bill because they can now be appointed by himself at his pleasure, and if a member of an Advisory Committee like myself takes objection to what is done by the military authorities he can by a stroke of the pen be removed and somebody put on who will carry out the orders in every way. I have great confidence in the noble Earl, but this work is very delicate work, and it is necessary that the people who come before them should feel that the Committees are not at the pleasure of a Minister, however powerful, or of the noble Earl, who is not a Minister, but that when appointed they are permanent and can do their work without fear of being removed on the ground that they are not carrying out the particular orders approved at that particular moment by the military authorities.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I should like to answer the noble Lord who has just sat down. He anticipates friction with regard to the treatment of those who come in voluntarily under the group system and those who will have to come in eventually compulsorily on the ground that the former will not get as good treatment as the latter. I can imagine nothing more likely to make such friction than such a statement as that in your Lordships' House, especially as it has been distinctly stated in all circumstances that those who come in under the group system voluntarily shall have any concession that has been made in the present Bill.
The noble Lord referred to the question of admitting the public to the meetings. Surely the best thing to do is what has been done—namely, to leave it in the discretion of the Tribunals whether the public shall be admitted or excluded from any particular case. I cannot help thinking that if the noble Lord was in the position of some of these persons who will have to come and lay the whole of their private affairs before the Tribunal, or in the position of the man 1054 in business who has to lay his business affairs before the Tribunal, he would not care to have them listened to by the public. I am certain that the procedure adopted is right—namely, that the Tribunals should have full discretion in this matter.
Now I come to the Advisory Committees. The noble Lord says, "We are getting continually contradictory orders." The only contradictory order he could specify was this, that in the first instance we were not able to assure the Committees that there should be some payment, and that now we are able to do so. How on earth did that affect the work of the Tribunal? Not in the least, except to tins extent—that by the payment to men who cannot afford to give up the whole of their time of something for broken tune we are enabled to employ, as I should have thought the noble Lord would have wished, Labour representatives. He wishes the Advisory Committees included in the Bill. Personally I am entirely opposed to any such course. The Local Tribunals were set up by the Local Government Board, and it was practically a statutory power that they had. The Advisory Committees were something entirely different. They were set up to help the military representative to place the case before the Local Tribunals. He could not be expected of his own knowledge to put the cases fairly forward. The Parliamentary Recruiting and Joint Recruiting Committee, which sat with me to help in all this administration, agreed that there should be an Advisory Committee. It was appointed not by any Government Department but by the Local Parliamentary Committee, and was simply-and solely created for the purpose of helping in the way I have suggested. I prefer for many reasons to leave it just as it is. I do not believe statutory power would in any way help the Advisory Committees in their work. I believe in having the power to increase the number of the Advisory Committees, which you may have to increase to a large extent with all the appeals that are coming in. And may I say in conclusion that so far as the Department is concerned with which I am now connected in the War Office, the only friction we have had with any of these Tribunals or with any of the Advisory Committees is that to which the noble Lord himself referred in his own part of the country.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
My Lords, we had this evening a very interesting speech from an ex-Governor-General of Australia to which we must have all listened with great attention. I do not propose to follow that speech. I will not say a word about the concluding part of it, in which the noble Lord addressed a kind of allocution to the Labour Party derived from his experience in the Antipodes. I have no knowledge as to the working of forced service in the Commonwealth, but I have had figures put before me as to the working of the analogous Act in the Dominion of New Zealand to which I would like for a moment to direct your Lordships' attention, because it has an express bearing on the argument which I wish to submit. If the figures before me are right—and they appear to have been compiled with great care—the cases of difficulty, of prosecutions and convictions, which arose in the Dominion of New Zealand were comparatively few in the first year; they increased very largely in the second; and about trebled, I think, in the third. The numbers reached were such that if corresponding difficulties in proportion were experienced in the working of this Bill in Great Britain we should have to encounter something like 320,000 prosecutions a year and something like 215,000 convictions. That is a very serious fact to contemplate.
I have Amendments which I shall move in Committee with respect to the conscientious objector. I am afraid that your Lordships will discover by experience that the difficulties involved in the existence of the conscientious objector have been painfully underrated; indeed, the very character of the conscientious objector has not been understood. This has been confessed by more than one of the noble Lords who have addressed your Lordships. Lord Willoughby de Broke yesterday signified his utter inability to understand what is meant by a conscientious objector; and I was struck by the phrase in which the noble Marquess, who is master of his own Bill, referred to the conscientious objector. I do not suppose I shall be justified in deducing from that phrase that he gave a complete illustration of his conception of the conscientious objector, but he spoke of the shedding of blood as if that was the essence of the conscientious objection to being engaged in war or being subjected to the obligations 1056 of this Bill. That is one of the least of the objections which, as I understand, are entertained by those who object to the obligations imposed upon them by law in this Bill. I would like to impress this upon your Lordships, that for the sake of what would not run to a large number relatively to the Army you are setting up a very great difficulty in the administration of this Bill in connection with those who have conscientious objections.
The noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury, also referred to the conscientious objector in a way which I am afraid showed—in fact, he admitted—that he did not understand the position of that person. A conscientious objection may arise in several ways. There are those who object to war altogether as a matter of conscience, but there are others equally important—and perhaps they may create greater difficulty and trouble in connection with this Bill—who, while not objecting to war altogether, think that the nation is not justified with regard to this war and would not under any circumstances engage in the prosecution or maintenance of the war. You have to consider both these classes of conscientious objector if you want to deal with them in a business-like and prudent manner, and it is as men of business and as men of the world that I am endeavouring to appeal to your Lordships regarding the difficulties involved in the position of those persons and the way to avoid those difficulties.
I do not share the creed of the conscientious objector of the first class; I almost wish I could. Looking about the Continent of Europe at present you see a destruction of law, of civilisation, of industry, of equity, even of truth. We are so subjected in witnessing that immense destruction that I almost wish I could share the creed of those men who feel war to be an unholy thing and who would in no circumstances enter into its prosecution or sustain its maintenance. But there are some very serious men, men not easily moved, who hold the feeling, whether derived from inner conviction or from a plain reading of the injunction of the Sermon on the Mount we need not speculate, that war is a sin against humanity and a thing from which they must stand apart. With the man who has this conviction, that the thing is forbidden, it is not "I will not," but "I cannot." These 1057 men have been the trouble of statesmen in the past, who reluctantly and by degrees have come to see, mainly I am afraid through these men's resistance, the necessity of recognising and yielding to their demands, and then have found that they have got on perfectly well whilst allowing the exemption which resistance had required and made necessary.
We had a quaint defence of universal compulsory service yesterday from the theory of the Constitution as it existed almost when the Constitutions first began to exist—the necessity for everybody to respond to the demand for the protection of the land. That necessity was recognised as a part of the Constitution when the community was practically undivided in opinion and in development. Before that great revival, The Renaissance, it might have existed, but it is now a thing of the past; it is a mere flimsiness, this doctrine of the Constitution and to endeavour to move in the conditions of to-day under its protection is like moving about in a garment of regal cobwebs. Directly private opinion became a force, a power, an energy as it did in the Sixteenth Century, then there arose and has existed eversince the difficulty of reconciling private opinion with the national will as expressed by legislation through its rulers, and wise men have seen that the only thing to be done is to recognise as much as they must, sometimes as much as they can, the existence of that private and independent opinion when it reaches the point that the private person will not as a matter of conscience bow to what may be the national demand.
It would be very interesting had we the time—I know time is short, and I will be as brief as I can—to follow the development of the people who rejected altogether the toleration of war. It arose, as I say, almost immediately after the Reformation; and the first time in which the necessity of recognising the existence of such a body was made manifest was, strange to say, in the States of Holland when Holland was engaged in its deadliest grips with Philip II about 1580, when the Dutch recognised the claims of the Mennonites and exempted them altogether from military service. I dare say there are those amongst your Lordships who do not know who the Mennonites were. They preached and embraced the same doctrines as, sixty or seventy years afterwards, George Fox preached and 1058 developed in England. But I am not confined to the Sixteenth Century. Some Members in the other House were rather startled when they discovered that Mr. Pitt exempted Quakers and others from the military service of his day; and some of the Members of the House of Commons, as possibly some of your Lordships, were disposed to treat shortly the claim to exemption from military service on conscientious grounds. But Mr. Pitt was not the first among the men of the world to recognise the necessity of granting that exemption. I said "men of the world," although, of course, it is not strictly applicable to the first person I am going to cite—Catharine of Russia, a worldly person, a person who knew what was possible and what was impossible as clearly as any one who ever grasped a sceptre. Catharine of Russia, somewhere about 1775 or 1780, granted the same military exemption in Russia which had been granted before in Holland by the States. And subsequently Napoleon granted precisely the same exemption. Now these were rulers who must be recognised everywhere as persons of the most eminent political capacity, and they realised that the only way of working their military system in a society where thought was at all free was to recognise and omit from military service those who were conscientious objectors. And you will have greater difficulties in trying to resist their opposition than you could possibly have in exempting them freely and altogether.
I have been speaking of persons who object to war in general. As I said, there is another class—those who, not being averse to combatant service, have been quite ready to volunteer in causes which they wanted to uphold, but who would absolutely refuse to engage in another cause. I do not wish to embarrass the discussion by referring to the war of to-day in reference to those. But your Lordships need not be reminded that we have been engaged in great wars before this, and many men whose patriotism is respected, whom no one would venture to call "traitors"—a term which Lord Malmesbury almost suggested as applicable to conscientious objectors—could not have been enrolled as participants in your Army—I instance Lord Chatham in regard to the American War, and Mr. Fox in the time of war against the French Republic. I may remind your Lordships in this connection 1059 of a man whom you may almost call a typical Englishman in his patriotism and love of country, shown in a hundred ways, shown so much that only ten or twelve days ago my friend Mr. Arthur Acland put together his war poems as things which should be properly circulated amongst the people of to-day for sustaining the national feeling. Wordsworth left it on record that when our war with the French Republic began he so far dissented from it and opposed it that he went to church and stood aloof from all participation in the prayer and Intercession.
