With reference to the circular issued by the War Office, I would like to say a word upon the observations of the hon. Member for Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). I approach this matter not only as a trade union official, but as an old soldier. I am very proud of my Army associations, for in my day we had the deepest respect for our officers, and I am sure the majority of the men would have readily followed them practically anywhere. But after the speech of the hon. Member for Hull, I do not think the men in the Army to-day will have very much respect for him as an officer. I know a large number of men who are to-day in the Army and the Navy. My experience of them is that they have a great respect for their officers, and I am sure they would condemn in no unmeasured language such speeches as that of the hon. Member for Hull. Another point is with regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). That hon. Member took a rather extreme view. I have had the good fortune recently of coming into contact with a large number of people from Russia, people who did very much to upset the Czar regime, and who are now doing all they can to upset the Bolsheviks. The party with which I am associated are giving them all the encouragement and help possible, and I for one am proud that they are doing that because these are people who I am certain are sincerely honest in trying to get real democratic rule, and to upset the Bolsheviks.
With regard to the circular issued by the War Office, I accept the Government's statement that they take full responsibility for it. But anyone who reads it must see at once that it was written by a novice. That, however, does not get the Government away from the position. The circular has been sent out with the connivance of the- War Office. My information is that the gentleman who drew it up has already been kicked out of the War Office and unloaded on to some other Department. With that one must feel a certain amount of satisfaction. But there is a, point to which I want to direct the attention of the Committee in regard to the issue of this circular, and here I am going to offer a little criticism which to me is very painful, because I am going to criticise some of my own colleagues in the trade union movement. At the particular time when this circular was issued I happened to be on my back suffering from a dose of influenza. But I read very carefully the report of each day's Debate when the Government introduced its Bill setting up the Coal Commission, and I noticed that one medical Member after another rose in his place in the House and warned the Government of what would happen if there was a strike of colliers. I can well understand that if the people of this country had been deprived of coal at that particular time the death-rate from influenza alone would have been something terrible. Therefore the Government had to face a great responsibility. There was a time when my colleagues and myself joined in the issue of a manifesto to the miners asking them to pause before they struck and to think of the consequences which would ensue. I am very glad to know that the miners did accept that advice eventually, but there were certain of their leaders who did not want that advice to be taken and who did all they possibly could to pre- vent its being accepted. Among them, and I say it with deep regret, was Mr. Smillie, who was one of the greatest dangers to the trade union movement——
I should like to interrupt my hon. Friend. I have some knowledge of the subject, and I definitely declare that at the federation meetings Mr. Smillie himself advised that there should be no strike.
Yes, but before that time arrived Mr. Smillie was one of the men who tried to bring about a strike. Other members of the Miners' Federation, however, got to know what the position was likely to be, and obviously the Government dared not allow a strike of that magnitude to take place without doing something, not necessarily to break the strike, but to protect the public from what was going to happen. Undoubtedly, if there had been a stoppage of coal with the natural result of a stoppage of transport the country would have been brought to a standstill, and it would have been the duty of the Government, looking after the public interest, to have taken control of the whole of the coal in the country and to have rationed everybody. Suppose the Government, without attempting to break the strike, had rationed everyone except the miners, what would have happened? The strike would have been broken in a week. The impression amongst a certain class of people—;I think a wrong impression —is that the miners do not give a hang for anyone but themselves. I represent a very poor constituency. There is a large number of people who are living in two and three rooms. Their coal cellar is a bucket, which has to be replenished with coal bought at the rate of nearly £3 a ton. These people are not particularly enthusiastic about the miners' claims. I agree that the miners have had very hard conditions for many years and they are entitled to everything they are asking for, and I want them to have it; but other people are working under very hard conditions also. I want to see a closing up of the ranks of the trade union movement and for all to go forward together and not one to take advantage of the difficulties of others, and from that point of view I believe the Government is going on the right road. I believe we are going to get at a better understanding all along the line. In the meantime we have got to realise that the Miners' Federation is not the only trade union organisation in this country. There are 5,000,000 trade unionists. The miners only number, roughly speaking, 1,000,000, and the other 4,000,000 are entitled to some consideration.
I thought we were discussing the circular issued by the Government to find out what the position of the Army was going to be. A member of the Miners' Federation the other night practically threatened what the Miners' Federation had decided to do if the Government did not take a certain line of action. That is open to misconstruction. It seems to me that if the Miners' Federation has a right to threaten the Government if the Government will not do what the Miners' Federation says it ought to do, every other section of the trade union movement has a right to do the same thing, as has every other section of the electors who elected this House of Commons. We are all entitled to our views, but if a minority is going to enforce its will upon the majority by taking drastic action of that kind, it is up to the rest of the country to protect their interests also. I am deeply sorry to have to make an observation of this kind. I have worked for over twenty-five years id the trade union movement, and I believe it is the duty of someone to point out that the Miners' Federation does not rule this country, though they are taking action which looks very much as if they think they do. I think we ought to have some understanding. I am of opinion that if everyone takes the view that the Miners' Federation appears to take at present we are heading straight for anarchy. I cannot forget the action that a number of the miners' officials took during the War. I was one of those who went about the country doing my little bit to try to counteract the effect of their speeches and actions, and we cannot forget the number of lives that have been lost as the result of the action taken by certain members of the Miners' Federation and other organisations. We have the deepest regard for the last speaker, because he is one of the most sane and level-headed men in the trade union movement. That I am certain cannot be said for every one of them. What we want is for the trade union movement, which [...] enormous future before it, to close up its ranks, to get rid of these extreme Bol- shevik ideas, and to assist in the organisation of industry, so as to bring about a. better and happier England.
I should not have risen but for the speech to which we have just listened, which was directed not against the circular itself, but against the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. That body has a right to the unmeasured respect even of this House. It contributed as much to the War in material, in energy, and in support, both from the physical and moral point of view, as any other section of the community. There was time when the responsible Ministers of the Crown thought it was not only their duty but their privilege to speak in the highest possible terms of men belonging to the mining community. To-night we have an hon. Member making false and unfounded charges against the leader of the Miners Federation, and in general terms to make an unwarranted charge against the-miners connected with the federation.
The speech was in. general terms and the hon. Member did not seek to discriminate between any section of that community which has been as earnest in many respects, not only in. its advocacy of the claims of this country but in support of them, as any section of the community. At one time the Miners' Federation have sent 400,000 out of about 800,000, and in the early stages of the War, under the voluntary system, when men were so urgently required, there was not a section of the British community that contributed so loyally and so handsomely in reply to the calls of Great Britain in its direst moment as the Miners' Federation. I deprecate the statements which have been made and repudiate the charges which have been brought against them. Mr. Smillie holds a very important position in the Miners' Federation. They differed widely during the War, but it will not be denied that he is honest to the convictions and principles which ho holds, and even Robert Smillie has as much right to his opinions and convictions as any Member of the House. It docs not follow, if he has opinions and has the courage to express them, that he is always wrong and that he is a traitor to his country.
You may think he is. Mr. Smillie is one of the most courageous, one of the strongest and one of the most straightforward leaders in the Labour movement. That bench always knows where he is. He is not a reed shaken by every wind that blows. He has been a true, honest, sterling leader of the workers of this country for many years, and I say that though he and I have differed upon very important points.
The speech of the Secretary of State for War might be put down as a triumph of rhetoric, but it was lacking in sympathy, in imagination and in statesmanship. It was lacking in statesmanship because the right hon. Gentleman described Bolshevism as a disease, and he said ho would concentrate the whole of his energies upon stamping it out. But he has no regard to the causes which have been creating it. The function of a statesman is not so much to deal with the effect of a disease as with the causes that give rise to it. What arc the causes which have led to Bolshevism in Europe, and will undoubtedly lead to Bolshevism in this country? Military aggrandisement, economic servitude, and political bondage. Have not these things been rampant in Europe, and in Russia in particular, for years and years? Has not the military system in Europe been dominating in its influences, and, so far as Russia is concerned, has there not been economic servitude, and has there not been political bondage? The right hon. Gentleman thinks the disease of Bolshevism might take root in this country, so he, or his Department, starts out with a circular such as we have been discussing, trying to find out what is the relationship of the Army towards the efforts of the trade unions, and what action they are prepared to take in case of a great strike—an indication to any man's mind that if a great industrial conflict comes, at whatever cost and whatever may be the consequences, it must be crushed out. I ask again, is that statesmanship? A statesman would look into the causes of the disease. He would examine them, and would not waste his energy so much in seeking to cure it as in removing the circumstances which gave rise to it. How do they set about to deal with influenza? While it is raging they take every possible step to stamp it out, but the medical profession would not be worth its name if it allowed its efforts to stop there. The medical profession turns its attention to the principal causes, and seeks to stamp them out. In so far as the right hon. Gentleman has failed to direct his attention to the causes of the disturbance and unrest in this country, he lacks in statesmanship, in sympathy, and in imagination.
