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There are one or two points I should like to raise with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War on the Estimates. I must say that the former make-up of the Estimates was a great deal easier to follow than the present parti-coloured arrangement. This change, this reversion to the old practice has been brought about, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, by the practical casting aside of the Lawrence Report. I do not want to deal with that matter at any great length, except, perhaps, to comment on the complete change in the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman, who seems to have cooled off from extreme love to extreme contempt. The suggestion is that the real difficulty has been brought about by the fact that the Lawrence Report was approved in principle, and then turned down by the Departmental Committee which was considering its application. Everybody recognises that the application of the principles of the Lawrence Report could not have been effected straight away. Really, the important point of the Lawrence Report was a viewpoint of economy; it was an endeavour to some extent to decentralise financial control.
I believe that the carrying out to their logical conclusion of the principles of the Lawrence Report would have been to make the officers in command of the various units in the Army responsible for their finance. I think that the allotment of a definite sum to a definite unit, whether command or whatever it might be, might be an inducement to economy. In a certain amount of free money, and in what was being saved on one item being used on another item, I believe there was a valuable principle, and a. very valuable incentive to economy. To apply the Lawrence Report would have been to ensure that possibility.
It seems curious that a Government pledged to economy should take a step like this. I am wondering whether it is entirely the action of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, or whether it was dictated by the peculiar economy views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer! I illustrate that viewpoint in considering a curious little economy which, I understand, has been made in regard to the funds of the Territorial Associations. I understand that a certain proportion of their surplus funds are to be taken by way of free gift to aid the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his difficulties. It rather reminds one of the old times in our history, when there were what were called "benevolences," when gifts were very kindly made to the King, and if those concerned did not make the gifts, then they were in for it.
The Territorial associations have certain sums allotted to them which they have to spend in the best possible way. Certainly, the accounts of Territorial associations show great variety. I can remember when I was at the War Office that certain Territorial associations were very well managed, and had surplus funds, whilst others not only spent up to the hilt, but were actually in debt. Where there was a surplus of money it was an incentive for the future on the part of these Territorial associations to make the best possible use of their funds. Everybody knows in the Army system of rations there is no incentive to save, for it always means that you get the actual ration; therefore the principle of giving the advantage to the careful person—a very valuable principle from the point of view of economy—is not present. This would seem to be precisely the policy the Chancellor of the Exchequer is applying to the approved societies under his Economy Bill. But we will discuss that tomorrow, and I cannot go into it to-day; but it is simply a false view of economy that wherever you have a surplus by good management, it should be raided. It removes the incentive to economy for the future. That is, I think, the first point in that connection, and it is borne out by the failure to apply the Lawrence Report; in fact the failure to put into force the Lawrence Report means a reversion to the old system of set financial control by the War Office. That has been a very valuable thing in past times. It was due to the tightening up of financial control that we got reforms in the Army in the last 30 or 40 years before the War. It is generally recognised, however, that that tendency has gone quite far enough, and that now you have to decentralise. However, I leave that point.
I will next follow up the point at made by the hon. Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) as to the cost of the depots and the system of training recruits in the depots. We have at present, exclusive of the Guards Depot and the Rifle Brigade Depot, some 63 separate depots engaged in training recruits. I have got particulars from the right hon. Gentleman as to the Western Command, and I find that the average number of recruits passing through each depot is somewhere about 300 recruits per year. The time of training recruits is 20 weeks. Thus we see that the total number of recruits in a depot at any one time averages 120 to 130. You have a staff at the depot. These staffs average 76; therefore you have really two recruits to one training officer or man. That seems to me to be much too high altogether. It comes about by the multiplication of the number of small training centres. Each of these training schools has a major or a colonel in command. To take one example, each depot has a sergeant-cook for 200 men, whereas a battalion of 770 men manages with only one. This is due to the number of separate centres for training recruits, and there is the overhead cost, which is greater than if you had them more centralised.
We have 63 different centres. Many of them are very unsuitable and not specially fitted for the work of training soldiers. They are situated, very likely, in the middle of an industrial town. I claim that at the present time we need reconstruction in this matter. We must remember that the Special Reserve has gone. We look in the future for any expansion of the Army in time of war to the Territorial Force. That principle has been definitely laid down. I suggest that the right way would be to group the various units together and let them have a joint depot for training. I think you would get at once a big saving in personnel, and a big saving in building, and you would probably get better training accommodation at a lower cost. That suggestion may, to the right hon. Gentleman, seem worthy of consideration. The cost of accommodation at these depots is something over £160,000 a year, so there is economy worth going for.
The next point that I should like to raise would be what the right hon. Gentleman first said in regard to promotion by merit. He gave us some details in regard to the new scheme whereby there is to be no interference with the ordinary promotion from second lieutenant to major, but, after that, we have recourse to selection by merit. Even before that dividing line we have promotion for those who are specially qualified. At the same time the right hon. Gentleman pointed out the necessity for not interfering with the esprit de corps. I think we all recognise the need for preserving the esprit de corps, and the great difficulty of bringing in senior officers from other units to supersede, possibly, someone who every one else thought was going to get the command of the unit. I recognise that difficulty. I think the real answer is that our units in the infantry are too small. You have one list in the artillery. In the infantry you have your two-battalion regiments. You have that as your unit.
I think that we should group our battalions, and practically have one arrangement for promotion between four battalions instead of two. I would not change the names of those units, but simply link them together. There will be, of course, the objection as regards the esprit de corps and the old historic view. That was the great difficulty which Mr. Cardwell had to face when he linked up the battalions many years ago. To-day the regiments are too small a unit. I would like to see the battalions bigger; then you might save on the depots and interchange the officers, and have promotion according to merit among these units, while at the same time retaining the regiments by their particular names. I think that could be, quite possible. I believe that during the War many of the regiments came to know other regiments very, very closely, and you got that sort of community feeling that I should like to are grow into a larger unit
I think there is a great danger in this matter of promotion by merit. It needs to be carefully watched. There is the possible chance that promotion by merit gives an. officer or a man promotion who happens to be the best known to those in the higher command. There is a danger that the officer who has had staff experience, and perhaps has come to be better known, may get a pull over the man who has been slogging away at regimental duties, therefore, the larger unit system would probably be fairer and hold the balance better between the claims of seniority and the claims of merit than any such very drastic scheme as the right hon. Gentleman proposes. As to the higher command, we must have promotion by merit there; but I think everyone will realise that there are always instances arising in which someone is supposed to have been passed over for this reason or that, and at present there is no very satisfactory tribunal of appeal for the officer so passed over. I have no cut and dried solution for this difficulty. There is an appeal to the Army Council, but that does not carry us very much further; but the fact that the difficulty does arise— everyone knows of individual instances—makes it important that we should go very, very carefully in this promotion by merit system. I notice that we spend £154,000 on the Officers' Training Corps. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can tell us what proportion of Territorial officers come from the Officers' Training Corps, or what proportion enter the ranks of the Territorials from the Officers' Training Corps. If we have an Officers' Training Corps we ought to see that we get full value, and at present I am not at all sure that it is worth the money that we spend on it.
With regard to chemical warfare I observe that on experimental work at Porton and elsewhere we are spending something like £148,000. Is that wholly on defensive arrangements, or is it partly on offensive preparations? I think we ought to know that. In our time we have all denounced chemical warfare. It was regarded with horror when introduced in the war, but we know that it was taken up by all the nations in the field, and although it may be morally banned now it may come up again. We ought to know something of the work that is being done, and what kind of experiments are being undertaken. I myself think this Government ought to take the lead in the suppression of chemical warfare altogether. It may be merely sentimental, it probably is, to object to be killed by gas or disease rather than by bayonet or bomb, but I believe that objection is held very strongly. I believe we are bound at the present time merely to carry into effect defensive work; but in chemical experiments, it is, as a matter of fact, quite impossible to separate the defensive and the offensive side of the work. Chemical warfare, if engaged in at all, is generally considered to he one of the ultra-civilised forms of warfare. I take it it is not proposed to use chemical warfare in the small wars which are undertaken by this country all over the world. As far as I understand, this country is nut contemplating the possibility of a European war in the near future. I understand that the role of the Army at the present time is to serve as a sort of central reserve for the Empire, a central support to the garrisons all over the world, and therefore it seems to me there is no reason why we should be spending this large sum on experiments in chemical warfare.
It is difficult to say at present what the role of the Army is. Exactly the same difficulty was found when we were discussing the Air Force and the Navy. As far as I can see, it is quite possible for each of those three Forces to have an entirely different potential enemy. As far as I could gather from the Debate, the Air Force has one potential enemy; the Navy certainly has an entirely different one; and whether the Army has one or not, I do not know, but it is probably different from the other two. However, I do not intend to follow up that point, which will come up for discussion again on the question of the united staff.
Finally, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman as to the present position with regard to stores. Are we still drawing to any large extent on old war stores? As long as we do that, it is quite impossible to get at what the Army really costs us. The reply always has been that we could not check over these stores that had been inherited from war time. We are told that some of them are wearing a bit thin, but it is time we knew definitely where we stood with regard to stores and as to the actual cost of the Army. We may be using up all sorts of stores which are quite unaccounted for; because with the new system of accounts we have lost a good deal of the check we had. Is the Secretary of State quite satisfied that we do not spend an excessive amount in the inspection and checking of stores?
According to these returns, we spend something over 5 per cent. of the value of the stores in inspection and checking. Inspection and checking are absolutely necessary, but I want to know whether the question has been looked into to see whether the work is really economical. We certainly spend an enormous sum on inspection and checking; perhaps it would be less if we manufactured more in our own establishments and gave out less work to contractors. I agree, of course, with the point put by the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell) as to making full use of Woolwich Arsenal. I was rather sorry to hear an hon. Member bring up the old question of the locomotives again. Admittedly that was a bad break; but everyone who has been over Woolwich Arsenal of recent years will know that it is in an extremely efficient state. I am extremely sorry that the Director of Woolwich Arsenal, Sir Holberry Mensforth, has left the service of the Government. Apparently he was considered so efficient that he has been put at the head of a very large business run by private enterprise. That looks as though Woolwich Arsenal has been run by an extremely efficient man, and I think we all agree that is so. I think we know that Woolwich Arsenal has been efficient, is efficient and can produce at a price that compares favourably with private contractors' prices.
On these benches we are entirely against private enterprise in arms because we know quite well what a thoroughly vicious influence great armament undertakings have on the peace of the world. Therefore the Army should concentrate on getting its stores produced in its own institution under its own control, because that would be much cheaper, and it would cut down a great deal of the cost of inspection which bulks so largely in these Army Estimates.
The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last referred to the value of esprit de corps in the Army, and I agree with him as to its great value in regard to regiments; it should be carried as far as possible. Whether his suggestion as to promotion confined to four Infantry Battalions is practical or not I do not know, but I hope the Minister, who himself referred to the matter, will do all he can in this direction. It is a very good rule in the Army that, after an officer has been four years on a Staff job, he has to go back to his regiment; but although that is a good rule it has never been carried out, and if you could only get it carried out you would keep touch between the regiment and the Staff, and then the staff would be imbued with some of that esprit de corps which we so often find lacking.
Like the right hon. Gentleman opposite I ask how can we judge of these Estimates unless we know what the role of the Army is going to be? Is our Army to be an Expeditionary Force to be kept up because we are apprehensive of another European war, or is it to be kept simply for the defence of these shores? Are we keeping the Cardwell system going, and keeping an Expeditionary Force big enough to reinforce our battalions abroad? We ought to be given some idea of what our Army is expected to do. I remember many years ago listening in this House from the Strangers Gallery to a speech made by Lord Haldane which took over three hours to deliver. He explained, first of why he wanted the Army he was asking for, why he wanted so much for the Expeditionary Force, so much for home defence, and so much for the keeping up of the Cardwell system for reinforcing our battalions abroad. It is very difficult to judge whether these Estimates are excessive or not unless we know something about the roles which we expect the British Army to fulfil. I know that raises a much larger question, but how can we give a satisfactory opinion on this point unless it is considered in co-ordination with the Navy and the Air Force?
It would be very interesting if the Secretary of State for War would give us an appreciation of the situation from his point of view; the First Lord of the Admiralty from his point of view; and the Air Minister from his point of view, and then those three points of view could be put before the Prime Minister, if he has not got a Defence Committee, and in that way you should settle, what is the national need from those three points of view and issue to the House a White Paper on this subject before the Estimates are printed, so that we could satisfy ourselves that we were looking at this problem from the point of view of a united Defence Force. I do not want to go further into this question except to say that that would provide us with an efficient Army in war and if we desire economy in peace time we should to well to follow up that policy.
