§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment [23rd February] to Main Question [17th February], "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
§ " Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Gretton.)
Which Amendment was—
At the end of the Question, to add the words, 'but we humbly regret that the organisation of the land forces is unsuited to the needs of the Empire, and that no proportionate gain in strength and efficiency has resulted from the recent increases in military expenditure.'"—(Mr Beckett.)
Question again proposed, "That those words be there added.
§ (2.40.) MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL (Oldham)
said that two years since, upon an unlucky Friday, the right hon. Gentle man the Secretary for War came down to the House of Commons to move his now famous Army Scheme in what was, by general consent, thought to beavery admirable speech. The right hon. Gentleman, if he might say so without presumption, always made a very good speech, and their experience the preceding night in no way fell short of what they were led to believe was his accustomed Parliamentary skill But he had ever noticed that the right hon. Gentleman always made a very good 683 speech when he was in a very difficult position: the more there was to be said against the cause he was defending the better the speech he made. It would be admitted by all sections of the House that the speech he delivered on the previous day was one of the best he had ever delivered in the whole of his Parliamentary career. But there was one thing about the speech which was a fault—the right hon. Gentleman proved too much. After all, they who had friends in the Army heard what the soldiers said about the Army Corps Scheme; and they heard, too, what the officers said about the length of their commands. Was all that a mere delusion? Were all the statements in the newspapers, written with some responsibility—were the statements made by "uninstructed" persons in the country-mere delusions? Had they at that moment got what the right hon. Gentleman seemed to prove on the previous day—three real live efficient Army Corps, and were they to have in another six weeks time three more?
Therighthon. Gentleman established his case in the face of much incredulity the preceding day by means of two statements which were variously put before the House. The first was the White Paper about Army Corps, which was issued in the morning, and the second was the statement in the debate about recruiting and about the general strength of the Army. He wanted to know what was the relation between the two statements. What relationship was there between the immense number of men the right hon. Gentleman said he had got and the skeletons which were produced on the White Paper? That he believed to be a valuable and useful line of inquiry. The White Paper gave a very rosy and glowing account of the Army Corps system. To judge by it one would think that the whole work had already been achieved, and that there was nothing more to do. But, unfortunately, not ten days before the White Paper was distributed another publication from the War Office came out by authority, and in regard to it he might observe that it was not produced with reference to any particular debate in the House of Commons. He alluded to the Army List, which hon. Gentlemen were, no doubt, aware contained the 684 names and disposition of every battalion and every battery in the British Army. It was most carefully compiled and was kept up-to-date. He observed a very great discrepancy between the White Paper and the Army List. The latter bore the date 9th February; the former was issued on 22nd February. According to the White Paper out of twenty-five battalions the First Army Corps ought to have already possessed twenty-four, but when they looked in the Army List they found that it actually had only twelve battalions in the Aldershot command. Admitted that four more were out of the command there still remained a discrepancy of eight battalions. Had these arrived at Aldershot between the dates of the publication of the Army Lid and the issue of the White Paper? Really the Army Lid was very instructive, for he found further that although the First Army Corps had twenty-four battalions, the 1st Division had only one brigade, and the 3rd Division, which should have two brigades, had none at all. General Bruce Hamilton was still on leave, as he had been for more than four months, the time which had elapsed since he was appointed to the command of the 3rd Division of the First Army Corps.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BEODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
He has not taken up his command; he is still on half pay, and he will not take up the command until the troops are there.
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL said the right hon. Gentleman's interruption proved his point. He was perfectly well aware that General Bruce Hamilton had been appointed, but not gazetted. He was appointed and his name appeared in the Army Lid; but why had he not been gazetted? Because we had an institution in this country, which many people thought ought to be done away with—the Treasury, which in its nasty crabbed Treasury way would not pay for an officer unless it could be shown that he was in real military employment. But to continue his investigation into the Army List. The 4th Division of the Second Army Corps—on Salisbury Plain—was commanded by Sir Charles Knox, who had a complete staff. He ought to have also two brigades of infantry. But he had no infantry at all.685
§ According to the Army List and the White Paper, in the Second Army Corps there were nineteen out of the twenty-four battalions which were needed, so that it seemed rather unfortunate that Sir Charles should not have one out of the eight which he required. In drawing the attention of the House of Commons to these very curious and remarkable discrepancies he did not want to prove too much. He did not suggest for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman had been disingenuous in his conduct towards the House, but he did think he had gone up to the limit of Parliamentary tactics in presenting his case. He did not suggest for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman had not got the men which he said he had, but what he did suggest was that when they compared the two statements—and perhaps the Press, who were watching this matter, would find it interesting to publish them side by side—they would see that it was as easy as possible for the War Office, with its great power of manipulating the very complicated figures, to present a very different complexion on almost exactly the same set of facts. That was all he wanted to establish. He must give one more instance of that power of manipulation—that power of presenting a case. The facts, as they knew, were most complicated; an enormous number of factors had to be taken into consideration, and at every stage of the calculation the balance of advantage was given to the side on which it was desired to establish a principle, so that at the end of the calculation they had a very imposing array. When the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Army Scheme two years ago he was very anxious to show the large addition it made to the Regular Army. He said that for an inconceivably small sum they were adding no fewer than 11,500 men to the Regular forces. Yesterday, however, he asked: "Why complain of the Army Scheme as a source of expenditure: it only adds 5,000 men to the Regular Army." He could quite believe both statements were perfectly accurate and true; he was only endeavouring to establish that although the comedy was always the same it made a great deal of difference whether they looked at it through the right or wrong end of the opera glass.686
§ No one doubted, as far as he knew, that the British Army still existed; no one doubted that there were a considerable number of persons who were on its muster rolls, as well as upon its pay lists, and no one doubted that, with unlimited time and money, it was possible to produce most things in England—even the six Army Corps of the right hon. Gentleman. But he had always felt that the attempt to impose on the Army that great organisation at a time when it was very much exhausted by the strain and drain of the South African War, and at a time when the War Office was very much over-pressed by carrying on the war, would result in wide-spread disorganisation. It might very often happen that stragglers, spread far and wide over a country as fugitives on the line of the retreat, made in their aggregate very nearly as great an array as that which marched out in the morning, but their fighting power was very different. How could the disorganisation produced in the Army by the unwise policy of the last two years be better illustrated than by the fact that, though recruiting had never been so good, though the barracks were full, though the Army was 12,000 above strength, though the cavalry were considerably above their strength, though, in fact, the right hon. Gentleman had everything he had asked for and wished for, yet he had not yet produced one single field Division? At that moment he could not count on more than nine brigades properly formed out of twenty-three promised. Bearing in mind the extreme flexibility of the figures when once they got into the hands of the War Office, and the most ingenuous methods of the Department, he was bound to say that he could not quite accept the rosy picture of the recruiting for the Army drawn by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Yesterday morning he received a letter from an officer commanding one of the largest depots in the country, who had had ample opportunity of seeing the class of recruits we were getting. [Cries of "Name."] No, he would not disclose the name because he understood that efforts had been made to bring home to people the fact that statements that leaked out were likely to lead to inquiries, and so forth. But his friend wrote that the greatest number of the men enlisting were unskilled workmen, and that their 687 main reasons for joining the Army were hunger, short time employment, and poor wages; he added that he never came across a case in which a recruit had any idea how much pay he would receive, they would generally say they had been earning from 20s. to 30s. a week, and they seemed to think that be would regulate the amount they were to receive. His hon. friend the Member for Plymouth on the preceding night made a very clear and exhaustive examination of the last Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting. Why had they not that Report for this year before them? He hoped they would see it before they had another discussion, for then the House could see whether the evil features of the previous Report had disappeared. The right hon. Gentleman had been rather severe on "the uninstructed persons" who during the recess were liable to make statements which perhaps were not precisely accurate Among those ''uninstructed persons" the right hon. Gentleman no doubt included Lord Hardwicke, the Under Secretary for War, who on Friday said the Army Corps were largely upon paper. Business men were all very well in politics, but when they got to the War Office they were apt, at the beginning of their official careers at any rate, to let the cat out of the bag. Six weeks ago one "uninstructed person'' said that Lord Grenfell would have no Army Corps to command; that there was only himself, although perhaps he was a host in himself, or something of that sort. That statement was perfectly true today, and it would remain true, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, until midnight on 31st March. He should look forward with interest to that date, because it would witness a most interesting event—the birth of an Army Corps. Some people thought that when General Grenfell arrived at Colchester at the head of a large staff he would be welcomed by the Mayor and Corporation, and that on every road converging on the town long lines of horsemen and artillery would be marching. There were different ideas as to what would happen; but what really would happen would be a little disappointing to those who would be looking for spectacular 688 effect. He would point out to the right hon. Gentleman, who perhaps had not given them the consideration they deserved, that it was on the Volunteers he would have to rely to form part of his Army Corps. Every Volunteer would on that occasion be following his ordinary avocation in the usual manner. The Militia would be called out for training at the ordinary time, and the Household Cavalry Brigades and the Guards Brigades would remain to brighten and adorn the streets of London. What would happen would be this. The right hon. Gentleman would wake up in the morning, and lot there would be only three Army Corps, but when he came home in the evening he would have established the fourth Army Corps by a mental process and a scratch of the pen. The scattered battalions, which might be called anything else as well as an Army Corps, would become the Fourth Army Corps, and General Grenfell with his staff, costing *10,000 a year, would be there to command them. It was very easy to make Army Corps like that. Indeed he was astonished at the moderation of the right hon. Gentleman. A hundred battalions were the infantry not of one Army Corps, but of four. Why should he stop at one when he could just as easily make four, and they would be equally effective. If the Army Corps Scheme had been introduced to the House frankly as a convenient and innocent measure of decentralisation it might not have been attacked, but everyone knew that it was not introduced as that, or anything like it. It was introduced with a flourish of trumpets. It was introduced as the means by which England was to become a great military nation, and as the means by which the taxpayer should be cajoled into paying in time of peace all the sums of money drawn from him to keep up the Army during a period of war. Hon. Members knew it for themselves; but he ventured to think there was hardly a man in the country who took the slightest interest in public affairs who did not believe that for an increased expenditure, which the right hon. Gentleman thoroughly explained, the country was actually going to have a great, brand new, powerful, and effective weapon, far more powerful than had 689 ever been heard of or seen before. When he saw operations of that kind which were to be achieved in a few weeks he felt he was perfectly justified in taking every opportunity of describing such a proceeding as a humbug and a sham; and, with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, against whom he had not the slightest personal feeling, and to the Government, he would certainly take the opportunity of repeating those statements on every convenient occasion that might arise. He would ask hon. Members to cast their minds back to a period of two years ago when the right hon. Gentleman made his speech introducing his scheme. The right hon. Gentleman made some fine promises in that speech, by which he thought every one who heard them was carried away. He said he would keep a Regular Army at home of 150,000 men, a Reserve of 90,000, a Militia of 150,000, a Militia Reserve of 50,000, Yeomanry 35,000 strong, and 250,000 Volunteers, allowing for some reduction under the more stringent conditions of service. The net addition, said the right hon. Gentleman in conclusion, under this scheme would therefore be 126,500 men. That was the right end of the opera glass, but last night that addition became a matter of 5,000 men.
§ MR WINSTON CHURCHILL said that whether Regulars were included in the scheme or not made a very great difference in the presentation of the figures. It was possible to show all those figures of the War Office and produce a different effect according to the desired intention. The net addition was to be 126,500 men and even allowing *50 000 a year for the staffs of the new Army Corps it was to be achieved by an expenditure of a little under *2,000,000 a year. He would ask the House to let him examine that statement of the right hon. Gentleman's seriatim, in order to see how far they had progressed. The right hon. Gentleman promised 11,500 Regulars. He now said that they had 5,000. He promised an organisation which would give twenty-three brigades of Regular infantry, and to each of the last three Army Corps one Regular Division. Now 690 he noticed in the White Paper which had been issued that the last of the six Army Corps, instead of having a Regular division dwindled down to two battalions. Instead of twenty-three brigades they had, according to the Army List, only nine. The right hon. Gentleman promised 90,000 Reserve, and by an arrangement last year that was to be increased to 150,000 in the near future. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman said the number was 60,000, but during the recess, in reply to his hon. friend, he estimated the number at 51,000. He did not blame the right hon. Gentleman because his Reserve was depleted after a great war, but the depletion of the Reserve was a fact they had got to reckon with, for until the Reserve was filled up he did not see how they would mobilise the Army for war. The right hon. Gentleman promised 150,000 Militia—he was speaking in round figures—and in order to obtain them he offered an extra bounty of *3 a year. Like most inducements which were conceived in a hurry, that inducement appeared to have been ill-considered, for the actual strength of the Militia had not appreciably increased. It had not increased by more than 1,000 or 2,000 since the bounty was given. But in the meantime there was a permanent charge of *300,000 a year. When they spoke in the Amendment of no proportionate gain as compared with the cost, he thought hon. Members who were associated with it, had a right to point to that one figure as alone proving emphatically all they asserted. The right hon. Gentleman promised a Militia Reserve of 50,000. There was a Militia Reserve of 30,000; he was glad it had been done away with, and that only 10,000 of that Reserve now remained. For the new Reserve an appropriation had been taken in the Votes for the year, for, he thought, *150,000, but, so far as he understood, there was not a man on that Reserve at all. He was comparing the inducements set before the House by the right hon. Gentleman with what they had actually got. The light hon. Gentleman promised 35,000 Yeomanry, who were to be part of the 126,500 men he would provide for the Army. He welcomed what the right hon. Gentleman had done for the Yeomanry. He thought it was the best part of his scheme, but out of 35,000 men—the right hon. Gentleman would correct 691 him if he were wrong—he understood that there wore only 17,000.