In view of the instances to which I have referred I think your Lordships must feel that you are not dealing with persons who can be neglected or despised, and that the attempt to override by force the fundamental opposition of those persons is an attempt that must fail. I wonder if you will forgive me if, as an additional illustration of the necessity which I am now endeavouring to put before you, I refer to a case of our own scarcely two years old. Carry your minds back to the discussions which then took place in this House and elsewhere, discussions not as to the duty of private citizens to answer a military call but as to the duty of enrolled soldiers, Generals of the Army, to answer a call to carry out what the Government at large might feel necessary in the maintenance of law and order. Many of your Lordships then felt sympathy with those Generals and officers who made it known that they would find great difficulty in obeying orders if orders were put upon them to employ the military arm in the maintenance of the law if the law were broken. A noble friend of mine made from below the Gangway on the Opposition side of the House a speech to which I listened with much attention and with much acceptance. It appeared to me that he was speaking with convincing force as to the necessity of recognising the sense of duty on the part of such officers to refuse to obey the military order which might be enforced upon them. It is a very dangerous doctrine, a doctrine which in practice might lead to very awkward results. But all freedom is dangerous. Whenever we attempt to walk along the paths of freedom we are in danger of slipping from one side to another, into great errors and pitfalls. But the argument was presented to your Lordships and secured acceptance on the part of a great many here, and I appeal to it now. I do 1060 not assent to the proposition that the Generals of that day were justified in the opinion they formed, but that having formed that opinion they were justified in the action they intended to maintain. To that view I do hold. And as your Lordships held that they were justified in maintaining the attitude they assumed you cannot, I think, without some inconsistency—which I will not impute to you—quarrel with, despise or neglect to regard the scruples of men of to-day and of men hereafter—for we are discussing a Bill which though temporary in its form, threatens to become permanent in substance—you cannot neglect to regard the scruples of men of to-day and of men hereafter who may be subjected to statutory obligations such as are enforced in this Bill.
I have put down two Amendments to this Bill, which practically amount to this. First, to extend the ground of exemption from an obligation to combative service to any service in support of the war. A man such as I have described will not be content with the suggestion that he need not take up arms to fight the enemy but can set another man free to do so. If you want to take him and use him in some non-military section of the war, "I cannot" is the response you will find coming from him. The other class of objector to whom I referred, who does not feel any difficulty in performing military service in general but in particular, is covered by what I have said. These are the exemptions which I propose. I am afraid the Amendments will not be accepted, but I should like to have them on record at all events as proposed exemptions to the operation of the Act if the Bill becomes an Act.
My justification for speaking in the way I have is that I still hope for some sense of the gravity of the position which is assumed in undertaking to make men soldiers against their will, when they either object to war altogether as unholy or object to the particular war in which they are asked to be engaged. My desire is to impress upon your Lordships the difficulties involved in any attempt to overcome the opposition of such men. Though the Bill will pass, much of its operation will depend upon the spirit with which it is enforced, and if a wise and cautious spirit is shown on the part of the Committees (by whom practically the consideration of such questions as I have adumbrated will be considered) and by the Government, which should be in 1061 continual supervision of the whole operation of the Act, then the difficulties to which I have referred may, in large measure if not altogether, be avoided or reduced at all events to a minimum. I earnestly beseech your Lordships to consider the difficulties which you provoke if you insist upon the attempt to make men combatant against their will, or even to make them against their will assist in upholding a war which they profoundly refute and in which they will not under any provocation or penalty take any part.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGIUCULTURE AND FISHERIES (THE EARL OF SELBORNE)
My Lords, I shall not stand between your Lordships and the Committee for more than a few minutes, but there have been speeches made and points raised on the Motion for going into Committee which I do not think it would be right for the Government to omit altogether to notice or answer. I should like first to allude to the speech of the most rev. Primate, and to say how entirely His Majesty's Government sympathise with the point of view which he set forth, how thoroughly we understand the position which he has asserted for those in Holy Orders and for ministers of the different Churches, and how gratified we are that he gives his cordial and complete support to the provision in the Schedule which deals with those citizens.
Next I would refer to Lord Malmesbury's observation about the reservation of land agents and farmers. I am glad of the opportunity of saying a word about farmers. They were not starred because all farmers, great and small, were treated as employers of labour, and no employers of labour were starred. But it is quite obvious that every farm must have some competent man to manage it or else the farm becomes derelict, and therefore Lord Kitchener and I are arranging a form of words which will make it quite clear that when the existence of a farm depends on an individual's attention that man shall be put in the reserved list. But there are cases, of course, where there is more than one man engaged in the management of a farm, and I do not for one moment desire my farming friends to believe that I think that a farmer and all his sons should stay at home. I think nothing of the sort. It is a matter of honourable 1062 obligation in each case for the family to settle which of its members are essential for the maintenance of the farm, and, if they are of military age, it is equally an honourable obligation that the rest of them should join the Army. As regards the land agents, I cannot go so far as in the case of farmers. Each case must be judged on its merits. Some land agents cannot be properly spared from the work they are doing, but I am not prepared to say that none of the class ought to be taken for the Army.
Then there was the point raised by Lord Strachie. I wish to repeat, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the assurance which was given by Lord Derby that every effort will be made in the Regulations issued under the Orders in Council to see that the men who enlisted under Lord Derby's group system are in no way worse off in their conditions than the men who are brought into the Army under the Bill we are now discussing. It would be a monstrous thing if the man who joined without the intervention of an Act of Parliament were worse off than the man who had to be so sharply reminded of his duty. There is one point more in respect to what Lord Strachie said. The Regulations will probably be made by the Local Government Board, in which Board he expressed a confidence which he did not also feel in His Majesty's Government. He said that as long as the Regulations were made by the Local Government Board he would feel quite happy, but that if they were then discussed and amended by the twenty-two members of the Cabinet he should not feel so easy. I can assure the noble Lord that the Cabinet has other things to do than to revise the Regulations submitted by the Local Government Board, and we also share with him such complete confidence in its President that I think he can be at case as regards the settlement of that matter.