I cannot see why services like the Land and Building Services in this Estimate which occur also in the Air Estimates and the Navy Estimates, cannot be made one business for the three services. The land and buildings dealt with in the Army Estimates cost 24½ per cent, for maintenance. I know the right hon. Gentleman has given a reason for this but I think much could be done in the way of economy by co-ordinating the three services in regard to the administration of land and buildings. With regard to education that is a matter which is
common to all of us, and why cannot that be made a common service for the three? Certainly the Medical Service should be treated in that way. The Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell) referred to the Government workshops at Woolwich which had been dispensed with and he asked why they could not be worked by private firms. Surely you can make some arrangement with the mechanical services of all three arms to use large works like Woolwich Arsenal. I am aware that some time ago co-ordination in the defence forces was urged as a result of the recommendation of the Cabinet Committee, and I should be glad to have any information on that point. There are one or two minor things in the White Paper to which I should like to refer. I see a reference to the increase in the number of Regimental Associations by the War Office and I am grateful to the War Minister for having dealt with that point in the White Paper. This is the passage in the White Paper to which I refer:
I would appeal, however, to the various voluntary societies not to relax their energies, and I have noted with gratification the increase in the number of regimental associations which make assistance in obtaining civil employment for their members one of their principal objects.
Many of us who are connected with these associations find it extremely difficult to do what we want in regard to this problem of unemployment. We overlap sometimes with labour and other unemployment societies. When we consider this question again, knowing the Minister's sympathy for this phase of the problem, we will expect that he may be able to help us. We now spend all our money upon the widows and on those who have fallen on bad times. We should have been glad to have been able to make our funds available for unemployment purposes but we have not been able to do this. The next paragraph deals with the training centre at Catterick. If this kind of work can be increased so much the better. In regard to this work, why is there not more co-ordination amongst the various Service? Why cannot the men in the Navy or in the Air Force get the same benefit in this direction as in the Army? That is what I mean by getting greater economy by co-ordinating certain Services of this kind.
I was looking up the other day the White Paper issued for last year in which the Minister for War took great credit for helping the Army to do its part in assisting the housing problem in this country. May I point out that he has cut that Vote down by £60,000 this year. I did not get a chance last year of complaining about how the military authorities housed their people. I think it is important to spend every penny we have in producing the best fighting men, but when you have great camps like Catterick, and small camps like Arbor-field, and other places where they employ a great many civilians and make no housing arrangements for them, the result is overcrowding, and the agricultural labourers are turned out of their cottages and the villages become overcrowded by these people, because many poor agricultural labourers cannot afford to pay the rent asked for these cottages. I see from the Estimates that they are going to send another 100 horses to Arbor-field for the Remount Depot. That means so many extra employés, and I am told that they are civilians. I want to know what arrangements the War Office will make to see that those civilian employés are not going to add still further to the housing shortage which exists in those parts.
I want to conclude with one other point, which I think is a weak point in the whole of our Army organisation. Not knowing quite what the Army is supposed to do, it is difficult to judge, but at the present moment, with the experience of the late War, our reserves are far too low for an efficient Army. They are really too low even to keep up the Cardwell system and reinforce the battalions and regiments we have abroad, and they are certainly too low if anything like an expeditionary force is expected to be wanted. I see from the White Paper that the Section D men are being dispensed with. That may be an economy. but is it wise to dispense with these Section D men who, after 12 years' service, showed their value both in the South African War and in the late War? Is it not worth while to give them day and keep them on for a few years to strengthen our reserve? If there is no militia, and if there are no Section D reserves, I think we are risking all we can in the way of keeping up the present Army. I suggest that, in order to get efficiency, there ought to be more co-ordination of the policy of all three arms, that economy can be obtained by amalgamating certain of these services in peace time, and that an attempt should be made to do more to keep up the Army reserves, which are so necessary when the crisis comes, rather than spending too much money on Army manœuvres, which are based on European warfare, when it is not expected that we shall have a force to send to take part in any operations except for the defence of our Empire.
We have heard a good deal lately in the newspapers and elsewhere of the need for economy, and I am rather surprised that those who have been so exceedingly keen in urging the Government not to spend what is, after all, a small sum of money on sports grounds, did not devote their time and energy to the important question that is brought before the House in the White Paper to-day in connection with the new form of Army Accounts. To my mind, one of the most effective ways, and, in fact, the first step in the direction of getting any real economy and any control over expenditure by the House of Commons, is in the system of accounts that we have laid before us, and the way in which that information is going to be given to the House and to the country. On that account, I look with a good deal of concern and, I confess, disappointment, at the action of the War Office in altering the scheme of accounts that was commenced some four or five years ago. It seems to me that this is much more than merely an Army question, because I believe that, when this new attempt to deal with the accounts was first made, it was very closely watched by other departments, with a view to an alteration in their system of accounts if the Army system should prove successful. To my mind it is all the more to be regretted from that point of view that we are going back upon the attempt that has been made.
I would remind the Committee that the question came up at the close of the War, as the result of the deliberations of the Samuel Committee, and it is rather interesting, in connection with this subject, to find that the chairmen of the two chief Committees concerned in recommending these alterations are gentlemen whose names are before the country to-day as members of the Coal Commission, and that the very Government which has appointed them to advise us on the coal industry is at this time practically turning down their recommendations in regard to Army finance. The Samuel Committee recommended that, instead of the old system, which, as my right hon. Friend reminded us earlier in the Debate, dates back from the time of Charles I—instead of simply having what are termed cash statements, which, in fact, from the point of view of the ordinary man, may be said to be little else but the ordinary information conveyed by a bank passbook when a clerk has put together the various heads that are actually the same—that, instead of basing the system of Estimates upon accounts of that kind, the accounts should be presented to the House in the form of units; that is to say, that a Member wanting to know exactly the full cost of, say, an educational institution, would be able to find all the particulars together, and also information as to how much it was costing to educate a young man in one of the military colleges. The same principle could be applied to many other Departments.
The first difficulty connected with this proposal was that, instead of its being handed over to the ordinary accountants of the Army, a special staff of qualified accountants was asked to superimpose this system of accounts upon the old system. I quite agree with the Secretary of State for War when he referred to the expense, because, of course, what happened was that practically there were, as I understand, two sets of accountants dealing with two sets of accounts, which, naturally, was an exceedingly expensive system. I think, however, that it was quite possibly sound to start with, because at first the Army Council were not convinced as to whether the new system would be successful, and, therefore, they did not like to give up the old system until the new one had been proved to be working satisfactorily. That being so, for four or five years these two systems have gone on side by side, with the expense which that involved. The result was put in a, to my mind, very interesting Minute of the Public Accounts Committee, which seems to bring before us in a very concise way the advantages of the new system of accounts so far as it had then gone. That was in the Report of the Public Accounts
Committee for the Session 1922. They stated:
Such being the position, we feel that it is not yet possible for this Committee to express a final opinion as to the advantages secured by the change. We do, however, think that in many departments of Army expenditure the new form will, if properly and promptly utilised, prove a valuable and, indeed, essential instrument for control and economy. We would point out, for instance, that it is only by means of the new accounts that we are able to learn that Army expenditure in Mesopotamia in 1920–21 cost £37,000,000; that recruiting cost much more per recruit than in the year before; that regimental tailoring and boot repairing shops were in certain cases much too expensive for the work done; that a student officer at the Staff College, Camberley, costs the country £1,393, including his pay and allowances, and so on, not forgetting the economies shown to have been made in other directions. It is, moreover, only by means of the new accounts that we are able to criticise intelligently the items that make up these figures. Until more complete experience has been gained, there can be no question of departing from the main principles on which the new system is based.
That was the opinion in 1920 of the Public Accounts Committee. Then the right hon. Gentleman himself, feeling that something must be done to come to a conclusion as to what was to be the principle followed by the War Office, appointed the Lawrence Committee. Whatever hon. Members may think of the Committee's recommendations, I think they will agree that it was an exceedingly strong Committee, as the Secretary of State for War himself said, speaking from those benches, and the chairman was peculiarly qualified for dealing with the problem, because not only had he a very distinguished Army experience, but he occupies a distinguished position in the City of London. The recommendation of that Committee was that the Samuel Committee's proposals should be carried out. They said, as a matter of fact—and I think no one disputes it—that the recommendations had never been tried, the reason being the difficulty of delegating control to the unit commands, and it is on that question that I believe the great difference of opinion came, that you would have to delegate control to the officers commanding units.
The difficulty, to my mind, of the Public Accounts Committee when we came up to this point was that it had really passed from the question of finance to the question of Army administration. We could not have called for the officers to tell us exactly whether they approved of the new system, and whether they thought is was workable, and so forth. We only had certain evidence of the officials placed before us, and I myself, when I agreed to the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee, did so because I felt that, although I was very much impressed by the evidence of General Lawrence, having no knowledge whatever of the Army, it was quite impossible for me to express an opinion on a purely administrative case of this kind as to whether more powers should be delegated to the officers commanding the various units. It may be that other members of the Committee felt very much the same way that I did myself, and that that is why we felt that it was impossible for us to express any definite opinion on that side of the Lawrence Report. At the same time I must confess that the evidence the Chairman of that Committee gave us certainly seemed to me to be evidence that it was very difficult to get away from, and I believe we also understood that when the Army commanders of units themselves were asked how I they favoured the system of accounts so far as it had gone, the majority of them expressed themselves as being favourable to the system then in existence. However that may be, the point was, were we prepared to delegate still more power to the units, and on that point we have had the recommendation of the Army Council. It is evident that the Secretary of State for War, when in Opposition, thought it would have been possible to do this. If he had that opinion he has altered it, in view of the line that has been taken by the Board. We never connect the War Office with anything that is progressive, and therefore we are sceptical as to whether we had the best evidence that could have been given on the matter.
There are two other extremely important questions that have to be considered. It is not as if the Army exists alone for the control of the men who are in the Army. It is to my mind, amazing when you see these accounts, to find the number of other bodies which are under the control of the Army—schools, hospitals, electrical stations, boot-making factories, bread factories, and various institutions of that kind. Therefore we come at once to the recommendation of the Samuel Committee that the same principle should be applied in this case. Of course, the fundamental difference that is made in the accounting system is that the system of double entry in bookkeeping means the introduction of that system, and what is still more important, it means the valuation of the stores held by the Army. We were told, for one thing, that it was almost impossible to value them all in the ordinary way, putting it on a cash basis. I myself was amazed to find that the Army had stores valued at something like £100,000,000. Of course this is the key of the new accounting system, because the old system did not bring into account the amount of stores that might be used in one year by the Army. For instance, two or three years ago the actual figure given as the net Army expenditure was £46,600,000. The real cost of the Army was something like £49,900,000, because during the year £2,000,000 to £2,500,000 of stores had been taken from the supplies and used. This is where the fundamental difference comes in, that going back to the old system, unless we have been kept informed of what the stores are, and unless the stores are going to be brought into account, as they appeared in the last accounts published by the Army, we never really know exactly how much the Army may be spending in a year. It may be spending, or seemingly spending less, but when you examine the accounts you may find that a large quantity of stores has been used, and the saving is not necessarily a reduction at all.
Therefore, these two questions had to come before the Public Accounts Committee, and when we consulted General Lawrence upon this subject we had some very interesting evidence from him. He said he considered the way the stores had been treated as absolutely worthless for any financial purpose. He also told us he thought the system of accounting, if it had been carried out to its logical conclusion, would have led to enormous saving. That is an important point we have to bear in mind, that in adopting the recommendations of the Government, we are going against the experience of General Lawrence, and we may be entirely failing to secure economies that we might otherwise have had. Another thing he said—I ought to have mentioned this when dealing with the question of the units—was that it was argued that even if you did delegate control to unit commanders, there would have been a very small possibility of making savings—only about 10 per cent.—because most of the payments would have been for wages and for stores which were being bought from headquarters, and therefore would not lend themselves largely to economy. This General Lawrence did not agree with either. He thought the amount it would have been possible to economise upon would have been much larger than that. Therefore it was with a good deal of hesitation that I agreed to the proposal of the Committee not to support the Lawrence Committee's Report in its fulness. At any rate the Committee have urged that these other units should be dealt with under what is called the cost system, and that means, of course, that there must be, to my mind, if it is going to be at all effective, a proper valuation of stocks. Hardly anything is said in this Report on the question of valuation. I should like to know very much from the Government what is their policy in regard to the valuation of stocks.
