§ [SECOND DAY'S DEBATE.]
§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [17th March], "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into all contracts and purchases made by or on behalf of the Government for His Majesty's Forces in South Africa in respect of remounts, meat, forage, freights, and transport."—(Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ *(4.5.) LORD ALWYNE COMPTON (Bedfordshire, Biggleswade)
I have no intention of detaining the House at any great length with the remarks I am about to make this afternoon, for I fully recognise that there are many Members on the other side of the House who are desirous of justifying the vote they are about to give. I should certainly not have ventured to intervene in the debate, only I know that the House is indulgent to a Member who can speak of the matter under discussion from personal experience and observation; and although, perhaps, my own opinion may not be worth much, I may possibly be in a position to reflect the views of many others who have taken part in the operations in South Africa. Now, as to the case brought forward last night, I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition described by an hon. Member who sits near me as one made in very great good humour and moderation. I listened toit carefully, and I can subscribe to that view. But it also seemed to me to be feeble and timorous. It showed a very great deal of force and vigour, and it received, as it deserved, absolute annihilation from the Secretary of State for War. The hon. Member for Northampton, in seconding the Motion, with that characteristic frankness which we all admire, vamped up tales and fables, produced out of his inner consciousness.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I desire to ask whether one Member may accuse another of vamping up tales and producing his facts from his moral consciousness.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I did not catch the exact expression, used but I am sure if any words were used reflecting on the honour of the hon. Member the noble Lord will withdraw them.
§ * LORD ALWYNE COMPTON
I certainly withdraw the words if they are considered offensive. What I meant was that practically no circumstantial evidence was advanced in support of the Motion. That is the sort of case which has been produced, and these accusations were flung across the floor of the House at the head of an already overtaxed Minister, a man who, as the country knows, has for years been bearing the strain and test of an arduous campaign. I admit I am puzzled to know quite what the object of the Leader of the Opposition was in bringing this vote of censure upon the Government forward. Possibly it may have been an effort to remove the present administration from power, but if that be so, then I think that such an attitude in the middle of a great war is utterly indefensible. It may have been a more sinister design—if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so—to spread, I will not say a malevolent spirit, but, at any rate, a mischievous spirit, to hamper and impede the action of the responsible Minister who is engaged in carrying on this arduous campaign. May I, for my part, say I think that accusations of this kind coming from the Leader of the great Liberal Party come with very bad grace indeed from a statesman who, in and outside this House, has for some months past been making utterances tending to impede and hamper the action of the responsible Government in carrying on the war, and whose utterances have, in my opinion, tended to prolong the war. I take this opportunity of saying in the most public manner that the expressions used by the right hon. Gentleman, such as the "methods of barbarism," as applied to our troops in the field, will be found written in lines of fire in the hearts of the present generation and of possibly future ones long after the echo of his words have died away. We shall be glad to hear the views of the member's of the Imperial League, who have told us that they are as desirous as we of bringing this war to a speedy and successful termination. I appeal to hon. Members opposite, and not to the Irish Nationalists, from whom we know what speeches we may expect. There are still 336 ringing in our ears the cheers which greeted the disaster to our troops on a recent occasion. I will not trouble the House with my views on that matter. I cannot do better than draw the attention of hon. Members to the words used by a member of the Nationalist Party in a letter which he sent to the Press.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The noble Lord is entitled to criticise his opponents in the case of a vote of censure on Ministers, but his observations should be more relevant.
§ * LORD ALWYNE COMPTON
I hope the House will excuse me for having been led away by natural feelings into these observations. What is the charge made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite? He has asked for an inquiry into the contracts and purchases made by and on behalf of the Government. I do not see why the leader of the Opposition should claim a monopoly in the desire for investigation in this matter. Those who have been in South Africa give way to no one in the desire for investigation. The difference between us is that we realise to the full the position in which the Secretary for War stands, and our view is that it is undesirable and impossible at the present time. I can go back to the second phase of the Afghan campaign, and I am prepared to admit that in the matter of supplies for the troops the present campaign compares very favourably with that campaign and with the Egyptian campaign in which I also took part. May I say that in my judgment we are somewhat exaggerating the defects of the transport during this campaign? In providing for transport beforehand, the War Office are always face to face with this difficulty—that until they know in what particular part of the Empire a war is to take place, they do not know how to prepare for it, the transport required for different parts of the world being so diverse. When the war is over, I intend to attack my right hon. friend, or any Minister who may be at the War Office, because I know the optimistic spirit that prevails there, and the difficulty of getting them to prepare for war. No doubt marry influences will be brought to bear in support of the policy of forget and forgive, but I am firmly of opinion that when the war is over, my right hon. friend should not be allowed to be forgetful of 337 the lessons to be learnt from it. I am one of those who have confidence in Lord Kitchener and in the Secretary for War. They have been frank in all these matters. They have admitted that there have been defects, and therefore, in view of all these facts, I am ready to give my support to the Government on this occasion.
§ (4.25.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
The speech, the very agreeable speech, to which we have listened from the noble Lord is an exception to the ordinary rules, because it contained some of the strongest arguments in favour of the Motion. The noble Lord admitted that mistakes were made in the Afghan and Egyptian campaigns, but here we are involved in another war, and the same mistakes and scandals are repeated in an even more marked manner. The noble Lord also admits the danger of the policy of forgive and forget. The moment the war is over and its pressure on the country has passed these scandals will be forgotten and forgiven, and the next war will be begun in the same way. Three broad lines of defence to this Motion have been put forward on the part of the Government. The first is a tu quoque; the second an apparently candid admission of the charges and a very laboured extenuation of them; and the third is that the purposes and objects behind the Motion must be considered, and that the real issue is not the fate of the Motion, but the fate of the Government. I am afraid that the speeches made in defence of the Government have been distorted by Party passion and have been calculated to lead us away from the real merits of the Motion. I will take the lines of defence in their order. First there is the tu quoque. The noble Lord gets up and astonishes the House by referring to matters which happened seventeen or eighteen years ago. When I came down yesterday I was under the impression I was to listen to a debate on the war of 1900–2, and the conduct of the present Minister for War and his immediate predecessor. But I had not been here more than one hour when I discovered that the real question the Secretary of State thought we ought to consider was not the conduct of the War Minister of today, but that of the present 338 Leader of the Opposition. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Fareham followed in the same course, but not being so adroit and practised in debates or craftsmanship as the Secretary of State for War, he immediately found himself in collision with you, Sir, on a point of order, and if it had not been for that unexpected interruption we would have been discussing until now what my right hon. friend did in the Egyptian campaign of 1881–2.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I had better disabuse the mind of my hon. friend. I was not Under Secretary for War, nor had I any connection with the War Office, during the Egyptian campaign. I was Secretary to the Admiralty at the time.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
That shows the great danger of accepting any statement made on the other side of the House without independent personal investigation. Though I know the career of my right hon. friend pretty well, I was so far taken in by the histrionic sincerity of the Secretary of State, and the splendid, inspired, honest and virtuous passion with which he attacked the right hon. Gentleman, that I actually accepted the entirely false statement that my right hon. friend was Under Secretary of State for War in the Egyptian campaign. I will now toll the right hon. Gentleman, something which is a positive fact, and not an unfounded statement, and that is, that the head of the War Office during that disastrous period was one of the pillars of the present Administration, whose downfall, we are told, would mean a prolongation of the war and the destruction of the Empire—I mean the Duke of Devonshire. Though the right hon. Gentleman is so old and skilful a campaigner, I would advise him to look up his history to see that he is not attacking any Member of the present Administration, for though some of his colleagues may be good Tories now, they may not have been in the days to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. That is the tu quoque defence.
The next line of defence is to admit the charges with apparent candour and then to extenuate them. In this case the 339 extenuation has gone on to a degree and in a manner which rather surprised me. The noble Lord opposite described some of the statements of the hon. Member for Northampton as vamped-up charges which came from his inner consciousness; the Secretary of State spoke of "idle gossip," and the hon. Member for Christchurch, first denouncing the evidence of the waiter—brought in, I believe, by the late Prime Minister and the Member for Dulwich—was equal to the occasion and produced a brand new waiter of his own; then, alluding to the affidavit brought forward by the Member for Dulwich, was again equal to the occasion, and brought forward another affidavit; and then, alluding to what he described as the perjured evidence of a witness produced by the hon. Member for Dulwich, was once more equal to the occasion, and brought forward another perjured witness—all by way of showing that we are dealing not with proved and admitted facts, but with idle and empty gossip and vamped-up inventions, and this in spite of the fact that a Committee appointed by the right hon Gentleman himself, and I might almost say, with the exception of one hon. Member from above the gangway, packed by the right hon. Gentleman, has proved every single charge brought against the Government in regard to gross, foul, and gigantic scandals in connection with remounts and other departments.
But that is not all. I said that gradually the charges would be extenuated until they disappeared. But more has happened. Vices have become virtues. The hon. Member for Christ-church last night had not a House by any means in proportion to the extraordinary interest of the speech he delivered. The hon. Member was not satisfied with dismissing the charges as idle gossip; he said it was quite in accord with everything which takes place in England, and that the whole commercial system of the country rested on the basis of secret commissions. That is a somewhat startling statement, [Ministerial cheers.] I do not know whether it is true or not, but I assume the cheers on the other side to indicate that it is. ["No."] I am glad to find the debate has so far departed from Party 340 lines that there is some division on the question. What does the statement of the hon. Gentleman amount to?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I think I have as good a memory as the noble Lord, and I heard them. I did not like to detain the House by looking through my notes, but I have the exact reference now.England—The statement is stronger than I thought. I was innocent enough to talk of the commercial system, but it is England, not merely the commercial system.England now rests on a system of secret commissions.So that, in the course of the debate the scandals which are admitted by the Government, instead of being hurled against them as a crime and a vice, are exalted by the hon. Gentleman to the level of following the great example of national virtue and morality, for "England now rests on a system of secret commissions." That is the kind of defence which the friends of the Government make from their attitude on this question.
But there is another defence, and that also is coupled with an attack on the Leader of the Opposition and some other Gentlemen who have spoken in the debate. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Fareham, with all the enthusiasm and ardour of youth, was quite disappointed with the debate. It was wanting in colour and in richness; it was insipid. Does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman see the inference that anyone must draw from his description of the debate? I have not found the debate insipid. The speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself was most inspiring, while the speech from which I have just quoted had in it more plums than any speech I have heard or read for a long time. But analyse the complaint of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. What does it mean? Here we are in the midst of the war, when these scandals are fresh in our minds, when many people think the scandals are going on 341 and will continue until the war is over, and yet, with the criminals in the dock before us, the crime fresh in our memories, and all the misfortunes and errors that lie behind the whole story of corruption vividly in our mind's eye, the debate is described as cool and insipid. With what kind of mind, then, should we discuss these things three or four years hence when all these matters are forgotten? It means that these charges will be investigated, brought home and dealt with now, or they will never be dealt with at all.
The noble Lord opposite also found fault with the statement of the hon. Member for Northampton that the Chartered Company were buying horses in Szabadka at the same time as Captain Hartigan was buying on the part of the Yeomanry. But that does not depend on the evidence of my hon. friend. Some of the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in this debate appear not to have read the Welby report. Listen to this passage from the examination of Captain Hartigan—(Mr. Charteris): Did you hear anything out there as to the Austro-Hungarian Export Company?—No.(Mr. Hobhouse): Have you any knowledge of a man named Folgár?—No.He did not appear at Szabadka while you were there?—Not knowing this man I am unable to say; I saw Major Armstrong, who was with me in the 16th Lancers, and I saw Veterinary Surgeon Hill. They were buying horses, they said, for Cecil Rhodes, but Cecil Rhodes was buying them for the Yeomanry. I think they got him 1000. He got some in New Orleans and some in Szabadka.So that the statement of my hon. friend as to the competition between the agent of the Chartered Company on the one hand and the agent of the Yeomanry Committee on the other does not depend on his inner consciousness; it depends on the evidence given before the Committee which investigated these charges. The point which does not seem to have struck hon. Gentlemen is this: How does this remount scandal begin? The persons involved all manage to get to Szabadka in company. One of the astonishing things in regard to this business is that the Government do not even yet seem to know what Szabadka is. The Under Secretary of State for War in another place said, in answer to some charges about the scenes in the hotel at 342 Szabadka, that Szabadka was quite a small place, and that it was only natural they should be at the same hotel for the simple reason it was a small place and there was only one hotel in the place. Szabadka has 72,000 inhabitants, four principal hotels, and forty-four smaller inns, and yet that is the state of knowledge which the authorities are in with regard to Szabadka at the present day. Now, what happened? My hon. friend below the gangway was innocent enough to ask this question—I suppose you got to know something about Szabadka?—Yes.What would you recommend the War Office to do in the case of another emergency like this if they wanted to purchase horses in Hungary?—Well, to begin with, this man Hanser has the monopoly; he can stable 4,000 or 3,000 horses in Szabadka.Is it pretty good stabling?—No, the worst. It is very good for Hungary, but it is very crude.And then this gentleman goes on to give a description of Hauser. He says—As soon as Hauser gets a contract they swarm round him like bees, and he gives them great satchels of money and they go out into the different districts.Now, few men had ever heard of Szabadka until this debate took place; then, why is it, with the celerity with which Monsieur Santos Dumont might emulate and with the directness which he has not yet attained, all these gentlemen in this emergency steer their way straight to Szabadka? They ought to have known that they would have had to deal with one man and one alone, because Hartigan said that Hauser was the monopolist there, and that when they went there they put themselves into the hands of a monopolist. Why did they go there? I do not think that sufficient regard has been given to the evidence of Colonel Wardrop. The President of the Commission asked—You are the British Military Attaché at Vienna?—Yes, at Buda Pesth, Bucharest, Servia, and Montenegro.—and this shows the great knowledge the War Office have of these gentlemen who are attached to our embassies abroad—You have held that position for the last two years or more?—It will be seven years in April since I was appointed.He was seven years there, and nobody in the War Office knew of his existence, but mark the story he tells— 343How did you first hear that it was proposed to purchase remounts for the use of the Army in South Africa?—Well, I must say, I have not been consulted in any respect whatever, either by the Yeomanry or by the War Office authorities?This man is the representative of the War Office authorities. What do we keep these men for all over the world? We keep them there for the purpose of keeping the War Office in touch with the military resources of the countries to which they are attached. Yet at the moment of this agonised crisis of remounts, the War Office absolutely do not know of the existence of its Military Attaché, who had been there for seven years.It is not for me to find fault, but I certainly thought, if our authorities wanted information, anyone who knows me knows that I have been connected with horses a long time.His name was too English, that was what was the matter. There was a time when the foreigner paid the flattering unction to us in England of changing his name and adopting an English patronymic.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 horses to be obtained for that price and who the best agents were.What happened? The intelligent agent of the Yeomanry force took this course.What I know of it is this. I received a telegram before the purchase of the horses for the Yeomanry took place to the following effect (the telegram was unsigned)—'Can you find me so and so many horses of such and such an age, at such and such a price.'What did Colonel Wardrop do? He is a Military Attaché attached to our Embassy; he is half political and half military, and what sort of a politician would he have been if he had answered an unsigned telegram like that?First of all," he says, "it was en clair, and secondly it was unsigned. I took it to the Ambassador and asked him about it. I said I did not like telegrams of that kind. It might have been pulling my leg on the Boer side. I replied in cipher to the War Office to the following effect: 'Have received telegram unsigned requesting information respecting purchase of horses. So many horses of required age can be bought for sum mentioned.' I received no reply of any sort to this telegram.These are the assiduous officials whose absence for a few hours twice a week cannot be given by the Government for the purpose of rooting up the poisoned roots of this scandal. Colonel Wardrop in the meantime, a month later, had 344 received a note from Colonel St Quintin complaining that he had received no reply to his telegram. He continues—What became of my reply I do not know.It is not for me to give you any information upon that.Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to give us some information as to that. Perhaps he will spare out of the ten hours a day which I am sure he is devoting to this Department, five minutes for this purpose. This Military Attaché had for seven years been one of the antennæ by which this intelligent, far-reaching War Office, gathered information from all parts of the world, and yet this was all Colonel Wardrop knew officially of the intention to buy horses in Hungary. There is a great deal of eloquent pathos in this remark—It is not for me to give you any information on that.An unsigned telegram from the Yoemanry, an unanswered communication to the War Office, and thousands of horses bought under the nose of our Military Attaché who has been there seven years—"That is all I know!" Then with the view of clearing up that part of Colonel Wardrop's evidence with regard to Colonel St. Quintin, he says—According to my telegram, which was never replied to, no middlemen were required.From that, I think the House can see with what gross neglect Colonel Wardrop was treated. The result to the country would have been far better if it had been replied to. To go back to Hauser, Hartigan has described how, directly he got a contract, the dealers came round him and he gave them satchels full of money. There is some slight difference of national idiom in the language of Hartigan and Colonel Wardrop. The evidence of the first is given with a certain amount of imagery, I do not like to say of an Oriental character, because I might come into contact with some of the contractors, but that is the fashion of Irishmen. An Irishman describes the hill in Wick-low as the Crest of the Goldsn Spear, the Englishman call it the Sugar Loaf. The comments of Colonel Wardrop were characteristically Saxon. This is the language of Colonel Wardrop. He was asked— 345What sort of position does Hauser hold in the horse - dealing world of Hungary? Is he one of the leading men?—I do not think he was then, but he is now; and then he added money commanded position there like everywhere else. They say he has made enormous sums.And as we have seen, the grub-like Hauser becomes a great man in Austria Hungary through the money he got owing to the stupidity of the men who were sent out there to buy horses. We have not done with Hartigan yet. I noticed his name in The Times this morning, and to get one's name into the columns of The Times is the first stage of becoming a pillar of support to the Unionist Party. What is he in The Times for? He is in The Times for the purpose of showing that these scandals are impossible in the future, and that the question of the supply of horses will now be on a proper basis, because this country has the inestimable advantage—of what do you think?—of the services of Hauser to buy more horses. All these transactions have made the country, and especially the War Office, the laughing-stock of the world. The laughter in Austria is sympathetic. One of the documents in the Report—not gossip, not the evidence of a waiter, who is supposed not to have the right to make a statement on oath and have it believed—states—As I was interested in the matter I went to the market and observed the actions of those who, according to their own account, were collecting horses for the English Army, and who for the most part were well known as agents in the provincial markets. What I there saw I can briefly include in the wish: 'God grant more such opportunities for purifying our nature breed from its dregs.'Then he had some patriotic misgiving, for he added—On the other hand, I was filled with anxiety when I asked myself the question, 'What conception will the foreigner have of Hungarian horse-breeding if such specimens are described as Hungarian horses?'That is a somewhat sardonic observer of our methods. There is another with a little more of the milk of human kindness, a little broader type of the patriot. He says—In short, the rubbish of the Hungarian stock of horses was exported for the poor British soldiers.It was they who had to suffer in the end. It is their fate we are discussing; not whether some miserable fellow sold 346 the pass or some other fellow gained exorbitant profits. He continues—It seems quite natural to me that such a material of horses could not meet the requirements, and proved useless.The language of America is sometimes sympathetic and sometimes sardonic, because the Americans are a nation with a keen sense of humour. The agents of the War Office have been performing the same exploits in some parts of America as they have been performing in Austria. The following is an extract from the Milford Times. I apologise for the language, which is not pleasant to hear, but the truth had best be heard. The Milford Times states—John Bull, Esq., has scattered much needed money in this vicinity during the present winter, and the country is well rid of several thousand untamed and valueless cayases.I do not know what cayuses may mean, but I take it to be a term of opprobrium.
