Order for Second Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time"
Peace By Negotiation
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to insert instead thereof the words,
In the course of the last three years there have been, as the House will remember, several Resolutions not unlike this in character moved from this side of the House, and on every occasion, I think it is not too much to say, the charge has been made against those who moved the Resolution, whatever the merits or demerits of the particular proposition might be, that the time at which it was moved made it extremely inappropriate that it should be moved. I do not suppose that my hon. Friends and myself will be any more fortunate to-day in escaping that charge. I can well understand that at a time like this, when the Germans are thundering almost at the gates at Paris and the Austrians are approaching Venice, or are not very far from it, and the situation, as the Prime Minister said, is a grave and menacing one, there are many people in this House who will think that no word with regard to peace ought to be uttered. For my own part, I think this House would be failing lamentably in its duty if it did not at a time like this, when we are voting an enormous sum of money and another enormous war credit, when everyone must feel anxious as to the progress of events, ask once more His Majesty's Government for a statement of their policy, for a re-statement of their war aims, and for some expression of opinion as to the prospect of achieving them. There is another consideration which seems to me to make this Motion appropriate to-day. To-day, as never before, we realise all the blackness and the horror of this War, and there is a movement going on in men's minds, not only in this country, but in all the countries which are at war, a movement stronger than ever, desiring that this War should, if possible, on any-reasonable terms be brought to an end. Never before, I believe, was the desire for peace so deep, so widespread, so passionate, as it is to-day, I am not saying in the minds of the governing classes, but in the minds of the people in all the warring countries of Europe. I do not believe that this is a mere matter of war weariness. I do not believe there is any such unworthy feeling as this, though at the end of three and a half years of war it would not be unnatural that people should feel Weary of this War. I believe that to-day people stand aghast at the terrible sacrifices in life and treasure which modern war implies. 4.0 P.M. I will deal only for one moment with the losses as published by our own British Forces in recent weeks. In the week ending June 9th the looses in killed alone amongst officers and men amounted to no fewer than 4,900, an average of 700 men killed every day, and, though it was no doubt a week of high losses, it was not, I believe, an exceptional week, while the wounded and missing during that week amounted to 30,000. In the five months from the beginning of January to the beginning of June the losses in killed alone amounted to 71,000, while the losses in wounded and missing amounted to 300,000. These are appalling figures. The losses amongst our enemies, who have been making these great offensives, are infinitely more severe and more terrible. There is, therefore, no wonder that there is this tremendous feeling arising among all nations in favour of an early settlement. I believe you may trace it in Germany to-day, although no doubt the successes which they claim to have obtained have made the War party in Germany more clamorous than before. All the same, those who follow German opinion, those who read the German newspapers, which I am unable to do, are able to assure us that underneath it all there is a tremendous desire among the ordinary German people to get peace. These victories, which cost so much, which seem to bring peace no nearer, have a sound of mockery in their ears. Some of the German papers reproach the people of Germany because they are so indifferent to the victories which the German troops are winning. In Austria we know there are riots. There are "Stop-the-War" meetings, and Austrian statesmen make no sort of concealment of their desire to see the end of this War. In France we have papers, such as "Le Gaulois" and "Le Journal des Debats." asking that some statement shall be made, and even "L'homme Libre," M. Clemenceau's own paper, the other day said that if the Germans would make a fair offer of peace they were willing and anxious to consider it. In this country it is significant there is a great shifting of public opinion. I do not suggest for a moment that our people do not want to see our original war aims secured, provided that this country can emerge with honour from the War. But there is a widespread feeling in favour of peace. I was speaking the other day to an old man who had lost several sons in the War, and he said to me, in tones which I shall not easily forget, "It is not war; it is murder!" That is the feeling which is growing in this country. Cannot something be done to bring to an end this terrific, this awful, slaughter? A century and a half ago one of the most famous of French writers began the most famous of his treatises with a paradox which echoed through France and through Europe, and which was, in the opinion of many people, one of the contributory causes of the French Revolution. Rousseau, in "Le Contrat Social," wrote "L'homme est né libre et partout il est dans les fers"—"Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains." I think we are faced with another paradox, not less tragic, not less significant, and perhaps not less far-reaching in its consequences. All the nations of Europe are yearning for peace; everywhere they are at war. There are, I know, many people in this country and in this House, such as the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Christchurch (General Croft) and others, whom I am sorry not to see here, who would give a very simple explanation of that paradox. They would say, "Yes, it is quite true that all Europe desires peace, but the Kaiser and the military party in Germany desire war, and as long as they desire war Europe must continue to have it." Those who say that do no, I think, recognise the strength that public opinion even in Germany must have. I believe there is no Government, however autocratic, however powerful—I am far from denying the power of the Kaiser or seeking to defend or in any way excuse his conduct during this War—I say there is no Government who can afford to despise or to disregard public opinion. Kaiserism would not have the strength which it has to-day in Germany unless the Kaiser were able to say, if not with truth, at any rate with plausibility, that Kaiserism alone stands between Germany and national disaster and the crushing out of German national life. It is by the unwisdom of our diplomacy, by the folly of the statements which have been made on behalf of the Allies and of this country, that Kaiserism has been buttressed up and has behind it the strength, so far as it has any strength, of public opinion. I do not deny for a moment that in Germany there is a passionate desire for peace if it can be got, but there is an idea there to-day that the Allies are unwilling to listen to any reasonable terms. They have not forgotten the pronouncement of the Versailles Conference, and, therefore, they believe that it is only by supporting the Kaiser and the military party in Germany that they will be able ultimately to secure the peace which they as much as we desire. I regret that our statesmen in this country appear to have forgotten that there are, after all, two weapons which we ought to use, not merely the weapon of force but also the weapon of diplomacy. This proposition was so well expressed in a recent Debate by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Somerset (Colonel Herbert) that I venture to read to the House what he said on that occasion. These were his words:"this House desires an assurance that the Government will lose no diplomatic opportunity to settle the problems of the War by agreement; and to that end expresses its opinion that the secret treaties with the Allied Governments should be revised, since in their present form they are inconsistent with the objects for which this country entered the War and are therefore a barrier to a democratic peace."
These are remarkable and eminently reasonable words, and I associate myself with what the hon. and gallant Member-said on that occasion. It seems to me it is-lamentable now, after nearly four years of war, that we have still no declaration, with one possible exception, to which we can refer binding on all the Allies and expressing the terms on which peace-would, in our opinion, be possible. The exception to which I refer was the Note-of President Wilson, which is now long ago out of date. Except for that one-possible exception, we have had no declaration of terms whatever. Appeal after appeal has been made to the Government in these Debates to make a declaration, and the responses have either been vague excuses or blank refusals. We have had plenty of declarations of a sort. We have had plenty of statements by different Ministers, very often inconsistent with each other, and sometimes inconsistent with themselves. We have had from time to time spasmodic and almost incoherent utterances from the Council at Versailles, but on such great matters as the policy of the Alliance with regard to a League of Nations—a question which has, I think very fortunately, been brought into prominence by the pamphlet of Lord Grey—on such a great question as that of disarmament, on the question of what is called the War after the War, the economic policy of the Allies, and on the limitation, the reasonable limitation, of our War aims which I believe to be necessary in view of misleading statements made on this question—on all these questions we have not yet had any official declaration binding on the Allies to which we cart refer if we wish to ascertain what are the real objects with which the War is being pursued. Not only have we not had any declaration, but I cannot help thinking that with regard to the peace proposals, the peace openings—sometimes they are called the peace offensives and peace traps—made from time to time by our enemies, the diplomacy both of this country and of the Allies has not been satisfactory. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I do not bring forward these matters with any idea of desire to incriminate or to score a point against the Government. I have no interest in doing that at all. My sole object in referring to these old topics which are past is because it affords the only way of getting any guidance as to what will be our policy if any proposals are made. In the course of 1917, the House will remember, there was a whole series of peace proposals—peace overtures—made from different quarters, but chiefly from the enemy to the Allies. Most of them were the subjects of debate in this House. I would like to recall them. There were the negotiations with regard to the Stockholm Conference, negotiations in which I do not think this Government played a very happy part. I will not say more than that. I think myself it was a great pity that the Stockholm Conference was not held, as it might have done something towards removing misunderstanding and bringing understanding nearer by explaining the different points of view. Then there were the negotiations, still wrapped in mystery and obscurity, connected with the letter of Emperor Karl to Prince Sixte of Bourbon. There, again, there seemed to be an opportunity, which was not taken, of approaching towards a settlement. Then there was the Reichstag Resolution of July. Then there was also the Pope's Note, to which no reply whatever was sent by this country—an omission which has often been severely commented upon. Finally, there were the speech of Count Hertling and the important speech of Count Czernin, which was the subject of a debate in this House only recently, and to which the final reply was given in what, I think, was that unfortunate declaration of the Council of Versailles, to which I have already referred. There you have a whole series of proposals, some of them connected with each other. All of them have shown that during the last year or two there was a strong desire, if possible, on reasonable terms as I think, to bring this great War to an end. I am not prepared to say that on this or that point it would have been possible to enter into such negotiations that peace might have been secured. I do not say that, but I say you should take the cumulative effect of the response given to all those proposals. Then, I think, you are driven to say either this country did not desire peace—which I, for one, would never believe, for I believe there is a strong desire by the Government to secure peace on reasonable terms—or else to say there were malign influences at work which prevented those openings reaching a satisfactory conclusion. I believe there were two very malign influences at work in this matter. One was the pernicious theory, as I think it was, which one connects with the phrase of "the knock-out blow"—the theory that no permanent peace, no secure peace, is possible in Europe until we have by force given such a blow to Prussian militarism that it can ever again recover. I think those who invented that phrase were setting the Alliance an impossible task. It has been well said by a great contemporary speaker that you cannot destroy the Prussian Army, and even if you were to destroy the Prussian Army, you would not have destroyed Prussian militarism, because no one from outside can destroy that, but only the Germans themselves can destroy it. We, by our diplomacy, are doing much to buttress up German militarism. There has been, as I think, another malign influence that has got in the way of any possibility of peace, and that is the secret treaties, whose publication did so much to discredit the good name of this country and of the Allies. Those treaties now are a very old story. A good many of them have died—and we do not regret it—a natural death. A regards the survivors of them, I do think we have a strong case for asking the Government that the terms of those unfortunate treaties should be revised. I do not want now to criticise or to recall the conditions under which they were made. I am sure those who had anything to do with them thought that the considerations for making those treaties were so strong that they were justified in doing so. I do not believe for a moment the Government wished really to betray the country, or to do anything inconsistent with the mind of the country in making those treaties. But I say those treaties are utterly inconsistent with the previous aims for which this country went into the War. Not only are they utterly inconsistent, but they have become a useless encumbrance to us. They are mere material for propaganda in the hands of the enemy with which to reproach us. Let me recall what those treaties were. First of all, there was the treaty between this country and Russia with regard to Constantinople. That, of course, has come to an end with the old Government of Russia. That was in March, 1915. Then, in April 1915, came the Treaty of London between Great Britain, France, Russia and Italy—a treaty which still exists—a treaty the provisions of which, I think, would be condemned if they were read out fairly in any public meeting held in this country to-day, being absolutely contrary to the feelings, wishes and beliefs of the ordinary people of this country. Next came the Agreement made in the Spring of 1916 between the three Entente Powers as to their spheres of influence and territory in Asia. Fourthly came the treaty between the Allies and Roumania; and, fifthly, the secret treaty in March, 1917, just on the eve of the Russian Revolution, between the old Government of Russia and France—one of the worst of all treaties. And I suppose there is another one. Having regard to the fact that there is a treaty between this country and Russia, and between Russia and France, I presume there is another treaty, not divulged, between this country and France."Those of us who criticise (the Government) do so because we realise that in every war in the past you have fought with two weapons, with the sword in one hand and with terms in the other. Those two weapons are each the auxiliary of the other, and when we see a Declaration like the Declaration of Versailles, which throws away one of our most important weapons, then at whatever cost we hold it is-our duty to criticise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1918, Vol. 103, col. 162.]
The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Balfour)
As to the terms on which we carry on the war. I do not know. At any rate, there were five, of which two are still operative. As regards all those five treaties, they dealt, roughly speaking, with the prospective spoils of war. They were matters of indemnity and annexation—indemnities originally in proportion to the making of sacrifices. The spirit of all those treaties, when you come to examine them, is absolutely contrary to the spirit with which this country entered into the War, and has been one of the most potent factors in preventing a satisfactory solution of this War. There is often dispute as regards what were the original objects with which we entered into the War. Nothing, I believe, was ever nobler or more disinterested than the spirit which led thousands of youths in this country to volunteer their service to go to the help of Belgium and France. They never thought the War was going to be carried on for the purposes which are divulged in the secret treaties. I do not wish to have any dispute as to what were the objects with which we went to war, and I therefore took the trouble to refer to a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary to see what he had to say upon the subject, and I find that, speaking on 30th July last year, he said:
That, I am sure, is a statement of the original policy which everyone in this House will accept, and I will ask the House to see the limitations of that statement. There is nothing there about the crushing or the destruction of Prussian militarism. There is nothing there about Alsace-Lorraine, about the Trentino, about Dalmatia, about the German colonies, about all the other objects which have since come on. I quite agree that, in carrying on a war like this, certain problems are bound to arise which must be adjusted whenever the settlement comes. Everyone must see that. All I want to insist is that those are absolutely on a different plane from the two main objects with which this country went to war in the early days. I venture to think, if those objects had not been enlarged, as they have been, a satisfactory peace might very likely have been secured. I am certain it is only in the spirit of the declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman, and not in the spirit of the secret treaties, or the declaration of a knock-out blow and other declarations of policy we have had—it is only in the earlier and better spirit that we shall ever get to a satisfactory and lasting peace. It is sometimes said that if peace were to come now, it would be a mere breathing space like the peace of Amiens, and that it would be a mere prelude to fresh hostilities, which would perhaps break out with renewed vigour. I do not say in the immediate future, until this offensive is over, until we know how we stand, that any peace can be negotiated, but I say it is desirable that we should know precisely in what spirit and upon, what terms the Government are prepared to enter into negotiations when the opportunity occurs for dealing with them. Those people who think that an early peace would mean a renewal of hostilities forget the sacrifices, forget the awful loss and destruction, which this War has involved. We are nearly at the close of the fourth year of this great conflict. In duration, in magnitude, in the destruction of life and property, in the hideous consequences which it has entailed in every direction, in the loss of life of innocent men outside the quarrel, in every respect, this War has far exceeded in horror the predictions of even the most pessimistic prophets. It has surpassed all that mankind has ever known in terror, and, if peace can be secured soon, I do not believe that there is any Government or any people who would be so mad or so wicked as to take any step that would lead within a generation, perhaps ever, to a renewal of this great War."We entered this War in the early days, as everybody in this House knows, with little in our minds besides the necessity of defending Belgium and the necessity of preventing France from being crushed before our eyes. Those were the two motives that brought us into the War."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1917, col. 1849, Vol. 96.]
I beg to second the Amendment.My hon. Friend who moved this Amendment has covered the ground so well that I am afraid there remains little for me to add, beyond amplifying and emphasising some of the points he has put before the House. It is now eighteen months since that memorable day when the present Prime Minister, no longer able to resist the insistent call of the vast majority of his fellow-countrymen, overthrew his political leader, and himself accepted responsibility for the direction and prosecution of the War. We all remember the general expectations which were aroused by the advent of the Prime Minister to that responsible position. The history of this country, I think, affords no similar example of how high expectations have ended in the gravest disappointment. We are not this afternoon concerned with a review of the military situation; indeed, nothing said on the military position from these benches could be more grave than the statement made a couple of days ago by the Leader of the House and the late Prime Minister. In the sphere of diplomacy the Government have, if possible, been a more disastrous failure than they have been in realising those expectations of victory which they excited eighteen months ago. We have had during those eighteen months many Debates of this character in the House. On not one occasion has the Prime Minister considered it even a duty he owed to his position, or to the House of Commons, to make his appearance. The answer of the Government has been left to the Foreign Secretary, and, on some occasions, to the Under Foreign Secretary. On every occasion on which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Balfour) has assumed to reply on behalf of the Government he has left a painful impression upon the minds of his auditors that he knew very little indeed about the work with which his Department is supposed to be specially occupied. In no other Parliament of the Allied countries has the Prime Minister been absent on an occasion like this. Interpellations are frequently being made in the French Chamber and in the Italian Parliament; on every occasion the Prime Ministers are present, and reply on behalf of the Government. In commencing his speech, my hon. Friend referred to the criticism which is brought against those who bring forward proposals in favour of peace by negotiation, namely, that the time is not favourable or is not suitable. I remember on one occasion the late Mr. Chamberlain replied to criticism of that character by inquiring, "When is it convenient to discuss questions of foreign policy?" If you discussed questions of foreign policy before the War you were probably interfering with very delicate international negotiations. If you seek to discuss foreign policy during the War you are hindering the prosecution of the War, and helping the enemy. If you wait till after the War, then you will be reminded that you are late, and that no useful purpose can then be served by talking. We have, as I reminded the House a while ago, for more than two years raised Debates of this character in various circumstances from a military point of view. We have had debates when the position of the Allied Armies appeared to be more than usually favourable. We have had debates under conditions of stalemate. We are having this Debate to-day under circumstances with which we are all painfully familiar. On each and all of these varied occasions, however, we have been told that the time was not suitable. When is it going to be appropriate to emphasise the question of trying to substitute reason for brute force in the settlement of these international questions? The Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend divides itself into two parts. It asks the House of Commons to demand that diplomacy should be one of the weapons by which the Government should seek to attain the objects for which they profess to be at war. The Amendment goes on to point out what we believe to be the real responsibility for the grave and difficult obstacles in the way of securing those aims. No doubt we shall be told by the right hon. Gentleman that the Government have always been ready to listen to peace offers. We shall be told, as indeed we were told by the right hon. Gentleman in the last Debate that we had upon this subject, that no reasonable peace offer had ever been made. If the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs were here we might have had repeated by him this afternoon the distinction he drew on a previous occasion between a "peace offer" and a "peace offensive." I do not profess to possess the powers of discrimination of the Noble Lord. My mind is not sufficiently penetrating and subtle to see the distinction between a "peace offer" and a "peace offensive." Within the last few months, at any rate within the last eighteen months, there have been many occasions on which offers of a more or less definite character have been put forward either by, or on behalf of the Central Powers, or where neutrals have offered their services to try to bring together the belligerents. It is interesting to note that during the four years we have been at war, on not one occasion has any offer of negotiation come either from the Allies collectively or from any of the Allies separately—with the exception of Russia, who is now out of the War. You will search in vain through the speeches of the statesmen who, in the Allied countries, have been responsible for the conduct of the War for a single indication of their willingness to consider an offer of peace. No doubt when this question has been raised statements have been made to the effect that the Government would not deliberately reject such an offer. But I repeat that you may search through the speeches of Entente statesmen in vain to find any approach to an invitation to the enemy to submit terms of peace. There have been, as my hon. Friend pointed out, ten or a dozen peace offers made during the last eighteen months. Each and all of those offers have been rejected. With the single exception of the offer made by the Austrian Emperor, they have been rejected with scorn, contempt, and insult, or they have been ignored altogether. The advent of the present Government synchronised with the publication of the first official offer made by the Central Powers to enter into negotiations. In view of the reply that was given to that offer by the Allied Governments, it is well worth while to call to mind that about two months before the present Prime Minister assumed his present office he had given his notorious "knock-out blow" interview to an American journalist. I refer to the interview in which, amongst other things, he warned America, which was then neutral, that the Allies neither wanted nor would they tolerate the interference of outsiders. The references in that interview read strangely to-day when placed side by side with the signals of distress the Prime Minister has sent to America within the last two months. It is important to remember the Prime Minister's "knock-out" blow interview was given in September or October, 1916, because it indicated the state of mind of the Prime Minister. It indicated his view of the War. It expressed his attitude as to the possibility or otherwise of ending the War by negotiation. It is important to remember that fact, because, knowing the Prime Minister's views upon these matters, we are not surprised at the Allied reply which was sent to the German offer to enter into conference for the purpose of discussing peace terms. That German offer had been preceded in the early days of December, 1916, by two or three rather remarkable speeches delivered in the German Reichstag by the then German Chancellor, von Bethmann-Hollweg. In those speeches the German Chancellor laid down in general terms the conditions Germany would be willing to accept. Those conditions were these: It was a declaration that Germany had no intention of retaining Belgium, and that they had no intention of impairing the integrity of France. They associated themselves with the demand for an international system, and they declared that Germany would come into that international system. My hon. Friend reminded the Foreign Secretary that, twelve months ago, he stated that the motive which brought this country into the War was the restoration of Belgium and the protection of the integrity of France. In December, 1916, before the first formal offer of peace was made by the German Government, the German Chancellor specially conceded both these objects, the restoration of the independence of Belgium and declared that they had no intention of impairing the integrity of France. How was that offer received? How was it received by the British Press? I know the Government is not responsible for what the British Press says. I know that the Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, shun the Press, and they have no association with it. But still it has a bearing upon this question to remind the House of the way in which the first German offer was received by the British Press. There were large-type headings across the page describing it as a snare and a trap, and an insult, and as whining and whimpering, and squealing, on the part of the enemy for peace, and an appeal was made to the British people that this offer of the Central Powers must be made the stimulus to prosecute the War with greater energy and vigour. What was the reply of the Governments of the Allied Powers? A few days after the German Note had been received the Prime Minister made his first speech in this House in his new capacity. This is what he said, and his statement would not be open to criticism if it were not for the fact I have just mentioned as to the declaration made by the German Chancellor previous to the issue of this formal offer of peace. What did the Prime Minister of this country say in this House before the Allies had had an opportunity of collectively considering the Note? He declared:
That is quite true. I said if we had nothing beyond vague and indefinite statements to go upon that assertion might have been beyond criticism, but Germany had already stated in general terms her own idea of the basis of a satisfactory peace. It is quite true there were no details about territorial rearrangements and concessions except in regard to Belgium. I remember a speech made by Lord Milner at Plymouth in which he made an observation deprecating at this stage elaborate and detailed peace proposals. He was trying to get an agreement upon fundamental conditions, and there were fundamental principles conceded in the document issued by Bethmann von Hollweg. He associated himself with the demand for international peace and he declared that Germany would come into an international system. I have referred to what the Prime Minister said about the German offer." How was it received by other members of the Entente? The Tsar, without waiting for a collective reply to the German Note, issued his own reply, at the time, when according to later information he and his associates were on the point, if rumour be true, of making a separate peace with Germany. This is what be said: He described the German offer as a confession of weakness, and as an indication of the approaching complete defeat of Germany, and he announced his intention of going on with the War until Russia had obtained Constantinople and the Dardanelles. A little later we had the collective reply of the Allies, and it took the form of a summary rejection of the offer. The German offer was described as a "sham proposal," a "war manoeuvre," and an attempt to "create dissension in Allied countries," to "deceive and intimidate public opinion in neutral countries," "justify in advance in the eyes of the world a new series of crimes," and "refuse to consider a proposal which is empty and insincere." When the right hon. Gentleman replies I hope he will tell us what he would regard as a peace offer as distinct from a peace offensive. I would ask him to tell us, for instance, what there was in this first formal offer of peace negotiations made by the Central Powers which justified the Allied Governments in describing it in the language which I have just quoted. I am particularly anxious to hear what we are to regard as a genuine peace offer and one which this Government and the Allies would regard as justifying themselves in accepting for the purposes of negotiation. What was the effect of the Allied reply? Its effect in Germany on the Allied cause was most disastrous. It strengthened the military party and it subdued even the minority Socialists for a short time. Recently a neutral met Herr Haase, the leader of the German Socialists in Berlin, and he asked him if he had any message he would like to indicate to the English Socialists, and he said"That to negotiate without knowing beforehand the proposals which the enemy intends to bring forward would be to put our heads into a nooze with the rope-end in the hands of Germany."
