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War In Europe

Volume 66: debated on Wednesday 26 August 1914

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Territorial Force

Vaccination Regulations

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War a question, of which I have given him private notice, namely: Whether, in spite of the assurance given in 1908 that there are no Regulations enforcing the vaccination of officers and men of the Territorial Forces, orders are being issued to Territorials to be vaccinated; whether these orders are issued from headquarters or by commanding officers on their own authority; whether a memorial protesting against such an order, signed by 109 members of one company of the Somerset Light Infantry, has been presented to the officer commanding; and whether, in view of the importance of preventing any deterrence of recruiting, and of the conscientious objection to vaccination of many probable recruits, he will cancel any such orders and prevent others from being issued?

I have no knowledge of the particular incident referred to in the question. A circular has been issued recently informing general officers commanding that members of the Territorial Force who have conscientious objections should not be vaccinated. It is considered that the danger of an outbreak of smallpox among a body of insufficiently vaccinated troops is a very real one, and every effort is consequently being made to persuade men to undergo vaccination, and those who object are being informed that unless they submit to vaccination they are not likely to be of service in the field.

National Insurance Contributions

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War whether Territorials who are exempt from National Insurance contributions in civil life are liable to pay contributions whilst embodied; whether rates of contributions for National Insurance for Territorials embodied are the same as Army rates, and, if so, whether fresh insurance cards are to be provided; and whether he will consider if it is possible to exempt, whilst mobilised, Territorials from any payment towards National Insurance without loss of benefits on return to civil life?

Embodied Territorials are under the same rules as Regulars as regards insurance, and the rates of contribution are the same as Army rates. Army cards will be used instead of civilian rates. The exemption of Territorial soldiers from payment of contribution has not so far been considered. If it were considered in the case of Territorial soldiers, it would have to be considered in the case of Regulars and Special Reservists also.

Do I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that those who are not insured now in civil life are bound to be insured whilst they are embodied?

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the first part of the question which I put down?

If the hon. Gentleman had really put it down I might have been able to give a more considered reply, but there has been a great deal of difficulty in getting these answers in so short a time.

Death Duties (Allowances To War Victims)

I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has considered the question of an allowance on the Death Duties in the case of men losing their lives on or through active service, and whether he Can make any announcement on the subject?

Yes, I am considering that question, and I shall be in a position to submit certain proposals to the House to-morrow.

War Office Contracts

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether, in order to facilitate business, he can arrange to expedite payment in respect of works under contract for the War Office?

In order to assist contractors for works services in the present financial emergency, the War Office is prepared to make payments on account of work done at intervals of a fortnight instead of a month, and to consider applications for a reduction in the "reserve" withheld until the accounts for a service are finally passed, if it is shown that this exceeds any probable liability of a contractor.

Service Revolvers (Prices Charged)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether Messrs. Webley and Scott, a firm of War Office contractors, have not increased their charges for Service revolvers by 100 per cent.?

I will repeat it tomorrow, when I shall put two other questions, of which I have given notice.

Captures At Sea

Prize Court Sittings

asked the Attorney-General why the advertisements of merchant ships captured during the war and to be adjudicated upon by the Prize Courts, of the sittings of which notice has been given, are inserted in the "Times" only among morning newspapers; whether this preference to a single newspaper is justifiable or necessary; whether there is any ground for such official recognition of the "Times" newspaper for this purpose to the exclusion of its competitors; and whether it is not desirable that important public information of this sort should be published in other papers?

It is for the Prize Court to decide what advertisement of pending causes is necessary. I have ascertained from the Registry of the Prize Court that in addition to inserting notices in the "Times," notices are also inserted in "Lloyd's List," "The Liverpool Journal of Commerce," and "The Shipping and Mercantile Gazette."

Lord Kitchener's Army

Public Meetings In Constituencies

I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the uncertainty which prevails in many parts of the country as to the causes of the War, and in view of the importance of a proper proportion of men volunteering for the defence of their country, he and the Leader of the Opposition will ask Members of this House to arrange for meetings in every constituency throughout the British Isles, so that the public may be enlightened?

Most excellent service has been rendered by Members of this House and by local political organisations in the work of giving information and arousing public attention to the necessity of raising recruits. I trust that there will be no slackening in these patriotic efforts, and that they may be carried on on a much more extended scale in the near future. My Noble Friend Lord Kitchener needs all the recruits that he can obtain.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is some misunderstanding owing to the terms of the notice calling for recruits as to the number which are required? There is a prevalent impression that 100,000 men are required, and that when they are obtained more are not necessary. Will the right hon. Gentleman take some steps to dispel that impression?

