– in the House of Commons on 6th March 1919.
Captain GUEST (Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury):
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
Perhaps the House will allow me to offer a word of explanation as to how and why it is that this duty falls upon me. The War Office at the moment is very short-handed and also rather overworked, and, in asking me to undertake this duty, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has reserved the right to reply until a later stage in the Debate. It will be to the advantage of those Members who criticise the Bill that my right hon. Friend should be in a position to reply with the full authority of the Department over which he presides. The House is aware that the Military Service Acts which are now in force expire automatically at the date of the Ratification of Peace, and thereby all men who voluntarily enlisted before those Acts came into operation, or who enlisted under the compulsory service system, are entitled to discharge with all convenient speed. It is obvious, therefore, that legislation is necessary to retain and to maintain sufficient forces of the Crown to meet the needs of the immediate military situation. The Secretary of State for War on Monday delivered a very full statement of the Estimates, laying before the House and the country in great detail the proposals of his Department and of the Government. I noticed one maxim which he laid down, and which elicited support and encouragement from all quarters, and that was that it is unwise to disband your Army until you have got your terms. This encourages me to feel that this Bill, which I think I can prove is a practical measure, will receive considerable support.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State also made reference to the fact that the problems which were facing the War Office to-day could be divided into two categories—those which required immediate and urgent decision, and those to which many months of careful and earnest investigation might very well be given. This Bill comes within the category of those which need urgent decision. I should like to point out that this Bill raises no new policy. It in no way wanders into the field of the methods by which this country should be safeguarded in the days to come after the War. It is designed purposely to meet wholly the exigencies of the transition period—the period which we may describe as intervening between war and peace. It enables the Government to retain such Naval, Military, and Air Forces as are considered by the expert advisers of the Government to be necessary and adequate, first, for the Army of Occupation in enemy countries, and, secondly, for the maintenance of security and order, I both at home and abroad. It will be I noticed that its operation is strictly limited to the 30th April, 1920.
I think it would be well at this point if I drew attention to two noticeable omissions from the Bill, which may attract attention. The first is that officers are not mentioned, and the reason for that is, primarily, that, their conditions of service are not governed by Acts of Parliament, but by Royal Warrant under the prerogative of the Crown. Secondly, there is no shortage of officers—in fact, the difficulty will be, probably, to find useful service for the large number who desire to remain in the Army. The second omission noticeable in this Bill is that it does not deal with the Regular Army—in fact, all those men whose conditions of service are founded on pre-war attestation obtain their release in normal manner on the expiration of their contracts. Clause 1 is the operative Clause of the Bill, and under Sub-section (1) power is taken to retain the service of any man until 30th April, 1920, notwithstanding the terms of his service, which, as the House knows, would otherwise automatically cease on the day of the Ratification of Peace.
Mr. TYSON WILSON:
Will men, whose papers applying for demobilisation went through before the end of January, come within the provisions of the Bill?
Yes, Sir; it applies to all those who at the present moment are under the control of the Military Service Acts. The Clause, I think, requires no further explanation, as it very simply sets out this particular power. It contains the words "competent authority," and I might here mention that the interpretation of those words is, in the case of the Navy, the Admiralty; in the case of the Army, the Army Council; and, in the case of the Air Force, the Air Council. But it is important for the passage of this Bill, which I think will be much smoother than is anticipated in many quarters, that it does not in any way interfere with the daily demobilisation which has been going on since the end of last year. The rate and numbers were explained in great detail to the House on Monday by my right hon. Friend, but it does render legal the retention of the fourth man, and I think I may add that if the voluntary recruitment proceeds at the present rate it is quite likely that by the date of ratification not even all those fourth men will be required.
Clause 2 prolongs the operation of the Transfer Act of 1915. It will be remembered that early in the War, owing to the shortage of men it was found necessary to transfer men who were fit in order to fill up the depleted ranks of the cadres, and a Bill had to be introduced to give power to break the contract under which the men had enlisted. A promise was given that they should be re-transferred again at the end of the War, at the date of the ratification of peace, but that promise has got to be postponed, and under this Bill powers are taken to prolong that Transfer Act of 1915 to coincide with the date that this Bill remains in operation. Section 2 of Clause 2 deals in a similar manner with the Territorials. Their right to transfer is also postponed until a similar date, but it goes a little further owing to the necessity of prolonging the Clause of the Military Service Act which allows of their retention for service overseas. Clause 2 Section 3 extends the provisions of the Act known as the Suspension of Sentences Acts, 1915 and 1916, both to soldiers and airmen, whether in the home services or overseas. It also includes in the words "imprisonment and prison" the words "detention and detention barracks." I will give a short explanation of what that means. The Suspension of Sentences Act was brought about on the recommendation of the Field Marshal in 1915–16 to enable courts-martial to suspend sentences and thereby enable men who would have otherwise suffered imprisonment and loss to be sent back to duty and there to be afforded an opportunity of making good. It was found that there were somecases of men who deliberately committed crimes of grave misconduct in the hope that their period of punishment or sentence would carry them through the War, and thereby enable them to evade their full responsibilities, in the hope that at the end of the War a general amnesty would exempt them from further punishment. It was also found that a great many men committed crimes through temporary loss of nerve or from temporary physical causes, and there were a number of cases of men who, when they returned to duty, not only made good but earned high distinction in the field. This Bill to-day prolongs the operation of that very wise and lenient measure. It continues to apply it, both to men on home duties and overseas, and all references to imprisonment and prison include detention and detention barracks.
No, Sir, it enables men both at home and abroad to expiate their crimes by good service, and if that service is satisfactory they are enabled to obtain remission of their sentences and their expurgation from the record. Clause 3, Section 1, deals with interpretation. Section 2 provides that those who come under the Military Service (Conventions with Allied States) Act of 1917 are excluded from this Bill. The House will remember that that was a measure passed during the War, an inter-Allied measure, to enable countries to employ their respective citizens for service in the field. This Bill does not apply to them; it only applies to British soldiers and sailors at present in the British Isles. Section 3 is the short title.
In view of the number of Amendments which I see on the Paper, I would ask the indulgence of the House to say just one or two words on the general subject of the Bill. This Bill does not raise the question of the principle of compulsory service. The House and the country approved of that principle in 1916, and I do not think that by any stretch of imagination it would be possible to say that the House did not insist that compulsion was necessary for the purpose of the War. It is perfectly clear that the War is not yet over, and I doubt very much whether the date of ratification will prove to be the real termination of the War. I submit that the termination of the War will be only when the terms of peace are secured and the fruits of victory assured to this country. If we fail to make secure the results of the War, I think we shall be guilty of treachery to all those who took a share in the efforts and sacrifices of the last four years. I would like to reply to one or two hypothetical cases of comment. I believe there are many, some anyhow, who think that compulsory service should have ceased on the Armistice day. [Cheers.] Then my suspicion was not an erroneous one. There is another section of critics who say that, if not on Armistice day, then certainly on the date of the declaration of the ratification of peace. I would submit in reply to both those critics that we have gone already a very long way in that direction. In the case of those who think it should cease on Armistice day, I will merely state the simple facts that no conscript has been called up since 11th November.
In reply to those who think it should cease from the date of ratification of peace, I would remind the House that in previous statements made by my right hon. Friend he said he was in great hopes that by May three-fourths of the Army would have been demobilised, and that may be not very far from the date of the ratification of peace. In any case, a long way has been gone in the direction of meeting the criticism of those two groups of commentators. There is a remaining quota of men who, if some legal provision is not made, will be automatically entitled to ask for their release when that day comes, and I doubt if anyone wishes to leave the whole situation in a state of chaos and to make no provision for the interregnum. If it is agreed that the nation is entitled to the fruits of victory—and I cannot believe that anyone dissents from that—if it is also agreed that the number—900,000 men, roughly—is not excessive and is adequate for the performances of the military situation, then it must be that the objection is to the principle of compulsory service on purely academic grounds. I submit a question to those who criticise it on this ground, and ask them what is their alternative? I presume that it is instantaneous return to the voluntary system, and I imagine also they will submit that it should be accompanied by higher rates of pay. I ask them, whatever you may offer in the way of increased inducements, what is to be done if you do not get a sufficient number of men to undertake the task, because, if the burden is going to fall on those who take that line of thought, the responsibility must fall on them also. If the numbers are not sufficient, are they prepared to run the risk of so depleting the units as to gravely impair the power of the Army for its great national and international responsibilities? Those who cannot see the necessity and wisdom and oppose this limited and temporary extension of the compulsory service system, without which no bridge can be formed between the old conditions and the new, will lay themselves open either to failing to appreciate the realities with which we are faced or to indifference to the gathering of the fruits of victory. It would be a poor tribute to those by whose sacrifices the victory has been won if any factionary opposition to the principle of compulsion were to rob those who have made the sacrifices of the results of their splendid achievements or to deprive us who have survived of the prospects of a regenerated world.
The House has just listened to one of a series of interesting and instructive addresses on military matters which we have had in the course of the week from members of the Government. The speech to which we have now listened, as well as some of the others that have been delivered earlier in the week, will, I fear, not give much consolation to the people of this country. I think the people of this country have been led to expect that when the peace terms were signed and the War was over that we would see the end of compulsory military service in this country. I do not know that this idea has been fostered to a greater extent by any section of the community than by prominent members of the Government themselves. In no part of the country will the disappointment be greater than in the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, for I find that at the recent election, speaking in his own constituency in December last, the right hon. Gentleman stated, in reply to a question, that the representatives of the British Government would go to the Peace Conference to demand the general and absolute abolition of Conscription throughout Europe. That was a definite statement and the introduction of this Conscription Bill by the Government does not a make a good beginning by way of carrying it out.
The statements made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of this Bill cannot be dissociated from some of the statements that were made by the Secretary of State for War in moving the Army Estimates on Monday. Certain parts of these statements would lead one to believe that the question of compulsory military service was not of such a temporary character as the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down would lead the House to believe. For instance, I find on referring to the statement of the Secretary of State for War the following:
How is our future military defence of the British Empire to be brought at every point into harmonious relation with the Royal Navy so that the greatest economy may be combined with the highest development not only of amphibious, but
of aerial power?….This opens up an extremely interesting avenue of inquiries which are now being pursued by the professional heads of the three great Services—the First Sea Lord, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and the Chief of the Air Staff—into the systems of higher Staff training and general war training which are required for the fighting services of the Crown."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1919, col. 76.]
One begins to wander, in face of statements like this, whether, after all, there is not a serious attempt being made by the naval and military authorities to have compulsory military service, permanently established in this country. The careful manner in which the Secretary for War went into the details of the scheme for building up and training the future officers of the Army to a higher state of efficiency will, I fear, dispel the idea—the generally accepted idea—that this War was the end of war. It will bring consternation and dismay into the hearts of a large section of the people of this country who, while war was anathema to them, supported it in the belief that when Prussian militarism was destroyed, a new Army such as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War described in the speech to which I have just referred, would be unnecessary. Evidently the Secretary for War does not put much faith in the formation of a League of Nations. Whatever his ideas may be regarding that matter, the idea of a League of Nations has touched the imagination of the workers of the world, and, whatever the Government may do, Labour will see to it that every possible step is taken to make such a League of Nations successful; so successful, we trust, as to make the introduction of measures such as that we are now discussing unnecessary in the future—such steps as will lift the horrible nightmare of war for ever.
Another disappointment to which the speech to which I have referred will give rise is the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the British Forces in Russia are not to be withdrawn, but are to be reinforced. We were told that the reason the British Forces were sent to Russia was because it was part of our operations ágainst Germany. That reason, however, added the right hon. Gentleman, has passed away. Notwithstanding that that reason has passed away, our men are still to be kept there. To that question the right hon. Gentleman up to the present has not, in my opinion, given any satisfactory answer.
Well, that may be a matter of ill-luck. As events appear to be developing, it is just possible that in the near future we may be asked by the right hon. Gentleman to send troops to protect Germany against the threat of Bolshevism travelling from Russia. If the Government imagines that the working classes are going to continue to consent to the introduction of measures of this character that we are discussing to-day, going to continue to consent to pour out the blood of their sons to establish forms of government desired by certain people, either in Russia or in Germany, they will find that they are making a serious mistake. It is the business of each of the countries of the world, without interference from outside, to establish that form of government that meets with the approval of the majority of the people of these countries.
We have been reminded by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Second Reading that the Bill we are discussing is of a temporary character; it is limited to one year's duration. That is something like the statements that we have been accustomed to in this House when the long series of Military Service Bills have been introduced. The House may remember that the introduction of the first Bill provided for the compulsory enlistment of unmarried men between the ages of nineteen and forty-one. We were told that this was one of the measures necessary to enable us to win the War. We had that followed by another measure which made military service compulsory on married men of the same age. That was followed by the cancellation of exemptions, by another Bill providing for the review of exceptions, and then by another raising the age both of married men and single men from forty-one to fifty-one. In every one of these cases we had the assurance of the Front Bench that this was all that would be necessary, and that the compulsory service that these measures were imposing upon our people would be ended with the end of the War. Not only had we the definite assurances of the heads of the Government for the time being that the end of the War would see the end of compulsory military service, but during the recent General Election we had these assurances renewed. For example, when my right hon. Friend the
Member for Derby, in a speech, warned the people of this country that a serious attempt was being made to have compulsory military service foisted upon them, we had the present Prime Minister on the following day, in a speech delivered at Bristol, dealing with the matter, and renewing the assurances that had already been given. The Prime Minister on that occasion said:
I have come here to talk about two or three questions which are exercising the electorate, not merely in the West of England, but throughout the United Kingdom. The first question I am going to talk about is Conscription. You have got the usual attempt made to frighten the electorate, and one of the most effective means of doing so is to say that the Government mean to keep up a great Conscript Army in this country. It is not true. The Military Service Act was passed in order to meet a great emergency. When the emergency is passed—
And, added the Prime Minister—
The Act will lapse, and there is no intention to renew it.
On the following day the Prime Minister went further. In reply to a correspondent he said:
You send me a cutting from to-day's "Daily News" to the effect that a vote for the Coalition is a vote for Conscription, and you ask me if this is true? My reply is, that it is not only untrue, but it is a calculated and characteristic falsehood.
Well, I leave to hon. and right hon. Members opposite what consolation they can get out of specific statements of that character. The statements I also leave as between the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War. I also leave it to the Prime Minister and the Secretary for War to square these statements with their audiences at Dundee and Bristol, and with the correspondent whom I have quoted who wrote to the Prime Minister as to the "Daily News" statement. The Bill that we are considering, to my mind, is one of the most extraordinary of the series of compulsory military service Bills which have been introduced into this House. Here you have proposals to compel men to continue in service who were enlisted for the period of the War and who had the assurance given in this House that these were the terms of their service. The late Prime Minister, who was instrumental in first introducing compulsory
military service in the country, speaking at Nottingham in the course of the recent election confirmed his statement made at the introduction of these measures in the following manner:
Conscription was carried on the distinct understanding that it was for the duration of the War.
Here you have men enlisted under condition such as I have stated, compelled to continue in their service, while at the same time you have men of a similar age and equal physical fitness who have never served either in the Army or Navy, allowed to remain outside the terms of the Military Service Act we are now considering. These are principles which, to my mind, outrage fairplay and equity to such an extent that they are bound in the very nature of things to cause a serious amount of dissatisfaction among the people of this country. I would further state that the Bill we are now discussing has been introduced at a most critical and inopportune time in our history. The Government themselves know that the country at the moment is seething with industrial unrest, and it only requires the match to be applied to cause a conflagration. I hope whatever the necessities of the case may be, and we have not had much proof of the necessity of this Bill being introduced at this moment, that the Government would have been very careful in choosing the time to bring in a measure of this kind. Labour has been hoping against hope that the signing of the peace terms would mark the end of the War, but if they are to be disappointed I want to say quite frankly to the Secretary of State and to the Government that the working classes will not be consenting parties to the continuance of compulsory military service. If these Armies are necessary for national defence, and I believe this country with all its faults is worth defending, then they will say that a free nation ought to be defended by free men, and not by men secured by Compulsory Service Acts. If we are to induce the manhood of this nation to defend their country we must deal with them on a more equitable and just basis than we have done up to the present time.
Up to now the men who have been facing the gravest risks and danger have been the worst treated from the point of view of payment than any other section of the community. Notwithstanding the light way in which the hon. and gallant Member treated this idea, so far as I am personally concerned, I have no hesitation in saying to him and to the Secretary of State for War that if the securing of men is necessary to defend the interests of the State, by far the best way of doing it is to find out the average payment made to the men employed in every section of the industrial system, and then fix your basis of payment on that average for the men who have to defend the country. If that is done, I have no hesitation in saying you will have very little difficulty in getting the number of men you require. In conclusion, I wish to make a serious appeal to the Government to withdraw this Bill. I do not know whether they can see their way to do so or not, but if they have made up their mind that this Bill is to be pushed through all its stages that will only be secured when the strenuous opposition of the Labour party has been overcome.
I am not quite sure whether this proposal is an attempt to revive an old controversy or a serious attempt to deal with a difficulty with which we may be faced. If it is an attempt to revive an old controversy, all I can say is that it is brought forward at a most inopportune time. I do not suppose in the whole of our phraseology there is any word more calculated to create alarm than the word "Conscription." People have been educated to look upon it as an expression meaning something which involved the whole world in the most horrible War that has ever taken, place in our history, and they have never been educated to look upon it as something that has saved the world from the consequences of this War if the instigators of it had been successful. If France and Belgium had not had Conscription in the early days of 1914 we should not have been sitting here to-day. I also believe, and I think many hon. Members will agree with me, that if this country had had some system of national service before 1914, the tale of this War would have been very different and so would the toll of it.
It is as a man who has seen a great deal of the horrors of this War, and who realises that in England there are thousands of homes whose happiness has been ruined where it need never have been ruined, that I intervene in such a very important Debate as this. What is the question with which we are faced? There is scarcely a Member of this House, whatever political faith he may adhere to, who is not pledged to secure, in the first place, the exaction of penalties for the crimes committed during the War, and, in the second place, reparation. Those things cannot be secured unless you have an adequate Army behind you, but there is something more. We want to make it impossible for this War to break out again. and we cannot do that unless we have an adequate military force. I am one of those who look upon the whole process of demobilisation with certain misgivings, not because it has taken place too slowly, but because it has been done so quickly. I am so impressed with what I have seen that I want to render beyond all possible doubt any chance of a recrudescence of the War, and for this reason I think the people of this country should submit for a little longer to compulsory military service if it is deemed to be necessary to achieve that end.
We have been told that these proposals are for the period of the War, and I believe that is perfectly correct. We have also been told that the labouring classes refuse to have anything more to do with carrying compulsory service beyond another year. I have myself the privilege of representing a very considerable proportion of the labouring classes, and I have never hesitated whenever I have had opportunities of discussing this question with them, of making my views perfectly clear, and I have always found that they are quite willing to carry the War to a successful conclusion and to see that what we call the fruits of victory were not thrown away. I do not think there is any question about that. I know that it entails a certain amount of hardship on certain individuals, and I could have wished that it could have been extended not merely to the men now serving, but to those who are eligible for service. I do not see why you should always work the willing horse. We have men serving now in France who have served for a considerable period during the War, and if the trouble broke out again they would be the first men sent to the scene of action, while many of the people here who have done nothing would remain at home in security. This does seem to me like an attempt to place another straw on the camel's back. We are all suffering now from restrictions, and this Bill does not seem to me to give enough protection to the men who are serving in the Army. I do not see why the same system which in times of great crises decided who should serve and who should not, should not be applied to the men who are still serving. Is there any reason why tribunals should not decide the cases of those men upon whom further service entails a considerable amount of hardship? That is a suggestion which I make to the Secretary for War.
I do not know whether I should be in order in referring to one or two details connected with this Bill, but I should like to say as a commanding officer with a certain amount of experience, a word or two with regard to the practice of transferring men from one unit to another. I have always held the opinion that if the management of the reinforcement camps and reinforcements in England had been a little more in touch and sympathy with the actual needs of the men in the fighting line, we should not have had this appalling mix-up here. It is a bad thing to have men serving with units other than their own. The discipline of our Army, which has been, excellent during the War, is based upon tradition, and it is based upon our regimental system, and it is of vital importance that that system should be adhered to and restored at the earliest possible moment.
With regard to the suspension of sentences, we heard a great deal the other day in the House about courts-martial and military punishments generally, and the whole system dealing with military discipline. It was a very interesting discussion, but it did seem to me that there was one point which all the speakers seemed to miss. They seemed to forget that one of the first things impressed upon an officer upon entering the Army is that he must punish the offence and not the offender, and undoubtedly it has happened that the offender may have been a very decent, well-meaning fellow who has been severely punished. Take the case, for example, of the accidental wounding of a comrade. That may take a valuable unit out of the fighting line, and it ought to be viewed as such. The man who committed that offence probably did it out of that sort of familiarity which breeds contempt in everything. I do suggest, however, that some commission competent to deal with military questions should decide what is right and wrong should be appointed to inquire into the whole of these sentences in suspense, or which are now being com- pleted. I think that would be an act of justice which would commend itself to the Army on the whole, and I hope it may be carried into effect.
I wish to ask in the first place whether this Bill is necessary, but, whether it is necessary or not, I think we are entitled to examine the statements made by Ministers during the recent Election on the subject of no Conscription. With regard to the necessity for military service, I think we are all agreed that an Army of some sort is required, but we cannot accept the estimate which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has given to the country. If he is correct, we can only conclude that the Peace Conference will be a failure, that the League of Nations will never be formed, and that we shall have to maintain in post-war times an Army much larger than in pre-war times, and in consequence of our doing this other nations will continue to have large armies; that, as the result of having Armies, they will gain momentum by their own weight, and, if I may differ from the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken, the effect of having a large Army is not to keep the peace of the world, but to make war possible. Besides that, if the right hon. Gentleman is correct in his estimates, we shall have a burden far exceeding the pre-war burden of armaments round our necks at a time when the financial burden of the country is a problem to everyone, and we do not see how we are going to meet the necessary national expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman is clearly a pessimist, but we do not believe that the Peace Conference is going to fail. We believe that the wisdom of the nations will make it impossible for war to occur in the world, and therefore we say that the Army that we have to keep up can be raised by voluntary means, and that at any rate unless and until the Peace Conference is proved to be a failure, there is no necessity to force upon the country a Bill that contains a principle which is abhorrent to the mass of the people.
Perhaps I may, just briefly, trace the history of Conscription in this country. For the first eighteen months of the War as many soldiers flocked to the Colours as the country was able to equip or arm or train, but at the end of eighteen months it was found that more men were needed. The magnitude of the task was then realised, and, as a result, the Government of the day regretfully brought in, and the House of Commons with equal regret passed, a Bill for compulsory military service. I am bound to say, if I had then been a Member of the House, that I should have voted for it. There are some people who say that Conscription should have been introduced in 1914 immediately the War was commenced, but, in the first place, that would have been unnecessary because for the first eighteen months the country obtained all the soldiers it could train or equip, and, in the second place, it would have been suicidal, because the Government of the day would then have lost the unanimous support of the country which each successive Government enjoyed in the prosecution of the War. In 1914 the man in the street, and equally the man in the Government and the man in Opposition, failed to realise the terrible magnitude of the struggle that was before us, and public opinion then would not have assented to Conscription. Everything in this country, or almost everything, is in the end settled by instructed public opinion whether it is an industrial strike or whether it is Government legislation. In 1914 public opinion was not ready for Conscription, but by the beginning of 1916 it had been so far instructed as to assent to Conscription. To-day, when it is felt that hostilities are over and when by Ministerial statements people have been led to believe that it is no longer necessary for us to keep up a large Army, public opinion sees no reason why this system, which is abhorrent to nearly everyone in the nation and contrary altogether to the British nature, should be continued.
We believe that voluntary enlistment would be sufficient for post-war purposes. We believe that it would be not merely sufficient, but that it would be successful if in the first place the pay, in the second place the conditions, and in the third place the separation allowances were adequate. I even venture to say that in many cases where the soldiers are married their wives, if the separation allowances were sufficient, would be quite willing for their husbands to remain in the Army. There are any number of them who in pre-war days were not particularly attached to any trade, who have no particular job to go back to, who have enjoyed a freer life in the Army, and who now that the danger and horrors of it have disappeared would be perfectly willing to stop there. Therefore, I venture to put forward the opinion that voluntary enlistment would be perfectly successful if the right hon. Gentleman were prepared to try it. What are going to be the effects of this Bill? In the first place, human nature being what it is, the very men who would be prepared to remain in the Army under a voluntary enlistment system will be the first to grumble because they are being kept in the Army against their will. In the second place, a Conscript Army has not the same esprit de corps, and you cannot depend upon the same loyalty to duty and whole-heartiness of service as you can from a Voluntary Army. [Hon. Members: "What about the French Army?"] In the third place, if you have a Voluntary Army, the men who are not keen on a career in business, and have no particular place to go back to, would remain in the Army, while those who have a career before them, and who are anxious to get back, would be allowed to go back. In that way the national industries would get immediately the men who can be of greatest assistance to us in building up that output of raw material and manufactured goods that we need at the present time. Therefore, I venture to submit that this Bill is unnecessary, ill-advised, and in any case premature at the present time.
