(1) If the competent authority is of opinion that, as respects any men to whom this Section applies or any class of such men, they cannot consistently with the public interest be released from actual service at the time when in pursuance of the terms of their service they would be entitled to be discharged, any such man may be retained and his service may be prolonged for such further period, not extending beyond the thirtieth day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty, as the competent authority may order, but at the expiration of that period, or at any earlier date at which the competent authority considers that he can be released, he shall be discharged with all convenient speed, but in no case later than three months after the thirtieth day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty.
I beg to move to leave out the words "the competent authority is of opinion that, as respects," and to insert instead thereof the words, "at the termination of the War."
This Amendment, taken with the two succeeding Amendments, would make the Clause read as follows:
If at the termination of the War any men to whom this Section applies, or any class of men cannot in consequence of the failure to obtain voluntary recruits for the period mentioned in this Act be released from actual service.
These Amendments simply raise the point that voluntary service should have an adequate trial before this Bill, with its compulsion, comes into operation. I think the Government was morally pledged to some such experiment as this if the Military Service Acts had to be carried on to their natural termination. Certainly, during the General Election, and for some period after that, there is no doubt at all that a
clear and definite impression was left upon the public mind that as far as the Government was concerned there would be no more Conscription. It is quite true that by rather fine distinctions and a meticulous interpretation of phrases it might be argued that they did not quite mean that, but there is not the slightest doubt that the ordinary man and woman thought there was going to be no more compulsory military service. I hold that it was morally incumbent upon the Government, before they came to the conclusion that it was absolutely necessary to have compulsory military service for garnering the fruits of victory, that they should have put forth a full, enthusiastic effort to get men by voluntary means. The effect of that would have been that you would have got a measure of public unity behind you in any necessary measure you had to take for compulsory military service. I am quite certain that if a real, fair attempt had been made—with regard, certainly, to some of my hon. Friends who associate themselves with me, in almost any event they would say they would never consent to do it—apart from a comparatively small minority of that kind, you would have had a great solid mass of public opinion behind you, realising that in the public interest it was necessary to adopt this step which we all, including, I am sure, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill) and all those who work with him, regard as a regrettable step to be compelled to take. So much for the point as to what I suggest was a moral obligation upon the Government to have made that experiment.
Would it have been successful? I believe it would. If the Government had given to the men in the Army to-day, serving in all the theatres of war, adequate pay and proper conditions of service, combined with a patriotic appeal, not only to the men in the Army, but the men outside the Army who had not yet served, I think there is not any real doubt that they would have had a splendid response to their appeal. I dare say the Minister in charge of the Bill would say, "Suppose we had offered inducements on pretty large and substantial lines, how does that compare with the demand which I have been compelled to make for the Army?" With such information as I have I say the demands which the right hon. Gentleman has laid before the House for men are over-insuring the risks which this country is subject to in connection with the future of the relations between ourselves and our enemies. What is the position in regard to Germany to-day on the Western Front? There is a rapidly disappearing German Army standing at a total, reckoned some six weeks ago, of somewhere about 850,000 men. There is no German Army in anything like an adequate military sense of the term. So far as one can judge, unless there is some very special information which my right hon. Friend possesses, it is rapidly degenerating into a disorganised mob. What is the proposal, not for next year or the year after, but for the immediate future of that Army? That it should be reduced to 100,000 men, with guns and all the ancillary arms of the Service proportionately limited. How is it going to be recruited? Very rightly they are going to recruit that army on the long-service system. There is going to be no young crop of young men coming up, because they desire to carry out the policy, if possible, of uprooting militarism in Germany, apart from any other offensive capacity of the German nation in a military sense. The German Navy, too, has practically disappeared, and no submarines are to be allowed. They go so far in the way of uprooting the military system that they propose to disallow the formation of Boy Scouts and every organisation which might suggest the military spirit. What is facing the collection of men to-day that we call an Army? Millions of armed, highly-disciplined men from the United States, France, ourselves, and Italy, totalling somewhere about, two to six weeks ago, 13,000,000 men. I do not know what is on the Western Front—say 3,000,000 men fully armed in every sense of the term. To meet that risk the Secretary of State for War is grossly over-insuring at the cost of a serious infraction of our national unity on this point. Can anyone doubt it? Wherever one turns—election results, public meetings, members' post-bags since this Bill was introduced—I am sure every hon. Member has had protests from his constituents. [HON. MEMBERS: No!] I am wrong, then. I must accept that denial. I will only speak for myself and a very large number of my friends.
The position is really a serious one. What attempts have been made to deal with it on voluntary lines? My right hon. Friend will, no doubt, say he has made sufficient attempts. What attempts were they? In the early days after the Armistice a bounty system was introduced, with unsatisfactory results. Then the Secretary of State for War attended a meeting at the Mansion House and made a statement of very great national and international importance. He said that a recruiting system had been set up whereby new pay and vastly improved conditions were offered to the men, and the men were then streaming in at the rate of 1,000 a day. I think a lesser number has also been stated. At the same time he said—I am not quoting his exact words—that this influx of troops by voluntary enlistment would by no means meet the situation, and he foreshadowed the Bill with which we are now dealing. If at that time, or a month earlier than that, the War Office had seriously grappled with this matter and had shown one half of the energy and enthusiasm which was associated with what we know as the Derby scheme, there would not only have been a thousand, but two or three thousand men pouring in.
What is the position in which we find ourselves at the present moment? Unemployment is rife, and I fear, no matter what steps the Government may take now, that at no distant date it will be rampant. If the voluntary system was now in operation for securing men for the Army you would have got a very large number of the very best class of recruits for your service abroad. If you had limited it to a year's service, what a chance would have been given to the War Office of avoiding this Bill, which, I fear, is going to do so much to upset the national temper, to cause discontent in the Army, and in many senses to lessen our national powers in dealing with the problems which await us at home and abroad. I need not dwell upon this point. The full opportunity was not taken of getting men by those means. It ought to have been done in the interests of the Army, in the interests of the nation, and in the interests of keeping faith. It is not too late now. Is it? I do not know. Of course, this Amendment will be beaten by a huge majority; but very few of the men who will go into the Lobby will not agree with what I say, and believe in their heart of hearts that the voluntary system ought to have had a fair trial.
The right hon. Gentleman seeks by this Amendment on Report to re-try, as he has already sought in Committee upstairs, the main issue which was decided by the House on the Second Reading of the Bill. His Amendment is a definite challenge to the Bill. If it were accepted by the House, it would wreck the Bill. It is intended to wreck the Bill; intended definitely to challenge the whole basis of argument and the whole accumulation of public needs for the satisfaction of which this Bill has been introduced. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would not dispute that. The Amendment would not only wreck the Bill, but that it would wreck it by reducing it to an absurdity.
It is quite open to the right hon. Gentleman to say that the effect of my Amendment would be to wreck the Bill. That is quite legitimate; but I protest against his saying that my intention is to smash the Bill; I think this Bill could be made effective with this Amendment.
If he, with all his Parliamentary experience and the position of responsibility that he occupies at the present moment, introduces an Amendment the effect of which he knows will wreck the Bill, it is a reasonable deduction for the House to make that it is his intention to wreck it, and I do not think we need waste much time in arguing that point. He made two charges against the Government and against the policy which has brought this Bill forward. In the first place, he says we have not tried the voluntary system. There is no truth in that accusation. The Government have tried very hard to obtain men by every means under the voluntary system. They are trying very hard to obtain men under the voluntary system, and they will continue so to do. Before I went to the War Office a scheme was spread about tine whole Army, offering substantial bounties and substantial periods of furlough to men who would re-engage for two, three, or four years. Unless men do re-engage for two years we cannot give the relief where it is most wanted, namely, by the Territorials and others who are still left in India and for whom we have the utmost necessity of providing effective relief. This scheme only resulted in securing 10,000 or 11,000 men. Therefore it was a complete failure; but to say that it was not a bonâ fide attempt to obtain men under the voluntary system is quite inaccurate. We then started a new principle. We increased the pay of the Army and renewed the bonuses and the bounties and we have been, I think, very successful. We are now, as I said at Question Time to-day, securing men at the rate of nearly 1,000 a day. If that irate continues it will greatly assist us in the task with which we are concerned. In addition to the men who are re-enlistng for short periods of two, three, or four years, we have the ordinary enlistment for recruits of eighteen, who enlist for seven years with the Colours and five in the Reserve. There also we have had very satisfactory results. They, of course, benefit by the present high rates of pay. They are getting much better rates than have ever been offered before for the untrained youth. These young recruits, judging from the results of the last few months, are now being enlisted at nearly double the rate before the War began. In order still further to increase the supply of men by voluntary service, I have taken the step of opening recruiting for youths of seventeen, who will be allowed to recruit on the basis of nine years with the Colours and three years with the Reserve. Of course, we shall have to train these men and feed them for two years before they will be any real use to us. However, in order to get the largest number by voluntary means we have taken this step of opening up enlistment at seventeen years.
I did that at Question Time. If the hon. and gallant Member had been in his place then he would have heard it. I said that the total daily number this year averaged 935 and for the last three days we have been recruiting an average of slightly over 1,000. I think the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean) has not measured his words in exact conformity with the facts, or done full justice to the position of the Government in saying that we have not endeavoured to secure men by the voluntary system. Only this morning I was passing another advertisement which is to be widely inserted. Many thousands of pounds have been spent in the advertisements we have inserted in the newspapers in pursuance of our recruiting campaign. I propose to continue this system; I thoroughly agree with it. We must do everything in our power to recreate our voluntary Army at the earliest possible moment and I repudiate the idea that we have not done our best and are not trying to do our best.
The second charge made by the right hon. Gentleman is also fatal to the principle of the Bill. He says that we are grossly over-insured. I wonder the right hon. Gentleman follows at all what is taking place in almost every country of Europe at the present time. How anyone can say that we have grossly over insured when we are seeking to keep 900,000 men during these critical and perilous months, a large proportion of whom are engaged in non-combatant work necessary to demobilisation, looking after horses, motor cars, and salvage work. How he can say we are over insured with nine divisions on the Rhine and the equivalent to four divisions in this country, less than we had in the peaceful days before the War. How anyone can say that we are over insured passes my comprehension. Only a few days ago we had a situation developed in Egypt which was a very far reaching danger and which made it necessary to make an appeal to the men who were collected at the ports for demobilisation to go back to help their fellow countrymen and their comrades from being murdered. There the whole country is in a state of practical insurrection. Has the right hon. Gentleman read what is taking place on the Black Sea, what is taking place in Hungary, what is taking place on the whole frontiers of small States who are guaranteed by the League of Nations to be protected? Does he not follow any of these consequences? The right hon. Gentleman says that the German Army is to be reduced to 100,000 men and that they are to have no boy scouts. That is what we are going to demand. Have they agreed to that. Is there any chance of their agreeing to it if we divest ourselves of our military forces at the present time? The way the right hon. Gentleman argues would lead one to suppose that everybody ought to be demobilised and disarmed except Lenin and Trotsky. The Government have to face very real and terrible emergencies at the present time. It is easy to squander your military forces; it is perfectly easy to open your hands and to relax control and let your Army disappear, but if you do that before you have got your terms, with the state of Europe as it is, one of increasing gravity and increasing perplexity, then you will throw away with both your hands day by day, and portion by portion, all the results which have been gained by the sacrifices of millions of men in four and a half years. So much for being over-insured.