I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the Auditor-General's Report of 1924, in which he referred to the fact that having had these accounts had certainly been beneficial He said:
The accounts of the Electricity Supply Station show a decrease in the cost per unit, and it is claimed that this is due to continued administrative economies effected as a result of the detailed information available in the accounts.
I very much hope that the Government will tell us definitely of how many of these various units we are to receive full and efficient accounts. The new Estimates which have been placed before us to-day give information about some of the schools very much on the lines of last year. They go so far as to say exactly what the actual cost per head works out at, but when you come to some of the other schools I cannot find that the same principle is being applied. Take some of the other Departments of the War Office, like the bakeries. We were given exact figures last year as to how much it cost to make 100 lbs. of bread, but I cannot see that this year we are given that information. In regard to the electrical department, we had full particulars of the cost, but I cannot find
in the accounts this year that we have been given that information.
The Public Accounts Committee intended that, as far as possible, all these various sub-departments of the War Office should keep their accounts on the lines on which they were kept last year. The Financial Secretary to the War Office shakes his head. I am not talking of the policy of the Government, but of the policy of the Public Accounts Committee. They definitely recommended that, of these various institutions, we might have the fullest accounts placed before us. It does not seem to me that in these Estimates we are being given information on the lines that the Public Accounts Committee have asked for. This is an exceedingly important question, because, however trivial and small these things may be, it is by a knowledge of this kind of thing that the man in business is able to effect economies and to see exactly how the business is going forward and whether it is paying. In many of the things I have mentioned the same principle applies, and it is the only way in which we can satisfactorily judge the accounts. I regret very much that the Army Council have gone back on the Lawrence Committee's Report. If it was impossible for administrative purposes to carry out the whole of the Report, I hope that the Army Council are determined to go on the lines recommended by the Public Accounts Committee, that next year we shall have fuller information about the various Departments, and that we shall find that the stocks are properly valued and brought in as part of the public accounts.
I wish to call attention to the present position of the Royal Army Medical Corps. It is time that the House of Commons realised the deplorable condition to which that corps has been driven because of the fact that it is unable to obtain the necessary recruits to make up the deficiencies that are taking place. The establishment of the Royal Army Medical Corps in officers, reduced after the War, is now 900. It was something like 1,000 just before the War. Now, instead of being 900, as the establishment allows, the strength of officers of the corps at the present time is only 794. It is, therefore, over 100 below the strength it ought to have in peace time. That is due to the fact that almost entirely they are unable to obtain officers to join the corps. The history of the Medical Service of the Army is a long one. The service has gone through great vicissitudes. Until the Crimean War, when public opinion began to make itself felt through the Press, little was known and little was cared as to what happened to the soldiers when they fought overseas. The Crimean War found the Medical Services in a deplorably unsatisfactory condition. The services broke down completely and grave scandal occurred, and the whole nation was roused to wrath. It was only by the greatest effort of the authorities, and the public opinion of the civil population which was aroused, that the matter was brought to a successful issue. Everybody remembers how the ladies rose on that occasion, and how it was largely due to the influence of Florence Nightingale that new blood was brought into the care of the sick and wounded in war and improvements were brought about.
After the Crimean War, there was considerable improvement. The old, obsolete system of regimental officers and regimental hospitals was done away with, and the Royal Army Medical Corps was started. The Corps developed gradually, and at the time of the South African War things were considerably better than they had been before. But even in that war there were grave shortcomings, and it was only after than war, and the inquiry that took place, that the Royal Army Medical Corps was set on a really sound footing. It developed, in the 12 years that elapsed between the end of the South African War and the outbreak of the Great War, into a really splendid body. The growth of the Army Medical Service has been one long struggle against official prejudice and inertia, coupled with economy. To give an example of the difficulties that the Medical Service had in starting its sanitary branch, I might quote from writings by no less an authority than Lord Wolseley, who was perhaps one of the greatest administrative officers the Army has had since the Duke of Wellington. Writing in 1886 he gave his views of sanitation:
The sanitary officer is the creation of recent years, and as a general rule he is a
very useless fuctionary. In future, so long as this fad continues, my recommendation is to leave him at the base, where he will find some useful occupation as a member of the Sanitary Corps.
I do not think that is quite the idea now held by Generals who had commands in the late War. I do not think it would be the view of Lord Haig or Lord Allenbury of the work of sanitation in the recent War. These were the difficulties through which the Royal Army Medical Corps had struggled to the condition it was in after the late War; and I need say nothing to prove how well organized it was before war broke out. It did what was expected of it. No one can say that our soldiers were not properly looked after when sick and when wounded. If there was one breakdown at all in the medical services during the War, it was not in the Royal Army Medical Corps, but in the Indian Medical Service, where public opinion had not been brought to bear and where economy had been over-exerted. The very success of the Royal Army Medical Corps was, indeed, its undoing. It was given a good mark by the public after the War, and then forgotten. Immediately the economies began, the "axe" was applied, and it seems as if the axe not only cut off all the branches, but slipped down and cut the roots as well until the very sustenance of the whole tree was in danger. Ever since it has been slowly dying from lack of proper nutriment.
What are the causes of the present unpopularity—for unpopular it is—of this corps? Its unpopularity is partly due to the fact that the pay, which was fairly satisfactory before the War, has not increased in proportion to the increase in pay of other branches of the Army. The increase of pay in the Army Medical Corps is less in proportion to that of any other branch of the service. For instance, a captain's pay in the Army Medical Corps has been increased by only 74 per cent., whereas the pay of a captain in a line regiment has been increased by 88 per cent.; a major's pay has been increased by 49 per cent., as compared with 97 per cent. of a major in a line regiment, Then, in the matter of retired pay, the increases granted have been grossly inadequate for certain of the ranks, so much so, indeed, that at the present time an officer who leaves the service as a major actually gets less than he would have got before the War, in spite of the fact that the cost of living is still 75 per cent. above normal. That is one of the chief reasons for the unpopularity of the corps; the pay is not sufficient to snake it attractive compared with other branches of medical service in the country.
There have been other grievances in the matter of allowances to those officers who are serving in India. Some Members of the Committee will remember that at the beginning of last year it became necessary, owing to the Report of the Lee Commission, to increase the pay of all officers of the Italian civil services, especially the pay of married officers, and at the same time it was necessary to give married officers of the Army serving in India extra allowances in order to enable them to live in comfort. But the Army Medical Corps was specially exempted from this extra allowance, although they were serving in exactly the same conditions as other branches of the Army in India. They alone of all the officers have not been receiving the extra grant given to officers of other branches of the Army serving in India. The result has been that whereas it requires 45 new recruits every year to make up the wastage in the Army Medical Corps it has only been able, for the last three years, to get an average of 10, and there is a yearly loss of about 35 officers. In a few years it will be quite impossible to carry on. They are hardly able at the moment to perform those duties which are expected of them, much less the duties which would be expected of them in war. They can only carry on at all at the present time by employing a considerable number of civil medical practitioners in those places where the Army Medical Corps officers should be employed. The result is that the number of officers who have to serve abroad is much larger than it ought to be. Naturally a civil medical practitioner cannot be sent abroad; all the moves have to be done by members of the Army Medical Corps
This shortage acts in a sort of vicious circle. It makes the corps more unpopular because the shorter the numbers the harder it is on those who are left. They have to do far more foreign service, are moved much more, and the senior officers who are left—there are practically no juniors—have to do work which is normally done by junior officers. It makes them discontented. As the officers of the corps become more and more discontented it acts in such a way as to prevent fresh officers joining. The most efficient recruiting agent any service can have is a contented existing member of that service. The difficulties of this corps have been pointed for at least two years, but up to last October nothing was done to redress the grievances or improve the service. Last October a Committee was appointed by the Cabinet to enquire into the services not only of the Army Medical Corps but of the Navy and the Air Force. That Committee has been sitting; and is still sitting. Various recommendations have been made to it for the improvement of the corps generally; first, in the matter of pay, especially those in the middle ranks, majors and lieutenant-colonels, who suffer most because their expenses are heavier, secondly, for the removal of the grievances to which I have referred, and, thirdly—this point has been pressed over and over again but has always been turned down—the granting of a position on the Army Council to the Director-General of the Medical Service. This is considered to be one of the most important. considerations. As I have said the medical service has always been at a disadvantage compared with other branches.
It is of the utmost importance, if that service is to he maintained, that it should have a distinct and separate voice in the control of Army matters. The Committee will soon be reporting. What it will report we do not know, but when the report is issued there will be an opportunity for the Government to restore this important branch of the Service to popularity and well-being. If they insufficiently appreciate the need a very heavy responsibility will rest upon them. The last emergency found us well prepared, but, should another emergency arise, with an Army Medical Corps reduced in strength, insufficiently prepared and organised—the present Corps will soon be in that condition if things go on as they are going—who can tell what may happen, what grave scandal may occur, and what will be the declaration of the people when they find such a thing happening? I am appealing, not especially to the Secretary for War, because I know that he appreciates what is happening to the Corps; I am appealing to the whole of the Government, on whom responsibility will rest when the findings of that Committee are made known. I am appealing also to public opinion, because it has always been necessary to have the full backing of public opinion for any improvement in the Corps in the past. I hope that when the time comes something may be clone to restore this great Corps to the condition in which it was before.
I also would like to offer congratulations to the Secretary of State for War for the success of his efforts to economise without imparing the efficiency of the fighting forces. A reduction of £2,000,000 without impairing efficiency is no mean effort. I appreciate the difficulties that the right hon. Gentleman must have had in forcing these reductions from reluctant Departments. I think he probably found the least resistance when he attempted to obtain reductions from the Territorial Army, but not for the reason that was advanced by my colleague on the Liberal Benches this afternoon. The reason that he gave was that they were compelled, because they had no choice but to accept a reduction. I hold that in the Territorial Force it was felt that every effort should be made for economy, and when the Secretary of State forwarded his proposals to the county associations they looked at them probably from a different point of view from that of the Regular soldier. Most of the members of the Territorial Force associations are men who are interested in Army matters, and at the same time are business men and large taxpayers. They looked at the matter from the point of view of a reduction of the burden of taxation on the general body of taxpayers in the country, and I can assure the Secretary of State that it is the intention of members of the county associations to assist him by all means in their power to practise economy, provided there is no loss of efficiency. Speaking as the chairman of a. spending committee of one of the county associations, I can state that my committee fell in with the suggestions that were made for a drastic reduction of the clothing grant. We felt that it was our duty in every way to assist the Minister, by seeing if we could not, without any loss of smartness or logs of any kind, gradually reduce the demands on the cash required for the replacement, if clothing.
There are many suggestions that one could make for improving the efficiency of the Territorial Army, but, naturally, most of these would mean the provision of more money. We realise that what is wanted now is less money spent and more money saved. There is one question that I would like to press upon the Minister, although it will cost the country something. It is the granting to Territorial soldiers under the age of 26 of separation allowances during the annual training. I know that I shall be met with the statement that the Territorial soldier is on exactly the same plane as the Regular soldier, and that at the age of 26, if he is married, he is entitled to separation allowance. But there is a vast difference between the two. The Regular soldier is not a free agent; he cannot marry "on the strength" just when he thinks fit. On the other hand, the Territorial soldier is a free agent in the matter, and, speaking for the industrial areas, these men marry very young. My experience is that the difficulty is to obtain recruits from the very class that we require, young fellows from 21 to 25 years of age. It is impossible for many of them who are ordinary tradesmen to join the Territorial Army with the knowledge that if they are married and go to the annual training they have no separation allowance and are not able to provide adequately for the maintenance of their wives. I trust that this matter may be considered further, and that the Minister will find it possible to grant marriage allowance to the man who in my opinion fully deserves it. I think he will then find that recruiting, instead of dropping quietly as it has been doing recently, will move up by leaps and bounds.
Captain A. EVANS:
It is with a great deal of diffidence that I, a junior officer of the Reserve, venture to intervene in this Debate, but I am rather anxious to deal with one or two points which have not been touched upon by my senior colleagues on this side of the House. The first point relates to promotion. The Secretary of State, in his very lucid statement, told us that the War Office proposed to adhere in future to the old principle of promotion as it affected the ranks of second lieutenant to major, and that the question of appointing officers to command battalions was to receive the consideration of what I understood to be a selection board. Personally, as far as I am competent to comment on that, I feel that there is great danger in the proposal. One does not require to have been in the Army long to realise there is a good deal of feeling on the question of appointing an officer of another regiment who has not previously served with the battalion he is about to command when that appointment is made known. After all, officers in the War, owing to the lack of supplies of efficient officers in other battalions, were appointed to command strange battalions. The only effect I see of the proposal of the Secretary of State is that perhaps instead of inefficient officers having been appointed in these circumstances, efficient officers might be appointed in future, but during his statement I did venture to interrupt him to inquire as to whether this new programme and this new policy was to affect the Brigade of Guards. I was not quite certain from his reply as to whether it would or would not, and I do hope that when the Financial Secretary comes to wind up the Debate he will deal with that specific point.
