2018 10 – Parliament And World War One

Parliament And World War One

by Dick Barry


Mr. KING asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received through the British diplomatic agent in Moscow a request from the Russian Government not to conscript any more Russian subjects in this country; and, if so, what answer has been returned?

The MINISTER of BLOCKADE (Lord Robert Cecil) The Russian People’s Commissary for Foreign Affairs has forwarded to His Majesty’s Government a request that the necessary measures may be taken to stop the compulsory recruiting of Russians in England. We are still considering the nature of the reply to be returned.

Sir H. NIELD asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the British Government claims the right to impress foreigners into her armies; if so, whether there is a corresponding right for Russia to call up British subjects resident in Russia; does the Soviet Government recognise exemption granted to British subjects resident in Russia; by whom are such exemptions being granted; and are there any and what corresponding exemptions being granted to Russians in this country, and by whom?

Lord R. CECIL The hon. Member is aware that, by the terms of the Military Service (Conventions with Allied States) Act, His Majesty’s Government have power to incorporate in the British Army citizens or subjects of an Allied State, with whom His Majesty’s Government have made a Convention or agreement for the purpose, if the persons in question do not elect within a certain period to return to their own country for service in its Army. The Military Service Agreement with Russia entitled His Majesty’s Government to make use of this power over Russian subjects, and gave the Russian Government a corresponding right to call up British subjects in Russia. I do not think that the question of the Soviet Government recognising or not recognising exemptions from military service issued to British subjects arises, since there is now no Army in Russia from service in which British subjects could be exempted. As regards the last part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply returned to the hon. Member for North Somerset on 30th April last.

Sir F. HALL If these Russians are not going to be put into our Army, would it not be better in the circumstances that they should be deported to their own country?

Lord R. CECIL I will consider that.

Colonel THORNE Can the Noble Lord state whether there is any Soviet Government? Is he aware that anarchists do not believe in government at all?

Sir H. NIELD asked the Minister of National Service whether Ukrainians or Poles resident in the United Kingdom are being called up for national service in the British Army; and, in such event, whether, in determining the status of an alien-born subject and his liability for military service, Russian or British law should be applied, and in particular in deciding the question who is a Russian subject within the terms of the Convention with Russia of July, 1917?

The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of NATIONAL SERVICE (Mr. Beck) Natives of the Ukraine or Russian Poland, who are resident in this country, and are of military age, as prescribed by the Anglo-Russian Military Service Convention, are being called up for service in the British Army in the same manner as other Russian subjects in this country. The latter part of the question appears to relate to the construction of an Act of Parliament, and if a case arose where the liability to military service was disputed, I assume it would be a matter for the Courts to decide.

Sir H. NIELD asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that Mr. Abraham Glucksmann, of New York, has been arrested by the London police and fined £20 for failing to report himself under the Russian Convention of 1917, he having received his first papers as an American citizen and having formally renounced his allegiance to Russia, and that his arrest has been effected notwithstanding that he had previously voluntarily offered to serve in the English Army but was refused acceptance; and if he will state what steps he proposes to take to remove the results of this action?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Brace) My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. I am advised that the fact that this man made a Declaration of Intention to become an American citizen, and purports to have renounced allegiance to Russia, does not confer American citizenship on him or affect his Russian nationality. I am not aware that he volunteered for service in the British Army and was refused. The information in my possession shows that after making several endeavours to leave this country for America in 1916 he applied to go to Russia under the Convention in 1917, but failed to take the opportunity of doing so which was afforded him. I see no ground for taking any action in the case.



Colonel ASHLEY asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that it is the declared intention of the Government to give grants of land to young men in Ireland who may join His Majesty’s Forces before 1st October, he will state what recognition it is proposed to give to the men over forty-one in Great Britain who are now being called up under the last Military Service Act?

Mr. MACPHERSON I am told that when my hon. and gallant Friend hears the statement which is being made on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, in reply to questions on this subject to-day, he will realise that his question is based on a misunderstanding.

Colonel ASHLEY asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether, in view of the fact that young men in Ireland between the ages of eighteen and twenty-seven are being offered land in order to induce them to join His Majesty’s Forces, he will now state whether it has been decided to give the war bounty to time-expired men above the age of forty-one years who have been compelled to serve on and to time-expired men between the ages of forty-one and fifty-one who are now being recalled to the Colours under the Military Service (No. 2) Act of 1918, and who are excluded from the benefits conferred by Army Order 209 of 1916?

The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster) The bounty will be given to men retained or recalled under the Act under conditions similar to those for previous Acts. The precise conditions will be published in the course of a few days.

Mr. KING asked the Prime Minister whether the Proclamation of Lord French, dated 3rd June, appealing for voluntary Irish recruits, was made after consultation with the Irish Department of Agriculture, and is to be taken as assuming that no more men can be released from Irish agriculture; whether the offers of land made are in addition to other and previous plans of the Government for settling soldiers on the land after the War; whether land to be offered to Irish volunteers is to be land in Ireland, in the Colonies, or elsewhere; and whether the legislation under consideration refers to the Emigration Bill and the Small Holding Colonies Bill or to other legislation not yet introduced?