All through the War Allied diplomacy has been an invaluable asset to the German military party. Over and over again when the civil and liberal forces in Germany were on the point of subduing the military party some insane act on the part of one or other of the Allied Governments has been committed which has thrown the military party into the saddle once more. Notwithstanding the immediate disastrous consequences of the Allied reply to the first German offer peace negotiations and the attempt to secure them were not altogether stopped. During the year 1917 a number of such offers were made. The last time we discussed the question of peace in the House it was confined to the Austrian Emperor's endeavours made in 1917, the consideration of which we believe extended over a period of many months. These were followed by other attempts made either by or on behalf of Austria to secure a meeting of the belligerent Governments for the purpose of discussing peace. There was the offer made to M. Briand, the terms of which appear to be very similar to those embodied in the Emperor Karl's Note to Prince Sixte. The reply of the Foreign Secretary some six weeks ago in which he attempted to explain the reasons for the failure of those negotiations was altogether unsatisfactory. It was unsatisfactory that the reply should have been left to the right hon. Gentleman because he admitted that he knew little about it; in fact, he stated that he was in America at the time the offer was made, and yet he confessed that he, the Foreign Secretary, was not considered by the Prime Minister to be of sufficient importance to receive information about this most vital matter until the negotiations had been rejected. The Prime Minister is the only person who can give the House of Commons information on this matter. It was discussed in the French Chamber, where it was remitted to a Committee. All the papers connected with it were submitted to that Committee, and we, the mother of parliaments, are kept in ignorance upon matters of such vital importance as this. Why did these negotiations fall through? There were the secret treaties and there were the commitments of those secret treaties. A good offer was made to France, but Italy was not satisfied, and the French President appears not to have been satisfied with the very generous offer that was made. Italy remains unsatisfied and, Shylock-like, she held to the terms of her bond as embodied in the secret treaty. 5.0 P.M. But there are other opportunities which might have led to peace of which the Allied Governments gravely neglected to take advantage. A few days after the publication of the first German offer President Wilson intervened and invited both the Allies and the Central Powers to state their peace terms. Both replied, and the Allied Note, like the collective reply of the Allies to Germany, was of a most unfortunate character, and it did not conform to Lord Milner's idea of what the first offer of peace negotiations should be. It rejected the suggestion of peace negotiations. It stated terms which were impossible and to which no nation for a moment would listen unless it were lying helpless at the feet of a conqueror. The Allied Note to President Wilson concluded by saying that the Allies were determined to press on this War to a victorious conclusion. In other words, they threw away one of the most important and powerful weapons by which they might have hoped to attain the motives which prompted them to enter this War. In the middle of last year we had the Reichstag Resolution, to which my hon. Friend referred. By a majority of two to one they accepted the principle of "no annexation and no indemnities." A few weeks later we who sit on these benches, and who form the Pacifist group, as it was called by the right hon. Gentleman on the last occasion, asked the House of Commons to pass a similar Resolution. The House of Commons declined to do so. We secured in the Division Lobby nineteen votes. Two-thirds of the German Reichstag, which, according to statements made by British Ministers and the literature of the War Aims Committee, is a subservient tool of the Kaiser and is controlled by the military class, voted in favour of such a peace resolution. Only nineteen of the Members of the House of Commons did so. The rest, either by actual vote or by abstention, declined to respond and to send that reply to Russia, the fate of which at that time was standing in the balance. They did not believe in a peace on the basis of the rights of small nations, no indemnities, and no annexation. Again, the policy of the House of Commons and the policy of the Government has always been to play into the hands of the militarist party in Germany. I confess that actions like these on the part of the British Parliament and on the part of the Allies make me feel how difficult and how almost impossible it would be if I were among the German minority Socialists to continue their magnificent and active demand for peace in face of the attitude of the Entente Parliaments on the question. We now come to the opportunities which the situation in Russia provided last year. A diplomatic effort might have led to a settlement of this War. On the advent of the first Russian Revolutionary Government they discovered the secret treaties in the Foreign Office archives. The existence of these treaties was more or less known. Their terms were unknown. They were unknown to important members of the Entente Governments. M. Albert Thomas, who was a member in France of what corresponds to the War Cabinet in this country, when he went to Petrograd shortly after the outbreak of the Revolution, learned for the first time of the existence of the secret treaty between France and Russia conforming to the French demand for the old frontier of 1814, and it is said that he was so indignant because he had been kept in ignorance of this important matter by his colleagues that he wired his resignation to Paris. I believe the right hon. Gentleman has never spoken in this House without making it an excuse for refusing to make a declaration of policy that we are one of a number of Allies, and that the Allies must act in concert. But it is one of our complaints that they do not do that. A number of these secret treaties which were exposed were made by particular Allies behind the backs and without the knowledge of others. Each of the Allies seem to regard this simply as a game of grab, trying to get what they can regardless of the cost and the expense to others. The first Revolutionary Government in Russia, when they discovered the existence of these secret treaties, realised that the conditions embodied in them made a democratic peace impossible. Their first act was to appeal to the Allies for a conference for the revision of war aims. How was their request received by the Allied Governments? The Allied Governments dallied, promised, hesitated, and then, when the Russian Foreign Minister's bag was packed for Paris to attend such a conference which had been promised, the Allied Governments rejected the proposal altogether. That, more than anything else, was responsible for the overthrow of the first Revolutionary Government. It was responsible for the Bolsheviks coming into power later. What did the Bolsheviks do? They did not want a separate peace any more than the first Revolutionary or the Kerensky Government wanted a separate peace. But Russia must have peace. Russia could not continue to fight. The action of the Allies, in forcing upon Russia the impossible task of renewing the offensive was another contributory cause responsible for the overthrow of Kerensky and the coming into power of the Bolsheviks. Russia must have peace. She did not want a separate peace, but peace she must have. Therefore she tried to get a general peace. She made an appeal to the Allies to join in negotiations for a general peace, and the Allies, as is their custom, apparently not only with the enemy but with Allies too, treated the offer with contempt. The Bolsheviks met the Germans, and they succeeded in getting the conference adjourned for ten days. Again they appealed to the Allies, and again the Allies made no response. Then the Bolshevik Government appealed to the peoples of the Allied countries over the heads of their Governments. The Germans and the Austrians responded by strikes and labour disputes and great peace demonstrations. The negotiations at Brest-Litovsk were resumed. I saw the Russian Minister who went through all these negotiations both before and after the adjournment at Brest-Litovsk, and he told me that the change in the attitude of the representatives of the Central Powers after the resumption was very remarkable indeed. He attributed it to two or three things. One thing was the refusal of the Allied Governments to enter into the conference for the purpose of securing a general peace. Our Prime Minister in his speech to the Trade Union Conference here in London said, not in words, but in effect, "Russia has made her bed; she must lie upon it, as she has made it." I was told by this Russian delegate present at these conferences that the German representatives interpreted that to mean practically an encouragement to them to make the hardest terms that they could with the Russion Revolutionary Government. Another reason said to be responsible for it, although a minor one, was the frank revolutionary character of the speeches of Trotsky, and his appeals to the revolutionary elements in other countries to overthrow their Governments as the Russian democracy had done. The situation in Russia, deplorable as it is, is in the main due to the lack of sympathy shown to Russia in her difficult situation by the Allied Governments. Judged by the cheers which greeted the reply to a question given by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to-day, it appears that there are Members in this House who still so little appreciate the gravity of the situation in Russia that they not only approve, but encourage, the armed invasion of Russia by Japanese forces. What the Allies have done, or, perhaps, more particularly, what they have failed to do, in regard to Russia has placed Russia under the economic domination of Germany. It could not have been otherwise. The peace of Brest-Litovsk is not a peace settlement. May I tell the right hon. Gentleman what it is, although it would be more appropriate to give that information to his colleague the Under-Secretary. It is a peace offensive. It is not a peace settlement. It is a settlement made in the interests of the prosecution of the War, and, from the point of view of the military party in Germany, the Germans, in view of the declaration of the Allies of their determination to carry on this War, if need be, for two, three, four, and five years, would have been fools and it would have been madness on their part not to take advantage of the opportunity which presented itself for strengthening their economic position in the East. The Allied Governments must take the responsibility for that. To pass away from Russia and to come to the last opportunities which were missed by this Government and the Allied Powers in 1917. Hope appears to spring eternal in the breast of President Wilson, whether he be neutral or Ally, and about the beginning of this year he made another attempt to see whether it were possible to bring the belligerents together in a conference. He laid down fourteen propositions and invited the statesmen of the Central Powers to express their views on them. They responded. It was some time before the right hon. Gentleman read their speeches, but I gather from the speech he made later in the House that after the Debate we had specially devoted to the matter he found an opportunity to read them. The right hon. Gentleman is therefore well aware of the nature of the replies received. President Wilson was apparently so well satisfied with those replies that he pursued the matter further. In his Message to Congress he referred to this question. He spoke in terms of the warmest approbation of the reply which had been given by Count Czernin and in very courteous terms, but in terms not so approving, to the reply made by the German Chancellor. On that occasion President Wilson reduced his fourteen points to four and again invited the views of the Ministers of the Central Powers. They replied. They practically accepted President Wilson's four points. What was the reply of the Allies to this? It was given in the famous Versailles declaration. It was a version of the late Prime Minister's oft-repeated rhetorical declaration, that they will never sheathe the sword until—and so on. I come now to a count in the indictment against the Government which is perhaps the most serious of all that we lay to their charge. The Prime Minister received the freedom of the ancient, historic, and beautiful city of Edinburgh a few weeks ago. The Prime Minister made this statement:"Yes, I would like you to tell them that the best friends the German Junkers have are the Governments of the Entente Powers."
Then he goes on:"There are two circumstances which have served to persuade the most inveterate pacifists that their idea is wrong. The first is that the Government of this country and President Wilson at the beginning of the year made simultaneous announcements in regard to the peace terms of the Allies, which were so temperate, so moderate, so restrained that even the most pronounced pacifist could not challenge them."
One can only stand aghast at the audacity of a statement like that. I venture to say you will search through the political records of this country without finding such a case of wicked and gross misrepresentation. What are the facts? The Prime Minister said the first reply President Wilson or the British Government received was this offensive. The offensive was launched on 21st March, the Prime Minister's announcement was made on 5th January. He refers to that as a declaration of the British Government. President Wilson made his statement on 8th January. Czernin replied to Wilson on 23rd January. Hertling replied to Wilson on 24th January. Those speeches were reported in the British Press at great length, which occupied a page in the "Times" newspaper. The "Times" newspaper had half a page summary of the replies of Czernin and Hertling. They dealt seriatim with all the fourteen points of Wilson's statement. President Wilson acknowledged those replies in a speech on 11th February. He approves, as I have said, the Austrian reply, but criticises Hertling, and reduces his fourteen points to four. Then, a fortnight later, on the 25th of February, Hertling responded to President Wilson's further appeal, and gave unconditional assent to three of the four points laid down, and of the fourth he said, I do not know of any objection, and I agree therefore with President Wilson that general peace on such terms is desirable. The offensive began on 21st March, and the Prime Minister says that the only reply given to President Wilson and himself was that offensive of 21st March. But the Prime Minister is convicted out of his own mouth. He was at Versailles, was a party to the Versailles declaration. What did that declaration say?"How were those declarations received by Germany? The first reply that either President Wilson or the British Government received was the most violent offensive ever launched against the British Army. They launched it with the avowed intention to annihilate it. That is the answer made on the part of Germany to a moderate peace pronouncement."
Yet he goes down to Edinburgh and tells the people whom he evidently regards as belonging to the class described by the late Prime Minister as people with low intelligence and high credulity, that the only reply, or the first reply, given to himself and President Wilson was the offensive on 21st March. And yet he, at Versailles, two months before, said he had given the most careful consideration to the recent utterances of the German Chancellor and the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and was unable to find in them any approximation to the moderate conditions laid down by the Allied Governments. This is the way in which war diplomacy is being conducted. A Prime Minister who makes a statement like that he made at Edinburgh at a grave and critical time like this, so utterly at variance with the truth, is still Prime Minister. He has not been impeached, he can still command a majority of votes in this House; there are still cities in the country anxious to confer on him the dignity of the freedom. It has been said that people get the Government they deserve, and a people who would tolerate the Government of a Minister like that deserves any fate that may fall upon it. This is the sordid story of Allied diplomacy in the last eighteen months. Its failures have added a million and a half to our total casualties, and it is still to go on. The Allied Governments have apparently never yet appreciated that the purpose of war is not war itself, but the attainment of certain political objects, and that diplomacy may be far more usefully employed for that purpose than the force of arms. It has always been so in war. There has not been an important war in the last 200 years where many opportunities for bringing the war to an end on terms more favourable than those ultimately made were not neglected. It was so in the Austrian War of Succession, the Spanish War of Succession, and the French Revolutionary Wars. The Crimean War could have been brought to an end long before peace was signed on better terms. It was so in the South African War, and it is so in this War. What is the reason for this? I do not contend, and I do not believe, the members of the Government are callous about the sacrifice of human life. I believe the Prime Minister spoke the truth once from that bench when he said that any man who prolonged this War unnecessarily would have a crime on his soul which oceans would not wash out. Why then do they appear to be so impotent? My hon. Friend who moved this Amendment gave the explanation. They are bound and shackled by the terms of these secret treaties, and until they are denounced any-kind of peace, let alone a democratic peace, is an impossibility. These secret treaties violate every one of the professions of Ministers in regard to our War aims. They propose the destruction of the independence of small nations, they tear up sacred treaties, they make a permanent peace impossible, because such a Europe as would arise from the carrying out of these secret treaties, especially the Italian Treaty made during the Premiership of the right hon. Member for East Fife, will create such a Europe that it will be necessary to maintain far larger armed camps than ever. They would make the realisation of the ideal of a League of Peace impossible, and therefore the first step towards the possibility of negotiations, the first step to the possibility of a democratic peace, the first condition of realising those war aims so magnificently uttered by the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister in two or three speeches in the early days of the War, depends on the complete denunciation of these secret treaties. What is the country thinking about these treaties? My hon. Friend who moved this Amendment said you could not get an audience in the country who on hearing an explanation of these treaties would approve them. The country is spending hundreds of thousands, it may be millions of money, in a useless campaign to inform people about our war aims. But they have no leaflets explaining the terms of those secret treaties or any leaflets which tell us about the division of Asia Minor between the Allied Powers, about Italy's ambitions in the Adriatic, about war indemnities, or about the further division of Africa. These things are not mentioned, but they are war aims; they are embodied in secret commitments. The Government still hold to them. I put a question to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the other day based upon a report which appeared in a newspaper that the treaty with Italy had been denounced, and he indignantly denied the statement. The treaty stands. Italy still demands her terms. These are the obstacles to peace. Sweep them away, get back to the honest declaration of war aims, the honest motives of this country which induced those millions to whom my hon. Friend referred to volunteer early in this War, and on that day the difficulties in the way of peace will be found to be small indeed. What does the country think about it? I had sent to me this morning a resolution passed by the largest local Labour party, the Birmingham Labour party. This resolution is all the more remarkable because this Labour party in Birmingham has been almost alone among the local Labour parties in the country in having maintained throughout the War the attitude of strong support of the War. The resolution sent to me reads as follows:"The Supreme War Council gave the most careful consideration to the recent utterances of the German Chancellor and the Austro-Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs."
That resolution was passed unanimously. There is not a labour organisation in the country which would not endorse that resolution. There is not a meeting that could be called together which, after hearing an impartial and accurate account of the character of these secret treaties, would not endorse a resolution condemning and repudiating them. These are the obstacles to peace. That is why the British Government and the Allied Governments are compelled to reject every offer of peace, however promising it may be. May I refer for one moment to the point with which the Mover of the Amendment began his speech, namely, that this is not a suitable time for raising a question like this. Why not? The French people evidently consider it to be a very suitable time. There has been within the last few weeks the strongest outbreak of peace activity in France which has been witnessed since the beginning of the War, and that from the most unexpected quarters. It began in the Journal des Débats and was taken up by M. Clemenceau's paper. Many of the reactionary journals joined in the demand that if an offer of peace came it should not be, as previous offers had been, contemptuously rejected or ignored. There was a meeting in the French Chamber called a week ago by the Federation of Trade Unions, at which half the Deputies were present, including three ex-Primo Ministers, to deal with the grave industrial situation which exists in France because of the prolongation of the War. Not a single London daily newspaper had a line about that meeting. The Allied Governments, by their diplomatic policy, have lost one Ally, and may I say in all seriousness' there is more than a likelihood that they may lose another unless they change their policy. The hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) had two or three questions on the Paper this afternoon with regard to Belgium. I gathered from the replies given by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that Belgium, for whose interests we primarily entered this War, was not regarded as being on a footing of equality or of the same standing as the other members of the Allied combination. The right hon. Gentleman said that this Government had communications with representatives of the Belgian Government sometimes. But is the Belgian Government in agreement with the policy of Great Britain, France, and Italy in rejecting the peace overtures and relying wholly on military effort to secure the desired ends? That is a question for the right hon. Gentleman, and I should like an answer to it. I know what the answer is. I know that the Belgian Government are not in agreement with that policy. I know that the Belgian Government, representing the Belgian people, want peace. The change in that direction among them has been most remarkable during the last six months. The first condition of successful peace negotiations is a repudiation of the secret treaties; and the second is the putting on the shelf of all that ordinary stock-in-trade which serves to delude the people during a period of war. I am sick and tired of hearing all these musty platitudes which you can find in every speech in every newspaper article written during every war that has taken place since speeches were made and newspapers printed, namely, that the enemy was the concentrated embodiment of all the vices ever known to exist, and that the aim of the enemy was the domination of the world. It is rather singular that we never heard anything about this when we entered the War. I read a little while ago the two speeches which were delivered by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, then Sir Edward Grey, explaining the reasons why the Government considered itself in honour bound to enter the War. There is not a word there about the destruction of Prussian militarism. That was an afterthought. But it is following the precedents of all wars. If I cared to delay the House at inordinate length, I could produce extracts from the "Times" newspaper, say, at the time of the Crimean War, in which every phrase that is now being used about Germany's lust for universal power is applied to Russia, word for word. It was so in the time of Napoleon, when it was applied to France. You get the same platitudes that "this is not the time for peace; that you must crush the enemy or you will have to fight it out all over again in ten, twenty, or thirty years' time." The best, the surest means of having to fight it out over again would be to try to pursue the War to a military conclusion. You cannot destroy militarism by militarism. I have regretted to see certain statements made within the last few weeks by our Prime Minister and by M. Clemenceau in which there has been, I was going to say, a virtual admission—nay, indeed, a frank admission—that the Allies were beaten but for the intervention of America. Surely statements like that will not be forgotten in Germany. Suppose that the Allies, with the help of America—I do not believe it is possible for a single moment—but suppose that, with the 10,000,000 men America is going to transport across the Atlantic, the Allies succeed in inflicting a complete military defeat upon Germany. What is going to be the effect on the German mind? It is going to have the same effect as the defeat of Prussia at the beginning of the eighteenth century had; it is going to have the same effect which the defeat of France by Prussia had fifty years ago—it is going to teach them that military power can be a means for effectively serving national aims. Instead of defeating militarism, it will give militarism its greatest justification. I have regretted to see within the last few weeks a revival of the talk about economic warfare. Take, for instance, some of the recommendations made in the Reports of the Board of Trade Committees which were published a few days ago. One of our leading newspapers, in an article upon those recommendations, said that those Reports ought to be impounded under some Defence of the Realm Act Regulation, or at any rate they ought to be prevented from being known in. Germany. It is a far more important matter to Germany to get fair treatment and equality of economic opportunity after the War than territorial power. If there are to be these constant threats that Germany is to be deprived of the opportunity of commercial expansion and development after the War, then the War will go on until the lust for blood of those who are talking of a five years' war has been more than satisfied. For Heaven's sake, I say to the Government, if they do want peace, if they want a permanent peace, if they want conditions of permanence, let them stop all this provocative talk about economic warfare after the military war! Negotiations must come at some time. Every delay lessens the possibility of a satisfactory peace. It will not be denied that a far better peace could have been made two years ago. I doubt if an equally good peace could be made six months hence as to-day. This War will never be settled between victor and vanquished. It will be settled round a table by men who are the representatives of people who out of bitter experience, out of travail and pain, have come to the conclusion that militarism is an enemy which must be uprooted, and that military power is futile to serve any reasonable and honourable human purpose. This War will be settled round a table by men who are imbued with that conviction and have that aim. There is a terrible responsibility resting upon those who delay the assembling of that conference by a single day."The Birmingham Labour party has learned of the contents of the secret treaties entered into by the Allied Governments with the utmost dismay and indignation. It recalls the fact that this party almost unanimously consented, jointly with the Birmingham Trades Council, to participate in the recruiting campaign early in the War because it was led to believe that the War was being fought for the freedom of small nations and the sanctity of international law. The Labour party now discovers that it has been utterly deceived and that even whilst the above-mentioned recruiting campaign was proceeding the Allied Governments commenced a series of secret conferences at which secret treaties were formulated. In the opinion of the party those treaties flagrantly violate every reason put forward by British statesmen in justification for the War and embody precisely those obnoxious and immoral principles of Junker Imperialism which they were led to believe they were fighting against. We believe the absolute repudiation of these treaties to be essential to a democratic peace and hereby instruct our executive council to convene a large and widely representative Midland Conference at as early a date as possible for the purpose of considering these important documents."