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL said he agreed. He did not expect the whole of the scheme to be carried out in a day. That would be absurd to expect. There were two items in the right hon. Gentleman's proposals in which he had succeeded thoroughly and absolutely, and in which the expectations the right hon. Gentleman himself entertained were surpassed. When the right hon. Gentleman promised 250,000 Volunteers there wore 288,000 in existence, and according to the information he gave last night he bad not yet quite achieved the figure which he had hoped for, but he himself had every reason to believe that in the very near future the right hon. Gentleman would have realised all that he expected in regard to the Volunteers. The other matter in which he had realised his expectations was in regard to expenditure. All he had described was to be produced for a little under *2,000,000 a year over and above what was before asked for. Then next year the right hon. Gentleman asked for an increase of pay which meant another *2,000,000 a year—a permanent continuous charge. He would not say anything about what that increase of pay meant to India; but he wondered hon. Members interested in India did not say something about it. This year he apprehended—indeed the White Paper, which told them little else that was worth knowing, indicated it as distinctly probable—that there would be another barracks loan to house the troops, although he understood that they had houses in other parts of the country in which they now resided. Of course, if the light hon. Gentleman got his troops he had a right to ask Parliament for the barracks to house them, but he could not subtract the cost of the barracks from the total cost of the scheme; and if the right hon. Gentleman estimated the cost of his scheme without including the barracks necessary, he was not quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman gave to the House the impression he no doubt wished to convey. Let the House judge the scheme by its results.
§ No doubt the right hon. Gentleman had tremendous difficulties. Every one who knew even as little as he himself 692 did about Army administration and the War Office would sympathise with the extreme difficulties with which the right hon. Gentleman was confronted. Therefore, he to some extent sympathised with the defence of the right hon. Gentleman yesterday. What was that defence. It amounted to this: "It is not my fault; all this expenditure is not due to my Army Scheme at all, but to that wicked Lord Lansdowne and to the smooth, persuasive manner of the present Chief Secretary." All the right hon. Gentleman did was to transform their handiwork into something more closely resembling his conception of what an Army ought to be. He had superadded to it in addition and gloried in the result. The right hon. Gentleman had boasted in the House of what he had done for the Army; he had boasted at the Colonial Conference that the expenditure on the Army had been raised by *9,000,000 a year, and that being so, he (Mr. Churchill) felt that it was the right hon. Gentleman who must stand up against the growing storm of criticism which was surely coming, and which would rage until this aggravated system of Army reform had been for ever cast aside. It had been said that the House of Commons had assented to this scheme, but he did not think the House of Commons ought to be made the scapegoat in this matter. After all, they were not very well qualified to judge of this scheme, coming as it did from a responsible Minister. He did not see why the House of Commons should have been blamed for accepting the scheme two years ago, when the war was still going on, and when the thing of paramount importance was that the Government should be supported. He did not then rejoice at the scheme. He was glad to say he was the only Conservative Member who had the great and lasting honour to vote against it. Two years had now gone by, and he invited any hon. Gentleman, apart from partisanship, to put the question to himself: Could any one deny that it would have been much better for the Army, the country, and the right hon. Gentleman, if be had only consented to wait until calmer times, when with more deliberation he could have introduced a scheme and applied the lessons actually taught in the war. It was the contention of every hon. Gentleman who agreed with the Amendment yesterday that this, 693 scheme had not yet been achieved in practice; that it was not in fact carried out. He held to that still. He was convinced by the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday that he was not to blame because the facts were not such as could be substantiated. But whether the scheme had failed in practice or not it was an entirely wrong one. It had caused much disturbance, very little reform, and a very large outlay which had not given any appreciable gain in safety. While millions were being spent ungrudgingly in order to make believe this scheme was being carried out, or in order that it might be carried out, a very few thousands were grudged for another very necessary and urgent Army object.
§ One of the most remarkable features of the British Army for a great number of years had been its number of generals. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, whose knowledge of the Army was encyclopaedic would correct him if he were wrong, but he was told that in the British Army there were fewer bayonets and fewer sabres and more generals than in any army in the world except that of Venezuela. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman had tended to make that disproportion more apparent, because if the scheme were carried out there would have to be six Army Corps commanders with complete staffs, eighteen infantry generals with complete staffs, thirty brigadier generals with complete staffs, but there would not be in return the great safeguard that the men would be trained in times of peace by the men who would command them in time of war. The right hon. Gentleman had partly carried that out. He had set up a large number of staffs. He had set up more staffs than tactical units, and we were paying for more staffs than tactical units. We were paying generals of Divisions for commanding brigades, and generals of Army Corps for commanding what, under the old system, were only districts, and we were paying staff's of Army Corps for commanding what hardly amounted to more than a mixed Division. While all this was going on, the Intelligence branch put in a request for a small increased grant, amounting to something like *3,000 a year—they wanted rather less than four officers to look after Asia and little things like that—and, so far as he was advised at present, they had not 694 yet obtained that grant, although the new Army Corps were to cost *60,000, although there were more officers than were necessary to command the same number of troops—whose salaries came to far more than the £3,000 they asked for—yet, nevertheless, this £3,000 had not been granted.
§ Rather more than three years previously he was present at the battle of Spion Kop, and the fact that had struck him was on what tiny trifles the fortune of battles depended. Had there been, on the morning of the battle of Spion Kop, a few good maps of the country with the troops, they could have taken up a position on Spion Kop as nearly impregnable as the one they did take up was untenable. The hill was held all day at a great sacrifice of life, and had there been a little oil to work the signalling lamp at night, so that communication might be kept up between Sir Charles Warren's headquarters and Colonel Thorneycroft on the hill, that sacrifice might have been taken advantage of and reinforcements sent up. He was very much inrpressed by that. When one heard the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean say, as they had heard yesterday, that although we were allied with Japan, and ran considerable risks through our alliance with Japan, and that the only gain to us might be the assistance of her army, yet, nevertheless, hardly an officer in the British Army could speak Japanese, and none were being sent to learn it or to be about with the Japanese army and learn the conditions of that army. It was excusable to feel some indignation when one contemplated an Administration spending millions on their fads and fancies at home, and grudging a little to save disasters such as those from which the country had suffered in recent times.
§ In order to carry out this scheme every Regular soldier, every single shilling that could be got from Parliament for making soldiers, every battalion, however thin it might be, was necessary. There was no margin of funds for other things of the most necessary kind. Although the price of two battalions would make our Army as good as any army in the world, and the price of one battalion would give the men free tickets to the rifle ranges and find them in ammunition, although it would brush away all the troubles with which Volunteer colonels had been so 695 manfully contending, although the cost of the infantry which had been added in the last few years, 30,000 men, would pay for a brand-new fleet in the North Sea, not a single penny could be spent. When he saw how much the reputation of his right hon. friend was involved in this Army Scheme, and saw on the other side those urgent and vital facts, he could not but think, in spite of his great talents in debate, nevertheless, his usefulness in the position he held must be thought to be considerably circumscribed.
§ The right hon. Gentleman had complained on the previous day of the fact that the critics of his policy had favoured him with most inconsistent advice, and he had said that although the people who attacked the War Office were agreed that whatever the War Office did it was extremely foolish, they were agreed in nothing else. That was not his view. It had, he thought, been the general consensus of opinion—he would not go so far as to say that all who spoke on the Amendment were agreed upon it, but he thought their views converged and combined to enforce the same great principle—and if this view were confirmed in the Division the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman would have to go, and some other scheme would have to be put in its place. They were agreed that of the fund for Imperial defence the Navy must have the largest share, and that if the Navy wanted more the Army must do with less. They did not want a large Regular Army for home defence. They were agreed that they ought to place, for home defence, greater reliance on the Volunteers, Yeomanry and Militia forces, or forces organised there from. There was a consensus of opinion on the complacency with which the dwindling of the Volunteers was being watched by the War Office, without any effort being made to retain the men, or any inducement being held out to them to stay on, and there was a general consensus of opinion that the scheme of the War Office had not been conceived in the public interests. No one was under any obligation to provide an alternative scheme of his own. They contended that if they established their principles the military authorities would be able to form a scheme in accordance with them. It was the duty 696 of the House to establish a principle, the duty of the Cabinet to propound a scheme, and the duty of the military authorities to administer it. The Army in this country, up to 1897 was not a bad Army, nor was the system a bad system. He did not agree with those who suggested that it was altogether rotten and absurd. It was one which stood a good deal of knocking about in theory, and in practice produced the Army of which they had heard in South Africa. Moreover, it cost only £18,000,000 a year. Since then, Army expenditure had been increased by nearly £12,000,000, and he put it to the Prime Minister—he did not ask him to reply, because the answer would probably not be what he wished to receive, but he asked the right hon. Gentleman to answer in his own mind, a tribunal for which he entertained the most sincere respect—did he really contend that they had now an Army as much stronger than the Army of 1897 as £30,000,000 was larger than £18,000,000? The linked battalion system had broken down. On a small scale he believed it to be the best of all systems, but since the foreign garrisons were so much increased the balance between battalions could not be maintained except at ruinous and extravagant cost. This system would have to be modified by force majeure, and in view of the actual facts. South Africa, the grave of many reputations, was also the grave of the linked battalion system.
§ The right hon. Gentleman had taken, as the basis of his scheme a garrison of twelve battalions in South Africa. A trustful and confiding disposition, however amiable, did not always lead to the most successful results in the conduct of the affairs of State. Did anyone believe that in the next three or four years our garrison in South Africa would be measured by twelve battalions? He did not know what reason would be given—perhaps it would be that of local security, or that Africa was a good strategic position from which to bring forces to India, or that it was a fine place in which to train soldiers, or that a large army in Africa might be made a great colonising instrument, or that the Colonial Secretary had expressed an opinion in favour of a large army in697
§ Africa, or some equally good reason—but the House might be perfectly sure that the garrison there would largely exceed the dimensions anticipated by the right hon. Gentleman. That being so, the linked battalion system would have to go. Whether the necessary modification would be obtained by a partial application of the system, or by calling Africa a "home station," or by some system of having two Armies, a one-year Army with a large Reserve for home defence, and a longer service Army for abroad, was a matter of detail with which the House could not properly or adequately deal, but one with which the military staff would not have the slightest difficulty in dealing once they knew exactly the requirements they had to meet. The linked battalion system was going; he could not say he regretted the fact, as it had too often been made a lever to extract from the House of Commons supplies of men which otherwise would never have been voted, and to justify a great many of the increases which had been made under the regimé of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ But the Secretary of State claimed for his scheme two advantages quite apart from the linked battalion system, viz., that it would produce a larger expeditionary force for foreign service and a much stronger Regular Army for home defence. If the scheme were carried out that would undoubtedly be true. But both those provisions were unnecessary. For foreign expeditions one Army Corps was quite enough to fight against savages, but three Army Corps were not enough to fight against Europeans. As to a stronger Regular Army, either we had the command of the sea or we had not. If we had it we required fewer soldiers; if we had it not we wanted more ships. These remarks were doubtless what the right hon. Gentleman would call unimpeachable platitudes, an expression which in politics usually meant precepts to be noted and then set aside. Various reasons had been given to justify the request of the Government for an increase of the expeditionary force. It had been said the increase was necessary because of the recent South African experience. Was there any truth in that? There might have been some reason in increasing the expeditionary force before the war, but where was the reason now? There was obviously much less reason on that 698 account, because it was hoped that South Africa was now permanently outside the region of physical force. As to Canada, no one would contemplate the idea of three Army Corps operating in Canada; the United States were no more prepared immediately to invade Canada than we were prepared immediately to defend her. Was it in regard to India that this increase was demanded? The House were incompetent to deal with questions of strategy; there was no use in their talking about what could or could not be done on the Indian frontier, but they could contrast the views of experts on the subject. Before the South African War, there was a provision of reinforcements for India; he had always understood that, in the first instance, it was about an Army Corps. That provision was established on the opinion and reputation of many distinguished soldiers such as Lord Roberts and Sir Donald Stewart, whose names the Government would not have hesitated to invoke on other occasions. What had occurred to make a largor provision necessary now? It was said to be the lessons of the war. The contrary was the case. South Africa had taught us two things which made our position in regard to India much better than it over was before; the first was the increase in the defensive powers of modern weapons, and the other was the fact, hitherto undemonstrated, that we could count on many more men to go abroad to serve the country in time of emergency than had ever been supposed. Before the South African War, it was not known that the Militia would volunteer practically en masse, although under no statutory obligation, or that the Volunteers would produce a large number of men capable of serving side by side with the finest troops in the Regular Army.
