§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £5,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1902, for Additional Expenditure, due to the War in South Africa, in respect of the following Army Services, viz.:—
|Vote 6. Purchase of Remounts||2,000,000|
|Vote 7. Provisions, Forage and other supplies||3,000,000|
§ (4.20.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
I rise to say a few words of explanation in respect to this addition to the very large sum voted for Army services earlier in the financial year. The expenditure upon the war up to the present time is in the recollection of the Committee, but I may perhaps give a few figures to show what the expenditure has been in the present financial year as compared with the previous financial year. In the year 1899–1900 £23,000,000 were voted for the purposes of the war by the House, and in 1900–01 the original estimate, £31,500,000, for the war was swelled to more than double by provision voted subsequently, and by the special force maintained at home. Therefore, in connection with the war, the expenditure for 1900–01 reached something over £63,000,000. For the year 1901–02 the original estimate for the war, apart from the current Army services, was £56,070,000; and therefore the amount I now ask the Committee to vote is a sum which will bring up the total of £61,070,000, or rather less than the sum voted in the previous year. I have always held that it is the duty of the Government in its original estimate, as far as possible, to present to the House the total which it may require voted; and I claim, seeing that there is very great difficulty in making calculations for the provision of 50 the war, that the amount we now ask the Committee to vote is not an inordinate amount, even for those financial purists who would desire that the total voted originally should not be exceeded. I frankly admit—what is known to every Member of the House—that the calculation which we originally made as to the period for which the war would last and as to the number of troops which it would be necessary to maintain throughout the year has been somewhat, though not so very largely, exceeded. The £5,000,000 I now ask the Committee to vote would be a larger sum if we had not in the original Estimate included a considerable sum for terminal charges—gratuities and repatriation of our own troops, as well as the other expenditure incident to the termination of the war—and that sum, of course, has been available to carry on the war and to keep up a larger number of troops at the front. But I make no apology for the Estimate which I now present.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo E)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether any of the supplementary sum voted for the Transvaal civil expenditure has been spent on the war?
§ MR. BRODRICK
The civil establishment was included in the Vote taken by my right hon. friend the Secretary for the Colonies—
§ MR. BRODRICK
Before the House adjourned in August. In that sum, of course, is included expenditure by the Colonial Office on behalf of the civil establishment. The sums we take are entirely due to the Army and military services. I was going to say that I make no apology for the sum the Committee are now asked to vote. Of course, there are Members in the House who regard any further Votes with apprehension, on grounds which they have stated previously with regard to the whole conduct of the war. But the great mass of Members have expressed over and over again their determination to see the war through. The principal criticism they have directed against the Government in and out of Parliament 51 has been based upon an apprehension that the Government were not sufficiently estimating the task which they had undertaken, and were in some degree falling short in their contribution of men and maintenance properly to assist the generals in the field. Let me state what has been achieved during the past year. We had in South Africa on May 1st last year 138,000 Regulars, 58,000 Colonials, 23,000 Yeomanry, 20,000 Militia, and nearly 10,000 Volunteers—in all nearly 250,000 men. On January 1st of this year we had 141,000 Regulars, 57,000 Colonials, 13,650 Yeomanry, nearly 20,000 Militia, and about 5,400 Volunteers—in all, therefore, 237,000 men. Therefore, practically, although the Yeomanry was decreased by the fact that on the 1st of May there was the overlapping of the old Yeomanry with the new who had just arrived, the force in South Africa, despite the natural wastage of the war, has been maintained substantially at the same figure throughout the whole year. I confess I think that if three years ago my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary, in moving his Estimates, had told the House that the Government would undertake to maintain for two years in South Africa nearly 150,000 regular troops and nearly100,000 other troops, with transports, provisions and stores, and an equivalent number of horses, he would have been thought exceedingly sanguine, and he would have been received with a great deal of doubt and hesitation from all parts of the House of Commons. I claim that that achievement has been a not inconsiderable task. But in addition to that, we have had also to cope with the immense difficulty of providing remounts for this vast force. During the year we have landed 179,000 horses in South Africa. We have also purchased in South Africa a large number of other animals. The total number of animals paid for in these Estimates is no less than 214,000 horses and mules. The actual provision represents an average number bought per month of 24,000. I must say that I think that ought to be some answer to those who are constantly upbraiding the Government for having been niggardly in their provision of horses in this war. I do not for a moment say that at times and in some 52 places, with the immense wastage of the war, there may not have been a shortage, but I can only say that we have kept up our supply to the number we undertook to supply from the first. The House will remember that, in addition to feeding nearly 260,000 troops, we have had also on the average 30,000 men more employed, either in the remount establishment, or as drivers or otherwise, making in all nearly 280,000 who have been fed on the average from the 1st of April last to the 1st of January. We have fed on the average 208,000 horses and mules and 30,000 oxen. During that period we have also had upon our hands 27,000 Boer prisoners and some 150,000 of the Boer population also to feed. I think that however much the Committee may have desired to be free from an Estimate of this character, they will not complain that we have not got something to show in respect of achievement for the money. During the greater part of the year the expense to this country of the war has been about £5,500,000 a month. That expenditure has now been decreased, and it now figures at something like £1,000,000 less, namely, about £4,500,000 a month. We have also made every provision in our power to secure further reductions. The meat contract, which was formerly held in South Africa by the Storage Company, has been put out afresh from the 31st of March, and we have had a competition which has resulted in bringing down the price by about l½d. per lb., and we anticipate a saving during the next year of £600,000 or £700,000. Lord Kitchener has helped us enormously in the question of expenditure, and has found time, amidst the engrossing work of superintending 60 or 70 mobile columns and the whole work of a vast army, to give personal attention to a great many of these points, and he has made arrangements by which purchase of local supplies has been so bought on a better footing that we expect a reduction of 30 per cent. on that head. And again, as to the Colonial forces, who were originally equipped and previously paid and fed by the British Government, the Government of Cape Colony have at their own wish taken back their local force, which could not be used for the pur- 53 pose of war beyond the limits of the colony, and by that action we have obtained a saving of from £200,000 to £300,000 per month. Therefore, although the sum we have had to spend is large, we have used every possible economy in endeavouring to achieve the same results with less expenditure.
Perhaps, Sir, having given these figures, I might be allowed, without entering into the general policy, to mention how far this large number of troops has enabled us to make a permanent impression, so to speak, on the problem of the war within the last two months. In respect to that, I would mention that all the information that conies to us shows that the blockhouse system, inaugurated by Lord Kitchener, has had the best possible effect, and has largely tended not merely towards limiting the tremendous strain on the troops, but also to limit the area over which the war was raging. A large part of the country has now been brought into a peaceful condition and freed from the ravages of war. Take first of all Gape Colony. Although Cape Colony has not been worked on the blockhouse system, we can practically say that the dispersion of the rebels of Cape Colony, or of the Boer bands who have found their way into it, has gone so far that even in the north east of the Colony they have been reduced to small bands hiding in the mountains. Those in the western parts of the Colony have practically made no sign for some little time. They are in a very waste country, and although the bands have not been altogether broken up, General French regards them now as rather a matter for police duty than for military operations. Going further north, into the Orange River Colony, the blockhouse system has rendered the country south of a line drawn roughly from Kimberley through Kroonstad to the Natal border, free from warlike operations. In the Transvaal, taking a line bounded on the north from Zeerust to Wonderfontein, on the east from Wonderfontein to Volksrust, on the south from Volksrust to Klerksdorp, and on the west from Klerksdorp to Zeerust, it may, I think, be held that the blockhouse system has cleared us within those limitations. We have certainly been able to secure that. When I ad- 54 dressed a meeting about two and a half months ago, I remember I was able to point out that the railway had been rendered secure, and that there had been no wreckages in the month of October. The safety of the railway is now practically secured. Of course it is possible that some marauding bands may find their way and break it again, but the trains are running with the ordinary punctuality, and supplies are going up with proper precision. And, of course, the House knows there is an immense resumption of industry at Johannesburg—an increasing resumption—which will perhaps be the most permanent source of improvement, and the matter on which we may most congratulate ourselves, seeing that the future of South Africa must largely depend on the timely resumption of industry. The position in which we stand with regard to the enemy at this moment, is that they are in three places in South Africa, and in three large bands. The force under General De Wet is in the Orange River Colony, and still numbers, on an emergency, when the men are collected, a formidable body. The force under General Botha in the north-east of the Transvaal, although he has suffered very considerable reductions in the course of the last two months, and notably by the operations of General Bruce Hamilton, still remain when brought together a formidable body. There is also on the north-west still a force left which collects from time to time under General Delarey. That these bodies of men should be brought together and I brought to action is the chief aim and policy of Lord Kitchener. In connection with that, I may say that the extension of the blockhouse system largely renders it more difficult for those bodies of men to keep their own position, and makes it more certain that sooner or later our forces will be able to bring a large body of them into action.
§ MR. LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)
Would the right hon, Gentleman kindly say how many men are under each of these leaders?
§ MR. BRODRICK
I refrain from giving estimates. Whenever I have given estimates of the number of the enemy, I have never fallen into the hopeless pitfall of telling the House exactly when the war would terminate, for doing which 55 so many persons have been rebuked. But roughly speaking I believe that each of these commandos can, or might on occasion, by sweeping a large amount of country, bring together something like 2,000 men. That is the sort of estimate that is put before us. Except in the case of General Botha in September last nothing like so considerable a body of men have been brought together for this purpose. As I have touched on this question I trust that this will be the right place to express our appreciation of the immense efforts which have been made by our mounted troops during the last year. I get a larger number of letters than anybody, probably, in the House from the front, and the way in which these troops, without any attempt at advertisement—we hardly ever see it in the papers—can endure marches of 30, 40, and 50 miles a day on successive days, while it no doubt shows a result in these Estimates in the addition of £2,000,000 for remounts, ought to be recognised as evidence of the unflinching spirit and perseverance of these men in a vast and variegated country. Considering the great extent of the country and the fact that the task of the pursuer must, in difficulty, be double or treble that on the part of the pursued, it is no disparagement to the enemy to dwell on the work of our own men. The work which has fallen on them has been most cheerfully performed. In many cases success was almost within the grasp of our columns, but it failed by the chance of a mist coming on or from some other untoward incident. Their disappointments, their hardships, and their exposure to all sorts of trials have been great, yet in the very last letter I had from Lord Kitchener he says that there has been a willing, cheerful and zealous performance of duty on the part of all ranks.
Now, I do not think it necessary to conclude the few remarks I have made by assuring this House and the country that we are not likely to slacken in our efforts to provide Lord Kitchener with all that is necessary to complete the operations he has in hand. It must be realised even by those most opposed to the war that by far the most humane thing for the conduct of this campaign, and by far the most vital 56 thing for the future of South Africa, is that so far as men and horses and the munitions of war can do it, we must put Lord Kitchener in the position to bring an end to the war at the earliest possible moment. I claim on behalf of the Government, with regard to that, that there is no part of our proceedings during the last year which will not bear the fullest investigation and criticism. I know that the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean advanced one point to which he attached importance the other day, but to which I would not make a reply because the First Lord of the Treasury dealt somewhat fully with it a few nights ago. I propose to lay on the Table to-night for the information of the House and the country a Return showing the total number of men and horses, both from home and abroad, which have been landed in South Africa during the years 1900and 1901. That Return will form at least a valuable record, unique as regards the effort that has been made in sending troops and horses over sea. It is certainly unique in the history of the British nation. I cannot help expressing the hope that it will not have to be repeated, and the Committee will understand when I say that, whoever has to repeat the effort, I trust the work will not fall on the individual who now addresses them. I can only say that on the part of all those engaged in South Africa and at the War Office, there has been one common effort that nothing should be wanting on our part in the effective utilisation of the Supplies which have been freely granted by the country. We have left nothing undone to economise the public resources, and to distribute the Supplies which have been committed to our care to the best advantage with a view to the conclusion of the war.
§ (4.50.) SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
The right hon. Gentleman has made some observations on the present condition of the warlike operations in South Africa. I do not know whether it would be in order to discuss the general question upon this particular Supplementary Estimate, but the Chairman will call those to order who transgress. The 57 right hon. Gentleman said two things which rather astonished me. He said that in all parts of the House, even among those who take a different view from his of the war generally, and as to the policy pursued, there had been, from the first, a desire to support it—"to see it through" as the phrase is—and that if fault had been found with the Government it was that they did not do this more actively or thoroughly enough. But I do think he is mistaken in supposing that any one complained that the Government were not spending enough. The objection was not that the money had been poured out, but that it had not always been very well applied. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can lay that particular flattering unction to his soul—that the House and the country generally have supported the Government in the matter of expense. It has been endured, and comparatively little grumbling has been heard; but I do not think that there is a general feeling either in the House or the country that there has been any indisposition on the part of the Government to spend money freely. Another little point on which I think the right hon. Gentleman was wrong was in claiming that he had always avoided committing himself to any estimate of the duration or chances of the war. On the most conspicuous of all occasions, viz., at the General Election, the right hon. Gentleman on his election card claimed the votes of his electors on the ground of the termination of the war in South Africa. That was even worse than a prophecy, for prophets all make mistakes; it was an interpretation of facts that had already occurred.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I must really be allowed to say that this card was published merely with the figures of the result of the poll after I had been elected, by some enthusiastic supporter, and he put at the top, "Termination of the war."
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I happen, for greater accuracy, to have the card in my pocket. It is not the first time I have quoted it; and it has become rather shabby, but I thought it might be required on this occasion. The card reads, "Guildford Division of Surrey. 58 October 9th, 1900. Termination of the War in South Africa. Never again."
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The figures are given. It is issued, printed, and published by D. Jones, Guildford.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
It is one of the election publications, and that makes it still worse. Perhaps this very sanguine admirer implied that, now that the right hon. Gentleman had been elected, and with his great mjority, this was the actual termination of the war! Well, the right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the way in which the troops of all classes and kinds and ranks in South Africa have conducted the operations, and of the extraordinary, spirit and tenacity of purpose and courage which they have shown. With that every man in the House will agree, and the praise given to the more mobile forces which have made the long marches day after day and endured the great hardships referred to was also due. But perhaps greater credit was due to the immobile part of the forces who were shut up in the blockhouses and leading about the most dreary and monotonous existences possible for anyone to lead. Yet no complaints are heard, no evils are reported, and everything that can be desired in an army is found in our men and in our officers also.
The particular Vote now asked for is for money required for transport in connection with remounts. I wish to point out that in July or August, when these matters were last before the House, we were assured that the money then asked for would be amply sufficient for the whole year, and would suffice to bring back to this country about half, or at least a large portion of the troops. Well, these forces have not been brought home, and there must have been large sums taken from the Estimate from bringing the troops home and devoted to the purpose of securing remounts. That makes the demand for more money on this head the more 59 difficult to account for, seeing that the Vote taken for that purpose last summer was so unusually large. There is another enquiry which I would like to make—although I have not much to say on the subject. There has been a great deal of commandeering of horses in Cape Colony. The country has been practically swept of horses for military purposes. From what we hear—we have the old complaint to make; we are groping in the dark, we have not access to full information, or indeed to hardly any information at all—but from what we can pick up, the country is swept clear of horses; and, therefore, there has been a large increase in the number of available horses and mules for transport obtained in that way. It seems that even in the Orange Colony, as I see from a little abstract given in the Blue-book—a sort of Budget of the Colony extending over three months—there was a huge item, in comparison with the total sums dealt with—a sum of £97,000—put to the credit of the revenue of the Colony under the denomination of "Horses Commandeered and Confiscated," and, as against that, there is a supposed expenditure which may be considered, to be repayment of the sum of £23,000. That shows that there are considerable sources of supply of horses and mules which have been used in South Africa itself. Therefore I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to be able to tell us what has been the recent rate of loss, and how far the experience of previous months has been utilised to prevent that in the future. We have reason to believe that many of the animals sent out were of a most undesirable kind, but whether good or bad, they were not judiciously treated; and we should like to know why in that case the Government comes now for this additional sum, notwithstanding the fact that they took under this Vote last session not only enough money for remounts, but enough to bring the troops home.
One other matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred deserves notice. He spoke of the saving in expenditure to this country by the fact of the Cape Colony Government taking over a considerable number of troops. I presume that refers to the 18,000 so-called town guards, and to a certain number of armed blacks. We should like, to have, as the right hon. 60 Gentleman has referred to them, some more information than we at present possess, as to the precise circumstances in which that force are being maintained, the discipline they are under, the particular authority exercised over them, whether they are, for instance, under martial law, and whether the officers of the force are employed for the purpose of applying martial law, which is a very important point. I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to let us know a good deal more about this particular force than we have yet been able to find out. I will not indulge in any general observations or lamentations as to the expenditure generally. The Committee, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, has never shown any reluctance to vote the money required for the war, but, of course, we hold the Government fully responsible for the application of that money, and judging from many things which have been disclosed in the past, we doubt very much whether a large part of it has been well employed.
§ *(5.4.) SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said that the right hon. Gentleman in his statement went beyond the terms of the Estimate before the Committee, and had made a general statement of much interest to the Committee, and of much value to the country, which, however, he would not have been allowed to have made if hon. Members generally, were not to be permitted to deal with the same subjects. The right hon. Gentleman even quoted things which had been said against the Government, but if the rules of order were applied as strictly as they sometimes had been on Supplementary Estimates, and if the discussion were confined to the actual items within the current financial year, the right hon. Gentleman would not have been enabled to make any remark about such statements. Until, however, he himself was called to order, he would assume that he would be allowed to refer to the matters mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman.
The point that the Leader of the Opposition had just put would require a little more expansion than was given to it by the right hon. Gentleman. The town guards, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and which had been taken 61 over by Cape Colony, had surrendered on some occasions in considerable bodies with their arms and horses. He imagined that there could be no doubt about that, although those surrenders had not been reported to the House except in one or two cases; but in many cases no reference was made to them by Lord Kitchener. It was obvious that the war was in part prolonged, because of our difficulty as regarded horses, the greater mobility of the Boers, and their constant supply of horses, and also because they always had plenty of ammunition in spite of the difficulties which might be supposed to exist in the way of obtaining it. Surely, therefore, those surrenders were matters which ought to have been communicated to the House. They were told that that force had been taken over by Cape Colony, and, putting aside the obvious constitutional objection to which the Leader of the Opposition had referred, they ought to insist that they should be as fully informed by the military authorities as to proceedings of that force as they were about the army itself.
