Had I been satisfied with the increase in Service pay and allowances as announced to-day by the Prime Minister, I should not be raising this matter now, but I have had an opportunity of examining the White Paper to which we were referred, and also of looking at the information to which the Under-Secretary of State for War referred me in answer to my Question earlier on. As a result I am not satisfied, and I do not think that any reasonable individual in examining these increases in pay and allowances would be satisfied.
I intend to concentrate on the Army and emphasise the unfair financial position in which our private soldiers find themselves as compared with our industrial workers and as compared with soldiers who are in this country from overseas. It will simplify matters if, in the comparisons I am about to make between our soldiers and the soldiers of other countries, I take the minimum rates of pay. From the information I have been able to obtain it seems that the minimum rate of pay of a non-tradesman private in the United States Army who is now in the British Isles works out at about 5s. per day. The minimum rate for the similar kind of private in the Canadian Army is 5s. 2d., and in the Australian Army 6s. 9d. The British equivalent receives 2s. 6d. From then onwards the increases in each case are more or less proportionate. This discrepancy shows that 5s. a day would be a fair minimum for the British non-tradesman private. That is double what he is receiving now.
The British private often finds himself in a humiliating position when he meets soldiers from other countries. I have spoken to several and they have been rather reluctant at having to meet privates from other countries. In the part of the world where I live the ordinary British private will not go into a "pub" if privates from other countries are there. It is not that they do not like them, but if they go in they are not able to hold their own when it comes to a round of drinks. The "blokes" from other countries, who have more money to spend, can go to cinemas, to which the British soldier is not able to go. The British private, too, often finds it more than difficult to get even those things that are essential to him. He cannot even afford to buy a sufficiency of stamps, cleaning material, tooth paste and the like.
Our soldiers watch with amazement and frequently with anger the success of the threat of strike action when pressed by a powerful union, as, for example, what occurred the other day at the Betteshanger Colliery. The soldiers know that if any such measure were adopted by themselves it would be termed mutiny, and the penalty for that can be death. The soldiers hear such propaganda slogans as "equality of sacrifice," that "we are all in the front line." What rubbish that is! How can it be claimed that the reserved war industry worker, or any civilian, is making equal sacrifices with the man in the Fighting Services? This "equality of sacrifice" is certainly not to be found in the amount of pay soldiers receive. Can it be claimed that even during the heaviest attacks of the Luftwaffe on this country the sufferings of the civilian population can be compared with the sufferings of our Service men in Crete, Flanders, Malaya and, no doubt, at this moment in Singapore, and in many other places to come? The Service man has often to carry out a duty which means risk of death. He cannot say to his commanding officer in the middle of a battle, "Please, sir, can I go into the shelter?"
There is another angle which I desire to bring before the Under-Secretary. I will give him this example, not that I hope to bring forth any tears from the Front Bench—I think that might be difficult—but because it is typical of something that is happening all the time, possibly hundreds of times or more a week. It is the example of the infantry private who has a wife and family and lives in an industrial area. He gets a week's leave, and by regulation his commanding officer is not able to advance him more than 30s. for his total commitments for that week. Possibly as a result of what has been announced to-day this will be increased to something like 33s. 6d. When the man gets home he very likely at once notices the pathetic efforts of his wife to "put up a show" for him on her meagre allowance. That evening they possibly decide to go to the "local" in order to meet his old friends who were in industry with him and sometimes his relations. I know of cases when that has occurred where the man did not go twice, because he and his wife felt in an inferior position. He would notice the other women were dressed better than his wife. His wife may be neat, but nevertheless of necessity shabby. They find their old pals only too willing to stand them drinks. Their pals know their financial position. These soldiers do not like that, as they are not in a position to stand their friends a drink in return. In consequence they would rather not go there for the rest of the week's holiday. During that week the soldier could not help noticing that the neighbour's children whose father was working in industry were not only better clothed but were also better fed.
At the end of the week the soldier returns to his unit, and sometimes the week has not been very beneficial to him. It has certainly given him food for thought. He has had to leave his wife to struggle along and he has seen only too well what she has had to undertake during his absence. He is forced to the conclusion: "My country thinks more of her industrial workers than of her soldiers." He realises that he has to be on duty, or available to go on duty, 24 hours in every day. He compares those conditions with the conditions of the industrial workers. When he compares the pay, there is no comparison at all. Do such conditions as that tend towards patriotism? Such a sense of frustration and unfairness reflects seriously upon good morale and discipline, lacking which, a soldier is not properly equipped for war. As we all know, there is a fanatical determination in Russia to subordinate all their labours and wealth to the men who are fighting and dying. "Equality of sacrifice" prevails there; and look at the military result.