The whole world—even nations not unfriendly to this country—is ringing with mocking laughter at the manner in which the War Office has conducted the war. The Secretary of State for War made one statement which surprised me. He said that even if the scandals were as bad as they have been proved to be, the war went on all right, and the right hon Gentleman, in language of impassioned rhetoric, defied the Leader of the Opposition, or anyone else, to say that these scandals and the other scandals had interfered with the progress of the war. I say that the whole course of the war bears the trail of these scandals from beginning to end. Does anyone suppose that what this country is thinking of today is only the loss of money involved on these scandals? No, Sir; the country is thinking of the loss of life. I say that you can trace from Hauser in Hungary, from the men in Utah, and from the others in the Argentine in direct line, as clear as the heredity of any man in this House, the trail of the dishonest and stupid contractor, the bad or insufficient horses, to every one of your critical moments in South Africa. I am against this war. I do not deny that I am an uncompromising enemy of this war; and I had the honour—and I think it will be regarded as an honour in later years—of having made the last speech in this House against the war before it began. I am quite content that 347 my poor political reputation should stand on that speech, and I am quite content that the policy of the Colonial Secretary should be judged on his speech in reply. But I am not speaking now from the standpoint of an enemy of this war, but how I would look at it if I were an Englishman in favour of it, who believed it was just and necessary, and who, therefore, wished it carried on on scientific methods and with rapidity and success. What would happen? I would not bother myself as to whether Lewison or Hauser made £20,000 or £30,000. I would not be a very good Irishman if I cared too much about money. The loss of the money is the smallest part of the matter. The hideous loss of life is the real matter to which the attention of the country ought to be directed. Before I go into this part of the case, let me read an extract from Dr. Conan Doyle's book. Dr. Doyle is one of the gentlemen who is strongly in favour of the war. He considers it just and necessary. He has taken an honourable part in practising his old profession of medicine at the war, and he has written a very able pamphlet in defence of the conduct of the war. He is a man of very great ability, and his patriotism—using the word in the somewhat restricted sense of the Jingo—is not under any cloud or misapprehension. I was rather amused at this passage in reference to what took place at one of the reverses sustained by General Gatacre—In meantime three powerful Boer guns upon the ridge had opened tire with great accuracy, but fortunately with defective snells. Had the enemy's contractors—does not this sound like irony?—been as trustworthy as their gunners in this campaign our losses would have been very much heavier, and it is possible that here we catch a glimpse of some consequences of that corruption which was one of the curses of the country.It does read like irony that the Boer Government was being punished through its guns for its corruption, in face of what we know now. I do not want to go through these painful sentences more than I am compelled in order to state my case. After Belmont, Lord Methuen gained some advantage over the Boers, and some prisoners were taken. Here, again, is apparently unconscious irony—We captured some fifty prisoners, whom the soldiers regarded with the utmost interest. They were a sullen, slouching crowd, rudely clad, and they represented probably the poorest 348 of the burghers, who now, as in the middle ages, suffer most in battle, since a long purse means a good horse.Dr. Conan Doyle had never heard of Hauser then. He proceeds—Most of the enemy galloped very comfortably away after the action, leaving a fringe of sharpshooters among the kopjes to hold back our pursuing cavalry. The want of horsemen and the want of horse artillery are the two reasons which Lord Methuen gives why the defeat was not converted into a rout.At Enslin, again, the Boers rode calmly away, many of them making uncomplimentary gestures at our unhorsed battalions. Again, take the march to Kimberley under General French. There were bad and insufficient horses again, with the result that, with characteristic good nature, the troopers dismounted, and, not satisfied with that, took some of the baggage off the horses' backs. [An HON. MEMBER: "They relieved Kimberley."] Yes, they relieved Kimberley, but not before Lord Methuen had lost a thousand men in one week. Pretoria and Bloemfontein were also occupied, but at a loss of life for which the contracts of the War Office were directly and primarily responsible. The troops got to Bloemfontein, and they had not boots for the men or horses for the cavalry. The hon. Member for Westminster told us what accommodation they had for the sick and wounded. Is not the case of the hospital scandals on a par with the conduct here? I remember when the hon. Member exposed these scandals in the House, and I remember seeing the First Lord of the Treasury in a condition of unworthy personal passion and malignity because the hon. Member had dared to expose these scandals. But public opinion was too strong for him, and many a man is alive today because the hon. Member made that charge upon the Government, and thousands of the men who lie in graves at Bloemfontein today would have been alive if we had had a competent War Office. The Government are anxious to hush this matter up. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he would welcome a full inquiry, but he wishes to wait until the indignation has evaporated, and until it has ceased to interest anybody but the historian and the archaeologist. It is not only the fate of the Motion which is being decided tonight, but it is the lives 349 of the particular gentlemen who hold office. They may regard their official life as valuable to the country, and I may say that I think the country has borne with them with singular patience. I do not know whether that patience is yet exhausted, but if the country persists in keeping such men in office we shall find that, like other nations, this great nation will be destroyed by its own national arrogance and folly.
§ (5.18.) The FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Lord STANLEY,) Lancashire, Westhoughton
I feel somewhat at a disadvantage in following the hon. Member who has just sat down, but I am afraid that it is not in my power to go from light to shade and shade to light again, and transpose what has been an excessively dull debate in turn into a comedy and then into a tragedy. He has laid down certain propositions, but I do not want to deal in any Party spirit with the questions he has brought up. I will first of all deal with the speech of the hon. Member who has just spoken. He said at the end of his speech that hundreds—I think he said thousands—of lives were lost in this war by bad contracts. Knowing something of this question of what happens at both ends, I am in a position to absolutely deny that any lives were lost by bad contracts being made. Upon the question of the purchase of horses the hon. Member said that, owing to the badness of our purchases by contract, the enemy were able to escape at Enslin. Does the hon. Member know that those horses were not contract horses, but were cavalry horses taken out by the regiment, and were picked from England and Ireland, and they were the very class of horses which hon. Members of this House have always been urging the Government to buy.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
What I meant to say was that the inefficiency of the War Office of which these contracts formed a part was the cause of that escape.
§ LORD STANLEY
They were neither bad horses nor insufficient. The regiments were well mounted on good English horses, and to say that their incapacity was due to a wrong contract having been made by the War Office does not add to the appreciation of the hon. Member's remarks. He also alluded to another contract. He said that at Bloemfontein we had to wait because the men had not got boots. That may be true, but it was not the fault of the Government that they were unable to get boots to Bloemfontein. The boots were there in South Africa, and there was never a single article wanted which was not there, and they only wanted transporting to the places where they were wanted. After all, one may not be able to supply at the actual moment at the front the particular article required, but that does not reflect upon the Government or the War Office, provided that those articles are in the country ready to be drawn upon when military exigencies permit it. Going back to the Resolution on the Paper, I would like to point out that the difference between us is not as great as hon. Members would have us believe. The question of whether or no we are to have an inquiry into all the contracts of the present war is already definitely and decidedly settled. My right hon. friend emphasised that yesterday. He pointed out that he will insist when the war is over that there shall be a full and and complete inquiry into all the transactions of the War Office. That question is one which need not be debated as to whether we are or are not to have the inquiry at the present moment, or whether or no the War Office should be put into the position of having to do their executive work, which goes on from day to day, and at the same time put themselves in a defensive position as regards their reputation. The right hon. Gentleman in introducing this Resolution spoke in a way which nobody on this side could take offence at, but at the same time one could not help pitying him as a good man struggling with adversity. He said very openly, turning to the hon. Gentlemen around him—You must supply me with the particulars, and you must give the local dashes of colour.Those hon. Gentlemen responded to his entreaties, and they have brought forward here these mutterings and in- 351 sinuations which have been passed about from mouth to mouth, and which have appeared in some newspapers.
The hon. Member for West Nottingham is the first with whom I will deal, because he said something which I do not know whether he wished to be personally offensive or not, but which undoubtedly was. He said that I gave misleading answers to him. If misleading means that when he proves that black is white, and asks me to agree with him, and I say I cannot—if that is misleading, then I admit that my answers are so. The hon. Member began by attributing misconduct to all the officers connected with horse-buying, and when asked to justify their misconduct he said he meant that they did not know a horse when they saw one. I am bound to say that "misconduct" is not a right word to suit the occasion, and it is not one which would justify me in taking serious notice of what he says. There is only one point which he made, and which I think should be noticed in some way, and that is the question of the holding by certain members of the Remount Department of shares in Messrs. Houlder Brothers. With regard to Major Peters he is said to have held shares in Houlder Brothers' ships some time before the war. Whether he holds them now or not I do not know, but he has been asked for some explanation of his acquaintance with that firm. General Truman is brought in by the hon. Member for West Nottingham, and he alluded to him as if he was interested in giving these contracts to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds by the shares he has in that company. His connection with that company was that he held a total value of £35 of their capital, and he had a nephew connected with the company as a clerk in their office.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
If the noble lord will pay one shilling at Somerset House, he will find there that General Truman has five shares in his own name. There are, I believe, fourteen ordinary and thirty-five preference shares held by General Truman and Mr. Matthew Truman.
§ LORD STANLEY
I am told that his total holding is £35, but I will grant him that it was £200, £300, £400, or £500 if he likes. Will the hon. Member have 352 that? Is it to be said that a gentleman who has served in a distinguished cavalry regiment and who is a General in the English Army is influenced in his vocation from the Government point of view by the fact that he holds even £400 in that company? I put the honour of British Generals higher than that. I would trust Generals with far larger sums in companies and yet believe them. I quite admit that the hon. Member for Northampton would not agree that they would do their best, not for their own pocket, but for the country they are serving. The hon. Member for Northampton went into the question of the meat contract. When it comes to bringing that forward as a stick with which to beat the dog I confess that I see at once how very few are the sticks they have in their bundle. I will go into this meat contract with the hon. Member because it was one of the few meat contracts which were made since I came into my present position, and which I myself was the first to recommend to my right hon. friend. The hon. Gentleman first of all said, "You have not fair competition." Why? Because after asking competition we settle that we can only take such tenders as would include the whole of the distribution. The hon. Member says that we made no provision whatever for that distribution, and therefore we were obliged to take the contract. The hon. Gentleman contradicted himself, because a little later he abuses the Government, or rather the Army officials in South Africa, for not taking steps on their own account to secure cold storage places throughout the country.
§ LORD STANLEY
No, Sir; not after, but before. Colonel Morgan was sent home specially to advise on this particular contract, and meanwhile preparations were made in South Africa, so that if the difference between the meat landed at Cape Town and the cost of that meat as distributed throughout the country was very large, we should be in a position to say, "We will take the meat at Cape Town and distribute it ourselves." Every possible preparation 353 had been made for taking that alternative, but when it came to the inquiry into prices and going into the question whether or not we should do our own distribution, we found that we could not do it cheaper, and we might not have been able to do it so cheap. The company were ready to undertake delivery to the troops as we might require, and as Colonel Morgan has more knowledge of what is required in South Africa, it was on his definite recommendation that we accepted the contract which involved the distribution by the Company to the troops in South Africa. If there had been a very great difference between the two prices, we were absolutely prepared to carry out the work of the delivery ourselves, and I may as well tell the hon. Member, as he is so very bitter against Mr. Bergl, that that gentleman was almost the cheapest man delivering meat at Cape Town; and in either case Mr. Bergl was the man we would have employed. The hon. Member says there was collusion. There are three companies, all of which he abuses, and he gives us to understand that if he had had a preference he would have taken the most, expensive.
§ LORD STANLEY
The hon. Member says we have done nothing but get done in the contracts we have made. The hon. Member said there was collusion, therefore the inference is that we were done by both of them, and that we ought to have gone to the other by preference.
§ LORD STANLEY
Mr. Weil has not made the heavy profit he expected to make. He has gone into this contract at a lower price than he himself was prepared to tender for.
§ LORD STANLEY
We have taken the cheapest price. Now I will tell the hon. Member—for he has made every sort of, insinuation about the formation of this company—that there are three stages in 354 this company. At first Mr. Bergl tenders, and says that he has not the capital himself, but that he will be able to find a syndicate to work the contract. He produces guarantors, and says that they will guarantee that he will produce this syndicate as soon as we accept his tender. We call on the guarantors to guarantee that the syndicate will be formed. This syndicate is then formed, and we have to examine into their power and their capability of carrying out the contract. Then, and then only, do we assign to them the contract which otherwise we should have held Bergl to. The hon. Member is always casting aspersions against the religion, perhaps the race, and perhaps the morality, of those people who are carrying out our contract.
§ LORD STANLEY
But there have been references to Jerusalem, from which it may be inferred. There have been references to race, and perhaps I may be justified in saying I do not mind what their religion is, nor what their morality is. [Cries of "Oh!"] Their personal morality is nothing to me, any more than the personal morality of the hon. Gentleman who asked the question. Neither has it got anything to do with meat. I want to know that the money they have is sufficient, and that they are of sufficient standing to carry our the contract which they have taken to the best advantage of those whom it is our business to serve. We have got to consider the State as regards economy; we have got to consider the soldier so far as quality is concerned. I believe that by accepting this company's contract we have secured economy, and it will be our fault if we do not secure from this company proper quality of food.
Various other references were made to the contract, but the most amusing proposition was that which was put forward by the hon. and learned Member for the Dumfries Burghs. I am not sure whether he is one of the party that preaches efficiency, but he, at all events, preaches business-like habits at the War Office. The War Office is always to be a business-like establishment. How 355 does he propose to do it? He proposes inspectors of remounts in South Africa, that we shall withdraw twenty-five of our officials to work up the case for the inquiry, and substitute for them men brought from the outside. In other words, that is the business-like proposition of a business-like man. When you are working at the highest pressure you possibly can, you should withdraw those men who know the work and who can carry it out and put other gentlemen in their place, who do not know the work and who probably would not carry it out.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
I said nothing about providing gentlemen or anything like it. What I said was—I cannot pledge myself to the actual words, but the substance was this—that for a Committee sitting two days a week one or two men might be required, and if you wanted extra assistance you might get two, three, four, five, or ten extra hands to do their work in the meantime, but to say that this Committee sitting two days a week is going to distract and paralyse the War Office is an absurdity.
§ LORD STANLEY
I apologise to the hon. and learned Gentleman if I have in any way misunderstood the number he proposes. But the proposition remains that the head of the Department shall be withdrawn, and that you shall firing in somebody who will do his work. My right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War points out that in connection with the Committee of 1886, the head officials were kept almost so to speak in a state of suspense for ten or twelve weeks while the inquiry was going on. At the present moment, there is not a single man in the Office who can be spared. There is no cessation of work, and there will be no cessation while the war lasts. We are not going to relax a single effort of any sort, and still less are we going to relax in the way of withdrawing those whom we trust to put in their place those of whom we have no earthly knowledge. The hon. Member for the South Molton Division said that we wanted only to bring back a few people. Colonel Hunt, who is in Australia, and Colonel William, who is in Hungary, are two of the gentleman he wanted back. Colonel Hobham is one of the 356 inspectors of remounts in South Africa, and Colonel De Burgh is one of the finest gentlemen we have in America. These also are gentlemen we are to bring back. We must go on buying remounts all the same, but we are asked for heaven's sake to bring back these men, so that a Committee of the House may inquire. With regard to all these questions of contract, of course we have paid high. Do not let me deny that for one minute. When you are in a time of war and a time of strain, when the supply is not equal to the demand, you will always be made to pay by people who say, "Take it or leave it." There is a great responsibility, undoubtedly, in taking it at an advanced price, but there is a far greater responsibility, and one that I for one would never be a party to accepting, in leaving it, when leaving it may mean disaster or discredit. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division pointed out that we ought to have got better horses and better guns. Well, I notice that hon. Members are always talking of the poor Boer farmer pursued by the brutal British soldier, but when it comes to the brutal British soldier being pursued by the poor Boer farmer, they are almost more anxious than anybody else to supply the horses. The hon. Member for the College Green Division of Dublin said the other day, with a certain amount of naïreté, "When there is anything going, we like to have a little bit of it." And what does the hon. Member for the Scotland Division turn to? He turns to the horse question: he turns to one particular contract, and upon that he proceeds to try and condemn the whole of the War Office. Sir, you cannot have it both ways, with your Hungarian horses; you cannot quote out of Colonel Birkbeck's Report everything that suits you, and leave out everything that does not suit you. Rut take the one contract that the hon. Member has referred to. Let us grant, as he says, that money has been made out of it. What was the result? Did we or did we not get horses that were fit for our requirements? Let us grant that in this particular case money was made by the middleman, But Colonel Birkbeck in his Report, speaking of these very horses, says, "Hungarians are well spoken of by the 357 Yeomanry." These horses were not the bad horses that hon. Members have tried to prove. They are said to be "flat-catchers," and hon. Members in some parts of the House seem to have a very indistinct idea of what a flat-catcher is. The expression was used by Lord Kitchener, and he must have had some sort of racing instinct in using the term, because a flat-catcher is just the one particular kind of horse that no buyer will ever tell to be a bad horse, and it must be by experience alone that it can be proved. Everybody admits that these horses were very good-looking horses; they looked, as some Members have said, "just the thing;" and from my experience out in South Africa as well as at home, I say that these horses were nothing like as black as it has suited certain hon. Members to paint them.
Only one word in conclusion. There seems to be some doubt in the minds of hon. Members as to whether my right hon. friend and—if I may say so—myself too, are genuine in our wish to have a thorough inquiry into this matter. Now, Sir, I can only speak for myself, but I am bound to say that I am getting a little tired of coming down every morning and wondering whether I am supposed to be in collusion with a fraudulent meat contractor or a swindling horse-dealer. [An HON. MEMBER: Nobody ever suggested such a thing.] I speak somewhat feelingly on this point; it does not come, so far as I am concerned, between me and my rest, but I speak also for those whom it does hurt, for those whose professional reputation is at stake, who see their names bandied about, never as less than fools, and generally with the accompaniment of a swindler as well. These men have got their mouths closed; they are working, some of them at times when there is absolutely no compulsion on them to do so; they have done their best, under very trying circumstances, and they have had nothing from that side of the House but abuse and calumny.
§ LORD STANLEY
Speaking some time ago at Liverpool—(here I must make a personal explanation)—I alluded to the ex-Prime Minister, and I used some forcible expressions as to what he had said. Now, there is nobody in the world against whom I would have greater hesitation in making any insinuation or accusation than Lord Rosebery, and I had not the smallest intention of coupling him with the general insinuations that I made, or with any of that general sort of criticism—"Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike"—that has been so prevalent among those who have been, popularly at all events, considered part and parcel of the Party to which he belongs. Sir, when this war is over, let us have the inquiry. Let it be absolutely as searching as ever it can be. If we find a man who has made a mistake for the first time, his case will, of course, be at all events, favourably considered. Put as to the man who is guilty of fraud, if there is such a man to be found, I, speaking for myself, have no wish, nor has anybody connected with the War Office or the Army generally, any wish to see him in any way shielded. With such a man I would be absolutely merciless, because such a man brings a discredit and a, taint on the whole of the Army. When the war is concluded, when men are tried—for that will be the effect of it—for their professional lives, let them be able to bring forward, in any case where accusations are brought against them, all the evidence that they may wish. You talk about trying them here, now, and then letting the thing stand over until, on the conclusion of the war, other witnesses may come from South Africa. Think of the months of suspense these men may be under, living with reputation shattered, apparently, by accusations made here at home, which the testimony of one man who cannot be spared from South Africa would be sufficient to refute!
Sir, there must be a full inquiry, a complete inquiry, at which every man whom you accuse or suspect shall be brought to the Bar, and at which the fullest and amplest testimony shall be given. You may find that there have been mistakes, but I will stake my life that you will not find that there has been fraud.
§ (5.56.) MR. McKENNA (Monmouthshire, W.)
In his opening remarks the noble Lord made some attempt to answer in detail the case that has been made out against the War Office; but unfortunately, as he went on, he got into the method of the Secretary of State for War, and seemed to consider that he had sufficiently answered the case when he described many hon. Members on this side of the House as "pro-Boers." The noble Lord, at any rate, was not as violent in his attack as the Secretary of State for War. I regret that in my observations I shall have to point out that the right hon. Gentleman has, by implication, made a charge against the Leader of the Opposition which, it ought to be within his knowledge, is absolutely unfounded. The Secretary of State for War said last night, amidst the cheers of hon. Members behind him—When I remember the circumstances under which the Leader of the Opposition left office in 1895.He referred to the debate upon cordite, in the division upon which the Liberal Party was beaten, and he implied that the Leader of the Opposition had left the country insufficiently supplied with cordite when he went out of office in 1890. Now, the last order for cordite which was given before the right hon. Gentleman went out of office was in October, 1894; and the incoming Secretary of State for War did not give the trade a new order for cordite till the month of February, 1899. More than three and a half years after the present Secretary of State for War came into office, he was content to go on with the supplies of cordite provided by the Leader of the Opposition. And, with that fact within his knowledge, he ventures to come down to this House and to win the cheap cheers of his supporters behind him by referring to "the circumstances under which the Leader of the Opposition left office in 1895." That statement of the Secretary of State for War is, as I am going to venture to show the House, characteristic of the whole attitude of evasion and concealment which has been adopted by the War Office in relation to contracts.
What is the position which is taken up now? It is admitted that there is a 360 case for inquiry; nobody is more anxious than the Secretary of State for War and the noble Lord that there should be a complete and full inquiry; but—the time is not opportune! They tell us that if there is an inquiry now, it will hinder the operations in the field, and will so harass the work of the civil officials that Lord Kitchener will be seriously hampered. If that defence were true, I admit that it would be a perfect defence to the claim made by the Opposition. But, when such a defence as that is raised, we have to look to the antecedents of those who raise it, and when we find that on every occasion they have burked inquiry, that they have refused information—aye, even further, that they have been made by their officials the mouthpiece of statements which I shall show were in direct contradiction to the facts—when I show that in the first instance, I am entitled to say that we must look with doubt upon this defence. When I show further that all experience is against the merits of the defence, I shall then submit to the House that there is no reason made out why we should not have that free and full inquiry instantly, when it can be of value, and prevent a continuance of these abuses.
Now, I regret that I must trouble the House a little in detail. I am going to refer to the appointment of the Truman Court of Inquiry, instituted in February of this year, admittedly as the result of a debate in this House. Attention was called to the subject matter of that debate as early as June of last year. A Committee was then appointed, and General Truman was examined before this Committee in July, 1901. General Truman before that Committee gave this evidence—The demands from South Africa being very large, I thought it would he a good thing to try some of the Hungarian horses.He was then asked—It was your idea to enlarge the field of supply?and the General replied—Exactly, and we had very good reports of them.Referring to "flat catchers," General Truman was asked—Would it he fair to say that Lord Kitchener's remark as to 'flat catchers' could 361 be taken as in any way a judgment upon them, or was it only a casual remark?To that question General Truman replied—Only an incidental remark.And again, questioned as to the quality of the horses, General Truman said he did not think the horses failed as compared with other horses. All those statements were made in July, 1901, and made to the knowledge of the Secretary of State. What was General Truman's official information at that time? It was perfectly staggering when you read it side by side with what was then said. Colonel Birkbeck's Report of the 22nd December, 1900, says—Hungarians: Showy little horses, full of quality, but have done very badly and are universally condemned as flat-catchers.General Truman telegraphed to the General Officer Commanding at the Cape on the 13th December, 1900:—How do Hungarian horses compare with others, especially African bred; would you like to have some more of the former?and the reply came back—Hungarian horses condemned as flat-catchers, comparing badly with African bred. Canadian, American, Irish, and Australian cobs preferred.That is the incidental remark that they were "flat-catchers." And what did General Truman do with this considered condemnation and request for no more Hungarians before him? He forthwith, in January 1901, gave a contract to Hauser for 5,346 horses, which were largely bought by Hauser at £8 and sold to this Government at £20 apiece. That was done in January, 1901. All this was brought to the knowledge of the noble Lord in July, 1901, and it remained locked up in his bosom for seven months. It was not until the debate on this subject in February of this year brought those transactions into prominence, that the Secretary of State for War found it necessary to call upon General Truman to resign. After that, are we not entitled to say that the War Office have not taken the public into their confidence, but that when the public have forced their way to the truth, the War Office then, and then only, acted as business men and men of common sense.
