On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not be for the convenience of the House if, in considering the matter with which we are about to deal, the House were put in possession of the Government's proposals before the Debate began? I understand that the Government have made up their mind as to what they propose to do. Would not we be able to debate the matter much more intelligently if we knew beforehand what those proposals are? I gather that the Lord Privy Seal is to speak later in the Debate, and it would be rather unreal for us to discuss the matter without having knowledge of the Government's proposals. Cannot they be given to us now?
In that event, may I put this point to the Leader of the House? This matter has been before the House for some months; indeed, it has been before the House ever since the beginning of the war. The Government have had ample time to make up their mind as to their intentions on this issue. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman make a statement at the beginning of the Debate which will enable hon. Members to consider the proposals and adjudicate upon them? Would that not be a much better procedure?
I have taken steps to try to ascertain the most convenient procedure for the House. I find that about half the hon. Members would like an early statement, and the other half would like it to be made at the end of the Debate. I have decided that it would be the most convenient method if, at a fairly early time in the Debate, I were to make a statement on behalf of the Government. There would then be plenty of time, after I had made the statement, for hon. Members to make any comments or to debate it, but those who wished to put forward their cases, the main protagonists of the different sections, would have an opportunity first of all of putting forward the full case they wished to put before the Government.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that representations were made by the Labour party, a party which must be recognised by the right hon. Gentleman whatever may be his political views at the moment, to the effect that there should be an opportunity afforded the Government, if that is necessary, of stating the case, so that we might know what they intend to do?
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that in arranging these matters I do not try to introduce my political views, whatever they may be. There are also in the House, besides the Labour party, other parties, and in these matters one has to try to gather what is the general wish of the House as a whole, and very often in different sections different views are taken. One has to try to accommodate oneself as best one can to the generality of the views.
No. I think the arrangement I have suggested, which does not give either section what it would like to have, but gives an opportunity of debate after the Government's statement, should meet the wishes of the House.
Mr. De la Bère:
May I ask the Leader of the House how it was that at a Press meeting last night certain announcements regarding the Government's intentions were made—for instance, that the Women's Services should receive two-thirds of the increased pay of the Forces? Why is the House treated with this contempt? It is quite wrong. It has happened over and over again.
The hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) has raised a matter of very great importance. It is unprecedented for a statement of Govern- ment policy to be made to an outside body when the House itself is to consider the matter. Is it correct that last night the Government informed the Press of its intentions concerning soldiers' allowances? If that is so, then, in my submission, it is a most humiliating position for the House to be in. We are entitled and privileged to have the first announcement, but now the Press has it first, and we are to wait for an hour or two and then be informed of the Government's policy. I seriously suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the dignity of the House is deeply involved in this matter.
It has long been the practice in all Governments, when some statement is to be made on behalf of the Government, to give the Press in confidence a background to that in order to assist it with its publicity. It has been done by every Government and by every Ministry.
I am perfectly prepared to tell the House when the time comes. The only question is when it is convenient for the House to have the statement, and as there are two views as to when it is convenient, I hope the arrangement I have suggested will meet with approval.
I fully appreciate the serious responsibility that rests upon my shoulders to-day in opening this Debate. It is my privilege to place before the House a case which cannot be put by the people mostly con- cerned The Army through its long traditions has been taught not to agitate. May I say, first of all, how intensely grateful I am to all those hon. Members who have given me the benefit of their advice and assistance in what has become a somewhat protracted campaign to persuade the Government to consider the pay of His Majesty's Forces? We have all looked forward with hope and anticipation to the speech to-day of the Leader of the House, but I for one am sorry that he has come with a brief which has obviously been prepared for several days, and that the concessions, if there are to be any concessions, have already been cut and dried and will be made irrespective of the arguments put forward during the Debate. In my opinion, it is rather a shabby and discourteous way of treating the House. I feel that the Government should have listened to the Debate and then have produced their recommendations, instead of coming with them already in the bag. I also feel that it would have been more suitable had the discussion taken place on the Motion which stood in my name and in the names of other hon. Members, so that we could, if we disapproved of the Government's recommendations, have gone into the Division Lobby if we thought fit.
I understand that one of the reasons why we were not allowed to have this Debate before the Recess was because the Government were producing a White Paper on the whole question of Service pay and allowances. The White Paper has now been printed, and it is in the possession of hon. Members. When I read it through, I realised what instructions must have been given by those responsible for its production. I realised that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have sent for his most astute lawyer-accountants and told them, "I want you to produce a White Paper which will prove to everyone that the serving man is as well paid as, or, if you can do so, better paid than, his brother in industry." If this is the result of the long-awaited White Paper, I for one am sorry that the House did not insist on having a Debate before the Recess. The White Paper has, as far as I can understand, produced in certain quarters a feeling of resentment; in other quarters it has produced hollow laughter. Before I turn to consideration of the White Paper in detail, let me say, that I am not one of those who wish to see the Services unduly pampered. I am not one of those who think that the discipline of the Services should be in any way relaxed, but rather that it should once again be brought up to the standard of the pre-Belisha regime. Much harm has been done to the Army by the "yellow" Press and the various publications, such as the one entitled "What is wrong with the Army?" Even in Questions in this House frequent references have been made to Colonel Blimps who are supposed to be the higher commanders of the Army, and to spit and polish and blancoing and the time spent on it, all of which has contributed in no small way to damaging the pride of the Army, and the majority of which is absolutely unadulterated nonsense. The Army is a splendid Army.
The present Secretary of State for War has, if I may put it this way, been responsible for the general managership of the Army for a number of years, and has now become the managing-director. He may have done his best to counteract these damaging statements, but I for one regret that when the last Secretary of State for War lost his job, the opportunity was not taken to introduce new blood at the head, because I believe that by putting the right man in the job we should have gone a long way towards re-establishing the Army's confidence in itself to win battles. I do not know how far the present Secretary of State for War has gone in fighting the Treasury over the question of pay and allowances, but certainly up to date he has had little success, and there is no doubt at all that had it not been for the strong representations in this House we should not be having this Debate to-day.
The production of the White Paper, written, I imagine, by the Treasury in consultation with some ex-Staff College students at the War Office, is, in my opinion, one of the greatest psychological errors which the Government have made. I will not attempt to-day to dispute the facts or figures which are contained in the White Paper, but I should like to make one or two observations upon what I may term the misleading statements contained therein. First of all, let us take the case of the unmarried man whose pay, the White Paper rightly states, is 17s. 6d. a week, which after six months, provided the man receives proficiency pay, rises to 21s. The figure given in the White Paper for board and lodging, which, as the White Paper rightly states, is provided free, is 35s. a week. Therefore, the White Paper asserts that the private soldier is in receipt of the same income as the man in industry who is earning £3 a week, which is subject to tax. On the face of it that may be true, but the fact remains that whatever figure you may suppose to be the value of the soldier's board and lodging, he still receives the net figure of 14s. a week to spend upon himself, and to provide himself with little luxuries like beer, cigarettes, etc., to say nothing of recreations in the form, perhaps, of a cinema or some other amusement. Neither does it take into consideration a very material point, which every married man and woman in this House should support, namely, the expense of finding and courting a wife. It would be little consolation to a private soldier were it arranged that he should be billeted at, say, the Dorchester Hotel in London and then to say that he receives £15 17s. 6d., because, however well he is fed and however well he is clothed and boarded, he still receives the same net spending sum to put in his pocket, which, personally I do not think is enough.
The White Paper then takes the case of a private soldier with no dependants, who, it is asserted, receives after three years' service the gross emolument of 78s. a week subject to tax. After three long weary years of service—and three years is a comparatively long time in war—the net spending power of the soldier is 3s. 6d. a day. He has had to work hard for this, and he has probably gone through many varied experiences before he is in the position to draw this amount. With the pay of N.C.O.'s, warrant officers and certain classes of specialist tradesmen, I do not quarrel. Many N.C.O.'s and warrant officers who by their civilian qualifications are skilled in a trade, are perhaps in some cases better off in the Army than they were in civilian life.
I come next to the married soldier. The White Paper tells us that the remuneration of the married soldier without children is equivalent to £3 4s. a week, liable to tax, and I am not going to dispute that figure. Let us consider for a moment what in fact the married soldier really receives for himself and his wife. He gets board, food and clothes, and taking into consideration the 3s. 6d. compulsory allotment to his wife, he again gets a net figure of 14s. a week to spend upon himself. A married soldier receives an allowance of 21s. 6d. for his wife, which, with the 33. 6d. out of his own pay, makes a total of 25s., and upon that, unless, as the White Paper states, she finds employment on her own account, she must exist. She has to maintain perhaps a small house or rooms—rent, heat and light—and feed and clothe herself. The White Paper adds that probably she will "normally undertake paid work herself and thus supplement the family income." If a civilian worker goes to a factory to get a job, is he asked what his wife earns, and is her salary taken into consideration in the fixation of his wages? That sentence in the White Paper has caused considerable resentment. In addition to this, surely the wife of a soldier should be encouraged to fulfil the foremost function of a wife and produce children. While she is doing her duty in this respect probably she is unable to accept employment. All that time she has to exist on the meagre sum of 25s. a week, and her husband, who gets only 14s. a week, is not in much of a position to give additional help.
Then the White Paper refers to the married man with two children. It states-that his remuneration is £3 17s. a week. The figures that I have show that the money which the married man gets to spend upon himself is still 14s. a week, and his wife, who gets 3s. 6d. a week from the husband's pay, gets a total of 40s. a week to keep herself and the home and the two children, and she is probably unable to accept additional employment. As far as I can see, the White Paper has gravely misrepresented the position, and I hope some substantial increase will be made in the pay and allowances of the private soldier, who must always remain, the backbone of the British Army.
The White Paper states that a subaltern officer receives the equivalent of a gross income, subject to tax, of £462 a year and that the total sum left in the officer's hands after payment of tax is £322. This again is not wholly correct. A second lieutenant serving with a field force formation is billeted and fed and provided with the part-time use of a servant. His gross pay is 11s. a day, out of which he pays approximately 1s. 4d. tax, leaving a net amount of 9s. 8d. That, on the face of it, may seem quite a reasonable figure, but again let us consider his expenses. The average messing subscription is about 2s. a day, and, in addition, he certainly requires reasonable quantities of beer, cigarettes, tobacco, writing paper, lemonade, stamps, a hair cut once a fortnight, contribution towards his servant, underclothes, extra socks, handkerchiefs, replacement of uniform, cleaning materials, boots and shoes repaired, etc. Like the private soldier, from time to time he likes to go to a cinema. Again like the private soldier, he has the expense of finding and courting a wife. Even if he takes his girl friend out for a modest cup of tea, it is an expense which he really and truly cannot afford.
A married subaltern is worse off still. The White Paper says he has the equivalent of a gross income of £483 or, if he has two children, £518, and if he is living away from his home these figures become £578 and £611 respectively. These figures are laughable. In actual fact a married second lieutenant with no children gets 10s. 8d. net for himself after paying tax and depending on the gamble, which he has to make, on the expectation of progeny or the prospect of promotion, he gets either 4s. or 6s. a week for his wife, so that their total spending power is either 14s. 8d. or 16s. 8d. per day. This is a meagre pittance for a man who has proved himself worthy and fit to hold the King's commission. The married subaltern has the same expenses as the unmarried, and all the time at the back of his mind there must be the worry that he may not be able to meet his liabilities. I wonder how many junior officers have been court-martialled because of financial entanglements. Then one must remember that a junior officer starts his soldiering life with a debit balance of at least £5, probably considerably more, because the £35 uniform allowance is quite inadequate. Even the cheapest outfitters, who provide ready-made clothes, cannot produce a complete kit for that amount. I hope there is to be an increase in the uniform allowance.
Lastly, I want to touch upon a certain anomaly which I think should be put right in the question of officers' rank. An N.C.O. is secure in his rank after serving in that rank for a certain fixed period, and, unless he is grossly inefficient or commits a misdemeanour, he cannot be reduced from that rank. An officer, on the other hand, is very rarely certain of his position. He may be a captain for a year, or considerably longer, and if he goes sick or changes from one job to another he may have to revert to subaltern rank. It is a little disconcerting, and his relations always think he has been disgraced. Only if he achieves the rank of major and holds it for three months is he certain and safe for the duration of the war to remain a captain. This is a very grievous source of irritation among officers, and I hope the Secretary of State will agree with me that an officer who holds a certain rank for, say, six months, and has proved himself efficient in that rank, should be considered worthy of retaining it until the end of the war unless he is reduced for disciplinary reasons or because he is inefficient.
There is much that is technical and confused in the Army pay arrangements. The whole thing wants simplifying. A private soldier or officer should not have to be an accountant to find out what is due to him. It wants to be put on a simple basis so that he may know what he is entitled to.
I would like to pay a tribute to those who have worked so hard in getting this Debate—to Members on all sides of the House and to the hon. Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger), who has encouraged the party opposite to take a great interest in these matters.
Nevertheless, he gave that encouragement. I would like to repeat a proverb to the Government—"Who cannot pay let him pray," and I can only advise the Government, if the concessions which they announce to-day are not good enough, to institute prolonged and extensive Cabinet prayers.
At the outset of my remarks I ought to make it clear that it has not been due to my inspiration that the Labour Party have taken part in the representations to the Government to allow this Debate to take place. If some of us who felt just as strongly as my hon. and gallant Friend does had placed a Motion on the Order Paper we might have had a different order of Debate. A great duty devolves on Parliament to-day in debating this matter, because Parliament is the only institution that can speak unhindered for the Services. The Services have not the ordinary negotiating machinery which has been well established over many years and has worked very well in industry. Service lips are sealed by King's Regulations. There can be no collective appeal by soldiers, sailors, or airmen even to ask for their just grievances to be considered. Only Parliament can do that. It is for Parliament to-day to hear what the Government have to say, but to let the Government know in no uncertain terms that we mean to get adequate compensation for those millions of young men and women who have either enlisted voluntarily or have been called up by Act of Parliament.
What is our case to-day? It is that by any comparison or by any test or standard we like to apply, the Services are grievously underpaid. They have a duty to perform like every other citizen in this country engaged in the war and they do it out of no consideration for the money rewards that are given to them, even if they be as much as is stated in the White Paper. They have done their duty on all battlefields; they will continue to do it, and whatever we say to-day will not affect their morale. If, however, the Government do not pay attention to what is being talked about in every officers' mess and in every canteen, they will feel a sense of resentment. They will feel those elected Members whom many of them have sent to represent them in this House are merely passing by on the other side of the road and that, in spite of all the noble words that we utter about the deeds of these Services, we are not so much concerned with their affairs as we are with the civilian population, or even Civil Defence which is now mobilised on a semi-military basis, and who are able to put forward their demands through their trade unions. I will base my case on two tests alone. The first test is what is being paid to our own people who are in reserved occupations, not necessarily because they desire it but because they are reserved; and the second test is what is being paid to those comrades in arms who are fighting our battles and who happen to come from the Dominions, to say nothing about the United States of America.
Let us consider the industrial side. There are published in the Ministry of Labour "Gazette" certain figures taken at a census on 1st January last, which show that for 6,000,000 workers the average earnings for both unskilled and skilled was £5 2s. 0d. per week. Can any hon. Member, Service or otherwise, say that any ordinary member of the Fighting Forces is paid on terms anywhere near that figure? Let us consider the Dominion Forces. The Dominions have their troubles as we have, but ought it to be said that the Mother Country should pay her troops less than the Dominions are paying? There is very little difference in the cost of living between the Dominions and this country. Yet such is the case and we cannot get it out of the minds of men who are serving next door to those who use the same shops, the same canteens, the same cinemas and sometimes the same public-houses that if two of them go into one place to buy a certain article the Dominions soldier, sailor or airman is at a considerable advantage over his British comrade. The basic rate of pay of the British soldier, as stated in the White Paper, is 2s. 6d. per day, but I am prepared to say that it is 3s., because after six months' service the soldier normally gets proficiency pay. The Australian soldier has just had an increase of pay and now gets 6s. 6d. If he goes overseas he gets an extra 6d. to compensate to some extent for the difference between the rates of exchange. The Canadian soldiers gets 5s. 6d., the New Zealand soldier 7s. 6d., and—dare I mention it?—the United States soldier, of whom there are many serving in this country, gets 10s. a day. It is small wonder that hon. Members receive letters similar to this—
I have been asked impersonally by my officers to treat the Yanks as good pals and give them the advantage of my knowledge of the country, etc., and to make them feel at home.
These instructions or suggestions are being distributed broadcast among our own troops. This letter goes on to say—
Like many others, I am very keen to do so, as I have experienced being away from home for eight years, but as we are in different spheres of life financially this makes our intentions hopeless to fulfil unless we want to resort to sponging, and generally speaking Thomas Atkins is not a sponger.
When we come to consider the soldier's economic life if he is married or has
dependants, a worse case presents itself to our gaze. The British soldier's wife gets 21s. 6d. a week. The Australian soldier's wife gets 31s. 6d., quite apart from any allotment the man has to make or does make to his wife. The Canadian soldier's wife gets 34s. The New Zealand soldier's wife gets 22s. 9d., but with this interesting variation, that if she happens to be a mother of children—evidently New Zealand appreciates mothers of children—her allowance, apart from allowances for the children, is increased from 22s. 9d. to 31s. 6d. When we come to children's allowances, much the same picture presents itself. The British soldier gets 8s. 6d. for the first child, 6s. 6d. for the next and 5s. each for the others. The Australian soldier gets 21s. for the first child, 14s. for the next child and 10s. 6d. each for other children. The Canadian soldier gets 11s. 6d. each for the first two children, and then the amount is reduced to 8s. 6d. for the third and 6s. for the fourth child. The New Zealand soldier gets 10s. 6d. each for the first two children.
With those few simple figures I hope that I have convinced every hon. Member with a sense of justice that both in the matter of pay, marriage allowance and children's allowances the British soldier, sailor or airman is at a grievous disadvantage compared with his comrades from the Dominions. Never let us forget that many Dominion citizens willingly and voluntarily paid their passage money to come over here and join the Imperial Forces at the beginning of the war, and what have they got in return? Less in pay and allowances than they would have received had they remained at home to join the Dominion Forces. Before I come to the next part of my speech perhaps I ought to deal with what the White Paper says about the pay and allowances of the ordinary soldier. I am not prepared to argue whether the value of issues in kind to the soldier is 35s. or less a week. I would only point out that on the Government's own computation the soldier without dependants is relieved of an expenditure of 35s. a week which he would have had to pay in civil life, and yet the Government think that 21s. 6d. is quite sufficient for his wife.
To come to the case of officers, with which the hon. and gallant Member has already dealt, I must say that when I read this White Paper it sounded to me, as regards commissioned officers, like a Grimm fairy tale. It is true that the unmarried subaltern's pay is £201 a year, but the White Paper goes on to say that the unmarried subaltern gets cash allowances of £147 a year. Some subalterns do, but hardly any subaltern in the field army gets a cash allowance of £147 a year if he is unmarried. In order to qualify for lodging, fuel and light and servant's allowance the officer has to be living out of barracks. He must certainly not be living in a tent in the desert, as many of them are now. He can only get his 2s. a day servant's allowance, according to the Pay Warrant, as far as I can understand it, if he is maintaining a civilian servant at home. No officer, subaltern or otherwise, in the British Army is maintaining a civilian servant if he is in military quarters. He may be entitled to field allowance, but even then the Government do their best to see that he does not get it, because frequently they put a poker and shovel and a coal scuttle in his room, and in those circumstances he is not eligible for field allowance. Therefore, the burden of my remarks in this respect is that this figure of £147 is, in the majority of cases, fictitious. If the Government have based their case on those figures it is a totally inadequate case and in many respects quite incorrect.
These figures have gone out to the comparatively uninstructed minds of the general public, even the Press itself, who have spread broadcast what the Government have said—that a subaltern officer can get anything from £483 to £600 a year in the Army. I can assure my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that officers simply scorn that statement. Let my right hon. Friend go among officers as I have, only this week-end. I was addressing a large meeting of them, and when I happened to mention this statement there were roars of laughter from the whole meeting. Officers know that it is not true. They resent untrue statements being made about their pay in order to deny them justice. Let me quote one letter to show what the Army does think about these things. I know from certain statements which my right hon. Friend has made, and even from certain opinions which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has held and probably still holds, that the Government believe
they would not have been forced to deal with this question if there had not been a Press agitation. Let my right hon. Friends disabuse their minds on that point. Soldiers, sailors and airmen are not voluble except, perhaps, in their own canteens and messes, and then they say a lot of things which it would be good for Parliament to hear, though much of it would be quite unprintable. They have been discussing this matter for a long time. Why? For this reason, which has been given to me in a letter from a noncommissioned officer in the Army. This non-commisioned officer, judging by his rank, is not too badly paid, but he says:
My own brother, married but with no children, employed as a machine tool and gauge maker is being paid over £10 a week. His wife, a storekeeper in an aircraft factory, is earning over £3 a week. Between them they are receiving over double my pay and allowances, yet I, having done my duty to the State in producing three healthy children, only receive one-half of their income. The value placed on my children by the State is the sum of 6s. 8d. a week for each child.
—he is averaging out the rate he gets for his three children. These people do not object to the industrial worker getting good rates of pay, because they hope that when they go back to their old jobs, which are guaranteed them by an Act of Parliament, for what it may be worth, they also will be getting the same rates of pay. We can form our own opinions about that. His letter goes on:
A second illustration is my brother-in-law. He is employed as a hot-water fitter in one of the Government Departments, being employed every third week on night duty. Being employed on maintenance, provided nothing goes wrong with the system his tour of duty consists of sleeping, for which he is paid the sum of £11 a week, made up by overtime. This from his own lips. And then people wonder why at times the Services appear discontented.
I reiterate that this does not affect their morale. The moment that my right hon. Friend or the War Cabinet tell these men to go over the top they will do it as their fathers did before them. It is incumbent upon us to see that when they do it, and even before they do, that their dependants should be properly provided for. If there is to be equality of sacrifice it should be spread over the whole community and not limited to one class.
When I come to officers' pay I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that a considerable increase is necessary in the rates of pay of junior officers. I would include captains as well. A captain gets 16s. 6d. a day. There is a considerable difference between a captain's rate of pay and the rate of pay of a major. When he becomes a field officer of the lowest rank he gets 28s. 6d. a day. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman ought to step up the rates of pay of subalterns and captains and if he wants a suggestion it is that there should be an increase of at least 5s. a day.
I should like to deal with many other points. There are many so-called anomalies which can be removed only by some action, although I do not know quite what the action should be. Perhaps the War Office should set up a committee to examine the question of the Pay Warrant and Allowance Regulations, which are at the present time in the most chaotic state. They were meant for peace-time positions, but millions of our people are now at war. You cannot apply to war-time the same conditions as you applied when the Army numbered about 250,000 men all told. The Government might well consider some of these anomalies and I will briefly mention a few of them.
Take first the 3s. 6d. which is given to a wife who happens to be living in London. If she is evacuated from London to the country, as many mothers and wives have been, she immediately loses her 3s. 6d. although she finds that the cost of living in the country is just as dear as in London. Take the "spit and polish" question. I have no objection to plenty of "spit and polish" except that one must never forget that the whole training of the Army at the present time is to camouflage the soldier and not to make him into a bright and shining beacon for the enemy to see, as is often done. In coastal defence regions nearest to the enemy, guns and their mountings are often highly burnished. I cannot see the reason for all that "spit and polish." That does not mean to say that I do not want the soldier to be smart. Any good soldier makes himself smart without any orders being necessary from his commanding officer, but I still think that some of them are having excessive doses of it. Let the Army pay for the cleaning material that the soldier has to use. Why should a soldier, just because a different commanding officer comes to take control of his unit, have to change the colour of his blanco from, say, yellow to some sort of green, and scrap the stocks of blanco that he has? I would make this suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman or perhaps to the Secretary of State for War. This is a small issue compared with the big issues which are being raised to-day, nevertheless it is a grievous one. This matter all has to come out of the soldier's net pay which he receives every Friday; why not make this an issue in kind? Let the Army provide its own cleaning materials. Let it be remembered that it is sometimes difficult for the soldier to get cleaning materials. The Government talk about the soldier getting a minimum of 17s. 6d. or 21s., but I guarantee that very few soldiers draw those amounts at the pay table each week. There is always a deduction for something. The Government talk about other amenities that are provided, such as welfare and recreation; what do they amount to in hard cash? They are the results of a good deal of voluntary work, and, the Government are not entitled to take credit for it—at least not credit in cash, however they may facilitate the efforts of those private citizens who are doing this work. I would like to quote in support of my case the authority — much more eminent than mine—of a member of the Government, the Secretary of State for India. Before the war he formed a committee with certain other Members of this House, among them eminent military or ex-military officers, to try to stimulate recruiting. Many of us took part in those efforts to prepare for the inevitable war which we saw was coming. Never mind the reasons why we foresaw it. We had our own opinions about it, and we thought we ought to be prepared.
A report was published by the committee on the subject of Army pay and conditions. The members of the committee included the Secretary of State for India, the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Colonel Cazalet) and other distinguished officers, including an ex-Chief of the Imperial General Staff. This is what the committee said about officers' pay:
The factors militating against entry of sufficient officers are largely economic. From the time a young officer joins the Army until, should he be so successful, he has reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel at about 40 years of age, he is, unless he remains unmarried or has private means, engaged in a constant, grinding struggle to make ends meet.
I ask the House to consider this question from another angle. The report was issued in 1937. Can you expect a first-class corps of officers at second-class rates of pay? You cannot do it. I understand that the Government are now considering proposals for our post-war Armed Forces which they think will be necessary; you will not be able to attract the right sort of officer, to say nothing of the right sort of N.C.O., unless you give them a chance of doing as well in the Army or other Forces as they can do in civil life. It may be that, because of that short-sighted policy in the past, we are now faced with a shortage of first-class officers in certain ranks and that we are paying for it dearly. Many of our men will pay dearly for it with their blood, because the Government have consistently for years forced down the rates of pay in the Armed Forces of the Crown.
I make this appeal to the House. My hon. and gallant Friend who spoke before me has stated his objections quite fearlessly, although he is a member of a political party differing from my own. We are now supposed to be united. The Government want unity, in spite of the Leader of the House chiding us for the absence of criticism when the Government made a certain statement. Nevertheless, I can assure him and the Government that if they want continued unity they will have to attend to questions like these, from whichever quarter of the House they may be raised. When the Minister speaks for the Government to-day and makes his proposals we shall view them on their merits and not because they are put forward by a particular member of the Government for whom we may perhaps have a little warmer regard than for certain other members of the Government. Whatever we say to-day, we cannot escape the inevitable conclusion, that unless the Government give us an indication that they are prepared to listen to the representations made to them by this House, and to listen seriously to them, not only will deep resentment be caused in the Services, but it will spread to this House, with results that I, for one, hesitate to forecast.
Having read the Government's White Paper extremely carefully, I must admit that I have failed to be impressed by what is set out in it, and I hope that the Govern- ment, in the decision which they have already made, will not fail to pay attention to what hon. Members may say to-day with regard to the raising of pay and allowances in the Services, but will incorporate such suggestions as may seem to be worth while in the new policy, because if they fail to do this it will only mean that we shall continue and continue to press for equality of payment as between those in the Services and those in civilian occupations.
If I may first of all pick the White Paper to pieces, I think it is based on a fundamentally wrong idea. In the White Paper—which I, personally, call a yellow paper; it is yellow, because it has tried to convince this House and the country that something which is fundamentally wrong is in point of fact right—the Government have tried to evade an issue, but most of all what they have endeavoured to do is to prove to the serving man and woman and to the country in general that the rates of pay of men and women in the Armed Forces are in fact equal to what is being received by civilian wage-earners. That is entirely untrue. It is like trying to make something which is black look white, and we shall see at a later stage in this Debate what the Government's proposals are, and what they are prepared to do. If, however, they are basing their opinions on what they have set out in the White Paper, we shall not really take a step forward at all—purely a step sideways.
Some people, myself included, believe that the civilian wage-earner is earning too much money. Many people believe that. However, as my hon. Friend opposite has just said, the members of His Majesty's Forces are not jealous. They hope that when they come back from this strife and struggle they may find themselves jobs at such wages. But even if we brought down the rates of pay of people who are working in the mines and factories all over the country to, the present rates of pay of His Majesty's Forces, that would not in any way solve this problem. What we must insist upon, and what hon. Members of this House are determined upon, is that men and women serving in His Majesty's Forces should be paid a proper, decent rate, irrespective of any comparison with what is being paid to civilian wage-earners.
We cannot measure the service to the State, the sacrifices and the privations of the men and women in the Forces in terms of gold. That would be doing them a grave injustice. What we must make certain of is that, in a war of this magnitude and of this horror and uncertainty, those men and women are free from financial embarrassments and from anxiety about their dependants. This at least we can and must do for our fighting men. That is the fundamental point. If in the course of what I have to say I seem to forget the women who are serving in the Forces, please do not misinterpret my ideas. I want the women to be helped as well, but I feel that the men are in a worse position. I am quite convinced that the Exchequer will only be able to grant a certain sum of money and I am anxious that whatever it is, however great or small, it shall be devoted equitably to the people, the classes and the ranks in the Forces, who are most unfairly treated at the present moment, and I believe that generally speaking the men are worse off than the women.
The system of pay and allowances at present in the Armed Forces is nothing more or less than a scandal. We are all ashamed of it, including the Government. It is something which we should condemn in our enemies, yet we condone it in our very midst. We who are fighting against wrong and fighting to redress wickedness are permitting something which is fundamentally rotten to exist in our own ranks. The sooner it is cleared up the better for the prosecution of the war. I suppose that the way in which this matter has been tackled is that the Exchequer will have looked into it very carefully and will have allocated as much money as possible for the increase of payments in the Forces, and I hope that they have left a little over for the correction of certain anomalies which I hope to mention; they can produce the money; it is no use saying that the Exchequer cannot do it; they always manage to allocate extra money if it is really necessary.
Generally speaking, I believe that the people who are worst off are the other ranks and ratings, with the possible exception of the senior N.C.O.s and some specialised tradesmen, and also the junior officers up to about the rank of major, in particular the married junior officers. A man on becoming an officer has to face things which the ordinary general public do not always seem to realise. He has to pay a mess bill. His standard of living is set for him by his mess or his ward-room. Suddenly he has to pay a laundry bill, the upkeep of his clothing and so on. Also it should be possible for that man, if he is married, to afford his wife the sort of life that the change in his position may suggest to him. He is very badly off, very badly off indeed. In all three Services I have noticed cases of men who have refused promotion, because they do not feel that the extra responsibility is compensated by the extra pay or because they do not feel it possible financially to accept the extra responsibility. This is a scandalous state of affairs.
Let us not forget that in this war the tasks of civilian workers and service workers are by no means divorced. In many cases they are working side by side, the civilian with his trade union pay, and the Service man with his Service pay. I have seen Service men making runways on aerodromes side by side with men being paid at trade union wages far above their own. In many civilian maintenance units the civilian workers are receiving more money than the officers in command of the units, and in all cases more than the junior officers. This does not make for smooth running. In a particular R.A.F. maintenance unit of which I know, there is a corporal in charge of civilian mechanics who are earning three or four times as much as that corporal. Yet one expects things to run smoothly. Another case is that of a particular young man whom I happen to know. He is 20 years old and has two brothers, one in the Royal Navy and one in the Array. This young man of 20 has been directed from office work to concrete work on an aerodrome. He is receiving £7 a week and is working alongside men earning Service pay. Does this sort of thing make for harmony and initiative? How should we feel if we were the brothers of this particular man? There is something definitely wrong.
The White Paper first sought to enumerate the advantages which the Service man has over the civilian. I do not think that that is true. Let us pause for a minute just to consider the advantages which the civilian has over the Service man; they are not always sufficiently realised. In many cases he is living in his own home and has his home comforts.