We are passing through very trying times, times which demand of most of us reflection and forethought. We shall not be carried very far by recrimination, and we shall not be carried far by false charges. I know of nothing which, from the political point of view and the industrial point of view, makes a man bad so much as by constantly giving him a bad name. Call a man a Bolshevik, when he has no Bolshevik tendencies, but when a man is agitated for a moment, and his imagination is fired, and, sooner or later, when you have put your stamp upon him, he will be willing to carry it and willing to bear it. Many a man has been carried along in that direction owing to the fact that he has been continually stamped by that name. I believe the British Labour movement at the present time has no Bolshevik tendencies. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking to-night so far as Germany is concerned, told us that it was essential to have 280,000 men on the Rhine. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen have read the report of the soldiers who were sent into Germany to inquire into the economic, political, and military conditions of that country. Two reports have been issued, and the first of those reports is in language not to be misunderstood. Several of the delegations have declared that from the military point of view Germany is absolutely crushed, and that as a military power she is absolutely hopeless. That is the testimony of our own delegation in the report that has been issued. If that is perfectly correct, what need is there for the retention of such a large Army on the Rhine?
If the foreign policy of Great Britain is going to be the policy of suppressing every people over whom we have influence, then it must inevitably follow that our military policy must run along these lines. The responsibility for the retention of soldiers in Egypt, Mesopotamia and in India, especially in India and Egypt, must rest with the Governments that have refused repeatedly to give a measure of self-government to those great countries. If that is to be the foreign policy that we are to pursue, then instead of there being any hope of our Armies being decreased there will be necessity for a definite increase of those Armies. A change must take place, and it can only take place either from the international point of view or from the national point of view in relationship to labour, and that those who are assuming the responsibility of office should make some effort to understand the minds, the aspirations, and the desires of those over whom they rule. There has been a special doctrine which has been promulgated from the Government Bench, and that is that we must produce, produce, produce. We have been told that there can be no salvation unless the workers of this country put their backs into the work of production, and we have been asked to tell Labour that there can be no salvation for them unless they can continue to produce. There is, undoubtedly, sound economics in a statement of that kind, but I for one, as a responsible leader, do not feel disposed to go to the house tops, and cry to man to produce, and produce more and more, with the knowledge I have that the wheels of industry have spun and spun before the War until they were all clogged by production, and then the labourer was told to stand on one side in periods of trade depression. I am prepared to cry, produce, produce, when the aspirations of labour are responded to and when there is an assurance given to a man that when they have produced they shall get a fair share along with others of that which he has helped to produce.
This question is of great interest to myself as an ex-Service man, and is of general interest to the whole future and well-being of our country. After all, you must not forget that for some considerable time there will be kept in our Army, under force of necessity which I admit we cannot avoid, a very large number of young men. The future of this country depends upon its young men, and it is up to us—to use a military term—to see that those young men, when they return to civil life, should come back none the worse for their enforced absence. Why is it men have hated the Army? I hated it myself when I was in it, and I was in it for long enough. It is not the discipline. Discipline is both necessary and sanitary. It is the fact that Army life is dull. It is dull because it either consists in the repetition of tasks which are meaningless to the private soldier, unless they are explained to him, or else it consists in those yearly votes which many of us would prefer to avoid. How can we solve the problem of making our men interested in the Army in which they serve?
It is a considerable number of years since the heads of our Army discovered that the private soldier had a brain. The first use they made of that discovery was to teach him how to kill intelligently. But that does not interest him much except in time of war. On the contrary, he becomes bored even with that. You must have something else. I am glad to say that even before I left the Army myself a system of education in its wider aspect had-been started in the Army. It is upon the system which has been established that I wish to say a few words. If I bore the House, at least I shall have the assurance that there are not many Members in it to be bored. The present system is, in my opinion, not a very satisfactory one. You can produce statistics of the numbers of subjects that arc taught, and the numbers of men who go to classes, and so on, but that does not mean to say that you are giving the men any really vital information upon subjects which they ought to know about. To teach a man you must have an efficient teacher. Everybody in this House realises that the ordinary regimental officer cannot in the nature of things make an efficient teacher. Very often he is a public school or university man. I do not wish to go into the question of the system of public school or university education. But I do not think that it fits a regimental officer to instruct his men simply and intelligently. It is not meant for that sort of thing.
Anybody who has been in a regimental mess during the War will know what the general tone of conversation at the mess was. It was reviews, frivolity, and so forth. I do not want to see the men in the Army a set of pedantic prigs, but I do think that one of the greatest tragedies of this War is the way in which young men were herded together when they were too young to have really thought things out for themselves, and many of them were unfortunately killed before they had time to do anything of the sort. What I would suggest, with all deference, is that there should be some organised system set up so as to train efficient officer instructors for our Army. I am convinced that no system of education which we try to establish in our Army will ever prove a success until something of that sort is done. After all, it is not the discipline which men hate, and it is not that officers take up towards the men an attitude calculated to irritate the men. The majority do not. But as an ordinary regimental officer right through the War, when I was not a private, I remember being distinctly irritated on many occasions by the airs which some officers of superior rank gave themselves. It was extraordinarily irritating when you wore footsore and weary, coming towards the end of a twenty-five mile march, to see some gentleman drive past on a 25 h.p. car looking fresh and clean when you were feeling worn out. It is the unintelligent insistence upon the privilege of officers which does so much to irritate the minds of the men.
I pass to another subject, which, after all, has some relation to that on which I have ventured to make a few observations. We have heard a great deal to-night about a certain circular, and it seems to me that oven if the issue of that circular was justifiable, its publication is, to say the least of it, unwise, because it gives an example of the official mind at work. The official mind makes for statistics and definite knowledge, which I admit are essential to the Army, and on this particular occasion I do not say that there was any great crime, as some hon. Members have tried to make out, against any section of the community in endeavouring to obtain that information. But, after all, during this War we have had a certain number of foolish mistakes made. I am quite certain I should have made many more myself. I am not one of those who would have proposed to win the War by sitting in an armchair and telling people how it ought to be done, because I could not have done it nor could anyone have done it. But I do think that an enormous amount of good would be done by the introduction of a little more civilian influence in the War Office. After all, the right hon. Gentleman who made such an able and eloquent speech this afternoon cannot do everything. It seems to me that what he has done is proof of what a few more good men like him might do at the War Office. Take the question of demobilisation. Would such a scandal have occurred if common-sense had been employed in that question from the start? I think a great deal of rubbish has been talked about business men and Government. When business men get into a government they are rather liable to remember that they have unlimited capital and to forget that they also have limited liabilities. I feel perfectly certain that an ordinary man who has not been brought up to some narrow and specific purpose comes fresher to his task, and has new and more brilliant ideas than the man who has devoted himself to one certain class from his childhood. It is the principle of our constitutional Government. We always put amateurs in charge of our big Departments, and they do very well.
A little more correlation is necessary in our system of educating men for the Army itself. Take Sandhurst and Woolwich. They have no correlation. You must have a system which will embrace training schools for officers, for only so can you ensure a genuine all-round stamp of man who will conform not to a plan exactly, but will have a certain universal knowledge which will carry him through to the top. When men go to Sandhurst they go, surely, after training in a public school where they have been in an Army class or some such thing, where their minds have been devoted practically exclusively to mathematics, map-making, and so on. But when they get to Sandhurst they have no opportunities of introduction to that wider learning which I think does some good to those who go to a university. Many are the outcries against the public school and university men, but after all they did their little bit in the War just as much as the Miners' Federation did their bit. I think that if we could get some such system at Sandhurst and Woolwich and other military centres for the training of officers as would give an officer a wider outlook and a more general experience of affairs, it would go very far to improve the general social tone of our Army. By social tone I mean to say that it would make the Army a more contented family instead of a combination of jarring and often discordant units.
