THE debate which took place -in the House last week as to the payment of men in the fighting services and their dependants resulted in a good deal of criticism concerning what was alleged to be the parsimony of the Government.
Advances have been made ensuring for each person a minimum of 16s. per week. This, said the Minister of Pensions. was " for maintenance after providing for rent and other commitments, which included rates, insurance premiums and hire purchase." With this conclusion the House, after considerable adverse criticism from Labour members, agreed. On the one hand there is a disinclination to add another £6,000,000 per annum to the £5,500.000 already beieg paid in war service grants, and. on the other hand, there are men accustomed in normal life to a higher rate of pay than what they are now receiving. and who feel discontented because the costly business of fighting is rewarded according to lower standards than those of industry. Many of them are Trade Unionists who have learned to bargain with employers over wages and who carry into their new occupation the habits of thought acquired elsewhere. The need for generous treatment to our serving men has been often stressed in these columns, but we must deplore the intrusion into this sphere of something like the commercial " haggling of the market." It would be as wrong for the Government to give the impression that it is trying to drive a good bargain and to buy the services of its fighting men cheap. as for soldiers to have to adopt the practice of Labour and bargain for higher wages. The tone of the debate resembled too closely those familiar scenes when employers and employees meet to decide rates of pay. The debate showed the clash of two different codes—those of the soldier and the merchant. War stands on a different footing from industry and commerce. No one supposes that the pay received by an air pilot is an adequate reward, from the commercial point of view, for his continuous risk of death. A grateful nation will want to see that the families of those fighting its battles are provided for adequately, but it will not pretend that even the most generous allowances would cancel the debt we owe the fighting forces. There is something ignoble in the intrusion of the mercenary spirit into a profession which. as Ruskin pointed out in Unto This. La.st, is honoured precisely because the soldier does not fight for pay. We had hoped that one of the results of the war would be the setting up of a system which would introduce to industry something of the spirit supposed to govern the warrior. • It looks as though the actual effect might be the reverse, and that war-making may come to be looked upon as a business, like engineering or mining. It is probable, however. that the debate did not truly represent the spirit of our people as a whole. The nation is in a generous mood. Both those who pay and those who receive pay have been affected by the heroic temper of the times. and it is safe to say that on this occasion our representatives failed truly to represent us.