Now I pass on to the next case of mingled incompetence and concealment, that of the supply of Australian horses.
362 A Question was asked in this House as to whether Mr. Bergl had supplied horses from Queensland to the War Office, and the Secretary of State for War replied to that in January, 1902—Mr. Bergl offered horses to Colonel Hunt, but the otter was not accepted.Now was that answer an intentional evasion, or had the Secretary of State been deliberately misinformed? When the statement was made that Bergl had offered horses to Colonel Hunt and that his offer was refused, was it intended to convey that Bergl had offered horses to other officers, who had not refused his offer? I have a letter here signed by an eye-witness, whoso name I shall be happy to give to the Committee of Inquiry, and who is willing to give evidence before that Committee. That letter says—I was at Bowen, North Queensland, from the 20th to the 27th October, 1901, inclusive. While I was there, horses were being put forward before the Imperial Officer and his veterinary surgeon. On the 25th, 26th, and 27th of October my business was practically finished, and I was present for several hours on the ground where the horses were being passed, and saw Mr. C. W. Murray and Mr. C. J. Marshall, both officials of Bergl, Au-tralia, Limited, engaged in submitting horses for the approval of the Imperial Officer and his veterinary surgeon, and a great many were accepted by these officers on account of the Imperial Government.Here is a direct statement of an eyewitness that he saw horses sold by Bergl to Imperial Officers and shipped from Queensland to South Africa. It was denied that Bergl had offered horses to Colonel Hunt. What was the motive for the denial? These horses the same eye-witness declared to be unbroken horses, to be unfit and unrideable by a white man, and that nobody but black men could be found to ride them. The Secretary of State has said that no unbroken horses have been purchased by the Government. It would be very strange, but if broken horses were bought they must have gone wild on the voyage, because there is the testimony of the General Officer Commanding at the Cape of their condition when supplied to him. He said—Many quite untrained and unbroken Australian cavalry horses and artillery horses ex "Laughton Grange,And later there is Lord Kitchener's verdict—Australian horses are especially badly selected.There is another remarkable thing about 363 these Australian horses. If the report of Colonel Birkbeck is read with care, it will be noticed that the Australian horses are condemned while the walers are excellent. The Australian horses are those bought in Australia by our remount officers there; the walers are Australian horses purchased in India by the remount officer there. [An HON. MEMBER: Walers are bought in Australia.] Quite so, but I am referring particularly to the walers mentioned in Colonel Birkbeck's Report, which were bought in India. We shall be told that a Court of Inquiry is being held, but that inquiry is secret. This is a matter, to put it on the lowest ground, in which the taxpayers are interested, and we are to know nothing about that Court of Inquiry. It may suffice to whitewash, it may find a scapegoat, but it will not bring home to the incompetent parties, be they Ministers, officials, or agents, the full responsibility for neglect or abuse of duty. It cannot satisfy the public that the facts have been investigated in such a way that we shall be guaranteed against similar events in future. There is a darker side to the subject of the supply of horses. It is not only incompetency that has to be considered, it is actual corruption; and here I would ask the House to observe that every detail of evidence on the subject of corruption has been denied us, and it has been only incidentally and by a side wind that we have been able to know that wide-spread corruption has existed in the purchase of horses in almost every quarter of the globe. We have had it admitted with regard to Ireland. Will the noble Lord read the Papers on the Irish case? They will disclose remarkable facts. I asked the noble Lord to let us have particulars with regard to Spain. I was asked to postpone my Question, and when I postponed it I was told that the matter would be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee.
§ LORD STANLEY
There is absolutely nothing on which corruption can be alieged against the officer who purchased in Spain.
§ * MR. McKENNA
That is a very remarkable contradiction. In the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General it is specifically stated that one of the agents of the British Government was I receiving a secret commission, and if a secret commission is not a corrupt commission the phraseology of the War Office has a new meaning. I state what I state on the authority of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
§ LORD STANLEY
The Papers will be fully dealt with by the Public Accounts Committee. The hon. Member has insinuated that the officer employed by us in Spain is guilty of corruption. That is not the case. What is stated by the Comptroller and Auditor General is this. An officer went to Spain. He was not able, of course, to go about and buy single mules. He therefore employed a local man to get mules together. He gave this man, perfectly legitimately, a certain commission, but he discovered that this man was also trying to get a commission from those from whom he was collecting mules and he stopped it immediately. For the hon. Member to insinuate that that is a case of corruption on the part of a British officer is as false as it is malicious.
§ * MR. McKENNA
The noble Lord has made a most extraordinary statement. I made the allegation that a secret commission was paid to an agent of the British Government. I never suggested that it was a British officer, because I used the words used by the Comptroller and Auditor General, and my information was solely derived from the words used in that Report. How much better would it have been if the noble Lord, instead of making false and baseless charges of this sort now, had given the information for which I asked ten days ago. Had he given an answer then instead of making across the floor of the House a belated statement, possibly incomplete—
§ LORD STANLEY
I am not making a false and baseless charge. What I am endeavouring to do is to nail to the counter a malicious insinuation.
§ * MR. M'KENNA
It is useless to bandy words with the noble Lord except to explain that what he calls an insinuation was not an insinuation at all, and that his suggestion of malice was also false. Now another case in which we have had corruption besides Spain is that of the United States, and once more we have the evidence of the Comptroller and Auditor-General that there is corruption in South Africa. So that in five different countries, including Hungary, we have it admitted, corruption existed, and so far as we know still exists. Now I pass to another branch of War Office work—the work of transport. I will not go into the question of incompetence in dealing with transport; my statement is that the defence raised by the War Office is a defence upon which we cannot rely. I will not refer to the fact that we have paid demurrage on ships, carrying forage and coal, chartered by the War Office to an amount of no less than £385,000, and the demurrage paid by the Admiralty in regard to ships they chartered only £80,000. As I understand, the greater part of those stores have been carried by the Admiralty, and all that is necessary is to compare those figures. I go to the extraordinary case raised by my hon. friend near me as to the transport rate for horses from Australia. There has been no word of reply by the Secretary of State or the noble Lord or any other Gentleman to the case raised by him as to Messrs. Houlder's charges of £16 and £18 per horse in 1900 and £18 a horse in 1901 for carriage from Australia to South Africa. At this time other shipowners were carrying horses at from £6 to £8. A shipowner in the year 1900–1 carried roughly 20,000 horses from Australia to South Africa at from £6 10s. to £8 a horse; of these, 5,000 for General Baden-Powell's Police were carried at £8, and the rest, for speculators in South Africa, at £6 10s. Now here we find speculators can go into the open market and get 15,000 horses carried for £6 10s. a horse; and General Baden-Powell 5,000 horses at £8 a horse, and yet the War Office have to pay £18. The Secretary of State for War has been questioned on this matter, and the information he vouchsafed in reply is— 366The information at my disposal does not bear out the statement that other firms were slipping horses from Australia to South Africa at £8 a head.The whole world hadgot the information the War Office had not. Do you want to know the names of the ships? They are the "Induna," "George Pyman," and the "Dunbar." The names of the contractors are all to be had. [An HON. MEMBER: "Did the contractors find the forage?"] In all cases the contractors found the forage, but, if the hon. Gentleman cares to know, the forage would not come to £1 a horse. I would not bring before the House any illustration or statement for which I had not personal testimony, or a public document that I could quote. Since the beginning of the war £37,500,000 had been spent on the two items of transport by the War Office and remounts purchased by the War Office. At least ten of these £37,500,000 had gone in overpayments to contractors. Two-thirds of the extra income tax this year had gone to line the greedy pockets of exorbitant contractors, all on account of either the ignorance of the War Office or its unwillingness to probe these facts to the bottom. We have seen in the cases I have given how the Government has been unwilling to admit the facts, and how they have refused to give the information demanded, and how, in the official replies that have been put into their mouths, they have been allowed to give facts which are the reverse of truth. Sir, the experience of the War Office Contracts Committee in 1900 warrants the assertion that an inquiry does not hamper the conduct of the war. Under those circumstances I think our case for an inquiry is fully made out. I am satisfied the public will agree with us, that no reason has been shown for not granting this inquiry. As a commercial people, the country has a reputation for capacity and honesty. It is the duty of the House to maintain that reputation, to see that all the facts relating to these contracts are brought into the light of day, that there shall be no charter of indemnity to wrong-doers, and that a clean slate shall be insisted upon once for all in the War Office.
(6.25.) LORD BALGARRES
There are two questions to look at in this Motion. One is the causes which are alleged for this Motion brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and the other is of a far wider character. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division made a brilliant and witty speech, in the course of which he frankly admitted to the House that he had opposed the war root and branch. He and his friends around him, fifty per cent. of whom will trudge through the Lobby after the Leader of the Opposition had not only denounced the war, but had shown their exultation at our defeats at every opportunity. This is nothing more than a Parliamentary case, brought forward not to improve our system or method of warfare, but with the sole object of injuring the Government. The country I is not so much interested in, their polemics as in the active prosecution of the war, and protest against the type of criticism to which the Government is being subjected. It is petty, small, microscopical. One hon. Member gave statistics as to the birth-place of London omnibus horses; the hon. Member for Northampton told us the investments of General Truman's stepson-in-law; and the Leader of the Opposition quarrelled with the Government because in one clause of their meat contract they had used the word "refrigerated" instead of "frozen." If we are to devote two days to the discussion of these questions, let us be dealt with in a broad-minded way, and I think we are in danger—and the War Office is not exempt from that danger—of going too much into detail, and I recommend the right hon. Gentleman to direct some of his subordinates to give a little less attention to buttons and gold lace and give more attention to equipment. In a Paper recently returned to Parliament were fifty-two complicated questions which had been asked of the Remounts officers. I think those men would he better employed in looking after the horses than answering questions which most of us do not understand. Perhaps the smallest and the meanest thing connected with the whole question of contracts has been the introduction of the affidavit of the Hungarian 368 waiter, which represents merely the spleen of a disappointed contractor, and is crammed full of falsehoods charging the officer in question with having received free cigars, when it is well known the officer in question never touched tobacco in his life. There was one passage in a speech of moody grandiloquence where the sworn affidavit of this Hungarian was deliberately preferred to the unsworn word of a British officer. The allegation was promptly denied, but there has been no apology or withdrawal, and there are Members on this side of the House who will thwart the right hon. Gentleman in every possible direction if he gives way in any degree on this question, because we will not allow such insults to be levelled at British officers.
It is around this Remount question, of course, that this controversy largely rages. The Hausers and Hartigans are the ignoble parasites which are spontaneously bred wherever money passes from hand to hand, more especially when that money has relation to horses. Wherever you buy horses in a hurry you find this breed which exists, and will exist, and which, I believe, must exist. But I am glad they have been exposed by the Committee appointed by the Government. But the best way of judging this matter is by the appreciation of our soldiers, who are not only the chief sufferers but the first sufferers. I have seen many of my friends and relations from the Front, who say they have nothing to complain of with regard to our transport. They tell me that in no campaign have the material comforts of the troops been more carefully provided and more effectively distributed than in this war. And if you compare the transport in this war with the transport of other wars and the money spent, it will come favourably out of the comparison. It is simply grotesque to compare it with the Crimean war. The foremost man in the trenches at Balaclava was only six miles from the harbour, protected absolutely by the fleets of the allied nations. That is the distance from the Tower of London to Kensington Palace, and you could walk it in the time occupied by the speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division. In spite of that, our troops were starved with cold 369 and hunger; they could see the ships in the harbour, but precious little use the ships were to them. When the Brigade of Guards found themselves using wisps of hay for boots, they gladly heard that a fresh consignment of boots had been sent by friends at home, but when those boots were unloaded at the harbour it was found that the 1,000 pairs of boots consisted of 8,000 boots fitting only the left foot. Quote an example of that kind in the present case! It is impossible to do it. Take the case of the first Egyptian war. There our men were in touch with the grand waterway. In Egypt alone of all countries can a general possess such a thing as a mobile waterway. But I should like, if the House will allow me, to refer to certain campaigns which have taken place since 1885, when the Government responsible for the war in South Africa came into office. Take Abyssinia—the African campaign of Italy, which culminated in the disaster at Adowa. Mistakes must be made; nobody, even the Leader of Opposition, will deny it; and if I can show that mistakes occur everywhere I shall at least show that the Government suffer from disabilities which are shared by others. In this particular campaign the whole of the equipment contracts for the troops were so extraordinarily mismanaged that, after the publication of the telegrams showing the intrigues between gentlemen against statesmen and statesmen against gentlemen, the whole campaign became so unpopular in the country that reinforcements had to be sent out by night for fear of popular demonstrations. Take the case of Madagascar. Fifteen thousand men were sent out to conquer the island during the time the last Government were in power. In 1895 the War Office in France publicly accused the Admiralty and the Colonial Department of incompetence in its management of the transport contracts. The Admiralty and Colonial Department retaliated by saying it was the fault of the War Office. Meanwhile, Great Britain found the transport. I cannot ascertain the exact number of men killed in action during that war; I think it was twelve or thirteen. Owing, however, to the absolute breakdown of the contract system and the medical service, whereas a mere handful of men died in fighting the enemy, hundreds of men lost their lives because it was impossible to bring up medical assistance. The war lasted for years, and the island 370 has only just recently been pacified. I will not refer to the question of Holland, or other cases that I might mention. Let me come to the most prominent campaign which has been conducted during the last five years—that between America and Spain. There was an outbreak of dysentery and typhoid in American territory—not in Cuba—which was such as practically to paralyse the whole energy of the American Departments. It was not through lack of money or parsimony. I believe they spent about £90,000,000 during the first year of the war. It was through sheer carelessness and incompetence in their system of contracts. Similarly with transport. I remember meeting at San Francisco an American officer whose regiment was waiting to go to the Philippines, but who had been kept watching daily, weekly, and monthly, the entrance to the Golden Port, for five whole months before the transport could be found in which to carry the troops. Then one word about Spain—the grossest example of all. In spite of their marvellous transport achievement—in many ways far more wonderful than anything we have ever done—they found themselves in Cuba with 250,000 men absolutely impotent, because their contract system of supplying the troops with ammunition and so forth had absolutely and entirely broken down. There is a small and indolent island far away in the Pacific Ocean, remote from telegraph lines, and very rarely visited by steamers. One afternoon an American warship came bustling up and fired a couple of shells at the Spanish fort which nestles by the harbour in a little grove of palm trees. The shells went wide of the mark, and probably did more damage to the Hinterland, or perhaps went right over the island. Those on the ship saw that the authorities at the fort were signalling to them, and they desisted from firing. They read the signals, and found that the Governor of this fort, with true Spanish politeness, was sending a message deeply regretting his inability to respond to the salute of the, American warship, because at that moment he did not possess a single ounce of gunpowder? The cases I have quoted are real scandala—except that the word is too colourless. The gravamen of the charge in this 371 case is scandal. The cases I have quoted have been most against savages, but they are proven charges against the capacity as well as the integrity of governments, against the probity of ministers, and against the honour of soldiers. We have no such scandal here. There has been only one speech in the de-bate which treated this matter in a broad-minded manner, and that was the speech of the hon. Member on the Nationalist Benches—I mean on that side of the House. With us it becomes a mere question of balance-sheets and percentages. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that our prime duty is to protect the taxpayer. That is just what our prime duty is not. Our prime duty is to finish the war. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman was not the speech of a great statesman impugning a powerful Government, it seemed to me more like the speech of a Chartered Accountant, reading from a badly drawn brief. The Government, has, I know, been cheated here and there, especially in buying horses. I should like to know how many members of this House there are—I do not think there are more than three, the three who understand the purport of this technical report for South Africa about remounts—who are capable, in times of most profound peace, and popular content, of going into the open market and buying a pair of carriage horses; whereas the Government had, almost at a few hours notice, to increase tenfold, or even twentyfold, their system of purchasing. Certain members seem to have no other objection than to detect these scandals. I say that no such scandals have been proved here, and when the inquiry does take place I should be very much surprised if one per cent. of the charges are true.
I apologise to the House for speaking at such length; I have never before spoken on the war; I have never even asked a question on the subject; but I think it is time one of the silent Members on these back Benches spoke his mind. There are some score of us here, and we represent many scores of thousands of silent Members beyond these walls; we say little but we think much, and we watch closely. Our patriotism is not measured 372 by garrulity, by fussiness, or by panic, and least of all by the scattering of baseless accusations. But we are determined to maintain an inflexible standard of purity at home, and unflinching activity abroad. We are friends of the Government, but I warn the right hon. Gentleman against giving way in the smallest degree on this matter. I do not care what the motive underlying this Motion may be; in some cases, it is personal animosity, in others, it is a distorted sense of proportion, and in yet others it is, if I may say so, sheer smallness of character. But the effect of having an inquiry next week or next month, whatever may be the underlying motive, will be the same. I warn the right hon. Gentleman against giving way. I warn him against doing anything in the way of having at the present time inquiries, which may impede, prejudice, or delay the permanent settlement of the war.
§ (6.50.) MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman intends to give way on this Motion, but if he has any such intention I hope he will not be deterred from carrying it into effect by the warning just addressed to him by the noble Lord opposite. I do not know on what foundation the noble Lord made the insinuation, but I hope it was well founded, and that the right hon. Gentleman will show a better sense of his duty to the House and the country by giving way, if give way he can, instead of yielding to the menaces of the noble Lord. The noble Lord stated that the gravamen of this case was scandal. In the few observations I desire to address to the House I should say very little about scandal. Here I agree with the noble Lord; there are bigger and broader grounds on which this Motion may be defended. But on the question of scandal, there was a passage in the speech of the Financial Secretary to the War Office which filled me with surprise, and, indeed, with alarm. The noble Lord rejected with contempt the statement which seems to have been made that the purchasing officer in the employment of the War Office was himself a shareholder in one of the companies with which he dealt. He seemed to 373 think it was a sufficient answer to that to say that this gentleman is a British officer—I do not care what interest he may have had in the selling company; it is sufficient that he is a British officer.But that is not a business principle on which a great Department ought to be conducted. I do not say a word against the British officer in question, because I do not know who he was; I do not admit there is another standard of honour applicable to him than that which ought to be enforced against all officials of His Majesty's Government. But I do say that the relationship which he accepted with so much bonhomie ought not to exist between the head of a purchasing Department and any contracting company with which he deals. There is no representative of the I Admiralty present just now; I wish I could have asked some member of the I Admiralty Board whether the Admiralty, for instance, would tolerate for a moment the existence of such a relationship between the director of contracts, let us say, and a company with which he was doing business, or the director of transport and a company with which he might be doing business. I do not admit for a moment that the relationship ought to exist, or that it ought to be apologised for by a responsible member of the Government in this House. The First Lord of the Treasury some time ago appeared to admit that it would be a good thing if we could establish a permanent institution in this House by which we should have a Committee to examine the Estimates of each great Department, in order to see how far the Government had carried out the mandate conveyed to them by this House. I have always been in favour of a permanent Committee to which all Estimates ought to go. It should be a Select Committee which would deal with the drawing up of the Estimates, and would, therefore, have a word to say to the House upon such a question. In the absence of that permanent institution, we have a special case for a special inquiry. Now, what are the reasons given why it should not be granted now? I find that it has been I copiously put forward that there should be no inquiry because war is war, and you must expect that there will be waste, 374 mismanagement, extravagance, and fraud. That is the à priori assumption. Surely the fact that you may expect from the ordinary course of human nature things of this sort to take place ought to be a reason for inquiring whether they have taken place and to what extent. There has been discovered in the course of this session and this debate special questions which call for immediate inquiry. I am not going into them, for they have already been gone into in considerable detail. There is, however, one contract I should like to call attention to on some points which have not been adverted to—I mean the Bergl contract about which we have heard a great deal from the noble Lord. It appears to me that the House can scarcely grasp the peculiar conditions of this contract. This contract could be inquired into now more fitly than can ever be the case in the future. The ink is not yet dry, and all the facts are in the possession of the War Office. It is a case which does call for an inquiry.
§ LORD STANLEY
The one person we depend upon most of all to help us in regard to this contract is Colonel Morgan, and he has returned to South Africa, and is at the head of the Supply Department.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
Now what are the facts? It is the most amazing contract that I ever read. In the first place, Bergl, the nominal contractor, is not a principal at all. He is the agent for several principals, disclosed or undisclosed. Who are the real principals? Colonel Morgan is not going to tell us anything about that. The principals of Bergl were the promoters of the company. Bergl was a nominal contractor or agent of the promoters. This company was formed in Pretoria after the contract was made.
