§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £331,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the 52 Charge for the Salaries and Miscellaneous Charges of the War Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1905."
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER,) Belfast, W.
I am afraid I may have to trespass some time on the patience of the Committee because the matter with which I have to deal is undoubtedly a complex and difficult one; and it has this peculiarity—I am quite certain that unless I can carry with me not only the good will of the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House, but the good will of the majority of hon. Members on the other side, my labour will be in vain. I am dealing with a subject which is one of common interest to us all; and I am not unaware that in the vicissitudes of politics it may fall to the lot of others to administer any system which I may desire to establish; and, feeling as I do, the enormous importance of securing a sound system of administration for the Army, I am most desirous—I might almost say it is foremost in my thoughts—to be able to propound a scheme to this House which shall secure, not universal acceptance—that I cannot hope for—but such a measure of acceptance, that it may commend itself both to those who agree with me in general politics and to those who disagree with me in general politics. Of one thing I am perfectly certain, I can convince the vast majority of this House of the nature and the extent of the evils for which I wish to find a remedy, and I am sanguine enough to believe that I can convince a large majority of the House of the expediency of the remedies which I wish to apply to those evils. But I am quite sure the only way I can achieve the latter object is to be perfectly frank with the Committee, to tell them exactly how matters stand, to tell them, what my difficulties are, and to tell them what I think is very important, to what extent I believe my difficulties are common difficulties, difficulties which will be shared and which will have to be met by anybody who undertakes to administer the office over which I at present. preside.
53 I want at the outset to recognise the great consideration I have received from all sections of the House during the present session. I introduced the Army Estimates in a statement which I believe is unparalleled; I said they were interim Estimates, and I asked for a period of leisure and reflection in order that I might perfect, or attempt to perfect, suggestions that I desired to make. I said then that I was not prepared, as I am not now prepared, to administer the Army upon the existing basis; and I asked for time to reconsider the basis on which I thought it ought to be administered. I have received from both sides of the House an amount of consideration and forbearance which I had not the slightest reason to expect, and had no right whatever to demand. I consider that both sides of the House are now dispensed from according to me that indulgence any more. I desire to be judged now, not upon my merits, they are small, but entirely on the merits of the scheme I propose to submit to the House. At the same time I cannot help thanking hon. Members for the forbearance they have extended to me. There is another point I want to make quite clear. I want the Committee to understand that this is not a case in which a Member of Parliament, who has been, so to speak, accidentally tossed into a position of responsibility and importance desires to signalise his arrival at that position by making a stir, by changing old things to new, and making alterations for the sake of alteration. I want them to believe, and I think I can convince them, that whoever sits on this Bench and has this responsibility will find confronting him exactly the same difficulties which confront me. I want them to understand that I am asking them now to listen to me, and if possible to sympathise with me, because the Army is going through a period of great danger; and if the Army is going through a period of great danger, this country is also going through a period of great danger. I am not moving for the sake of moving, but because I honestly believe that the circumstances of the case absolutely compel some change.
54 I think it would be a logical procedure if I were to attempt to explain what, in my opinion, is the evil with which we have to grapple. Let me say that, although I have only for a very short time considered this matter as holder of my present office, I am not quite a novice in its consideration. I had given some consideration to it before I was allowed to undertake any responsibility in connection with it; and the opinion which I formed many years ago has not varied in its essentials, but has grown in strength, and the opinion that I propose to express this afternoon is the opinion which I held many years ago, fortified by the information and instruction which I have been able to acquire during my short period at the War Office.
Now, Sir, is there an evil? I think undoubtedly there is. We have two great mentors in this matter; we have before us the facts of the South African War; we have before us the Report of the Royal Commission, which was held as the result of that war. I think that those two events have left rather sore memories in the hearts of the people of this country. Do not misunderstand me; I believe that both the war and the Report of the Commission taught us many things which we were glad to learn: and, made us feel in many respects proud of our Army and of its performances, and, I may go further, made us proud of the organisation of the Army as it then existed. I have never been one of those who accepted the view that the Report of the Royal Commission was a report of universal condemnation; on the contrary, I believe that it bore testimony to the careful work which had been done in many departments, and to the success of that work; and I believe that many were surprised to see how much was done, under that unparalleled and unanticipated stress, by the Department which had been under the charge of my predecessors, Lord Lansdowne and my right hon. friend the present Secretary of State for India.