There was another matter alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman, and which, according to the ordinary principle, might have been ruled out of order. He referred to the prolongation of the war as being the direct result of the delay which occurred in sending out the new Yeomanry. The right hon. Gentleman said to-night that he was about to lay Papers on the Table which would help hon. Members to understand what had occurred. He did not wish to repeat the charges he had made in reference to the matter, but when the right hon. Gentleman said that, they had been answered by the Leader of the House, all he would say was that three totally different accounts had been previously given of those transactions, the Leader of the House gave a fourth, and Lord Raglan had given a fifth in another place. There was, however, one matter which was more strictly relevant to the Vote before the Committee, and that was the question of remounts. They knew that the War Office was one of those Departments which had the convenient power, with the leave of the Treasury, of spending on one purpose money voted for another. That principle defeated the control of Parliament. There was the 62 notorious case of the German guns, which they had not been able to discuss. It was raised to some extent, also in the Vote before the Committee. It was curious that although the Government had spent on the war during the financial year the money voted by the House for bringing the troops home, and also for the gratuities, nevertheless only one thing was named—the remounts—and by a strict application of the rules of the order every thing else would be out of order on the present occasion. The right hon. Gentleman had told the Committee of the great success the War Office had achieved in the war, because they had sent a very large number of men across the seas, but that in itself did not constitute success. Spain sent to Cuba a proportionately larger force. The country had incurred lavish expenditure, and Parliament ought to see that there was that return for it which the country had a right to expect. The old Prussian maxim that nothing really mattered about an army except its power to defeat the enemy was true. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government had not been niggardly in regard to remounts, but that was not the charge. No one charged them with not buying horses by the thousand in different parts of the world, and sending them to South Africa. There might at one time have been an actual deficiency in the number of horses, but that time had passed long ago. The deficiency now complained of was not caused by the want of so many horses, but by the fact that the horses were not serviceable at the places where they were wanted. It was not for the Government to be niggardly; that was for the House; but as the House had not been niggardly they wanted to know what had happened to the money they had so lavishly voted. The right hon. Gentleman saw more letters from officers than any other hon. Member. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman probably saw 100 letters for every one seen by other hon. Members, and surely, therefore, he must know that officers still complained that the Boers had the legs of them, and also complained of the condition of the horses given to them for the very arduous duties they had to perform. Having regard to the condi- 63 tions under which the Boers had to carry on the campaign, the manner in which they were rushed throughout the country, and to the extent to which they had already been deprived of horses, it was extraordinary that, with all the expenditure which had been incurred, the British columns were still not mounted as well as the Boers. That was the complaint which officers continued to make. A great many people attributed their failure to the wrong reason, namely, that the mounted troops were too heavy. From what he had learned from officers, he believed that the Boer horses carried more weight than the British, but that the Boer horses were better. The Boers were big men, and they carried everything they wanted on horseback. The question of remounts had been a subject of anxiety to the Government, but they were now called upon to vote money for remounts in the absence of all the reports except one, for which he had asked at the beginning of the session, and which were promised by the right hon. Gentleman, who said that various reports on the remount system had been received at the War Office, and that he would consider whether they should be laid before Parliament. He sincerely hoped those reports would be laid before the House, because the question of remounts was at the bottom of everything that was going wrong or going too slowly in South Africa.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the mounted columns had done wonderful service. No doubt some of them had, but the most of them were generally disappointed because, the Secretary of State told us, a mist came down. That was the explanation of Homer; a mist always came down and enveloped the columns of the enemy, that being ascribed to the direct action of the gods. He could not but feel that in many cases the absence of success had been due to the breakdown of the remount system. There was one very remarkable fact in that connection which every Member of the Committee should realize. Sixteen unfortunate incidents had occurred during the present financial year, i.e., since the beginning of April, cases in which over 50 men or else guns were lost, and in almost all of them the Boers rushed on horseback on the British troops, and in nine cases did so with an ability and a knowledge of cavalry 64 tactics quite unexpected. If the Boers could surprise the British, charge right up to the guns and shoot men down at short range, that showed that their horses must have been in extraordinarily good condition. The Report which had been presented referred to mattere previous to the present financial year, but they were continuing matters. The Report was a most amazing and humiliating document, though the House and the country owed their thanks to the Gentlemen who took part in its compilation. The hon. Gentleman who presided over the Committee had been too much connected with the War Office to make his selection at first sight a good selection for such a Committee, but he and his colleagues had done their work admirably. The facts were all brought out; nothing had been concealed, and in fairness they should be thanked for the manner in which they had conducted the inquiry. The Report commenced with some words of censure upon the hon. Member who had brought this matter before the attention of the House, who had perhaps made a mistake in using expressions which he could not fully justify; but in substance the charges he made were proved up to the hilt. The Report of the Committee was a terrible censure upon the whole business matter of the War Office on this question, and it had confirmed all that had over been said of the businesslike habits of the War Office and the way in which it had conducted the war. The Committee found that the remount department had not consulted the military attaché upon this matter, nor had they obtained for themselves that information which the military attachés could have obtained for them. It was perfectly evident from the evidence of the present military attaché to Vienna that he was deeply hurt at not being consulted as he ought to have been. What did the Committee find with regard to the contracts, and the effects of the contracts in this particular case? Probably hon. Members had read for themselves the terrible story of the way in which this country had been swindled by a ring of persons in this place. We knew the facts with regard to Hungary, but he was afraid the War Office had received facts with regard to other places which would 65 show an equally disgraceful state of things. We knew how Colonel St. Quintin seemed to have fallen into the hands of the person Lewison; that a person who was previously in our service introduced him to Lewison and took a commission from Lewison of 2½ on the contracts he made, and that the country was made to pay almost the price it would have been compelled to pay for a good article for one which was not worth anything. France bought a lot of horses in Hungary, and paid £36 per horse. We wanted to buy an article not quite so good and paid £22, and we got an article worth£8. The rest of the money went into the pockets of the contractor. This was caused by having to spend money in the rush and hurry of war. If the work had been done which ought to have been done in time of peace the need of spending money in a rush in this way would not have happened, and the country would not have been swindled as it had been. The noble Lord on the Government Bench had made a perfectly fair statement with regard to Mr. Lewison, who was the cause of the country spending this large sum, which showed that when this pressure occurred the Government fell into the hands of people of this kind when the slightest inquiry would have resulted in saving them from this swindling. Lord Stanley said:I regret very much that men like Lewison should have been employed. I know all about Lewison; and know he is not the sort of man who ought to have been employed, and if the Imperial Yeomanry Committee could have asked anybody connected with Newmarket they would have said that Lewison was not the class of man to be employed.That was a painful commentary upon what had occurred in South Africa. Horses of an inferior quality were hurried out, most improperly supervised, and were hurried up country and inconsiderately put into the field, and the result was, not that a large proportion of them, but that practically all of them died at once, and the total amount of money which the country paid might to a large extent have been saved if proper arrangements had been made in time of peace. This was one of those items which taught us a well needed lesson. There was in the same vote a large amount for food, and the right hon. 66 Gentleman had alluded in the course of his speech to the food. One of the great difficulties in the way of recruiting at the present time was the quality and quantity of the soldiers' food, and those who were interested in the question of recruiting knew that lay at the root of all Army efficiency, and would bring that question before the House. On this occasion the debate ought to be confined to the question of remounts, and hon. Members owed such a duty of gratitude to the Committee that they certainly ought to say what they thought of the facts reviewed in the Report.
§ *(5.28.) SIR BLUNDELL MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)
said he regretted exceedingly that the Committee should have issued a Report charging him with making specific allegations, because he had been very careful in bringing the matter forward on the 6th of June to make no allegations whatever. He first raised the question in February last, and he had been continually asking Questions as to whether inquiries were going to be made with regard to this subject. On the 6th of June he again asked whether inquiries had been made. All he said then was that insinuations were coming from all parts of the Continent and London, and he wished this scandal to be inquired into. It was in response to his representations that the inquiry was held, and he always anticipated that the Committee would have gone out and conducted the inquiry on the spot, because it was a very serious matter. If hon. Members would read the evidence given before the Committee they would have no doubt that a very inferior class of horses were sent out. When he heard in December, 1899, that horses were required for South Africa, he at once wrote the letter to Mr. Wyndham which was referred to in the Blue-book, page 18, question 23. The hon. Member then referred to the following letter which he sent to the then Under Secretary of State for War in 1899:—I understand the Government want horses. Now, my thoroughbred stud manager, Mr. A. Waugh, who is also a veterinary surgeon, tells me he is certain he can buy 3,000 horses—Hungarian—just the class of animal you want, at an average price of £30. He knows a horse-dealer in Vienna who would accompany him to 67 buy the horses if you like. The horse-dealer would require £1 each for the buying, and if a present was given to Waugh, and his expenses paid, this would mean, in my opinion, less than 5s. per horse—and the horses would cost under £32.Again, Waugh advises that these horses should go straight to Trieste, thus saving carriage, and the cost per horse at that port would be less than £35. Further I send you a letter which Waugh has received, which you can have translated, where you will read that horses can be bought for less than £17 apiece.Alec Waugh is a well-known man, and son of Mr. Jas. Waugh, the great trainer at Newmarket, and he is brother to my trainer, Wm. Waugh. Alec Waugh has acted for the last ten years as the official starter to the Jockey Clubs at Vienna and Buda Pesth. He speaks German and thoroughly well knows the breed of horses. He holds a veterinary certificate for England, and I believe he is the only Englishman holding the German diplomas. If the War Depôt would like to use his services, I should be quite willing to spare him until February 15th. In his opinion, within three weeks from starting, he could buy for the Government 3,000 horses. In my opinion he is a perfectly honest man, and you would be all right in entrusting him with this responsibility.In reply to that letter he received a telegram asking Waugh to go and see General Truman on the Monday. Waugh saw General Truman as arranged, and was then told that the Government did not want any horses at all from Hungary. Yet in a few weeks he (the hon. Member) heard from friends in Austria-Hungary that large numbers of worthless animals were being bought there for the use of our Army. As a result of enquiries, he found that a certain Captain Hartigan took a Mr. Lewison to Colonel St. Quintin, and obtained a contract for 3,000 horses at £33 16s. 8d. each. No sooner had he got the contract than the man went off to Hauser, of Vienna, and arranged with him to supply these horses at £22, putting £35,000 into his own pocket as the result of the transaction. In another case a man named Renntschi got a contract for 1,000 horses, but he had to deliver them at a less distance, thus making a difference of about £2 per horse. Renntschi was unable to supply the horses, so he took his contract to Lewison, who at once gave him £7,000 for it. As these horses were at the same price as the others he had mentioned, Lewison would have put another £7,000 into his own pocket over that transaction. Captain Hartigan stated in his evidence that he arranged with 68 Lewison to get 2½ per cent. on the whole transaction, and this Captain Hartigan was actually employed to pass some of the horses! As to the nature of the horses, he had also made enquiries. Count Batthyany, Baron Harkanyi, Herr Von Lossonczy, Ministerial Roth (head of the Royal Hungarian Studs) were all gentlemen of the highest standing, and he knew them well. These gentlemen were staying with him at Newmarket, and the Financial Secretary to the War Office was asked to meet them there, but was unable to do so. He believed, however, that these gentlemen saw his lordship, and explained to him the kind of horses that had been bought. In the Report of the Committee would be found a number of certificates as to the horses acquired. Some were bought at £6 or £7 a piece, and sold to the Yeomanry at £33. The difficulty of the business was that there was no particular place at which to buy the horses, and no one really in charge. General Truman gave no advice to the Imperial Yeomanry, and Colonel St. Quintin did not consult General Truman. People were employed who ought not to have been employed, and horses of a worthless character were sent out. When he found that the Government were not sending a Committee to inquire on the spot, he, knowing the importance of the matter, and that sometimes the War Office tried to hush up matters, sent one of his secretaries, and Alec. Waugh to see what evidence could be obtained. It was through the action he had taken the Committee had been able to secure much of the evidence appearing in the Blue-book. Captain Hartigan, who would not have been sent for but for information, he (the hon. Member) communicated, stated that as many as 500 horses were passed by one veterinary surgeon in one day. When the horses were sent by rail sometimes as many as 13 poor animals were packed in a truck large enough for only eight.
In this matter he had simply tried to do his duty as a Member of Parliament, and to his country, but he had been treated as one who made false statements. Even in the report he was scolded for making "allegations," whereas he made no allegations whatever, but merely said that insinuations had been 69 made which should be inquired into. The Chairman of the Committee had not treated him as he ought to have been treated, and, in some respects, he felt that he was treated in an offensive way. He had made no charges against anybody; he simply wished a Committee to investigate the matter, because he considered that such insinuations were a gross scandal, against which all Englishmen ought to set their backs. There was no doubt that one of the causes of the prolongation of the war was the bad horses sent out. He trusted all Members would carefully read the evidence given before the Committee, and that steps would be taken to prevent the recurrence of such things in the future. There ought to be a proper Remount Committee, whose duty it would be to know approximately how many horses could be supplied by different parts of the world, and the price at which they could be bought. For about £26, plus expenses, the Government could get thoroughly good horses, well able to do the work for which they were required. This inquiry had now been gone into, but he would really like now that the War Office should have some further evidence which he could give them as to the conduct of the officers when they were out in Austria-Hungary, and if they would only send a couple of gentlemen who could be relied upon, he would be willing to send his men out with them, to give every information they possibly could. The War Office would then see that the things as recorded in the Report were not quite correct.
§ *(5.48.) MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
said that as a member of the Committee he wished to offer a few remarks. The hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich said the Committee had treated him very badly. He held no brief for the War Office in this matter, and he heard the evidence which the hon. Baronet offered to produce, and he did not think the Committee could be accused in their Report of concealing anything.
§ * MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said the gravamen of the charge lay not in that very long extract which had been read but in the paragraph on page 9 of the Blue-book, which related to an interview published in the Daily Mail.
§ * SIR BLUNDELL MAPLE
said he did not think it was fair to say what was there stated against himself and against Hansard.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said the words were:It is a matter of honesty or dishonesty on the part of those selected for purchasing agents. If anyone buys an animal for say £50 and succeeds in selling it for £100,the world is prepared to stand aside and admire the shrewdness of the bargain. But it is different when a man appointed by the Government to see that each animal purchased is sound, deliberately buys a worthless beast and puts the money in his own pocket.That was the gravamen of the charge. The men employed to purchase these animals were Colonel St. Quintin, Colonel Maclean, and Captain Webb, and no other person besides those three purchased any horses for the Government. Therefore the charge which the hon. Baronet brought forward must be limited to those three people. Colonel St. Quintin never went across to Hungary. With regard to the two purchasing officers who did go, there was no evidence of any sort or kind that either of those officers accepted any bribe from any person named or unnamed.
§ * SIR BLUNDELL MAPLE
said the horses were bought for them under a contract, and they took horses which were inferior animals. On the 6th of June last he called attention to the fact that the money being spent for the purchase of horses was very large.
§ * MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said the charge was that these officers received money in consideration of the purchase of horses. If so grave a charge as that could not be substantiated then it ought to be withdrawn.
§ * MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
pointed out that what the hon. Baronet had read 71 out was the statement made by him in this House upon which the inquiry was held. What he wished to point out was that in the course of this inquiry there was no charge proved against any officer in the army or any ex-officer of taking money in order to pass bad horses. That was one of the points inquired into.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
asked if the hon. Member for East Bristol attributed to the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich the paragraphs in the Daily Mail.
§ * MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said the paragraph in the Daily Mail was quoted to the hon. Baronet in the course of the evidence, and he did not deny the general truth of the statements there made. He fully endorsed the opinion of the other members of the Committee that there was not a shadow or a scintilla of evidence which could bring home to any officer the charge of having taken money. The second part of the inquiry was quite a different subject, and it clearly showed that the price paid for the horses was excessive, and the quality of the horses, to say the least of it, was doubtful. It was also shown that the Remount Department was probably understaffed, and certainly very badly conducted. With regard to the contract made by the Imperial Yeomanry Committee, it was made first at £35 per horse, then was reduced to £33 16s. 8d., and without the contractor going out of the room, wsa sold by this contractor to a man, called Lewison, at a profit of no less than £7,000, and Lewison was in no position to purchase horses in Austria at all. This contract was handed over to a man named Hauser, who might or might not have been a person of substance, but who was able to bring to the buyers the number of horses required. According to the evidence this man went into the open market and bought, horses at a price of from £10 to £15 per horse. Therefore the first contractor, Ranucci, made a profit of £7,000, Lewison£15,000, Hauser of £20,000, and Hartigan £2,300. There was altogether a total profit of £44,000 made upon a contract of £111,000. They had no knowledge but that 72 under similar circumstances a profit at the same percentage was being made in other transactions. The Imperial Yeomanry Committee was formed in a great hurry, at a time of national stress, when there was no agency for recruiting a large number of men in this country, and they had to find remounts. The Imperial Yeomanry numbered 10,500 men, and the task of buying these remounts was entrusted practically to Colonel St. Quintin, whose first action was to go to the Remount Department. He went to the Inspector-General of Remounts, who had been in that Department for nine years, since 1893. It was well known to every person who took an interest in horses, that Austria-Hungary was the place where a good class of horses were bred, but the Inspector-General of Remounts was absolutely ignorant of the conditions under which horses were bought in that country. Hon. Members would also find that the only information about Hungarian horses was according to the report of the Committee sixteen years old, but according to the amended evidence of General Truman only six years old. By looking at page 65 from question 1,624 onwards, it would be found what were the dates—1886, and so forth, had been altered to 1896. The report of the Committee was framed, as regards the Remount Department, on the uncontradicted assumption that the latest information of that Department was 1886, and they had no intimation at all that the information in the Remount Department had been carried up to 1896 as was now set forth in this evidence. He should like to know when the Inspector-General discovered this new evidence or the new dates which enabled him to make these alterations. This was a very important matter—a very important small question—which ought to be made perfectly clear to the House.
§ * MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
It is page 65, question 1,623 onwards. He wished also to draw attention to the question of the military attaché's information. The military attaché at Vienna was a cavalry officer, and he had almost invariably been a cavalry officer. The cavalry of Austria-Hungary was almost the finest, if 73 it was not the finest cavalry in the world. Hungary was admitted to be one of the greatest horse-breeding centres. It might have been thought that one of the duties of the military attaché in that country would have been to make himself perfectly acquainted with all the conditions under which horses were bred and reared and sold for Army purposes. But the Committee had it in evidence from the attaché himself that he had never had any communication with the Remount Department in England; that no information had ever been sought for by that department from him; and that no duties were assigned to him with regard to the making of inquiries. There seemed to be a lamentable want of ordinary intelligence in carrying out the duties of the Remount Department. The head of such a Department should be an officer of some intelligence; and the evidence before the Committee showed that the present occupier of the post ought not to be allowed to continue in his duties. The responsibility for giving an order rested with the head of the War Office; but the carrying out of the order depended on the efficiency of subordinates. It was the bounden duty of the Minister for War to dismiss subordinates who did not carry out his orders properly; and the evidence before the Committee showed that the Remount Department was not efficient and that the head of it ought to be dismissed. He might be thought to be using strong language; but as a constant critic of the War Office, he thought it only fair to the Secretary of State for War that he should be served by officers who were competent for their duties. When the Government instituted a Committee of Inquiry, and certain recommendations were made by the Committee, the Government by disregarding those recommendations were incurring a responsibility which they ought not to undertake with a due regard to the efficiency of the service.
§ *(6.5.) COLONEL BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
said it was to be regretted that this Report had been so recently issued, for hon. Members had really had no time to make themselves perfectly acquainted with the facts.
§ MR. BRODRICK
It would have been a difficult thing to publish the Report earlier, because one of the officers referred 74 to was involved in litigation on a matter not unconnected with the subject of the Report; and I was advised that it would be improper to publish the testimony brought before the Committee, while the question was before the Courts, and I had to wait until the suit was settled.
§ * COLONEL BROOKFIELD
said he accepted the explanation. He knew the circumstances to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, but still, that did not alter the necessary inconvenience which hon. Members had in discussing these matters. From a cursory glance at the Report he had come to the conclusion that it was one of the most refreshing documents which had been issued for a long time. It bore sincerity in every line. It was not unduly severe, but, on the contrary, extremely courteous to the persons implicated; but it also made the House acquainted, for almost the first time, with a scandalous state of things in one of the Departments of the War Office. It was refreshing, also, to hear the manly and straightforward speech of the hon. Member for East Bristol; and the House ought to be grateful to the Committee for the careful and admirable Report which they had drawn up. The only point on which he could not agree with the hon. Member for East Bristol was the way in which he had treated the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich. Both the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Baronet were trying to help the country, and it was a pity that they should fall out about a mere interpretation of a phrase. The hon. Baronet had a right to complain. He had not brought accusations against British officers, but had simply asked that certain accusations should be sifted. On page 19, paragraph 54, that was very clearly put. The hon. Baronet was asked if by the speech he made he did not convey nor intend to convey any insinuation against any British officer, and his answer was—That is so—except neglect of duty in reference to passing inferior animals.
§ * MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
Look at page 17, and you will find an accurate statement of the hon. Baronet's position there set out.
§ * COLONEL BROOKFIELD
said he looked, and he thought every one would 75 understand what the hon. Member for Dulwich meant. He did not think that either was to blame in the matter, except that neither appeared to understand what the other meant. The hon. Baronet had indeed charged officers with neglect of duty in passing inferior animals; and that charge had been proved up to the hilt. As to the quality of the horses, however, as a matter of fact a worse character had been given to them than was deserved. The Hungarian horses were, on the whole, the best that were supplied to the troops in South Africa. His own experience was that they were much better [An hon. Member: "Less bad."] or less bad, than the horses which came from the Argentine. But the House did not know what these horses had to do. They had demands made upon their strength which only the best horses could have stood. After landing, they were not given proper rest; they were sent up country in crowded open trucks; and then they had to take the field on very insufficient rations. One body of horses under his command had only 8 lb. of oats a day, without forage or green stuff of any kind; and the sort of riding and grooming to which they were subjected did not improve them; and then, what was most heartbreaking was that at the supreme moment the horses were usually completely exhausted. With a little care Hungarian horses might be made very useful; but it would be necessary to have officers who knew something about the business to purchase them. The charges of incompetence had been thoroughly proved. He only hoped that the same state of things might not be discovered in any other department of the War Office. It had been said before that it was almost impossible to have anything to do with horse selling without some rascality being involved. There had been a great deal of rascality in this business; but he did not consider that any British officer had been found guilty of anything more than gross incompetence.
§ *(6.15.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I do not think that gross incompetence is otherwise than most unfortunate. But I want to make a few remarks in consequence of the statement of the Secretary of State for War. He began 76 by telling us how highly satisfactory the conduct of the war has been, how splendid has been the progress which has been made; and the manner in which he established that position was to show that in the year just concluded, we are spending more money than we have ever spent before, and we have more men in South Africa than we ever had before. Well, if, after all the victories you have achieved, after all the enemies that you have wiped out, after all the forts you have established, you now at this period of the war require more men, and to spend more money, than you did when the 40,000 or 50,000 Boers whom you now have prisoners were in the field, it does not seem that the progress of your arms leads either to the diminution of your forces or to the reduction of your expenditure, but rather the reverse. In the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave, he stated that the expenditure for the year 1900–01 was £60,000,000. Then he estimated that the expenditure was to be £56,000,000 in the year just concluded. He is now asking for £5,000,000 more, which makes £61,000,000. And he told us that in his estimate of £56,000,000 he took—he did not say how many millions—for bringing the troops home, with that everlasting hope and delusion with which the Government never can deceive themselves and the country, that the war is over. And yet, with all that resource to draw upon—which he has expended in carrying on the war—the expenditure and the numbers of the forces are more than they were before. Taking certain forces besides the men actually under arms, he says that he has in South Africa at present over 280,000 men. Now that seems to me an entirely unsatisfactory account of the progress of the war. The right hon. Gentleman tells us with indomitable cheerfulness that everything is going on for the best; but I should have been much more satisfied that everything had been going on for the best if, in the third year of the war and after the war has been so often at an end, you had been in a condition to bring some of the forces home and to reduce some of the expenditure. But your forces are quite as numerous and your expenditure is more—without counting the expenditure for bringing the troops home. I remember, 77 if I am not mistaken, when the right hon. Gentleman gave an estimate of what he thought were the forces of the enemy in the field, some months ago, he told us we might estimate them at 10,000 men in all, and recommended that people should, day by day, count up the number of men who are reported to be captured, so that, by deducting them from the numbers so stated, they could see what were the forces left in the field. I have no doubt a good many gentlemen have followed that advice, and have found that the whole force of Boers must have been swallowed up.
§ MR. BRODRICK
On November 13th last I added up the totals in Lord Kitchener's accounts, and estimated that there might be 10,000 Boers in the field.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
If you add up the telegrams received since that time, how many men ought there to be in the field now? I think the Secretary of State for War mentioned three places in which there were forces of 2,000 each. That is 6,000 men, and it means that you are leading the country to believe that since November you have captured or disposed of more than 4,000 of the enemy.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Certainly not. I cannot give the figures without a few minutes' consideration. But we do not profess that since November the reduction has been more than 600 or 800 a month.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The impression produced on my mind was that your progress had been a great deal greater than that.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I do not doubt that the right hon. Gentleman is right. But that is very slow progress. If, after all your victories, after all your clearing of the ground, with 250,000 British troops in the field, and with only 8,000 men opposed to you, you are not in a position to reduce your forces or to reduce your expenditure, it shows that your progress is a great deal slower than 78 the right hon. Gentleman would lead us to believe. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think it is a feather in his cap—all the members of the Government have different feathers in their caps; and the feather in the cap of the right hon, Gentleman is to boast that each successive year of the war he has had as many or more men in the field than in the preceding year, and that the expenditure which he calls upon the House of Commons to make is more in the third year than in the first year. It seems to me that that is a feather which is not decorative. I shall believe in the progress of the war against this handful of men when you are able to show that you do not want as many, or more, men in successive years, or when your expenditure is not as much, or more, in the last year as it was in the year before; and I should place more confidence in the predictions of the right hon. Gentleman if he did not, in the Estimates for each year, ask for sums for bringing the troops home. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman confidently believed that the troops were corning home, but it seems to me that he has little accurate information as to the progress of the war as if he were an official in the Remount Department. I have no doubt he tells us what he knows and what he is told, but I think we might be told a great deal more—I do not mean by the right hon. Gentleman, but by those who inform him. There are very many things, I think, which might be revealed which would be as useful as the exposure of the breakdown of the Remount Department. I was very much struck with one phrase in the observations of the Secretary of State and that was that he expected in the next year he would save under the contract for food £700,000—that is, by making a new contract. Well, what is the old contract? If you can save £700,000 upon a new contract for meat alone, it must have been the same sort of contract as the remount contract. The new contract, I am glad to hear, is going to the colonies, and from the colonies apparently you can got provisions for £700,000 less than you got them for under the contract that was made before. I do not know how long you have been going on with that contract.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Does the right hon. Gentleman want an answer to that question, or is it only thrown out for the purpose of amusing the House?
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
It is the habit in this House, when a Gentleman wants the person in possession of the House to give way to him, to address him with courtesy.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I made the observation in a humorous spirit. It did not occur to me that the right hon. Gentleman was in doubt as to the obvious difficulties of the old contract. It was made when the country was in a very unsettled condition, and the communications being most difficult, it was impossible to get a contract made on the same terms as since the communications have been made safe.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I do not understand. A good deal of the food was to be got from elsewhere, and now it is expected to be got from the colonies. Therefore, the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman is nothing to the purpose, and he need not have interrupted at all, because these contracts of which I am speaking are contracts for meat from abroad.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, nor in any way to be discourteous to him. But it is a question of supplying the troops in South Africa, and the question of carriage and distribution is one of the most important elements in the contract.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman has given himself away in his own speech, because he said it had been the reduction in the price of the meat, and therefore the cost of carriage had nothing to do with it. Well, I think the right hon. Gentleman for his own sake, had better not explain any more, for he does not improve his case. [hon. Members on the Ministerial Benches: "Courtesy."] There is another subject which has been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition and to which I will briefly refer and that is the colonial force in Cape Colony of some 18,000 men. I should like to know what are the relations, either mili- 80 tary or civil, between this force and the Imperial Gevernment. I ask this question because of the language used by Sir Gordon Sprigg in that most unfortunate speech which has been published in the Blue-book, in which he boasts that this force is his army, and, as regard that force in the Transvaal, he expressly says that Lord Kitchener has nothing to say to it. Now it seems to me that for the conduct of the operations in the Cape Colony in which the King's forces are engaged, this would be an extraordinary state of things, that this force of from 18,000 to 20,000 men should not be under the direction of the Commander-in-Chief. This is an important thing upon which I think the House of Commons should have some information. Martial law we know exists in Cape Colony, and I was under the impression that this martial law was administered under the authority of Lord Kitchener; but if Lord Kitchener has not authority over this colonial force, are the officers of that force administering martial law over the civil subjects of the King in Cape Colony? If that is so, I do not wonder at the discontent which the condition of martial law has created in Cape Colony. In an Address recently delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for Sheffield he spoke of the want of tact with which martial law was being administered, and which had given rise to great dissatisfaction. I should like to ask another question of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. Now, the position which has always been taken up by Parliament is that there shall in every martial court be a certain number of commissioned officers, and it has been laid down in a Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman is now going rather beyond the limits of the Estimate.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I think I am, Sir. I will make this the subject of a future question. I do not wish to occupy the time of the House but, I must say, associated as it is with these additional demands, I cannot but regard the statement to-night of the Secretary for War as wholly unsatisfactory with reference to the conduct of the war. I see no evidence of finality. I see nothing but 81 that system—the only one the Government have adopted—of crushing out the Boers, in which you are making slow progress, and you hold out no prospect of rapid completion. I do not admire the policy, and I do not think it will be rapidly accomplished. The evidence which we have in reference to these remounts shows us that the miscarriages of the War Office have been the main cause of the prolongation of the war. The mounting of our troops has been most inefficient. We have thus been placed at great disadvantage, and in this way the successes of this small Boer force against our overwhelming battalions is accounted for. I fear it is in the nature of man, when mismanagement of this kind has been brought to light, to suspect that there are other faults behind. On the whole, I confess that I have heard the statement of the right hon. Gentleman without any new light being thrown upon the termination of the war, and with as little confidence as ever of an early conclusion.
§ (6.31.) MR. BRODRICK
The right hon. Gentleman has asked me various questions, and I rise at once to reply to them. Into his general remarks upon the progress of the war I will not enter, but I must say that, whatever the progress may be, the right hon. Gentleman neither, by his speech to-night, or in any other speech he has delivered, has he done anything to contribute towards its conclusion. [Cries of "Order, order," "Hear, hear," and "Oh, oh."] I am quite ready to give instances, if it were proper to do so on this occasion, and I am prepared to substantiate any statement I have made on any platform or in this House. I do not know, Mr. Lowther, whether I shall be in order in pursuing the question of the contract for meat, upon which the right hon. Gentleman threw so much dust into the eyes of the Committee. Before the right hon. Gentleman diverged into general observations, he spoke of the new contract for meat, and my statement that we should save £600,000 or £700,000 if the same amount were required next year as was consumed last year. I mentioned that the contract was made at 1½d. per pound cheaper. I think this will be easily understood. Those who are familiar with the circumstances must be aware that a contract of this descrip- 82 tion is made for the provision of supplies at certain places, and involves all charges to the points where the meat is to be delivered. It is, therefore, an element in the distribution when arrangements can be made with more security owing to the condition of the country being so different to what it was last year. To what extent the actual saving is owing to the cheaper price of the meat I cannot say. That lies with the contractor.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The contractor has made his calculation, and we have a sufficient guarantee of his stability. Then the right hon. Gentleman asked a question as to the status of the colonial troops in Cape Colony which the colonial Government have taken over, and there should be no misunderstanding about this. The position of these troops was to a certain extent anomalous in that they were paid and commanded by the Imperial Government, although by their terms of service they could not be used outside their own colony. All that has taken place is this. These troops are now taken back by the colony and employed in their own districts precisely in the manner in which they were recruited. The work of following the Boers from place to place is carried on by General French without the assistance of these local levies beyond those districts. This shows the spirit of the colonial Government, that they undertake a portion of the expenditure, and it shows that the progress of repelling the invaders has been such that in a large number of cases General French has been able to rely on the police rather than on combined military effort.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Lord Kitchener can call upon them if he requires them, and for all local purposes they are called upon to do the work of armed police in the neighbourhood. Upon the question of martial law I am precluded from entering by the ruling from the Chair.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I do not know whether that prevents an answer to the question whether officers of this force assist in the administration of martial law. My right hon. friend strayed into the general question of martial law, which is obviously outside the scope of this particular vote; but as we are entitled to speak of this force maintained by Cape Colony, surely we are entitled to know if the officers take part in the administration of martial law.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I think if I were to enter on the subject, I should be on dangerous ground, having regard to the ruling from the Chair. I should like to know precisely what is meant by administration of martial law, and I could not now answer without going into the subject generally.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Will they sit on the Courts? The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps give an answer later.
§ (6.42.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
, said that whenever the right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the opposite bench finds himself in a difficulty in consequence of observations made on this side of the House he immediately says that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House had not contributed to the close of the war by their speeches They were getting tired of this argument. They would accept that as the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, but they would retain their own view that it was not the speeches made from the Opposition side of the House that had contributed to the prolongation of the war but it was due to the wholly incapable conduct of the right hon. Gentleman himself in carrying out the war. The Secretary for War would, he thought, admit his responsibility for everything with regard to the remounts. A most unfair attack had been made upon the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich, whose treatment before the Committee was not what an eminent Conservative Member ought to have received. He thought the hon. Member for Dulwich had done good service to the country at large by bringing forward this subject, and he believed that this view 84 would be shared by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. He thought it was most unfair to make the charge which had been made against the hon. Member for Dulwich. The hon. Gentleman was asked whether he had made himself responsible for the observations made in an alleged interview. The hon. Gentleman declined to accept the responsibility, and the Committee had accepted his word and it was most unfair after that for the Committee to attack him in this manner. The first duty the right hon. Gentleman would have to perform would be to see that reforms, with regard to remounts were efficiently carried out. So far as he could see the right hon. Gentleman had formed a Committee of yeomanry officers; given them a blank cheque; told them to do what they liked and washed his hands of the responsibility of every penny of expenditure incurred by this Committee. That was not the way to deal with a question of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman should have put at their disposal all the information with regard to the purchase of horses in his power, but he did not do so. What did the Committee do? They had an officer who had specially devoted himself to the question of remounts—Colonel St. Quintin. That gentlemen knew nothing about Hungarian horses, but it was suggested that he ought to go to Hungary and purchase horses. Colonel St. Quintin apparently went to the Inspector-General and asked his opinion, but the Inspector-General said he knew nothing about the matter. He would be glad to know whether anything had been done, or was going to be done with regard to this Inspector-General. There had been no statement that he was to blame. Did the right hon. Gentleman assert that the Inspector-General was right in knowing nothing with regard to purchasing horses in places like Hungary, and that it was not justifiable to regard him as responsible in this matter? What did Colonel St. Quintin do? He picked up a man called Mike Hartigan, who agreed to introduce him to the man Lewison, but Hartigan had already agreed with Lewison to have 2½ per cent. commission on all contracts obtained. Colonel St. Quintin went to Lewison, Lewison knowing 85 nothing about horses handed the matter over to a man named Hauser, who was a man evidently without a shilling, because Hauser immediately sent to Rothschild in Vienna, and obtained a loan from him of £75,000. Rothschild knew very well what a good bargain Hauser was making, so that at the bottom of the whole matter was Rothschild himself. He stood in with this deal, and between Lewison, Hauser and Rothschild the country was done out of £10,00 on a sum of £44,000. Was that the rate at which we had been done upon all these contracts? The sacrifice was an enormous one, and it seemed to him that they ought not to vote a shilling of the money until they knew a great deal more about these contracts. He wished to ask the specific question, was it not a fact that a case in which we had been swindled in connection with these remounts had come out in Ireland, and was not before the Courts?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said on strict principles the House ought not to vote a farthing of the money until they had all the reports from the right hon. Gentleman. He did not intend to vote money, as he had told his constituents, so long as the Government continued to employ the methods they were now employing in prosecuting this war, and that being so he begged to move the reduction of the Vote in regard to remounts by the sum of £100.
§ (6. 45)* SIR CHARLES WELBY (Nottinghamshire, Newark)
said that he had the honour of presiding over the Committee on Remounts, and hon. Members would forgive him if he said a few words upon this subject. He did not propose to travel over all the ground which had been traversed in this discussion, he would only say with regard to that part of the subject dealt with by his hon. friend the Member for East Bristol that he and the hon. Member for Northampton had been hardly fair to the distinguished officer who presided over the Remount Department, 86 because he only assumed the office of Inspector-General shortly before the war began, and it was not fair to visit on him all the faults which had been discovered in the course of the inquiry. The main cause of his rising to address the Committee was to say a word with regard to the expressions which fell from the hon. Member for Dulwich. The hon. Baronet expressed himself aggrieved, not only by the expressions found in the Report of the Committee, but by the tone of the Committee itself towards him. He therefore wished to say that if in the course of that inquiry, any expression had been used by himself or his colleagues, which might have been taken to be discourteous to the hon. Baronet, nothing had been further from their intention. Every hon. Member who had listened to this debate would not be surprised when he said as Chairman, that he found the hon. Baronet a somewhat copious and impetuous witness.
§ * SIR CHARLES WELBY
The hon. Baronet disclaimed having intended to make allegations against British officers, and the Committee accepted that disclaimer, but when the hon. Baronet went on to say that he made no allegation, then he thought that nobody who read the words the hon. Baronet used would agree in that view.
He referred to the words quoted in the Daily Mail, a paper with perhaps the largest circulation of the day. He reeognised that the hon. Baronet did not admit the verbal accuracy of that Report, but the fact remained that the hon. Baronet allowed a statement very derogatory to the credit of British officers, to go forth in this way, and made no effort whatever to remove the most unfortunate impression which was created by it at the time. For his part he thought that the action of the hon. Baronet, however excellent his motive might be, did deserve reprobation and criticism, if the reputation of British officers was considered of any value to the country and the House.
§ * SIR BLUNDELL MAPLE
Might I appeal to the Committee to allow me to read my own words. They appear on page 48 at the bottom of question 1,072.The Chairman: May we take it that you accept the accuracy of that statement? Sir B. Maple: No, I do not accept the verbatim accuracy. Challenging my memory, I may have instanced the difference which I wished to convey between a horse-dealer buying a horse for one price and selling it at another, and the dishonesty that it would be if anybody passed a wrong horse that was bad.1073. Then you distinctly state that you do not make any definite charge against the officers employed? No, I do not.1074. In other words, you entirely repudiate the version of your interview produced in the Daily Mail?—What I stated just now is exactly what was my intention to convey—the difference between a horse-dealer buying a horse at one price and selling it at another—us I say here; 'If anyone buys an animal for, say, 50l. and succeeds in selling it for 100l., the world is prepared to stand aside and to admire the shrewdness of the bargain.' But as to the words 'but it is different when a man appointed by the Government to see that each animal purchased is sound, deliberately buys a worthless beast and puts the money in his own pocket.' I should contend that now if a man does do such a thing.1075. You do not consider that in making that statement to the Daily Mail reporter you were making any suggestion or charge against British officers? Deliberately, I did not. I pointed to an inquiry. My idea was that an inquiry ought to be held to see what had occurred. This is what my contention was from beginning to end.
§ * SIR CHARLES WELBY
said his point was that the words already quoted had been allowed to go forth to the world without any contradiction or qualification whatever. In the mind of any person having no knowledge of the subject they constituted a direct charge against the honour and integrity of British officers, and it was most unfortunate that such words should have been allowed to remain on record without qualification. His immediate object in rising, however, was to express his regret if anything that was said or done at the Committee caused pain to the hon. Member for Dulwich.