Mr. WHITEHOUSE asked the Prime Minister whether the offer of land made to Irish Volunteers in the Proclamation issued by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is confined to Irishmen, or whether the legislation to give effect to the offer is to include the conscripted soldiers of England, Scotland, and Wales?

General McCALMONT asked the Prime Minister whether, under the Government’s proposals for the grant of land to Irish soldiers, the claims of those who enlisted in the early stages of the War will be dealt with first?

Mr. PENNEFATHER asked the Prime Minister whether the Proclamation just issued in Ireland is intended to convey the idea that men who volunteer in Ireland in 1918, and who only serve for the concluding period of the War, will obtain a preference over men who volunteered in England, Scotland, Ireland, or Wales in 1914, 1915, 1916, or 1917, and who have therefore already served for long periods, and have in many cases, been wounded and discharged; if that is not the idea intended to be conveyed by the Proclamation, will he state precisely what is meant by the implied promises in regard to land contained therein, how far the promises also apply to soldiers who have volunteered in the United Kingdom since the outbreak of war; and whether in any case effect can be given to such promises until Parliament has passed the necessary legislation

Mr. ANDERSON asked the Prime Minister whether it is the policy of the Government that soldiers enlisted from England, Scotland, and Wales shall receive land on the same terms as those enlisted from Ireland; whether the promises now being made to prospective recruits in Ireland will apply to those who have already served or are serving with the Colours; and if he will state the terms on which it is proposed that land should be given?

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. A. Samuels) My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to these questions.

The proposed legislation takes the form of an Amendment of the Irish Land Purchase Acts. The general effect of the proposed Amendments will be to secure to men who have served in the present War, but who are not tenants or proprietors of land, the same privileges with regard to the purchase of untenanted land as are already enjoyed by tenants or proprietors of holdings, and to extend the provisions as to the purchase and settlement of land for the relief of congestion to the case of any untenanted land which may be required in order to provide holdings for such men.

As elaborate machinery already exists in Ireland for the acquisition and distribution of untenanted land, the problem of acquisition in Ireland does not present the same difficulties as in Great Britain.

It is intended that the proposals should extend to all Irish soldiers who enlisted at any time during the War. Priority of enlistment and length of service will certainly be factors to be considered when applications for land from soldiers are being dealt with.

As regards the first paragraph of the question of the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King), I may state that a Report was obtained from the Department of Agriculture in Ireland before the Proclamation was issued, but the hon. Member must not assume more than is set out in the Proclamation, which states that it is not expected that many of the rural population will be available at present for military purposes.

As to the question of the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Anderson), the policy of settling ex-Service men upon the land was initiated by the Small Holdings Colonies Act, 1916. That Act applies to Great Britain only, and the proposed Irish legislation will extend the principle to Ireland, regard being had to the difference in Irish land legislation and tenure. I may add that the introduction of such legislation has been under consideration for a considerable period, and statements to that effect were made in reply to questions addressed to the previous Chief Secretary arid the Minister of Labour by members of different Irish parties.

Mr. KING Are we to understand from this that the offers made to voluntary recruits, whom it is now wished to bring in, will be offers which will be dealt with subsequently to all the demands for land from Irish soldiers who have already served?

Mr. SAMUELS The hon. Gentleman will understand from the reply which I read that “Priority of enlistment and length of service will certainly be factors to be considered when applications for land from soldiers are being dealt with.”

Mr. KING Does that not mean that the offer now made to induce men to come in voluntarily is a very vague and nebulous offer?

Mr. SPEAKER The hon. Member must draw his own conclusions.

Colonel ASHLEY Does that mean that the men who are to be conscripted under the Government policy shortly to be put into effect will be included or excluded? May I have an answer? It is a very important point.

Sir EDWARD CARSON May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend, or the Leader of the House, whether we shall have an opportunity of discussing this very vague Proclamation? Is he not aware that it has given rise to a great deal of anxiety and commotion in Ireland as to what it really means, and what men are to get it if they enlist?

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law) Of course, if there be any general desire for a discussion, I shall be glad to try to arrange it. The Chief Secretary has not been able to come from Ireland this week. Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend will put this question again next week?

Mr. PENNEFATHER May I ask for an answer to Question 50, which has practically not been touched by the right hon. and learned Member?

Mr. SAMUELS I have nothing to add. I think it is quite covered

Mr. PENNEFATHER May I put the question down another day?

Mr. OUTHWAITE Does the reply mean that Irishmen who fight to save Ireland from German aggression will have to buy land from an Irish landlord who has done nothing?

Mr. SAMUELS The hon. Member should study the Irish Land Acts.

Major E. WOOD Can the right hon. and learned Member state whether it is proposed to pass this legislation before the House rises?

Mr. HOLT Is this Bill going to be introduced before or after the Home Rule Bill?

Mr. SPEAKER Some of these questions might be put on the Paper.