One does not realise what they are worth until one leaves home and finds out what it is like to have to live away from one's own environment, family and friends. The civilian is able to choose to a much larger extent the occupation of his leisure hours. I know that the comforts provided for the troops are now numerous, and very excellent. They can never compensate for the freedom of choice of action in one's own surroundings and among one's friends—to go to one's club, for instance, or an entertainment of one's own choosing. Compare that with men and women on desolate "Ack-ack" gun sites, the man in the minesweeper, or the man on an isolated aerodrome.
I come now to the most potent point of the argument which I wish to put before the House. If the Government suggest that the serving man is being paid on a reasonable basis, why do they, in point of fact, make up the pay of personnel who have been in their employ, such as Civil servants, to the rate of pay they were getting in civilian life? Either they admit that a man who has been in their employ and who goes into the Services is not getting sufficient pay, or they are grossly overpaying those men at the expense of the country in general. You will find the same practice in local government in general. I am not against this. I am all for a man earning as much money as he is able. But take the case of a man previously employed in his own business or in a small business which cannot afford to make up his pay. He is still having to contribute, in his taxes and local rates to making up the pay of men employed by the local authority or the Government. It seems to me to break down completely the Government's case that in the past the Service man has been adequately paid.
There may be the answer given that the War Service Grant covers this point. It does not. The War Service Grant was a step sideways rather than forward. It savours too much of the means test. I do not like seeing these men and women having their private lives pried into. Forms have to be filled in and returns completed in order to get a little grant for the Service man's dependants or for himself. It savours too much of charity. If these men were paid a good honest wage over the table rather than by so much tipping under the table as goes on at present, there would be a much better state of affairs. War Service Grants tend to act as a break on efficiency. You get the case of a woman who does not take up part-time work because she knows that whatever she is earning in her, war work will be taken from her by deduction from her War Service Grant. You cannot blame her for sitting at home and trying to get what she can for nothing.
Another point is illustrated by this letter, which is typical of letters which Members of Parliament are getting, anonymous and otherwise. It is the case of a man in the Army who is contributing 7s. a week towards the maintenance of his mother, a widow aged 73 years, an age at which the woman probably finds it impossible to do any work. She has had five sons, and all of them have gone into the Services. The Government were good enough to grant 6s. a week towards this particular mother's allowance, but the man goes in for a trade test and passes, and his pay goes up by roughly 9d. a day. Out of that 9d., 3d. per day is stopped in order to make up some of the 6s. which the Government are paying to this poor old lady of 73, and this can go on ad infinitum. If he passes more trade tests and therefore gets extra pay, he can go on until the whole 6s. is being paid by himself and not by a War Service Grant at all. I think that is a lamentable state of affairs which we should do everything in our power to try and eradicate here and now.
There are one or two other points I wish to make. Circumstances frequently arise of over-payment to a dependant of a soldier, sailor or airman, or to the man himself by the vast branches that are necessary to keep up this complicated system of payment which goes on. I have seen in two cases lately a man suddenly told that he is to have £15 stopped out of his pay because of over-payment which has not been his fault. Where that sort of things occurs I suggest that the Government should accept the responsibility for over-payment so that the man is not suddenly faced with the fact that something like £15 is to be stopped by deductions from his pay week by week until the sum is paid off. Another thing which I think is a hard luck case is where the man, having served 21 years in the Army and being entitled to a pension, is now told he has to serve 22 years before he can get his pension. I do not know what the reason for that is, but no doubt there is a good one. The basis of payment of these pensions is so much per year of service. Supposing it is £1 a year, he is entitled every year, after he qualifies for it, to £21. Now that an extra year has been stipulated the man does not receive £22. This is hitting many people. They feel that it is an injustice. It would not cost much to have that put right and I take this opportunity of laying the matter before the House.
I come now to a point which I consider to be one of the greatest scandals of all—the case of a man who is posted missing. When he has been posted missing for something like 13 weeks he is then posted "Missing, presumed dead." During the first period his wife, or it may be his mother, gets the full pay of this man. When he is posted "Missing, presumed dead" the payment goes down and the dependant in her hour of suspense and agony is deprived both of the full pay of that man and the right to a pension in respect of the dead man. That seems to me to be very unjust and ungrateful. I think the Government should take the responsibility that a man is alive and continue full payment until such moment as they can prove he is dead, and then give the widow a proper pension. One of the biggest differences between the Forces and civilians to-day is that the civilian has his trade union. He can demand things from his union. He does so, and very rightly.
Never mind, he demands them. The Services have no means of demanding things except through us. We are, we must be, their trustees. We must demand that this matter be looked into. We must demand a more equitable scale of payment and allowances in such a way as to aid those who are at present most unjustly treated. The fighting man must be free from injustice regarding his dependants. He should be free from financial embarrassment if he should decide to marry and have a family. He must be free to earn more money by working hard if he so wishes. He must be free from money inferiority in relation to civilian friends and Allied troops. He must be free from this lingering feeling that by filling in forms and making returns Government charity may come to his aid. He must be free to go into battle knowing that he is a trusted and well paid servant of the State. I am quite aware that all this means extra cost.
I am also aware that it may mean an increase in taxation, but this is something which I believe the whole country is prepared to pay for. I know that there have been considerable difficulties in making the men in the factories, who have never up to now had to pay Income Tax realise that it is worth while working harder, because they think that they are just giving money to the Government. But if they know that by working harder they would be providing money to help their brothers and sisters in the Forces, I believe they would feel that it was worth while. At this moment, when we are planning more concerted action and the opening up of new arenas of warfare, let us not fail to consider human problems as well. If ever there was a duty which this House should discharge, it is that of increasing the rates of these men and women, many of whom have had to give up all they had hoped for, all they had, and have become the means of guaranteeing our future even at the cost of their own.
The House is always generous in giving indulgence to Members who are speaking for the first time; I would ask for that indulgence now. I would like to begin by saying how much I agree with the opening remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne (Major Taylor). I am profoundly disappointed that the Government did not wait until after this Debate before formulating proposals, which I understand are to be brought forward, and I hope that the remarks of hon. Members to-day will be given full weight The pay of the private soldier does not allow him to spend much on beer, cigarettes, or the entertainment of his best girl every week; but however much one may sympathise with him on this point, is that a ground for raising his pay?
It is difficult for the soldier to appreciate the value of the goods and services which he receives, but their value is considerable, and it has been, I think, fairly set out in the White Paper. The single soldier, with no dependants, although his position is not comparable to that of people in industry, ought to be able to manage. But what about the married soldier? Private soldiers and junior officers with dependants and with no other means than their pay are often in a miserable position. One objection which I have heard put forward is the difficulty of increasing their pay without making a corresponding increase all round. But is an increase in pay necessary? Would not a better method be by allowances and grants? An all-round increase in allowances would be just as undesirable, from a national point of view, as an increase in pay. But a machine exists which could be more fully and more elastically used than it is at present. It ought to be possible to relieve every case of hardship due to war service.
The scheme of War Service Grants was devised to assist members of the Armed Forces of the Crown who, in consequence of war service, are unable to meet commitments which they were formerly able to meet. I am not sure that this scheme is fully appreciated in the Forces. Is there not an idea in the minds of some officers that War Service Grants savour too much of charity? Professor John Hilton, to whom large numbers of serving men and their relatives write every week about their troubles and problems, tells me that the subject about which he receives more questions than any other is that of dependants' allowances, and he says that many people who write to him know little or nothing about the War Service Grants arrangements. It is most important that in every unit the scheme for War Service Grants should be properly explained to every man and woman individually—not in a crowd, on the day they join, when they probably are incapable of taking it in—and if there is any case of hardship the person concerned ought to be encouraged and helped to apply for a grant. Applications are often not made until the hardship has been continuing for some time, although these grants are just as much the due of members of the Forces as are their pay and allowances. It cannot be too widely known that there is no question of charity. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions will consult with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War to ensure that all members of the Forces are made fully aware of the facilities available to them under this scheme, because I am not sure that these facilities are properly appreciated or that the scheme is being administered in a sufficiently elastic and human manner.
It may be that a good proportion of the decisions made are fair and just, but there are thousands of appeals which go through the ordinary channels, and thousands of cases are brought to the Soldiers and Sailors' Families Association for assistance and advice. I know of a recent case where after months of negotiation, a soldier's wife was awarded a grant of 35s. a week. At the time the grant was made her conditions were precisely the same as when she made her first application. There is a big difference between a 35s. a week grant and a nil determination, and surely her need should have been obvious from the first. From experience on public assistance committees and on appeals tribunals under the Unemployment Assistance Board, I know the difficulty of investigating some applications, but cases of loss of income owing to War service ought not to be difficult to prove. There is always the danger when working to a scale that decisions may be mechanical and unimaginative. To prevent this, it is necessary to give an instruction that a wide discretion should be exercised and the Regulations interpreted more generously. While I realise that it cannot be reasonable to expect in every case that awards should be made retrospective further than the date of the application, surely when an appeal is granted the resulting benefit should always be made retrospective to the date of the original appeal—which is not the case at present—provided that the conditions of the case were the same.
The Command Paper which appeared last October makes provision for supplementing from War Service Grants the income of a serving man's family when it falls below 16s. a week per unit—children being reckoned as half a unit each—after reasonable commitments have been met. It is calculated that this is a standard of living below which the family should not be allowed to fall during the man's service. When this became known last autumn, many wives of serving men thought their troubles were at an end. Surely this meant that the soldier's wife was guaranteed that minimum standard from the date of his call up. But in point of fact the grant is payable only from the time of the application. That was a bitter disappointment to Service wives.
The obvious intention of Parliament is clearly not being carried out. There is another complaint about the scheme for War Service Grants. A wife or mother may be refused a grant because she is earning. She may be advised by her doctor, on health grounds, to give up work, but she cannot apply for a grant until she has ceased to earn. She dare not give up work until she is sure of a grant.
It is a cleft stick. Rather than face the uncertainty of being left without enough to live on, some women are struggling on at work to the detriment of their health. This should not be. There is also the point that the War Service Grant should always be decided fairly when a soldier's wife obtains work. Supposing, for the sake of example, she were receiving 30s. per week grant and then she got a job at the same money, she would be docked the whole of her 30s. grant. She might be worse off through going to work owing to the fact that she had to spend money on fares and meals away from home and so forth. It is most important when any adjustment is made in War Service Grants that allowance should be made for factors such as these.
There is another question which concerns pay and allowances, and that is the question of a court order. Marriage allowance is only issuable to a wife who is living in normal relations with her husband. If a wife is separated or estranged from her husband, or he refuses to live with her, the allowance is withdrawn. A recent Army Council instruction has somewhat modified the position by insisting that any allegations made by a husband against his wife should be fully investigated and proved before he is allowed to stop his allotment and withdraw the marriage allowance. But even if the wife is innocent and the court decides on a maintenance order it cannot exceed three-quarters of the man's pay. By some curious process of reasoning the marriage allowance is not considered to be part of the man's emolument and consequently it is not taken into account. As a result, the amount of the order, based solely on the man's pay, may be utterly inadequate to support his wife. I know the answer. It is the Minister's job to protect the soldier from designing women. Some wives may be viragos against whom the combined strength of the British Army would not protect them, but, on the other hand, some men are rogues and the law as it stands falls very hardly upon the wife who is an innocent party. A wife who has been wronged ought to be able to obtain a maintenance order based not solely on the man's pay, but on the marriage allowance as well.
Hon. Members have already spoken of many other reasonable complaints of the Army. The uniform allowance for officers on joining is insufficient. It is very hard for an officer with slender means to have to wait a month before he receives his pay and allowances. The tropical kit allowance is inadequate. It is not right that uniforms should be liable to Purchase Tax. Then there is the complaint of the officer's wife whose husband is advised to draw 61 days' pay in advance before proceeding overseas. If he has no private means his wife may be very hard hit, and so she should be speedily and sympathetically helped with the War Service Grant. I hope, with these few examples, I have helped to make out a case for the revision of the allowances to soldiers and their dependants and for a reconsideration of the working of the War Service Grants scheme. At the same time I would most urgently urge the Government to fix a ceiling for industrial wages. Profits are controlled and prices are controlled. The country is spending millions of pounds every year in subsidies to keep down the cost of foodstuffs. Private incomes are taxed up to the hilt. It is right that this should be, but the time has come—and it is long overdue—when wages should be controlled also. When this is done I believe that the country will heave a sigh of relief, and certainly serving men and women will feel that the Government have done the fair thing.
As a very junior Member of this House I would like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Tavistock (Captain Studholme) on his first contribution to our Debates. As one whose personal recollection of the ordeal of speaking here for the first time is a fresh and recent one, I would assure him that my congratulation on his fluency and ease of expression is a very heartfelt one. Stripped of its trappings and shorn of all sentiment, as it must be if the Services are to derive any benefit from this Debate, the subject we are discussing to-day is simply and solely the wages of the most important war industry in the land. I use the term "war industry" advisedly, because that is what the Armed Forces are, and I believe that if there is one lesson on the home front which we should have learned in the past three years of war, after the expenditure of £10,000,000,000 on its prosecution, with the knowledge that in the years to come we must continue the expenditure of at least £12,500,000 a day, it is that we can no longer go on considering the wages of our war workers, whether they are in the Forces or in other industries, separately and piecemeal. We need a national wages policy. I believe that hon. Members in this House to-day can perform a most useful service in showing the Government the strength of their opinion of the injustice prevailing in the Armed Forces, but I do not believe that the solution can be made a correct one unless all war workers in this country are regarded as a single entity. Wages in the particular war industry which we are discussing to-day are of the greatest importance to this House for three main reasons. In the first instance, though it is not the only war industry in which incompetence could lose us battles, it certainly is the only war industry which, if correctly administered, can win us wars. In the second instance, it is by far the largest employer of labour in the country, and, with its enormous ramifications, directly and indirectly affects the lives and happiness of every British citizen. And lastly—and this is the particular responsibility of this House—it is a State run industry, a nationalised industry. Any faults and mistakes in it cannot be blamed upon private enterprise or private management. They are not the concern and responsibility of private ownership. They are the concern of the whole country and the responsibility solely of this House.
What are the considerations which we should bear in mind when considering Service pay? It is obvious, as the hon. and gallant Member for Kettering (Major Profumo) pointed out earlier, that we cannot hope to compensate the men and women in the Armed Forces even if it were desirable, which I do not think it is, for risking their lives or their limbs or for the discomforts which they must undergo in the prosecution of their duties. I do not even think that it is possible to compensate them for the loss of their individual freedom and liberty, which is absolutely necessary in any disciplined body, but what I do think is desirable and absolutely necessary, if we are to have efficient armed Service, is that the men and women in it should not be suffering financial anxieties. The men fighting abroad or training for a second front in this country, and the women too, cannot concentrate solely on their duty if they are wondering about their dependants and families at home. If, as I hope it will be proved in this House to-day, as it was earlier on in the year, the men and women of the Forces have cause for concern about their families and dependants, I hope the Government in their statement later to-day will attempt to deal with this problem in a more accommodating spirit than they have done so far.
I had not intended to discuss the White Paper in detail. Indeed, when I first went through it a fortnight ago my first thought was to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, in order to compensate the Treasury for the waste of money in producing it, he should arrange for the publication of an edition to be sent to the United States of America, where I have no doubt it would gain the 1942 award of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Any member of the Forces will tell you that due to the complications of Service pay he knows very little about that pay. No one in the Forces knows what his own pay is, let alone the pay of others, and I thought I should see in this White Paper a long exposé of the present situation coupled with some suggestions for its amelioration. But what have we got? We have a document of just over five pages long entitled "Pay and Allowances of the Armed Forces," with no reference at all to the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force whose contribution to the war is, I understand, considerable. Then there are 5¼ pages of generalisations about cases, which seem remarkably improbable, dealing with soldiers in the Army. I think it is necessary for this House to make it quite plain to the Services that this White Paper in no way represents the feelings of hon. Members. The only reason why I wish to raise this subject of the White Paper is that I have been astounded at the number of soldiers who believe that it represents our opinions, and are consequently cynical and disillusioned about it.
The next point I would like to raise has been partly touched on by hon. Members who spoke before me. It has been pointed out that the Treasury recognises, in spite of this White Paper, that conditions in the Forces are not so generous as they pretend and that they have subsidised members of public departments who have gone into the Forces. But what has not been pointed out is that this is extended. We are constantly told of the admirable way in which industrial concerns and companies make up the pay of their employees who have been called up. Who pays? The company or the country? The answer is that the Treasury has arranged for the taxpayers to pay, inasmuch as wages made up by industry are allowed to be taken out of E.P.T. Therefore, straight away, in a war which we are constantly being told is being waged in a spirit of equality, we have a new privileged class set up in the Army. I think it odd that the Treasury should produce a White Paper of this sort, extolling present conditions in the Services, yet are prepared to subsidise at the expense of the taxpayer so many men and women who are called up.
I would, in ending, like to draw particular attention to two cases in which the question of pay falls most hardly on our fellow citizens in the Forces. The first, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Major Taylor) has pointed out, is the married private soldier, and the second is the subaltern officer. From time to time in Debates on the conduct of the war we are treated to a diatribe from some hon. Member saying that the reason why our Forces have suffered reverses is due to an old-school-tie complex in the Army and because officers are selected solely because of their accents and their families. I believe that that conception is at least a decade out of date, but what is true—and one sees it when sitting on regimental boards to consider other ranks for promotion to commissioned rank—is that a great many people, like the young married sergeant, find that to accept a commission involves them in financial liability which makes them relatively much worse off. In view of the importance of our subaltern officer in modern warfare—far more devolves on him than it did in the last war—it is vitally im- portant if we are to win this war without undue delay, that we should have the best type of men. I am not satisfied that we are getting the best type, and one of the reasons is that a large number cannot afford it. I think Members should press, in particular, for more pay for these officers. I will not take up more time, because many others want to speak, but I sincerely hope that the Government's proposals will pay more attention to what is said than in the past. After all we are in the fourth year of the war. All this has been said in Debates for the past three years, and nothing has been done.
We have had the spectacle of five soldiers running in this Debate—perhaps I should not say "running"—conducting a frontal attack on the Government. With almost everything which has been said so far I have heartily agreed. The details are very complicated, and I am very glad to see that the Lord Privy Seal has now returned. I hope he has appeased his hunger and has had an opportunity of considering the difference between the profession of a pleader and the virtues of a leader. I understand that the Government are to make some concessions in this matter, and I confess that surprises me in many ways after having read the White Paper. This White Paper is certainly not the type of thing I should have liked to have published. It appears to have acted as an irritant and not as an encouragement. I cannot help saying what a shabby story ours has been in regard to the treatment of the Services down through the centuries. It persists to-day, and I understand there is a tradition even now—although it may be deeply buried—that a soldier in some way or other must be compared with an agricultural labourer. I have the highest possible opinion of the agricultural labourer, but I do not think that tradition should be allowed to continue.
Serving men, to-day, are not getting a fair deal. If there is money to spare and throw about why does the Government wait for an agitation or a Debate such as this? That is quite wrong. I intend to say a good many things which I feel sure will be unacceptable to many, but I say with a deep sense of the times in which we live that there is a tendency for our people to ask, and keep on ask- king, for more. That is a tendency which, if not checked, is an absolute sign of national decay. I like to think of myself as a sailor who is part of one great Service, as one who should do his utmost to bring conditions, awards and sacrifices to the same level and see that justice is done to all who are serving. I know that in saying what I intend to say I shall be accused of being well-off and ungenerous, but I must say that I have always been, and still am, a happy and contented and honest taxpayer. I have never grumbled at any tax levy, and I never will.
As a Member, I have not had more than a very few complaints from officers and men about their personal affairs. Nearly everything that has come to me has concerned the difficulties that have arisen for their families in the absence of the men who are serving. I must also say that, in several instances, in dealing with War Service Grants questions, the cases have not been made by the people who apply for War Service Grants. I do not want it to be said, because I have made that remark, that I am out of sympathy with the serving men. I am not. On the contrary. If I have to say what is the note on which I want to speak to-day, I cannot do better than quote a very highly respected and excellent weekly journal, which said:
But the time has come to face the fact squarely that, in money terms, civilian rewards are too high and Service rewards too low.
That is the line of thought I have followed for some considerable time past. I think we are sometimes inclined to forget that gallantry and virtue are without price and cannot be bought. It has always struck me as being rather curious that there should be a monetary addition to the Victoria Cross. That principle never has appealed to me and never will do. I feel that the present method is not the right method of approach for the improvement of the pay of serving men. The right method is to do all that we possibly can to equalise to the utmost the monetary rewards for all citizens of the country. Earlier in the Sitting, I heard my right, hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that the policy of the Government for the stabilisation of prices and wages is being carried out. I must confess that I cannot quite see the matter in that light. There is a number of very anomalous things going on which are' very unequal in their incidence on the people of this country.
It is not surprising that the people in the Services make comparisons. Is it any wonder that they make these comparisons when they see the efforts of trade unions and other bodies to get increases? When they see those claims accepted, they cannot help thinking that the comparisons become more sinister and, in many respects, more odious. Morally, but not legally, we all realize that the Services have as much right as others to agitate. I am sure every hon. Member appreciates the fact that it is legally wrong in every way, and it would be morally wrong from the State's point of view, that the Services should be in a position to agitate. But how can it be right to pay overtime and double time, to raise wages in civil life, and in some trades to give bonuses to encourage production? I understand that a bonus has been arranged only quite recently. I said just now that there is no price that can be paid for gallantry and for virtue; but in civil life bonuses are paid to encourage production, and yet we have heard the Minister concerned say that even now production is not what it should be.
Is it any wonder that the men in the Services, on reading these things, say to themselves, "This is not fair"? Is it any wonder that they say this when they see illegal and unworthy strikes? I agree that the strikes very often fly straight in the faces of admirable leaders of the trade unions in question. Nevertheless, they have a bad effect on the men in the Services. There is no overtime and no Sunday pay in the Services, for perils in the air, for the dangers of the Commandoes, for the crews of tanks and guns in Libya, for the men in submarines who, unable to surface their craft, sink to their doom through a thousand fathoms of sea. Those things make the men in the Services think and make comparisons which they should not have to make. Is it any wonder that they do this when they know of thousands of very highly-paid and highly-placed men of military age who, from a fighting point of view, have never done a day's work and never seem likely to do one—when they see five divisions of conscientious objectors—when they see large numbers of other young men who have placed their, consciences in pawn with their superiors in order to retain a good job? It may be said that is an exaggeration. It is not an exaggera- tion, but a fact, and it is what the men in the Services think and feel.
I spoke about a day's work. Greatly daring, I propose to try to define a day's work as I think many men in the Services know it. A day's work—how many of them have been done and how many have got to be done before we achieve victory—means twenty-four hours, hungry, thirsty, sleepless, restless, desperately fatigued, and during every minute in imminent peril of violent death or dreadful injury, responsible during all those twenty-four hours for his own courage and for the morale of his companions or his subordinates. That is the sort of thing which ought to sink into the minds of those who are drawing big wages and salaries in civil life. Surely, such a thought as that should give pause to the claims of the unions which have been so widely made during the last few days. At the beginning of my remarks, I said that I was speaking with a full feeling of the responsibility of the times in which we live. I say that at the present time a fair deal is not being given to the men in the Services. The test of a civilian population is its capacity to undergo peril and hardship without complaint, but at the moment, by comparison with what the Services have had to undergo, nothing will persuade me that the civilian population has yet even got to the fringe of hardship or peril. But I am quite confident of this, that the civilian population would not for one moment hesitate to face peril and hardship if the case were put before them properly. The fault in this matter is not the fault of the Services, it is not the fault of Members of Parliament, it is not the fault of the trade unions; it is the fault of the Government at such a time as this that they have failed to use every effort to carry out their promise to equalise the sacrifices and rewards of the whole population. The blame lies upon the Government.
There is a practical aspect of this matter which has made a great impression on me. As usual with almost every subject with which one deals, one hears only one-half or only one side of the story. I wonder whether it is realised what an immense sum of money is being spent at the present time out of public funds and rates in making up the pay of men who have been called up for service from public authorities all over the Kingdom. I will give as an instance a big public authority in the Midlands which contributes out of the rates towards the pay of men recently in its employment but now in the Forces a sum of not less than £15,000 a year. We never hear of that, and I very much doubt whether it is morally right or nationally correct that such payments should be made, because they introduce that Very unpleasant comparison between the conditions of those in the Forces. It means that one man is drawing a large salary from his recent employer and the other is not receiving a single penny. I know of the case of a man who has been drawing several hundreds of pounds a year, merely because he happened to be previously employed in a great public corporation. It is not fair, and there should be more equalisation.
The solution does not lie in giving a general rise, but in removing existing inequalities and anomalies to which attention has already been drawn by five military speakers. The solution also lies in the cessation of the competition which exists to-day and has existed for many years past between the three great Fighting Services. I have with me comparisons between the conditions of officers and men in the three Services, and they show the greatest inequalities. That position should never arise; it is quite unnecessary. I wish to make a practical suggestion, namely, that in order to avoid these anomalies a permanent committee should be set up, comprising an officer from each of the three Services, to be called upon as often as need be, and to sit under the chairmanship of a neutral civilian or Minister. It should be their constant endeavour and duty to see that these inequalities do not arise, and they should consider all forms of claims, justifiable or otherwise. I can assure the House that it is these inequalities which upset the officers and men in the Services.
The solution does not lie in there being one law and one profit for the civilian and another law and very little profit for the serving man. We are perpetuating a wholly wicked system of past wars, and pandering to civil pressure and civil profit. A great deal has been done to bring about equalisation, but, as I hope I have shown, it has not been enough. The House does not need to be reminded that the great Roman Empire was brought to its doom because of the donatives and other sorts of encouragement which were offered by the Emperors to the Praetorian Guard. Such a thing could never happen to this country, but something similar may arise if civil pressure is not checked. We seem to have developed into a belligerent nation without a sense of discipline, and without a sense of simple economics. At the moment we are allowing claims, certainly in civilian life, and to some extent in the Services, to run away with our credit, and I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer will agree that it means we are putting a millstone round our necks. If you look after the families of the serving men, and see that their, homes do not come to any harm, the Services will be perfectly content. Remove the inequalities and the anomalies, set up a permanent committee such as I have suggested, and I feel sure a great deal of progress will be made.
We have had a most useful and interesting Debate, and, with the exception perhaps of the last speech, every Member has been strongly condemnatory of the present position, and everything that can be said has been said to spur the Government on to do what all of us believe ought to be done in this matter. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) seemed, if I may so, to suffer from a little confusion of thought. I am sure he did not speak for the Aimed Forces when he made, or appeared to make, a demand for a reduction, or at any rate a standstill agreement, in regard to civilian rates of pay. I understand that the men in the Forces have no objection to civilians receiving the right pay for the right job, but are demanding that they and those nearest and dearest to them should similarly have the right pay for the job. Many detailed suggestions have been made, and the great majority of them have been extremely valuable, but, for myself, I feel that this is not the occasion, and I hope the Government will not regard it as the occasion, for any tinkering increases in any particular items of pay or allowances. The time for tinkering has gone, and we are running a risk, if we go into too many details, of obscuring the real question which is at stake.
We all believe that we are on the ewe of great events, and I do not think there can be a man or woman in this House who does not think, as I am sure the nation thinks, that the Service man's right to adequate pay and allowances demands instant redress, and that no longer shall the man in the Forces, as in past years, be the sport of the Treasury officials and Wallahs, and even of Members of the Government, who have never known what it means to have to change one's whole mode of life, leaving one's fireside and family, and put one's life and all at the service of one's country, to take up work that one hates—the most dreadfully dangerous work of having to fight and kill an opponent, or be killed oneself. Which of us would do that for all the pay and allowances, or for all the money in the world, if we were not impelled to do it for our own, for our children's and for humanity's sake? Not one of us. Where, therefore, is the validity, or indeed the use, of any coldblooded comparison, such as we have heard from one or two speakers and such as is certainly evidenced in the White Paper, between the soldier, sailor or airman? Who has the prior claim? Surely on every ground the man who has to fight our battles on the sea, on the land and in the air, who has to face death and destruction or, it may be, blindness or injury, which may take all the light and all the happiness out of his life and out of those who are near and dear to him.
That is the great human background before which this House, and not least the members of the Government, ought to consider the pay and allowances of the men in the Forces. If that is done, how small are the arguments, the excuses and the comparisons in which the White Paper indulges. How small does the expenditure of £50,000,000, which has been mentioned in one quarter as the cost of what ought to be done, appear if it will make for greater satisfaction, greater resolution and greater courage to fight and win on the part of members of the Forces. I hope, therefore, we shall hear nothing from the Government about the cost of what ought to be done, Proper and adequate pay for the Forces and full and generous support of their families must be the first charge on all our resources. Not one of us or outside would begrudge that. How, therefore, can the Government do so?
What is it that the soldier, the sailor or the airman asks? Surely the man himself asks for a rate of pay equal to that enjoyed by all others doing the same work, and such a rate as will enable him to maintain himself in decency and to enjoy such amenities of modern life as are possible on active service, and a sufficient reserve to take him on leave in comfort, with reasonable provision for any special circumstances and for a fresh start after the war. For his wife and family he asks for allowances sufficient to enable them to live in at least the comfort to which they are accustomed, sufficient to ensure that they suffer no financial sacrifice not suffered by other sections of the community and sufficient to enable the soldier and his wife and children to look the world in the face and to know that a grateful country is doing the right and the just, if not the generous, thing. Just as important as an increase in pay and allowances, the soldier and his family want to know, in plain and simple terms which all can appreciate, what they are entitled to, with an absence of irritating and arbitrary conditions and incomprehensible variations and alterations. Will anyone say that those conditions exist at present or that any of them are unreasonable?
We all know in our hearts that the soldier is inadequately remunerated on any basis that one cares to take, that he does not receive pay equal to that received by others doing the same work, that he cannot buy and enjoy the amenities of life in full and that he has no real reserve of any kind behind him. We know also that the soldier's wife and family can barely exist on their present allowances, that many wives have to go short for their children, that they have not sufficient to buy clothes and boots and that many are suffering in comparison with the majority of the community. I am sure members of the Government and members of the Forces know that our present pay system is that of a small peace-time Regular Army, which a man voluntarily joins, and has no relation whatever to the swollen war - time Army composed of all sections of the community, with different needs, different habits and different standards from those of the peace-time soldier. I regard the case for an increase in pay of the lowest rank and in the allowances paid to his family as incontestable and as admitted on every hand. The only question is that of amount. I commend to the Government figures, some of which were quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). The private soldier should receive an all-round advance of is., his wife should receive not less than an increased allowance of 10s., and no child, whether second, third or subsequent, should receive less than 10s. Those figures are those of the minimum which ought to be granted and which the Government ought to put before us to-day.
Regarding, as I do, the case of an increase as proved, I want the Government to do something which is in my judgment almost equally important. I want them to simplify the whole system of pay and allowances. Almost as much discontent in the Services is caused by the fact that the man himself, or his wife, does not understand the rate of pay or the conditions under which he can get an increase or a decrease or under which alterations are made as by the present inadequate payment. One has only to look at the Pay Warrant—500 pages of rates of pay, qualifications, conditions, variations and alterations, some of which hardly anyone can ever hope to understand. The last edition is dated 1940, since when there have been scores of alterations and emendations, none of which are included in the copy that I obtained a day or two ago from the Vote Office and which would take almost the full time of someone to keep up to date and to understand. What a farce it all is. There are nearly 200 different rates of pay in the Army alone. There are additions for service, education and proficiency, and higher rates for men enlisted before 31st October, 1925, so that millions of men doing the same work who enlisted since that date are getting less than those who enlisted before. There are fists of tradesmen covering pages which are divided and sub-divided ad infinitum, some of them applicable to soldiers who enlisted before varying dates and others applicable to those who enlisted later. There is almost the same state of affairs in regard to everything else that appears in the Pay Warrant. A bricklayer gets more than a painter or platelayer, a baker less than a hospital cook, and a boot repairer less than a well borer, and so on.