§ There was in existence an idea against which he wished respectfully to warn the House, viz., that if by taking thought we added a cubit to our military stature, we should be able to make war against a great Power easily, cheaply, smoothly, conveniently, without trouble or worry, that the battle would be, won without casualties, and the campaign concluded almost without disaster, and that when the triumph which would speedily attend the operations was won the vanquished would cheer with hardly less enthusiasm than the victors—and Parliament would 699 adjourn for a General Election. The real truth was, that a war with a great Power, whatever its issue, would end in broken hearts and straitened purses; hunger would be in our streets, and ruin in our market-places; and when all was over, our most formidable commercial rivals would be found entrenched in all our old vantage grounds. England, through the character of her people—who did not mind fighting, but detested drill—necessarily had very largely to depend, and her insular position made it possible for her so to do, in great crises, on an army of emergency.
§ There were two kinds of success—initial and ultimate. Both were very desirable, and should occupy the attention of those who had the care of public affairs; but what he would most earnestly press on the notice of our statesmen was, that they should not risk the certainty of ultimate success in order to gain triumphs at the beginning. The certainty of ultimate success required the power of finally mobilising and bringing into the field the whole of the immense resources of the State. By only one agency in the world could that be assured. He did not defend unpreparedness, but, with a supreme Navy, unpreparedness could be redeemed; without it, all preparation, however careful, painstaking, or ingenious, could not be of any avail. The present tremendous Army expenditure, and the demand for men, and the demand on Parliamentary time and public attention now being made by the Army, undoubtedly challenged in a very serious manner our naval supremacy. There was a time when such an Amendment as that under discussion would have been commended to the House from considerations of correct and thrifty finance, or of international goodwill; they might have been told that a reduction of armaments left more money to fructify in the pockets of the people, or to minister to reforms that were urgently needed. A strong Volunteer citizen Army, however satisfactory to defend the soil on which it lived, was, after all, a cumbrous weapon with which to attack the land of others. But a strong British Navy was undoubtedly one of the greatest of all ultimate factors in maintaining the peace. Something, too, might have been said about our 700 living on an island, and consequently not having the same dangers as continental countries, and therefore having devolved upon us a greater responsibility, a higher moral duty, to do something to stop this mad, cut-throat race of armaments. Those days were gone, and those arguments belonged to the past or the future; they were not the arguments upon which his hon. friend's Amendment claimed support. They based their case upon material grounds, and upon material grounds alone. They asked their case to be judged only by the standards of physical force. They claimed to have proved that the present employment of public money upon the Army was in its character wasteful and excessive, and in its results did not produce a proportionate return in fighting power. They held that large reductions and economy were possible in the Army, both in money and in men upon the regular establishment. As for the men, it seemed to be the opinion of the House that quality should be studied rather than quantity, and that what could be saved from the Regular Army could be better devoted to strengthening either the Volunteer forces or the Navy. This Amendment was intended, by the most deliberate means, to bring home and force, in the first place, on the attention of the Prime Minister, a matter of urgent and vital public importance, which, despite what had been said in this debate, unless it was lifted by his exertions from the condition of confusion, both of thought and action, in which it now lay, could not fail seriously to injure the reputation of His Majesty's Government.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, Chelmsford)
said that a good deal of water had run under the bridges during the last eighteen months, during which time he did not think the War Office had done so badly. He deprecated the somewhat flamboyant speeches which had echoed in that House, and which had been promulgated in the papers. Those speeches had been most brilliant, and he wished that he could have made such speeches himself in reference to swine fever. He did not, however, think that those speeches would do much good in the direction of reforming the War Office. Perhaps the House would pardon him if he gave one or two arguments showing why he thought this Amendment was 701 inopportune and not required at the present moment. He wished to call attention to the Militia force, for which nobody used to care a brass farthing, and which was now a sort of Cinderella to the Army. Hon. Members had called upon the War Office to abolish the Militia Reserve, and the War Office had not only done this but they were creating a real Reserve of Militia. For that he thought the War Office deserved praise. With regard to the treatment of the Royal Garrison regiment, a change in the strategical localisation of the Army had been effected, and they had found a way by which old soldiers might still remain with the Colours. With regard to recruiting, this had always been the bugbear of every Secretary of State for War, but the War Office during the last eighteen months had done a good deal towards solving the question of recruiting. Barracks in a good sanitary condition had been built all over the country, the pay of the soldiers had been raised and the terms of enlistment reduced, and that was the only way to get recruits. A great deal had been done for the private soldier, who had been better clothed, and fed, and allowed to go out in plain clothes; in fact, he had been treated more like a man than he had ever been before. In this respect he wished to produce the testimony of another authority besides the Secretary of State for War, namely, that of a distinguished soldier, General Sir William Gatacre, who said that in his district they were getting so many Army recruits that he did not know what to do with them. If the Secretary of State for War had done anything to solve the tremendous question of recruiting, then at least he deserved the thanks, and not the censure, of the House.
The term "Army Corps" did not smell very sweet after Mr. Gathorne Hardy's experiment years ago. He got eight Army Corps together on paper, and they were afterwards laughed out of existence. He could not say whether Army Corps were suited for this country or not, he was an agnostic on that question. All he had to say was that the right him. Gentleman's scheme held the held and nothing else had been suggested. The hon. Member for Whitby said he did know of a scheme, but nothing would induce him to divulge it to the House.
702 although he said that under certain circumstances he would reveal it to the Secretary of State for War. He did not see how anyone could get together six Army Corps in eighteen months. How could they get them with 40,000 of the troops in South Africa, and the rest of the Army disorganised and all to pieces, as it was now at home. They would have to wait till these Army Corps were matured, and, in his opinion, he did not think they would have to wait very long. The question of the general staff had been alluded to in connection with the National Committee of Defence. He had been told that there was a Service Members Committee, and they formulated a resolution last session which they intended to press as an Amendment to the Address calling upon the Government to take steps to see if this Committee was to be a sort of nucleus to the general staff. The Prime Minister, however, at Liverpool, spiked their guns and practically moved their Amendment himself, and now he understood they were to have something of this kind which would be made a nucleus of the grand general staff The want of such a staff accounted for all their faults in the Crimean War and during the South African campaign, and he now understood that the War Office had accepted the proposal of the first Lord of the Treasury to form such a general staff. It was suggested by Lord Hartington's Committee of 1888 that some such general staff should be formed. It was not supported on the ground that a general in the field of action would be able to know what to do without any general staff at all. Shortly after that Lord Rosebery was Prime Minister of this country. Lord Rosebery, the apostle of efficiency, tried to run the British Army on the cheap by allowing it to get short of powder. He would, with the greatest pleasure and alacrity, vote against the Amendment. He congratulated the Secretary of State for War on sticking to his guns.
SIR H. CAMPBELL BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
Two years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman introduced the scheme of so-called Army Reform of which we have heard so much today, I felt it my duty to move an Amendment in 703 condemnation of it, in almost the same terms as the Amendment which has now been moved to the Address, and, therefore, there can be no doubt as to the course I shall take in cordially supporting that Amendment. I ventured to say then in anticipation, what has now become apparently the deliberate opinion of a great number of hon. and gallant Members who, on that occasion, voted against me. Now, Sir, neither then nor now have I, and those who voted with me in the same Lobby, any Party taint whatever in our attitude. I have always endeavoured, through the many years in which I have been more or less connected with this Army question, to keep the subject of the Army, and of the public service generally, out of the arena of Party politics altogether, and I hope that that will not be departed from on this occasion. It is greatly to be regretted that to-day a technical interpretation of this Amendment does give that colour to it to a certain extent. It is, of course, as we all know, the theory that every Amendment to the Address must be resisted by the Government, and that, whatever be the circumstances of that Amendment, if it is accepted, that fact is regarded as being as fatal to the position of the Government as if a vote of censure had been passed on them.
In passing, may I express the hope that we may find a way of getting rid of this restraint on our debates. Of recent years such inroads have been made on the opportunities of private Members bringing forward subjects of this kind, that they are driven in a heap, as it were, on to this debate on the Address, and, amid all this, we are always told, when we complain of not having sufficient opportunity, that the Address is open to us. But it is most desirable, surely, to get rid of the incubus which vitiates our debates and prevents the expression of the real genuine opinion of the House. That however, by the way. We ought to discard if we can, not political bias only, but also those prejudices and prepossessions which I am afraid beset these military questions almost more than any other. The question is so vital and so important that we ought to approach it with an open mind. I do not say for a moment, in speaking on this subject, that people should be 704 ready to forget or to leave behind them their fixed opinions, if these opinions are based on wide views and a full knowledge of the facts; and also I would admit that with those fixed opinions we ought always to keep ourselves in active consciousness of the fact that as time goes on the circumstances upon which those opinions were formed may materially change. But, as I think all of us must know from our own experience, there are many men, military and civilian alike, who are swayed in these matters by prejudices and by partial knowledge. You may have a most distinguished officer who has served through a long career with the greatest credit, and who has had every opportunity of informing himself of military facts, and yet who has served during the whole of that time in such circumstances that he has not been induced to take a broad view of questions—such a question for' example, as Army organisation. I take, for instance, the case of an officer who has served a long life as a regimental officer. He may have excellently discharged all his duties, and yet may never have been able to look far beyond the efficiency of his own regiment and the necessities of his own duties, and may never have taken the wide view of the general situation which is necessary. Another distinguished officer may have served abroad all his days, and he may remain at the end of his service in a large degree ignorant of those difficulties, those impediments, those delicate influences which have to be taken into account in. everything which affects the recruiting and the administration of the Army. Well, I should hope that in this debate at all events we shall all of us endeavour, whether administrators, creators, or critics, to keep an open mind.
The right hon. Gentleman took exception to something I said the other day of his scheme having been a panic scheme, and justified his action by stating that it was called for by the general sentiment of the House and the country. I quite agree with him that at that time there was a considerable military fever and a great deal of alarm as to our position. It is a satisfaction to me to remember that I raised my humble voice in deprecation of any such panic. It no doubt existed, and I raised my voice against it for two reasons—firstly, the action taken in a panic is 705 seldom soundly considered and permanently successful action; and in the second place, that panic or fever might be used in order to guide us, and drive the people of this country into a conception of this as a military nation—as a nation dependent upon military power—whereas I hold that we shall go very far astray indeed in our policy in other matters besides military administration if we forget for a moment that this Empire is not a military empire, but an Empire cemented and maintained by trade and commerce, and amity and friendship amongst the different elements which compose it.
As to this particular proposal, I ventured to say, as the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has said, that we ought to wait. The right hon. Gentleman's hands were then presumably full with the war, and he ought to have waited until the lessons of the war, of which we have heard so much, were more fully mastered and seen in their proper perspective, and also until the generals, who were best able to give him advice, had returned from the scene of action. That was the reason why I spoke of the scheme having been a panic scheme. There are two principal divisions in the subject with which we are dealing. First of all, we find fault with this Army Corps scheme, and, in the second place, we wish to direct the attention of the House and the country to the larger question of military expenditure generally.
On these two subjects I will venture to say a few words. I will take the technical matter first. This Army Corps Scheme had the effect, to a large extent, of dazzling the eyes of the people and of soothing the nerves of the country. But the right hon. Gentleman himself, in speaking of it, now says he was not the inventor of it. No. the name was familiar to us. In the late seventies the system of the grouping in units of Army Corps was introduced into the Army, with the effect of greatly increasing the bulk of the Army List, but with no other effect I ever knew. I always regarded with suspicion and dislike that new departure. The only thing that I could see that could be said for it was that which the right hon. Gentleman said yesterday—that it did furnish a standard up to which you might work. But it was open to great misconception, and the 706 right hon. Gentleman has set himself to make these Army Corps real. If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so, he has many good qualities. Among others he is not only intensely patriotic and intensely laborious, but he is also intensely serious, and if I may venture to point to what may be considered a defect in his character—not in his private but his public character—it will be rather surprising to him when I name it, because we are all startled when we see ourselves in the looking-glass. I mean the defect, as it appears to me, is that he has not a sufficient sense of humour. He takes too serious a view of a question. He does not allow for the play of human nature, and having these six Army Corps on paper, he immediately took them seriously and treated them CM pied de la lettre. He treated them as they were never intended to be treated, and that is the cause of all this mistake. That was before his German experience, when he saw, I presume, Army Corps in action. But I think I have traced to its proper source the origin of the mistake which the right hon. Gentleman made.