But, when all is said and done, there does remain in the minds of all of us the absolutely certain knowledge that a great deal still remains to be accomplished—that all is not well 55 with the Army. I think some of the main conclusions may be gathered even by the most superficial student as the result of a perusal of that Report; and I would venture to place those conclusions as they commend themselves to me before the Committee. I would say the main evils are these—I do not think I am touching on any controversial matter. In the first place, there is no evidence to show that the Army we possess is, either in composition or in numbers, the Army which is really required to satisfy the peculiar needs of the Empire for the defence of which it is maintained.
I think that, in the second place, it has been made apparent that the Army, such as it is, is not fully and scientifically organised for war; that, whereas the sole object of an Army in a country like ours is to be able to engage in war at the shortest notice, and to emerge successfully and as rapidly as possible, we have been maintaining an Army in peace a large portion of which has been totally unfit for war, and of which even the effective portion could only be utilised with the help of improvised and previously unconsidered arrangements.
Thirdly, we have learnt that all branches of the Army are raised on a system which has to grapple with the difficulties which must attend purely voluntary enlistment, and that, both in the Regular and Auxiliary Forces, there have existed endless sources of friction that have led to wasteful effort, and in some cases, to some extent, to misunderstanding.
Lastly, and I think this is very important, we have been compelled to recognise that this Army, imperfectly prepared, wasteful in its methods and unsatisfactory in its results, was and is one of the most costly machines ever devised. I do not think I have gone beyond common knowledge and common agreement in any one of those generalisations.
Now, if those defects exist, what is the business of a responsible Minister in connection therewith? His business is to remedy them, to see that things do not happen again. My idea of a remedy is very definite. The remedy must not be partial; it must be complete. It must deal substantially with each of the diffi- 56 culties and defects which exist; it must deal with the defects of want of proportion, and it must deal with the great defects in the system of expenditure. That is the view of the Army Council, which is conscious of these defects, and it is with that view in my mind that I am going to propound to the Committee the ideas which I have been led to form. There is, of course, the difficulty in this country, which I cannot exaggerate, of applying any remedy to Army organisation; there is the absence of professional opinion. There is an enormous amount of sectional opinion. The Army itself is, as I may say, divided perpendicularly, unlike the Navy, which I would describe as divided horizontally. The Army is divided into a large number of admirable corps, but corps which exist almost independently of each other. There are, quite apart from the Army—and in this connection I speak of the Regular Army—the two great branches of the Auxiliary Forces, both of which combine in themselves two points of view, the military point of view and the civilian point of view. That is a necessity of their existence of which I do not complain; but it naturally introduces into the point of view complexity which makes any dealing with them exceedingly difficult. There is in this House a variety of opinions which are based, I think, very often not upon the consideration of the vast military problem that our Empire has to face, but rather upon a number of—I had almost said petty, but I will say less important—personal and private considerations. These considerations arise out of the comparatively limited knowledge of military affairs, of which hon. Members may, in the midst of their many important avocations, have been able to possess themselves; but which are exceedingly embarrassing when we come to deal with military problems as a whole.
These are the difficulties which assail us. They are very great. They are difficulties which are not peculiar to myself. They are difficulties which will assail every War Minister who attempts to deal with this problem, and my only hope of an issue out of the difficulties which I know beset us is the assistance of the general body of common sense in this House and out of this House. 57 To the general body of common sense, apart from sectional feeling, apart from personal feeling, apart from connection with any particular branch of any particular section of the service, I intend to appeal. If I can carry that feeling with me, I believe that I shall be able to do in my time some small service for our Army. But, if I do not, I frankly tell you I despair.