The hon. Member (Mr. Snowden) threw out a challenge earlier in his speech, and asked me to define what was meant by a "peace offensive." I will tell him what I mean by a peace offensive. I mean any effort by speech or otherwise, under the disguise of asking for an honourable termination of the present unhappy War, to divide the Allies, who, as I believe, are now fighting for the great cause of liberty, and to discourage individual members of the Alliance. If anyone asks me to give an example of what is indicated by that definition, I should say that the speech to which we have just listened is one of the most perfect examples of a peace offensive that has ever been made in or out of this House. Part of the hon. Member's speech—the less earnest and serious part—was distinguished by a tone of petulance which I thought contrasted very ill with the speech that preceded it; a speech which, indeed, I differed from profoundly in its conclusions, but which was animated throughout by an obviously sincere desire to see this War brought to an end in an honourable manner. That desire, of course, is shared by His Majesty's Government, by every man in this House, and by every man, woman, and child in this country, in France, in Italy, and in America. No one wants to go on with the War for the sake of fighting. No one wants to go on with it, so far as I know, for any of those petty motives of international spite of which the hon. Member speaks. We want to go on with it, and we mean to go on with it, for great ends and great motives; and when the hon. Member makes a speech like that to which we have just listened it appears to me that he is doing his very best to bring that policy to an unhappy conclusion. Anyone listening to that speech would really have supposed that, after he has taken a survey of the motives animating the combatants on the two sides, he deliberately comes to the con elusion that the people who initiated this War and are continuing it, the people who provoked it, are comparatively innocent people, not animated by the mean ambitions which unhappily, according to him, have moved our Italian and our French Allies, but whose thoughts move upon a higher plane, who have none of these ambitious designs which he sees in his own country and in the Allies of his own country, but that they really give us a model of what reasonable combatants should be and should desire. Is the hon. Member aware of the monstrous folly and ignorance shown by such suggestions as that? He says, truly enough, that in previous wars we have denounced those with whom we fought, in the great Napoleonic Wars in particular, with a desire for universal domination. We have done so; and I am clearly of opinion that in doing so history has proved that we were right. But while no one who knows history will dispute that Napoleon was animated by this lust for universal domination, no one who has studied the literature or weighed the actions of Germany during the last forty years and more will doubt that she is pursuing that aim of universal domination with a persistence, with an elaborate care, with a forethought, with a ruthless and cold-blooded determination which leaves Napoleonic ambitions far behind. To listen to the hon. Member, you would suppose that the picture I have just drawn, which is not an exaggerated picture, has no resemblance to the truth at all, that Germany is not animated by this desire for domination, that Germany has not gradually built up her strength in order to carry out a policy of domination, that Germany has not co-ordinated her military and commercial efforts, in spite of what the hon. Member has said, in order to make the civilised world fall like ripe fruit into her lap. The hon. Member says that when the War broke out we heard nothing in Lord Grey's speech on that fateful Monday, the 3rd August, of German desire for general domination It is perfectly true that what filled all our minds at the moment was the outrage on Belgium and the attack on France—
It had not taken place then.
The hon. Member himself stated the enemy motive.
As a matter of fact, they had not declared war on France on that date.
Does not the hon. Member really forget the central point of Sir Edward Grey's speech? Let me refresh his memory, and he will see what I thought was one of the main points of a large part of his speech, and the main point of the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Morrell), that when the War began it was the Belgian case that moved us! What does the hon. Member means by so irrelevant a contradiction as that which he has been good enough to make?
I will answer the right hon. Gentleman in the words of the Prime Minister, who, in an interview which he gave to a magazine shortly after the outbreak of war, said that on the Saturday before the War 99 per cent. of the people of this country were against going into the War for what they imagined to be the support of France, but that after the invasion of Belgium the proportions turned round, and he said it was the invasion of Belgium which induced us to give our support.
The whole point of the two speeches we have heard was that whereas our motives were high and lofty at the beginning of the War, because we went into the War to help Belgium and France, now we have sunk to a lower moral plane and become, to use the cant phrase which is current in Russia, "Imperialists in disguise". I am unable to understand why the hon. Member thought it worth while to interrupt me. But there is no contradiction, and there is no change of view, so far as I know, beween those early days in August, 1914, and the present moment. From beginning to end the animating motives of this country, and of the Governments in which from time to time this country has placed its trust, have been to carry out those general principles, one application of which moved us in the first days and hours of the War. If the hon. Member goes further and says, had the nation at large realised in 1914 what the German passion for domination meant, had they studied German utterances, then I go some distance with him. There were, indeed, people in this country who had warned the country of what the desire for expansion really meant. But we are, as a nation, slow to believe that other nations can be animated by motives which are so widely separated from those which move our own people. Those writings were known, no doubt, to a few, but they were not even by those few regarded as always representative; and it is not until the matter has been studied in the light of events, and with a care which it was never thought worth while to give it before, that it has been brought home to the conviction of every student, except the hon. Member and those who sit beside him, that this War is no accidental and unhappy episode, that it was an inevitable, or an almost inevitable, result of German ambitions, and that it was absolutely inevitable unless the development, economic and military, of Germany in the course of years did not enable her to get all the fruits of victory without the loss of bloodshed and of going to war. And it is perfectly clear to anyone who looks back on the history of the last thirty or forty years, that the ambitions of the whole of the intelligent and the military and governing classes in Germany were of a kind which were directed to world domination, and that if the world domination could not be got by peaceful means, it must be got by war, and in utter indifference to all the horrors which war would produce. Of course, they made, and we all know that they made, in some respects a gross—I will not say a gross, but a great miscalculation. They thought that the objects of the War, this European domination, which was to carry with it other dominations, could be obtained after a struggle which, at the most, would last a year. It might easily have been so, but, happily for mankind, it has not been so. How anybody can come forward and make the speech that the hon. Member has made this afternoon, and suggest that it is we who sit on this bench and those Gentlemen who sit on the opposite bench who have by our stupidity, our blindness, our indifference to human suffering, and our Imperialistic ambitions, been the people who, if we did not start the contest, have, at all events, continued it, and are now responsible for its continuance—utterly passes my comprehension. The hon. Member has made his usual survey of the suggestions of peace which have from time to time been made by the Central Powers. Is there one of those cases in which the sober historian would ever see the basis of a possible peace? Is there any evidence at all that any of those suggestions, such as the Emperor of Austria's letter, and the other transactions to which the hon. Member referred—is there any likelihood at all that any one of those proposals were made with a view to obtaining that sort of peace which even the hon. Gentleman himself could regard as a reasonable peace, carrying with it some prospect of security for the future liberties of the world?We have never rejected any proposals which we thought had the slightest probability of producing the sort of peace which most of us—and, I hope, all of us—desire. There is no evidence whatever that the German Government have ever been serious in making such offers of peace. I have more than once referred to Belgium, though I always do so with some hesitation, lest hon. Gentlemen should run away with the idea that, in my judgment, the restoration of Belgium would by itself give all that we ought properly to ask for as a result of the War. The case for Belgium is merely an example. It is a good example of German methods; because Belgium, as the hon. Member has pointed out, was the occasion of the War. I am not sure whether the hon. Member would admit that; but at any rate it was intimately connected with the opening phases of the War. The treatment of Belgium is, and remains, the greatest blot upon German honour and German humanity. German honour and German humanity, I think, have been violated in many parts of the world; but Belgium stands out as the great and unanswerable proof of what it is that the German Government will do if they think that any military advantage is to be got by it. Have the German Government ever openly and plainly said, in any document, or in any speech, that Belgium is to be given up, that Belgium is to be restored, that Belgium is to be placed in a position of absolute economic as well as political independence? I know of no such statement. It has been suggested that Belgian territory should be restored, and there have been other suggestions of one kind or another; but you will never find any frank avowal that Belgium, having been taken by one of the most iniquitous acts of which history has record, is to be put back, so far as the perpetrator of the crime is concerned, as far as possible in the position in, which she was before the crime was committed. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that perhaps when he is discussing the reasonableness of terms he might have reminded the House of that fact? What he does is to point to ambiguous speeches and doubtful resolutions; he turns his eyes resolutely away from the clear-cut and unmistakable statements on the other side, made by German writers of repute and German politicians of position—he turns his eyes resolutely away from what Germans write and what Germans say, and still more resolutely away from what Germans do both in the East and the West. Then he presents a picture of German statesmen on that side offering reasonable terms of peace to the English statesmen on this side, and the English statesmen obstinately shutting their ears, and insisting on going on with the War and determinedly forcing this country and its Allies to go on with the expenditure of blood and of treasure; and he expects us to listen to him patiently and not to say that, whatever his intention may be, his acts in this House have the effect of doing everything that can be done by a speech in this House to discourage the Allies and their friends and to encourage the Central Powers and their friends. I must honestly say that I think that is a lamentable performance. If I understood one part of his speech aright—I may have failed to get the clear meaning—he seemed to think that we differ from President Wilson upon these points. So far as I know, there is no difference between the Allies and President Wilson upon war aims. I believe that we cherish the same ideals, we are fighting for the same purpose on the same fields of battle, we are making similar sacrifices, and we are working towards the same end. I cannot conceive why the hon. Gentleman, animated as I am bound to suppose he is by a public-spirited policy, suggests that there should be in this matter of war aims the smallest difference between us and our American Allies. There is no such difference. Neither is the hon. Gentleman right when he supposes that these secret treaties are an obstacle to peace. The notion is fantastic. I am not going to discuss the secret treaties. I have often explained to the House that these treaties were made not by me, not by the party to which I belong, not by the present Government; they were made in obedience to motives which I believe would have moved any Government in power at the time to make the same or similar arrangements. It is very easy for the hon. Gentleman to say that if the treaty with Italy to which he referred—I am not going to discuss it—were discussed, it would be disapproved of in this meeting or that meeting throughout the country. If you want to judge the treaty rightly, remember the circumstances under which it was made, and ask the people whether, if they had been responsible for the conduct of affairs, they would have hesitated to come to arrangements of that kind. Even if the treaty is open to criticism, even granting—and I am not going to make any admissions about it, that it was open to this criticism—it is a mistake to suppose that it stands in the way of peace. The Allies are prepared to listen collectively to all reasonable arrangements. Certainly His Majesty's Government are not going to shut their ears to anything that can be called a reasonable suggestion. If such a suggestion were made, and it met with the approval of the Allies collectively, does the hon. Gentleman really suppose that the fact that three years ago, or whenever it may have been, they took a different view, that would stand in the way of accepting this reasonable suggestion? Of course it would not! Any proposal to the Allies will be considered by the Allies on its merits. These treaties were entered into by this country with other members of the Alliance, and to these treaties we stand. The national honour is bound up with them, and I really cannot conceive a more unfortunate moment in which the hon. Gentleman should criticise our Italian Allies than at the very moment when those very Allies are fighting with heroic courage in the battles which they are now carrying out against their Austrian enemy.
I have never criticised our Italian Allies; never a word!
Shylock! Who is Shylock?
It is not the Italian Government who are making the magnificent stand in Italy now. It is not the men who made these secret treaties.
It is a crude device to distinguish between the men who made the Government—the men who, remember, are dependent upon their Parliamentary system—and the nation who supports them. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we sometimes draw too sharp a distinction between the military and the ruling classes in Prussia and Germany and other citizens of the German Empire; but, at all events, that is reasonable compared with the distinction he is now trying to draw between the Government of Italy, supported by the Italian Parliament, freely elected by the Italian people, and the people themselves. No such distinction is to be drawn. The attack he made was an attack upon the Italian people, and had no other meaning whatsoever. As far as we are concerned we are bound by that treaty, and we mean to hold by it. But it is a profound error to suppose that the time will come when the British Government, surveying the whole situation, and the Italian Government surveying the whole situation, will find themselves in this position—the British Government saying, "I think you ought to make peace, in spite of this treaty," and the Italian Government saying, "There is the treaty, and we mean to hold to every word of it." When the time comes, the treaty may be a proper instrument to carry out in every detail. I do not argue that; but what I say is that whatever judgment may be come to, when the time comes, by the British Government is probably the judgment which the Italian Government would share to the full; and the judgment made by the Italian Government is the judgment in which the English Government would share to the full. I have no reason to think that in the future, any more than in the past, there will be any divergence between the Allies who are carrying on this War. If it should turn out that, in the common interests of the Allies as a whole, treaties made some years ago should require modification, I do not doubt that a modification will be made by the Italians themselves. It rests with them. They are our Ally; we are bound to them, and we mean to keep to the full to the bargain we have made.
Mr. R. McNEILL
Is it not the fact that the recent Conference in Rome between the Jugo-Slavs and the Italian Government showed that Italy is very much inclined to modify the policy embodied in that treaty?
The Jugo-Slav meeting in Rome, to which my hon. Friend refers, was one of the very greatest interest and significance, and I think did show a certain change, I will not say of view, but of mood, of temper, in connection with that particular question. That may be so, but I do not propose to discuss or to suggest any discussions upon topics like that. I think that it would be quite inexpedient. I content myself with the broad statement, which I believe to be true, that these treaties, whether they be carried out to the letter or whether they be modified in practice, are no obstacle to the conclusion of a reasonable peace, and will not form any ground of discord between us and our Italian. Allies; and I cannot conceive a greater folly at this moment than entering formally and ostentatiously into any reconsideration of the instruments which have regulated now for two or three years the relations of the Allies.We have a more important and immediate task before us. We have the task, now that Russia has fallen out of the War, of resisting the Austrian and German effort on the West. We have the task before us of doing all we can to restore Russia to full national patriotic self-consciousness. Russia is going through a time of profound trial. Everybody sympathises with the difficulties in which that vast population finds itself. Its sufferings have been little alleviated by the normal peace which has been forced upon it by Germany, and I do not despair of our being able even now to do something material to restore the economic and political unity and nationality of that great country. That is a question that rests in the future and not in the past, and I can do no more than say that our good wishes for Russia, her freedom, her prosperity, her integrity remain quite un-diminished by recent events. But the fact that she did fall out of the War, as, of course, everybody knows, has thrown a very great strain on the Western Allies. I believe that that strain is one which we shall sustain; but we shall require, as is commonly admitted, all our patriotism, all our energy to sustain it with a full measure of success. And I cannot imagine anything more idiotic than, at this very critical moment and real time of stress, to bring our attention to problems which may come up, and I hope they will come up, at no very distant date, but which, even in the view of the hon. Gentleman himself who moved this Amendment, are not appropriate at the present time. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down declared that we always meet Motions of this kind by the statement that they are inappropriate to the occasion. I do not know that I have used that argument before, though I dare say that I have. What I have usually felt is not that they were inappropriate to the occasion, but that they were inappropriate to any occasion. I understood the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment to admit that this was an inappropriate time to discuss peace terms.
I said that in the view of some Members it was.
I may have misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. If so, I apologise. I certainly thought he said that in the middle of this offensive it would be impossible.
I do not press it now, nor is the matter very important, but I thought that the hon. Gentleman said that or something equivalent. At all events, it is obvious to everybody, whether he said it or not, that it is true. This is the very last moment in which we are likely to make peace proposals to the Central Powers, or, as far as I can judge in which the Central Powers are likely to make proposals to us except for one purpose—the purpose of a peace offensive. What I believe, as far as I am able to judge, the Central Powers mean to do in the way of peace is not to propose reasonable terms to the Alliance as a whole, but to select some member of the Alliance to which to offer terms that may prove extremely temptive to that member of the Alliance, if it consider only its own obvious and immediate interests, and not the Alliance as a whole; and in that way to disintegrate the members of the Alliance, some of whom would, of course, be perfectly helpless, taken in isolation, but would be quite strong as long as they are united. I do not blame the Central Powers for making such attempts. The people I blame are those who fall into the trap; and the people I blame most of all are those who, like the hon. Gentleman opposite, appear to think it almost criminal not to fall into the trap. As far as I can make it out, his criticism is that we went to war for Belgium and France, and, if Belgium and France are satisfied, why should we think of Italy? That spirit is a fata' spirit, because you might change it round, and say to Italy, "You are bound by the Alliance. Very good terms are offered to Italy. Why do you bother about anything else?" You cannot work an Alliance on those terms. The only terms on which you can work an Alliance are those of mutual confidence and mutual trust, and the only way you can have mutual confidence and mutual trust is by being open and above board with those with whom you are working.The hon. Member suggested, and he did more than suggest, in his speech that we have not been open and above board with the Belgian Government. He is quite mistaken. The Belgian Government have our full confidence, and I believe that we have their full confidence. There is no attempt, and there never has been any attempt, to keep back from any of those with whom we are working anything which is really material to the common purpose which they should know. I think that it is my predecessor in office who comes in for most of the blame—the worst charge against me, as far as I know, is that I know nothing about my office—for the actual treaties which are denounced were not made by me, but were made sometimes by my colleagues in this Government and sometimes by my late colleageues in the last Government. But all this sort of petty criticism is really out of place. Whether it is directed against me or Lord Grey, or the late Prime Minister, or the present Prime Minister, it is out of place. All of us—and I speak with confidence for those who sit on that bench as well as those who sit on this bench—are desirous of seeing this War brought to an honourable conclusion. All of us think that no conclusion can be honourable or satisfactory which makes it perfectly plain that the peace is only a truce. All of us are desirous of seeing, so far as may be, that the wishes of the populations of the world shall meet with their due satisfaction. All of us are anxious to see that, whatever arrangements may be come to at the Peace Conference, whenever the Peace Conference takes place, shall be of such a kind as to leave as few as possible of those eternal causes of friction and jealousy which divide email nations even more than they divide big nations, and shall, by removing those causes of jealousy, be greater security for the future peace of the world than any real treaties can ever give. To that rearrangement of territory or of constitutions, supplemented, as I hope it will be, by a League of Nations for the enforcement of peace—to those two changes in the international constitution of the world I look forward as the real security of peace. We shall never get that peace, and we shall never deserve to get that peace, if we listen to the counsel given to us by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, if we fail to look facts in the face, if we fail to see what German ambitions really mean, what German statesmen are really driving at, and what it is they are determined to have. Unless we face these facts we are only deceiving ourselves, and heaping up, if not for ourselves, at least for our immediate successors, a repetition of horrors unequalled in the history of the world, felt I believe, I quite admit, as much by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment as by us, but, believe me, felt by us quite as much as by him. For who feels the horrors of war more than those who are responsible for its conduct? On whom does the burden of this dreadful expenditure of blood and treasure weigh most heavily? How can it weigh more heavily on any man or set of men than those on this bench? No; we desire, and we passionately desire, an honourable peace; but as time goes on we are more and more convinced that that peace can only be attained by struggling to the end to see that we do not leave it in the power of any nation such as Germany to cause a repetition of the evils under which the whole civilised community of nations, whether in the Old World or in the New, is at present helplessly groaning.
Sir T. WHITTAKER
The impression made on my mind by the speeches of my two hon. Friends, the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, was that they contained two dominant ideas. The first, in the case of the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment, was that it is really our desire that this War should still continue, that it is all our fault that peace has not been arranged, that Germany is anxious for peace on the most reasonable terms, and that it is all our fault that the War has not been brought to an end. He also told us that the position as it is now in Russia is alt our fault. Somehow or other both hon. Gentlemen appear to have in their minds the belief that a very considerable number of people desire that this War should continue. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment disavowed that view, but I notice that later he spoke of the lust of blood in this country. That was the expression used, and their impression is that there is a desire among some people for the continuance of this War. As the right hon. Gentleman has just explained, it is absurd to think that we are not all anxious and earnestly anxious for peace, as anxious as anyone possible can be; but it must be a satisfactory peace, and the hon. Members themselves admit that it must be a satisfactory peace. The real difference, however, is as to what would be satisfactory. According to the terms of the Amendment it is to be a settlement by agreement, but when have the German people given any indication that they will agree to anything that we should regard as reasonable? The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that they have never specifically and definitely stated that they will even evacuate Belgium, and restore its political independence. Important officials in connection with the German Government have again and again declared that they mean it to be economically, politically, and militarily practically under the control of Germany.Have they ever indicated that they are prepared to evacuate the whole of Northern France? Have they given any indication whatever that they will hand back to Russia the Baltic provinces, or the Southern provinces of Russia? Not at all. Have they given any indication of their being prepared to give freedom to Finland and Poland? Nothing of the kind. Will they release Serbia and Roumania? There is not an indication. Will Austria clear out of Northern Italy, and will they return the property that they have stolen from Belgium and France? Will they return Alsace-Lorraine? And what about Armenia? There is no indication there. As to the German colonies, are we to return them? Were that told to the Imperial Conference now sitting it would shake the Empire to its foundations. Germany will agree to none of these things until they are compelled to do it and until they realise that they cannot help themselves or do otherwise. It may not be necessary that they should be driven by military force out of the territories they occupy, but that under the combined pressure of war and domestic circumstances they should be made to see that their effort has been a failure. Until they do realise that, in my judgment it is a waste of breath to talk, as my hon. Friends have done, about peace. At the present time, so far as we can gather, the only terms on which agreement could be effected with Germany would be terms of humiliation and defeat and future subservience for this country, and treachery by us to our Allies. The acceptance of the German terms would involve acceptance of a position which would leave Egypt and India at Germany's mercy and would be the commencement of the breaking up of the British Empire and the death knell of justice and freedom and national independence in Europe. The simple fact, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, is that Germany is out for world-power and world-domination. It is for that that it determined upon, and provoked, and commenced this War. The German people are possessed of the triple devils of militarism, race conceit, and commercial greed. What did the Kaiser say on Saturday?