What is the method which the right hon. Gentleman seeks to adopt in order to give satisfaction to himself in regard to the charges he has thought fit to make against the Government? It is the most absurd remedy that it is possible to put on the Notice Paper of the House. I do not know whether the House has followed the full meaning of the Amendments which are consequential on the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman has moved. He proposes to leave out the words, "If the competent authority is of opinion that," etc. By so doing he destroys the tribunal, as existing already, which is to judge whether a man under this Bill should be retained or not, and he makes each individual case a case for trial before some other tribunal which he makes no attempt to specify. If his Amendment were adopted, it would be a matter for the Courts in the case of each individual soldier as to whether there was a real necessity to retain him or not. Such a problem has never been put to Courts before. On the mere face of it it is one which it is almost impossible for a tribunal to decide. The right hon. Gentleman goes further, and gives guidance to the Court as to what is to influence them in their decision. They are to be influenced in their decision in each individual case by being satisfied as to whether sufficient effort has been made to obtain men under a voluntary system. What an issue to be put before a tribunal! Each individual case is to be tried according to the fact as to whether the Government have made sufficient efforts to obtain men under the voluntary system. I submit that the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment is, as he has admitted, designed to wreck the Bill, and it is extremely well designed for that purpose; and this Amendment is an attempt to retry, in the course of the Report stage, the issue which has already been decided on Second Reading by an overwhelming majority.
The House will understand, I am sure, that it is a very difficult task for an inexperienced Member, as I am in debate, to attempt to answer an experienced right hon. Gentleman like the Secretary of State for War, but I would like him to understand that there is a body of opinion in the country, even if it has but a small representation in this House, which is utterly opposed to this Bill and which thinks that it is a fraud. The right hon. Gentleman says "you are going to take away all our troops when Germany has not yet consented to the terms of peace." That is not so. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the existing Military Service Acts will hold every single man in the line until the terms of peace have been ratified by Germany. Moreover, we know well that even when a man is entitled to be demobilised that it is a very different thing from being demobilised. Half a million men who are entitled to be demobilised at present are still hung up because they are wanted as batmen or for some indispensable job in the unit with which they are connected. The right hon. Gentleman has got his Army untouched until peace is ratified, which may be six or nine months hence. In addition to that, he has constantly coming up to their support these voluntary recruits who are coming in at the rate of 1,000 a day. That is a substantial force, and at any rate my opinion is that these figures should be sufficient to support any military policy which this country is justified in undertaking.
We think that we are going down a steep place to ruin, both with the expenditure of men and these gigantic swollen figures for an Army which the right hon. Gentleman has made no attempt to justify. Look at the list. The Rhine: We are to have nearly half a million men—four hundred and three thousand, costing, I suppose, half the estimate, we will say £200,000,000 per annum, to secure whatever indemnity we are going to get out of Germany, although the Government is rather shy of telling us what the indemnity is. Then Italy: 10,000 men are required to be retained in Italy in peace time. Why? I have never heard any information from anybody. Then Bulgaria and Turkey 100,000 men. That will cover Mesopotamia and Persia. We are going to hold new territory as a mandatory power for the League of Nations. That is our policy, as I understand. Does it really mean that the new system involves on the mandatory power larger forces than if that power were holding the territory as its own possession? If so, it is a very poor look out for the League of Nations or for the peace that is to be established. Then we come to Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman has got a wonderful case in Egypt. He says that the place is in a state of insurrection. That does not agree with what the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs said at Question Time to-day. He said that things were quieting down, but I want to suggest has the right hon. Gentleman thought that the unrest in Egypt is not unconnected with the maintenance of military rule in Egypt?
I spent two years in Egypt. Of course anyone is foolish who speaks with confidence of a country like that after such a brief experience, but in my judgment Egypt would have been better to-day and more peaceful if the Government of Egypt had been left in the hands of the Civil servants who understand it, and if Egypt had not been flooded with British generals. At one time there were 119 English generals in Cairo, after the evacuation of the Dardanelles, of which perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has heard, and they were superseding the ordinary Government of Egypt, and Egypt would be far more peaceful to-day if instead of the ignorant rule of military generals it had been left to the rule of those sympathetic and experienced Civil servants who have proved themselves to be successful administrators. The right hon. Gentleman has taken 100,000 men already to keep Egypt in subjection. The figures are, Egypt and Palestine, 103,000 men.
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is reading from Vote A. Vote A includes a large number of natives. This Bill deals only with the number of whites. In Egypt the number is very much less than the figure which he has taken.
This includes 56,000 British, and about 40,000 Indians, but that does not affect my point, which is that the right hon. Gentleman made an attack on my right hon. Friend because he said you do not want such forces in Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Egypt is in a state of insurrection, and you will not give us the men to put it down." He asks for over 100,000 men for that purpose. Lord Wolseley beat Arabi and took Egypt with 16,000 troops, and Cairo was taken with two squadrons of Cavalry. The right hon. Gentleman wants 100,000 men to keep Egypt in subjection after four years of war.
I do not think that the case which I am trying to make as regards Egypt is exaggerated, but even if it were I do not think that those who speak with great experience will deny that there is truth in what I say. The right hon. Gentleman's other bogey is Bolshevism. Have we heard what happened in Hungary? Certainly. They have raised thirty-six battalions of Bolshevik forces. That was in the papers yesterday. The Bolshevik does not attack a country on the external front, but on the internal front. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is going to have Conscription to fight the Bolsheviks, because we were given to understand that only people who wanted to go out and be frozen in Archangel would be asked to do so; but if the right hon. Gentleman is going to use his conscripts against the Bolsheviks, I think, perhaps, that that ought to be made clear to the country. The fact is that the ally of the Bolshevik is not an armed man. The real weapon of the Bolshevik is starvation. The Bolshevik succeeds where prices are high, where there is discontent in the Army, and it is my conviction that this Estimate and this Bill is the strongest ally which Bolshevism has had for a long time in this country.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it will lead to discontent in the Army, that men who are in the Army will think it is too much to be deprived of the chance of taking part in the election of this Parliament which was elected behind their backs, and that this Parliament has passed an Act to keep them abroad when they all want to come home? I do not think that that is the way to spread content in the Army, although the right hon. Gentleman has improved, and very rightly, the material conditions of the Army, but it is this sort of expenditure—£600,000,000—which is keeping up prices, and it is the keeping up of prices which is really the cause of discontent at home. While you keep a million men unnecessarily abroad in the Army you reduce the production of the country, and it is upon high production in the country that industrial contentment rests. You are not only keeping a million men in the Army, as they think unnecessarily, but you are also going to send them back at the end of their time with a reduced capacity for production. I do not think that anyone who has had experience of the Army, and of the way things are done in the Army, will deny that. Therefore, I say that so far from this Estimate and this Bill being a bulwark against Bolshevism it is a support and an incitement towards Bolshevism. The great inducement that was held out at the beginning of the War was that it was a War to end War, and that its great aim was to bring us into an era of peace, and already the right hon. Gentleman by this Bill and by resisting this Amendment is inviting us to take a step, as I think an irretraceable step, in the direction of irretrievable and irremovable militarism in this country.
I am one of those Members who object very strongly to military expenditure. The smaller Army we have I think the better, because it is utterly unproductive and unfruitful expenditure in the ordinary way. But I have no sympathy with the views that have been expressed, because I think that the right hon. Member for Peebles and the right hon. Gentleman are all fighting their shadows. There is no real difference between a conscript Army and a voluntary Army. None whatever. You have no such thing as a voluntary Army unless a man is able to lay down his rifle whenever he likes and say, "I have had enough of this job," and go home. To me the man in the Army who volunteered and who wants to chuck the job is just as much a conscript as the man brought in under the Military Service Acts. I have never been able to see any difference between the two of them except this, that possibly the man who volunteers may be a man of more emotional nature who has been swayed by his desire to do patriotic things, whereas the other fellow, who is more thick-skinned, has not been affected by the advertisements which the first Government that was in power when the War started scattered all over the country. So that it might be said that it was a better class of men who had volunteered, and if I had my way, after they had volunteered, I would have said, "You fellows volunteered to go, but you will not be sent, and we will take all the fellows who have not volunteered and we will send them first." There is no difference at all. What I do hope is this—that the estimates are not too large. I think the Government have missed a great opportunity, because the right way to get up an Army for this country would be to resurrect the old militia ballot, so that everybody would have a chance of serving whether willing or not. I think the system of taking volunteers is most unfair. You might as well have the voluntary principle applied to taxation. It is the duty of every man to fight for his country if his country's condition requires it. It is very absurd and unfair to see cases where some families have had all their sons go voluntarily while others have managed to get into sheltered occupations at home. It is amongst those who did not serve and who did not volunteer, and who got exemption, that the spirit of industrial unrest and revolutionary principles prevails, and the reason for that is that they have got bad consciences, and they are pretending now that everything in the country is all wrong, and that is why they did not fight for it. There is no Bolshevism among the volunteers. I would suggest that we should take those who have got exemption, and let us take the friends of hon. Members opposite to do their turn, and let us take all the Members of Parliament who were exempted in the last Parliament, and after an experience of the Army, perhaps they will not be quite so sore. A voluntary Army and a conscript Army are exactly the same in effect, since a man cannot get out when he wants to get out. There is no essential difference at all. Supposing you had said that men who were working at particular jobs would have to stay at those jobs, that would have been industrial Conscription. I think this argument about voluntaryism and Conscription is merely fighting a shadow. I maintain there is no difference between the two methods of service, and the method of taking a fair quota, as small as possible and none at all if we could do without an Army, is fair and equitable in every way, and is applied without injustice or unfairness.
I happen to belong to an organisation of which I have been a member ever since I was a lad and which advocates the principle of National Service for internal defence—that is to say, if a country is worth living in it is worth fighting for. In so far as I am concerned I have no objection whatever to the principle of National Service being recognised as part and parcel of the policy of the nation. When I heard my hon. and learned Friend opposite dilating upon the advantage of voluntaryism or Conscription and comparing them with each other, I wondered why he made gibes at us who sit here. He evidently appears to be a Gentleman of military age.