Now, what is an Army Corps? An Army Corps is a collocation of military units in certain dispositions, under a certain hierarchy of military control. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was not a German institution that he had introduced into this country. I quite agree with him; but it is a continental institution. I am not aware of any other country in the world that has Army Corps on a continental scale except continental nations. It represents a formation which they find by their experience most expedient and convenient for their purpose; but there are two points which distinguish them completely from us. In the first place, they have a conterminous enemy. When they go to war they can arise and march over the frontier as they are; and, therefore, the whole Army Corps having been located in its own district moves to the frontier and passes into the enemy's country unaltered in any respect. The next difference from us is that the whole of Europe, with the exception of a very few parts, is unenclosed country, so that this body of troops with.
707 its particular formation can be moved with the most mathematical accuracy in every direction. There are some districts, no doubt, but not numerous, between Calais and Bucharest, where the country is enclosed, but for the most part it is open country, for the simple reason that the climate does not permit of cattle remaining in the open; they are kept in houses and not like with us, in the fields, which do not need to be enclosed. And, therefore, when the crops are off the ground there is nothing to prevent the march of an Army wherever it chooses to go. With us, where is the Army Corps, qua Army Corps, capable of being used? What was the use of an Army Corps formation in South Africa? Was any part of the campaign in South Africa conducted in the formation of an Army Corps? No, Sir; because it would not have suited the situation, and the result of that consideration is that if we send an Army Corps abroad for any purpose, the first thing we have to do is to break it up and send it to the port of embarkation, and start afresh at the end of the voyage. When we turn to our own country and the question of the defence of this island, we are met with the same thing. There is not a more enclosed island in the world, and the same may be said of the island of Ireland. It is so enclosed in fact, that it is a matter of complaint that the great difficulty with us is that we cannot find room for the training in open country of our troops except in one or two districts. It is on that ground, I suppose, that the suggestion has been made that in future a large force of our troops should be maintained in South Africa. That seems to me to be one of the strangest reasons put forward for that proposal—that there should be abundant opportunity for training. I only hope, with regard to that suggestion, that a great deal of consideration will be given to the proposal before it is adopted. I will mention two circumstances which, I think, are of great weight. The first was mentioned by the Secretary of State last night, when he asked what effect this would have on recruiting in England? When a man joins the Army he does not join it for foreign service, but for a mixed home and foreign service; and if he knew that he would 708 be taken out of the country immediately when he enlisted, or that when he was made fit as a soldier he was to go to South Africa or anywhere else, and then perhaps to be transferred from there to India, and would never, in the whole course of his service, have a chance of being in this country at all, I venture to say that it would have a. most prejudicial effect on the recruiting for the Army. There is another point urged; that South Africa is half way to everywhere—half way to India and to Hong-Kong, and to every place we can imagine where troops would be required. Yes, but the conveyance of troops across the ocean is a matter of transport, and where are the transports to be found in South Africa? Suppose you had 25,000 men in South Africa, and you wanted to use them in India, the first thing you would have to do would be to engage shipping in this country and send transports out to pick the troops up and carry them to India from South Africa. I mention the proposal by the way, because I think that although it has some attractive features in it, it is certainly one which requires most careful consideration.
Now, if the Army Corps system, which the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to create in flesh and blood, is, as I have proved, unsuited for us in time of war, is it suited for us in time of peace? The right hon. Gentleman named a list of improvements that have been recently made in decentralisation of all kinds, of stores and duties. I did not gather that any one of these could not have been effected under the district arrangement we had before—which arrangement had the advantage of being much cheaper than that he has adopted. As to the other advantage put forward—I should have mentioned this when I was speaking of the warlike use of a Corps D'Armce —it was that the men would go into the campaign under the command of the same officers under whom they had been trained, and that every one would find himself, on his right hand and on his left, in company with a neighbour with whom he had been engaged for years. Now, that is inconsistent with the necessary constitution of our Army, where it has always been held that the battalions for home service ought to move about. It would be inconsistent, too, with the comparatively 709 short tenure of staff appointments and the command of regiments. All these arrangements completely militate against the idea of a stereotyped machine of that sort being employed in the way I have referred to. Now, several arguments have been used which show that there are lurking in certain minds fallacies which I would have thought had been disposed of long ago. One hon. Member made light of the Reserve. He asked, "What was the use of this Reserve, because it was put in the first line at the commencement of a campaign, and therefore nothing was left behind? "He cannot but be aware that this is the use made of the Reserve by all the nations of Europe that have a Reserve. As to the system of double battalions, I shall have something to say. The hon. Member for Oldham used a phrase which has become a standard phrase, when he said that the system of double battalions has broken down. Well, to prevent misunderstanding as to the meaning of the Amendment, I must say a word or two on these elementary questions; and [think it is all the more necessary because a generation has arisen which knew not the original controversy, and a great many men who speak intelligently on this subject are not really aware of the rationale of the reasons for the system which existed and which, as the hon. Member for Oldham said, continued down to the year 1897, and did very good service for the defence of the country and the Empire. I take, to begin with, the short service in order to lead up to the other. Does the House bear in mind why this short service was introduced? It was simply because we could not get recruits in this country for long service. That can be proved from the Reports of Royal Commissions over and over again, and from the evidence given before them. It was no strange fancy of the so-called Army reformer, full of fads and fancies of his own. It was the absolute necessity of the time, that unless you took men for short service you could not get recruits for long service—I mean by long service recruits men whom we kept for their whole lives and most of whom died in our hands. If we are to have short service, then arises the difficulty of adjusting this to the duties of foreign garrisons. You must have some means of drafting sufficientment to the units abroad, and in order to accomplish that 710 purpose you must have a certain number of regular soldiers at home. I read in the Press, and I have heard in the course of this debate, observations to the effect that we do not require any Regular troops at all at home. Now, how could your battalions in India be maintained unless you have some troops here? Then, you must have depots; but depots are most extravagant, and a most inefficient form under which you can train men to arms.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The Marine depots are very small things, and you can carry them on, as you used to do, with a limited number of recruits. Besides, the conditions of the Marine service are entirely different from those of the Regular Army. The Marines serve for three years on board ship and one year at home. The men of the Regular Army have to go for seven or eight years to India. There are many ways I could point out in which you could not find any analogy which could help you between the Regular Army depots in England and the depots for the Marines or the old Presidency troops. Therefore, what are you to do? You must have a certain number of them for training purposes. Why not take the benefit of them and make use of them for other purposes? The system of double battalions is no idle dream or spiteful invention of some too active-minded reformer. ft results from the necessities of the case. I confess to the House that I think it ought to have been carried further: that instead of the double battalion arrangement there ought to have been a multi-battalion system, which would have given us greater facilities. Let it be remembered that there was another memory in the minds of men in those days—the memory of the Crimea. In that war there were only certain corps which managed to maintain their efficiency throughout the whole of the war, and those were the multi-battalion corps—the Guards and the Rifle Brigade. That conveyed a great lesson, and was a strong inducement to adopt such a system as that I speak of. The average draft to foreign battalions is 180. The House can see what a hole that makes in the battalion at home; and, therefore, 711 this system never can be popular with the officers of the home battalion, because they are always drilling, and always parting with the men as soon as they become efficient. They never have a decent force to show on parade; and so their prejudices—and I sympathise with them immensely—are against this system, and if they looked at it from the interests of themselves or their battalions they would condemn it. But, on the other hand, if you look to the interests of the Army at large, you would not take that view. It is said that this system has broken down. What do you mean by breaking down? When it was adopted there were to be seventy battalions abroad and seventy battalions at home. But that has never been realised. We have occupied Egypt, and sent troops to different places, preventing the possibility of that balance being maintained. But, as far as the balance has been maintained, the system has worked admirably. I am quite ready to agree that, if you increase your forces abroad inordinately, the confusion becomes so great that you must resort, for the purpose of the battalions abroad, to some modification of the system. Such a change of circumstances compels one to modify the strict opinion one has formed, while retaining it in principle. But it is forgotten by many that this system has worked exceedingly well, and resulted in our sending such a large force to South Africa when the war broke out.
§ MR. BECKETT
What was the state of the battalions at home, described by Lord Wolseley as "squeezed lemons"?
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
That is a phrase which has stood those who attack the system in good stead. But Lord Wolseley was one of the originators of the system, and has always been a defender of it. As the question of Army organisation is condemned in the Amendment, I must disclaim any desire to include in it any general condemnation of the system which I have described. What is more pointed at is the Army Corps system which the right hon. Gentleman introduced two years ago. But now I come to the larger and more comprehensible question—that of Army 712 expenditure. I do not like this practice of comparing the Army with the Navy expenditure. There is constant complaint that the Army has more than the Navy or the Navy more than the Army; that because the Army Estimates are larger in one year than the Navy Estimates, we ought to build one or two more ironclads to redress the balance. That is not the proper way to discuss the question. The proper way to look at this subject is to see that we should not spend a penny on the Navy that is not justified by naval wants, or a penny on the Army that is not justified by Army wants. We all believe that the Navy has the first claim, and that the wants of the Navy ought to be fully and even generously supplied. I do not know whether great additional expenditure is required; but there is always the danger in naval expenditure that the more we do in shipbuilding the more we stimulate other nations to keep pace with us. But I fully endorse the dictum that the Navy has the first claim upon us, and that it ought to be maintained in the fullest efficiency. But the fact we have to face—whether we like it or not—is that the national expenditure is increasing beyond the patience, the endurance, and almost beyond the resources of the people of this country. Why is it that those who approved by their votes the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman two years ago are now attacking it? It is nothing else than the salutary and sobering effect of the income-tax. My right hon. friend the Member for Montrose said that the tax-gatherer was the great schoolmaster, and he has been busy educating all classes in the country. The result is this change of opinion in a great body of the community. It is quite clear that the military expenditure must be reduced, or, at least, checked. But, before going further, I say again what I said last week—that the first thing we have to do is to inquire into the military requirements of the country and determine what, in present circumstances, they are.
The hon. Member for Oldham has said that up to 1897 our Army was a good one and sufficient for our purposes. I have no reason to doubt it. The idea was then that we should never contemplate anything more than an expeditionary force of 70,000 or 80,000 men; and that was more than 713 accomplished with the machinery and material that we had. The question is, What has caused since then an increased demand on the Army? If the Army were strong enough in 1897, why should it need to be stronger now? If the expenditure of £18,000,000 were sufficient in 1897, why should we now require an expenditure of £30,000,000? We want an inquiry by a competent and responsible authority, not only into the general question, but into the particulars of the question, to see precisely what we ought to provide for. I have some hope that this Cabinet Council of Defence may give an opportunity for this sort of inquiry. It ought to be a deliberate and careful inquiry, and I should not object to its being a slow inquiry, if it were adequate. But do not let me be understood as altogether appreciating the merits of the particular arrangements explained to us by the Prime Minister. I am old-fashioned in this matter, and I think it is the constitutional duty of the Executive Government to determine this question. When I read of the Government's chief professional advisers—the Commander-in-Chief, the First Sea Lord, and others being members of the Committee—and not merely having the most ample opportunities for putting their views before the Council—which, of course, is most necessary—I think that a somewhat singular situation is created. These officers have only one responsibility. The Cabinet is responsible financially, as well as administratively, but these officers have only an administrative responsibility.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND. FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
The Council has no administrative responsibility.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
These officers are responsible to their departments and professions for putting forward the claims of their branches of the service, but they have no responsibility for finding the money. That is the difference. I frankly say that if I were a Quartermaster General or a First Sea Lord, and were serving on that Council, I would pile up my demands in order to make myself secure; because it would be no part of my duty to find the money. That would not be done beyond conscience and reason, but it would be the tendency.