I spoke of there being specific evils. These evils I have roughly indicated already; but I want to be much more specific, and I want to deal much more in detail than I have done with regard to the remedies. Our measures must be healing. We must direct our measures to the exact evil which we find existing. It is no use inventing a number of new regulations for the Army, Volunteers, Yeomanry, or Militia if we are going to leave the existing plague spots—f or they are plague spots—untouched. We must specially direct our remedies to the existing evils. I said that up to the present time there has been no evidence to show that the Army we possess is, either as regards its composition or its numbers, the Army which is really required to satisfy the peculiar needs of the Empire for the defence of which it is maintained. Up to within a very recent time we have had absolutely nobody in this country charged with the duty of ascertaining what our Army ought to be, what functions it ought to perform, and to what numbers it ought to attain. I read, not with consternation, because consternation involves surprise, but with sorrow, the remarks in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Auxiliary Forces as to the correspondence that had taken place between the members of that Commission and the various Government Departments. I say it was a discreditable and a lamentable thing that a body of that kind should be bandied from pillar to post in order to ascertain the elementary conditions of the problem before them. I say I was not surprised; I have felt the difficulty for twenty years; and whatever power has been given to me I have used for the purpose of altering that condition of things; and we have now, at last, taken a step which, however imperfect, however inadequate it, may be, is a step in 58 the direction of enabling us to find out what are the real military needs—I use the word in its widest sense—of this Empire. We have instituted the Committee of Defence, over which the Prime Minister is the presiding authority and in which the representatives of all the great Departments, civil, military, Indian, and Colonial, are associated; and though I do not pretend—no one who has attended that Committee can pretend—that we have done our work, and I know the work will not be done for twenty years, because it will only be done after a long, long apprenticeship, I do say that greater progress has been made in elucidating this great problem than has been made in the twenty years that have preceded its establishment. We are seeing the light. We are not yet in possession of the full information we require.
I said there was another difficulty. I said it had been made apparent that the Army, such as it is, is not fully and scientifically organised for war—that whereas the sole object of an army, in a country like ours, is to be able to engage in war at the shortest notice, and to emerge successfully as rapidly as possible. we have been maintaining an Army in peace time, a large portion of which is totally unfit for war, and of which even the effective portion could only be utilised with the help of improvised and previously unconsidered arrangements. Every student of the Army knows this; the man in the street knows it. Everybody who has studied the history of the last war knows perfectly well that we had to improvise at the last moment an enormous contingent of men to fight our battles; they know that we had to leave behind an enormous contingent of men who were without organisation, who were without proper equipment, and who were unavailable for purposes of war. Now, I trace that state of things to a want of previous preparation. I do not want to touch on any Party question, but I would say frankly that that preparation has not existed under one Administration any more than it has under another. That is my opinion. But, be that as it may, I think that the remedy is to provide some organisation which will prepare our forces prior to a war and will not have to improvise when the war comes. It is for 59 that reason that we have thought it desirable to begin at the top, to begin with the reorganisation of the War Office. Well, we shall have, no doubt, still to discuss this question of the reorganisation of the War Office, but I honestly believe that the progress we have made and are making is in the right direction.
We are decentralising; we are going to decentralise very largely. We have followed the advice almost literatim et verbatim of a body which, in my opinion at any rate, was well qualified to advise us, and whose advice, I believe, was given in consonance with the wider learning, ii I may say so, of professional opinion throughout the world. I have for years laboured for an increase of our Intelligence Department. We have in the last few weeks largely increased—we have practically doubled—our Intelligence Department. Do not let it be supposed that I think, because we have doubled the personnel of our Intelligence Department that we necessarily have an Intelligence Department which will do all we require. I know perfectly well that the work of that department has to be learned in a very hard school. We began twenty years too late. We ought to have had that department enlarged long ago. We ought to have had those who are now entering as novices in that department apprenticed twenty years ago, and bringing the ripe fruits of their knowledge to our service at the present day. But we are doing what we can, and I believe we are moving in the right direction.