Let Parliament express itself. Let us have more of the human touch and understanding and less of the "bank-balance mind." Unless there is some real remedy, unless the fighting man, who has just been thrown a very little bun to keep him quiet, is told in a much more practical way that he is not the forgotten member of the community, very serious things can happen.
I am somewhat surprised to see that the Secretary of State for War is not present. He had ample warning that this matter was to be raised to-day. I should have thought that if there were a subject which really concerned him, it was this question. We have known the Secretary of State in the past when he was Chief Whip as a champion at looking after the interests of those whom he had sponsored.
The fact remains that the common soldiers are looking to the Secretary of State for War to safeguard their interests as well as he did in the past the interests of a much smaller section of the community. The Minister of Labour has done very well indeed for those for whom he is responsible. If he had not obtained reasonable conditions for his workers, I feel confident that there would have been a mighty row in Cabinet circles and if he had not obtained satisfaction I have no doubt that he would have resigned, and he would have told the country why he resigned. That would have created some trouble. In those circumstances where would have been the unity of the present National Government? The Secretary of State for War could do as much for his soldiers. If he is unable to do as well as the Minister of Labour was able to do for his workers, I consider that the Secretary of State for War should resign. If the Under-Secretary is to reply to-day it would be of no use for him to confuse the issue by giving a lot of figures, by quoting precedents or even by pointing out that our soldiers, when they come in contact with soldiers in Russia and China, in turn find themselves in a better financial position than that of the Russians or the Chinese. Obviously the mode of life of the Russians and of the Chinese is completely different from that of ourselves and other democratic countries. Nor will it be any use to fall back on the old excuse that we would like to improve the lot of the private soldier but that nevertheless there is "noshing in the till," that we cannot obtain the necessary sums from the Treasury.
We have noticed that the Treasury, whenever it is necessary from their point of view, always do manage to find the money. Also, we have noticed that the Treasury have found immense sums for the Ministry of Labour. I do not begrudge the fair increases of industrial workers but just look at the increases there have been since the Minister of Labour has occupied his present position, to sometimes from £4 to £10 per week. It is the Treasury that has to find that in the end. Other countries supposed to be poorer than we are, are able to find a sufficiency of money in order that their soldiers should have decent pay. Such excuses as those will not do. If the present Secretary of State for War and his Under-Secretaries and his Financial Secretary are the right men for the job they will get their thinking caps on and they will get their influence to work. When you consider their combined influence it is very great; indeed quite as much as that of the Minister of Labour, if not more. They could soon find means of obtaining for their soldiers a fairer deal, if not to the extent enjoyed by our industrial workers, at any rate approximating to the financial conditions prevalent to soldiers from overseas.
I take this opportunity of readdressing the House, after a very long absence. I would yield to nobody in my desire that our soldiers should get more pay, and I feel that any effort to provide them with more pay should be looked upon with benevolence. But we should try to put this matter into a proper perspective. I have had in the past two years a good deal of experience with British soldiers stationed alongside soldiers from the Dominion of Canada and from the United States, and I have never seen these heart-rending occasions on which the British soldier moves miserably from a cafe because he cannot afford to pay for his round of drinks. In these cases—and certainly in the case of the Canadians—it is at the discretion of the senior officer exactly how much pay the soldier shall receive in his station, and that amount is graded according to what the officer thinks would lead to the least possible friction between his troops and others.
That is exactly what I was doing. In the case of the Canadians, the sum drawn is very little larger than that drawn by the British soldier. The remainder of the Canadian's pay—which is admittedly larger—is banked for him in Canada. There has been no ill-feeling or difficulty created between the Canadian and British soldiers. Now that the United States soldiers are serving with our own, the position is that, although the pay of the United States soldier is larger, it is not vastly larger. The United States soldier gets about one dollar a day, subject to odd deductions. The British soldier, if he has been on active service for any length of time, is drawing quite a substantial sum by the time he has drawn basic pay, proficiency pay and, in some cases, tradesmen's pay.
The vast mass, who are not tradesmen, draw proficiency pay, and those who are tradesmen draw tradesmen's pay, which is greater. I think it is a reflection on the good sense of both nations to imagine that they cannot live together in amity on different rates of pay. I usually find that the United States soldier knows that he has more pay, and, with the hospitality characteristic of his race, he frequently insists on paying the bill when the races are together in a cafe; and, with the sterling good sense of the Yorkshiremen—who compose a large proportion of our Army—our soldiers are perfectly prepared to accept that hospitality. There is no ill-feeling as a result. No difficulty arises, in spite of the fact that the two are put together side by side.