714 When the First Lord made his statement to the House, he said with great naiveté that his proposal does not interfere with Cabinet responsibility, because all the decisions of the Council come under review by the Cabinet. Yes, Sir; but the Council are to be the Prime Minister, the Secretary for War, the Lord President, and the Colonial Secretary.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Yes, the First Lord of the Admiralty, but not the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but whoever they are, they are the Prime Minister and his principal colleagues: and who is to tell me that the rest of the Cabinet, who know nothing about the matter, or, at all events, have no special knowledge, are going to override a solemn resolution come to by the Prime Minister? If it has any effect at all it cannot but diminish the responsibility of the Cabinet; and. with all good-will towards a scheme of this sort within certain limits, I cannot go so far as that.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I may not understand the plan—we shall hear more about it, no doubt, by-and-bye, but as far as it has been explained it seems to me gravely open to these objections. I say we should look round and determine what it is we really require for the defence of the Empire, both naval and military. You ought to determine what is needed according to the circumstances—you cannot have finality and then to set about supplying it. Now, the right hon. Gentleman has shown no disposition during the last six or seven years to check the increase of the Army and the expenditure upon it. In seven years the Army has been increased by 54,000 men. I am quite aware of the pressure brought upon the right hon. Gentleman in the Press and in this House more than anywhere. There is nothing he has done that has not been received with cries of approbation and delight. But we must be stern in this matter, and say that he ought not to yield too readily to pressure from Members of the House of Commons. No doubt 715 it is difficult often to resist, but the question now is, as expenditure has increased to such an extent, how can you reduce it? It is never easy to reduce the number of men. I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman is alive to the effect of what is being done. I will give one small instance of the sort of thing I refer to. Last year the right hon. Gentleman introduced a scheme to give the soldier the option after three years of continuing his service and receiving another 6d. a day. I am favourable to short service and to elasticity in the terms of service, and so that commends itself to me. But what I do say is this, that the greatest dead-weight we have in the Army consists of the young men whom we must recruit young, but who are not fit for foreign service or service in India, The age was raised from eighteen to nineteen not many years ago, and it had immediately a most disastrous effect. The men must be taken young, and that causes a great increase of the Army at home. The right hon. Gentleman succeeds in getting his recruits easily, mainly owing to the want of employment. Now, under his new scheme, no man can go to India until he has served three years, and in that way the right hon. Gentleman has increased tin's dead-weight. At the present time a man can go to India if he has served one year and is twenty years of age; but the right hon. Gentleman will not send him there after a year's service if he can come back at the end of three years and claim his discharge. Until he makes the option he must remain at home. This new arrangement does not come into force until next year, but I should like to know whether any proper calculation has been made of the expense.
The first thing to be decided is what the force of the Regular Army ought to be, and the strength of the other forces as well. There must be a mixed force for home defence; and I do not agree with the hon. Member, who contributed an excellent speech in seconding the Amendment, in the somewhat strange argument that to train Volunteers and Militiamen with Regulars, or Regulars with Volunteers and Militiamen, in some mysterious way would spoil them both. I believe that it would improve both. The whole country will insist, and the right hon. Gentleman must 716 make up his mind to this, on a full recognition of the Militia, the Volunteers, and the Yeomanry who have played such a prominent and successful part in the recent war. They cannot now be snubbed or neglected, and they must receive the training which will make them efficient, and their place in the work of defence must be defined. But they must not be overdone or overburdened. It is obvious that an excessive annual training would have a most damaging effect on the force if it interfered in any way with civil employment; and I would venture to suggest what has always appeared to me to be the best settlement of that difficulty. It is that they should on first being enlisted be subjected to a somewhat long and severe course of training, and then a smaller and less irksome training each year afterwards will suffice. I am inclined to think that that is the solution of the difficulty. It is by developing this home force, it is by avoiding grandiose and ambitious schemes, it is by patiently considering the requirements for the defence of these islands and the Empire, and by adhering to the standard which is set up—it is thus we shall be able to provide for the security of the country and at the same time to lay no undue burden on the already over-weighted taxpayer.
*THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Lord STANLEY,) Lancashire, Westhoughton
Whatever we may think of the arguments of the hon. Gentlemen who put forward this Amendment, I as one of those who are standing here, so to speak, on their defence, cannot have one word to say against the way in which the prosecution have brought forward their case, and I want to admit to the fullest possible extent my knowledge that those Gentlemen who have spoken on, and who are going to support, the Motion are not animated by any animus against the Government, but are simply endeavouring to lay before the country and the House of Commons what they consider to be the requirements of the country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite and other Members have appealed to the Government to have an open mind on this question. I confess I do not quite under-stand what an open mind on such a question is; because, if I take an open 717 mind to be the attitude assure ed by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, it seems to consist in supporting all the arguments of the Government, and at the same time voting for the Amendment against them. I am willing to admit also that from these debates, as a general rule, nothing but good can come, and that reforms in general have always come from Members of this House, though they have been opposed by the Minister for War for the time being. The hon. Member—or the ex-hon. Member, for Woolwich; I hardly know when he is in the House or out of it—gave himself full credit for having secured the Council of Defence, but I think the Army reformers are too moderate. I was an Army reformer before I was in office. I think they should take all the credit they possibly can. and not credit for any particular thing. Every point in the scheme which is now cavilled at has been advocated in the strongest way by the Service Committee, and was adopted by the Secretary for War at their instigation, and after due discussion in the House.
There is another thing the War Office cannot complain of, and that is the number of schemes that are invariably put before it. Everybody who has a relation, however distantly removed, who was ever in the Army, has a scheme for Army reform. It is like an infantile disease which nobody escapes, and I am bound to say I am not immune myself. I wish to speak of my own scheme for this reason: It has been alleged that there are people at the War Office in favour of conscription. On this particular point I have not only spoken, but, on one occasion, written. I wish to make my position perfectly clear. I have a scheme which does involve conscription, which I did advocate, and which I do not for one moment say that in my heart of hearts I do not, however, believe to be the right scheme. But, at the same time, I have to see things as they are, not as I would like them to be, and I have to consider that my own scheme, which consists of an adequate long service voluntary Army abroad, and an extremely short service compulsory Army at home, is impracticable, at all events at present; and, that being the case, I have to drop any idea of 718 seeing that scheme adopted, and back up to the best of my ability any scheme which I think will adequately take its place.
There is a matter from which Army reform suffers to an extraordinary extent, and that is that schemes are proposed, most carefully thought out and put into execution, but, because in the first instance they do not turn out the successes they were expected to be, there is a strong inclination on the part of the country, and sometimes of officials at the War Office, to follow the example of the children who pull up a plant and look at its roots to see whether it is growing. The consequence is that schemes which, if left would have developed, are often hurriedly east aside, and then after some years we have to return to the schemes which, if they had only been left undisturbed, would have been in working order.
No alternative schemes have been put forward. The mover of the Amendment says he has one up his sleeve, while the scheme of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight is that of an armed people—a people armed, but not organised. Surely that is a principle which would not he accepted, even by the supporters of the Amendment.
I do not know whether the hon. Member has read General de Wet's book on the subject, but that does not show that the organisation or the discipline in the troops of the Orange River Colony was so extraordinarily good.
§ MAJOR SEELY was understood to say he spoke only in comparison—meaning that the people of the Free State were better organised for war than were the present Volunteer forces by the War Office.
The question of organisation is the principal thing we have to discuss, because it is the Army Corps system that is attacked. My right hon. friend has stated very distinctly that he attaches absolutely no importance 719 to the name, but that he attaches the greatest possible importance to the organisation which is being carried out under the name. I quite admit that if the organisation is to be compared with foreign organisations. Army Corps against Army Corps, the name may not be quite appropriate; but I look upon "Army Corps" as a name for an organisation in which it is our ambition to gather together such complements of troops as are held to be in the right proportions for use in the field—to bring together under one man the right number of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, and to decentralise as far as possible all questions of administration and expenditure. The hon. and gallant Member for the Heywood Division of Lancashire asked whether Lord Roberts approved of this scheme. I saw Lord Roberts to-day, and he told me a fact which may be interesting to the House. In 1879, when in Afghanistan, he was sent for by Lord Lytton, the then Viceroy, to attend a conference on the re-organisation of what were then the Presidency Armies. He was asked by the Committee to draw up a scheme for them to consider. He drew up a scheme consisting of the Army Corps into which India was afterwards, under him, divided. He can, therefore, be said to be not only the sponsor of the present scheme, but the father of the Army Corps scheme which was carried out under him in India.
§ LIEUT.-COL. GEORGE KEMP (Lancashire, Heywood)
said he quite understood that such a scheme might be advisable for India, and that Lord Roberts might advocate it there, but the question he asked was whether Lord Roberts was in favour of an Army Corps Scheme for England, and whether he was consulted before he came back from South Africa.
Of course, there is only my word for it, but I hope the hon. Member will take it. Lord Roberts told me this morning that he fully considered the scheme before it was put into operation, and that it has his unqualified approval at the present moment.
Granted that there must be some organisation and some Army, it is for us to consider what the duties of the Army are. I am perfectly ready to admit, as a general 720 principle, that our Army must be subservient to the Navy, that our Navy is our first and principal line of defence; but still there are other duties which must fall on the Army. Our Empire is partly insular and partly continental. As far as the insular part of our possessions is concerned, there is not the slightest doubt that the principal defence must be in the Navy. But there are duties which must fall on the Army, and in regard to which the Navy must, to a certain extent, be subservient. First of all, I would put the defence of India; secondly, the defence of the coaling stations; and, thirdly, the defence of this country against any possible invasion. In regard to the defence of India, the mover of the Amendment expressed it as his opinion that it was only a bugbear.
And I think he quoted as an expert a Russian General. I cannot help thinking that if the, Russian General sees those remarks in the paper he will be only too glad to cultivate the acquaintance of other Members of the House. But who are the authorities on the frontier? We can deal with them only through our responsible advisers in India; we are bound to go by what they say. Quito recently I have had an opportunity of speaking on this subject to men who, after all, are the greatest experts in the matter, and they do not look upon it as a bugbear. They look upon an attack as, at all events, something practicable, and though they have no doubt as to the result, their confidence exists only so far as this country is prepared to give them the support they require. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Northumberland spoke of South Africa, and pointed out that one of the greatest faults in the management of that campaign was that we did not have sufficient troops before the outbreak of the war. Now, Sir, I ask if it is good in that place, is it not equally good in India? Ought we not to be absolutely prepared to send troops to India before the war breaks out and not wait until after war has broken out. If hon. Members agree to that, what is the use of putting forward a proposition to send out the Militia or the Imperial Yeomanry?
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL
Nobody ever suggested that an expeditionary force should be kept to reinforce India.
I think it is better to be prepared to put the maximum number you are asking for, and not put in a part and wait for the other half until Parliament has given you sanction. With regard to the defence of the coaling stations, that is a point upon which we shall all agree, for we all desire that those bases should be kept intact for the use of the Fleet by the Army. It has now become one of the greatest bones of contention as to whether there will be, or could be, an invasion of this country. With that point I am naturally not competent to deal. I quite admit that the onus of protecting this country from invasion must rest with our auxiliary forces, and they ought to be thoroughly organised to the best of their ability; and we ought to lose no hint as to how to resist any attack that might be made upon our shores during the temporary absence of our Navy. I come now, therefore, to the question of the number of men required for this purpose. In this matter, are we not rather fighting with one hand tied behind our backs, because nobody would wish anybody in a responsible position to deal with the actual eventualities which might arise, and at the same time stint the number of troops you would send? Therefore, a great deal of this scheme must be taken on trust. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment said that if details are given to the military authorities they ought to be given to the House of Commons. With that statement I entirely disagree.
But what is the general reason? I have endeavoured to say what I consider the policy is. It is to send sufficient troops to keep India, and enough to amply safeguard the whole of our coaling stations, and to rely to the greatest possible extent on our auxiliary forces in case of invasion. The question is—How many troops are required for the first two purposes 722 which are not to be met by auxiliary forces? It is the whole question of the Regular Army that is dealt with in this Amendment, and it is a question as to how many Regular soldiers can be sent abroad, and whether they shall be sent. I know that the Defence Committee has been reconstituted. Some hon. Members have asked whether the Estimates for this scheme were submitted to the Defence Committee as well as to the Cabinet. I have the authority of my right hon. friend for stating that they were submitted to the Defence Committee before being placed before the Cabinet. These Estimates were submitted by the right hon. Gentleman to the Defence Committee of the Cabinet after full consultation with the whole of his military advisers. They went up to the Cabinet Committee to be considered as the final requirements of the War Office. The Navy Department do precisely the same thing, and, therefore, the Cabinet Committee has the two proposals before it, and is able to gauge what are the requirements of both. I do not for one moment believe that if the right hon. Gentleman comes down next year, and in the name of the Cabinet asks for a certain number of troops, and declares that he asks for them alter the advice, and at the instigation, of the Committee of Defences that he will be any more believed than he is to-day. when he says that a certain number of men are required.
I doubt whether the House would think any more that the number fixed upon by that Committee is the right number, and hon. Members would still reserve the opinions which they have now expressed that the number asked for is excessive. At the present moment the Secretary of State for War, who has enunciated not his own policy but the policy of the Government, tells you that the number of troops which we must be prepared to send abroad is three Army Corps. You cannot expect that the details of that number can ever possibly be given. That is impossible, and that is what I mean when I say that you must, to a certain extent, take these 723 figures on trust, and you must believe that a responsible Minister making such a statement is doing so with a full knowledge of his responsibility, and the House should give him credit for not asking for a single man more than his military advisers and the Cabinet think are required for the necessities of the case. On the subject of numbers it may be said that we do not need to send 120,000 men abroad, and that we only need some 30,000 or 40,000. What we have to rely upon is the military experts who advise us in such matters. Hon. Members of this House have not hesitated to draw a comparison between the Intelligence Branch of our Army and that of the German Army.