I pass to the very interesting speeches from Lord Denman and Lord Courtney. Lord Denman gave us first-hand testimony of the wonderful success of universal military training in Australia, and how it had been nurtured and brought to complete national acceptance by the Labour Party; and he reminded us of this very remarkable fact, that not only is there a Commonwealth Labour Ministry, but the Labour Party is also in power in every 1063 one of the States of which the Commonwealth of Australia is composed. Lord Courtney said he was not in a position to dispute Lord Denman's statement, but that his information about New Zealand was different. He gave us certain figures about the increase of resistance and prosecutions, and the effect that he wished to make on your Lordships' mind was that the popularity of the Act and its general acceptance was waning in New Zealand, and that it could not be spoken of in the same way as Lord Denman had spoken of it in Australia. I did not, of course, know that the noble Lord was going to bring that subject forward, and I can only say that the impression which he has received from his informants is completely at variance with all the information which I have received with regard to the working of the Act in New Zealand. I had the advantage of speaking just now to Lord Islington, a recent Governor of that Dominion, and to Lord Kitchener, who has made himself very familiar with the conditions of the Military Service Act in New Zealand, and both of them tell me it is a complete mistake to suppose that there is any real public movement in New Zealand against the administration and the continuance of that Act. They both say that the resistance to it never had any public importance at all and never affected any important body of public opinion, and that military service is accepted as much as the normal duty of a citizen of New Zealand as it is of a citizen of the Commonwealth of Australia. As an illustration of the degree of its acceptance in Australia, Lord Denman told me this remarkable fact—that in the State of Victoria in one year there were more prosecutions under the Education Act than there were under the Defence Act.
Lord Courtney passed on to a very earnest and eloquent exhortation to your Lordships not to treat the existence of the conscientious objector too lightly or to minimise the real strength and honesty of the convictions which he holds. He pointed out that there were several kinds of conscientious objector—the man who, like the Quakers, objects to the shedding of blood, the man who objects to all war, and the man who objects to this war; and he told us that these men—and, of course, he was only speaking of what I may describe as the genuine article—will not compromise nor can they be 1064 intimidated, because they are obeying what to them is the highest moral law. Lord Courtney's warning on this subject was timely, and I think he is perfectly accurate in his statement that we have in England a class of man of whose opinions his description is in no way exaggerated. All history teaches us that that is so and I certainly agree with him that it is very right and necessary for the State, in dealing with these men, to do so with a full knowledge of human nature, and, above all, of what English human nature is. But I confess that there is one aspect of the conscientious objector that to me is absolutely unintelligible. I can quite understand the man who believes that he is forbidden by his religion to shed blood; I understand the man who believes that all war is always wrong; I understand the man who believes that this war is wrong; but I cannot for the life of me understand a man who, holding any of these opinions, thinks that it is wrong for him to join in saving life—it may be the life not only of his own fellow-countrymen but of the enemy. I cannot understand how a man holding those opinions can think it wrong to go into some body where he may administer either to an Englishman or to a German or to a Frenchman, and where his sole function will be that of relieving the horrors of war and saving human life.
An extraordinarily difficult question—the problem of what is to be done when the individual conscience comes against the national will—was touched on by Lord Courtney; and he brought forward—and I have no complaint against the noble Lord for bringing it forward—the case of Ulster, on which Parties were so deeply divided not many months ago. I cannot follow him into a consideration of that most difficult subject. All I say now is this, that the fact of the existence in this war of a body of conscientious objectors can be no reason why Parliament should refuse to the vast majority of the people of this country an Act which that vast majority believe in their consciences to be justified and to be necessary to bring this war to a successful conclusion. Therefore, while not for one moment joining with those who would treat the conscientious objector as a negligible quantity or as a man to be trampled on, I cannot admit the right of any minority so small as that which exists in this country to 1065 prevent the majority using all the means that it can to carry on this war.
As I had not the opportunity of speaking last night, I should like to say that I am not one of those who ever thought this a small Bill. I disagree entirely with the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, in thinking that this Bill ought to have been made a permanent one. I cannot imagine how anybody can seriously think that this Bill should have been made permanent. Its only chance of national acceptance was that it should be a Bill for this war, and that it should not prejudge or prejudice in any way the consideration of the reconstitution of our military system after the war. The Government never had any intention of bringing forward anything but a temporary Bill, nor had they any idea of using it for industrial compulsion. But they have brought it forward to show to the whole British Army and Navy, to all our Allies, to all neutral countries, and to our enemies that they will stop at no measure in which Parliament and the country will support them in order to bring the war to a successful conclusion.
§ On Question, Motion that the House do now resolve itself into Committee, agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Certificates of Exemption.