That is a mistaken impression. I hope it will not get abroad. We want all the recruits we can get.

Recruits (Voluntary Dental Treatment)

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the large number of men who have failed to pass the medical examination on account of bad teeth, although fit in every other respect, and whether he can take some steps to arrange for these men to be looked at by a proper qualified dental surgeon, so that in cases where the defects are slight and can be easily remedied good men may not be precluded from joining the Colours?

Instructions have already been issued to all medical examiners of recruits that no man who is organically sound is to be refused on account of bad teeth, unless his appearance leads the medical officer to believe that the loss of teeth is a distinct cause of the man's malnutrition. Many highly-qualified dental surgeons and well-known dental institutes throughout the country are in communication with our recruiting officers, and are patriotically giving their services for the free treatment of intending recruits whose acceptance for the Army can be assured provided their dental defects are first remedied.

Enlistment In Particular Regiments

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary for War whether a man of suitable age and fitness who desires to enlist in a particular regiment can be so enlisted at any recruiting station at which he may apply; and whether he will give instructions to all recruiting stations that this practice should be followed?

The hon. Gentleman only put the question into my hand as I came into the House. As he and the House will see, it cannot always be possible to do what he asks. You cannot enlist in a particular unit beyond a certain establishment, but where it is possible to do it instructions shall be given that it shall be done.

Extended Age For Emergency Service

I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the seriousness of the tremendous struggle in which the country is now engaged, it is not in the interest of national safety and the discharge of international duty to permit men between the ages of thirty and forty years, who are sound in health and anxious for service, to enlist in the Emergency Army now being created to support the Regular forces during the present War?

This is a point which will not be lost sight of by the Government.

Re-Enlistment Bounties

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that men in Class I. of the National Reserve who have re-enlisted on the first call for the new Army are being refused the £10 bounty which others in the same class of the National Reserve who have joined later on being called up are receiving, and whether he will take steps not to penalise those who re-enlisted without waiting to be called up?

The bounty of £10 for general Service (like the bounty of £5 for home Service) was intended for those National Reservists who registered their names in Classes I. and II. before mobilisation in order that they might be at the disposal of the military authorities when their services were required. It is only given to men so registered who are called up by proper authority as their services are required from time to time. As a concession, men so registered up to 10th August, inclusive, have been made eligible for the bounties. It does not appear, therefore, that any penalty is being placed upon those who sprang to arms at the earliest moment.

Does the right hon. Gentleman say that these men who were registered in Class I. of the National Reserve and who re-enlisted without waiting to be called up will also get the bounty?

Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries quickly, as it is causing great dissatisfaction?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a great many of the men in Class III. of the National Reserve were, through no fault of their own, unaware that they might re-enlist, and will their ease be considered at the same time?


I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War whether ex-soldiers under the age of forty-two who have served with the Colours and who belong to the National Reserve, are eligible for enlistment in Lord Kitchener's New Army at their option in their former regiments; whether such men are entitled on enlistment to a bounty, and, if so, of what amount; and whether full instructions on this subject have been sent to all recruiting stations?

I have only just received the question, but the answer to the first paragraph is in the affirmative. They are eligible. I do not think it possible, as I said in answer to a question, for any recruit to have it at his option in what unit he shall be recruited. As far as possible their wishes will be respected. As to the bounty I will inform the hon. and learned Gentleman later. I have not the figures by me. As to instructions to recruiting stations, no doubt recruiting officers are fully informed as to what the Regulations are.

Army And Navy Reservists (Separation Allowances)

I beg to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that in the case of the wives and families of Army Reservists a separation allowance is given, and if he can state if a separation allowance is or will be granted in the case of the wives and families of Naval Reservists, and if it be possible to grant similar allowances to the wives and families of all naval ratings?

I fully appreciate and sympathise with the spirit which has inspired this question. But I must point out that the conditions of service in the Army and the Navy are dissimilar, and a comparison of the benefits received cannot properly be made in respect of one item alone. In the Navy there is considerable opportunity for earning non-substantive pay—in point of fact, roughly one out of every two of the seamen is in receipt of such daily extra pay, varying from 2d. to 1s 7d. a day. I must point out, further, that in the Navy the proportion of higher ratings to the number of men engaged is considerably larger than in the Army.