The few remarks I have had the temerity to address to the House have been made because I feel it is a subject to which more attention should be devoted than has been devoted to it in the past. It seems to me that just as in the civil life of the future much more is going to be made of education—because upon the children depends the civil life of this country—so in the Army much more attention will have to be paid to the education of the young men who go there, because the young men are the children of Army life. I do make this appeal with all sincerity to those in authority at the War Office, and I ask them to see whether they cannot introduce a little more amenity, a little more sweet reasonableness besides and apart from great politeness which does not carry any weight. In what I have said I hope I shall not appear to have been teaching my grandmother to suck eggs.
I am very glad the last speaker has glanced away from this wretched circular, but I am afraid I must revert to the subject for one minute, because my Friend the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Jesson) has been slightly misrepresented in the matter. An hon. Member rather cleverly attempted to nail him in an attack upon the Miners' Federation. Of course, my hon. Friend did nothing of the kind. My hon. Friend merely referred to, and ventured to criticise, certain leaders of that federation, and to the opinion he expressed, I have no doubt he adheres. I would like once again to repeat, very simply and very clearly, the remarks of my hon. Friend in regard to the subject. As far as the standpoint of the particular party to which I have the honour to belong is concerned we make no pretence about it. We fully understand the position of the Government. We know there has been a blunder. We know that a stupid official stepped in and made a great blunder. What are the facts? We were threatened with a Triple Alliance which meant revolution. [Cries of "No," from the Labour Benches.] The Triple Alliance as it threatened this country at this time meant revolution, and when hon. Members bring that about in this country let them at any rate remember that they have been warned. That is what it will mean when it is put into full operation, and I say quite deliberately—and I know it will be used against us—that the Government that did not at that particular time take every precaution to find out how the soldiers stood, if such a terrible thing as a revolution came upon this country—a Government that did not take steps to protect innocent people who did not happen to be members of a miners' federation, upon such a Government a most grave responsibility would have been placed, and a responsibility, the neglect of which would never have been forgiven them by the people. An hon. Member has said that had he been a civilian, had he been a politician, he would never have sent out that stupid circular. He did not even mean "strike breaker"; I am perfectly certain of it. It was a term that was used, "How do your soldiers like being used in time of strike?" [An HON. MEMBER: "Strike breaking."] He did not mean strike breaking, and the hon. Member knows he did not mean it in the ordinary sense of the term. I will only say the whole thing is a lot of noise about nothing. Hon. Members opposite made a great deal of capital out of it, but it is not worth a snap of the fingers, and they know it.
Let me refer to Army topics which arc of such vital interest to all of us. In the next two or three months the Army is going to be made and built up, and according to the method of building its prosperity and future will depend. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to push forward at the earliest possible date as exactly as he can his statement as to pay, clothing, and messing arrangements of the Army. There are young men without incomes anxious to take up the Army as a profession. If the right hon. Gentleman delays too long, those young men will not know whether it is going to be an army for the rich man or for the ordinary intelligent man with ambitions, who wants to make a profession out of it, and if he cannot do so, then we are going to lose some of the most promising men for this great national institution. I have been approached on this question from several quarters. Is the Army going to be such that a young man can enter knowing that he can get right through to the top from, the ranks? I am perfectly convinced that we shall never adequately recruit our voluntary Army unless we give more hope to the ranks than we have given in the past. The old system will not do. I would urge with all the earnestness I can command that unless you are prepared to set aside a certain definite proportion of the commissioned ranks to the ranks, nothing will be effected. For example, to give encouragement you could say that you will take 50 per cent. from Sandhurst, 25 per cent. from the ranks— that is, from amongst the born soldiers capable of rising— and 25 per cent. from the special reserve of Territorials or whatever it may be— of men found late in life, but whose instincts and aspirations are those of the soldier. The old system, I venture to assert, was most unfair to the ranks. What happened? You pitchforked a man, at the age of about thirty-five, because he happened to be one in a thousand, suddenly from one rank into another, and from one life into another, and with different typos of training involved. I suggest that every young man joining the Army should within six months be definitely told and instructed if his chances of a commission were reasonably good, and then within a short period he ought to be definitely trained. I am not a Regular soldier, but I have the most complete admiration for the Regular Army. I had the honour and privilege of serving in a Regular battalion for some time. I am not advocating this policy so much with the idea of improving the commissioned ranks, although I think it would, but because I am in favour of giving hope to and improving the ranks. I have heard opinions expressed in this House in regard to the relations between officers and men which have quite astonished me. I heard the hon. Member for Hull, this afternoon, himself a commissioned officer, talk in a contemptuous way about commanding officers, and I was never more surprised in my life. If people were ignorant and did not know anything about it, I could understand it. Knowing the little I do about the Regular officer's family life— which is the most delightful life in the world in many respects— and knowing the sense of esprit de corps which prevails amongst those officers, I am sure that when they realised that Private Brown or Corporal Jones or Private Smith were aspirants for commissions, 50 per cent. of those officers would vie with one another in assisting those men to become highly efficient officers. Nobody can teach officers but officers. They would teach them esprit de corps, and, more than that, they would assist them to learn those things which would help them to be happy in their commissioned rank. Whatever opposition there may be to this particular scheme that I advocate, I personally anticipate that there will be none from the younger successful ranks of the Regular Army, although I do acknowledge that there is a body in the Army so wedded to tradition, so conscious of the magnificent work that the RegularArmy has done, with such an admiration for their own class— with which I sympathise— that they are afraid to make any kind of innovation which they think might possibly spoil it. They are wrong. The day is past when any class can arrogate to itself any particular privilege. I am one of the last men in the world to advocate a class war, but I am perfectly certain that any such claims that have been made in the past have got to be surrendered, and surrendered at an early date. Some of us have been more fortunate than others, but I think the day is past when we should claim that we are necessarily better than others. Under the present system 'you have born soldiers, magnificent soldiers, with hope killed. I met one last night. He is thirty-three years of age, and has a splendid record, but he simply cannot get through. He was prevented from going to France. He is a non-commissioned officer and an extraordinarily capable man, and his great ambition is to get through to a commission, but he has no hope for another seven years, when he may become a quartermaster. That man should be on the "G" side and not on the "Q" side. To my mind nothing can be more obvious than that we shall have to do more for people of that description than we have done in the past. It is not necessary to labour the point in great detail. It has been seen during the War exactly how it could be done. Sandhurst would send its quota, the young officer battalions would be built up and trained in the actual practical side of soldiering, and at a given period they would go to the officers' school and get their commissions in the ordinary course. Another point which I would most earnestly impress upon the right hon. Gentleman is that the giving of commissioned service from the ranks is in my opinion quite useless unless you allow some proportion, say one-half, of the soldier's service in the ranks to count towards commissioned service. I know it is so in theory, but it is not so in practice at the present time. It is, I respectfully suggest, quite wrong to take a sergeant-major at the age of thirty-four or thirty-five, or whatever it may be, a man of long service and highly experienced, and make him the junior second-lieutenant. If that man under the present system is fit to get a commission, he is in my humble opinion fit to go straight through into the ranks of the senior lieutenants, so that within three months or six months he can get captain's rank. Another great problem which we have to get over is the system of promotion in the Army, and I am perfectly well aware that the same thing applies to almost the whole of the Civil Service. Seniority and not merit counts as regards promotion. In the Army, if you have two people competing for a particular post, and one man has fifteen years and two months' service and is a stupid fellow, while the other has fifteen years' service and is brilliant, under normal circumstances, unless an extraordinary amount of trouble is raised, the stupid man with two months' more service beats the more or less brilliant man. That is nationalisation. The hon. Gentleman speaking for the Secretary of State for War disappointed me more than I can say when he told me that promotion by merit had been tried during the War and proved to be a failure, and that he did not recommend it. What a terrible confession of weakness! Does it surpass the wit of man so to devise that under any scheme of nationalisation we shall not be limited to dull mediocrity, but that we shall have the right man in the right place? I know there are difficulties with regard to favouritism, and a hundred and one other difficulties, but surely it does not surpass the wit of man to defeat them. I could myself put forward a scheme at any rate better than the present dull scheme that breaks the hearts of ambitious men in the Army. Another very pressing grievance, which I know soldiers will be glad to see raised in this House, relates to the same point of seniority as against merit. Throughout the War we had men who had opportunities of really proving their merit. I myself know a young soldier who from the rank of captain reached the rank of brigadier-general. He picked up almost every decoration that was to be won in France. He was a brigadier for twenty-two months, and was recommended to be a Divisional General. The War ends, and he returns to England to take his rank as lieutenant-colonel, and serve beneath other officers who, because of particular disabilities in regard to their intelligence, never left the shores of this country. If the War Office do not take some immediate steps to alter that lamentable state of affairs, if we allow a premium to be put upon want of intelligence and upon stupidity, if we cannot find any scheme of selection possible under this nationalisation scheme, my only comment would be—I know it is not so—that they deserve the criticisms that have been passed upon them. I ventured yesterday to make certain observations in regard to the troubles with soldiers. I ventured to assert that our present troubles arose in spite of an excellent Government. I ventured to assert that there was no inherent vice in that Government, but I did venture to suggest that, there was a certain lack of imagination that was causing all the trouble. With imagination we can have a great and glorious Army, worthy of its magnificent past, and worthy of the future to which this country might rightly look forward, but without it, it is going to be a dull and soul-destroying machine, and at any rate it will be no place for the ordinary young and ambitious man.