But not mentally. There were a lot of gentlemen at the War Office who could have well vacated their position for the purpose of allowing you to try and serve your country. I approach this subject from the standpoint of not desiring to put obstacles in the way of national defence, but I want to know where national defence begins and where it ends. In Egypt why are we to-day involved in trouble? The hon. Gentleman who spoke just now (Captain W. Benn) has given you an expression of opinion which is not merely his individual expression of opinion. Some of us have had sufficient correspondence from friends of ours who are serving in the Egyptian Forces to see that one of the consequences of the military maladministration that has taken place in Egypt has been the breaking out of unrest among the people in Egypt. The same thing could be extended. Did men join the Army, and did I go on recruiting platforms and advocate that this nation was in danger, because of the possibility of Prussianism being forced on it; and did I go out to fight against Prussianism in Berlin in order to see it re-established in Downing Street? Are we going to accept the policy that has been laid down here this evening because certain gentlemen in Paris, and certain people in Berlin, and certain people in other countries, that may be involved in this matter, cannot come to terms and cannot fix up arrangements on the lines laid down, and have we therefore got to have Conscription more or less permanently imposed on the people of Great Britain? We in the Labour movement have been divided; some of us have been pro-war men and some antiwar men, but none of us have ever agreed we were going into this War merely for the purpose of having a kind of suspended Military Service Act continually held over our heads. In so far as we are concerned, therefore, what are the propositions contained in the Bill? It simply means, so far as the people of this country are concerned, that they have to commit themselves to any military operations that may be involved in the future arrangements of peace. We want to see peace first and military arrangements afterwards, and now it seems to me to be the military arrangements first and peace a long way afterwards.
What is the consequence of our position? Our men, without being consulted on the matter, thousands and thousands of our citizens, are now kept compulsorily in the Army twelve months longer than they expected, and they are going to be kept longer still if the proposals contained in this Bill are carried into operation. Whilst we are willing to see that this old country of ours shall never see the foot of an invader, and whilst we are ready to take any necessary steps which may be involved in its protection, we want to suggest that it is not good business for us to be now asked to agree to a Bill which may mean the perpetuation of the principle against which we have been fighting, and for which so many of our men have sacrificed their lives. What right have you to suggest that you want an Army to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries? On what grounds are Members of this House going before their constituents to say, "We defended Belgium against outward attack"? Does that mean that we are going to imitate the Germans, and that we are going to claim the right to interfere with the independence and rights of people of other nationalities? If it does, then we have reversed all the objects for which we have been supposed to have engaged in the War. I do not believe in the ordinary cry of voluntary service, because hunger used to be the recruiting sergeant at a shilling a day. I want to see this country so prosperous from the standard of its common rights that the man who lives in the country will be proud to fight for it if called upon to do so. That does not mean that British soldiers must become rent col- lectors. That does not mean that we have got to go to Egypt and to Russia to collect dividends on the bonds of people who have invested their money there. If they want their money, let them go out and collect it themselves. Unfortunately, today we are not being governed by the Government; there is a force behind the Government and there is an influence to-day which is fixing us up in all sorts of international obligations apart from the democratic instincts of the people of this country. As a consequence, now, the British soldier is going to be retained in the Army by compulsory means in order that he may become a collector of other people's debts, and the hook-nosed patriots who sing "God Save the King!" will be the only people who will gain as a result of it. I have heard references to Mesopotamia—that happy land. Some of our men are anxious to get away from it. I saw a letter from one of the boys out there, which said, "Dear Mother, I am now in the land where the Lord was born in, and I wish to the Lord I was in the land where I was born in!" In order that these men may remain as the sentinels for capitalism in the outposts of Empire, in Russia and in other countries, and to collect other people's debts, we are told our men have got to fight on in order that the guaranteed interests may be found for those who invested capital. I say honestly, Gentlemen, patriotic Labour man as I have been—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] I am sorry if I have made a mistake in calling you "Gentlemen." Mr. Speaker, right hon., and hon. Members, I want you to realise that the workers of this country thought when they won this War that they had finished with Conscription. They did not believe that it was a post-dated cheque on the bank of futurity for which they fought. They believed that we were out to win a victory for democracy, and, whether our Friends opposite like it or not, militarism is the very antithesis of democracy, and we democrats are out to fight all the time and every time against militarism. [An HON. MEMBER: "We are all against it!"] Then show that by going in the Division Lobby with us and voting against it. We are opposed to militarism all the time. We have backed the Government and the War because we believed it was necessary to kill German militarism. You have already got the means to provide an army for the purpose of peace and for the interregnum between the cessation of hostilities and the Declaration of Peace, because you have power to maintain men in the Army under certain age-limits. On top of this we are now practically declaring to the whole world that what we went out for in the War and the declarations which our Prime Minister made were simply camouflage and just as bad as German militarism, and that we are prepared to follow that horrible example and to continue this cursed system which has been an eyesore on democracy and an outrage on humanity ever since it was first formulated in the world. I want to associate myself with the Opposition, although I took as active a part as I could in helping to secure the prosecution of the War to a successful conclusion. We say that the best evidence we can give of our desire for peace and the best intimation of our hope that we want to see a proper League of Nations is to tell the Government of our country that we want this hell's dance to stop, and that the workers in all countries understood, in fighting for democracy, they meant democracy and did not mean handing the people over to be sacrificed on the altar of militarism.
We have listened to somewhat impassioned speeches from the other side. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said that during the War he took part in recruiting and assisted the Government to raise the Army with which we have nearly completed the War. He now turns round, vitiated I am afraid by the example set by the Front Bench opposite, into doing, what? Throwing away the chance of what we all pledged ourselves to do, and whether we pledged ourselves with regard to Conscription or not I will deal with later, but we all pledged ourselves to this, that this War should eventuate in a safe peace for mankind and democracy. What was the main enemy we were all up against at the election coming from the hon. Member's own party and from Members with whom probably he did not agree, but whom we have seen in this House. It was this. These were the men who said from the first, "You are wrong in going into this War; you were not right in taking your stand by Belgium and France." That was an attitude which was consistently adopted by other Members in other parts of the House. That was what we were up against in the country. When we went there, we had to show our people that if the election had resulted in the return of these men to Parliament we should have been up against the same sort of difficulty. I regret to see something of the same spirit exhibited now.
I cannot for one moment believe that there is in the mind of any man on this side of the House or in the mind of any member of the Government the idea that compulsory military service shall become a permanent system in this country. I myself have given years of my life to the service of a voluntary system. Right up to the middle of the War I was in favour of it. Why was it we had to alter our opinions? Because we found that voluntary service did not impose a fair burden on all the people of the country, and that in the middle of the War it was found necessary that everyone should be subject to service, if it was necessary. It went against our grain then and it goes against our grain to maintain that system. If you give it up at the present moment, or until you have secured peace, you will risk everything for which the sacrifices were made. If we could see the men who were sent to the Front and who have given up their lives, they, I am sure, would be the first to say, "Let our fellows, even at the expense of a little hardship, bear a little longer the burden that we bore for the sake of the safety of the country." I regret to hear right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench say that this is an attempt by the Government to fix a permanent military service upon the country. I am quite prepared to say that if there were any attempt on the part of the Government to do that I, and I am sure numbers of other hon. Members around me, would vote against it. We believe that we have got to get the War finished safely. We are going to take no chances whatever.
If the advice of right hon. Gentlemen opposite were followed, we should immediately start a recruiting campaign throughout the country to get an Army together. Then we should have to train the men. Those of us who had to train them before had some doubt whether they could be trained in the three or four months at our disposal. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would risk everythng at the present moment rather than have us tell our constituents that on the whole this is the best thing to do. What did we say to our constituents? I was pressed on the question right and left, "Are you in favour of compulsory military service in the future?" I said, "No; but we have got to finish this War. The Military Service Acts will naturally terminate, but at the same time your League of Nations must have a sufficient military force behind it to impose its sanction." If I had said nothing, even if I had pledged myself to put an end to the Military Service Acts now, I would take the risk of going back to my Constituents and telling them that in the present circumstances, in the outlook we have over the world at the present time, we should be false to our duty to our constituents to refuse to take the steps which the Government now ask us to take. I am sorry the Opposition are taking this course, but, after all, it is only an attempt to get a stick with which to beat the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] It was with some regret that I heard the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn). We all know what he has done in the War and the bravery and courage he has displayed. It is a little regrettable to see that the virus of political animosity still works in him. This Amendment, which was supported by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, came from a little lower down the bench, from an hon. Member who has been against Conscription from the very first. What would have happened if his advice, and the advice of those with whom he consorted, had been followed? We should have lost the War. I am not prepared to take that risk, and even at the risk of getting letters from my Constituents—I have had none—I am going to vote for the Bill. The French and the Americans are going on with the burden on their shoulders too. It is our duty to stand by them to the end. If the Government attempt to impose permanent compulsory military service on the country I shall vote against them, but I am going to support this Bill in order to secure a safe, conclusive, and decisive peace for the world.
The hon. Member for the Springburn Division of Glasgow (Mr. Macquisten) devoted his speech to trying to prove to us that there was no difference between a conscript Army and a voluntary Army. He reminded me of the old riddle, "Why does a married man live longer than a single man?" the answer being, "He doesn't; it only seems longer." The hon. Member surely knows that, at any rate in the opinion of the people of the country, there is a great difference between the voluntary Army and the conscript Army. He will find it out more and more as he goes to Glasgow and comes back. With regard to the speech of the Secretary of State for War, as one sits here and watches various Members defending or advocating the measures put forward by the Departments, one cannot help feeling that some of them, at any rate, are not very happy in their positions, and that the work they have been given by the Prime Minister is not entirely to their liking. But it is not so with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. I believe he has never had a task more agreeable to him since the time he escaped from Pretoria. I can imagine him sitting in his room at the War Office, using the telephone, and thoroughly enjoying moving a brigade to the Murman Coast or sending the Sherwood Foresters to Cologne, or even the Guards to Dundee. I can imagine him, with a map in front of him, thinking he is monarch of our forces from Whitehall to Wurtemburg, or from Sidney Street to Salonika. He takes a thorough joy in all his work at the War Office. It is to him disappointing that he should have to come down and defend a measure like this with arguments which are unworthy of him. He tried to convince the House to-day that this measure was necessary because of the outbreak of Bolshevism in Hungary. He omitted to point out to the House that the present Military Service Acts are going on to the end of the War and until the ratification of peace, and that if Hungary is in a state of Bolshevism there will be no ratification of the terms of peace. Therefore the present Military Service Acts will continue, and there is no need for him to ask for this Bill, which is to extend military service after peace is ratified, giving as a reason the state of Hungary at the present time. The same equally applies to what is apparently, according to the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a temporary thing in Egypt. That is a bad argument to put forward in favour of a Bill which is to come into operation only after peace is ratified.