Whilst there is no provision for legal deductions from the pay of the sailor for the maintenance of his wife and family, it is the fact that the very great majority of the men make regular monthly allotments. Before war was declared the number of allotments paid monthly to wives or other dependent relatives was 73,000. Since mobilisation, about 40,000 new allotments have been declared, largely by Reservists, and at the close of the month we shall send out something approaching 120,000 allotments. Further, a great many of the sailors favour the policy of forwarding remittances during the month, and remittances are now being sent out from the Admiralty—apart from those sent direct by the men by postal orders—at the rate of something like 500 a day, as compared with the usual rate of 200 a day. The information available up to the present shows that, in the very great majority of the cases, the wives of the seamen either are or will immediately be receiving assistance from their husbands.

Dockyard Reservists

I beg to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if all ranks and ratings of Reservists recently serving or still serving in the dockyards will receive half the dockyard pay on being called up?

All dockyard employés, whether on the established or unestablished lists, whose service is not intermittent but quasi-permanent and regular, will receive while called up the difference (if any) between their civil pay and their naval or military pay. In the case of commissioned officers the actual amount of pay and extra pay drawn will be deducted from civil pay, allowances being ignored. In cases of all below commissioned rank the amount to be deducted from civil pay will be 7s. a week in respect of naval or military pay, plus separation allowances where payable.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to make that answer known in the dockyards, because, unfortunately, it is not known?

We have already communicated to the dockyards the Treasury Minute some time ago.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have just come up from the dockyard?

Compulsory Service

I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether it is not now necessary, in order to secure the safety of the United Kingdom, that some measure of compulsory service should not be brought into force?

I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether, under the circumstances which have arisen, the Government intend to introduce a measure for compulsory service?

The answer is in the negative. I would refer the hon. Members to what my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War (Lord Kitchener) said yesterday in another place.

Atrocities By German Troops

Official Inquiry By Belgian Committee

I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether the statements of German atrocities issued through the British Press Bureau, and drawn up by the Belgian Committee of Inquiry, are true, and, if so, what action His Majesty's Government propose to take to protest against so flagrant a violation of the rules of civilised warfare?

The statements are the result of inquiry by a committee constituted and presided over by the Belgian Minister of Justice and composed of the highest judicial and university authorities of Belgium, and have been officially communicated to His Majesty's Government by the Belgian Minister at this Court. His Majesty's Government understand that the Belgian Government are taking all the necessary steps to bring the facts established by their official committee to the knowledge of the civilised world.

War Risks (Insurance)

I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the instructions to the War Risks Insurance Committee cannot be so modified that insurance of cargoes can be granted in cases where the ships are properly insured against all war risks outside clubs, and whether he is aware that the Committee is refusing to insure such cargoes on the ground that their instructions do not permit them to do so?

My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. I am aware that there may be some hardship in the case of vessels which were fully covered before war broke out, but it is an essential principle of the scheme that Government insured cargo can only be carried in Government insured ships, and it would not be possible to depart from that principle.

Would it not be possible in cases where the Government can be satisfied that the ship is fully insured? Surely it reduces the liability of the Government and does not increase it?

No, Sir. I am afraid the hon. Gentleman has not appreciated the point of connection between the two forms of insurance. If a vessel is privately insured she is not subject to the same conditions as to prohibitive and non-prohibitive voyages as if she were insured under the Government scheme. I am advised by the Advisory Committee that they cannot see their way to depart from the scheme without making a great leak in it.

Must that apply even if an undertaking is given to observe exactly the same conditions with regard to prohibited voyages as apply to Government insured ships?

I am afraid we should have no means of controlling the vessel even if the undertaking were given. The matter has been inquired into again and again, and I cannot promise any amendments.

Marriages Off The Strength

Widows' And Orphans' Pensions

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War whether a decision has yet been arrived at on the question of granting widows and orphans pensions to the wives of soldiers married off the strength?

National Reserve

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War if it is intended to call up the National Reserve, and at what date?

Such members of the National Reserve as are required by the Army Council have already been called up. They include:—

  • 1. Ex-Regular non-commissioned officers of Classes I. and II. under forty-two for service as non-commissioned officers in the new Army.
  • 2. All National Reservists of Classes I. and II. under forty-two for enlistment with Reserve units.
  • 3. Such National Reservists of Class II. who are required and who have been called up by officers commanding Territorial Force units to complete establishment of their units in accordance with paragraph 18, National Reserve Regulations.
  • National Relief Fund

    I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that it is proposed to devote part of the money subscribed to the National Relief Fund to assisting the widows and orphans of soldiers killed on active service; and whether, in view of the large amount of unemployment and poverty caused by the war, the Government will take steps to see that the dependants of those who have died in the defence of their country should be adequately maintained out of public funds, so that the whole of the money subscribed for national relief may be devoted to relieving those cases for which no other provision is available?