Perhaps I may now be allowed to turn for a moment to the Ministerial statements that were made during the election. If this Bill is not necessary, as we contend, there is no justification whatever for breaking the promises of No Conscription that were made during the election, but even if it is necessary the Government themselves must have known at the time of the election that it would be necessary, and they had therefore no right to throw out the promise which they did. The Prime Minister told us the other day that, even if he did promise a new heaven and a new earth, he did not promise it by 15th March. He certainly did not promise a new hell in the form of a Conscription Bill before 15th March. There are Gentlemen on the Back Benches who support the Government who also made promises, or who implied them, in their election speeches, addresses, and posters, and one will look with interest to see how they vote on the Second Reading. Possibly at a later stage in the Bill we shall be able to reproduce some of the speeches and pledges which they made. I particularly want to appeal to those behind the Government who are of the same political faith as some of us on this side of the House. Possibly they are rather fettered by the caucus and somewhat troubled in conscience; but before they vote in favour of this Bill I would like to remind them that they have constituents as well as coupons. There are two kinds of debts—debts which are legal, and debts of honour. If a man fails to meet a debt which is legal, his creditor can obtain his due by legal process. A debt of honour is usually put right by public opinion exacting the punishment which the debtor deserves. An election pledge is a debt of honour, and it will be in the great court of public opinion that judgment with costs will be given against the Government and their supporters. There are some nations which can be driven, but others can only be led. This country is one that can only be led. It is prepared to be led in matters which are of national importance, especially in times of national crisis, but no case has been made good for bringing in at the present time a further Conscription Bill, and I venture to say that the Government will reap a harvest of irritation and growing discontent if the War Office for some time to come exercises domination over the destinies of a great part of the male population of the country.
I am sure that the House will join with me in tendering congratulations to the two hon. Members who have just addressed it on the clarity and the cogency with which they have given expression to widely varying views upon this Bill. I desire to say only a very few words from the point of view of a Coalition Liberal who was elected to support and who intends to support the Government in carrying out their declared programme. May I remind hon. Members that the whole of this question hinges upon the language of Section (1) of the first Military Service Act which was made law on 27th January, 1916, Section (1), Sub-section (1), says:
Persons to whom this Act applies shall be deemed to have been duly enlisted in His Majesty's Regular Forces for general service with the Colours or in the Reserve for the period of the War.
In criticising the conduct of the Government I wish it to be understood that I am not attributing to the Prime Minister any dishonesty of purpose, nor am I attributing any personal lack of good faith either to my right hon. Friend who moved
the Second Reading or to the Secretary of State for War. The Prime Minister at Bristol said:
The Military Service Act was passed in older to meet a great emergency. When the emergency is passed, when the need is passed, the Act will lapse and there is no intention to renew it.
The Act was passed to meet the emergency of the War. That the emergency was the War is clear from the terms of the Section which I have just read to the House, because the service which that Act compelled was to be service for the period of the War. Accordingly, after that period, whatever it be, has lapsed, the Act terminates, and we have the pledge of the Prime Minister that the Act would be allowed to lapse and that there would be no attempt to renew it. By a Bill passed, I think, at the end of the last Parliament, the end of the period of war was statutorily defined as being as near as may be the Ratification of the Treaty of Peace. I find myself in this difficulty. I ask my hon. Friend to accept my word when I say I am sure that he sincerely and honestly believes that this Bill is consistent with the pledges which the Government gave, and which they allowed supporters like myself to give to the electorate. But I am unable to take that view. My right hon. Friend has the aid of a number of very skilled casuists, and is able to perform mental gymnastics which are impossible to a plain lawyer like myself. It is everyone's duty to walk very carefully when we touch upon these matters. We have been reminded by the Prime Minister that at the bottom of the present industrial unrest there is suspicion. The only weapon with which the Government can meet suspicion is to keep good faith, and the greatest disaster that could befall the industrial situation to-day would be if the working classes were to measure the promises of the Government by the standard of this Bill. We have been told this Bill is absolutely necessary, and that the necessity stares us in the face. But surely the absolute necessity for this Bill should have been just as apparent in December, when the General Election took place, as it was in February, when the Bill was brought in.
It seems to me my right hon. Friend is in this dilemma. Either the Government did not perceive this absolute necessity now so apparent, or they did. If they did not they were guilty of a tragic want of foresight, which has given rise—and un- fortunately we can each of us, from the correspondence which pours in upon us every day from men in the Army, vouch for that—to far too optimistic ideas as to the date of release. If they did foresee it, it would have been perfectly easy and perfectly straightforward to inform the people of the absolute necessity at the time of the election, so that they would, have known that, when the War came to an end, they or their sons or their brothers would still have to remain in the Army and be unable to get back to their ordinary walks of life. I defy my right hon. Friend to say that the language used by the members of the Government at the election was not certainly consistent with an honest intention to allow the present Military Service Acts to lapse when their alloted time had expired. I believe it was so understood by every plain man, and if the Government really intended to give people the impression that they were so to lapse, and that there would be no more Conscription, they could hardly have used language which was a better vehicle to convey that impression. We are told that that impression, which all my Constituents have, and which I believe the constituents of the majority of the Members of this House have, was an unfortunate mistake. If that impression was an unfortunate mistake, if the Government really used language which was open to misconstruction so serious, we have for the first time in history a very serious spectacle, the spectacle of a great Government uttering not merely what my hon. Friend knows was a terminological inexactitude, for it is no uncommon thing for a Government to do that, but making terminological inexactitude a plank in their election platform. Side by side apparently with the expressed programme of social reform there ran another unauthorised and unexpressed programme, put forward by certain people in Government Departments, whose motive was to get rid of vested interests in the accuracy of language, and to make this country a fit place for casuists to live in.
Surely the first necessity is for plain dealing! The country must be made to believe that when the Government makes a statement it actually means what the plain, ordinary man understands by it. Without that there can be no confidence, and there will be no rest in the industrial world. During the last eighteen months unavoidably and necessarily I have seen a good deal of labour unrest, and have tried to the best of my humble powers to grapple with it. Since I came home sick from active service I have seen a good many serious labour troubles which have flowed from the discovery that the words of a Government Department were capable of two interpretations—the interpretation that the plain man puts on them and relies on and another interpretation which is relied on by a Government Department when the pinch comes. As an instrument for producing unrest I think there is no more potent factor than conduct of that kind by a Government or employer. I venture to think the mere suspicion of that sort of thing at a crisis like this is to be avoided at almost any cost. I agree with my hon. Friend opposite that we have far too little evidence that the War Office have really tried to avoid Conscription. Instead of making a great effort to do that, they have produced this Bill, and the most serious thing is that this Bill places on the shoulders of the Prime Minister, whom, at any rate, the soldiers have always trusted—it places upon his shoulders at a particularly anxious time a fresh load of difficulty arising out of what will be generally construed as a gratuitous breach of faith. My right hon. Friend has had to stand sponsor for this Bill. I very much regret to have to oppose the Government as I and some of my hon. Friends think we must do, not only by speech but by vote. I can assure my right hon. Friend, mistaken though he thinks we may be, that we do it in defence of a supreme national interest, the maintenance of an untarnished public faith.
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and add the words
this House declines to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which is contrary to oft-repeated pledges given by Ministers during the passage of previous Military Service Bills, and which is not in conformity with the declared policy of the Government at the General Election.
I want first to congratulate my hon. Friend on the very clear and outspoken statement he has given with regard to this measure. There was, very naturally, considerable doubt as to what coupons really meant. I think many of us interpreted coupons as being a guarantee that whatever the Government proposed Members would be compelled blindly to accept. We have had one clear indication of that in
the course of this Debate as far as this measure is concerned. While I must congratulate my right hon. Friend on the political strategy which he has adopted in not opening his case as the Minister in charge, but rather waiting for the Debate. I certainly cannot congratulate him or the Government upon the time that they have chosen to introduce such a measure as this. One would assume that the Government were entirely ignorant of the feeling in the country outside. One would assume that they had no knowledge of the industrial unrest. One would imagine that they did not recognise that there was a great struggle going on at this moment, not every day, but practically every hour, inside certain great trade unions as to whether there is to be a strike or not. And this is the moment that they choose to introduce a Bill which not only violates every pledge that was given during the passing of the Military Service Acts, but also violates every pledge that was given during the General Election!
What, after all, is the true trend of thought at this moment? You have, on the one hand, a large and growing body of organised Labour outside who do not believe in political action, who frankly and openly state that in their judgment the industrial weapon is the only weapon that should be used. These people do not hide their opinions. They state these opinions here, there, and everywhere, and one of their arguments—one of the reasons why they do not bother with Parliament and why they prefer strikes, is because they say they cannot believe the word of politicians. In short, they say, "We do not trust the Government." That is their weapon. It is a weapon with the use of which I totally disagree. It is a method with which I am daily at war, because I still believe, as I have often stated in this House, that so far as our Constitution is concerned it gives full and free political expression to the people's will. I want to maintain that. But you cannot maintain it, you cannot defend it, if you are face to face with the fact that in less than three months from the Government coming into power, in less than three month's from the General Election, in less than three months from the time that the Prime Minister himself declared that the statement that they intended to bring in another Conscription Act was a lie—and those were exactly his words—we find our-
selves this afternoon facing that very issue. What did the Prime Minister say on this particular question? Let it be observed that he said, when every constituency was plastered with posters asking
Who won the War?
when everybody was not only told that the War was over, but they were asked to give a vote of confidence to the people who won the War. Incidentally, it was forgotten that the soldiers had something to do with the winning of the War. At all events, so far as the great bulk of the population were concerned, they were told that the people who had won the War were the Government. The Prime Minister, in dealing with this question at Bristol, said:
You have got the usual attempts made to frighten the electorate. One of the most effective means of doing so is to say that the Government mean to keep up a Conscript Army in this country. That is not true.
Then that means that we are not proceeding with this Bill. [An Hon. Member: "Is the War over?"] The hon. Member will have his chance, and can speak later. The Prime Minister did not stop there. [An Hon. Member: "What is the date?"] This is the Bristol speech on 10th December. The Prime Minister did not stop there. He said:
The Military Service Act was passed in order to meet a great emergency. When that emergency is passed—
Reserve your cheering—
When that emergency is passed, the need is past and the Act will lapse, and there is no intention to renew it.
Now where are your cheers? That is to say that in December the Prime Minister declared that the Military Service Acts would lapse and that if they did lapse there was no intention of renewing them. What I want to know is whether this Bill does not mean a renewal of the Military Service Acts? My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, shakes his head. Let me, in order that the plain man may understand what is meant, put this to him: If the Military Service Act has not lapsed, and if this is not a renewal of the Conscription Act, can you tell me that when this Bill is passed, if any soldier who enlisted under the previous Acts asks for his discharge, he can claim it? My right
hon. Friend does not shake his head at that. Whatever the legal interpretation may be, so far as the ordinary soldier is concerned, the present Military Service Acts enable him at the end of the War to claim his discharge. This Bill when it is passed will prevent him getting his discharge. That to the ordinary man in the street, is a renewal of the Act. The House of Commons may put a different interpretation upon it, but certainly the man in the street will put that interpretation upon it.
I want to lay down two general propositions in connection with the matter. First, there will be no disagreement on any side with the statement that there is no lack of patriotism in our people. The statement is invariably made in connection with Conscription, and it is said that it would have been a good thing if we had introduced a Conscription Act in 1914. That statement is often made, but it is made by people who are entirely ignorant of the facts. It is made by people who do not know that between 1914 and 1915 the War Office had to issue instructions no less than three times to alter the physical standard, because they could not deal with the men who were volunteering their services. That should be known, not only for the benefit of those who make these mis-statements, but it should also be known as some credit to our country during the early stages of the War. Therefore, the first proposition I lay down, which will be agreed, is, that there is no lack of patriotism in any section of the people. My second proposition is that we never have been, and are not to-day, a military nation. I submit that this question of Conscription and the object of this Bill cannot be separated from the general peace policy of the country. If it is going to be assumed that the League of Nations is a fraud, if it is going to be assumed that the League of Nations is a mere camouflage, if it is going to be assumed that the League of Nations is a mere phrase, and intended to be nothing else, then I agree that we shall be compelled to consider the whole military situation. If in 1914 a Conscript Army was unnecessary, with Germany the military Power she then was, and if to-day Germany as a military nation is utterly destroyed, if the whole of the Central Powers as a military, force are utterly destroyed, what, I ask, is the necessity for the maintenance of 900,000 men such as is contemplated in this Bill? I suppose—we have had no evidence yet—that the Allies are going to make some contribution. We have not yet heard what is to be the contribution of the other Allies. It would be very interesting to know that. In view of the fact that we hold the sea, that our first line of defence is our naval power, that France and Italy are conscript nations; in view of the period when America came into the War, if our contribution to the holding of this territory is to be 900,000 men, what, we are entitled to ask, is to be the contribution of the other Allies? If the contribution of the other Allies is proportionate to this 900,000, I want to know what is the meaning of all the talk we hear to-day about having destroyed militarism? If the contribution of the other Allies is proportionate to the 900,000, it means that after four years of war, the position of the Central Powers being what it is, it is intended to have an army of at least 3,250,000. If that is the position, instead of us pretending that the War is over and that militarism is crushed, we can come to no other conclusion than that militarism has triumphed.
We are asked, and rightly asked, what is the alternative that we propose? My first answer to that is, that our alternative is no departure from the Armistice terms upon which the Peace Treaty ought to be based. If there is to be a departure—we do not even now know what the Peace terms are—and if we are going to alter the Peace terms just at our will, then I agree entirely that it may be necessary to have these additional men. If that is necessary, I only put in the qualification that the people of this country ought at least to be told. The other alternative, I would submit is, that we ought to treat the soldier as we would treat a civilian. No tribute is too high to pay to the great first Army of this country, the men who not only gave their lives but who enhanced our reputation in the early stages of the War. While paying that tribute, no one would challenge the statement that the basis of our military system then was entirely wrong. Military gentlemen in this House will be the first to admit that your non-commissioned officer is one of the most important units of the whole of the Army; they are men with experience, knowledge, and service. While admitting that, we are compelled to admit also that prior to the War, and during the War, the basis upon which our Army was run was such that non-commissioned officers, with all their experience, repeatedly refused to take commissions. Why? Not because they had not the ability; not because they would not have made good officers, but because they were not sufficiently paid to maintain the position. That was the position in 1914. What is the position to-day? My right hon. Friend will undoubtedly say that while he is getting large numbers of men to volunteer he is not getting sufficient. Can you wonder at it, when the man at present in France can take up the daily newspaper and see that, with all the advancement already made, with all the additional promises of the Government, he is to-day offered for his services to the country 5s. a week less than the Government pay to the man unemployed. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
What about separation allowance, rations, lodgings, and medical attendance?
Wait a moment! Take the single man who to-day is in the Army. Let it be observed that the overwhelming mass that will be covered by this Bill will be the younger men. [Hon. Members: "No."] Yes, it must be so, and, indeed, it ought to be. If it is so, it is the overwhelming mass of single men. Take a single man to-day in the Army, with a fair allowance for his food, and compare that with unemployed pay. The real test to apply to it is that if you say to a man "We are going to compel you to occupy your present position," he at least is entitled to say to you, "If you did not compel me I should be able to earn so much in civilian employment." If he asks you that, what is your answer, unless you are prepared to say, "Yes, because I am compelling you to do this job I am prepared to pay you, and see that you do not suffer because of your absence." That is the logic of the whole case. If it is argued that the soldier ought not to be paid, say so, but let the soldier know. Do not argue it under the guise of something else. Do not pretend one thing and mean another.
I have. I have already shown the basis of unemployed pay compared with the allowance made to a single man, because when you deal with a married man again you have to go into the difference between the amount allowed to the unemployed man for his children, as compared with the soldiers' separation allowance, and I also pointed out that in these matters you have to keep in mind the single men. But whether they be single or married, I am laying down this general proposition, that you have no right to compel a man to fight for you at a less wage than he can earn in ordinary civil employment. In other words, unless that principle is admitted you immediately say that you agree with sweated labour. [Hon. Members: "No."] You may not like it put in that way, but that is what it amounts to. [Hon. Members: "No."] If I can earn£3 a week in civil employment, and you compel me to remain in the Army at 30s., you may call it what you like, but you are robbing me of 30s. [An Hon. Member: "Is £3 a week an average wage?"] It does not matter what the average wage is if you are paying a man less than he can earn. In my judgment you would be able to retain men if you paid them sufficiently well. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Guest) said the Bill had two objects: one was the maintenance of the Army of Occupation, and the other security and order at home.
I presume that does not mean interference in any way with industrial trouble, because if again at this stage Conscription is introduced, that being one of its objects, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will clearly realize what that would mean, and it is because he does not mean that that I want him to give a satisfactory assurance.
That does not answer my point. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would desire to say that whatever other object the Bill had, it is not intended to have a Conscript Army to use for industrial purposes. In every country in the world where Conscription is in operation that is what has happened. In every country in the world that has a Conscript Army evidence can be given that it has been and is often used for industrial purposes.
But the difference is this, and no one knows it better than the right hon. Gentleman, that if everyone is liable to Conscription, even if they are in the Reserve of so-called civilians, it is only necessary to mobilise them, and they can be used for industrial purposes in an entirely different way.
All the men who are now being demobilised and released from the Army are released altogether from the operation of the law and cannot be called up again without a new Act of Parliament.
May we accept that statement? Does that apply to the Y Reserve men? Does the right hon. Gentleman say that is the position of all the men who have been demobilised?
Certainly that is the intention under the Bill. I have dropped altogether the provisions for re-mobilisation. It would be a very grave responsibility to take, and I wanted the men when they left the Colours to feel that they were free and had gone back to civil life. I am not taking in this Bill power to recall them after the revocation of the Peace Treaty, when the Military Service Acts lapse.
This is very important. I welcome the statement, and these half-million men will welcome it, because up to this moment they are classed as Reserves.
Let me be perfectly clear. When the Military Service Acts lapse, as they will do, when, according to legal definition, peace is ratified, those men will pass altogether out of our control. This Bill, which will prolong compulsion for a limited number and for a limited "term, will not prolong the obligation of those men who have been demobilised, who will remain entirely outside its scope, and they cannot be called up unless Parliament consider the emergency sufficient to pass new legislation.
This is a reversal. Hon. Members say, "Hear, hear!" but now the right hon. Gentleman has directly contradicted them. But note the difference between his second statement and his first. I will put it in the form of a simple question. I want to know whether the half-million men demobilised since the Armistice, not yet in receipt of discharge papers and classed in Reserve, liable to be called upon again, are, according to the right hon. Gentleman's statement, not further liable for service?
No. The right hon. Gentleman was engaged in discussing this Bill, and he was suggesting that we were keeping under the Bill a large Reserve which might be called up under the Bill in case of civil disturbance. I say that is not so. This Bill will not prolong the liability of a single man who is released from the Army after the period of the ordinary Military Service Acts has lapsed on the ratification of peace. He remains liable until the old Military Service Acts lapse, but this Bill which we are discussing in no way prolongs his liability to be called up, and he cannot be called up after the Military Service Acts lapse without a new Act of Parliament.
Only that the right hon. Gentleman did not completely understand it, that is all.
and I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman was anxious to give the second explanation, because all I was dealing with at the moment was the number of men who have been demobilised and are now classed in Reserve, and I was endeavouring to point out that, unless they are free, they are, to all intents and purposes, conscripts. That was the purpose of my argument, and also to show that they could be used for industrial purposes. The right on Gentleman said, No, they did not.
Exactly, under this Bill; but that does not answer what I said. I was dealing with the general question, and I also brought into the argument 500,000 men who are at present treated as in Reserve. At all events, I have now got a clear answer from the right hon. Gentlemen; and I still say the fact that these men are not fully discharged does give the War Office, as is now clearly admitted, the right, with or without this Bill, to call them up for any purpose. As long as that is made clear and hon. Members understand it, that is all we want.
In order to clear the point up, will the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Thomas) ask the Secretary for War whether on the ratification of Peace all these 500,000 men will not be entitled to their final discharge papers and will get them?
I was dealing with the manner in which they could be used for industrial purposes, and after all that is what we are concerned with at this moment.
My right hon. friend says they are not, and as long as we know that we know how to deal with it. I apologise for this departure. I will now go back to the original point, namely, that I moved this Amendment because the Bill violates every pledge given during the passing of the Military Service Act. Anyone who was in this House during the passing of that Act will know the clear, specific and definite statement that was made. The Bill also violates every pledge given during the General Election. In the Prime Minister's own constituency there was a poster
Vote for Lloyd George and no Conscription.
There are Members in this House who know perfectly well that similar posters were placarded in their own constituencies. It is for them to reconcile that statement with their votes on this Bill. So far as we are concerned our attitude is perfectly clear. For four years the nation has been fighting militarism. For four years the people of this country were asked to give their blood and treasure for the destruction of militarism. Four years ago the Central Powers were conscript countries. After four years we find ourselves to-day in a position of passing a Conscription Act which makes us a conscript country—enables the sons—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no, a temporary thing."]
The last Military Service Act was a temporary measure, so we were guaranteed. At all events we are not only going to oppose the Bill but to make the people of this country clearly understand what it means. It is a challenge to our election position, it is a challenge to the attitude everyone of us took up. We accept the challenge, whatever the consequences, because we believe that a war resulting in this country being made a conscript country was a war that did not leave us the victors, but left us the vanquished—a war that we entered upon as a free country, as free men, in which we voluntarily gave our lives. It leaves us to-day a conscript country. It may mean that we have won the war, but we have certainly lost the peace.
I hope we shall debate this proposition with an absence of heat, and with every desire to understand the real position, the real difficulties which we are facing on both sides of the House—with a sincere desire to understand each other's point of view, and a resolve to act in accordance only with the real necessities of the country.
I thought my right hon. Friend, in the closing sentences of his powerful criticism, rather used a minatory note. He rather suggested that if the Government proceeded with this Bill he and his Friends would go and tell the people of this country something that would make them very angry, and that we should be very sorry for. The right hon. Gentleman has an absolute right to tell people of this country anything he chooses. But this House is filled with Members who all represent great constituencies, who are all fresh from contact with enormous democratic electorates—[Hon. Members: "All pledged against the Bill!"]—and we have just as much right and power to put our case to the great mass of the people of this country as any party or section in the House. I always have the greatest respect for hon. and right hon. Members who represent the Labour party, and I recognise their long political experience and the great services they have rendered to the country. But we also represent masses of the labouring and working classes of this country, and I will never sit silent in this House and hear any exclusive claim put forward to go to the people of this country to speak in their name or warn them in any special way of what is being done. That is a privilege and a prerogative which belongs to Parliament as a whole.
I have taken part in five General Elections, and I never remember a General Election which was not followed by a disagreeable, sterile, bickering over election pledges. I never remember one, whether on this side or on that, in which charges have not been made of breaking pledges and of falsifying the mandate given by the country. But I venture to think that the charge which my right hon. Friend has embodied in his Amendment is really not a just one. Although it may receive some support from my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, I do not think it is one which, honestly pondered over, can be considered, in these non-partisan times, to be well or justly founded. I think my right hon. Friend was the person primarily responsible for raising this Conscription issue at the election. He is a grand electioneerer. He was going about the country endeavouring to help some of the more pacifist members of the Labour party to be returned to this House, striking a blow to help his own friends and colleagues and supporters, which he was quite entitled to do. He saw things were going very badly for them, and he thought, "If I can raise the Conscription bogey, if I can raise a scare, we may get the women's vote on the eve of the poll."
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right, Sir, but my object was that, the King having been drawn in, I was anxious to divert it.
I trust that on all occasions, in every party and in every quarter of the House, we shall fall in with the long-established practice of the House that the Crown is never drawn into Debate.