In the part of the country which I know the average labourer employed on munitions is paid at the rate of a British Army captain, and when he does overtime is paid the basic rate of a lieutenant-colonel. When one begins to deal with discrepancies of pay things become increasingly difficult.
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman recognise that in Iceland apparently everything, according to his own showing, is different from what it is in this country?
In dealing with the point with regard to the discrepancy between civilian and military wages, I am pointing out that the Icelandic civilian employees seem to be in precisely the same state as the English civilian employees, and, if it is so, there is an extraordinary similarity between the two countries. Although an increase in the soldier's pay is a thing which should always be viewed with the greatest sympathy, and the soldier is probably not paid enough, I suggest that, if his pay is to be increased, it should at least be increased on the ground that his job is more important than that of the civilian. Personally, I believe that the solider is more important than the munition worker and is more difficult to replace, and takes, on the whole, slightly longer to train, and he has to be physically rather fitter. If that is the case, by all means pay him more, because his job is more important, but do not start increasing his pay because he may be socially embarrassed or because of certain other melancholy heart-rending reasons such as were produced by the hon. and gallant Member opposite. A soldier must get money because he is considered to be worth it, but I believe he would resent the idea if he were given money because he was such a poor creature that he was too miserable to go out and earn it himself.
That is not the real spirit in which to approach the question of Army pay. I am also certain that the soldier will not agree with any idea of a compassionate increase of that kind. What the soldier really wants is to know that, if he survives this war, the country will treat him properly when it is over. He wants to know that as soon as the war is over he will be guaranteed employment in the Army until he is certain that he can find employment elsewhere, and also that his family and dependants will be looked after generously if anything happens to him. These are directions in which reform might be sought and good work done. I resent the suggestion—and I believe that I can speak for a large number of serving soldiers—that the soldier wants charity.
Probably others will wish to take part in this Debate, and therefore I do not propose to speak very long, but I desire to make one or two points. Although it is perhaps difficult to differ from the hon. and gallant Member, I cannot help feeling that he cannot speak for the vast majority of the men now serving in the Armed Forces. Surely common sense is against the tenour of the remarks that he has offered to the House. The facts are simple and plain. The ordinary soldier gets in theory 17s. 6d. a week, but it is rather like the standard Income Tax of 10s. in the pound. Although in theory he gets it, yet in actual fact he receives nothing like it. It would be true to say that he may get paid weekly or fortnightly and that the amount he gets would average out at about 10s. to 12s. 6d. a week. We must remember just what has to be done with that 12s. 6d. It is probably not untrue to say that a young soldier, coming into the Services, may not have as big an appetite as an older man. He may, for instance, prefer a cup of tea or a cup of coffee to a glass of beer. His consumption of cigarettes may be, and most likely is, not the same as that of a man who is older and, therefore, it may be argued that for a young soldier an over-all 17s. 6d. per week, even though he does not draw it, might be adequate.
But I would like to draw the hon. and gallant Gentleman's attention to the fact that we have now coming into the Armed Forces men who ages will range from 35 to 51 and, beyond any doubt, these men have become used to spending more money in the course of a week than the amount which a soldier receives. The War Office should take that fact into account. Many of these middle-aged men will not, in all probability, be going abroad. They will undoubtedly want more than 12s. to 15s. 6d. a week to spend on incidentals. Unless the War Office does take this into account, we shall have a good deal of dissatisfaction and ill-feeling among men who, possibly, have given up businesses which they have worked hard to get together. If they have to come into the Forces we should compensate them so far as we can, realising what wages are being obtained in private industry.
In the last war a vast majority of the men in the Services served overseas and it was difficult, if a man spent a long period in the trenches, for him to spend much money. He saved it while he was in the trenches and had it by him to spend when he was out in support or resting. Nowadays, most of the Armed Forces of the Crown are domiciled in this country; they move among civilians, see them spending their money and themselves feel that they ought to have a certain amount a week but have not got it. This leads to dissatisfaction among these men. Therefore, I ask the War Office to reconsider this matter and see whether something can be done to increase the pay of the older men, both single and married, who are now coming into the Forces.