*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said that he made rather a detailed comparison, and what he compared was the British Army and Navy Intelligence Departments with that of the German Intelligence Department.
There is one thing which has never been taken into account in estimating the strength of our Intelligence Department. The great place we want to collect all the intelligence we can is undoubtedly on the Indian frontier. [Cries of "Why?"] Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. You do not want intelligence about all the interior of foreign nations, because you say that our Army cannot be used at all in any such enterprise. In India there must always be a concentration of an enormous amount of interest which must affect at all times the strength of the Army. We have got in India an Intelligence Department which is well organised, and which naturally sends back to us matters which have been sifted and can be dealt with without practically any further inquiry. I may say that in South Africa Colonel Henderson is still employed as Intelligence Officer, and he has with him the full staff of intelligence officers which he himself considers necessary.
§ LIEUT.-COLONEL GEORGE KEMP asked whether the staff Colonel Henderson had with him in the war were now employed.724
When the war is over there is not the same necessity to have the same staff. All of them are not therefore at the present moment employed at the War Office. The House may be perfectly certain that when Intelligence Officers are wanted those who did well in South Africa will be used on every possible occasion. I feel as strongly as anybody can feel that we should have the best Intelligence Officers we can possibly have for the whole of our requirements. But I would quote in respect to this subject some words of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. He was referring to the General Staff, and to what has been called the thinking part of the Army. On that point he made a remark which is just as opposite today as on the day when it was made. The right hon. Gentleman said the task of Continental countries differed fundamentally from that of Great Britain; we had no designs upon, our European neighbours; Indian military policy would be settled in India; in small wars the plan of campaign must be governed by the particular circumstances, and he was at a loss to know why this larger branch was needed. I agree with him in some of the deductions he has made, though, at the same time. I entirely disagree with him in not wishing to see this particular branch increased largely—increased above what it was then, and, if necessary, above what it is now. There has appeared in The Times a series of most interesting articles. They have been directed against the War Office, and I confess today it seems to me, when the last of them has appeared, that it is almost like parting with an old friend. They are written, according to common report, by a gentleman who is a great personal friend of my own, who I know has studied the whole question of Army reform most deeply; but I must entirely disagree with him as to what, after all, is a fundamental part of his scheme, and that is the retention of the First Army Corps in South Africa. It has been pointed out by hon. Members, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in particular, that it will be difficult, if we keep troops there, to secure the requisite number of recruits. Now I do not think that the question of where the recruits are coming from does influence 725 this matter to any great extent. But I am told by those who are competent to judge that when a man has been two or three years abroad, he then feels homesickness coming over him, and he feels the time has arrived when he would like to return home. That being so, we should be asking him at the time when he is most desirous to come home from South Africa to re-engage for a period of five years. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment used an admirable phrase when dealing with the question of drafts for India. He said that we were gambling on a sixpence. I hope it is an investment and that it may not be a gamble. I understand his feelings most fully, because I appreciate the view that if by any chance there is a failure to secure the requisite number of men to complete the drafts for India, the whole of that scheme for short service must fall inevitably to the ground. Therefore I would ask Members of this House to dismiss entirely from their minds the idea that we are able at present to entertain the suggestions put forth in that article. But we shall at all events have something by which we can judge. We are at the present moment keeping in South Africa certain troops who ought to be, and I hope may be, before long on the home establishment. We are at present sending out recruits, and we shall be able to judge when the time comes for them to re-engage whether we can rely on their re-engaging in sufficient numbers.
I have only one word more to say, and that is on the subject of the Volunteer force. It has been said that the Volunteer force has been slighted at the War Office, I should deeply regret such a mistake, and I should still more deeply regret that there should be any reason for the suggestion being made. I do not believe that on the part of a single man in that office is there any such intention. The new regulations have been referred to as having created some feeling. Before these regulations were put out they were thoroughly considered; but lot us grant, for the sake of argument, that they were not considered by the Volunteers. On the second Committee I served personally myself. On it there were a majority of Volunteer members, and the rules and regulations that were put out 726 were not carried by the War Office members but by the unanimous vote of the Committee. I spoke on this matter to my hon. friend behind me, and also to the hon. and gallant member for the Kilmarnock Burghs, and they told me at the time that they saw no reason why the Volunteer force in the main should not be able to carry out these conditions. We have endeavoured to put them as low as we can, and we have endeavoured to give the Volunteers that amount of training and administration which we consider essential to enable them to comply with that part, and practically that part alone, which refers to the defence of the country in the case of possible invasion. The House tonight will have to decide between the two schemes that have been put forward. It is not only an Amendment for or against a particular Army Corps Scheme. The cleavage is very much greater and deeper than that. It is a cleavage as to whether we shall have our present comparatively large Army or whether we shall have a small Army in the future. These seem to be the two sides of the question. On our side of the question I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to state the reasons why I consider our present system must be maintained. We have, at all events, military experts on our side as to the number required. On the other side you have got the arguments, powerful as they are, of those who have moved, seconded, and supported this Amendment. The question cannot he decided by any vote the House of Commons may take today. It is for the people of the country at large, and they will have to judge, hut whether the question he submitted to the House or to the country, I feel absolute confidence as to the result.
*MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
said he found himself in some difficulty as to the course he should take in regard to this Amendment. The arguments which the noble Lord had addressed to the House were very similar to those in the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition. The noble Lord dwelt on the necessity of keeping in this country a considerable standing Army, and of course on that point he was in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition. The Amendment, as it stood on the Paper, asked for a reduction of military expenditure, 727 and it also drew the attention of the House to the number of men now employed in the Army. He found, or at least he thought he found, a very considerable amount of reason why they should separate the one question from the other. None of the speakers who had supported the Amendment, and who referred to the increase in the Army Estimates, had taken notice of the corresponding increase both of area and population which had occurred in the British Empire since these Estimates began substantially to increase. It was not until the year 1892 or 1893 that there was any very substantial increase in the Army Estimates. Between 1887 and 1892 the Army Estimates had varied from £17,000,000 to £18,000,000. They were dropped in 1898 to £15,000,000. During that same period the British Empire was increased by no less than one-third o the present total area. It went up from 8,000,000 to 12,000,000 square miles, at which it stood at the present moment. It went up in population from about 250,000,000 to very nearly 350,000,000, and amongst the population thus added to the Empire might be found as wild, warlike, fanatical and restless tribes as could be found anywhere on the face of the earth. In this calculation he put aside the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The new territories cost considerable sums to acquire, and they must cost considerable sums to maintain. We had to police and protect them from their own internal unrest, and we had to guard them from possible external attack. Therefore it could not be said that the problem that presented itself to the War Office at the present moment was precisely in degree and character the same as the problem that presented itself before those expansions took place. In coming to a conclusion on this matter he had endeavoured as well as he could to take those considerations into account.
He hoped he might be permitted to put forward one or two arguments in support of the principle he had laid down. The War Office, which in 1887 was four-twentieths of the total expenditure of the country, was now five-twentieths, in spite of the increase of the area to which he had referred. In 1887 the Admiralty expenditure was three-twentieths, 728 and it was now five-twentieths. In 1887 the education expenditure was one-twentieth, and it was now two-twentieths. There had therefore been a corresponding increase in the other Departments of the public service. The three Departments he had named were keeping pace with the natural increase of the whole Empire.
Although he must say that he regretted the present expenditure of £30,000,000 on the Army, he thought that the process of reducing that expenditure was by no means so simple or easy as some hon. Members appeared to think. The Leader of the Opposition laid down two propositions which were echoed from the Benches opposite—that you must know how many men you require, and how you are to got these men. Now, fortunately for us, practically the whole surface of the world had been absorbed by one Power or another and we were not able to add to the area of our Empire to any considerable extent. Therefore, it was to be hoped that some finality had been reached in increasing our possessions. Some of them had been profitless, a great many had been forced on us by the action of other countries, and some of them had been acquired by our own greed, but the process of absorption was complete. Therefore you could lay down some general proposition as to the number of men and the amount of money required. The military authorities had only got to decide the way in which these were to be supplied.
The right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean, he knew, would like to proceed on what he called revolutionary lines. He would do away with the linked battalions and a Regular Army for home defence and constitute a special Indian Army. That was indeed revolutionary, and there was a great difference between that scheme and the proposals put before the House by the Secretary for War, which were not of so far reaching a character, but only involved what might be called alterations. He thought the right hon. Baronet would find it very difficult to satisfy any one that the system of linked battalions could be abolished. There must be some system at home for keeping up the supply of men for India, Egypt, and the colonial garrisons. It was idle to conic down to the House and propose to sweep 729 away a system without some general idea as to what was to be suggested to take its place. They could not play with the system of the Army and go to the War Office and otter a plan in accordance with the results gained in every campaign. They had done this in 1870, and they wanted to do the same thing in 1900. They could not destroy a system because of some personal experience in a particular war. They must take the consensus; of opinion of the military authorities, and fortunately the War Office had had the assistance of the best brains in the Army during the past five years; and it was idle for hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House to say that if an easy, cheap, and practical scheme could have been evolved it ought to have been evolved before now.
Putting aside the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, and also the question of conscription, which was impossible now, whatever it might have; been in 1900, they came to the scheme of the substitution of auxiliaries for the Regular forces. The letters in The Times, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick, referred the previous night, and which he made the basis of a simple but telling speech, laid down, first of all, that they must transfer the First Army Corps to South Africa, then that the general reliance for the defence of this country should be placed on civilian levies and on an increased Intelligence Department. He would say a few words on each of those propositions. In the first place, if they did get a better training ground in South Africa than possibly in this country, they would obtain a training ground not for infantry but for mounted troops. If a future campaign were to be fought, it would not be in a country like South Africa, but one which was broken and enclosed by ditches and fences, in which not mounted troops but infantry would be required; and, after all, the latter could be trained equally well in Scotland or Ireland as in South Africa. In the next place it was said that a Corps d'Armć e was required in South Africa. That argument might have been valid two years ago but the focus and arsenal for hostilities being gone now and the country having settled down, the numbers of troops, together with the South African Constabulary, which need be maintained for policing purposes, 730 would not be sufficient for an Army Corps Then, in regard to the vulnerability of England and the Colonies, and the strategic advantages to be gained by sending troops to South Africa, it was admitted that South Africa was not likely to be affected, nor Australia, nor Canada. India would not be attacked by any Power except Russia, and troops could be supplied, he argued, for the defence of India as well from England as from South Africa. India had been described as impregnable, but Russia had already absorbed Northern Persia, and there was no guarantee that she would not also absorb Southern Persia. The moment the latter event took place our frontier in India, with the impregnable fortress of Quetta, would be turned. Therefore strategic mobility was not to be gained by sending an Army Corps to South Africa, The right hon. Baronet referred to the possibility of reliance for the defence of this country on civilian levies, as had been shown in the case of South Africa. Everything was now to be referred to a South African standard. But what was the cause mainly of our victory in South Africa? It was not the existence of organised levies of the people well acquainted with the country, and accustomed to an outdoor life. We succeeded in spite of the very qualities inherent in the Boers. [An HON. MEMBER: We succeeded because we were ten to one against them.] Yes, but what would have happened when they were ten to one against us, if they had been Regular troops? The Boers, in spite of their natural advantages, failed because of their want of cohesion, of their irresolution and their incapacity to strike after victory. If the Boers, being exceedingly good men, had been properly organised, led by commanders who had been trained in the real school of warfare, they would have driven us from the country before we could have sent reinforcements to South Africa. A considerable trained force was required for the protection of Gape Town and Calcutta, but what would be the effect if there was a raid on London by a continental force? There would be a general uprising of the military spirit throughout the Empire, but they could not afford to run the risk of leaving London to be defended alone by civilian levies.