§ *(7.2.) SIR ARTHUR HAYTER (Walsall)
I have no intention of following the right hon. Gentleman into the larger question with which his opening remarks were concerned; I will merely say, in passing, that 88 as far as I could gather, he appeared to make out that we had already spent on the war £147,000,000, and that at the reduced rate at which we are going on he anticipated the expenditure would be £54,000,000 a year. That, I think, is a very pregnant sentence, and one that we should take to heart. With regard to the particular Vote before the Committee, it is for £2,000,000 only, but we voted in the original estimates £3,200,000, making in all for the one item of the purchased remounts, no less than £5,200,000. Last year we spent £3,800,000, therefore, the Leader of the Opposition was quite justified in saying that this was a very serious increase. Taking the two sums together, no less than £9,000,000 has been expended in the two years on remounts. On March of last year we had a very interesting debate on this question, and many criticisms were made by hon. Members on both sides of the House as to the way in which the horses had been treated, and the consequent wastage. I opened that debate, and pointed out that if after a voyage of 6,000 miles, you immediately put a horse on train, took him up country, and placed him under a heavy man and a heavy load, you did not give the horse the slightest chance. Instead of such treatment the horse should be put on alterative diet, have quiet exercise and gentle work, and be brought forward gradually to do the work for which it is required. In a national sense, I am sorry to find that these observations have been borne out by the evidence of General Truman himself. At question 598, in General Truman's evidence, these observations will be found:—Chairman: Do you consider that on the whole these horses that were shipped from Hungary had a fair chance when they arrived in South Africa?—No.Did they have a fair chance of recovering from the effects of the voyage, and doing justice to themselves for what they were worth? No. In some instances, because they arrived, looking well, they were taken out of the steamers, put in the train, and sent up country at once. No horse could stand that…'I consider their failure was entirely owing to the way in which they had been treated.'Then my hon. friend, the Member for East Bristol, who made such an excellent speech to-night, put the question:The Hungarian horses would have as good a chance as horses brought from anywhere else? Yes.If there was ill-treatment, it was the same all round? Yes.89 That is to say, all the horses were treated in this way. Then my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, spoke about the Cape horses. I want very much to know whether the Government have taken measures to buy up all the horses they can obtain in the Cape itself; and, also, what has become of all the horses that we have taken when we have captured Boers? Are those horses used by our troops? If not, why not? There are obvious advantages in using Cape horses. They are acclimatised in the habit of foraging for themselves, not accustomed to warm stables, hardened to the veldt, and used to heavy weights. A very good suggestion was made by the hon. Member for North Ayrshire, who asked whether it would not be possible to send with every column, a number of squadron carts, drawn by four horses, to carry kits, forage, and other baggage for the men. That would greatly relieve the extraordinary weight on the horses. I should be glad if the noble Lord could give us some account of whether these squadron carts have been used. With regard to this report on Horse Purchase in Austria-Hungary, what strikes me is the absolute neglect with which Colonel Wardrop was treated throughout these proceedings. He commanded the 3rd Dragoon Guards, I believe; at any rate, he has been long accustomed to horses, and he is one of the best authorities we could have; he had been a long while in the country, and was perfectly competent to give advice to the Yeomanry Committee or to the War Office. He was asked a question as to what he did. He says:—I think they might have worked a good deal more through the Military Attaché, because when the commission came over the Military Attaché could have given them a great deal of assistance and information.Then he goes on to say:I have not been consulted in any respect whatever, either by the yeomanry or by the War Office authorities. I certainly thought that if our authorities wanted any information, I might have been asked as to the purchase of these horses, and consulted with regard to the price to be paid, the class of horse to be obtained at the price, and who the best agents were.I think that is sufficient evidence to show that General Wardrop, at all events, thinks he was very badly treated in this matter.
90 Then there comes the larger question. How is it that the Remount Department, as a department of the War Office, did not supply itself with information in peace time? I find in the evidence of General Truman these passages:—We may take it that neither after the war had begun, nor in recent years in peace time, have any steps been taken to ascertain what the possibilities of obtaining a supply from Hungary were, and what would be the best means of setting to work to obtain that supply? Up to the time war was declared, I considered our colonies and the United States, America, would furnish all demands, and that for many reasons it would be preferable to buy in our own possessions. I could give you the exact dales of all the purchases.For instance, you had never asked the Military Attaché at Vienna to report to you either once or periodically, as the best means of supply?No.Do you not consider that it is a necessary part of the Remount Department's work to be perpetually on the look-out for fresh sources of supply, and be examining them?Yes.I think we shall all agree that that very important duty has been neglected, and that the information which the Remount Department had about horses in Austro-Hungary, if it was worth anything, was certainly obsolete, and ought to have been kept up to date by the officers of the Department. The Committee ought not to be satisfied until the right hon. Gentleman gives us an assurance that he will make it one of his first duties to impress upon the Remount Department the necessity of keeping themselves well posted up in these matters. It is clear from the following passage from Colonel Wardrop's evidence that the French Government do this:You had no instructions as Military Attaché to make any report, or any inquiry, into the sources of horse supply in Austro-Hungary and those other countries to which you were accredited?No, no special instructions.Have you, as a matter of fact, got at the Embassy, or at your quarters, any information registered upon these points?No.Then I understand that there is at Szabadka, which is the centre of a horse-dealing country, a French officer, with a secretary and a veterinary surgeon, maintained by the French Government from year to year? Is that so?I cannot tell you. I have heard it, but I cannot speak to it, because I have not been down there.91 I sincerely hope that we, who are extremely likely to be calling for horses in Hungary, will, before long, know all about the supplies to be obtained. This vote appears to contain also a sum for provisions, and on that I have a word or two to say.
§ (7.13.) THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Lord STANLEY,) Lancashire, Westhoughton
I do not wish to enter into any recriminations with the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich, but he has mentioned that when he asked me to come down to Newmarket to see some Hungarian gentlemen who were staying with him, I did not go—he supposed because of business.
§ * SIR BLUNDELL MAPLE
The noble Lord was not present at the time I made the statement. What I said was that he intended to come, but found himself unable to do so.
§ LORD STANLEY
The hon. Baronet may be sure that that was the case; it would require business of an important character to keep me when he had asked me down to Newmarket in the middle of a race week. But I want to bring the Committee back, if I may, to what exactly happened when the hon. Baronet made his speech. He got up and made what are now spoken of as "allegations." The next hon. Gentleman was the hon. Member for Pembroke, who attacked my right hon. friend in a bitter way for not having got up and answered at once the charge of the hon. Baronet. Whatever the hon. baronet may have meant to say, any hon. Member who was in the House at that time I think will agree with me that the House itself felt that there had been allegations made against the officers who were purchasing the horses. That was the impression conveyed to the House and to the country outside. I am glad to think that the 92 hon. Baronet in saying that, said more than he meant, and afterwards, when he was brought before the Committee, he entirely repudiated any such intention on his part. To be perfectly frank, if there is one thing satisfactory in this report it is that, on the authority of the hon. Baronet who made the accusation it is agreed that there is not one word of foundation for any allegation of corruption which can be brought against a British officer. With regard to the transaction mentioned in the Committee's Report, let us be perfectly fair before we make accusations against individuals. For the actual transactions mentioned whish are held up for opprobrium in the House, and in the Committee's Report the responsibility must rest, of course, with those who are in the War Office. I know that my right hon. friend the Secretary for War will be the last person to shirk any responsibility in this matter, but I do think that it is a little hard that the Inspector-General of Remounts should be so violently attacked when, as a matter of fact, except for his want of knowledge of the resources which I will deal with presently, the whole of the transactions which are really complained of, and with which the Committee had found fault, were not done by this officer at all, but by a Yeomanry Committee quite separate from the War Office. We do not shirk the responsibility, but at the same time the fact remains that in the beginning of 1900, when the Yeomanry came into existence, we were very much pressed in many ways, and at that moment the War Office officials and the remount officials were drawing as many horses as they could from their usual resources, which up to that time had been looked upon as quite adequate, and which almost any human being would have looked upon as perfectly able to supply any probable or possible want of our army. I may say that we were looking to supplies from the United States, Canada, Australia, and even to the Cape itself. Therefore, when another 10,000 men had to be mounted we naturally wished that the Yeomanry Committee should not enter into competition with any of those gentlemen who had been sent out to buy horses for the War Office.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
The noble Lord says they were looking to the United States, Canada, and so forth. But may I draw his attention to question 1,628 by the Departmental Committee addressed to General Truman, which is absolutely germane. The question is—We may take it that neither after the war had begun nor in recent years in peace time have any steps been taken to ascertain what the possibilities of obtaining a supply from Hungary were and what would be the best means of setting to work to obtain that supply?The answer, as printed here, is—Up to the time war was declared I considered our colonies and the U.S.A. would furnish all demands, and that for many reasons it would be preferable to buy in our own possessions.That was not the answer given to us.
It was—No. I could give you the exact dates of all the purchases.That has been interpolated since. [Cries of "Oh."] I am prepared with the copy of the evidence supplied to me on this.
§ LORD STANLEY
That, of course, is an entirely new point to me. Naturally I did not have anything to do with the publication. In point of fact I never read the actual evidence until it was printed. I understood, as a matter of fact, that the War Office were buying all our horses practically in Canada, America, and Australia, and I understood that they had not up till then, to any great extent at all events, tapped Hungarian sources. Therefore, when this question of purchasing remounts for the mounting of the Yeomanry arose, Hungary was looked upon as the right place to go for these horses. The War Office is generally told that if they would only give things to private individuals they could do things very much better than the War Office. In this case it was given to private individuals. The members of that Committee consisted of those who, after all, would command the respect of all those interested in horse breeding or horse buying. The result, I am sorry to say, has proved that this course has not been an entire success. [Opposition laughter]. I am, perhaps, putting it rather mildly. The 94 right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean has given me credit for being perfectly frank in my answers before the Committee. I am perfectly ready to be frank, and I cannot see anything to be gained by not being frank, and I confess that I am astonished, and I cannot think it is right that the Inspector-General of Remounts should not know, as far as lay in his power, the best places and the best way of purchasing horses in any part of the world. But, at the same time, if any one of us had been put in his place, I do not think that at the beginning of the war they would have taken it into consideration that the resources of our colonies or of America would not suffice to meet all our wants for the war. It was not so, and the fact remains that it is a pity he did not know about the purchase of horses in Hungary. Inquiries have recently been made on this subject as to the best way of obtaining horses in any future emergency, and however damaging the report may be against those in authority, the inquiry will not have been altogether lost if, in the future, it produces good results. At all events, the Government should have credit for this. The Secretary of State never made the slightest attempt at concealment. This Report need never have been produced unless he had wished; but he did wish it; and he does not mind the disclosures that came out being made, because he is determined, as far as lies in his power, to remedy the abuses that have occurred, and to try to make provisions for the future. I believe that the proposals the War Office will be able to make will for ever do away with any breakdown, so far as the knowledge in our own country as well as abroad goes, of the best places to obtain remounts. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Walsall asked me about squadron carts to relieve the horses of kits, forage, and baggage, and I believe they have been tried. The horses have been relieved of as much baggage as possible, and I believe, as a matter of fact, that this arrangement has succeeded very well. The right hon. Gentleman also says that he gets very bad reports as to the condition of the horses shipped from Hungary, and he asserts that this is entirely due to the way they had been treated, at the same time one cannot help noticing from the accounts Lord Kitchener had sent home of late of captures that have been made, 95 especially in General Bruce Hamilton s force, show that at all events our horses are perfectly capable of making extraordinary exertion. To do this, you must undoubtedly make arrangements by which the horses shall, on landing, be given proper time to recuperate from the effect of the voyage. After all, this is the most important thing that can be done. We hear a good deal of talk about English horses being better than foreign horses, but I do not think that hon. Members quite know all the real facts of the case. I have it on good authority that out of the best omnibus horses which were sent out to South Africa from this country, and which were so highly praised, some 90 per cent. of the total were Canadian horses. The real secret of good remounts is condition. You must have horses in the best possible condition, and to do this you must give them a reasonable time to get over the effects of the voyage. In the past I admit that this was not always done, but there are circumstances in war over which no War Office at home, no House of Commons, and practically hardly the Commander-in-Chief have any control. There are moments when you must use the horses, even if it is one for one dash, and the horses die after it, for it may have been something that was worth this risk. Therefore you cannot bind yourself down to give all horses complete rest. The Government are sending out horses so far in advance of the actual requirements, that the animals are able to get a month's rest before they go into the field. A general officer has been lately sent out to take command of this department alone, and to see that no horse is sent up country which is not thoroughly fit for the purpose. I hope that by this means the waste of horses will be greatly diminished. The Government are still finding an enormous number of horses, as they have done in the past. They are keeping up the supply. We told Lord Kitchener what we proposed to send up to the end of March, and we asked him whether that was sufficient to furnish him with all the supplies he wanted, and, at the same time, to rest the horses. We were told that it was amply sufficient. More than that, I think, we cannot do, and I can assure the Committee that, while the Govern- 96 ment are doing their best at the present time to get the best horses to South Africa, the fact that the remount system will want entire reorganisation, has not been lost sight of, and it is one of the things which my right hon. friend has promised at the earliest possible moment to put into execution.
§ (7.30.) MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
Were it not for the fact that we are engaged in this war, I own that I think in the face of the facts that are disclosed in the Report of this Committee, there would be a great deal to be said for the proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton, with whom, I find myself on this rare occasion, so far agreed. There is a good deal to be said for the proposition that we should refuse to vote this Supply without a good deal more inquiry, but as we are actually engaged in this war, I for one would most certainly not take the responsibility of voting against it. I hope the Committee will allow me to say a very few words on this question of buying remounts. Like my hon. and gallant friend, the Member for Rye, I think it is singularly unfortunate that this Report, which is dated August 9th, 1901, was not circulated until a few hours before this debate. My right hon. friend has explained the reason, and I quite admit the force of it, but so seriously do I consider the facts disclosed in this Report, that I should have said that, unless it be that the money is urgently required, this debate might have been postponed, with advantage, for a day or two longer. I join also in the regret, which has been so widely expressed, at the censure passed on the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich in the Report of this Committee. These censures have, to a certain extent, been supported by my hon. friend the Chairman of the Committee since the debate began, and also by the noble Lord the Financial Secretary of the War Office, who referred to the debate in this House which occurred last year, as a justification of the attitude of the Committee to that debate, and the impression which it made on the House generally. I am sorry to say that I was not present on that occasion, and I cannot form any opinion as to the correctness of 97 the impression, but what is the use of going back to the impression made in a speech last year, when we have the most conclusive statement made in evidence by the hon. Baronet himself. I ask the House to pardon me while I read two or three of the things he said. The members of the Committee were present in the House of Commons during the debate, but not as a Committee, because the Committee had not even then been appointed. On what is the charge founded as far as the Committee are concerned? Why, on a paragraph, and nothing else than a paragraph, in the Daily Mail.
§ LORD STANLEY
This Committee was given because an hon. Member, sitting below the gangway on that side, and the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich had made a direct accusation of fraud against our officers. That was the impression given to the House when the hon. Baronet spoke.
§ * SIR BLUNDELL MAPLE
According to the report in Hansard which was transmitted to the Committee, I said that I wished an inquiry to be hold because insinuations had been made, though not by myself, against certain officers.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I will not enter into the motive or the reason for which the Committee was appointed, but in justice to the hon. Baronet I ask the House to listen to the words which he gave in evidence himself. If I understand the English language they absolutely put aside the idea that he was making charges. If you turn to question 55, dealing with the Imperial Yeomanry you will find the following in the hon. Baronet's evidence—…Dealing with the Imperial Yeomanry, I understand that you did not intend to convey any insinuations against Colonel St. Quiutin?—I have never heard a word against him.Then there are questions at out the phrases in the speech 'certain officers mixed up in the swindle' and 'the spoil divided.'Take the phrase 'the spoil divided'?—That applies to the people who bought; that does not say 'officers' there.The spoil divided' would not refer to the principal officers or their staffs?—No, not at all.Then he is asked question 69—As regards these British officers referred to, if you have any charge to make against them it is that they were neglectful?—Yes.98 Then question 70—And perhaps even incompetent?—I have nothing else.What can be plainer than that? He disclaims all intention of making charges against British officers.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I did not see this—When you used the words 'certain officers in His Majesty's Service were mixed up in the swindle' you would rather substitute the words 'certain employés.' You use a very definite phrase, and you say 'Certain officers in His Majesty's Service were mixed up in the swindle'?—Yes.I do not think that bears on the point but I had not seen the paragraph. It is no contradiction of the clear, plain, and emphatic statement that he had no desire to convey insinuations against the principal officers or their staffs.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
read the question and answer as follows—When you said that insinuations were made, you have no personal knowledge of any wrong doing at all?—I said "insinuations.I must say I think, if I had been a member of the Committee, that with these distinct repudiations of any desire to make any reflection on British officers, I should have thought myself wrong in using any expression which implied censure upon them.
§ * SIR CHARLES WELBY
May I point out that the Committee distinctly state in their Report that the hon. Member in his evidence repudiated the allegations which he had publicly made in some places. Their criticisms referred to the fact that these accusations had been made in public, and not been withdrawn.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
What the Committee stated in their Report was this—While fully accepting Sir Blundell Maple's explanation, and recognising that he was actuated by a desire to serve the public interest, we feel bound to express our deep regret that on such grounds he should have committed himself to public statements which, whatever their intention, were universally understood to be direct attacks on the honour and integrity of British officers.99 I think hon. Members are in a perfect position to judge whether my hon. friend is to blame or not, and I venture with great respect to take upon myself to say, without differing entirely with the Committee's verdict, that I think, on the other hand, the House of Commons and the country are indebted to my hon. friend for the action he has taken in endeavouring to expose what he believed to be at the time and what the Report must believe now, that they have the Report before them to be a great public scandal to which it was most desirable that public attention should be directed. Whatever may be the precise merits of this evidence as to the throwing of blame or not on British officers, I think the Committee must by this time have come to the opinion that we have heard quite enough on the subject to show that the present state of things is unsatisfactory in the extreme. What hon. Members, I think, want to know more than anything else is what the Government are doing or intend to do, to prevent anything of this sort happening in future. The present arrangements are clearly most unsatisfactory. The consumption of horses in this war has been something positively enormous and yet with all that the results are so unsatisfactory that even the Government could not deny the truth of the statement made by the hon. Baronet at the very commencement of this debate that the general complaint was that still the Boers had the legs of us, and that the condition of our horses in South Africa was infinitely worse than theirs. I venture to think that this is owing partly to two things. It is partly the fault of the purchases which are made. I am told, and I believe it to be true, that a great many of them are bought to begin with in intolerably bad condition. They are horses which should never have been purchased for the war or for immediate service in the war. The other fact is one to which my noble friend directed attention, and I agree with him. It is because the horses are often in bad condition. I admit all the difficulties which have to be contended with. I consider it is little short of lunacy in time of war to buy horses in bad condition, to send them a 100 long distance over sea, and to move them immediately up to the front to be put into service. It would be just as wise for me to take my hunters out of the loose box into the field. How long would they last? They would last a week, and the whole stud would be broken up. I have made these few observations, not because I have knowledge of military matters, but because I do know something on the subject of horses. I have felt for a very long time as regards the Army remount system that matters were in a very unsatisfactory condition. I have only had time to glance through the Report this morning, but I confess it displays a state of affairs in the past which I trust is not going on at the present moment.