All these classes have to be listed, classified and reclassified, graded up or down, certified, published in orders or in the paymaster's book, until the whole machine is chock full of paper and several divisions of men have to be engaged in doing their best to disentangle this chaos and to explain to the soldier and his despairing relatives what their position really is, while the War Office go on day after day and week after week making confusion worse confounded by every patchwork alteration that they make. The whole thing is plain, unadulterated, inexcusable chaos. The same state of affairs exists in regard to dependants' allowances. An hon. Member showed how a drop of 2d. a week in rent can lose a mother 5s. in dependants' allowances. If the Secretary of State for War condones such a state of affairs for more than a further week in time of war, he ought, in my opinion, to be shot. If he will simplify matters on lines which I can indicate and which could be done very quickly, generations yet unborn will rise up and call him blessed: In anything I have said I make no reflection on the Royal Army Pay Corps. The Corps, whose function is to keep the accounts and records, have done a magnificent job of work and every credit is due to them for struggling with this mass of chaos as they have done.
What is wanted to put it right? I ventured to send a letter to "The Times" as the matter was so urgent that I desired the Government to have some opportunity to consider the matter. What is required is a system whereby all combatant soldiers who are not tradesmen should receive an increase. I would suggest 1s. a day, based on a single rate instead of a variety of rates. Non-commissioned officers should receive rates appropriate to their rank alone instead of men working side by side having different rates. The tradesman's rates should not be applied so much to all tradesmen, but applied so that those with equal trade ability receive equal pay. That might mean that some already in receipt of a high rate of pay would not receive the full benefit of the all-round increase of 1s., but the pay of the remainder would be increased to bring them up to the same level and no one would lose as compared with the present position. If these steps were taken I venture to prophesy that a tremendous reduction would take place in the number of rates which now appear in the pay warrant. I cannot estimate what that reduction might be but I certainly think that 200 rates might be reduced by two-thirds.
I am sure that that would be of great help to regimental paymasters, commanding officers and all who are concerned with pay and allowances. I am sure that many thousands of those now engaged in this unprofitable work from the war point of view could be released for better and more active work. More than that, great help could be given to the soldier and his wife who should have printed in their pay book a short memorandum setting out the rate to which they are entitled, the conditions under which they would receive an increase and the allowances to which the wife and family are entitled. No more useful piece of administrative work could be done than to have these changes made. I can think of nothing taken along with an increase in pay and allowances such as has been proposed from these Benches, which would do so much to keep up the morale, the courage and the resolution of the men and to make them face what may be in front of them in the next few months with even greater fortitude than they have hitherto displayed.
I must crave the indulgence of the House for this my first speech to it. As one who was a Territorial soldier for some years before the war and who has served as a regimental soldier in the Middle East for over two years in this war, I feel that I would like to put one or two points in this Debate. It may be a hackneyed statement to say the whole system of pay in the Army is somewhat out of date, but it is none the less true, it is based on the peculiar needs of a small and voluntary Army in peace-time, needs which are very different from those of a large conscripted and mainly civilian Army as it stands at the present time. I would like to give the House two small instances of what I mean. Three men get called up from the same job. Two of them pass the doctor in medical category A. They are drafted to a fighting unit. The third one passes in medical category C and is sent to some base installation. He is shortly made into a clerk and he draws more pay than the two fighting soldiers. I do not think that that is right. Another instance which I believe is being gone into by the Army pay authorities, is that of the tank crew. Taking the average tank as having four men, there is first the commander, either an officer or N.C.O., who gets paid for his responsibility as such. Then there is the driver, who gets paid for his knowledge of mechanics, and the operator, who is paid for his knowledge of wireless and signalling. Then there is the gunner. Up till now he has had only the ordinary rate of the trooper in a regiment. When the time for action comes I venture to say that the job of the gunner is as vitally important as that of anybody else in the tank. Much depends upon his accuracy and quickness of eye.
I feel also, as I know do many of my comrades, that the efficiency of the ordinary trained soldier should be more generously recognised than it is. At the moment proficiency pay—I am not referring to "spit and polish"—for the man who actually does his job well remains at 1d. less than it was at the time of the South African war. Further, some 95 per cent. of the men in the Army are drawing proficiency pay, which is not really what was intended and goes to show that commanding officers realise that there are cases of hardship and are doing all they can to alleviate hardship by giving every man everything to which he can possibly be entitled. I would therefore ask the Government seriously to consider this question of the hardship which undoubtedly exist in the Army. I know many instances of men who have not been able to go on leave to the various rather limited centres available because they have not had the money with which to do so, having sent the little bit of extra money which they have to spend on their packet of cigarettes or glass of beer back to their families at home because they have not been happy about conditions there.
There is no doubt in my mind that there is hardship among the junior men in the Army, and I hope the Government will seriously consider the whole rate of pay of junior soldiers and /or the proficiency pay, with a view to putting it on a higher scale, or possibly on a sliding scale, so that every man who is competent at his job has a chance of increasing his income. To return to the case of the junior officer: I emphasise "junior" because I am not referring to the young officer, for there are many officers who, though they are junior officers, are men of considerable age and have families. They have become commissioned officers through proving themselves efficient in the ranks. When com- missioned they often find themselves in conditions of the very greatest hardship, especially those who are overseas, as the Colonial allowances do not make provision for the increased cost of living there, which is often higher than it is here. Often they are in difficult financial circumstances. I hope the Government will seriously consider the case of the junior married officer and increase his marriage allowance, and in the case of those few who are on lodging allowances increase the lodging allowance to make up in some way for the increased cost of living.
Turning to the White Paper, I do not want to tear it in bits, because already it has been severely shredded in this Debate, but it is exceedingly difficult for the ordinary soldier to realise that his' emoluments are worth 35s. a week. We have heard in this Debate of cases of soldiers living in billets and in tents, but I can assure the Government that the vast majority of soldiers in the Middle East are very lucky if they can live under anything but a truck for months on end. This White Paper does not give a true representation of the facts. Let me give as an instance the facts in one case that I know about, that of the junior female clerk employed by several War Office establishments. Although she cannot do either shorthand or typing, she can with overtime earn £3 2s. a week. When one contrasts that with the pay of the ordinary serving soldier one cannot but feel that he is getting "the rough end of the stick." I will not go on further because of the hour, but would ask the Government seriously to consider the hardships which undoubtedly exist in the Army at the present time and if possible to increase the pay and /or the allowances of the Army as they stand as a whole.
It is my privilege to start by congratulating the hon. and gallant Member for Salisbury (Major Morrison) on his contribution to our Debate and on his safe return from the Middle East, and to say how valuable it is that we should have the opportunity of listening in Debates such as this to officers from the Forces who are able to put forward the views of those with whom they have been in close contact on active service. I should like also to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Tavistock (Captain Studholme) upon his contribution, and to say that I am sure the House will always most gladly welcome the contributions of either of them to our Debates. A number of questions of a rather particular character have been raised by hon. Members in the course of the Debate, and as I do not profess to have an acquaintance with the volume which the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) showed the House, I propose to ask the Secretary of State for War to deal with all such questions at the end of the Debate, among them the important question which the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds raised concerning differences in tradesmen's rates of pay in the Army. In a short acquaintance with industrial rates, particularly those in the coal-mining industry, I have found there almost as great if not a greater complication in the building up of trade rates.
The question of pay for the Armed Forces naturally comes up from time to time in the course of any war, and it would be most unnatural if we were not continually anxious that those who are serving in the Armed Forces should be fairly and justly dealt with in the matter of pay. It is the duty of the Government to keep the matter under constant review, and the successive increases made since the beginning of the war show, I think, that the Government recognise that obligation. It must not be forgotten, of course, and I am sure that Members of the House will not forget it, that all three Services have very able advocates for their cause within the Government itself in the persons of the Ministers responsible for those Services, backed up as they are by their staffs and their Departments. Nor need the House be unduly worried by the bogy of Treasury control in this matter. Hon. Members are accustomed sometimes to attribute greater weight to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer than he in fact possesses. The Government unanimously take the view, and in this the Chancellor of the Exchequer fully concurs, that in such a question as that which is at present under discussion the primary consideration is justice for the men and women in the Services and not any mistaken ideas of economy. The gallantry and endurance of these men and women can certainly never be measured in terms of money, nor will any of us here suggest that such a measure should be applied to the increases in their pay. If we were to attempt to apply any such criterion, the already astronomical figures quoted by ray right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday for the cost of the war, would, indeed, become doubly astronomical.
Nor is it possible in reality to compare the money receipts of members of the Armed Forces, either with those of our Allies who are in this country or with the industrial workers in our own country, whose wages, be it remembered, are regulated by private bargaining between employers and employed. So far as the rates of pay in the Allied Forces or the Dominions Forces are concerned, they are, of course, fixed in relation to the standards and the values of the home country of those Forces, and those standards and values vary very widely from those which rule in this country. They depend upon the general economic conditions of the particular country, its wage systems, its social structure, its way of life and the price levels which there rule. All these factors will be reflected by differences in the levels of pay for the Armed Forces.
The views of its Government and its people will have an influence as well. During the last war, when great numbers of our soldiers were fighting in France, they had much higher rates of pay in francs than their French comrades be side whom they were fighting.
May I interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman? I do not want to brag, but I speak as one who did serve in France, and I would like to inform him that British soldiers were very often confronted with groups of French soldiers begging for cigarettes and other little things that they could not get on their own pay.
We will talk about that afterwards. As to the comparison which the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) made as regards the Canadian Forces, if one deals with it from the point of view of spending-money, which I think was rather the point which he was taking——
Well, considered from the point of view of spending-money, as that is perhaps the point of view which comes most into evidence—the available money which the soldier has to spend—I understand that the Canadian soldiers get, as a matter of fact, 6s. a day, of which half is compulsorily allotted for sending home. With our American Allies, the position that we had in France is reversed, but I do not think there is any jealousy in this country of their better conditions, nor indeed can we judge of the adequacy of our own rates by comparison with the rates fixed by their Government, in the vastly different economic circumstances that rule to-day in the United States of America. In this matter, I would like to take the opportunity of expressing our gratitude to the American soldiers, sailors and airmen for the most helpful way in which they are doing their utmost to diminish in every way they can the incidence of those differences in pay in our country. It shows a fine appreciation of the obligations of comradeship which augurs well for a close friendship between our Forces when they come to be fighting side by side, as we hope before long they will.
The second comparison that has been made is between industrial wage earnings and the rates of pay of the Armed Forces in this country. I should like here to explain to the House the reason for the issue by the Government of the White Paper, and what it actually attempted to show. As it expressly states, it was not intended to make any comparison between Service pay and industrial earnings. That intention is expressly disclaimed in the White Paper. It seeks to elucidate the facts as regards the average Service man's position. It cannot, of course, and it does not attempt to, go into every case. It generalises upon the basis of the Army, because it is easier to take one Service as the example. It takes only a few of the rates, on the whole the lower rates, that are paid. There has been in the past a tendency among some people to think and speak of the soldier's emoluments as though they were 17s. 6d. per week, and to compare them with an industrial wage. It was to get over that type of fallacy in people's minds that the White Paper was published.
It attempts to give a reasonable equivalent in terms of cash of the many things which the soldier in fact receives in kind, and also it notices one or two other matters in respect of which the soldier is in a different position from other people; such things, for instance, as the incidence of taxation. In other words, it tries to put into terms of cash what the soldier would need to spend if, as an ordinary individual, he had to buy for himself the ordinary things of life, many of which he now receives in kind and not in cash. The figures taken—and I do not think anybody has really disputed this point—are considered to be fairly representative of the sort of standard at which he would live if he were not in the Army. The figures can be criticised in detail as any figures can, but, broadly, the Government believe that they give the right sort of picture of the cash value, in contradistinction to the wrong sort of picture which would be drawn if cash payments only were taken into account. So much for the White Paper. Let me now return to the question of the comparison with industrial earnings. As I have said, the first thing to observe is that industrial earnings are not fixed by the Government but by negotiation between employers and employed.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman evidently does not appreciate that the vast bulk of the employers are now merely agents for the Government and that wages are really fixed by what the Government are willing to pay for the stuff.
I think that that is the wrong sequence and that what is paid for the stuff is fixed by the wages that are negotiated between employers and employed. Even if the employers regard themselves as the agents of the Government, I am sure that the trade unions do not. The whole basis of any such fixation is completely different from that of the pay of the Armed Forces. Industrial rates, for instance, are based upon the average family and hot upon the individual, and there are no additions for dependants. Nor, in very many cases, is there any provision for periodical increases such as there is in the Forces. Moreover, one has to bear in mind that, for instance, in the Army to-day, one in every four of the other ranks is a noncommissioned officer and that, in addition, there are special rates of pay. Compared to that, there is no such chance of regular promotion in any industry.
That, I understand, refers to the people who get extra pay by reason of their non-commissioned rank. Then in industry, through the history of the economic circumstances of particular trades, there has grown up, of course, the very widest disparity in wages. To some extent this disparity is reflected in the skilled trades rates in the Army itself, which are naturally related to some extent to the industrial circumstances which rule in those trades. In addition to all these very marked differences, there are other distinctions of a more general character, such as the incidence of taxation and other matters of that kind, which I have already mentioned. Under those circumstances we take the view, which I think is shared largely in the House, that it is really no good trying to bring about any comparison between the rate of one man who is in the Army and the rate of another man who is in industry. For instance, such a letter as the hon. Member for Basetlaw read, about a soldier who was a non-commissioned officer, I think he said, and who was discontented because his brother-in-law was getting £11 a week—he does not suggest as a result of that that the basic pay of soldiers should be £11 a week—has really no relevance.
It is unfortunate that that type of argument should be put forward, because it has an unsettling effect, necessarily, and I think we must try, if we are to make comparisons, to make them upon a basis which has some justification—which, I suggest, such a comparison as that really has not. It is not therefore upon the basis of comparison that we believe that this problem can be solved, but rather upon the basis of justice to the persons who are concerned. I am sure the House will agree that it is the duty of the Government to satisfy themselves from time to time that the soldier, sailor and airman have sufficient pay to cover their own requirements and enough by way of pay and allowances to provide adequately for their wives and families, and particularly for their children.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the Government have any particular body set up to go into these matters and to see that the serving men receive such pay and conditions, to take the place of the trade unions which see that the industrial workers get a fair deal? What is the body that the Government have set up to see that the serving ratings in the Services also get fair play?
As regards the particular ratings with which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is particularly concerned, it is the Admiralty, and I am sure that they very efficiently represent the Service.
I am sorry. If the amounts therefore are to be judged by the actual needs of the person serving in the Forces, it is then clearly our duty to make what we regard as a proper provision for them, and I would put it even higher than our duty; it is a great national trust that is imposed upon us as a House of Commons and as a Government. I would like, however, to draw the attention of the House to one matter which sometimes seems to be overlooked, and that is that exceptional cases of all kinds—which are bound to occur in all the Services, especially in relation to pre-service liabilities—are dealt with, under the decisions of this House, by War Service Grants, so that what we have to deal with is not the exceptional hard case but the normal or average case which is to be found in the Services. I only say that because one gets again a liability for people to quote hard cases as if they should be made the basis for our decisions. In arriving at this adequate and just figure, there are a number of considerations which arise out of the manner in which the total emoluments of members of the Services have in the past been built up, the basic rate, the special increments for one thing and another, proficiency pay and allowances for dependants and families and so on, and there is one other factor which, though by no means and in no sense a determining factor, we must still bear in mind, and that is the effect of anything that we may do upon the general resources of the country available for carrying on the war.
There was one further point, raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish), and I think by one or two other hon. Members, which I might perhaps mention at this stage, and that is the question of making up the pay by Government Departments, municipalities, private employers and so on, which brings about an inequality between different members of the Forces. That, of course, does not primarily come into consideration in the question of fixing the basic pay, when one is naturally considering the case of people whose pay is not made up. I can appreciate the desirability of getting rid of all possible anomalies, but hon. Members will bear in mind that this, of course, is a practice which was started during the time of voluntary service, in order to encourage people to give their services voluntarily, and promises were made to great masses of individuals that if they did so those payments would be continued. It is therefore very difficult to see at the moment how that habit and custom can be broken.
Has my right hon. and learned Friend seen the Treasury Memorandum on this point? That Memorandum was prepared some months before the war broke out, and it anticipated not voluntary enlistment but what would happen when war broke out, so that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument that this was an inducement to voluntary enlistment rather falls to the ground.
I do not think it really does fall; I think the way in which it came into operation was as such an inducement, and I think it was on that basis that people generally, including the House, accepted this system of giving extra pay to persons who volunteered for the Forces. I would also like to draw the attention of the House to the fact, which has rather been overlooked in the course of the Debate, that there have already been many alterations in rates of pay and allowances since the war started. That does not in the least justify their remaining where they are, but still it is a factor which it is fair and proper to take into consideration.
That may or may not be the case, but the fact that they have been made is still a factor. These have been very considerable. They have increased the basic rate of pay for other ranks by the substantial war increase of 3s. 6d. per week; they have established post-war grants by way of compulsory savings; they have provided additions to proficiency pay and they have improved allowances for families and dependants, and in addition, to cover the special cases I have mentioned, there has been a large payment by way of War Service Grants. Perhaps hon. Members do not realise how much those have been. They cover at the moment some 427,000 individual cases and are at the rate of over £13,000,000 a year, and are constantly being added to, almost day by day.
If my hon. Friend will-kindly divide £13,000,000 by 427,000, he will get the answer. In all, there have actually been 816,000 applications, and in most cases grants have actually been made, but a number have since been relinquished for one reason or other owing to the changed circumstances of the grantees. In total, increases granted apart from the War Service Grants I have just mentioned, and apart from the post-war credit, amount to some £100,000,000 a year. The post-war grants amount so far in all to £35,000,000. Very substantial additions were made last February, that is, some six months ago, and they were then intended to be a reasonable stabilisation of the position for a period of time. That period is now drawing to its close. It is clearly undesirable that we should subject the members of our Armed Forces to constant unrest and anxiety on the subject of their rates of pay by continually engaging upon reviews of those general rates. Not that anyone imagines, as so many hon. Members have already so rightly said, that the fighting men will measure the services they offer to the country in terms of money. But this very fact imposes on us the double obligation of absolute fairness in our dealings with the question of Service pay, and also to refrain from constant and unsettling suggestions of the need for change.
As far as practicable, we should try now to settle the matter justly and to stabilise the rates. It is with this object in view that the Government have reconsidered the whole problem in the light of existing price levels, and with a view to arriving at a final solution of the matter so long as those price levels remain substantially the same. They have, as a result of that reconsideration, decided that further increases should now be made amounting in total to £43,000,000 a year for the three Services, and they are unanimously of the opinion, both Service and other Ministers alike, that with these fresh additions substantial justice will be done to all ranks in the three Services, and that the rates of pay should be stabilised at the new level so long as prices remain at their present level. The principle on which they have proceeded is that by far the larger part of the increase should go to the other ranks in the three Services and that special attention should be paid to married men with children, particularly those with more than one child, who probably encounter the greatest difficulties at the present time. In addition to the other ranks, we considered that the junior officers, that is, the officers up to those of the rank of captain in the Army, or their equivalent in the other Services, required some improvement in their position. Here again we think that special attention needs to be paid to married officers with families. Finally, there is the somewhat complicated but longstanding anomaly arising out of the old scale of consolidated allowances for married officers, which has led to a good deal of complaint, especially, I think, in connection with the Royal Air Force, and this, we think, should be adjusted in favour of the officers.
These are the principles on which we have proceeded, and now I will come to the actual details. The first and main increase from the point of view of financial cost is in the basic pay of all other ranks in all the Forces. It is proposed to double the war increase that has already been given, or, to put it in another way, to increase the present basic pay by 20 per cent. That is to say, for all men the war increase will be 7s. a week instead of 3s. 6d. and for all women the pro rata increase will be 2s. 4d. This will bring the lowest cash payment received by any man in the Forces up to 21s. a week instead of the present 17s. 6d. This is a flat-rate increase for all privates, noncommissioned officers and warrant officers in the Army, and for the equivalent ranks in the other Services. In addition to this flate-rate increase, which applies to married and single men alike, the allowances for children in the case of all other ranks will be increased. The present rates, as the House is aware, are, for the first child 8s. 6d., for the second child 6s. 6d., and for the third and each subsequent child 5s. In future the rates will be, for the first child 9s. 6d., for the second 8s. 6d., and for the third and each subsequent child 7s. 6d. This will mean the following total weekly increases, including the flat-rate addition, for married men: Married men with one child 4s. 6d., with two children 6s. 6d., with three children 9s. and so on upwards. These are the alterations which will be made for other ranks.
I cannot answer whether they will be proportionately reduced, but these increases will be taken into account. [An HON. MEMBER: "They will get no benefit?"] The circumstances cannot be so accurately related between the War Service Grant and the actual conditions of pay, but in arriving at whether there should be a War Service Grant the actual higher rate will, of course, be taken into account.
That means in many cases where grants are being received from the Hardship Grants Committee that these increases will not apply at all, that is, those families will get no increase at all upon what they are now receiving?
It may or may not; I cannot say. These increases will be taken into account in arriving at the Service Grant. Whether that will lead to a corresponding decrease or not I cannot say.
They will only apply when there is a review. The new actual circumstances will be taken into account as they must be. That concludes the review of the basic pay for other ranks, which will cost in total some £37,500,000 a year.
As my right hon. and learned Friend has now concluded his final review of the basic rates, are we to understand that that is the final decision of the Government as regards the basic pay, and that the soldier, sailor or airman is only to receive another 6d. a day? Is that the decision of the Government, and has he not taken into account the submissions made by hon. Members in the Debate to-day regarding the comparison between that basic pay with the increase and the pay received by overseas troops?
Certainly; the latter matter has been very thoroughly taken into account, and I thought I had made it quite clear that this was the final decision of the Government. I am surprised that the hon. Member could not understand that.
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman agreed to that, in view of all——[HON. MEMBERS: "Do not give way."] The right hon. and learned Gentleman has given way, in spite of hon. Members. Does he think it is good enough, in view of all the brave promises he has made about the future, to grant a miserable 6d. a day?
There is no alteration as regards the allotment, except that, of course, he will have 3s. 6d more to make it out of. So far as the junior officers are concerned, apart from the question of married officers with children, the Government have decided that their interests can best be served by shortening the period of promotion as between 2nd lieutenant and lieutenant in the Army and pilot officer and flying officer in the Air Force. The general rule to-day is that such promotion should take place after 18 months in the Army and after 12 months in the R.A.F. Both periods will now be reduced to six months, so that the junior officer will have to spend only this shorter period at the lower rates of pay. This rule will apply to the A.T.S. and the W.A.A.F. in a similar way. This particular arrangement is not, however, applicable to the Navy, since, for other reasons, it is not possible to expedite promotion automatically in that Service. A comparable improvement will be given, however, by the following arrangement: The rate of pay for acting sub-lieutenants will be raised from 7s. 8d. to 9s. a day, and that for sub-lieutenants from 9s. to 11s. a day. This will be an immediate increase, and will not be postponed for six months as in the case of the other officers. So far as the W.R.N.S. are concerned, some special arrangement will have to be made, which is at present being worked out.
Perhaps I may be allowed to get on with my speech. In the case of junior officers in the Army and the Air Force, it must be made quite clear that although promotion is to be expedited, a lower standard of training will not be expected. It will be up to the officers, by more intensive efforts, to make themselves fit for promotion in the shorter time available. In addition to these alterations, it is proposed to alter the allowances for children in the case of junior officers. The existing code gave the following daily allowances: for a wife and one child, 6s.; for a wife and two children, 7s. 6d.; for a wife and three children, 8s. 6d.; with an additional shilling for each further child. It is now proposed to increase all these rates by 1s. a day; so that for a wife and one child the allowance will be 7s.; for a wife and two children, 8s. 6d.; and for a wife and three children, 9s. 6d.; and so on. These allowances will apply to officers of the rank of captain and below—because they come into that group—in the Army, and the equivalent ranks in the other Services.
Finally, it is proposed to make certain modifications in favour of those officers who continue to draw family allowances under the old code. This code gave a uniform rate of allowances, irrespective of the number of children, but the rates differed according to whether the officer was living away from his family or living at home with his family. Representations have been made that these differences are a hardship in the case of junior officers, particularly when they are separated from their families by Service demands. It is, therefore, proposed to adjust the allowances for junior officers, so as to reduce, and in some cases abolish altogether, any hardship which occurs in the case of separation from the family. These alterations will be as follows for the Army, with equivalent alterations, where applicable, in the case of the Air Force. For 2nd lieutenant and lieutenant, for whom the present separated rate is 6s., the new rate will be 7s. 6d. For captain and major, where the present separated rate is 7s. 6d., the new rate will be 8s. 6d. This anomaly, I understand, does not exist in the Navy; therefore, there is no need for its correction in that Service.
These increases for junior officers are estimated to cost approximately £5,500,000 per annum. The whole of the increases will be operative as from the nearest pay date to 1st October next. There is one other observation I would desire to make. These increases, as the House will see, are all of a general nature affecting all three Services. From time to time detailed anomalies within the Services themselves are brought forward—some matters have been mentioned to-day—questions of adjustment as between the various equivalent ranks of the different Services are brought to the attention of the Government. They are then reviewed and decisions reached upon them. No attempt has been made in connection with the present proposals to deal with any such particular cases, nor will these general decisions prejudice that consideration or in any way exclude the possibility of their adjustment when they arise.
Those are the details of our proposals, reached after full consideration of the whole matter and with every anxiety to do the fair thing by the men and officers who are serving their country so well. I would repeat that special cases are dealt with by War Service Grants where there is need, and that these rates I have given are only the lowest basic rates. They can be, and are, increased in a very large number of cases by proficiency pay, which is almost automatic after six months, by special rates, and in other ways. They do not pretend to be lavish or spectacular, or to be comparable with those of the American Armed Forces or of the more highly-paid industrial workers. The Government claim, however, that with these rates of pay the normal soldier or officer will be able to keep himself and his family in reasonable comfort and health, having regard to the available commodity resources of the country as a whole. I trust that members of our Armed Forces will realise that the House of Commons and the Government are most solicitous for their welfare and are anxious that they should be fully satisfied that they have been dealt with justly in this matter of pay. We have, all of us, necessarily been talking in terms of money in relation to services that are given willingly and are without thought of price. I could not sit down without recording the depth and sincerity of the gratitude which every one of us must feel for those who have so gallantly played their part in the defence of our country and who are now preparing and undertaking that offensive action which will finally settle the doom of our enemies.
Obviously my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Privy Seal has not dealt with all aspects of this question, and it is for that reason that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, as I understand it, will wind up the Debate. We can, however, examine the proposals which my right hon. and learned Friend has made in his careful and long examination of the arguments. He has said that the increases which he is offering to the Army are neither lavish nor spectacular. I am sure the House of Commons will give unanimous assent to that statement. They are not lavish or spectacular. It would be churlish, and it always is churlish, to pretend that a concession which has been made goes no way towards reproving a difficulty. Certainly, what my right hon. and learned Friend has announced will be welcome. An extra 3s. 6d. in the pocket of a man at the end of the week is a substantial fact which cannot be ignored. Likewise, a mother will be conscious, if she has one child, that she is obtaining an extra 1s. a week. But the way to rise from penury to affluence is not on a staircase of sixpenny-pieces. I would not challenge these proposals, and indeed I would accept them with gratitude if they were an interim measure. Obviously the question is fraught with difficulties, but my right hon. and learned Friend has presented a long argument to the House to show that this question must be settled justly and once and for all. The pay of the soldier is to be stabilised at 21s. a week. Is that argument to apply in the industrial world? Are the police——
I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not do so consciously, but I do not want to be misinterpreted. I said it would be stabilised as long as the present price levels remain.
I accept the qualification, and it does not detract in the least from what I was asking, which was: Is this principle to be applied in industry? Every day we open the paper and see that there are claims for further wages, and quite rightly, I have no doubt. Why should the fighting men alone be asked to accept a stabilised wage? The methods by which the Army is paid are indeed unsatisfactory and I thought that my right hon. and learned Friend was about to say to the House that the Government would view this matter from an entirely new angle.
On what principle should the soldier be paid? Are we to assess the value of his services to the community? If so, his pay would be at a figure beyond computation. In civil life pay is settled by bargaining. The sanction which a man employs to obtain an increase in his emoluments is the withholding of his labour. The soldier, clearly, cannot do that. Thus, neither in civil nor in military life are we paid in accordance with our merits, and often in inverse ratio to our merits. The civilians can bargain and will continue to bargain, but the soldier is to be stabilised. Before the war the Army—and the same applies to the other Services—was one of a number of competing industries. Those who criticise our Army and place it in juxtaposition with the Reichswehr sometimes forget that in the middle of the year 1937 when I went to the War Office there were only 120,000 regular soldiers in this country. They were all volunteers. It was open to them after examining what the Army had to give in contrast to what other callings had to give to select that profession of soldiering if they would. They were not driven into it. Many of them engaged themselves for the love of the life—and it is a very varied and gallant life. The sense of adventure appealed to them. Others liked the idea of a pension at the end of 22 years of service in the Armed Forces. But they were all volunteers. When we wanted more soldiers we made a series of ameliorations in their conditions. Because we thought it just and because also our need for increasing the Army was great, we improved their pay, gave them money for proficiency, did away with all stoppages, gave them better barracks, more amenities. We increased the marriage allowance from 7s. to 17s. in one move, and generally we tried to persuade the public who were available for enlistment that the Army was a job comparable with another.
Then, immediately before the war broke out, we introduced conscription, but it was a very limited conscription. Men were to be taken for only six months. The interruption in their-normal activities was brief. Even so, we instituted an elaborate code of safeguards to protect them in their hire-purchase arrangements, in their insurances and other obligations. We allowed the marriage allowance at the age of 20 instead of 26, as it previously had been for the Regular Army—we reduced the Regular Army at the same time—and our object was merely to secure them for six months in the conditions in which they were before joining the Army. When war actually broke out we called up only the younger classes, men of 21, 22 and 23. The contrast with the conditions in civil life was not very marked.
The background, however, has now entirely changed. The war has gone on for a long time and the interruption in these men's careers has been prolonged. Further, there are older men who have to give up established positions to join the Army, which was never contemplated under the Military Service Act before the war. Surely these men require special treatment. Then there are the innovations referred to in the admirable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). There is the welcome arrival of the American Army here and there are Dominion troops whose rates of pay in contrast with ours are scarcely believable. No British soldier is envious of the American or of the Canadian, but he is conscious that the American and Canadian nations and other Dominions place a higher value upon the importance of the soldier in the general life than we do. The background has entirely altered, yet we have maintained a peace-time system of payment which, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) pointed out in his letter to "The Times" yesterday and again in his speech to-day, is extremely intricate and baffling. You need to have a certain mathematical knowledge to know what sum you are entitled to in the British Army. That is why many in the Army spend the whole of their leisure time with an Army List in one hand, a pay warrant in the other and an automatic calculator. It is very difficult; the Army is a most complicated profession to which to belong and it requires a certain amount of ingenuity to know to what allowances you may be entitled.
That this peace-time system is inadequate is shown by the fact that you have War Service Grants. That is an admirable system, but what does the Lord Privy Seal say about it? He says that the system is so widespread in its application that nearly half a million men enjoy benefit from it. What does that prove? That you have no right to place the Army on a mixed system of pocket money and Poor Law. If it is so widespread, does it not show that the time has come to adopt a different and more generous system of payment? That is not the only way in which Army pay differs from the system prevalent in civil life. When the State transfers an employee from the Civil Service to the Army because his services will be more useful to the State in the Army, what does it do? It acknowledges that Army pay is insufficient and it makes up that pay, whether it be £200 or £2,000 a year. Local authorities do likewise and employers in a position to do so follow suit. Does not this create another anomaly? The man who leaves his job because he is called up and who was receiving his wages from a private employer, having no connection with the State, will go on to the daily emolument considered sufficient for the soldier, but if he be a Civil servant or an employee of Imperial Chemical Industries, or of one of the concerns which are paid by the State, he will continue to receive his money as before. No calculation will be made on the basis of this White Paper as to the value to him indirectly of the services of shelter and clothing which he is receiving. He will have his salary in money made up to what it was in peace-time. This system as at present operated is anomalous, but as it should be operated it would be just. It happens to be the system operated in the German army where, I understand, the pay of the soldier is, roughly, the same as our own, but where the principle is accepted, as it should be, that under a system of conscription when men are forcibly removed from their ordinary entourage in civil life the status of their family shall not fall.