Two world views, two principles, two different ideals struggling, and one or other of us must go under. We will not, and they will not, until they are made. It is sheer folly at present to ask for anything like an agreement. There can be no agreement until the German people learn by experience that their policy is a failure. They must realise that this policy does not pay, and until they know this, and until they know that in seeking to impose this cruel and disastrous policy they are engaged in an impossible task. Negotiate by all means, as soon as ever there is an indication of returning sanity on their part. In my judgment, there is none whatever at present. I suggest that there is danger in making peace too soon. The enemy will begin to realise that defeat is in front of them, and they will endeavour to settle terms before all is lost. A patched-up and inconclusive peace would be worse than no peace at all. Reference has been made during the Debate to the great French War in which we were engaged at the beginning of the last century. It is curious how history repeats itself. It is not only interesting but instructive to recall some of the incidents of those great campaigns—that early in last century and the present one in which we are engaged. In 1801 we had been at war, more or less, for fifteen years, and had lost almost all our Allies. Napoleon had consolidated his power in France, and had a strong position abroad. There was great distress in this country. In 1800 wheat was 112s. 8d. a quarter; in March, 1801, the quartern loaf cost 1s. 10½d. Napoleon was threatening invasion; Pitt resigned because the King would not allow Catholic emancipation; and shortly afterwards we had the rising in Ireland under Robert Emmett. It is extraordinary how similar is the position. Addington became Prime Minister, and Hawkesbury, the Foreign Minister, was to make overtures for peace in 1801. It took twelve months to make anything like an arrangement, and in 1802 we had the peace of Amiens. That peace left Napoleon in power, with all his ambition undiminished and unrestrained, and with time for further preparations. And what was the result? We were at war again within fourteen months, and Pitt returned to power in 1804. We had then what we might have now if we concluded peace. In 1805 Napoleon wrote to George III. proposing peace, but on his own terms, and then the Government of that day took the only proper attitude that they could take, and which the Government now take, that was to decline negotiations as an individual Power and without the Allies. What Napoleon was doing then the Kaiser is doing now—trying to divide the Allies by separate negotiation. In that very year Napoleon became absolute ruler of France, and France then included all Belgium up to the left bank of the Rhine, and he was practically ruler of Holland, Switzerland, and Northern Italy. In that year he crushed Austria and Prussia, and Pitt died in January, 1806. It was in 1805 that we won the Battle of Trafalgar. What was the result? Napoleon determined to seize and get hold of the fleets of some of the neutral maritime nations, and he threatened Denmark and Norway, and occupied Portugal and Spain. What are the Germans doing now? They are making their princes monarchs in Lithuania, Courland, Esthonia, and Poland, and trying in Finland. Precisely the same thing was done by Napoleon. In 1806 he made his brother Louis King of Holland, his brother Jerome King of Westphalia. He made the Elector of Saxony King of Saxony, and he added to his territory and formed a subservient confederation of the whole of Germany other than Prussia and Austria. In May, 1805, he crowned himself King of Italy and made his son-in-law Viceroy, and after that, when he held that power and all that territory, Talleyrand wrote to Fox suggesting peace negotiations. Fox again, as his predecessors in the Government, refused to have anything to do with it except in conjunction with the Allies. In 1808 Napoleon made his brother Joseph King of Spain and his brother-in-law King of Naples, and then again in 1808 he made another approach. Napoleon and the Tsar wrote to George III. begging him to give peace to the world—blaming us again—and to guarantee all the powers then existing, that was, to confirm him in his hold upon Europe, and we again would not have it. From 1805 to 1810 Napoleon was making himself year after year the master of Europe, and then under the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807 Russia turned against us. That arrangement broke down, but for the time it was serious, and the only important neutral country in the world, the United States, was unfriendly and went to war with us in 1812. In 1810 the British people alone were undefeated, but they held on, though solely tried. They held the seas, and during the next five years the tide turned. The great military despotism which had been set up gradually crumbled away, all Europe gradually rose against it, and I do not despair of Russia rising now and again coming in. The resurrection of Prussia and of Austria, the retreat from Moscow, and the Peninsula campaign prepared the way for the culminating blow at Waterloo, and Europe was saved and Napoleon was sent to St. Helena. Viscount Grey in that pamphlet which is reviewed in the papers this morning says:"It was not a matter of a strategic campaign, but a struggle of two world views which were wrestling with one another."
We must endeavour so to end this War as to render a repetition of this crime against humanity practically impossible in the future. Unless we do so, civilisation will be submerged under militarism, which will spread all over the world and hold the whole world in bondage. We shall not do this, in my judgment, until the German rulers and the German people—I do not discriminate between the two—alike learn, by the hard facts of experience, that brutal onslaughts on unoffending peoples do not pay. Agreements that left them with extended territories after this War and with increased prestige would be a defeat for us and a victory for them, and that result would stimulate them to further effort in the future. The whole world would remain an armed camp waiting and watching for a renewal of the struggle. We owe it to those who have fallen, we owe it to those who have been bereaved, and we owe it to ourselves and those who are coming after us that this shall not be, and we must not break our faith with our Allies. Revision and readjustment of the treaties with them, no doubt, there will have to be. That must be arranged by mutual consent and at Allied Conferences. Good faith with Allies is essential to the successful establishment of the League of Nations to which we are looking forward, and if that League of Nations can be successfully established it can only be maintained and be operative on the basis of good faith between Allies, and one of the proposals of this Amendment is that we should break faith with our Allies, throwing aside the treaties into which we have entered with them. It seems to me that that is one of the least creditable parts of that Amendment, and, therefore, I hope the House will reject it by a very large majority."There is more at stake in this War than the existence of individual States or Empires or the fate of a Continent; the whole of modern civilisation is at stake."
( indistinctly heard)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the somewhat unusual excursion upon which he has taken the House. It is a great pleasure to find one who has been taught nothing by the last four years' experience, and who for the purpose of throwing light upon the most difficult situation in which Europe has found itself goes back to a somewhat superficial record of the wars with Napoleon. I hope when my right hon. Friend returns to his study he will go a little bit deeper than the phrases of popular history and the compilations of a dictionary of dates. He will also, I hope, remember that it would be profitable for him to pursue his studies a little bit further in time, and to remember that that magnificent record of national resistance, national heroism, and national expenditure was finished by the treaty and the congresses of Vienna. So much for my right hon. Friend's history and the deductions he draws from it. We will return to the speech the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary made on the subject before us. It is very remarkable that when we come to general phrases we all use the same. My hon. Friend behind me the Member for Burnley (Mr. Snowden) professed, and I think showed by his speech, a most profound desire to end the War, not to end the War anyhow or at any time, but to end the War honourably and successfully from a democratic point of view. When the right hon. Gentleman replied he also used the same expression. There is no difference between us then so far as intention is concerned, but I resent most strongly that every time that the right hon. Gentleman speaks from that bench he has got to say, regarding my hon. Friend or anybody else who criticises his or his Government's policy or any Government's policy, that their speeches are in favour of the Central Powers. I hoped we had got a little bit beyond that, and that the desire of all of us to try and discover the right way to this satisfactory peace would make it impossible for us to, make these foolish charges. As a matter of fact, if we wanted to encourage and cement the Central Powers, to stop the strikes that are now going on in Austria, nothing would do it better than certain extracts from the right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon. The way that he talked about the secret treaties is precisely the thing that the Central Powers want in order to convince their people that whatever we may say sometimes, and whatever we may do sometimes, the real intention of this country, in conjunction with its Allies, is to inflict a defeat on Germany, not for the purpose of liberating Europe but for the purpose of humiliating Germany as an end in itself. I do not believe for a single moment that that is the intention of this country.The right hon. Gentleman who gave us the historical excursion (Sir T. Whittaker) did not give us any idea as to why the War lasted so long and why he had so many dates to manipulate. I believe he is a devoted follower not only of the political faith, but a great admirer of the intellectual capacity of one who used to be his leader, Lord Rosebery. I might remind my right hon. Friend that Lord Rosebery has also written about that period and those negotiations, and what Lord Rosebery has said about them is this, and it is very germane to the Debate in which we are engaged. Referring to the offer of peace Buonaparte made on the last day of December, 1799, Lord Rosebery says:
7.0 P.M. I commend my right hon. Friend to those pages in Lord Rosebery's book, where he will find great illumination regarding the long string of dates that he recited with so much pleasure and delight to the House this afternoon. But we will leave these somewhat scattered and pettifogging points which have been raised on one side. I always listen to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary with great intellectual pleasure. I do not always listen to him with the same political profit, and I must confess I came here this afternoon to get political profit and not intellectual pleasure. I got the latter, as I always do, but I am sorry I did not get the former. What divides us? Does he really mean to say, does any member of that Government mean to say, that we are sitting here to-day doing this somewhat thankless work, laying ourselves open to his gibes and to his misrepresentations—because I think he did misrepresent my hon. Friend—does he mean to say that we are doing that because we want our country to be defeated or because we want its cause to be worsted in the present War? I do not believe it for a single moment. He is there and we are here, not because we do not want to face those facts about German intentions and German aims about which he spoke, because we do. As a matter of fact, I think we may say we faced them before he did. He is there and we are here because he believes in a method of remedy which we distrust. After four years of war, swaying up and down, backwards and forwards, of hopes deferred that make the heart sick, with ever-increasing losses of life and treasure, it is surely time seriously to consider the conditions of that method. What do we say about this policy in this Resolution? We lay down once more—it has been stated to-day already, but I wish to restate it, and to get a reply from the right hon. Gentleman in regard to it—that when you say "Go on with the War" that does not mean go on with fighting. If you mean simply that we sit here to vote money and to listen to speeches and historical essays, such as we have just been favoured with, while the men at the front are fighting, killing and being killed, if that is our duty, then "go on with the War" is a phrase and an idea which we do not agree with. But if the War is something which is not merely fighting, if it is not merely a military expression, if it does not mean that we are to go on so long as there is a man left in the field to kill another man, so long as the nation is prepared to supply an army, if war is a political institution, if it serves precisely the same purpose as a Division in this House, or a Resolution of this House, or a decision of the Cabinet, or a dispatch to a foreign Government, if that is war, then going on with the War is being served equally by the speeches which we are delivering here this afternoon, in trying to throw some new light on the European situation. That is as much going on with the War as supplying thousands of bayonets, although that may be the more pressing need of the moment. If war is a means to a political end, that political end must always be present in the minds of those responsible for the War. I do not want to quote a German critic—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, do!"]—but I will do so in order to give pleasure to some hon. Members opposite. I do not know whether they have ever heard of Clausewitz, who happens to be an authority on military affairs. His view of war is this:"If Buonaparte was insincere, as was said, wad only wished to make the French believe that the wish for peace was on his side and not on ours, the negative of foreign negotiations was playing Buonaparte's game. If he were sincere, the responsibility of the Government was unbounded."
That is perfectly sound, and, if it is sound, then it is not enough for Ministers to say "we are simply going to fight until we get an absolute military victory, and until we seat ourselves on the throne of justice and show how we, in the plenitude of our power and of our own will, are going to settle affairs, so that war may never break out again." That is a nursery view of their responsibility, of our national pride, and of human nature. I do not say that that is the view held by the Government, but undoubtedly it is the view being preached ignorantly on thousands of platforms at the present time. But if the view of Clausewitz is the right one, what it means is this: That every military event ought to be studied by the Government for the purpose of translating it into its political end, and device of the devil, or a noose thrown back as though it were a trap, or a device of the devil, or a noose thrown around the necks of innocent Ministers. Every time a word is spoken it ought to be weighed, valued, and answered, and the answer should be given in such a way as if you were fighting the fight with your brains. If the Germans have laid snares, do not, therefore, act like a man who refuses to take his food and dies because he is afraid that the food is poison. But that is what is happening at the present time. Every move that is made, as Lord Rosebery tells us, it is necessary that a reply should be given to it, and all the more necessary if it is deceitful than if it is honest, because the deceit consists in the offer being made for the purpose of getting such a reply from the Government or from the Allies as will enable these designing, wicked enemies of ours to turn round and say to the people, "We told you so. We have made an offer. Look at the reply! The only answer we can get is an answer at the point of the bayonet." For years the Government has been pursuing that policy. On nine occasions during the last eighteen months opportunities for replies have been offered and no replies have been given. I am not going to weary the House with details. My hon. Friend (Mr. Morrell) has already supplied some. I am trying to summarise the general principles which divide us and to state the methods which we, on the one hand, hold to be the true methods, but which the Government, on the other hand, hold not to be the true methods. We believe that up till now the true methods have not been properly resorted to. We believe that every one of these offers, quite irrespective of the value which attaches to them, ought to be taken by His Majesty's Government and to be analysed, not in a pettifogging way, not by way of a small incident in Debate, but so that the whole field may be cleared. If that is done then our enemies will discover that peace offensives, instead of bringing about disruption among the Allies, would lead to their own disruption and their own undoing, that is, of course, assuming that they are dishonest. But if, on the other hand, they are honest, then they may lead to something on which peace can find a secure basis. I once said, and I repeat it now, that no offer the Germans have yet made would be satisfactory as a peace. Is the right hon. Gentleman living in the hope that he is going to get an offer at some time from the Germans that he can accept all round, without any amendment, without any negotiation, without any bargaining, without any taking away, or any building up? I am perfectly certain he is not. He knows perfectly well that when the time comes, and God will it come soon, when that statement, whatever it is to be and however it is to be made, either by the Allies or from the Central Powers, when that statement is made which at last is to be seized upon as an opportunity for discussing peace, he knows I say that that statement is not going to be the final form of the peace. The only quality that that statement will have is that it will be a promising one which will justify both sides in going on and exploring the matter further. Nine times that has happened. Nine times answers ought to have been given and were not given. I am not going to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman he could have made peace on any occasion. That is not my argument at all. But I say this. It is his responsibility to the nation and to Europe. It is a responsibility to the Allies I am not going to confine myself to that. It is a responsibility to Count Hertling, and to the Central Powers. It is a responsibility to the Government to take every opportunity, and to see that no opportunity is missed for examining and exploring every one of these statements, every one of these offers, to see whether they are sound or not. No single one ought to be rejected until it has been proved to be dishonest, and it cannot be proved to be dishonest until replies have been given. The second part of the Resolution declares that the original objects for which we entered on the War are not being carried out by the secret treaties; Here, again, the right hon. Gentleman went back to an old point, and asked what Count Hertling had said about Belgium. The right hon. Gentleman says that no definite statement has yet been made. But has he ever tried to get a definite statement? It is his responsibility, as well as Count Hertling's. If the right hon. Gentleman were in Count Hertling's position at the present moment what would he do? Assume for a moment that Count Hertling was Prime Minister of this country, and that the right hon. Gentleman had changed positions with him. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us quite honestly what position he would consider himself in at the present time in making a statement about Belgium? Would he, in making such a statement, say all that he meant to say? Would he give the whole of it, or would he merely say, "I am only going to give enough to indicate something which may be done," but which would not be completely satisfactory? The right hon. Gentleman has said as we have said, and there is no division of opinion about it, therefore, that Belgium must be restored. We have all said that a patched-up peace, that a peace which left Belgium un-restored, which would leave a big Power in possession of that corner of Europe, would be a peace which could not be acceptable. And, having said that, we have gone further, and asserted that an investigation ought to be made as to the qualified statement which Count Hertling did make with regard to Belgium. We know that the great organs of German democracy, the "Vorwaerts" and the "Leipzig Volkszeitung," have said plainly that Belgium is to be restored. Those great organs of German democracy have said that quite definitely, and there is an organisation with that object. I do not want to exaggerate its importance. It is an unknown quantity, but I believe the force of it is very much greater than the right hon. Gentleman imagines, and, from what knowledge I have of the movement, I think we may assume that its power is not exagerated. I believe the attitude of the Government is preventing that movement from fructifying in a real peace movement in Europe. It is really demanding that the German Government shall abandon its present position. It is demanding, further, that the German Government, in the form in which it is to-day, shall cease to exist, and that it shall abandon its present purposes. However, that is leading astray. I want to confine myself to this argument. The Government did not enter this War on account of Belgium. The Government entered this War on account of European obligations. The people accepted the War on account of Belgium. Belgium was not the cause of the War on 3rd August; it was the cause of the War on the 5th. The people of our country, the men who flocked to the Colours, accepted this War because Belgium was invaded, and because, thank God, it was their decision to stand by small and oppressed nationalities. What happens with these secret treaties? You are not vindicating the right of Belgium at all. You are putting Belgium in a pool, and, by starting new issues, by widening the scope of the War, you are weakening the Belgian chance of final restoration. As a matter of fact, you are doing what Lord Bolingbroke described this country as having done in connection with the War of the Spanish Succession, that, in order to keep our Allies, we had to make treaties which made victory impossible. History may repeat itself. I hope it will not. There were two natural consequences of the War which were not involved in the opening of the War. First of all we want security. We cannot live in Europe without some security. How are we going to get it? It is said, by a League of Nations. Yes, but a League of Nations is not going to be established in the frame of mind in which so many of our people are living at the present moment, and I, for one, heartily welcome the statement made by Lord Grey and published to-day, although some parts of it may not be very welcome to those who imagine we are going to end this War by a great Waterloo, Paris resolutions put in full force, and so on. The great sanity in that statement is the one guarantee of a real security for Europe. It is a profound mistake to imagine we are going to solve all European difficulties by this War. It is very easy to try to draw up a war programme. It is a very delightful thing for anyone not fighting to sit down by his own fireside and say what he would remedy as a result of this War. Some of us would make a clean sweep of Europe if we could, but it will never be got by fighting. One thing we hope will happen as a result of this War is that the moment a truce comes, the moment that this tremendous war momentum, that is pushing us ahead against our own will, has stopped, and we can face the problems about us, at that moment the peoples of Europe will come together, and in their enthusiasm and their sorrow and pain and suffering will there and then on the spot, before the experience has gone out of their minds, create something which will make it impossible for such a state of things ever to take place again. Therefore, to do that we must have liberation, but it is not coming from the battles. There may be some battles to give the opportunity for liberation, but the liberation is only going to come at the peace table. Again, if we take Belgium in relation to the secret treaties, we are only jeopardising her by raising useless issues. If we take security and say we are aiming at this, again we are destroying it, because the spirit of the secret treaties was precisely the spirit in which the Franco-GermanWar was treated, and that destroyed the peace of Europe. This is the Franco-German War started afresh. A patched-up treaty is a patched-up treaty, no matter what period it lasts—it may be a month, six months, six years, or twenty years. The Treaty of Frankfurt was as much a patched-up treaty and a military peace as the Treaty of Amiens. One went for forty years and the other for only a month, but the features were essentially the same. And in these secret treaties you have the spirit, you have the programme, you have the intention, and you have the method which was embodied at the end of the Franco-German War. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman's intentions may be, what I say is true. Make peace in that way and you have destroyed the security of Europe for the next forty years. Liberation is not the object that is being pursued. I would like to make my third point. It is that this is a barrier to democratic peace. It is a barrier to democratic peace because democratic peace must have all the qualifications which I have just shown are violated by the secret treaty documents. It is also a barrier to democratic peace for the reason that I have already given. This thing is the most valuable propaganda that can be circulated in Berlin and Vienna. There is nothing better for the purposes of the Central Powers at the present moment. The Poles first of all honestly believed in Germany and that Austria was going to liberate Poland. In the end they discovered they had made a mistake. Of all the revelations that have been disclosed dividing these people into separate camps, exposing all the games that have been going on, we could not take advantage. It is pitiable, it is heartbreaking, that this sort of thing should go on month by month and year by year. If this country, and particularly the Press of this country, could make up its mind that this matter has to be settled round a table, then, although the War might have to go on, because you could not stop the momentum altogether, at any rate that is the first step to salvation, the first step to peace, and, what is much more, the first step for the victory of our moral aims. There was one thing I was very glad to read in a speech the right hon. Gentleman made in the Mansion House, as reported in the "Times" of 8th April, 1918:"War can never be separated from political intercourse, and if in the consideration of the matter this is done in any way, and the threads of its relations are to a certain extent broken, we have before us a senseless thing."