§ (7.47.) CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
Being one of those who have taken considerable interest in this subject I wish to address the Committee for a few minutes. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for War, began his speech by claiming considerable success for the action of the War Office. But my belief is that far from having conducted this campaign successfully, they have conducted it in the most wasteful manner, and that the country is beginning to feel that we have not had value for our money. The country wants to know how the War Office has carried on its work as the head of the Army, responsible for everything that has been done. It is no small matter that, according to the calculations of my hon. friend—and I think he is not much in error—the country has lost £8,000,000, by the incompetence or mismanagement of the War Office, or those whom they employ. So far as we are able to judge, no person employed by the War Office knew his business thoroughly, or carried it out as it ought to have been. That is a very bold and sweeping statement, but every word of it can be justified from this report. Much has been said against the hon. Member for Dulwich because he had the courage to bring this matter before the country. That hon. Gentleman fulfilled a great public duty and saved the country the expenditure of vast sums of money. It is said that the hon. Member for Dulwich had made statements against the honour of British 101 officers. He did nothing of the kind. I cannot agree with the Report that there was no suggestion or ground for serious criticism of the conduct of the officers of the Remount Department in Austria Hungary. As to Captain Hartigan he had been in the Army as a British officer, was employed by the Government and is even now in the pay of the Government; and yet it is proved that he received a commission on the price of horses passed by him amounting to £3,000 from the horse dealer who had made a clean sweep of £4,000 profit on one contract alone. If that was not some justification for the hon. Member for Dulwich being disposed to think that there were grounds for the allegations made against this British officer, I cannot see what could be described as justification. It has been my misfortune to read many Blue-books, but I confess that this Report is the most amusing Blue-book I ever met with in my life. It is a pity that the hon. and learned Member for North Louth is not here to deal with it. A screaming farce could be written under the title of "How the Remounts were purchased from the British Government." One fellow meets a fellow who introduces him to another fellow, who goes to yet another fellow who purchases horses for the Government. We have three separate jobs. Colonel St. Quintin makes the acquaintance of Captain Hartigan; Captain Hartigan introduces him to Mr. Lewison, who gets the contract and hands it onto a certain horse-dealer in Vienna named Hauser. The result of it all is that, through the mismanagement of the War Office, the British public suffer to the extent of eight millions of money.
I come now to the way in which this business was done. We have in Vienna a British Military Attaché, Col. Wardrope, for Austria Hungary and also for certain of the Balkan States. The Colonel is there to give the War Office every information, with reference to every military matter going on in these countries. It seems to me that the first thing any sensible person in the War Office would do, when the latter had any intention of buying horses in Hungary, would be to put himself in communication with that officer. I had 102 no knowledge of these gentlemen spoken of in this Report, with the exception of Colonel Maclean, who is well known to be a first class judge of horses. Colonel St. Quintin telegraphed to the military attaché in Vienna, but he did not put his name to the telegram. The military attaché wired to the War Office but got no answer, although a despatch might have been sent by telegraph in an hour. Colonel St. Quintin eventually arranged for Colonel Maclean to go out and buy horses in Hungary. But Colonel Maclean had no knowledge of either German or Hungarian. To my personal knowledge, there are many officers in the British army who combine a thorough knowledge of German with a first class judgement of horses. Colonel Maclean went to Vienna, and saw the military attaché, but asked for nothing further than a recommendation to a first class lodging and the engagement of a good interpreter. I know something of interpreters, and that an interpreter engaged under these circumstances becomes the master instead of the servant of his employer. In connection with these contracts the Report says that Colonel St. Quintin had no knowledge of the market price of Hungarian cobs, and he had no one to advise him; yet he began buying cobs right and left. I would point out to the Committee that there is a vast difference in Hungary between buying a ull-sized horse and a small horse. I know that country very well, and the best horses are the small ones. As for resisting powers, it is well known that they are the hardiest horses in the world; there is no question about that. It has been said that some of these horses have broken down; but they broke down under conditions in which any horse would have broken down. The Colonel entered into a contract with Leweson to buy horses f.o b. at £33 16s. 8d.; and from the centre of the Hungarian horse district to Fiume, the cost of transport is £2 per head. Later on we are informed that Hauser, a horse-dealer, took up the contracts from Lewison at £22 per head, thus leaving Lewison with an enormous balance of profit. I may mention that the horse trade of Hungary is solely in the hands of Jews and 103 Gypsies. Lewison got an enormous profit it is true, but that was quite legitimate for him—he was a horse-dealer! If he could get a representative of the War Office sufficiently childish to order 1,500 or 3,000 cobs at £33 16s. 8d. which he could buy for £10, and convey to the port of embarkation for £2 or £3 more. Mr. Lewison was the last person to be blamed. Again, I notice in the Report a statement as to the difficulty of getting the horses purchased for the Mounted Infantry down to the port; but was the British Military Attaché at Vienna ever asked as to the possibility of shipping the horses direst from Galatz, and whether we could not have drawn on Roumania, Bessarabia, and Southern Russia for a supply of horses? I admit that horses bred in these countries are somewhat small, but they are just the horses we want in South Africa. All this goes to show gross in competency on the part of the War Office. I would like to know whether Colonel Douglas Willan, who has been engaged lately in this work of horse-buying in Austria-Hungary, has any knowledge of German or Hungarian, even if he be a good judge of horses. What use had the War Office made of that Officer? He should be glad to have answers to all those questions, including the question as to why 300 horses had been passed after an inspection extending over only a few hours. Many hon. Members had seen horses "vetted," but he defied the most clever "vet" in the world to examine horses and be satisfied that they were thoroughly sound, after an inspection at the rate of about 300 horses in four hours. What was the excuse put forward for that strange proceeding? It was that certain ships had to be dispatched rapidly, but surely it was of greater importance that the cargo should be what was required, than that the ships should be dispatched a day or two earlier. No doubt Colonel Willans acted in good faith, but he asked the Committee whether he had acted in good judgment in placing a certain amount of rubbish on board a ship in order to save a little delay. The explanation as to why the military attaché was not communicated with, was that owing to an oversight the attempt 104 proved abortive, and presumably from want of time no further attempt was made to communicate with him. Then as to the head of the Remount Department, against whom certain allegations had been made, the examination of that officer himself as contained in the Blue-book showed that he was not competent to do his duty, and that in the true sense of the word he did not do it as the country had a right to expect. Surely if there was any duty incumbent on the head of the Remount Department it was that he should be in a position to give the War Office authorities every information about horses all over the world, and presumably he had no distinct instructions to confine himself to horses in the British dominions. Then again no evidence was forthcoming that any attempt was made by the Government to draw horses from India. The Indian horses were undersized and country bred, but they had from two-thirds to three-fourths of Arab blood, and although small and light would have been admirably suited for the work in South Africa. In his humble opinion the report was a distinct condemnation of the Government with reference to the management of the supply of horses, and the result was that the taxpayers of the country had lost something like eight millions of money, or a third of the total sum spent on horse flesh. If he were in order, he could show that similar mistakes had been committed in other directions. If that were a sample of the way in which the war was carried on, and if that were the boasted success of the War Office then he said the responsible authorities were fully condemned.
§ (8.6) MR. BRODRICK
I do not know whether by saying a few words with reference to what has fallen from hon. Members, I can in any way shorten the debate, but I think it is a great pity that in a matter in which we are all practically at one, we should seem to be arguing on different sides of the same question. Some difference of opinion has arisen, notably as to the course taken by the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich, but as far as I am concerned, I can assure the Committee that I fully and in every respect welcome the interposition of the hon. Member and the 105 information which he was able to give to the Government. Since I took the office I now hold, I have never consciously given the go-by to any representation made to me from any quarter of the House or outside it, as regards the more efficient conduct of the war. It is not possible with the great amount of labour falling on me at the present moment to examine all these representations personally, but there is no man who is more anxious than I am to sea that every officer performs his duty, and to take care that where mistakes have occurred, there shall not be given an opportunity for their recurrence. I should like to say that while I am most grateful to my hon. friend the Member for Dulwich, I am also very grateful to the members of the Committee for the way in which they had discharged their duty. There is a difference of opinion between the Committee and my hon. friend as to the exact form of the charge he made, and even at the risk of again going over, what I said before, let me say very succinctly where I think the mistake occurs. No one, least of all the Committee, feels anything but gratitude to my hon. friend for having been the means of putting us on the track of occurrences which were regretible, but the way in which he expressed himself at first was such as rather to give the impression that he himself made a charge, which he says now he did not make and never intended to make. I have referred not merely to Hansard, which must be the most correct version, but I have referred also to The Times, and in The Times report of the speech of my hon. friend there does appear the following words—The horses were the merest rubbish that could have been picked up in the street, but they were sold at £25 profit each and the spoils were divided between certain persons in Her Majesty's Service.So that the report given in The Times did lend itself to the view that my hon. friend had made these allegations, and the Committee intended to convey by their Report, what was present in my own mind, that while my hon. friend's interposition in the matter was altogether advantageous, possibly if the form of expression in which it had been conveyed had been different, the War Office 106 would have been saved from many an uneasy moment as to the conduct of certain officers.
Let us look, Sir, at the matter as it stands now. All this occurred in January 1900. I have not called the Chairman's attention to the fact that the matters referred to in the Report are not included in the Vote we are now discussing, because I think there should be the freest possible; discussion. The allegations as explained by the Committee, and the opinion expressed by the Committee, will, I am sure, be shared by every hon. Member. But do not let us, sitting here quietly in January, 1902, forgot what the circumstances were in January 1900. I can speak with more freedom of them because I was not then at the War Office myself, but let every hon. Member put the case to himself. It was not a question of providing arms or ammunition, or of deciding the number of troops we expect to employ on home defence. We were confronted in January, 1900, with a sudden and extraordinary demand for a campaign on a scale and magnitude which no one in this country or any party had ever contemplated. The ordinary demand for horses for the Army, which was 2,500 a year, was increased to such an extent that in January, 1900, alone, 13,000 horses had to be sent out, and before the end of June, 80,000 horses had been landed in South Africa. If at this moment any business firm had to comply with a demand which had increased nearly 6,000 per cent. in six months, they would not find their ordinary machinery capable of coping with it. We can all be wise now, and I fully realise the force of the criticisms which have been directed against the procedure which was adopted. We must accept the blame for that, and I am quite ready to do so; but we must not forget that the circumstances were quite abnormal. If we had said three years ago that we intended buying horses in Hungary, we should have been met with a cry of derision and despair, at what would have been represented as a want of confidence in the resources of the colonies and the mother country. As my noble friend said a few minutes ago, the best thing 107 we can do is to make use of the experience we have had. As to the more recent conduct of purchases, I have been in constant communication with Lord Kitchener, and I have pressed him continually with regard to the class of horses he requires. Only last week he told me that his greatest difficulty was not with horses from Hungary or North America, but with the horses from home, which were too large for the work. He thinks that the ordinary cavalry horse is not fast enough for the country and he also thinks that some of the Australian horses—I am not speaking generally—are not well fitted for the work. But I do believe that an immense improvement has been shown, and I fully accept the criticism that horses had been hurried up country too soon. I myself had said, short of giving an absolute order to a man in Lord Kitchener's position, that the Government would be perfectly willing to be patient with regard to the number of columns in the field, and I urged him not to send out columns unless they were properly horsed, because it was useless. During the last three months we have sent out 13,000, 10,000, and 20,000 horses, and if Lord Kitchener tells us that he should have more, we are quite ready to consider the possibility of sending even larger numbers. The moment my hon. friend came to my noble friend beside me, we made a variety of enquiries, and I made enquiries myself in the early days of June when the matter became public. I immediately appointed a Committee who had done admirable work, and whose Report, which has been presented to the House, has resulted in the discussion we have had this evening. Although I do not deprecate the continuance of this discussion, I can assure the Committee that nothing can bring home to my mind more strongly than has been brought home to it, the absolute necessity of making preparations for any emergency in the matter of the provision of horses. It is a subject I take great interest in, and all that the officers connected to the War Office can do will be done to keep the Army well supplied in whatever part of the world it may happen to be.
§ *(8.18.) MR. SOARES (Devon. Barnstaple)
said he thought the Committee owed the hon. Member for Dulwich a great debt of gratitude for having brought this subject forward. One thing was certain, if the matter had not been ventilated in the previous June the Committee would not have had the particularly interesting Report which was now before it, as no Committee of Inquiry was appointed to enquire into this question until after the matter had been made public. Hon Members sitting on the Liberal side of the House could quite understand the reason why the hon. Member for Dulwich had been treated somewhat harshly by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It arose from the first paragraph in the article in the Daily Mail. The hon. Baronet did not say that the war would have been over six months ago if Members of the Opposition had not made speeches, but that it would have been over if suitable horses had been supplied, and of course the Govertment was responsible for the deficiencies in this respect. Hon. Members had read the Blue-book with a certain amount of pain, but not with any great amount of astonishment, because it was a well-known fact that of all the Departments of the War Office, the Remount Department was about the worst. But although the Remount Department had not done all that had been asked of it, still they ought to be fair and acknowledge the difficulties it had to face. Owing to the difficulties of the campaign, there must necessarily have been a vast waste of horses and transports, but the Committee had to consider whether it had been excessive, and when the whole question was considered one could not help thinking that that had been the case. One of the reasons of that wastage was the condition of the horses. Animals had been sent out which had not been got ready for the sea voyage; they had then had long railway journeys in the heat, very often without sufficient food and water, and on arrival at their destination had been sent on arduous marches with the result that they broke downward died like flies. But there was another reason, which had not been alluded to for the excessive loss of horses, which was the horsemanship among the officers and 109 the men, which left a good deal to be desired. A man was not necessarily a horseman because he could "stick on" over a hurdle or ride bareback round a riding school. They ought to be taught to know the first symptoms of over fatigue in a horse, and how to ease their horses on a long and difficult march. Nothing taught that so much as hunting. Of course, it was impossible to train all our officers and men in the hunting field, but some means ought to be devised to give them this experience. One gentleman of his acquaintance, who had just returned from South Africa, rode on one horse through Bloemfontein to Pretoria and back to Cape Town, and had brought his horse in in good condition. That gentleman knew a good deal about horses, and looked upon his mount as his best friend, and saw to its comforts before his own. He took the opportunity of finding out the different grasses of the country he passed through, and found some that was unfit to use, some that was bud for the horse if allowed to graze on it, and some that a horse would not touch, although it looked all right to the unsophisticated eye. He also said there was a great difference among the officers, from whom he received his orders when acting as orderly; some officers considered both men and horses, and others did not; some allowed him to go in light marching order, whilst others made him go in heavy marching order, never realising what a great difference an extra two or three stone made to man
§ and horse. Lack of horsemanship to a considerable extent was the cause of excessive wastage, and he hoped that the Government would recognise the fact, and in the future improve the men's knowledge of horses.
§ With regard to purchase of remounts, he thought the Government would do well to turn their attention to the horses of this country. North Devon horses were particularly suitable for the Army, as they were small, hardy, and had immense staying power, owing to the strain of Exmoor blood which they had. Exmoor horses had the bet staying power in the world, as was proved by the fact that all the horses of the Devon Yeomanry, which were all bought in that neighbourhood, did very well indeed in South Africa, in fact they were said to be the best lot that went out. The Government ought to develop this trade and encourage the farmers to breed the class of horses required and deal direct with them. So far everything had been done through the dealers, who had derived immense profits from worthless horses. If the Government would send remount officers, three or four times a year to each of the market towns to purchase direct from the farmers and have the horses properly vetted, they would get the class of horse they required, and at the same time benefit the agriculturalists of this country.
§ (8.28.) Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 75; Noes, 106 (Division List, No. 10).111
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.||Ffrench, Peter||M'Govern, T.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud||Flavin, Michael Joseph||M'Hugh, Patrick A.|
|Ambrose, Robert||Flynn, James Christopher||M'Kiliop, W. (Sligo, North)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S)||Gilhooly, James||Mooney, John J.|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Murphy, John|
|Blake, Edward||Hammond, John||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Boland, John||Hayden, John Patrick||Newnes, Sir George|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Helme, Norval Watson||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.)|
|Burns, John||Hemphill, Rt. Hn. Charles H.||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Caldwell, James||Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E)||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||O'Brien, Kendal (Ti'perary Mid|
|Crean, Eugene||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Cremer, William Randal||Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)|
|Cullinan, J.||Joyce, Michael||O'Connor, Jas. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Delaney, William||Kennedy, Patrick James||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Leigh, Sir Joseph||O'Dowd, John|
|Dillon, John||Lloyd-George, David||O'Kelly, Jas. (Roscommon, N.)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lundon, W.||O'Malley, William|
|Doogan, P. C.||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||O'Mara, James|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Pickard, Benjamin||Roche, John||White, Patrick (Meath, North|
|Pirie, Duncan V.||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Power, Patrick Joseph||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Rea, Russell||Soares, Ernest J.||Mr. Labouchere and Captain Norton.|
|Reddy, M.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford||Thomas, David Alfred(Merthyr|
|Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Flower, Ernest||Murray, Rt. H. A. Graham (Bute|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Forster, Henry William||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Foster, Phil. S. (Warwick, S. W.||Platt-Higgins Frederick|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Galloway, William Johnson||Plummer, Walter R.|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Gardner, Ernest||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Lond.||Purvis, Robert|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||Pym, C. Guy|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Randles, John S.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Ger. W. (Leeds)||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Mich. Hicks||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hamilton, Rt H Lord G. (Midd'x||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Brigg, John||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hn. St. John||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Seely, C'pt. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight|
|Brookfield, Colonel Montague||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbys're)||Heaton, John Henniker||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Chamberlain, J. Aus. (Worc'r)||Helder, Augustus||Stroyan, John|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Hermon-Hodge, Robt. Trotter||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Hogg, Lindsay||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Hutton, John (Yorks. N. R.)||Talbot, Rt. H. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Kimber, Henry||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lambton, Hn. Frederick Wm.||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw Murray|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Law, Andrew Bonar||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||Lawson, John Grant||Valentia, Viscount|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S)||Welby, Lt.-Cl.A.C.E. (Taunton|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.)|
|Dunn, Sir William||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire||Whiteley, H. (Ashton und. Lyne|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Markham, Arthur Basil||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh.||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Meysey Thompson, Sir H. M.||Wylie, Alexander.|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Middlemore, Hn. Throgmorton|
|Finch, George H.||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Morgan, Day. J. (Walthamstow|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Mowbray, Sir Robt. Gray C.|
§ [The Chairman left the Chair at 8.37.]
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ *(9.10.) Mr. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
said he was happy to be able to say that with some points in the debate so far as it had gone he found himself in agreement with the Secretary of State for War, and also with the noble Lord the Financial Secretary of the War Office. He was particularly gratified to find that both stood up in defence of their subordinate—the Inspector General of Remounts. He also found himself in accord with the noble Lord in regard to the incident which took place in the beginning of last year, when the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich brought forward the matter which the Committee 112 had just been discussing. He was present on that occasion, and actually took part in the debate, and the impression he took away and kept not only until he saw the Report placed in their hands yesterday but up to now was that there had been an intention on the hon. Baronet's part to bring these charges of actual dishonesty against British officers. Certainly, when the debate took place the hon. Baronet made no effort to dispel that impression which was pretty prevalent, and therefore he thought the Committee were perfectly justified in what they had done. He quite understood the hon. Baronet's position—he had taken up a different line of action by withdrawing the charges, and so far as his action now went of having insisted that an investigation 113 should take place into insinuations which had been made against British officers, this was a different attitude and the hon. Baronet deserved the thanks of the country for having brought to light the actual state of matters. It was to him a matter of regret that so much delay had taken place in the publication of the Report. The Report was dated in August, and he could not understand the reason put forward by the Secretary of State for War, namely, that there was a case sub judice. He had looked through the Report, and he had asked people who knew more about the matter than he did, but they were unable to explain what law case it was which prevented the publication of the Report. It was of enormous importance that the Report should have been placed in the hands of Members some months earlier.