I want to be identified with this plea to the War Office to-day. Yesterday a woman called to see me to explain the circumstances in which her little boy had been drowned in a pool near a local pithead. I asked her why she was obliged to go out and leave her little boy of four years of age, and she said "I have a baby of about seven months and this boy, and since my husband was called to the Army, I could not possibly make ends meet." Therefore, she went out three days a week to work as a bus conductor in order to supplement her means. She was very gravely concerned about the health of her two children. Her income was 39s. a week—recently raised to something like £2 1s. a week—and the rent for her house was 15s. a week. The baby was in rather a delicate state of health, and she told me that it took some 12s. a week to maintain the baby. Then, being a young married woman, there were certain obligations in connection with the household which she had to meet. Altogether, she said, when she had met the overheads and the requirements of her family, she was at her wits' end to know what to do. I am sure there is hardly a Member in the House who could not repeat a similar story, and anyone like myself, who believes very fundamentally in certain rights, would say that if a man is asked to defend his country, whatever is required to maintain that man, his wife and dependants should be a first charge on the country.
At the moment, we are witnessing the continuation of the old conception of the Army as a mercenary army. We ought to have got far away from that conception. It is true that the soldiers have been given slight increases in income, and we have had promises from the Prime Minister to-day, but even those promises, in terms of money, having regard to the ruling cost of living, are entirely insignificant. One can scarcely touch this subject without one's mind running into a thousand avenues of thought—how the money market is rigged, how prices are rigged, how money means nothing in certain directions, and how, if you want money, you have only to turn on the printing press. But one does not want to pursue those lines of thought. This House ought to declare what in its opinion is a standard of comfort. For years we have talked about the cost of living—not that it has meant very much—and a vast amount of data has been collected by various Ministries, and by this time the Government ought to be able to ascertain what is a standard of comfort for a family, and see that when a man is taken away from his family—or the breadwinner, in the case of a son—that standard of comfort is maintained in that household, more especially if the person is called to the battlefield to risk death to defend an empire or a country. I think it is despicable, to say the least, that we should at this date be haggling about soldiers' requirements. Surely, this country is wealthy enough to see that those who are standing between us and the enemy, who may destroy the whole institutions of the country, have some standard of comfort for their households.
The position is sickening to-day, when people come to one with various complaints about lack of income, and fathers and sons taken away; it is dreadful, more especially when married women have to go away to the factories and leave little children without a mother's care or any guidance, merely to supplement their means because the soldier's pay is insufficient. These things should be gone into. I could not allow this Debate to pass without identifying myself with this appeal, although in different circumstances, and with greater amplitude in your Ruling, Sir, I might have been tempted to correlate this matter with other factors; but I appeal to the War Office to try to strike what I would call, without being too definitive, a standard of comfort and to see that no soldier, his wife, children or dependants are allowed to suffer any economic hardship as the result of these men taking risks that other men would rather eschew and live in comfort.
As I understand it, the hon. and gallant Member who introduced this Debate based his claim very largely on the rates paid to Dominion troops, and, I believe, to American troops. It is perfectly clear that the rates paid to these troops are far in excess of those paid to our own. The position has been aggravated by American troops coming over here, because they apparently receive 30 dollars per month, or almost 5s. per day, whereas our men in the lowest ranks receive only 2s. 6d. per day. That comparison is, of course, very invidious, even taking into account the increase in the cost of living in the United States and in the Dominions. It cannot be satisfactory that our men should be serving alongside men from the Dominions and the United States whose pay is certainly double, and, in the case of Australia, approximately three times as much.
However, I consider that there is an even more urgent claim in respect of wives and children. Surely, even with the additions made to-day, it cannot be claimed that 8s. 6d. for the first child, 6s. 6d. for the second child and 5s. for the third and subsequent children is sufficient. These figures cannot be justified by anyone. Certainly they cannot be justified by the Government who pay 10s. 6d. in the case of an evacuee child; even in that case the parent still continues to provide the child with clothing. Therefore, I press the Government to reconsider the question of allowances in respect of children. Then there is the case of a wife. I recognise that the present figure of 25s., including an allotment of 7s., may be appropriate in the case of a young wife who has been recently married. In some cases it is said, and in a few instances it may be true, that a young wife has married in order to receive the allowance, but, as I say, although it may be right for a wife without children and household responsibilities to receive 25s., it is not sufficient for a woman with household responsibilities and children, and certainly it is not sufficient in the case of a wife who is unable to go out to work to earn additional money because of physical disability or illness. How can she hope to pay rent and provide for herself on 25s. per week? I know that the Government will say with some truth that the War Service Grants Committees have helped the situation. I welcome the Prime Minister's announcement, and I recognise that the Government have assumed very heavy additional responsibilities, but I consider that adequate pay and allowances should be the first charge on our finances. Unless our fighting men are fairly and reasonably paid and have contentment of mind, it is impossible for them to show that enthusiasm, zeal and initiative which we all know they possess.