That is the principle upon which the soldier should be paid to-day. How did we justify conscription to this House? It fell to me to do it. What was the argument I presented to the House? It was that conscription was the only method by which we could secure equality of service. I said that under a voluntary system only the patriotic man would come and he would be the loser but I added, under conscription all would be treated alike and would serve the State on the same footing. It is pure chance to-day that one man is left behind and another man goes. We are all in the service of the State and what is wrong and, I think, intolerable under the present system, is that a soldier's wife is to remain stabilised in her condition whereas a neighbouring wife, because her husband has been retained, not by his own wishes, will obtain—and properly—all the benefits of the rises of pay which occur in industry.
My hon. Friend could not have listened to my argument. I was saying that conditions are entirely different as between peace-time and now. I said that in peace-time we competed with other industries for men. We had a small Army then and men could accept our conditions or not as they wished. But now we are forcibly removing men who are in established positions and in middle life. I was pointing out the principle on which, I understand, the German army proceeds. If the war is to continue for a long time, it will be found in the end to be the only just system.
The right hon. Gentleman says that the reason he did not make the changes which he claims are now necessary was because the Army was competing with other industries to obtain men. Surely it was all the more necessary to offer attractive terms for the Army at that time—even more necessary, I think, than now, when we have compulsion.
Of course it was. I explained to the House that we progres sively made a number of improvements. The Army was only 120,000 strong and we considerably increased pay and made conditions better. I am not saying that they were at any moment ideal, but they served our purpose in competition with other industries. We obtained a greatly increased flow of recruits. Nor do I think for one moment—and we must be sane in regarding these matters—that the present Secretary of State for War is satisfied with these proposals. A Minister does his best for his Department in competition with other Departments, and I have no doubt this is the best that my right hon. Friend could do. What I am urging is that the whole system of Service pay should now be put upon a different footing, and that it should be related in some recognisable manner to the conditions in civil life, in order that the household of the soldier may be as well treated as it would be if the soldier had not been called up. I want to remove finally and completely this anomaly created by the chance of whether a man is called into the Army or no. That is what. I am urging on the Government.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how he would do that? If a man who had an income of £2,000 a year were called up, how could a new system of Army pay keep him in the same position?
The State is doing it to-day. At this very moment a large percentage of men in the Army are having their pay made up to the civilian standard, and the State is doing that now. If a civil servant getting £2,000 a year joins the Army, he has his pay made up. If a civil servant getting £200 a year joins the Army, he has his pay made up. If men employed by local authorities, by Imperial Chemical Industries, by Unilever, or by a thousand and one other firms, join up, their pay is made up at various rates. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Labour party does it too."] The system is a perfectly workable one, but it would be reasonable, of course, to place a maximum upon it, as the Germans do. I understand, although I may be wrong, that their maximum is £400 a year; but make it, if you like, £250 a year, and it will then be in excess of what is allotted to the soldiers to-day.
Our system, as can be seen from the White Paper, is to discover what is the minimum we can give the soldier and to make a meticulous calculation of his needs and of the needs of his family. We then find that if one takes into account everything that the man is receiving, including the value of what he is getting in kind, he still gets only 52s. 6d. a week, which now, by these proposals, is to become 56s. That is less than the minimum wage of an agricultural labourer. When we take all this into account, if he is married, I think he ought not to receive less than an agricultural labourer.
The agricultural labourer is a very important person. I say that you pay the soldier less, although he is fighting for the land. A married man gets now as a minimum £3 2s., or if the Income Tax is taken into account, £3 4s. By these proposals it will be only £3 7s. 6d, If, in the case of a wife and two children, a man was getting £3 17s., he will now get £4 1s. 6d.—it may be a little more. I say that comparatively with what is being done outside, this is very small. I urge the Government to recognise that much older men are joining the Army, and that they cannot remove the grievances in this small and serialised way.
It is said that it would cause inflation if more money were to be put into circulation. In the first place., this differs entirely from an increase in, let us say, old age pensions. That would be continued when the war ended, but this large Army will be cut down when the war is ended, and therefore, whatever you decide to give in money is a temporary provision. But the way to stop inflation is not by arresting the incomes of soldiers or industrial workers; it is by rationing. That is a complete check.
The right hon. Gentleman represents a dockyard constituency. I am glad he is showing such fervour about this, but would he be willing to go down to his constituency and tell the dockyard workers that they should not get more than the serving soldiers and sailors are getting?
I certainly would not. I am saying the opposite—that the soldier should not get less than the dockyardsman, and in that proposal I should have the warm support of the dockyardsmen, because they recognise this anomaly. I say that the way to stop inflation is by a system of rationing. It is not right to speak of inflation in connection with raising the pay of soldiers if it does not apply in connection with raising the wages of industrial workers outside the Army.
I will recapitulate what I have endeavoured to put to the House, because I would not like any misconception to arise. In the first place, this is an increase, and as such will be welcomed. I do not think, however, that it can be accepted as a stabilised increase related to the cost of living. It is on that ground that, first of all, I criticise these proposals. It is an increase, and as such it is welcomed, but it cannot be, and will not be, accepted as final. We are dealing with a peculiar set of circumstances caused by the prolonged duration of the war, and we ought to look at Army pay from a new angle and relate it to the circumstances of civil life. We ought to assert the principle that the status of a man's family should not drop as a result of his having joined the Army. Clearly, there must be a maximum to what the State can be expected to pay. Let us, if we like, make that maximum allowance for the family of the lowest paid soldier £5 a week or £6 a week, but let us, at any rate, accept that a family should not fall in its status as a result of a breadwinner having joined the Army; and certainly no family should be paid dependants' allowances at a rate which does not permit it to buy the ordinary rationed scale of goods. At the rates mentioned in the White Paper it is not possible for those on the minimum rate of allowance, unless their income is subsidised elsewhere, to live upon the ordinary ration scale. Those are the criticisms that I make of these proposals and those are the constructive suggestions. I feel sure that if the war continues some such new principle will have to be adopted.
It was not my intention to intervene in this Debate, but, on reflection and having tried to consult some of my colleagues, I felt it right to say a few sentences as early as I could on the speech of the Leader of the House. I am not making a long speech, and I am sure the House will not mind that. This is a problem of very great magnitude and of very great difficulty. As my right hon. and learned Friend said at the beginning of his speech, since the war started there have been many alterations in pay and allowances; I myself have been concerned in them, and I have had some responsibility for them, as the First Lord of the Admiralty well knows. But it is not good for the Fighting Services to be dwelling for ever on discussions in this House about their rates of pay and allowances. We have taken far too many bites. My right hon. and learned Friend said that these new proposals will add £43,000,000 a year to the cost of our Fighting Services—something like three days' expenditure on the war. He said that substantial justice will be done, and his view was that the proposals now made are, apart from modifications which may be necessitated by alterations in the cost of living, final. I am bound to say that my colleagues do not regard that as a satisfactory state.
I should like to see this thing once and for all put out of the arena of party controversy. I do not believe in Dutch auctions in this House, and I do not believe in higher bribes for this, that and the other. I think that one ought to try to get something in the way of pay and allowances, apart from the cataclysm in the changes of prices of commodities and so on, which can be held to during the war. Although the Government have made an advance, and let us admit that £43,000,000 a year in the hands of members of the Fighting Services and their families is not to be ignored, I think it would have been better if at this stage we could, once and for all, have got rid of the whole of the series of problems and complications and then made minor adjustments later.
The increase in the basic pay was clouded up by the Leader of the House with too much higher mathematics. It does, in fact, amount to 6d. per day. It has been suggested that 1s. per day might have been a good figure, and a figure to which this House could have stood. Children's allowances are increased. My right hon. and learned Friend bases his argument on a family of three children. I am not as good a statistician as I used to be, and I think it is absurd to speak in this House of an average family of 1.5—I do not know bow anyone can have 1.5 children—but, broadly speaking, it means something like 2s. or 2s. 6d. more for soldiers' families. There is nothing for the wife, and I can understand one powerful reason for that in the case of married women without children; the Government think, and most of us feel, that her place is in the industrial field. Let that be admitted, but to give families with one and a half children something like 2s. 6d. per week will not satisfactorily come to the assistance of the soldier with children. As regards junior officers, all reports which have come to me—and I have seen hundreds of such officers in recent months—show that their plight is about as hard and tough as anyone's can be. To say to them, "If you are married, we will give your children a little more," or, "If you really are proficient and if," in the words of the Lord Privy Seal, "in one-third of the time you make yourself trebly efficient, we will make you a lieutenant instead of allowing you to remain a 2nd-lieutenant," does not seem to me to deal with the situation.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend does not wish to misrepresent what I said. I said, instead of 18 months being the general rule for promotion, it would be six months.
That is my point. He trebles his capacity of efficiency and then gets his other "pip" and becomes a lieutenant in six instead of 18 months. A good deal has been said to-day about the importance of getting the best people in the Services. I do not wish to enter an unnecessarily controversial note, but I am bound to say that the whole weight of the discussion has been on the side of the Service men. Very few Members have suggested that this allocation of £43,000,000 per year is sufficient. We are now discussing a Vote of Credit, and we naturally would support this further Vote of £1,000,000,000. I feel bound to say, however, that we regard these proposals as welcome so far as they go, but that we are deeply disappointed as regards their general results as making no real contribution to a final settlement of a question which ought to be settled as soon as possible. One fears that before long this House may again be engaged in a similar Debate, and, Mr. Speaker, it is not to the credit of this House.
Before making my few observations, I should like to join with the Lord Privy Seal in the congratulations he extended to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Tavistock (Captain Studholme) and to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Salisbury (Major Morrison). I feel that the House has some quarrel with the Government in the arrangement of this Debate. I was surprised to hear the Lord Privy Seal say at the beginning of the Debate that there had been two, and only two, alternative suggestions, firstly, that the Government statement should be made at the beginning of the Debate, and, secondly, that it should be made in the course of the Debate, or at the end of the Debate. I was confidently under the impression that another suggestion had been made, that on this particular day the Government should listen with an open mind to the suggestions of the House and that in the course of the Recess, which is following very conveniently, a White Paper should be issued embodying the conclusions which the Government arrived at, not only by themselves, but on the basis of this Debate.
The arrangement that has been made seems to me to have no advantages whatever. The first half of the day was spent in making suggestions to those who had already made up their minds, and the second half is being spent in trying to make observations on proposals which are of considerable complication and which we have never seen in writing. If they were to be put before us for debate today, why were they not put a week ago so that we could have an opportunity of considering them? I beg the Government not to take the attitude that the proposals indicated to-day are their final proposals and will be adhered to whatever their, impression of the suggestions made earlier to-day or whatever impression is made on the Government by suggestions made later to-day. If they are not prepared to alter them, there does not seem much reason for the Rule to have been suspended.
There are two main headings under which I should like to make observations upon the matter of the Lord Privy Seal's speech. The first is that it was singularly impenitent with regard to the reception which the White Paper has had from the
whole of the country and the whole of the House. It was impenitent in two respects. It gave no indication—I think I speak for the vast majority of Members—that the Government realise that we practically all felt that the White Paper was an advocate's case backed up by very thin arguments on many points. There really should not have been any reference to comforts or recreational facilities as matters relevant to mention at all in connection with the remuneration of the Forces, nor should there have been any mention whatever of free travel for men or women, posted perhaps 400 miles from their homes, on the occasions when they are able to reach their homes. There was, too, something extraordinarily unsatisfactory in the sentence which solemnly asserted:
It is impossible to assess in terms of cash with any accuracy the value of the many different kinds of accommodation which they may occupy from time to time.
Could that sentence have been written by anyone who had any real understanding of the feelings of our soldiers, sailors or airmen?
A second point, on which I had hoped for rather more sympathy from the Government, was that no indication whatever was given that the Government are disturbed by the disparity between civilian and Army rates. I fully appreciate the immense difficulty of dealing with the problem. But I should have thought some crumb of comfort might have been given both to the House and to those outside to whom this is one of the most pressing anxieties. Every day and in every place this comparison is drawn, not so much between the men, but between the economic position of the wives and families of serving men and that of men who are doing work no doubt equally important but in all essential respects far less exacting than that of soldiers, sailors and airmen. No indication has yet been given that the Government regard that matter as serious at all.
The second main comment that I would make on the matter of the Lord Privy Seal's speech is that his handling of the question of War Service Grants was totally inadequate. The suggestions which I shall make will, I hope, be considered by the Government, not on the basis that their minds have been made up, but with an open mind. I should like to range them under four heads. One has been to some extent dealt with so far as I understand the proposals, but on the subject matter of the other three we have heard nothing. The first matter, on which I hope the Secretary of State far War will be able to say something, is the extraordinary complication of our system and the extraordinary difficulties that confront anyone who wants to discover what his position and rights may be. I do not take quite so optimistic a view as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) or the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) about simplification. I am sure it cannot be done. So far as actual rates of pay are concerned, there ought not to be too much difficulty. A man ought to be able to discover what is his rate of pay.
It is these matters of allowances, War Service Grants, dependants' allowances, and all the complications of pre-service contributions and so forth. A man and his family are told by posters in the post offices, "Do not hesitate to ask for the War Service Grant. It is your right." But a right is not much good to you if you cannot discover its extent. It is not only that it is too difficult for the man and his wife. It is impossible for competent professional people who are taking an interest in Service welfare and who complain bitterly that they cannot discover the principles on which these payments are fixed. I had some experience in a different field, and we found that it was essential to persuade every local authority to publish a booklet on "How to get help after air-raid damage." Without that the public could not get all the facilities into their minds. Is there any satisfactory booklet of that kind with regard to Army allowances? I find that those who are most competent in the matter in my constituency collect one White Paper after another, perhaps have one or two missing, or perhaps have the book already referred to which is two years out of date, and they cannot find out what the position is. The closest attention should be given by the Service Departments as to how there can be simplified publicity which will help the families and those interested in them to discover what their position is.
The second point that I was proposing to make was that there must be a substantial increase in the ordinary children's allowances. I do not press for more than the 6d. a day increase in basic pay which has been announced, but I should have liked the increase in the children's allowances to have been rather larger. I do not press for an increase in the wife's allowance, because the childless wife has every opportunity, and in most cases has the duty, to be in industry, but when the rise in the cost of living is realised and compared with the children's allowances, they are not high even as announced today. I have the figures from the "Ministry of Labour Gazette." There has been a 30 per cent. increase in food, rent, clothing, light and fuel since the beginning of the war. There has been 100 per cent. increase in clothing alone, and a 20 per cent. increase in light and fuel. These new rates are not high, but they will be of very substantial assistance. On that point, therefore, what I should have suggested has been anticipated to some extent.
On the next point, the War Service Grants, I am far from satisfied. I do not think the Lord Privy Seal is completely familiar with the position. He stated that exceptional cases were dealt with by War Service Grants, but surely 427,000 is too large a number for exceptional cases. In fact, if I understand what we have been told, the effect of the proposals will be that the number will be reduced because of increased children's allowances. Unless something else is done the proposals will reduce the number of War Service Grants.
What surprised me was that there was no announcement of an increase in the basic unit by which the War Service Grant is measured. Most Members will be familiar with the fact that if, after deducting reasonable commitments, a childless wife is left with 16s. to cover food, clothing and incidentals like medical expenses, travelling expenses, bus fares, entertainments, household expenses and so forth, the War Service Grants Committee have to consider her to have enough. If she has two children and between them they have 32s. on the same basis, she must be deemed to have enough and she will not get a War Service Grant. It may be a little higher if she enjoyed a higher standard of living before the war. I am most interested in the lowest, though I would add that the clerical grades too and their families are suffering hardship by this test. It cannot be right that the necessity for War Ser- vice Grants should be measured by such a unit. It must be clear that the 16s. and still more that the 8s. per child must be raised and that that addition must surely be made to the Government's proposals as we have heard them to-day. It has been said by the Minister of Pensions that this is just to cover food and clothing, but there are many other items, such as those I have mentioned. I have had many cases from my constituency in which that standard rate has left people very hard up. I received one when I got home last night in which, being down to the 32s. for herself and two children, the wife was not at all in a satisfactory position.
There is one particular aspect of this War Service Grants matter on which I have been seeking to get satisfaction for the last three months by correspondence. It is one on which I have met with a blank wall, and I am exceedingly dissatisfied. The system of Army pay is not on the basis of the average family. It is on the basis that family responsibilities call for increments, including both wife and children in the phrase "family responsibilities." But there is no provision in the War Service Grants system or anywhere else for the family responsibility that arises in preparation for and at the time of a child's arrival in the world. The young wife is expected to make preparations for the birth of her first child without any addition to the 16s. unit. It is quite impossible, but I have had the most extraordinary responses from the Ministry. Perhaps I might strengthen my argument by a letter which I received from a body which is sometimes thought to be too careful and not sufficiently generous, not erring, at any rate, on the side of sentiment. I refer to the Charity Organisation Society, and this is what I heard from them:
As you know, rather more than half the secretaries of our district committees act as secretaries of the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families' Association. Their experience is that at least 60 per cent.—in some districts it is put as high as 00 per cent.—of soldiers' wives expecting confinement apply to us for layettes and assistance with prams.… My Committee feel that it would be difficult to make out a case that a grant for layette and pram should be given to every soldier's wife expecting confinement. It would be impossible to make out a case of financial hardship in a large number of cases. My Committee feel, however, that Mr. Willink would be on unassailable ground if he urged that in every case where a hardship
allowance is paid, then a grant for confinement expenses, including a layette, should be made on a medical certificate three months prior to the date of the expected confinement…. A soldier's dependant in receipt of a hardship allowance can, when expecting confinement, apply for a grant to enable her to buy a pram. The grant, if made, takes the form of a weekly sum which is of no use to the expectant mother. She cannot buy under a hire purchase agreement since hire purchase firms' will not enter into a hire purchase agreement with soldiers' wives. In some cases the hardship committee require evidence that the pram has been bought before making an allowance. This again is impossible unless the applicant comes to our Society or others like it for a grant. My Committee would be in favour of a grant for a pram being made in all hardship cases where there is evidence that the expectant mother did not already possess one.
One needs little imagination to realise the feelings of a soldier who hears of his wife, who for six, seven or eight months after marriage has been in work, finding it impossible to continue work because the first baby is going to arrive and of her income being measured on the 16s. unit. There is no time at which fathers should be more reassured as to the well-being of their wives and of their situation than this vital time in the life of the family. In that setting may I tell the House what the reaction of the Ministry of Pensions has been to this proposal? The first reaction is in this phraseology:
As regards emergency grants, these are intended for cases where some wholly unforeseeable occurrence involves the family in very heavy expense; and ordinary uncomplicated maternity cases do not come within that category…. Nor do we make emergency grants to cover the cost of layettes, perambulators and cots. In those cases where expense is necessarily incurred for the purchase of these latter articles we do make a small adjustment in our weekly grants if the acquisition of the articles has reduced the standard of living below the minimum prescribed.
That is a lamentable answer when one realises that this standard is 16s. for the wife and 8s. for each of the children. Discontented with that, I managed to get an answer from the Minister himself, and I was still more surprised by what he said:—
I think it is clear that my Department has ho power at the present time to make provision for that purpose, and frankly I can see no real reason why it should have such power…. Inasmuch as childbirth is not peculiarly a phenomenon of service families, the appropriate quarter is clearly one which is in a position to deal with the matter from the broad standpont of the nation as a whole.
The argument is lamentable because the whole principle of Service pay, in
contrast with civilian pay, is that these matters do require supplementation. The Minister goes on to say:
The Ministry of Health already makes provision for maternity cases, and if that provision needs extension in the direction which you suggest that Department would be the appropriate authority to secure the benefit for the country at large.
The Minister no doubt was referring to free midwifery and the £2 maternity benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts. But many of these women have never been in a walk of life accustomed to rely on such services. I did not rest there, and I have now got a still better indication of the Department's views. With regard to baby linen, which is really a substantial matter, as I know as a father, the Department says
Layette: This is not an emergency and has but little relation to Service conditions, and is in fact met by regimental ladies.
On the second point they say
Expenses of confinement: This is the job of the Ministry of Health and if they think £2 is enough it is not for us to interfere.
We all know how anxious fathers are at these times, and I make the definite suggestion that the fathers should be reassured and the mothers put out of anxiety. They should not be left wondering whether they can afford to stop work, or when they are to apply for War Service Grant—how many weeks before—or how long it will take for the grant to come through.
I respectfully submit that all these are substantial matters.
I am particularly pleased to have been elected to this House in time to take: part in this most important Debate and to give the point of view of a Service man. In listening to the speech of the Leader of the House, I was struck by his assertion that the Government feel that now, at once, the pay which they propose should be stabilised. That means that any man between the ages of 19 and 40 who is called up to the Services must be prepared to enter them for pay of 3s. per day. Many of those men are leaving good civilian jobs to go into the Services on that small pay. I want to try to impress upon the House exactly what a serving man can do when he receives that pay at the end of the week or at the end of a fortnight. Having had so much experience myself, I feel that the House will give me credit for having practical knowledge such as has not been advanced today. According to the scale which has been put forward by the Government today, an unmarried man will receive 3s. per day for the first six months. After six months he may receive proficiency pay and other increases. According to the White Paper, a very large number, or a good percentage, are N.C.O.'s and others who get more than the basic rate, but I think it will be generally agreed that the basic rate will apply to the majority of the men, because an Army and a Navy cannot be composed entirely of field-marshals and admirals. The Services must consist mainly of stokers, privates and the lower ranks of the Air Force. The majority of those with whom we are concerned to-day belong to the lower ranks. In spite of the fact that there are special rates for tradesmen and that promotion brings higher pay, the House should at all times have the fullest regard for those of the lowest rank.
I cannot understand by what means the Government have come to a decision on what is fair remuneration for these men. I should be very pleased to be informed by some representative of the Government what steps they have taken before coming to their decision. In civil life employers in the main are forced to pay a fair wage to their men as a result of trade union agitation and trade union strength. I should like to know whether any Committee has been set up to find out exactly what the Service man is able to do with the allowance he receives. The money paid to Service men is divided into two sections. The first is the section relating to what he receives by way of the cost of his maintenance. The White Paper says that his allowance for clothing, laundry, board and one or two other items is assessed at about 35s. per week. I am certain no one in the Services will accept that as a fair figure of the value of what is received from the State in that regard; least of all will it be accepted in the Navy, particularly as regards laundry, because in the Navy men have to do their own washing, paying for their own soap and soap powder out of the pay which is given them and which is going to be stabilised.
Take the other portion of the pay, the actual money which the man receives. The most that an unmarried man can expect to receive if he is on the lowest basic rate is £1 a week. It is 21s. according to the figures in the White Paper, but that does not mention anything about deductions, and the House can rest assured that no man in the Services receives the exact amount of money which is laid down as his basic rate of pay. Even if it is only a few coppers less it is not the same. If we put the amount at £1 it will not be exaggerating one way or the other. That is his pay; what he receives in the other direction is not, because it depends upon circumstance. His accommodation will depend upon circumstance, and so will his food and his laundry. All those things depend upon whether the man is in a nice billet here at home, or out in the desert, or is serving on board a ship. This matter ought to be considered from the angle of how much the man actually gets, how much the State considers he ought to be paid for the services which are being rendered. As an unmarried man he is to get £1 a week. A large percentage of these men are between the ages of 30 an 40. They are not young lads who have gone into the Army or Navy because, perhaps, they could not get a job outside or thought there were better prospects in the Services. Such lads are usually between 18 and 20, but now we have men of 30 to 40 coming into the Services on these low rates of pay.
Let us look at their expenditure. I take it that the Government will realise at once that it is necessary for them to spend a certain amount on postage. Postage is a very important item these days. Say we limit a man to five stamps a week. That will mean 1s. gone out of his pound. I would here remind the House that he has to undergo all sorts of risks and to submit to the severe discipline of the Services, which is something which is not appreciated by people who have not been in the Services. Discipline sometimes treats a man between 30 and 40 worse than young children going to school are treated. Nevertheless the men stick it. With all they have to endure I think we could allow them, say, 20 cigarettes a day. There would be no fear of their smoking themselves to death. That would be another 10s. 6d. which makes 11s. 6d. a week to have a smoke and send a few letters home, before the man gets into civilisation at all. The best part of his pay is gone before he leaves the barracks, the ship or the camp. Before the in- creases were announced, that would comprise two-thirds of his weekly wage, and would now leave him 9s. a week for other purposes.
We ought to deal with this matter more on daily lines, because 9s. sounds a lot when a soldier's or sailor's name is being mentioned. If we confine it to just over 1s. a day people may understand just how much the man is getting. After a man has been out in convoy, or before he has gone into active service when undergoing training, he prefers to go out into civilisation, into the town, and have a little bit of enjoyment. These rates allow that man, after he has had a smoke or written a few letters, about 9s., and everything he buys out of that is, again, heavily taxed. The best part of it is returned to the State. If he goes to the cinema it is taxed. If he buys a glass of beer, which nobody would deny to him, it is heavily taxed. Whatever he does with that small amount of money, which he needs in order to take his mind away from the monotony of Service life, it is worth only half its face value by the time he comes to spend it.
Two very important points are missed by the Treasury, or whoever is responsible for fixing rates of pay. First is the question of marriage for young men. I take it that the Government do not intend to discourage marriage for men who are called up during the war. Can anybody tell me whether a man can make any provision whatever, at present Service rates, to pay for marriage? Is there any possibility of being able to put anything aside out of those rates? None at all. We do not find that difficulty among the civilians because they get a fair wage while the Service man does not. The Service man should not be put at a disadvantage in regard to his future marriage. Sufficient should be paid to him to enable him to undertake marriage. It may be argued that plenty of Service men are getting married in these days, even on the low rates, but I suggest that the money is often being provided not by the man but from the good wages earned by his bride-to-be. That is a wrong principle, as far as the men of this country are concerned.
Another point in regard to the unmarried men relates to their dependants. I want the House to keep in mind that we are dealing now with men between 30 and 40 years of age who, in many cases, although old enough to be fathers, have for many years had a liability to their parents in civilian life, and have contributed a certain amount towards the household in recognition of that liability. When they come into the Services, the small pay allowed them does not take into account any payment to their dependants. It is true that a dependant's allowance is given by the State, but that allowance is very strictly administered and there is as strict a means test as can be applied to anyone. Apart from the marriage issue, I feel it is essential that those who consider these rates of pay should give single men sufficient money to enable them to pay fair dues to their households and to prevent any financial burden being placed on those households, in consequence of the men entering the Services.
The married man is compelled to make a compulsory allotment of 3s. 6d. per week. It was 7s. up to April, but now it is 3s. 6d. The Service man has to have regard to finance as well as to patriotism. Speeches have been made here suggesting that the Service man is not so much concerned with finance, but I can assure hon. Members that he is entitled to be just as much concerned with it as those who are not in the Services and is probably much more concerned, especially when he is leaving dependants at home. A compulsory allotment of 3s. 6d. brings the married man's pay down to approximately 16s. 6d. a week. Considering the high prices of commodities, it becomes very difficult for him to satisfy his needs and meet his liabilities.
If possible, the Government should look at this matter from the angle of what a man can do with the money he receives from the State, and what he actually deserves. I can speak to hon. Members from practical experience. I have been aboard ship with married men who, even out of that small pay, have had to send money home to their wives because of the inadequate allowances being granted. Many cases have happened like that, in spite of war service grants. The Government should put married men, at least, in an equivalent position to unmarried men, as far as remuneration is concerned. I believe the Government have accepted the principle of family allowances to wives and children. If so, there is nothing wrong in saying that, from now on, the remuneration received by married and unmarried men in respect of their posts in the Services should be on a similar basis. They should be paid the same. These men have to go into action whether they are single or married. The same devotion to duty is expected by the State and is given by the man. On those grounds alone, there should be no differentiation in the money received by them.
I would like to raise another question, regarding the children's allowances which are paid. The third child of a household has been allowed 5s. per week. The White Paper makes an allowance of 35s. for soldiers herded in camp. That is the estimate of the benefit received by the man from the State. It applies equally to the sailor who has to sleep in a hammock. Can any member of the Government tell me that 5s. is a fair allowance for a child, in these days of high prices? If you break a cup it might cost 1s. to replace it. Many other instances could be given of small tragedies in a household absorbing a large part of this allowance. To-day the allowance has been raised to 7s. 6d., but I still maintain that it is far too low. An allowance of 1s. a day is not sufficient to keep a cat, let alone a child, in these days of high prices. The Government should revise their views as to what a child should or should not have. I hope the Government will at least consider these points. There is this about it: I was rather disturbed to learn that they had arrived at their decision previously, and were only allowing these speeches to-day as a matter of form. It seems to me that they had made up their minds long before the speeches, because I am quite certain that it must have been a Cabinet decision, and I have not seen the members of the Cabinet meeting in this room to-day. It is not very comforting, in my view, when decisions are made first and speeches have to be made afterwards. I feel that it would be very much better if the Government listened to the view of the people who have had some experience of these particular problems before arriving at their decision.
There is one point which I would like to make before I conclude. The men and women in the Services have, I can assure you, been watching for this Debate with very earnest interest. The decision which has been announced by the Government, in my view, will not satisfy them by a long way. I am quite sure that all hon. Members will appreciate that 3s. 6d. a week, or 6d. a day, is no very great improvement. It is welcome, it is true; you are ready to take anything when you are getting very little. I think I can say on their behalf that whatever way they are treated by the Government, however meagre the Government may be in consideration of their pay and allowances, they are determined to defeat the enemy who confronts us to-day, even if it should be done without any pay whatsoever. They are determined on that, but only on one condition—that there must be a very strict equality of financial sacrifice before they are expected to do it. You can go round the country and see countless people with plenty of money to spend, while poor Tommy and Jack are walking the streets with hardly a shilling in their pockets. That is not good enough. They do not want the earth, but they do want recognition for the very good services they are giving the State in these days.
Major; Sir Edward Cadogan:
We have listened to-day to a number of maiden speeches, and I am sure that I shall have the whole House with me when I say that they have reached a very high standard. I sincerely congratulate the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. W. Edwards)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hon. and gallant "]—I beg his pardon; the hon. and gallant Member for Whitechapel—on the speech he has delivered to-day. It was characterised by great eloquence, self-assurance, and a comprehensive grasp of the subject. I am quite sure that it he brings the same qualities to bear in our future Debates he will make a very valuable contribution to the work of the House of Commons. There is something besides his eloquence which I envy; it is his right to claim the indulgence of the House, a right which I exhausted many years ago, but which I crave every time I address its Members.
I am confronted with the same difficulty which every other hon. Member has experienced in deciding whether to welcome the announcement of the Lord Privy Seal which—and I share this view with other hon. Members—I wish he had included in the White Paper, so that we might have had time to think it over. I share the difficulty also of attempting to assess the value of the services which a soldier, sailor or airman renders. I was a serving soldier for four years in the last war, and I know the difficulties, the dangers and the hardships of a soldier's life; therefore I am not likely either to underestimate those difficulties and hardships, or to overestimate any increase in pay and allowances which the Government may decide to give to the Fighting Services.
The parents of James Boswell sought the assistance of the Duke of Argyll to obtain a commission for their son in the Army, and the Duke replied, "Oh no, I like your son James, and I am not going to have him shot at for 3s. 6d. a day." I do not know whether the noble Duke, had he been asked, would have been able to assess at what point he would have felt justified in allowing his young friend to risk his life. It is not only a question of assessing the value of a soldier's services. There is another difficulty. Of course we all knew that the moment the Lord Privy Seal announced exactly the sum to which these figures would amount, it would be greeted with a howl of indignation from hon. Members opposite, those who have not the same responsibility as the Government, as guardians of the nation's purse.