I am dealing with the facts, and I say that my right hon. Friend really threw this question violently into the area of our election discussion. That being so, the Prime Minister and other Ministers challenged on the subject in their constituencies, or challenged elsewhere, had to give prompt answers. I was challenged in my constituency. The Leader of the Labour party said there was no part of the country where greater disappointment would be felt at the course the Government had taken than in Dundee. I was asked a question in Dundee, and I gave this answer. I said:
No one will try harder than the British Government to prevent Conscription being continued after the War. We shall go to the Peace Conference and demand that all nations shall give it up, but what we do must depend on what other nations do.
I do not feel in the least alarmed about the view which my Constituents in Dundee will take of the course which I am called upon now to adopt. I am not in the least apprehensive of a charge of
breach of faith being made. The Prime Minister used exactly similar language. He said:
Whether you will require Conscription in the future in any shape or form depends, not on the opinion which I have expressed here on this platform, or which any other political leader expresses on any other platform. It will depend entirely on the terms of peace.
That was on 11th December at Bristol. It is not only a case of what Ministers said about their policy, with which their supporters are to some extent identified. What did their opponents say about the policy of the Government? I have here one of those striking and picturesque advertisements which at election times appear in so many of our daily papers. It is one which was issued, I believe, by the Landon Liberal Federation, and therefore it is a serious political document. The date on which it was published was 13th December, the day before the poll. After all these statements had been made by the Prime Minister, by the Leader of the House, and by other Ministers, at the last moment when the electors were going to the poll, the Landon Liberal Federation gave their view of what they thought the policy of the Government was, and what they thought of the declaration made by Ministers and of what the Government had decided to do. Let me read one or two extracts from this document:
Mr. Lloyd George, on 12th November, said, 'I am looking forward to a condition of things with the existence of a League of Nations under which Conscription would not be necessary in any country.' Is this good enough.
Mr. Churchill, his lieutenant, said as to Conscription on 26th November, 'What we do must depend on what other nations do.' Is this good enough?
Then there is a quotation from a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman whom I am following:
The right hon. J. H. Thomas exposes the War Office plan:—(a) Four years school military training; (b) one year's military service from the 1st October on which the man is nineteen; (c) fifteen days' military training for three years up to the age of thirty.
Then, as the last word of the Landon Liberal Federation to the women electors, the last word to fathers and mothers on the eve of the poll
If you want militarism and Conscription, vote Coalition.
I do not think we should be entitled to take them at their word. I do not think for a moment that we should be entitled, even if we wished, and certainly I do not, to come down here in this new Parliament, when there are hopes of a better state of things being established in the world, and to try to fasten a permanent scheme of military conscription upon the necks of the people of this country. I do not think that we should be justified in doing so at all, although the Landon Liberal Association told the electors that a vote for the Coalition was a vote for a policy of that kind. But I do consider that we are justified in coming to the House and asking for any necessary facility which is required for the purpose of winding up the War and for the transition from war to peace.
I would like to say another word to my right hon. Friend and to the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Adamson), who is not here at the moment. Both made exactly the same point. They made it in different terms with a different rhetorical style, but with exactly the same substance. It is a very serious point. After saying that the Bill was a breach of pledges, a point with which I have dealt, they proceeded to say what an inopportune time, what an unfortunate time, to bring in a measure of this kind. They both pointed out the critical nature of the negotiations and discussions which are going on at the great trade unions, and to the great inquiry which has been set up—this Parliament of Capital and Labour which is discussing all these important matters. They say, "What an untimely moment to make a proposal of this kind!" I know how hard my right hon. Friend always works for the advancement of the interests of the trade unions, with which he is associated, and of the working classes generally, and that he always tries very hard not to throw the coach off the rails. Therefore, in any criticism which I make of him, I shall always be governed and guided by a strong feeling of respect; but I cannot agree for a moment with him in the mood in which he recommends us to approach the working classes on a subject like this.
Are we really to keep this matter concealed, hidden from the public, until the trade unions have been drawn into some broad settlement in regard to coal-mines, railways, or whatever it may be, and then when they have been drawn into that settlement bring out this proposal, which we had concealed from their knowledge, kept behind our backs during this long period while they were coming to an agree- ment, as they thought, with all the cards on the table, and which was then produced after they had signed and settled on some big pacificatory agreement between capital and labour? It is much better that they should know the truth. We do not want to have peace in the industrial world under false pretences. It is very much better to deal frankly and fairly with the working classes of this country. They are accustomed to facing facts. They do not mind the truth. They are much more likely to make a bitter complaint if they are led step by step along a path of conciliation and discussion into making a broad new charter between the great interests on each side, and then suddenly to have a matter of this kind, which was kept secret from them, thrown into their midst. I am quite sure, if we had taken a step like that, my right hon. Friend would have been the first to have said that we had waited a month or so until this labour trouble was settled and then brought this forward, and that this was a breach of faith and taking an unfair advantage. "Why did you not tell us this before we settled up the other day?"
Then my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw), who made what I thought was rather a hard speech in some of his phrases, would have drawn attention to the danger of suspicion being aroused in the working-class mind and the distrust of politicians which is universal. I say it is better to let us have it all out now. Let us honestly tell the country what we are up against. Ask them to help us to face it, as they have always shown themselves ready to face any necessity that has come along before in the course of the struggle. [An Hon. Member: "And always will be."] And always will be. The policy of the Government is not what the Landon Liberal Association at the election said it would be. We do not consider ourselves entitled to fasten a permanent system of Conscription upon the people of this country. We are doing everything in our power to render such a state of affairs altogether impossible. Our policy is to create with all possible speed a volunteer Army for the garrisons of our Empire. No one has ever dreamed of using Conscription for such a purpose. No one has ever dreamed of taking men by Conscription of the ballot and sending them off to distant tropical stations in all parts of the world for long periods of foreign garrison duty. We are creating a voluntary Army and making great progress with our voluntrary Army. We also have to create a national Army for home work, either to revive or to replace the Territorial Force. Now whatever people may think about compulsory service in general, there is no necessity for compulsory service for the purpose of a national Army for a great many years to come, because we have an enormous mass of men already trained. Everywhere you will find great numbers of men, seasoned veterans, soldiers of the War, and it would be quite easy, I expect, on a voluntary basis to call up these men as Volunteers into the old Territorial formations, and they will train for a fortnight in the year, in the summer time, in the same way as the Volunteers and the Territorials did before the War. There again we have none of these sinister designs, but we are proceeding along the path which leads directly to the universal establishment of voluntary service in this country, not only for garrisons, but for home defence.
Not only the Government, but the military authorities of this country are also fighting in Paris for the abolition of Conscription throughout Europe. We have in the first place demanded formally that it shall be abolished in Germany. We have even put forward in detail proposals for limiting the German military forces to a voluntary army on a long service basis, capable of maintaining order and peace within the confines of Germany, but not capable of menacing by its numbers the security of neighbouring States. Whether we shall succeed or not in carrying our policy we do not know. At present we are in a small minority in the view we take, and our military men stand almost alone in this matter. However, discussions are still proceeding. We do not know at the present moment what any of the Great Powers of the world are going to do, or what system they will enforce on Germany, or what system they will adopt for themselves after the Peace is ratified. It is not at all impossible that Japan, France, Italy, and the United States may all be nations into whose military system some element of compulsory or national service enters. As for Russia, that pioneer of advanced democratic thought, Mr. Trotsky, has already adopted Conscription in the most violent form, fenced about by the most cruel practices.
That is the position in the world at the present time. But we shall do our utmost to persuade these nations to a different course, and we shall do our utmost to persuade them not by precept only but by example, and I think I may claim that we are setting that example at this present moment. We cannot remain indifferent to the final decision which all these nations may take as to the future arrangement of the world. The Prime Minister said repeatedly before the election that we must see what others do. There is really no question about that, and obviously we must pick our steps carefully and with prudence in a world so full of uncertainty and danger. Though we are not indifferent to the final decision, we are not waiting for it. We have definitely begun the creation of Armies on a voluntary system, both for overseas and at home, and we ourselves are labouring to the utmost here to re-establish that voluntary system which we were almost the sole nation to adhere to before the War. We are not waiting for the final decision. We are doing our utmost to procure the universal adoption of a voluntary system throughout Europe by our friends as well as enforcing it on our foes. Meantime we are setting an example of getting on with all speed to the creation of a voluntary force.
There is not the slightest truth in anyone saying that we want this Bill for Conscription, for keeping 900,000 men with the Colours because of Russia, or because we contemplate sending a large mass of conscript troops to Russia. If there was not a single British soldier in Russia, or if it was possible by a gesture to withdraw every single British soldier from Russia, or if there were no such place as Russia, I should still be standing here this afternoon introducing this Bill in the House of Commons. And if it was decided, on the other hand, to intervene in Russia, it is not with conscript troops that anyone would be so foolish as to act. I cannot conceive of anything that would be more unwise or imprudent than to use men taken by compulsion who were not volunteers for intervention in a matter of this kind. Whichever way you look at it, whether we are to withdraw from Russia or intervene, Russia has nothing whatever to do with this Bill and this Bill has nothing whatever to do with Russia.
My right hon. Friend elicited from me a statement which he welcomed. He did not welcome it quite so much when the explanation was given as when it was first made, but he welcomed the fact that this Bill does not prolong in any way the liability of men who have been discharged or demobilised to be called up again. That was a very important point. I must say that it took me a considerable time to make up my mind whether I should make that submission to the Cabinet or not, because the world is very unsettled during the present year; but I felt that if there was any great emergency arising after the Treaty of Peace had been signed we must come to Parliament and state the whole emergency, and the nation would certainly support us and give us all the legislative powers we desire. So I am abandoning in this Bill altogether all power to call up or to prolong the liability of men who have been demobilised, men outside the retaining Clause, by any process which comes under this Bill. They will be held under the old Act until that Act lapses in the ordinary course with the signature of the Peace. I think it my duty to vindicate the good faith and integrity of the Government and of those who support it in proceeding as far as we possibly can in harmony with the general wishes of the country to revert to a more peaceful system. We are not calling up, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, any new recruits as they reach the age of eighteen, and we have not called up any since the 11th of November.
I rather share that opinion. I think that it is the weakest point from my point of view in this Bill in that we are exacting from those who, if they have not borne all the heat and burden of the day, have borne a large share of it, further service and are stopping short of calling up younger men who have not hitherto been called upon to make any sacrifice. What is the reason why we have done that? It is because we hope that the necessity for which this Bill exists will rapidly pass away, and that it will not be worth while to call up and train whole new classes of young men. We hope that before those young men could be called up and trained the need will have got so much less severe that it will be possible to make large and continued releases of men under various categories and that the burden will only be laid upon a much younger class of men than those now held. I say quite frankly to the House, and my colleagues will bear me out, that I stated to the Cabinet that later on in this year, in five or six months, if we see that the state of the world makes it clear that we shall have to keep an Army on the Rhine during the greater part of next year, I should, if the Cabinet agree, come to the House of Commons and lay my case before it and say, "Would you prefer to call up a new class of young men and send them out to relieve their fathers or men old enough to be their fathers, or that those men should still be kept on the Rhine?" I do not believe it will be necessary to do that, but it is no use my shrinking from putting the facts fully before the House. Why should there be one set of facts which we always discuss privately, and one which is discussed in the Cabinet, and one which people always look at with their own eyes, and quite another which is thought suitable for the House of Commons? Let us not be afraid of the House of Commons or the country, but bluntly and plainly put the facts before them and trust to their good consideration of our difficulties. I do not believe it will be necessary. I believe that in six or seven months' time you will find that the increase in the Volunteers has been so good, and the decrease in our liabilities is so satisfactory that we shall be able to get through without it. But I think it is quite possible that the House might say to the Government that they would rather let some of the older men come home and that they would prefer some other way of calling up younger men if the need be shown.
What is the real need for this Bill? I was saying the other night that the League of Nations would have to face facts. We are in contact in these present times with very harsh and crude realities. The only reason which has led us to bring forward this Bill has been the driving power of imperious necessity. The soldiers who are serving in the Army at present, as the old Regular Army has practically vanished, are all entitled to their discharge either six months after the cessation of hostilities, which they interpret as six months after the 11th November, that is the 11th May next, or else on the ratification of the Peace Treaty, whichever comes first. Therefore, in quite a few months, how many we cannot tell and the uncertainty alone adds to the difficulty of the position, but on a certain date which is certainly approaching and which is near but which cannot be fixed, the entire structure of your army system flies into a myriad pieces automatically. That is what we are ap- proaching. On the day of the signature of peace every man who is with the Colours would be entitled, in the absence of this Bill if the House acceded to the suggestion made and refused to pass the Bill, to be released because the whole structure of the Army falls to pieces in every part of the world simultaneously. There would be no possibility of replacing any of our men who are in India or in Mediterranean fortresses or in Mesopotamia, or in Palestine or Egypt, or wherever they may be. The Armies would simply fly to pieces, nor could we in any way maintain or organise an effective Army on the Rhine. However doubtful we might be as to whether the Germans would act up to the treaty they signed, whatever necessities we might have, the whole of that Army would cease from that moment to be held together by the bonds of discipline and military control.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the size of the Rhine Army and that of the other Allies?
I will, certainly. The size, I think is 430,000 in the Army on the Rhine and on the communications leading up to it. I will publish tomorrow the full order of battle of the Army on the Rhine showing every unit which comprises that Army. But the Army that we are keeping there is no larger than the one which the United States of America is keeping there at present, but it is much smaller than the one which the French are keeping there, and that is because it is in a country adjacent to their own. It is no question of us bearing an undue burden in that respect, and we shall hold it open to ourselves to reduce it if we see the other partners in the Alliance reducing similarly. I say there is no possibility of organising a voluntary Army to take the place of the Army on the Rhine before peace is signed, and there is no possibility of organising forces to relieve the Territorials in India before peace is signed, and there is no possibility of getting a garrison for Malta or Gibraltar before peace is signed, and those fortresses would be absolutely undefended if we were prevented from taking this necessary action. [An HON. MEMBER: "Pay them!"] An hon. Member says, "Pay them" I think we have taken a very important and noteworthy step in regard to the pay of the Army, and I have reason to know that it has given great and widespread satisfaction among all ranks of the Army, and that it is producing a great deal of volunteering, and I hope will produce the very results which my light hon. Friend opposite seeks. But there is absolutely no possibility, by payment or by any other reforms of the kind at present, to get forces together as a matter of practical arrangement in time before the Treaty of Peace is ratified. I do not agree with my right hon. Friend opposite that the pay of the soldier at the present time is less than what is being paid in unemployment benefit. I have taken the trouble to inquire. A married man, with a wife and two children, in the Army on the Rhine or in Mesopotamia, or wherever it may be, receives the equivalent of 79s. per week.
I do not think my right hon. Friend should press me to tell him exactly how every part of it is made up now, speaking in Debate across the floor, but I can quite easily get it for him. You have to take into consideration the pay, the separation allowance, the allowance in regard to children, the lodging allowance, clothing, medical attendance, food, and so forth. That is what it is calculated to be. It is calculated also that young boys, single lads, with pay and allowances and equivalents, have what is equal to 49s. per week. The young boys of eighteen, whom, we saw in Hyde Park the other day before going away, will have a guinea per week pocket-money after all has been found. It is quite true that they probably spend some of that money to improve their mess, but, as a matter of fact, they will have pocket-money which really compares very favourably, I fancy, with what most of us experienced when we were at their age. Since I have mentioned this matter, I trust that they will avail of the facilities offered to them to save, and to send some of it to parents and relations and those connected with them in this country. What I say is, even with this pay, which is certainly not to be spoken of in terms of derision or disrespect in any quarter in this House, considering that these men are not in many cases skilled, these rates of pay are not getting us the numbers we require, and certainly will not get us the numbers, in any case, in time. There is no possibility of having them in time. In addition to that, we have got to offer one, or two, or three months' leave, so that the first thing that happens to our Volunteer when we get him is that he goes away for the best part of two or three months, and they are really no use to us until three months pass, and then they have to be formed up into units and to be sent out long distances, with perhaps hot weather obstructing the passage of the Red Sea, and other difficulties. So that it is physically impossible for us to create voluntary units to relieve garrisons abroad before peace is ratified.
We need 900,000 men during some of the months of this present year, and I hope that that number will be reduced continually as the year advances. At present we have got 45,000 and as I say they are entitled to three months leave. What is the use of our refusing to meet the emergency which is going to confront us. I am sure that my right hon. Friend opposite, if he were responsible, would face it with that courage with which he has faced many difficult situations, and that he would come boldly forward and say, "Whatever happens we cannot let the Army fly to pieces anyway." To vote against this Bill, however honestly intended, is a very serious step, and one which deserves to be most carefully considered, and which will certainly be long recorded because it is a vote which deliberately seeks to plunge this country and its military system into absolute anarchy on a date which cannot be far distant, and it is a vote which undoubtedly would deprive this country, if successful, of all power of securing the fruits of the War and of making the Germans observe the Peace Treaty and of doing our duty equally with our other Allies. Why, Sir, what do you think the Germans would do if they knew that the moment the treaty was ratified our armed forces would fly to pieces? They would make no difficulty about ratifying it. They would know perfectly well that the very act which they performed in ratifying the treaty would at the same time destroy all power on the part of the British Empire to enforce it. I say a vote against this Bill is a very serious step for a practical and patriotic man to take. We should not only lose all we have gained in the War; we should throw all the countries where our troops are at present into an absolute welter. We should not only lose the new provinces for which we have become responsible under the League of Nations, but we should lose our old Empire that we had before the War, every coaling station all over the world would be left undefended, and all the lands where our troops are now would be filled with disorderly crowds of disbanded ex-soldiers stranded far from home and under no obligation of military discipline or service. Let my hon. Friend who is always professing to be intimately acquainted with all military matters weigh well the consequences of giving a vote of this character.
My hon. Friend is recommending that the garrisons of all our coaling stations should be allowed to lapse.
I say that my hon. Friend has the courage of his convictions. He is prepared to sit tight, to do nothing, to allow Gibraltar, for instance, to be deprived of its garrison on the day when peace is signed.
I quite agree with my hon. Friend. If that is his view, he is quite right to vote for it, but I do not envy him the task of explaining his vote, if it were successful and if other Members in this House did not take the necessary steps to prevent these evil consequences arising, when next he visits his constituents. Sure I am of this, that the case which I have ventured to lay before the House this evening has only to be stated—I have tried to put it in the plainest terms—to commend itself to the good practical common sense of the working classes of this country. They would never forgive us if we were to muddle away the fruits of this War just because we had not got the pluck to come to them and ask them for what were the necessary administrative measures to maintain them. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw), asked if the Government foresaw this emergency, and if so why they did not tell the country at the time when the elections were going on. I am going to tell the absolute truth to the House. As far as I am concerned, it never occurred to me for a moment that this deadlock which I have indicated would exist in the future. It never occurred to me for a moment. In those days before the War came to an end, when we were fighting and struggling to get up the supplies to our Armies, when most of us were feeling that we had to fight the War all through the year 1919, it never occurred to me to visualise in exact detail month by month what would be the actual course of events after the Armistice had been signed and before peace had been ratified. I do not pretend to have conjured up that vision in my mind. I did not even know there would be an Armistice. Indeed, I thought it quite likely that there never would be an Armistice at all.
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman could have caught exactly what I said. I asked in effect why he and his colleagues did not make a speech similar to this, to the people during the elections, which were after the Armistice.
The moment the Armistice was declared we were plunged in all the extraordinary uncertainties of the peace negotiations, which continua until this moment, and I say quite frankly, and I am sure the House and my right hon. Friends will believe me, that I had no idea that this was the position. Till I went to the War Office I was not acquainted with the fact that the whole of the Army fell to pieces on the ratification of the Peace Treaty. I reject altogether any suggestion of bad faith or disingenuousness, and certainly if we had foreseen clearly and accurately in detail, step by step what the course of events would be during the first six or seven months of this year, we ought to have said to the electors, "We are not going to establish a permanent system of Conscription in this country. We hope it may be brought to an end, but we tell you quite plainly that we may have to have an interim Conscription Bill to provide for winding up the occupation period." I agree it would have been better if that had been said. Personally, I do not believe the electors would have minded a bit. They are very ready to give the Government every facility for bringing the venture on which they have embarked their lives and the lives of their dear ones safe to shore. There is only one alternative to this Bill that I can think of, and that is to delay the signature of the Peace. Of course, we might do that. We might say, "As we cannot face allowing all our military system to fly to pieces. We will held up the date of the Ratification of Peace until such time as we have raised a voluntary Army." That would be less disastrous on the whole than courting an administrative breakdown, but it would be procedure that has only to be stated to be condemned for its absurdity. This Parliament was elected on a very intense wave of feeling of all classes in the nation to secure the fruits of the War, and I believe, if you had said at the election, "You will not secure the fruits of the War without Conscription," they would have said, "Well, we must have it; we are not going to be baulked of the results for which we have worked so long and suffered so much." I am certain that the people of this country would never forgive us if we were to take up the contemptible position that we allowed a great administrative disaster of this kind to supervene because we had not the courage to come frankly and boldly to the House of Commons and ask them to give us the necessary power. Therefore, I trust that before my right hon. Friend commits himself and the party of which he is an ornament in this House, or before my right hon. Friend the Leader of the dissentient Liberals commits his party to an absolutely unreasonable vote, they will, in view of the assurances I have given and the reasons I have ventured to put before them, give the matter further and most careful consideration.
My right hon. Friend in the closing part of his speech said, amongst other things, that the vote which my colleagues and myself intend to give against this Bill is a serious one. Well, I suggest that the vote which is going to be given by the vast majority, no doubt, of this House in favour of this Bill is also a very serious one, and the whole matter is certainly one which requires, and up till now has not received, very grave and careful consideration. My right hon. Friend last Monday made a lengthy statement to the House in introducing the Army Estimates. He deputed to my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Guest) the duty of opening the Debate upon this Bill, and I thought it would have been much more in consonance with the dignity of this House if on a measure of this grave importance we had had at the very outset of the Debate the arguments and the reasons upon which this Bill was founded. I listened with very great care to what my right hon. Friend said, and he did not in my judgment demonstrate a case for this
Bill with anything approaching either the gravity or the seriousness with which the first Military Service Bill was approached in 1915. What happened then? Long did the Government of that day hesitate as to whether they would place on the Statute Book an Act enforcing military service, and in the words of Mr. Asquith, it was not until they were fully satisfied that the vast majority—indeed, the general sense of the community and of the House—lay behind the proposals of the Government, that they laid them before the House of Commons, and Parliament almost unanimously agreed. There is no doubt at all that owing to the method which was then adopted there was a measure of public support behind that measure which carried it not only successfully on to the Statute Book, but secured the assent of the country in its application. What has been done on this occasion? What attempt, I ask the Leader of the House, has been made to find out whether there is a general consensus of public opinion to enable this Statute to be put into force with general assent? I do not think I am at all exaggerating when I say that there is not a single Member of Parliament of any experience who did not hear with astonishment the statement made by the Secretary of State for War in reply to the query addressed to him by the hon. and gallant Member for Kilmarnock as to why this measure was not indicated, at any rate, to the country at the time of the General Election. His reply was that they never thought of it. He spoke not only for himself. He spoke, as far as I know, for those who are his colleagues as well. It never occurred to them that under the military Statute the Army was, as he said, liable to fly to pieces. There were no less than two or three Statutes placed on the Book. There was the first one in 1915, and the words are as clear as they can be, "For the duration of the War." The Statute of 1916 repeated it again, and, lest there should be the slightest dubiety on the point, we had a special Act passed on the 21st of November of last year, stating what the end of the War might be. Therein is clearly set out that
The date so declared shall be as nearly as may be the date of the exchange or deposit of ratifications of the treaty or treaties of peace.
Never was there a weaker excuse made in this House by any responsible Minister
for the most extraordinary omission which was ever alleged, that they did not know. In November last it was not present to their minds that when the ratification of the peace took place the Army in all parts of the globe, as my right hon. Friend so graphically described it, would fly into a hundred thousand or more pieces. It is true. I regret, and I am sure the country will regret, that its rulers did not have that obvious point in their minds. But what was the position? The position laid down then—and this is fundamental, no matter what my right hon. Friend may say with regard to bandying election pledges to and fro across the floor—as one of the main reasons for the huge majority which the Government got, that at the end of the War there was to be no more compulsory military service. And we are face to face to-day with the fact that there is to be.