I wish to voice the grievance of a particular section of the community who have a particular cause of complaint against the War Office, and that is the Post Office servants who were induced to join the Royal Engineer Signallers on certain terms. The notice under which they joined was the following:
Post office servants enlisting as office telegraphists in the Royal Engineers (Regular Army) or Royal Engineers (Special Reserve) Signal Section are allowed full civil pay, in addition to military pay, when called up for service. They are liable for service abroad.
I suggest that that to the ordinary individual would mean that the Post Office-servants were to receive exactly the same treatment as the ordinary soldier in the Army, plus civil pay. That was the bargain which the Government made with them, but the way they were actually treated was this: They got their civil pay, and they got their Army pay, but when the separation allowance was increased to the ordinary soldier, the Post Office deducted those additional allowances from the men's civil pay. That happened twice, and then the matter was brought up in this House, and, after a good deal of trouble, the Post Office gave way, and these men were given an extra allowance, and, I believe, were paid arrears. But there is another point. Every soldier and every officer receives a war gratuity, but these men are specially excluded from that war gratuity, and what I think makes things worse is that they are bracketed in an Army Order with persons who are suffering from self-inflicted injuries, conscientious objectors, criminals, and other people, and they do not like the company
in which they find themselves. That matter has also been raised in this House by way of question and answer, and they have been told that although they are eligible for service gratuity they cannot get the war gratuity, and the reason given is that the service gratuity is a covenanted benefit, whereas the war gratuity is an un-covenanted or purely gratuitous benefit. Service gratuity is £l per year after two years' service, and as these men have merely joined for the duration of the War, I call it almost an insult to them to offer them the service gratuity. Why they should not have the war gratuity when every other soldier receives it I cannot imagine. It is said they have done very well, because they get their civil pay in addition to their military pay. That may be so, but that was the arrangement under which they joined, and I say that if the Army wanted their services, and if they offered them, in the terms of that notice, Army pay, it meant that these men were to get precisely the same pay and precisely the same gratuities as the ordinary soldier who enlisted in the ordinary way. They are special men doing special work, men whom it was impossible to get in any other way than by voluntary enlistment, men some of whom were forty and nearly fifty years of age, who volunteered and have been serving ever since, and I appeal to the Financial Secretary to the War Office to give these men sympathetic consideration. They are only a small class, and therefore I suppose one cannot get up anything like an election cry for them, but they enlisted under certain conditions, and I think these ought to be literally carried out.
In regard to the speech this afternoon of the Secretary of State for War, I should like to point out that to me, at any rate, his statement in regard to the attitude that we are taking up in Russia was a' disappointing statement, and I am quite certain, from a large number of letters I have received, letters which, I am certain, quite a number of Members of Parliament have also received, that the continuation by the War Office of British troops in Russia, and the assistance that is being given by the War Office in this country to either side of the belligerents in Russia, is a policy which ought not to be continued by the Government of this country. We are told that the reason why we are helping in Russia is because, first of all, Admiral Koltchak and those who are behind him assisted us in the War when Russia was our Ally, and that we must fulfil our obligations to those people. I should like to point out that it was first of all our Allies who broke away and who formed the very first Russian Republic by dethroning the Czar. It was Miliukoff and Kerensky before ever the Bolsheviks-adopted power. They ceased fighting, and if any obligation was broken, the obligation was broken in the first place by the individuals who brought about the first Russian Revolution.
I do not know that it is so much a historical certainty as that Kerensky himself and the whole of the Russian people were so turned down with the condition in which they were, and in which they had been left by the Czar's regime, that they could not continue the War, and that they were praying for peace conditions in their own country. That is given as one of the reasons why we must support Admiral Koltchak. Another reason, the reason which is the strongest put forward, not merely by the Government but by most of the newspapers in this country, is that we must crush Bolshevism, because it is a disease, and because the Bolsheviks have been guilty of committing atrocities. I have as great a horror and repugnance of atrocities as any hon. Member in this House, but I should like to point out that it has not been the policy of this Government or of any Government in this country in the past to intervene in a foreign country or to send troops or munitions of war there merely because atrocities were being committed there. I can remember when an ex-Prime Minister of this country came out of his retirement, whither he had gone owing to bad health, and went on a campaign throughout the country appealing to the people to embark on a holy war because of the massacres by the Turks which were taking place in Armenia and Macedonia. He appealed to this country to put an end to them and to sweep Abdul the Damned out of Europe. I can remember, also, that the man who followed him round the country, denouncing the campaign which Mr. Gladstone was conduct- ing, was the then Liberal Prime Minister, Lord Rosebery, who used all his eloquence to persuade the country not to embark in any war, and painted the most horrible pictures of the horrors which that war would bring into the homes of the people of this country. Although the atrocities that were being committed in those countries at that time were atrocities against which every individual revolted, the Liberal Prime Minister had his way and the Turks ruled in Europe and massacred in Europe until the present war broke out. If atrocity is to be the cause of intervention, then we have a cause for intervening already in the new Polish State which we were responsible, in part, for setting up. It is on record in our own newspaper, and in the cablegrams that have come through, that almost one of the very first actions performed by the Polish Government was the massacre of 2,000 Jews in the town of Vilna. Yet no one says that because of those atrocities we ought to send a British Mission to Poland to put the Government out of power which we first of all placed there and to put in their stead some other Government which will give us pledges which we can see they will redeem.
All the excuses that have been given for keeping our men in Russia, are excuses that will not hold water. The people of this country, the trade unionists of the country at their conferences and at the trade union branch meetings, are passing resolutions demanding the withdrawal of our troops from Russia. Yet those troops remain. Why? What is the cause of it? The real cause is not the cause which the Secretary of State for War gave to-day. The real cause is because there is so much British capital invested in Russia, and because we want to be sure that there is a Government in Russia which will safeguard the capital invested. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!" and "No, no !"] It is estimated that there is to-day invested in Russia £1,600,000,000 of European capital.
No, not German. But, if it is German, British shareholders are in the same company. I have their names here. That is the real reason for the conflict in Russia. The money of the capitalists of this country is being invested side by side with the Germans— the Hun whom you have been denouncing for so many years, and whom you have been, fighting for four and a half years— they are investing money in that country and trying to draw dividends from it; that is the real cause of the intervention in Russia. We find volunteers being appealed for to go to Russia, and responding. I have not yet heard or seen in any paper the name of any gentleman amongst those in these records which I have of shares who has volunteered to go out to Russia to fight for his investments. It is the boys who have gone through the War, and who are drawn from the working classes. Hon. Members denounce the Bolsheviks, applaud every statement that is made against them, and shout down everyone from this side of the House who tries to say anything that is looked upon as Bolshevism by them. I find hon. and right hon. Members of this House with money invested in Russia. I find three Gentlemen who sit on the Front Government Bench with money invested in Russia. [An HON. MEMBER: 'Why not?'"] Why not? Then do not let us have it said that we are there for high ideals. Tell us the right reason why you are there: to fight for your investments, as you went to war in South Africa for the goldfields.