If the hon. and gallant Member will allow me, I think in perfect fairness he should recognise the fact that the disagreement came from all parts of the House, and not from Members on this side alone.
I accept the hon. Member's correction, but I will take a rather different line. Many hon. Members have spoken and I do not think that that side of the question has been sufficiently discussed.
I do not think the hon. and gallant Member intended to cast a slur, but he did suggest that the responsibility on this side was not as great as on the other side. Is he aware of the fact that the Government is composed of representatives of all parties?
Perhaps the hon. Member would allow me to develop my argument. Of all the questions which we discuss in this House, those concerning the remuneration of services rendered, either in military or civilian life—and, indeed, the provision of State assistance, which involves just the same economic problem—are those which are least understood by the general public. I do not blame the general public at all, as our best-informed professors of political economy are themselves at loggerheads on the subject. But when we examine the conditions governing pay, salaries or wages as the case may be, and have to decide whether an increase is desirable, we cannot determine that issue without having regard to the effect that our decision will have on the community as a whole, including, of course, the very section of the community we intend to benefit. That is the true criterion of all State expenditure. In the matter we are discussing to-day, if we take some course which is disadvantageous to the community as a whole, it will ultimately react upon the very section of the community we are endeavouring to benefit.
The easy, popular course for us to take, and of course the line of least resistance, is always to continue to demand increases of pay, be it in the Services or in any other walk of life. In our Debates on this and kindred matters it requires some measure of courage even to counsel caution; it could easily be misconstrued, and has generally been seized upon to our detriment by our political opponents. For a long period of years I have heard hon. Members opposite counting it to themselves as a virtue, to advocate an increase of the basic rates of remuneration of all kinds, setting themselves up as being more sympathetic to the wage earner, to the serving soldier, and to the salaried Government official, and as more large-hearted and more generous than those who suggest that there might be some economic fallacy involved. What abominable cant that is. Sidney Smith once remarked that it is quite easy to be a Good Samaritan, always provided that someone else supplies the oil and the two-pence. Speaking as a voter and not as a Member, I should be disposed to believe that the hon. Member who advocated caution in State expenditure was more likely to have the interests of the whole community at heart than one who counselled reckless extravagance in every direction and on every occasion, without giving one thought to the possible adverse repercussions on the community at large.
In spite of all the millions we spend on education, there still seems to be quite a considerable section of the community which conceives the idea that the State possesses a hoard of wealth contained in a treasure chest similar to that which our Anglo-Saxon kings kept in their tents to pay their armed retinues. The source of all the wealth of the State is in the pockets of the people, and to an ever-increasing degree in the pockets of the wage-earner and indeed the soldier, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a recent speech has indicated. The Budget of 1941, he tells us, increased by 4,000,000 the number of persons of the smaller income groups liable to direct taxation. Eighty-five per cent. of the total net purchasing power resides in incomes of under £500 a year. Now we know in what direction the Chancellor will have to turn if he wants a large increase in basic rates, whether in the Services or any other direction. He will go to the family of the soldier, to his father, his mother, his brothers, his sisters, his cousins and his aunts who may pay Income Tax to provide the soldier with an illusory increase. The more the wage-earner or the soldier is paid the deeper down will the Chancellor of the Exchequer delve into the pocket of the wage-earner or soldier.
There is the cry that £43,000,000 is nothing and that £130,000,000 would not do any harm. When one comes to think of it, will it not be even worse than robbing Peter to pay Paul? It is robbing Peter to pay Peter and meting out the same treatment to Paul. The incidence of direct taxation has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis in recent years. Some decades ago there was a limited number of geese that laid a large number of golden eggs. One lesson war finance has taught us is that prolific as it may have been, the sex life of the goose that lays the golden egg is limited, so that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to rely instead on the produce of a large number of geese that lay a limited number of silver eggs, and the more limited their laying powers become the larger number of this kind of stock he will have to rely upon if and when the Treasury has to be reinforced.
A second consideration if we have to strike a measure of caution is even more bewildering than the first. We have to ask ourselves whether we are doing more harm than good in the peculiar conditions of to-day by increasing purchasing power in any direction when the supply of goods is decreasing. Will it not increase the cost of living? Will that be for the good of the community or indeed any section of it? However, none of these considerations restrain me from welcoming an attempt to redress a large number of anomalies and very real grievances, but I must say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that I for one thoroughly object to this sectional treatment of pay and wages. I hope very much that in the planning of the new world the architects thereof will devise a comprehensive pay and wages policy assessed in relation to our circumstances as a whole, and adjustable to changing needs. Until such a happy consummation is arrived at I am afraid we shall have to rely on interim expedients which are by no means a real solution of the whole problem and are always unsatisfactory.
My final word is this: The line of action I think is right will not be popular with the Forces whose interests we are engaged in discussing. They are engaged upon other matters, and they themselves are not able to go into this matter in all its implications. That is the duty and function of Members of Parliament. I would appeal to Members to be honest with themselves. Owing to the exigencies of war, we have to take many courses which are not popular and to refrain from taking other courses which are. We can only appeal to the public to have regard to the common weal which ultimately will be for their own advantage, although it may not be very apparent to them at the moment. The President of the United States only a day or two ago has set a noble example to the legislators of all countries by an announcement which was courageous and careless of whether it pleased or offended, an example which I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer and all those associated with him in the Cabinet in their unenviable task of solving our war problems will follow with an equal courage and with the single aim of serving the best interests not of one section of the community but of the whole.
I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken will forgive me if I do not follow him in the whole length of his argument. Some of his points were so involved that I admit I could not follow him. But I would say this: people on this side of the House are under no misgivings as to where the wealth for these increased allowances to Service men and their dependants will come from. The money for all things must come from labour power applied to raw materials, and not only the allowances of Service men but the pay of workers, of Cabinet Ministers, aye, and of Members of Parliament, come from that source. We are under no misgivings when we decide on the distribution of the national wealth to do all we can to aid Service men and their dependants. I am sure the whole House would approve of that particular attitude.
I have tried to follow to-day the suggestion that was made a couple of days ago by the Leader of the House in that we should be in our places the whole time and have no break for meals. From the first word uttered in this Debate to this moment I have never left this Chamber. I do not say that very proudly, because it has been a rather difficult experience. Indeed, I was in some dubiety and felt some misgivings as to whether I should follow that course when I saw the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had given the House the suggestion two days ago leave for a meal. That dubiety is increased when I see the Leader of the House missing from his place now. I think it is another instance of making suggestions for other people. After all practice is much more difficult to all of us than precept.
I heard the Leader of the House announce the Government's intentions. I wish to be respectful if I can to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I think he was very explanatory. I think we got a clear understanding of what the Government's intentions were in this matter. If I may say so, he was not convincing so far as the feeling of Members in all parts of the House and feeling in the country goes as to what improvements should be. At the beginning of his statement he suggested that there had been increases since the beginning of the war in the pay of soldiers, sailors and airmen, and their dependants. I wonder how that came about. I have been in the House since 1938, and I do not think that I remember an occasion when the Government voluntarily, without pressure from all parts of the House, came forward and suggested that there should be an improvement in Service men's conditions. The right hon. and learned Gentleman endeavoured to skate nicely over the idea that we must have regard to the disparity between the pay of our own Forces and that of the Allied Forces in this country. I thought of what I had heard someone say in a restaurant the other night: "The fact that a corporal in the United States Army receives as much as a captain in the British Army is surely something about which we should concern ourselves and try to remedy."
The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not talk for long about the White Paper. I think he was conscious that if, in the course of his very busy job, he perhaps had not had the opportunity of considering fully what the Treasury had brought forward, it would be better not to say much. In a prominent London evening newspaper the other day there appeared, under the signature of John Kanarlin, an article dealing with this question of soldiers' pay and the White Paper. In the next column appeared the heading "Chinese Fairy Tale." I wondered whether there was not some grim jest behind that placing of the titles of the different articles. As my hon. friend the member for Whitechapel (Mr. W. Edwards) said, in his brilliant maiden speech, if the Government were consistent, they would in all conscience apply to the wives of the serving men who have to spend money individually and not collectively the same standard of pay as is applied to the troops in the White Paper, 35s. a week, and if it costs the Government 35s. a man per week then his wife should get the same.
The country is more united on this subject which we are now discussing than on any other. That is more because of the justice involved than because people think that our men would, or could, fight better than they are doing. It is strange to think of a man being told, as he is in one of our popular songs, that he is "Lord of the air" when he goes to bomb an enemy country, and then when he gets home he finds that his is one of the deserving poor, and that we are having a flag day for him.
The figures in the White Paper are very questionable. When reference is made to the War Service Grants, we get a definite indication that if Service pay was based on that of industrial and other workers there would be no need for such a system of grants. I am filled with grave misgivings by the statement of the Leader of the House about the future operation of War Service Grants. Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman ought to have been told the position. Although his brief was, perhaps, a good one, he did not make use of it in his best vein. After all, we are all different people when we have to attack, from what we are when we have to defend. But when 500,000 people are affected by War Service Grants, why cannot this House be told that there will have to be a new standard, and that new rates of pay are to operate even to recipients of War Service Grants? The recipients of these grants are to know that new rates are to operate from 1st October, but they are not to know what the new rates will be to them or whether there will be any improvement in their position. We shall have no settlement of this problem until we give our Forces a living wage similar to that which people in industry receive.
The hon. and gallant Member for Bolton (Sir E. Cadogan) referred to the question of cost. If we wanted a new ship, tank, gun, or plane, would the question of cost enter into it? Have we ever reflected also on the saving that could be effected if we treated our serving men and their dependants properly? We could immediately do away with the system of administration which is dealing with these grants, saving ourselves money and releasing labour for the prosecution of the war. Has it ever struck the Government that, even with these increases, which we feel are not enough, a large portion will go back to the source from which it came? A-good deal of the money will return to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in revenue received from the purchase of taxable goods.
I am concerned about whether our mode of appeal to the serving men is calculated to improve their morale. I was told the other day that in one of the N.A.A.F.I. canteens there was a poster which suggested that the serving men might keep any surplus they had for investment in war certificates and bonds, because of the possibility of continuing unemployment after the war. Think of it. Yet there is still a poster exhibited showing a civilian industrial worker turning over some of his pound notes that are surplus to the War Stock. I do not see any opportunity for a soldier to invest in War Stock comparable with that which we civilians have. I view with alarm the possibility of the soldier paying interest to the rest of us after he has done the fighting for us That would be a very poor return for the victorious warrior. The lowest-paid soldier gets far less than the lowest-paid civilian. I do not think that civilians get too much, and indeed in my own county, in South Yorkshire, the lowest rate of pay for our surface workers at the collieries is about £4 10s. a week, and some of them, in view of the present high cost of living, are having difficulty in managing upon that amount. If they have such a difficulty it only makes the comparative position of the serving man and his dependants so much worse. We all agree that practically every soldier's wife has less on which to manage than her next-door neighbour. Because she has often to live on short commons she has to buy in small quantities, which is always the worst and highest form of expenditure, and she has often to indulge in credit.
We are not going to turn down this offer at all by any adverse Vote. I have spent the last 25 years in the Trade Union movement and my attitude has been, if I could not get what I really wanted, at least to accept what was offered me, and then, like Oliver Twist, to ask for more in justice to any claim that we might put in. There ought to be an all-round improvement of 1s. a day in the pay of our serving men, 35s. should be accorded to a wife, and 10s. to each child. Perhaps I depart from some of my colleagues in suggesting that we would be well-advised to consider the mother of every serving man and woman as being entitled at least to a token payment of not less than 5s. a week. Why do I make that suggestion? I come of a stock which is used to the rearing of large families, and, generally speaking, each member of such a family, when starting to work, helps to improve the hitherto low standard of the home. It is wrong that we should pay no regard to the necessity for bringing about an improvement in the standard of life in these humble homes.
The position of officers, though they have been treated in the manner indicated by these increases, should be further improved. There ought to be a minimum increase of 5s. to everybody up to and including the rank of captain. Why do we say that? We want a democratic Army and we want men of all classes to be in this Army, regardless of who they are or where they were born. The wives of officers should receive their money direct like the wives of other ranks. It would have been a wonderful gesture, tending towards unity, if we had said to the country to-day and to serving men in particular that the compulsory allotment of 3s. 6d. a week to which the married men must submit would be totally eliminated and that he would be allowed to receive it with his wife no worse off. The Government have brought forward a "Woolworth" proposal of payment of advances of 6d. a day. I hope that this gesture, resulting as it does in an improvement among our people, is not to be considered as the last word. Accepting this offer gladly, as we do, still we are going to press for more. We owe this as a duty to the men and women doing this job of work in the Forces on our behalf and I hope the House will be generally agreed on this. I felt a little humble at the beginning of this Debate when I heard certain hon. Members in khaki and in navy blue speaking of their own experience and consequently with much better knowledge than those who have not been in direct contact with the members of the Services. I was proud to see officer Members of the House of Commons, as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Whitechapel, addressing the House and saying that from their own experience they knew improvement was needed and that they were going to press until such improvement was brought about.
I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Whitechapel (Mr. W. Edwards) has left the House because I would like, speaking for other sailor Members of the House—I am sure I can speak for them—to welcome him to this House. He will reinforce us in our efforts in fighting for the sailor men. I can almost sympathise with the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having to meet this heavy and resolute attack upon the public purse, which, if the fates outlined to-day are to stand, will no doubt be renewed if hon. Members stick to their guns, as I am sure they will. He has brought it all upon himself by giving way to the Minister of Labour and his trade union friends and allowing them to fix a very high rate of wages, and allowing the Minister of Labour to meet every fresh demand for further pay backed by strikes or threats of strikes by giving way and raising their pay. If he can persuade his colleagues in the Government to stand up and institute a real wage policy based on equality of sacrifice, his task will be greatly lightened. This increase to-day is based upon, and justified by, the rise in the cost of living, and the rise in the cost of living is brought about by the high wages, which would have led to inflation if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not subsidised essential necessities. It is all a very vicious circle. I was born in the Army and for 15 months of this war I was very closely connected with the Army, and I was glad to hear many Members on both sides of the House, including my hon. and gallant Friends the Members for Eastbourne (Major Taylor), Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), and South-East Leeds (Major Milner) put the soldier men case so well. We listened, also, to the hon. and gallant Member for Whitechapel putting the case for the lower deck men.
I do not want to take up more time than I can help, because I believe two of my naval colleagues want to deal with matters in which I am interested, and one of them, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish), has also made some points with which I thoroughly agree. I want to speak to-day, however, for the people who have been hard hit by the rise in the cost of living. I speak for Service pensioners and Fleet Reserve men who have been called up and have, perhaps, given up good businesses or good employment to go to sea at a mature age. I have spoken about this in the House before. Men of 50 to 55, who have previously served their country well, and have earned a pension and settled down, possibly commuting and putting some of it into a small business, a chicken farm or something else, have been called up and sent by the Admiralty to serve in ships which have, perhaps, been through the rigours of winter in the North Sea or on Atlantic convoy. Many of these men had a fair prospect of some years of peace and happiness on the money they had put aside or on there pension. Now so many have died or have been invalided out of the Service with their capacity for earning reduced or their small shop or business has fallen by the way. When they or their widows have applied for pensions, it has been stated that their disability or death was not attributable to their war service when, in nine cases out of ten, it has been due to the hardships of their Service. These cases have always been passed by the Admiralty on to the Minister of Pensions, who has to administer the Government's decision as he finds it. These matters ought to be fought out by the Admiralty. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) said in an interjection when the Leader of the House was speaking, that the trade unions fought the cases for their members, and asked who looked after the interests of sailors, and he was told the Admiralty. Well, I have put many of these cases before the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, and he has listened sympathetically but has passed them on to the Minister of Pensions.
It all comes back to the point that the Minister of Pensions has to deal with the Treasury. The people who decide these cases do so with just about as much heart as those responsible for this frightful White Paper. Ail these cases are not sympathetically dealt with; many are still pending, and I shall go on fighting them until better treatment is given to the widows of men who have died or men who have suffered through disablement due to war service. There is another class which is suffering heavily from the war, namely, pensioners over serving age. This tremendous rise in the cost of living and Income Tax makes their small pensions insufficient to live on. In my constituency there are many old age pensioners, ex-Service and otherwise, who have not enough to live on, and it is all due to the high cost of living. I hope that when this question of Service pay is considered further the hard cases of these pensioners may be looked on with sympathy. After the last war they were given a certain pension, and as the cost of living went down it was reduced, until, in 1934, it was stabilised when the cost of living was 44 per cent. lower than it is to-day. I beg the Government to go seriously into this and consider raising the pensions of old ex-Service pensioners, who, having served their country so well, are having a hard deal now.
There are so many Members who still want to speak that I want to cut my remarks very short by putting them in telegraphic rather than oratorical form, although I hope that by so doing no less attention will be paid to them. My principal points deal with the question of allowances for Service wives and children and other dependants. As chairman of one of the largest branches of the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association in this country, which operated during the last war and for several years afterwards, I am perhaps inclined to be too easily satisfied to-day, because I have seen over the years when we have been fighting for higher allowances such a slow uphill struggle. What we are getting to-day seems magnificent compared with what we received 25 years ago. I remember that I was received with horror when I first went to the Admiralty to plead for separation allowances for wives and children of men in the Navy. I was told that a sailor ought not to marry until he was an admiral when perhaps he would need a wife for purposes of hospitality. I said, "I suppose that means that Jack ought to have a wife in every port?" That was a euphemistic way of putting what was actually meant.
I want to say a word now about a subject which has not been touched upon today, namely, allowances for the members of the Palestinian Army. The situation there is that the Government recently promised a certain concession which will involve the creation of fresh battalions, some Jewish and some Arab, and that means, in effect, that there would be about 10,000 places for new recruits, of whom the majority would certainly be Jews because of the great anxiety of Jews to serve. But there is the difficulty that separation allowances for the Palestinian Army are only two-thirds the scale of the British Army separation allowances. Pensions also are two-thirds of the British scale, yet the cost of living in Palestine is very much the same as in this country. That means hardship.
But there is worse. No separation allowances are provided for dependants other than wives. This causes great hardship among the Jews in Palestine, because a large proportion of the best young Jews in Palestine have rescued their elderly parents from bitter persecution in countries all over Europe, and these parents are now wholly dependent upon them. There is in Palestine, moreover, no system of old age pensions. This position creates great hardship, and I ask the Government to consider it. It may be said that the Jews who are fighting for the defence of their beloved National Home ought not to hesitate because of such things as separation allowances, but one of the best characteristics of the Jews is their family loyalty, especially to their parents. It is cruel to give young and ardent Jews the choice of either not offering to join the Forces, or if they do so, leaving their elderly parents destitute or dependent upon charity. You will get the 10,000 volunteers in Palestine, mostly Jews, because of their desperate anxiety to serve, but you will not get the best men because many of the men who are most wanted in the Palestinian Army—technicians, tradesmen, men with a good knowledge of the geography of Palestine, and so on—simply dare not serve because they have family responsibilities. That will not be good for the defence of Palestine. I beg the Government to pay attention to the demand for those three reforms—first, an increase to the British rates of separation allowances for wives and children; secondly, an increase of the pension rates up to British rates; and thirdly, the provision of allowances for dependants other than wives, especially elderly parents.
I want now to put a few brief points concerning the British Army. I was glad to hear of the increase for the single men. It is very nice that they should have more spending power, and personally I am not dissatisfied with the extra 3s, 6d. a week. I want to make a suggestion. I know that 3s. 6d. will not do away with the difference between the pay of British soldiers and the pay of United States sol- diers It will not make it possible for the British soldier to treat his American fellow as liberally as the American can treat him. However, I suggest that that might be remedied in this way. Could not representations be made in an informal and tactful way to the Governments of the United States and some of the Dominions that they should do as Canada has done and reserve a greater proportion of the pay of their serving men until the men return to their own country, so that a restriction would be placed on unnecessary and not always very useful expenditure in this country?
As to the children, I was glad to hear of the increased rates, but I want to point out one rather curious anomaly. It is absurd that, although every sociologist and population expert knows that the greatest hardship among the families both of men in the Armed Forces and others falls on the larger families, and although encouragement should be given to the families where there are several young children, the Government, when they give an allowance, grade it downwards—9s. 6d. for the first child, 8s. 6d. for the second child, and 7s. 6d. for additional children, There has been an improvement, but if the rates are graded at all, they ought to be graded in the opposite direction, as is done in other countries. Everybody knows that what we ought to do, especially when the best and finest young men, or a large proportion of them, are in the Armed Forces, is to encourage parenthood and not discourage it.
The hon. Lady will appreciate that the additions which are to be made to the children's allowances are scaled in the way in which she suggests. The biggest increase is given for the third child.
That is a point to the credit of the Government, but if the improvement had been a little more drastic, it would have been better and cheaper. It would have been better to have kept the allowance for the first child, as there are so many one-child families, at 8s. 6d., and to have given 10s. 6d. for the second child and for each subsequent child. This is a big subject to discuss, but we are heading for race suicide unless we wake up to the importance of encouraging rather than discouraging families of more than one or two children.
The next point I want to make concerns the War Service Grants. There is great hardship in this respect at present, and I was not satisfied with what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said. If a man gets promotion—and this applies to N.C.O.'s, commissioned officers and everybody in the Armed Forces—the amount of his hardship grant is cut down generally to the full extent of his extra pay. That is hard on the man, but it is harder on the wife, because hardship grants are paid to the wives. The extra pay goes to the man. I am told by experienced workers among soldiers' and sailors' families that only in a small minority of cases does the extra pay result in an increased allotment. Apparently, the sailors and soldiers do not seem to grasp that the wife's hardship allowance has been cut down and that the extra pay will not help her unless it is allotted. It should be laid down definitely that the new increases will not diminish the hardship grants, many of which are inadequate at present, and it would be only fair to give the advantage of the extra pay to the man as a contribution to the increased cost of living and allow his family to retain its hardship grant.
Several hon. Members have called attention to the serious effect which the unsatisfactory pay of junior officers is having on applications for commissions. I have never understood why the Labour party has not taken this point more seriously. How can you be certain of getting the best men for commissions if the chairman of the Selection Board warns the man that if he takes a commission he must be prepared to be worse off, at any rate for a year? I believe the period is cut down now to six months as a result of the change in the period before a second lieutenant becomes a first lieutenant. I do not know enough about the matter to know how this will smooth things out, but it is very serious that there should be this obstacle to able but modest and unselfish men applying for commissions. I remember that when I argued the subject with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War privately, he said that if a man is any good he will not be deterred from applying for a commission because it means a slight financial sacrifice. Perhaps that is so when it is a question of the man's own sacrifice, but if a man has a delicate wife and children he may be deterred if he knows that they will be worse off than they were before he took a commission.
Finally, I hope that the extraordinarily bad Press which the Chancellor of the Exchequer's White Paper has had will cause him to give a warning to his Department that when in future they prepare this sort of White Paper they should do it in the spirit of a judge who is summing up a case, giving both sides, and not in the spirit of counsel for the defence—counsel for those who are defending the Exchequer. There has been that complaint to make about previous White Papers—for example, the White Paper on family allowances, which was a piece of special pleading. It was factual, if you like; no doubt all the facts and figures it gave were true—or most of them—but they were so carefully selected that the whole White Paper was extremely tendentious. So it is with this White Paper. It will not add to the credit of the Treasury if they get a reputation for producing this sort of tendentious White Paper which professes to be impartial; but really is nothing but special pleading.
The decision of the Government has taken me somewhat by surprise, and I find myself in the position of having to change completely the speech which I had intended to make. It seems to me that the Government have completely disregarded their own advice in the White Paper. I do not share the views which have been expressed by nearly all who have spoken to-day in favour of increased Service pay, that the White Paper is a piece of special pleading and a second-rate production. My feeling is that it is an extremely well-balanced and very valuable production. The outstanding lesson which I drew from reading the White Paper is that there is no case for an increase in the basic rates of pay. The position of the young bachelor is completely different from the position of the married soldier with children. The kind of difficulties with which the married officer or soldier has to contend if he has to spend two or three years in Libya are on a completely different plane compared with those of a young bachelor. It seems to me, therefore, that there is no general case for increasing the basic rate of pay, and that the whole emphasis of any demand there may be should be to meet the special responsibilities of certain groups of soldiers.
I believe that not only is there no general case made out for an increase in the basic rate of pay, but that there is no general demand for it among members of the Services. [Interruption.] Certainly, if a number of politicians and newspapers start a movement in favour of an increase in the rates of pay, the serving officers and men would not be human if they did not hope that it would result in their getting- an increase. As I say, I do not think there has been any general demand among serving officers and men for an increase in the basic rate of pay. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not allowed to make that demand."] The question they are asking themselves is, "How can I live up to my responsibilities?" and that is a question the answer to which varies in different cases. I know I am taking an unpopular line and a line which is against the immediate reactions of public sentiment. Naturally, we all wish to do the best we can for the men in the Services, but I think it is fair to say, and I speak with some experience of this, because I have been a soldier myself and know what the responsibilities are, that not all serving men are worse off in the Army or in the Air Force than they were in civil life. Some of them are worse off, and they are the men who have additional responsibilities, and that is why the decision of the Government has taken me by surprise—because their own evidence made out no case for a general increase in the basic rates of pay. Yet the greater part of this £43,000,000 will be taken up by increases in the basic rates of pay.
I am also a little surprised at the form the announcement has taken. I cannot help asking myself where does the Chancellor of the Exchequer come in. The announcement is made by the Lord Privy Seal, and the Debate is to be wound up by the Secretary of State for War. Does the House recall Sir John Tenniel's picture of the Mad Hatter's tea party? I hope none of my three right hon. Friends will think I have any idea of fitting a particular cap to their heads. Does the House remember the Mad Hatter and the March Hare arguing over the head of the Dormouse? When the Dormouse made some protest, they lifted him up and stuck him into the teapot. Well, I gain the impression that this decision has been taken over the head of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and under pressure from political groups and groups of newspapers. I do not think this decision has been taken in accordance with the facts of the case. I could sympathise with and understand and support a decision which concentrated on enabling soldiers, sailors and airmen, with responsibilities, to meet those responsibilities, but not with a decision which—if I may use a phrase which may be quite inadequate to describe what has happened—increases that part of their compensation which takes the form of pocket money. What is needed is to help them to live up to their responsibilities.
Then there is the wider aspect of this question which was mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bolton (Sir E. Cadogan), namely, the way in which we see the Government increasingly being put into a position of allocating the purchasing power of the country among different groups by legislation or by some form of taxation. Of necessity, and as that process increases, the more we all find our scheme of life decided for us by the Government, and decided by chance according to the group in which we fall, whether it be old age pensioners, railwaymen, miners, or Service men. The Government have been put in a position to decide the living conditions of these groups and the allocation of the purchasing power of the nation's money. The only way in which the Government can possibly proceed to do this is by taking the average case within each group, and that rather theoretical abstraction, the average man, does not exist. It is impossible to strike real averages among groups of people when the people within each group differ so much from each other. It is perfectly impossible to say with certainty that the average between five horses and three horses in a group is four horses; but what is the average as between five horses and three cows? You cannot hope to approximate with fairness a basic rate of pay which meets——
The more the Government find themselves in the position of being the arbiters of private indi- viduals, the greater the proportion of injustice that will be done. More and more people will find their whole scheme of life decided for them, not by their own free ability to negotiate, but by the general status in which they find themselves. I suggest that this is a reversal of freedom. I regret that the decision of the Government has been to concentrate on an increase in the basic rate of pay. It would have been far better if their concentration had been on such things as the family and children's allowances.
During the Recess my wife and I went to a cinema and we saw a very interesting short film of men and women workers in an aeroengine factory. The following week we went back and saw an interesting short film about men flying aeroplanes. When it was over, the lights went up and the hat was passed round. Can anyone imagine the hat being passed round for the workers? I say to the Leader of the House and to the Government: Stop passing the hat. Treat the Service men with the same respect and dignity that the workers demand. Pay the Service man 5s. a day, give his wife £2 a week, every child under 14 10s. 6d., and children between 14 and 16 still at school 16s. a week. Give every mother who has one or more children in the Service 25s. a week without any means test—provide adequate compensation and pensions. Then there will be no need for passing the hat. Where will you get the money? The noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) asked the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) whether he would go to Plymouth and ask the dockers to come down to the rate of the soldiers. No. Raise the level of the soldiers. Bring the Astors and their like down to the level of ordinary people and you will be able to meet the needs of the Service man.
I want to add my plea for a simplification of the whole system of pay and allowances, because I know from personal experience the amount of man-power and money which could be saved by the simplification of accounts. As an example of simplification, I will confine my remarks to one set only of the people we are considering, and that is the junior officers. I am not insensitive to the needs of other ranks, but those of junior officers happen to have been brought to my personal notice on many occasions, and it also happens that I served in the last war as a junior officer, and I can understand their difficulties. I cannot but feel that the pay of the junior officer, to which I understand no increase in the basic rate is proposed, is on an inadequate scale. When we use the phrase "an officer and a gentleman," our minds are naturally concerned with moral qualities and qualities of character which we are proud to find in the young leaders of our military men, but they have a social as well as a moral implication. We cannot get away from that. However modestly these social implications are interpreted, they must involve a certain financial expenditure.
Now that a growing number of our officers are rising from the ranks—and we are all glad to see it—it is especially our duty to see that they are provided sufficiently for the responsibilities which they have to undertake. No man in these days at least enters the Army in pursuit of wealth. It is not the "handful of silver" that a soldier looks for as his reward but the "ribbon to stick on his coat" and all that that connotes. But although it is true that a man who makes his mark in industry probably gets a cheque and the man who makes his mark in battle may get the M.C. and that those are the appropriate rewards, since industry has not yet adopted the principle of the crown of Wild Olive, the disparity in the financial provision is too great. When a man is elevated to the judicial bench he is not given a salary commensurate with the amount that he was probably able to earn as an advocate, but he is given a salary sufficient to enable him to meet the responsibilities of his position, and it is from that point of view that we ought to regard the pay and allowances of our young officers. They have many small expenses which cannot be avoided. Commanding officers do their best to keep down messing expenses, but extras will arise. I believe the upkeep of their uniform is no small expense to them. There is only the one grant at the beginning, and if, as has happened to so many, they have not been sent abroad, the upkeep of their uniform is a considerable matter. Then in my experience there are incidentals for the benefit of his own particular men which the officer cannot well avoid, and would not wish to avoid, and he ought not to be so hard up that such things are outside his reach.
Another point is that commissioned officers often have the handling of very considerable sums of money. Whereas in their other work they can be and are splendidly assisted by non-commissioned officers—how often have I heard the words "Carry on, sergeant" in the last war—this is a matter in which their N.C.O.s are not of any help to them. Only a commissioned officer is allowed to take this responsibility. These young fellows are mostly not accountants, and muddle sometimes leads to trouble. They ought not to be in such a state of hard-upness that the handling of funds means putting temptation in their way. I have reason to know that that has happened in certain cases and that in some cases the Army as a consequence has lost those who might have been valuable officers. The question is not one of comparison with what these people would be earning in industry or in a lucrative profession, but whether the pay is adequate to support the responsibilities which we are asking these young fellows to shoulder, and they are great. I believe that, considering it in that light, we shall have to say that it is not sufficient, and I hope that the Government will reconsider their decision with regard to the rate of pay for junior officers.
It has taken the Government some months to make up their minds on the proposals which they have put forward to-day. We have been pressing them from all sides of the House for months, and I am glad that at last the day has come when we can have a fairly long discussion on this very important question which affects so many. The gap between Service pay and that earned by civilians seems to me to widen every month as the war goes on. It makes it increasingly difficult for the soldier to maintain his family on anything like the same scale as the civilian. As many speakers have said to-day, the Army has no trade union to put its case before the Government. Therefore it is for us Members of Parliament to do our best to persuade Service Ministers that a comprehensive scheme should be drawn up to make it easier for a serving man to keep his family as he would be able to do in peace time.