I do know that any movement in that direction would be fatal, as far as the Brigade is concerned. As the House well knows, the Brigade of Guards has had certain customs which are peculiar to the Brigade. It has been the practice for many, many years, in fact, it is laid down in King's Regulations, that in no circumstances whatsoever will a formation of Guards be placed under the command of an officer who is not commissioned in the Brigade. I do feel that if it is the intention of the War Office to carry this new policy as far as the Brigade of Guards, it will not add to that splendid esprit de corps, which was so beneficial in the past and which, indeed, was responsible for the Brigade of Guards being considered the corps d'elite by the rest of the Army in the Great War.
I think, in the history of the Brigade of Guards, it was not unknown for a cavalry officer to he transferred in the late War to command a regiment, but that was a very unusual course, and I venture to think in those circumstances the cavalry officer concerned was transferred in his rank to the Brigade and was not attached for duty to command that regiment.
I should like to say a word concerning the question of the reserve of the regular Army. I was very surprised indeed when listening to a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, to observe that he did not say one word concerning this most important feature of our Army. In 1922 I ventured to question the right hon. Gentleman on that subject. I questioned him as long ago as that, and he said then that the matter was receiving the careful and close consideration of the Army Council. I ventured to raise this matter again last year, and the reply was then that the financial position of the country did not justify the reorganisation of the reserves. But as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Reigate (Brigadier-General Cockerill) pointed out, the Secretary of State has stated definitely in this House, that the Territorial Army, as far as it was going to affect another war, was only going to take the field as an army or as individual units, and would in no way act as draft finding units for the regular battalions in the field. Of course, we all know that before the War the Militia or Special Reserve acted in this capacity, and it has been suggested from various quarters of the House that the Special Reserve should again be organised for this purpose. That is a suggestion which should receive the most serious consideration of the authorities.
I hope that in the event of their considering that proposal, they will be very careful to find out whether those people who favour the reintroduction of the Special Reserve or Militia force will not insist on their units going out into the field in the event of war as units, because I remember not long ago the Army Committee of the House of Commons received a deputation from representatives of the Militia force, and they used the arguments which have been used in this House on numerous occasions for bringing about the reorganisation of that force in order that it could act as draft-finding units for the Regular Army in the field. When, however, we came to go into the question more carefully we found that, although those were the arguments they advanced, they were not prepared to allow themselves to be used purely as draft-finding depots in the events of war. I do hope that, if the War Office does consider that proposal, they will be very careful to see that any force that may be formed as a result of their recommendations will be prepared to act purely as a training battalion and draft-finding units. As at present organised, I suppose it is the idea of the War Office that the depots of the various regiments would act not only as draft-finding units but as a training battalion, and I do venture to think that not only is the machinery of the depots of the infantry of the line totally incapable of dealing with the large number of men who would be called to the colours on mobilisation, but the. staff and the machinery which the War Office would call upon in that way would not be capable of meeting the need of the moment.
I was very interested indeed in listening to the speech of the late Under-Secretary for War the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Attlee) when he suggested that there was a large field for economy in the reorganisation of depots of the line regiments of the Army at the present time. That is a consideration which is worthy of the attention of the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench. After all, you have, on the one hand, the example of the cavalry arm of the service which, I believe I am correct in stating, has only two depots in the whole of the country at the present time: and, on the other hand, you have the example of the depot of the Brigade of Guards which, in the late War, supplied the whole of the Guards division with reinforcements, besides the reserve battalions stationed at various places. As at present constituted the majority of line regiments have a depot for two battalions and I feel very strongly that, for instance, in Wales, if you could establish two depots or even one at a central place like say, Brecon, you would thereby cut down a lot of unnecessary expense and be able to employ officers and other ranks who are at present employed at the various depots in other more useful capacities and thereby effect an economy which would in no way militate against the efficiency of the Army.
The Secretary of State, I was very pleased to notice, told us this afternoon that the Government had decided to re-institute the grant of £15,000 for the Territorial Cadet Force and, in doing so, he explained in his memorandum that the social value of the cadet movement and its importance as a source of recruiting for the Territorial Army had been recognised by the payment of the grant for the current year. I was very sorry he did not furnish us with any figures in support of that view, and I do hope that the Financial Secretary will tell us what percentage of Territorial Army enlistments are of men or boys who have previously served in the cadet force. As to its being a movement of social value, personally, I am entirely in agreement with that, but I doubt very much indeed, as a late cadet Lieutenant-Colonel myself, the value of this movement from the point of view of recruiting for the Territorial Army. I feel that, in these times, when the utmost financial control is vitally necessary in view of that economy which is equally necessary for our well-being, even sums of £15,000 should be closely watched and gone into before they are voted by this House.
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down into the various technical matters with which he has dealt, or to discuss with him the position in regard to commands in the Guards, and subjects of that kind. I wish to raise the question of the treatment by the War Office of men who have incurred disability while on service. One of my constituents recently put his own case before me, and I take it as typical of what is going on with regard to the administration generally in this respect. This young man joined the Army in 1921, served for two years in India, and was then sent to Egypt where he contracted illness. After being four months in hospital in Egypt he was transferred to Netley Hospital, and at the end of two months in that institution the medical officer decided he would not be fit for service again, and he was discharged. His illness was tuberculosis. Naturally, he thought, he would be eligible for a pension, but his application was refused. I daresay most hon. Members have had cases of this kind brought before them in connection with the Ministry of Pensions, where men have contracted illnesses during War service, and we have often wondered why the Pensions Ministry did not act more generously towards such men.
Here we have a case under the administration of the War Office which seems to disclose an even more callous attitude. This man joined as A1. There was nothing to show that he had any weakness. He served for three years in the Army. He has now been turned out on account of illness and has been refused any gratuity or any pension. I took the matter up with the War Office, and I received a communication which stated:
Tuberculosis is, as you know, a common disease of civil life. Its incidence is greater in civil life than in the Army, and in the absence of any special conditions of strain or exposure we cannot regard military service as being the cause of this disease. In the particular case, it is admitted that the first signs of the disease appeared during his military service, but there is no evidence that he suffered any special strain or exposure during his service in the Army, and this being so, I regret we cannot consider his disability as having been caused by his service.
I do not think there is a Member in this Committee who would say that a man after serving in the Army should be treated in this fashion. It is true that in civil life men become victims of tuberculosis, very often as a result of the wretched housing conditions under which so many civilians have to live, but the War Office having had this man under its care and in its charge—a man who came to them thoroughly fit—has no right to say to him, "We do not know where you got tuberculosis; you may have been out in the rain, or under unhealthy climatic conditions, but we have not any particular notice that you have undergone any special exposure or special strain." I think it is putting too much strain on common sense if the War Office is to act in that way. I hope the Minister will go into this particular case again and will also consider the whole position in regard to disabilities incurred while on service. The War Office should take full responsibility for such disabilities. When a man has served in the Army they should see that when he returns to civil life, he is placed in a position to have some little comfort and consideration. To me it is terrible that a man after lying in hospital for all those months should be sent back to his parents, who are poor people, and who will now have to keep him, the War Office an effect saying, "We have got out of
you all we can get, and you are of no more use to us." I hope more generous treatment will be extended to the private soldier than is indicated by this case which I take to be typical of many other cases.
I only wish to intervene in this Debate to call attention to some of the anomalies which exist in connection with the education of cadets at the Royal Military College and the Royal Military Academy. My experience as an old commanding officer is that many of these cadets arrive in their regiments unequipped to carry out the ordinary duties which they are first called upon to undertake. A great deal of attention is paid at Sandhurst and at Woolwich to the instruction of these cadets in order to fit them for their military career. They are subjected to discipline, and I am bound to say their instructors are of such high character as to be able to influence these lads and to build up character in a way which I think cannot be equalled in any other kind of educational establishment in this country. A great deal of the training, however, consists of spade-work. As an old soldier, I would like to pay my tribute to the importance of spade-work of this kind.
I believe no soldier can be efficient unless he has been through the mill, but speaking as a commanding officer, and also as a parent, who has seen his son through this excellent course of education at Sandhurst, I believe there is something lacking in the education of these cadets—something which is necessary in order to ensure that they are efficient and can be made use of when they arrive at the regiments to which they are posted. Recently the commanding officer of a very distinguished line battalion told me that, cadets arrived in the regiment with little or no knowledge of clerical work, and they suddenly found themselves confronted with a problem for which they were not equipped. They were placed in charge of some simple account in the regiment, some sports club, it may be, some corporals' room, a library, or even a sub. account in the officers' or the sergeants' mess, or any other of the regimental institutions, and these young officers were totally incapable of keeping the simplest form of account.
It may seem a curious thing to state, but book-keeping is an essential part of a young officer's duty in the Army to-day, but apparently, in the schools and colleges where these young boys have been educated, the ordinary problem of adding up figures and keeping that form of account which is called double entry is entirely neglected, and commanding officers have found that these cadets, who arrive from Sandhurst in many ways fully qualified to occupy the positions to which they have been called, are totally incapable of keeping any form of accounts, however simple. I suggest that the Commandants of these two institutions, the Royal Academy at Woolwich and the Royal College at Sandhurst, should employ the staff which they have at their disposal to instruct these cadets in the simple methods of keeping books accurately, neatly, and correctly. I will go as far as to say that, if that were not possible, it would surely be possible to ensure that none of these young fellows should be admitted into either Woolwich or Sandhurst until they have shown a proficiency in this particular form of simple arithmetic. There are other things which, I feel sure, could be taught at Sandhurst and Woolwich, which would be extremely useful to these young officers when they join their regiments, in which it is not always possible for a commanding officer to instruct his young officers: the opportunities may not occur.
We will take the ordinary duty of an orderly officer, which these officers will have to perform in a very few weeks after joining. They are expected at an early hour in the morning to inspect the rations which are to be issued to the regiment, and they have had no previous instruction as to how to judge the quality of those rations. No previous instruction has ever been given to them as to the conditions which govern the contracts for supplying these important articles for the men's daily comfort. They are not instructed, for instance, in any way as to what constitutes good or bad cooking of these various articles, and it is part of their daily duty to go round and inspect the food before it is cooked and after it is cooked, and to express an opinion upon it. I am strongly of opinion that certainly at Sandhurst, and, I believe, also at Woolwich, it would be quite possible for these cadets to be instructed, at Aldershot or at Woolwich, without any extra cost to the public, so that these young officers should arrive in their regiments with a knowledge of the ordinary duties which they have to perform and a knowledge of the articles which they have to examine and upon which they have to report. As knowledge is power, they would have an added influence, and their men would respect them far more, to the extent that they showed an interest in their men s welfare and in the things that are supplied for their comfort and convenience.
I could go through a great many other of their ordinary duties, but I do not wish to exhaust the patience of the Committee. There are all sorts of administrative duties which these young officers are called upon to perform, into which they ought to have some insight before they leave Sandhurst or Woolwich, where they have been taught many other interesting things, but not half so useful. May I turn for a moment to horse management? The cadet is taught to ride, and when he leaves Sandhurst or Woolwich he is something of a horseman. He may not be a perfect horseman, but he knows something about it. He knows nothing, however, about horse management, which is the most important part of his duties as an officer; and the same remark applies to his knowledge of mechanical transport, which is of growing importance in the Army. He has very little, if any, instruction in that important matter. Lastly, these young officers are expected to teach, yet, as far as I know, they have never been taught, and whatever form of instruction they have to give, surely it is most important that during their college career they should be taught by skilled instructors how to teach their men, and in that way add to their efficiency as soldiers.
I rise to draw attention to that part of the Vote which deals with the education and training of the men in the Army. It is good to know that considerable attention is now being paid to the educational side of the men's life in the Army, and, in my own experience, I was pleased to find that the Army is doing some very useful work in enlarging the men's minds during their period of service. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) drew attention to the fact that there had been some reductions in connection with the vocational training of the men, training which goes on chiefly at Hounslow and Catterick, but I wish to draw attention particularly to what my right hon. Friend termed the lack of development in the training at Catterick. I wonder if the soldier Members of this House know the splendid experiment that has been carried on for the training of men in the last year of their service, an experiment which has proved absolutely successful, which has given men a new start in life, which has placed them upon the land, in Australia particularly, and of which the Australian Government have spoken so highly that they have actually asked us to send as many as we can of these men who have been trained at Catterick.