The right hon. Gentleman told us on the Second Reading that the object of this Bill was to secure the fruits of victory. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down has spoken in the same sense. None of us want to lose the fruits of victory, but we believe that the fruits of victory, after peace has been ratified and after all the enemy nations have agreed to our terms, can be secured by the
voluntary system. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had a scheme for voluntary enlistment; that he had done his best in regard to it, but that it had failed. What was his scheme? It was a scheme for two, three, or four years' service. A man joining under that scheme would think he is joining as a Regular soldier. If the right hon. Gentleman had said, "Are you prepared to join until the 30th April of next year for the purpose of securing the fruits of victory, and so that they should not be lost to the nation?" I have not the slightest doubt that he would have secured the services of all the men he required. That is the proper comparison to make between voluntary service for this purpose and his continuation of the Conscription Act. He will find, as time goes on, although it may not be an opposition organised like the opposition to the Ways and Communications Bill, that there is a deep-felt resentment throughout the country against this continuation of compulsory military service. People feel that they have been taken in. They believed when they saw the posters
Vote for Lloyd George and no Conscription
that it meant that the present Military Service Acts would not be continued and they do not understand why this Bill for continuing compulsory military service after the War is being brought in, having regard to those pledges, which were taken up by all hon. Members who support the Government and advocated by them. Hon. Members opposite may not have received many letters, but if they had gone down to their constituencies since and had spoken with regard to their votes on this particular matter, they would have found already that this resentment exists and will continue to exist in the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"]
I assure hon. Members that they will find there will be continued resentment in the country so long as the compulsory Military Service Acts remain on the Statute Book.
It is perfectly easy for the Secretary of State for War to make out a good case for his supporters, but I should like him to remember that all the brains and wisdom of the country are not concentrated in the House of Commons, and that some of us have some experience—I would venture to say even greater experience than he has had during the past few weeks—of what is the feeling of the country with regard to this measure. He was speaking the other day in somewhat slighting terms of dissentient Liberals. I happen to be one of them, who dissents from the Toryism which is now practised by the right hon. Gentleman. I hold in my hand a telegram of which I have been proud up till now. It was sent to me in 1910:
All good wishes for you in your contest for Free Trade and free government.
(Signed) WINSTON CHURCHILL.
I see a free Government returned on pledges broken at the very first opportunity in regard to Conscription in this country. I want to say this—I say it with some knowledge of the circumstances, especially of the homes that are going to be made fit for heroes to live in, and the homes from which the heroes have come—that a peace which requires a conscript Army is not the peace for which we fought. Europe with a League of Nations, it seems to me, is to be an armed camp. Armed against whom? Austria is out, Turkey is out, Bulgaria is out, Germany is out. We are told that the man who won the War was the Prime Minister. Of course, if we have not won the War, these countries are not out, and if they are not out, why on earth did we give up on the 11th November last? We fought, as I thought, for freedom, liberty, mutual good will, and free government. Yet what is the Government we have got, with its automatic majority returned on pledges which I am afraid it was never intended should be kept? I was engaged very largely as a civilian in recruiting and kept my job until it came under civilian control, and then I lost it because I was not a military man. In fact, we got more militarism after recruiting was turned over to civilians than we ever had before. I fought for recruiting under the voluntary system as few men fought for it. In my own county of Derbyshire I addressed 103
recruiting meetings, and immediately I saw that Conscription was necessary I fought just as hard for it, but always as a temporary measure, and if I thought this was going to be a temporary measure I should not be here to-night. I am here, however, to say it will not be a temporary measure. We shall have the same excuses put forward at the end of 1920 as we have heard to-day.
I explained, in the homes of thousands of men—and I am not exaggerating, although I do not get 5,000 letters a day—but I explained in the homes of thousands of men that this would cease at the end of the War. Last Thursday night I was addressing a large meeting in the North of England with a man who had just come home. He has been out several times. He said to me, "White, there never was such resentment in the Army as there is to-day in regard to this Conscription Bill which is being forced upon us." I am here to say that if eternal peace were guaranteed to-morrow we should still have a good many conscriptionists in the Government returned by these means. If an Army is wanted, one quite large enough could be got by voluntary means. You did not hesitate to raise your million of men for munitions. The right hon. Gentleman told us the other day what the soldier gets, 48s. a week if he is single, and 79s. if married. I have yet failed to find any man who is getting anything like that, even with the separation allowances. Pay your soldier on the same rate as you pay your munition worker, then you will get your Army in no time. Make the conditions of life easier for the men who have done so much for us. Abolish tyranny and bullying on the barrack square. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I know what I am talking about. I have given all I have to the Army. I have two brothers lying out there, one was nearly fifty years old when he joined up, and he told a legitimate lie, and said that he was only thirty-nine in order that he might be accepted. Pay the soldier full pay each week. Let him understand he is a citizen of the world instead of what he is.
I heard the right hon. Gentleman say the other day that in endeavouring to raise this New Army he is taking men in at eighteen, and I was sorry to hear him add he was also getting them in at seventeen. It is only introducing that spirit of militarism which we set out to destroy. The boy of eighteen is to be apprenticed, so to speak, and after two years' training he is to get full pay as a soldier. I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman that it only took three months to make men fit to fight the German and that was not very long ago. Yet now the soldier is to have two years training before he is entitled to his full pay. One of my relatives was sent out a fortnight after he joined up. Yet now we are told it requires two years to train a man, and to make him eligible for full pay. Military service this year and next year will be largely a matter of policing. I have heard a good deal said about the splendid adventures these men will have and what a beautiful adventurous life it will be for them. I look around the House and I see there are 229 service and ex-service men in it. I wonder to myself how on earth they can be spared when all this important work is to be done across the water. What a lot they are missing in missing this life of adventure which is opening up on the Rhine. What an incentive it would be to recruiting if, although they be fifty years of age, they were all to join the right hon. Gentleman's voluntary army and to go out there and join the boys that have been out there so long. The House of Commons would be quite safe in their absence; the mechanical majority would still exist.
I want to say a word about the effect of this proposal on the country. I am not a Labour man, although I am proud to be associated with hon. Members on these benches. What will be the effect of Conscription in the country? In the Army, as hon. Members must know, and at any rate those who sit on these benches know it, because we get letters from the address-of which "M.P." is purposely omitted so as to make sure that the documents-shall reach us, and we therefore do know something about what is happening out there. The spirit of 1919 is not quite the spirit of 1914. Many men have not been home for three years Many see no chance of coming home, and when they hear that more Conscription is proposed, they reply that they would have preferred to fight through to Berlin rather than now have a further Conscription Bill imposed on them. I want the Government in this time of unrest—and I am one who knows as few men know the cottages of this country—I want the Government in this time of unrest to realise the danger which attaches to this proposal. The soldiers are against it. I heard the right hon. Member for Belfast the other night say he believed the country, if it had the matter fully explained to them, would go to unlimited lengths in supporting the Government. But, unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman forgot that the people had something else explained to them when they gave their vote. They were told there would be no more Conscription in this country. That is what they had explained to them. Then organised Labour is against the proposal. So, too, is unorganised Labour. I represent a constituency in which there are not 500 organised men, and yet there are 30,000 electors, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that unorganised Labour is against him. The women of England are against the Government, and, be it remembered, they have now a weapon in their hands, which they were not slow to use the other day, and which they will not be slow to use on Saturday next. The great brotherhood of man, cemented together by the blood they have shed and the sacrifices they have made, are also against the Government. It is their efforts which have made it possible for us to be here considering whether we should pass another Conscription Bill. These men constitute the greatest brotherhood in the country, and they are against the Government.
One has heard Members less than forty years of age say that they will cheerfully go into the Lobby and vote for Conscription. I wonder at the shamelessness of it. And yet that is the statement I have heard made in this House. I want to win the War. But I want to see it won without resorting to further Conscription. This Bill will not be an end of it. The right hon. Gentleman will find some strong assistance from the placards of London about next April. There will be another scare worked up, such as we have had in the past, and the people responsible for it will dictate to the Government what they shall do, and the Government will have to follow their advice. Let us have a peace built up on the good will of the nations of the world. As I sat here this afternoon I thought of those words of Tennyson in "Lockesley Hall"—
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the World and all the wonder that would be.
Till the war drum throbb'd no longer and the battle flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the World.
Let us all do our utmost to bring that about and make a happier and brighter land than we have at present.
Captain GUEST (Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury):
Possibly the House feels the time has arrived when one can usefully get back to the actual Amendment before it, and perhaps, too, it may reasonably be deemed time for us to come to a decision upon it. I would like, however, to say a word as to the general lines the Debate has taken. I do not think that in the end it will prove unhelpful to the Government. The Government are faced with practical necessity and practical responsibility, and they have to look at the immediate situation in front of them. I have carefully listened to the several speeches delivered by opponents of the Bill, and I have failed to find any indication of an alternative policy of a practical character. There are no doubt opinions which find a home in many minds—the opinion, for instance, that more might have been done on the voluntary basis. But the fact remains that we have not got enough men from our voluntary efforts to satisfy the immediate demands of this country in order to safeguard the return of the troops which we all desire, and to do anything short of what is proposed in this temporary measure would mean that we should run the risk, at any rate of making the sacrifices which we have already made, sacrifices in vain. The arguments which were put forward by my right hon. Friend on the Second Reading appear to have been entirely neglected. On that occasion the Secretary for War told the House specifically that unless some such measure as this was passed the Army would automatically "fly to bits." One hon. Member opposite has told us that he is quite prepared to face the risk that our coaling stations might be left undefended. But the Government is responsible to this country, through its selected representatives, and we are all going to see that no such risks are incurred. Therefore, I submit the House would do well, as I hope it will, to give this measure confident support.
There were a few points mentioned by hon. Members which it is perhaps right I should touch upon briefly. There was one point raised on the Front Bench opposite by an hon. Member who made, as I thought, a very unfair attack on the Government. Whatever may be the opinion he holds there can be no doubt that the position in Egypt has to be faced, and it can only be faced with a sufficiently large Army of white troops in order to tranquilise that country and save the lives of many of those who are in jeopardy there to-day. This is a condition of affairs with which the Government is actually faced, and surely in a world so full of turmoil it is not unreasonable to put on the other side the suggestion of insurance. Insurance in the long run is very often the cheapest investment. The Amendment as it stands will have the effect of, as my right hon. Friend said, eliminating from the Bill any competent authority, and the other Amendments which are consequent upon it, go further, so that practically there would be no tribunal to decide on these peculiar conditions. And that I can hardly think even the supporters of the Amendment would really desire. I hope the House will arrive at a conclusion now upon this Amendment and enable us to get on with the other Amendments which raise other questions in which the House is deeply interested—more deeply perhaps than in the one now under discussion.