I pass from that, and I urge once more this point. Why have they not taken steps which would justify them in being able to say, as was the Government of 1915, "We carry with us the vast majority of the people of the country." They have no evidence at all of it—none at all. "What is our alternative?" say they. The alternative is one which has been mentioned in almost every speech made to-night in opposition to this Bill. It is this: you have not given a fair chance to the people or to the soldiers on the voluntary system. When were these new rates of pay first introduced? A month ago. When were the new conditions which were going to be so attractive to soldiers introduced? A month ago. The Armistice was signed three months ago. Then was the time to get ready for the obvious contingency and the great necessity, obviously of keeping the armies in being. But it is only a month ago that they started these new conditions of pay and other conditions, which, I suppose, must be attractive to soldiers, and then they come to us and say: "We know, or, at any rate, we have come to the considered conclusion, that the voluntary system will not find the men." They have not given it a chance. They have not taken the measures which are at all consistent with the position they now take up. I say this: Since they have exhibited an extraordinary blindness to the obvious, I am entitled to express my opinion, and I say that if they had made that experiment two months ago, and put out conditions of service which would have attracted men, if they had humanised the War Office, if they had let the men know that the system under which the Army has grown during the last four and a half years was going to be radically altered, that a new spirit was going to be driven through the whole of our Army from top to bottom—I say, if they had done that two months ago, the response to the call of the country would have been in such numbers and such quality that they would have no need at all to put this proposition before the House they have to-night.
Here is another argument I venture to submit. In 1915 this country was admittedly in a state of grave danger, and in the middle of that the Government of the day did not hesitate to wait until the force of facts almost impelled them to make those proposals before Parliament. [An Hon. Member: "It cost thousands of lives!"] It is very doubtful, because, as my right hon. Friend said over and over again, the War Office said they could not take any more recruits. Well, if you took that risk in war, surely you can take this risk of a full, fair trial of the voluntary system, with adequate conditions, with a reformed War Office—
My right hon. Friend spoke of the danger of the whole British Army flying into a million pieces near the date of peace. But what are the words of the Statute. They are that the date which His Majesty in Council may declare as the date of the termination of the War:
Shall be as nearly as may be the date of the exchange or deposit of ratification of the treaty or treaties of peace.
It is quite obvious that it is going to be nearly May or June before peace is signed—probably later—and how long is ratification going to take? I shall be putting it very mildly if I say another three months. It has to go to America and be ratified by the Senate. It has to go to every one of the smaller nations—I do not know how many are represented at the Peace Conference. That means three months after the middle of May. Within that time, or within the next two months—this is what I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House—there is full time to make a real, great attempt to get the necessary men on a voluntary basis. Why cannot that attempt be made? I venture to say you will not carry the people of this
country with you in this measure until you have exhausted such a proposal as that. They will think, rightly or wrongly, that this is a measure which has been rushed on them, and that you have ulterior objects, which are not at all unconnected with a permanent measure of compulsory military service. [Hon. Members: "No!"] Do not make any mistake about it—they will. [An Hon. Member: "Wait and see!"] I do not want that kind of thing to happen. We all want to carry the country with us, do we not? Everybody listening to me this evening knows that the right thing is to carry the great, reasonable mass of public opinion with you in a matter like this, and I am only making this proposal in the best of good faith. I have had a good deal to do with the Military Service Acts, and I know something about them. I voted for the others. If I had seen my way, I should have voted for this, but I cannot vote for it, simply because the measures which could have been taken, and which should have been taken, to see whether the Armies could not be filled by voluntary service, have been deliberately neglected.
One or two words about the proposal itself. My right hon. Friend said—and said truly—that one of the most disagreeable points of the measure to him, as it must be to all people, was this, that it proposed to get more military service out of the men who had already rendered military service, and did not touch those who had given none. It is a serious question. Just visualise what is going to happen under this measure. Three or four months hence, when peace is signed, tens of thousands of men who have fought in many battles, and others who have been kept for a long period in unhealthy climates, will be condemned to another eight or nine months with the possibility of another Military Service Act on top of that. And what is going to be the position at home? Tens of thousands of young men who have been at home earning high wages all through the War—not boys of eighteen, but those who have been working in munitions and other protected establishments—will go on without having rendered one scrap of military service.
Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to conscript those young men, then?
If my right hon. Friend will put down an Amendment in that sense, it will be the duty of the Government to give it the most careful consideration.
I am pointing out what your measure means, and I am going to press it home on my right hon. Friend. What he said on Monday with regard to discipline in the Army was this:
The bond of discipline is subtle and sensitive. It may be as tense as steel or as brittle as glass. The main element of discipline in the British Service is a sense of justice and a sense of willing association among great bodies of men with the general policy of their country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1919, col. 74.
When you consider all these men three or four months hence, and their feelings and their knowledge of what is going on in this country, with its tens of thousands of men who have not served, many thousands of whom ought to have served, I say these are grave matters which will have to be considered and weighed, and ought to be considered and weighed, by the Government in this step which they are taking.
There is another point which arises. It is proposed to keep the men who have been most lately conscripted. The men who have been most lately conscripted to a very large extent consist of men who were kept back for strong civilian reasons, and therefore it follows that these are the men, ex hypothesi, who could be least spared at that time. These men whom you are keeping back are the men who have been most valuable to the civilian services of this country. The whole measure will carry with it a sense of grave injustice, and affect the discipline of the Army, and cause a great deal of civilian and social disturbance in this country. It ought not to have been brought forward, I say again, until the voluntary system had had a fair and full trial. There is one other point to which I will just refer. I was struck by a sentence in my right hon. Friend's speech which indicated, and he was quite honest about it, that he evidently contemplated the time when the great countries of the world would be committed to compulsory military service—America, Japan, France, and the others. As we go on, how the League of Nations begins to fade. I hope—although that is in my right hon. Friend's mind, and he is trying to take a practical view of it—for better things than that, and I say that the introduction of this measure under the circumstances, with the reasons given, is one which is likely to cause grave dissatisfaction. We have not shown a lead. The Prime Minister the other day, at the end of one of his speeches, said that this little Island, set in the seas, should show a lead to civilisation. We had the opportunity of showing the lead in regard to Conscription, and we failed to take it.
I repeat again that my reasons for voting against this measure are these. No definite notice has been given by the country in regard to it. When the authority was given to this Parliament from the country at the election, and when the election was on, the people were completely, I will not say deceived, but I say they did not understand anyhow, and even the leaders did not understand. I say that this proposal brought here has no moral authority behind it. That is a grave statement to make. There is no moral authority of the country behind it. You would have the moral authority necessary, and the driving force behind it, if you had given the voluntary system a fair trial. It is not too late to do it now. There must be three months, at least, before peace is signed, and another three months, at least, before it is ratified. So there are six months yet. Well, give another two months, and have a. full and fair trial. Let it be done on the lines of 1915. You did it in war, do it in peace. Then I am quite sure the response from the country would be of such a nature that this measure would be quite unnecessary and would never proceed to the Statute Book.
I only desire to make a very few observations, and I should like to make them with a very great deal of caution, because I look upon this as a very serious occasion. I do not for a moment doubt that the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has done so with the greatest sincerity, but I think it was unfortunate that he should have begun to talk of ulterior objects in relation to this Bill. I think that at the most critical moment of the War, to impute ulterior objects, which means mala fides on the part of the Government, who have the most difficult problem which has ever confronted the country to deal with at the present moment, is really something which men ought to pause about before they put before the democracy of this country. Why should the right hon. Gentleman impute ulterior objects to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Churchill) or to His Majesty's Government? Why should he use that one word—
If the right hon. Gentleman is under the impression that I imputed mala fides to the Government, or if the very words I used are capable of that construction, I most unreservedly withdraw.
Let us leave out mala fides. What does "ulterior objects" mean? Let us be quite open about this. It is far too grave a matter to deal with as a question of mere words. Why did the right hon. Gentleman suggest to this House and, as he himself said, through the House to the country, that they must look to see that this has not behind it some hidden hand which desires to impress military service in future upon the country against the pledges which were given by the Prime Minister at the General Election? I think it is regrettable that the right hon. Gentleman has put this forward, and I have not heard any grounds given to support any such suggestion, which makes it all the more regrettable. Anyone who listened to the speech of the Secretary of State for War must have realised the very grave difficulties which now confront the future management of the Army in this country. In my opinion, the first duty of this Government, or any other Government—and I am sure that is the view the country would take—is to take care that we do not weaken by one iota our position in the councils of Europe, or our position in relation to obtaining the very greatest fruition of the victory that we have won and of the sacrifices that we have made. It has been said here that the fundamental question at the General Election was that at the end of the War there would be no Conscription. I believe the fundamental matter that was in the minds of the electors of this country was that we should wage this War and wage this Peace to obtain to the fullest extent all that we were entitled to obtain after carrying it on for four and a half years under the circumstances that we did. My right hon. Friend, when he charges breaches of electioneering speeches on the part of the Government, begins to parse out of the Act of Parliament what the pledge meant as to the end of the War. He begins to suggest that the people of the country, when they were told that there would be no Conscription at the end of the War, meant the end of the War as laid down by the Act of Parliament. I do not believe that the people of this country thought of any such thing. I believe what they meant by the end of the War was the permanent and lasting peace, was the exaction of indemnities from Germany, was making Germany pay for what she has done, and enabling us to see that we had reaped the full fruits for the men whose lives were lost, and who had left their house desolate. That is what they meant by the end of the War. If the right hon. Gentleman had gone to the country, and had said, "Do you wish, the day peace is signed, that we should have our Army in anarchy, so as to have to withdraw them from the points of vantage from which we could compel Germany to carry out her obligations, and render the whole thing fruitless?" what answer does he think he would have got from any audience in any part of the country who had lost their relatives in the course of this War? No; this suggestion of a breach of electioneering speeches is all nonsense. The country meant us to wind this up, and to wind it up successfully; and no Government would be worthy of sitting here for one day who gave way an inch of advantage until we had exacted the fullest penalties from Germany.
Then my right hon. Friend says he has put forward an alternative. What is his alternative? He says, "Why do not you imitate what was done when the first Military Service Act was passed in 1916?"There are many of us who were in this House then who know that at that time the country was far in advance of the Government. We know perfectly well that if we could go back to those days, and if we had the history of all the failures that were occurring through the previous autumn as regards recruiting, that there was a responsibility upon that Government in the delay that then occurred which it is difficult to measure, but which, in my opinion, prolonged the War many, many months in consequence of our not taking this matter in time. Do not let us make that mistake again. Do not let us run any risk. Of course, you may lay it down that you will abandon the whole position the moment the peace comes, and risk the situation. That is in reality what my right hon. Friend suggests. No; we will risk nothing, and I hope the House will show by the vote they give to-night that they are as determined now as they were before the Armistice that this country shall see the thing through to the end.
In my opinion, this Bill reveals the true character of the Government almost at the outset of its career. I have always thought it was a dishonest and corrupt Government. It obtained power by the most fraudulent means, but I was reluctant to think of anything quite so dishonest as to bring in a Bill like this in such flat defiance of its election pledges. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister, at the General Election, definitely pledged himself against Conscription. It is quite idle for the Secretary for War to pick out involved phrases in the midst of long speeches and quote them amidst Tory cheers. I am dealing with specific pledges, and pledges which were given after these.
If the right hon. Gentleman would exercise a little patience, I was just going to deal with that point. I am dealing with perfectly specific pledges, made very late in the election, and after the circulation of the leaflet of the Landon Liberal Federation, which seemed to please the right hon. Gentleman so much. Take the appeal for the soldiers' vote in the Lloyd George programme. This was circulated in the Press, and advertised at great expense on 22nd December and 23rd December, long after this other leaflet. One of the principal items in that appeal was, "No more Conscription." How can you reconcile that with this Bill? You cannot do it. These words are perfectly definite. There is no reservation, qualification, or equivocation about them. They were deliberately used in order to get the soldiers' votes, and now that the soldiers' votes have, in many cases, been obtained, these men, or many of them, are to be kept in the Army by this Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last says it is nonsense to speak about a breach of election pledges. I wonder if he would have thought that if he had been a soldier in the Army and had given a vote on the pledge of no Conscription? The Prime Minister was very angry during the election, because of the statement in the "Daily News" which has been quoted, to the effect that "A vote for the Coalition is a vote for Con-
scription." He felt this so keenly that he retorted with a flat denial. That has already been quoted. He said:
It is not only not true, but it is a calculated and characteristic falsehood.
Whose falsehood? In view of this Bill, we now see how valueless was this denial. It was made in the course of the Prime Minister's going up and down the country, and with his customary recklessness scattering pledges broadcast in order to get votes, forgetting that the time would come when he would be called upon to honour the pledges. Other people do not forget these things. Some of us in the House tried to raise this issue upon the Debate upon the Address. We were prevented from so doing, and from moving an Amendment, because the Government suddenly—without any previous notice on the Order Paper—gave notice of this Bill. I thought then, and I think now, that this was a trick on the part of the Government, deliberately done in order to save the Liberal Coalition members the necessity of voting on this issue at that time. They were protected then. The time, however, has come when they can be protected no longer. No Parliamentary manipulation or device will save them to-night from the ordeal of the Division Lobby. They must come out into the open. I await with great interest what they are going to do. I wait to see how much truth there is in their protestation of fidelity to democratic principles. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, I think, in very questionable taste, considering all that has happened, and all that the Liberal Party has done for him, refers to us as "dissentient Liberals." At any rate we have not sold our principles to secure office. I am afraid to-night that we shall find that the machine will be at work. We shall find that most of the Members to whom I have referred, or nearly all, having received the coupon will be obliged to deliver the rations. We shall see to-night whether their conscience or the coupon is to prevail. Some of them may take refuge, probably a large number will, in abstaining from the Division. [Hon. Members: "No."] I hope they will not. For my part—I say it frankly—I shall have more respect for the Member who boldly goes forward than for the man who weakly abstains; because this is a great and a vital issue, and a Member of Parliament ought to be able to make up his mind upon it and take a stand one way or another. The Liberal Coalition Members are in a great dilemma. If they vote for this Bill they are false to their principles.
Yes, they are! If they vote, against then they can be accused of breaking their contract under the coupon. Whatever they do they break faith. It is a pitiable and humiliating position, but they have brought it on themselves. They themselves are to blame. Quite apart from the fact that this Bill is a grave breach of the Government election pledges, it is also a breach of President Wilson's fourth point. [Laughter.] Why do hon. Members laugh? These points have all been endorsed by our Government, and the Allied Governments on the signing of the Armistice. They were really a condition of the Armistice terms. What is this fourth point?
That adequate securities shall be given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
I say in view of that fourth point and in view of the Prime Minister's declaration during the election as to the policy of the Government to be urged at the Peace Conference, it should be emphasised again and again that Conscription must be abolished in all the countries signing the Peace. We are standing now at one of the gravest moments of history. Upon our actions. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but upon our actions during these fateful days the future of civilisation depends. That fourth point at present remains. There is a great opportunity now, which has never occurred before, and may never occur again for getting rid of this curse of Conscription which has brought such untold suffering upon Europe. This is a supreme opportunity. This supreme opportunity is being deliberately thrown away by the Government. How can the Government with any force or sincerity press for the abolition of Conscription at the Peace Conference in view of the introduction of this Bill? It is wholly inconsistent to press for any such thing at the Peace Conference when they are pressing this Bill through. It is all the more serious because no real case has been made out for this Bill. I say deliberately that most of the arguments which have been used in support of the Bill can be used again twelve months hence when this Bill is nearly at its expiration; therefore there is not the smallest guarantee that Conscription will end with this Bill. Any pledges to that effect are of no more value than the equally definite pledges given when the first Military Service Act was passed, and by means of which it was passed. It was then promised that Conscription would be for the duration of the War, and for the duration of the War only. In these days—I say it with regret—not the slightest faith can be placed in the pledges of the Government, however definite and however specific. I anticipate that in due course, in about another year's time, the Government will propose another Conscription Bill, and will justify it by similar arguments to those used to-day. Thus there is the gravest danger of Conscription being permanently fastened on the country, and this despite the fact that we have been told again and again that this was to be the last war. It was the War to end war. It was a war to end militarism. Now the War is over and won—
That observation is very interesting. The War is not over, then? The hon. Member on the opposite side of the House probably went down to his constituents and asked for support for the Won-the-War Government—for support for the man who had won the War and saved the Empire.
Now we are told the War is not over, that the War is not won. Then the late election was even more dishonest than even I have suggested. I say the War is over. I say the War has been won. What is to be the reward of the men who have been fighting in this War for liberty and freedom, and to prevent us being militarised? They are to be kept in the Army by this Bill, by Conscription. That is their reward. I say that this Bill is not necessary. It is not necessary to conscript 1,000,000 men for the purpose of the peace settlement. A much smaller number will suffice. I assert unhesitatingly that all the men required could be got under the voluntary system, and without the necessity of Military Service Acts, if they were treated better and paid better. In particular, I urge again, as I have urged before, that the King's Regulations should be thoroughly revised, and many of them scrapped.
As regards better pay, it is true that something has been done, but not enough. If we were able to pay £7,000,000 a day for the War, and subsequently to pay 5 per cent. on a National Debt of £8,000,000,000, we are quite able to pay the comparatively small number of men required. You cannot get away from the fact that a Conscript Army is a sweated Army. This is a Bill to secure cheap soldiers and to secure them in much larger numbers than is necessary. A large number of the men to be got under this Bill are to be used for the Army of Occupation, and this despite the fact that the Prime Minister, during the election, said that there must be no Army of Occupation.
There must be no Army of Occupation.
Later in the speech the Prime Minister said:
It will not be necessary to have an Army of Occupation.
Now we are told that a big Army of Occupation is necessary. Why did not the Prime Minister think of this before? Why did he say one thing to get votes and another thing afterwards? Later, again, the right hon. Gentleman's argument was as to whether or not an Army of Occupation was necessary, because, he said, a Committee had reported that the pressure could be brought to bear upon the Germans—by economic and by international means that pressure could be applied. I myself do not like the economic weapon, except, perhaps, as, a temporary measure to meet an emergency. I, however, prefer it to Conscription. Moreover, probably it will never be necessary actually to use the economic weapon, because in the desperate condition in which Germany is the mere threat will probably be sufficient to secure
compliance with the peace terms. Therefore, on the Prime Minister's own statement, this Bill is not necessary for the Army of Occupation. Let me take another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Secretary for War. He used it at the Mansion House, and has again used it. Practically what he says is this: Unless we have this Bill India, Egypt, Gibraltar, Malta, the Colonies, and our chief fortresses will be left totally undefended. That is a very extraordinary statement. These places were garrisoned without Conscription before the War. Besides, the Colonial Armies are now much bigger than before the War. They can help us, or ought to help us, much more than before in garrisoning the Empire. They ought so to help us. Mr. Hughes and others claim to have a voice in Empire policy. If Australia demands a share in the determination of Empire policy we are entitled to ask how many men and how much money she is going to contribute—how many men for service outside her own area she will put forward to carry other views. Personally I do not consider Conscription to be necessary, and I am against it altogether. That, however, is not the Government's position. They say it is necessary. They say you must have Conscription in the interests of the Empire. If you are going to have Conscription for all these purposes I entirely fail to see why the men of this country should be conscripted and the men of Australia should not be conscripted.
That may be, but they do not send men abroad under their Act like we are doing under ours. This Bill is to secure in all not far short of a million conscripts for service in foreign countries. The cost will be enormous, for the total Army Estimates are put down at £440,000,000, of which a considerable proportion will be due to this Bill. In addition to this cost you are withdrawing hundreds of thousands of men from production, and therefore there is double loss. We have been told again and again that our great aim should be to get our industries going so as to increase production. This Bill is going directly in opposition to that view. It will seriously cripple and hamper us in the work of industrial and social reconstruction. Hundreds and thousands of young men who would soon be available for industry are to be kept on foreign soil, and to be kept there at the most critical time of their lives, so that in many cases their careers will be gravely prejudiced. Many of these young men have already lost two or three of the best years of their lives, and they will find it extremely difficult to take up the threads again. Another year or two in the Army and it will be too late. That means a great deal of economic loss to the country. It is also a great loss to those individuals. Not only are the careers of these young men to be spoiled, but they are to be inadequately paid, yet all the time, as I have said, the Government will be paying 5 per cent. interest on £8,000,000,000 of debt, mostly to older men who have not been fighting in the War, but in many cases have made huge profits out of the War. Then you talk about equality of sacrifice! The Prime Minister perorates about the vital necessity of justice and fair play to all classes. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh. They may not like plain home truths. I will undertake to say that they will hear a great deal about this Bill from their constituents. The number of men in this House who will vote against this Bill may be small. It would be larger, I think, if some had not sold their souls to keep their seats. Though a great and vital principle is at stake here the number of Members who vote against this Bill may be small, but I am satisfied there is a Larger opposition to it in the country. I believe the reaction against this Government has already begun, and that it will make rapid progress in view of the measures like this, which are a wanton violation of election pledges. Here, in Parliament, the machine may enable the Government, by means of a swollen and corrupt majority, to get through their Bill. You may fool the people once, but you cannot fool them for ever. I warn the Government of a serious retribution for this day's work.
In taking part in this Debate, if I were inclined to criticise the Bill it would be to find fault for putting a date in it, because we do not know when the War is going to be ended. That is the point which separates some of us on this side from hon. Gentlemen on the other side. I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), and I began to wander "Is Saul also among the prophets" I was reminded of a story from the United States about the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. He went there to make very patriotic speeches on the other side of the water, and when he came back his speeches were somewhat modified in tone. Another Englishman asked his friend if he knew the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and he said "Yes." Then, he asked, "Where does he stand on the War? When he was here he was all for it, but now he seems not to be so strong upon that point." If the right hon. Gentleman thinks by his whirling rhetoric in this House he is going to intimidate those who sit just as much for democracy as he does, then he is making a profound mistake.
I would remind my hon. Friends opposite that my temporary separation of myself from them was not a matter of choice, but a matter of profound conviction. I felt it my duty, and so did others, to support the War, and to help to prosecute it to a successful conclusion. I visited France to try and counteract the German propaganda there along with the hon. Member for the Gorton Division and other Members of the old House of Commons, and during that sojourn. I addressed large meetings of Frenchmen. I had recalled to me the old Expeditionary Force by a French general who described in vivid language how for five days and five nights that Army advanced and retreated but never broke, and they were without food and without water, and he intimated to me that it was the greatest Army the world has ever known. I am proud of that Expeditionary Force, and I declared that I would never again support a system that sent my fellow countrymen to be murdered as those men were. [Laughter]. I cannot understand the attitude of men who will smile at the sacrifice of the brave men who went out in such small numbers against such tremendous odds.
Following them we have the Volunteer Force. We have heard a great deal about paying for a voluntary Army. I am all out to give the soldiers the fullest possible remuneration, but are we to accept it that Britishers who believe in the rights of our cause are only going to fight because they are paid for it? I say that is an insult to the voluntary Army of 1914 who never asked what the pay was going to be. Then it was 1s. per day, but in tens and hundreds of thousands they answered the call of their country, and they deserve well of their country for the sacrifices they made This is no time for altercation or recrimination. The hon. Member who has just spoken is the one ewe lamb left out of the small band who were Members of this House in the last Parliament and who tried to thwart every effort made to win the War.
I give the hon. Member credit for voting for what he thought was essential, but I think he was one of the small band and he worked with that band, and if he says that he did not I will accept his denial. The late Member fur Leicester, the late Member for Blackburn, and the late Member for Hanley, I think were his colleagues. Certainly they co-operated with him in thwarting the business of this House. This place knows them no more, and I can quite well understand the hon. Member's feelings of pride in being the only solitary Member who has been returned as representing that band. As I understand this Bill it is merely a matter of terms as to when this war will end. [An Hon. Member: "When the other man, puts his coat on."] I think the hon. Member is using a wrong illustration. This war cannot be narrowed down to two men fighting in the street, both with their coats off, because it is a great issue.
We have been told in speech after speech, that this is a war to make the world safe for democracy. Does anyone object to that? How can you make the world safe for democracy until you have unmistakable evidence that Germany is not only willing but can be made to carry out her obligations in the peace terms when once they are ratified and signed. It has not been my lot like that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby to meet Germans since the War was over. He has met them on the Continent. Personally, I do not want to meet them until they have shown outward and visible signs of inward repentance for the crime they committed both against God and humanity. I want to say that if this Bill is not permitted to proceed, what is anticipated may become a reality, is that the whole of your forces fly to pieces in the distant parts of the Empire, and there will be no outposts to defend our rights; and on the Rhine there will be no one to make the Germans carry out their obligations. Having studied the German character somewhat, and followed their conduct in this War, if they could believe that the party opposite are going to carry out their policy, they would sign the Armistice to-morrow, and you could put in any terms you like. I believe that there has been no change of heart in the Germans, and they would be just as perfidious after signing the Armistice as they were after signing the Treaty with Belgium which they treated as a scrap of paper.