I take it the Government want no better tribute to the work that is being done in that part of the Army's operations. May I draw attention to the fact that quite recently a report has been issued to the Overseas Committee, one of the Government representatives having been out to see the work the Catterick men are doing in Australia. The Labour Under-Secretary for War and I went to Catterick to see this work for ourselves, and we were really amazed to find not only that this work was being done and its wonderful promise, but that the country knows so little about what is being done in this particular part of the Army's operations. I would like to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he has been sufficiently interested in the men's training in the last six or nine months of their service when they are trained for civilian life. Does he go to Hounslow and Catterick to see what they are doing there? If I may say so, I regret to say I do not think there has been that interest in the work there ought to he in the Departments.
Last year I pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman the danger of the extension of the training ground at Catterick interfering with the work of the men being trained for carpentering, shoemaking and work on the land. In some cases they bring their wives there for the last few months of the service. Twenty families went out during the term of the Labour Government, 20 families went out last year, and 20 families, I understand, have gone out this year. It has been a useful experiment, and I asked the right hon. Gentle-
man what the Department was going to do to extend this work. I make no secret of it that it was the Labour Government's intention to extend this very useful work. As a matter of fact, we had intended, and it was well known at the War Office, that Gretna was to be the centre of this great development, and so I asked the right hon. Gentleman if there was going to be any danger of the extension of the training ground at Catterick interfering with the development of this work. He told me there was no danger in that respect at all. He said that, with regard to Catterick, I might make my mind easy; they had no intention of reducing the work there, and he went on to pay a very fine tribute to the work. But there are a few indications as to what has been taking place. My right hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) asked the right hon. Gentleman a question. He is a member of the Overseas Committee which has at its disposal something like £3,000,000, set apart by an Act of Parliament for the purpose of putting men upon the land, and so he asked this question of the right hon. Gentleman:
Is the War Office aware of the excellent reports that are now coming from Western Australia, from the group settlements there, of the men who have been trained at this agricultural camp, and of the satisfaction there is among all who have gone, and is the Department prepared to consider extending the work that is done so usefully at Catterick?
The Financial Secretary to the War Office replied:
The Department is fully aware of the appreciative reports received from the countries to which the men have gone.
Later on I asked the right hon. Gentleman
whether the agricultural training at Catterick Camp has been curtailed during the past 12 months or whether it is intended to limit it in the near future?
The right hon. Gentleman answered:
The development of the camp during the past 12 months has reduced the amount of arable land available for agricultural training. There is no intention of reducing it further at present."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1926; col. 2082, Vol. 192.]
I gather from the Memorandum that has been issued that the real cause
of the trouble now is put on financial grounds:
The demand for vacancies in agricultural training classes at the Army Vocational Training Centre at Catterick has increased, and the number which can be trained in this and other branches of vocational training is only limited by financial considerations.
I suggest that that is not an adequate answer. As a matter of fact, what happens? The arable land upon which men have been trained is producing cereals and crops which are being sold at the market price. I know the right hon. Gentleman may question it, but I venture to say the whole scheme at Catterick is paying 20s. in the£ and is really no financial burden. The land is now taken over by the Army and producing nothing, and then the right hon. Gentleman wants to say that because of financial considerations they cannot continue to develop this work. I say that answer is not good enough in the face of such a very fine experiment. There are other reasons, and what the Government have got to understand is that the right hon. Gentleman has got to give consideration to the civilian side of a man's life, to the citizenship side of the soldier, to his training side, so that he will have an opportunity of being replaced in civil life, instead of being a representative of that old blind-alley occupation which brings the Army into odium with civilians.
There are those who say, and I believe they say it truly, that if we can get a practical scheme for training men, putting them upon the land, and sending them into civilian life either in this country, or one of the colonies—if, they say, "we could make sure that there was a successful scheme of this description, we would support it." Well, here you have a scheme which has proved a success. It is really a great experiment, and the nucleus of a great scheme in which the Army, Navy and Air Force can co-operate. I fail to understand how a. great scheme of this description, which has done such wonderful work, which has already sent 60 families out of the country who are now doing good work in Australia and who have been reported upon most eloquently by the British representatives, should not receive all the support necessary. I really would ask hon. Members on the opposite side of the House how it is that this scheme has not been developed during the past year? I am
sorry to say that the intention seems to be to bring it altogether down. Here you have the 60 heads of families, who would have been unemployed, who probably now would have been getting unemployment benefit, who are now doing useful work. I really think I ought to read to the Committee this short extract from the report of the British Government representative who visited these men in Australia, and who said:
It was one of the pleasantest experiences of my life to see this whole body of men and women, so keen on their new life, and so eager to describe their happy experiences, that they all spoke at once, and behaved like a crowd of excited schoolchildren who could not find words to describe their new life.
If the scheme can do that for men and their families, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should sec to it that the various schemes are working hand in hand, and that the Government should take into consideration in all its Departments these training schemes, for I venture to say that these successful experiments can give one hope of their application to the general problem of unemployment. They may lead to the establishment of men in this, or other of our countries. That would be to the good, and a proposal that should appeal to Members in all quarters of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) reminds me that the training is for the purpose of training men as skilled craftsmen. That is really what is being done. I would also suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it might be possible for some hon. Members opposite to go either to Catterick, or by the use of films depicting the work know what is being done, and so be ready to help in the coming year. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some hope in relation to this particular scheme, for we must see to it in the future that the old blind-alley occupations finish, and that Army men are given a decent chance when they leave the Army to become good citizens.
Captain D'ARCY HALL:
There are few points that could be raised to-night that have not already been mentioned in the course of Debate. But there was one point mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), and that was the reduction of the cavalry of the British Army at the present moment. I am a cavalry soldier, and, naturally, hold a brief for my old corps. I should like to mention that I was fortunate enough to serve with the cavalry from the first day to the last in the War. I think I have some knowledge of the cavalry in the front line, and I have none at all about the staff work behind. My experience was that the cavalry was of the very greatest use on two occasions. The first occasion was during the first fortnight of the War. We had one cavalry division and one independent brigade—one of the finest of brigades. I can assure hon. Members that there was not nearly sufficient cavalry for our needs. We were requested to do jobs that really required double the number of men. Passing on to 1915 –16–17, as cavalry, I am quite ready to agree with some of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said. Some hon. Member mentioned that the cavalry horses had 40 pounds of oats per horse per day. That was subsequently cut down to 14 pounds and then to nine pounds.
The other occasion in which the cavalry played a great part was in March, 1918, when the Germans broke through our line. I happened then to be serving on the extreme southern extremity of the line, and the cavalry had to fill up the gaps as quickly as they could till the French came up. I am quite prepared to say that no number of troops, with the best will in the world, except the cavalry could have done what was then done. At that time the roads were congested with retreating guns, transport, and all the rest of it, which could not get through, and the only people who could move rapidly across country was the cavalry division. Only the cavalry could have got through; others could not do that job. Hon. Members who think there ought to be a reduction of cavalry must remember that we require our strength in cavalry at the commencement of a war; we do not require cavalry very much in the middle of a war, I agree; but we do require them again at the end of a war; and for that reason, if for other reason, I would plead with the Secretary of State to ask for the earnest consideration of his military advisers to this point before it is decided to reduce the number of the cavalry.
There is one thing on which I am certain we could economise. As I have said before, I was not on the Staff, and so I can be quite candid in criticising the Staff on this occasion. I have carefully read through the Army Estimates, but being a young Member of this House I am afraid I do not know my way through them from beginning to end as well as other Members. As far as I can make out, however, there are at present 700 Staff Officers in England—700 out of a total of 5,600. I make out that we have one Staff Officer for every nine Regimental Officers, that is, that in a battalion we have one Staff Officer to every 155 men, and according to that reckoning we have 4½ Staff Officers for every battalion. I really cannot see that that very large number is necessary. The half man might be sufficient. As to the Staff abroad. I was in Egypt this winter, and on making inquiries I found that the number of the Staff in the Near East—or in Cairo, rather—was, in my opinion, very greatly in excess of the number required. There are more Staff Officers in Cairo at the moment than we require for an Infantry Division, and there is not nearly an Infantry Division in Egypt. If the Secretary of State desires to make economies I appeal to him first of all to economise here at home in the War Office—I know it is difficult, but I am sure it could be done—and, secondly, to make economies abroad in Egypt and other countries in which British troops are stationed.
I am not going to deal with the cavalry question, which seems to have troubled a great many Members during this Debate. I wish to refer to a speech early in the afternoon from the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Hull (Lieut.-Colonel Lambert Ward). He gave us a description of the machine gun and of the machine gunner. He told us the machine gun was worth about £20—I am not quite sure where he got his figure—and that the machine gunner was worth about £5,000. I hope that that estimate will be noted in the country, and I hope it will be noted, too, by the Government, and that better treatment will be meted out to the men who, are in our service considering the value that has been put on them. Another point he referred to was certain work done at Woolwich Arsenal. He said the House had to find money to make up the loss consequent upon the workpeople at Woolwich Arsenal being engaged upon other than armament work. I hoped that before he finished he would have told us the class of work at which Woolwich Arsenal failed and for which the House had to find money. If he was referring to the locomotives, I hope the. Minister will defend those who are not here to speak for themselves, and will inform the House and the country that there was not the great loss upon that work that the country believes there was, and that these particular engines are in use, and in satisfactory use, at the present time. I hope we shall have figures given to us of the cost, of what is assumed to be the loss, and of the value of the work that was put into those engines.
I would also like to ask why it is that at this time we find at Woolwich Arsenal we are allowing work to stand idle on the 6-in. guns, upon which there has been a great expenditure of money up to the present moment, and which are left standing there knowing full well that that is not economy, but is simply holding the work up so that money will not be spent before the 31st of this month. That is not economy when it means discharging men and placing them on the unemployment fund. I hope we shall be told something about Feltham, and why the War Department has sent the military into Feltham in such great numbers to take the place of civilian workers, thus causing the dispute in that particular establishment. Surely the War Department, if it was a matter of training more men, could have done it by sending them into the heavy repair depot at Feltham.
Another question is in regard to Didcot. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the placing of stores at Didcot is satisfactory to the War Department, and also what steps are being taken to provide housing accommodation for the people transferred from Woolwich to work in the stores at Didcot. It seems stupid that you should remove one store from Woolwich to Didcot, and make no provision for the people who have to go there, and you find them travelling between those two places week after week in order to engage in their work. Some of them have to live in Oxford already because the War Office has not provided accommodation before despatching these men to that part of the country.
I also want to know why the War Department still refuse to agree to the granting of an annual holiday with pay to the men in their service. Something like 1,500,000 workpeople have been granted annual holiday with pay by private employers, but here we find the War Department refusing to come into line with private employers. It would not cost very much, and I hope we shall hear from the War Minister that the War Office are hopeful of granting this concession to the men in their service. If that is done, I am sure it. will be greatly appreciated by the men employed at. Woolwich, Enfield and other War Office establishments, and the men will be able to give a better service to the nation. With regard to the £2,000,000 which have been saved on the War Office, Estimates, about which the Secretary for War feels so proud, I am afraid I cannot congratulate him upon that saving, because I am not at all sure that that is the best thing he could have done. If you look round at the various depots and departments, you will find many means by which economy could be effected, and you could arrange that those so lowly paid in the service could be better paid even with greater economy in their departments.
We have had a very interesting Debate, which has ranged over an unusually large number of subjects, and I have been given enough material, if I were to reply to every question in anything like detail, to keep the Committee for a longer period than the Committee would willingly remain. I rather fancy that that is a tribute to the form in which the Estimates are presented this year, which has apparently enabled hon. Members to dig out from the pages of the Estimates all these questions, and to speak with an amount of information upon the subjects they have raised which has been sadly lacking in previous years. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh), my predecessor, opened the Debate with copious quotations judiciously extracted from a. former volume of the OFFICIAL REPORT, and he was kind enough to add to his quotations at my request. When he was dealing with the form of the Estimates, he, of course, quoted the fact that I had urged him to come to a decision upon this subject. I asked him to add to those quotations, and he pointed out that what I had said, at the moment when I was speaking two years ago, vas that there were two systems of accounts running in the War Office—there was the so-called unit system or cost accounting system, and there was the Vote-head system.