Therefore I hope the Government will try to devise a basic system whereby the man and woman in the Services shall receive an adequate basic rate, and that his or her dependant also receive adequate and sufficient allowances and, having in mind the rations supplied by the Army and the other facilities, all of which can be counted in terms of money, they should on the whole bear some approximate relation to what is received by Dominion troops and by workers engaged in industry. Troops are not all accommodated in satisfactory billets. Many are in isolated posts some distance from towns, many have no facilities for amusement, and it is impossible to believe that the amounts at present paid are adequate. Also the position between a man with dependants and a single man is a difficult one. Up to to-day the married man without dependants received 17s. 6d., less some small amount of stoppages, to spend for himself, whereas a man with dependants who had to make an allotment was left with only 10s. 6d., less stoppages.
If one tots up the amount that might reasonably and fairly be expected to be spent on food—I mention food particularly because in the great majority of instances soldiers have to go to the canteen and spend 8d. to 10d. on food, as the last meal is frequently at 5 o'clock and, if there is supper, it is soup, which is not satisfactory and is partaken of by a very few—if one takes into account the provision of food, a packet of cigarettes a day and the necessity of going to the town once or twice a week for recreation, newspapers, stamps and so on, there is not really anything left. In fact, there are men who to my knowledge have to receive subventions from their families. There are wives and mothers sending money every week to sons or husbands in the Army. One does not wish to exaggerate the gravity of the situation and it has been improved a little, grudgingly and always under pressure. If the Government would look at the picture as a whole and fix an adequate basic amount for pay and allowances which would bear some fair and reasonable approximation to what is earned in civil life and what is received by Dominion and American troops, we might happily leave the question altogether, feeling that the Services were being properly paid, and, whilst one knows that there is a war on and that expenses are great, the fair and reasonable thing had been done and that if all that is desired had not been done the Government had made a fair and reasonable effort to meet the situation. At present that is not altogether the case. To-day's announcement was a great improvement; nevertheless, attention must still be paid to the question of children's allowances, which are quite indefensible, even with today's addition, and there should be some further allowance for wives who have household responsibilities. If that were done and there were an adequate basic rate the Government would have done all that could be reasonably expected of them and the men would have no excuse not to put forward the efforts of which we know they are capable. I hope that the Government will take these matters into early and serious consideration.
I want to add a footnote to what has been said, because I fancy that the Under-Secretary will not be able to give anything like a reasoned answer to the Debate. I imagine that he will fall back on the Prime Minister's statement to-day and the White Paper. I want, however, to express a point of view evoked by the hon. and gallant Member for Smethwick (Major Wise)—whom we are glad to see hack, if only for a short time. He has some experience of the Americans. I wonder whether he has had any experience of the Canadians. The psychological effect on the Canadians of having a certain rate of pay—of which in truth they draw only one-half while here—is that generally speaking they let it go wherever they are. They must get the money from somewhere. They draw only the equivalent of the British soldier, but if I am correctly informed the half of their pay which is credited to them in Canada can be assigned to somebody there. If that is so, it is possible that money and many other things can come back to this country to the Canadian soldier.
The hon. Member is right about other things, but I do not think it is possible for money to be transmitted. There is a rigid control over that. It should not be possible to send money to this country, but I do not know whether there are loopholes.
In any case, the standard of living among the Canadian troops in this country is considerably higher than that among the British. Wherever the money comes from it comes, and the effect on the British soldier, serving cheek by jowl with Canadian soldiers who are able to buy more, whether of intoxicating liquors or other things, must be serious. I do not criticise the improvements which the Government are making under pressure from the House and other sources, for they are moving in the right direction. What I criticise is the lack of any Government policy on wages, whether Army or any other wages. There is the chaotic effect of civil servants and local government servants going into the Army. The Government pay civil servants a subvention by making up their Army pay to the Civil Service pay. They also impress on local government authorities the desirability of local authorities making up to the civilian rate of pay the pay of men going into the Army. That class of person is a considerable number, and it is gradually extending. The more men are called up from the Civil Service and local authorities the more we have in the Services a privileged class of soldier. I suggest that it is bad for the morale of the troops, of their dependants and of the whole country that there should be these two types of soldiers serving side by side. One is the soldier who draws a subsidy from the taxpayers or the local ratepayers by having his pay made up to his civilian rate of pay, and the other is the man who is called up from industry, and is drawing only the pay given him in the Army, Navy or Air Force.