§ MR. EDMUMD ROBERTSON
Does the right hon. Gentleman distinguish between the registration and the formation of the company in Pretoria? It was formed in Pretoria with a Board in London to have full powers to deal with the War Office. The wisdom of this House for many generations has been occupied in devising 375 statutory provisions for securing and protecting purity in the actions of incorporated companies. I am sure no Government would go out of its way to form a contract with a company which tried to put itself beyond the reach of those precautionary measures. The question I want to put is: Does the law at Pretoria contain any provisions for protection against fraud by promoters, or against undisclosed profits by promoters and directors? Does the law contain any such provisions, and if not, why does the Government give this great contract to a company which has placed itself beyond the pale of English law and beyond those protected provisions which we have taken such pains to devise for English companies? I must refer to this peculiarity. These promoters were the real principals, and are not British subjects or of the British race. I do not know what nationality they are or what religion; I make no attack upon their nationality or their religion, but I do say that it is a most remarkable thing that in the case of a contract open to the whole of British trade, the majority of the persons selected by the Government should seem to be of alien race and origin. These people do not form half the population or half the traders, and I do not know whether they are even of British citizenship.
Another point is that one of these men is Mr. Weil. He is not only one of the promoters, acting as the principal of Bergl, but he appears also in the capacity of a rival contractor tendering against Bergl. More than that, he was a participator in the original contracting company. These are strange relationships to be held by a preferred party in a Government contract with His Majesty's Government. There is another point which calls for the attention of the House, and it is one of some delicacy, but I think it is my duty to advert to it. Among the promoters of this company is a hon. Member of this House, and I do think the question as to how far the position held by this hon. Member is consistent with his duties to the House deserves our attention. [An HON. MEMBER: Which company?] It is called the Imperial Cold Storage Company. Let me give the history of this relationship as it has been developed in very candid answers by the noble Lord the 376 Financial Secretary to the War Office. On the 10th of February last, after telling us about the security by way of guarantee and deposit which the Government insisted upon, he described that security as follows:—The contract was given to Mr. Bergl conditionally upon our being satisfied of the ability of the company he intended to form to carry out our contract. The company will be registered at Pretoria with a board here, having full powers to deal with the War Office. The names given to us in connection with the company are as follows:—Bergl, Karl Meyer, Messrs. Weil, Mr. Tymms, representing the De Beers Company, Messrs. Houlders, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Stroyan, M.P., Messrs. Lewis & Marks, and Mr Joel. The Company so formed will give ample security," etc.Four days after, this Question was put to the noble Lord. He was asked—Whether the persons named in connection with the formation of a company to carry out Mr. Bergl's contract undertook to procure the incorporation of such a company, and find the required capital,and the noble Lord replied, "Yes." He was also asked—Was it part of the arrangement with Bergl that these gentlemen should form the company?and he replied, "Yes." What, then, does that disclose? It discloses a number of gentlemen who undertake, as part of the original contract made with Bergl, that they will promote and incorporate a company for the purpose of carrying out that contract and finding the capital for it; and it was part of the whole bargain with Bergl that these gentlemen should do that very thing, and one of these gentlemen is a Member of this House. Let me recall to the House what are the statutory obligations of hon. Members in this respect. In the Act of Parliament 22nd George III., c 45, the law is laid down, and all that is necessary for me to do is to read it. It provides—If any person being a Member of the House of Commons shall directly or indirectly himself, or by any other person whatsoever in trust for him or for his use or benefit or on his account, enter into, accept of, agree for, undertake or execute any such contract, agreement or commission as aforesaid, or if any person, being a Member of the House of Commons and having already entered into any such contract,. &c.. shall after the commencement of the next session of Parliament continue to hold the same, the seat of every such person shall be void.I do not intend to say how this statute bears upon the case in question. I 377 know that this Act of Parliament is one of some difficulty of construction. I think, however, that the intention is perfectly obvious. I am not putting it any higher than this, that these transactions which have taken place raise a case of doubt as to whether the hon. Member in question has not inadvertently brought himself within the four corners of this Act. If he was one of the promoters who undertook to form this company, and if in consequence of that undertaking the contract was given to Bergl, then it appears to me that a syndicate of which he was a member constitutes the principals of Bergl, and therefore the hon. Member and his colleagues are responsible for this undertaking.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I should like to ask what that has to do with the vote of censure.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I believe the practice of the House has been to appoint a Committee when there is a case of doubt.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Now that my attention has been called to this matter, I am bound to say that it is not in order. The question whether the hon. Member referred to is still a Member of this House or whether he is liable to penalties in an action is one that must be settled by another Motion or method altogether, and it is not relevant to the Question before the House.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I have no intention, Mr. Speaker, of challenging a decision of the House upon any such question, but I was simply leading up to the remarkable incidents connected with this contract, and thought I was in order in pointing out there was this one. I thought that this incident, in conjunction with others, made up a reasonable case why this contract should be the subject of an Inquiry. If the Bergl contract stood alone I think there would be sufficient justification for such a Motion as my right hon. friend has proposed. The Bergl contract was only concluded on the 4th of March, and there could be no possible difficulty in a Committee inquiring into 378 the whole of this very remarkable contract.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
What is there remarkable in taking the lowest tender?
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I do not care whether it is the lowest or the highest tender, for that is immaterial to my argument, and I am not challenging the amount of the tender at all. It is a remarkable instance which justifies us in calling for such an inquiry. There is only one other point with which I shall trouble the House at this moment. I hope I have, kept clear of any question of scandal. Perhaps the debate, as the noble Lord suggested a little while ago, has turned a little too much on charges of corruption and fraud. I charge no man with corruption or fraud, and I hope nothing I have said is inconsistent with the declaration I now make. But there is a large question of public policy which, so, far as I know, has not been adverted to by anyone, which would form a more important subject of inquiry than mere charges of corruption and fraud. I refer to the distribution of those contracts among traders in different parts of the British Empire. I think that is a point that may well deserve the consideration of the House. Let me take one or two instances. I will take first the case of traders in the Colonies; I exclude South Africa, for the moment. We know as a matter of fact that bitter complaints have come from the self-governing Colonies that they have been excluded from the opportunity of tendering for those contracts. I have read it in the papers. I cannot say any more than that. We know that Mr. Seddon and another gentleman have telegraphed home remonstrances, and that their remonstrances have had some effect is proved by the fact that in the Bergl contract, and in the contract which has followed the conduct of the Imperial Cold Storage Company, 379 there is a very remarkable supplementary condition. Here it is—For the purpose of fulfilling the contract for the supply of meat to the troops in South Africa, I hereby undertake to obtain as far as possible the necessary quantities both of live and dead stock from the British Colonies.That was inserted in consequence of the remonstrances from the Colonies, but some of the remonstrances have continued in spite of that provision, and I am not surprised at that. "I hereby undertake to obtain as far as possible," is a phrase which has no binding force so far as I can see, and it is very difficult to say what meaning it has. But I am not one who will stand up and say that any merchants, horse dealers, or any other dealers are to have a preference over other contractors. I deny that, and I should condemn equally the Government if they preferred other people to them, or if they preferred them to other people. I know that the business of a public Department like the War Office is to make the best bargain it can for the country, no matter who the contracting parties may be. Undoubtedly nothing that I have said is inconsistent with this. That I hold to be a duty. That is a matter which a Committee of the House may well inquire into in connection with contracts of the extraordinary magnitude of these contracts.
Let me say that I discriminate between South Africa and the other Colonies. I have tried in two sessions to obtain from the right hon. Gentleman an answer to this question—What is the amount of money spent on War Office contracts and paid to contractors resident in South Africa? He promised at first to make inquiry; then, a year after, when I asked the result of the inquiry, he said it would take too much time and trouble. But surely it is material when we have constant incitements coming from portions of the people in South Africa amounting to menaces, and calling on us to fight on this war to a finish, to know what amount of profit goes to the people of those Colonies out of the continuation of the war. At any rate, we ought to know that. It is a limited number of people to whom I refer, but these people have the means of express- 380 ing their opinion and wishes, and they do not hesitate to do it. At all events, it would be a relevant fact to know how much they are deriving in pecuniary benefit from the continuation of the war which has brought ruin to many of their fellow colonists, although it appears to have brought prosperity to them. Then there is the case of our own traders at home. There are complaints that they have not been fairly treated in respect of these contracts by the War Office. I do not know whether any complaints have reached the right hon. Gentleman. Some, certainly, have reached me, and I am only going to allude to one, which I believe excites a great deal of interest in the town I represent. It refers to the staple trade of the constituency I represent. A merchant writes to me that there is a rule in the War Office that contracts for that kind of goods shall only be given to manufacturers and not to merchants. I do not know whether that is a fact or not, but that is the allegation. He objects to the rule because manufacturers in point of fact cannot supply the goods without going into the market with the merchants. He objects also because it is not consistently applied or applied all round. There are certain merchants who are allowed a preference, and who are allowed to compete. The question he asks is, Why should this rule exist at all? That is a matter which might be inquired into by a Committee representing this House which is so largely composed of business men. I have no doubt there are many other business matters which it would be very desirable to submit to a Committee, and as to which there could not be the faintest difficulty as to the collection of evidence.
The Government have not denied that there is a case for inquiry. Their contention merely is that it is not the proper time. They say that the inquiry would impose a burden which would seriously interfere with the prosecution of the war. I should not, for one, press the Motion if I thought it would have that effect. I would not like to hinder or hamper any arm of the public service. I do not see why it should have that result. I do not see why, as the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries suggested, 381 such additional help as might he wanted might not be readily supplied so far as the War Office is concerned. It is said there are witnesses in South Africa who would have to come home. I do not want to bring home any man from the war whose presence is useful for the effective prosecution of the war. But what difficulty is there in a Committee of this House receiving and considering without prejudice all the evidence that may be available on the spot? They are not called upon to come to a conclusion or register a verdict. The public is not called upon to come to any opinion at all. All that the public is concerned with is that this House, with which after all rests the responsibility, should begin the inquiry, let it end when it may. Surely we can take such evidence. We have any quantity of evidence at home. As regards evidence which cannot be given without detriment to the public service, let it stand over until it can be brought home. I have only to say, in conclusion, that this inquiry into contracts is but a fragment of that larger inquiry into the whole conduct of the Government during the war to which they are pledged over and over again, and from which they cannot depart without breach of faith, and worse almost than breach of faith, of which I am sure they will not be guilty. When the time comes for that vast inquisition, surely it will not be said that we have hampered or encumbered the Government now by withdrawing from the inquiry the definite matter which is now before the House. All that we are calling for is an examination into one fragment of the conduct during the whole course of the war. All we are asking for in an inquiry into the civilian administration of the War Office, and if the Government, under the pretext which they have already announced, still persists in refusing that inquiry, I am sure they will not escape a verdict of condemnation at the hands of the country.
§ *(7.25.) MR. LAMBTON (Durham, S. E.)
said that what struck him more particularly in this debate was that there were strange patches of silence on the Opposition Benches on the two occasions this session on which votes of censure had been moved against the Government. 382 From 1880 to 1885 he sat in this House as a Member of the Liberal Party. It was a long time ago, but at that time the Liberal Party was articulate. Now he came back, like Rip Van Winkle, and saw before him empty benches. He really thought that he must be looking on the graveyard of the Liberal Party; that he saw before him only the dumb memorials and silent effigies of a once glorious past. Another thing that pained him considerably was the total absence of the Liberal Imperialists. He believed that on the last occasion of a vote of censure, the right hon. Member for East Fife neither spoke nor even voted, nor did the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division. Personally he took a great interest in these liberal Imperialists. They owed them a deep debt of gratitude, because they had added to the gaiety of politics. From the time of the letter to "My dear Hedworth" down to the formation of a social council in Park Lane their history had been full of humorous incidents. But he did think a great Party like that, of which they heard so much out of doors, ought to show in this House what their opinion was on a question of this sort. They ought to hear the opinion of the right hon. Member for East Fife. [Sir H. G. BANNERMAN: Wait a minute.] The right hon. Gentleman said "wait a minute." but they had waited several days. When the opinion did come, it would no doubt be very valuable; but if he was to judge by the expressions of the right hon. Gentleman outside the House, it would not have much meaning to his mind.
They would be told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that efficiency did not exist in the present Government. They were told that the contracts for the Army were badly arranged, and that there was no efficiency on the Government side of the House, and that the only remedy the country could adopt was to follow the noble Earl. If he were a Minister he thought he should not be very grateful to Lord Rosebery for giving his advice at this time—he should feel somewhat indignant. He rather sympathised with the Leader of the Opposition, who had worked for some years according to his lights, when 383 a noble Lord, who had rested for a long time, came forward to give advice It reminded him of a passage in Shakespeare in which Hotspur, when asked why he did not give up his prisoners, said—But I remember, when the fight was done … Came there a certain lord, neat, trimly dress'd, Fresh as a bridegroom.That was the way in which Lord Rosebery came before them now, giving advice, not only to his own party but to the Government He wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife and the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division whether they agreed with Lord Rosebery in regard to his estimation of the war, or whether they agreed with the Leader of the Opposition. They had been told that there was going to be tonight a united Liberal Party. The Liberal Imperialists, or Liberal Leaguers, had arrogated to themselves a high position because they had supported the Government in this war, but they had not heard a word from them as to how they were a going to vote on this question. This was a much larger question than the point raised as to whether a man was called Weil or Vile. How did the right hon. Gentleman begin his speech? He talked about the contracts, and he insinuated that they were made for the benefit of German Jew speculators in South Africa. Did hon. Members opposite believe that these contracts were made in the interests of German Jews? It had often been said on the other side that the war was waged for the advantage of capitalists in Johannesburg. Did they believe that? Did the Liberal Party believe that? If they did not believe it, why did they say so? [Opposition laughter.] Did they think that it would encourage the men fighting in South Africa to be told such things as that? The right hon. Gentleman was doing grave harm to the Army an South Africa by insinuating such things; he was not encouraging them in their work. The right hon. Gentleman had never been very careful in his words. There was something that had done more harm to the Army in South Africa than carelessness as to contracts, and that was carelessness of words. He himself had had many friends and relations 384 in South Africa; some had returned, some were out there still, some would never return. The right hon. Gentleman had been much more fortunate than he if he had never had to sympathise with those who had lost their dear ones. In giving that sympathy which human nature expected in deep need, the thought that had stirred their hearts was that it was a beautiful and noble thing for men to the for their country. The right hon. Gentleman would deny them that last consolation.
SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNEEMAN
Never. I give the most complete and authoritative and circumstantial denial to every word that the hon. Member, has said.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
And I have often denied it. The hon. Gentleman has done wrong to repeat it. [Opposition cries of "Withdraw."]
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Whether the statement is correct is one thing; whether it is in order is another. The correctness or incorrectness I must leave to the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member. The hon. Member is not out of order except in this sense, that I think he is travelling away from the question.
§ * MR. LAMBTON
said he had stated that the right hon. Gentleman had been guilty of carelessness of language. [Opposition cries of "Quote."].
§ * MR. LAMBTON
"Methods of barbarism." [Opposition cries of "Withdraw, withdraw!"] Aright hon. Gentleman on the front Opposition Bench a few days ago. [Cries of "Quote;"] I refer to the Member for the Montrose Boroughs—talked at Manchester of "infernal atrocity." The right hon. Gentleman talked about the concentration camps—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I must say that the hon. Member is not following the question before the House, and these matters are irrelevant.
§ * MR. LAMBTON
said he apologised for making a remark that he should not have made. The careless remarks about contracts, and about the war being waged for the purpose of filling the pockets of mining capitalists and others, were doing grave wrong to our soldiers in South Africa. Hon. Members opposite, by voting for this Motion, would be doing a great wrong to the Army in South Africa. He apologised if he had introduced any extraneous matter, but he thought the interruptions from the other side of the House were some excuse for it if he had done so. He hoped that they would have an authoritative declaration from the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division, the right hon Member for East Fife, and others, as to their attitude on this question.
§ *(7.40.) CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
The Leader of the Opposition has asked for an inquiry to deal with the important questions which have been raised in this debate. I desire to deal only with one division, and that is the question of land transport. Before doing so, perhaps I may be permitted, having taken a special interest in the remount question, to add two or three remarks to what has already been said. I wish to ask whether anything which has been done in connection with this contract has prevented the prosecution of the war, or whether the Government have failed in their duty in connection with this question. Lord Kitchener in his last despatch said—I have inspected the Queen's Bays 2nd Dragoon Guards, the last regiment which left for the Cape, and I am sorry to be obliged to say that the horses are not at all the class of horse I want.That statement was made after the war had continued for two-and-a-half years. How would hon. Members treat one of their tradesmen who, after they had done business with him for two-and-a-half years, continued to send them articles which they did not want? The Government have purchased for this 386 war in South Africa some 500,000 horses, and the average life of those horses was computed to be not more than six weeks. They have used these 500,000 horses making war against a nation, the population of which was not 500,000. Is it common sense to say, in the face of such a fact, that the Government have done their duty, when we find that the Boers have been thoroughly supplied with good horses? The Secretary of State for the Colonies had to acknowledge yesterday, in regard to Baden-Powell's constabulary—which was to number 12,000 men, and only numbers 9,000 men—that only half of that force have horses, and the excuse made was that a large number of that force were being used in the blockhouses. Why did the Government raise that constabulary as a mounted force, and then lock them up in blockhouses to do infantry work? We have bought these horses all over the world, but not a word has been said about the preparation of these horses. If they had not been rushed up to the front, I am sure that in the case of the bulk of these horses the average life would have been more than six weeks. Had horses of proper quality been sent out in the first instance, a proper supply would have been ensured, and the British taxpayer would not have been called upon to pay for 500,000 horses. With regard to land transport, when the attention of the right hon. Gentleman was drawn to the fact that there had been a gross scandal in connection with this subject, and that he had instituted a court of inquiry and had sent out an officer to inquire into the subject, the right hon. Gentleman told me that I was exaggerating the case. At the beginning of the war the authorities hired wagons and teams at so much a day, the Government providing rations for the Cape Boys. An arrangement was come to by the Government with regard to compensation for the loss of animals belonging to the contractors, and under the contract liberal compensation was allowed for every animal killed or that died, owing to "extraordinary military exigency." Is not that a case of gross incompetence on the part of the Government to put in such an absurd phrase? I defy the astutest lawyer in the House, or out of it, to define what "extraordinary military exigency" 387 means, though everyone knows the meaning of each individual word. By that absurd phrase the Government put themselves in such a position that the contractors claimed for every animal that died, no matter under what circumstances, and, in consequence, the country has been defrauded of millions of pounds. Another curious arrangement that the Government made was that they were to have the option of claiming the cattle that were captured at the rate of £10 a head, and substituting those for the oxen that died. When ordinary oxen died, the contractors claimed and received full value; the captured cattle replaced them and also died, and the House would naturally assume that the contractors claimed and received £10 only. Nothing of the kind. I will give a concrete example. Wagon 433 was teamed with 16 oxen, at £20 a head; those oxen died, and the contractors received £320. They then substituted captured cattle at £10 a head; they also died, and the contractor, instead of claiming £160, claimed and received £320; so the Government was defrauded of £160. This had been going on for two years and a half, with columns having between 6,000 and 7,000 oxen in teams. Those teams had been frequently replaced, not once or twice, but many times, and in each case the contractor has defrauded the Government.
§ * CAPTAIN NORTON
If the right hon. Gentleman will give me what I ask, it will prove what I say. He has the authority in his office—the Report of the Departmental Inquiry which was made into this matter.
§ * CAPTAIN NORTON
This Motion is a Motion for an inquiry. I have these statements from one whose word I cannot for a moment doubt; but it is not for me to give my authority but for the right hon. Gentleman to clear himself. In many of these cases the oxen have been replaced over and over again, and 388 the contractors have grossly defrauded the Government.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Will the hon. Gentleman give the places or any names which will enable me to follow up his statements? As a matter of fact, the hon. Member continues to give statements for which he will not give an atom of proof.
§ * CAPTAIN NORTON
If the right hon. Gentleman will give me that inquiry, I will prove it up to the hilt. The right hon. Gentleman knew it and sent out to South Africa to inquire into it. I thought the right hon. Gentleman, instead of taking the bold course of denying everything I stated, would have made some excuse, because what I am referring to is common knowledge in; South Africa. There are certain Compensation Boards arranged there to deal with this matter, and the Government, laid it down that the contractors must produce before these Boards certificates of loss signed by commissioned officers. I want to know what principle is adopted in the settlement of these claims. I know that the certificates have not in all cases been signed by commissioned officers. I must protect myself here, or the right bon. Gentleman may get up and, instead of answering my statements, make an oratorical display and say I have been bringing accusations of fraud against non-commissioned officers who, owing to the absence of their superiors, were obliged to sign these papers. What is the composition of the Boards? So far as I can get the information, most of the officers serving on them are young and inexperienced, drawn frequently from the Militia regiments guarding the lines of communication. Here, again, I must protect myself against the allegation that I am making an attack on the Militia Officers. We find in the Militia as good officers as any in the Regular Army. But the men drawn to serve on these Boards were young and inexperienced, and the Government should have taken officers from India of long experience as to transport matters. They did nothing of the kind, with the result that of course the contractors did what they liked with these young and inexperienced men. The Government protected themselves in this 389 matter by having a Revision Board at Cape Town, but were the decisions of the Compensation Boards reviewed in any way, except when there was an appeal? Then I want him to answer this. The right hon. Gentleman is not taking the slightest notice of what I am saying, but I hope by means of the Press some notice will be taken of it, because it is a matter of millions of money to the country. Will the right hon. Gentleman say what number of claims were rejected by the Compensation Boards? Will he say how many appeals there were, and how many decisions were reversed or revised by the superior Board at Cape Town? It may appear a matter of small moment, but if we take the Estimates of 1900–1901 and 1901–1902 and add to those the expenditure for the coming year, the total amount under Votes 6 and 7 is no less than £109,000,000, and of that £33,000,000 is for transport and remounts. The loss in each column represents a loss to the country of from £70,000 to £100,000. Considering the number of columns that have been employed in South Africa, that means a matter of millions to the taxpayers of this country. A Departmental Inquiry has taken place, and if that is so, a Parliamentary Inquiry can also take place. It is the duty of the light hon. Gentleman to clear himself of the charges of gross incompetence or gross neglect which have been made in this matter.