I have been accused very much for having used that expression. The right hon. Gentleman used it, and I do not think any person who understands the problem that faces this country will blame him for using it—"The gains of territory they have made against efficient Armies, prepared as they were prepared in the field, have not been great. But I would remind our German friends,—"
In that generous language which he used he did have in his mind that this thing must be settled by negotiation. Then why does he not take his opportunity? Why does he not see that the military side, the War Office, is essential on one side of the room and that the Foreign Office and the diplomatic staff is essential on the other side of the room; that the War Office cannot move an inch either in advance or in retreat, but that that inch provides some problem for the Foreign Office to settle; that not a breath should come over the sea from Berlin or Vienna, whether it is an Emperor's letter or a speech or resolution in the Reichstag, without being answered; that this idea of the knock-out blow, that this idea of clearing the whole decks merely for military purposes, whilst diplomatists stand in the background doing nothing, waiting for the time when peace will be declared, is a mere childish dream of the impossible? Just as the military must be vigilant and sleepless in their work, so the diplomatists must be vigilant and sleepless in their work. On this occasion, with the military situation as it is, seizing that situation as an opportunity for making the appeal, rather than for being faint-hearted and allowing the old policy to be pursued to its impossible end—seizing that opportunity, I appeal to this House, and I appeal to the Government, to bring fresh minds to bear upon this terrible problem that Europe is groaning under, for, as Walpole says in one of his letters, this War is "dozing into peace." It is settling into habit. We are beginning to get so much in the rut that we cannot use a nimble and fresh intelligence to lift us out of it. Diplomacy, negotiation, the round table, the possibility of settlement, every opportunity, however apparently profitless, however apparently dishonest, however apparently dangerous—let nothing be thrown away as useless, no scrap thrown away as rubbish. They say some of us are defeatists. Neither defeat nor surrender is in my vocabulary. The real defeatists are the people who are pursuing that which every war has shown to be illusory. They, not we, trust in the old policy which is going to make war in Europe ceaseless by this War ending in a heritage of war. That is defeat! If the hon. and gallant Member for Christchurch holds the views he suggests he ought to publish them, and not profess something different. Let us in these matters be perfectly candid. If the policy certain hon. Members are pursuing is followed Europe will never be free from war, and when you end a war, whether it be Germany against France or whatever the war may be, and if five days after you begin to arm again for the next struggle, then I say, tell that honestly to the people and do not allow the people to believe that we are engaged in a war for the purpose of ending all war. I am in the War for the purpose of ending all war. Because that is so I say that you will have to adopt a method which the history of Europe shows has never been adopted before, because if you go upon the old lines they will fulfil the old ends and nothing else. Therefore I appeal to the Government to bring freshness of mind to the problem, to these problems of diplomacy. I appeal to the Government to see that war is a political institution justified by its political ends and not by its military ends: that the old policy of military ends, if pursued, leads to further wars, and cannot secure peace."if they have gained, as they suggest, they have also lost a great deal of territory to ourselves or to our Allies."
Mr. BONAR LAW
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put accordingly, and agreed to.
Main Question again proposed.
Sir C. HOBHOUSE
I meant, at a later stage of these proceedings, to raise a question of which I had given notice to the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for War, namely, the inquiry which was recently held into the merits or the demerits of what is known as the Madsen gun, and to make some further inquiry as to the conditions under which the trial took place, and the reasons for the adverse reports which were issued. I wish, in the first place, to make it quite clear that any arguments I may address to the House are not intended to have the effect that has been suggested, that the present Lewis gun is not a good gun. From such information as reaches me from those I know in the Army I can state the opinion that the gun is a good gun, and that the warning which was conveyed at the end of my right hon. Friend's answer yesterday was really not in point. Because, however, a weapon is a good weapon, it by no means follows that it is the best one, and, indeed, there was a hint, I believe, in the statement made by Lord Elphinstone in another place, that part of the official reluctance to accept the Madsen gun and to cease or to slow down the manufacture of the Lewis gun was due to the fact that they themselves had something better in mind. However that may be, I desire to ask for the conditions under which this particular gun was tried the other day. There are certain attributes, if I may use that word, which I imagine every mechanical gun should possess. I want to draw a very clear distinction between a machine gun and a mechanical gun, which is the kind of gun used by the Infantry or the Cavalry from the shoulder. The Madsen gun is used almost, if not absolutely, entirely for the purposes of defence. The two weapons are designed for different purposes, and do not enter into competition with each other.There are certain attributes which every mechanical gun ought to possess. They are rapidity of fire, reliability, freedom from jamming, accuracy of range, invisibility of discharge, lightness or small weight, the capability of being handled by a small crew, and simplicity of mechanism. From the information which reaches me it is possible to demonstrate that this particular Madsen gun is superior in all these respects, except one perhaps, and in a minor point, to all other mechanical guns with which it has been put in contrast. Take the question of weight. Weight at a time when man-power is short is of extraordinary importance. The Lewis gun in use at the present moment weighs 28lbs., and requires two men to transport it and two men to work it. The Hotchkiss gun again weighs 28lbs., and requires, I am told, two men to transport it and two men to work it. On the other hand, the Madsen gun, with its spare barrel—and I might remind the right hon. Gentleman that the spare barrel of the Lewis gun is not brought into action at first, but is carried on transport—the Madsen gun with its barrel weighs only 20 lbs., which is a clear gain on every gun, a point of considerable importance when large numbers are in use in the Army. When you come to the question of the magazine of the respective guns there is a clear gain of 80 lbs., showing a superiority in a matter of transport of the Madsen gun over the Lewis and Hotchkiss guns. That saving of 80 lbs. per gun is of enormous importance to an army where the transport is one of first importance. I come to the question of reliability. I am sorry the Under-Secretary is not here because these are questions on which I should like answers from the War Office, and the War Office for the technical purpose of answering is—I believe I am right in saying—not here. I hope, however, I may take it that the Financial Secretary will reply?
The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the War OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
Sir C. HOBHOUSE
I know the difficulty. The Debate has come on quite suddenly, but I trust, nevertheless, I may get an answer upon the points I put because they are of first importance. Take the matter of reliability. It is well known to everyone in this House that one of the greatest difficulties of the war in Flanders has been the extraordinary conditions—the mud and the water. Therefore, at this trial on Friday, there was a trial made as between five different guns, the Madsen gun, the Lewis, the two Hotchkiss guns (light and heavy), and the Berthier. There was a trial of reliability. All these guns were immersed in an equal mixture of mud and water—that is to say an attempt had been made to reproduce the trench conditions of warfare. In what degree of efficiency did these guns respectively come out of this test? I am told—and I believe my information to be absolutely correct—that at the end of the trial the condition of the guns was this: that the light Hotchkiss gun, namely, that which is now used by the Cavalry, would not fire at all; that the Lewis gun, which is of a quick-firing character, would only fire single shots—that is to say, would only fire when the trigger was pressed by the finger and would not lire continuously at all; and that the Madsen gun fired continuously—as it normally does—without any hitch of any sort or kind. If that statement, which was made to me, is an accurate account of what took place upon this, which is a vital point in the use of these guns, namely, successfully repulsing an attack of the enemy, the Madsen gun had an enormous advantage over its competitors, and the reasons for this advantage is that the mechanism of discharge in the Madsen gun is by recoil and not by the operation of gas. The consequence is that there is nothing to clog, there is no particular need of cleaning, and this is not an incidental but an inherent superiority of the one method of construction over the other. That is the explanation given to me upon this point.I was told yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for War (Mr. Macpherson), who has just come in, that one of the tests was what he called, I think, the 1,200-rounds test. This test, so I am informed, was made not in respect of the rapidity of the time occupied in the discharge of the shots. The various guns got off their 1,200 shots as leisurely as the persons working the guns chose to discharge them. Each gun, at the end of that test, was to emerge in the best and most efficient condition. That is what I am informed took place. It is represented to me that the Lewis gun fired its first 900 shots quite easily and then jammed, and fired its last 300 shots with considerable difficulty. They were fired in batches of fifty apiece, and it took from fifteen to eighteen minutes to discharge these shots in the Lewis gun, whereas the Madsen gun fired the whole of 1,200 shots without any hitch or difficulty in a period of from eight to ten minutes. If that is accurate it shows, so far as these particular trials were concerned, the superiority of the Madsen gun over the Lewis gun. Another important attribute of this mechanical contrivance is accuracy. Upon what conditions were these tests decided? I understand that in the case of the Madsen gun it was put into the hands of a musketry instructor who had certainly not more than once handled the gun, and that the ordinary Lewis gun was put into the hands of a crew, I do not know of how many, brought over from headquarters who had been accustomed to handle the gun, and had fired many hundreds of thousands of shots from it. If those were the conditions they were not fair as between the two guns, and I daresay my right hon. Friend opposite will either be able to confirm or deny the accuracy of the statement I have made, which is what actually was reported to me. I understand that under these conditions the accuracy of the Lewis gun was found to be much greater than the Madsen gun. If the conditions were uniform and the accuracy of one was greater than the other, that would make all the difference, but if the conditions were not uniform then that superiority in accuracy ought not to count for very much. Now I come to a very important point upon which, I believe, there is in the minds of those who actually handle constantly the Madsen gun no doubt whatever. I pointed out before that the Madsen gun is carried by one man, while the Lewis gun and the Hotchkiss gun require two men, and this one man also carries the spare barrel which is to be used when the Madsen gets too hot by continuous firing, when you have to change the barrel before you can bring the gun into action again. Now, because it is carried by one man, and because it is easily and conveniently carried by Cavalry and by Infantry, because it comes into action sooner than any other mechanical gun, and because to change the barrel of the Madsen gun takes only fifteen seconds, whereas to change the barrel of the Lewis gun takes twenty minutes, there is an enormous difference between the value of the two guns when repulsing attacking Infantry. I am told, but of course I cannot vouch for it because I have no personal experience, that when the German Infantry advance they come forward in successive waves, but they so time their action that the first two waves follow closely after each other, and the time occupied in repulsing those two waves occupies three or four minutes of intense rapid mechanical gun firing. The Lewis gun goes out of action because it gets so hot and it takes twenty minutes to cool, and a fresh barrel has to be got, and that takes something like fifteen to twenty minutes to change. If that statement is true, and that is what is represented to me, the use of a gun with a barrel which can be changed in fifteen seconds, and which can be brought into action again at the end of fifteen seconds, must be an immense advantage to the troops using it in preference to the one that takes so long to change and so long to cool. I am told that it takes not more than two days to learn the use of and to take to pieces the parts of the Madsen gun. Therefore, if you begin absolutely de novo with both guns simultaneously you can learn the use of the Madsen gun in a couple of days, whereas to learn the use and the piecing together and taking apart of a Lewis gun takes at least a fortnight. I do not know if these figures are inaccurate, but I daresay my right hon. Friend opposite will put me right if I am wrong. I come now to the mechanism. The simplicity of a gun of this sort must be of the first importance in considering its use in the field. I am told that the Madsen consists of forty-one component parts. The Lewis guns consist of 114 to 125 component parts, but when you come to the working of the parts I am told that the Madsen gun consists of sixteen, only nine of which need to be taken to pieces when dismantled, and only nine are required to be put together again to put the gun into working order, whereas the Lewis gun has eleven working parts. I am not a mechanic, and I have no practical knowledge of the working of either of these guns, and I cannot say what the balance of advantages is on figures like those I have given, but I cannot imagine that there is any disadvantage in them against the Madsen and in favour of the Lewis gun in a statement of that sort. I am told that at this trial, when certain points were allotted to these two guns, one against the other, fault was found with a number of component parts in the Madsen gun, but I may point out that while the Madsen gun was entirely stripped of all its parts and taken to pieces, the Lewis gun was only partially stripped. If that is so, I think there ought to be reconsideration of the question from that point of view alone. I come next to what are made distinct and admitted drawbacks of the Madsen gun. I may say that I have no interest whatever in this matter except to see that this gun has a fair trial. There are two admitted drawbacks to the gun, and one is the visibility of the drum, which projects 8 ins. or 9 ins. above the level of the gun, whereas all these other mechanical guns have nothing projecting above the surface. The other drawback is the flash. I understand that it would be most difficult to make any change in the visibility of the drum. I cannot imagine that the visibility of an object 9 ins. high, which has certain very valuable qualities, would necessarily so attract the eye at a distance of some hundreds of yards as to make that gun for that reason not a desirable one to use. When you come to the flash, I know that that has been held to be almost a fatal objection. But the flash of the Madsen gun is no greater than that of the Hotchkiss gun. Other things being equal, it is quite fair to say that the gun which has a great flash visibility is not so good as one with a low flash visibility. I understand you can, by a simple contrivance, reduce this great visibility of the flash to an almost negligible quantity; indeed, that was admitted by the spokesman of the Government when this matter was discussed in another place a month or two ago. My right hon. Friend opposite laid great stress, in his answer to me the other day, on the fact that the competitors had expressed themselves satisfied with the conditions laid down. I dare say they were satisfied with the way in which the conditions were carried out, but the right hon. Gentleman said they were satisfied with the conditions laid down. I am told that there was one condition laid down which was never carried out, and this condition, I am informed, was that there was to be, at the end of all the other trials, a trial of a continuous discharge of 5,000 rounds. That test was never carried out, and I do not know why. I think it ought to have been carried out if it was one of the conditions laid down. The suggestion made by the friends of the Madsen gun is that 1,200 rounds disposes of the ability of the Lewis gun to fire a greater number continuously and rapidly, and they put that forward as a reason why the authorities were not disposed to put the Lewis gun to the test, which they knew it would not stand. That may be an exaggerated statement, and there may be something of that sort underlying what was in the minds of the Artillery authorities. At any rate, that was the suggestion made to me. 8.0 P.M. I am also told that the corps commander who came to superintend these trials laid it down that no mechanical gun would be expected to fire more than fifty rounds per second. I can hardly believe that such a statement was made, but I am told that that is the fact. That may be prejudice, and, if so, that would dispose of it, but I hope that that is not the reason why the 5,000-rounds test was dispensed with. One of the reasons why I brought this matter again before the House was that every previous trial which had been made with this gun had resulted in a favourable report being given of it. It was tried first on His Majesty's ship "Excellent." It was then tried at Hythe at the beginning of this year by the Small Arms Committee, and again a favourable report was made. It was tried, I think, somewhere in this country in May, 1918, by a body of machine-gun experts, who reported favourably upon it. I understand that the Ministry of Munitions also reported favourably upon it. The chief opponent, if I may use that word—the chief critic; I will not put it stronger than that—is the Ordnance Department of the War Office. The Ordnance Department of the War Office during the course of this War have opposed the introduction of several weapons which have been of the highest importance. They opposed the introduction of the high explosive shell, and they opposed the introduction of the Stokes gun, both of which have been found absolutely essential for the successful prosecution of the War. Do not let that Department prevent the War Office taking advantage of another invention, which, if all the accounts which reach one are sound, may really have a determining effect in one or other of these battles which are still in front of us. It has also been suggested to me that one of the reasons why the War Office may be loth to embark upon the manufacture of this gun is the question of price, because the patentee is over-greedy, and, to use a colloquialism, "opens his mouth too wide." I do not desire that any person should be overpaid, but, after all, within limits, we ought not to stint expenditure in a matter of this kind. Therefore, I hope that one reason may not be the cause why this weapon has been rejected. It has also been said that to set up a factory for the manufacture of the gun would be difficult, and that the output at first would be small; but I understand that it would not be very difficult to use the machinery and factory now being employed in the manufacture of the Lewis gun, with certain adaptations, which would not take a very long time. I will not dwell upon the possibility of bringing machinery to this country, but that is a course which I fancy the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Kellaway), responsible for the Munitions Department, knows it is not impossible to pursue and it has been suggested. I do say, even if it is not possible to put up factories and machinery sufficient to manufacture the Madsen gun for the Infantry, that it would be possible to do so for the Cavalry, who, it has been represented to me, having tried the gun, ardently desire to use it, because it is convenient and they can come into action with it quicker than with the gun which they at present use, and because it would give the soldiers—I will not say that confidence is or ought to be lacking in their present weapon—something in which they had greater confidence. For these reasons, I desire to press upon my right hon. Friend a reconsideration of this matter, to which many of us attach very great importance.
General Sir IVOR PHILIPPS
The history of the Madsen gun is a very remarkable one. When the present Minister of Munitions was First Lord of the Admiralty he ordered a large number of these guns for the Admiralty, but they were unable to be delivered, because under Danish law it was impossible to export them from that country. When the present Prime Minister was Minister of Munitions, he placed a large order for these guns, and arrangements were made to manufacture them in this country, a well-known engineering firm being commissioned to carry out the work. The factory, I believe, was nearly completed—this was in 1915—when the more urgent demands for aircraft engines decided the Government, and I have not the slightest doubt very properly decided them, to transfer this factory into an aircraft factory, and nothing more seems to have been done about this gun. It was, dropped from that time. There was one rather unfortunate condition which resulted from the dropping of the gun. Those people who had taken a good deal of trouble to introduce it to the Government, and who to a considerable degree had helped in starting this factory, were never able to get any compensation for the work that they had done. The Government refused to accept any liability for the work, and said it was part of the business of the firm concerned. The firm denied any liability, because they said they had undertaken it on behalf of the Government. From that moment the Madsen gun was dropped. There were still many people, however, who believed that it was the finest machine- gun in the world, and recently it has come prominently before the public of this country.There is no doubt that the Government have had it before them too, because there are various letters in existence showing that negotiations from time to time have been going on between the owners of the rights of this gun and the Government Departments concerned. The last letter that I have seen on this subject was dated 8th April this year, when the Government were so far satisfied as to the merits of this weapon that they made a definite offer to the owners to purchase the rights. Therefore, a little over two months ago, the Government had decided to purchase this gun. I did not know that this offer had been made by the Government, and unfortunately I raised the question in this House and was told by the Minister of Munitions that the Government did not intend to do anything in the matter, although at that time the offer of the Government was actually still in existence. That offer was withdrawn two days after I raised the question in this House. A few days after I raised the question in this House and received the reply from the Minister of Munitions that nothing was to be done, the question was raised by a Noble Lord in another place. He was told that a further trial would be given, and I welcomed that reply of the Government because I thought that at last there would be a real trial and that we should know whether this gun really was the satisfactory weapon that we who had supported this latest introduction believed. I may say at once that if I and those hon. Members who have been working with me in this matter thought that this was not as good a gun as the present gun with which the troops are armed we should at once withdraw any pressure on the Government to introduce it. The trial took place, and I am satisfied, from all that I have heard, that it was in every respect a very unsatisfactory trial. There are many points on which faults may be found with it, but the chief fault is a matter of great principle. The Madsen gun was asked to show how it would compare with the Lewis gun. The Lewis gun was given the lead and the Madsen gun had to follow. If you really want to find out what the new gun can do, you ought to let the Madsen gun set the pace and let the Lewis gun follow it. That was not done. I feel very acutely that this matter has not been treated in a proper manner by the Government Departments concerned. I must say, however, that I and those who are working with me have been received in a most courteous manner by the Minister of Munitions, who entered into a long discussion on the weapon. Yesterday also we were privileged to have a long conversation on the matter with the Prime Minister, and the reply he gave to us, though not, of course, all that we could have wished, was something gained. We were told that if certain objections to the gun could be remedied, then there would be another trial. That is satisfactory as far as it goes, and therefore I, for one, do not wish to press my right hon. Friend to-day. We are satisfied with the way in which the Prime Minister has met us, and we hope to have those objections which were raised at the last trial remedied very shortly. Then we shall look forward with confidence to a further trial. We appreciate the way in which we have been met in the matter, and nothing further is to be said except to prepare for that further trial. I feel, after the question has been raised, that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Macpherson) will do everything possible to make that trial a really effective one. The matter has aroused a great deal of interest throughout the country. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, the whole House, and the country, are determined that nothing shall be put in the way of supplying our troops with the very finest machine gun that can be made. This War has shown itself throughout to be a machine-gun war. In the early days it was the German machine guns, carried in any kind of motor car, taxi-cabs taken from the streets of Brussels and motor cycles, which drove our troops through the plains of Flanders and France back to the Marne. Again to-day we hear that it is the skilful use of the machine guns by the Germans that has had such serious effect on our line in France. Anything that we can do in improving the present machine-guns and making them even still more effective than they are—though I do not say a word against the Lewis gun, because we all know its great capacities and the great benefit the Army has received from its introduction—if we can get a better gun I am sure the whole country will welcome this movement on our part. I have nothing more to say except to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the courtesy with which all members of the Government have received the hon. Members who are working with me in this matter.
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)
I would like, first of all, to apologise to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol (Sir C. Hobhouse) for not being in my place when he introduced the discussion. The course of public business altered during the evening, and I understood this particular point was not to be raised until after the discussion on recruiting. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Southampton (General Sir I. Philipps) have quite properly, I think, raised this very vexed question on this occasion, and I think the House must think, as I think, that there is nothing in their minds other than this, that they are supremely anxious in this great crisis in the nation's history that our men should have the satisfaction of knowing that they have, and of having, the very best available gun that this country can produce. I am able to state that meanwhile, in any case, our gallant troops at the front have had the advantage of the best available gun, the Lewis gun. The one great remarkable thing about that gun is this, that nobody who has criticised other guns has ever criticised that gun as a defective weapon, and there is this additional advantage—and this is a matter of great comfort to the people of this country—that everyone who has used it at the front still believes in it. But it does not follow that though this may be so we should remain content with any gun we have, if at any moment we are convinced that there is a better gun on the market. I can reassure my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol that the question of price has not affected us in the very slightest. The lives of our men are priceless, and I am quite convinced of this—that the spirit of this country would not tolerate anything that discarded the best weapon available merely because it was expensive. As a matter of fact, every patent has a certain condition attaching to it. The War Office have the power, without mentioning terms or price at all to the patentee, to use the invention of any patentee without first of all waiting for any terms. I would like also to reassure the House that the Master-General of Ordnance, General Sir William Furse, has not really been the severe critic of this weapon that the public has been led to believe he has been. I know as a fact that General Sir William Furse was prejudiced in favour of this particular gun, and it was only a question of the difficulty of securing labour, and another consideration of that sort, that persuaded him to go no further in his attempts to procure this gun for the nation. It was found impracticable to have an output in the near future of Madsen guns equal to the output at the present time of the Lewis gun. But that difficulty is got over by the broad-minded view of my hon. and gallant Friend. If I understand his contention aright, it is that he does not wish us for a single moment to hesitate in producing Lewis guns. Let us go on producing Lewis guns—
Sir I. PHILIPPS
—but at the same time we ought, so far as our labour allows us to do so, to supplement the output of the Lewis gun by the Madsen gun if it attains the perfection which we trust it will attain. That, to my mind, is a very sensible conclusion. There is no doubt about it that the Madsen gun at the present time is not up to the standard of perfection that we should like it to be. It is certainly not the best available gun at the present moment, and I say that for two distinct reasons. First of all, the object, the first object, of the best gun is to be accurate, and at the present moment the Madsen gun has not attained the standard of accuracy of the Lewis gun.