There were, it was true, one or two matters for which he could not find an excuse so far as the Remount Department was concerned, but they were matters on which, considering the circumstances in which the Department was placed—and he had some experience of the Department in South Africa extending over a year—as well as the fact that the Yeomanry Committee and the Remount Department had been allowed to be distinct organisations, hon. Members should be careful not to pass a hasty judgment. He was sure that the Committee in a matter of this sort wanted only to arrive at the truth, and if the truth were known he thought it would be found that it was a higher authority who was to blame for the state of affairs in connection with the Remount Department, the subordinates having merely carried out their orders. Until hon. Members knew what these orders were, and what amount of warning the Inspector General had, they could not pass a proper judgment on the matter. They could only judge of this by what they knew had happened in other matters. The Government had been carried away by their blind optimism, never making preparations for the sad and bitter reality. It was to the lack of preparation and sufficient foresight that he attributed the terribly short life of the horses on distribution to the units 114 in South Africa. Two or three days were the actual life of many of the horses after delivery to the unit, and this was because in South Africa the Remount Department, until quite recently, had never been represented there by an officer of sufficiently high standing. He had nothing but praise for the two chief officers of the Remount Department in South Africa, but not being of sufficiently high rank, he believed their protests and representations were outweighed by the direct orders of the Commander-in-Chief. The war had been going on for two years before the disadvantage of sending up horses in an unfit condition was sufficiently recognised for serious preventative action to be taken and, to my knowledge, after the best cavalry leaders had reported that their efforts had been nullified and their troops left absolutely helpless by the unfit condition of the horses sent up to them. Those who represented the Remount Department in South Africa were obliged to send up immediately to the front horses in an unfit condition, after a long sea voyage and a change of climate from one hemisphere to another. It was also a well known fact that there was a want of horse-mastership. The men sent out as yeomen in charge of the horses were in many eases the riff-raff of the towns of this country, who had no knowledge of horse-mastership, and who neglected their horses; there was also the wretched railway transport from the port of debarkation in South Africa to be taken into consideration. He claimed, on the part of the Inspector General of the Remounts that, owing to the treatment the horses received it was impossible to form an accurate and just opinion about them; and he begged the Committee and the country not to lay the entire blame on the Remount Department, because no one could make bricks without straw. At the beginning of the war the Remount Department had only two depôts—one in England and one in Ireland—with three inspectors at each, and it was a matter for wonder and admiration that the Department had been able to do so much. Until it was known what orders the Remount Department received, blame could not be apportioned. He believed that the Department carried out the orders that had been sent to them. The blame was to be attached, in the first instance, to the incurable optimism which 115 had been characteristic of the Government all through; and he was not sure that it was not going on still. He was told by a correspondent in December last:The wastage of horses is heart-breaking; it is the old, old story, the war will be over in six months, we have had horses sent to us just off the grass.He was very much afraid that even now the Secretary of State would, on inquiry, find that the orders sent out to South Africa are still too optimistic. Colonel Bethune only six weeks ago wrote that:The Boers are still better off than we are in the matter of horses.Another correspondent in The Times of last month said that:Many Canadian horses are sent up to us immediately after a long sea voyage, they die off like flies.Again, another correspondent said:Five hundred of our men are at present without mounts.He did not attach blame for this so much to the Remount Department; he believed they had to the best of their ability carried out the orders sent out to them, but he believed that the old old story that the war was over, or would be in a few months, was responsible for it all. It was significant of this that only now Lord Down had been sent out, and only now had it been recognised that the post of Inspector General of Remounts in South Africa ought to have been occupied by a General on the Head Quarter's Staff two years ago.
There were two questions he desired to ask on matters which were somewhat regrettable. He did not want to cast any aspersion on officers who had been placed in a difficult position; but he said it was a matter of deep regret that an officer who received two and a half per cent. commission on the purchase of horses which he passed as fit, should now be in the employ of the War Office. He would quote question 441:Is this officer now employed in your Department?" "Not in my Department; he is now employed by the Veterinary Department, and attached to the Cavalry Division at Aldershot.He did not wish to say anything more than that it would be more politic for the Government to dispense with that gentleman's services. He would also like to have an explanation of the formation of this Committee of Inquiry. Was it not 116 somewhat unusual that a member of such a Committee should be brought in from the outside? The Committee consisted of three Members of Parliament, and a gentleman belonging to the legal profession.
§ LORD STANLEY
This is not a House of Commons Committee, but a Departmental Committee, and it consisted of three gentlemen from the House and a legal gentleman who might assist them on legal points.
§ * MR. PIRIE
I drew attention to the fact because no legal question came before the Committee. What moral can we draw from the existing state of things? If a great advantage has been gained from such a small, trivial inquiry as the present, we can argue from that that there is an absolute necessity for a complete inquiry into the whole conduct of the war. Such an inquiry, though unpleasant and difficult, and necessitating a great deal of hard work, has been promised, and the sooner steps can be taken to begin it the better it will be for the nation. And if it is refused it must be because of the dread of the exposure which such an inquiry will bring about; well, that dread is the greatest deterrent to a repetition of such incidents as the present in regard to the working of all the Government Departments, and when it does take place there are two matters to which I wish to draw special attention; 1st, why a delay took place from the very beginning in reconstituting the three lines of railways, so far as the locomotives, trucks, and railway plant are concerned.
§ (9. 29.) COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
said the right hon. Gentleman had stated that there was one satisfactory item in the Report before the House, and that was that the allegation that British officers had received corrupt commissions was untrue. That indeed was satisfactory. Another satisfactory thing was that this "Homocean" Committee had put its finger "on the spot," and had blamed the conduct of the War Office. They had proved an absolute dereliction of duty on the part of the Remount Department of the War Office. In paragraph 22 the Committee said that they considered that in peace time it ought to be the business of the Remount Department to study and provide for all the emergencies which would arise in the time of war. But he asked the House to consider whether it necessitated a Commission or Committee to discover the neglect of the duty of the Remount Department of the War Office which had been created in order to remount the British Army and to discover what and where the horses were available for that purpose. He could forgive that Department having overlooked the Remount resources of the United Kingdom and the matter of the possible supply of remount horses from Argentina, Australia, or Bessarabia, but he could not forgive them for overlooking Austria-Hungary. Austria was well known to every Englishman who had travelled for even 48 hours. Many Austrians were friends of the English nation. They were men who hunted in England and lived in London, and who would only be too glad to give every information to the British War Office, if only they were asked. They knew the value of the horses in their country, how many were available, and where they could be purchased, but they were not consulted. He could even overlook the fact that the Military Attaché was not consulted, though, no doubt, he was appointed to assist the Government in such cases. It, however, seemed as if even a Unionist Government had been caught napping, and did not take the trouble to make necessary inquiries from sources which were open to them, and 118 from persons who knew anything on the subject.
He would not for a moment assist the hon. Member for Northampton in dividing against the Government; he would give the Government everything they asked for, and even vote a salary if they proposed to make the hon. Member for Northampton Captain-General to the Forces. But what was the defence to all that had been stated? There surely never was a more damaging document laid before hon. Members, and his noble friend, if he might be allowed to say so, made an exceedingly lame defence. His noble friend, in effect said, "We have been extremely naughty boys in the past, but we are going to be extremely good boys in the future." What was the reason for not having sufficient Yeomanry remounts. His noble friend said it was because they were in a time of stress and trouble. He did not blame the Government; he blamed those immediately responsible, and his noble friend had proved nothing at all, and had promised nothing for the future except an inquiry. He thought they ought to have more than an inquiry. Somebody ought to be punished for a dereliction of duty, and he thought the Government ought to mark their sense of the way in which the officer placed at the head of a department had acted. He knew nothing about that particular officer; he did not even know his name, but as a soldier himself he was sorry for him, but he had failed in his duty and ought to be prepared to bear the consequences. The Government ought to have promised the immediate dissolution and reconstruction of the Remount Department and the immediate replacement of its head. [Lord Stanley: In the middle of the war?] Yes, even in the middle of the war. Every officer who was guilty of a dereliction of duty ought to be replaced at once by an officer who knew his duty. To tell the Committee that an inquiry would be held which might, and probably would, last two or three months was to evade the question. It was no doubt painful to the Government, and must be painful to everyone who took the trouble to consider the matter, but it was the bounden duty of the Government to see that such a thing did not occur again and to make sure of that by the only means, namely, the 119 entire reconstruction of the Department, and by placing at its head a man who was acquainted with the work and knew how to carry it out.
§ (9.37.) MR. DILLON
said that a practice had arisen in late years of holding back until the last moment important papers on which debates were founded. The present occasion was an extreme instance of that, and he ventured to say that the majority of hon. Members who had spoken in the debate had only been able to read the Blue-book on the benches while the debate was in progress. That was nothing short of a scandal, as the Vote might have been passed almost sub silentio, owing to the Blue-book having been kept back until the last moment. That was a striking instance of the practice which had grown up of issuing Blue-books on the very eve of a discussion, apparently for the purpose of not allowing hon. Members sufficient time to acquaint themselves with their contents. There was another point which had been alluded to by the right Hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean. Year after year enormous Supplementary Estimates were presented, which on the face of them were not honest Estimates. Enormous sums in round figures were asked for remounts and other things, and it was manifest that the Government were spending large sums of money on services for which money was not voted, and then recouping themselves by two or three Votes which they hoped would be less contentious. It was idle and preposterous to suppose that the War Office required exactly £2,000,000 for remounts and £1,000,000 for forage, and that it did not require any Supplementary Estimates at all for all the other items. What had been done with all the money that had been voted for the return of troops and for their demobilisation? If the accounts had been strictly kept there would have been a great many more items on the Supplementary Estimates than there were. The way in which the power possessed by the War Office and the Admiralty of using money voted for one purpose on another purpose without the sanction of Parliament had been used during the present war constituted a great abuse, and went beyond anything that was really intended when that power was given.
120 He wished to say a word as to the very interesting figures which had been given by the Secretary of War as to the cost of the war. The right hon. Gentleman said that he wished to give an adequate statement of the cost of the war during the three financial years that it had lasted. In the first year he said it cost £23,000,000, in 1900–01 it cost £63,000,000, and then he said that for the present financial year the Estimate was £56,070,000, which, with the Supplementary Estimate of £5,000,000 raised the total cost to £61,070,000, and he boasted that the war cost nearly £2,000,000, less than in the previous year. Was that an honest statement? What had become of the six and a half millions which was voted for the civil administration of the Transvaal. During the debate on this Vote on the 6th of August last, it was stated that £3,000,000 of this amount had been voted for the Constabulary, and the Colonial Secretary was on that occasion asked if any part of the six and a half millions was to be used for the prosecution of the war. The right hon. Gentleman fenced with the question for some time, and finally was obliged to admit that the Constabulary were a military force, were under the control of Lord Kitchener, and were part of the army. The Colonial Secretary said that, of course with operations still going on, they would be under the control of the Commander-in-Chief, and might be regarded as a military force. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth complained as to the form of the Vote, the Colonial Secretary replied that it did not matter one straw to the finances of the country. That was the Colonial Secretary's idea of finance. He thought the Committee ought to know what they were voting money for, and he charged the Secretary of War that he had no right to tell the House of Commons that the war last year cost only £61,070,000, whereas, in reality, it cost at least £64,000,000. That was loose finance, which contributed towards recklessness of expenditure, and some of the results of which they heard discussed during the debate. He believed that system led to an enormous waste of public money.
Only a very faint ray of light had been thrown upon what was going on. He would recall what happened last year. A greater number of horses 121 had been bought in the Argentine Republic than in Hungary, and it was stated by a hon. Member last year that he had been informed that the same class of transaction had been going on in the Argentine Republic, as had now been proved to have been going on in Hungary. He himself had seen a statement published that horses had been driven in unbroken and wild, and worth only about £7 a head, and sold for double that sum to the British Government. The right hon. Gentleman had declined to say what price had been paid for horses. Was there ever a more preposterous thing than that British agents should go and buy horses at Buenos Ayres, and that nobody should know what price was being paid. He felt convinced when he heard that answer, that some very dirty business was concealed under these transactions. The lesson that the Committee would draw from what had taken place this evening was that the sooner there was a general enquiry into the whole question of the war, the better it would be for the country and the taxpayer. They had heard ugly rumours about the purchase of remounts in the Argentine, but on this occasion they were dealing not only with horses, but with provisions as well. He had called the attention of the House last year to the fact that there existed a contract with a certain Cold Storage Company in South Africa, to deliver to the British Army meat at 11d. a lb., and that this same meat was delivered free at Cape Town at 3½d. per lb. The answer which he received was that owing to the difficulty of getting it up the country and the want of store-houses up country a great deal of the meat went bad; but he heard shortly afterwards that the Government had compelled this company to disgorge £50,000; yet there had been no investigation into that account. The Government were now entering into a contract with another Cold Storage Company, which he believed had been expressly floated by patriots for the purpose of entering into the contract, and it was rumoured that the Company had something to do with De Beers. If that was so, it ought to be thoroughly investigated. His conviction was that in the course of these transactions the taxpayers of the country had been 122 robbed to the extent of between £10,000,000 and £20,000,000 sterling, by the contracts discussed this evening, and by the shipping contracts entered into by the patriotic shippers of this country, who, when they had the country by the throat in 1900, showed their patriotism by putting up the rates to double the normal charge. He did not wonder that patriotism and enthusiasm prevailed in certain parts of the country. The shippers and contractors who were enthusiastic over the war had made millions, and the people and the taxpayers had had to pay. Why should they want to see the war ended when the House was voting £55,000,000 for that purpose, most of which was spent in this country? It was a glorious time for them; they never were so well off in their lives.
In his opinion these were matters which certainly deserved inquiring into, and he considered that the taxpayers and the Committee owed a large debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Dulwich for ventilating this subject. The most serious thing about the matter, in his opinion, was that if the hon. Member for Dulwich had not accidentally offered his services to the Government as he did, taking an interest in this matter, and if his offer had not been rejected by the Government, the Committee would not have heard of this. Everything would have been covered up; every question asked would have been trampled on and called a disloyal attempt to injure a great public office struggling with a great war, and beyond those concerned nobody would have heard a word about these scandals. He wished to know whether this money which the Committee were now voting was actually in the Exchequer, and whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to provide it without recourse to further measures of taxation. So far as he could make out, there was a balance after these £5,000,000 were voted of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000. He wished to point out that when the Committee was debating the question of a £60,000,000 loan in June last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the Committee that he had gone into 123 this question most carefully with the Secretary of State for War, that he was determined not to perpetuate his mistake by under-estimating the cost of the war, and therefore, having made his estimate, he had taken a margin of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, which would give him sufficient money to carry him to the end of the financial year. The right hon. Gentleman also said that beyond that he had taken a borrowing power for £10,000,000, which he required for the purpose of financing the Exchequer. It appears to him that the margin of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 had been expended, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had now cut into the margin of £10,000,000 which had been taken for financing the Exchequer, and not for the war at all. That was another of the dangers of loose finance. What the right hon. Gentleman ought to have done, having taken all the Estimates, was to have taken a margin for borrowing power of £2,000,000 for financing the Exchequer, and then come down and asked the House to consent to an issue of Treasury Bonds.
§ (9.57.) MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL (Oldham)
said he did not often find himself in agreement with the hon. Member for East Mayo, but there were various points in his speech that would not excite violent opposition on this side of the House, both in regard to remounts and also in relation to the hon. Member for Dulwich. Hon. Members had come here this afternoon chiefly to argue the conduct of the war, but a considerable amount of time had been spent in arguing the conduct of the hon. Member for Dulwich. No doubt in what the hon. Member said, there were grounds for an insinuation against the probity of British officers, but however valid the grounds were for the insinuation, he thought that, in view of the action of the hon. Member, even if he had insinuated what had been alleged, there would still remain to him the credit and approbation of what he had done. The hon. Member for Dulwich had raised the question of remounts in South Africa, than which there was no matter of greater importance with which the 124 House could deal at the present time. The Secretary of State for War had spoken of 214,000 horses sent out to South Africa, and, no doubt, to a certain extent it was creditable to the War Office and the Remount Department that they had accomplished such a great work; but it was no good, when complaints were made of the quality of the horses, and their condition, to point out that horses were being dumped down in South Africa by hundreds and thousands. They had found out something of the way horses had been purchased, and extraordinary statements were found in the Blue-book. There were one or two to which he should like to call the attention of the Committee. The first was as follows:—We are convinced that Colonel St. Quintin and Colonel Maclean took the course which seemed to them at the moment best adapted to meet the circumstances of the case, but we must express regret that those officers should have been employed to pass horses submitted by a contractor, a gentleman who had immediately before been in that contractor's service and who was still drawing from that contractor a commission under the contract.The other statement was on page 4 of the Blue-book:—At the same time, we regret that, before giving the first contract, he (Colonel St. Quintin) did not take more steps to ascertain (a) what would be a reasonable price to pay, and (b) the position and capacity of the contractors to undertake a large contract of this kind without resorting to middlemen.Comment was needless. It was often said that if any commercial firm conducted its business in the way the affairs of the British Empire were conducted, it would be in the Bankruptcy Court within twelve months. In his opinion, however, a lunatic asylum rather than the Bankruptcy Court would be its destination. That was the kind of thing that had been happening in Austria-Hungary, and it had been found out by the patriotism and public spirit of a private Member of the House in the face of considerable deterrent considerations. When they reflected that England was the home of the bloodstock horses, and that we were supposed to know more about horses than the people of any other country, it was a remarkable and disgraceful state of affairs that we should have been tricked like a Cockney at a fair. We 125 might not have been able to buy guns or boilers, but if there was one thing we were supposed to be able to buy it was horses, and the state of affairs that had been revealed was certainly one requiring disciplinary action on the part of the military authorities. He hoped, however, that they in the House would not seek to distribute the blame or to direct the disciplinary action. They could not go into all the circumstances. The General Officer in charge of the Remount Department was appointed shortly before the war, and the ignorance which prevailed as to the conditions in Austria-Hungary, with regard to the purchase of horses, was to some extent excused by the fact that no human being could have imagined a contingency in which it would be necessary to apply for horses to Austria-Hungary. But, without in any way attempting to fix the responsibility or to pick out a scape-goat, he was bound to say that there appeared to be in the case as ex-veterinary surgeon, Captain Hartigan, a good deal which called for the investigation of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, supposing that that officer should still—which he feared was doubtful—be in any way under his charge or amenable to his control.
The Blue-book which had formed the chief theme of discussion showed something that had gone on at one end of the line with regard to the supply of horses. What had gone on at the other? He could not help thinking that the revelations of this Blue-book had raised in the minds of some hon. Members a feeling of doubt, lest the incapacity and the sheer crass stupidity that had been displayed at one end of the line in the purchase of horses, might not to some extent had been displayed at the other end in the distribution of troops at the front. He did not go so far as to suggest that the mismanagement there was equal to the mismanagement in the particular matter they had been discussing; it was often noticeable that the nearer one got to the fighting line, the more faithfully was the service done; but they were certainly entitled to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman for whatever information it was in his power to give as to the steps he was taking to make the Remount 126 Department in South Africa more efficient. There was no excuse for inefficiency in the Remount Department. It ought to be the most efficient department under the Crown. At the beginning of the war there was no doubt some excuse; doubtless the military contingencies to which the noble Lord had alluded frequently, rendered it necessary to take horses not in a fit condition, not properly acclimatised and so on; but that ought not to be going on after two and a half years. The Committee would do well to endeavour, in the course of this debate, to clinch matters as much as possible with the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord, and to get from them a clear statement of the reforms they were carrying out or proposed to carry out with regard to the Remount Department in South Africa. As far as he could see, there ought to be great centres in South Africa to which the horses should be taken to recuperate, exercise, and so on, for three or four months, before being given to the troops in the field, and he did not think it was too much to ask that such details should be attempted. In spite of the 214,000 horses, and in spite of the statement of the noble Lord as to the reforms already inaugurated, bitter complaints continued to come home from the troops at the front that their horses were not able to overtake the horses which the Boer managed to procure from a ravaged and daily more restricted area of country. The Remount Department was one of the most important Departments under the Crown at the present time, and it ought to have at its head in South Africa one of the ablest men it was possible for the right hon. Gentleman, by looking far and wide through the Empire, to secure. He knew that a General Officer had been sent out to take command of the Remount Department, and to supervise its work, and he would be the last to say anything of a disparaging nature with regard to that officer. There was no more charming gentleman or more gallant cavalry soldier than Lord Downe, but the preparation and distribution of 214,000 horses was a great business enterprise, and one which should be entrusted to someone of 127 proved business capacity, not to one whose previous experience was limited te a Cavalry regiment and a Yeomanry brigade.