§ 2.—(1) An application may be made at any time before the appointed date to the Local Tribunal established under this Act by or in respect of any man for the issue to him of a certificate of exemption from the provisions of this Act—
- (a) on the ground that it is expedient in the national interests that he should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in other work in which he is habitually engaged or in which he wishes to be engaged or, if he is being educated or trained for any work, that he should continue to be so educated or trained; or
- (b) on the ground that serious hardships would ensue, if the man Were called up for Army Service, owing to his exceptional financial, or business obligations or domestic position; or
- (c) on the ground of ill-health or infirmity; or
- (d) on the ground of a conscientious objection to the undertaking of combatant service;
1066 and the Local Tribunal, if they consider the grounds of the application established, shall grant such a certificate.
§ The Local Tribunal may allow an application to be made after the appointed date in any case in which it is shown to their satisfaction that the failure to make the application within the required time has arisen owing to the absence of the applicant abroad, or owing to any other cause which appears to the tribunal to afford a reasonable ground for allowing the application to be so made.
§ (2) Certificates of exemption from the provisions of this Act may also be granted by any Government Department, after consultation with the Army Council, to men, or classes or bodies of men, in the service or employment of that Department, or, in eases where it appears to the department that certificates can be more conveniently granted by the department than by the Local Tribunal, to men or classes or bodies of men who are employed or engaged or qualified for employment or engagement in any work which is certified by the Department to be work of national importance and whose exemption comes within the sphere of the Department.
§ If any question arises whether any person or body of persons is to be treated as a Government Department, or as a separate Government Department, for the purpose of this provision, or whether any exemption comes within the sphere of one Department or another, the question shall be referred to the Treasury, and the decision of the Treasury thereon shall be final for the purposes of this section.
§ Where a certificate is granted by a Government Department to a class or body of men, regulations made under this Act with respect to the constitution functions and procedure of Local Tribunals may provide for the grant of individual certificates to men belonging to that body or class by Local Tribunals in such cases and subject to such provisions as may be prescribed by the regulations.
§ (3) Any certificate of exemption may be absolute, conditional, or temporary, as the authority by whom it was granted think best suited to the case, and also in the case of an application on conscientious grounds, may take the form of an exemption from combatant duties only, or may be conditional on the applicant being engaged in some work which in the opinion of the Tribunal dealing with the case is of national importance.
§ Provided that, a certificate granted on the ground of the continuance of education or training or on the ground of exceptional financial, or business obligations, or domestic position shall be a conditional or temporary certificate only.
§ No certificate of exemption shall be conditional upon a person to whom it is granted continuing in or entering into employment under any specified employer or in any specified place or establishment.
§ (4) Where a conditional certificate is granted the conditions upon which it is granted shall be stated on the certificate.
§ (5) Any Government Department may direct that any certificates granted by or on behalf of that Department before the appointed date as to employment on work for war purposes may be treated as certificates of exemption for the purposes of this Act.1067
§ (6) Where a certificate of exemption is destroyed, missing, or defaced, the authority by whom it was granted shall, upon the application of the man to whom it was granted and upon payment of a fee of a shilling, issue a duplicate of the certificate to him.
§ (7) The Local Tribunal, Appeal Tribunal, and Central Tribunal shall be constituted in accordance with the provisions of the Second Schedule to this Act, and any decision of the Local Tribunal or Appeal Tribunal shall be subject to appeal as provided in that Schedule.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
I beg to move, in subsection (1), paragraph (d), after the word "objection," to insert the words in the Amendment standing in my name.
Page 3, line 17, after ("objection") insert ("to undertake any service or engage in any action in support of the war or").—(Lord Courtney of Penwitle.)
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
I should like to say a few words on this question of the conscientious objector, because, while I am absolutely at one with the excellent speech which we have just heard from Lord Selborne as to the exemptions the Government have made with regard to a certain class of our community, I am opposed to any extension of the conscientious objection provision. I spent the early part of the war with numbers of young men who had given up everything for the sake of their country and the call of duty—Sunday School teachers, members of the Church of England Men's Society, religious young men. What I feel strongly is this, that it is not only conscience that we have to look to but the education of conscience. Things have been done in England again and again in the name of conscience that we deplore. Churches have been burned down in the name of conscience. We have had the conscience of the clergy, which permitted them to take grants that supported them when they were working in the slums of London but which forbade them supporting the funds from which those grants came when they went to appointments at, say, Eastbourne or Bournemouth. I feel that it is not only the conscience but the education of the conscience that really matters. These young men of whom I was speaking had taken in certain facts about the war. They hated killing; they did not want to kill anybody. But they felt that there were three things at stake—that they were fighting for the freedom 1068 of their country, for the freedom of the world, and for the brotherhood of nations. I have seen these men in the trenches. My own regiment went in 800 strong and came out 250 strong. They had held their trench seven days and nights, those Sunday School teachers and religious young men. We want every help to be sent to those men, and there should be no false ground of conscientious objection. The Government have dealt with a certain class, and I would say to Lord Courtney that they have considered the men concerning whom he was speaking. But if we extend conscientious objection to the extent proposed in this Amendment we shall be quite unduly enlarging the scope of the conscientious objector, and shall prevent help going to those comrades of mine and yours who are fighting this battle, fighting quite against their natural tastes but fighting for the honour of their country and because they believe it is a question of Christian principle.