I hoped that the Government would realise the position and be a little more generous in their allowances to the wives and children of Service men. Members on all sides are thankful for the 6d. a day which the Leader of the House has offered, but they are somewhat disappointed by the rest of his speech, and we must have some time to consider it during the Recess before we can form a considered judgment. As an attempt to measure what is described as the real value of the remuneration of all kinds received by members of the Services, the White Paper issued by the Government is no doubt ingenious and interesting, but I am afraid that it will do very little to ease the anxiety of the all too many junior officers and other ranks who are concerned with the maintenance of the families they have left behind them. Calculations on gross earnings—a phrase which seems to occur frequently in the White Paper—give very little indication of the actual amount of cash in the pocket of the serving soldier to-day. That is the real test for all of us who are concerned with the welfare of Service men. It is the only thing that matters if our purpose is, as it should be, to see the fighting forces really contented.
I should like to stress what the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne (Major Taylor) said about temporary and substantive rank. An officer while holding the substantive rank of lieutenant becomes temporary captain. If he is ill for a short time or is transferred, he may have to revert to the substantive rank of lieutenant. This practice goes on in the higher ranks. The Leader of the House said he wished the Government's proposals to be fair and just, but I do not think the present practice of the War Office is either fair or just, and I ask them to reconsider the whole question of temporary and substantive rank. My suggestion of a fair compromise is that when a lieutenant has held the rank of captain for six months he should become a substantive captain and receive the pay of a captain for the rest of the war. A major might, perhaps, be asked to hold the rank for say 12 months before receiving substantive rank, a lieutenant-colonel 18 months, and so on. A case was brought to my notice the other day of an officer who held the rank of major for two years. He was sent for in February this year and told that the establishment had been altered and that he was only to receive captain's pay as from the previous November. The brigadier said he was sorry he had not told him before. The result was that the paymaster paid him as a major for three or four months, and he received a bill for £50 for overpay and Income Tax. Such a thing should not be allowed to occur, and I do not understand why the War Office do not take more drastic action in such cases.
A good deal has been said about the married subaltern. I have seen many budgets of subalterns. As the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) said, in many cases their savings have come to an end and they find it difficult to maintain their wives and children, and more difficult if they have three children of school age. The offer that the Government have made of is. to 1s. 6d. a day extra is not sufficient. It is of no interest to the subaltern or anyone else to read in the White Paper what his gross income is deemed to be. The only point of importance in his mind is that he should have enough to keep himself and his wife and children. The subaltern requires the whole of his 13s. a day for himself, and his wife cannot afford to keep herself and one child on 7s. 6d. a day and pay rates and taxes, clothe herself and her child. It is not enough. If these allowances are not put up, we shall not get the best men to take commissions.
There are two small points into which I would like the Secretary of State to look. I cannot understand why these anomalies have not been removed before. A sum of 2½d. a day is paid to other ranks for extra messing allowance, but officers do not receive it. It is a small amount, but every little counts in these days. There is also an amount of about 5d. a day which is given in lieu of rations as a cash allowance to other ranks who are living out. This sum is not received by officers. It was given originally by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) to provide suppers for men living out who were not drawing rations in kind. I always understood that officers and men were supposed to require the same amount of sustenance. They get the same cash rate on leave, and I do not see why officers should not draw this extra amount.
I ask the Government to increase the deferred pay. I do not think is. a day is too much to ask for. A sum of £9 2s. 6d., or 6d. a day, per year's service is not much to give a man who has lost his business through no fault of his own, and it is not too much to ask that he should receive £18 5s., or 1s. a day, per year of service, when the war is over or when he is discharged for medical reasons. I wish the Government would date back that deferred pay to the date of joining. We all admire the men who came forward at the beginning of the war and volunteered, and they should have this well-earned advantage. Many people feel strongly that the men who volunteered early in the war and received lower rates of pay and allowances, should have this privilege, more particularly as many left their businesses in a hurry and had little time to make adequate arrangements for carrying on those businesses.
I also think that an officer who is discharged for medical reasons should be given some form of gratuity or deferred pay when he leaves the Service. Many men who have given years of service to the country were called up or volunteered at the beginning of the war, and yet when they come to the age limit they are thrown back upon the labour market with practically no reserves or savings, and they get no gratuity until after the war. They receive only 42 days' pay. I hope the Government will consider giving some form of gratuity to the officer who has to leave the Service on grounds of age or on medical grounds, or will continue his pay for at least six months, in order to give him time to obtain some other employment. I understand that under Army Order 72 other ranks do get their deferred pay when they leave the Service on medical grounds. I suggest that from a psychological point of view the War Office might consider setting up some bureau to help these ex-officers to get employment as soon as possible. The Ministry of Labour have been most unsuccessful and not very helpful in this direction. The Ministry of Supply might place a good many retired officers in ordnance factories to replace many young men of military age, of whom the number is considerable, I am told.
I would ask the Secretary of State for War to consider in conjunction with the Minister of Health the question of medical treatment for the wives and children of Service men who joined for the war. I have had the honour to be an Army welfare officer in Aldershot, and soldiers' wives cannot understand why any difference is made between Regular soldiers and war-time soldiers, because I think hon. Members will know that if accommodation is available in Army hospitals regular soldiers' wives can be treated in them but post-war soldiers' wives have to go to the ordinary civilian hospitals and also to pay for the panel doctor. This causes a good deal of resentment and hardship. The remedy seems to be fairly simple. I would suggest that the soldier should pay 3d. a week and the War Office 3d. a week to the Ministry of Health, and that the wives and children should be treated free in Ministry of Health hospitals and by panel doctors. The other day a case was brought to my notice in which a soldier's wife who had to go into hospital for a few weeks received a bill for £6, and the local authority also sent in a bill for looking after the children while she was in hospital. How do the Government think the private soldier is going to find these sums? What happened in that case was that the Soldiers', Sailors', and Airmen's Families' Association took up the matter, and I believe the charge was reduced; but the soldier should not be put into that position, and the Government should give free medical treatment to the families of Service men.
Then there is the question of family allowances. The Leader of the House has gone into that point, but he is not going to increase the basic rate, I understand. I hope he will take another look at that problem. I hesitate to suggest what the rate should be, because the Government failed to introduce a wages policy and are now frightened of inflation. Therefore, one has to be a little careful in suggesting a figure, but I do not see why the Service man should suffer because the Government have not had the courage to put a general wages policy into operation. As regards the Special Hardship Grants, I am glad to see the Minister of Pensions is here. I should like to see the minimum raised to 20s. per adult and 10s. for each child. This suggestion has come from a citizens' advice bureau which deals with a good many of these cases. The present minimum rates, I understand, are 16s. and 8s.
I should like the minimum put up to 20s. and 10s. for each child, because the overheads include only rent, rates, hire-purchase payments and insurance, and do not include gas, light or clothing, and I submit that 32s. per week for a wife and one child is not sufficient for food, clothing, medical treatment and things of that sort.
Yes, on the War Service Grant, but unless the soldier has a grant he has to pay in the ordinary way.
I should like to say a word about the present Regulations regarding stoppage of family allowance. Hon. Members will be aware that the family allowance is not payable if one party refuses to live with the other. In a fit of temper, a soldier may write to the paymaster, or say to his commanding officer, that he is not prepared to live with his wife any longer. I understand that in such a case the paymaster refers the matter to the welfare officer and that inquiries are then made. If the paymaster is then satisfied, he stops the wife's allowance. Then the wife receives a letter from the officer in charge of records to say that if she wishes to make a claim she can do so on the appropriate form. The officer in charge of records, can then, through the paymaster, award her up to threequarters, under the rank of sergeant, or two-thirds if the soldier is of higher rank, of his pay.
This procedure is very cumbersome, and there is often some delay. I want to get rid of this interregnum between the time when the family allowance is stopped and the officer in charge of records can go into the matter. What happens in practice is that the wife goes to the Soldiers', Sailors', and Airmen's Families' Association and says that she has nothing in her pocket to pay for rent and food. I suggest that the simplest way of dealing with the problem is to continue to pay the family allowance until full investigation has been made by the paymaster and the officer in charge of records, and a decision arrived at. I should like to go further and have the case investigated before a special committee or a magistrate before the allowance is stopped but I understand that would entail legislation. My suggestion seems simpler.
Men in the Fighting Forces are scattered all over the world on many battlefields, enduring the horrors of war. Some are fighting under terrible climatic conditions and are prepared to make any sacrifice which will help us to live in freedom. Is it too much to ask that the people of this country should make even further sacrifices? I feel that it is the duty of Parliament to press the claim of the Service man, especially of the married ones. It is clearly not in the country's interest that officers and men should be beset by domestic worries and financial troubles. I know from experience that there are a good many so beset. I am afraid that the concessions set out in the speech of the Leader of the House will not remove all these anxieties and worries. No doubt it will help to some extent. Possibly hon. Members will consider the new proposals during the Recess. I suggest to the Government that they should consider preparing a comprehensive scheme to bring Service pay into closer relation with what a Service man would be receiving in civil life, had he not been called up.
At the outset I would express my sympathy for my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House. He is discovering that the House of Commons can be a very bleak world and that he can find no friends therein. The unfortunate thing is that the moments after he had left the Chamber were the only moments used by any Member of the House to speak in approval of the proposals which he made, and even the hon. and gallant Member for Bolton (Sir E. Cadogan) who did so had to make many historical and literary researches, and had to produce Peter and Paul and the goose that laid the golden eggs in support of proposals made by the Leader of the House. The other speech that we had was against the proposals. It came from the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Hely Hutchinson). Judging by his remarks, he seemed to be in the period of 1066 rather than in 1942. He said he had not discovered any desire on the part of any people for an increase in the basic rate of pay. Possibly he may be open to the reproof that, during that Recess, he did not employ his time in visiting his constituents, or he would have discovered that there was a genuine demand for an increase.
The Leader of the House, in his opening remarks and in his closing remarks, paid a tribute—which we all pay—to the bravery and devotion of the men in the Fighting Services, and he said—and we quite agree—that we cannot express the value of those services in mere pounds, shillings and pence. We cannot assess the value of human lives in cash terms. Therefore, whatever we do could not possibly approximate to the real worth of services rendered. When life is one of the forfeits no value can be given. In the House of Commons on Tuesday last, the Prime Minister, in his review of his tour, spoke of a talk he had with Premier Stalin, and after paying great tribute to the gallantry and determination of the Russian people, he said, with reference to his interview with Stalin:
I believe I made him feel that we were good and faithful comrades in this war—but that, after all, is a matter which deeds not words will prove."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th September, 1942, col. 95, Vol. 383.]
I want to ask the Leader of the House whether he really thinks that a "tanner" a day will be regarded by the men of our Fighting Forces as any expression of our gratitude and our sincerity? The Leader of the House very kindly said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not the bogy-man; he excused him of any complicity or of any hardness of heart. I noticed at the same time, however, that the Leader of the House did, very wisely, throw all the difficult problems to the Secretary of State for War to answer at the conclusion of the Debate. With regard to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am sorry he is not here now, although he has been in faithful attendance all to-day. I am certain that his benign expression does not hide that hard heart with which he is supposed to be provided; I believe he has a heart of gold—the difficulty is in the excavation.
The Leader of the House said, in dealing with the problem of the disparity between the amounts of money received by our men and by our American comrades and the other comrades from the Dominions and overseas, that greater comradeship would come because of this disparity. Perhaps he did not intend to convey this meaning. I submit that the very fact that the soldiers have that dis- parity in pay will mean that they will not mix together as otherwise they would. There will rather be a separation, a divorce, which will be a financial divorce, a divorce due to financial embarrassment not being able to stand their corner and mix freely with their friends. What we want is that they should mix together. Therefore it is unfortunate that there should be such a wide disparity between the amounts of money received by members of the Allied Nations' Forces and the amounts received by our sailors, soldiers and airmen. It is up to us to see to it that as far as we possibly can we remove that disparity.
The Leader of the House, after giving us an explanation, then gave us his proposals. He referred to the War Service Grants, and told us that these numbered about 427,000. I submit that that number in itself is indicative that there is something wrong with the basic pay. That 427,000 families of the Fighting Forces have had to apply—and apply successfully—for an increased grant indicates that the basic amount is inadequate. But does the Leader of the House and does the House think that that 427,000 is the real total of people? There are a large number of women who, quite wrongfully, I think, because of pride have not made application for War Service Grants. They shrink from an inquisition into their private affairs. I have no complaint to make at all against the investigating officers. I think they have done their work well. They are considerate and courteous, but there are women who do not like the idea of having to expose their private domestic affairs to anyone else. [Interruption.] I do not see why they should not apply. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman, the Minister of Pensions, that they should apply, but it is true that there is that type of person, and, that being so, 427,000 does not represent the total of people who would possibly get hardship grants if they were to make application. It was suggested by the Leader of the House that this continual agitation for increases of pay and increase of allowances was damaging and upsetting to the Fighting Services. I want to submit that the very fact there has to be this persistent agitation in this House is an indication at least that the Government are not in line with the wishes, not only of the Members of this House, but of the people of the country as well.
I am quite confident that the Leader of the House himself is not too happy about his brief. I am certain he will not be happy about the verdict of the jury tomorrow. Not only the Press of this country but the men and women in the Fighting Services will regard the amount that is offered to them as totally unsatisfactory and inadequate. We are to give them an extra 6d. a day. We ought at least to have given 1s. a day; at least we ought to have given 10s. per child; at least we ought to have given an increased allowance to the wife; and at least we ought to have given a reduction in, or removed, altogether, the 3s. 6d. allotment which a married or single man makes for dependants. We have to be generous, we have to be just, and in giving amounts of that character we should be no more than just. Therefore, I hope that this will not be considered by the Government as their last word on the present level of prices, because I am certain that the country will not be satisfied with it. I am prepared to say "Thank you" for this meagre offering on the understanding that further consideration is to be given, and that further additional amounts will be given at the earliest possible time.
A White Paper was published, the worst piece of publicity that has been issued for a long time. It is bad psychology, it is bad taste, and whoever produced it, whether he be in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's office or not, should have it indicated to him that as a publicity man he is not much good. It ventures to quote the benefits a soldier has. It makes up a sort of prospectus of the benefits received by a soldier, and quotes not only the fact of his pay, of his clothing, of his lodging—which may be a tent in the desert, a hammock in a ship or of many other varying kinds—but in addition it says there is cheaper tobacco and recreation facilities and free travel on leave. That means 16 in a carriage or crowded in a corridor with full kit; there is not much luxury about that. In any event there is no advantage about the free travel, because had they not been taken into the Services there would have been no occasion for them to travel. We are also taking away some of the travel privileges now. After 1st October if they want to go more than 50 miles on a 48 hours' leave, they will not get a cheap warrant. Therefore, this cheap travel advantage quoted by the White Paper really does not exist. And' that will be a great hardship to men and women who want to visit their families. It will deprive them of one of their present opportunities of enjoying family life. If he wanted to state the full advantages of a soldier, why did not the writer of this White Paper say: "And think! A soldier is on duty—at least, on call—for 24 hours a day. He has to salute whenever he goes out, morning, noon, and night. Of course, he has the comforts of the barracks." Those are the amenities and advantages which a soldier has, over and above those of a civilian. It is a travesty to use those phrases about a soldier. The majority of soldiers would rather have the comfort of home life than that of the barracks.
I want to emphasise that we are dissatisfied with the amounts offered, and that I and those of my hon. Friends who are associated with me, are determined to pursue the matter further. We believe that there should be improved allowances, and that the increased allowances should, first, be in the case of children. I am glad that that has been recognised by those who have submitted these proposals, although we think that the amounts offered are not adequate, that there should be at least 10s. for each child, irrespective of the number of children. We want consideration given also to those who have wives and other dependants; and we want the basic rate of pay reconsidered. There must be a generous lifting of allowances. Only that can prevent the present disparity between the position of men in the Fighting Services and those in industry. We must not pull down those who are up, but rather elevate those who are down. No one can doubt that the wife of a private soldier is enduring life on a lower level than the average. May I give a recent instance to support that view? A friend of mine recently spoke at a War Savings meeting. At the end of the meeting he appealed to all those present to make weekly contributions to war savings. A woman came to him and said, "You need not beg me not to spend beyond my bare necessities: I cannot. And you need not beg me to save: I cannot do that either; I am a soldier's wife." I urge the Government to take a much more generous view than they have done. I repeat the words which the Prime Minister
used, in a different sense, when speaking of Premier Stalin and of the good relations which existed between them. He said:
I believe I made him feel that we were good and faithful comrades in this war—but that, after all, is a matter which deeds not words will prove.
I submit that our sympathy towards the serving men should be expressed not in pious phrases or platitudinous promises, but in much higher allowances than we are giving at present. It can be truthfully said by hundreds of thousands of men in the Forces:
Immediate are my needs; and my relief
Must not be toss'd and turn'd to me in words
But find supply immediate.
It was said the other day by a Member of this House that there was discontent, dismay, and unrest in the Army. That is not true. I believe that the loyalty of our men in the Forces is as great as ever, that their determination to carry on is as great as ever, but that they are suffering much anxiety and worry. I ask Members of this House to visualise the life of a sailor, a soldier, or an airman, carrying on his duties or, in the case of a member of the women's Services, her duties—separated from all loved ones, in many cases far away, and wondering whether their people at home are receiving adequate food, comfort and shelter. The only thing that could possibly break the morale of our sailors, soldiers, or airmen would be the conscious knowledge that their people at home, their wives and loved ones, were suffering anguish and poverty. Surely, it is up to us as representatives of the people—it is our duty—to see to it that we give to the sailors, soldiers and airmen and to their families and their children all that we possibly can. We cannot give too much. The freedom that we are going to win for the world must not be won at the expense of the lives of our women and children. Therefore, I ask that the Leader of the House will not only promise to reconsider the matter but that the War Cabinet will reconsider it and that they will not let this be the final word, but rather that they will interpret what I believe is the spirit of this House that there should be more generous treatment meted out to the dependants of the members of the Fighting Services.
Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braith-waite:
Although he is no longer in the Chamber, I should like my first words to be those of congratulation to the hon. and gallant Member for White-chapel (Mr. W. Edwards). He made a most refreshing contribution to this long Debate, and his arrival here is a good thing for his party. It is a good thing for the lower deck, and, above all, an excellent thing for the House of Commons, that we should have here a direct representative of the rank and file of the Navy on whose behalf some of us have tried our best during the last two years to speak, particularly on this matter.
When the Lord Privy Seal joined the Government the Prime Minister was congratulated by the Press upon having secured the services of the finest advocate in the country. I could not help thinking to-day that the finest advocate in the country was making very heavy weather. I felt that he would have been happier in the position that he used to occupy as an independent critic and that he certainly would have been happier among those of us who sit on the back benches than he was at that Box. I cannot believe that the speech which the right hon. and learned Gentleman made represents his real feelings on this question of Service pay. Several matters need elucidating even at this late hour, and the House, I think, will not complain of a little overtime to-day in view of the events of last Tuesday. I should like to have this question elucidated: Whether those in receipt of War Service Grants are to be one halfpenny better off as a result of the Government's announcement to-day? I still have not got that clear. Or are War Service Grants going to start from the higher level announced by the Lord Privy Seal to-day? That is a point of immense importance, and I hope that the Secretary of State will be good enough to tell us when he replies to this Debate.
Even had the Government's announcement been on a far more generous scale than it is, the White Paper published during the Recess could not be allowed to go without any censure by hon. Members of this House. The Treasury's attitude—because there is no doubt about its origin—throughout hostilities has been completely inconsistent. There has been little or no opposition to industrial wage increases, the merits of which I am not going to discuss.
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to complete the sentence—but there has been the greatest fortitude displayed by the Treasury when they have been confronted by those who cannot defend themselves—old age pensioners and Service men. I hope the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) will not quarrel with that remark. This White Paper consists of the most specious arguments. Members will recall that Sunday, 3rd September, 1939, when this House passed some 42 Bills without much discussion or comment, one of which provided that to prevent hardship falling upon dependants of civil servants who were called up their pay should be made up to their peacetime level. Either the Treasury recognised that Service pay is insufficient to prevent hardship or public money has been paid out unnecessarily during the past three years in augmenting the pay of civil servants, and I should be glad to have an explanation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or some other Minister as to which of these errors Government officials have fallen into. Local authorities have done the same thing, and I think we can reasonably ask the Government, if Service pay had been as adequate as the White Paper would have us believe, whether these local authorities should not be surcharged for improper payment. The Government cannot have it both ways. Hon. Members know exactly what is the position. Everybody knows that Service pay is inadequate, and the House, quite properly, made these provisions, but how much better it would have been for the House to have done away with these anomalies by putting Service men on a proper level.
There was a recent improvement which I myself advocated in previous Debates, namely, what is known as the "nest-egg" or post-war credit for Service men. That was a welcome, although small, concession, but to-day we stand—as the Prime Minister said on Tuesday—on the threshold of great offensive operations by the United Nations. Grievous casualties are bound to be sustained. Hundreds of thousands of these lads will not live to draw their post-war credit, although it is quite true it will go to their dependants. What is required is more pocket-money—I do not object to the expression "pocket-money" —and more pocket-money now. I will not enter into the controversy about civilian wages. I was delighted to see the increase in wages for the miners the other day, for if any section of the community deserves it, they do, because they undergo perils in peace as well as in war, but it seems to me that this particular anomaly could be dealt with by the machinery which already exists. If those wages which were unduly inflated were placed on post-war credits, leaving spending power in terms of pocket-money relatively equivalent as between fighting men and their civilian comrades, I think it would do much to remove this particular trouble, which is causing great anxiety.
Let the Government make no mistake. The publication of this White Paper caused grave disquiet in the Services. One hon. Member said there was no demand from the Services. Of course the disciplinary system and the patriotism of the men prevents anything in the nature of what is called a demand in trade union circles. Nevertheless, there was real disquiet because this White Paper had followed two sinister events. The first has been referred to by one or two Members to-day, namely, the treatment of the officers who were "axed" from the Army earlier this year and who filled important and vital gaps until such time as the country could reap the fruits of conscription and younger men were available. The other is what I can only describe as the contemptible quibble over the pensions to the widows of our Commodores of Convoys who have been stricken down in the Battle of the Atlantic, a matter which has been raised in the House before, and is a shocking example of the Treasury's chicanery.
There has followed this White Paper, and from the mentality of the White Paper it is the shortest of steps to the unemployment queue and selling matches in the gutter. It stinks of officialdom and the smug complacency of the man at the desk who has never been in uniform, let alone on active service. The authors of this White Paper ought to spend the next three months in the Atlantic, the Western Desert, or bombing Germany, to clear their brains and cleanse their souls, I do not know whether it is possible for those arrangements to be made. The only operation in which these people have ever succeeded in taking part in this war has been the opening of a second front, not against the enemy, but against our own men, who are confronted, on the one hand, by the Germans and, on the other, by the financial anxiety overhanging their homes. That formidable second front has been opened against them and opened against them by the type of officials who, one imagines, are responsible for this White Paper. We are told that an increase in the rates of pay and allowances would be financially imprudent. So is war. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer was at great pains to explain to an audience only this week that we do not count the cost in a righteous cause. Of course, the war is putting the country into financial difficulties; of course, it is, theoretically, financially imprudent, but of course, we are going to see it through whatever the cost. I suggest that the same reasoning should apply in the matter of giving a square deal to our fighting men.
There is one other point I want to make. Since this White Paper was published, a remark has been made in the Press two or three times by commentators of different shades of political opinion. It is this threat, "It is obvious from the White Paper that the Treasury will not approve of substantial increases." I think the time has come to remind ourselves that this is a matter for Parliament to decide. The encroachment upon our prerogatives which has taken place during the war, not only by the Treasury but by other Government Departments, is a sinister development which hon. Members must watch. The encroachment by the Civil Service upon the functions of Parliament must cease. This is a very good opportunity for the House to say so, and to say so in the plainest language. One day there will have to be a "show-down" between bureaucracy and the House of Commons. This would appear to be a suitable opportunity. The Government, I believe, have learned a salutary lesson from this Debate. It is obvious that the White Paper can now go for salvage. We have no more use for it in this House, and the country has no more use for it. I should like to see the whole matter reconsidered from start to finish. Various valuable suggestions have been made, one of the most valuable, if I may say so, being that of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) regarding a simplification of Army pay—of Service pay, because although the Debate has been conducted mostly in terms of the Army, this is a matter in which other Services are very vitally interested.
Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech out of doors in which he warned the country of the dangers of complacency and self-satisfaction. If he had applied that to himself, he would never have said a truer word. Throughout this war the Treasury have shown an attitude of complacency and self-satisfaction in their treatment of this subject, which to me is quite intolerable. I understand that our procedure prevents a Division being taken to-day on this matter, but at least the Government have had what is known in the House of Commons as a bad day. I hope that the Government are going to give this matter the very fullest reconsideration, because, until the House of Commons is satisfied that the fighting man is being properly treated, believe me they have not heard the last of it, and will not have heard the last of it in the days to come.
The Secretary of State for War (Sir James Grig g):
During the Debate three maiden speeches have been made by Members who have seen service in the Forces—by the hon. and gallant Member for Tavistock (Captain Studholme), by the hon. and gallant Member for Salisbury (Major Morrison), and by the hon. and gallant Member for Whitechapel (Mr. E. Edwards). Their speeches have been received by the House with every mark of approbation and approval. I do not know whether it is in Order for me to indulge in a similar degree of approval and approbation, but this is my first appearance on a major occasion, although it is quite true that I have intervened in Adjournment Debates. If I may use the metaphor, I have hitherto dipped my fingers lightly into the water, but now I have to plunge in my whole body.
Sir J. Grig g:
It remains to be seen whether I shall get the bracing but unpleasant effects of icy water, or whether I shall get into the hot water which rightly scalds the incompetent. The approach of the Government to this Debate is, in principle, the same as that of most hon. Members. I think the general principle can be shortly stated, that the soldier should not be able to think that his pay is out of all keeping with that of others in less dangerous occupations, and that he should be as free as is reasonably possible from disquiet and anxiety about his family. A good many Members have expressed the principles on which Service pay should be regulated, but in nearly every case I think it boils down to what I have just said. Having said that, I do not think it is possible to weigh too closely completely different systems of employment and remuneration, nor is it profitable to make comparisons between individual cases in the Services and elsewhere which show freak and ridiculous results. A certain number of these queer comparisons have been brought forward to-day. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) raised some of them, but, as was pointed out by the Lord Privy Seal, he was not really comparing like with like. Then we have had the comparison of Service rates of pay for the British Forces with those of the United States and Dominion Forces. The Lord Privy Seal also dealt with this argument, and particularly with the differing standards of fife and remuneration in the countries concerned. An argument which he did not use, which I might mention, is that comparisons with the American Forces will not get us much further, because you cannot bring the pay of the British Forces up to that of the American Forces without spending £400,000,000. Even the slightly more moderate demands of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who wanted to kill all the millionaires and then pay everyone 5s. a day——
Sir J. Grig g:
Even the more moderate increase that the hon. Member wanted would cost something like £300,000,000 a year. In dealing with some of the specific points which have been raised perhaps the House will bear with me if I deal mostly with the Army, because, after all, that is the Service with which I am best acquainted. A good many of the strident criticisms of the White Paper which we have heard rather missed the point of the Paper, and some of them were self-contradictory. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Major Taylor), for example, said the White Paper gravely misrepresented the facts, and in another passage in his speech he said he did not dispute. the facts. The whole point of the White Paper is that it was not intended to be tendentious or to lead to any particular conclusion. It was merely designed to set out the facts. Most of the criticisms that I have seen or heard have been based on the figures of 35s. for the single and 23s. for the married man, which are taken as representative of expenses, incurred by civilians on things which make no call on the soldier. A great many of these arithmetical calculations could be quite easily exploded, but I do not think the House will want me to spend time on doing that, because the White Paper expressly disclaimed any attempt to draw conclusions by comparing like with unlike.
It was the desire of the Government to give the House all the information available, and, in order to do this, some estimate had to be made of the amounts spent by civilians on the things which the soldier does not have to provide. Whatever figure had been adopted would have been objected to, and, on the whole, I do not think the disapproval has been more than was inevitable in the circumstances. It might have been better if the White Paper had laid more stress on the impossibility of making comparisons between Service and civilian remuneration, but we did, at any rate, put this argument in the forefront of the Paper. Moreover, the Leader of the House has announced substantial concessions in the way of extra pay and allowances, which amount in the case of a man with three children to 9s. a week, but which, of course, if you want to compare that with the pay of people in civil occupations, and take into account the Income Tax which the civilian would have to pay, represents a figure much higher than that.
The White Paper deals with individual cases. It would have been possible to deal with averages. The "Ministry of Labour Gazette" in January last gave the figure of 102s., which has been quoted to-day, for the earnings of the average male manual worker. This is a gross figure, making no allowance for the insurance contributions of 1s. 10d. a week or the payment of Income Tax. Moreover, farm workers and workers under 21 are excluded from the calculation. What the corresponding figure for military personnel would be I could not say with exactitude. I have seen all sorts of calculations, proving all sorts of things. If I had to express a personal opinion, I should have said that on the average, taking everything into account, there was not very much in it for the married man, and that for the unmarried man the comparison was more definitely in favour of the civilian. But the average man does not exist, and it is no use basing an argument on the assumption that he does. If you want an example of the difficulty you get into when you deal with the average man, you many consider the remark of the Leader of the Opposition that the average man for the purpose of certain calculations has one and a half children. What is clear is that there are a great many men in the Army on rates well above the basic rates. It is also clear that there are abundant opportunities for advancement and of special pay. Incidentally, a small point was raised that proficiency pay after six months is not automatic. It is not, otherwise it would not be proficiency pay. Only about 9 per cent. of the eligible soldiers do not get it, so that we cannot found very much on that argument. The point I am trying to make is that the existence of the higher ranks and higher rates makes the average position different from the lowest, and I am bound to say that many of the comparisons made to-day have been between a soldier on the basic rate of pay and a civilian on exceptionally high rates of Pay.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows that it is very seldom that a battery or a regiment pays the extra rates and that you get, for instance, a painter who is not allowed to be paid extra. The idea that the right hon. Gentleman puts forward that people get extra pay is nonsense.
Sir J. Grig g:
I did not put forward any such argument. It would have been non- sense if I had. I am not such a fool as that. I said that there are a great many people on rates above the basic rate—all the N.C.O.s and people with proficiency pay and tradesmen's rates of pay. If you take the average, it makes a much better showing with the average civilian earnings outside.
Coming back to the White Paper, rather more criticism was offered on the calculations relating to officers. While we admit freely that the White Paper may easily give the impression that the great majority of officers draw all their allowances in cash and not in kind, this is, of course, not the case, as has been pointed out to-day. In fact, only about one-quarter of the officers in the United Kingdom draw allowances in cash. I say "in the United Kingdom" because there are a great many officers abroad, and they get Colonial allowances. Where the allowances are drawn in cash or kind, Income Tax is not paid on the value of them. Moreover, unless we abandon all attempts to calculate the civilian equivalent of an officer's total remuneration, I do not see what we are to do except to make a calculation on the basis of the equivalent cash allowances. Incidentally, I am rather surprised at the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) being caught napping with the old question about the poker and the shovel calculation for field allowances. He must know that it is out of date.
Sir J. Grig g:
Not at all. There are five articles, all of which have to be available—a bed, a chair, a table, a washstand, and I have forgotten the fifth. The argument I am trying to develop is that the point raised by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw that the poker and shovel absurdity still prevails is not valid.