I am glad my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down wanted to get back to the practical issue of this Amendment, and I wish to put it to him in a different way, because neither he nor my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has yet addressed his mind to it, or given an adequate reply to it in the House. We have maintained, and we still maintain, that no steps have been taken at all to secure the men on a voluntary basis for a period of one year. The reply to that given by the Secretary of State for War is that there is no truth in that argument used by my right hon. Friend, because the Government had made an effort by offering a bounty to men who would enlist for two years, for three years and for four years, and they had found that bounty to be of no value in producing the men, and it was not until they altered the conditions that men began to flow in. What was the very first condition that procured the flow of men? It was the doubling of the present rate of Army pay. The moment you doubled the rate of pay and offered that to the men for the first year, my right hon. Friend himself admits that he at once began to get 1,000 per day. My simple question to him is this: Why did he, and the Government he represents, not make this perfectly simple offer to the men who are serving in the Army now, namely, that for the period of one year up to 30th April, 1920, they would serve on the basis of the increased rates of pay, with the continuance of all the other accessories, such as separation allowance, civil liabilities, and so forth, plus the bounty which they offered before for two, three and four years' service on demobilisation? My right hon. Friend has never done that, and never tried to do it. He has tried a lot of things since the Committee sat. He told us this afternoon he had passed advertisements to go into the great newspapers costing thousands of pounds, calling for voluntary recruits. That may have occurred to him before, but it has not been done.
I have seen all that have appeared, and so far the only advertisement that has appeared in the newspapers is one which gave the terms of pay to the men on the Rhine, go that if he has passed more than one the right hon. Gentleman had better get someone on the track to ascertain where the others have gone. The fact is, attempts have not been made. Has my right hon. Friend or the War Office at any time made the attempt to secure the men for the period of one year? The answer to that is "No; it has not been done." The Amendment of my right hon. Friend does not seek to destroy this Bill. What my right hon. Friend proposes to do by his Amendment is to give power to the Government for the purpose of getting these men to reap the fruits of victory, if by a specified time they do not get recruits for it. Some hon. Members seem to think we want to deprive this country of the fruits of victory. That would be a most idiotic position for anybody to take up. No one in this country would seek for a moment to jeopardise the position in which the State finds itself. If events turn out, as they may turn out, to be different from what we contemplate, at the present moment you have in existence the Military Service Acts, which enable you to keep this Army, and not only to keep this Army, but to re-embody over a million men who have been demobilised, every one of whom is a fit fighting man, and who can, at any moment of danger, be again put into the firing line or otherwise used in the Army. They are there by your Military Service Acts, and all my right hon. Friend has to do, if he finds as months go by that he requires physical force, is to re-embody these men. There is an Amendment on the Paper later dealing with that particular point, because hon. Members must remember that, in spite of the Bill, and in spite of what has been said, everyone of these million men can be re-embodied in the Army.
That is the point briefly. There are other points one might put. My right hon. Friend made, in some respects, really a Second Reading speech in referring to Egypt and questions of that kind. We might pursue that very usefully, but that is not the purpose of this Amendment. The purpose of this Amendment is, before we go into the Division Lobby, to get from the Government, if we can, a pledge that, before they put this Bill into operation as an Act, and
maroon those young men on the Rhine in the Army of Occupation, they will make a genuine attempt to get them on a voluntary basis. We believe it can be done. We want to keep the pledges the Government and we have made to the country with regard to Conscription, and if the Government will not give us a guarantee on this, at any rate we will have the satisfaction once again of putting on record the fact that, while we mean to keep faith with those who sent us here, the Government, which came back to this House maintaining that Conscription was going to be finished, and who advertised that fact to the soldiers whom they are now conscripting so as to get their votes, are again breaking their bargain.
|Division No. 17.]||AYES.||6.54 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Foreman, H.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Oxford Univ.)||Forestier-Walker, L.|
|Ainsworth, Captain C.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Foxcroft, Captain C.|
|Archdale, Edward M.||Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Fraser, Major Sir Keith|
|Astbury, Lt.-Com. F. W.||Child, Brig.-Gen. Sir Hill||Gange, E. S.|
|Austin, Sir H.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Gardiner, J. (Perth)|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Clay, Capt. H. H. Spender||Gardner, E. (Berks., Windsor)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Clough, R.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Gilbert, James Daniel|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Coats, Sir Stuart||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John|
|Banner, Sir J. S. Harmood-||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Glyn, Major R.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Cockerill, Brig.-Gen. G. K.||Gould, J. C.|
|Barrie, C. C.||Cohen, Major J. B. B.||Grant, James Augustus|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Colvin, Brig.-Gen. R. B.||Green, J. F. (Leicester)|
|Back, Arthur Cecil||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Greene, Lt-Col. W. (Hackney, N.)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Greer, Harry|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Greig, Col. James William|
|Bellairs, Com. Carlyon W.||Cory, J. H. (Cardiff)||Gretton, Col. John|
|Bonn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Courthope, Major George Loyd||Guest, Capt. Hon. F. E. (Dorset, E.)|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich)||Cowan, Sir W. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Guest, Major O. (Leices., Loughb'ro'.)|
|Bennett, T. J.||Cozens-Hardy, Hon. W. H.||Guinness, Capt. Hon. R. (Southend)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Craig, Capt. C. (Antrim)||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W. E. (B. St. E.)|
|Bird, Alfred||Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.)||Hacking, Captain D. H.|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Henry Page||Hailwood, A.|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Curzon, Commander Viscount||Hall, Admiral|
|Blane, T. A.||Davidson, Major-General J. H.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Hanson, Sir diaries|
|Brackenbury, Col. H. L.||Dean, Com. P. T.,||Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.)|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||De-whurst, Lieut-Corn. H.||Henderson, Major V. L.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Dixon, Captain H.||Hennessy, Major G.|
|Briggs, Harold||Dockrell, Sir M.||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry E.||Donald, T.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Doyle, N. Grattan||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.|
|Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)||Duncannon, Viscount||Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Col. A. L. H.||Edgar, Clifford||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Sir Samuel J. G.|
|Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Edwards, A. Clement (East Ham, S.)||Hood, Joseph|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Hope, Harry (Stirling)|
|Burdon, Col. Rowland||Eyres-Monsell, Com.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast)||Falcon, Captain M.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)|
|Butcher, Sir J. G.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Hopkins, J. W. W|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Home, Edgar (Guildford)|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Fell, Sir Arthur||Hume-Williams, Sir Wm. Ellis|
|Carr, W. T.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||FitzRoy, Capt. Hon. Edward A.||Hurd, P. A.|
|Hurst, Major G. B.,||Morrison, H. (Salisbury)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (Ashton)|
|Inskip, T. W. H.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Mosley, Oswald||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Mount, William Arthur||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Jesson, C.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Stephenson, Col. H. K.|
|Jodrell, N. P.||Murchison, C. K.||Stevens, Marshall|
|Johnson, L. S.||Murray, John (Leeds, W.)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Johnstone, J.||Neal, Arthur||Stoker Robert Burdon|
|Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nelson, R. F. W. R.||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Newman, Major J. (Finchley, Mddx.)||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Newman, Sir R..H. S. D. (Exeter)||Surtees, Brig.-Gen. H. C.|
|Jones, Wm. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Kerr-Smiley, Major P.||Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)|
|Kidd, James||Nield, Sir Herbert||Terrell, G. (Chippenham, Wilts.)|
|King, Com. Douglas||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Knights, Capt. H.||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Townley, Maximillian G.|
|Law, A. J. (Rochdale)||Parker, James||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)||Pearce, Sir William||Waddington, R.|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Perring, William George||Walton, J. (York, Don Valley)|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Locker-Lampson G. (Wood Green)||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Assheton||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Hunt'don)||Pratt, John William||Wardle, George J.|
|Lorden, John William||Pulley, Charles Thornton||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Lort-Williams, J.||Rankin, Capt. James S.||Weston, Col. John W.|
|Loseby, Captain C. E.||Raw, Lt.-Col. Dr. N.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Lowe, Sir F. W.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Wlite, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Reid, D. D.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Lowther, Col. C. (Lonsdale, Lanes.)||Renwick, G.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Lyle, C. E. Leonard (Stratford)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Lyle-Samuel, A. (Eye, E. Suffolk)||Richardson, Alex. (Gravesend)||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Lyon, L.||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|M'Donald, D. H. (Bothwell, Lanark)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radner)||Willougby, Lt.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|M'Guffin, Samuel||Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.)||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Macmaster, Donald||Rodger, A. K.||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Hold'ness)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Roundell, Lt.-Col. R. F.||Wilson, Col. Leslie (Reading)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Royds, Lt.-Col. Edmund||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Manville, Edward||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Marriott, John Arthur R.||Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)||Wood, Major Hon. E. (Ripon)|
|Mason, Robert||Samuels, Rt. Hon. A W. (Dublin Univ.)||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge and Hyde)|
|Middlebrook, Sir William||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Woolcock, W. J. U.|
|Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon. Francis B.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone)||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Mitchell, William Lane-||Seager, Sir William||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Moles, Thomas||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Foriar)||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir Newton J.||Simm, Col. M. T.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord Edmund Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. C. T.||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Hayward, Major Evan||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hinds, John||Sexton, James|
|Arnold, Sydney||Hirst, G. H.||Shaw, Tom (Preston)|
|Bell, James (Ormsklrk)||Hogge, J. M.||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Benn, Capt. W. (Leith)||Holmes, J. S.||Sitch, C. H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Irving, Dan||Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Bramsdon, Sir T.||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Spoor, B. G.|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Kiley, James Daniel||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Briant, F.||Lunn, William||Taylor, J. W. (Chester-le-Street)|
|Cairns, John||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Stirling)||Thomas, Brig-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Clynes, Rt Hon. J. R.||M'Lean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Walsh, S. (Ince, Lancs.)|
|Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Waterson, A. E.|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wedgwood, Col. Josiah C.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwollty)||Nicholl, Com. Sir Edward||Wignall, James|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||O'Grady, James||Wiikie, Alexander|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Onions, Alfred||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Parkinson, John Allen (Wlgan)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Grakam, D. M. (Hamilton)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Young Robert (Newton, Lanes.)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh)||Redmond, Captain William A.|
|Grundy, T. to.||Rees, Captain J. Tudor (Barnstaple)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. George Thorne and Mr Griffiths.|
|Hallas. E.||Richardson, R. (Houghton)|
|Hayday, A.||Roberts, F. 0. (W. Bromwich)|
I beg to move, after the word "retained," ["man may be retained"] to insert the words
but not for service in any labour unit.