I want to visualise and realise what this will mean. If the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentleman opposite simply want this as a political propaganda, then I say they are dishonouring their dead who have laid down their lives that we may have the full fruits of this War. It has been my lot in visiting France to see those almost illimitable churchyards where those we have lost are lying. There are those of my own household who went out as volunteers, and all those went out not merely that Germany should be crushed, but in order that this Empire should be safe from a similar danger in the days to come. What is the position? The whole of Europe is absolutely torn with revolution, and I would advise my right hon. and hon. Friends opposite not to talk so glibly about a possible revolution in this country. There have been Kerenskys in Russia, and they were followed by Lenin and Trotsky, and it may happen, if they carry this kind of thing too far, the Kerenskys of the Labour party may meet the same fate and be followed by the Lenins and the Trotskys.
I would like to know if hon. Members opposite speak for patriotic trade unionists and for the secretary of the Transport Workers' Federation. Do they speak for Mr. Robert Williams, who is out obviously and declared for revolution in this country? If they speak for that gentleman, then they do not speak for the industrial workers of this country, and speeches made like those of the right hon. Gentleman opposite are made, I am afraid, without any due regard to the importance of the statements he has made on the floor of this House. I view this Bill as merely a help for the safeguarding of democracy and making the world safe for democracy. I look at it also from the point of view of our Allies, the French. That country has made sacrifices which every right-thinking man must give the highest credit for. The young manhood of France has been disseminated probably more than any other country engaged in this great War. France has been laid waste, and now they are wanting
terms of peace that will make them secure for evermore. If we let France believe that we are going to withdraw our forces from the Rhine, what will be the feelings of the mothers and daughters of France who are left behind if in this most supreme moment we left them to their fate and the possible danger of being overrun once more by their former enemies, the Germans? John Milton, in one of his conversations, speaking of freedom, said:
Freedom is the only safeguard of government. So are order and moderation necessary to preserve freedom.
Is there freedom in Germany and Russia to-day? Why are we called upon to continue occupation? Because we cannot trust the Germans. It is because we know that that country is torn by internal revolution. I hope and pray that we shall be spared that agony and misfortune in this country, but if it goes forward that having spent so many precious lives we are indifferent to the fruits of peace, then I think worse things will befall. I want to ask my right hon. and hon. Friends opposite if they are so anxious that those young men who have done no service for their country shall be relieved from serving; if they are so anxious that the men who are serving now shall come back speedily, the best thing they can do is not to criticise this Bill, but go out into the country and try to help the getting of voluntary recruits, and then those men will come back sooner, without leaving the country to the danger which faces us at the present time. I want, in conclusion, to make an appeal on behalf of that great army of mothers whose boys have paid the sacrifice. Their hearts are torn enough by the loss of their very dear ones. They too believe that their sons fought for a noble cause. They too are anxious that the sacrifice that they have made shall not be dissipated by the selfishness of those who are left behind. What would be the feelings of those mothers if this House, under fear of political consequences or under fear of certain individuals who are breathing threatenings against the State itself, were to be stampeded from its right duty and were to throw away the fruits of victory to secure which those near and dear to them have laid down their lives? History is pretty true. Search the records of history and you will find that no State for long maintained its prosperity when it was false to its stern duty and the work that laid before it. We undertook this War to
make the world safe for democracy, and, speaking for myself, I would rather see England perish than that her history should be stained by the triumphs of guilt and by trophies erected over the vanquished rights and broken hearts of mankind. Not only is England the Empire involved in this matter, but our Allies are equally involved. We have liberty and freedom, and I ask hon. Members to ponder well before they cast their votes for a Motion that will shatter the British Army and, to all intents and purposes, give victory to the Germans instead of to the Allies.
We on this side also believe in liberty and in freedom, and it is because we believe in liberty and freedom that we are opposing this Bill. When the Secretary of State for War remarked that he hoped that this discussion might be conducted with an entire absence of heat, he might have gone on to suggest that in some quarters it would be an advantage if it were conducted with a certain amount of light. The hon. Member who has just resumed his seat assured us that he was not going to indulge in recrimination, and then he proceeded to make a series of attacks upon men who, however he may differ from them, at any rate earned the respect of the last House of Commons, if not of this House.
They earned the respect of the last House of Commons, and they still have the respect of men who hold diametrically opposite views. I submit that this House is not the place in which to attack men who have no opportunity of defending themselves. It is not a question whether we agree with them or not; it is a question of respecting what has always been regarded as the ordinary courtesies and decencies of public debate. The last speaker assured us that he had no desire to meet the Germans and had no intention of meeting them, but he is prepared to vote that 500,000 of his countrymen should go over and live with them.
Go over and mix with them and live with them from day to day. I would like to see a little more consistency and logic in the arguments which come from the other side of the House. The hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill told us that it did not raise afresh the principle of compulsory service. We submit that it does raise that principle afresh. The principle of compulsory service was agreed to by the last House of Commons and the country under conditions totally different from those that face us to-day. The conditions under which those Military Service Acts had to operate were very definitely and very clearly laid down. Every man who came into the Army under those Acts was told that the moment the War was over—and despite assertion from the other side of the House we have been repeatedly told, and by the Secretary of State for War himself, that the War is over—they would be free men. Apart altogether from what we regard as a violaton of the pledges and promises entered into by the last Government, we have a very real objection to this measure on practical grounds. It was suggested by the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill that our objection necessarily could only be of an academic character. It is not at all of an academic character. It is an arguable question, and to a certain extent it has been argued to-night, as to whether the policy of an Army of 900,000 at the present time is a wise one. We were told two or three night ago by the Secretary of State for War that Germany was utterly defeated, and not only utterly defeated, but that she was starving. We know that her fleet has been taken away from her. We know that it is the intention of the Allies meeting in conference at Paris at the present time to limit the military resources of Germany very considerably. As a matter of fact, it has been suggested that they are only going to have sufficient soldiers to police the country. If that is so, we ask quite reasonably what is the real reason for the establishment of this large Army. I say that until it has been demonstrated that the proposed voluntary system is inadequate the Government have no justification whatever for introducing this Bill.
Reference has been made to the Ministerial pledges that have been broken. It is, perhaps, too much to expect that Ministerial pledges are usually to be kept, at any rate in modern times. I think it was the late Lord Salisbury who once remarked that treaties are but human. One is beginning to imagine that the only value of Ministerial pledges is that they are fictions that serve certain electioneering purposes. They were introduced in the last General Election, and some very definite things were stated. Quotations have been made from the statements of the Prime Minister, but there is one sentence at the end of one statement that has not been heard to-night. In an interview at Walton Heath, after stating that he stood entirely for the abolition of Conscription in all countries, the Prime Minister went on to nay that without that the Peace Conference would be a failure and a sham. I do not imagine that anybody could speak with much greater definiteness than the Prime Minister did upon that matter. After all, in considering the question of these pledges, it is well to remember that this House has certain traditions and has always claimed to have an honourable record. One may ask, Are we departing from those traditions and are we going to put the greatest blot on that record that has been put upon it? I must confess that recent electoral measures do strongly suggest that we are getting a long distance away, at any rate from the ideal of our constitution, and as I sat here listening to the sneers and jibes and laughter that greeted certain remarks I could not help thinking that the composition of the present House of Commons was not one upon which the country could be altgether congratulated. As these hon. Gentlemen sneered, I could not help wondering how many of them would have had the courage at the last election to go before their constituents and say, "If you send me back to the House of Commons, I am going to vote for a continuation of the principle of Conscription." I wonder how many of them would have told that to the 25 per cent. of our Army who voted or to the 75 per cent. who were prevented from voting, and I wonder, had that 75 per cent. voted, whether they would be here to-night either to laugh or to jeer or to sneer.
The Secretary of State for War denied to any section of this House the exclusive right to represent labour. We do, however, claim an exclusive opinion upon this subject for the simple reason that every Labour candidate who went before the electors of the 350 constituencies that labour fought was pledged to the hilt against Conscription, and the 2,250,000 people who voted for Labour candidates cast their votes against Conscription, and to that number might quite legitimately be added a large number of votes cast for Liberal candidates in other constituencies. I would like to ask the Government if they are prepared to consult the rank and file of the men concerned in this matter. We hear a lot about democracy, and really this is an excellent opportunity of putting some of the professions of hon. Members who sit opposite to the test. Are they prepared to ask the Army its opinion on this question? The men who joined for the duration of the War feel that they have fulfilled their part of the contract, and they are asking for their legitimate release. Conscription has been condemned not only by statesmen—and one could quote some of the most eminent statesmen not only in our own country but in other countries who have spoken strongly against it—but it has been condemned by soldiers as well. In principle and in practice Conscription is the negation of everything for which our country has ever stood among the nations of the world. We have always claimed to be the freest people in the world. I am rather afraid that we are in danger of losing the right to make that claim. Perhaps we have been too self-righteous about it sometimes, but at all events the freedom of this country has been a very sound basis upon which to rear a secure place amongst the nations of the world. We are told that this measure is purely temporary. The Secretary of State for War and the hon. Member who introduced the Bill assured us that it was to be confined to a few months or possibly a year and was then to be abolished. I want to submit that a bad principle, even operative for only a limited period, is bound to have evil effects. I want to say further we are sliding much too easily and readily into measures which are dictated by the military mind, which is not the British mind. We are still in great measure in this country—and the Debate to-night has strengthened the idea—we are still for all practical purpose under a military dictatorship, and the sooner the people of Britain realise it the better. I want to point out one or two practical considerations which the House will do well to bear in mind. By establishing this large Army, the necessity for which has not by any means been demonstrated, we are placing an additional burden upon the taxpayers of this country, and I rather imagine the taxpayer has already begun to feel he has a quite sufficiently heavy burden to carry. We are withdrawing men, as has been pointed out, from productive work at the very moment when, if ever, there was a need for men to be engaged in industry. We are taking hundreds of thousands of men and putting them on a task purely unproductive at the very moment when it is necessary that the industries of the country should be established on the most secure basis possible. Not only that, we are, despite all that may be said to the contrary, encouraging suspicion and distrust among the workers in our own country. Whether they be right or wrong, the workers of Great Britain do see in every form of militarism a real menace to their legitimate advance.
The organised workers of this country have not forgotten it is not so very long ago that they had an excellent object lesson in France of what happens under Conscription. They remember the French railway strike, the strike that was suppressed very quick by M. Briand by simply ordering the men working on the railways into the army. It was a question of back to work or into the army. They have not forgotten that in the recent Glasgow strike, according to our own newspapers, preparations were made and to a certain extent carried out for a fairly considerable use of the military in the city of Glasgow. The workers regard with very grave suspicion any tendency which is likely to interfere with the legitimate development of their own demands, and at a time like this, when the air of the whole country is electric, is it right to intensify feeling, is it right to add any single contributory element to a situation full of all kinds of dangerous possibilities? We as a country have always claimed to lead among the nations of the world; our statesmen have professed that they do not believe in Conscription. Every one of them, from the Prime Minister downwards, practically every one of the leaders in the present Government, have made the same declaration, and if they really believe in it we ask them to withdraw this Bill and we appeal to all men, to whatever party they may belong, to support us in the demand we are making. This is something greater than a mere party question. To every man who believes in freedom and liberty, who values the distinctive contribution our country has made to the future progress of the world, to every one of these we appeal to them to repudiate this Bill. If we really want to see Conscription abolished in other countries in Europe and other parts of the world, let us lead the way by abolishing Conscription in our own country?
The speech to which we have just listened has not, I am afraid, added a very great deal that is new to the discussion. But there was one remark made by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor) to which, I think, it necessary to call attention. His principal argument seemed to be that by the introduction of this Bill we were taking men from productive work and putting them on non-productive work. The Labour party cannot have it both ways. We have heard no suggestion yet from those benches that there is to be no defence force at all. But we have not had any definite suggestion as to what form the defence force should take, and whether it is to be a voluntary force, as advocated incidentally by one or two of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues, or whether it is to be a force such as this in the Military Service Bill. The right hon. Gentleman must realise that whichever way it happens the men employed will be employed on what he describes as non-productive work. His argument, therefore, was not a good one. What has impressed me in the whole of this Debate is the sad fact that this House has slipped back once more into the arena of party politics, because the speeches to which we have listened this evening have had apolitical motive right through from start to finish. Before the War every single political advantage was taken in a Debate like this to strengthen one's own party. But I venture to think the situation in which the country finds itself is not such as to warrant us in lapsing back very quickly into purely political arguments in dealing with what is still a perilous situation.
The Leader of the Liberal party this afternoon based the whole of his speech practically on the argument that if only the Government had introduced the Bill a month earlier there would have been an enormous difference in recruiting for the Army—in voluntary recruiting. But he gave no kind of evidence to show that that was a correct supposition, and I do not think anyone can derive any sort of satisfaction, from an argument such as that. He went on to say that the signing of peace and its ratification would take such a long time that really there was no need for bringing in this measure. He was advocating precisely the argument of his predecessor on that bench, that we should await events and gamble with our fate, and not take action which I venture to think the vast majority of hon. Members considers to be absolutely essential if we are not going to place ourselves in a deplorable position when the ratification of peace takes place. The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who is frequently described as one of the coming statesmen in this country—and I am sorry he is not in his place at this moment—again and again in his speech emphasised the fact that this was not the hour to introduce a measure like this. The leader of the Liberal party expressed a similar view. What was the reason he gave? It was that because of the industrial situation in this country we might be inflaming our countrymen and making the industrial condition even worse. I venture to think the right hon. Gentleman himself and those who follow that line of argument are really by their action suggesting that to the people of this country. I cannot see the connection between the industrial situation and unrest which are supposed to be due to a fear of unemployment and this temporary measure, for prolonging the service of men, an Act which in itself will alleviate the unemployment situation in this country.
The right hon. Member for Derby laid very great stress on what he described in one part of his speech as an alternative. He said that if you pay the Army higher you will get all the voluntary recruits you require. As one who always had great sympathy with soldiers, I venture to think the Army as a whole will be delighted with this new found interest in its pay, which is now evidenced for the first time. Hon. Members dissent, but if they had been in this House in past years, prior to the War, they would be aware that in five or six consecutive years after the Army Vote had been introduced by the Secretary for War no member of the Labour party showed his interest in the Army by remaining in the House. I would like to associate myself with the right hon. Member for Derby and the Leader of the Liberal party in saying that if you want to have an adequate Army in this country on a voluntary basis you must pay the men a fair living wage, and must not tolerate those kinds of pre-war sweating which enabled you to get hungry men into the Army in order to defend our shores. That is not true citizenship.
The point I was about to develop in connection with the argument advanced this evening by the Labour party is what are the Members of that party going to offer as an alternative to the suggestion which the Government has put before the House? That is the whole question. You cannot conscientiously speak or divide against this measure unless you really have a remedy to propose as an alternative to the Government Bill. I do not know if another member of the Labour party is going to speak later on. But we have had put from that bench the question, "How can you possibly introduce this Bill to prolong the service of men who have served in the Army when you are not calling up the young men in this country who have not served at all?" I ask them definitely, Can they put forward any alternative? Are they prepared to introduce Conscription for those who have not yet been conscripted, with all its attendant additional expense to the country for such a temporary measure? If not, why do they introduce that argu-if not simply to cause discontent in the Army and to try to influence votes, while keeping clear of the real issues we have to consider at the present moment?
What is the other alternative that has been suggested? The Leader of the Liberal party, with great solemnity, kept on putting before the House, in the most dramatic language, his view that the voluntary system has not been tried. Surely hon. Members of this House cannot gamble with the fate of the nation and the whole issues of the War by hoping that something might turn up, and indulging in a wild Micawberism, which is really the old policy of "Wait and see," in order to ascertain whether you might get recruits who for some reason or other would come forward more quickly in the next few weeks than they have done in the last few weeks. That is not business. I have not always agreed with the Secretary of State for War, but if I may do so on the present occasion, I should like to congratulate him on showing so much courage this afternoon in speaking straight to the House of Commons, avoiding the old finessing and speaking straight to the Labour party in regard to the true issues at stake. I ask the Labour party, What do they propose? I am one of those who believe that nothing could be finer for this country than to have a Labour party with a great hold on the community, and that it should be able to put its case equally with any other combination, of men in this House. But if the Labour party brings forward this Amendment purely for the purpose of gaining votes, they are going to keep back the day when they will hold that position in the country. [Hon. Members: "No, no!"] If I am wrong, what do hon. Members propose? We have to face the fact that on the day peace is ratified our armies may walk home. The Labour party have proposed nothing constructive this evening which would meet that situation. It is not fair to the Labour party, it is not fair to the country, merely to make an attack upon the Government with debating points at this time, unless they have some alternative to put forward. We have had no indication of one this evening from any one spokesman who has opposed the Government.
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has extracted from the Secretary of State for War an answer as to the altered conditions with regard to the Z Reserve. That has been a question which has been exercising my mind and that of a great many of my friends, and which we were shortly going to bring up in the House. I was delighted to hear what the right hon. Gentleman had to say this evening. It has been exercising my mind because of the great number of volunteers who went out at the beginning of the War to fight for their country, and who found themselves, under the Z Reserve system, coming under what was practically a Conscription Act after their service in the Army had ended. At any rate, that is what they felt. It was very satisfactory that the right hon. Gentleman was able to tell us that from the moment peace is ratified these 500,000 men, or however many they may be, will immediately get their discharge from all obligations. Does not that mean that by bringing in this Bill you are enabled to release 500,000 men from the application of Conscription to them as Reserves in the Army? Is not that a point which hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway should consider? But for this Bill it would be quite impossible to take that course and finally release these men who have been serving and who are now in the Z Reserve. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby laboured the point that there is no lack of patriotism in this country. He said that, owing to the great patriotism which now exists, we could get all these numbers of recruits as we got them when we were fighting for our life. It is a little too much to suggest that that same call of patriotism would come now to men who possibly might have been fighting all through the War when the position looks more clear and we are calling up new men for the Army. I would ask the Labour party, if they rely upon the patriotism in the country to fill the voluntary Army, would they be prepared to agree to the introduction of Conscription to cover the deficiency between the volunteers and conscripts? They give us no alternative, but we are entitled to ask what is their position on the subject.
I quite agree; but we have to remember that there are profiteers in all classes. I agree that the man who has made a double fortune out of this War and the man who has demanded and insisted, at the point of the bayonet, upon double wages owing to the stress of his country are the people who ought to be considered for service. I thank the hon. Gentleman for that suggestion. As to the League of Nations, I have a great deal of sympathy with that idea. If as the result of this War the League of Nations, or an Alliance of Powers, or whatever it may be called, cannot insist that Conscription shall not go on in the world after this War, then the War will very largely have been fought in vain. But surely the Labour party are not going to suggest that we should be the first to render ourselves naked to a possible future attack! We must be perfectly certain that other countries are going to do the same. That is one of the reasons why it is essential, if you are going to stop Conscription, that you should have a force sufficient to see that the Germans are not able to destroy the ratification of peace. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] I am very glad that I have some sympathy from the Labour party on that subject. It follows that you must have sufficient men to see that that object is attained. No proof has been forthcoming that you can do that under a voluntary system at the present time. Therefore you must have some other measure, and the measure which the Government has proposed is a practical measure. If the voluntary response, which I hope may come, is going to be as great as the Leader of the Labour party suggested, then this Bill will become null and void, because as the men go into the ranks of the Army the need for conscript soldiers will decrease until you have enough men, and ultimately the Army will be on a voluntary basis. If the supposition of the Labour party is correct, and this Bill is not passed, there will have been an hiatus in a situation which may prevent the carrying out of the results of the Peace Conference. It is not an adequate argument for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby to come to this House and tell us, "We want no armed force." He asked us to look at the state of the Central Powers. I think he does not know his Germans yet. There are in Germany at present 5,000,000 men trained to arms, the strongest fighters and some of the bravest men in the world, men who have been the greatest disciplined army in the world. We know perfectly well what that army is capable of. You cannot put the whole burden on France and Belgium. Their difficulties will be far greater than ours, difficult though ours will be. It is unreasonable to hope, for all the ultruistic and noble sentiments of the United States, that they will undertake the whole job. We must do our share, and as a start, hoping all the time that these Armies will be reduced, the proposal that we should maintain 420,000 men as our share against a possible recrudescence of German militarist power of 5,000,000 men is not any great number to ask the people of this country to place in the field in order to see this thing through. I believe you can only kill Conscription, which has been the reason of all recent wars, by being able to dig a grave to bury it in. You cannot dig that grave unless you have the military power to enforce the end of Conscription upon the Central Powers. Therefore, I hope the Labour party will very seriously consider before they go into the Lobby this evening. I know it was very often said in the past, and I am afraid it was nearly always true, that no man ever changed his mind and he always voted for his party. This country deserves something greater than that system, and I will ask the members of the Labour party if they can conscientiously go into the Lobby against this Bill unless they have some concrete proposals to put in its place. If they are prepared, as apparently hon. Members were this evening, to leave India absolutely denuded, to leave Mesopotamia without troops, to leave Palestine, to remove the great police forces which will be necessary for a time from all these territories—
Whom is the hon. Member going to put in the place of that Army? You have 45,000 recruites, many of whom have to have very considerable leave before they can go into the Army. It is no good saying "certainly not." You have to provide an alternative and I hope, as a believer in the destiny of the Labour party, that the Gentlemen on these benches will not go into the Lobby unless they really honestly believe that there is some method of tiding over this difficulty, and I think they should exonerate the Government, though I am not a member of the Government party, from any false statements at the General Election in view of the fact that you have the situation that you cannot denude your fronts without betraying your Allies, and in face of the fact that this is a temporary Bill it really is the duty of the Labour party to see their countrymen through, and not to take a cheap electioneering point such as this Division indicates in order to raise a cheer in the country. Let them show that they put their country first and are prepared to do what is right.
I can say with very great truth that I rise with a feeling rather of melancholy than anything else to take part in this Debate. I helped upon scores of platforms in the early days of recruiting. I believed my country to be in the right, and I am more than ever convinced of it. I was satisfied that the voluntary system of recruiting had failed. I was then convinced that, our nation being in the right and our needs being more imperative than ever before, Conscription was inevitable. I was the first person in this House who stated that no principle was involved, it was a matter of necessity, and that if the Army authorities could prove to us that such a necessity existed, I for one would certainly support them, and would go to the people whom I
claimed to represent and give the reasons for my action. This House at a little later date agreed with Conscription, and I believe the nation agreed with it. But every man upon the Treasury Bench laid it down very definitely that Conscription was for the duration of this War only. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Shaw) was perfectly in the right when he appealed to us not to indulge so much in casuistry, but to speak to the plain facts upon which this House and the nation has agreed with Conscription. We repeatedly said, it was for this War only. Indeed the very first Clause of this Bill admits it in the statement that
If the competent authority is of opinion that, as respects any men to whom this Section applies or any classes of such men, they cannot consistently with the public interest be released from actual service at the time—
And here come the really essential words,
when in pursuance of the terms of their service they would be entitled to be discharged.
That is not an admission, but a plain statement of the fact that in accordance with the terms of their service they would be entitled at a particular time to be discharged.
To me it is not an electioneering cry. I do not think there is a man in the House, or outside, who will not admit that, in so far as helpfulness to the Government is concerned, both the late Government and the present one, I have not flinched from my fidelity. I believe in their good faith still. I believe they are mistaken. I know their policy to be a wrong one, but I should be the last man in the world to charge them with deliberate falsehood. Surely, when the State did come along and say to the young and the middle-aged man "The needs of the State require your services; you must therefore come and perform your duty"—when the State in the exercise of its great power takes that attitude it also incurs the obligation to carry out in the completest good faith the promise it made to the men whose services have been conscripted, and when that man has fought or has been willing to fight and the terms of peace have been ratified, the State cannot, if it is going to discharge its duty in good faith to that man, say, "No, we will hold you for twelve months, or any time longer." Just as the private employer has the obligation when the man has served his notice to allow him to be released, so in the same way, when these soldiers have discharged their duty for the time for which the nation conscripted their services, the nation itself has the obligation to release those men, and if a new set of conditions arises, if a new emergency is occasioned, the Government should come once again, before the nation and say, "A new set of conditions has arisen, and we believe these conditions now require new methods."