As to the statement of the Secretary of State with regard to economy, no one rejoiced more than he that Lord Kitchener was effecting economy. But was Lord Kitchener the proper person to effect economy? They had tried to put too much work on that irreplaceable man in his position in South Africa, and if the questions affecting economy was raised, it should not be left to the Commander-in-Chief. Very recently the right hon. Gentleman had sent out a Chief of Staff, who, no doubt, would preside over the officers charged with the maintenance of economy, But why was not a Chief of Staff sent out before? If he had been sent out earlier he would doubtless have found something to do, and he understood that substantial reductions in the transport of the so-called flying and mobile columns had already been made. Such an officer would have been of great assistance to Lord Kitchener, particularly at the time when he was allowed—as he thought, by a great mistake—to burden himself with the civil administration of the Transvaal. He hoped his right hon. friend would be able to give some explanation of why an army of 250,000 men was left for nearly ten months in the field without any great officer officiating as Chief of Staff—an event he believed without parallel in the history of scientific warfare—and also some further information as to the vigorous reforms it was proposed to inaugurate with regard to the distribution of remounts to the troops in South Africa.
§ (10.10.) MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
The hon. Member who has just sat down expressed his satisfaction at finding himself in agreement with the preceding speaker. The same satisfaction is present to my mind, because, although I have not the minute knowledge of military affairs possessed by the hon. Member opposite, I find myself in general harmony with his observations, especially with his references to the hon. Member for Dulwich. Being a constituent of the hon Baronet, I naturally 128 take an interest in the manner in which he is treated in this House, and I think he has tonight vindicated the action he took last session in this matter of horse-purchase. If I might venture to make one observation for his consolation, it is that, however much he may complain of his party leaders, he has merely received the treatment they have meted out to every man and woman who has called attention to deficiences in the public service. I am not going into the question of remounts, but there is one point with regard to this Report which I think ought to receive some consideration at the hands of the Committee. The matter was pointed out by my hon. friend the Member for East Bristol, and it appears to be a serious one. I refer to the difference between the evidence as contained in the proof given to my hon. friend and the evidence as now printed for the use of the House.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I do not think the Committee is yet aware of the matter to which I refer. There are two points. The first is on page 65 of the Committee's Report, question 1628. The word "No." as given by the witness in answer to the question, has, as I understand, been struck out, and an explanation inserted which was not tendered to the Committee. Further, in another question, the witness was asked the date of his latest information with regard to the possibilities of supplies from Austro-Hungary, and he said "1884"—a period I believe which is identical with the date when last we had to obtain horses from Austria-Hungary, But in the Report laid before the House the officer is made to say that his information came down to 1896—half a generation later. I do not know which statement is correct, but, if the information given to the Committee today by a Member of the Horse-purchase Committee is true, the evidence on which that Committee based its Report has been altered, and I am informed that the alteration is of a material character. I ask whether it is fair to the Committee that its Report should be stultified, as it must be if its conclu- 129 sions are based on evidence of one kind, while that contained in the Report presented to the House of Commons is of another. I do not know whether the Chairman of the Committee would now like to make his explanation?
§ * SIR CHARLES WELBY
All I can say is that, as Chairman, I gave what I believe to be the usual instructions to the Secretary of the Committee to send a proof of his evidence to each witness to afford him an opportunity of revising it, and seeing that what he was reported to have said was what he actually said. Until the hon. Member opposite, one of my colleagues on the Committee, made his statement tonight, I had no idea what alterations had been made in these or any other questions or answers, except my own corrections. It is quite a new idea to me that it is an improper act on the part of a witness to correct his evidence afterwards, if he finds that the evidence he gave was incorrect. However, I would point out that the evidence as corrected by the witnesses was in the hands of the Committee before the. Report was drafted; and the Report was drafted on the corrected evidence, and not solely on the evidence as given orally to the Committee.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to explain for one moment. If he will look at paragraph 21 on page 7, he will see that the Committee report in these words—We feel bound to express the surprise with which we have learnt that before the decision to purchase for the Government in Hungary was actually come to in April, 1900, no steps had apparently been taken since 1884, etc.Then on page 65 (Q. 1623), it will be seen that I put this question: "1886 or 1887?" As originally supplied to the Committee, the answer to that was "1886"; here, it is "1896." Then Q. 1625, as originally put by me to the witness was "15 years old?" and the answer as originally given, "Yes, but it is the same in all countries." Those words do not now appear at all. Q. 1626: "It was not the Omdurman campaign, was it?" The original answer to that was: "No; it was 1884." I copied these words from 130 the original evidence supplied to us. The important part of the matter is that when we drew our Report we drew it with the idea that there was no information subsequent to the year 1884. If we had known that the witness intended to say 1896, we could not possibly have put into our Report the word "since 1884." There is another little alteration at Q. 1633. Instead of the question being put: "But three or four years old"—and it is important to notice that the Chairman put this question—
It is rather an unusal thing to interpolate another speech in the speech of another hon. Member.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
The hon. Member has at any rate justified the only comment I desired to make on the transaction. He has proved conclusively the materiality of the alterations. I am not going to make insinuations against anybody, least of all against the hon. Member who did the public the service of presiding over this Committee. I will pass away from the matter by observing that the alteration is an unfortunate one, inasmuch as it is in a Report which has been sprung on the House at the eleventh lour before the debate. I think the noble Lord can be under no misconception as to the painful impression this debate has made on the Committeee to night and will make on the country to-morrow. The Government has had a narrow escape, and, but for the fact that we are at war, I have no doubt that the incident of 1895, which set the hon. Gentleman in power, might have been repeated. The hon. Member for East Mayo has connected with this other questions. We must have an inquiry into the management of the war as a whole, of course; we have had the beginning of it tonight; let us have another instal- 131 ment in a full inquiry, not into the conduct of the war as a whole, but into the management of contracts connected with the war. Here let me remind the Committee that last year I pressed the right hon. Gentleman for information on this specific point: what was the total amount paid or payable under contracts connected with the war to contractors resident in South Africa. I think it is material that we should have that information. The right hon. Gentleman did not refuse to grant the inquiry; he stated he would require some time. Six months or more has elapsed since the request was made; I venture to repeat it to-night, and I hope before the debate closes we shall have some assurance that this information will be given.
In connection with the Vote as a whole, I have one or two observations to make. In the first place, I must press again the question addressed to the Government by my right hon. friends the Leader of the Opposition and the Member for West Monmouthshire. We want to know the exact military status of the troops under the command of the Prime Minister of Cape Colony. I do not know whether the matter is strictly within the four corners of the vote, but it is within the four corners of the right hon. Gentleman's speech; he brought the subject before us, but left his explanation incomplete. One point he left particulary uncertain—whether these men were merely police on ordinary occasions, and then. when called on by Lord Kitchener, they became part of the army, and were under the command of Lord Kitchener. But there is one critical question with regard to which we must have an explanation, and that is, whether the military duty falling on this fragment of the Imperial army give the officers of the troop the right of sitting in Court Martial on people accused of treason or murder in Cape Colony. It is a serious question, because, if that is so, it would imply that the officers of this colonial force might very possibly be sitting on questions affecting the life or death of men who have been their political opponents. Beyond that point I do not propose to-night to go, except to express my surprise at the cheerful tone assumed—I will not say affected—bythe right hon. 132 Gentleman in introducing this supplementary estimate. In the four Parliamentary years during which this war has lasted ["Oh, oh!"]—yes, 1899, 1900, 1901, and 1902, in every one of those years this melancholy and awful war has been the subject of Parliamentary debate, and nothing more melancholy do I know in connection with it than the cheerful optimism affected by the right hon. Gentleman to-night. He comes down here and felicitates his Department on that which ought to be its disgrace, certainly on that which is a calamity to the country, viz., the continued presence of a quarter of a s million of men, and I do not know how many horses, in South Africa, and on the expenditure of a sum of money which is as great this year as last.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
£2,000,000 greater according to the calculation of my hon. friend,-with whom I agree, and equally great according to the right hon. Gentleman's own calculation. The question which occurs to me and which ought to occur to everybody, is, why has it been necessary to ask for this Supplementary Vote at all? Before we parted for the last recess, we had a statement on the situation by one of the members of His Majesty's Government. After describing the "new policy" of Lord Kitchener, as he called it—that of blockhouses—this Minister said:This policy has succeeded, and it has succeeded so well that the Government, with the full approval of the Commander-in-Chief and of Lord Kitchener, believe that it will be possible to bring home a very considerable number of troops at the end of the winter campaign. The winter campaign may be said to be closed certainly by the end of September.That statement was made on August 2nd by the Colonial Secretary. It was avowedly made on the authority of the Commander-in-Chief and of Lord Kitchener. It must have been based, therefore, on opinions formed by those high officers somewhat antecedent in point of time to August 2nd. Nearly half a year has passed since the 133 estimate of the military situation was placed before the House and the country. How does it happen, then, that not a man has retired from the staff of the army in South Africa, and that, at this moment, we have as large an army in the field, if not a larger, as at any time during the whole course of the war? It seems to me that that is the question the right hon. Gentleman ought to have, but has not, answered, and on which the Committee is entitled to some explanation. I am not going into questions of general policy, but in default of any explanation of this subject from the right hon. Gentleman, and disapproving as I do of the whole policy of which this vote is the expression, and disbelieving as I do in the capacity of the Government to carry out even the policy, I, for one, should give them no assistance by voting for this Supplementary Estimate.
*(10.30.) MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
thoroughly agreed with most of the previous speakers as to the great debt of gratitude the Committee owed to his hon. friend the Member for Dulwich for having unearthed a grave, public scandal. Attempts had been made by the Committee who inquired into the matter, to cast discredit on the hon. Baronet, but he had fully justified the criticisms he had made. The hon. Baronet had been charged with hurling grave charges against officers in the Army, without substantiating those charges. In the statement published in one of the newspapers, he was alleged to have said—But it is different when a man, appointed by the Government to see that each animal purchased is sound, deliberately buys a worthless beast and puts the money in his own pocket.That was a perfectly true statement confirmed by Capt. Hartigan's evidence. They were led to understand that a veterinary surgeon who held the rank of Captain, occupied the position of an officer and the status of a gentleman, and when the Committee slurred over as lightly as could be the conduct of Captain Hartigan they were trying to excuse the conduct of an officer and gentleman in the face of his own admissions. 134 Captain Hartigan had left the public service and was brought back. He was appointed to act as veterinary surgeon, the most important function with regard to remounts he could have been asked to perform. How did he discharge that function? He, while in the service of the State, appeared to have passed 1,500 horses, receiving 2½per cent. on the price. That was a gross scandal. The Committee in their report said—On March 22nd, Captain Webb left Hungary for South Africa, having examined some 2,300 out of the 3,800 cobs which were to be supplied under the contract. On the departure of Captain Webb, Colonel Maclean, with the authority of Colonel St. Quintin, employed Captain Hartigan to examine the remaining; 1,500 cobs. On taking up this work, Captain Hartigan terminated his employment under Mr. Lewison.Captain Hartigan, however, still retained his commission of 2½ per cent., and he thought the white-washing Committee rather outdid itself in slurring over this gross public scandal. The hon. Baronet the member for Dulwich, acting on his responsibility as a Member of this House, brought forward a charge, which had been proved up to the hilt, but instead of being cordially thanked for that service he was held up more or less to disfavour. His hon. friend, on the other hand, had rather underrated the matter He should have stood to his guns, and said that a captain occupying a position of responsibility had been found to have been guilty of gross misconduct.
* MR. JAMES LOWTHER
said if he understood the hon. Member to draw a distinction between the Imperial Yeomanry and the other departments of the Government, he could not follow him in such an attitude, and he would repeat that though appointed by the Yeomanry authorities, Capt. Hartigan held a commission in His Majesty's Army. All that he had to say was that they had to pay the bill, and, acting on behalf of their constituents, hon. Members had a right to insist on 135 the employment of honest men, and to protest against the doctrine laid down on behalf of the Yeomanry Committee, that they had certain delegated powers given to them by the Secretary of State, which removed them from the control of Parliament. But the Secretary of State was responsible for the due exercise of all those powers. When they were asked to vote the taxpayers' money they voted it into the custody of the right hon. Gentleman, and it was an absolute scandal to whitewash a person who was in the position of an officer and gentleman, and to minimise malpractices in the face of the facts disclosed in the report. The hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich had earned the gratitude of the House and the country. He trusted there would be no further attempt to appoint these whitewashing Committees to throw dust in the eyes of the House. They had had enough of that.
*(10.40.) MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said he had risen partly in consequence of the remark interpolated by the Chairman of the Committee, because it accentuated what he held to be, and would show to be, a most disingenuous statement on the part of the Committee. The Committee was an official Committee; the chair man was an official, and every member except one had an official qualification. He would leave the character of the Committee and come to its actions. He acknowledged the candour with which the right hon. Gentleman had laid on the Table this Report. The right hon. Gentleman was entitled to a great deal of credit for it. That act showed the straightforward method which he employed. But still, he (the hon. Member), had to draw the moral of the long story they had listened to. He wished to call attention to a special part of the Report of the Committee, which was altogether disingenuous and dishonest, as he would show from the evidence, and if he did not, he would submit to the rebuke which he deserved. The report said—Captain Hartigan is an ex Army Veterinary Officer, who retired from the service in 1881. In December, 1899 he, being then in no way 136 connected with the public service, was the means of introducing to Colonel St. Quintin, the Remount Officer on the Imperial Yeomanry Committee, a Mr. Lewison.Here Captain Hartigan was declared to have been in no way connected with the public service, and the Chairman of the Committee had told them that he was an "ex-Captain long retired." What would the House naturally infer from that? Why! that this Captain Hortigan who had been a veterinary officer in the Army, and in December, 1899, was in no way connected with the public service, had not since been connected with the public service. Now that was contrary to the truth. If hon. Members would turn to page 32 of the Committee's Report they would find the evidence of Major General Truman, who, he was about to contend, was the person who ought to be punished, because he was Inspector General of Remounts, and therefore responsible for all this, and until he was dismissed the Government would have done nothing. So long as they retained him they encouraged these misdeeds. It was their bounden duty to dismiss Major General Truman from the office which he so incompetently filled. It had been said that Captain Hartigan in 1899 was in no way connected with the public service. What did Major-General Truman know of Captain Hartigan? Questions 564 and 565 of his evidence were as follows—Sir Blundell Maple is very anxious to make it clear that he does not personally connect himself with any charge against any British officer at all, but the charge, entirely apart from Sir Blundell Maple, contained in a certain letter, is that the Army Remount Department was cognisant of those allegations—of those scandals; that is to say, that they were cognisant of assertions that British officers had been corrupt in their dealings?—We heard it, but until he made this public statement we did not consider it. There was no official accusation made.Did that which you had heard connect itself with any particular name?—I had heard rumoursDid it connect itself with Colonel Maclean?—No. With Captain Webb?—No. With Captain Hartigan?—To tell you the truth, what I heard was that Lewison gave him some money. Gave Hartigan?—Yes.'Now mark what happened. In spite of having heard this what did Major-General Truman do? He employed Captain Hartigan again, or allowed him 137 to be employed. At page 30, question 441, was this—Is Captain Hartigan now employed in your department?—Not in my department; he is employed now by the Army Veterinary Department; he is attached now to the cavalry at Aldershot.This was the man who had had and still had a commission on all these frauds. The report of the evidence, page 50, stated that Captain Hartigan was called in, and examined by the Chairman. Question 1153—You are temporarily employed, as we understand, as Veterinary Officer with the 7th Hussars?—No, with the 2nd Dragoon Guards. I had charge of the Cavalry Brigade, lint they thought it was too much, and they gave it to Civil Veterinary Surgeon Lunde, 7th Hussars.This was in 1901, two years after the frauds. Here they had Captain Hartigan restored in May 1900 on his return to a position in the army with the 2nd Dragoon Guards—and to this day officially employed.
§ SIR CHARLES WELBY
I really do not understand what the hon. Gentleman is driving at. The only statement on this point in the Report is to the effect that in December 1899, Captain Hartigan was not in any way connected with the public service.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
It was the only statement, and that is what I complain of. If ever there was a case of suppressio veri this is one. When the Committee stated that this man was not then in His Majesty's service, they should have added that he has since been recalled to it. The Committee will see that this Report does convey distinctly the impression to any ordinary reader that this Captain Hartigan was at the time of his misdeeds and had since remained entirely disconnected with the public service. But in spite of the knowledge of his doings he has been brought back into it. He was an ex-Captain then, but is a Captain now and restored to his position in veterinary charge of the 2nd Dragoon Guards. I say it is the most outrageous scandal I have ever heard of.
We have now the whole disgraceful 138 scandal laid bare before us. First of all, an attempt has been made to ride off on the broad back of the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich. It is in fact difficult to have patience with the Committee when they say "there is no ground for serious criticism" perhaps there was ground only for jocular critic sin, criticism of an amiable character. Then the Report goes on to say—But here the question arises ought the Imperial Yeomanry Committee, and still more ought the Remount Department to have been found so ill-informed as they were?[HON MEMBERS, "Read on."] I really cannot read all this rubbish all through. The rest is mere qualification. I have read the essential part of it, which is, that the Committee are of opinion on the whole, that there is no ground for any "serious criticism." I say there is ground not only for serious criticism but for serious action. I have no doubt what the action should be; it ought to be the dismissal of Major-General Truman, who has failed in his duty, and in no way more conspiciously than in allowing the employment in the Veterinary Department of the Army of this man Hartigan, who he knew had received money from the contractor, and who had been allowed to pass the very horses on which he got a commission, and of whom it was proved that he had taken 2½ per cent. commission, which continues to this day. It was not until we shot an Admiral on the quarter deck of a battleship that we brought efficiency to the Navy, and it will not be until those men are dismissed, whose misdeeds and incapacities are brought home to them, that real reform of the Remount Department will be secured. There will not be the slightest chance of reform so long as the findings of this tame and bleating Committee are accepted.
§ (10.52.) MR. BRODRICK
I must say a few words in reply to the speeches of my right hon. friend and my hon. friend behind me. I think we shall do a great deal of harm, and greatly detract from the advantage of this discussion if we pursue the subject much longer in the tone of my hon. friend. The Com- 139 mittee before whom I placed the allegations of the hon. Member for Dulwich has, by the universal testimony of every speaker for the last few hours, brought out the whole of the facts; they have placed them before the House; they have produced a Report which, while perfectly courteous to my hon. friend and others, has expressed their view of the failures of which they complained. It has been seen how they were rewarded. They on their part gave an absolutely impartial statement of the facts, and I on my part have put before the House a Report which I was not in the least bound to produce. [Hon. Members on the Opposition Benches:—"Oh!"] I gave no pledge, and as a matter of fact, part of the evidence came before the Committee in private. I gave no pledge to appoint the Committee, but I appointed a Committee of very independent gentlemen. I hope this will be considered seriously, for it has a serious bearing on the further consideration of these matters, and I regret that my hon. friend should have used such a variety of depreciatory expressions out of his extensive vocabulary concerning that Committee, describing it as a whitewashing Committee, a tame Committee, a bleating Committee. The Committee was composed of independent-minded Members of the House. Their Report hid nothing and made light of nothing, but brought the subject before hon. Members in so serious a fashion that the discussion had lasted several hours. So far as I am concerned I may say, in reference to the observations of the hon. Member for Dundee, that I have never seen the Report except in its present form. The correction of the evidence, so far as I could gather—a correction in accordance, as the hon. Baronet the Chairman of the Committee was absolutely correct in saying, with the universal practice of Committees—was merely a correction with the object of stating the facts as the facts were. This discussion was thinned down by my hon. friend to a vigorous attack on the War Office. The whole question occured twelve months before, I was responsible for the War Office, although I am ready to take the responsibility for it. But the operations were based on the proceedings of 140 a number of specially skilled and expert gentlemen, called in at a moment of great emergency to assist the War Office in this particular business—the Yeomanry Committee. Among the members composing the Committee were Colonel Lucas, Lord Valentia, Lord Lonsdale, Major Bagot, Lord Harris; and Colonel St. Quintin, all of whom possess an intimate knowledge of horses. Of this body of gentlemen it is hard of the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government could not put off their responsibility by saying that such and such a Committee did the work. What we wanted were honest men to do the work, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet said—
* MR. JAMES LOWTHER
said he did not refer to the Imperial Yeomanry Committee in that connection but to the Departmental Committee whose report was under consideration and also to the Committee on War Contracts last year, which he had described as whitewashing Committees. He also said that the right hon. Gentleman was personally responsible for this money the Committee of Supply was voting, and that they required honest men to spend the money, not men like Captain Hartigan, who had been receiving 2½ per cent. commission.