§ (8.0.) MAJOR RASCH (Essex, Chelmsford)
As one who has had a little experience in this matter, may I say a word? Three years ago the Government appointed a Committee on Contracts, and I served on that body for nine weeks, but a more lame and impotent conclusion than that to which that Committee came I never knew. I would venture to suggest to the House that it is no practical use having the inquiry now asked for at present; the time is inopportune. An inquiry will have to be held after the war is over, and we shall then, no doubt, get some good results. I do not think that in this particular case the laches of the War Office are responsible. What really is responsible is the hide-bound and stupid system which has been in existence in the War Office for the last fifty years, for 390 which the last Government and the present are, practically in no way responsible; in fact, both Governments have done their best, with more or less success, to improve the system. An object lesson in the inept system under which the War Office has carried on its business is provided by the Remount Department. Everybody knew perfectly well that that Department was undermanned, under-staffed, under-clerked, and that it was absolutely impossible for it to carry out the ordinary work which came within its purview, and still more impossible was it for the Department to do the heavy work which devolved upon it in consequence of the war. What did the War Office do? The only thing they could do. They devolved the work which fell on the Remount Department on to the Yeomanry Committee. I have not a word to say against the Yeomanry Committee. The unfortunate thing about that body was that—including as it did masters of hounds, ex-colonels of cavalry regiments, hon. Members of this House, and Members of the House of Lords—it was not composed of business men; whereas the slim gentlemen, the Lewisons, and all the rest of them, with whom they came in contact on the other side of the water, were business men. Of course, the result was very easy to foretell; it was "the gross of green spectacles" alluded to by the hon. Member for Northampton. I have never been able to see why it is necessary to go across the sea to buy remounts. It has been suggested, before this, that the War Office might do worse than copy the system set on foot by the Emperor Francis Joseph in 1867, under which the Austrian Government has probably the best remount system in Europe, or in the world. It is not for me to go into this question in detail at this moment, but I may say, very briefly, that remount depôts were established in Austria-Hungary in 1867, and the matter has been pressed on the attention of the present Government. The system is that farmers should be allowed to have I heir mares served at low prices, on condition that the produce should be the property of the Government at £28 For cavalry horses, and £26 for draught horses, that all horses should be cast when they are ten years old, and that 391 none should be used before they were four years old. It is a great pity such a system does not obtain in this country. It would be perfectly easy to institute some such method of proceeding in Ireland, which, in my opinion, is the best horse breeding country in the world. But the Irish farmer at the present moment is unable to breed good horses, because he cannot afford to give a good price for sires, and the produce which he gets, being of an inferior quality, fetches only an inferior price. When the proposal was made to the Government a few years ago, the present Chief Secretary, who was then Under Secretary of State for War, said (and the statement was cheered to theecho)—If you go on that system, every horse required for South Africa would cost you £60, whereas we can buy Argentina horses for £25.It seems to me, in the light of recent experience, that it would be cheaper to pay £60 for a horse that would last you six months than to pay £25 for a horse which is done for in six days. All I venture to say is, that if the Government adopted this or some other such system, they could in future obviate the necessity of appointing these Yeomanry Committees, or of employing gentlemen like Captain Hartigan to buy their horses for them. (8.6.)
§ (8.41) MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)
I think that the tendency of the debate up to the present time, especially so far as the other side of the House has been represented, has been a particularly unfortunate one. The fact is only two arguments have been adduced from the Benches opposite, and they have been repeated in varying form, from the Secretary of State for War, in his impassioned speech at the beginning of the debate, down to the last speech made on the other side of the House. The two arguments seem to me to amount simply to this—in the first place, that it is not patriotic to draw attention to the scandalous waste of money that the War Office have been responsible for; and in the second place, that the Motion which we have brought forward, and to which I am now speaking, is based on nothing but rumour and idle gossip. It will be my endeavour, in the few words I 392 have to address to the House, to show that the Motion is based not on rumour or idle gossip, but on facts which have been proved very largely by particular documents and by answers given by members of the Government themselves. We have heard now for many months—in fact for a couple of years—the charge of want of patriotism, until we are getting rather tired of it, until, I think, the argument has worn rather thin. On the present occasion let us see what exactly it does amount to. It amounts to simply this—that we complain that out of at least £100,000,000 voted by this House for the various supplies for carrying on the war, we have not got as much as 10s. in the £1 of value for the money. I think the figures that have already been adduced, and some of which have been submitted to Committees of the House which have already been appointed, show conclusively that in the matter of transport, remounts, forage, and all the meat contracts, this country has not got even as much as 10s. in the £1 for the money which has been voted. Of the £100,000 which the House voted for these services, I think it would be easy to prove that the country has got only £50,000 in value, and that the other £50,000 has gone into the pockets of the contractors, and has been expended in scandalous waste. I will endeavour to prove this statement. In the first place, let us turn to the question of meat contracts. The first contract was entered into, as far as we have been able to elicit, at elevenpence per pound alike for fresh and frozen meat. It does not require any very great amount of business knowledge or discernment to see what amount of profit was drawn out of a contract like that. I am given to understand by those who have come back from the Front that the frozen meat was much better than the fresh meat—a very natural thing under the circumstances. Where you give a contract to a firm or individual, with power to deliver either fresh or frozen meat at the same figure, it is not very hard to see how the thing will be worked. If my information is correct, this is the way the gentle trick was worked. Whenever an officer in command of troops asked for fresh meat, the contractor was careful to supply meat so tough that it was difficult to eat, with the result that the soldiers, when they 393 had frozen meat presented to them, naturally said they liked it better. The result was that a very large proportion, if not almost the whole, of the first contract was delivered in the form of frozen meat.
§ LORD STANLEY
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is perfectly true that frozen meat was preferable to fresh meat, but perhaps he does not realise that frozen meat could not be taken off the railway, whereas fresh meat had to be driven at the same pace as the troops advanced, which did not decrease its toughness.
§ MR. WHITLEY
Exactly. That was the calculation which the contractor was cute enough to make, and which escaped the noble Lord and those responsible for making the contract. But what does the noble Lord's objection amount to, because during the whole currency of that first contract our troops were never off the railway. They had not begun to invade the territory of the enemy, and it was the easiest thing in the world to supply them with frozen meat over what was, at that time, the area of the war. That explains to some extent the tremendous profits that undoubtedly were made by the company over that first contract. Another matter is this. The terms of the contract, as far so they have been given to the House, included delivery in any part of Cape Colony, Natal, or the two territories of the enemy, wherever the officers might call for a supply. It is clear that a contractor asked to tender on these terms would put on a price which would cover delivery to practically the furthest extent of the enemy's territory, whereas, as a matter of fact, during the early part of the war the delivery had been within easy reach of Cape Town. Therefore, when we know that this frozen meat could be delivered at Cape Town for 2½d. or 3d. per lb., and was delivered to the Government at 11d. per lb., one can easily sec where the profits began to come in. As far as I can read the balance sheet of the company, in a single year they made a profit of 250 per cent., including dividends, and the amount placed to the reserve fund.
There is another matter, to which attention has not yet, I think, been drawn in this debate. That is, what became of the 394 cattle captured from the enemy? We have been continually reading of the enormous number of cattle captured from the Boers. A few weeks ago I put a Question to the noble Lord on that particular point. People have said to me sometimes that if they were to believe the figures as to the captured cattle, there ought to be enough to feed the Army without any meat contractors at all. What became of those captured cattle? The noble Lord told me, in reply to my Question, that arrangements had been made under which they were taken over by the contractors at 8d. per lb. and delivered as fresh meat at 10d. per lb. That in itself was not an unreasonable arrangement so far as it went. Two-pence per pound for caring for the cattle and slaughtering them and delivering them to the troops was reasonable. But what was my surprise when I found in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General that the cattle were sold by auction. That was what my information led me to believe previous to putting my Question to the noble Lord. On page 222 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report it is stated that, in a single year, a sum of £296,508 had been received as the proceeds of the sale by auction of captured cattle. I ask the House what kind of price would be received at a sale; by auction, of one of these huge droves of cattle captured from the enemy. How many bidders would there be in that market? I think it is pretty clear that only one person was in a position to buy, and that was the meat contractor. I should like to know how many cattle were represented by that sum of, roughly. £300,000. If they fetched five shillings a head, I think that would be as much as they would be likely to fetch under the peculiar circumstances of the sale, and we can understand the contractor buying up these cattle practically at the first bid. There, again, he would be able to make an enormous profit on his contract.
Before I turn to the question of the new contract, which begins at the beginning of next month, may I emphasise my point about the meat contract by saying what I think the War Office ought to have done, instead of entering into a contract such as this. They may say that their difficulty was that there were very few persons who were prepared to undertake such a large 395 contract. It appears to me that if there had been men of business training and insight at the War Office they would have said at once that there had been so few men able to tender that obviously it was a matter which ought not to be contracted for at all. If they had gone to one of our great business houses in the country, accustomed to organisation of this kind, and were prepared to pay a salary of, it might be, £5,000 a year to a man whom they could trust to take the whole business off their hands, I am persuaded that they could have found many men of good British names and good British descent—without going to the Continent or to persons so well known in connection with these contracts—who would be prepared to undertake the work, and I am perfectly certain that they would provision the troops as well as any contractor, and save 50 per cent. of the present cost.
Now I come to the question of the latest contract, and I am quite aware that the noble Lord is rather proud of it. [LORD STANLEY: Certainly.] I think, however, if in his earlier days he had had a little training in some business establishment, he would not have been taken in quite so easily as he has been. What are the facts? There were three tenders only for the complete contract, but there were a great number of tenders merely for delivery at Cape Town. Why was not the lowest of these tenders for delivery at Cape Town accepted, and let the War Office do the remaining delivery themselves? There were three tenders for the complete contract, and it now comes out that Mr. Weil was actually present in one capacity or another in each of these tenders. He was a participator in the old contract, and, therefore, presumably he knew the price at which the old company sent in their tender. He sent in a tender a little higher, and another tender in Mr. Bergl's name a little lower. I ask the House if they consider that this is the way the business of our Departments ought to be conducted. I think the offence of the noble Lord is that he is so thoroughly lacking in guile that he was unable to see the very innocent trap that was laid for him on that occasion. Certainly with the experience I have had of commercial matters I would at once smell a rat.
§ LORD STANLEY
Does the commercial instinct of the hon. Gentleman induce him always to reject the lowest tender?
§ MR. WHITLEY
Yes, sir. My business instinct teaches me to reject the lowest tender, when, as in the case of the meat contract, it is manifestly "a put-up job." I should at once in a case like that have said this is not a tender on which we can proceed to give contracts; we must get the best results in some other way. Did the noble Lord when he placed the contract, know that here were a number of good British firms in this country who were prepared to undertake this work for the War Office? It may be asked why they did not tender, but the answer is well known to anyone who is accustomed to such things as this. It is that it is clear that there is a ring of contractors, and in that case the best contractors will not tender. I am quite sure that the policy of the noble Lord in keeping these prices secret, until they were dragged out of him by question and answer in the House, has been a very bad policy for the pockets of the taxpayers. The smallest local board or district council in the country always publishes the prices of its contract, and they know by doing that that they have the best guarantee that their contracts will be reasonable. I do think that one of the strongest reasons for the inquiry for which we are asking is that an endeavour ought to be made to break down what is evidently a ring of contractors who have practically got the War Office in their hands, and whose tenders are not what is known as free and open. I think it is perfectly clear that as far as the meat supply is concerned we certainly did not get 10s. value for every pound spent.
Turning to other questions—for instance, the question of freight—we find exactly the same state of things. A private individual can get transport for a horse to South Africa for £5 or £6, whereas the War Office is paying double that figure. That matter has been already well put by several hon. gentlemen, and I do not propose to travel all over the ground again. I only wish to call special attention to one item in the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report, and that is the sum of £276,342 for demurrage on ships lying idle at Cape Town and 397 Durban. Does the House see what that means? Practically we had to pay that amount twice over. In the first place, there were the ships lying idle in the South African ports, and in the second place those ships were withdrawn from the freight market with the result that there was a tremendous rise in freights, at a time when the Government was most in need of ships for the transport of soldiers and stores. Therefore, this item represents far more than the amount itself in extra cost to the taxpayers. There were ships lying at Cape Town for periods of from seventy-two to one hundred and twenty-six days, not only idle themselves, but with drawn from the freight market, and in that way raising the price the Government had to pay for transport. It seems to me there must have been gross mismanagement in that matter. Turning to the land transport in South Africa, I find a similar state of things. I am dealing with nothing but figures which have already been given to the House, and I urge that the demand for an inquiry can be amply supported and justified by those figures. I find an item of no less than £700,000 in one year as compensation for lost oxen, and the Comptroller and Auditor-General calls attention to the fact that sixteen guineas were paid to the contractor for every ox that fell out or was captured by the Boers, irrespective of the value of the animal, whereas from £10 to £12 was the price in the market at the time. If we take those figures, it is almost certain that a number of the oxen must have been paid for many times over. If an animal fell out on the march, it was doctored up and brought in again, compensation was paid for its loss, and money paid for its re-purchase all within a short time. We begin to realise where the money came from to pay the compensation for loss of oxen. On the same matter we find attention drawn by the Comptroller and Auditor-General to money paid for cattle which is not vouched. He also draws attention to the fact that one of the agents of the officers, who bought those nudes for which no receipt is forthcoming, was receiving a commission from the seller, and at the same time taking a commission from the person for whom he was buying the animals. I think that is ample justification for the inquiry for which we ask.
Then, again, in the same document there is an item of £1,800,000 paid to the 398 Chartered Company of South Africa for the equipment of what is called the Rhodesian Field Force. I presume that it is the force under General Plumer that endeavoured for so long to relieve Mafeking. That column did its duty as far as possible, having regard to the power of its small numbers, with great pluck and ability, but it was an extremely small force, and was of little good for that reason, and unable to do more than keep occupied a certain number of Boers in the north-west corner of the Transvaal, But this item is paid in a lump sum of nearly £2,000,000, and for that also no vouchers are forthcoming. The Comptroller also draws attention to the fact of the items charged by the Company. I beg pardon, he does not state that no vouchers are forthcoming, but a large portion are not forthcoming, and he points out that from two and a half times more than the price at which the War Office could have supplied the same things was claimed by the Chartered Company. Things which could be supplied by the War Office for 14s. were charged at 29s., and so on, and the sum of £1,800,000 was apparently paid over to the Chartered Company. There is another item also in the accounts which, I think, breaks up a good deal that has been said in the course of the debate, and that is in the one year there has been received for the sale of cast and other animals under the head of horses £402,000. I do not know what price these derelict horses would fetch after they had been discharged from service in South Africa, but I should think that even the knackers in South Africa over - supplied during the the war. That sum must a very large number of animals indeed, unless, of course, we had so many horses that we set up as traders and were selling horses for other purposes.
We have no need to rely on rumours and idle gossip to form a case for the inquiry we are asking for. Why should that inquiry be refused? The old cry of lack of patriotism will not hold water at this time of day. The fact is, there are many reasons for which the inquiry should begin without the slightest detriment to the progress of the war or the efficiency of the troops in South Africa. Take the question of 399 freight by itself; an inquiry into that would require no officers whatever from South Africa. It is purely a question to be dealt with entirely from this end of the telegraph wire. It is a matter upon which, if the Government chose, they could institute a Parliamentary inquiry of this House. They would not lose anything in efficiency, but there would be a great gain to the taxpayers in this country. I specially urge on the Government that whether they grant this inquiry or not, they should endeavour to shake themselves free of the group of financiers and contractors with whom they have got entangled at the War Office. There are plenty of business men who are prepared, without 250 per cent. profit on a contract, to supply the needs of the army, and if the War Office have the will they will find the way to do it.
§ (9.15.) MR. LEVESON-GOWER (Sutherlandshire)
The question we have to consider is not whether the inquiry is to be held or not. An inquiry has to be held; that is granted. The only question is whether it is to be held immediately, or whether it is to be held later on. That is the only question. It does not matter what scandal, what inefficiency there has been at the War Office; that is absolutely beside the mark at the present time. All that should occupy us now are the reasons for immediate inquiry and the reasons against it. The Government reason against it is the difficulty of obtaining the evidence of persons who took an important part in carrying out these contracts. It is said that that is not a valid argument, and so far as that is concerned we need not inquire into all the contracts, but might take a contract here and there. But surely it must be plain to everybody that nearly all these contracts must overlap, and if you take up one you cannot come to a conclusion on that without dealing with the next one. The whole 30,000 contracts really form one whole, and if you have to arrive at an idea of the efficiency or the inefficiency of the War Office you must take the whole together and pass through the whole and see what result is obtained. The argument for immediate inquiry is that 400 public opinion is now aroused and will not submit to longer delay. The Leader of the Opposition says we must hold immediate inquiry, because it is a good thing to strike while the iron is hot; with that I absolutely disagree. What object is there in doing so? Is it not reasonable to suppose that the whole matter will be worked out with more clearness and with a better balanced mind if we wait until the excitement has died down? It has also been said that one reason for the immediate inquiry and the immediate alteration of these contracts is that a great saving of public money will be brought about; that the inquiry would enable the War Office to carry out their contracts on other lines. I do not see how that will come unless the duration of this war is wrongly forecast. How long will it be before the inquiry will have reached its conclusion? It must take a year or two. But even that argument has been rather damaged by the speeches made tonight. It has been said that the inquiry might at any rate be begun now, although it might not be possible to carry it to an immediate conclusion. I think the hon. Gentleman the late Secretary to the Admiralty has rather damaged the case of the Leader of the Opposition. All that is asked for is a partial inquiry, which will perhaps have a partial finding, or no finding at all. That would cast suspicion on officers, of which they would only be able to rid themselves when the excitement had died down. They would be held up to public execration, and then, two years afterwards, when they returned, they would have to clear themselves. If such a thing was done I do not think the Government would find any honest or respectable person to serve under them. The Leader of the Opposition must not be blamed for moving this Motion because, on occasion, he must move a Vote of Censure in order to keep his position in his own Party; it is necessary that he should do so; but it seems to me doubtful whether any Opposition is wise in making a Party question of this matter. It is not a Party question at all. It seems to me perfectly clear that we ought to know that a Party who moves a Vote of Censure 401 has been more efficient than the Government. To move a Vote of Censure against a Government without showing that, is not to move a Vote of Censure against the Government but against the nation itself. It is not one Government that is responsible any more than another. It is the responsibility of the nation. It is the nation's business to see that its military preparations are in an efficient state at any time. Why have these contracts arisen? They have arisen through the War Office not being in a position to face the possibility of a great war. But has the War Office ever been in the position to face such a responsibility? The sooner we can make the nation understand what its duties are in these matters the better it will be for it.
§ (9.26.) MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
It has become manifest in the course of the debate that the plea of the Government, that they are not opposed to investigation, is futile. If we do not have an investigation now, when public interest is aroused in this matter, we shall never have an investigation of the slightest use. Speaking in no offensive sense, I say it is most dishonest for the Government to meet this demand in the Party manner they have adopted. If they boldly said, "There have been scandals and mistakes, but we think it is more to the interest of the Empire that we should hush the matters up," I could understand their position, for that is really what they are doing. But to say there will be an investigation in the remote future, after the war is over, is an absurdity, because everybody knows that when that time comes the general sentiment will be, not to rake in the neglected dust-heaps of the past, not to wash our dirty linen before the nations of Europe, but to forget all these matters and turn our faces towards the future. It is a question of now or never. With that consideration before me, I desire to direct the attention of the House to two or three points which I have frequently brought forward during the last few years.
The first matter is one in regard to which I think the noble Lord will have considerable difficulty in reconciling with common-sense and logic the answers 402 he has given me. Over and over again I have asked for information as to the price paid for horses in Argentina, and the extra ordinary answer of the noble Lord has been that he could not give the price, because if he did so the maximum paid by the Government would become the minimum, and that it would be entirely against the public interest. But what has happened in regard to Hungary? When the demand was made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich an attempt was made to sit upon and snub him, to treat him almost as a pro-Boer; but, being an influential supporter of the Government, he obtained a good deal of support on the benches opposite, and when he made certain definite and rather damaging charges it could not be said he was actuated by party feeling. The result is that we have now all the facts with regard to the purchase of horses in. Hungary. But has that resulted in making the maximum price paid in Hungary and the East of Europe the minimum for the future? Nothing of the sort. But the other day, Lord Lansdowne, then Minister for War, in answering a, similar question, used the very opposite argument, because he declared that the result would be cut-throat competition, and the reduction of prices to such a low level that the contracts could not be honestly carried out. There is not the slightest justification for the argument of the Financial Secretary to the War Office. What is the real fact? Take, for instance, what has happened in Ireland. You have a scandal there as everywhere else. You are there prosecuting a gentleman named Stoddert in connection with some horse transactions. The Government are said to be doing their best to expedite that prosecution, but the common talk at the Four Courts and among the people of Dublin is that they are doing their best to delay it, and to prevent the action coming to trial. What is the real source of all the evil in these contracts? It is that the actual sellers cannot discover what is the price of the Government. You have a series of middlemen, and the real seller, when he tries to come in contact with the actual Government buyer, is blocked by the middleman, and he cannot ascertain what the Government are paying. The 403 real remedy is to bring the actual Government buyer into contact with the actual seller, so that the bargain may be made without the intervention of the middlemen. The argument that the disclosure of the price paid for horses in Argentina would destroy the market and prevent I horses being obtained at a reasonable price is an absurd one, and the use of it has enormously increased the suspicion that the scandals in Argentina are even greater than those in Hungary. The horses were worth about £8, but the Government paid double the amount they need have paid if the sellers had been allowed to come into direct contact with the Government buyers.