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The speech which was made by my noble friend Lord Selborne a few moments ago will have prepared the noble Lord on the Cross Benches for the intimation which I am obliged to make to him, to the effect that His Majesty's Government are not able to accept this Amendment. Lord Courtney, in the course of his observations, rather complained of something I said the other evening with reference to the case of the conscientious objector, and he assumed, perhaps rightly, that I did not state the matter with sufficient clearness when I said that I regarded the conscientious objector as a person holding strong objections to bloodshed in particular. I am fully aware—and I am sure the noble Lord will accept my assurance—that there are conscientious objectors who object to a great deal more than that, and that they are men whose convictions are very deep and profound and who are in all ways entitled to our respect; and in this clause I venture to think we do treat them with respect. We enable the Tribunals to grant to those conscientious objectors an exemption which may be either an absolute exemption or conditional on the objector finding employment in some work of national importance. We cannot go further than that. The noble Lord desires to amplify the clause by allowing the conscientious objector to claim exemption not, upon the ground that he objects to 1069 undertake combatant duties but that he objects to undertake any service or engage in any action in support of this war. Those words go a great deal too far. They would render it possible for a man to object to any employment, however pacific in its character, if the result of the acceptance of that employment were to liberate some one else to take his place in the ranks of the Army. We cannot possibly accept the Amendment, and I hope the noble Lord will not press it.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL moved to amend subsection (2), after the words "Army Council," by inserting "and subject to an appeal to the Treasury in case of difference of opinion." The noble Viscount said: Your Lordships will observe that subsection (2) of Clause 2 deals with certificates of exemption, and the exemptions are very widely drawn. These certificates can be granted by any Government Department after consultation with the Army Council, not only to men, but to classes or bodies of men in the employment or service of that Department. In this important matter each separate Department apparently is its own judge and free to decide for itself to what bodies of men in its employ the rule of exemption shall be applied. But the power goes much further than that because it can really oust the jurisdiction of the Local Tribunals in many cases; and where it appears to the Department desirable it can apply its exemption to "classes or bodies of men who are employed or engaged or qualified for employment or engagement in any work which is certified by the Department to be work of national importance and whose exemption comes within the sphere of the Department." Those exemptions clearly are very wide, and I am not quite sure how wide they are. I should be glad if the noble Marquess would explain what exactly "within the sphere of the Department" means. I am familiar with the expression "sphere of influence" in Foreign Office matters, but I am not familiar with a "sphere" in connection with the work of a particular Department. At the present moment the railways are under the control of the Board of Trade. Because the railways are within the scope of that Department, can it give a general exemption to railwaymen? Or, again, can the Home Office give exemption to miners? And so on. The power of exemption is 1070 not confined to those actually engaged, but extends to persons who are "qualified for employment or engagement" in such work—again a very wide provision. People who are qualified for such employment are at the present time doing something or doing nothing. If they are doing nothing, they are probably of no value; but if they are doing something then these exemptions extend beyond the scope of the Department to other classes of work where these men are employed. I have said enough to show how extremely wide the powers are which are granted to these different Departments.
§ When you are applying compulsion to individuals to serve in the Army you must take care that the principle is applied with the utmost equity to which you can attain. I submit that it is very difficult to do that unless you have some controlling authority which will be able to apply general principles under which the particular Departments may act. Otherwise you will have one Department taking quite a different view of its duty from another Department, and you will have difficulties possibly between Departments. The Departments have to consult with the Army Council; but supposing there is a difference of opinion between the Army Council and the Department, it does not in the least appear whose opinion is to prevail. For that reason also you ought to have another body which can settle any differences of opinion, and introduce general equity of treatment, and so on. In my Amendment I suggest that the Treasury should be this body, not that I specially wanted to pick out the Treasury but for two reasons. One is that in a later stage of the Bill the Treasury has to decide what is the sphere of each particular Department; not whom shall be exempted, but simply to delimit the spheres of the different Departments. Secondly, the Treasury in the past has had to deal with criticism of the staffs of the different Departments. Therefore the Treasury seems to me to be the most suitable body to be a sort of Court of Appeal for the differences that may arise between the Army Council and the Departments, and the body which can best introduce equality of treatment of the classes of men in those different Departments.
Page 3, line 30, after ("Council") insert ("and subject to an appeal to the Treasury in case of difference of opinion").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ LORD MUIR-MACKENZIE
I do not propose to add to the number of speeches which have been made to-night. I only wish to say that, being an old Departmental hand, the same objections that have been so clearly explained by the noble Viscount opposite had occurred to me, and I support everything that he has said on the subject.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I think the apprehensions of my noble friend opposite are not well founded. Under this clause power is taken to permit of exemptions being granted, not in the usual way by the Local Tribunals, but as the result of an arrangement arrived at by a Public Department after consultation with the War Office authorities. That is not new, because, as my noble friend Lord Derby knows, arrangements of the same kind had already been in existence before there was any question of this Bill; and I think I am justified in saying that they have worked well and have enabled us to settle a great many troublesome questions, I will not say exactly out of Court, but in a manner rendering it unnecessary to trouble the Tribunals with a vast number of individual cases.