You are sending a relief corps and ships out there. We were told by the Secretary of State for War this afternoon that the ice had already broken up. You are able to send a flotilla of boats up the river, and, if you can do that, you can bring the boys in a flotilla down the river and home. You cannot have it both ways, and say that the river is ice-bound and snow-bound, and yet that you are able to send troops up a river that is passable and navigable. I find the Secretary of State for War making speeches, as is usual. He tells us that the reason that we are in Russia is to keep the Germans from going over into Russia. But there is no fear of that now. Yet they are still there; we are still sending guns; Russian soldiers, even under Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin, we are told, are armed with British weapons, and in some cases clothed in British Army clothing. Munitions of war and guns are sent from this country. Why? Another evidence of the strength of the armament trusts in this country. It is because the investors, shareholders, and directors in the Birmingham Small Arms Company and in Armstrong, Whit-worth and Company have money invested. That has always been the game of the armament companies. They say, "Let us go to war, lot us have scares of war, so that we can unload our stocks upon some country, reap the money from it, and divide the surplus amongst our shareholders."
The Secretary of State for War spoke of self-determination. Self-determination, he told us, is a word coined by the Bolsheviks. I thought it was our own Prime Minister who got up the self-determination compaign. This is the latest one of Bolshevism, that they are now accused of having coined the term "self-determination." The right hon. Gentleman says that self-determination is one of those ridiculous expressions coined by the Bolsheviks in the early days of their attack upon the prosperity and freedom of the Russian people. Self-determination, now, is a phrase that was coined by the Bolsheviks: a ridiculous expression. Yet we were told that in this War we were fighting for the self-determination of small nations.
Now it is a ridiculous expression ! When he makes such a statement as this at a public meeting, as he did in Dundee, can we wonder that such a circular as was published by the "Daily Herald" has gone out from the Department of which he is the chief? Ho told us that self-determination does not give any half-wit the right to order any community about. The community in this country has a right to know all that it is being asked to do. Pledge after pledge that has been made by the Government has been broken, not only to the people of the country, but to the soldiers. We were told in April that a number of those boys were to come home. Now it is pushed further on; we shall get them home by June or July— if the exigencies of the Service allow. If Admiral Koltchak or General Denikin fail upon some of the fronts on which their men are fighting, what guarantee have we from the Government to-day through the Secretary of State for War that we will not send larger bodies of troops out to Russia to fight against the Bolsheviks there, and to assist Denikin and Koltchak. As I have said, the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that the soldiers did not want to go to Russia. The people in this country do not want a war with Russia. We have been told we are not at war with Russia. But we are going to recognise Koltchak and Denikin, if they will give guarantees that, the conditions they will establish in Russia will be similar to the conditions in this country. Why, in the Kevensky Government— not the Bolshevik Government— the land of Russia was made the public property of the people of Russia. We have not got that in this country. Is Admiral Koltchak to give a guarantee that they arc going back to private ownership in Russia just as we have private ownership of land in this country?
It is the old reactionary game. The-Government of this country does not want to see a Government in Russia that is a Government really of the people. The-Government of Russia—Russia itself—should be allowed to fight out its own battles, and to settle its own quarrels inside its own frontier. We have no right to interfere with the interests or self-government of Russia. Time, and time again, the history of the last twenty-five years in Europe has shown instances in which, if this particular method you haw adopted with regard to Russia had been the policy of this Government, or any other Government in this country, you could have had opportunity after opportunity of intervening in the various Governments in Europe. It is the old question over again—the trail of the financial serpent—men who say they cannot find investments in their own country, invest abroad, and when rebellion, civil war, or revolution springs up in that country, they are scared because they fear the loss of their capital. If they risk their capital abroad, when times of disorder come, they fear they are going to lose it, and they use the interest they undoubtedly have with the Government to have intervention in those countries, to send troops to prevent their capital from being lost. That is the capitalist method of governing a country, and that is the financial method of running the respective countries of Europe at the present time. My view, at any rate, is that we should come out of Russia—bring our boys back from Russia.
The people did not invite you there. We have heard from the Secretary of State for War this afternoon that they went there at the invitation of Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin, not on behalf of the people or at the invitation of the people. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was!"] There was an invitation for volunteers. As I have said already, not one of the men whose names I have here—and I have the names of 1,500 British shareholders in Russia—has volunteered to go to Russia to fight for his investments there. If they want to light for their money, or if their money is worth saving, let them go and fight for it. The opportunity has been given. Let those boys who were sent to Russia before there was any idea of Bolshevik Government, come back from that country, and let the conscripts whom you are sending out, have the right to say they are not going to Russia. It is all of a piece with the military system now established in this country. We went into a war to end all wars. We went into a war to crush Prussian militarism. Yes, and Prussian militarism is the one commodity in the world that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has allowed to come into this country without putting a tax upon it. [An HON. MEMBER: "No preferential tariff there!"] Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who support the Government are evidently under the impression that, because a man, whether he be a Member of Parliament or a trade unionist, stands up for any section of the community outside his own country or for a section of his own countrymen who are being sent out to another country against their will, is necessarily a friend and a supporter of all the disorder and of all the atrocities that may be alleged, or actually committed, by the people whom you are sending those men to put down. Bolshevism is a disease; Bolshevism is a fester, so we are told to-day. What is Bolshevism? Is there an hon. Member in this House who will define Bolshevism? Your newspapers give you different definitions. If a man is the least extreme in his language, he is a Bolshevik. If he is extreme in his views, he is a Bolshevik. Everything and anything that does not agree with the individual who is using the epithet is Bolshevik. That is how you describe Bolshevism to-day; anyone who disagrees with you, who will not agree with whatever you want him to agree to, he is a Bolshevist. That is your definition—at least that is how you carry it through. The workers of this country are Bolshevists. The right hon. Gentleman on the Front Government Bench repeatedly appeal to us as the responsible leaders of Labour who are not Bolshevists, but sober, strong union leaders who will not take the men to extreme lengths. The Leader of the party on the other side of the House told the whole country on the eve of the election that every Labour candidate was a Bolshevist, and that to vote them down was the only guarantee the people of this country had of material security. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members say, "Hear, hear!"
Will I cite my authority? At Camberwell Baths on the eve of the election the Prime Minister made a statement asking the people of this country to vote against the Labour party as the Bolshevist party. A couple of months after that he did not go to hon. Members opposite to whom he had given his coupon to back him up and support him in view of the industrial unrest. He convened a mooting of the trade union leaders, and appealed to them as the saviours of society to form an industrial council. The election was then over, of course. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had all got in. The right hon. Gentleman had no proper use for you in this respect. So I say that from this side of the House that, at any rate, so far as Russia is concerned, any intervention by the Government will be opposed by the heads of the trade union movement in this country. You can describe the trade union movement as a Bolshevist movement if you like. We are not concerned about names. You may hoodwink the unthinking a few times, but sooner or later you will be found out. They know that the real Bolshevists of this country are yourselves because "Bolshevist" in Russia only means the majority. You are the majority. You are the Bolshevists. We are the Mensheviks. So far then as we are concerned intervention must cease. We want no repetition of the secret order or secret circular which has been issued, and that we are now told is withdrawn. We have been told that in similar circumstances the Government will use all the power of the State to maintain the rights of the community against any section.
The rights of the community against any section! Do we find the Government asking the troops to send in their views as to the Big Five, as to the operations of the Meat Trust in America sending up the price of food to their relatives in this country? Do we find that the troops are being asked to send in their views in regard to the land owners of this country, who are pre venting——
I understand the hon. Gentleman to suggest that the Government should ask the soldiers of this country their opinion as to the conduct of certain meat trusts, subjects of the United States of America. I want to know if he suggests we should interfere in the affairs of the Americans and America?
My answer to the hon. Member is that we expected that the soldiers would have had a chance of giving an expression of their opinion at the general election. The way in which the voting was "wangled" did not give them the opportunity. We do not find the Government inviting the views or opinions of the soldiers in regard to other sections of the community—in respect to those who hold up the community and refuse land. There must be no repetition of the secret order. There must be no further secret circulars sent out. If there is I as a trade unionist, as a Labour Member, as a Socialist, if a similar circular is sent out and made public, or if the proposition in the circular which was sent out is attempted to be put into force; if a body of troops is sent down to be used, in the language of the Circular, as strike breakers, if they are ordered out against a crowd, if they are ordered to fire—I tell hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, with full knowledge of what it means, with full responsibility for what I say, what I shall do. I shall tell any meeting I address in which soldiers are standing that if orders of that kind arc given to them in facing a crowd of strikers to refuse to shoot their fellow workers who are on strike.