I said that in my opinion all branches of the Army are raised on a system which exaggerates the difficulties that must always attend purely voluntary enlistment, and that in both the Regular and the Auxiliary Forces there exist endless sources of friction, which lead to wasteful effort, had work, and in some cases to discontent and misunderstanding. I added that the Army, with all its imperfections, was, and is, one of the most costly machines in the world, and I said we must remedy this. But first we must diagnose the disease. Now I should like to attempt a diagnosis of the disease from which, in my opinion, the Army is sufferign. Those who have studied the Report of the War Commission will remember that the relation of the Reserves to the Army, 60 to the men serving, is an entirely wrong relation. The Reserve of the Army, so far from being a Reserve, is a substitute for it. I have the figures here—I need not trouble the Committee with them—but to an enormous extent the Reservists simply replaced the men serving in the ranks, and when the battalions went into the field they were scarcely appreciably stronger than they had been in peace time.
Another point is brought out very strongly in the Report of the Royal Commission, and it is a point which, I think, will appeal to every Member of the Committee; it is that with all our number of troops at home we have no striking force at all. The Commission said that if we could have sent a single brigade to Natal at the beginning of the war, we might have seriously altered the whole complexion of the campaign. We could not send one single battalion, and we did not. Two battalions were sent One was a battalion which was in this country en route from Crete to the West Indies and had not discarded its khaki clothes. The other was a weak battalion, not mobilised, sent from Fermoy. We were unable to do that which this country ought at all times to be able to do—send a force straight away on the first sign of danger to hold the field and occupy the situation. [An HON. MEMBER: Which situation?] An hon. Member says, "Which situation?' He may picture any situation he likes. It is one of the axioms of war that the man who is first in the field is the man who is likely to win in the long run. I say that to maintain an army of 240,000 men, and not to be able within six weeks to put an effective force into the field, is to stultify the efforts you have made.
There is another point, which I am sure will commend itself to all Members independent of Party, and that is the use that has been, and must be made, under present conditions of the Reservists. The Reservists are now the first line of the British Army. They are not only liable to be called out, but they are called out whenever we go to war. We have got now what we call the First Army Corps at Aldershot. That Army Corps, which is the best-prepared body of troops we have in the country, cannot move without absolute dislocation, and without calling 61 from their domestic avocations, I will not say how many, but many thousands of Reservists who are now in private life. That seems to me to be quite an unreasonable and unfortunate state of things. The Reservist, who is of enormous value to the country, ought to feel that he will be called upon when this country is engaged in a campaign of importance, but that he will not be made to do the duty of soldiers who are actually serving in our camps and barracks at the present time. I believe that the practice which prevails is bad for the Army, bad for the battalions, and exceedingly bad for the Reservists. The evil multiplies itself. It injures the prospects of the soldier on enlistment if he knows that when he leaves the colours he will not have that rest from his labours to which he is entitled. It injures the Reservists, because they know that if they undertake employment, they are liable to be called out for military purposes on occasions that ought never to be made responsible for requiring their services.
Then I come to another serious matter. That is the three-years term of enlistment. The policy which led us to adopt that practice was one that was dictated by circumstances, and it was probably necessary under those circumstances. But those circumstances have passed away, while the system has remained, and when I explain to the Committee what the result really is, they will understand how absolutely essential it is for me, or for anybody in my place, to take the very earliest steps to put an end to the system. The three-year system of enlistment, as you know, means that every man now enlisting for the Army enlists for three years. Well, in the Garrison Artillery alone, unless 100 per cent. of the men extend their term of service, at the end of two years it is impossible to furnish the drafts; and in the infantry battalions, unless 75 per cent. of the men extend, it is impossible to furnish the drafts for the infantry. Already this evil has begun to make itself felt. The men are not extending. The average extension in the infantry at the present time is 12 per cent. Only two days ago I was at the depot of a regiment where the extensions in May had been one man, and in June none. That is a battalion 62 whose second battalion is in India with a strength of 1,000 men. I will leave the Committee to picture what is going to be the result if this system is persisted in. I tell the Committee plainly that, if we are to maintain the defence of India and the Colonies, this system is inconsistent, as it is now working, with that object. I have already had to send abroad large numbers of men who had only ten months to serve; and when I add that I have 21,750 drafts to find for India and the Colonies, and that, of the infantry at home, only some 900 men have hitherto extended—it is no laughing matter—it will be seen how seriously this plan is affecting the Army.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say how long the system he is condemning has been in force.