Sir J. Grig g:
Perhaps I may now come to some of the points raised in all quarters of the House about War Service Grants. I think they were first raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Tavistock, who thought the existence of the War Service Grants and the arrangements for getting the grants were not sufficiently known among the troops. I will tell the House some of the steps taken to make them known. Under an Army Council Instruction the existence of War Service Grants and the principles under which they are granted are to be brought to the notice of every officer and other rank, male and female, and commanding officers are made responsible for seeing that this is done at the earliest possible date and for making it clear to all officers that War Service Grants are intended to make provision for them as well as for other ranks. I understand that similar action has been taken by the Admiralty and the Air Force. In addition, 50,000 large posters have been and are exhibited in Service canteens and other official premises. A descriptive slip has been included in every order book for the payment of Service allowances to the wives and dependants of Service men. Since March of this year every man when called up is given a form of application for a War Service Grant at the time of his medical examination. Special instructions enabling them to explain the scheme have been issued to the Ministry of Labour officials in charge of the calling-up arrangements. A circular fully describing the scheme has been issued to Army Welfare officers, and a great number of lectures have been given by the staff of the Ministry of Pensions. A similar circular has been issued to every citizens' advice bureau. In addition, a large amount of general publicity has been undertaken by the Ministry, including broadcasts, Press references, and articles in Service and technical journals, and that is a process which is continually going on.
A second point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Tavistock related to the problem of making grants retrospective. I think that the strict letter of what he wants is not the practice, but that the practice does go a good way to meeting his point. The general rule is that the grant has effect from the date of joining the forces if application is made within a month. Otherwise the grant is backdated to clear the debts, subject to a maximum of 26 weeks, or in special cases 52 weeks. The same principles govern appeals. If made within a month of the award appealed against arrears to that date are given. In other cases retrospective effect may be given to clear the debts on the lines I have already indicated in the case of first applications. I think the hon. and gallant Member also referred to the danger of mechanical administration on the part of the War Savings Grants staff. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions tells me that he has repeatedly made it clear to the staff that cases are to be treated generously where any good grounds are shown for going outside the standard rules. Hard cases are very often referred to the Advisory Committee, whose attention is directed to any special features. I am given to understand that a number of Members of this House visited the offices at St. Anne's some months ago and looked into cases individually there. They selected the cases themselves and discussed them with the members of the staff dealing with them, and I understand they expressed themselves as entirely satisfied with the way the machinery was dealing with them.
The first point raised by the hon. Member was some rather complicated point relating to court orders. If he will forgive me, I would like to be allowed not to answer that question, because the whole matter of court orders is under consideration at the present moment at the War Office, and I would like to be allowed to delay making any announcement about it. A somewhat difficult question has been raised with regard to whether the increases of child allowance announced by the Lord Privy Seal to-day are to be taken into account in calculating War Service Grants. The answer is, as regards children's allowances, "Yes," subject to the fact that under the rules of the War Service Grants Committee no alteration is made when the increase of income is less than 2s. As regards the increase of war pay of 3s. 6d. a week, this is entirely ignored for the purposes of War Service Grants, at any rate so long as the man's total pay does not exceed 4s. 6d. a day. After that, his pay is partially taken into account for the purposes of assessing the grant.
Some hon. Members have deplored the fact that the increase in allowances will mean a reduction in some of the War Service Grants. On the other hand, there is the very persistent complaint in this House that if 400,000-odd members of the Army are getting War Service Grants in respect of their families, the allowances should be raised so that a much larger part of the income of the wife and family would be automatic and a much smaller part subject to the means or needs test. That is, in effect, what will happen. I do not see what you can do except to treat increases of income or children's allowances in the same way as the War Service Grants Committee treats any other increase of income.
The question of the 16s. unit has been raised. I am bound to ask for a little indulgence here, because I am not as well up in this matter of the administration of War Service Grants as is my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions. I understand that the position is as follows: The 16s. unit was introduced in the White Paper of October, 1941, in order to set a minimum standard of family maintenance, after paying rent and other standing charges. As hon. Members have pointed out, the unit is 16s. for each adult member of the household, two children being counted as one unit. If the family standard of living before the man's service was on a higher level than 16s., after paying rent and standing charges, the War Service grant is assessed with regard to that higher level. It is limited only by the maximum of £3 per week.
Is the Minister aware that, if a woman with three children who, according to the announcement made by the Lord Privy Seal, is in receipt of an additional 5s. 6d. in the standard allowances, is already receiving more than 5s. 6d. from the War Service Grants Advisory Committee, she will have nothing further? That will lead to the greatest possible confusion and disappointment.
Sir J. Grig g:
That is not necessarily the case at all, because the operation of the 16s. unit calculation may work out very differently. All I say is that the extra children's allowances will be taken into account in operating these rules. As regards the question as to whether there is to be any alteration in the 16s. unit, as hon. Members know, an alteration of that unit has very great reactions in other directions.
Now I come to the point raised by a number of hon Members, the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner), the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne, the hon. and gallant Member for Salisbury and the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Jewson), who animadverted upon the extreme complications of the system of Army pay. I have done that a good deal myself, but never perhaps have I used such violent language as the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds. Knowing the complications of the system, I was very glad to hear his tribute to the Pay Corps, because I think they have performed absolute miracles throughout the war, and a great deal of credit is due to them for the smooth working of a very complicated system.
Hon. Members can rest assured that nobody is more anxious to simplify the Army pay code than the Army itself. Its complications are not only irksome for the soldier himself, but, what is much more important, they have a very complicating effect on administration. A material fact which has to be taken into account when considering simplification—I think the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds was more or less right when he said that there were some hundreds of different rates of pay in the Pay Warrant—is that men who enlisted before 1925 carry the reserved right to higher scales of pay, and there are therefore in existence side by side two different pay codes. The rates introduced after 1925 were lower than what are called the 1919 rates. If you are to simplify and reduce the number of rates of pay in the way the hon. and gallant Member wants, it is quite clear that you have to give sufficient increases on the lower rates of pay to bring them up at least to the 1925 rates of pay, and I am very sorry to say that that would involve a charge greatly in excess of what His Majesty's Government regard as proper, or even possible, as a burden upon the Exchequer in the present circumstances.
Sir J. Grig g:
It would do a great deal, but not all. It has, however, been possible to introduce minor simplifications into the pay code governing the basic pay of the private soldier, and those modifications will shortly be announced. The essence of the scheme is the substitution of consolidated rates for the separate elements, namely, pay, war pay, increments, efficiency pay and special proficiency pay, which go to make up the daily rate of pay for the soldier on normal rates of pay and below the rank of sergeant. This consolidation will enable the pay rates of soldiers under the rank of sergeant to be represented in an easy tabular form, easy to understand. The scheme provides for three classes of private soldier, Class 2 on entry, Class 1 for those with six months' service, who are classed as proficient, and a special Class 1a for soldiers with three years' service who have special qualifications and who have been awarded special proficiency pay. In each class increments will in future be given automatically, and I may say that these pay tables will appear in the soldier's pay book.
May we understand this thoroughly. As I understand it, the various rates of pay of the soldier, his basic pay, his proficiency pay, his special proficiency rate after three years, are to be divided into classes. At the present moment he cannot get certain of these extras without the certificate of his commanding officer. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how a soldier gets from one to the other class automatically?
Sir J. Grig g:
I did not say anything of the sort. I said that the increments would be given automatically. The proficiency and the special proficiency pay happen to be two of the three classes. I hope that will be of some assistance in enabling the private soldier at any rate to know where he stands, but whatever the complications of the present scheme are, I am pretty clear that the scheme advocated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) would be ten times more so. I do not hold out any hope that we shall be able to adopt his scheme during the war. It seems to me to be above all preserving a pre-war relativity, some might say class distinction, which has not been observed anywhere else in our national life during the war. I should not be surprised if, within the limits of the £250 he mentioned, the War Service Grants Committee goes as far as is reasonable and practical in meeting cases where pre-war obligations persist and cannot be escaped.
The Lord Privy Seal in his speech said that I would deal with the specific points which had been and were to be raised in the Debate. I am afraid that if I tried to deal with them all, I should be here until midnight, and even then I should not have finished. In particular the catalogue of the hon. and gallant Member for Finchley (Captain Crowder) would take some considerable time to deal with. Some of the points raised included an increase in kit allowance, and confinement expenses was a matter raised by the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink)—I confess I, personally, was rather impressed by the case he made. That was easy enough, seeing that the case will have to be answered by another Department.
Then various hon. Members raised questions about acting rank, and they proposed what in effect was a system whereby an officer having once had acting rank for a certain léngth of time would keep that rank for the rest of the war. The rules for acting rank, which are a considerable mosaic, were drawn up in agreement with all the Departments, and they are a very complicated piece of work. It is extremely difficult to touch one stone without deranging another. On the whole, it seems to me that a system is not very unfair whereby a man, if he has had acting rank for a certain time, can never fall more than one rank in spite of the fact that he might be employed on duties lower than those of his war substantive rank. It would be wrong for me to give any impression that the door is very loosely open.
The question of stoppages for overpayments was raised, and it was suggested that they should be automatically written off. I could not possibly go to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer with that proposal, but he has agreed in recent months to give paymasters very liberal power of waiving recoveries and writing off overpayments where hardship would be involved. Another question raised was that of soldiers having to pay an increased allotment when they were promoted. I am very sorry, but I do not see any unfairness in it. It seems to me quite natural that a soldier should pay an increased allotment on attaining a higher rank. Some of these points appear to be based on a misunderstanding; some, as I have indicated, seem to have little merit; others seem to have much more merit. All I can say, in the time at my disposal, is that the Government will carefully study the Debate and, Within the general ambit announced by the Lord Privy Seal, consider whether further action is required.
May I mention two points connected with the main decisions? One is the date of operation, which I do not think my right hon. and learned Friend mentioned. The increase will be effective from the first pay day after 1st October, but, owing to the necessity for printing and issuing coupons, families entitled to increased children's allowances cannot begin to draw them as soon as that. Coupons will be issued to them in time to allow the increases from the first pay day after 1st October to be drawn on or before Monday, 26th October. There appears to be a little misapprehension about the concession which the Lord Privy Seal announced in respect of promotion from second lieutenant to lieutenant at the end of six months. Before the war the rank of second lieutenant was a probationary one, and an officer served for three years before he was promoted to lieutenant. To obtain his promotion, he had to get a satisfactory report from the three senior officers in his unit. Since the outbreak of war the period has been reduced to 18 months, and experience shows that even that is too long in war-time. Most officers have already done a period in an O.C.T.U. before being commissioned. It has been decided, therefore, to cut down the probationary period to six months, and to reintroduce the system of reports which existed before the war. The officer will be reported on before the end of the six months by the three senior officers in his unit. If the reports are satisfactory he will be promoted to lieutenant at the end of six months. In the rare cases where the reports are unsatisfactory, disagreeable things will happen, and he may in extreme cases be asked to resign his commission. In the cases where promotion does take place, this will result in an officer getting an additional increment of 14s. after six months service—a year sooner than was formerly the case. That will assist a great deal the officers in the lower ranks. We come to a general judgment on the Government's proposals. They clearly will not satisfy everybody, nor do we pretend that they do not leave some anomalies.
Sir J. Grig g:
I must have more notice of that question. What we do say is that, in relation to the circumstances which exist, this is a fair settlement. I believe it will be regarded as such by the three Services. So far as the Army is concerned, I have found, as I go around, very much less preoccupation with pay questions than some of the livelier of our journals would have us believe.
Sir J. Grig g:
Yes. I have found also in the Army a general disinclination to feel envy at the good fortune of better-paid people outside the Service or in other Forces. I have found numerous cases of men who have gone into the Army, having been employed at very much higher pay or salary in outside life, and have settled down to a more rigorous life and lower-paid work in the Army with the utmost keenness and enthusiasm. It is realised by the Army—and I am sure this is true of the other Services as well—that in the present crisis in the history of this Nation and Empire competition in sacrifice and endeavour is much more fitting than that of envy and reward. This willingness to make sacrifices imposes upon the Government the duty to see to it that the Services can feel that they are not to be treated shabbily and are freed from anxiety for those left behind. This obligation we feel we discharge by the proposals we have put before the House to-day. Some hon. Members have expressed disappointment with the decisions. It is natural that we should all want to do as much as possible for our soldiers, sailors and airmen, but no additions to pay can fully compensate these men for the risks to health and life which they are running. From this point of view none of us can be satisfied, but, having regard to all the circumstances at the present time, we have been reasonable and fair, and we hope that this will be the general judgment of the House.
Would the right hon. Gentleman give us the cost of the proposals? He told us twice what proposals would cost that he was not accepting, and I do not think we were told what the cost would be.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that these increases will be paid promptly? I can assure him that the increase given on 2nd April last was not paid to me until 18th August.
Sir J. Grig g:
Obviously I can give no assurance about what happens in the Navy and Air Force, but I have absolutely no doubt of what I have said to be the case for the Army increases, namely, that the increase in pay will be given on the first pay day in October and that the increase in allowances will be given, with a certain amount of retrospection, not later than 26th October.
In view of the speech of the Minister, I should think Members must be more anxious than ever that the Government should be impressed with the volume of feeling on this particular issue. I want to reply to his statement that when he visited various depots or sources of Army life he did not meet with the same or an increased demand for better conditions. Every serving officer who has spoken in this House to-day as well as every Member of the House who has been in contact with officers in their outside life has testified to the very great feeling in the country on this particular question.
I want to point out to the Minister some representations that have been made to me by serving officers and other ranks in the Army. First of all, there is the feeling in the Army and in the Services generally that those who have suffered through loss of kit or personal belongings have found that the Department responsible takes far too long a time to give recompense to them. I want to instance to the Minister one particular case. On 11th April, 1942, on one of His Majesty's transport ships—the name and number of which I can give him if he so desires—80 officers lost 80 per cent. of their kit through enemy action. Up to 19th July this year these men had received only £10 each. Some of them have since been killed, some have been made prisoners of war, and one who has been invalided out, having lost £107 worth of kit, has also received only £10 in compensation from the Government. I want to try and impress upon the representatives of the Service Departments here the fact that when these things occur they should make speedy recompense to the men who have been involved.
I listened to-day to the Leader of the House making a statement in defence of this 6d. extra per day, this 5s. 6d. extra per week for a woman with three children, and as I listened to this man who came into the Government, backed by the hopes of millions of people in this country, there was brought back to me the memory of some of the very famous pamphlets written by him in the past about equality of conditions in this country. These were written at a time when the full-blooded Socialist programme of the Labour party was not sufficient for him. Not satisfied with our programme in those days—a programme of equality and a standard of life much higher than Service men are obtaining to-day—he now defends this 6d. per day extra in the face of the clamour from the officers and men of our Services. My right hon. and learned Friend referred to what took place in France during the last war, when, because British soldiers were paid a little more than French soldiers—as those who were there can testify—the latter lounged around our Expeditionary Force canteens and around the stations for cigarettes and tobacco. Generally speaking, this gave the British Forces a sense of superiority over the French Forces.
Is that the position in which the Government and the Leader of the House desire British soldiers to be, after the Prime Minister's valiant speeches about their heroism, suffering and sacrifices, after the speeches of the Leader of the House, following in the footsteps of the Prime Minister, and after the speeches that have been made by every Member of the Government? Do they want British soldiers to be in that position in regard to the soldiers from the Dominions and America? The Leader of the House said that the Americans are doing their best, and have to be thanked for their attempts, to make it less difficult for the British Tommy. The Leader of the House of Commons, the Leader in a Government that controls the British Empire, thanks the soldiers of another nation for making it easier for the British Tommy and the British officer not to feel their position too keenly.
He went on to say, with an ignorance of industrial organisations which I do not think has been surpassed in any speech in the House, that in the Army there is regular promotion and more chance of promotion than in industry. When one examines the facts of industry and the organisation of our Armed Forces, when one considers the number of men in a battalion, the number of officers required, the number of N.C.Os. and warrant officers required, can one say that in factory life and industry generally there is less opportunity of promotion from graded job to graded job at higher rates and bonuses, to foreman, to management, than there is in the Armed Forces? That argument is no vindication of the low rates, and it was meant to be a vindication of the low basic rates paid to the average soldier and officer in the Services.
The Leader of the House then said that the difference between industrial wages and rates in the Forces was due to the fact that in industry no consideration was taken of dependants, that the man got his wage as a wage, whereas in the Army dependants had to be considered. Is there a trade union organiser in this country, or anyone who has been associated with the trade union movement, who will dispute that in all our negotiations with the employers, we take fully into consideration the dependants of the wage earners on whose behalf we are making representations?
Thus, the Leader of the House showed, as he has done on two occasions already during this series of Sittings, the most amusing side of politics. The first instance was when he chastised Members of Parliament; when the Leader of the House, the person to whom no organisation was worthy of consideration, the greatest individualist in this country, chastised Members of Parliament for doing as they wanted to do. The second instance was when, after doing that, he moved a Motion that we should leave the House for a further period and not partake of public Debate on behalf of the people of this nation. The third instance was in this Debate when he, the man who has written those heroic pamphlets on Socialism and a free and full life for the people of this country, and equality of sacrifice, stated that there had been a good many reasons why he was not satisfied with conditions in the Services, but that 6d. a day would be sufficient to meet the demands.
I can only appeal to the other more practical Members of the Government. I can only appeal to those who have participated in working-class life, those who have participated in naval, military and air life, and those who understand the needs and the necessities of the Services to make greater representations to the Prime Minister and to their Cabinet col- leagues on this question. I make bold to say that this White Paper, which has been issued by the Secretary of State for War, would not have been issued by the former Secretary of State for War on the advice of his late adviser. I have many personal associations with members of His Majesty's Forces, and they have described this document in language which would not he permitted in this House. They have described it in real Army and Navy language; to sum up their opinion in a few words, they have described it as utter and contemptible nonsense.
It must have been a very uneasy Department which put out this circular in defence of the present rates and standards in the Services. This is a defence of the present standard, and, if the Government thought the document was right and justified, then they ought not to have brought forward any increases to-day. It is a fact, and I have taken great care to ascertain my facts, that a British captain, and even a Commando captain—I was speaking to two last night—is paid less than an American corporal. An American private receives 10s. per day, whereas our boys receive 3s. 6d., to which we have added another 6d. In view of the fact that a considerable number of coloured troops are coming from America to this country—this has been stated publicly in the Press—I want to ask what are their comparable rates with those of British officers and men in the Services. I should like to have spoken before the Secretary of State for War, but I now ask the War Office to give this question their greatest consideration.
No one is more sincere than myself in his desire to end this war victoriously and as soon as possible, but you will not get the best results by men and women in the Services being thoroughly and utterly dissatisfied with their conditions. I have been in many ceremonial parades when the c.o. and the brigadier have come round on inspection, and it would be a very courageous man who would dare step out under those conditions and make a complaint. It would be a very strange soldier indeed who would risk incurring the wrath of his superiors and make a complaint under those conditions. That is not the way. Thank goodness, this Debate has brought into the House men serving in the Forces, who are away far too often for the good of the House of Commons and of Parliamentary insti- tions Thank goodness, they were here today with their voices, because no person of ordinary reason and intelligence, after hearing their united voices would accept the statement of the Secretary of State that there is not preoccupation over the question of allowances and wages.
I have read in a newspaper the story of a soldier on 48 hours' leave who was standing at a station when a woman jumped out of a train. He tried to stop her, and was knocked down and killed. When his widow applied for a pension she was told that, because he was on leave, he was not on military service, and they were not responsible. The men are reading of such things daily. The gun crews on transports are paid the ordinary rate as soldiers. While every other man around them receives £10 danger money, they do not receive a single extra penny. Those are the things that are creating a feeling of disappointment and cynicism. It is all very well to make pretty speeches saying that, despite these things, the men and women of the country are determined to destroy the German aggressor, but the Government have promised them that for their services they shall be rewarded with a better state of life. They want the Government to prove it now and not wait until after the war, when all sorts of excuses may be submitted. No one questions the honesty of purpose and patriotism of the men and officers of the Services, but they want something for it. No one questions the patriotism and the honesty of purpose and the desire for victory of members of the Cabinet, but they also take their salaries, which to the men and officers of the Forces are very adequate salaries indeed to provide them and their dependants with everything that life can give them. Therefore I am making this appeal. It is perfectly clear that the House of Commons and the country are completely and utterly dissatisfied with the Government's proposition.
I wish that the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Hely-Hutchinson) and the hon. and gallant Member for Bolton (Sir E. Cadogan) who in a tepid manner were the only Members to support the Government's proposals, would accept an invitation to go to some camp and discuss their conditions with the men and tell them that they do not believe their dependants require more than the Leader of the House is prepared to give them. After all his trumpetings, his propaganda and his pamphleteering, and after all his disagreement with the constitution and policy of a party that only desired equality of sacrifice and decent conditions, the Leader of the House is prepared to offer the men less than 6d. a day where there are three children—6d. a day basic rate for a Tommy and less than 6d. a day for the home. Why are these advances being made? Because from all parts of the country there has come a story of poverty—that is the only word for it—a story of want and great need among the dependants of the men fighting for the country. The Government are making these proposals because it has been recognised that the need of these people could not be put aside any longer. They need clothes for their children, educational facilities, food and recreation. In order to meet their needs the Government, through the mouth of the Leader of the House, say, "We will give you less than 6d. a day where there are three children." I urgently ask the Government, not merely from a selfish point of view, but on their own Behalf in order to maintain the good name of the nation and to instil a higher morale among the Armed Services, to reconsider the whole question as soon as possible and to be prepared when the House meets again to come forward and say, "We have honestly discussed the whole question and we bring in still greater improvements giving the men of the Armed Forces and the people of this country something worth fighting for."
The Debate has been chiefly concerned with pay and allowances for other ranks and ratings and to a certain extent with junior officers. With that I agree. I am glad that the Government have made some concessions, but they will be aware that the men in the Services will not look at those concessions from the point of view that they will cost the country £43,000,000 a year but on the -basis that they will each receive 6d. a day. It is the object of the Government and those at the head of the three Services that officers of equal rank shall receive more or less the same pay. I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty on the Front Bench for I would like to draw his attention to the disparity between the pay of junior officers in the Navy and that of junior officers in the Army.
This disparity was brought about by a committee which was set up about 20 years ago, and it was agreed to by the Board of Admiralty. This is the position: An acting sub-lieutenant in the Navy receives 7s. 8d. a day, and a second-lieutenant in the Army, which is the comparable rank, receives 11s. a day. A sub-lieutenant in the Navy receives 9s. a day, and a lieutenant in the Army, the comparable rank, receives 13s. a day. A lieutenant in the Navy receives 13s. 4d., whereas a captain in the Army, of the comparable rank, receives 16s. 6d. I do hope that the First Lord of the Admiralty, to whom the Navy looks in the hope of getting a fair deal in this matter, and who I know has much sympathy with the officers and men, will do what he can to remove this injustice to the junior officers in the Navy.
Those rates of pay were decided not in accordance with the rank of those officers but with their age, a totally unjust proceeding. The fact that they had been serving since 15 years of age was put on one side and they were not paid in accordance with their rank but in accordance with their age. I particularly wish to draw the attention of the First Lord to the existing marriage allowance for officers, and I hope to show how unjust, how unfair, how mean, even, it is. Unlike the position in the other two Fighting Services, when the scheme for the Navy was first brought in it was on the basis of a contributory marriage allowance. The result was that all officers in the Navy from the age of 30 upwards had their basic rate of pay reduced by 2s. a day, and commissioned officers from warrant rank and warrant officers had their basic pay reduced by 1s. a day. Therefore, in assessing the net gain which an officer in the Navy receives because of his marriage one must always remember to deduct from the figures which are given in the allowance table the 2s. or 1s. a day which has already been taken off their basic rate of pay. The net result is that commodores, second class, captains, lieutenant-colonels R.M. and relative ranks receive a net payment, because they are married, of 24s. 6d. a week. Commanders and below receive 17s. 6d. a week because they are married. Commissioned officers from warrant rank and warrant officers receive 14s. a week because they are married. The point which I wish to impress upon the First Lord is that all ratings on the- lower deck receive 18s. a week because they are married. An officer has therefore to be above the rank of commander before he receives as much as an able seaman serving on the lower deck. How on earth can the Admiralty possibly agree that that is a fair, a reasonable, and a right scheme to have in operation?
The Admiralty have brought in, as a war measure, a new marriage allowance scheme in which there is a basic rate of 4s. a day, to be paid to an officer who is married, irrespective of rank or age. Every officer, from the rank of commodore second class, which is the next rank below a rear-admiral, down to the junior officer, receives a basic rate of 4s. a day; but they have had 2s. taken off their basic rate of pay. Therefore, the net gain of all officers in the Navy, up to the rank of commodore second class, is 14s., or 4s. a week less than the able seaman on the lower deck. How could the Admiralty have agreed to a scheme such as that? How totally unjust, unfair and mean it is that the Admiralty should have agreed to officers being treated in that way.
In other Services, the married officer receives marriage allowance, whether he is living with his wife or is separated from her, and quite right too. But in the Navy, that is not so. An officer who is appointed to a shore appointment at home, if he is living with his wife, receives no marriage allowance at all. If an officer has had to take up a shore appointment, as so many have in this war, while having a house in some other part of the country, and if his wife is able to live where he lives in his war appointment, he gets no marriage allowance, although he has two establishments to keep up. I have in mind—and I am sure the First Lord will not think I am being personal—the case of the retired officer who comes up and serves, and is appointed a long way from his home. He has in many cases to find lodgings and pay for them and still has to keep up his other establishment. He is not given any marriage allowance because his wife is living with him. How can the Admiralty justify a scheme of that nature?
When the scheme was introduced, the Admiralty said that marriage allowance was very intimately connected with lodg- ing allowance, a most unjust announcement by the Admiralty. The First Lord knows that lodging allowance is made to an officer who is appointed on shore where service quarters are not provided for him. He gets the lodging allowance in lieu of the Service quarters. Part of the pay of a naval officer is in the accommodation he gets on beard. He has his cabin, light, heat and so on and that is taken into consideration because they are of some value. He gets less pay than otherwise he would get. When he has to take up an appointment where such quarters are not provided he gets lodging allowance instead of the quarters which he would have had on board. Under this marriage allowance scheme, the Admiralty said, those two things are intimately interlocked. Nothing of the sort; if you are serving in an appointment where you have no quarters, and your wife lives there with you, you only get the lodging allowance, but no marriage allowance. That cannot be justified, but it is the law. The lodging allowance is given for the specific purpose of making up to the officer the loss of official quarters, not in view of being married. The marriage allowance is paid to an officer because he is married, but the Admiralty get away with it and say that we cannot possibly have both. When you are given a shore appointment you can only get your lodging allowance unless you are living apart from your wife. I consider that that is most unjust, and I hope the First Lord will have it altered. It does not apply in any other Service, and it is the aim and object of the Government, and I am sure of the First Lord, to have equal treatment in this matter between the three Services.
Then there is this contributory scheme, which affects all the unmarried officers. They have all had their basic rates of pay reduced by 2s. a day in order that the married officer may receive this miserable allowance, the details of which I have given to the House. Surely that is not a scheme which can possibly commend itself to the House, to the First Lord, or to the country? Therefore, in this discussion, I particularly bring before the notice of the First Lord the details which I have given. There are other points with regard to the pay of officers who have been called up for the war. There are officers who retired and went out of the Service under different schemes when the Admiralty was so anxious to get rid of them, some with an annuity, some with a pension plus an annuity, and so on, and some of those officers have been called up to-day and are doing the same work, in the same rank, and receiving different rates. Some get the pay of their rank plus a 25 per cent. bonus, others get the pay of their rank and no bonus. I know that some had a gratuity on retiring and that nothing is done with regard to that, but it does create disatisfaction among the officers. I hope the First Lord will go into that matter.
Really, there are so many points about the pay and allowances of officers that it would be of great benefit, and—I was going to say "create a good feeling," but there is good feeling and good service quite apart from that—it would remove a legitimate cause of grievance amongst all officers if all these matters were gone into and put right. I know the First Lord is sympathetic in this matter, and I suppose the Treasury is the bugbear, but consider the service which is given. I do not wish to make any comparisons, but the service which is given to-day by those officers at sea cannot be beaten by any service, and never has been, and the country is more dependent to-day on the services rendered by the Navy than ever it has been in the past. Magnificently have the officers responded. Therefore, I put these points before the First Lord with confidence, knowing that he will do his utmost to get justice for the officers in the Service. They look to him. Thank God we have no trade unions in the Service. I do not say that as an insult to the trade unions; but simply because the system would not work in the Service. We could not possibly have such things. These men look to the First Lord to see that they get a square deal. I trust that they will not look to the present First Lord in vain.
For some years after the last war, while local authorities were painstakingly erecting memorials to those who had died in that war, an increasing number of the survivors fell into the category of ex-Service men who tramped the streets in search of work or maintenance. In time it came to be taken for granted that that was a consequence which followed a great war. As time went on that army became merged, into an even larger army of the unemployed, and that phenomenon also became taken for granted. We are in danger that this problem of the pay and allowances of the Fighting Services as a hardy annual in our discussions may also come to be taken for granted, and it is therefore in the highest degree gratifying that to-day's Debate has been conducted with such vigour and that there has been such a clear manifestation of the determination of Members of this House to recognise their very special responsibility as trustees for the interests of the Fighting Services. Like most Members, I prepared my notes against the background of the White Paper, and I was hoping that as the result of the new Ministerial statement I should be able to tear up my notes and accept with approval the proposals which the Government saw fit to put forward. I regret that that is not possible, and I am bound to say that I view the proposals with the greatest disappointment.
I am glad to be able to concur in the remarks of those speakers who have said that there is no clamour on the part of the fighting man with regard to his pay. Both by tradition and by circumstance the fighting man is not able to raise questions of that nature, and neither is he desirous of doing so under present conditions. Apart from his traditional right of grousing in a good humoured fashion, he accepts the conditions of service with cheerfulness, loyalty and dignity. Consequently it was with a very great deal of regret that many of us read the White Paper. That White Paper was not a very honest and not a very fitting approach to this problem, and even although it has been very severely criticised to-day, I still think that the last word ought not yet to have been said on it.
I think we ought to know what instructions were given which led to the production of a document in that form, and what steps were taken to obtain the facts upon which its arguments were based. There are in this House scores of Members who, as is well known, have a very highly specialised knowledge of this problem of Service pay and allowances. There are in the country hundreds of Army welfare officers who are daily in contact with the troops. There are thousands of representatives of the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association, and all the kindred bodies, and there are hundreds of thousands of soldiers' wives who have the most practical knowledge of all as to whether or not these allowances are adequate. I should be interested to know whether out of all these hundreds of thousands of fully informed people a single one of them was consulted before that White Paper was drafted. I venture to suggest that nothing of the kind was done, and that explains why the White Paper is so remote from reality.
The White Paper, if I may say this in passing, goes far deeper than even the very important problem of Service pay and allowances. It raises this whole question of the relationship of this House to Treasury control. We have all had friends who by reason of their outstanding merit have achieved promotion which causes them to be employed in high office at the War Office. It is a curious thing that while they are outside the War Office they are ordinary human, gay, and friendly people, full of determination and energy, but when they enter the gloomy portals of that building they seem to become pale shadows of their former selves. It is curious how when one discusses problems of this kind with them, they seem to be always looking over their shoulders, as if afraid of some apparition. Indeed, the apparition is a very real one; it is the apparition of Treasury control. Treasury control is a serious problem, which goes far to explain this White Paper. It is a nightmare to thousands of serving officers of all ranks; something which chills enthusiasm, cramps initiative, and, above all, at this present time retards progress and movement for weeks and months-, at a stage in the war when hours and minutes may be vital for victory. We know by bitter experience that the niceties of financial control have contributed to delaying at grave periods the production of the weapons which we desire to place in the hands of our fighting men. Let us see that we are not too tardy and too tight-fisted to provide that financial reward which will go to strengthen the inward equipment, morale and self-confidence of our fighting men.
It is obvious from the speeches which have been made that numbers of Members are deeply disappointed with the increases, not only because the figures are parsimonious, but because of the policy behind them. In particular, what many of us strongly object to is that the whole question of pay and allowances for the Fighting Services is based too much on a needs test. One sees calculations, made with the best of intentions, as to how many cigarettes a soldier ought to have per day, how many glasses of beer and how many visits to a cinema per week—[An HON. MEMBER: "Per month "]—or whatever is the period suggested. We have no right to lay down how a soldier should spend his money. It would be far more worthy of a great and wealthy nation to leave these small items to the soldier to decide, and to give the soldier a margin for those extra amenities which he wants to buy for himself. I was impressed by what one hon. Member said about the problem of a single man who wishes to get married. Such a man is entitled to look to his future. There is very little future for him in the way of setting up a home if he is dependent upon the small payment he receives as a soldier at the present time. Above all, we are under an obligation to provide him with a margin of money in his pocket in order that his self-confidence may be maintained at the highest possible level. Sometimes when all the stoppages and allowances have been deducted there is many a soldier who has to face the week with a matter of merely a few shillings, and it cannot be right for his morale or his confidence in himself as a fighting man that that should be so.