You had an officer found to be insane who actually ordered three prisoners to be shot. We arc against intervention in Russia. We have had sufficient fighting. We want our instruments of production, the majority of which have been turned into implements for the manufacture of war armaments, to be turned back again to peaceful pursuits. You are not able to employ the people of this country who want employment so long as you are having war gambles on practically every part of European soil. You are going to have your industries going full speed ahead when there is peace, and in your own country feeling is satisfied. There is no satisfaction in your country to-day, no feeling of rest and security, because no one knows to which part of the world you arc going to send troops next. We are told that the war on the Continent is finished. We are told the War is ended. The Secretary of State expects that peace will be signed next month. Let us see that it is a peace. Let us see that all people whose brothers, or husbands, or sons are in the Army understand that the War is finished and that there is no fear of casualties from further fighting. We hope peace will be made. We are near June, and the next month will be July, and in those two months we must bring the soldiers back because the rivers will be flowing and the ice is breaking up, and they will be able to come away. Let us bring the soldiers back in June and July to this country and send no further soldiers out, or munitions either to Admiral Koltchak, General Denikin or even to the Bolsheviks, and let them fight it out until all their war material is used up, and then they will have to stop. So far as we are concerned we are not out to take possession of Russia because of the untold wealth there. We are not out to go there because a few hon. Members and capitalists and bankers outside have invested hundreds of millions in Russia. We do not want to lose the lives of our sons, but we want to build up in our own country a system of society that will enable those sons to live comfortably and peacefully, and earn the right that they deserve, the right to a good life.
I am almost ashamed to intervene, especially after the very powerful speech which has just been delivered. I have no intention of replying to that speech or of commenting on any statement which the hon. Member opposite has made, except one statement. It seems to me a pity to allow to go unchallenged the statement that Miliukoff and Kerensky withdrew from the War against Germany, and betrayed this country. It seems not only a pity but somewhat of a shame to accuse gentlemen who at any rate did their best to carry out the engagements their country had undertaken with deserting their Western Allies at a time of most desperate peril. We shall never forget in this country that Kerensky launched an offensive on the Southern front when his own position was tottering, and the disastrous result of that offensive was one of the main factors in the outbreak of the Bolshevik revolution, which led to so many things which we all so deeply deplore.
I do not wish to discuss the Bolshevik revolution, and I only wish to mention in a casual and temporary sort of way something about the future of this country. I am sorry that the President of the Board of Education has gone out of the House, because I merely wished to point out to him that he has in his hands the greatest chance that any President of the Board of Education ever had. I wish to ask him to embark on a campaign which I think would meet with the approval of hon. Members on both sides of the House, and even of that intangible force which rules our destinies—the Treasury. It is not only practical and easily practicable, but of all things it has a merit which should commend it to the country—the merit of cheapness. We have 50,000 of our young men out on the Rhine. At this moment we have the universities flooded out with students, and one of the most encouraging, heartening, and inspiring facts which have resulted from this War—a fact which I have not seen commented upon in the public Press—is that the young men of this country are coming back and flinging themselves into the universities. They have rushed for education, and taken to learning like a thirsty man drinking long draughts of water. As a Scotsman, perhaps I may be considered suspect in this enthusiasm for water, but I beg to assure the House that it is not a meretricious sentence.
I really think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War would do well to take into consideration the starting of an educative campaign on a much larger scale than has ever before been embarked upon. We have the very condition which the Labour party has been clamouring for years. We have young men in their formative stages of character being kept free and maintained. They wake up in the morning without having to think where their food is coming from, they wear Army clothes, and their imagination, need be in no way disturbed by these matters.
Why not seek to give them some idea of the great Empire of which they are a part? The opportunity is being frittered away by hard-working and decent people. We have Young Men's Christian Association people trying to educate our young men all round, but I should like to see the right hon. Gentleman conscript professors and send them out. Any professor would deem it an honour to be sent out. Let him conscript Gilbert Murray and send him out to explain his opinions on Greek. Let him conscript Robert Smillie and send him out to give a course of lectures on his views of citizenship, and let the right hon. Gentleman also follow that course by another series of lectures by a Duke, giving his views of citizenship. We want to wake up the minds of these young men. We want to stir up their imaginations Mr. Robert Smillie is an eminent gentleman with one son in the Army, one in the Navy, one at Princetown, and one in gaol, and he tells us he honours them all. We want to get the young men of whom I am speaking educated. We want to stir them up to a conception of this moving world in which they are taking their part. We want to see the chief administrators of Africa and of Asia sent out to explain to these 50,000 men their views. This is an opportunity of lecturing to great audiences which any professor, any educator, or any agitator would be only too proud to grasp. This is a great chance; do not let it be frittered away. I only wish to ask the Secretary for War if it is not possible for him to take advantage of this chance to embark upon one of those stunts of which we have had too few from his fertile imagination, and to make himself as famous as an educator as he has made himself famous in so many other branches on which he has entered.
I am certain the House does not hear enough of my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down. If the Secretary of State for War had ever a gleam of intelligence he would at once appoint him as the Director of Intelligence to the Armies on the Rhine, and, in addition to the suggestions he has already made, lectures he could make on anti-vivisection would fill in his leisure time. We have had a very interesting Debate, which reminds me very vividly of other discussions we have had with regard to secret circulars. Over and above the Regulations which were laid down by this House, certain secret circulars were issued giving intimation to the medical men who put men into the Army to put them in on certain fines. I do not mind at any time being up against the Government. I think this Government is thoroughly unsound, and I should like to see it out of office tomorrow. You may not agree with that, but it is an intelligible position. I do not think it is governing the country properly, but for my sake let us have honest government. Do not let us have the Government presenting one face to the House of Commons and another to the men who are in the Army, and that is what secret circulars mean. I do not mind the Secretary of State for War taking responsibility for anything that is done in his office, but let us have it above board. Do not let us have a circular unearthed by a daily newspaper or by an ordinary Member of the House. If they want to play that game, play it honestly. If for the moment they have a majority behind them in this House they are entitled to it, but do not let them hide up the methods they are adopting. With regard to Russia, I think this House and the country do not want to go to war with Russia. They are very alarmed at the position in which we find ourselves, and if the Government desires to be as honest with the House and the country as it is in all other mutters, let it say exactly what are our commitments in Russia, and let us know what it is we are called upon to support, or, on the other hand, what we on this side of the House will oppose.
I want to raise three very practical questions which are affecting the Army and are contributory causes to a great deal of the discontent which arises at present among men who are demobilised. The right hon. Gentleman said a few weeks ago in this House—I do not blame him, because he has to present the case of the Government—that the subject of war service gratuities could not be reopened. I want him to reopen it, because I feel strongly that this is one of the contributory causes of the discontent that exists among discharged and demobilised men to-day. Take a man who is discharged or demobilised from the Army after an average service in war of four years. That man may have been wounded. If he has been wounded he is in receipt of a disability pension. Having served abroad his war service gratuity is £5 for the first year and 10s. for every subsequent month, so that on the average of four years' service war service gratuity is £23. There will be a deduction for service gratuity which will make a slight difference.
I do not think I am. Let us put that on one side; it is not worth quarrelling about. We will take it at £23. A man who is wounded, who is wearing three wound stripes and who has fought four years is given £23 on discharge or demobilisation, while a man who is retained in the Army of Occupation, who probably will not have been called upon to fight, and in many cases has not fought in the War because he is of the eighteenth year class is entitled to a bounty of £50 on re-engagement.
£50 for four years' engagement. Well, I am giving you the war service gratuity for four years. Let us be fair. My right hon. Friend knows that I have attempted to be fair throughout the War. Here you have the case of a man with four years' war service, who has fought and been wounded, and who gets £23, say, without any deduction, while the man who has not been wounded gets £50 bounty when he re-engages for four years.
If the right hon. Gentleman had taken proper means of inducing the men he would not have required to conscript men. He would have got his men for the voluntary Army if he had offered the right kind of inducement. We do not want in this country a large body of men who are discontented with their treatment. That is the point to which I want my right hon. Friend to address his mind. A man who has never fought, who is to act as a policeman in the Army of Occupation on the Rhine, not as a soldier, is going to receive twice as much as the man who has served four years and has been wounded.