It is not right that we should have those two classes of soldier. It stands to reason that the former class are better able to support their dependants than are the latter class. If we divide this country into two classes like that, we are laying up for ourselves a considerable store of trouble. This is not a matter entirely within the province of the Minister, although, generally, the War Office speaks for the three Services in this matter. This is really a matter of Government policy. The Government must apply their minds to it at a very early date and deal with it, not from the narrow aspect taken to-day, of giving 1s. here or 6d. there. That will not be a solution. Hon. Members are impressed with the fact that that is the method which is not winning us the war. It is the piecemeal method of tackling all our problems, whether of production, strategy or payment allowances, on one front only. It cannot be done. The whole of the battlefield must be surveyed and a policy must be laid down which can be applied in every part of that battlefield. Perhaps the War Office can take more prominent action in this matter. It must know the effect which is being produced on the troops. The War Office has reports from its welfare officers, and other people, of the considerable discontent that is rife in the Army. It is futile for the hon. and gallant Member for Smethwick to say that the discontent is not there. He is a major, and possibly he does not see the matter from the same angle as the privates serving under his command. His pay and allowances are quite different. When he wants certain things he knows he can get them in the officers' mess. What is left for the private to do when black-out time comes? He has nothing else to do—and sheer boredom drives him into it—but to go into the public house or the canteen.
I do not want to speak too much from personal experience, but I can assure the House that I have a very intimate knowledge of this matter. I have a young boy in the Army at the present moment who is drawing 17s. 6d. a week. It is certainly more than he got from me as pocket-money when he was at home. I know from him that there is only one outlet for him in the evenings and I know all that it costs him. When I was speaking to him the other day I asked him whether there were no regimental dances, and whether he ever went to them. He said, "No, they are not much." I asked, "Surely the entrance cannot be excessive." I found it was only a matter of 6d. but it was not the entrance to the dances which mattered but what one spent when there. I hope I am not putting the case of the unmarried soldier too prominently before the House, but it is clear that even for that class, without dependants, it is very difficult to manage upon 17s. 6d. a week. Perhaps the pay might amount to a guinea, when they go on to the proficiency pay.
I wish to say no more than I have said on the matter. The whole subject should be debated on the wider principle, and the whole of our wages policy should be very seriously considered by the Government. Only recently some of us were discussing with the Secretary of State how war gratuities would be expended at the end of the war. The Secretary of State told us, as indeed the Prime Minister said to-day, that there is no war gratuity up to the moment. That was a matter to be settled by the Government of the day. Those who served in the last war know that we had a war gratuity. Although the Services may be glad of this deferred pay of 6d. a day they want to know what is to be their future and the future of their families, of they survive this war. Up to the moment, the Government have given no adequate answer to that question.
This Debate has ranged a good deal wider than I was given to understand when I was told what particular subject was to be raised. The subject of which I was given notice was the comparative rates of pay of American and Dominion troops and our troops here in the United Kingdom. Since then we have gone on to cover the whole question of the adequacy and justice of Army rates from the point of view of other services and industrial wages in this country, and the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) also raised the need of a comprehensive wages policy on the part of the Government. He and other Members who have spoken will understand that I am not in a position to answer all the points which have been raised. Even if I were the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the whole Cabinet rolled into one I should need a good deal of instruction before I entered without notice into all the points which have been raised in this Debate.
I should, however, like to say before I come to the special point on which I was given notice, that anything which affects the adequacy or justice of the rates of pay of the Army and the armed services generally is one of the most profound importance which I am sure the whole House approaches with a sense of how important it is. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw just now said that the morale of the Army was being affected by the rates of pay. I repudiate that absolutely. There is nothing wrong with the morale of the Army at the present time, and it is really mischievous to suggest that its morale may suffer in consequence of questions of pay and allowances. All these questions raised now, the gratuity to be paid after the war, and conditions of life at the end of the war, depend on the morale of the Army. It is what that Army does which will govern the possibilities at the end of the war, and anything which suggests that the morale of the Army is affected in any way at the present time, is, I think, treason to the cause in which we are serving. There is nothing which cannot be achieved by the Services with the morale of ours.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would give me an opportunity to explain that remark of mine. Has he never heard of the expression "browning-off," and does he mean to suggest that at the present time there is not a considerable amount of that in the Army on the questions which have been raised?