731 He would ask the House to consider the strength of the garrisons of this country. Which one of them could be weakened without seriously endangering all? Was it proposed to keep fewer troops in India than 75,000? Was it proposed to keep less than 30,000 troops in South Africa during the next seven or eight years? In Canada there were only one battalion garrison regiment, two companies of Engineers, and two companies of Royal Garrison Artillery. Could they be reduced? In Egypt there were one cavalry regiment, one Royal Artillery battery, one mountain battery and four infantry battalions. Were those garrisons in Canada and Egypt too large, and should they not be increased rather than diminished? In all the colonial stations there were only fourteen companies of Engineers, ten batteries of Field Artillery, twenty companies Royal Garrison Artillery, and eighteen battalions. That was the garrison of the Colonial Empire, and could it be reduced? Some of them were garrisons of inferior troops which the War Office would not dare to put into the field, but which might be of some service behind earthworks. There was one further point to which he wished to refer, and which had been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick. The right hon. Gentleman most reasonably and effectually argued for the increase of the Intelligence Department. Had everyone forgotten what was the fate of the Intelligence Department before the war, and of Sir John Ardagh's report which was presented to the military and civil authorities and absolutely disregarded by both? That report told the Government that they could not send infantry to South Africa without an adequate force of cavalry to guard their flanks. It told them the armaments of the Boers and their probable number. It pointed out the weakness of Ladysmith, drew attention to every single defect, and told the Government where the weakness of the British Army was, and where the weakness of the enemy. The Cabinet and the military authorities disregarded that report, and, in the face of that, what was the good of increasing the Intelligence Department. What was the good of having 500 men at the 732 intelligence Department if the War Office and the Cabinet disregarded their advice and the knowledge they collected? What guaranteehad the House of Commons that the civil and military authorities would take notice of the recommendations and advice of the Intelligence Department? What they had to do was not to go on increasing expenditure on Army Corps, but to bring the existing departments up to date. They had got to see that the principal officials in Pall Mall made use of the information they got, and that they should take a real interest in the better administration of the Army. He hoped that nothing he had said would lead anyone to suppose that he was speaking in favour of the Six Army Corps system. It was the most portentous humbug ever laid before the House of Commons. It never had any real existence, and the holes picked in it by the hon. Member for Oldham did not need his brilliant oration, but a little industry, a little common-sense, and a little frankness from the War Office. They never did get from the War Office the same frankness they got from the Admiralty. They ought to have from the War Office an annual statement such as the Admiralty presented.
§ *LORD STANLEY said, if the hon. Member would permit him, he would answer a question which had been put to him by the hon. Member for Oldham, who asked how the discrepancy between his right hon. friend's speech and the Army List could be explained. Three battalions had arrived in England since the Army List was published. Four were on their way at the present-moment from South Africa, and four barracks would, he hoped, be finished in a very short time, when they would be able to bring four further battalions back from South Africa.
§ *MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE said that if one Army Corps was brought up to its strength, it would weaken the other Army Corps. One of the battalions of the First Army Corps was stationed in Scotland. Were they sure that that was not counted in the Scottish Army Corps?733
§ *MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE said that his confidence in War Office figures, though not in the noble Lord, was somewhat weakened. In the scheme of the Secretary of State for War they had brigadiers without brigades, brigades without brigadiers, batteries without guns, and cavalry without horses. All those defects might have been remedied by careful administration. If they were going to have the First Army Corps ready, as he thought it ought to be ready, to go anywhere and do anything, they ought to concentrate in that First Army Corps all their available units, and not scatter them through various other Army Corps, rendering none of them complete. There had been committees and inquiries into the Medical Department, the Remount Department, and several other departments during the war. They had not been told whether any of the recommendations of the committees with respect to these departments had been carried out. They did not know whether the Remount Department had been improved, or whether it had been brought into touch with the Intelligence Department. There was an air of mystery about the War Office which they wanted to clear up. He did not grudge the War Office every sixpence they spent well and wisely. What he grudged was money taken for the service of the War Office and not frankly and properly accounted for to the House of Commons.
*SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said the hon. Member (Mr Charles Hobhouse) had given in his very important speech the reasons why he, a member of the opposition, would vote for the Government on the present occasion. He did not know whether the House realised that the Amendment was the Amendment which was moved by the Loader of the Opposition when the scheme was affirmed; but the Leader of the Opposition did not, of course, object in the least to hon. Members on the Government side stealing his thunder. The motion was now supported on the ground of principle, but the Leader of the Opposition supported it on grounds of detail. In moving it on the 13th of May, 1901, he said that the question was a question of detail, though now some of his hon. friends on this 734 side said it was a question of principle He was surprised that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick, whose conspicuous fairness in the House was worthy of praise, stated calmly and deliberately that this particular scheme was rushed upon the House, or rather that the House had not been given time to consider it. That was not an accurate statement. The scheme was produced on the 8th of March, 1901, when the House was expected to discuss Army Estimates and the scheme, but instead it plunged immediately into a discussion of the personal grievances of generals who thought they had been hardly treated. Afterwards, several hon. Members, including the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, brought before the Government the importance of obtaining the calm and deliberate opinion of the House of Commons on the scheme, and the Leader of the House took a most unusual course, and said that the Government would give a special opportunity for the purpose.
That was in May, the scheme having been laid before the House in March. When the scheme was brought before the House some hon. Members opposed it. He opposed it tooth and nail, and said wild horses would not make him vote for it. He did not vote, for it then, and he assumed the same attitude towards it now. But it was rather a strong order, and it was inconsistent with the dignity of the House or the business aspect of this question to ask them now, on an Amendment to the Address, to deliberately upset a scheme after it had been before the House for an unusually long period, and had been discussed at great length and had been accepted. He mentioned this in order to justify his own position. He thought for the House of Commons to attempt to upset, on an Amendment to the Address, a scheme which it had deliberately adopted after being challenged by the Leader of the Opposition, after due discussion, to reject it, was not the right way to proceed. If they adopted such a course they would deserve neither the respect of this country, nor the loyalty of the Colonies, nor the respect of the foreign nations. He therefore considered it was his duty not to vote for this Amendment. It was for no Party reason that he did not support it. On questions of British security he acknowledged no 735 Party ties, and he would never follow a Party in a question of this sort. These were not mere empty words, because, as many hon. Members were aware, he had consistently acted up to what he supposed to be his duty in these matters.
With regard to the subject matter of the Amendment the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for War had been good enough to allude on the previous day to his (Sir John Colomb's) constant advocacy in this House for developing, increasing and maintaining the striking power of the Army. The right hon. Gentleman, or any other Minister, could always depend on his unhesitating and unswerving support of any policy of that sort. He saw in the speeches supporting the Resolution the dangerous idea that if we only had a Navy strong enough we needed no striking military force at all, and merely a citizen army for the defence of these islands. He protested against that doctrine, and always had, and he would warn those of his hon. friends who had suddenly come over to the "blue water school" not to carry their argument too far, but look a little further into the question. When this scheme was first propounded, the Secretary for War announced a new departure of which he cordially approved. The right hon. Gentleman put in the forefront of his scheme the necessity of the Empire possessing an adequate striking force. That had for some forty years been put in the tail of the hunt, and that was a new departure upon which he immediately congratulated the right hon. Gentleman. His ground of subsequent objection broadly was that when the scheme came to be developed he found that this scheme of an adequate striking force was only words and nothing more. His positive objection to the scheme was that it chalked up in big letters "Striking Force," and that the right hon. Gentleman ran away when he developed it. When fully developed, he found it was not a real but a sham scheme on the old hypothesis, and that the right hon. Gentleman finally mixed up in these Army Corps forces rooted to the soil of this kingdom and that free force which was the striking force—the Regular Army.
It was because he was not going to support the Amendment that he wished to make it plain that he was, then and now, in vehement and violent opposition 736 to the scheme. He hoped that was pretty clear. The only excuse for bringing this question forward in the shape of an Amendment to the Address, when the House was within measurable distance of a proper opportunity being afforded for its discussion upon the Estimates, was that by the procedure of the House when they came to consider Army policy, in going into Committee or in Committee, they were forbidden to discuss the broad principles in relation to sea-power. He had frequently been called to order for attempting to do so. That being the case, his hon. friends, had they waited for the proper opportunity, could not have made their speeches, and therefore he hoped they would not think he was criticising them unduly hardly though he said that he felt strongly that the House should not, on the occasion of an Amendment to the Address, upset an Army scheme formally approved of only a few months previously. But though this discussion was excusable on that ground, it was inexcusable on others, one of which was the deliberate adoption of the scheme by the House, and another that within the last few months a step of the greatest importance had been taken. He alluded to the Council of Defence. That was a new body the functions of which were to review and bring before the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Cabinet, who alone must be responsible for the defence of the country, all information. It would bring the War Office, in their presence, to prove its doctrine that sea supremacy was no security; and it had this function valuable above all others, it was to keep records and preserve them. They would have in the future a record kept, and if ever the cowardice and pusillanimity of Ministers plunged this country into a chaos of danger and difficulty, the House of Commons would be able to turn up the records, and would know what Minister to hang. That was the first step towards establishing real Ministerial responsibility.
This particular question, therefore, the influence of the sea power as affecting the military policy, and the question raised as to whether we should have a small, big, or no Regular Army, was a matter which he for one left with full confidence to the Council of Defence. But when Ministers were being asked by hon. Members 737 whether the Council of Defence had considered this matter, he could only assume that hon. Members had no knowledge of what a Council of Imperial Defence really meant. How could a Council of Defence, which was only brought into existence within the last three months, and which had not formulated any machinery, be expected to plunge into this question and deal with it offhand? Its members would be unworthy of the position they held if they did anything of the sort. It was in view of the fact of this Council being appointed that he could not go with those who now wished the House of Commons to upset the deliberate decision at which it had arrived a few months ago. He would remind his hon. friends who had lately come over to the" blue-water school" that, as pointed out by Mr. Thursfield, sea power did not merely mean sea force. It meant a combination of military power and sea force, and when they spoke about sea power, they spoke not merely about ships and sailors, but about the just apportionment of the two services for the purpose of providing for national safety and of meeting our obligations to the Empire. He desired to protest against the reckless use of phrases about a "big fleet" and "a small Army." What was meant by a small Army? The measurement of the army, its strength and composition, could be determined only by the practical and real purposes for which that army was necessary. By a "small army did hon. Members mean small in proportion to the Empire's needs, or small relatively to continental armies? If the latter, he would agree with them, but if the former, he strongly disagreed with them. The real reason for the Amendment was the fear of hon. Members at having to answer to their constituents for the expenditure upon defence. That was a matter for Members to consider, but, for his part, even though it cost him his seat on the morrow, he would never vote for cutting down the necessary expenditure on defence by a single penny.
Why was he in favour of the maintenance and development of a military force for striking purposes over-sea as a necessary adjunct to the Fleet? The frontier of India had been casually 738 disposed of in a sentence, and with regard to the frontier of Canada, a right hon. Gentleman, who had held and would again hold office, had declared that in contemplating the questions of military necessity, America might be ruled out of account altogether. While expressing in the strongest possible manner his desire that the policy of this country should be so guided as to avoid all possible friction with the United States, and that the two Powers should proceed amicably hand in hand, he could not forget that that country was the arena of the bloodiest, most horrible, and revolting war of the last century, and if a people in their own territory and over their own internal quarrels could carry on such a war, it was asking too much that he should rule them out of account in such a question as this. But having thus lightly disposed of these frontiers, Members proceeded to ask: "What, then, is the use of an Army?" If a state of war prevailed, and England was supreme at sea, what did it mean "? It meant the paralysis of the enemy's fleet, that if her war vessels came out of port they would be driven in again. So long as that condition of things prevailed, the freights in British ships and British goods might be comparatively safe, but the enhancement of freights and increased cost would handicap the nation in the markets of the world. Already the margin of profit between importing raw material, manufacturing, and exporting, was so small that there was great difficulty in keeping ahead of other nations, and that margin would disappear if the condition of things he had suggested arose. What were the "blue water school" without an Army then going to do? Were they going to wait to be ruined? Did they think there would not be a furious outburst from all the manufacturing cities, demanding that such a state of things should be terminated? But how would they terminate it if they had no striking power? The matter had been dealt with entirely from the point of view of the passive defence of our own land frontiers. Purely passive defence was never successful defence. But other Powers had oversea territories. He rejoiced that America and continental Powers were pushing their interests over-sea, because, so long 739 as England maintained her maritime supremacy, every possession over-sea of another Power was a hostage to British peace. He agreed that maritime supremacy in the hands of England was the greatest guarantee of the world's peace, but he was not so sure it was such a guarantee of peace if there was no military power immediately available behind the fleet to cause other nations to hesitate to quarrel with us. Such a position contemplated by his hon. friends would ruin our commerce and trade. The House ought not, therefore, to dismiss the question in an offhand way, by saying that because we had a big fleet a Regular Army was not required for striking over-sea.