But I will pass to the meat contract. One of the most colossal scandals in the whole of this business is that connected with the meat contract. The contract I shall chiefly allude to is not the present contract, but that which expires on March 31st next. Here is a statement made by Mr. Bergl himself in the Daily Mail of February 28th last. Let us remember that Mr. Bergl is the gentleman in whom the Government place absolute trust as an honest contractor for the future provisioning of the troops in South Africa; he therefore comes forward with, as it were, a Government certificate that he is a man of some standing in the commercial world—at any rate, as one whose opinion has some weight. Speaking of the contract about to expire, he declares that the Cold Storage Company must have made a profit of £6,000,000. Here are his words—I do not know whether the Cold Storage Company made more than £2,000,000 or not, or what they have done with the money; that is not the question so far as I am concerned. But I do know what they were paid for their meat, and what they had to pay for it, and I know that if I had supplied all that they did, on the same terms, I should have made a clear profit for the period of £6,000,000 sterling.It is not for the noble Lord to say that that is only Mr. Bergl's opinion. As the present contractor for the Government he is entitled to speak with some authority. He goes on to analyse the figures, and after pointing out that at one time their contract was for tenpence, another time for elevenpence, and for sevenpence later on, he says—My tender has been accepted for 5½d. and on that we shall make a fair commercial profit…Of course, the responsibility for 404 such a huge contract as that was too much for one man;and he goes on to say he was supported by capitalists who could put £10,000,000 in the concern if necessary. Then he says—What the South African Supply have made out of their contract is not for me to say. It is not my business. What I do say again is that I or any other man who bought and sold at the prices they did in the contract, making all allowances for carriage, etc., must have made £4,500,000 in the first year and a half, and £1,500,000 in the last year. Six millions must have been cleared. If the South African Company only cleared £2,000,000 as is said—well, I do not understand it, and it is not my business.That is a very remarkable statement. If Mr. Bergl is a liar and a swindler, one who makes absolutely false statements, the Government are bound to give some explanation of why they had given this contract to a man so unscrupulous. I put a question the other day as to the total amount paid to the Cold Storage Company during the last two and a half years, and the reply was £4,700,000. It is true that a profit of £6,000,000 cannot be made out of that sum. What I want to know is, has Mr. Bergl told a deliberate falsehood? If so, is he a trustworthy person to whom this new contract should be given? The force of this argument is increased by the fact that, in this interview, he states that he sold a great deal of the meat to the Cold Storage Company at three pence landed in Cape Town, and the company supplied it to the Government at elevenpence. He must, therefore, have been a close observer of the course of the contract, and his estimate must be based on more definite information than the Government had, when they say the amount paid is £4,700,000 in all. I do not pretend to have the means of testing this question, but I have made a rough calculation, based on the number of mouths the Government had to feed in South Africa. Taking the figure at 200,000, which is far below the mark, reckoning the meat at 11d., and allowing one pound per diem per man—which is rather a small allowance for a man on active service—it works out at about £3,000,000 per annum. Yet I am told that only £4,700,000 was paid to the Cold Storage Company in two and a half years. My calculation is, of course, very rough and unreliable, but it is a strange thing that it comes much nearer to Mr. 405 Bergl's figure than to that of the War Office. The whole matter is worthy of and demands investigation.
I will now pass on rapidly to another question which certainly requires explanation. In the Westminster Gazette of March 1st the whole of the back page is covered with an advertisement announcing that the Cold Storage Company was going to sell its business as a running concern, with all its assets, to a new company called the South African and Australasian Supply and Cold Storage Company, Limited, a company formed for the sole purpose of buying the Cold Storage Company. I cannot see any object for the establishment of this new company, except it be to afford an opportunity of hiding or wrapping up, by manipulations and methods which are familiar to the Stock Exchange, some profits which it was not desirable to distribute or show. The old company had ample capital, a full plant, and an enormous reserve; why should it require to start this new company? Can any reason be suggested, except that they wanted to water their stock in some mysterious way so as to hide any further profits which they were ashamed to distribute. That, however, is not the main point to which I wish to direct attention. On looking down the list of directors what was my astonishment to find the name of Lieutenant - General Sir Forestier Walker, G.C.M.G. Who is Sir Forestier Walker? Is he the man who for two years was Commander-in-Chief of Cape Town and the lines of communication, in which capacity he had under him the men who passed the meat and had complete control over the Cold Storage Company? I put it with confidence to the House; is that a proper transaction? We have heard a great deal tonight about the honour of British officers. I do not propose to impugn the honour of any British officer, but it is no use throwing that well-worn cloak over transactions which ought not to take place. Members may say that the honour of a British officer is not tarnished by a transaction of this character, but I say it is a transaction which ought not to take place. But that is not the worst of it. In this advertisement is a long list of the assets which are transferred, and it goes on to say— 406Lieutenant General Sir F. Forestier Walker one of the directors of this company, is interested in the vendor company as a holder of 200 and a joint holder of 100 ordinary shares, acquired since August 1901.In other words, he obtained or was presented with by the Cold Storage Company an interest in the old company while he was Commander-in-Chief in Cape Colony. Is that a decent transaction?
§ LORD STANLEY
I think the hon. Member will find he was not commanding at the time he bought those shares.
§ LORD STANLEY
Will the hon. Member give me the date? I have not by me the date on which every General resigns his position. The hon. Member is very sure of everything; I wish I was as sure of any one thing he has said. To the best of my belief—I will not say more than that—Sir Forestier Walker had ceased to have anything to do with the command in South Africa. I cannot say more than that.
§ MR. DILLON
I cannot make any assertion on that point, but I say that, no matter whether it was before or after he left South Africa he acquires this interest, and has now become a director of this company; it is a most improper transaction. It is a rule strictly enforced on subordinate officials of the Civil Service that they should accept no directorships in public companies, and it ought to be deplorable to those who value most highly the honour of British officers that an officer like Sir Forestier Walker should, immediately after resigning high command, in which capacity he had the means of enormously conveniencing or inconveniencing the operations of this company, acquire an interest in the Cold Storage Company and become a director of this new concern. To my mind it is a most painful incident, and greatly increases the necessity for an inquiry.
What has been the reply we have received throughout this debate? That charges and insinuations are being made against the honour of British officers. I have not heard any such charges, but I have heard charges made 407 against the honour of certain agents employed by the War Office and of the folly and incompetence of British officers in their dealings with middlemen. Surely, if these charges are in the air, and such suspicions abroad, you would suppose the first desire of those responsible for the War Office and for the honour of the Army would be to bring those charges and suspicions to an immediate investigation, so that an end might be put to them if they were unfounded. When we hear all this talk about interrupting and interfering with the conduct of the war we are carried back in memory to what occurred when the hon. Member for Westminster raised the question of the hospitals. Exactly the same thing then happened. The First Lord of the Treasury did what he very seldom does—he lost his temper and was exceeding angry; he turned on the hon. Member for Westminster, and said—You are making charges against the humanity of Lord Roberts himself; Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener would not allow their soldiers to be treated in this way, and such an investigation will embarrass and interfere with the officers in the discharge of their duty.The very same arguments were used then as have been used tonight. When I hear hon. Members in violent and indignant language denouncing the Leader of the Opposition for having spoken in favour of this inquiry, I am shocked. I have heard a great deal more bad language on the opposite side of the House in regard to those scandals than has been used on this side. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich made far more damaging charges against the Government, but when a Motion is made from the Opposition Bench it is at once turned into a Party question. I remember the Leader of the House complaining on more than one occasion that he had not got a fighting Opposition, but immediately the Opposition try to do their duty they are met with torrents of abuse and are denounced as pro-Boers.
In reference to this Bergl contract, let me point out what a curious transaction it is. The fault of this new contract is not that they have got the meat at a fair price, but it is what is behind this contract. This new contract is an attempt on the part of the 408 Kimberley combination to get their paw upon the whole meat supply of South Africa, and the result will be that the De Beers Mines will control not only the gold mines but also the meat supply of South Africa. We read in the newspapers of many different complications and the same things are repeated for many weeks. The Scotsman declares that—One of the last things which Mr. Rhodes did in this country before he left it a couple of months ago was to initiate the syndicate of which a good deal will probably be heard in tomorrow's debate.I believe that it is really true that this syndicate is an attempt on the part of De Beers Mines to hold still tighter their monopoly of the whole business of South Africa, and to oust the Cold Storage Company. It is stated that this Company has recently carried £1,000,000 to its reserve fund, and probably Mr. Rhodes felt that this was too formidable a rival to have in South Africa. No doubt when Mr. Rhodes and the Bergl combination are established they will buy out the Cold Storage Company and thus secure a complete monopoly. If there was no other case but this particular contract, I think the necessity for granting an inquiry is fully established.
§ (9.52.) COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said he desired to object at once, and strongly, to the use by the hon. Member who had just sat down of the word "our." He did not consider the word applicable between the hon. Member and those who were loyal hon. Members of the House. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] He would read at once the passages on which he based that statement. The hon. Member who had just sat down said in Tipperary—If only Irishmen had the same arms as the Boers, they would, I am sure, give as good an account of themselves.The hon. Member for East Mayo also said in Tipperary on November 10th—That Government conducted on principles such as those adopted by the English Government at present was an accursed Government and a Government which the people of Ireland—[Opposition cries of "Order, order!"] There was no question of order about it. The hon. Member for East Mayo had used the word "our," and he had a perfect right to repudiate his title to use 409 that word. The hon. Member for East I Mayo in that speech went on to say—A Government which the people of Ireland would be justified in throwing over by force of arms if they were able to do so.After that the Leader of the Opposition reiterated at Stirling his charges of barbarism against our troops, and the hon. Member for East Mayo, speaking at Newry on November 2nd, said—They had seen the Boers persecuted with an amount of atrocity unparalleled in the annals of modern civilisation. As a last resort, the women and children of the Boers had been forced by the soldiers of England into murder camps, where they were being deliberately slaughtered by thousands.[A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Every word of it is true.] On behalf of every loyal man in this country he repudiated the title of the hon. Member to use the word "our" in this connection. Let him talk of "my party" and those associated with him who the other day cheered Lord Methuen's disaster. Let him do that, but the hon. Member was not entitled to use the word "our" in any connection which associated him with the loyal subjects of the King.
The hon. Member for East Mayo had made certain charges in his speech, and he would refer briefly to them because he could show the pervading inaccuracy which governed all the charges made on the opposite side of the House. It had been said that the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich had made charges against the honour of British officers. The hon. Member who made that charge omitted to add that before the Committee which inquired into the matter the hon. Member for Dulwich withdrew every one of those charges. The hon. Member had alluded to the Bergl contract, and he had told the House and the country that somebody made a profit of £6,000,000 out of it. He would remind the hon. Member for East Mayo of the answer which was given in the House on the 10th of March. The total amount paid to the Cold Storage Company from the 31st of April, 1901, was about £4,773,000. Therefore, it was very difficult to account for the discrepancy between a profit of £6,000,000 and a total payment of under £5,000,000. He would not consider that point further for he had other work to do, and other charges to meet which were of more interest and of more value, touching the 410 honour of those he was more interested in in South Africa. He would not deal further with the trumpery charges of those hon. Gentlemen who swore loyalty to the Crown in this House and then went into their own country and repudiated their oath before the world at large. He had much more interesting matter to deal with. In this charge he exonerated the Leader of the Opposition, whom he was certain would never stoop to any such methods. He had, however, to deal with charges made by those who followed the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman. They were charges made by those upon whom the Leader of the Opposition depended for what little status he had left. He had to deal with charges made by those hon. Members upon whom the right hon. Gentleman would depend for the poor support he would get in the division lobby that night, and the still poorer support he would get in the country day by day. From the course of the debate it seemed to him that a certain number of Members had constituted themselves a secret detective corps to practise espionage on the conduct of officers of the British Army, with a dirty and contemptible hope of discovering a scandal. ["Oh, oh!" and cries of "Order."]
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
withdrew the expression, leaving it to the judgment of Members, after hearing the facts, to say whether in private life they would use epithets loss strong. The House did not know the fact that he was now going to bring before it. On the opposite side of the House he knew there were men who were as jealous as he was for the honour and credit and reputation of those who were fighting for them in South Africa. He was willing to believe that there were many hon. Members on the opposite side of the House who would be ready to spring to their feet to defend what he was now going to defend. He felt certain that when they had heard what he had to say they would not be inclined to speak lightly of the matter. Charges were made in the debate last night by the hon. Member for West Nottingham and the hon. Member for Northampton reflecting upon the honour and reputa- 411 tion of certain British officers. He was going to defend those British officers and prove that those charges ought never to have been made. Further, he was going to bring against the hon. Members who made those charges the charge of having been neglectful of the honour of those whom they ought to have been most careful about, and of having made charges which they ought to be ashamed of having made. In the course of the previous night's debate the hon. Member for West Nottingham alleged that Major Peters, while an officer in the Remount Department, was in friendly relations with Messrs. Houlder and invested £1,000 with them. This, it was alleged, was done at the time Major Peters had the giving out of transport contracts. This was no frivolous charge; it was a charge that should not be made against the humblest servant of the State without the most careful examination of evidence, and still more carefully should evidence be weighed when the charge was made against a gallant officer, now Governor of Pretoria, who had carried his life in his hand serving his country. What were the facts in regard to the charge against Major Peters? The hon. Member for Northampton was in his place; would he say where he got his information?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said he obtained it from the list of shareholders at Somerset House, anybody, by paying one shilling, can obtain the name of anybody holding shares. I find there that Major Peters holds £1,000 worth of shares in Houlder's Company.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
said the hon. Member should have taken the trouble before making this charge to ascertain when the cheque was paid, and verify his facts. It was paid on June 6th, 1898, sixteen months before the war broke out.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I stated the exact times when Major Peters had been to the Argentine. I said that he was there in 1897 and 1898 and that he came home to England with two other officers, and that on coming home he had £1,000 in the company.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
What can be the object of stating that, unless to impugn the good faith of the person named.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I leave the House to form its own judgment in the matter, but when the hon. Gentleman said that this was before the war he knew that Major Peters and his brother officer were sent over afterwards to buy horses in the Argentine, and these horses were sent by Houlder's ships.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
Then, Sir, the hon. Member means to repeat his insinuation, and on behalf of Major Peters, although I have never seen him and do not know him, I beg to repudiate absolutely such an insinuation. It seems to me an untenable and hopeless proposition; and I appeal to the general cerise of fair play in this House whether this sort of charge ought to be brought in the House of Commons against an officer who, previous to the war, made an investment in the exercise of a discretion which was entirely within his right. I make the suggestion that this information may have been drawn from other sources. I have heard of servants who had been dismissed, or of one who had been summarily dismissed, and of another who had the option of resigning to save himself from being summarily dismissed. Are you sure that no information came from them on any of these points?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I tell the hon. Gentleman that I know absolutely nothing about it, except the fact that. Major Peter's name is down at Somerset House as having £1,000 in the Company. There were no servants that I ever heard of dismissed, and I really do not understand what the hon. Gentleman means. I think the hon. Gentleman is himself making insinuations. He would do well to be a little more definite.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
said he repeated distinctly that this reference was made by the hon. Member with the intention—at all events it had the effect—of producing an unfair impression as to Major Peter's position. On behalf of Major Peters, whom, he repeated, he had never seen and did not know, he repudiated these proceedings. Was it an 413 unknown thing that hon. Members of this House might defend the honour of men they did not know? Hon. Members seemed to forget that the honour of one British officer was dear to another, that the honour of one Englishman ought to be dear to another. If they would only act on that supposition it would save them from such a ridiculous position as that in which they were now placing themselves. That was not the only imputation made in the course of the debate.
An imputation had also been made in regard to the position of General Truman. Considering the circumstances in which General Truman was placed, it would have been fairer play, more; reasonable charity, and more gentlemanlike behaviour not to have tried to make capital out of a total holding in preference shares amounting to thirty-five sovereigns. That could not be dragged into the debates of the House with any other intention than to prejudice the position of General Truman in the estimation of the country. This was not clean fighting; it was not generous fighting; every instinct of the House ought to run counter to such fighting; and those who made such accusations were responsible for the degradation which was thereby brought upon the House. The Hungarian horses ought to be put to a test with a view to the future. He suggested that the final and best way of settling the question whether Hungarian horses would be likely to be useful would be to purchase a certain number, say 100, at a reasonable price and subject them to tests under service conditions in summer and winter in this country, in order to sec whether they would or would not be useful for the purposes of our Army. It was to be remembered that those very Hungarian horses which had been described as utterly unfit for the work, and which they were told ought never to have been selected, had been well spoken of by the Yeomanry who used them. That was in evidence in Colonel Birkbeck's Report, and when it was remembered that they could not be tried before starting, and that they could only be bought, hon. Members had no right to find fault with those who bought them.
414 He would leave behind a number of minor points which had been dealt with in the course of the debate, and would come now to the question now before the House. He wanted to bring under the consideration of the House the question—What do the ordinary level-headed British public outside of this House think of this Vote of Censure which has been moved by the right hon. Gentleman? He would remind the right hon. Gentleman of what the general opinion of the mass of the people of this country was upon this point. [Laughter.] He would remind him at all events of what he thought of it. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that if he chose to submit any one of his followers for re-election, it would be found that he was a great deal too correct. People outside the House were saying that the Motion was unreal and absurd, and their reason for saying so-was that they recognised in it an absolutely farcical element. They knew perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman did not contemplate the contingency of replacing the present Government by any Government he could form under any possible circumstances. They knew that the right hon. Gentleman was not running to win. He would have to repudiate the results of his victory if be did win. It was well known throughout the country that the demand of the Leader of the Opposition could not be granted, and that it would prevent that efficiency which he did not preach, while Lord Rosebery did. The right hon. Gentleman stood in the country for inefficiency in the same way as Lord Rosebery stood for efficiency; and it was not very likely that the people of this country were going to take an inefficient Prime Minister when they could not get an efficient one. They could not get an efficient Prime Minister out of the result of this Motion. The country was asking what was the right of the right hon. Gentleman to bring forward this Motion. [At this point Sir HENRY CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN, who was about to leave the House by the Speaker's Chair, turned round again, and, amid laughter and cheers, resumed his seat to hear the hon. and gallant Member's references to himself.] The right hon. 415 Gentleman was remembered by many I soldiers Minister for War for whom they had a great admiration, and as one who had the interests of the Army at heart; but the people of this country were saying that if there was one man who, if he had been in the position of the present Secretary for War, would have repudiated this Motion it would have been the right hon. Gentleman himself. He would have done that out of his own knowledge of what was necessary for the War Office.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (rising and going to the Table)
Will my hon. and gallant friend allow me to go now?
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
said the permission to go had been already extended to the right hon. Gentleman by three-fourths of the Liberal party. He was only sorry that the right hon. Gentleman had not gone before his part in politics had been to prolong the war. Those who might at some future time have the right to question this or that incident in the administration of the Government ought to unite, at all events at present, in showing to our enemies in the field the determination of this country to finish the war at all costs on the condition on which alone it had been laid down that it could finish.
§ MR. HAVILAND BURKE (King's County, Tullamore)
On a point of order, I wish to ask you, Sir, whether the question of South African politics has anything to do, directly or indirectly, with the question of Army contracts.
§ COLONEL KENYON - SLANEY
said at all events he declined to appeal to hon. Gentlemen in that quarter of the House. They had taken their line, they had repudiated all connection with the war, they had even ventured to cheer British defeats and British disasters, and for his present purpose they were altogether outside the pale of hon. Members to whom he would dare to address himself. In another part of the House there were 416 many hon. Gentlemen as loyal and patriotic as they were, and as much inclined to do what was right for their country, though they might differ possibly on some of their views as to the roads they were to travel. He appealed to them, and would point out that if they supported these rather miserable and contemptible votes of censure they would be weakening this Empire, and would be merely snapping and snarling at the heels of government. They must recognise, as Lord Rosebery had said, a possible basis for the formation of a future Government and they must know that to separate one atom of the country from another was the way to destroy a rapid finish of this war. He did appeal to them, if they regarded the conclusion of this war as a matter of paramount necessity, to dissociate themselves with those connected with the continuance of this war, and to support them at all events until the war was concluded. When the war was concluded, let them rend the Government to pieces if they could, and point out where they had failed in their administration and duty. But until that time if they were patriotic men their duty was to do all they could to support the only possible Government which could deal with the situation.