May I refer to the question of War Service Grants, which system is capable of meeting at least in part the difficulties with which we are faced? I was very surprised at hearing the immense volume of effort which has been made to publicise these War Service Grants, and I was a little appalled in thinking of the enormous energy displayed in that way and the time taken up by hoards of officials and voluntary workers and the quantity of paper which is being poured out in an endeavour to bring these grants to the notice of the fighting men. The whole problem would be much more simply tackled if the right of the soldier, sailor or airman to receive this grant were made automatic and the obligation of seeing that he obtained it were placed upon the regimental paymaster. This hit or miss method by means of which the soldier may or may not hear about the grant, this putting-up of posters in canteens, is far too casual. If the obligation were placed upon the regimental paymaster of seeing that such an examination were made into the soldier's means as would ascertain whether he was entitled to the grant, you would have a much more efficient method and you would remove the question of charity and the means test atmosphere which so many of the men find so distasteful.
There are two further points that I would like to make. One of these relates to the comparison between our Forces and the Dominions Forces. I join with those who say that there is no feeling of envy whatsoever that can be traced between the British soldiers and their colleagues who come to this country from overseas. The feeling, as I can testify after much contact with the troops, between the British, Dominions and Allied Forces is simply magnificent, and in any case it would be a somewhat unworthy development if we in this country were forced into paying our own men more simply because of the example presented by these new arrivals. We should face the problem on its own merits and pay the men what we feel we can. The other point is in relation to the post-war Army, which I do not think has been mentioned to-day a very great deal.
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that it would be desirable that our Government should face the issue on its own merits in this country on the same lines on which the Governments of the Dominions and America have faced it, and from the same point of view?
I still feel that that suggestion raises some complexities. I doubt whether any useful purpose would be served by even comparing the rates any more than has been done up to the present time. I feel that we ought to settle this problem as a national problem of our own without necessarily being influenced by what is being paid by other Governments. In regard to the post-war Army it is clear that our policy after this war must involve the upkeep of a large Navy, Army and Air Force. The problem of recruiting for these Forces—even if there is to be, as many of us hope, a measure of universal service—will be a grave one and we shall have to be prepared to face up to the payment of very much more attractive amounts of remuneration than have been paid in peace time in the past. If we have difficulty in paying better rates while we are in the midst of war, how much more difficult will it be to maintain those rates when the immediate risk of warfare has disappeared? I am bound to say that in the rates of pay which are applicable to the Fighting Forces to-day there is nothing very heroic. There is nothing of which we have great reason to be very proud.
Sometimes one hears arguments over sixpences and allowances of a very minor character and of small detail. One heard to-day the extremely disturbing correspondence about the provision of clothes and other items for a maternity case. We ought to take this whole question on to a far higher level and pay our men sums which are more worthy of them and of us. The point is sometimes made that we are all in the front line and that there is not quite the same case to be made out in respect of the pay of the fighting men, who, at one time, alone, bore the burden of warfare. I suggest there is a fallacy in that argument. It is true that we are all, in this country, exposed to the risks of air-raids but surely every fighting man on active service is exposed to those risks over and above all the other hazards of warfare. Great events are impending, and while there is at present a comparative lull in fighting activity, and we have in this country a large number of men who are not apparently engaged in hazardous occupations as fighting men, their time will come. When the mounting list of casualties comes to our notice we may feel that we have not been very worthy in the matter of their remuneration.
Making all allowances for the importance of the home front the fact is that while Civil Defence workers and the civil population, by sticking it, can avoid defeat, it is only our fighting men who can secure victory and we must bear that in mind in any consideration of the problem. The British fighting man has never fought in proportion to the amount of his remuneration and it is well for the British Empire that that is so. But I suggest, as I said in my opening remarks, that the very fact that the fighting man does not ask for greater rewards, that by his training and sense of loyalty he leaves it to us to secure what is just and equitable and the fact that we know that when the time comes he will give up his health, his freedom and even life itself with the fullest measure of devotion, leaves this House under a solemn obligation to pursue this matter of pay and allowances much further than it has done up to the present and to ensure that the remuneration which we guarantee to those who are defending this country shall be more worthy of the sacrifices they are willing to make.
I am afraid I make no apology for keeping the House, as I have addressed it only once during the last three years. After being a Member for quite a long time, I have never heard or conceived of a Government having a worse day than the Government have had to-day. There has been in a long series of speeches two speeches, rather camouflaged perhaps, which supported the Government with a weakness in comparison with which vapid tea is a strong stimulant. Moreover, I consider that the Government's own presentation of their case has been extremely bad. I do not blame my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House, because even he, if he is provided with false premises by his advisers, cannot help reaching wrong conclusions, and the false premises with which he was provided are obvious in the Government's proposals, which ignore all the real reasons for any increase in pay, ignore the feelings of the Fighting Services on this matter, are based on thoroughly unsound psychology, and also are based on this already notorious White Paper.
Although the House must be weary of hearing about the White Paper, it is practically impossible to make any sort of speech on this subject without referring to it, because it is the spirit of this atrocious document which permeates the whole of the Government's proposals, the spirit of the Treasury trying to be clever, as they have always been clever in relation to the Fighting Services. It is the old tradition; I was told when I was very young that if ever you were offered what looked like an increase of pay by the Treasury, you must always say that you will stand by the old rate, because if you do that you will be better off in the end. It is this sort of spirit which annoys the Fighting Services. They do not want an overwhelming financial reward for their services; they are not prepared to use the national emergency as a means of blackmailing the country into giving them higher rates of pay, which is not to their
credit, but merely what one would expect of them. But this document actually dares to tell them how frightfully well off they are; when talking of their housing, for instance, it actually dares to say:
It is impossible to assess in terms of cash with any accuracy the value of the many different kinds of accommodation which they may occupy from time to time.
It says that to the soldier Whose accommodation for quite a long period may be a slit trench. That sort of sentence to the Services is vulgar without being funny. What is the real problem with which we are faced? We have Fighting Services which expect to be worse paid than their civilian equivalents. I do not say that is right, proper or just, but they always have been worse paid than their civilian equivalents, and it always has been the tradition that the man who does the fighting gets less than the man who stays at home and cheers him on. That is an old tradition of this country which probably we can-not overset, but we need not rub it into him continually whenever we throw him some small extra dole; that we do it because we are sorry for him, because we feel he can only creep about shamefaced when Dominion soldiers are in the offing. That is not true. There is no real difficulty over differences in the rates of pay between members of our Commonwealth Forces and the Forces of our Allies. One has only to carry the example into one's own life. Was one in fact always ashamed to go to dinner with a man who was richer than oneself? No, we were pleased to accept the invitation and were glad of his friendship. To compare the soldier's rates of pay with those of a civilian is again totally unsound. The soldier gets various things which the civilian does not. They are not the things outlined in this Paper, which seems to have overlooked some of them, such as physical training, which might cost quite a lot at an institute of cultural hygiene, and free shooting, which big game hunters paid a fortune to get before the war. There are the imponderables. The serving man has a high calling, great loyalty from his fellows and consideration from his superiors, and a lot of other things Which are of great value and do, to a certain extent, make up for the discrepancy in pay between himself and his brother in a munition factory.
I do not think the soldier requires or even asks for a large sum of money for risking his own neck. That is one of the things he expects to do; he is in the Army for that purpose, and it is regarded as part of his ordinary duties. But he is a little worried about his future if he survives, and about his family, whether he survives or not. If the Government had made up their minds, as apparently they have, that £43,000,000 was the total sum the Exchequer could afford, I think they would have done much better by allotting it in a sensible way instead of putting the Treasury on the job and saying, "You can dish out this rather meagre sum, but dish it out so that everyone gets a little to create a strong vested interest in the Services in favour of welcoming the proposals." Everyone has, in fact, been given a bit, which will do no one any good but will make those concerned reluctant to reject the proposals in toto. Then there is the case of the unmarried subaltern or soldier. He has to live extremely hard, particularly the officer, and he can barely afford even very modest luxuries. On the other hand, I do not see why that should not be the case, because he has entered on a high calling and has no dependants for whom he is directly responsible. The unmarried subaltern is, therefore, prepared to put up with a great deal of hardship, but in the case of the married officer, and particularly the officer with a family, it is totally different.
It is obviously to the country's interest, as the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) said, that something should be done to encourage soldiers to have families. At the moment a family is a definite liability, whereas if we arranged our system properly, it should be an asset. The subaltern in these days has been recruited from the ranks. He has passed through the ranks of a regiment and through a period of selection. He has then gone to a cadet training group and has passed through a further period of selection. Finally, he reaches commissioned rank. Is it not possible therefore to assume that he is probably the best of his generation, and, if not, does that not mean that our system of selection is wrong, and that we must adopt some other system? If he is the best of his generation, is it not more important to the country that he should have children than that anyone else should, and should not our main aim be to see that a subaltern with four children is better off than a subaltern with one—not merely receiving more money but able to live in a style of greater comfort, to do in fact what the Japanese army so sensibly do with their officers? I remember hearing many years ago of a Japanese who had asked at what age British officers marry and was informed that very few could afford to do so till they attained the rank of major. He said that was curious. The only reason why he could live in an expensive regiment was that not only was he married but also he had six children. That seems to have the merits of a very sound system in it. That is one reason for concentrating on the families. If there was only this small sum available, it would have been better to give the whole lot to the women and children and relieve the soldier of the anxiety which haunts him much more than the anxiety about whether he can buy another packet of cigarettes—the anxiety of wanting to know whether his wife and children are comfortable.
There is the point of his security after the war, if he survives it. There is his deferred pay. If the war lasts for another ten years, he will have approximately £90 with which to return to civil life. His opposite number in a munition factory has been earning very large sums which the policy of the Government has prevented him from spending by rationing and by removing any commodity off the market that anyone could possibly want to buy. We are imposing thrift on the population whether they like it or not, and a very large sum of money is going to be in the possession of ordinary people by the time the war is done with. It is only fair that the soldier should not lose through having to go in a less well-paid profession. If we can do nothing for him now, surely we can guarantee that, it being perfectly easy to take an average figure of the amount saved by industrial workers by the time the war is over, the soldier shall be given that average amount later as a gratuity and, if he is killed, his widow will receive it. In that way you would be doing justice to the soldier and providing him with some sort of asset with which to go back to civil life. I want to ask the Government to reconsider this matter, not only from the point of view of their own reputation and prestige—and most of us are very anxious that they should be maintained—but from the point of view of the effect that it has in the Services. Their morale would be vastly increased if the serving man could be convinced that there was not an enemy in Whitehall trying to find out how and where he could be done down; if there was once a reasonable and generous gesture—generous not in the quantity which it provides but in the spirit in which it is given—if we could turn to the Army and say, "This is all we can spare now, and we are going to give it where it is most wanted," and not present the thing on the basis of seeing how little can be given in reply to the agitation of the House.
I want to elaborate a point which I tried to make in the interruption which the Secretary of State for War was kind enough to allow me to make during his speech about the operation of the War Service Grants Committee. I only press the point because I have a deep conviction that unless it is properly understood and dealt with, there will be grave disappointment at the operation of the proposals which the Lord Privy Seal has announced. May I be allowed, I hope without any impropriety, to comment on what has been to me a pleasing feature of the Debate? I do not refer to its uncomfortable unanimity but to the large number of officers who have taken part in the Debate and whose contributions have not only been very pleasing because of their form, but more pleasing because they displayed in what they said a keen interest, in the welfare of their men and an intimate knowledge of the difficulties which many of their men are experiencing. Their speeches are, I think, high testimony to the camaraderie of the Services.
I will not pause to elaborate my view that the proposals announced by the Lord Privy Seal have the characteristics of almost unmitigated meanness. Instead of doing a big, bold and generous thing, the Government have thrown a few pennies on the drum. In many cases they have only presumed to throw the pennies on the drum. That is why I draw attention to the War Service Grants Committee. A wife with three children is now in receipt from War Office funds of 45s. a week. If she has standing charges amounting to 13s. she has added to that by the War Service Grants Committee an amount which will bring the total to £2 18s. The 5s. 6d. increase, which is the increase for a family with three children, is in that case an entirely illusory increase. It is assumed that the 5s. 6d. will lift the economic level of the family by that amount of purchasing capacity, but it will do nothing of the End. It will merely add 5s. 6d. to the allowance which the wife receives from Army funds and it will result in the consequent reduction by the same amount of the allowance she receives from the War Service Grants Committee. Instead of receiving 45s., from Army funds plus 13s. from the War Service Grants Committee, she will receive an additional 5s. 6d. from Army funds, and only 7s. 6d. from the War Service Grants Committee.
Thousands of mothers with three children will to-morrow suppose that they are going to get an improvement in their incomes of 5s. 6d. a week, but when they discover that they will be given it with one hand and have it taken away with another, there will be great disappointment at what appears to them to be a trick and a deception. This can only be made good by a reconsideration of the standard of the War Service Grants Committee. The standard of 16s. must be contemporaneously raised by such an amount as will cover the amount of the increase announced by the Lord Privy Seal. There must be an improvement in the War Service Grants Advisory Committee allowances which will give to a family of a wife and three children the net increase of 5s. 6d. which she has every right to expect. I most sincerely hope the Lord Privy Seal will give his special attention to what I believe to be a very serious point.
I apologise to the House for intervening so late in this Debate, but there is one aspect of this matter which I do not think has been sufficiently appreciated, and that is the significance which should be attached to this White Paper. It has been the subject throughout this Debate of a number of descriptions, some of which I jotted down at the time. It has been referred to as "nonsense," as "bad psychology," as "specious"—and a number of other words have been used. To my mind there is only one description of this docu- ment, and that is that it is an utterly fraudulent document from start to finish, a document for which this Government ought never to have been responsible. I want to know who is responsible for it. I wish I could have spoken before the Secretary of State for War replied in this Debate, because I should have liked to have asked him a question, which, as I see that his representative is still here on the Front Bench, may perhaps be dealt with. I want to know whether this document, which is, of course, a Treasury production, was submitted to the War Office for their advice before it was published, and, if so, what comments the War Office made to the Treasury about it. I think I could tell what those comments were, but unfortunately I am not allowed to. Perhaps somebody in the War Office can say what advice was given about that document, and whether it is not the fact that the War Office has been held up at the point of the Treasury pistol. It is all very well for the Lord Privy Seal to assure us, as he did to-day, that it is a bogy about Treasury control, that that is non-existent. I wonder whether the Lord Privy Seal has ever been present at the proceedings of any war establishment committee, and seen the extent and felt the subsequent power of Treasury control.
I did not say that I did know; I only said I could make a fair guess. I ask somebody from the War Office, if he is in a position to tell us, to let the public know what was the War Office reaction to this document. I am sure that the War Office would like, if they had the opportunity of commenting on this document, to tell the Army what their comments about it were. I make no bones about it myself. I describe it as a tissue of lies from beginning to end and an utterly and completely fraudulent document, one which ought never to have been published. Before coming here I turned to a description of a fraudulent document which has been given in a court of law. It referred to a type of fraud which may be found in a document not fraudulent in the sense of what it states but in the sense of what it conceals or omits. I venture to express the opinion that if this document had been produced by any commercial gentleman in the City of London, he would have got seven years at the Old Bailey. The purveyor of Victory Bonds in the last war must be whizzing round in his grave with envy at the production of this document, because it defeats anything which he ever produced. It is shameful that this sort of stuff should be put out. The British fighting man does not so much mind being underpaid for doing his duty but he finds it nauseating to have it said to him that he is being overpaid.
Let me give one or two examples of what appears in this document. I am going to deal just once with the gentleman who gets rather overlooked, the lower rank of commissioned officer, who is not really a popular person to support. It is so much easier to give sympathy to the private soldier. One can command much more sympathy when speaking on behalf of the private soldier, but the lower-paid rank of officer is described in this document as a gentleman who receives £201 a year in pay and as drawing £147 in allowances. That is a lie. It is simply untrue. The Secretary of State for War endeavoured to evade the point by saying, when he knew that comment was bound to be made about it, that only some 25 per cent. of the officers of the British Army drew those allowances. What is the percentage of junior officers dealt with? Something like 95 per cent. do not draw these allowances at all. When you consider, as I did a moment ago, the description of a document which is fraudulent because it makes omissions, you have only to read one sentence to see the complete failure of this document to mention that the rations in kind which the soldier may receive do not make up for the failure to receive the allowance, because he has to pay his mess bills. There is not one word of mention in this description of an officer's mess bills.
Lower down, this document goes on to endeavour to convince the people of this country that an officer's pay has been increased by comparison with the prewar figures. It is intended to lead people to believe that there have been increases in the pay of officers. The document says that a comparison with pre-war figures for an unmarried second lieutenant shows that his pre-war total emoluments were £360 a year. This is quite untrue. As a matter of fact they were £201. The document goes on:
They are now … £462.
The whole of that calculation is built up on the completely untrue statement which appeared at the beginning of the description of the commissioned officer. The truth is that the average junior officer serving in the field receives at the moment £201 a year, and practically nothing in the way of allowances, and that he pays £25 tax. His net income is £175. The document which is put up endeavours to show that he is receiving very nearly three times that amount. Is it surprising that I described the document as a fraud?
There are many other statements in this document which one could put in the same category, but I promised not to take long with my speech, so I will not draw attention to them all. It is surprising how, even when a bogus document of this kind is being produced, the danger of juggling with figures becomes exhibited. Hon. Members will see that by using this sort of basis for figures, the White Paper has had to be driven to the conclusion that the single unmarried soldier receives £3 a week—he does not receive anything of the kind, but that does not prevent this document from saying so and using it as a basis—and that the married soldier receives £3 4s. Apparently the married soldier has to keep his wife at home upon the difference of 4s. a week. That is the inevitable result of using figures in this way. The document has attempted to show that people are earning hypothetical figures. It is useless to tell either the private soldier or the junior officer that he is extremely well off simply because he is not getting something which he might have got if there had not been increased, taxation. That is no consolation to him. What he needs is money on which to live.
It is disgraceful that this document should have appeared. In the short time I have been in this House I have supported the Government through thick and thin, but if it rested in my power, by any vote which I could register on this document, to vote against the Government, I would not hesitate to do so. I hope that the usual cloak of anonymity which surrounds Treasury officials will not be allowed to cover up the rascal who is responsible for this piece of paper. Let him be dragged out into the daylight and strung up to the nearest lamp-post, where he can enjoy the scorn and derision of the soldiers he has so misrepresented.
I agree heartily with the criticisms which my hon. and gallant Friend has made in regard to the White Paper, which is, I think, an unfair statement of the position. Whatever may have been its object, it is regarded as purporting to be a document on which we could form a judgment. Since it leaves out of account all the advantages which the civilian industrial worker receives over the soldier, it misrepresents the position. I want to offer a few remarks in regard to the position of Service pay in general. It is too soon to express a considered judgment on the proposals which the Lord Privy Seal gave us to-day, and I would prefer to await the details. I am bound to say I should have preferred to see a greater increase in family allowances, even though they meant a smaller increase in the basic rate. In the last war it was generally believed that the soldier looked down on the civilian who stayed at home, regarding him as a slacker, almost as much as he looked down upon the red-tabs. This time he does not look down on either of them. He regards this war as our war; we are all in it together, soldiers and civilians.
There is, in fact, a tendency in some parts of the country, and among some sections of the civilian industrial workers, to look down on the soldier. The earnings of the soldier are regarded, perhaps wrongly, as the measure of his ability. That is one reason why you are bound to relate soldiers' pay and Service men's pay to the pay of the civilian workers. I agree that no strict comparison between those rates is possible, but one can ensure that the great differences which obviously exist are smoothed out. I was very surprised to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that the pay of the Services was based on cost of living alone. It seems to me that it takes some account of the tendency of industrial wages, where tradesmen in the Services are concerned.
That meets one point, but I feel that rates of pay in the Services ought to be based not upon the cost of living, which is a fair basis in peace-time, but upon rates which are payable in civil life. To-day we are almost all paid by the State, whether in civil employment or in the Services, and it is wrong on that account to divide two sections of the community because they are working in different directions towards winning the war, and to put them into two different compartments. There is no reason why you should pay a soldier on a different basis to a civilian. It is rather curious to find that the leaders of the trade unions are strenuously supporting the maintenance of the perquisites of the capitalist system, namely, bargaining by trade unions with private employers for wage rates, against the policy supported in the Tory party and by most Members on this side of the House, who feel that wages should be stabilised. I believe it is only in that direction that you can get a fair solution to the problem of the rates of pay of men in the Services.
One point I want specially to refer to, because I think there is a great deal of misrepresentation about it, is the question of leave travel in the Forces. It is referred to in this White Paper as one of the concessions given to the Forces which ought to be taken into account in considering the amount of their pay. But, of course, free travel depends on the exigencies of the Service. It only affects a proportion of the people in the Services. It is not automatic in any sense, and it is enjoyed, incidentally, by quite a number of civilians as well as soldiers. It is quite wrong to take into account the provision of leave travel in considering what is fan-pay to give to the Forces. The question of the difficulties which are likely to arise on account of the pay of Allied Forces has also been raised. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not think any difficulties were likely to arise because there were not many difficulties in France when the boot was on the other leg, and when we found ourselves in a considerably better position than our hosts. I do not know whether he is accurate in expressing that view but I should think there were difficulties in that case. In any event, it is not quite a true comparison. There was always the language bar. There was nothing like the same degree of fraternisation between the British and the French soldier as that which is likely to take place with our Allies in this country, where we speak a very similar language even though it is not exactly the same language as our visitors and where we desire fraternisation and believe it is a good thing to encourage it. I think the difference might lead to considerable difficulties and that every possible effort should be made to induce our Allies to restrict in some form or other the spending power of their Forces. There are many direction's in which it might be done.
A further point to which very little consideration has been given to-day is the question of credits for the soldier. After all, an industrial worker who receives very considerable payment for overtime as well as production bonuses, is able to save on that account. If he is wise, he will not allow his overtime or production bonus to affect his standard of living, but will pay it into War Loan. I believe that is happening in a great many cases. That accounts for a large part of the very considerable savings that are accumulating in the country. The soldier is not in the same position. He is not able to save very much out of his pay, and I do feel that there will be need after the war for accumulations of pay, for savings for the soldiers, when they return, far greater than exists for those who have been doing equally useful work in civilian occupations. It is true that the soldier has many guarantees of future employment. What they are worth one cannot judge, but he will not necessarily wish to go back to the same job as he had before the war and he may not be suited to it. He has had a considerable military training perhaps of quite a different kind from the occupation in which he was engaged before the war. He may wish to start some other activity such as setting up a garage or something of that kind. If the conclusion of the last war is any guide these men are likely to need all the savings they can find. I believe there is a very good case indeed for a substantial increase in the post-war credit which is being given to the men of the Forces.
This is not by any means the last Debate we shall have on this subject. I wish it were possible to say that it might be so, but I feel that stability can come only when we have a wages policy adopted by the Government and agreed to by the trade unions. That would be infinitely fairer, both to industrial workers and to the Services. Until that happens, we must look forward to continuous repetition of these Debates advocating an increase for Service men whenever there is an increase in the costing of living or the trade unions have been able to obtain an increase for their members.
I would inform those sleepy-looking gentlemen on the Government Front Bench that the troops we are discussing are fighting now in Libya, and that our Allies in Russia are fighting now. I do not apologise for keeping the House at this hour. We have seen no sign from the Government that they have paid the least attention to what every serving Member of this House who has spoken to-day has said. The opener of this Debate put up a very calm case, but, unfortunately, his case has so far failed. Therefore, it remains for the heavy dragoons to charge the enemy, in order to see whether a belated counterattack cannot put a little more common sense into the heads of our Government. We have not done. Since the Secretary of State for War spoke, the new campaign for higher pay for the Forces has begun. Since then that campaign has been pressed, and we will go on pressing it until we get justice for the cause for which everyone of us in uniform, and many out of uniform, have spoken to-day. The principle of which the Secretary of State spoke is fantastic. He has no right to compare it to the speeches which have been made by hon. Members serving in the Forces. For him and for other Members of the Government to say that they know what the serving man is thinking is nearly as ridiculous as the White Paper, Which has caused so much scorn and derision to be poured on the Government.
There are many points which I would have wished to raise, but, unfortunately, I have promised to limit my time. I must start by saying that, whatever else may happen in this war, the Service Members are determined that before long, certainly before this war is over, there shall be, by one way or another, a different opinion in the Government on this subject. We are not going to continue the present piecemeal, totally unsatisfactory, completely unpopular, method of government in relation to wages and the pay of the Services—and I include many Services that have not been mentioned to-day. The Government have made a most startling admission to show the bareness of their policy—that the wages of an unmarried private soldier are in excess of those of the workers who fill the stomachs upon which the Army marches. I wonder whether any agricul- tural labourer will agree with this. I doubt it; and I am certain that soldiers—to speak of my own arm—would be quite willing to exchange jobs with agricultural workers on financial grounds.
Is it the way to treat our Service men for these Civil Service Departments to say to them in effect, "I know you only get 10s. or whatever it may be across the table, but really, my boy, you are getting £3"? This is a most disgraceful piece of jiggery-pokery. I will not go so far as the hon. Member opposite. We have had no answer to his question from the Government. Who is responsible for this document?
The whole Government, every one of them? It is a very great pity that it should be necessary to take the steps suggested against the whole Government, because, fortunately, a few are good men, although we can spare quite a number. The real people who are responsible have no right to hold their present jobs and the best thing we can do for them is to make them go into the Services to have a taste of their own medicine. If we are not to compare Service men with civilian workers, then do not let us talk any further about equality of sacrifice. We all started this war upon that note. Thank goodness, we have got a long way from that at this moment. The Government have made a very grave mistake throughout the whole of to-day's Debate. From start to finish it has been mismanaged and misunderstood and the effect in the Services as well as in the country will be greatly to the detriment of the Government themselves. That is something which I must deplore, because I have supported this Government throughout extraordinarily tricky periods in which I was not altogether happy in my own mind. When they come back on those of us who are not here very often and produce a document which we know to be false and inaccurate, it is little recompense for the support which we have given them. Service men do in fact merit special consideration in the manner of 1942 and not of 1914, for democracy has marched far since that day. The soldier who is leading an unnatural life, unnatural from the point of view of accommodation and feeding purposes, has a psychological desire, created one knows not how, for greater amusement and greater expenditure. He must somehow fill the gap both in his mind and in his tummy. Various concessions which have been granted to this histrionic subterfuge are worth a little but they should not and do not affect the issues of this Debate.
A further point which has not been mentioned in the Debate before, as far as I recollect, is that the White Paper has not, unfortunately, as some Members have suggested, been torn into shreds. It has made so much point of the fact that there is an increase of pay after three years' service that it should be clearly stated that a large majority in the Army have not three years' service. Most of the concessions which have been granted both in the past and now are useful. I agree with them, but in the main and on the whole they are nothing more or less than political propaganda on behalf of the Government and newspaper talk.
I will briefly refer to one or two points in relation to pay. The pay of the single man, 35s. a week—a ridiculous figure—has been sufficiently dealt with, and I need not say any more, but the married man—and we keep on hammering this point into the block-headed people who try to rule us—is still the worst-paid man in the whole country. He has pocket money of perhaps 10s. 6d., and his wife has 32s. a week, plus whatever child allowance she may be able to get. She has to keep up her home, and if by any chance the man should get into debt—a not infrequent occurrence in the Army—the voluntary allowance ceases, as it does also if the man happens to be put under detention. Yet on either side of the man's wife there may be families who are earning £5 a week clear.
One point I wish to stress is that in regard to the pay of officers. The Government say that a second-lieutenant, his wife and two children, if my mathematics are correct, get £660 a year. If this were so, on this basis an officer would have £480 to spend on himself and family, over £9 a week. If that were so, no one would have any cause to complain. But if the Leader of the House would look at the real facts, he would find that for two children the family allowance amounts to £2 19s. 6d. and the officer's pay to £4 11s. I hope the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will not take me up on these figures, because they are only a rough addition to my original figures in my note. In spite of the Government's computation that allowances in kind are worth £147 per annum, it is a fact that the officer cannot live in a mess under £1 3s. a week at the least, probably more. That reduces his own resources to £3 8s. a week. Yet the Government say he is getting £9 a week.
These figures are taken from life and not from the mortuary of the Treasury. The whole thesis of the White Paper is misleading, and the figures are positively mischievous. The Prime Minister has not the grasp of, nor the time to consider, the internal affairs of this country, and he is served by a bunch of old women with the minds of bureaucrats who are considering home affairs without courage or conviction. I have one proposal I should like to make, and it is that the whole country should be placed upon a Service basis for the duration but on a new Service basis.
It is not right to suggest that basic rates in industry should be reduced, but the question of overtime can be considered. If overtime is necessary, it must be done as it is in the Services. A battle against time either in field or in factory must be fought in exactly the same way as a battle against Rommel, without pause until the job is done and bringing up reinforcements to replace exhausted troops. I realise that this step would call for real courage and leadership of the order that we have in this country on the war front, but I very much doubt whether the administration has the courage to face up to these facts. We as a country are prepared to face a thousand Hitlers and to defeat them, but we are not prepared to face up to the internal problems of this country. If the Government dare not face this problem, then they must be forced to increase Service rates. We have heard various figures given, mainly by my hon. Friends above the Gangway, and I would say that their figure of a 1s. increase is one instalment and no more. If we were able to say to our men that we could produce 4s. a day now and after three years' service bring it up to 6s., then we should indeed have had some real effect from this Debate. The other point is that children's allowances should be at least 10s. per child without any reduction for the numbers of children. This point has been explained very fully and it is one that I support most fully, but I am by no means satisfied by the lollypop concessions that have been made to-day.
I have taken up my time, and unfortunately, I shall have to leave unsaid a large amount of what I would have liked to say, but I will say this, that direct comparison between the Services and the civilian population may not be easy to make but it is easy to see, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who probably now is eating a comfortable dinner, which I feel I so sorely need, had been able to see the things which we all know are taking place, I am certain the White Paper would not have been published. The first half of it is a fine piece of chemical warfare; the second half is a malicious attempt at self-delusion. I submit that the new proposals are a specimen of political bureaucratic dishonesty, and as such should be rejected by the House.
Before the Debate concludes, I want to say a few words to the Leader of the House. Parliament now ought to be a Council of State. Wherever there is any subject discussed such as that which we have discussed in this Debate, the opinions of hon Members ought to be taken notice of, because there cannot be a General Election and we as a body are supposed to voice the opinions of the people. Nobody who has listened to the Debate can doubt that the overwhelming opinion of the House is that the proposals made by the Government are not sufficient. If that is the view of all of us—and every speech with the exception of one or two has tended that way—will not the Government pay attention to the voice of the House, take back these proposals, and reconsider them, because should a vote be taken on this matter, with all my loyalty to the Government I should be constrained to vote against them. One does not want to be driven to that, but I ask the Government to pay close attention to the wishes of hon. Members, and if they feel that it is the desire of all of us that something better should be done, it would not be a loss of dignity for them to say, "We have heard what you have said, we are prepared to take back the proposals, reexamine them, and come forward with new ones."
I believe that that ought to be done. I pay the Leader of the House credit for having been present throughout nearly the whole of the proceedings. He knows the feelings of the House on this matter, and I ask him to go to the Prime Minister and to other members of the Cabinet and tell them that if they are to carry the House of Commons with them, they must do something more for the men who are fighting for us. I beg him to consider the matter from that point of view.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,000,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament; for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary Grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war.