I was very sorry to hear one sentence from the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading this afternoon. It ran something to this effect, that not only could the services of the soldiers be retained, but that we should retain an Army, until the full fruits of victory had been secured. Those are not the exact words, but they had a very similar meaning. Well, I really do not know how long this Army would have to be held together if we are to secure, "the full fruits of victory." What is the meaning of "the full fruits of victory"? There are many people who believe that the heaviest possible indemnity should be obtained from Germany, but most of us know that to secure anything like a substantial indemnity would take a very considerable time; I have heard it estimated as between thirty and forty years. I am quite sure that the good sense of the right hon. Gentleman would not lead him into such a train of thought as to suggest that a Conscript Army should be maintained by us in Germany for thirty or forty years to enable us to secure a very substantial indemnity.
I did not think that the general line of your thought and reasoning seemed to be covered by such a comparatively short space of time as will be included in the period to the 30th April, 1920. However, I will not pursue that point. A very much milder term and probably very much milder process will involve a very substantial period of time. It was not the working people only who were conscripted; hundreds of thousand of the middle-classes were conscripted, and to their credit they performed their duty in a manner, I think, never exceeded in the history of mankind. The whole question of Conscription cannot be confined to one class. We do really want to know when the terms of peace have been ratified, is the War at an end, and have the conditions not then been realised for which this country said Conscription was necessary. We did not undertake to defend France for all time, we did not undertake that an Army of Occupation should be there for ever so long, we did not undertake to defend Belgium for all time. Certain treaties were broken; we said, "We are going to stand by our treaty obligations, and to carry out those obligations we will use every possible means in our power, every honourable method by which we can assure to the world that a treaty to. Great Britain is something binding upon its conscience." But when we had done that, and when the War has been satisfactorily ended, and when peace has been declared, how can we possibly, in accordance with the honourable obligations we entered into, continue this process? To me, this is not a mere electioneering cry at all. I was so satisfied with the good faith of the British Government and with the good faith of all those comrades with whom I was in the closest amity and friendship—and I believe that we are to-day as good friends as ever we were—that I should be the last man in the world to charge them with falsity. But I believe a most evil step is being taken in this matter.
After all, when peace is declared, what have we to do. The Navy of Germany has practically disappeared; we need therefore harbour no fears of the German Navy for a very considerable time. Although her Army may not have disappeared, and although, as the hon. Member for Bournemouth says, as he is quite right in saying, that Germany still does possess great potentialities, really after all, if we have been honest in the professions we have made, if we do really believe that the great American people, the great French people, and the great Italian people, and all our Allies have been as sincere as ourselves in their professions as to the desirability of a League of Nations, then we ourselves should not be cursed with a dimness of vision which is worse than any which this nation has ever suffered, and can we not at least say we will release our Armies? Because the protection of Franchiser own duty, the protection of Belgium is in the first instance also Belgium's duty. We will stand by our treaties, but our treaty never said that we should occupy either part or the whole of France, or part or the whole of Belgium at any time. We say we will come to your assistance at any time when treaties are being violated, but no obligation was ever laid upon this nation to hold together an Army of Occupation until the full fruits of the War have been secured. When Alsace and Lorraine are restored to France, when every German has been driven out of Belgium, when all the pre-war conditions have been restored, and more than restored, and when every condition for which we set out has been secured, are we still to say that hundreds of thousands of our people shall still be compelled to serve?
I am sure there is not one out of ten thousand of the British people who, if at the beginning when we were in favour of Conscription and when we were confronted with this great issue, would have consented if we had said, not only are we going through with this, not only shall we see that Belgium is saved and her land restored to her, not only shall we see that France is put again into her rightful place among the nations, that Alsace and Lorraine are again restored to her, not only shall we see that Serbia is put right and Roumania put right, but, in addition to all that, we shall still maintain for twelve months longer an Army of Occupation of hundreds of thousands. I said it was a cowardly, dishonourable plea, brought forward by opponents of the Government to make mischief, that it had no basis in fact, and I believe that three out of every four Members of this House took up the same attitude, that there was no intention of prolonging the services of any conscript soldier beyond the period that he himself had undertaken to serve—that is, until the ratification of the peace terms. It is because of those circumstances that I have spoken.
I should be the last person in the world to charge the Government with a breach of good faith, but I do believe that they are making a terrible blunder on this occasion. I am as convinced as I am of my own existence that they are underrating gravely the feeling of the country on this matter. I travel about a good deal among the people. I know at first hand what the bulk of the people feel on this matter. Conscription was a hateful necessity, but it was hateful. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was a necessity!"] It was a necessity, but there is no necessity after the ratification of peace. [An Hon. Member: "We must have some security!"] If there is a feeling on the part of the Government, who are the responsible authorities, that the secu- rity of the British people is not sufficiently assured, then let them come, as any competent Government should come, before this House and say once again, "Here are the conditions; here is what we propose." But until that does arise keep good faith with the people, with whom you have entered into obligations. This is a breach of faith. Labour Members are asked, "What do you propose to do?" I should think that the question itself is promulgated by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth in perfect good faith. It is a very old method of argument, but it is really no argument at all. If the competent authority is bringing forward a bad expedient it has no right to say to any small body of people, "What will you do?" There is no such obligation upon fifty or sixty Members of this House. Their first duty is to say, "Keep good faith to the people. Try something that will not cover the Members of this House with confusion when we go before our constituents. You are the authoritative spokesmen of that new policy. Surely any policy that you do bring before this House should be in accordance with the good faith and the obligations you have entered into." That is the reply which any self-respecting Member of this House would make.
We are all desirous of consolidating not merely national but imperial security. We cannot look at these matters in the small insular way in which we could look at them four and a half years ago. Everybody can see to-day that the horizon is infinitely enlarged, and we must bring a substantially new vision, a much larger vision, and I trust a nobler vision than we brought five or six years ago. But I am as sure as I am that I am speaking in this House that the vast mass of the people believed in 1916 and believe now in reference to this question, that when Peace was declared all further obligation on the conscript soldier came to an end, that his obligation to serve in the Army ceased, and that consistently with his return as expeditiously as possible he had the right to come back into civil life. Speech after speech made by the then right hon. Member for East Fife, who led the House at that time, and by the present Prime Minister both in this House and in the country have confirmed that feeling, which is embodied in the Act itself. It is because I believe that far above every other consideration is the overwhelming necessity of keeping good faith with the people that I have spoken this evening.
I hope most earnestly that the Government will reconsider this matter. The vast mass of the people are behind them in the tremendous tasks which still await them. No Government has ever had such an onerous task imposed upon it. No Government has ever had to deal with such intricate and complicated problems that might indeed break down the boldest heart. I have nothing but admiration for the magnificent work that they have done already, and I have the keenest possible desire that they shall succeed in the tremendous tasks to which they have set their hands. But I do most earnestly hope that they will not render their task more difficult or impossible by letting the nation itself believe that they are men who lightly hold their faith, who enter into compacts which they are not at all careful to fulfil—and who do not realise that in the most terrible condition of all, when you conscript a man's life and enter into an obligation with him, such obligation should necessarily be carried out to the letter. Should he save his life, he ought to be permitted to return to the civil life from which he has been taken. It is because I believe that good faith should be at the bottom of our great imperial work that I have spoken this evening.
I have listened, as I am sure every Member of this House has, with the deepest respect to the speech of the hon. Member who has just spoken. Every Member of this House knows that the hon. Member played a most patriotic part throughout the whole course of the War. He not only speaks for Labour, but if I may say so, speaks for that part of Labour which commands national respect. Therefore to me it is a matter of regret, since the whole of his speech was based on an appeal to this House to keep good faith, that I find myself in diametrical opposition to his view. I consider that the Government have kept good faith in asking the House to pass this Bill. I happen to be a member of the Liberal party, and one of those who had the advantage of the coupon during the election. We have been referred to very contemptuously to to-day. We were told that we had sold our consciences—I think it was said our souls, though how another hon. Member would be a judge of that I do not know—in order to placate opposition. That, of course, is perfectly ridiculous. It is absurd, and it is offensive for any Member of this House to claim to speak for a Liberalism which excludes those Liberals who belong to the Coalition party. We Liberals have not given up our Liberal faith, and we resent strongly the misrepresentation of our views that is made so frequently by hon. Members in this House.
I am a lifelong opponent of Conscription as the permanent policy of this or any Government. I was asked during the election as to my views on Conscription, and they were these, and I think I spoke in common with practically every Member of the House. I said I was opposed to Conscription as part of the permanent policy of this country, and that I was in favour of the abolition of the Compulsory Military Service Act, the first moment the exigencies of the military situation permitted. That was my position then, and that is my position to-day. I cannot for the life of me understand how any hon. Member, like the hon. Member who has just spoken, can fail to understand the Government's position, which, as I understand it, is this. They are putting forward a policy which is not political, and which belongs to no party. They are acting as guardians and trustees of each one of us, and of every citizen of whatsoever party throughout the country, in determining that they will take those steps which are vital to secure the results of the War. That is, as I understand it, all that the Government are doing. Suppose that the Government had had the prescience to know that Armistice day would be on the 11th of November, 1918, and to know that exactly on the 11th May, 1919, peace would be secured and ratified, still, the Government must be guided by the facts, and must have a margin of precaution. I speak as a Coalition Liberal who is absolutely and utterly opposed to Conscription as the permanent policy of this country, and I shall vote with the Government on this issue with a good heart and a clear conscience. There is hardly a home in the country which has not been darkened by this War, and we cared nothing for party for four and a half years, and I hope that the Government will continue to have the goodwill of all parties throughout the nation by which we have secured the result of the 11th November last. When we are told that we are disloyal to our principles, and are betraying our lifelong principles and abandoning our Liberalism. I say that that is a gross and offensive misrepresentation of the position of Coalition Liberals as I know them in this House.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) opposed this Bill on two grounds, and as I have some remarks to make about what he said, I am sorry he is not here. He said that it violates pledges given during the passing of the Military Service Acts. I was not a Member of this House then, but I doubt very much if that is a fair statement. Surely Conscription was passed in the understanding of every Member who voted for it that it was to remain in force until the purpose for which it was introduced had been secured! The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) said that Conscription was for this War only. I entirely agree, and that is why I shall regard it as something in the nature of a tragic misunderstanding if that hon. Gentleman votes against the Government on this matter. The Military Service Acts were passed for this War only, but the War is not over, and those Acts must continue for what is a most reasonable period, giving a little margin. The pledge was given for this War only, and it remains until the War is settled. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby put his opposition to the Bill also on the ground that it violated pledges given during the recent election. That is really not true. The Prime Minister's pledge was a pledge such as we all gave of Conscription until the War is finally disposed of and out of the way. The right hon. Gentleman, using an argument which I have no doubt he was preparing for some speech next Sunday night in some theatre in some part of the country where his arguments cannot be examined, said that the purpose of Conscription was sweated labour, and that at this moment men were getting more by the unemployment benefit of 25s. per week than was being given to the soldier. I challenged him, and it was afterwards proved that, far from it being sweated labour, a soldier with a wife and two children would get benefits up to 79s. per week, and an unmarried soldier would get benefits to the extent of 47s. per week. Where is the sweated labour? Those arguments might be advanced on public platforms or published in the Press as reports of speeches but they ought not to be advanced in this House. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman spoke for labour when he alleged that the purpose of the Government was to have sweated labour in a permanent system of Conscription, and if I thought that were the purpose of the Government I should vote against it.
I shall always vote against Conscription as the permanent policy of this Government, and I am prepared to support this Government to carry through the task which they have undertaken; and the Government, having taken into full consideration facts of which we may not have full knowledge, consider that it is essential that this Bill should become an Act. The right hon. Gentleman finished up his speech with a threat. I am getting tired of threats from any sectional party of this country whatsoever. I am perfectly satisfied we have got to confront the Gentlemen who make threats with the consequences of their threats. We can all threaten, but it is a foolish policy, and we are tired to death of sectional threats. No man who loves his country enough to think that its salvation was worth the price that was paid believes that any Government ought to tolerate sectional threats of any sort. If the right hon. Gentleman carries out his threat and claims to speak for labour throughout the country, and invites labour to oppose this most necessary measure, then, I venture to say, he will not appeal to what is best or truest in labour, nor will labour follow him. It is not for labour, it is not for the middle class, it is not for the capitalist, to express a sectional view against the whole commonwealth; it is for all classes and all sections, at this time, to stand together. We stood together for four and a half years during the War, and if we continue to do so with good will we shall proceed to remove all those evils which follow from war. I consider I am fully justified in supporting this Bill under the conditions as they exist.
I rise to put rather a different point of view with regard to this matter from any that has been voiced in this House to-night. My point of view is briefly this, that I do not see my way to voting against the Government on this Bill, and at the same time I cannot by any means hold the Government blameless with regard to the matters now in debate, because I believe they ought to have done much more in the time that has elapsed since the Armistice in getting a voluntary Army into existence, and I believe they ought to wake up even now and proceed much more rapidly and much more courageously in the great task than they have shown any desire to do so far. I will give the House the way in which I arrive at that conclusion. I am personally pledged against Conscription in time of peace. I gave that pledge quite voluntarily, and without being asked, early in my contest. I was seldom asked, and certainly not until after I had voluntarily declared that I would vote against any Government that tried to fasten Conscription upon this country in time of peace. Therefore, I feel in honour bound to do anything that lies within my small powers to see that Conscription is abolished in this country as soon as possible after the ratification of peace. But I did not say, and I should not have been foolish enough to say, that there might not be a period of transition. I am not one of those who promise my Constituents the millennium while you wait. I believe that a transition period is necessary in this matter, as time is always, necessary in the great reforms that we want to bring about. It is impossible to pass at a stride from a great conscripted Army to a purely voluntary Army. We must have an Army to protect us and to protect our cause against Germany. We must either have a strong Army for that purpose or we must employ the blockade for that purpose. An hon. Friend who spoke behind me, and who made such a very bitter speech some time ago on this subject, said that sooner than have Conscription he would use the economic weapon for a time, although he did not like the economic weapon. But what does the economic weapon mean? I suppose it means the blockade. I hate the idea of blockading Germany. We were told on Monday night by the Minister for War how cruel that weapon was, how the burden and cruelty of it fell upon the women and children and the old, and yet I take it to be certain that unless we have a strong Army and Navy to protect our cause against Germany during the next few months, and a good many months, too, it is inevitable that we should resort to the blockade weapon, which means suffering and death to women and children and old men, and for my part I prefer the weapon which means men facing men with arms in their hands, if necessary. Then I say again we must have a force sufficient to protect our smaller Allies. I confess I was astonished to hear the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh), whom we all so much honour and whose speech we all sympathised with, put forward the view that we had kept our contract with Belgium and that we were not now bound to keep an Army for the purpose of protecting Belgium again, but apparently that we were, if necessary, to let Belgium go through the ordeal that she went through before, provided only that we came to the rescue and secured her reparation. How can you secure reparation to Belgium for the inestimable treasures that have perished from her country for ever, and, above all, how can you secure reparation to Belgium for the hundreds and thousands of her sons and daughters who have perished in this War? We must have an Army sufficient to carry out our duties to the Serbians, to the Armenians, and to all who have been our Allies in this War. We have taken on duties in Mesopotamia and in Palestine, and all these things mean that we must have an Army to do these duties. Then I say that we must have an Army in order to do our duty by France, who has been our Ally in this War. Surely we are not to say now that we wash our hands of any further responsibility and that we leave France in her exhausted state to face perhaps a new rising up of the 5,000,000 trained men of Germany.
I will go much further and say that we must have a force at the back of the League of Nations. We have been asked to-night why we need these great armies and whether the League of Nations is merely a phrase and camouflage. No, but I say that the League of Nations is merely a phrase and camouflage if we do not have force behind it. I think I may claim to know something about the League of Nations. I have been working for it from the first weeks after war broke out, when it was looked upon askance as a pro-German dodge and when one hardly dared to speak on it publicly. I have been working steadily at it, and I work still at it, and I say that if the League of Nations is to be made, a reality one essential condition is that Great Britain, America, France, and the other peace-loving nations should have for a considerable time a strong enough force at their command to put force behind the League of Nations, so that there may be a strong arm behind international law as there is in the last resort behind civil law. We must have the league of Nations to abolish Conscription, and in order to do that we must have force to make the League of Nations respected. I very much regretted, in listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for War on Monday night, to find great reason in his speech to fear that he was not at all friendly to the League of Nations. I wish he were here now to take up the point, but it certainly created a very bad impression, and I am sure a good deal of the hostility which is now shown to this Bill arises from the fact that he seemed to speak contemptuously of the League of Nations and that he said the League of Nations may give us great things in the future, but that at present we need real protection. He seemed to use that as an argument for recommending to us a great military scheme, and he seemed to be very militarist in his feeling altogether, and I am sure that that has done much harm and that that is largely accountable for the hostility to this Bill to-night.
Some people will say, "Admitted that we must have a powerful Army for some time to come, could we not build that up as a voluntary Army before the ratification of peace?" It seems to me quite impossible that we could do so, unless indeed the ratification of peace is to be delayed a very considerable time on purpose to give time to build up this voluntary Army so as to give a technical ground for keeping the conscript soldiers in the Army, and so that we might be able to say that the Act of Parliament had not been violated in any way, and that we had not gone an atom beyond the original Act of Parliament, but had only kept the men up to the time of ratification. I do not think we any of us desire that a mere technical keeping of faith of that kind should be resorted to. It seems to me that if we are going to ratify the Peace Treaty as soon as possible, it is impossible for us meanwhile to build up a sufficient Army on a voluntary basis before the ratification. I say it is impossible now. I would emphasise the word "now." I believe that if the Government had started from the beginning, and done their duty in this matter, it would have been possible. I believe that if the six weeks or so that was given to the General Election—most unnecessarily in my opinion—had been given to the building up of a voluntary Army, and to peace negotiations with our Allies in Paris, we should have been on a very much better footing in this matter and many other matters at the present time. Nevertheless, the country has condoned anything that was done in that respect. One cannot but feel that the verdict given by the country at the time of the General Election amounted to a condoning of the election, and to the condoning, therefore, of the delays which arose out of the election. The right hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) spoke of the Bill before us now as being a breach of contract—I believe he even said a breach of faith—with the men who are already in the Army. I venture to think that is not so. They are not there by virtue of a contract at all, but by virtue of the overriding right of the State to put compulsion upon any one of us to save the State in its dire necessity. The State came to all of us of military age—unfortunately, it did not apply to me, but it applied to all my younger relatives—and said, "Those of you who have not volunteered will be compelled to do certain service," and those who waited for compulsion went there, not as the result of a contract, but of compulsion up to that point, and it is within the right of the State to come again and say, "We find it is necessary to compel you somewhat further." Therefore, I cannot admit for one minute that there will be any breach of faith or breach of contract if this Bill is passed.
But the question to my mind is this: Is it really necessary to extend military service, even for a limited number and under limited conditions, so far as the 30th April, 1920? I do not believe it is. I have not heard any argument to-night to show that it is necessary to go so far, and, for my part, I am not willing to extend compulsory military service in this country one day beyond what is absolutely necessary. I believe much more rapid steps might still be taken to create our voluntary Army. I believe there might be better pay and better conditions. If it were held out to the men that when they came out of the Army after so long they would have certain definite advantages—a piece of land, or a cottage, or whatever it might be—I believe you might build up your voluntary Army much more quickly than is being done at the present time, and I ask myself whether all those who are engaged in building up this voluntary Army are as zealous about it as they ought to be. If they were, I believe that in a few months it would be possible to allow any man who wants to leave the Army to do so, and that we should have enough men left on the new terms, serving voluntarily, to constitute the very considerable Army that we need for the purposes which I have tried to sketch.
I therefore hope that when we come to the Committee stage of the Bill the Government will recognise that much more can be done by them, and ought to be done by them, in a comparatively short time, and that they will shorten the period of this Bill by some months, say, to the end of this year. I cannot for one minute believe that it would be impossible to get the voluntary Army together by the end of this year. If, of course, it proved to be impossible, and they could come to this House and prove that they had done everything reasonably necessary for that purpose and failed, then the House still has its power of legislation to meet any necessity of the country. The country, I am certain, is willing to make the greatest sacrifices, and the serving men themselves, I believe, are willing to make great sacrifies for the safety of the country, to end all war in future, so that our sons and our grandsons shall never suffer, as we have had to suffer, to enthrone international right as the supreme power in the affairs of the world. But the country, and the serving men too, will, I believe, demand an assurance that all that is possible has been done by the Government to achieve these great ends by free means.
I rise with some trepidation for the first time in this House, to intervene in this Debate, and I should not have risen on this occasion but for the fact that I am one of those unfortunate individuals, perhaps, who subscribed to the No-Conscription policy in their election addresses. At the same time, I also pledged myself to full reparation and indemnity, and what I want to know is, how are we going to be able to exact reparation and indemnity without the means of exacting it? That, to me, seems to be the simple fact which would cancel any obligation into which I may have entered without full realisation of the circumstances obtaining to-day, when I promised my electors that I would not stand for Conscription in the future. It does seem to me that the whole question in this House is divided between parties. The Labour party, on the one hand, are taking up the attitude that they will not have Conscription in peace time or in war time, and, on the other hand, the Government are bringing in a very necessary Bill for the continuance of Conscription, or compulsory service, for the purpose of exacting from the enemy the terms to which we are entitled as a result of the sacrifices which we have made both in blood and in treasure. I maintain that, if Labour votes according to its duty, it will see that this country is given the opportunity of providing a sufficient striking force to exact from the enemy an indemnity which will relieve the financial obligations which this country has incurred, so that we may relieve the people of this country from the payment in taxation of at least£300,000,000 per annum, or£10 per head of the population, or 4s. per week. If we withdrew our Armies on the ratification of peace, and Germany refuses to ratify the peace, there is the possibility that we may lose the indemnity which we hope to extract, and which the Leader of the House yesterday assured us it was the intention of this Government to extract from the enemy. If we are placed in the unfortunate position that we cannot continue to exact that, it means that we ourselves, our industries, the future generations of this country, must bear the strain which will be imposed upon us and then, as a result of our own slackness in this country. There is only one point of view from which to look at this question, and that is the national point of view. I have pledged myself, as I have told the House, to vote against Conscription in this House, but I would consider I should be breaking faith with my electors if I voted against the Government on this Bill to-day. There is no question that, in keeping faith with my electors in asking for the means and opportunity to exact reparation and indemnity from Germany, I should, of necessity, agree, as should every Member of this House, to give the Government facilities wherewith to extract from the Central Powers the full terms of peace.
I do not think compulsory service, as presented in this Bill, is compulsory service within the meaning which we have understood it during the last four years. This compulsory service is for carrying out the peace terms. It is not compulsory service for the carrying on of the War, it is compulsory service for peace. It is compulsory service for the express purpose of enabling us to extract from the enemy all that is coming to us. I do not see that we can claim, or that anybody can reasonably claim, that we are defending France or the interests of France. We are defending the interests of the people of this country; we are defending the taxpayer, and we are not defending any interests except the home interests. After the clear and lucid explanation we have received this afternoon from the Minister of War, I do not see how any reasonable man can have the slightest hesitation or fear ingoing back to his constituency if they think that he has had to break a promise given in all good faith, which he finds on reflection and explanation it is impossible to keep. I shall speak and I hope vote against the Government on many occasions. I was not cursed or blessed with the Coalition ticket. But I do feel, however, that much as one may stand as a critic of the Government, there are times when we must recognize the justice of the case that is put in front of us, and there is no question to-day, after the clear demands of the Government, that the safety of the State depends on this. To whatever party we belong we, as a body, are compelled to adjudicate as to whether or not we can consistently vote against the Bill. That would really mean that we are going to throw away, as the Minister of War put it this afternoon, the fruits of victory. If we stand divided in this matter to-day, we undoubtedly present to the Central Empires divided opinions, and give them an opportunity to interpose, between the Allies and ourselves, obstacles, difficulties, and suggestions which might conflict with our unity of aims in demanding these terms. I feel that we must, at any rate, stand solid and united on this particular object. We must demand reparation, but we cannot demand reparation and indemnities unless we have the means wherewith to enforce the terms, and certainly there can be no division of opinion or policy on that matter, not even amongst labour. I represent a very large number of labour electors, and even the Labour party cannot claim that they only represent labour, because my Division at Cardiff is one of the largest labour Divisions in the country. I think we should not hesitate to throw over any promises we made without really realising and understanding the full context of our promises when we made them. Now that we have had the full situation put in front of us, we should undoubtedly realise that the conditions are different than they were when we made our promises, and that we are justified in agreeing to continue this Bill until April of next year, in order that we may be in a position to extract full and complete fulfilment of the peace terms.