Sir I. PHILIPPS rose—
I know what the point is. The point which was put with regard to this particular test of accuracy by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol is this: that the men who fired the Lewis gun were the best men you could produce in France. It is true, we took from France a first class team, men who have fired that gun in season and out of season, in mud and on dry land, men who know the weapon through and through; and the extremely fine marksmanship of those men showed that they knew their weapon through and through. What happened with the Madsen? My right hon. Friend's contention is this: that the Madsen gun had not the same type of expert to fire it. My information may be wrong, but it is this: that the Danish officer who took charge of that gun has fired that gun in various parts of London, and it was left to him to choose the men he would like to fire that gun at the trial at Bisley. He got experts from the Guards' machine gun corps of his own choosing. I do not think my right hon. Friend would suggest that we could go any further. We allowed him to choose his own experts from the men who had fired that gun when it gave such excellent exhibitions throughout the City of London.
Sir C. HOBHOUSE
The information which has reached me was this. It is quite definite information; I could give the name and rank and so on of the man who fired the gun. The information was that that man had not fired that particular gun more than once previous to the trial. That is the definite information that reaches me.
I was not aware of that. Of course, it that is true, it does alter my contention a little, but I will make inquiries into that particular point, and I will let my right hon. Friend know, because I should not like to make a point on a matter of that sort unless I had been assured beforehand that what I said was strictly accurate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol made a further point of the fact that there was a condition that it was necessary to fire 5,000 rounds at the end. I believe there was such a condition in the fact that I saw the conditions of the trial, and one of the conditions was that if there were time at the end, or if it were possible at the end, they would fire at a distance of 400 yards some 5,000 rounds. The Committee was presided over by a very distinguished corps commander who has seen as much fighting as, I should think, any other corps commander in the field. He is appointed now Inspector-General of Training, so that from our point of view we could not possibly have got a better man for these trials. He was assisted by a very brilliant Staff officer who has seen the machine-gun in every kind of action, who has seen it in the battalion, in the brigade, in the division, and in the Army, and has seen it under every kind of condition. The third member of the Committee was a brilliant officer who had been before the War the chief inspector of machine-gun training in the Army. I think he was known to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Southampton. I am sorry it should be thought that the trials were unsatisfactory. I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend does not impute that these distinguished and gallant members of the Committee intended to make the trials unsatisfactory. I gathered from my right hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol that he has come to his view that the trials were unsatisfactory because the condition was not fulfilled that the Madsen gun should fire 5,000 rounds.
Sir C. HOBHOUSE
Not only that. I am not quite sure that my right hon. Friend was in the House when I alluded to what I called the mud-and-water test. It was reported to me that in that particular test the Madsen gun gave a better result, and that one particular test—the 5,000-round test—in which it expected to come out far better than any other, was not applied. That is the position that was presented to me.
Let me take the 5,000-rounds test first. The answer, and I understand it is the only answer, to that is that these guns were to be fired under service conditions, and those distinguished members of the Committee came to the conclusion that it was not humanly posible for any machine gun to have an opportunity of firing 5,000 rounds in a day in any part of the battlefield, but that it was quite a common thing for the Lewis gun to go forward with 1,200 rounds, which was the normal amount of ammunition expended so far as that particular gun was concerned on any one day. That is my information. As to the further point that my right hon. Friend made, namely, that the Lewis gun could not fire consecutively the same number of rounds as the Madsen gun because of the heat engendered in its barrel, I think that point has come to his mind because he thinks that the Lewis gun fires without any interruption 1,080 rounds. It does not. The idea that any machine gun fires consecutively at any given moment, without any interruption, that number of rounds is not correct. There is no such interruption in the attack by the Germans as my right hon. Friend suggests. They do not know whether our machine guns are going to desist for three, twelve, or twenty minutes, or at what range. As a matter of fact they do not know where the machine guns are situated. They do not know where the shots come from, because there are machine guns all along the line. My right hon. Friend must be misinformed about this point.
Sir C. HOBHOUSE
Is it not a fact that the barrel gets hot after firing 500 rounds? Does not that occur with nearly all these guns?
I believe it would get pretty hot if you fired those 500 rounds consecutively without interruption, but I am told that it is not done. It takes a good long while for the barrel to get heated if the shots are fired intermittently. Another point raised by my right hon. Friend before I came in was—if I am wrong he will correct me—that there was no comparison between the guns in the mud test. I am quite willing to admit that the best gun so far as the mud test is concerned was the Madsen gun. But there is a story going about that when the Lewis gun was about to be tried an attempt was made to thrust a piece of rag into the gun to keep out the mud. I need hardly tell my hon. and gallant Friend, who knows the conditions under which that gun may at any time have to be fired, that it is the custom for the skilled firer of the Lewis gun to have in his pocket the moment the gun is going through mud or water a piece of canvas, which he thrusts in to preserve in a dry state the part which contains the gas necessary to fire the gun.
Sir C. HOBHOUSE
I believe the gun becomes wet.
The experts with the gun came from France, and when the gun was about to be thrown into the mud they instinctively took this piece of canvas out of their pockets and began to put it in. The Inspector-General of Training instantly told them not to do it, and they did not. When the gun came out, it could not fire nearly as well as the Madsen gun. My authorities tell me that had the men been allowed to insert the piece of canvas the difference in excellence would not have been nearly so great. It is quite clear that no General Officer Commanding would allow his troops to go into action with the Madsen gun as it stands, because of the flash, even with the absorber on it. I saw it with and without the absorber, and I can assure the House and my right hon. Friend that you could see the flash hundreds of yards away. What would be the result if that gun were fired in the daylight, let alone at night-time? The machine gun and the gun team would have been wiped out in a quarter of an hour. One secret of the success of the machine gun is that it is quick, accurate, and able to be concealed. I am quite convinced that it would be sheer murder upon our part to ask our soldiers at the present moment to go into action with this gun as it is. But we are not deterred from going a step further because of this fault. As my hon. and gallant Friend said, the Prime Minister has given instructions that the barrel of the gun should be lengthened, because experts tell us that in proportion as the barrel is lengthened so the liability to flash decreases. If, however, the barrel is to be lengthened for the sake of the balance of the gun you have also to lengthen the support beneath it, and it may be a considerable time before this addition or attempt at perfection has been carried through. I can assure the House, on behalf of the Government, that we will see what the result of this addition to the gun will mean. I can go a step further. I will say that the moment this gun has had its barrel lengthened and its proper support placed there, with any new addition made to it that will make it more perfect, it will nave a trial under real service conditions. I myself believe that a trial on a range, such as we had the other day, is not a complete or adequate trial for a gun of this sort. The only people who can judge the value of a gun are the man who has to fire it and the man who has to face it. I hope that the question of this gun will not be raised in discussion for some time, at any rate until such time as we have been able to fulfil our part of the contract. I have no reason at all—far from it—to complain of the speeches which have been delivered to-night. I have endeavoured as well as I could, not being an expert, to meet the points that have been raised. May I also express the hope that we may live to see the day when, if this is the best gun in the market, it shall be a British gun, used for British troops and by, British troops.
Military Service (Medical Grading)
Sir H. NIELD
I wish to raise the question of the inadequacy of the system of medical grading. I make these observations with a strong sense of duty, in order to prevent the multiplication, especially among the older men, of those tragedies with which those of us who are identified with tribunals are now becoming daily familiar. At the time of the National Service Act we had a great number of very difficult cases to deal with where it was absolutely necessary that the proper medical grading of the men should be ascertained without any doubt. It was difficult enough then for tribunals to determine what should be done with the men under these conditions when they could absolutely rely upon the grading which the card disclosed. How much more so is it when we are dealing with men who, by reason of the extension of the age to fifty, are in a totally different class with regard to their commercial activity, with both domestic and business ramifications which make it absolutely necessary for us to be assured as to the genuineness and the completeness of the grading? I say with a full sense of my responsibility that unless something is done to put an end to the dissatisfaction which is daily growing a tide of discontent is rising throughout the country, and particularly in the southern part of the country, with which it will be very difficult to deal. I have watched the men who come before us, and I have been able, as I am quite sure other chairmen of tribunals have, who are giving up time which is generally valuable, and doing it continuously, to obtain after two years and three months some amount of experience and judgment, and one's own judgment in looking at some of these physical wrecks who come before you with grading cards marked 1 is that there cannot be a proper medical record of their fitness. In the hook issued in August, 1916, by the War Office, which is called Registration and Recruiting, the categories of medical fitness are set out, and on page 59 this is said:
What is the meaning of active service conditions if it does not mean that they are physically fit for any military duty at the front and in the firing line which a man could possibly be called upon to undergo in this War?"Category A men should be able to march, to see to shoot, and hear well and to stand active service conditions."
It has been said again and again, in answer to questions within the last fourteen days, that there has been no alteration in the system of grading. I turn, therefore, to the memorandum which is lettered MNSR, 24, issued by the Ministry of National Service. I do not see a date to it, but it was about the time when the alteration was made, therefore, we may presume, in November last year. I turn to what is defined there to constitute the new grading. I find on page 1 of that circular letter:"Category B, free from serious organic disease, able to stand service conditions on the lines of communication in France or in garrisons in the tropics and in addition, if classified under B1. able to march at least five miles, to see to shoot with glasses, and to hear well. If B2, able to walk to and from work, a distance not exceeding five miles, and see and hear sufficiently well for ordinary purposes. B3, only suitable for sedentary work. Category C, free from serious organic disease, able to stand service conditions in garrisons at home, and, in addition, if classified under C1, able to march at least five miles, to shoot with glasses, and to hear well. Category C2, able to walk to and from work a distance not exceeding five miles and hear sufficiently well for ordinary purposes. C3 only suitable for sedentary work."
I turn to a memorandum which was issued by the Ministry of National Service, No. 13 of 1917, which is signed E. A. Sandford Fawcett, secretary of the Ministry, a definite statement of the medical grades of the National Service medical boards—"Grade 1 will comprise those who attain a normal standard of health and are capable of enduring physical exercise suitable to their age. Men must not suffer from organic disease with certain exceptions specified hereafter. Minor defects, such as teeth and eyesight, which can be removed or compensated for by artificial means, will not be regarded as a disqualification. Men who fulfil the conditions of Grade 1 will also be fit for general service in the Army."
I have shown that Category A men are able to perform any service in the Army—"The MINISTER of National Service hereby directs as follows. These grades are four in number. Grade 1 is generally equivalent to category A."
The old classification also comprises lines of communication and service in the Tropics—"General service is the old classification. It includes those who attain a normal standard of health and strength and are capable of enduring an amount of physical exertion suitable to their age. They must be free from any serious organic disease or infirmity. Grade 2 is generally equivalent to Category B1 and C1, namely, garrison service abroad and garrison service at home in the old classification."
They give certain positions in which they may be occupied either in auxiliary service or labour or sedentary occupations, and there are in the memorandum M.N.S.R. 24 specific directions that the medical board in grading men shall, under the head of Grade 3, subdivide A, B, and C, so as to indicate whether a man should be put to auxiliary service or labour or sedentary occupations. It is the suppression of that fact by order, so I am informed, by the military representatives at tribunals that very considerably hampers the tribunals in determining whether Grade 3 men whose obligations in civil life are not very onerous, ought to be put in the Army as Grade 3 men. If we knew under which of the three sub-heads he would be found and we could safely assume that he would be kept there many Grade 3 men whose other circumstances would not keep them necessarily in civil life would be sent into the Army. It is the absence of that that very considerably makes difficulties in the tribunals. That is the position in which we stand to-day. It is said that there has been no alteration in the grading. Grade 1 does mean and is in every respect equivalent to Class A. The Minister of National Service shakes his head. I cannot for the life of me understand after having read these two documents how it can possibly be contended that Grade 1 of to-day is not Class A. Merely saying it is not does not make it so. That is the reasonable interpretation of the language as printed in the books. It is said that our criticisms are unjustified. It is said that general figures have been given. I would like before passing from consideration of that to call attention to the Debates which took place in this House when the new Bill was introduced. It will be remembered that the Prime Minister made a statement distinctly saying that only 7 per cent. of these older men would find their way into the firing line. In other words, only 7 per cent. of them would be Class A men. There is no guarantee—and I hope the House will realise this—that once a man-is in the Army he will not be put to all the complete duties which fall upon the Service. There is no matter upon which there is a greater burden of complaint against the Army authorities to-day than this, that no matter what may be the category of the man when he is sent into the Army he can never be sure to retain that category for two days together. I know of my own knowledge that that is so. I have received letters so numerous that I think they would startle the National Service Ministry, though it has nothing to do with them, because the man leaves them the moment he is put into the Army. I have evidence again and again of men who have been sent into the Army as C3 men, who have been posted to a battalion, and have been seen by the medical officer, who have had their categories altered. I know in many cases, from correspondence that has been sent to me for months past, that men who have been examined and who have broken down in service on the other side as well as here, have been before the medical travelling boards who should have been removed from Categories 2 and 3 in which the medical officers have placed them and have been put in Categoy A. That has happened again and again. I have known of cases, and I could turn up the whole correspondence which shows that there has actually been a conflict between the medical officer of the battalion and the travelling board, and the man has been treated as a kind of shuttlecock between them as to whether he should be Grade I, 2, or 3. If this uncertainty prevails when a man gets into the Army, then for Heaven's sake let us make sure what his category is before he gets into the Army! Seven per cent. was given to us as being the proper proportion of men between forty-two and fifty-one who would be going into the Army. The Minister of National Service, in the Debate on the 11th April, said:"It includes those who, while not attaining the standard of Grade 1, are nevertheless able to stand a fair amount of physical strain and are likely to improve with training. Men in this grade should be able to march six miles with ease. They must have fair sight and hearing and must be of average muscular development Grade 3 is generally equivalent to the old categories B2 and C2 and B3 and C3. It includes those men who from any cause are not likely to be suitable to undergo military training for combatant service. As a general indication of the service for which they are required in the Army the following notes are published."
Then he said:"I cannot say the exact number of medical examinations that will be carried out on any one day, but we are arranging for a total number of medical examinations somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25,000 to be carried out daily. That is about the limit we can go to with the medical boards."
The burden of the complaint which we are hearing to-day is in respect of a district in London, where most certainly the examination has been speeded up under pressure, and that pressure is what I think this House will resent after the specific assurances that were given from time to time during the earlier Debate. During that Debate there was another speech to which I must call attention by the right hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones). He said:"I will undertake that there shall be no delay in getting the medical examinations of these men pushed on, and we will get it going as rapidly as we can to got a medical examination satisfactory to ourselves."
Those were pregnant words, which ought to have been sufficient to ensure that the medical examination, especially after the Select Committee had made its Report and caused the whole system to be changed, and taken out of the hands of the War Office and put into the hands of the Minister of National Service, would be more satisfactory. We had every right to expect that, under these circumstances, and after this warning, they would have been most careful in what was done. I will not go further into details of the Debate at that time. The Minister of National Service stated the other day that the complaints only amounted to something less than 1 per cent., but it is no use dealing with percentages. We have no date with which to test them. We have not the period which they cover. One of my hon. Friends asked for data, but it was admitted that there was none. Therefore, there is no means of checking the percentage. What I do say is that in the course of something like three weeks—or, to be on the safe side, I will say four—no less than 400 applications have come up in the county of Middlesex alone to go from the medical boards to the medical assessors. I have a table showing the numbers received day by day for a certain period, which may possibly carry conviction if my general statement does not. On 30th May there were 12; on the 31st, 3; on 1st June, 11; Monday, the 3rd, 25; on the 4th, 21; on the 5th, 24; on the 6th, 44; on the 7th, 30; on the 8th, 29; on the 10th, 35, the day on which the question was raised in this House; on Wednesday, 11th, 28; on Thursday, 16; and on Friday, 17. Last Saturday it was 18, and Monday of this week, 12; and I am told that the tendency is an upward one now. I will show presently whether or not these applications are justified by the facts. I will deal with the cases which have come before the medical assessors, and which have been sent by the Appeal Tribunal. Since November, 1917, no less than 30.4 per cent. of those applications in Middlesex have resulted in reduction of the grading. That is a very serious state of things, having regard to the assurances that were given. I may refer briefly to some of the cases that have been so reduced. I am perfectly willing that the particulars should be put at the disposal of the Minister of National Service. They are put forward for the purpose of showing the cause of the rising indignation of the public outside, so that the matter may be put promptly in hand. I will give some of the cases, so that it may be seen how7 things have worked. A man of thirty-nine was examined and put in Grade 2, and was reduced to Grade 3. One of twenty-seven was reduced from Grade 1 to 2. A man of twenty-five examined at Watford was passed Grade 1, and on being sent to the medical assessors was rejected altogether. The next reductions are from 2 to 3, 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 2 to 3, 2 to 3, 2 to 3. Here is one who was put into Grade 2 with latent tuberculosis. Grade 2 was to include lines of communication, service in the tropics, and garrison duty abroad or at home. He was rejected entirely by the medical assessors. Another with a chronic deafness was put into Grade 3 and then totally rejected. These are illustrations of what is occurring. 9.0 P.M. I pass now to give a few cases of men who have been had up again, who have been examined by the medical board, and whose cases are now waiting the decision of the assessors. There is a great number of these men. I take typical cases again. A man aged twenty-nine was put into Grade 1 by the City of London No. 2 Medical Board. He had been rejected. Then he was put in B1 by the Millhill people. Then he was rejected again by the medical board at Hampstead. Finally he was put into Grade 1 by the City of London Board. Here is another case. The man was put into Grade 2 by the City of London Medical Board. He served two years in the Army, until the 29th May, 1916, when he was discharged suffering from neurasthenia, insomnia, and gastritis. He had had trench fever and rheumatism, and yet he was regarded as being good enough for garrison duty and for lines of communication. Then there is a Grade 2 man with chronic pulmonary tuberculosis. What has become of all the directions that no man who a any time was suffering from tuberculosis should be allowed to go into the Army? I know that that was subsequently modified into the direction that the answers were to be scrutinised more carefully, and inquiries were to be made before rejection. How comes it that over and over again we find cases of tuberculosis passed by the medical board? It is a common thing for me to have to direct that the applicant for exemption should go in the first instance to the county tuberculosis officer, in order to save time, because I am only anxious to further the duties of my right hon. Friend, and think it best to have this question first definitely disposed of. Then there is the case of a man of thirty who was put into Grade 1 by a West London board. He was twice discharged from the Army for valvular disease of the heart, and he was afterwards rejected. He was X-rayed, and this showed that he had an enlarged heart, which was greatly displaced downwards, and was suffering from valvular disease of the heart, and had general symptoms of tuberculosis, which conceivably were still quiescent but might at any time become active. Yet this man was passed into Grade 1 for full medical service. It is almost incredible. Another man of forty-four put into Grade 1 was suffering from cardiac degeneration and valvular disease, which was certified by an eminent physician of King's College Hospital. Then there is a case of a man with chronic gastritis, weak heart, lumbago, and sciatica. For some reason very little attention is paid to chronic gastritis and duodenal ulcer. Then there are two cases which I put in this House within the last few days. One is that of an excessively bad tumour extending from the neck to the shoulder, and when attention was called to it the man was told, "Oh, that does not matter. We will soon cut that out of you when we get you into the Army." That, surely, is not the way to recruit! That is not the sort of thing to bring before tribunals who are given the statutory duty of excusing a man on the ground of ill-health. Those are some of the cases which occur. I have also some special cases in which I have copies of the certificates. Here is a man put in Grade 2. He was a jobbing gardener, aged forty-four, and was examined by the medical board in Conduit Street. Seven years of all the directions that no man who at any time was suffering from tuberculosis since then, while cutting with a chaff machine. Five years ago he broke two of his ribs. In 1917 he had an epileptic fit and fell down in the garden, and since then he cannot move his wrist. Later on he had a second epileptic fit. That is certified by two of the doctors. Yet that man is put into the category for lines of communication and garrison duty abroad. Both his limbs are stiff and can only be moved with great difficulty. Then there is a Grade 2 man who is suffering from epileptic fits which are most severe and are recurrent every three weeks. The medical certificates go to prove that. Then there is the question as to the meaning of the dissatisfaction which has arisen with regard to the categories. There was issued by the Director-General for the London region a circular letter, I think on the 3rd May. The writer states the conditions under which examinations were to be conducted by the medical board, consisting of four medical men and the president, and he describes the method of examination to be adopted. The number of the board was cut down to two members and the president, and the recruits were to be examined by one examiner, who was to refer all questions of doubt to his colleagues in order to avoid complaint that recruits were only examined by one doctor. The boards were to have five clerks each, and extra equipment that might be necessary was to be arranged. Anybody would think that these arrangements expressed on paper would at any rate be carried out, but I have in my hand a sheaf of letters which show that they have not been carried out. I have a letter from one of the examiners who was a member of two different boards and who was so disgusted at what was being done that he resigned and declined to take any further action. He states that when he was member of a board of medical examiners consisting of four and the president, different diseases were assigned to the various examiners, and after the recruit had passed from one to the other, cases of doubt were brought before the president, between whom and the examiners concerned there was a consultation. In this way a procession of recruits passed the examiners, each recruit taking one examiner about four or five minutes, and each was actually under investigation from fifteen to twenty minutes, which was ample time to find out his fitness for service in the Army. It was possible under this method, he says, to examine twelve to fifteen recruits an hour, and in his opinion that system was efficient and reduced the possibility of mistake; it worked as smoothly and rapidly as was compatible with a fairly exhaustive examination. About the middle of May that system was replaced by the present system of examination, when the board was reduced to the president and two examiners. The examinations were expedited and from thirty to forty recruits were examined in two and a half hours, each examination of a recruit taking from four to five minutes. On this change being made the writer declined to go on, and has not since been a member of any board. He was a man fully qualified and had large experience in these matters, and it was only from a strong sense of duty that he wrote me as to this system, to which he declined to be a party. I have a letter of the 12th June relating to a man who was examined on the 27th May, who had previously been graded, and he was asked to produce his grade card, which mentioned the complaints from which he suffered. He was graded though he had certificates from other doctors showing that his pulse was 120, that he suffered from enlarged heart, hernia, and rheumatoid arthritis in the knees. The man was in weak health and was unable to undergo exertion, yet he was put in Grade 2. Another man writes me and states that when he was examined he entered the building at two o'clock and was out again at 2.25. He had previously been examined three times by four doctors and rejected, suffering from disease of the heart. Ha was examined last Saturday and he was put into Grade 1. The next letter comes from a professional gentleman living in my own Constituency, but writing from his office. He says:"The right hon. Gentleman spoke of 35,000 eases a day. Therefore, however careful medical boards are, the weaknesses that find us out in our years after forty-five are not observable at once by a board which is a stranger to the man who comes before it for medical examination. They want to get the work done. They are being urged by the military authorities. I do not know what experience the right hon. Gentleman has had as yet of the hustling processes of the military authorities, who are anxious for men. The result will be that many men will be passed into the Army who ought not to be passed in. They will be in too high a grade and that will apply more and more as the age gets higher, for every year you go up the greater the danger is that more unfit men will be passed into the Army, and the greater will be the number of your breakdowns, and, therefore, the greater the burden which will have to be borne on your pension lists."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th April, 1918, Vol. 104, col. 1760.]