I invite my right hon. Friend to consider the point, and to give us some satisfactory answer if he can with regard to it. Take, for example, the case of the boy, who joined the Army in the enthusiasm of his patriotism, at an age below the minimum age recognised by the War Office, and said that he was eighteen years old, when he was below that age, in order to serve his country. When that boy was brought out of the Army, and was then called up later on when he was eighteen, he is not paid his war service gratuity for the years he served under eighteen. My right hon. Friend would not defend that for a moment, and yet you wonder, when hundreds of men come to this House, to protest against the way in which this House treats them, and you say that they have not a good case. My right hon. Friend himself was an officer, in charge of a Scottish battalion during the War. It would be interesting to know if he had got his war service gratuity. He is entitled to 124 days for his first year of service and for sixty-two days for every subsequent year's service, and if he has not drawn his money yet, he will be obliged to me for reminding him, that he has it to his credit, and may draw it at any time he wishes to. Why should we have any distinction between men and officers in the way of war service gratuities? If you take the day's pay of the average private, including rations and allowance, the Financial Secretary would agree that 3s. is not too high a figure.
Then that proves that I am not putting it too high. If you take 124 days for the first year's service, and sixty-two days for each of the three subsequent years at 3s., that would amount to £47, which is within £3 of the amount that is paid in bounty to the men who reengage. I want to suggest to my hon. Friend—and I think I have some title for recommending something of this kind—that if he, on behalf of the Government, would say to the discharged men, "In view of the fact that men are getting £50 for re-engaging we will give you the same terms of war service gratuity, based on pay and ration allowance," he would arrive at a figure which the average dis- charged man would be prepared to accept. We are up against a fairly serious problem. I do not know how many Members of this House listened to the Debate yesterday on the question of the discharged men. Those who did will agree with me that the Minister of Labour did not meet the case, that he adopted are absolutely non possumus position on behalf of the Government, and that he never met for a moment the case of the man who wants work to-morrow or at the week-end. However many excuses may be made it has to be remembered that there are nearly half a million men who have fought for us and cannot now get work. It is a position which you cannot avoid and for which some remedy has got to be found. With regard to war service gratuity alone the men say that they are not being met generously by the Government. I suggest to the Financial Secretary that it is in his power to allay a great amount of unrest by making the men feel that they are not being treated differently from any other class. That is my first point. My second point is one which interests a large number of soldiers from a sentimental point of view. When the 1914 Star was awarded to the soldier a distinction was made between the man who had actually fought and the man who had served but not fought. To-day, therefore, you find that the man who had actually fought is wearing with his Mons ribbon a rosette, which is not available to the man who did not fight. I approve of that; I think a distinction ought to be drawn. I want to ask this: There is also a 1915 Star, and the 1915 Star ribbon is of the same colour as that of the 1914 Star. A great number of the men who served in 1915 and were eligible for the Star fought and were wounded just the same as the men who were eligible for the 1914 Star, and there are also great numbers of men eligible for the 1915 Star who never fought in 1915. Arc you going to draw a distinction for 1915 between the men who fought and the men who did not fight? What business have you to mark off by a certain ribbon, which is the same for both years, the men who fought and the men who did not fight?
I want to carry this a little further. There are other medals which have been given for this War. There is the Military, Cross which was given because the D.S.O. could not be given to subalterns. A great many subalterns won the Military Cross with very distinguished bravery in actual
fighting, whereas a large number of men who are wearing the Military Cross got it for work for which everybody ought to have the fullest contempt. I know men who are wearing the Military Cross, and whose only service was carrying dispatches across the English Channel, as against many young men who won it for bravery in the field. It is the same with the D.S.O. Many men are wearing the D.S.O. who never smelt powder during the War, and who never saw a shell except in transit between Victoria and some Southern port. I suggest that what the right hon. Gentleman should do is to set up a committee of some kind in the War Office which will distinguish between the kind of honours which arc won. One man wins the Military Cross in the trenches and is entitled to the distinction, and it is given to the chief cook at the base, who provided food for the troops. So, too, with the D.S.O. A man has no business in this War to wear the D.S.O. on his breast for services rendered in the War when the D.S.O. is supposed to be a distinction given for bravery. I make no other comment except that the matter has to go a great deal further than giving a rosette on the 1914 Star, which leaves the 1915 man who fought and was wounded unable by the wearing of that ribbon to indicate to anybody that he took part in this War. My third point, and my last, is as to Reparation allowances, a familiar phrase to my right hon. Friend. I want to remind the House that although we set up a Committee at the beginning of the War to make arrangements by which the wives of men who offered their lives in our service should receive separation allowances, it is not at all certain that in the Army of Occupation the wives of those men are going to receive that separation allowance. I have in front of me, and I will quote it to my hon. Friend, Army Order 124 of 1919, in which there appears this paragraph:
The rates of separation and dependant's allowance, including special parent's allowance.
Hon. Members will recollect that the special parents allowance was an allowance of 5s. a week given to the parents of all boys who joined who could not establish pre-war dependence, and it was an allowance which was not operative until after three and a half years of war had gone by—
including special parent's allowance now in force, will be continued in the case of men in respect of whom they were issuable on 10th December, 1918.
This is 29th May, 1919. I want to ask my hon. Friend if he can tell us what that all means. Let me put to him quite a simple case. A man who has been serving in the Army, say, for three years, re-engages in the Army of Occupation. Because he reengages in the Army of Occupation he gets a certain amount of leave. He can get up to three months. If that man marries, as he frequently does— [Cries of "No, no!" and laughter]—I am sorry if I have suggested anything approaching bigamy—[laughter]—but if that man marries, shall we say, during his three months' leave prior to rejoining the Army of Occupation, does this House know that that man does not get the separation allowance? If my hon. Friend says that is wrong, I shall be very glad to know it. Army Order 124 of 1919 states that, and states it explicitly. I know, and my hon. Friend knows from the communications I have had with him, that there are many cases in which that is so. Therefore, I want to know from him whether he can state absolutely that any man, single, who rejoins for the Army of Occupation, will, if he marries, get separation allowance for his wife, and whether the married man who joins for the Army of Occupation will get separation allowance for his wife and dependants' allowance for his children? Can my hon. Friend tell us whether the War Office intends to pursue the policy which has been pursued in the Army during this War with regard to the New Army? It is quite true that they have raised the rates of pay and have made other concessions. But can my hon. Friend assure this House that, in addition, separation allowances are to continue as they were before?
Those are the three points upon which I would respectfully ask my hon Friend to give us some information. Is the War Office prepared to reconsider the amount of the war service gratuity? Is the War Office prepared to come to some reasonable and clear definition with regard to the question of medals? Can my hon. Friend say that the question of separation allowance for wives and dependants is to continue as in the Army that served us during the War I These three questions, I think, affect very largely the domestic life of the people concerned, and in my view, if those questions are satisfactorily answered, it will go much further towards satisfying people and making them content than replies on larger questions of policy.
Before I say anything in answer to the three questions of my hon. Friend, I should like to make a couple of observations with regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. M'Lean), who seems to find it impossible to get it out of his head that the British Government can be actuated by anything but sordid motives in their conduct of the campaign in Russia. Frankly, I greatly regret that after the speech which was made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, the opinion which appears, I am afraid, to be ineradicably in the mind of the hon. Member for Govan should have remained unshaken, for I think the Secretary of State for War made it abundantly clear to anybody who would bring to bear anything in the nature of an impartial judgment that the reason why we were still engaged in military operations in Russia was nothing to be ashamed of, was not animated by a sordid motive of any kind, and would be brought to an end as soon as possible. The hon. Member for Govan pressed upon the House the necessity of bringing back from Russia those who, having been taken into the Army under the operation of the Military Service Act, have not yet been demobilised. If he had heard the speech—and I think he did—of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, he must have taken note of what my right hon. Friend said, that he was actually now engaged in arrangements to bring back from the North of Russia all the men who were serving in virtue of the Military Service Act.
I can assure the hon. Gentleman there are large numbers of men who are volunteering to stay, and those men, of course, will not be brought back. I should like to say one word with reference to the observations that fell from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Captain Coote) and the hon. and gallant Member for Lanark (Captain Elliot) with regard to the provision for education of the troops in the Army of Occupation and elsewhere. I do not think there has ever been a time when such a large effort, and I hope largely successful effort, has been made to provide educational opportunities for our young soldiers.