My reason for moving that Amendment is that on the discussion in the House on the Second Reading, and also during discussion upstairs in Committee
we were left in a very unsatisfactory state of mind with regard to what my right hon. Friend proposed could be done with the men who were retained in the Army of Occupation. While everyone must feel, obviously, that men are required for purposes of fighting, everybody does not see with the same force the necessity of retaining fit men—I mean men who are fit for their particular task outside the Army—in the Army doing what is nothing more nor less than civilian work. For instance, a great many men to-day are engaged at this depot at Slough, about which we have heard so much, doing civilian work there which my right hon. Friend himself has investigated. In both France and in Belgium, where there are civilian populations, you find British soldiers, who are not used for fighting purposes, doing work which could be done equally well if not better in both those countries by the French and Belgium people. In the course of our discussion we raised the question of the duties of a soldier and, if I remember rightly, my right hon. Friend used some words like these. He said:
The constitutional function of the troop during Labour disputes, for instance, had been well defined.
Of course the House will readily understand that the use of soldiers for purposes such as those of labour units does involve the question whether or not they can be used in Labour disputes, and I am seeking to raise that point on this Amendment, in order to avoid the necessity of returning to it later on, on another Amendment which stands on the Paper, and which probably can be disposed of at the same time as this. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for War said quite clearly that the constitutional function of the troops had been well defined. I venture to submit, as a matter of fact, that that is not so, and I have taken the trouble to find out exactly how that matter arose, so far as the House of Commons is concerned and the War Office. I believe there was a Commission, so far back as 1893, after the Featherstone riots—most of us will be able to recollect that that was an industrial affray. A Special Commission was set up, to report on the constitutional function of the soldier, and it contained such names as those of the late Lord Justice Bowen, Lord Haldane, and the late Sir Albert Rollit. They came to no decision that was accepted by the War Office or any autho-
rity, and it still remained in this House, in debate and by question and answer, a subject of great controversy. I think probably some Members will remember that just before the War broke out a Committee of this House was appointed to deal with this subject, and Sir Ellis Griffith was made the Chairman of that Committee. They never held a meeting, because of the fact of the outbreak of the War. So, on the second occasion on which a Committee was set up to try and define the functions of a soldier, the Committee that would have tried to do so never actually met. What we want to make perfectly clear is this, that it is impossible administratively under this Bill for a man who is conscripted to be used either in a labour unit or as a fighting man in an industrial dispute. We know that in France it has been done under two succeeding Prime Ministers, and conscripted soldiers were used to interfere in industrial disputes. As a matter of fact, soldiers were used only recently in our own country, when we were threatened by a strike in the electrical industry here in London, and trains were run by the military. There, of course, is obviously a difficult situation and likely to provoke a conflict which one wants to avoid. In the discussion on the Second Reading my right hon. Friend dealt with this point from time to time, but never in an adequate way. The danger of the fact that it has not been dealt with adequately lies here: as I pointed out in the last Amendment, we have 1,000,000 soldiers demobilised in Class Z, every one of whom can be mobilised at any moment to take part in an industrial dispute or to prevent an industrial dispute. These men are not out of the Army. The Secretary of State for War dealt with that in the course of the Debate. I do not propose to quote at any great length from Hansard, but there are two-and-a-half pages of Question and Answer between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. It leaves it in a very unsatisfactory position. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War wound up with these words:
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.
These are the words of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War.
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."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1919, col. 699, Vol. 113.]
It is that point we want cleared up. I should like to ask my right hon. and gallant Friend this simple question. He can, as a matter of fact, re-embody every man in Class Z Reserve to-day in the Army at any moment. He can do that up to the date on which the Military Service Acts lapse. Not only could he do that, but if, for example, circumstances occurred—we need not state them—and the Military Service Acts were about to lapse, the men could all be embodied in such a way that they would be under this Bill. I thought I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that he saw the point. Well, we want to get that point, which is a perfectly fair point, cleared up, as it concerns over 1,000,000 men. You could re-embody them. Let me put it rather more plainly. They are not discharged. They are only demobilised. They can be recalled. My right hon. Friend has said they will be permanently discharged when peace is ratified and the Military Service Acts expire. Before that moment, however—and that moment may be delayed—every one of these men may be re-embodied and become subject to this Bill, and, therefore, conscripted. We want to get that position tidied up. It is not good enough to say across the floor of the House that the Government have no intention of doing this or that. That has been said too often during the War. It may be that Ministers have not been able to keep their promises on account of certain circumstances. Now, however, we have a clear issue. Now that it is quite certain that so far as the ratification of the peace is concerned you will not require these men for that ad hoc or any other purpose, whatever you may require them for in the future, so far as this is concerned let it be quite clear that the men who have been taken by this Bill, first of all, cannot be employed in labour units doing work which can easily be done otherwise; and secondly, that the men who have been demobilised and who may become subject to this new Act cannot be re-embodied and used for the purpose of interfering in industrial disputes. It is a real, a substantial point. It is one of
those points which creates the suspicion which exists in the public mind. The right hon. Gentleman may say, "No." As a matter of fact, one of the causes of suspicion which does exist is that the people are never quite sure what the Government are going to do. If the Government have not got this power, if they do not want it—and they say they do not want it—and my right hon. Friend has said over and over again that they do not want it, and that the first thing to do is to get these men discharged—very well, let us have it in the Bill, in black and white. Let us know where we are, and that will be a satisfactory position. I beg to move.
We have got to recognise, and the Government have to recognise, that the working classes of this country are in an extremely anxious state of mind. I have been speaking at anti-Conscription meetings all over the country, and I can assure the Government that the one thing the people are mostly anxious about is what they call industrial conscription. They are afraid, judging from the examples at present in France and Spain, that if the Government is given the opportunity of conscripting men to break a strike that the Government will use those powers on some future occasion. I myself do not for one moment believe that the Government intend to do anything half so foolish. The British working man, whether he is in uniform or out of it, is incapable of distinguishing in connection with any labour dispute in the way suggested. The men who have been put in Class Z under such circumstances would have to rejoin the Colours if they were ordered so to do; but the position is perfectly well known at the War Office, and I do not believe there is the slightest intention on the part of the Government to call these men to the Colours, or use the men in labour units for the purposes of strike breaking. But it gives suspicion, anxiety, and nervousness to the working people of the country, to the transport workers for instance, and other trade unions, and the Government should avoid any shadow of an excuse for leaving the suspicion in the minds of the people that a conscript army could be used in any way against labour disputes. That is one of my reasons for supporting this Amendment. We want to have a perfectly clean slate so far as industrial conscription is concerned. It would be utterly futile to try to use force in industrial disputes. It will be probably the start of the trouble which we wish to avoid. It would be far better in dealing with such disputes to call upon volunteers to do the work rather than to attempt to use the Military Service Acts by employing a body of people who themselves belong to trade unions, and who certainly consider their loyalty to their trade unions transcends their loyalty to their military duties. That is the main reason why I want this cut out of the Bill.
Besides, there are several other reasons. I myself think that it is most important that we should not use and keep on using men in labour units when these men are either doing work that is of no service at all to this country or not doing any work at all. At present you have a great many men employed in France and Belgium tidying up the country. I saw them a very few months ago—the thing may have changed since—but they were making the roads and streets in the ruined towns, while able-bodied young men of the country, Belgians and French, smoking cigarettes, looked on at the spectacle. Nothing could be more detrimental to the discipline of the British Army than this sort of thing, and nothing more dissatisfying to the men who are doing the work. We do not want to have people employed in that way doing donkey work which can be perfectly well done by coloured labour, or by the inhabitants of the country themselves, provided they were paid for it by us or by the Government of the country which is to be improved in this way. We have also labour units in this country. There is the Middlesex Regiment. In it are labour units composed of Germans or Austrians, or some other folk of that sort. They are British subjects, and therefore liable for service, but because of their parentage they have been put into a labour unit. They have never been sent abroad, but have been kept somewhere in Rent. That unit is of no service, but is one of expense. They are not being used for any useful purpose. The corps is more or less a penal one. It is kept going for the purpose of saying that these people are not being disbanded in advance of others. We have, however, got to look at this thing not only from the point of view of the Army, but from the point of view of the British taxpayer. If we are keeping up a regiment, it may be of 1,000 men—and I do not know whether these labour units run to 5,000, 10,000, or 20,000—if we are going to keep up these units it is going to cost the taxpayer of this country a great deal of money. I protest against the idea of the Army being a sort of cross between Wormwood Scrubs and civil life. We ought not to retain an Army whose services are no longer required because for reasons quite other than military reasons their retention with the Colours is considered desirable in the interests of Army moral. If we get this into the Bill, these people employed in these utterly useless, economically unsound labour units either doing work in France which can perfectly well be done by the natives, or being kept in this country digging pits one day and filling them up the next—like Penelope weaving the web by day and pulling it to pieces by night—will have their labours, I trust, come to an end. Whether these labour units are doing either of these forms of work, the taxpayer of this country is being penalised to-day and the future prosperity of the country is being handicapped by reason of the great expenditure involved.
There is every reason now for exercising the most stringent economy, even in the smallish matters like this. If we can say, save on the labour units during next year perhaps £100,000, or it may be £250,000, so much the better. I do, however, submit to the House that to keep these units solely to be able to say that these men are not demobilised before other men, solely, I say, with that object and not to create complaints against the longer demobilisation of the other men, is a very great mistake, and one which ought to be put a stop to at the earliest possible moment. It is true that, on this occasion we cannot debate the question of expense. If these words, however, are inserted in the Sub-section, if in the Bill a provision is inserted, which means that the men kept under Conscription shall not be men in the labour units, which means that these other regiments, like the Middlesex Regiment or other regiments of shirkers, shall not be kept permanently in the Army, but shall get their demobilisation automatically on the declaration of peace, or some day conveniently near it, then we shall have saved the country a great deal of money, and at the same time we shall be preventing an undoubtedly erroneous-impression gaining ground amongst the working classes of this country, that the Government is slipping into this Bill, by more or less underhand means, a provision whereby industrial conscription can be put into force and labour disputes broken. For both these reasons, I do beg my right hon. Friend that he will allow these words to be inserted so as to remove misapprehension and to reduce the expenditure to the British taxpayer.