In a second letter to me he says:"I am forty-four. I was examined on Wednesday last, notwithstanding the fact that I have an affection of the heart which causes extreme faintness when I exert myself above normal; I can hardly see at all with my left eye. I have been graded 1. On my papers the affection of my heart was mentioned and also that I had a tendency to hernia…. I am willing to do my bit, but I do not think it is in the interests of the country that men who are likely to collapse under strain should be graded in the first-class—that is, men who under the previous grading would have been B2 or C3."
Another man writes to me from Soho:"At Conduit Street I was examined by one doctor and partly by another, who devoted attention to my heart only."
I may say that men who have been rejected or graded low and allowed to remain in civil employment and who have been brought up afresh and put in Grade 1 are now unable to obtain the position in the Army which they would have obtained if they had been passed Grade 1 before. They are now sent into the ranks as ordinary members of the military system. And so these letters continue. It is my duty to make it perfectly clear that these examinations are not now what they ought to be, and that it is mainly due to this attempt on the part of the authorities to speed up. I have not the least doubt that the Ministry of National Service has a tremendous task to deal with the number of recruits wanted by the Army, but at the same time I am sure that nobody could justify that the work should be done badly because of that. I saw it stated in the "Morning Post" of this week that a letter had been sent by the right hon. Gentleman to the Wallasey Tribunal, saying that the demand for men of the higher grades was so insistent that they must send every man they possibly could. That operates in the minds of some tribunals as being tantamount to an instruction, but other tribunals resent dictation of that sort and intend to go on the same as hitherto, ensuring, at any rate, that these men should have the same attention in the matter of their grading as had many of their sons, because that is what it comes to. Many of these men who are now being graded are the fathers of younger ones who have been taken under the old system. I hope the Minister will understand that I am making these criticisms upon facts which I can supply him with if necessary, and that they all come from one county. The figures reveal the extraordinary state of things that 34 per cent. show alterations in gradings, and that there are enormous numbers waiting and enormous numbers still to come in. This must show that there is something wrong, and I venture to think that no precaution is too great to take in order to restore the confidence of the public in the examination of these men, because everything depends upon these examinations. Only this very day have I written to the War Office about a man in the Army who has spent three years in hospital, and who again and again has implored the military authorities to send him back to civil life. I, therefore, hope the House will take note that matters are not as they should be."I was called up for another examination at Camberwell on 29th May and after a brief examination by only one doctor I was put in Grade 1 (he was previously Grade 3). I have sent two letters to the Minister of National Service, asking if I will be accorded the privilege which I would have had if I had been in Grade 1 or Grade 2 on the occasion of my first medical examination, but I have failed to get any reply."
Sir DONALD MACLEAN
I think the whole House will agree that it is very unfortunate that these repeated discussions should have to take place on the question of medical grading, especially after the Committee which sat some time late in the autumn. That Committee presented a most valuable Report, which was almost immediately acted upon by the War Office, and a new system of medical examination and appeal was set up which, on the whole, I most gladly acknowledge, effected a very great improvement in the medical examinations. I do not think I am at all exaggerating when I say that at the time of the introduction of the last Military Service Bill criticism of the medical examinations and complaints from the general public had sunk to a very low ebb. In the tribunal over which I have the honour to preside so much confidence had we in the medical board which was then sitting at Whitehall that often, instead of sending men to the special medical board, we sent them there for examination. In the course of twenty-four hours, often by the afternoon, they came back, and we were able to deal with them at once. That was the result of the new arrangements which were made, and undoubtedly they were acting on an established standard of medical fitness—A, B, or C, which subsequently became Grades 1, 2, and 3 which was roughly absolute; at any rate, it was quite stabular. I think it is not unimportant to go back to the condition of things which obtained when the last Military Service Act was before the House. I do not like to do it, but I feel that I must make some reference to a statement which I then made and questions I put to the Minister of National Service. We were discussing the question whether it was worth while to extend the age to fifty-one or fifty-six, and this was what I then said:
Then I paused, and as there was no response I went on:"That leads me to ask a question of my right hon. Friend who is responsible for the National Service Department, and it is this: 'Is it or is it not intended to lower the medical standard?'"
I went on to say that that being granted, what did my experience justify me in suggesting that they could get out of the new class? They said they expected to get about 7 per cent., and I suggested, from my experience of the then existing medical standard, with which we were so satisfied by our continuous experience of some months, that they would not get more than 3 or 4 per cent., taking in, of course, the necessary exemptions for serious hardship and the claim of national necessity. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Geddes) said he would get 7 per cent. But obviously the whole of our argument was based on the stabilisation of the then medical standard. Now it has been altered, and as a result you can get any proportion you like—7 per cent., 70 per cent., or 100 per cent., if you are going to juggle with your medical standards in this way; in fact, you will have your millions rolling in as a result. But I say here and now that if this House had had the slightest idea that the then accepted medical standard was going to be altered, it would never have passed that Act. It was on the assumption, of course, that the older men were going to be at least as fairly treated as the men of younger age that Parliament granted power to take men up to fifty-one. I think I may say I am speaking for the whole of the Members of this House when I assert it was on the understanding that there was to be no juggling with the medical standard, and that the old men were to be treated at least as fairly as the younger ones. Having cleared the ground to that extent, I want now to say a word or two about a reply given in the House of Commons a couple of days ago. Again, I must trouble the House with what was said on that occasion, because it is important, and goes to the whole root of the matter. In reply to a question by the hon. Member for the Edgbaston Division (Sir Francis Lowe), with regard to the standard for Grade 1, the Minister of National Service said:"I assume that it is not so intended. After what happened with regard to the medical seandais, which revealed a condition of gross incompetence on the part of those responsible for them, I do not suppose that the Government would dream in the interests of the nation of reducing the medical standard."
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that there had been no alteration in the policy of the Government Department in this matter. This was challenged by a further question, and then the right hon. Gentleman said, with regard to a statement I made as Chairman of the House of Commons Tribunal, that I did not know what the meaning of Grade 1 was when I made that statement. He added:"I am glad to have this opportunity of stating that there has been no change in the standards of medical fitness required for classification in Grades 1 and 2. When introduced in October last the term 'Grade 1' was defined as meaning men 'who attain the normal standard of health and strength and are capable of enduring physical exertion suitable to their age.' This definition was at that time placed in the Library of the House. It has never been varied. Current statistics covering large numbers of examinations show that there is no increase in the proportion of men placed in Grades 1 and 2. I would add that there is no difference in principle in the grading of men above and below forty-three years of age."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th June, 1918, col. 145.]
It does not matter whether I know anything about grading or not. The real point is, Has there or has there not been any change in the standardisation of the medical tests? In passing, it might be useful to say that I have some knowledge on this matter obtained as a result of two-and a-half years of hard work. The right hon. Gentleman referred to what was placed in the Library. Let me read to the House what was placed there:"In view of the fact that Grade 1 is defined as meaning 'a man who attains the normal standard of health and strength and is capable of enduring physical exertion suitable to his age' that statement of the Chairman of the House of Commons Appeal Tribunal can have no meaning."
Those words are from their own circular. The Minister of National Service when he gave his answer in the House omitted to quote this, the governing sentence—"Grade 1 is generally equivalent to category A, general service, of the old classification."
That is just what it really amounts to. What it means is, You are going to have a classification of men in the age in which they are—thirty to forty, forty to fifty, or fifty to sixty. You are not testing them as to their physical fitness for the work of the Army. You are applying a physical test to ascertain whether they are in Grade 1 of, their particular range of ages. I am quite certain that is not what the Army wants. The whole thing is easily reduced to an absurdity. You will find the genial octogenarian coming up. You will have men of sixty-five, of seventy-five, and of over eighty, all graded according to their standing in those particular ranges. They will be wonderful old men for their age. That, I submit, is a new test for Grade 1. The proper test is the old A classification, which worked so admirably up to the passing of the last Act. It worked so admirably that we sent down without the slightest fear any number of cases to the ordinary medical board, and what really happened was this. In a period of about three months we sent down for re-examination from our Appeal Tribunal from 1,000 to 1,500 cases, and in no fewer than 70 per cent. of those cases the standard was either lowered, or the man was rejected altogather. I think I may say in 13 per cent. of the 70 per cent. the men were totally rejected. Let the House make no mistake. That was the standard for Class A, Grade 1, up to January last. It was the standard under which the whole of the tribunals of the country were working. Something must have happened since. We now know what it was. Grade 1 is not to be Grade 1, according to physical fitness, but it is to be Grade 1 of the age. I say that is trifling with the House of Commons. Is it any amusement to my hon. and learned Friend opposite (Sir H. Nield), to my hon. Friends here, or myself or others to be engaged in this constant strife on this question? Why, we want to work with the medical boards, not against them. But here this whole question is up again, and in a most acute form. Let me carry the thing a little further. I say Grade 1 test was "fit for the firing line." It would be impossible for tribunals to work fairly, and with the rough justice which alone we can use unless you have what you may substantially term the rough, absolute, physical medical test. Of course, the other standards are varying in other things. I wish to show how this will operate between the two different classes of men—the young men up to forty-one, and the older men afterwards. Serious hardship is constantly arising against the appellant, and so is the measure of proof which is put upon him to prove the national interest which will justify him in remaining out of the Army. What was serious hardship and national interest sufficient to keep him out of the Army a year ago is no argument to-day. What was sufficient six months ago is not sufficient to-day. It is going up always against the appellant. What has happened has been this: We have been applying these standards of serious hardship and the weight of evidence of national interest to men up to forty-one, and in Grade 3, and we have been handing out to them almost automatically, when they have been usefully engaged, no matter what their age, for the last three or four months, exemptions for six months, with liberty to come again. See what is going to happen with regard to men of the older age. A Grade 1 man, as he is at present being passed, I say, is purely a Grade 2 man of the old and proper standard, and a Grade 2 man of the new standard approaches nearly every time to a Grade 3 of the old one. If we are going to be forced to deal with a man of Grade 2 of forty-four, we shall be passing him into the Army because his standards of domestic hardship and national interest have been rising steadily against him. A man of thirty-four, Grade 3, would get his six months; a man of forty-four, nominally Grade 2, is sent into the Army. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!" That is what is happening all over the country to-day. We happen to know what we are talking about. We are in it. A most unfair differentiation is being made, and cannot help being made, by lots of tribunals. Perhaps they do not care to take the strong line which some of us feel bound to do in the national interest and in the interest of fairplay. That is what has happened. I say the only safe way to give us a chance to discharge our very difficult duties is to maintain the old standard. That is what the Army wants, anyhow. There can be no doubt about that—none whatever. To deal fairly between the older men and the young men—if we are going to be forced to deal with those men on these lines of Grade 1 and Grade 2, when we know they are really not Grade 1 and Grade 2—you must re-examine all the men of the other class, so that then we should be able to deal with them on a fair basis, and send them into the Army as well as men of forty-four, forty-six, and forty-eight. That is the fair thing to do. I do not suppose that it is at all likely to happen. I want to draw attention for a moment to what happened to-day in the Tribunal sitting in the Committee-room upstairs. I do not hesitate to say it was a shocking and an appalling experience. My hon. Friend (Sir Charles Nicholson) came at my quite casual invitation yesterday. I said, "Well, come up and see for yourself," and he endorses what I say. A shocking and an appalling experience took place there to-day. We dealt with thirty-two appeals from men to go to the medical service. We granted twenty-four of them; we refused application in the case of five; and three were not entitled. What has happened? One hates to over-elaborate these examples, but it is the only way to show what is going on. I will be as brief as I can. A man for forty-four is passed in Grade 1. And this was the undoubted medical testimony from men not only of standing in general practice, but men who are well-known in Harley Street and in Cavendish Square. This man had double stricture of the uretha, was venereal, and he had to get the passage opened at regular intervals. This man also had acute sciatica. A man of forty-two had epilepsy, hernia, and middle-ear suppuration. Anyone with medical knowledge here knows what a terribly serious matter that is. He was passed in Grade 2. He had two seizures of epilepsy during eighteen months, the last seizure being about a month ago! And here was the evidence of a doctor testifying to this. A doctor at Charing Cross Hospital sent a certificate saying that the man had been admitted to the hospital and detained there four hours after the seizure in the street. Then there was the case of another man, aged thirty-seven, who had valvular disease of the heart, formerly C3, now passed into Grade 2! I will take just one other case in eon-elusion. This man was forty-four. He had a very bad history of consumption. His father and two brothers died of it, and a very long and most careful examination by one of the senior physicians at the hospital says, "This man has active pulmonary tuberculosis." He was passed in Grade 2! That was the appalling spirit in which we passed men, and it was duplicated, I believe, all over the country. Some of these were men who were able to obtain either expert or professional assistance. Not only could they give the evidence of their own regular medical attendant, but a large portion of them went to specialists whose names are known all over the country. These specialists, naturally, do not work for nothing. I do not know to what expense these men I have mentioned must have been put. But there are thousands and tens of thousands of working men all over the country who had to fill up the form within five days—and it wants a bit of filling up—and who gave up the struggle. That, Sir, is the reason of the low percentage of appeals. Only men who have strength and wealth and opportunity to take these steps can protect themselves. The others have just given up the struggle all over the country—thousands of them, and have been passed into the Army. What can you do with Grade 1 or 2? The call upon the country-is so great that the men of forty-four, Grade 1, have to prove a very strong case to keep out of the Army. These are the sort of things which some of us, very regretfully, have felt it necessary again to bring before Parliament. There are one or two matters about which I feel very strongly in regard to what has happened since the passing of this Act. I will not say more about the matter than this: There have been two attempts made to reduce the rights of appellants. We only found them out after the Bill was on the Statute Book, after we knew what the Regulations were; and it required a very heated Debate in this House to get back to appellants the right of professional representation and an unclogged and unfettered right of appeal. Now we have the latest attempt, which is this alteration in the medical grading. I cannot see any answer to it. It is bad for the Army; it is bad for the State; it is unjust to the individual. My hon. Friend who sat with me to-day (Sir Charles Nicholson) has let me have a glance at some of the things with which he has had to deal with on the London War Pensions Committee. I hold here the ghastly list of applications with which he has had to deal. The question was as to whether the men who made application for these pensions had their disease either caused or aggravated in the Army. Here are the figures. Out of 132 applications, in no fewer than 87 the reason for their discharge—sickness or physical disability—was not caused by or aggravated by the Army at all. They have no sort of appeal to the Government for any kind of monetary assistance, and they have no right to any pension. They ought never to have been in the Army. The Army has discharged them, and discharged them without any sort of claim, because their disease was not caused or aggravated by military service. Let me mention a few of the complaints from which they were suffering: Chronic bronchitis, deformed ankle, deformed foot, hernia, phthisis, tuberculosis, chronic suppuration of the ear, and so on through all the ghastliness of it! And all this is very largely preventable! That is the trouble. I warn my right hon. Friend that if he persists in grading men according to the new standard—the standard of their age and not of their physical fitness in comparison with other men in the Army and with what the Army really wants—he is setting up a feeling of growing unrest in this country which is impairing the moral of tens of thousands of men who are the backbone of those who are fighting for freedom. Someone, it is said, must make the sacrifice. It is so easy to shed some body else's last drop of blood, or to spend somebody else's last shilling! How easy it is for us to talk about it here! What we want is not a card index system. What we want is more humanity in the machine. This must be attained. I say, in the interests of the country, in the interests of the State, and in the interests of the individual—which I put last of all—this medical grading must be done in accordance with the rules of ordinary common sense and simple fairness."Grade 1 is generally equivalent to category A, general service, of the old classification."
The MINISTER of NATIONAL SERVICE (Sir Auckland Geddes)
There are several points raised in the speeches which have been delivered which, really, are quite separate from one another. There is first of all the general principle which underlies the grading. That is a very difficult and intricate thing to discuss at such a time as this, because it is inevitably closely bound up with many technical and medical considerations. It is within the recollection of the House that the old system of categorisation was very unsatisfactory. I would like to explain to the House what, at all events, would have been one of the reasons for the great doubt which undoubtedly occurred in that old system. It was this: there was linked with the estimation of every man's physical fitness a strategic conception as to how he ought to be employed. That would have been all right with Royal Army Medical Corps officers, with real knowledge of the various classes of work required on service—I mean if the Regular Army were doing the grading. That categorisation might have been all right under those circumstances. It certainly was not all right when it became necessary to employ large numbers of medical men who knew nothing of the Army or of the type of work that various Army Departments were called upon to perform.
Sir R. ADKINS
Are not the chairmen of these medical boards still Royal Army Medical Corps men?
Sir A. GEDDES
The vast majority, I think, are not. Some are naval; most, I think, are civilians. They are all in plain clothes. I doubt if there are any Royal Army Medical Corps men regularly serving and acting as chairmen of the boards anywhere under the Ministry of National Service; my impression is that there are not. Anyhow, the old system of categorisation became impossible to work with civilian doctors. It will be remembered that A meant a man to do certain things, B meant a man to do something else, and C something else; and therefore the whole of that conception was swept away in order that we might present to the civilian medical men who were to do the work a problem which was really medical. That was the first general principle which was approved by the Medical Advisory Committee which is attached to the Ministry of National Service. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that there is no part of the work of the Ministry which has received greater care and greater thought than this very question of medical grading and of the principles which should underlie it. That principle, which I have just enunciated, and which I will repeat, that the problem presented to the medical board should be a purely medical problem, was the very first principle adopted, and from the moment of the adoption of that principle the whole of our work on the medical side has been looked at in relation to it. That principle was embodied and turned into a form which could be used by the medical boards in the various publications issued by the Ministry for the guidance of the medical boards.The first instruction issued was National Service Instruction No. 3, of 1917, and that is the basis of the whole question of grading, and in that instruction the terms Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3 are first introduced. They were introduced to convey a different meaning from categories A, B, and C, and they are defined absolutely different, but in order that during the period of transition there might be some linking up between the old system and the new, general equivalents were stated for the men of the ages then under consideration. This was last autumn. Those general equivalents have no bearing, and can have no bearing, in the case of men who have never been categorised. Men who have been graded are graded in accordance with the principles laid down, and the definitions of these grades have been most carefully drawn up and elaborated, and it takes no less than twenty-eight pages of instructions to give all the conditions which should exclude and what conditions should allow a man to be included in any grade. Whether those instructions are followed out or not is a separate question which we will come to in a moment, but for the moment the point is that the term Grade 1 was introduced with a definite meaning, and that meaning has never been changed. It was defined on its introduction as:
Then it goes on as was read out to the House by the hon. Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield). The men must not suffer from any organic disease with certain exceptions specified here."This grade will comprise those who attain the normal standard of health and strength and are capable of enduring physical exertion suitable to their age."
Sir H. NIELD
Will the right hon. Gentleman read on in that paragraph, which reads, "Men who fulfil these conditions to be fit for general service in the Army"?
Sir A. GEDDES
That is quite true, and if we were merely trying to score debating points—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—and not dealing with a matter of the very gravest importance at the present moment, I might accept that argument, but the whole House knows that the instruction which governs the actual grading of the elder men carries out the principles, but excludes that last Clause, and puts in its place that the physical training of the men will be carried out under medical supervision.
But your Department has nothing to do with that.
Sir A. GEDDES
Many hon. Members have misunderstood how the system is really working. Every man requires two indices to place him in the proper place on the posting chart. He requires his grade and then his age, and it is the combination of grade and age which settles a man's place in the square and the service he is to render. The actual posting charts are drawn up in such a form that that is visible to anyone who looks at it. The grades are along the top, the arms come up the side, and then the ages are placed in.
Mr. ALBION RICHARDSON
Who posts them?
Sir A. GEDDES
The actual posting of the arms must be a matter for the War Office, but the two Departments in this matter work closely together, and always have done. There is in every case the double consideration—what is the man's grade and what is his age? I cannot conceive of any system which civilian doctors could work which would be very different from that May I say, and on this point I am speaking with professional knowledge, that you cannot possibly take a great block of ages extending from 18 to 50, and pick out of them the men who are going to be suitable for Infantry in the trenches over the whole range. That is an impossible thing medically, and it is not intended. The only thing that medical men can do in the way of settling what is a man's physique is to judge upon the physical signs of disease and see whether he is reasonably fit for his age. It is exactly the same idea that underlies an examination for life insurance. I do not believe that you can get any other conception of medical grading when you are dealing with civil boards, because they have not got strategical knowledge, and, therefore, it is not attempted. I would like to assure the House that the cutting out of the strategical conception which underlay the old categories was done deliberately and after the most careful thought, for the very reason that it was far fairer to the men that they should be dealt with in relation to the physical fitness which they ought to have if they were properly fit for their years, and that the posting should be done on an age basis. That is the system which has been working since last autumn, and through all those months which the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means has told us were months when the medical arrangements were almost ideal, I think he said.