It is a great tradition of the Army to grouse and carry on. There are always matters on which soldiers are not satisfied. They would not be soldiers if they were. What I resent, I repeat, is any suggestion that the fighting quality of the Army, and that is what is meant by morale—
—and what the enemy will take to be meant, is affected by such matters as allowances and rates of pay. We do get reports of the morale of the Army and find them absolutely satisfactory. While there are many things which the Service Ministers in particular would like to do for the Services we are not going to suggest for one moment that the quality of these Forces and their devotion to the cause, and their discipline, will be affected by what was said or done in this House on questions of pay. Our Army in this war, as in previous wars, is, I am convinced, going to do its duty splendidly whatever may be the rates of pay by comparison with those of civilians during the war. I would like to make one other observation. It is the practice of some Members of this House to refer to Ministers as Shylocks on questions of this kind. The hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid) said that they had "a bank-balance mind." If we were dealing with our own money the accusation might be deserved, but we are dealing with the money of the country that is controlled by this House, Our hesitations do not arise from any tendency to be Shylocks, but from a grave consideration of what would be the effect on the future of the country of taking the steps so light-heartedly advocated by Members who have no responsibility in this matter.
With those two observations, I hope that hon. Members who have raised wider points will allow me to refer them to the Debate on the statement made by the Prime Minister which will take place next week. It will then be possible to cover the whole subject. I can only say that, so far as the Army is concerned, we listen sympathetically to every representation that is made, and we are most anxious, so far as conditions allow, to do what is best for the comfort and reward of our troops. But I would remind the House, and particularly the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, that what we can do for the Army, and for everybody else, depends on the way we fight this war, and that nothing likely to raise dissatisfaction in the Army without due cause should be said in this House or elsewhere. For that reason I do not very much welcome the discussion of Dominion and American rates raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone this afternoon. I do not believe that he has rendered a public service by raising it, but, since he has raised it, I must give the answer which any Government must give when comparisons are drawn between the conditions of their troops and those of other countries.
The hon. and gallant Member is apparently trying to show that the action he took was deliberate. I regret it all the more because it was deliberate. It was very undesirable, and the fact that it was deliberate makes it no less undesirable.
The question is whether this Parliament should be guided in regard to rates of pay given to its Services by the provision which is made by other legislatures elsewhere. Are we to be guided by what other Parliaments do? That is a question which the hon. and gallant Gentleman raised. To that I must give the only answer which any Government can give, not only in this country but in any other country—a round and absolute negative. Rates of pay must be governed by the conditions of the country in which they are paid, and the conditions in other countries cannot be brought into account in any way whatever if justice is to be done. Obviously, the conditions and resources of the country to which the service belongs must govern everything that is done for that service. The payment of the service depends on many conditions. It depends on the purchasing power of the money, which varies greatly between one country and another, upon the standards of living, which vary between one country and another, on the normal pay of civilian workers, and on the limits of the national revenue. Let me take the standard of living. My hon. and gallant Friend was pleased to quote the conditions of the American troops and the troops of the Dominions. But in the British Army there are troops of many races. We have to keep in view all the standards of living of different parts of the British Empire, and to work with a very great number of different rates of pay. Does he tell me that all these rates of pay are to be equalised throughout the Empire? If he does not say that, how is he to justify it being done for some parts and not for the rest? The only way in which justice can be done is payment by relation to the conditions and resources of the country to which the particular soldiers belong. I do not believe that there can be any quarrel about this.
Let me come to the question of the other conditions. It is right, and I would not quarrel for a moment with the argument, that the rate of pay for our Forces should be related as far as possible to the rates of pay and of wages of every other man and woman in this country. That is a legitimate consideration and one which Parliaments and Governments must weigh all the time. But if you are to equalise rates between one country and another, you cannot limit it only to pay in the Services. You must deal with the pay of Civil Defence services and also with industrial wages. If you equalise the position with regard to the Services, are you going to equalise it in respect of everything else? If so, you will find yourself inexorably faced by the final consideration and that is, the limits of the National Revenue. Some countries are much more wealthy than others. We are now by no means the wealthiest country in the world. Any responsible man who has the stewardship of our finances at the present time must consider the limits of our national resources. The suggestions which have been made involve many hundred millions of pounds a year.
Nor is this a war-time question only. Once these rates are raised to a certain point they must affect the rates in time of peace. Everybody will recognise that that must be the case. If you unduly raise, under pressure in war, the whole of the Service rates of these wages, it will affect your economic structure in time of peace. It will affect the amount which you can afford for the social services by comparison with defence, and for defence by comparison with other necessary things. All these points must be considered, and they in turn will affect your costs of production and your power of competition in world markets when the time comes to renew trade after the war. I think it will be admitted on these grounds that it is impossible to fix rates of pay for the Services in any country except in relation to the conditions prevailing in that country. If you go beyond that and say that our conditions must be equalised with those of other countries, then the same principle must be applied to those countries which are not as well off as we are. You cannot limit the scope of a general principle of that kind; and the effect would inevitably be to undermine those very things for which our soldiers are fighting at the present time, the security and the stability of the Empire in the years to come. Therefore, I say on behalf the Government, that I reject and repudiate all comparisons of this kind and do not propose to take any of the detailed points which have been raised.