§ MR BRODRICK
The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to persuade the Committee that there had been serious remissness in the manner in which these gentlemen had gone to work. I admit that the result of their operations has been unfortunate; but, at the same time, I think a very much larger measure of consideration must be given to them and the Government than has been given when they were dealing with an operation involving the raising of the business of horse-buying in this country and outside by 6,000 per cent. above the ordinary purchase. Any private business which was made to exceed that of 6,000 times its size would necessarily show its imperfection, and I do not think that all the strong language which has been used is justified. A great deal has been said about General 141 Truman. General Truman's position in relation to these matters must be carefully considered; but, on the other hand, I do not think that we could find a suggestion in all these horse transactions of a tendency towards corruption. Scant justice has been done to General Truman in that respect in the course of the debate; for there is not the smallest suggestion that, although General Truman might have made a mistake in one or two places mentioned, he had in any way diverged from the path of honour or had been an unworthy officer. Complaint has been made that General Truman allowed Captain Hartigan to be employed after he had taken a commission which might have been an inducement to him to pass horses.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said the transaction was illegal, and it gave the employer a right to call upon Captain Hartigan to pay that money over.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I am not a lawyer; but it was urged against General Truman that he had allowed Captain Hartigan to act as a veterinary captain in the Dragoon Guards temporarily. I have not the papers with me, but there is one reason why in all probability General Truman was satisfied that Captain Hartigan might be employed temporarily. For some time horses had to go untended because veterinary surgeons could not be obtained, and to secure first-rate veterinary surgeons to give attention to horses on board the transports was one of the most difficult problems I have to grapple with. The debate has been primarily due to the action taken by the hon. Member for Dulwich. I am sincerely grateful to my hon. friend for having called attention to the matter, but I regret that the language in which my hon. friend conveyed the charge, and which differs in The Times from the report in Hansard, was such as to create the idea that there was an imputation which he now says that he did not mean to convey. It was unfortunate.
§ MR. BRODRICK
It was not true What was said was this. These are the words used in The Times:—The horses were the worst rubbish that could have been picked up in the streets, but they were sold at £25 profit each, and the spoils were shared by certain persons in His Majesty's Service.
* MR. JAMES LOWTHER
Well, he should not have done so, because it was the fact. The spoils were divided amongst persons one of whom it was admitted was an officer in His Majesty's Service.
§ MR. BRODRICK
My hon. friend the Member for Dulwich declared that he did not intend to make the imputation conveyed by his words as reported in The Times. That is the sole point at which I am at variance with my hon. friend; and I gladly recognise the assistance given by my hon. friend in getting at the bottom of these transactions. The explanation of the delay in the issue of the Report is that action was pending against persons who were accused in it, and I was advised that under the circumstances it would not be right to publish it; but the moment those questions were settled the Report was published. I would appeal to the Committee to consider whether any good purpose is served—whether it is for the good of the country that statements blackening the character of those concerned in these transactions should be repeated over and over again. I am fully alive to the importance of exercising the greatest vigilance in the control of these contracts, and nothing that has been said can enhance my sense of the responsibility. I have not been backward, as the House is aware—though they are unacquainted with all the 143 cases—in using the powers that have been entrusted in me. I have endeavoured to prove that these contracts occurred solely in the pressure of one or two months of a tremendous crisis; and I ask the Committee to believe that the Government is as earnest as any one can be to put down the scandals that have arisen in exceptional circumstances.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
asked whether his right hon. Friend could state what action had been taken in the matter.
§ MR. BRODRICK
As we are in the middle of very important operations in the buying of horses, Lord Roberts has sent out to South Africa two officers of great experience, a cavalry officer and a horse artillery officer, who are reviewing the whole of the proceedings in the remount depôt. Officers have also been sent to places abroad, where horses were being purchased, to see that matters are properly conducted. We have also ready a scheme for the reorganisation of the Remount Department. I ask the Committee to place some little confidence in that respect. The War Office has at stake, not only its own credit, but—which is much more important—the credit of the country, and I will undertake that what can be done shall be done.
§ (11.14.) SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The right hon. Gentleman appealed to the Committee a short time ago to consider whether we were doing any good to the country by blackening the reputation of officers. I almost expected the right hon. Gentleman to say we should be encouraging the Boers if we did so. But the right hon. Gentleman did not go so far as to blacken character. Nobody's character has been blackened except in the case where the character has been blackened already by the conduct of the person in question. I have not heard in any speech an imputation against the personal honour and uprightness of any of the officers who really 144 conducted this business. There is the case of Captain Hartigan, but there was no imputation against him, because there is confession made by him.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Captain Hartigan took this 6 per cent.—not only an improper thing to do, but, as my hon. and learned friend said, one which the law does not' admit, and one in which, if brought to the notice of the Courts, he would be compelled to refund the money. When these circumstances came to be known he was continued in the very employment in which he was getting this percentage, and then he was reinstated in the public service, and he is at the present time discharging important military functions at Aldershot. I think that has come to hon. Members as a shock. It is perfectly evident that no man who has behaved as this officer has behaved ought to be employed in the public service.
With regard to the alterations in the evidence, I think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War has not referred to what is really the key of the matter. When a witness has given his evidence, it is sent to him in order that he may correct it, and if his corrections involve merely corrections of grammar, which all of us require, or other innocent alterations of that kind, the duty of the Secretary is to make those corrections without any further instructions; but if any alteration is made which is material, and which alters the sense of what the witness had said, it is the duty of the Secretary to submit that to the Chairman and he takes the opinion of the Committee upon it if he thinks it important enough, in order to make sure that while the evidence is a correct statement of what the witness meant to say—what his real opinion was—that he should not at the same time get the benefit of any great change which was in violent conflict with what he had stated through his own mouth to the Committee; and 145 in that way the Committee is made aware of any important change. If that course were not followed in this instance, I think it must have been the fault of the Secretary to the Committee, because I am sure the Chairman would have done his duty in the matter.
Sir, I think that the most important fact in the whole matter, even more important than the misconduct of Captain Hartigan, is that this important and expensive transaction was entrusted to men, who, with most perfect honour and with great knowledge of their profession, having commanded regiments and so on, were not qualified men to conduct such a large matter of business. Both the Remount Department and the officers sent out, neglected altogether to consult the Military Attaché at Vienna. He was a man who, I have no doubt, had a perfect knowledge, not only of the capabilities of the country, the best channels which ought to be followed, and other circumstances, but he was not consulted at all. That I consider was a gross neglect of duty, or misdirection on the part of some one, and I cannot think that the Remount Department did its duty on that important point. Only the other day, when we were dealing with the London telephones, we found that a great number of local authorities, who were well informed as to the wants of the public, were not consulted, and that a bargain, which might have been good or bad, was made behind their backs. Here we have in Vienna a Military Attaché, whose principal business is to make himself informed on these very questions, in order that he may make himself of use to his country, and he is ignored and set aside. That was a great mistake, and ii it had not been made, a great deal of the money would have been saved. The right hon. Gentleman assures us that a change will be made in the Department, and that some system will be adopted which will obviate the risk of such a mistake being made in future. But coming back to the question which has most agitated the minds of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite and the hon. Member for King's Lynn, namely the misconduct of one officer, I agree with them that the officer ought not to be in the public 146 service; but I also agree that there is not a trace nor shadow of suspicion that any of the other officers employed, had been resorting to the same practices. There is not a tittle of evidence in that direction. I add my tribute of thanks to the hon. Member for Dulwich for having brought this matter forward. It is always a dangerous thing, at a time like this, when we are engaged in a great war, to point out any great faults which are being committed because we are told we are playing into the hands of the enemy. The hon. Member was not afraid of that, but he has got a rap over the knuckles from the Committee which, I think, they might have spared him. I do not think that he deserves any such word as that which the Chairman of the Committee applied to him—"reprobation"—I do not see how that can apply to him, as he has substantially proved all that he said, and I think that the thanks of the country are due to him.
§ *(11. 23.) COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince.)
The hon. Member for King's Lynn assumed that Major-General Truman was responsible for the re-employment of Captain Hartigan, but Major-General Truman is not the chief veterinary surgeon, and probably had nothing whatever to do with it. With regard to the Remount Department, knowing nothing about the prices of horses in Austria and Hungary, one must recollect that many years ago it was thought that we should buy many of our remounts from Austria and Hungary. The horses were tried, I think in the 3rd Hussars, but, though well bred and nice-looking, they were slight, and the market was given up, for various reasons, in favour of Canada and other countries.
§ (11.25.) MR. NORVAL HELME (Lancashire, Lancaster)
said: The Government cannot complain that we on this side of the House had failed in voting money, in order that the national interests of the country might be supported, so he claimed that in criticising the methods of expenditure hon. Members were entitled to a careful and respectful hearing. He was not going into the question of the supply of horses at any 147 length, and would merely mention that he had a letter from a prominent supporter of the Government enclosing a letter from a New Zealand gentleman making a very strong case against the Government for giving preference to South American horses as against better horses from the Colonies, which could be purchased at much lower prices. He was not surprised that there should be difficulty in the purchase of horses in a country with the language of which the remount officer was not acquainted, but in the forage department—for which a million was now asked,—there was no such excuse, and there ought, at all events, to have been a more careful effort on the part of the Government to provide at ordinary market prices the items under the head of forage. Why, for instance, should agents have been allowed to go into the country to purchase bran, who were not able to buy on the home exchanges at the ordinary market value of the day. The noble Lord had undertaken to rearrange the system of obtaining the supplies of horses required by the War Office, and he would ask the noble Lord to extend the inquiry into the question of purchasing forage on the home market. The country required a system on which it could rely, and when it found a case, (of which he would give the noble Lord particulars) as in a large purchase of bran—of which he had heard, where 25 per cent. more than the market price was quoted, he thought it was time that the Government should overhaul the system. Economy was said to be a lost art. Evidently when the Government admitted that administration and consequent waste, it was necessary to revive it, or at any rate from these benches to make the attempt. His hon. friends around him, while supporting the 148 necessary supplies, objected to the system of waste which had become so notorious. He maintained that if the Government were anxious to retain the confidence of the country, which was given to them at the general election, it was high time that they should set about putting their house in order; otherwise the country would look to others to put an end to the wasteful expenditure which was causing a Chancellor of the Exchequer such anxiety and the Taxpayers loss. Therefore he ventured to ask the noble Lord to look into the question of supplies obtained at home as well as abroad; his only desire being that the War Office should get the best possible value and avoid wasteful expenditure.
§ *(11·30.) MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)
desired to ask one or two questions. The Committee would be familiar with the name of a certain contractor Hauser. Hauser was the horse-dealer who purchased horses at an average price of £10, sold them for £22 to Lewison, who, in turn, received for them £33 l6s. 8d. from the British Government. Those horses, as must be gathered from the evidence given before the Committee, were dangerous rubbish; they were blind, curbed, spavined, broken-winded, afflicted with malanders and galanders; and there were sixty mares heavy in foal for our troops to catch the Boers on. The first contract was made with this man Hauser, and then, four months afterwards—The Inspector-General of Remounts having consulted Colonel MacLean, and having obtained from him a satisfactory account of the manner in which Hauser was carrying out Lewison's Imperial Yeomanry contract, made another contract with Hauser on behalf of the War Office.149 But that was not all. In January, 1901, nearly a year after the second contract—A further contract was made with Hauser for 5,346 cobs for Mounted Infantry.The question he desired to ask was whether they had got rid of Hauser, or whether any contract with Hauser was still running, and, if so, what precautions were being taken to guard against any such results as had already been exposed. The question was of importance, because buying operations were still going on in Austro-Hungary. There were other questions he desired to ask, but he would confine himself to one, which he thought was of real importance. In the present war the Government had had an opportunity absolutely unparalleled in its character and extent of finding out the qualities—the serviceableness and utility—for army purposes, of horses drawn from different parts of the, world. Had there been, throughout the war, any system of reporting or recording the performances of the horses from different countries? Such a record of their endurance, speed, and general utility for army purposes, would not be a difficult thing to keep, and it would be exceedingly valuable for future reference. If no such record had been kept, it was not too late even now, to institute one.
§ *(11.37.) COLONEL LEGGE (St. George's, Hanover Square)
asked who was the officer immediately responsible for Captain Hartigan's present appointment. There appeared to be an impression in the Commiteee that General Truman was the officer responsible, but General Truman was Inspector-General of 150 Remounts, and, as far as his military experience went, the Inspector-General of Remounts had nothing to do with the appointment of veterinary surgeons. He further desired to know, whether, after the disclosures that had been made, it was proposed to retain Captain Hartigan in his position.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said that, the hon. Member for King's Lynn having imputed to the Chairman of the Horse Purchase Committee a suppressio veri, it was only right that he, as a member of the Committee, should state that any witness whom members of the Committee expressed a desire to have examined, or any evidence they asked to be placed at the disposal of the Committee, the Chairman made every endeavour to secure. There was every desire to get at the truth.
§ (11.40.) Mr. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
said it was very evident that Captain Hartigan was a gentleman who ought not to be entrusted with any further employment, either by the military authorities or by His Majesty's Government. At the same time, there was one point that appeared not to have been considered, viz., that if anybody went into the market to make large purchases, whether of horses or anything else, and let it be known that he was going to make those purchases, he would naturally have to give a higher price than if he went and bought in the ordinary way. As to the remarks of the hon. Member for Westminster, it was practically impossible to buy 40,000 horses clean in every limb, and it was well known that curves were really no detriment at all—["Oh."]
§ MR. BANBURY
said that was another matter, but small deficiencies, such as curves, were of little importance.
§ (11.43.) MR. BROMLEY DAVENPORT (Cheshire, Macclesfield)
said he was less concerned about the man Hauser, than about the future career of Captain Hartigan, and he asked for an assurance that this officer, if the right hon. Gentleman was satisfied that he had been guilty of receiving improper commissions, would not be continued in His Majesty's service.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkaldy Burghs)
asked whether any portion of the Vote under discussion was for the remuneration of Captain Hartigan.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said he had already informed the Committee that he would look into the cases of all the officers. He had not the necessary Papers with him, and therefore, seeing the appointment was made some months before he was responsible, he could not say who appointed Captain Hartigan to his temporary duty at Aldershot.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
said that under ordinary circumstances, many sitting on that side of the House would have felt it their duty to record a protest by supporting a reduction of the Vote, at any rate, by the amount of Captian Hartigan's remuneration. They would not, however, be parties to curtailing the sinews of war, but it should be understood that in supporting the 152 Government, they were not expressing approval of the practices which had been disclosed.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion,)
asked if the right hon. Gentleman would take into consideration the desirability of continuing in the service of His Majesty the officers who were duped by Captain Hartigan.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, on a point of order, that the hon. Member for Westminster had risen to address the Committee.
§ * MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
said he merely wished to ask if the right hon. Gentleman would kindly answer his questions.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said he must ask for notice. If it was impossible for him to say at the moment what persons had contracted for horses.
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL
asked whether there would be inquiries into conduct in connection with other contracts similar to that which had been disclosed in the Blue-book.
§ MR. BRODRICK
was understood to say that such inquiries would certainly be held, if grounds for them were established.
§ MR. DILLON
said he wished to give notice that he would put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman very soon as 153 to whether he would hold an inquiry into the meat contract.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said he did not think that any case whatever had been made out for such an inquiry. The contract was at the lowest figure and had effected an enormous saving to the country.
§ MR. DILLON
said he was not referring to the recent contract, but to the company which was compelled to refund £50,000 after having made a profit of one million.
§ MR. PIRIE
said he would put a Question to the First Lord of the Treasury on Monday, asking whether, in consequence of the disclosures they had heard, it was not time to carry out the promise which had been given to institute an inquiry into the conduct of the war, and he hoped that a favourable answer would be given.
§ (11.48.) Question put.
§ The Committee divided; Ayes 159; Noes. 56. (Division List, No 11.)155
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Lawson, John Grant|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Elliott, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Leigh, Sir Joseph|
|Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Finch, George H.||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Longsdale, John Brownlee|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Fisher, William Hayes||Lowe, Francis William|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose-||Lowther, Rt. Hon. James(Kent)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds)||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Flower, Ernest||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth|
|Beach, Rt. Hon. Sir M. Hicks||Forster, Henry William||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Bignold, Arthur||Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W.)||M'Calmont, Col. H. L. B. (Cambs|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Galloway, William Johnson||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Ed'burgh W|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Gardner, Ernest||Manners, Lord Cecil|
|Brigg, John||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Lon.||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbt. John||Martin, Richard Biddulph|
|Brookfield Colonel Montagu||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Maxwell, Rt. Hn. Sir H. E. (Wig.|
|Bull, William James||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfries-sh|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.|
|Caldwell, James||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Middlemore, John T.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Greene, Sir E. W. (B'ry S. Ed'nds||Mildmay, Francis Bigham|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Molesworth, Sir Lewis|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
|Cavendish, V. C. W (Derbyshire||Guthrie, Walter Murray||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord G. (Mi'x||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.||Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nderry||Morgan, David J. (Walth'mst' w|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford|
|Chaplain, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Heaton, John Henniker||Plummer, Walter R.|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Helder, Augustus||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Helme, Nerval Watson||Price, Robert John|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Hermon Hodge, Robert Trotter||Purvis, Robert|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Hogg, Lindsay||Randles, John S.|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Kenyon, Hon. G. T. (Denbigh)||Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Green|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Keswick, William||Ritchie, Rt. Hon, C. Thomson|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Robertson, Herbt. (Hackney)|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Scott, Sir S. (Marlebone, W.)||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.)||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Seely, Capt. J. E. B. (Isle of Wi't)||Thomas, David Alfred(Merthyr||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Sharpe, William Edward T.||Thornton, Percy M.||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray||Wylie, Alexander|
|Sinclair, Louis (Romford)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Smith, James Parker (Lanarks||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)||Valentia, Viscount||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Stroyan, John||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E. (Tauntn||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts)|
|Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||O'Dowd, John|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.|
|Blake, Edward||Joyce, Michael||O'Malley, William|
|Boland, John||Kennedy, Patrick James||O'Mara, James|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Labouckere, Henry||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Lundon, W.||Pickard, Benjamin|
|Crean, Eugene||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Cremer, William Randal||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Reddy, M.|
|Cullinan, J.||M'Govern, T.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Delany, William||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Dillon, John||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Mooney, John J.||Roche, John|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Murphy, John||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Ffrench, Peter||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Field, William||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway N.)||White, Patrick (Meath, Notth)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Gilhooly, James||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Captain Donelan and Mr. Patrick O'Brien.|
|Hammond, John||O'Connor, James(Wicklow, W.)|