I shall deal specifically with the Amendment on the Paper rather than travel over wider ground. I would ask the House—and I believe that hon. Members do do so from their own experience of the different units during the War—to appreciate the fact that it is impossible to distinguish between labour units and fighting units when you are dealing with one well-organised military machine. Although it is quite true that the active part of the campaign is over, we want to retain a certain proportion of men who are classified as labour units to perform those really very necessary important subsidiary duties which run in the wake of an army. It would be seen at a glance that a great deal of military railway work, which is connected with the Army, the moving of its concerns, the preparation of its roadways, and so on, must be performed by what are described as labour units. There may be sufficient labour in the country concerned, but the work to which I have referred could not be done as satisfactorily for the needs of the Army as if the Army itself attended to it. These labours undoubtedly add to the efficiency of the Army. The point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend who seconded the Amendment, I think, can be answered very simply, as to the units not being required. It is quite clear if the men are fit to work that they will find their place in the Army in some equally useful capacity.
The only other point is that it would not be really practical to call upon the inhabitants of those countries in which our Armies are operating to undertake the labour which my hon. Friend imagines these units undertake. It is not that kind of work at all, and there would be great difficulty in getting foreigners to undertake the type of work which we require. Then, again, there is the difficulty of understanding the language and you have not the same control over foreigners. It is only reasonable that in our own areas we should do this work ourselves. The system adopted is the one which has been followed during the War, and it cannot be altered now.
I rise to support this Amendment because I am desirous of putting a stop to the colossal waste which is going on in connection with the employment of labour battalions. There are, I understand, some 200,000 or 300,000 men engaged on labour work, and these are outside the men engaged in Army Service Corps work, or the men engaged in the Royal Engineers, who are supposed to do railway and other constructional work. It has been my duty as chairman of a tribunal to provide a large number of men for these Labour battalions. They included the "halt, the lame, and the blind," and we had difficulty in sending them into the Army at all, and we only did so because the Army Service representative said that these men should do something to relieve fit men to do the fighting. There is no fighting now, and consequently the fighting men must have some occupation. There is little or nothing to do for these hundreds and thousands of men who are now being kept in khaki at colossal cost to the nation.
These are nearly all low-grade men, who are fit for light jobs in their own factories and occupations. Many of them happen to be tailors, and what have they done with them? We have taken them out of the tailor's shop, we have given them a pick and a shovel, and there are working in Wales thousands of men who are totally unsuitable trying to make roads. I have no objection to their making roads in Wales, but I submit that you could get those roads made much cheaper if you gave the work out to a contractor and let him engage suitable labour men who are accustomed to the work, and then you will get that work done more to the advantage of the nation than by taking a number of tailors or other men who are physically unfit to do this work. This is not the case alone in Wales, for we have it practically in all parts of the world.
I had brought to my notice the other day the case of a man with a poultry farm in this country, and he was a C 3 man. He was sent abroad to Mesopotamia, and I hear that he is now rearing poultry out there. His wife came to me the other day to say that she was going to be turned out of her poultry farm because she could not work it, and this at the time that her husband is doing the same kind of work in Mesopotamia. I could quote many similar instances of men totally unfit for any military work who are being kept in khaki at a great cost to the nation without any sufficient return. There is one point which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will deal with, and it is that of using men in khaki for industrial disputes. I understand the Amendment dealing with that subject will not be raised, and I should like to hear something said on that point from the Front Bench.
I wish to speak from the point of view of the employment of soldiers in substitution for civilians in labour disputes. We wish to lessen the power which military conscription has over industrial conscription. We had this question brought up in the Debates on the Military Service Acts in the last Parliament. I know that our contention was denied by the Government, and they promised Amendments and gave us pledges; but although you give pledges and promise Amendments till you are black in the face, military conscription will always involve a certain amount of industrial conscription. When this question was under discussion in the House the Leader of the House said, in relation to industrial conscription:
This Bill does not give a shadow of industrial conscription. All through the War such a thing never arose, and in any case this Bill does not give one iota of power for that purpose, and it is a shadow they are afraid of.
Surely the Leader of the House forgets what has happened during the War. It cannot be denied that the engineers' strike last year was broken down by means of the Military Service Act, because the men were threatened that unless they returned to work they would be taken into the Army. Again, in the recent railway strike soldiers were used to run the trains, and therefore in both those cases there was industrial conscription. If the Government is sincere in this matter, and the words of the Leader of the House hold good, the Secretary of State for War ought to accept this Amendment, because without this Amendment the position will not be safeguarded. This Bill is put forward for military purposes, in order to obtain an Army of Occupation to garrison Egypt, Malta, Mesopotamia, and so forth, and it is not put forward for any Labour purpose, or to give the Government any additional power in industrial disputes. Therefore, it is not right that the Government should have power by means of this Bill to intervene in industrial disputes. As has already been pointed out, unless an Amendment like this is accepted, power is
given to the Government in two ways: First, by employing soldiers in industrial work, as was done in the recent railway dispute; and, secondly, by mobilising; strikers and compelling them to do work as soldiers which they would refuse to do as civilians.
There is one other consideration, and it is that this Bill will expire on 30th April, 1920, and then, we are told, it will not be renewed. Then they say the Government will not have this power which the Bill now gives them in industrial matters over such a large number of men. If that is so, why should they have the power now, seeing that the Bill is put forward purely for military purposes? Reference has been made to industrial unrest. I fear that will be greatly aggravated if this weapon against the workers is to be retained. We are told that this is solely to wind up the War, and for these reasons I trust the right hon. Gentleman will accept this Amendment.
Mr. T. THOMSON:
I wish very briefly to support the Amendment, especially in regard to its economic application. We have been told that active operations are in progress, and that it is absolutely necessary to have transportation, and to have these labour units and others organised. I know from my own experience of the work done abroad that it was done most excellently in that respect, but it was done at a most lavish cost, and, as anyone with inside knowledge knows, it was done at a tremendous waste. Under the circumstances of the War, the taxpayer overlooked all this on account of the urgency of the work, but now that operations have ceased this waste should not continue, and the fighting forces are quite adequate to provide all the labour services that may be required whilst they move from place to place for the upkeep of their camps and the maintenance of roads.
In active operations a large number of coloured troops, including Chinese and others, are employed for this purpose. German prisoners and the natives of Belgium and France were employed doing this work for the Army, and I submit that it is an economic fallacy to keep able-bodied men not really required for that purpose overseas when the work could be done by German prisoners, Chinese and other coloured troops or by the native populations of the countries occupied. We are compelling the enemy to demobilise their troops and at the same time we are sending men who would be of economic value in the industrial world into Germany at a time when we want to keep as few men overseas as possible.
Those men overseas are largely wasting their time. I have had letters stating that these men are employed making tennis courts and in other ways doing work which is no use for the Army. I think from an economic point of view we should be adopting a sound policy if we had those men here doing some useful labour instead of wasting their time, and serving no real purpose so far as the Army is concerned. The work they are now doing could be done by the fighting units with very little reorganisation. The waste that is going on is tremendous, although the War Office will not admit it. Those who have been behind the scenes and have made returns to the Army authorities know better than some hon. Members what a tremendous waste has gone on, and the sooner we stop this economic waste the better it will be for the Army and the country.
I support this Amendment because I have come into contact constantly with the men who have been retained in these labour units and their relatives, and I know what is going on. I think the House will agree when I say that, although there may be enormous unrest and discontent among the men who are retained in the fighting line, it is nothing compared with the discontent and unrest among the men who say that they are retained for no real purpose, and that they could be using their time to better advantage if they were released from the Army and allowed to return to civilian occupations. There is intense dissatisfaction among the men who are retained in these labour units. I have come in contact with them everywhere, and one must realise that they are practically of no value from an economic point of view. You cannot compel a man to work if his heart is not in it; and I make the statement, without any fear of contradiction, that no man in the labour units has his heart in the work. He feels that the War is over and that the need for him no longer exists. The man who is retained in the Army of Occupation knows that there is something for which he must be prepared. He is sent over there for a definite and specific purpose. He has an object in view, and he knows that he is necessary for the upkeep of that Army and to perform certain duties if the occa- sion should arise. But our labour units and all the accessories that were absolutely necessary when the fighting was proceeding are not necessary to-day.
I do not take the view which has been expressed so forcibly, that the Government have any ulterior motive in preparing for industrial strikes. I do not think that the Government have that in mind at all, though I know, if there were any need for the military to be used to break strikes, they would be used to-day just as they were used twenty and thirty years ago. I support the Amendment because, in my opinion, it is unfair to keep a man away from his home, his family, and his civilian occupation, unless there is real necessity. It is unfair and it is wrong to continue to employ that man in a labour unit when the necessity no longer exists. Therefore, I most heartily support the Amendment and hope that the Government will see their way to accept it. It will give intense satisfaction. I believe that a great deal of the discontent and unrest that manifested itself some few months ago when demobilisation had to be speeded up and men were released quicker than we ever thought possible started in the labour camps in this and other countries, because the men there felt that their work was done and that they should be sent home. I therefore hope and trust that the Government will see their way to make some differentiation between the man who is required in the fighting force and the man who is wasting his time—I say emphatically wasting his time and the revenue of the country—in being kept shut up in these labour camps and made to do work that civilian labour could do. He should be engaged in a civilian occupation, and should be restored to his home and family.
I hope that the House will come to a conclusion on this question in the course of the next few minutes. The issue is a double one, but both aspects of it are quite simple. The Labour units, as was explained by my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Quest), are an essential part of the Army. You cannot have a modern Army without labour units for clerical work, for salvage work, for the upkeep of communications, and for many other purposes. These units are indispensable in their proper proportion, and you might just as well have an Army without artillery or telegraph corps as without labour units. Therefore, if there is a necessity for us to maintain an Army, which must have the power of movement should the emergency arise, it is essential that it should be equipped with all the ancillary services. I agree with much in the speech to which we have just listened. There is no doubt a great deal of waste of men's time and labour in regard to these labour units, and I have no doubt that many instances have occurred of men being kept when there has been no reasonable work for them to do, but something must be said for the uncertainty of our situation which has been changing from week to week, and for the uncertainty as to how the process of demobilisation would work out. We have to keep up the transportation for so many men passing along the roads, through the camps and different stations, across the Channel, and through the dispersal camps. It may well be that here and there, and in many places, there are from time to time units and individuals who find that during this period of demobilisation there is very little useful work for them to do, but when I remind the House, as I mentioned to-day at Question Time, that more than two and a quarter million officers and men have been actually released in the few weeks of this present year, I think we are entitled to say that we are releasing the great Army that has won the War and replacing them among their families and in the civil life of the country at the earliest possible moment.