§ (10.33.) MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I shall not attempt to follow the representative and spokesman of the "thoughtful" classes of the country, who has attempted to prove his claim to that title by addressing a speech to us at least three-quarters of which, as far as I could gather, had no relevance, direct or indirect, proximate or remote, to the question now before us. The hon. Gentleman has reproached us, reproached my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, with bringing forward a wanton and unnecessary vote of censure against the Government. Sir, it cannot be too clearly stated that this Motion is only a vote of censure against the Government because the Government have chosen to make it so. If, indeed, it had been dictated, or could have been shown to have been dictated, by a spirit of merely factious and frivolous curiosity, or, if, again, it assumed that the proposed inquiry could only issue from a sentence of condemnation against the 417 action or inaction of the Executive, then I agree the case would be a very different one. But the Motion of my right hon. friend has neither of those features. The demand for investigation which he makes implies that we are not yet in possession of the information which would enable us to arrive at a definite judgment, or to make a final apportionment, whether of praise or of blame.
The Secretary of State for War himself, in his speech last night, admitted candidly and emphatically that there was so strong a primâ facie case for inquiry, in the interests, not of party, but of the public service, in the interests of the reputation of the officers in the field and of the War Office itself, that such an inquiry as is here demanded must sooner or later take place. Well, if that is so, what I may call the dialectical issue between us is reduced within the narrowest possible compass. It is granted by universal admission that it is both politic and necessary that there should be an inquiry. The only question is—shall that inquiry be held promptly and at once, or shall it be postponed to some indefinite date in the future—for I think even the Government now recognise that the date of the termination of the war is a matter which they cannot fix for themselves, and that it rests with the counsels of Providence. Is it, I say, to be postponed to an indefinite date, and then take place as part of a gigantic general inquisition into the whole conduct of the war, which promises, as far as I can see, to rival, both in length and duration and in the gradual decline of public interest which is likely to accompany it, the impeachment of Warren Hastings? That is the point, and, with deference to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, it is the only point at issue between us tonight. Before making some observations upon that, I should like to be permitted to avert to one or two considerations of a more general character, affecting the constitutional rights and duties of the House of Commons. Our annals are full of precedents in relation to a situation of this kind. One of the most recent and perhaps the most celebrated is that which is furnished by Mr. Roebuck's Motion, in the course of the Crimean War, for a Committee of In- 418 quiry, which brought about the down-fall of Lord Aberdeen's Government. Lord John Russell, who, it will not be denied I suppose, was a great constitutional authority, was at that time, if I remember right, Leader of this House; and he, differing from some of his colleagues, was of opinion that that Motion could not be resisted. He left the grounds for his opinion on record in words which I think I may venture to quote to the House. Lord John Russell wrote—Inquiry is the proper duty and function of the House of Commons. When the British arms have suffered a reverse, this duty has always been performed.And then he referred to the loss of Minorca, the capitulation of General Burgoyne, and the failure of the Walcheren expedition, and went on to say—Inquiry is indeed at the root of the powers of the House of Commons. Upon the result of that inquiry must depend the due exercise of those powers. If through vicious organisation the public affairs are ill-administered, the remedy is better organisation. If there is delay and confusion in the execution of orders, and injury has arisen, subordinate officers should be removed. If the fault, is traced to the responsible Ministers of the Crown, they should be subjected to censure and, if necessary, to removal.These are the words of a great constitutional authority, of a member of the Cabinet into whose conduct of the war—the war not being over—a Motion for the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry was being made. We were told last night by the Secretary of State—with perfect truth, though, I rather thought, with unnecessary complacency—that the state of things in the Crimean war was very different from the state of things which prevails today in South Africa; that the scandals and the horrors of the Crimean war have not been reproduced in South Africa, as I hope they are never likely to be reproduced in any condition of affairs. It would be a startling commentary, indeed, upon the progress of administrative reform, upon the advance of military science, yes, and upon the enormous increased expenditure, amounting, I suppose, to twice, if not three times, as much a year as at the time of the Crimean war, if we were not in a better position both as regards organisation, foresight, and administrative action than were our predecessors fifty 419 years ago. But that is not the point of this comparison. The point of it is that you were then in the middle of a war in which the success of your arms at that moment was by no means assured, in which the military situation had a far more gloomy prospect than I for my part believe it has at this moment in South Africa. And yet even then, according to Lord John Russell—and not according to him alone, but according to the views and votes of the great majority of the House of Commons of that day, who, for the purposes of this Motion, discarded and set aside all their ordinary party associations—the case for an inquiry, and for an immediate inquiry, was made out.
I freely admit that there is no such case either of military or administrative disorganisation and disaster as occurred in the Crimean war. But what is the reason for inquiry here, admitted by the Secretary of State quite as fully as it is claimed by us? The reason is not to put to silence—if I may quote an expression I heard used by the noble Lord the Financial Secretary to the War Office tonight—mutterings and insinuations. More than once in his speech tonight—and I rather regret it—the noble Lord used such words as "swindle" and "fraud" in a context which seemed to imply that charges of this nature were broadly circulated and freely believed in in respect to British officers. I believe the noble Lord to be under a complete misapprehension. No one is obliged, and I will go further and say no one is entitled, to act on mutterings and insinuations. For my part, and I believe that is the general temper of hon. Members on both sides of the House, I am prepared to dismiss from my mind every rumour, every bit of gossip, and even every piece of private information I have received, and take my stand, so far as the demand for this inquiry is concerned, upon the official documents presented to this House by the War Office and submitted by them to the consideration of the House and the country. I hope and believe, and I am certain I am speaking for the vast majority of the House when I say we all hope and believe, that this inquiry, whenever it takes place, although it may disclose, and I think it will disclose, 420 errors of judgment, defects of organisation, want of foresight, want of money, and possibly malpractices on the part of I some of the subordinate agents of the Government and of the contractors, yet I confidently both hope and believe that when the inquiry comes to an end, it will leave the honour of every British officer concerned unscathed and unstained.
As I have said, the case for inquiry rests not upon suspicion, not upon insinuation, but upon official material. If I may venture to put into a sentence—I am not attempting to pass judgment—the kind of uneasy suspicion which the perusal of these papers, I think, leaves on the minds of all impartial persons, I should express it in this way—that it would seem that our Army in South Africa has been well but expensively fed, and expensively but not well horsed. May I say two or three words about the horses, a topic which I approach, I can assure the House, on its technical side, with that trepidation which is becoming, but which is not always exhibited by an imperfectly instructed amateur. Any gentleman who has no more than a superficial acquaintance with that large and important section of the British world, in and to which the horse is the centre of interest, must be aware that the dissensions of theologians, or even of doctors, are cold and colourless compared with those which habitually prevail among the experts in that particular field. You may almost say, without exaggeration quot equites tot sententiœ. But, happily, in this matter we are not obliged to enter upon that dangerous and, I confess, to me unfamiliar ground. With these documents here before you, he who runs may read; and what do they tell us? I am now simply pointing out what seems to me to constitute strong primâ facie grounds for further and immediate inquiry. They show us that, at the outbreak of the war in October, 1899, there were in South Africa, available for remounts, at the outside—I think I am giving credit for every horse, every cob, and every mule—some 8,000 animals. I ask in passing, and I should like to have an answer to this question, because I know it is one which perplexes the minds of many persons who are well acquainted with these matters, why it 421 was—because everybody assumes that was an insufficient reserve—that steps were not at once taken to procure additional horses in South Africa itself? I see a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite who have been at the front; and I believe there is not a single one who will not agree with me—I am speaking with the best information I can get—when I say that the South African horse is far better fitted for the work of this campaign, by its constitution, its shape, its habits, its mode of feeding, and so on, than any horse you could get in any other part of the world. There were thousands of those horses available at the time when the war broke out, but I believe that the majority of them are now in the possession of the Boers. That, I think, is a point well worthy of inquiry and on which practically no light is thrown by these copious telegrams and interrogatories, which appear in the White Paper before us. I only mention that parenthetically.
Since the war began, some 300,000 horses and mules, speaking of remounts only, have been shipped from all parts of the world to South Africa. With what result? We have, in this official record, two very remarkable documents, first of all the Report of Colonel Birkbeck in December, 1900, and I may say, without unfairly pressing its purport, that on the whole it is a condemnatory Report. Then I go to the very last document in the book—a telegram from Lord Kitchener, as late as January 22nd, 1902, only six weeks ago—in which he pronounces his judgment at the state of the horses supplied at this advanced stage of the war. He says:—A considerable percentage of horses landed lacked the nececsary conformation and shape.Therefore, you have first the state of things when the war broke out; then the verdict of your own expert when the war had been in progress for a year; and finally, the judgment of the Commander-in-Chief in January. I am not exaggerating the joint effect of those testimonies when I say that they amount to a severe, emphatic, and comprehensive condemnation of the manner in which this work of supplying horses to the Army hat been carried on. Who shall say that there is no case for inquiry there I will not go in detail into the question of price. We know a great deal too much 422 about the Hungarian contracts We know that a profit of £45,000 was put into the pockets of the contractors for a total expenditure of £111,000. We hope and believe that that is not a typical case; but it may be typical. We have no reason to believe that it was exceptional in any of its circumstances; and that case being the only one which has been authentically proved after investigation by a Departmental Committee, we have the strongest right to demand that a similarly searching investigation shall take place in regard to the price of all the other contracts, for these admittedly inadequate, and to a large extent, unsuitable horses.
Then what about the meat? I believe that it has been excellent in quality. I quite assent to the claim made by the right hon. Gentleman last night. I do not believe that any Army in the held has ever been better supplied as regards food than the Army conducting these operations. But there again the contracts certainly suggest many topics which excite curiosity and demand investigation. I will not say anything of the original contract made in South Africa by Lord Kitchener, and I agree that under existing circumstances that ought not to form the subject of close and detailed investigation, because you could not bring Lord Kitchener back from the Front to this country. [Hon. Members cheered.] I do not understand those cheers. No man in his senses has ever proposed it. But what about the new contracts? They show a great difference in point of price and a very large saving to the taxpayer. But I am not going to make insinuations, or, as the noble Lord says, to mutter suspicions, against this man or that, or to suggest that anyone has been guilty of corruption. But I do say, speaking as a plain business man, accustomed to business transactions and to the investigation of them in the courts of law, that there are circumstances connected with these contracts, and with the names of the parties to them, that do demand a certain amount of inquiry. The many-sided part played by the ubiquitous figures of Weil and Messrs. Houlder is at significant and unprecedented figures in Government contracts; and in the interests of the Government themselves and of the officers concerned, it is desirable that all the circumstances 423 attending the negotiation for and the execution of these contracts should be thoroughly investigated at the earliest possible moment.
Then, Sir, what is the answer? I have stated the case without, I hope, undue exaggeration—a case which would appeal to any man of ordinary common sense as a case for inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman himself admits the necessity for such an inquiry, but he pleads for delay. May I examine the grounds on which he asks for delay? First he tells us that under existing contracts a new state of things has been brought about. There is Lord Downe's mission to the Cape, which is being continued to Australia, and there are roving commissions of officers going about in all the horse-breeding countries of the world, even including Palestine. I am very glad to hear it, but what has that to do with the contracts of the past? The War Office has now taken business-like precautions, and is employing competent persons and searching on a systematic plan for supplies. That is very good news; but it does not absolve the House from the duty of inquiring about how the work was performed in the past, and why the precautions, now admitted to be necessary, were not taken before. Then the right hon. Gentleman makes a point of the absence of many of the officers who actually made the contracts; and he says that you cannot adequately investigate the matter in their absence. But I gather from the right hon. Gentleman's own statement that as regards Australia, out of four officers concerned two are available; in Argentina, of five concerned two are available; in Italy, of two concerned one is available; and in Spain, of five concerned three are available; and as regards Hungary there is no difficulty whatever, because the officers have been already examined. Therefore, the contention that there is an absence of the necessary witnesses is refuted by the right hon. Gentleman's own statement. Then the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the Department is subject to a very great strain, and that the officials are working nine and a half hours a day, and dealing with ten thousand contracts in a year. I have no doubt of it, but I was rather surprised to 424 learn, after all that we have heard about decentralisation, that the number of papers which have to be dealt with have risen from 40,000 to 124,000 a year. Every one sympathises with the officers of this Department, and no one desires to impose on them excessive burdens. But what does it really amount to? Supposing a Committee of the House were sitting to investigate on two days a week, how many additional hours would, in point of fact, be imposed? Does the right hon. Gentleman tell us, as head of the Department, that, in respect of that exceptional and temporary strain, it is not capable of doing what any merchant's office in the city would do—employing additional help to relieve the officials of the routine duties which do not require expert knowledge? A Government office is a fearful and wonderful thing, I know, but none the less it is possible to delegate, at any rate, a substantial part of the every-day routine share of the work to persons temporarily employed in it.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I do not think that considerations of that kind ought to be allowed to interpose. I say so, not that I have any want of consideration or feeling for these gentlemen. I believe that they are hard worked and very deserving officials; but whenever this House insists in the public interest upon an investigation, it should not be forgotten that the additional burden for the time being imposed on the officers of a department is one of the terms on which they hold their offices. It is no want of consideration to demand from them that which they are bound to do. With reference to this question of the excessive strain on the Department, I may point out, what the right hon. Gentleman did not point out, that there have been, and there are now going on, inquiries into this matter as to which both the objection arising from the absence of the necessary witnesses and the objection arising from the supposed additional pressure on the officers of the Department are quite as relevant as they are to this inquiry. In 1900 we had the 425 inquiry into contracts upstairs. It did not introduce any great dislocation into the War Office or any other Department of State. Then you had the Departmental Committee which the right hon. Gentleman himself appointed to investigate the remounts in Hungary, and which sat for a considerable time. You have now got—I admit, it is somewhat shrouded in mystery—this Court of Inquiry into General Truman, the terms of reference to which really involve a Court of Inquiry as satisfactory and exact the same necessity of sending for witnesses and employing officers of the Department as would this inquiry. I am told that the War Office themselves have instituted in Ireland, quite properly, I think, an action against one of their subordinate agents for receiving illicit commissions for the purchase of horses; and this will involve a most searching inquiry into the whole of the contracts made in Ireland and the same objection as to witnesses and additional work on the Department.
If the inquiry now asked for is to be effective—and, I assume, everyone desires it to be effective—it must be prompt. It must be prompt while the witnesses are available, while the events are recent, while the memory is fresh, while interest is keen, and, I will venture to add—it is not an unimportant consideration—while the public attention is concentrated upon it. In another year Who shall say whether the time for the fulfilment of the promise of the Government will have then arrived I But, whenever the time does arrive, none of these conditions will any longer exist. The witnesses will be scattered; not a little of the evidence—and I speak with some experience of these matters—of an incriminating character will be destroyed and gone beyond recall. The edge both of memory and of interest will become blunt. More than that, the mass of other material, material for a hundred different inquiries, will have accumulated to vast and unmanageable dimensions; one topic of interest and of investigation will be struggling and competing with another; and I confess that I for one, when I contemplate the prospect, despair of any solid result. What is my inference? My inference is that to all intents and purposes, the 426 choice lies between an inquiry now and no inquiry at all. To whom do we owe the inquiry? First and foremost, of course, to the House of Commons and to the taxpayers we represent; but we owe it also to the soldiers still in the field, to the relatives and friends of those who are dead, to the efficient conduct of the war which is still going on, and perhaps, above all, to the prevention once and for ever in the future of like abuses with all the mischief and misery which they bring in their train. The right hon. Gentleman last night and the noble Lord today have spoken of the cruelty of keeping officers under suspended judgment. That is just the injustice of which the proposal of the Government is guilty. Here are men—many, and so far as I am concerned, I am quite ready to believe all—of whom, though they may be labouring under suspicion because they have been concerned in one or other of the contracts, are perfectly innocent of anything like guilty complicity or dishonourable conduct, and the judgment of the public is suspended. Yet you profess to be their friends, acting in their interest, and in the vindication of their character, when you postpone the only possible means of bringing to an end these suspicions and of terminating that suspense—that of a definite inquiry. I venture to submit that the dilatory pleas of the right hon. Gentleman have no substantial value. I regret, though I was not altogether surprised, that he sought to supplement them by appeals to prejudice and by suggestions of motive. I will not refer again to what he said about other campaigns in which this or other countries have been engaged, and which appeared to me to have no relevance whatsoever to the present question. The right hon. Gentleman actually brought out from the recesses in which I had begun to hope it had been permanently ensconced the well-worn topic of cordite. As I understood him, he appeared, at any rate, to suggest that after the four years which elapsed between 1895 and 1899 the War Office was still suffering from the state of destitution and starvation in which my right hon. friend left it.
§ MR. BRODRICK
My argument was that after having doubled the supply left 427 by the right hon. Gentleman we barely found it to be adequate.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I should like very much to know—although it is not strictly relevant to the discussion—when the right hon. Gentleman doubled it. That is a matter which we may have an opportunity of discussing on some future occasion. I should be glad to know the date—it will be, awaited with some considerable curiosity. Then, not content with introducing the totally irrelevant question of cordite, the right hon. Gentleman went on to suggest that those who support this Motion are guilty at best of reckless indifference, if not active hostility, to the efficient and successful conduct of the war. Now, if thought that the carrying of this Motion and the institution of the inquiry which it suggests would hamper or hinder for a day the effective prosecution of the war, I hope I shall be believed when I say I would not vote for it. That is not the spirit in which it is proposed; that is not the spirit in which we are supporting it. I will not retaliate upon the right hon. Gentleman in his own fashion. I do not accuse him of desiring to burke inquiry and to keep these transactions concealed behind their present veil of secrecy and suspicion. I believe that he is as honestly desirous as we are that in every interest concerned, every interest, the inquiry should he searching, thoroughgoing, and final. Sir, it is not a question, let me remind the House, merely of apportioning blame between this man and that; still less is it a question of personal and Departmental convenience. Our object should be not merely to visit upon those who are responsible their share of responsibility for the errors and shortcomings of the past, but to safeguard the present, and still more to provide against the future. It is with that object equally to be desired in the interests of the officers concerned and of the public service that I shall give to the Motion of my right hon. friend my unhesitating support.
§ (11.14.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I need hardly tell the House that I am not in agreement with the speech to which we have just listened; but I will say this for it, that in the first 428 place it raised the tone of the debate above the level of comedy, which so far, at all events, as many of the speeches on the other side are concerned, has characterised it. And I will go further and say that I entirely accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that in the Motion in favour of which he has spoken, and for which he means to vote, he does not desire either to impede the administration of the War Office, to injure the Government, or to hamper the war. Yes, Sir, but as regards that last point, does the right hon. Gentleman speak for the great mass of hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House? Has he any title to speak for others than himself and a certain number of his friends who, I am sure, sincerely adopt the view he has expressed, but which is notoriously not the view of a very large number of Gentlemen on that side of the House. The Motion, if carried, would undoubtedly, in our judgment, militate against the objects which the right hon. Gentleman professes to serve. But whether that is true or not, this at all events is certain, that it is advanced and has been advocated with the direct intention of displacing the present Administration; and probably it would not be looked at askance—by some, at least, of those who are going to support it—if, as another consequence, it were greatly to hamper the conduct of the war. ["Shame"] At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman had got us above German water level, and we are not obliged—at all events, I do not feel myself obliged—to deal with the aspects of the question which some of the most brilliant speakers on the other side have presented with so much humour in the course of the last forty-eight hours.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that it is our fault that this Motion has been taken as a vote of censure. That is an amazing statement Does the right hon. Gentleman suppose that a Committee of this sort, asked for by one side of the House and refused by the other, can be anything else but a vote of censure? It must, be perfectly patent to every one, as it must be self-evident to everybody, and it is certainly self-evident to the right hon. Gentleman that the Motion, for which he means to vote is a Motion 429 which, it carried, would turn out the present occupants of these Benches, though who would be substituted in their place, I confess I have not the faintest idea. The right hon. Gentleman in supporting this constitutional doctrine, as he called it, went back to the Crimean war and quoted some dicta of Lord John Russell's to the effect—as I understood him—that an inquiry of this sort, whenever it is asked for by the responsible Opposition, ought to be granted immediately by the Government of the day. I do not contest the right hon. gentleman's version of Lord John Russell's doctrine. But I would remind him that there were other eminent statesmen who spoke in the same debate, and took a very different view of the question. There is one particular statesman I will venture to quote, as I know he will carry weight with the right hon. Gentleman. That is Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone took part in the debates while he was a Member of the Government against which the inquiry was directed, and he also spoke after he had ceased to be a member of the Government; and whether in office or out of office, he strenuously and continuously maintained that an inquiry of the very kind which the right hon. gentleman now desires was an inquiry which ought not to be granted. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries stated in his speech that, in the great day of Parliamentary government,—when challenged as to the time, he said he meant thirty years ago,—all such inquiries when demanded were granted. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman's thirty years were very well selected, because if he had said twenty-seven years instead of thirty it. would have appeared that the "great days of Parliamentary government" had already vanished during Mr. Gladstone's term of office from 1880 to 1885.