My noble friend raises a case in which the Department concerned might not he able to agree with the military authorities, and he suggests, very naturally, that there must be some means of cutting the knot on an occasion of that kind. His suggestion is that the Treasury should be put in the position of supreme arbiter between the War Office and the Department. I am not prepared to accept that suggestion. I do not think it would at all do, in a matter in which the interests of the Army—for, after all, we are dealing with a question which concerns the interests of the Army on an immense scale—and the interests of a Department are in conflict, that the last word should rest with the Treasury. I feel quite sure that the noble and gallant Field-Marshal (Lord Kitchener) would be very reluctant to place himself unconditionally at the mercy of the decisions of the Treasury. I think the answer to my noble friend is this, that in a case where the War Office and the Department concerned were not able to come to terms the matter would have to be referred to the Government. When you have a question concerning what I described last night as the rival claims of the Army and of industry you cannot allow that to be settled departmentally by the Treasury. It is a question 1072 which really ought to be, and I have no doubt will be, referred—in those rare cases in which no settlement can be found—to the responsible Government.
Then the noble Viscount asked for an explanation in regard to an expression in the subsection which I confess is rather a singular one—"within the sphere" of the Department. The expression, I confess, rather grated upon me when I first noticed it, but I think it does adequately convey our meaning. Let me take an illustration. Supposing the case was one which had reference to the amount of protection to be given to the farmers, whose case Lord Selborne was discussing just now. That would clearly come within the sphere of the Board of Agriculture over which my noble friend presides. But if a difficulty should be found in determining what sphere any particular occupation comes within, the remedy is indicated in the following paragraph of the subsection. At that point we call in the Treasury as arbiter; but what the Treasury has to try in that case is not the great question of policy involved, but, as it were, the geographical question—it has to determine to what Department a particular occupation appertains. That, I hope, is sufficient to give my noble friend a general idea of our intentions. But, of course, these matters, which I admit are extremely technical and difficult, will have to be dealt with in the Instructions and Regulations which are now in preparation and which will be very shortly issued.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
In those circumstances I am quite prepared to withdraw the Amendment. I did not wish to lay particular stress on the Treasury, and I am glad to hear that the decision is to be with the Government. I thought the Government might be so occupied with other things that they could not be troubled about settling such matters as these. So long as there is some uniformity I am satisfied.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL had two Amendments on the Paper to subsection (3)—to substitute "shall" for "may" ["may take the form of an exemption"], and to delete "or may be conditional on the applicant being engaged in some work which in the opinion of the Tribunal dealing with the case is of national importance."1073
§ The noble Viscount said: I can introduce this subject in a few words, and I think after the expression of opinion of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, my Amendments will be accepted. The two proposals really fall together, and I will deal first with the words I propose to delete. These persons who claim to be exempted on conscientious grounds can be exempted on all other grounds as well—all other grounds set forth, for instance, in the beginning of Clause 2. When the question of conscientious objection comes in their case to be tested the question of whether or not it is expedient in the national interests that they should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in other work in which they are habitually engaged or in which they wish to be engaged would already have been settled; therefore the sort of people who will come forward and who might be exempted from military service conditional on their being engaged in some work which in the opinion of the Tribunal is of national importance will be persons in whose cases it has already been pronounced that it is inexpedient for them to be engaged in work in which they are habitually engaged or may wish to be engaged. Therefore the only work which remains over is work in which they are not habitually engaged and which they do not want to take; the sort of work to which these gentlemen would be committed would be work which they do not understand, work in which they had not been engaged and in which, ex hypothesi, they did not wish to be engaged.
§ Then comes the question of substituting the word "shall" for "may"—" may take the form of an exemption from combatant duties only." I do not see why these gentlemen should be exempted from some duties connected with the war. They may be exempted from combatant duties, but they should not be exempted from other duties. I think that was the point which Lord Selborne raised. There are two main non-combatant services connected with the war—one the service of supplies and the other connected with the wounded. It might be argued that the service of supply was directly assisting the combatants, and this work might be interpreted by a man of sensitive conscience as equal to combatant service. But it is impossible to apply this argument to the service of the wounded. If a man says "I have a conscientious objection to fighting," you may be ready to accept 1074 that; but if he says "I have a conscientious objection to saving life," you would treat him either as insane or as one on whose word no credit should be placed. I happen to know that in the service of the wounded—driving ambulance wagons, and so on—several Quakers are now employed; and some have been killed in that service. I do not see how anybody could come forward and say that his objection to service is stronger than that of a Quaker. After all, Quakers have the strongest claim on historical and other grounds. These Quakers have not argued that by doing this work they have set free other persons for combatant services, and if anybody else does argue in such a fashion surely that kind of argument might be neglected by the Tribunals. I think it not unfair to suggest that the exemption should not be complete, but should be exemption from combatant service only. There is plenty of room in the service of the wounded for these men, and there is no reason whatever on conscientious grounds why they should be exempted from work of this kind. If the claim is made on account of conscientious scruples, why not override those scruples? Because I do not think they can be honestly maintained. Conscience is, of course, a very difficult question to deal with, and I think the Tribunals almost need some assistance from ministers of religion to enable them to determine these cases of conscience rather than rely on their own rough approximations. I beg to move the first of my Amendments.