There are indeed other compelling reasons for refusing to take up these comparisons in detail. Real comparisons, as our officers have told us who have gone into this—and we have given many hours to it—are well-night impossible, since the value of various forms of payment varies greatly according to the conditions in which they are made. It would also be quite impossible to discuss these comparisons in detail without trenching on matters which are not the business of this Parliament, but the business of other Parliaments. Are you to discuss whether such and such a rate of pay is reasonable? That must raise questions under the jurisdiction of other Parliaments—
I do not see why I should say that everything done by other Parliaments is reasonable. No man in his senses would ever make such an assumption. But it is not for this Parliament to discuss whether other Parliaments are reasonable, and that would really became inevitable if we launched on the detailed comparisons proposed. Discussions of that kind would be bound to spread dissatisfaction, not only here but in the Empire, and to spread it without due cause. I am indeed sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has raised this question at all. He will do no service to the country by raising it, nor to the Army, nor to the cause for which we are fighting. On behalf of the Government I must tell him flatly that we cannot possibly discuss the comparisons which he has wished to raise.
The hon. Gentleman has successfully drawn a red herring across the whole of this important question. I would like to ask him this: Is he himself satisfied with the minimum amount that a British private gets to-day?
I said perfectly clearly that I would not discuss the general question which will be raised in Parliament next week. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me to come here to-day in order to hear him raise comparisons between our rates of pay and Dominion and American rates of pay. I have answered him and that is all I am prepared to deal with to-day.
Before the date of the White Paper will my hon. Friend consult his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and the Treasury as to the condition of the married subaltern with two or three schoolchildren? After the concessions which the Government has given us he seems, from my experience in dealing with these matters, to have been so far left out of it. This question is bound to be raised and I would ask him to consult his right hon. Friend so that the Government may, perhaps, have some reassuring answer to give us when the Debate takes place.
Would the hon. Gentleman amplify the eloquent gestures he made when the hon. and gallant Member for Smethwick (Major Wise) stated what he believed to be the fundamentals of the question which has been discussed in to-day's Debate? The Under-Secretary seemed to approve the point, which was that all the soldier was concerned about was the position of his wife and family now and their position in the event of his becoming a casualty. The hon. Gentleman seemed hardly to approve of that suggestion. I think that here is a point where a real and justifiable comparison can be made, and must be made. It is the difference between the allowances to a serving soldier's wife and family while he is a serving soldier and the very much reduced position to which these dependants are brought when, unfortunately, that soldier becomes a casualty and they become subject to pensions conditions and not the conditions of the allowances with which we are dealing more particularly at the moment. I think I am in Order in raising this point, although it is slightly apart from the general tenour of the Debate, but it seemed to claim the hon. and gallant Gentleman's approval, and I wonder whether he would say a word on that particular aspect.
Like every Service Minister, I am anxious that our serving men should have a sense of absolute security in regard to their families, whether they survive or whether they fall. That is the desire of every Service Minister. I cannot say how far the Government are prepared to go in that direction. The House knows that the Government have been going very carefully into these problems lately, and that a White Paper has been published. There is to be a full Debate and I must leave a full reply, on behalf of the Government, to the Ministers who speak in that Debate.
I said that the hon. and gallant Member had rendered a disservice to the country, the Army, and the cause, because the comparison he has made is one that cannot be effectively applied to rates of pay, and one that is bound to cause dissatisfaction. I do not want to repeat what I said on that subject, but I feel it very deeply. Everybody knows how delicate these questions are, which affect not only Dominion troops and British troops, but the troops of many races throughout the Empire.
Surely, it is a very strange doctrine that if there are grievances in the Armed Forces, or people think there are such grievances, they are rendering a disservice to the Armed Forces, the country and the cause by raising those grievances in the House. Is that what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said?
I think the hon. Member was not in the House when the discussion took place. The point I made was that the comparison between the rates paid in one country and the rates paid in another is not a sound guide of what any country should pay, and that it is a disservice to raise that particular comparison, since it may arouse feeling which a full knowledge of the facts would not justify.
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his view as to whether it is a sound guide or not, and other people are entitled to their views, but to say that a Member who makes a comparison, which hundreds of thousands of people outside are making, is rendering a disservice, is surely itself to render a disservice to every man engaged in the Army.