Like other hon. Members, I feel a diffidence in attempting to address this House. I would like to say that I am not at all convinced as to the future policy of the Government in relation to Conscription. I have had some doubt whether the intentions of the Government, though they may be fixed now, will not be changed and altered before the time comes when this Bill will automatically cease. Though we have been told, and told only the other evening by the Leader of the House, that only such indemnities as were just and reasonable will be demanded, yet, notwithstanding that statement, the applause of hon. Members, when any question of indemnities is raised, leads me to believe, or at least to think, that the Government is not master of its own destiny, and that the possibilities are that the Government, which finds that the exigencies of the War demands the extension of the Military Service Act, may find, at the expiration of the time embodied in this Act, that it will have again to come to this House, on the plea of the military exigencies of the Empire, and ask for a further extension of this particular principle. In the absence of any clear, concise, emphatic and certain guarantee that such an eventuality cannot occur again, I am sure Labour must have some diffidence and hesitancy in going into the Lobby to support what is embodied in this measure. We have heard to-night from those who have been associated with the late Government that their opinion was that a definite pledge was given by the members of that Government that, at the cessation of hostilities, the military service of men who were called to the Colours would automatically cease. That is their opinion, and it is the opinion of other Members in this House. But now we realise that hon. Members and members of the Government do not agree in the interpretation of that pledge. They say that their policy must, of necessity, be dictated by the circumstances of the case. If that is true to-day, it must inevitably be true when 30th April, 1920, comes, and if you are going to extract the last penny, as some hon. Members have declared is their intention, from Germany, even to the extent of thirty-five years, you may have an Army of Occupation extending over a period of thirty-five years, and these thirty-five years would give you an excuse to come again to this House from time to time.
Therefore, seeing that Labour has no definite guarantee that a contingency of that character will of necessity be avoided, I think that Labour has no other course than to go into the Lobby and vote against the Government. It may be a purely personal matter to hon. Members that, in the beginning of the War, at least, a very large section of the Labour Members, in that hour of very grave emergency, went from place to place and held meetings side by side with hon. Members in this House who held diametrically opposite views, politically and economically, from the occupants of the Labour Benches, and urged young men to join the Colours. At most of these meetings we gave the young miners and others definitely to understand that the period of military service was only for the duration of the War. With that definite understanding a good many from the wharves, the mills, the warehouses, the furnaces, and the mines came to the Colours.
Now that pledge is not to be carried out! Further, I should like to remind the House of the very keen division of opinion in the labour ranks when the military Service Bills were introduced into this House. There are Members on these benches who had in their meetings and their conferences to fight tooth and nail for the vote of their party, or their class, to be given in favour of the Military Service Acts, while all who favoured the Military Service Acts of whatever kind based their arguments upon the fact that they were only for the duration of the War. Therefore, the Government are not only breaking faith with the soldier who has gone, but they are breaking faith with that section of the Labour leaders who endeavoured through the whole period of the War to assist the Government and the country in the work they had to carry out. I think we have a right now to ask the Government to honour their pledge both in relation to the soldier and to the Labour leaders who assisted the soldier.
I want to put a question to the Government. This, to me, is a pressing question. I think it also must be an important question to all who are here to-night. The Government have issued Regulations, and under these men who have attained the age of thirty-seven, men who enlisted before January 1916, who have three wound stripes, are at the present time entitled, if military exigencies will allow it, to claim their release. I desire to ask the Government, if this Act is passed, whether those men who have that privilege under the present Regulations will find their obligation to the Government automatically cease at the expiration of the Acts now in force? If not, you are going to have a preference and an invidious distinction between the fortunate men who have been able at present to be demobilised, and who under this Bill will have their final discharge, and those men who may still be retained in the Army. I should like to have some assurance that it is the Government's intention not to abrogate the provisions which are contained in their last Regulations. It has been asked to-night whether labour has any alternative scheme to that which has been proposed by the Government. Labour has given its definite answer. That answer all along has been that if the Government will pay the price they will always be able to attract the men necessary for the Service. If the Government require the services of men in the Army, if they are prepared to pay the standard rates which are paid in many of the better-class trades in which artisans are engaged, they will find that they will have no great difficulty voluntarily in getting the men to keep in the Army until the 30th April, 1920.
In conclusion, may I say that Labour to-night has only one straight course—to be true to those whom it seeks to represent. That is, having no definite guarantee that this Act will not be further extended on expiration, knowing full well that the men can be obtained if the Government will pay the price, our party and this House has no means of showing its objection except by going into the Lobby and voting against the Government.
Mr. J. W. WILSON:
I find myself in a difficult position to-night. I am one of those who heartily wish to support the Government in bringing about a lasting, permanent, and just peace at the earliest possible opportunity. I also, in my election, made it perfectly plain that I would be no party to any extension of the Military Service Acts. I therefore, with some amazement, heard my right hon. Friend the Minister for War to-night when he confessed that neither he nor his military advisers contemplated the position in which they find themselves to-day until a very short time ago.
My right hon. Friend made the admission. My point is that here, again, the House of Commons and the individual Members of it find themselves up against the machinery of the War Office which has failed in a very important point to make satisfactory provision for a need which it was their duty to foresee. I am not at the moment going to ask whether this or that Minister is responsible for the military authorities. I am speaking of the military authorities and their home administration. I am not speaking about generals, or officers, or soldiers in the field, but the military authorities at home, who have given Parliament and the people of this country vast cause to complain, in their lack of foresight, in their vacillation, and in their general administration from the beginning of the War, when they did not give the voluntary system a chance—
I did not wish to labour that point. [Laughter.] But as I have been challenged I will say—and if I am out of order perhaps the Speaker will recall me to the point—is it not the fact that they did not avail themselves to the full of the enthusiasm of enlistment in the first six months, but discouraged voluntary enlistment by taking the men into empty camps, by lack of equipment—
I do not want to go into the past history or the personalities of the War, but, if I am forced to say so, I think they could have helped it by enrolling these men who in hundreds of thousands came forward, and calling them up as and when they required them from their trade or industry as they could best be spared. I do not say this would have avoided compulsory service, but it would have postponed it for some time. In that particular crisis I say the military authorities ought to have seen this necessity in the months of November, December and January. Why are we told this Bill is so necessary and that we need now to go to the end of April next year if it is true that peace is going to be signed and ratified at once? I will give every stimulus and pressure to get that desirable end accomplished at the earliest possible moment. In either event there is no need to date this Bill to April next year, for a simple extension to July, September or October would be quite sufficient, and that would give this House control of the matter. In matters of finance or administration this House has always jealously held control to be one of the greatest privileges. We wish to bring all the pressure we can to hear to stimulate our representatives at Paris and quicken a decision at the Conference, but it seems to me that our smaller Allies think by asking for this and that they can strain our patience, and hold up the position of our enemies so much longer than need be. That does not seem to me to be the best way to bring about an early peace.
This House is not likely to refuse the Government such legislation as is necessary for maintaining a sufficient Army for the protection of the Empire—say, for India, Egypt, and so forth—but we view with very great anxiety any attempt to maintain an Army of abnormal size. As for training an Army that may be kept for policing Germany and Austria and the further East, this House requires to keep that power in its own hands. We should have looked very differently upon this Bill if it had been a suspensory one, and then the Government could have come forward for increased powers from time to time as they were required. I think, however, that to extend for more than twelve months this power will be a rude shock to those men in the Army, men who are married, and single business men with bigger claims when they find themselves left abroad for another twelve months at a time when they thought it was only going to be a month or so, more especially when they see less responsible men walking about the streets with no claims upon them. Those are the men whom I am sympathising with, who are left with the prospect of another twelve or fourteen months service. I appeal to the Government whether it would not be more in accordance with the traditions of this House if they were to consent to limit the period, and then seek for further extension from time to time as they were required. I think we want to stimulate our representatives at Paris and show them that we are not prepared to go on indefinitely. In that way only can the objects I have mentioned be accomplished.
It appears to me that this Debate has concentrated on two points, namely, the pledges given at the election and national necessity. My pledges at the election were given by the opposition newspaper. The day before my election the opposition paper came out with a large headline to the effect that "A vote for Mr. Townley is a vote for Conscription." Therefore, I think I may claim to have been elected on that issue. The pledges that may have been given and asked for during that election as regards the War may be summed up in two points. Firstly, that Germany should be made to pay to the uttermost farthing, and secondly, that the terms of peace should be such terms as would render it utterly impossible for Germany to again upset the peace of the world in the future Those were the pledges given. National necessity however, is a matter of far more importance than any pledges we may have given in the heat of the election. We have had that necessity placed before us very forcibly by the Secretary of State for War, and nothing can have shown more clearly at this time the necessity of the nation. We have been told this Bill will meet with the strongest opposition from the Labour party. I often wonder whether the Labour party really represents the wage-earners of this country in the way in which it is claimed. I think the wage-earners ought to be measured by their success or want of success at the poll, and I do not think there is hardly an hon. Member in this House who did not command the support of the wage-earners in his constituency.
The Secretary for War said in his speech this afternoon that this Bill has been introduced with a view to forcing our peace terms on Germany, and that has been repeated by several other speakers who have spoken in this House this afternoon. I want to know from the Minister for War upon whom are these peace terms to be forced, because the day before yesterday the Prime Minister said to the representatives of employers and workmen in a conference in London words to the effect that Russia has fallen to pieces, and that Germany is also falling to pieces. Who then is the Secretary for War going to enforce his peace terms upon. Is it out on the Rhine that the people of this country are continually going to live? Has he realised the effect that this Bill will have on the industries of this country? I know that in the industry I represent in South Wales this question is going to have a serious effect upon the tin-plate industry. We were told in the House last night that we want to re-establish the commercial system of this country as quickly as possible. If it is to be done you can only do it by preventing any further discontent and unrest in so far as the working-classes are concerned. The hon. Member for Cardiff said he had pledged himself to his constituency that he was going to vote against Conscription. I have also pledged myself to my Constituency that I am going to vote against Conscription, and as a member of the Labour party I am going to carry out that pledge. If the pledges made by the Prime Minister and hon. Members sitting on the benches opposite were carried out to the full this Bill would not have been introduced into the House to-day.
I want to try and analyse the position from a common-sense point of view. Let us take Russia. Is there anything happening in Russia to-day that did not happen in there previous to this War breaking out? [Hon. Members: "Yes!"] I know something about Russia. I have been there. [Hon. Members: "When?"] In 1913. What did I discover? No trade unions were allowed to exist, but the working-classes were able to organise a strike far more effectively than the organised workers in this country. I saw a tramway strike in Moscow when I was there in 1913. The workers had to go out of the district in order to hold their meetings, but the military and the police were immediately on their track. They captured forty of the leaders, and on the following day those men were shot and other leaders were sent to Siberia. That took place in times of peace, when the plutocrats and aristocrats dominated Russia. The same thing is taking place in Russia to-day, and the people who have been oppressed and tyrannised for centuries are simply going through the same trials as they went through in times of peace. They used to kill and murder each other in times of peace; they are doing exactly the same to-day. [Interruption.] I have got the floor of the House, and I hope that hon. Members will give me a hearing. I am putting my case; hon. Members will have an opportunity of replying if I am wrong. Now let us come to Germany. When I was in Germany I discovered that the people were bred, born, and educated in militarism and even dreamt of militarism; they were dominated by militarism. I am now going to describe what I have found in my own country. We have been a peace-loving people. We did not want any war, but when war broke out I myself, although I was dead against war, assisted the Prime Minister when he came down to South Wales in establishing factories in Newport, in Swansea, and in other places, and, although there was great unrest, I kept all my members in the steel trade at work in order to provide shells and munitions for the boys at the front. I, therefore, played my part during the War, and if my country goes to war again I will take my coat off again to assist my country. But we were a peace-loving people. Our boys went out in order to defeat and to destroy militarism in Germany. You have succeeded in doing it. [Hon. Members: "Not yet!"] But, after destroying it in Germany, you are introducing a Bill to establish Conscription in this country. [Hon. Members: "No!"] I am trying logically to develop my argument. That is the position in which we find ourselves to-day.
I want to show the effect of this Bill upon the trades of the country. In 1916 the tin-plate trade in South Wales, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) knows as well as I do, was a certified trade, but after 1916 the Government decided that we must have men before tin-plates. We had 500 mills running previous to the War; we have only something like half that number running to-day, because of the boys whom we sent out to the Eastern and Western Fronts. We want these boys back to-day in order to restart the other 250 mills, because the mining trade—we consume millions of tons of coal—the steel trade, the engineering trade, the foundry trades, the railways, the harbours, and the docks are all dependent upon the tin-plate trade. If this Bill goes through, these boys will be tied up for another twelve months on the Western Front and these 250 mills will still be idle. The Americans have captured all our neutral markets during the War, and to-day there are the same cost charges for running four mills in the works as used to run eight mills before the War. Therefore, if this Bill goes through, we shall be unable to get these boys back for another twelve months, and the tin plate trade in South Wales will be ruined. At every congress that has been held in this country—the Trade Union Congress or the Labour Party Congress—the delegates representing the mass of the workers of the country have unanimously passed resolutions against Conscription, and we represent the views of these men. I am not going to make any threat, but I am going to warn the Leader of the House. I have already been told that the engineers are asking the Secretary of State for War to meet a deputation of their executive in connection with this Bill, and on Saturday you will have every Trade Union branch passing resolutions condemning the action of the Government in bringing in this Bill. I am going to appeal to the Leader of the House and the Minister for War to let this Bill stand aside until the peace terms have been settled; then if they will require an Army let it be voluntary. I am sure these boys will show the same patriotism in the future as they have displayed in the past. The Government have promised us a period of reconstruction so far as this country is concerned. But what is the outlook for these boys? The Angel of Destruction will be hovering over the homes of a million of them for the next twelve months. I appeal to the Leader of the House to withdraw the Bill and have faith in the worker's patriotism. We have got through four and a half years of war and I feel confident that we can get through peace terms without having a Conscription Bill of this kind forced upon the boys at the front after all the sacrifices they have made.
I suppose that practically everything has been said to-day on one side of the House or the other which can be effectively said within the limits of a one-day Debate, and that the Leader of the House and the Members are prepared now to come to a decision on this vital question. A great many hard things have been said on both sides of the House to- day. I am one of those people who believe that it would be not only a colossal mistake, but a pathetic tragedy, if the fruits of the sacrifices and services which have been rendered by our fellow citizens in this War were to be lost through any false steps in the last stages of the War and at the declaration of peace. There are certain considerations, therefore, which I which I think ought to weigh with the House before it agrees to a Second Reading of what to my mind is an absolutely unnecessary Bill. A great many things have been said about pledges. I am not so old a Member of this House as is the Leader of it, and many other hon. Members, but I am not sure the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to defend his action in this House after all the pledges he has given outside. I do not suppose any of us would be prepared to do that. I do not think we would like even to be brought to that test. It would be a very easy thing to examine the speeches made by Ministers of the Crown and make points against them. Take the case of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War. It would be very easy, and at the same time almost cheap, to suggest that he himself has not respected all the pledges he has given. He has won a great many elections. I do not know how many he has fought. I think I know the number of Governments of which he has been a member. He was a member of one in 1900, in 1906, and in 1918. He has been a member of three successive Governments, every one of which has broken its pledges, so far as electioneering pledges are concerned and my right hon. Friend has defended them. But I do not think it would be fair, in an important Debate of this kind, to point out that my right hon. Friend has only been consistent in defending pledges which have been broken. I consider this is too serious a question to justify the use of that kind of argument.
I want to put one or two points which should influence the House in coming to a decision as to the Second Reading of this Bill. My first point is that this Bill appears to be entirely premature. Let us be strictly practical. At the present moment the Government has ample powers to raise men by Conscription in an all-round fashion, and there is nothing to terminate those powers except the ratification of peace. It is, therefore, possible for the Government, if they so wish, to at any moment come down to this House and extend the period of the Military Service Acts. My position in regard to those Acts is not unknown in this House. I voted against every one of them which was proposed in the House of Commons, but the Acts having been passed, I have accepted, along with other hon. Members, the Conscription situation. I have fairly kept faith with the Government in seeing the Acts carried out. It is open for the Government at any moment to prolong the Acts, and thus to do exactly what they suggest should be done to the very limited number of men affected by this Bill, and in that way make our Conscripton laws apply not to a select number of men, but to everybody in the State who ought to give actual service to the State.
The second point I want to make is this: The Secretary for War made an extraordinary announcement to the effect that he did not foresee this situation until he went to the War Office. Those of us who were in the last Parliament will remember many of the discussions we had on the subject of demobilisation. That was always a source of anxiety to Members of this House, and the Leader of the House will remember the many Debates we had on the subject. I think he will also remember he assured us that the War Cabinet of which he himself was a member had set up Committees to deal with the question. I should be very much surprised if my right hon. Friend, who, after all, at any rate, has this one virtue, that he is a shrewd man, will get up and assert that the Secretary for War was so much kept in ignorance of what was being done with regard to demobilisation that he actually did not know before he went to the War Office that it might be possible to have to introduce new legislation to see that peace was secured. I have great respect for my colleague the Secretary for War who represents a Scottish constituency, as also does the Leader of the House. They are both very hard-headed constituencies. But I should like to see the expansive smile on the faces of a Dundee audience if the right hon. Gentleman went there and said that he did not know until he went to the War Office that it might be necessary to introduce legislation of this kind. At any rate, the Leader of the House must have known; otherwise his Committees on demobilisation were so much camouflage presented to Members of the House who raised this question in the last Session of the last Parliament. My last question is also quite short. I want to suggest to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War that he has not yet made any real attempt to secure a voluntary Army on the basis of this Bill. The Government have made offers to the men on the Rhine of bounties, by which they are persuading them to join for one year, or two, three, or four years. That, if I remember rightly, is not quite the success that was anticipated. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend why no effort has been made, as certainly no effort has been made before this Bill was introduced, to secure a voluntary Army to serve for one year only?
It was for one, two, three, or four years, with bounties. My right hon. Friend knows that I am right in saying that no effort has been made to secure a voluntary Army to serve for one year in order to see that the objects of the Armistice, and that the terms we impose upon Germany, are carried out. I am quite frank with the House. I do not want to see, and no man in his senses wants to see, the fruits of our victory disappear. It may be that all of us will have to put up with something we do not like in order to garner those fruits. I am quite prepared to take up that position. I am prepared to meet even my strongest opponent on that point, but I am not prepared, in doing that, to give the opportunity which is afforded in this Bill for what I believe may be very dangerous results, as I hope to show before I sit down. I repeat that the Government have not yet offered to the men who are serving on the Rhine at this moment attractions by which they can be persuaded, if necessary, to remain in the Army until the date to be ascertained, so as to complete what my right hon. Friend wants. There are many things which would induce them to do so. Everybody in this House knows the kind of questions that affect the average serving soldier. My right hon. Friend talks about the pocket-money these fellows have to spend on the Rhine, and regretted that he was not a member of the force now, and had as much as they to spend. That is not the real Question that affects the man serving on the Rhine. It is not only his pocket-money. It is his wife and children at home, it is the kind of thing for which my right hon. Friend is going to read a Bill to-morrow for the second time, the kind of thins like the Rent Restriction Act, the kind of thing which means that while a man is fighting on the Rhine the landlord is turning his wife and children out of his house in this country. That is the kind of questions which affect a man in the Army. It is not so much what he has to spend on the Rhine, because, as a matter of fact, there is a Regulation in the British Army at the present moment which provides that, with the exception of a very few materials, no British soldier can spend any money on the Rhine. He is not permitted to do so by the Regulations of this country.
My fourth point is that this Bill is a great injustice to the men who are being retained. I said a moment ago that I had always personally voted against your Bills for military service in this country, therefore I have always been against Conscription. But once they were passed I have accepted them. Once you pass a conscriptive Bill, surely you ought to try to carry it into effect as evenly as possible over all classes of the community. What are you doing by this Bill? You are marooning the present soldiers who are in the Army of Occupation. You are leaving them on the Rhine. You are compelling them to stop there. Everyone else in this country, ourselves included, is to go on engaging in our occupation and carrying on our interests. Many of the restrictions on these men are stupid. One of them is that a man has to have three wound stripes before he can be demobilised from this Army of Occupation. There are many men to-day in the Army of Occupation who are wearing three wound stripes who have never been so seriously wounded as a man who is wearing one. There you are marooning these men on the Rhine, and compelling them because of certain facts which you anticipate in the future to become part of this conscripted Army.
The fourth point I want to make is a reply to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the Regular Army. I had the audacity to interrupt him when he was drawing a picture of what would happen if we did not do this. He has a vivid imagination in addition to many other qualities. He pointed out how if we did not agree to this someone was going to pick up every coaling station of the British Empire the day after to-morrow. [Interruption.] That is the day after to-morrow, because this is the "Do it now" Government. My right hon. Friend pointed out that places like Aden, Gibraltar, and so forth, would be lost to us. I will put a square question, which I do not believe he can answer: Will this Bill, and the men he gets by it, affect any Regular establishment in the British Empire?
I do not mind my right hon. Friend saying that, but let us discuss how it is possible. It is much better that he should say that because I think I can prove it is wrong. Let us reason together. Let us see what the facts are. My right hon. Friend is backing a Bill which is to last until 30th April, 1920, and he hopes to get from that Army, which is to be an Army of Occupation on the Rhine, men to supply our Regular establishments in India, the West Indies, Aden, Mesopotamia, Northern Persia, and so on. You cannot get them out of this Bill.
My hon. Friend is apparently, I will not say ignorant, but incompletely instructed on the point. This Bill enables us to retain in Mesopotamia, in India, in Egypt, in Palestine, the men within the retained categories needed for the garrisons of those places who cannot be replaced from any other source.
Very well, then. These are men of the Regular Army now. [Hon. Members: "No!"] Yes; they are. It is no use having a chorus of Noes. Put down a question on the Order Paper, and you will find out that they are men whose Regular service is unexpired.
It is very good of my right hon. Friend not to say I am ignorant. If I am incompletely informed, I am only in the same predicament as himself with regard to this Bill. He has himself confessed that he was ignorant of the situation until he went to the War Office. I am glad to be in the same category, even although it is C3, with my right hon. Friend.
My sixth point is the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby as to the men in Class Z. That point was not cleared up by the discussion, and I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will give me his attention on this subject, because it is a vital point affecting at least nearly a million men. At the present time, when a man is demo- bilised from the British Army he is not discharged; he is put into Class Z, and in Class Z he is liable to be recalled to any arm of the Service. I do not object to that, but that is the fact. Now, my right hon. Friend in discussing this question pointed out that those men would be finally discharged when peace was ratified, but he failed to point out to the House that until peace was ratified that any one of those half-a-million to a million men could be embodied again in the British Army. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House might give us, before he finally concludes the Debate, an assurance that these Z Class men cannot be embodied in the Service before peace is ratified.
Before peace is ratified they are held under the Acts which have already been passed by the House.
I am making this point for the information of nearly a million men who are all concerned, and that is that nothing prevents them being embodied in the Service. The last point I want to make is this. My right hon. Friend in the course of a speech the other day said that the main element of discipline in the British Service is a sense of justice. I hope that every Member of this House wants to feel that the men on the Rhine have that sense of justice, that they are being treated fairly. I donot think this Bill does treat them fairly; that is why I shall vote against the Second Reading. Before I sit down I want to ask one final question from the Leader of the House, Whether after we have taken the Second Reading of the Bill he is prepared to commit this Bill to a Committee of the Whole House?
My hon. Friend who has just sat down, by way of giving an illustration of that humour for which his nationality, like mine, is distinguished, had a small joke at the expense of my right hon. Friend, but said that it was so insignificant in comparison with the great issues that he would not dwell on it. He did not, however, fail to mention it, and that was that my right hon. Friend had only been consistent in defending the indefensible in every Government. Those of us who were Members of the last Parliament may every one of us give the hon. Gentleman this credit, that he has been absolutely consistent throughout in putting obstacles by every means in his power in the path of every Government that has tried to do its duty. Nobody recognises that better than the hon. Gentleman himself. He displayed to-night another of the qualities which distinguished him in the last Parliament. That was that his fluency and eloquence were in exact proportion to his want of knowledge of the subject about which he was speaking.