Sir D. MACLEAN
I said that they were really satisfactory. Nothing is ideal in this world. I said that these medical arrangements were really satisfactory and that if that basis were continued there would be no cause of complaint.
Sir A. GEDDES
Those were months during which this system was in operation. This system was introduced last autumn, and it has been in operation ever since. There has been no change in this system of double indexing in order to determine the man's posting. That is a system which, on the authority of the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means, has worked satisfactorily and that is the system which is in force now. I do not think it is that system of grading that is wrong. I admit freely that the results of the medical boards of the last few weeks have given grave cause for anxiety. I am not here to say that all is well in regard to everything that has been discussed. That would be foolish, and I will tell the House in a moment the action that has been taken, but I really cannot believe that a system which has worked thoroughly satisfactorily for months has suddenly gone wrong by itself, that the underlying principles have broken down or vanished and that the whole thing has become chaos as has been suggested. It would be absolutely fatal to satisfactory medical examination to go back to the old idea of categories A, B, and so on. It is not possible for any doctor to place a man absolutely into a pigeon-hole. All you can say is that a man is fit for his age or not fit for his age. That is the meaning which was attached by definition at the time of their introduction to the terms Grades 1, 2 and 3, and really it is far too serious for one to allow the accusation that there has been a breach of faith in this matter to pass unanswered. I can assure the House that we have not changed the meaning of those terms, and that we have not changed the principle upon which we are working. That is a fact. There has evidently been misunderstanding. This very night, speaking here, the Deputy-Chair man of Ways and Means has indicated—I think I may say it fairly—that he did not understand this double system which is in force, and which has been in force.
Sir D. MACLEAN
Sir A. GEDDES
It is evident that there has been complete misunderstanding, and I welcome this opportunity of giving an explanation, which I hope will lead to complete understanding. We are not trying to conceal anything. We have nothing to conceal. I would not attempt to conceal anything in connection with this matter. That is the principle which is at work—that a man's physical fitness should be determined in respect of his age, that his age should be considered, and that the whole of his employment in the Army should be determined by the consideration of these two facts. The next point that I would like to refer to is the question of the medical boards throughout the country. As the House is aware, there are a very great number of medical examinations being carried out at the present time. I may say that the estimate which I gave to the House in the month of April that we would do 35,000 medical examinations a day has proved a wrong estimate. We have never been able to work up to anything like that number. We are at present employing a very large number of medical men—the figure runs into thousands—and we are allowing a quarter of an hour of medical time for every examination.
Where is that Regulation?
Sir A. GEDDES
We are now allowing a quarter of an hour of medical time for every recruit that is examined.
Since when has that been in operation?
I think the House is not treating the Minister quite fairly. He should be allowed to make his statements without so many interruptions.
Sir A. GEDDES
We are allowing a quarter of an hour of medical time for every man examined, and the House ought to consider that the medical examination of every man costs for medical time alone 4s. 2d. It is not possible to complete every man's examination in a quarter of an hour, nor is it necessary to examine every man for a quarter of an hour. There are many cases which are dealt with in two or three minutes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, and rightly so, because the man is either rejected or is obviously, for some reason or other, of the lowest grade which can become available for service. We are not calling up Grade 3 men of the new age period, and therefore it is not necessary to complete a very elaborate examination if the man is obviously not fit for one of the higher grades. In that way time is saved and longer time is obtained for the examination of men who require greater care. I do not think it is possible to obtain the services of more medical men than those now employed. They are about the maximum that we can obtain without serious detriment to the medical care of the civil community. Yet the demands for men for the force—Navy, Air Force, and Army—are so insistent that we cannot let down the number of examinations being performed daily. We, therefore, have to face the fact that about a quarter of an hour of medical time is all that we can afford nationally to provide for the medical examination of these men who are coming forward. We have, therefore, instructed them that they are, where the case is obvious, to push through the examination if the man is not going to be taken for service at all. It is now six or seven weeks since I first became alarmed as to what was happening at some of the medical boards. I would not like this House to consider that it has required stimulation from Members of this House before the Department took action. I myself have visited in the last few weeks no less than twenty-four places in different parts of the country, so that I could be absolutely certain that I knew what was going on, and I think I can say this: that throughout the country—as a whole the work that is being done is eminently satisfactory—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—throughout the country as a whole; and we have had since this criticism of the medical boards began to appear very much in the Press the most extraordinary phenomena. We have received hundreds and hundreds of letters of thanks, of appreciation of medical examinations—literally hundreds; we have hundreds of them.
From rejected men?
Sir A. GEDDES
From men passed in Grade 1 and Grade 2, thanking us and saying that they consider the attacks unjust. These are men who are satisfied with their examination, and I would like to express here my deep and heartfelt thanks to the medical profession for the work they have done under enormous difficulties and pressure at the present time, on very inadequate remuneration. They are working under great strain in civil practice, and are helping us by taking two hours and a half, and perhaps five hours, in the course of the day examining recruits. The work that is being done on the whole is, to my certain knowledge, and from personal observation of hundreds of records, most satisfactory. On the other hand, I would be doing less than my duty if I did not admit that at certain places there have been breakdowns. I admit fully that the circular letter which was read by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) was a most unfortunate letter—the one issued on the 3rd of May. But the story was not quite completed by my hon. Friend. That letter was issued from the regional headquarters, and a copy of it was sent to the Ministry, where it reached in the ordinary routine—because we have a check on these regional districts—the Chief Commissioner, who at once had it cancelled, and interviewed the Commissioner for London, who was instructed to summon, and did summon at once, the whole of the chairmen of the medical boards, got them together, and explained that a mistake had been made, that the instruction issued was cancelled, and reported within a week that that had been done. I know for a fact that it was done.
Sir A. GEDDES
It was cancelled at once as soon as it was found. There was no instruction permitting second examination subsequently at all. This is the Report, but I will not read it as, if the hon. Members wishes to see it, it is in the Library in a similar binding to this one and has been placed there for the information of any Member who wishes to see it. The letter, which was an unfortunate letter, one which might quite easily be issued by any Government Department working under considerable pressure, was cancelled at once. One cannot do more than that. I have myself been to see these London boards at Conduit Street, and I would like to tell the House that the personnel of those boards is in large measure the same personnel that formed the eminently satisfactory Whitehall board. It was the Scotland Yard board, which the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means said was the board to which he used to send his cases. It is a most extraordinary-thing that that same personnel, reinforced, should be giving different results. [HON. MEMBERS: "Owing to the change in the instructions!"] That is exactly what I expected would be said. The reason is not a change of instructions. The reason is that here in London everyone has felt the pressure of the German offensive. Everyone here in London has felt acutely the need of the forces for men. It is all unconscious reaction of the pressure of the German offensive that is making these boards pass men who, under less pressure, they would not pass. They have received precisely the same instructions as other boards throughout the country. There is no other difference between the two. We have found it necessary to slow down the London board. There is no vice about these boards. They are not trying to push men through who are unfit; they are trying to do their work absolutely solidly, soundly, and well.Another thing I would like to impress upon the House is that there is a great deal in this criticism of the boards which is not fair. It is not real. These things come in waves. Once criticism starts, criticism grows. Even if there is nothing to complain of, the neurotic complains. It will be within the recollection of the House that two nights ago the right hon. Baronet the Junior Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who I am sorry is not in his place, raised a case about an individual, a bleeder, who was examined at the Camberwell Baths. It is recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT that the man complained that he was placed in a bath and made to go through the motion of swimming. That is a sheer bit of hallucination. The baths are floored over, there is no water in them. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry went down there the next morning, and I saw the chairman of the board. That was solemnly read out in this House, and there is not a shadow of foundation for it.
Was he passed Grade 1?
Sir A. GEDDES
He was passed Grade 3.
Sir A. GEDDES
It was unknown at the time that he suffered from hallucinations. That has since appeared. That is an example of a not infrequent type of complaint. I have here another rather extraordinary case, of a letter, written to a Member of this House who, very courteously sent it on to me, in which bitter complaint was made about the medical boards and about the inferior standard of work, giving actual cases. I wrote back to my hon. Friend in the House, and he sent the letter on to his correspondent, who wrote back and said:
Which was what the whole letter was about, so I sent off the Deputy-Commissioner of the Medical Service concerned to go and see this gentleman, who is a responsible citizen and a prominent man. He now writes that he is sorry that he wrote that letter. He was suffering from neuralgia, and it was written on the spur of the moment without due consideration. You cannot take all these complaints at full face value. Listen to this. The hon. Gentleman (Sir H. Nield) put down yesterday or the day before a question to ask me whether I was aware that a man who is blind in one eye, partially paralysed, and suffering from hæmorrhage of the lungs, on 5th June, was placed in Grade 1 by the medical board in Northampton Street, W.; whether such a decision is in accordance with the instructions issued to medical boards by the Department; and whether it is proposed that a man suffering from those disabilities should be taken in the Army in Grade 1 or in any capacity? This case caused me, as many cases do, a feeling of sinking, wondering what the medical board would do next; so the Parliamentary Secretary wrote to my hon. Friend and asked him if he could give any information about the case. The reply struck me as most extraordinary. It was received to-day:"It did not occur to me when I wrote you that my letter would be passed on to Sir Auckland Geddes; otherwise I would have endeavoured to make myself more clear. I should not like it to be thought that there was any complaint as to the treatment of the men (hiring examination."
"Dear Sir,—I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 15th June to Sir H. Nield, K.C., M.P., and to say that the information was furnished by a man who was examined at the same time as the man in question, but unfortunately he was unable to obtain the man's name and address."
Sir H. NIELD
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the information was sent officially to the office of the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal by a man who claimed to have been in the examination room at the moment that man was passed by the doctor?
Sir A. GEDDES
I say there had been no communication to the Department in this case. Here is a case, for which I do not think there is any evidence, brought forward, discussed, and brought out in evidence against the Department because a man said to someone at the tribunal—
Sir H. NIELD
Sir A. GEDDES
No address, no name. Someone saw a man with one eye who was passed medically fit. Really if that is the sort of stuff that is going to be brought forward it is perfectly hopeless. I am now, and always have been, absolutely willing and anxious to receive every bit of assistance I can from every Member of this House who will help us to get this difficult, unpleasant and very important work done properly, but really we do not get much help. In one region I asked the regional director to issue invitations to every Member of Parliament for a constituency in that region to come and see the work of the Recruiting Department at any time he liked. Fifty-one invitations were issued. Forty Members have not replied. Ten have acknowledged and have done nothing. One only has come. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Samuel) came and saw the medical board, and said it was satisfactory. He is, so far as I can gather, the only Member of the House out of that fifty-one who has done anything in the way of satisfying himself that our actions are either wrong or right by direct observation. At a time like this, if hon. Members feel that we who are trying under great pressure to meet the demands of the Army and Navy and the Air Force for men are doing wrong, would it not be better in the country's interests and in the interests of confidence throughout the country if they came to me, or wrote to me, or spoke to the Parliamentary Secretary any time he is here, and said, "Look here; we think you are making an awful mess of this. We are sure you are. What are you doing it for?" Then we could explain. It would be so much better. Would it not be much better to assume that we really are trying to do this thing right than that we are trying to go wrong through some sheer natural inborn vice? For months I have been working at these medical boards, and yet the sort of case I have referred to is put down as a question here without any evidence at all. It really is hardly fair to the country. I do not mind a bit for myself. I do not mind for the Department, although they are working absolutely up to the hilt. The staff has worked splendidly. It has stood up to the pressure of the German offensive in a way that is absolutely first class. No Department in this country has had to bear the load that the National Service Department has had to bear recently. The way the staff has stood up to the strain is absolutely magnificent; but, naturally, with the new classes of men coming in, there are difficulties. We cannot avoid them. We had a mistake made in London, but we cancelled the bad order at once. You cannot do more than that. You cannot stand over every official's shoulder day and night and see what he is writing. These things will happen.We had a few bad cases at Conduit Street. I quite admit that. We then got a wave of criticism which has carried the neurotic along with it, and we have got now a big volume of neurotic criticism added to the real criticism. I know perfectly well the class of case that were up before the House of Commons Tribunal to-day. They are a small group of cases; at any rate, I hope they are a small group, which got through during that time, when there was, I will not say a breakdown, but a wobble, in the organisation. The machine as a whole is the same machine that gave satisfaction throughout all the winter months. It has been described by our most severe critic, the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir D. Maclean) as having been satisfactory during the winter months. It is the same machine working on the same principle. The whole of the arrangements for grading men are exactly the same as they were. The whole thing is the same, but criticism has started. No recognition has been made of the amount of work that has been done to put the break right, and it is now, I think, completely right. It was not a real break, it was only a wobble. The results did not show themselves at the moment, but they showed themselves weeks afterwards, and once they start then the same case comes up and up. I would appeal to this House at this time when we have the greatest possible difficulty in maintaining the supply of men for the forces that we should receive all the help of private criticism sent to us, and we will always pay attention to it, before the questions are put down in the House and before statements are made in public, which will be recorded and published throughout the whole country as statements of policy when the statements are in fact based, as we now know for certain, upon a misunderstanding. We have had these statements, and I can assure the House that there are at the present moment an enormous number of men held up from getting into the forces as a result of the statements that have been made. I would like to appeal to the House to try to understand the policy which is being followed in regard to taking men for the Army. It would be absolutely unsound in the national interest to take all young men together. You would disorganise everything. If you take all the young men now, where will the recruits come from months hence? Where is your money going to come from to keep things going if you take all the men engaged in production? [An HON. MEMBER: "You are taking the men of business!"] The older men who are being taken into the Army are a mere handful. How many men of the new military age who have already joined up—I am not talking about being called to join up, or be medically examined, but who have already joined up—are known to any individual Member of this House? Not many. It is one thing to have a lot of talk about the people who are called up; it is another thing to watch the figures of the men who are joining. There is many a ditch and many a fence for the man to be stopped by before he joins the Service after he is made liable under the Military Service Acts; and the numbers of men of the older age that are being taken into the Army in the main are the men who can be better spared than their juniors. There have been one or two exceptions, but in the main I am convinced that this policy which we are following is absolutely sound. There are definite needs at this present moment in the Army for men who for that age are physically fit, who will not in all probability—I can give no guarantee, obviously, with regard to a soldier—will not be required actively to fight. There must be units, there must be forces present in certain distant theatres throughout the months to come, and really at the present time anything that delays the legitimate flow of the older men to the Colours is hampering our forces in France. He would be a brave man who, because of some personal disagreement with the policy that has been followed, would say that he would not allow these men to pass through to the Forces. They are required and urgently required. It was announced to the House two months ago that 7 per cent. of the total block of men of the new age were going to be required to be posted this year. That has been twisted and turned as if it meant that only 7 per cent. of them will be fit for service. The statement stands—I have repeated it on many occasions in the House—as true to-day as it was then, that it is absolutely necessary, if we are not to dislocate our arrangements for maintaining the forces in the field, that we should have 7 per cent. of the total number of men of the new age before the end of this year and that they should come in a steady flow. It is a fact that at the present rate we shall not get them. It is absolutely necessary, therefore—and I wish to be quite clear on this—that we should increase the pressure of the call for these men, and instructions will be issued to the tribunals that it is important that more men of these ages should be obtained. That is absolutely necessary if we are not to disorganise the arrangements for maintaining our forces in the field. That is all I wish to say on that subject. But there were some points raised to which I might possibly be permitted to refer for a moment. There was a definite statement made by the right hon. Member for Dewsbury, about the swollen staff, and the gigantic organisation, priding itself on its own size, I would like to take this opportunity of telling the House that we are now so administering the recruiting service that recruits are costing less each month than the month before, and that the staff engaged in the work is being steadily reduced, in spite of the fact that the cost of the medical examination is going steadily up, and we are paying more money for the medical examinations. It is only just to the staff at this time to say that, in view of the work they have been doing and the hours and hours of overtime they have worked. Many of them are volunteers without pay or reward, and yet they hear a lot of criticism hurled at them, and it is only right to remember that they are volunteers who in many cases are giving their services free to the State.
The right hon. Gentleman stands up in defence of the War Office and recruiting, and I can sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman in the position in which he finds himself to-day. I can assure him that the appeal he has made to us to do nothing to stop the flow of recruits to the forces does not fall, in my case, on deaf ears. I came down to the House endeavouring to put myself in the place of the right hon. Gentleman, and I can assure him that his position is one with which I have great sympathy. Toward the end of my authority at the War Office it had been decided that the business of getting recruits for the Army was a business which ought not to be any longer in the hands of the War Office, and ought to be the business of a civil Department, and accordingly a Civil Department was set up for that purpose, and the right hon. Gentleman was appointed to his present office. The Army Council and the military authorities ought to have time in which they can use their energies for the conduct of the War, and they ought not to be embarrassed with the trouble and difficulty of securing troops. And when that decision was taken it was undoubtedly equally decided that after a recruit had been obtained it was not the business of the Civil Department to place him in the Army but the business of the Army to put him in the position and unit in the manner they thought best. I do not think the Minister of National Service has sufficiently fully appreciated that. My right hon. Friend the Deputy-Chairman has been told by the Minister of National Service that he did not understand the situation. I cannot help thinking that the Minister of National Service has made a muddle in that matter. At any rate, my right hon. Friend the Deputy-Chairman knows the practice pursued in consequence of the instructions given, and he knows the results. My right hon. Friend the Deputy-Chairman gave some extraordinary illustrations, and I thought the fact which emerged most strongly from them was how exceedingly unfair it is that in order that a man should be able to obtain redress for being wrongly graded he should have to consult privately a medical practitioner. How many of these men are there who can afford that amount of money? It is a very infinitesimal proportion. The right hon. Gentleman said that the change in the name of the grades was intended to convey a different meaning, and yet the actual leaflet itself says, "Grade 1 is generally equivalent to category A."
Sir A. GEDDES
That is not the leaflet which officially gave the definition of the new grades.
It is a leaflet issued from his Department, and it explains what Grade 1 is. I do not know why on earth there was any alteration made. It is true we had our difficulties in the old War Office days, when I worked in conjunction with the right hon. Gentleman when he was Director of Recruiting. Our difficulties were mainly due to medical boards, due to the fact that the majority of doctors at that time had been sent out of the country and were serving with the forces in France. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has not had those difficulties with the medical boards except in one or two instances, such as the Conduit Street Board, where there was, he said, not a breakdown, but a wobble in the machinery. It is quite true that he has to get recruits for the Army, and we greatly sympathise with him in that most difficult and onerous task, but it is no use getting recruits for the Army that are not going to be of value to the Army, and that is the main proposition which my right hon. Friend brought before this House, and that is really the fact of which the House is most seised. It is not a single, a double, or even a treble disadvantage to the country to take bad recruits, but it is a quadruple disadvantage. You not only do a grave injustice to the man himself, but you take him away from work which may be of great national importance, and you deprive the nation of that work; you increase the charge to the Army for hospital accommodation and treatment; and you increase the charge for pensions. The right hon. Gentleman told us that everything had worked well until quite recently, when his attention had been called to certain breakdowns by medical boards, and he said he thought, in part at any rate, this was due to a sort of subconscious action on the part of doctors who were speeding up the flow of recruits to the Army owing to the pressure on the Western Front. It is a most mysterious suggestion that doctors should so lose their balance of judgment as to place a man in a group for which he is wholly unfit, and I hope that that particular medical board which the right hon. Gentleman has in his mind's eye will at any rate be informed that they must not pursue that course any further. It is impossible for the Minister of National Service to direct on what particular duties a man shall be employed once he gets into the Army. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that. He cannot issue instructions to the military authorities to say that A. B. is a person who shall only be employed on a particular duty. Once a man is put into the Army it is the business of the Army to use him in the way that they think best. We cannot clearly interfere with the military authorities in that matter. It must be within their discretion to utilise the men in the best possible way. That being so, surely an instruction ought to be issued to these medical boards to exercise the greatest care, so that these terrible mistakes which have been brought to the notice of the House by the Deputy-Chairman shall be avoided in the future. I hope I have said nothing which will do anything to make it more difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to carry on his most difficult task. I fully appreciate the great difficulty he has to face. When he made the alteration in Grade 1 a, b, c, and d, he did so, as he informed the House, because categorising was not a desirable policy to pursue. Indeed, we did find in the days I was at the War Office that this policy failed because the Army invariably put a man in another category. I do not blame the Army, but, that being the case, surely it is imperative that the medical boards and the National Service Ministry should only choose men who are fit for positive duties in any part of the field in France, unless they are specially car-marked for work behind the lines or are not allowed to go to the front at all. I imagine from what the right hon. Gentleman said that he has been working in great cordiality with the War Office. No doubt there are certain grades in the Army—those for butchers, dispensers, and so on—which do not require men to be in Grade 1, and he might ask the Army in such cases to be content with men from Grade 2. I know the right hon. Gentleman cannot, of course, issue any such instructions to the military authority. Having been at General Headquarters in the Adjutant-General's Department, he knows that very well; therefore, it behoves him, as the head of the National Service Ministry, to issue instructions to the medical boards to exercise the utmost care not to pass men who are unfitted for the duties to which they are likely to be put, because it is encumbering the Army with sick men, it is encumbering the pension service, and at the same time it is taking away a source of national wealth, none of which things we can afford now.
Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I rise to make a suggestion, if I may, to the Government. This is a matter in which the House takes a very great deal of interest. The explanation of the Minister of National Service, I think, has not been regarded in all quarters with satisfaction, and I understand that there are several Members who desire to take part in this Debate. The Debate only began at nine o'clock, and it is now a few minutes to eleven. Supply for next Thursday has not been fixed, and the Vote for the Ministry of National Service has not yet been taken this Session. I would suggest, if agreeable to the House and acceptable to the Government, that this Debate should now be discontinued for the time being, that the Vote for the Ministry of National Service should be put down for Thursday next, and that then there should be a full opportunity for discussion.
Sir A. GEDDES
I think there is no doubt whatever that it can be arranged to take the Vote next Thursday, and I hope the House, therefore, will now take the Second Reading.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for to-morrow (Friday).