I am astonished that when the right hon. Gentleman opposite was in the way of quoting precedents he did not think it worth while to look into the most recent precedent with which we have to deal. What is that precedent? It is the inquiry which this House instituted into the scandals in connection with the Egyptian War of 1882. Those scandals, as appears from the Blue-book, were of a more serious kind—far more 430 serious, I will venture to say, than anything which has been brought to light in the course of the present war. ["No."] Yes, far more serious. For example, 60 per cent. of the mules bought for transport were found to be wholly unfit for service; the hay for fodder was found to be full of old iron and stones; the flour for the ford of the troops was so abominable in quality that it proved absolutely deleterious to health. I do not wish to rake up these old scandals, I merely wish to show the House that they were incomparably greater than any which have been brought forward in the course of the present war. There was an inquiry. A Committee of this House sat, and a Committee of this House took a lot of evidence; but it did not make a Report.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is not a fact that the Government dared not re-appoint that Committee, on which I sat.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That may have been the explanation of the fact I am just going to bring before the House. The Government, of course, was the Government which the hon. Gentleman supported at the time. It was his Government. He may be perfectly right in making the suggestion—I should never have thought of making it—that they were afraid of further revelations. But I say at once I do not believe that was the case. I believe that the reason they gave for not re-appointing the Committee was the real reason. And what was the reason? The reason was that this Committee of inquiry into what happened in 1882 could not be carried on consistently with the public interest, because there were military operations then going on in Egypt, in 1885. And what were those military operations compared with those that we are carrying on now? Absolutely petty and insignificant operations. But because there were officers engaged in the military operations whose evidence was required before a Committee could sit and carry out its work with efficiency, the Government of that day, quite rightly in my opinion, said they would not re-appoint the Committee; and the 431 Committee never was re-appointed, and never reported.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Why? The reason, I believe, was the one I gave to the hon. Member. That was the reason alleged in this House by the Party who now sit on that Bench, and I believe it was the real reason. If that reason was valid in 1885, is it valid in 1902? If it was valid in 1885 in the circumstances of that comparatively insignificant war in Egypt, is it not doubly valid at a time when this country has sent out to South Africa an army which no country has ever sent out to such distant parts of the world to fight its battles? I must say I think the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was ill-advised when he went to precedents for some support for the Motion in favour of which he is going to vote before the evening is over.
Well, Sir, I pass from the constitutional point—a very important point, I admit—but I pass from that to that portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he said that, so far as he is concerned, he never suggested and never would suggest on mere hearsay that any officer of the British Army was guilty of swindling and fraud. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement. Not a word fell from him in the course of his speech which made insinuations of that kind, either explicitly or by implication. But he speaks for a Party, or, at least, I believe he speaks for a Party. Is that Party guiltless of the charge that we have brought against them? Have there been no insinuations in the course of this debate against the honour of British officers? Have no suggestions of swindling and fraud gone forth from those Benches to the country? I do not, of course, make the Bench opposite responsible for speeches made elsewhere upon that side of the House, but I suppose there is some responsibility attaching to the Member who is selected to second a Motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the hon. Gentleman had no official responsibility in the matter, of course I do not wish to associate his fortunes too closely with the Front Bench opposite; and if he was not asked immediately to follow in support of the Motion, I have nothing more to say.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
We are on the subject of gossip. I certainly did understand that the hon. Gentleman had been requested to back up with a wealth of detail the general sketch of the case brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition, but I do not wish to insist upon that. This, at all events, is certain, that whatever may have been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, or by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, other Members on that side of the House who have taken this case in charge have not for a moment thought of abstaining from insinuations of every sort and kind against the honour of British officers; and—I suppose I must not call him the seconder of the Motion—the Gentleman who immediately supported the right hon. Gentleman in his Motion is the worst offender. How can you say this is not a campaign of insinuation and innuendo when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton said that because General Truman had shares in this Houlder Company to the amount of £35 in capital value he was influenced in giving contracts to that company?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
The noble Lord the Financial Secretary to the War Office has admitted that General Truman: held £400 worth of shares.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, the amount, I believe, is £35. Let us assume that the dividend of this company—the Houlder Company.—let us assume that the dividend of the company has been doubled by the iniquitous transactions in which General Truman involved the Government. I suppose that might possibly, putting it at the highest computation, put a £10 note into General Truman's pocket—no, that is an extravagant estimate; let us say £5—and it is actually thought worth while by the Gentleman who immediately supported the Leader of the Opposition in this Motion to make the suggestion that a British general is to be bribed with a £5 note. And consider the kind of insinuation that has been made with regard to other contracts. Take the case of Bergl, about which, I think, we have heard enough, and more than enough, in the course of these debates. [An HON. MEMBER: And you will hear more of it yet.] For myself I may confess to being rather bored with it. But, as I understand the case, it is this—there is absolutely no quarrel against the Bergl contract except this, that the gentlemen involved in it have names which do not happen to please the Opposition, and that Mr. Bergl, when he came to the War Office, frankly admitted, so I understand, that he himself was not in a position to carry out the contract, but was ready to produce backers. The War Office examined whether they were satisfactory backers; they found they were, and they made the contract. I believe that is the whole story; I have put it briefly, but I believe that is the whole story.
Now, if that is the whole story, what is thereto grumble at? You may object to the name of the man who got the contract, you may object to the names of his backers, but if it was the lowest contract, what has the taxpayer got to complain of? What has the War Office got to complain of, and what has the public got to complain of I Absolutely nothing, and when I hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee come forward and grumble because in making these contracts we did not give consideration to the manufacturers of Dundee, among other places, or the colonies, I ask what is the principle which the free trade Party opposite would follow in these matters? 434 It is an altogether new view, from them at all events, that we ought to sacrifice the interests of the British taxpayer either to colonial interests or to those of the constituents of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee. The War Office did what they were bound to do. They took I the lowest contract, not only the lowest, but a contract which they knew would be carried out; and how anybody can complain of that in the interest of the proper prosecution of the war, or in the interest of the taxpayer, I am wholly unable for a moment to understand. But what I have said up to the present does not touch the kernel and heart of the question. The kernel and heart of the question is this—do you think it right to have an inquiry, the desirability of which nobody denies, at the present moment, or do you think it better to defer it until the end of the war? The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said—The end of the war; when will that be? You cannot tell. It may be this year or next year, or the year after.I am not going to say when the end of the war is to be. I am not going to prophesy about that; but if it is to be a three years' war, it will be admitted that we are at this moment in the middle of the war. [Opposition laughter.] That is a question of chronology. If it is going to last three years more we are about in the middle of it now, and we have three years hard work before us. Is it not evident that in these circumstances every sinew must be strained in the War Office, and in South Africa, and that no additional ounce of work should be put on those who are being so hard worked as it is? But if, on the other hand, the war is not going to last three years—and personally I do not anticipate any such unfortunate eventuality—if it is to last six months or a year, what is lost by deferring this inquiry compared with the loss that must inevitably ensue if you insist on an inquiry taking place at once?
I should like hon. Gentlemen to consider a little more carefully than they appear to have done what is involved in an inquiry now. The right hon. Gentleman, following in that respect the lead of the right hon. Gentleman who sits near him, says that the idea of calling Lord Kitchener back is a grotesque idea. It is a grotesque idea; but one of the greatest contracts you have to inquire into cannot be inquired 435 into unless he comes back, because he is the man who made it—I refer to the original Cold Storage Contract. I will take another case. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee said he only wanted to look into the Bergl Contract, audit was on the Bergl Contract that he expended the greater part of his eloquence. You cannot look into the Bergl Contract unless you have Colonel Morgan back from South Africa. He knows more about it than anybody else, and no Committee could inquire for a week, for a day, into this contract without requiring the presence in this country of Colonel Morgan. He is at work with Lord Kitchener in South Africa. But is there a man who would take upon himself the responsibility of calling back at such a crisis in our military fortunes such a man as Colonel Morgan to this country? The thing is grotesque.
I ask myself—Who is going to profit by this inquiry so passionately asked for by right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite? Is it the taxpayer of the country? The events we are asked to inquire into are long-past events. They are events which produce no economy at the present moment, for the extravagance, if extravagance there has been, is past and gone; the money has been squandered, the money is already lost; and I fail to see how the taxpayer is going to benefit by this inquiry. Are the soldiers at the Front going to benefit by it? The soldiers at the Front know who it is that have organised and can best continue to superintend the enormous work of providing for an Army of 250,000 men 7,000 miles from their base. These are the very men whom you would recall if you had this inquiry. The soldiers, at all events, are little likely to thank—you first, for making insinuations against their honour, and then for destroying their efficiency by withdrawing from the field of action those who are most required by their country's need. Is it the politicians you want to benefit? I think, perhaps, it is. I do not know that they have very much to get by it. I do not know what any of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who are clamouring for this inquiry are likely to get, either politically or otherwise, from the laborious investigation for which they profess to stand. But there is one person who 436 unquestionably would gain by it, and that is our enemy in the field. Useless it may be to the taxpayer, empty as far as the politician is concerned; but to the enemy in the field an inquiry like this would be worth a reinforcement of 5,000 men. I really am astonished when I hear a gentleman like the right hon. Member who has just spoken, and who has official experience, although not at one of the great military Departments—I am amazed to hear him talk in the light and airy way he does of the difficulties of carrying on investigations of this sort without disturbing the equanimity or efficiency of an office. How can you ask men already overworked to carry on that work and at the same time to prepare a case against a cross-examination in a Committee on which their future fortunes and their reputation depend? These men are not accustomed, as we Party politicians are, to carry on the work of an Administration half the day and to fight for the other half against gentlemen who are calling their deeds in question. It requires very special training and practice to do that with equanimity. Nobody knows this better than the right hon. Gentleman opposite. That is a training we really never give to the civil servants. They rightly trust the Parliamentary Party chiefs to defend them. When you ask men who have these responsibilities, when you ask them to come with their lives in their hands, as it were, before a Parliamentary Committee [laughter]—well, that which is as valuable to them as their lives—namely, their honour—can you expect them to carry on this enormous work, this prodigious work that you have thrown upon them—the work which they are carrying out in so gallant, so energetic, and so patriotic a spirit? The thing cannot be done; and I am amazed at any man of Parliamentary experience supposing that it could be done.
I do not speak with a view to the effect on the Government of an inquiry of this kind, because I am positively certain that such an inquiry could not but redound to the credit of the Government, and I say so because everybody knows that there never has been a war carried out by this country, or any other, under conditions in which 437 the troops at the Front have been supplied one quarter as well as they have been supplied on the present occasion. Why is it that the public through these struggles has shown itself so calm? What, under these circumstances, does it matter to the Government, or to a party, that in the stress, in the enormous and unexpected stress, of this war there may have been mistakes made here and there—too much given for the horses, too much given for freight, and all the rest of it? Do you think that the country is going to judge the Government on these lines? Not a bit of it, They will see that for the first time in our history we have had 250,000 men at the furthest parts of the globe. We have fed them, we have clothed them, and we have horsed them, and, in spite of all that has been said of the remounts, we have fed them, clothed them, and horsed them well. ["Oh!" and cheers.] Nobody can say the reverse. The country will judge, as they ought to judge, in the gross. They will see the broad results. They will know—of course they will know, as every man in this House in his conscience knows—that, broadly speaking, this work of provisioning the troops and providing for them in the broadest sense has been well done. It has been well done under extraordinary difficulties, and it is only the mind of an accountant gone mad who would think that the blots—and I do not for a moment doubt that there are blots—on the picture I have painted to the House alter and destroy its merits. But a Committee, if granted, will not be granted be cause the country thinks that our Army in South Africa is a neglected force. If it be granted, it will not only have the incidental effect of turning out the present Government—which, so far as the Government is concerned, is a matter of very small importance, whatever it may be with regard to the conduct of the war in South Africa and the management of our policy in that country—but it will inevitably clog the whole wheels of the administration, and it will have yet one further result, to which I earnestly call the attention of the House.
We have passed over the early crisis of this war, in which the great stress and strain of public 438 necessity fell upon our spending Departments, and we are in those comparatively calm times when we may turn our attention to pounds, shillings and pence—whether too much was not given for this horse or that mule, whether too large profits were not made by this shipping company or that meat supply company. But the time may come again, when this war is over, when another great national necessity comes upon us, when we have again to deal with unexpected forces brought to play upon our national being, when we have got to face difficulties un contemplated, and which our Army organisation was not contrived to deal with immediately. In what spirit is such a crisis to be met? If you pass this Resolution, if you turn out the present Government, if you have this inquiry before the war is ended, every War Office official, every soldier, as long as this proceeding is remembered, will know that it is better to let the troops starve than to give a half-penny more for meat—that it is better to leave them without horses than rashly to give a price which a Parliamentary Committee may think at some future time to be excessive. If you are going to inspire with this species of timidity those who have to act in times of crisis in our national life, you will not only paralyse the War Office while engaged in great operations, but you will throw on our successors or the successors of the right hon. Gentleman a burden which they may be ill fitted to sustain, and which in moments of great national need may perhaps prove of the utmost injury to the nation. I ask the House, therefore, not to abandon an inquiry, not to let the ill-doer go free, not to let fraud go unpunished, but not in the meanwhile to clog the Departmental wheels at a moment of great national difficulty in a manner which would not only inflict a great injury on the present generation and the existing Government, but the consequences of which would be felt throughout a long and indefinite period of time.
§ Question put.
§ House divided:—Ayes, 191; Noes, 346. (Division List No. 81.)443
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Haldane, Richard Burdon||Partington, Oswald|
|Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud||Hammond, John||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Ambrose, Robert||Harcourt Rt. Hon. Sir William||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Asher, Alexander||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil||Perks, Robert William|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Pickard Benjamin|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Harwood, George||Price, Robert John|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Hayden, John Patrick||Priestley, Arthur|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||Rea, Russell|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Helme, Normal Watson||Reddy, M.|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E.)||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries)|
|Bell, Richard||Holland, William Henry||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Black, Alexander William||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Rigg, Richard|
|Blake, Edward||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Boland, John||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Joicey, Sir James||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Brand, Hon. Arthur G.||Jones, David Brynm'r (Swansea||Roche, John|
|Brigg, John||Jones, William (C'rnarvonshire||Runciman, Walter|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Jordan, Jeremiah|
|Brown, George M. (Edinburgh||Kearley, Hudson E.||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Kinloch, Sir John George Smyth||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)|
|Burns, John||Labouchere, Henry||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Lambert, George||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Caine, William Sproston||Langley, Batty||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Caldwell, James||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Cameron, Robert||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Levy, Maurice||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R (Northants|
|Campbell Bannerman, Sir H.||Lewis, John Herbert||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Lloyd-George, David||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Logan, John William||Sullivan, Donal|
|Cawley, Frederick||Lough, Thomas|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lundon, W.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Thomas, Alf red (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Thomas, David Alfred (Mertliyr|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Thomas, F. Freeman-(Hastings|
|Crean, Eugene||M'Cann, James||Thomas, J A (Glamorgan, Gower|
|Cremer, William Randal||M'Crae, George||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)|
|Cullinan, J.||M'Govern, T.||Tomkinson, James|
|M'Kenna, Reginald||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Dalziel, James Henry||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||M'Laren, Charles Benjamin||Ure, Alexander|
|Delany, William||Mansfield, Horace Rendall|
|Dewar, John A. (Inveraess-sh.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Wallace, Robert|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Mooney, John J.||Walton, John Lawson (Leeds, S.|
|Dillon, John||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Morley, Charles (Breconshire)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Doogan, P. C.||Morley, Rt. Hn. John (Montrose||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Moss, Samuel||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Dunn, Sir William||Moulton, John Fletcher||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Murphy, John||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Edwards, Frank||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)|
|Elibank, Master of||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Emmott, Alfred||Newnes, Sir George||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Nolan, Col. John P.(Galway, N.||Wilson, Fred. W.(Norfolk, Mid.|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Wilson, Henry J.(York, W. R.)|
|Fen wick, Charles||Norman, Henry||Woodhouse, Sir J T (Hudderef'd|
|Ferguson, B. C. Munro (Leith||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Ffrench, Peter||Young, Samuel|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||O'Brien, Kend'l (Tipperary Mid|
|Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Mr. Herbert Gladstone and Mr. M'Arthur.|
|O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
|Gilhooly, James||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)|
|Grant, Corrie||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N,|
|Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||O'Mara, James|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G (Middx|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Cranborne, Viscount||Hamilton, Marq of (L'nd'nderry|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Cripps, Charles Alfred||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.|
|Aird, Sir John||Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Hardy, Laurence (K'nt, Ashford|
|Allhusen, Augustus H'nry Eden||Crossley, Sir Savile||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Harris, Frederick Leverton|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Cust, Henry John C.||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.|
|Ark wright, John Stanhope||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Hay, Hon. Claude George|
|Arrol, Sir William||Davenport, William Bromley||Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Davies, Sir Horatio D (Chatham||Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.)|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Denny, Colonel||Heaton, John Henniker|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Dewar, T. R. (T'r H' mlets, S. Geo.||Helder, Augustus|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Henderson, Alexander|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Dickson, Charles Scott||Higginbottom, S. W.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Hoare, Sir Samuel|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cockfield||Hobhouse, Henry (Somerset, E.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A J.(Manch'r||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Hogg, Lindsay|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fr'd Dixon||Hope, J. F.(Sheffield, Brightside|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn Ger'ld W (Leeds||Dorington, Sir John Edward||Hornby, Sir William Henry|
|Balfour, Kenneth R (Christch.||Doughty, George||Homer, Frederick William|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry|
|Banes, Major George Edward||Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Hoult, Joseph|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor)||Duke, Henry Edward||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Howard, John (Kent, Faversh'm|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart||Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham)|
|Beach, Rt Hn Sir Michael Hicks||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Hudson, George Bickersteth|
|Bignold, Arthur||Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.)||Hughes, Colonel Edwin|
|Bigwood, James||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Jackson, Rt. Hon. Wm. Lawies|
|Bill, Charles||Fergusson, Rt. Hn Sir J. (Manc'r||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick|
|Bond, Edward||Finch, George H.||Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Johnston, William (Belfast)|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)|
|Bousfield, William Robert||Fisher, William Hayes||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.|
|Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose-||Kenyon, James (Lancs., Bury)|
|Brassey, Albert||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop.|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Keswick, William|
|Brookfield, Colonel Montagu||Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Knowles, Lees|
|Brown Alexander H. (Shropsh.||Flower, Ernest||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.|
|Brymer, William Ernest||Forster, Henry William||Law, Andrew Bonar|
|Bull, William James||Foster, Philip S (Warwick, S. W.||Lawrence, Joseph (Monmouth)|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Galloway, William Johnson||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Gardner, Ernest||Lawson, John Grant|
|Butcher, John George||Garfit, William||Lee, Arthur H.(Hants., Fareh'm|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J A (Glasgow||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H (Citv of Lond.||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)|
|Carlile, William Walter||Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans)||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Gordon, Hn. J. E.(Elgin & Nairn||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lanes.)||Gordon, Maj Evans-(T'rH'ml'ts||Llewellyn, Evan Henry|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Gore, Hn G. R. C. Ormsby-(Salop||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-(Line.)||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Graham, Henry Robert||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Lowe, Francis William|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Green, Walford D. (W'dn'sbury||Lowther, C. (Cumb. Eskdale)|
|Chapman, Edward||Greene, Sir E W (B'ry S Edm'nds||Lowther, Rt. Hon. James (Kent)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs.)||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)|
|Clare, Octavins Leigh||Grenfell, William Henry||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Gretton, John||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Macartney, Rt. Hn. W G Ellison|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Groves, James Grimble||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Collings, Rt. Hon Jesse||Gunter, Sir Robert||MacIver, David (Liverpool)|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Guthrie, Walter Murray||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H Athelo||Hain, Edward||M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Hall, Edward Marshall||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh W|
|Corbett, A Cameron (Glasgow||Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hambro, Charles Eric||Majendie James A. H.|
|Manners, Lord Cecil||Reid, James (Greenock)||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Martin, Richard Biddulph||Remnant, James Farquharson||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H E (Wigt'n||Renshaw, Charles Bine||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G (Oxf'd Univ.|
|Maxwell, W. J. H (Dumfriessh.||Renwick, George||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Melville, Beresford Valentine||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Staly bridge)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Green||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Middlemore, Jno. Throgmorton||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Milvain, Thomas||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Mitchell, William||Robinson, Brooke||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.)||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Ropner, Colonel Robert||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Morgan, David, J. (Walth'rastow||Round, James||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Morrell, George Herbert||Royds, Clement Molyneux||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Morton, Arthur H. A (Deptford)||Russell, T. W.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Mount, William Arthur||Rutherford, John||Webb, Colonel William George|
|Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-||Welby, Lt.-Cl. A. C. E.(Taunton|
|Muntz, Philip A.||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.)|
|Murray, Rt Hn A Grabam (Bute||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Murray, Charles J. (Coventry||Sandys Lieut.-Col. Thos. Myles||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Whiteley, H (Ashton-und-Lyne|
|Myers, William Henry||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Nicholson, William Graham||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)||Williams, Colonel R. Dorset)|
|Nicol, Donald Ninian||Seely, Maj. J. E. B (Isle of Wight||Williams, Rt Hn J Pow'll-(Birm.|
|O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Seton-Karr, Henry||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Parker, Gilbert||Simeon, Sir Barrington||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Parkes, Ebenezer||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Peel, Hn. Wm. Robt. Wellesley||Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Wilson, J. W.(Worcestersh. N.)|
|Pemberton, John S. G.||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Penn, John||Simth, H C (North'mb, Tyneside||Wode house, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Percy, Earl||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.)||Worsley? Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Plummer, Walter R.||Spear, John Ward||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Pretyman, Ernest George||Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk)||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset|
|Purvis, Robert||Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)|
|Pym, C. Guy||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M 'Taggart||TELLERS FOR THE NOES— Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Randles, John S.||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Rankin, Sir James||Stock, James Henry|
|Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Ratcliff, R. F.||Stroyan, John|
|Rattigan, Sir William Henry||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|