One other matter had not yet been referred to. All agreed that the real incentive to this Resolution was the question of Imperial expenditure. The House had been told that the expenditure had almost reached breaking strain, that the people could not bear it, and so forth, with that view he agreed. But what was the cause of the expenditure? The energy and enterprise of the people of these islands had created an Empire overspreading the world. Every part of the Empire was profiting by the past and present expenditure of money, men, and resources of these two islands. If we were to face the future simply as two islands with an Empire on our back, while the Empire itself did not bear its fair share of cost in discharging the duties and the responsibilities, of Empire, he admitted we could not go on. That was the real question, but everybody shirked it. People were frightened to raise the question of colonial contributions. He did not know why they should be. He was confident that if the facts were put strongly and plainly before our fellow countrymen beyond the seas they would have common sense enough to accept the facts, and do their duty like men. The sooner the outlying portions of the Empire understood that this country could not go on for ever bearing the burdens of the Empire almost alone and afford all the security they expected free of cost to them the sooner would this bugbear of expenditure be got rid of. In the case of a great war every other country would draw its resources from every corner of its territory, 740 while we should have to rely on the resources of two islands, with merely the sympathy and loyalty of our outlying peoples, unexpressed in organised form. That was not a satisfactory position. Members must make up their minds as to what they were going to do, whether they would run away from their Imperial obligations, because their constituents did not like the expense, or whether they would face them boldly, and say to the peoples of the colonies—These two islands have spent their treasure, and blood in building up your Empira; you are wealthy and prospering now; is it right to expect the mother country alone to go on for ever bearing your burdens?He was satisfied that if the case was once put before the colonies by a frank declaration of this House, they would rather contribute their share of the expenditure than allow the British Empire to go down.
*SIR J. DICKSON POYNDER (Wiltshire, Chippenham)
said the hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth advocated a large Army and a striking Army.
§ *SIR J. DICKSON POYNDER said that during the Napoleonic wars the reason they were able to contend satisfactorily against the great continental system under Napoleon was that our fleets commanded the seas and we succeeded for a number of years in blockading all the French ports, although Napoleon had nearly a quarter of a million troops ready to invade this country. His hon. friend opposite made what might appear to be one of the most potent arguments against the attitude taken up by the mover of this Amendment and those associated with him. He wanted to make it quite clear that they did not contend for a moment that for home defence they should rely wholly and solely upon an auxiliary force. There should always be a small, well-trained Army in this country. A competent general with whom he had spoken agreed in the main with the view that if they had a well-trained auxiliary force in this country, with a small leaven of well-trained Regulars, they would have all that 741 was necessary for the defence of this country. He wished to point out, however, that by setting aside the auxiliary element and pushing forward the regular element they were bound to stifle that patriotism by which, and through which alone they could hope to raise what they wanted from the civilian element of this country. They could not have a better illustration than had been seen in South Africa in the recent war. In South Africa the population was fairly evenly distributed between the Dutch and the English, but the commencement of the war showed that practically the whole of the Dutch went to arms in the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal. The population of the Orange Colony was about 72,000, but within a very short time no less than 18,000 were gathered to arms, and the result was only too well known in regard to what they did. They not merely defended their own country, but they invaded our territory, and held no less than 12,000 of our troops in one place. With regard to Natal, what did they do there to defend their country? Why, out of a population of 68,000, only 3,000 men were drawn to take part in the defence of that colony.
§ Two years ago, like his hon. friend the Member for Oldham, he ventured to speak in the debate which ensued upon the unfolding of the programme of his right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War. He said then that he thought it was an ill-matured scheme brought forward at an inappropriate time. Although, upon that occasion, he spoke in an apprehensive and critical way, he did not then feel justified in recording his vote against the scheme. The war had now happily concluded, and this scheme had been in operation for some two years; and the time had now come for this House, and the country at large, to take stock of the position, to consider what the scheme was, and what it was doing for the country. Whatever apprehensions he had two years ago had been borne out by experience, and he felt it incumbent upon him to express his rooted objection, both to the principles that underlay this scheme, and the details by which it was made up. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman's scheme was subversive of Imperial 742 interests; secondly, it was lacking in appreciation of the necessities of the country; in the third place, it showed a disregard of military resources; and in the fourth place, it was imposing a burden of alarming and unnecessary extravagance upon the country. Actuated by that strong conviction, he should not only associate himself with the mover of the Amendment, but he should associate himself with him in the Division Lobby. This debate had been a good thing, for two reasons. In the first place, it afforded an opportunity to the Prime Minister to become fully acquainted with the strong feeling of antagonism amongst Conservatives who sat upon those Benches. In the second place, it gave the Prime Minister an opportunity, which he hoped he would not pass by, to inform the House and the country whether he really meant to adhere to this scheme, or whether he would alter or modify it. He hoped that whatever he said, it would not be interpreted in any shape or form as being an attack upon his right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War, for whom he had the deepest possible regard. All he wished to confine himself to was to attack the scheme solely upon its merits.
§ He admitted that the right hon. Gentleman had founded this scheme upon what he thought was an imperial basis, but it displayed, in all its essentials, a complete misconception of the Imperial sentiment which now animated this country and the other portions of this Empire. The scheme consisted of six Army Corps, provided in six compact units, all of which were to be drawn from this country. Was the Army required to invade the territories of our continental neighbours? It would be perfectly ridiculous to suppose that we could raise up a force to contend against those great military countries. Was it for home defence? The Secretary of State appeared to him to fail to realise how different were our conditions as a sea Power from those of continental countries which had contiguous frontier's. Of course France and Germany and other countries were obliged to have great Army Corps. They had frontiers every inch of which had to be defended by garrisons. These frontiers 743 were mapped out by the Intelligence Departments, and from the very moment of the declaration of war vast armies would be hurled on to the frontiers to their allotted places. But with Britain, being a sea Power, it was not necessary that we should have these immense armies. Was it proposed to have this army for foreign expeditions? What possible use could it be for us to have a unit the size of an Army Corps for a foreign expedition? Was it likely to be required as one unit, because the whole basis of the argument as he understood it was—these bodies were to be trained and equipped as one unit, with a general and staff, and were to be ready to move as such? He wondered if the right hon. Gentleman had arranged with the Admiralty to ear-mark the ships which were to take out these troops. The scheme presupposed that in the event of war in these far off territories, wherever they might be, these Army Corps would be sent out simultaneously as one unit. Everyone knew that complications on the Indian frontier or in China would not take place in a day. There would be a gradual threatening for many months, and during these months it might be hoped the Government would be gradually concentrating troops on the spot, so that by the time the war took place there would be a large body of troops out there. When the war was over this largo body could not possibly be removed immediately. They would be taken away gradually. On the first outbreak of war there would be a complete obliteration of the Army Corps system. The Army Corps system seemed to be quite possible for a country with a land frontier where there was an adjacent objective, but it was quite impossible for a country like ours, with a distant and unknown objective. This scheme, unwittingly perhaps, was based on a servile imitation of continental militarism. In the guise of an Imperial scheme, founded on a continental basis, the Secretary of State had really introduced a scheme in the spirit of the Little Englander. The shock of war had revealed the solidarity of the Empire's patriotism; the scheme ignored the teachings of the war; and at the very moment when it had been shown that a large regular Army, drawn solely from this country, was unnecessary paradoxically proposed such an increase. The more actuated the 744 colonies were by patriotism, and the more desirous they were to come to the help of the mother country in the time of emergency, the more the Government proposed to increase the regular Army and overburden the taxpayers of this country by an increased expenditure. The establishment of a great military system on a continental basis was not necessary or suitable for our Empire. Last year, at the time of the Coronation, the colonial Premiers were gathered together at a conference with the responsible ministers, with the view of developing the question of Imperial defence. He had carefully read the Blue book containing an account of the proceedings of the Conference. It seemed to him that the Secretary of State for War might well, on the ground of their patriotism, have appealed to the Premiers to take over the defence of the colonics they represented, in order to relieve the ratepayers of this country of the great burden imposed on them for the maintenance of naval works to defend the shores of the distant colonies. What seemed to him to be the main argument put forward by the Secretary of State for War was one which he did not think any one who understood the sentiment animating our colonial fellow subjects could possibly have proposed with any hope of success. The Secretary of State proposed that a portion of their troops after being trained should be handed over to the control of the War Office at Pall Mall. If there was one thing which the colonials valued it was the principle that there should be no separation between taxation and representation. If they paid for their men we must allow them to have control over them. The opportunity of profiting by the Imperial sentiment of the colonies had not been made the most of.
§ His second point was that in his judgment the scheme showed a want of appreciation of the necessities of the country. It had been said in the course of the debate that this scheme ignored the fact that we were a maritime Power, that the Navy must be the first line of defence, and that the Army must be planned and organised in subordination to the paramount claims of the Navy. We must have a transcendent and unchallengeable Navy. In view of what had recently been heard, it was possible that our Navy, strong as it was, might 745 not be strong enough. It was our bounden duty to increase that Navy to whatever extent might be necessary. He was very pleased to hear the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury that the Council of Defence was to be brought to life again, and was to undertake the co-ordination of the two services. He had no hesitation in bringing a grave charge against the Government for not having brought this Council of Defence to life many years ago. He came now to his third charge, viz., that the scheme had an utter disregard of our military resources. Even supposing that our national necessities required a great Army, which, he thought, was not the case as he had amply shown, he contended that the inherent conditions of our national life rendered it impossible. The plan was too big for the site; the cost was too much for the country; it demanded more troops than the country could produce in normal times. This scheme must always be a grossly extravagant sham and an entire make-believe. What had the Secretary of State for War done to bolster up his scheme? The right hon. Gentleman had increased the pay of the whole of the Army—a matter which they need not, in itself, at all deplore; he had had to resort to a reduction of the standard of the men enlisted, although they had been told the previous day by the right hon. Gentleman that he had succeeded in restoring the standard again which had been very considerably reduced from what it used to be. And the right hon. Gentleman had also reduced the time of service. It was said that the recruiting during the past year had been very satisfactory, that 51,000 recruits had joined the colours. He always looked with a certain amount of scepticism on official figures. Without impugning for a moment the accuracy of the Secretary of State for War, he would just like, if the right hon. Gentleman, in order to remove that scepticism, would issue an order from the War Office to parade these 51,000 recruits in the Palace Yard. They would then be able to see them for themselves, and what sort of recruits they were; while he was certain it would add immensely to the success of the proceeding if his right hon. friend would once more don his uniform and put himself at their head. How many of these 51,000 recruits had since left the Army, and how many had been discarded as inefficient? These 746 were very interesting points for the House of Commons to know. He said this with all the more force because he happened to know that at one period the minimum standard for cavalry had been reduced to 5 ft. 2 ins. That seemed to him almost unbelievable, but the fact remained that so low had the standard been that many men had joined the ranks who were physically, mentally, and morally unfit for service. He should like to know how many of these men were included in the 51,000 mentioned by the Secretary for War. Last year they voted on the Estimates an establishment for the Regular Army of 219,700 at a cost of £29,310,000; but now the Secretary for War told them that they had not 219,700 but 271,000 men. Therefore 271,000 men either exceeded the normal establishment as voted in the Estimates by 50,000, or included the additional numbers enlisted temporarily for the war, to be afterwards disbanded.
§ MR. BRODRICK said that his hon. friend was under confusion as to the figures. The previous night he had taken the whole number of men for this country and for India, which made a total of 271,000. Last year everything had been complicated by the fact that the Reserves, having been called up, were on the establishment, whereas this year, their services having been withdrawn, they were not on the establishment.
§ MR. BECKETT asked if the whole home establishment had therefore been exceeded by 50,000 men.
§ *SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER said he would not press that point further. He would now turn to the third head of his argument against the scheme of the Secretary for War. What he contended was that they could not get the recruits in a normal year unless they had difficulties in the labour market, which unfortunately they had had during the last four or five months. Looking to this country from the point of view of its commercial ascendency—and without that they could not hope the country would maintain its position—they would be unable to obtain a large number of recruits without dislocating 747 the labour market. The result would be that the pay must go on increasing, and if the pay of the Army was increased, so must the pay of the Navy be inevitably increased. It had been held out two years ago that whatever might be said against the Army Corps Scheme, one thing was certain, that there would be decentralisation in different districts, and that the over-congested War Office would be relieved of a great mass of work. He did not believe that that had taken place, but that the congestion and confusion in the War Office were now greater than before the scheme was introduced. He had seen an example of this recently on his journey from India. A young officer, whom he met on the voyage, had told him that he had served for three years in South Africa, and then had been invalided home. His regiment was at Hong-Kong, and being anxious to avoid going out there he applied to his commanding officer to be transferred to the depot of his regiment at home. He also wrote direct to the War Office. The commanding officer recommended his transfer to the depot, but the War Office replied that another officer had already been recommended, and that he must rejoin his regiment. He and his wife, therefore, started off at once for Hong-Kong, where his commanding officer informed him that he had recommended his transfer to the depot, but that he could not allow him to go back to England now that he had rejoined his regiment. So this young officer wired home to the War Office asking for information, when he immediately received a telegram that Captain So-and-So was to return with all speed to the depot. All this had been done at a cost to the nation of £450. There was no doubt that nearly every Member interested in military matters could give similar instances as to the confusion which reigned at the War Office.
§ And, it being half-past Seven of the Clock, the debate stood adjourned till the Evening Sitting.