During the last six months, very large efforts have been made to bring opportunities of education within the reach of all the troops. It may be quite true, and I am afraid it is, that those who impart that education are, in many cases, not as thoroughly equipped as either they or those whom they teach would desire. But if we were to wait until we have secured a large body of thoroughly trained and thoroughly competent teachers, I am afraid that those who are now receiving such education we can offer them would long have outgrown their educational age. I was very interested to hear a suggestion of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), that the hon. and gallant Member for Lanarkshire should be invited to take a position of importance in the educational organisation of the Army. I can imagine nothing that would reflect greater credit upon that organisation than acceptance by my hon. and gallant Friend. He, it may not be generally known, is doing research work of especially valuable character in one of the great hospitals, and I think it is doubtful whether, under those circumstances, he would feel justified in going into the world of education. The hon. and gallant Member for Bradford was anxious to know something about the pay and conditions of service of the future armies. May I say, incidentally, how glad I was to hoar the high tribute which he paid to the feeling throughout the Army generally for its officers. It certainly corresponds with everything I have heard from a great many sources, and I was glad to hear his expressions in regard to it. I say frankly that I wish I could tell the House what the pay and conditions of service in future are going to be. I am not in a position to do that; I can only tell the House that all these matters are receiving the careful, anxious, and continual attention of those who are responsible in the War Office. Further than that I cannot carry the matter to-night. I hope that we shall be able to come to some decision about it before very long, and I trust we shall make an announcement very shortly.
The hon. Member for East Edinburgh asked me three questions. The first was with regard to the war gratuity, as measured in relation to the bounty which we offer to those who are re-engaged to form the Army of Occupation. I should like to say at once that I know very well that this matter has been exercising the minds of the discharged men. Only quite recently, within the last few days, I received a deputation from the National Federation of Disabled and Discharged Sailors and Soldiers, and one of the points that was laid before me was this very question, and they couched their request almost in the identical words that the hon. Member for East Edinburgh used to-night. I told them, and I think the House will expect me to tell the House also, the reason why we gave—why we found ourselves obliged to give—so large a bounty. The reason, frankly, is that, as everybody knows, the whole Army, to use an expression which has become a classic during the War, is "fed up" with military service. Is it not perfectly natural that when men, who have been fighting for the last four years, get the opportunity of coming out of the Army they are going to take it as soon as they can? We had to take steps to secure a large number of men for the Army of Occupation, and we found that it was essential to attract men to give them the high bounties which we have promised. The hon. Gentleman says, "What an invidious comparison! You offer £50 for four years' future service which may not be war service at all, and £23 for War service during which a man may have been wounded and will inevitably suffer all the discomforts of active campaigning." But has it occurred to the hon. Gentleman that a great many of the men are getting both? They are getting the war gratuity and the bounty as well.
Because the war gratuity is not being paid until after discharge. Where the man re-engages with out a break in his service, he gets three months' leave, he gets the bounty of £50 for the four years' engagement——
Is this a new grievance? Is it a grievance that he should get £50 bounty? The hon. Member only a moment ago thought that was too large. Is it a grievance that he is to get it in instalments?
I never mind interruptions because, after all, I am anxious to deal with the hon. Gentleman's points, and the hon. Gentleman, even although we may not always agree on these matters, is very well informed, and he and I have often had very fruitful discussions. I want to suggest to the hon. Member that a great many of these people will be eligible both for the war gratuity for their past service and the bounty for their future service, and I think, when you come to reflect upon the services that they have rendered during the War, and their response to the request that we made for volunteers for the future, you will not grudge what the War Office has been able to offer to them. Let me make this one further observation. I undertook to the deputation that waited upon me the other day that, while I could not hold out any great hope that the amount of the war gratuity would be increased, the whole question should, at any rate, be reconsidered. It is being reconsidered now, but I must guard myself against the danger of arousing any false hopes with regard to the possibility of an increase. The second point that the hon. Gentleman made was with regard to two war decorations—the 1914 and the 1914–15 Star. I cannot do more for the moment than say that the point which has already been considered, will be considered again, and further than that I cannot go. I know perfectly the very strong feeling there is amongst those who are now in the fighting Armies in regard to this matter. I sympathise with it. The third point is the question of separation allowances for the Army of Occupation. It must be remembered that, by the Army Order, where a man was in receipt of a separation allowance on a certain date that the separation allowance is renewed in respect of his services in the future. There are those who joined as boys; The hon. Member opposite knows that quite a considerable number of the soldiers who have volunteered for the future Army are boys; in respect of these boys separation allowance is not payable until they come upon the married strength. They have to sign a statement. This is definitely explained to them, and they understand it. Until the conditions of service of the after-war Army have been finally decided we have no power to go beyond that.
|Division No. 39.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Han. William||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, C. H.|
|Arnold, Sydney||Hogge, J. M.||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Jones, J. (Silver-town)||Spencer, George A.|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Kenyon, Barnet||Spoor, B. G.|
|Bromfield, W.||Kenworthy, Lieut-Commander||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Lunn, William||Taylor, J. W. (Chester-le-Street)|
|Cairns, John||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Thorne, Col. W. (Plaistow)|
|Cape, Tom||Newbould, A. E.||Walsh, S. (Ince, Lancs.)|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||O'Grady, James||Waterson, A. E.|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Onions, Alfred||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wignall, James|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Richardson, R. (Houghton)||Williams, J. (Gower, Glam.)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Royce, William Stapleton||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Capt.|
|Hartshorn, V.||Shaw, Tom (Preston)||A. Smith and Mr. Neil M'Lean.|
|Hayday, A.||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Ainsworth, Capt. C.||Colfox, Major W. P.||Henderson, Major V. L.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Martin||Colvin, Brig-Gen. R. B.||Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Coote, Colin R. (Isle of Ely)||Hood, Joseph|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cory, J. H. (Cardiff)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Davidson, Major-Gen. Sir John M.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)|
|Barker, Major R.||Davies, Major David (Montgomery Co.)||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Davies, Sir D. S. (Denbigh)||Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)|
|Barnett, Captain Richard W.||Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Dawes, J. A.||Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Dockrell, Sir M.||Hurd, P. A.|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Doyle, N Grattan||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Betterton, H. B.||Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Jesson, C.|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Eyres-Monsell, Com.||Jodrell, N. P.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Johnstone, J.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. W. E.||Forestier-Walker, L.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Forster, Rt. Hon. H. W.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Foxcroft, Captain C.||King, Com. Douglas|
|Brittain, Sir Harry E.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Law, A. J. (Rochdale)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Ganzoni, Captain F. C.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Brown, T. W. (Down, N.)||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)|
|Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John||Lister, Sir R. Ashton|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Goff, Sir R. Park||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Campion, Col. W. R.||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Locker-Lampson G. (Wood Green)|
|Casey, T. W.||Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Gregory, Holman||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Gretton, Col. John||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Clyde, James Avon||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W.E. (B. St. E.)||Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hacking, Captain D. H||Marriott, John Arthur R.|
|mason, Robert||Pulley, Charles Thornton||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|Mitchell, William Lane-||Purchase, H. G.||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Molson. Major John Elsdale||Rae, H. Norman||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Morltz||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)|
|Moore, Ma[...].-Gen. Sir Newton J.||Reid, D. D.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Renwick, G.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Morrison, H. (Salisbury)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Vickers, D.|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lanes.)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Murray, Hon. G. (St. Rollox)||Rodger, A. K.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Murray, John (Leeds, W.)||Roundell, Lt.-Col. R. F.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Nall, Major Joseph||Rowlands, James||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Neal, Arthur||Royden, Sir Thomas||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, W.)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur||Wilson, Col. Leslie (Reading)|
|Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton)||Worstold, T. Cato|
|Oman, C. W. C.||Seager, Sir William||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Parker, James||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|Parry, Major Thomas Henry||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander||Younger, Sir George|
|Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Stanley, Colonel Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray||Stephenson, Col. H. K.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord E.|
|Pownall, Lt.-Col. Assheton||Strauss, Edward Anthony||Talbot and Captain Guest.|
|Pratt, John William||Sturrock, J. Leng-|
Motion made, and Question, "That this House do now Adjourn," put, and agreed to