I was surprised to find that there was one single Member of this House who did not know that the Old Army which had been used as garrisons in India and all our other stations had long ago gone to the fighting ranks, and that their places in every single instance had been taken by the New Army. The release of these men might easily be a very serious question. I shall try to deal with it very briefly, but in a serious way. If the result of this War were to be that in the end we had to impose upon this country compulsory military service, which the country would never accept, even when faced with a great danger which many people knew was in front of us, it would indeed be a sorry ending to this war. If the effect of this Bill was in any sense whatever to mean that this is to be our system in the future, then I would thoroughly sympathise with all the opposition that has been directed against this Bill. In my belief so far is that from being the case that the need of the present situation, the absolute necessity after all our sacrifices, is to secure the results of the victory which has been so dearly bought. The effect of this Bill by securing that victory will in itself be the best safeguard against any necessity of Conscription in the future.
I will deal, so far as I can remember them, with the points made against the Bill. We heard a good deal about breach of faith. I do not consider that that is a slight thing. If pledges given at the election were broken it would be a very serious thing for this country and for everyone. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw) maintained that it was only in a casuistical way that it could be said that pledges were not broken, according to the plain language of the man in the street. The exact opposite is the case. It is only by the most casuistical reading of some of the speeches of the Prime Minister that there can be any contention that there has been a
breach of faith in the matter. As a proof of that I will take this very speech which has been quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), the speech at Bristol:
We have got the usual attempts made to frighten the electors. And one of the most effective means of doing so is to say that the Government mean to keep up a great conscript Army in this country. That is not so. The Military Service Act was passed in order to meet a great emergency. When that emergency is past the need is past and the Act will lapse, and there is no intention to renew it.
Is there any man who heard or read that speech who attached to it any other meaning than that my right hon. Friend was speaking of the future military system in this country after the present War had finished? The right hon. Gentleman said that meaning is taken away, because he says there is no intention of renewing it. Could you get anything more casuistical than that? The right hon. Gentleman says that this does renew it—what nonsense! The Military Service Act as it stands to-day enables you to take up men day after day. That is gone and there is no such power under this Bill. More than that, the Military Service Act applied at that time to three and a half million men in the Armies and two and a half million men are gone now. How can you say this is renewing the Military Service Act?
If my right hon. Friend thinks that makes any difference he is welcome to his opinion. Let me come to some other criticisms which were made. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, with a frankness which I thought I was the only person guilty of on the Ministerial Bench, said that he had not considered the effect of the steps that would be necessary in connection with the Peace Treaty, and everyone is greatly surprised. Is there anyone who has ever been connected with any Government when it is not his own Department who looks into all the effects of everything that is going to happen in the future in connection with a system of this kind? But more than that, there would be something in the criticism if it was said that our Military Staff, which is responsible for this, and not thought of it. Nothing of the kind happened. As a matter of fact there is nothing that my right hon. Friend has said that does not express the truth for the whole of us. We did not know when the Armistice was signed that it would be necessary to have any steps of this kind, because we did not know whether we might not get what we wanted by voluntary means. At the time of the Armistice, just at that time, the Army Council made an attempt to get volunteers right away. They offered what they thought were reasonable inducements. They offered a bounty in the case of four years' service of, I think,£50, and down to£30 for shorter terms. They hoped to get the men. They tried for six weeks, which brings us to the time when the new Government was formed, and they found they only got 10,000 men. It may be that if they had begun at an earlier time with the present inducements they might have got them, but I think it is very doubtful. When the Armistice was signed the men had a feeling—or not exactly when it was signed. I was in Paris at that time myself. Even the military men there were doubtful whether when the time came for the Germans to move out of the territory they had seized they would go without fighting. We had no certainty that the fighting was over. When it was known that the fighting was over all the men in our Armies wished to get relief for the moment. They did not think of the future and I do not believe at that time any reasonable inducement would have got the volunteers necessary.
Now come to the actual position. Everyone who has criticised this Bill has been asked to give an alternative. We have had all kinds of alternatives. The hon. Member who spoke last has an alternative which is as practicable as one would have expected. He said, "This is entirely premature; wait till peace is signed, and then draw from the whole lot of the 3,500,000 men whatever you want." Just think what that means. The Army was in the utmost confusion. Men did not know when they were going to set back or if they were going to get back at all, and the feeling in the Army was very disquieting. What my hon. Friend suggests is that we should keep them in that uncertainty till peace is signed and not let any of these men know when they are going to get away from the Army. Is that satisfactory? Of other alternatives I have heard none. My right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) —and I may say I am a little surprised to find the line he and his friends are taking on this question, and I can only account for it by supposing that he thinks the number of his followers is already too large, and wants to take a line that will further reduce them—
His line is, "Why all this hurry? If you start now in earnest in raising Volunteers you will succeed." Does he really think so? One of the inducements without which you would not get the men at all is to give them holidays varying from three months downwards, according to the length of their re-engagement—three months before they can be ready at all. Then when is peace going to be signed? He says: "We cannot tell. There are thirty States. It may take a long time to get it ratified." And he is prepared to leave the whole military position of the British Empire on the chance that these States may delay the signing of the peace. Suppose he is right. Suppose the result is that the ratification is delayed till the end of the year. What happens? All this fuss is made because the Military Service Act is continued for a small portion of the men for three months longer than it was under the existing Act. The position really is that, except for prejudice, there is not an iota of justification for any of the criticism directed against the Government. What is the position? This country hag fought for four and a-half years. We are on the point, we hope, within a very short time of making the preliminaries of peace. Those preliminaries, if they are to secure for us the fruits of this War—and I hope as the greatest of these fruits the destruction of the danger which threatened Europe so long—if we are to secure the results, we must not only have the peace terms signed, but these terms must, above everything, include the effective reduction of the German Army, the destruction of the means by which they can make munitions, and the guarantee by that method, the only one I can think of, that the danger from Germany will not arise again. That is to happen after the preliminaries of peace are signed. It cannot happen before, and my right hon. Friend, who leads a great party in name, is prepared to leave it all to chance as to whether or not there is a single British soldier to enforce the results which we have spent four and a half years in achieving.
But it is worse than that. I do not suppose that any Member of this House would really take that step or justify it if he thought that would be the result. What do they rely on? They know that France is there face to face with the danger. They know that, whatever we do, France must keep her own there, unless the whole result of the War is to be lost. And is it really suggested that the British nation, after fighting side by side with France all these years, is going to leave it to France alone? That is not an imaginary thing. I do not think we in this House sufficiently realise the French point of view in regard to these questions. We see that the German Fleet is already practically gone. The old danger which we feared has been taken away—the danger of a possible invasion. What do the French see? They see lying for the moment, sprawling on the ground, the savage beast which has been tearing at their entrails for four years. Do they think that is a danger they can face with equanimity until that beast's power for evil has been destroyed? M. Clemenceau, who is not a man who is carried away with wild ideas, had been noticing what was happening here—noticing the very thing these hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen wish to be continued—and fearing that our Army would disappear, said this to his colleagues in the French Chamber, "If we do not take care, when the British and American Armies have disappeared, we shall be faced again with the same danger which has been threatening us for four and a half years."
What is it we are asking? We are asking, not that there should be any renewal, or any adoption as a permanent system, of the principle of Conscription in this country. We are asking only that in a way which, after the most minute care, we believe to be fair, we are using part of our existing Army to make sure that all the sacrifices of all the men who have fallen shall not have been in vain. That is all we are doing, and is there any question about the fairness of it? I have heard no criticism whatever of that point of view. Of course it is a hardship, but we have tried our best to make the hardship as fair as it is possible to make it. We have made it apply to the younger men. Could anything be fairer than that? Of course, as was suggested by an hon. Member opposite, a great deal might have been said for applying real Conscription—that is to say, bringing new men in to come and do their part. We are not doing so, and we are not doing so for the reason explained by my right hon. Friend, that the training which it would be necessary to give them would take so long, that we hope before they would be ready we shall have no need for conscripted men at all, and that their places will be filled by volunteers. What is the position? We are taking the only step which seems to us fair and just in order to make sure that the fruits of this War are not lost. That is all. And can any hon. Member suggest that if at the election my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had added to one of his speeches, "Of course, that does not mean that we will not use the men now conscripted in whatever way it is thought necessary to bring the War to an end"—does anyone think for a moment that that would have lost a single vote? I venture to say that if by any possibility this Amendment were carried—they say the age of miracles is passed, and that certainly is not going to happen, but if it were possible, I hardly think it is—the Government which goes to the country on this declaration, "We have fought the War, we have won it, we are not going to lose the fruits of it," would come back by a larger majority.
I hope I have not spoken with heat, but I think all this hostility is due to the people who are ready to oppose this Bill not realising the point and not seeing that there is no other way by which we can avoid losing the fruits of victory.
We have tried. [An Hon. Member: "Increase the wage!"] Even if we got the men by voluntary means they must first of all have a holiday. That takes a certain number of months. Look at India. Of all those suffering under this Bill the men out in India are, I think, the most hardly used, but you cannot help it. There is absolutely no means which the mind of man can invent which would enable these men to be brought home before the hot season is over, and their places taken by others. What is it that these hon. Gentlemen mean? My hon. Friend who spoke last (Mr. Hogge) asked the Secretary for War, "Who is going to take Gibraltar or Aden, or all the rest of it?" I do not think any body is. I think it extremely unlikely that anybody will. But are we prepared to say that the British Empire at the end of this War is to be left even temporarily absolutely defenceless? Or take the case that might happen—I think nothing is more unlikely—but India is a big country. We have been afraid in the past of trouble in India. Our British garrison now has been enormously reduced, because of the loyalty with which the Indians have helped us. But does anyone say that you are going to leave India absolutely without a British Army at all, which is what this proposal would mean, if it were adopted? That is the fact. On the day peace is ratified every soldier in India will have the right to ask for his discharge, and we cannot refuse to give it. I can assure hon. Members it is really fighting a shadow. That is all. They are afraid that this means the thin edge of the wedge for Conscription—
Industrial conscription! This Bill does not give a shadow of fear of it. All through the War such a thing never arose, and in any case this Bill does not give one iota of power to use men for that kind of purpose. It is a shadow they are afraid of. I say to them the one chance—and the Prime Minister, from the beginning, has not only taken that view and expressed it in his own memorandum, but he has pressed it on the other delegates in Paris—the one way to get rid of Conscription, not only here, but so far as we can everywhere, is to make sure that the German danger is gone, and gone for ever; and that you cannot have unless you have an Army to ensure the terms of peace.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), at the close of his speech, used language which the Secretary of State for War has described as menacing. It was not intended to be that but he did suggest that he would bring to the notice of those who attend to him in the country what we were doing. I remember very well my right hon. Friend, on the whole—and I say it in his presence—played a very good part in the country. When the Military Service Bill was going through I was the Minister in charge in the House. I remember very well that he made a speech in which he used much more threatening language than he has to-day. I admit there is something in it; but the right hon. Gentleman was much better than were his speeches in this House. He played no such part in the country. I say to him in reality that the danger to this country from other causes is not less than it was then. I ask him not to use language of this kind to increase these difficulties. I am certain if he looks at facts fairly in the face he will realise as well as I do that all this talk about Conscription is exciting prejudice, and is not dealing in the least with
We can divide upon it. I see no reason whatever for departing from the general system.
|Division No. 11.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Green, J. F. (Leicester)|
|Ainsworth, Captain C.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Greene, Lt.-Col. W. (Hackney, N.)|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. L. C. M. S.||Cockerill, Brig.-Gen. G. K.||Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar|
|Archdale, Edward M.||Collins, Col. G. P. (Greenock)||Gregory, Holman|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Colvin, Brig.-Gen. R. B.||Greig, Col. James William|
|Atkey, A. R.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Griggs, Sir Peter|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Coote, Colin R. (Isle of Ely)||Guest, Major O. (Leices., Loughb'ro'.)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Guinness, Capt. Hon. R. (Southend)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Hacking, Captain D. H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cory, J. H. (Cardiff)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)|
|Banner, Sir J. S. Harmood-||Courthope, Major George Loyd||Hambro, Angus Valdemar|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. N. (Gorbals)||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Univ.)||Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham)|
|Barnett, Captain Richard W.||Cozens-Hardy, Hon. W. H.||Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Craig, Capt. C. (Antrim)||Haslam, Lewis|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Craik, Rt. Hon, Sir Henry||Henderson, Major V. L.|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Henry Page||Hennessy, Major G.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Curzon, Commander Viscount||Henry, Sir Charles S. (Salop)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford)|
|Bellairs, Com. Carlyon W.||Davidson, Major-General J. H.||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Davies, Sir D. S. (Denbigh)||Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F.|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich)||Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Hills, Major J. W. (Durham)|
|Bennett, T. J.||Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Hinds, John|
|Betterton, H. B.||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Sir Samuel J. G.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Hood, Joseph|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Denison-Pender, John C.||Hope, John Deans (Berwick)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Dennis, J. W.||Hopkinson, A. (Mossley)|
|Blane, T. A.||Denniss, E. R. Bartley (Oldham)||Horne, Sir Robert (Hillhead)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Dewhurst, Lieut.-Com. H.||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Dockrell, Sir M.||Hudson, R. M.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Inskip, T. W. H.|
|Brackenbury, Col. H. L.||Duncannon, Viscount||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Edgar, Clifford||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Edwards, J. H. (Glam., Neath)||Jodrell, N. P.|
|Briggs, Harold||Elliott. Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Johnson, L. S.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry E.||Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Johnstone, J.|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Eyres-Monsell, Com.||Jones, Sir E. R. (Merthyr)|
|Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)||Falcon, Captain M.||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Col. A. L. H.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)|
|Burdon, Col. Rowland||Fell, Sir Arthur||Jones, Wm. Kennedy (Hornsey)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay)||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Kerr-Smiley, Major P.|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast)||Foxcroft, Captain C.||Kidd, James|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Campion, Col. W. R.||Gange, E. S.||Knights, Capt. H.|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Gardner, E. (Berks., Windsor)||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)||Law, A. J. (Rochdale)|
|Carr, W. T.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Manchester)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Glyn, Major R.||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Chadwick, R. Burton||Goff, Sir R. Park||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Gould, J. C.||Locker-Lampson G. (Wood Green)|
|Child, Brig.-Gen sir Hill||Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir E. A.||Lonsdale, James R.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Grayson, Lieut.-Col. H. M.||Lorden, John William|
|Clay, Capt. H. H. Spender||Greame, Major P. Lloyd-||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Clyde, James Aven||Green, A. (Derby)||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Lowther, Col. C. (Lonsdale, Lancs.)||Perring, William George||Stevens, Marshall|
|Lyle-Samuel, A. (Eye, E. Suffolk)||Philipps, Sir O. C. (Chester)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Lyon, L.||Pickering, Col. Emil W.||Stoker Robert Burdon|
|M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|M'Gurtin, Samuel||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Assheton||Sykes, Col. Sir A. J. (Knutsford)|
|Mackinder, Halford J.||Pratt, John William||Sykes, Sir C. (Huddersfield)|
|M'Laren, R. (Lanark, N.)||Preston, W. R.||Talcot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|M'Lean, Lt.-Col. C. W. W. (Brigg)||Pulley, Charles Thornton||Thomas, Sir R. (Wrexham, Denb.)|
|Macmaster, Donald||Purchase, H. G.||Thompson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|McNeill, Ronald (Canterbury)||Ramsden, G. T.||Townley, Maximillian G.|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Randles, Sir John Scurrah||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Raper, A. Baldwin||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Madoocks, Henry||Raw, Lt.-Col. Dr. N.||Vickers, D.|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Waddington, R.|
|Malone, Major P. (Tottenham, S.)||Rees, Sir J. D.||Walton, J. (York, Don Valley)|
|Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon. Francis B.||Reid, D. D.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Mitchell, William Lane-||Renwick, G.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Moles, Thomas||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Wardle, George J.|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir Newton J.||Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.)||Weigall, Lt.-Col. W. E. G. A.|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col, J. C. T.||Rogers, Sir Hallewell||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Morden, Col. M. Grant||Roundell, Lt.-Col. R. F.||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Rowlands, James||Whitla, Sir William|
|Morris, Richard||Royds, Lt.-Col. Edmund||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Morrison, H. (Salisbury)||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Darwen)||Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Mosley, Oswald||Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir Rhys (Banbury)|
|Mount, William Arthur||Samuels, Rt. Hon. A.W. (Dublin Univ.)||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Murchison, C. K.||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur||Willoughby, Lt.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Murray, Lt.-Col. Hn. A. C. (Aberd'n.)||Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton)||Wilson, Capt. A. (Hold'ness, Yorks.)|
|Nall, Major Joseph||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone)||Wilson, Col. M. (Richmond, Yorks.)|
|Neal, Arthur||Seddon, J. A.||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Nelson, R. F. W. R.||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Wood, Major Hon. E. (Ripon)|
|Newman, Major J. (Finchley, Mddx.)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E.||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge and Hyde)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)||Simm, M. T.||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)||Smithers, Alfred W.||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Nield, Sir Herbert||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.||Stanier, Capt. Sir Beville||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|Palmer, Brig.-Gen. G. (Westbury)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|Parker, James||Stanton, Charles Butt||Younger, Sir George|
|Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)||Starkey, Capt. John Ralph|
|Peel, Lt.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)||Steel, Major S. Strang||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Capt.|
|Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Stephenson, Col. H. K.||Guest and Lord E. Talbot.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, C. H.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Holmes, J. S.||Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Irving, Dan||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Spencer, George A.|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Kenyon, Barnet||Spoor, B. G.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Kiley, James Daniel||Sturrock, J. Leng-|
|Briant, F.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Cairns, John||Lunn, William||Taylor, J. W. (Chester-le-Street)|
|Cape, Tom||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||M'Lean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Tootill, Robert|
|Devlin, Joseph||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wallace, J.|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||O'Connor, T. P.||Walsh, S. (Ince, Lancs.)|
|Finney, Samuel||O'Grady, James||Waterson, A. E.|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wedgwood, Col. Josiah C.|
|Glanville, Harold James||Raffan, Peter Wilson||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh)||Redmond, Captain William A.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||Rose, Frank H.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Royce, William Stapleton||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Sexton, James|
|Hartshorn, V.||Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Hayday, A.||Shaw, Tom (Preston)||T. Wilson and Mr. Hogge.|
|Hayward, Major Evan||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
Bill read a second time.
|Division No. 12.]||AYES.||[11. 10 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Cairns, John|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Cape, Tom|
|Arnold, Sydney||Briant, F.||Carter, W. (Mansfield)|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Davison, J. E. (smethwick)||Lunn, William||Spencer, George A.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Spoor, B. G.|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||M'Lean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Swan, J. E. C.|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||MacVeagh, Jeremian||Taylor, J. W. (Chester-le-Street)|
|Galoraith, Samuel||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh)||O'Connor, T. P.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||O'Grady, James||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Walsh, S. (Ince, Lancs.)|
|Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Waterson, A. E.|
|Hartshorn, V.||Redmond, Captain William A.||Wedgwood, Col. Josiah C.|
|Hayday, A.||Rose, Frank H.||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Royce, William Stapleton||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Holmes, J. S.||Sexton, James||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Irving, Dan||Shaw, Tom (Preston)|
|Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Short, A. (Wednesbury)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Sitch, C. H.||T. Wilson and Mr. Hogge.|
|Kiley, James Daniel||Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Coote, Colin R. (Isle of Ely)||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. L. C. M. S.||Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F.|
|Archdale, Edward M.||Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Hills, Major J. W. (Durham)|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Cory, J. H. (Cardiff)||Hinds, John|
|Atkey, A. R.||Courthope, Major George Loyd||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Sir Samuel J. G.|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Univ.)||Hood, Joseph|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Cozens-Hardy, Hon. W. H.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Craig, Capt. C. (Antrim)||Hope, John Deans (Berwick)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)|
|Banner, Sir J. S. Harmood-||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Henry Page||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. N. (Gorbals)||Curzon, Commander Viscount||Horne, Sir Robert (Hillhead)|
|Barnett, Captain Richard W.||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Hudson, R. M.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Davidson, Major-General J. H.||Inskip, T. W. H.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Davies, Sir D. S (Denbigh)||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Jodrell, N. P.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Johnson, L. S.|
|Bellairs, Com. Carlyon W.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Johnstone, J.|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Denison-Pender, John C.||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich)||Dennis, J. W.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Bennett, T. J.||Dockrell, Sir M.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)|
|Betterton, H. B.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Jones, Wm. Kennedy (Hornsey)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Duncannon, Viscount||Kerr-Smiley, Major P.|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Edwards, J. H. (Glam., Neath)||Kidd, James|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Knights, Capt. H.|
|Blane, T. A.||Eyres-Monsell, Com.||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Falcon, Captain M.||Law, A. J. (Rochdale)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)|
|Brackenbury, Col. H. L.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Foxcroft, Captain C.||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Briggs, Harold||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Lonsdale, James R.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry E.||Gange, E. S.||Lorden, John William|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)||Lort-Williams. J.|
|Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Col. A. L. H.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John||Lowther, Col. C. (Lonsdale, Lancs.)|
|Burdon, Col. Rowland||Glyn, Major R.||Lyle-Samuel, A. (Eye, E. Suffolk)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay)||Goff, Sir R. Park||Lyon, L.|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast)||Gould, J. C.||M'Curdy, Charles Albert|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir E. A.||M'Guffin, Samuel|
|Campion, Col. W. R.||Grayson, Lieut.-Col. H. M.||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Greame, Major P. Lloyd-||M'Laren, R. (Lanark, N.)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||M'Lean, Lt.-Col. C. W. W. (Brigg)|
|Carr, W. T.||Greene, Lt.-Col. W. (Hackney, N.)||Macmaster, Donald|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar||McNeill, Ronald (Canterbury)|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Gregory, Holman||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Chadwick, R. Burton||Greig, Col. James William||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Griggs, Sir Peter||Maddocks, Henry|
|Child, Brig.-Gen. Sir Hill||Guest, Major O. (Leices., Loughb'ro'.)||Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Guinness, Capt. Hon. R. (Southend)||Malone, Major P. (Tottenham. S.)|
|Clay, Capt. H. H. Spender||Hacking, Captain D. H.||Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon. Francis B.|
|Clyde, James Avon||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||Mitchell, William Lane-|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Moles, Thomas|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham)||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Cockerill, Brig.-Gen. G. K.||Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Collins, Col. G. P. (Greenock)||Henderson, Major V. L.||Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir Newton J.|
|Colvin, Brig.-Gen. R. B.||Hennessy, Major G.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. C. T.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford)||Morden, Col. H. Grant|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Thomas, Sir R. (Wrexham, Denb.)|
|Morris, Richard||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Thompson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Morrison, H. (Salisbury)||Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.)||Townley, Maximillian G.|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Rogers, Sir Hallewell||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Mosley, Oswald||Roundell, Lt.-Col. R. F.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Mount, William Arthur||Rowlands, James||Vickers, D.|
|Murchison, C. K.||Royds, Lt.-Col. Edmund||Waddington, R.|
|Murray, Lt.-Col. Hn. A. C. (Aberd'n.)||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Darwen)||Wallace, J.|
|Neal, Arthur||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Nelson, R. F. W. R.||Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Newman, Major J. (Finchley, Mddx.)||Samuels, Rt. Hon. A.W. (Dublin Univ.)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)||Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton)||Weigall, Lt.-Col. W. E. G. A.|
|Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.||Seddon, J. A.||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Palmer, Brig.-Gen. G. (Westbury)||Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Parker, James||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Wigan, Brig.-Gen- John Tyson|
|Peel, Lt.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E.||Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)|
|Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Simm, M. T.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Perring, William George||Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir Rhys (Banbury)|
|Philipps, Sir O. C. (Chester)||Smithers, Alfred W.||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Pickering, Col. Emil W.||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander||Willoughby, Lt.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Stanier, Capt. Sir Beville||Wilson, Capt. A. (Hold'ness, Yorks.)|
|Pownall, Lt.-Col. Assheton||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Wilson, Col. M. (Richmond, Yorks.)|
|Pratt, John William||Stanton, Charles Butt||Wood, Major Hon. E. (Ripon)|
|Preston, W. R.||Starkey, Capt. John Ralph||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge and Hyde)|
|Pulley, Charles Thornton||Steel, Major S. Strang||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Purchase, H. G.||Stephenson, Col. H. K.||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Ramsden, G. T.||Stevens, Marshall||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Randles, Sir John Scurrah||Stewart, Gershom||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|Raper, A. Baldwin||Stoker Robert Burdon||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|Raw, Lt.-Col. Dr. N.||Sturrock, J. Leng-||Younger, Sir George|
|Rees, Sir J. D.||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|Reid, D. D.||Sykes, Sir C. (Huddersfield)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord E.|
|Renwick, G.||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)||Talbot and Captain Guest.|
|Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
Resolution agreed to.