Page 4, line 15, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I ventured to object just now to the Amendment moved by Lord Courtney with regard to the conscientious objector, upon the ground that it opened too wide a gap for his escape from military liabilities. I am afraid I must object to the Amendment of my noble friend upon the ground that it narrows the gap too much. I gather that the effect of the Amendment which the noble Viscount proposes would be to confine the certificate which the conscientious objector may receive to an exemption from combatant service only—that is to say, the conscientious objector might find himself still obliged to enter the Army and to perform military service so long as there was no question of putting him in the fighting line.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Yes. We greatly prefer the much more elastic arrangement which finds its place in the Bill as it now stands. In our view it is much better that the Tribunals should be in a position to give what I may call, without disrespect, the out-and-out conscientious objector an absolute dispensation. On the other hand, there is the different case of the man who might object very much to being obliged to perform combatant duties but who might be perfectly ready to make himself useful to the country in other ways. I think in this case the middle course which we propose to take is more prudent than either of the extreme proposals made, on the one hand by Lord Courtney, and on the other by my noble friend Lord Peel. I hope the noble Viscount will not press his Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
If the noble Marquess insists on keeping the matter as it is, I will not press the Amendment. I will only say that I am glad I shall not he sitting on the Tribunals which will have to deal with these fine points of conscience.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Many of us share the apprehensions of my noble friend, but do not desire the pressing of the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My other Amendment to delete certain words is consequential upon the one already withdrawn. Therefore I do not move it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The Amendment in my name is to reconcile the words of this subsection with the words of the previous clause.
Page 4, line 16, leave out ("duties") and insert ("service").—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3:
§ Supplemental provisions as to certificates of exemption.
§ 3.—(1) A certificate of exemption may be reviewed or renewed at any time by the Local Tribunal or the Government Department, as may be directed by Regulations made under this 1076 Act with respect to the constitution, functions, and procedure of Local Tribunals, on the application either of the holder of the certificate or of any person generally or specially authorised for the purpose by the Army Council, and may be withdrawn or varied if the authority by whom the certificate is reviewed are of opinion that, in the circumstances of the case, the certificate should be withdrawn or varied.
§ (2) It shall be the duty of any man holding such a certificate, if the circumstances which led to the granting of the certificate are materially changed, to give notice to the authority mentioned in the certificate that the circumstances are so changed; and if he fails without reasonable cause or excuse to do so, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.
§ (3) Where a certificate of exemption ceases to be in force owing to the withdrawal of the certificate or the failure to comply with the conditions on which the certificate was granted or the expiration of the time for which the certificate was granted, the man to whom the certificate was granted shall, as from the expiration of two months after the date on which the certificate so ceases to be in force, be deemed to have been enlisted and transferred to the reserve in the same manner as if no such certificate had been granted unless in the meantime the man has obtained a renewal of his certificate.
§ (4) If for the purpose of obtaining exemption for himself or any other person, or for the purpose of obtaining the renewal, variation, or withdrawal of a certificate of exemption, any person makes any false statement or false representation, he shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months with or without hard labour.
§ (5) Where an application has been made by or in respect of any man for a certificate of exemption or for a renewal of such a certificate, he shall not be called up for service with the Colours until the application has been finally disposed of.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
This clause renders liable to penalties men who, having obtained exemption upon conditions, fail to notify a change in the conditions on the strength of which they obtained their exemptions. Your Lordships will notice that there are three kinds of certificate granted. There are absolute certificates, temporary certificates, and conditional certificates. In our view the penalty for a concealment in the change of circumstances should apply only in the case of men to whom conditional certificates of exemption have been given, and for this reason. In the case of the man who gets an absolute certificate the question of conditions probably never arose at all, and there really seems to be no reason why he should be subject to penalty for failing to disclose a change which may have taken place in his circumstances. In the case 1077 of a man who receives a temporary certificate of exemption, the case arises at once when the period of time for which the temporary certificate was given comes to an end. But the man who gets a conditional certificate certainly ought to be compelled under the threat of punishment to disclose any change in the circumstances under which he was originally granted the certificate. That is the effect of these three Amendments.
Page 5, line 11, leave out ("such a") and insert ("a conditional")
Page 5, lines 12 and 13, leave out ("circumstances which led to the granting of the certificate are materially changed") and insert ("conditions on which the certificate was granted are no longer satisfied")
Page 5, lines 14 and 15, leave out ("the circumstances are so changed") and insert ("the conditions are no longer satisfied").—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.
§ First Schedule:
Page 6, line 26, leave out ("duties") and insert ("service").—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ Second Schedule:
§ THE MARQUESS OP LANSDOWNE
The reason for these Amendments is this. If paragraph 6 of this Schedule remains as it now stands the Department will be obliged to issue in every case a formal Instruction under its seal. It is felt that something less than that would be sufficient in many cases.
Page 7, line 22, leave out ("by order")
Page 7, lines 25 and 26, leave out from ("tribunals") to the end of the paragraph.—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Second Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended) Amendments reported.1078
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
§ THE EARL OP DERBY
My Lords, before the Bill is read a third time I should like to make an explanation. Yesterday I stated that there was ground for apprehension as to the number of men who had been "badged" during the previous week. At the same time I guarded myself from saying that they were all men who would otherwise come into the Army, and I said I had not been able to ascertain whether they were starred previously or not. I have received the following letter from the Ministry of Munitions—The figures for last week were apparently large, because in the course of it we issued a very large number of War Service Badges in exchange for unnumbered Admiralty Badges which we are now in course of withdrawing. I find that on the four heaviest days of last week (January 18 to 21) we issued rather over 108,000 badges, but of these over 100,000 were merely issued in exchange for returned Admiralty Badges, the net issue being only about 8,000.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.