These two systems were quite separate systems, quite different and incompatible with each other. They were run side by side in the War Office, and, because they brought out totally different results, there was a still further section in the Finance Branch of the War Office engaged in nothing else but reconciling these two irreconcilable systems. Whatever happened, I felt that it was utterly and absolutely impossible to justify the continuance of that process, which certainly involved a great expenditure for no useful purpose. Being much attracted, and I am going to say so, by the unit or cost accounting system, after the experience I had had in the Ministry of Munitions, where the cost accounting system undoubtedly saved enormous sums of money in the manufacture of the various articles that were required in the War—being much enamoured of that, I said, "No, I will not scrap the cost accounting system; we will have it thoroughly inquired into by the strongest committee that I can design," and, as Secretary of State for War, I appointed the Lawrence Committee; and I do not wonder that the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else takes me to task and asks me, when I was in favour of it, and when I set up a committee which finally reported in favour of it, why on earth I apparently changed my mind, and—as the right hon. Gentleman said, wrongly—scrapped the system and apparently made a. complete volte-face. Let me tell hon. Members exactly—
I did not say the right hon. Gentleman scrapped the system; I said he scrapped the very thing he most strongly recommended to me, namely, that the recommendations of the Lawrence Committee should be put into force. That is the point.
I did not want to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, and I still do not understand the difference. But let me pass on and say exactly what happened. I have not scrapped Cost Accounting. I have scrapped the system of accounting which depends upon unit accounting. Cost accounting is extremely useful for factory work or for any work, especially repetition work, where you compare like with like, but it is utterly misleading to think you can compare the cost of one battalion with another battalion—one battalion probably in camp and another in barracks. It is utterly impossible to imagine that you are going to gain the slightest value from a comparison of that sort. Where you are coming to hospitals, electric light undertakings and productive undertakings, it is extremely important to have cost accounts, and I am retaining cost accounts for all the productive energies of the War Office. What I am doing is to scrap it for the combatant units because it is utterly useless.
Let me give another instance to show how useless it is. What you want cost accounting for is to check whether business is carried on in an economical fashion and whether one is better than another—whether the system developed by one unit is better than the system developed by another, so that you can choose the best and put it in force over the whole area of activity. But in the Army nearly 90 per cent, of the expenditure is not in the control of the officer commanding the unit. Ninety per cent. of the expenditure is on housing, rent and rates, travelling, food, and pay. None of these are within the discretion of the officer commanding the unit. The most that he has discretion over is a matter of 10 per cent. of the expenditure, and I have to consider whether there is a possibility of saving on that 10 per cent. a sufficient sum to enable the economies to equal the cost of putting the system in operation. The cost, of the limited system which I am continuing, that is, the costing of the productive units, will be £100,000 a year. In reducing it to £100,000 I am saving £200,000 a year, because the cost until a few months ago was at the rate of £300,000. But the Lawrence Report itself admits that the system was never really in operation at all. It was only coming up to the point when perhaps it would be in operation. In order to put it into operation an additional £100,000 a year would have been required, so what we have to compare now is the £100,000 which it is going to cost to the produc- tive units with what it would have cost if the Lawrence Report was put into operation, namely, £400,000 a year, so that I am saving £300,000.
I am perfectly aware of that. I do not want to run away from it. I differ from the Lawrence Committee, and the hon. Member is entitled to say so. The Lawrence Committee advised that it should be brought down to the unit. I have come to the conclusion, after taking very careful advice on the subject, that it is not worth while bringing it down to the unit from a monetary point of view at a cost of £300,000 a year in order to get problematic savings of 10 per cent. of the expenditure. I am continuing it at a cost of £100,000 a year on the productive units. This is the trouble the Public Accounts Committee felt. They could not advise that it should be brought into operation. The hon. Member opposite had the same difficulty. I think he was on the Public Accounts Committee. He could not say that it would work administratively. He could not say you could entrust to the commander of a unit the full financial responsibility, and that is the difference.
If I could have done it, I would have done it, because the same attraction as the hon. Members see, I see. I want to give every sort of authority and responsibility to the commander of the unit. I do not want to turn him into an accountant. He has something else to do. He has to train the troops. If you are not careful, you will turn them into accountants, and that is not their business. Their primary business is to train troops. That is what they arc there for. I have not the slightest doubt, sorry as I am that the opportunity for saving cannot be given to the unit, that the decision we have come to is the right decision. Nevertheless, I am not going to despair of making it worth while for the unit to save anything that can be saved in that 10 per cent. I am now having examination made of the question of extending to the unit block grants or lump sum grants in respect of more than is already extended to them. They have already the right in certain circumstances not to spend on one thing but to spend on another at their choice, if they can save. I am trying to extend that so that they may be able, if they can save in that 10 per cent., to have a certain proportion of the saving, perhaps one-fourth, for their regimental funds, so long as they present to the State three-quarters of the saving. I believe that is the way towards economy, to make it worth the while of the units to save, so that they can get something out of it.
There was one further point mentioned, and that was the valuation of stores. That only shows how incomplete is the system, after six years of trial, of the so-called cost accounting system, that there was no valuation of the stores. They never could have definitely debited any unit with its expenditure, because there was no valuation of the stores whatever. We never have had the actual figures. The figures that have been presented to this House during the last four or five years have had a large number of conjectural factors in them. There has been no absolute figure given. There has been a conjectural valuation of this or that item consumed by the unit, based, of course, honestly on the best advice that the Departments could give, but not an actual figure such as is valuable if cost accounting is to be carried out.
May I give one item to illustrate my point, that of clothing stores. I went before the Public Accounts Committee myself. I had heard. it said that the clothing stores were worth £25,000,000. I was not in a position at the moment to query that, but when I got back to the office I gave orders that telegraphic instructions must be issued all over the world wherever the Army units were, that a valuation of the clothing stores should take place, so that we should know exactly what they were. What were they? Their value was not £25,000,000 but £5,900,000, or one-fifth of the sort of case that has been built up by the advocates of cost accounting. I am sorry that we cannot work it in to the system of administration of the Army. If we were a commercial firm with a large number of shops all over the country, it would be very easy to have each unit costed, but the units of the army differ one from the other. It is not a profit on sales that is the test of efficiency in the Army, but the training that is given in the units, and that cannot be decided by monetary values.
The next attack—friendly, as I would expect from my right hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh), my predecessor at the War Office—was on the question of vocational training, and he has been very ably supported by hon. Members from both sides of the House.
I should hate to see my right hon. Friend sorrowful. His face belies him. If it was sorrow, I am glad that it was not anger. He does me the great honour of quoting me, but he used discretion in the quotation. Referring to vocational training, I said to him:
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will arrange with the trade unions that the training these men receive while in the Army shall count. If these men are to be trained, only to find out afterwards that they cannot join trade unions, it would not be fair to the men. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, as he has special means of doing so, will take steps to got trade union recognition for these men."—[OFFEICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1924; col. 2631, Vol. 170.]
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has taken any steps, but I do know that he has not been successful.
The right hon. Gentleman must not run away like that. At the time I was speaking he was sitting on this bench, and I was sitting on the bench opposite where he is now sitting, and I was asking him, when he was in a position of honour and responsibility, to see that the training he, gave these men while in the Army should he treated by the trade unions as training which would help them to join the unions and get work in civil life. I hope now that he has perhaps more time and less responsibility he will be able to succeed. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the receipts from the labour of these men. I happen to have in my hand the Army Accounts for 1923–24, the time when he was responsible, and under the head Catterick—
I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have been acquainted with the figures referring to a period just before he was in office. I would not dream of commending or condemning it on the ground that it was a paying proposition. The right hon. Gentleman said it was a paying proposition, and the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) who was Financial Secretary to the War Office at that time, said it paid 20s. in the £ What are the facts? The facts are that the gross costs were £22,000. The proceeds of the workshop manufactures were £441; farm produce and the increase in value of stock £3,004, a total of £3,445. The sum received for fees and rents and grazing was £731; so that the total net cost was £17,979, or at the rate of 12s. 3d. per student per day. I am not saying that it was not worth it; my argument is that the right hon. Gentleman and his Financial Secretary have forgotten all about it, and they come down and ask this Committee to approve the proposition not because it is worth it but because it pays. It is not true.
It is not quite true that I based the whole case on that ground at all. I tell the right hon. Gentleman that we spent two days there. We went into the books on the spot. The right hon. Gentleman can produce what he likes about 1923–24, and the particular valuations and the method they have. We say that the concern was paying 20s. in the £ and was costing the War Office nothing.
It is most unfortunate that in one breath right hon. and hon. Members opposite are praising the cost accountants and saying that they want us to continue them, and in another breath are criticising them. These are figures got out by the cost accountants. I cannot say that any one of these figures is inaccurate. It is all very well for the late Financial Secretary to say that he went into the books on the spot. I do not know what are his qualifications as an accountant. This is a very expensive corps. It was costing £300,000 a year, and these are the figures that they produce.
If the hon. Member wants to look at them, he can do so. Another point of the hon. Member was that we were starving it, that we appeared to be unsympathetic, and that he was afraid we were going to shut it down. What are the facts? Hon. Members opposite are singularly bad in their memory again. In 1922–23 the cost was 17s. 8d. per day for an average of 54 students. In the next year, the year to which I have been referring, the cost was 12s. 3d. for 82 students. To-day there are 250 students. That does not sound like shutting it down. On the contrary, I believe that it ought to be extended, that it could be extended, and I want to extend it; hut, again, financial considerations do come in.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) ought to remember that this does cost a great deal of money. In his time it was costing 12s. 3d. per day per student. I do not say it is not worth it, but it is a large sum of money. I have to choose between one object of expenditure and another. I think that we owe a duty to those who come into the Army, to try to secure for them, not unskilled work afterwards, but work which is suitable to their skill, and that we ought to give them every opportunity to acquire skill. I wish that were more recognised in practice on the Labour Benches. I wish that we could have—I have asked for it before—real co-operation with the trade union movement, so that these men, not merely those who go abroad to the Colonies, although that is good, but those who learn brick-making, boot-making, 'and so on, should be welcomed into the trade unions and should be helped in their future life. I have tried many times. The right hon. Gentleman must not laugh.
The right hon. Gentleman can inquire, if he chooses. I have endeavoured to get the assistance of the trade union movement for the Supplementary Reserve, and, singularly, there has been not only no attempt to assist, but there has been an actual attempt to block it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman's followers are cheering that statement.
That is a little unfortunate again. Memories are so short. It was commenced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince, and I succeeded to the endeavours that he had made.
It is obviously impossible to debate it at this moment. What I said was actually accurate. It was started by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince. I have a great number of other questions to deal with, but I do want to refer to some of them. As far as the land at Catterick is concerned, the acreage I referred to the other day—I forget the exact number—has had to be taken in for the training area, but I do not mean the vocational training to be scrapped. Hon. Members opposite should remember what I am saying. I do not mean it to be scrapped and I will do my level best to see that it is not hurt or reduced by any land having been taken for training. If we cannot get it there we must try and get it somewhere else. I do not mean the vocational training to be scrapped or interfered with. I do not mean we may not change the form slightly in order to put another in its place, for I have got to accommodate myself, naturally, to circumstances, but I do not mean it to be materially interfered with.
As regards Woolwich the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell) very naturally raised this question. It is a very serious thing for orders to have to be withdrawn or postponed, and that the effect should be that a large number of men in the course of this year will lose employment at Woolwich. The hon. Member asked whether the whole of the loss was being thrown on Woolwich, and why Woolwich should not be fully employed and the private firms who also make munitions should not suffer the loss rather than Woolwich. The proportions are these. The orders that are going to be given this year—I give these figures, but they are still provisional, and they cannot be final for the moment, but are the nearest I can give—will be to the Ordnance Factories £1,197,000 worth of orders, and to the trade outside Woolwich, £646,000, or something like two-thirds to Woolwich and one-third outside. The hon. Member may say, "Why do not you give the lot to Woolwich, because Woolwich is in some respects cheaper and does its work just as well."
Let me at once admit that in some respects Woolwich is cheaper and does its work just as well. It is not because it is dearer or because it cannot do the work that I am bound to give work outside Woolwich. I am bound to keep in existence alternative sources of supply. Supposing there were any large demand, either for small arms or other munitions, it would be positively unsafe to rely solely on the production of Woolwich. Woolwich, to start with, is situated in an area which might easily be-put right out of action by an Air Force. Apart from that altogether, unless I can put reasonable orders with the trade, they will not keep their munitions machinery in order and going. It may be said that an alternative is to pay them a subsidy per annum in order to keep the machinery, but that is no good, because I should not be keeping the skilled labour attached to these munition works, and the machinery by itself without skilled labour is of course no use.