With regard to these labour units, I have been giving attention particularly to the agricultural companies. It is perfectly clear that the men in the agricultural companies who are not in the retained classes should be immediately demobilised and we are doing that as fast as we can. Orders have been given to accelerate that process. But the men in the agricultural companies who are in the retained classes must be transferred to the military services. There is no reason why they should go simply because they are in the agricultural companies. They will go to increase the general pool available for the forces that we are keeping, and they will be one of the factors to enable us to reduce the forces steadily, either by lowering the age, or releasing the men with two stripes, or reducing the date of service, or by any of the other compassionate or special methods that have found favour now in this quarter and now in that, and which I fully agree should in the next few weeks be considered so as to make the burden fall on the exact minimum that we require and make it fall so as to cause the least possible injury or hardship to the individual. We could not, however, accept the Amendment that no man should be employed in a labour unit, because that would mutilate the Army and make it no longer an effective fighting force. We should have to transfer the men from the labour units to the Regular service of the Line, and we should then have to engage on such terms as were possible fresh men from this country to go out to the different theatres where our Armies are detained to do the work done by the labour units. We should have men in France or Germany who would not be under any military discipline, and that would give rise to all sorts of difficulties, quite apart from the fact that you would have to form new units to discharge the essential services without which no modern Army can live. As long as you have an Army in the field it must be supplied with labour units for these particular services. I quite agree that every economy must be used in regard to them and that no unit should be kept unnecessarily. That is our intention.
The second aspect of the question which is before us is really capable of being made much of or of being made little of, according to taste. It is quite easy to draw a picture of a wicked Government coming forward in the face of all its election pledges and conscripting an enormous army, which, when it is not employed in the heart of Russia, is to be employed suppressing strikes here at home. It is quite possible to conjure up a picture of that kind, but nothing would be more remote from the real facts with which we have to deal. There is no intention on the part of the Government, and they have never brought forward this Bill with any idea, of dealing in an exceptional manner with labour disputes.
I do not propose to accept any Amendment narrowing the constitutional duties of the British soldier. It would be highly objectionable to do so. As I said in Grand Committee, the duties of the British soldier are embodied in the constitutional law and in the long custom and practice of this country, and I quite agree that they are not capable of a precise definition. Great judgments have been given on such subjects, and, as my hon. and gallant Friend has said, com- missions have been appointed which have reached no very clear conclusion. But even if we are going to define the exact constitutional duties and position of the British soldier in precise terms, this Bill is certainly not the place to do it, and it would be perfectly absurd to have two kinds of soldier. One hundred and thirty thousand men have volunteered and are serving on pre-war engagements; 30,000 of them are invalids, and I do not know that you can get any great advantage out of them. Conceive what would happen if in regard to the soldiers affected by this Bill we were to define a particular set of duties which did not apply to other men who enlisted before the War. You would have two different classes of soldiers, one of whom would have had his duties denned and narrowed for him by specific legislation, and the other of whom would rest on what I may call the general constitutional law and practice of the country, and the position would be really absurd. I thought the hon. Member who spoke last used very outspoken language as to what the Army would do to break a strike, and so on. It is to my mind abhorrent that troops should be used to interfere in any ordinary question between capital and labour. If there was a dispute about how much the employers ought to pay, or about what hours the men ought to work, and so forth, I go even further than the hon. Gentleman, and say that I do not think it is at all within the region of proper action that troops should be employed, and I do not believe the military authorities would contemplate—[An HON. MEMBER: "It has been done!"]—No, I do not think so. The maintenance of vital services stands on a different footing. The maintenance of vital services, which affect the life and safety and health and well-being of the populace is in a some-
what different category; but such ideas have not in any way affected the bringing forward of this Bill. As I have said, the position of the soldier under this Bill is exactly what it was under the Military Service Act, and the position of the soldier under the Military Service Act was exactly what it was under our old voluntary system. Therefore, if it is sought to deal with the position of the soldier in these matters I do not think it should be by an Amendment to this Bill or by application to any particular class of soldier. I think a measure should be brought forward defining the duties of the soldier in relation to other citizens as a separate Bill, and that that should apply not merely during the currency of this Bill and to particular soldiers, but to all soldiers, and permanently, as part of the law of the land.
No, I do not feel inclined to add to the legislative burden of the Session by undertaking such a task on behalf of the War Office, but it is quite open to my right hon. Friend opposite to make an excursion into the realm of constitutional law and to draft a Bill defining accurately the functions of a soldier, be he conscript or be he volunteer, and to take advantage of the Parliamentary opportunities which are provided to carry his measure into effect. I hope it may now be possible for us to terminate the present Amendment before the Debate comes to a close at 8.15, so that we may be able to-morrow, when the House reassembles, to proceed at once with the question of the date when the Bill should terminate.
|Division No. 18.]||AYES.||[8.5 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Devlin, Joseph||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Kiley, James Daniel|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Galbraith, Samuel||Lunn, William|
|Bentinck, Lt.-Col Lord H. Cavendish-||Glanville, Harold James||M'Lean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Morgan, Major D. Watts|
|Bramsdon, Sir T.||Graham, W. (Edinburgh)||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||Onions, Alfred|
|Briant, F.||Grundy, T. W.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Hayday, A.||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Cairns, John||Hayward, Major Evan||Redmond, Captain William A.|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Hinds, John||Rees, Captain J. Tudor (Barnstaple)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Hirst, G. H.||Richardson, R. (Houghton)|
|Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Hogge, J. M.||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Holmes, J. S.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Irving, Dan||Sexton, James|
|Shaw, Tom (Preston)||Thomas, Brig-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Short, A. (Wednesbury)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Sitch, C. H.||Walsh, S. (Ince, Lanes.)||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Smith, W. (Wellingborough)||Wedgwood, Col. Josiah C.|
|Spoor, B. G.||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. G. Thorne and Captain A. Smith.|
|Swan, J. E. C.||Wignall, James|
|Taylor, J. W. (Chester-le-Street)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral||Dockrell, Sir M.||Lyle-Samuel, A. (Eye, E. Suffolk)|
|Agg-Gardnar, Sir James Tynte||Doyle, N. Grattan||Lyon, L.|
|Ainsworth, Captain C.||Eagar, Clifford||M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)|
|Amery, Lieut.-col. L. C. M. S.||Falcon, Captain M.||M'Donald, D. H. (Bothwell, Lanark)|
|Archdale, toward M.||Farquharson, Major A. C.||M'Guffin, Samuel|
|Astbury, Lt.-Com. F. W.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Foreman, H.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Austin, Sir H.||Forestier-Walker, L.||Maitland, Sir A. D. Steel-|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Foxcroft, Captain C.||Manville, Edward|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Mason, Robert|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gange, E. S.||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gardiner, J. (Perth)||Mitchell, William Lane-|
|Banner, Sir J. S. Harmood-||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)||Moles, Thomas|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Melson, Major John Elsdale|
|Barrie, C. C.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Mortti|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John||Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir Newton J.|
|Ball, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Glyn, Major R.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. C. T.|
|Bellairs, Com. Carlyon W.||Goff, Sir R. Park||Morden, Col. H. Grant|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Gray, Major E.||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Bann, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich)||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Mosley, Oswald|
|Bennett, T. J.||Greig, Col. James William||Mount, William Arthur|
|Betterton, H. B.||Gretton, Col. John||Murray, John (Leeds, W.)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Griggs, Sir Peter||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Guest, Capt. Hon. F. E. (Dorset, E.)||Neal, Arthur|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W. E. (B. St. E.)||Nelson, R. F. W. R.|
|Blane, T. A.||Hacking, Captain D. H.||Newman, Major J. (Finchley, Mddx.)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Hailwood, A.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||Nicholl, Com. Sir Edward|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. W. E.||Hallas, E.||Parker, James|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Peel, Lt.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Brackenbury, Col. H. L.||Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Luton, Beds.)||Perring, William George|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Henderson, Major V. L.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles|
|Briggs, Harold||Hennessy, Major G.||Pratt, John William|
|Brittain, Sir Harry E.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford)||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Rankin, Capt. James S.|
|Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)||Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F.||Raper, A. Baldwin|
|Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Hood, Joseph||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hope, Harry (Stirling)||Raw, Lt.-Col. Dr. N.|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Reid, D. D.|
|Butcher, Sir J. G.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Renwick, G.|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Carr, W. T.||Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Cautley, Henry strother||Home, Edgar (Guildford)||Rodger, A. K.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hume-Williams, Sir Wm. Ellis||Roundell, Lt.-Col. R. F.|
|Chadwick, R. Burton||Hurd, P. A.||Rowlands, James|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Hurst, Major G. B.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)|
|Clough, R.||Jephcott, A. R.||Samuels, Rt. Hon. A. W. (Dublin Univ.)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Jedrell, N. P.||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Johnson, L. S.||Seager, Sir William|
|Cockerill, Brig-Gen. G. K.||Johnstons, J.||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)|
|Cohen, Major J. B. B.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Shertt, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Simm, Col. M. T.|
|Colvin, Brig -Gen. R. B.||Jones, Wm. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Kidd, James||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander|
|Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||King, Com. Douglas||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Cory, J. H. (Cardiff)||Knights, Capt. H.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Courthope, Major George Loyd||Law, A. J. (Rochdale)||Stephenson, Col. H. K.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Univ.)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cozens-Hardy, Hon. W. H.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)||Stoker Robert Burdon|
|Craig, Capt. C. (Antrim)||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.)||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lloyd, George Butter||Surtees, Brig.-Gen. H. C.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Henry Page||Locker-Lampson G. (Wood Green)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Curzon, Commander Viscount||Lecker-Lampson, Com. O. (Hunt'don)||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)|
|Davidson, Major-General J. H.||Lorden, John William||Terrell, G. (Chippenham, Wilts.)|
|Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Lort-Williams, J.||Terrell, Capt. R. (Henley, Oxford)|
|Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Thomas, Sir R. (Wrexham, Denb.)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Dewhurst, Lieut. Com. H.||Lowther, Col. C. (Lonsdale, Lancs.)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Dixon, Captain H.||Lyle, C. E. Leonard (Stratford)||Townley, Maximillian G.|
|Waddington, R.||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge and Hyde)|
|Walker, Col. William Hall||Whitla, Sir William||Worsfold, T. Cate|
|Walton, J. (York, Don Valley)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Wardle, George J.||Willoughby, Lt.-Col. Hon. Claud||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|Watson, Captain John Bertrand||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Weigall, Lt.-Col. W. E. G. A.||Wilson, Col. Leslie (Reading)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Dudley Ward and Commander Eyres-Monsell.|
|Waston, Col. John W.||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Hold'ness)|
|Whaler, Col. Granville C. H.||Wood, Major Hon. E. (Ripon)|
Reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Lords Amendments to the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Bill, reported, and agreed to.