    I understand that there is no decision to devote part of the National Relief Fund to supplement systematically the pensions of widows and children of soldiers, though arrangements have been made to assist the Royal Patriotic Fund in making temporary payments to obviate distress until pensions can be paid.

    May we take it that the policy of the Government will be to provide for the widows and orphans of soldiers and sailors out of public funds, and not by private charity?

    Municipal Elections

    I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether the Government proposes to take any action with regard to the postponement of the municipal elections which are due to take place in November?

    The Government have considered the question of introducing a Bill to postpone the municipal elections which would in ordinary course take place next November, but have decided that there is no sufficient reason for such legislation. Local arrangements can be made by agreement to avoid party contests in those elections, and the House will no doubt agree that in present circumstances such arrangements should, wherever possible, be made.

    Exchange Of Prisoners Of War

    I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if it is not possible to effect an exchange of prisoners without long delay in the case of men over the combatant age, and who are known to be close to the Dutch frontier?

    Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the matter is a very pressing one, owing to the failing health of several of the men so interned, and do his best to expedite an interchange?

    Yes, I will take any steps which are possible. It is obviously a matter that cannot be settled very quickly.

    Land Valuation (Notices Of Objection)

    I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with reference to Section 27 of the Finance Act, 1910, whether, in view of the facts, that, at the expiration of sixty days, provisional valuations are in default of objection confirmed as the original total values and original site values of land for the purposes of the Act, and that many owners of land are now absent on Active Service, and that the staffs of many of those responsible for considering such valuations are for the same reason too reduced to deal with them adequately, he will temporarily suspend the service of provisional valuations on owners of land, or, failing that, will extend the period within which objections may be made to six months?

    The Commissioners of Inland Revenue recently decided to extend the time for giving notice of objection in the case of all provisional valuations served within sixty days prior to the date of mobilisation or served after that date, until sixty days subsequent to a date to be notified hereafter. This decision was announced in the Press on the 15th instant and appears on all copies of valuations served since that date.

    Special Reserve (Re-Enlistment)

    I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War if he will cause a special Press notice to be issued stating in clear, simple language upon what terms N.C.O.'s and men of the Special Reserve can rejoin their regiments, and particularly what bounties they would be entitled to on rejoining?

    Foot-And-Mouth Disease

    I beg to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture, in view of the clean bill of health in Ireland, whether he will consider, in the interests of this country and Ireland, the advisability of modifying the Regulations with respect to the importation and transport of cattle?

    I have only just received notice of this question. I hope to be able to give the hon. Member an answer to-morrow, after consultation with my Noble chief.

    German Shareholders Companies Registered In United Kingdom

    I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether it is proposed to grant licences to trade to companies recently registered in England the shares of which are held by Germans living in Germany, and which companies are merely a change of name from the original German firms or companies, the ownership being the same, namely, German?

    I am at present causing inquiries to be made on the subject of such companies as are referred to in my hon. Friend's question. I can assure him that the matter will have my very careful consideration.

    Employment Of Married Men During War

    asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make representations to employers of labour throughout the country suggesting to them that when engaging men, during the continuance of the War, they should give preference to married men?

    I agree with the hon. Member that it is desirable that for ordinary industrial employment married men should, so far as practicable in this emergency, be given a preference over equally qualified unmarried men who have no people dependent on them, and I will not lose sight of this point in any representations that may be made to employers in regard to the engagement of labour.

    British Expeditionary Force (Casualties)

    I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War what steps are being taken to relieve the suspense and anxiety of those who have relatives serving in the British Expeditionary Force?

    That is an absurd question to ask. Sir John French has reported that, owing to the extended front on which the operations took place, it is difficult to compile a list. It would be most cruel to issue one that is imperfect.

    Notices Of Questions To Ministers

    May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, in the exceptional circumstances of the present sittings of the House, notice of oral questions of one day, instead of two days, might be accepted, so that the large number of private notice questions might be diminished?

    The Standing Order says that there must be two days' notice, but I dare say that in the exceptional circumstances in which we meet it will be the general view of the House that questions handed in at the Table, say, to-day, might be answered next day, and that questions handed in on Thursday might be answered on Friday.

    May I ask whether, in cases when the House rises suddenly, it would be possible to hand in questions up to six or seven o clock, or an hour after the House has ceased to sit? I think that would facilitate what everybody wishes.

    I am in the hands of the House. I think it would be breaking into the rule, which is very well established, that you cannot hand in a notice when the House is not sitting. The difficulty can always be met in the case of urgent questions, which can be taken after a, quarter to four. I shall be prepared to maintain an open mind as to questions of urgency.