I want to keep as much work at Wool-wich as possible, but it is essential to keep private firms at work and therefore, a. certain number of orders must be placed there. One hon. Member speaking of co-operation of the Services asked: Why do you not get some work at Woolwich for the Navy and Air Force? Well, we do. We are now doing a great many orders for both the Navy and Air Force, and in view of the reduction of Army orders we have made a special "whip-up" with the Navy and the Air Force, to give us all the orders they possibly can and they have done so. Another hon. Member asked me about the locomotives which were built at Woolwich, and called upon me to defend Woolwich in this matter. The actual facts are that. the locomotives cost £1,399,000 according to the cost accountant.
I am sure the hon. Member is not. They sold for £270,000; so that they actually sold for approximately one-fifth of their cost. When I say so in answer to the hon. Member, I am not advancing it as an argument that Woolwich is inefficient. On the contrary, I do not believe Woolwich is inefficient.
I do not know about that. I do not believe Woolwich is inefficient in the work it is doing. It is doing good and efficient work. The cost in this case is a figure which seems to require a good deal of explanation, but the work was done at a time when all costs were infinitely higher than to-day's costs, and I daresay the hon. Member is right in saying that private firms costs may at that time have been higher still. I do not know. At any rate, when they came to sell the locomotives, there was a great deal of difficulty, and I can only answer that in the actual result the sale realised about one-fifth of the actual cost. The hon. Member raised another point to which I wish to refer, because I think the workers at Woolwich ought to know what are the considerations which influence the Government in this matter. The hon. Member asked: Why not have all munitions made in the national factory? He does not agree with private firms making munitions at all.
It is a mistake to think that Woolwich is wholly employed in making explosives or the projectiles of explosives. Wool- wich is engaged in making apparently peaceful things, like tractors and machines for which designs are required. We cannot afford to have at Woolwich the only designers of things like tanks, or internal-combustion engines, or caterpillar tractors. We get the best designs, not only from those at Woolwich, but also from the outside firms, and you cannot get the outside firms in the trade to hand you over their designs unless they are sure of a certain proportion of the orders. As a matter of fact, the dragon—the domesticated dragon—was a design which came from a private firm outside.
It was the best design we could get, and we could not have got it at all unless we had been able to assure the firm that some part of the orders would be placed with them. The hon. and gallant Member for North-West Hull (Lieut.-Colonel Lambert Ward) made some very useful suggestions, but there is only one to which I want to refer. He wanted the doctrine of the guns being cheaper than the gunners well impressed on the Army. I do not know exactly what the doctrine is at this moment, but I entirely agree with him, and I will consult with those whose business it is to lay down fighting doctrines to see what their view is on the subject. With regard to cavalry, I do not think I will answer the questions that have been raised, because the hon. and gallant Members for Upton (Captain Holt) and Brecon (Captain Hall) have both, from personal experience, testified to the House of the use of cavalry in the late War, in interesting speeches which drew the attention of the House. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) dealt with the question of Feltham in a very sketchy fashion. I do not know whether he thinks that we are not entitled to say that those soldiers whose duty it will be to effect heavy repairs to motors and motor vehicles in war are not to he trained and practised—
I agree—not to be trained or practised in the art of making and assembling those cars in peace time, and if he does net say that, I cannot conceive what his quarrel with us is because we have put 50 of those men in the factory at Feltham.
The hon. Member either does not know, in which case I will tell him, or else has forgotten to say that Feltham is a military establishment, always designed for the very purpose of being a military establishment, to train and teach and practise the men of the Army in this particular work. He chooses to say that they displace civilian labour, but that is not the right angle from which to look at it at all. Civilian labour is there until the soldiers are ready to take up their share of the work, and for civilian labour to say that the Army in a military establishment is not to bring soldiers in to do the work that they are required to do in war, is an assertion with which I personally cannot agree.
I cannot conceive that there can be any defence of the action of resentment to the soldiers coming into that establishment. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Reigate (Brigadier-General Cockerill) was, I think, not unnaturally anxious about the position of the Reserves, and he did not understand why the Reserves have been reduced. The reason is that an extra large number of Reservists have completed their time this year, and will complete their time next year, so that the Reserves, from about, I think, 96,000 have run down several thousands this year and will run down in the following year by at least an equivalent number, if not more. But after that period there will be a gradual increase in the number of men being discharged from the Army and joining the Reserve, and in a few years' time we ought to have a stabilised Reserve.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested that we ought to rely upon a Special Reserve, and he made various and interesting suggestions that if we were not prepared to have one infantry battalion of Reservists or Militia for each infantry regiment, we ought to have a battalion amongst grouped regiments, or perhaps one for each Territorial division. All of that is a question of money. You cannot have an additional Militia or Reserve battalion without increasing the expenditure, and I have got, unfortunately, not an unlimited purse. The pressure to reduce is bad enough, but the pressure against an increase would be overwhelming, and I really cannot pretend there is auy probability of my being able to reestablish the Militia Infantry Reserve in the near future. The Supplementary Reserve has been established. It is the most essential of the gaps that have got to be filled, and is now something like 50 per cent. of its strength, and I am hoping that will increase.
We also had a most interesting speech from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir J. Davidson). I wish I could deal with that in detail. There is, however, a great deal more co-operation between the Services than he seems to be aware of. He pointed out that an Army doctor or some other doctor had discovered that a patient when stripped of his uniform was merely a man, and that he could be treated in any hospital. Curiously enough, that interesting fact has been found already, and in Malta and Singapore the Army hospitals deal with the Navy patients, and vice versa. At Chatham, the naval hospital deals with military patients, and there is no duplication of hospitals there.
Similarly in some of the educational establishments children of both Services are taught, and at Woolwich services are rendered to both the Navy and the Army. At Shoeburyness it is the same. There is, I think, a considerable amount of cooperation in excess of that for which we are given credit. I am sure there is still further scope for co-operation and simplification of the Services. All that I can say is that, as far as the Army is concerned, we are constantly endeavouring to find ground where we can be of use to the sister services, and we are not monopolistic in any sense. We are quite willing to take it from them as well as give it to them.
There is one other somewhat large question, with which I can only deal sketchily, raised by the hon. Member opposite, and that is the question of depots. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) really started the discussion on this subject. The hon. Member opposite said there were 63 depots, and why could there not be an amalgamation so that some of the overhead expenditure, which is admittedly large, could be reduced, and that if they could not, all be amalgamated into a very few, at any rate they might be amalgamated by linking battalions. I have looked into that. It is an extremely difficult question. There is the absolute essential of maintaining the regimental feeling.
There is no question hut that anything that is damaging to the regimental feeling is really cutting at the root of the voluntary system of the Army. It is a very delicate operation to do anything that even clips it in any sort of way. As to the depots, there are none except those for the use of regiments that have third or fourth battalions which are big enough to hold linked battalions. What is suggested will mean a large building programme, and the capital sum required for this at present has to be borne in mind. Though the linking up of 10 regiments or even 10 battalions in one depot would be useful from the point of view of reducing the cost, it would be extremely expensive from the building point of view. I can, however, assure the hon. Gentleman that it is a subject-matter that will never be overlooked, and it may be possible, at some time or other, early or late, to find accommodation of a larger order than exists at present for the troops. However that may be, I am quite certain that, with proper safeguards for regimental feeling and traditions, an endeavour will be made to secure any economy that can be secured.
My hon. and gallant Friend asks me whether the Army in India is stabilised. Stabilisation is one of my difficulties. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows I have had one cavalry regiment put upon Vote A this year which was not on Vote A last year. While we are in the position of having to maintain an Army, which, among its other duties, is a protection to India, India is not under the same absolute obligation to maintain a given number of British troops upon her Votes. I have, therefore, always to risk it, in the sense of future expenditure put upon these Votes. I cannot say that the position is stabilised; I can only say that the British troops in India are reduced for the present to the minimum and that there is no great risk of any future troops being put upon the Army Votes in this country.
If the hon. Gentleman will look into the Estimates he will sec that quite a considerable sum, £30,000 or £40,000, has been spent at Didcot. I do not pretend that this will house anything like the number of men who are employed as civilians in the district by the War Office.
If I had to burden the Army Votes with the provision of living accommodation for, perhaps, 1,000 men, the Committee would have to be willing to give me £1,000,000 on the top of this Vote, and I cannot really ask them to do that. It really is not the job of the War Office to find civilian housing accommodation on that scale. I am providing it for the pivotal men, but I cannot put on the Votes the housing of men who are not pivotal. Might I now ask the Committee to give me Vote A? There are five Votes for which I shall have to ask the Committee to-night.
I am sorry to detain the Committee at this late hour, but it is my misfortune rather than my fault, for I have made an effort to speak all the afternoon and evening, and this is my first opportunity. I promise nut to detain the Committee for long. The Committee have a higher duty to perform than to go into details such as have occupied so much time. We are voting £42,000,000 for what is spoken of as an absolutely necessary service. If I took the same view I would readily grant that the Minister in charge is fulfilling his functions as well as he can under the circumstances, but there is a growing opinion in the country that every Government ought to make an honest effort to find ways and means of getting rid of the entire burden of armies and armaments.
In these accounts what we see is not the entire position but only a partial position. The nation has to bear not merely a burden of £117,000,000 for present armaments, but also the interest on the National Debt arising from past expenditure on armies and armaments. One hon. Member appealed to the Government to explain what part of the army was needed for defensive purposes and what part for expeditionary purposes. The nation must realise that for the last 125 years our army has not had a single occasion to defend the homeland from an enemy that was attacking this country; but during that period the British army has carried on expeditions in many other countries like China, India, Africa and Egypt. It is necessary for the country to realise what part of the £42,000,000 is to be spent on absolutely necessary defensive purposes, and what part for the old war debt and for the old game of land grabbing in other people's countries.
We ought also to consider whether the Army is beginning to operate on the rights and liberties of the civilian population. The Minister for War referred, in his closing remarks, to the Supplementary Reserve; in his opening remarks he said nothing about it. In the Paper with which we have been supplied we are told that only 55 per cent. of the recruits required have been forthcoming. One would like to know if that is an indication that the trade union worker is beginning to recover his common sense and refrain from joining the Supplementary Reserve, or whether the Government are up against certain difficulties which they desire to remove or hope to remove later on. My own request is that the Government will do better justice to themselves, and make a more friendly gesture to the trade unions, if they now drop the whole of this scheme. There is not the slightest doubt that the idea of the Army Supplementary Reserve among the workers is a huge mistake and a gross interference with the spirit of trade unionism itself. In the end, it will prove a failure, and the Government will come out of it with discredit. It would be better for the Government to drop the whole scheme and wipe it out of the Army arrangements, and thus make trade unionists better friends with the Government and thus save them from ultimate defeat.
With regard to the Feltham workers, the explanation of the War Minister I accept as satisfactory, because he says the army workshops there have been created for the purpose of training the soldiers in assembling and handling the machines and materials they would have to handle during war. We have, however, the right to ask the War Office if they made this position perfectly clear to the civilian workers when they took them into their service; or did they tell these civilian workers that the Feltham establishment was to be worked by trade union workers and then suddenly drive out those workers and put in their places army workers? If so, then the civilian workers are entitled to look upon it as a gross breach of trust and confidence, and the Minister has no right to put forward as an excuse that it is necessary to train those men. The true character of the contract ought to have been clearly explained to the trade union workers and they should not have been deceived into coming to work in those shops to be chucked out when there is a dispute between the men and the War Office in which the men's case was right.
A good deal has been said about the cadets and other branches of the army service, but altogether they have treated the army as a machine and as a collection of Robots. In these modern times it is due to the soldiers that they should have greater freedom in the internal control and management of their barracks and their own life, as well as their military discipline and so on, and a larger and larger share must be given to them in the control of their own affairs. And that is not all. Last year the Government took a very serious step, which I look upon as an outrage on the political rights of the soldiers. The soldiers now are enfranchised; they are, from a political point of view, citizens; they have political rights and political duties, and that is not at all a bad thing. If ever anything is going to bring about the genuine spirit of disarmament, it is the political right of the soldiers that will do it, and not the intriguers at Locarno or Geneva, or the League of Nations. When the soldier him self acquires his political outlook, when the soldiers of all countries acquire their political rights, it is the soldiers who will begin to tell the nations the futility of armaments and of carrying on war, however contradictory it may appear to be.
The great injuries done to the world—not only thousands of millions of pounds spent, but millions of murders committed and millions of premature deaths caused—have been entirely due to the teaching of falsehood to the soldiers, to the putting to soldiers of false theories of patriotism, the putting to them of one-sided politics, to keeping the soldiers practically all prisoners, shut off from truth, and from all the honest propaganda and all the honest events that take plate in our daily life. If the soldiers had been left as free as those who misguide and mislead them, and teach them falsehoods, those soldiers would have understood the horrors of war much more quickly than the League of Nations and other intriguers sitting at Geneva. The Government are fully aware that, as the soldier becomes politically conscious, he becomes more averse from armaments and carrying on wars than the ordinary civilian and Parliamentary Members and councillors who sit in comfortable seats and vote for war.
The Government trespassed outrageously upon the rights of the soldiers last year, and introduced quite an innovation. The soldier having received a, political right and a political vote, it is his right to hear all parties and all political claims. It is our right to-day to go to the soldier with the peace letter framed by the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and it is the soldier's right to sign that peace letter, and if any Home Secretary or War Minister or other Minister, or anybody, interferes, he is unconstitutionally corrupting the soldier's sources of political knowledge and is interfering with his rights. The soldier having received a vote—let me be perfectly frank—if I as a Communist Member am at liberty to go to civilian citizens and say to them that their safety, their good, their country's good, and human good generally, require that they should vote for Communists only—I may be right or wrong—[Interruption]—if I have a right to go to civilian citizens and put forward my claims, I have an equal right to go to the soldier and put forward the same claims. If Cabinet Ministers, if Members of the House of Commons, have a right to listen to me or to buy our literature or not, the soldier elector has the same legal right and the same moral right to buy our literature, to keep it, and to read and study it. He has as much judg- ment as Cabinet Ministers have, and he knows how to distinguish right from wrong. But because you are afraid of your monopoly of misleading the soldiers and poisoning their minds from youth upwards, you are outrageously interfering with the soldiers' political rights.
I am sorry if I have trespassed. I have not much to add. I submit that the Government are completely in the wrong. They are talking about constitutional and legal measures, but they have behaved in a most unconstitutional manner in trying to bluff the soldier that he has not a right to buy or read Communist literature and to tell the Communists that they have no right to preach to the soldier. We have a complete right, and also a higher moral duty than the members of the present Cabinet, to tell the soldier about the horrors of war, as to how he is made the victim of a vicious economic system, how he is driven by starvation to take up the job of a hired assassin.
This is a question of a battalion of 400 tackling one man. I want to ask you, Sir, whether you have no right to interfere unless there comes a completely disorderly scene in the House?
Certainly I have the right to interfere to prevent a disorderly scene, but if the Chairman had to interfere in all cases of interruption, his task would be considerably aggravated and he would have to turn his attention to various quarters of the House.
May I put it to you, Sir, that besides the question of order, there is the question you raised in reply to the last point of order, the question of taste and sportsmanship.
I do not resent the hon. and gallant Gentleman's interruption. I rather feel thankful to him, and I assure him I do not blame the soldier of to-day. But he did not listen to me. I did not say the soldier of to-day is a hired assassin. I said that you are miseducating him.
I have been pointing out that the soldier of the present day is not at all culpable. He is only a victim. He is driven by starvation, and various other methods, to join the Army. He is then kept away from the truth, his ears and brains are packed with falsehoods about patriotism and defence of the country, and by these processes interested and selfish persons make use of the soldier for selfish and sordid ends. At that juncture it becomes our duty, as politicians, to go to the soldier and to tell him to desist from that job of a hired assassin, as he is practically used by others for their purposes. The Government are entirely in the wrong in interfering with the franchise rights and the political rights of the soldier, and the relationship of the soldier as a voter to the political organisations of this country. The Government are so wrong that I can openly declare that not one honourable or honest citizen outside will respect the decision of the Government, but will flout the Government. The soldier is the friend and the brother of the working classes. The soldier suffers and the soldier's family suffers, just the same as the worker and the worker's family suffers, and whatever the Government may do, whatever outrages the Home Secretary may commit, what- ever exceptional methods the Government may take, and however much they may try to bully the soldier or to frighten the citizen, all honest men will defy an unrighteous Government and will carry on the work of telling the soldier not to fight against the working man.
The reason I have intervened in the Debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"]—is because, unlike hon. Members who have spoken from the opposite side recently, I have served as a soldier, I have worked with the soldiers and I have loved them for 20 years and I know something about them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I want to congratulate the Secretary of State for War on his being able to cut down the Estimates by £2,000,000. But there is one subject on which I cannot agree with him, and that is the fact that he has selected as a means of cutting down the Estimates the pay of the new entrants into the Army. The economy to be affected must go hand in hand with justice but in this case justice is absent. I refer particularly to Army Order 366, which was issued last year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I fear that I hurt the susceptibilities of the party opposite last week, and they have not forgotten it. Under this new Army Order, the pay of officers is to be reduced by two shillings to three shillings in the pound. I do not quarrel with the reduction, but only with the way it has been applied. To demonstrate my point, I would draw attention to the operation of this Order on the parents of cadets who have gone to Sandhurst or Woolwich, when this bombshell was suddenly dropped on them.
The parents entered into a contract with the War Office on behalf of their boys under which they committed them to a career on certain terms, and pay was actually one of the most important. After about a year the War Office, without any warning, break the contract by saying that the pay is to be reduced—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!" Divide!"]—but that further obligation would remain the same. In other words, the War Office say to the young soldier, "You will go to any part of the world we send you, and to any conditions we may send you; if you are married you will be separated from your wife and family, and your pay is to be reduced." [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide:" Divide!"]
That is, in effect, what the War Office say to the young man joining the Army, and it seems to me that the officer is called upon to take every possible risk to his life, his health, his family, and at the end of it all he has got is the information from the War Office that his pay is to be reduced. The young officer is put in a very peculiar position. The War Office commit him to a career for which it is absolutely impossible for him to withdraw, and not only is his pay reduced, but it is subject to the cost of living reductions. I ask the Committee to consider the position of the boys. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"] The Army to-day is a democratic institution, in spite of what bon. Members opposite would have us believe. It is a profession to which any boy may aspire; it is a profession to which the sons of some hon. Members opposite have aspired and in which they have done nobly, but it is a profession to which the two hon. Members who are now making the most noise have never belonged. They are not in a position to take an active part in the Debate. The Government have said that all officers should have an opportunity of living on their pay. The father of a young officer is generally a retired officer who has given his whole life to the service of the State, and he wants his sons to carry on the traditions of the family. He has no money beyond his retired pay, but as he wants to see the old name carried on in the old regiment he stinges himself in order to give his boy an education at Sandhurst or Woolwich. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"], and if the boy has only a mother she will go through purgatory in order to provide sufficient sums for her son to carry on her husband's traditions in the Army. You have to take the ease of the boys themselves. They become, practically, apprentices of the Army. They specialise in Army subjects, and as soon as they enter Woolwich or Sandhurst they cut themselves off from the ordinary educational curriculum. If they do not succeed in entering the Army they are placed in a most invidious position compared with other boys. Is there any justice in that?
I ask the Secretary of State for War to reconsider this question before a final decision is given. We soldiers feel very deeply on the point. We have no trade union to fight for us. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this order may be held to apply only to those cadets who enter Sandhurst or Woolwich after 25th October. Allow the parents full warning, so that they can decide, before they put their boys into Sandhurst, whether or not they can afford this great expense. [Interruption.] I appeal to the sanity and sense of justice of the Government in my request for this concession. I am not going to oppose the Government, nor do I think it would cause the Government any alarm if I did oppose them. On this side of the House we have a feeling of mutual trust and confidence, and we ask the Government to see our point of view in a matter which we feel keenly. [Interruption.]
Yes, the officer class, the young cadets who cost the country £400 or £500 a year each. Those are the people for whom the hon. and gallant Gentleman pours out all his sympathy. Not a word of sympathy has he for the ranker. I suspect that all the concern of hon. Gentlemen opposite with the Army is due to the fact that they or their friends occupy directional positions in the Army. If hon. Members opposite had been invited to join the Army because they were unemployed, and if they had served as privates, under the conditions and with the pay of privates, their enthusiasm for Army life would not be anything like as strong as it is. It is because they have had good pay and good conditions and have been led to believe that they have superior rights in this country that they are so patriotic. They have to put up with none of the hardships, except in time of war, that the ordinary soldier has to put up with. We who have been taunted with a lack of patriotism have shown perhaps more real patriotism than any hon. Member whose interest in the Army is entirely a social one. It is because they have social prestige and privileges which are denied to the ordinary soldier of this country that they are so very proud of their connection with the Army. We will meet hon. Members opposite on equal terms. Let them send their sorts to join the Army as privates in line regiments and do the heavy work that the ordinary soldier has to do; then we will see how much their zeal is for the Army, when they are getting the same pay and have the same limitations.
I am very much obliged to the hon. Member opposite who gave us such a clear and full revelation of the mind of his class when he had the opportunity to speak as long as he liked to the Minister of War on a great many topics, but whose whole concern was for the hardships of those people who cost this country £400 or £500 a year in being prepared for this profession. The hon. Member has been a captain or a colonel. Perhaps he may now be drawing a pension from the Army; I do not know, but he has had £500 or £600 a year. The miner in this country gets less than £100 on the average. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about his officials?"] The miner's officials? They get nothing like what a captain in the Army gets I can assure you. I have spent several years underground in the mines of this country.
I was comparing the pay of the average soldier with the pay of an officer, and the pay of the average working-man with that of the average officer. The average working-man gets about one-fourth or one-fifth of the pay given to a captain in the Army, and one-twentieth of the pay of the higher officers. I claim that the services of the average private soldier are quite as valuable as the services of the officers, and in. the same way that the services of the working-man are quite as necessary and indispensable as the services of the captains of industry. It is because people on the other side of the House claim special privileges for their class that we protest that on this question of service in the Army, Members on the other side should claim for themselves the interest, the patriotism and all the high-sounding terms that they apply to service of this kind, and deny the working people the same interest. Members on the other side who speak to-night in a professional capacity would never show that zeal for the Army that they have had they been forced to go through all the conditions and receive the pay of the private soldier.
I shall not make any apology for addressing the Committee to-night. I have only intervened in this Debate in order to accept what I think, perhaps, the last speaker meant as a friendly challenge from hon. Members opposite to meet him on equal terms. At all events, I am not going to say one word in defence of any Member who sits in any part of the House who has had the very high distinction of holding His Majesty's Commission, because we have hon. Members in every part of the House—not, I am sorry to say the hon. Member who has just sat down—who have served their country and their King faithfully and loyally. I am not going to say one word in defence of them, because I know from an experience of thirty odd years that they are capable of defending themselves. I am going to say a few words about the rank and file—those who are called "other ranks"—and perhaps the Committee will pardon me if I again remind them that I do know something of what I am talking about. I do not know when this Committee has had to listen to such insults to the Army as we have heard from some hon. Members opposite, and I particularly use the word "some." In every case the insults have come from people who had not the pluck to join the Army and fight in the war. They were quite content to sow sedition at home while we were fighting for their worthless skins. [Interruption.] Yes, they were quite content to join trade unions and take trade union officials' jobs at higher pay than Tommy Atkins was getting, in order to dodge the trenches. I want to know what do the constituents of the hon. Member who has just sat down think of him—those men of his own industry, the miners, who fought so gallantly? I say that any man who has not the pluck to fight for his country when his country is in danger—
On a point of Order, is the hon. and gallant Member entitled to suggest another hon. Member is a coward; and if so should not that other hon. Member be entitled to say that he is ready to put his courage to the test at any time?
If the hon. Member has any reason to complain of what is said, I would remind him that we are now in Committee and that even if we were in the House, he would be allowed to speak afterwards by leave of the House.
I make no suggestion that any hon. Member is a coward; I state that the people I have described are cowards. What adds insult to injury is that these people who are now, to use their own phrase, exploiting the private soldier, who stand up in this Committee and talk about the hardships of the private soldier are the very people who have let him down over and over again. There are hon. Members sitting on the other side who not only fought for their country themselves but whose sons fought, and who in losing members of their families, lost their all. I wonder what they think of those people—I cannot call them men—with whom they have to associate and who sit beside them, people whose names stink in the nostrils of every decent thinking Britisher?