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the system has come into force within the last two and a half years. That is one of the things I have to remedy. I really do not want to be controversial. Some hon. Members desire to trip me up, but I will tell them that the system, which existed before it, had, for the purposes of the war in which we were engaged, absolutely broken down; and that consequently it was a necessary step at the time it was taken. But I want to dismiss these matters of controversy from my mind.
There is another very serious matter. Everybody knows that nothing is a greater bar to recruiting for the Army than the uncertainty of a man's obtaining employment in civil life after he has taken his discharge. That acts and reacts throughout the whole of the Army. Do not let it be supposed that the majority of the men do not get employment. They do. The majority get very good employment. But every one knows perfectly well the difference between the chance of charity and the certainty of employment is all the world to an Englishman. Until you make it, or come near making it, a practical certainty for every soldier to obtain employment, I do not think you can hope to attract the provident class to go into the Army or to send 63 their sons into the Army. That is another of the problems which I desire to face.
Then I have also to face the problem of the linked battalions. The Committee of Defence, voicing, I believe, the universal opinion of all thinking men in this country, have come to the conclusion that the time has arrived when we must lay down as an axiom that the duty of the Army in this country is not primarily to stand with fixed bayonets around the coast, but to defend our possessions over sea. What we want is an Army which will hold India and our Colonies, which we can reinforce for war, and for which we must maintain the proper depots and institutions in this country. But the adoption of that view is incompatible with the existence of the linked battalion system. I do not deny that from the very beginning I have been a fierce opponent of that system. I said it would never work, that it never did work, and that it ought not to work. I have said that it was an impracticable, illogical, and an unsatisfactory system. But as long as the view was held that we had to retain a great Army in this country for the defence of this country, I can understand the view of those who held that the linked battalion was, in theory, a good system. But the maintenance of the linked battalions for the purposes of drafting is, in my opinion, the worst thing possible. It is an absolutely necessary sequitur to the adoption of the new policy—if we are to have our Army principally maintained for service over sea—that we cannot afford, in logic and reason, to keep the same number of battalions at home as we keep abroad.
Then I have a bone to pick with the regimental depots. The regimental depot is a little colony divorced from the battalion, in which from 40 to 200 men, under five or six officers, are congregated. Half or a third of the men are Militia recruits, upon whom the sergeant of the depot is exercising all his ingenuity to induce them to pass into the Line. These establishments lack every single element which ought to characterise a depot. We have however, depots which are splendid examples. We have the Royal Marine depot at Walmer, and another at Eastney; we have the Guards depot at Caterham; we have depots for stokers for the Navy at various great naval ports; 64 and we have the depot for the Rime Brigade and 60th Rifles at Winchester. All these depots, I say, are being admirably worked. But the existing regimental depots must go.
Then there is the question of the Guards. The Guards are, I will not say the best, but among the best, soldiers we have. I do not think any one, whatever view they may entertain, as to the desirability of maintaining a corps d' elite, will say that in peace and war the Guards have ever failed us. I had the great privilege of seeing the Guards Brigade enter Pretoria, and I can bear testimony to the fact that the officers and men had retained their military virtue, owing to their discipline and traditions, in a way which would set an example to the battalions of any other army in the world. But recruiting for the Guards is falling off very fast indeed. Why? Because for the first time we have put the Guards on precisely the same footing as the whole of the rest of the Line. They had the privilege—if you could call it a privilege —of recruiting for three years when the rest of the Army was compelled to recruit for seven years. Now that opportunity has been given to the whole of the Army and the result is—the duties of the Guards being very heavy—that recruiting for the Guards has fallen off.
Then we have another very serious difficulty to deal with. We have a scarcity of officers. If any Member of the Committee will ask any soldier, or consult any military work, or their own common sense, which is the best guide of all, they will find that the one thing the British Army lacks is an adequate supply of officers. We have a great Empire spread all over the world; we have 40,000,000 of people in this country; and hundreds of thousands who are ready to fighfor us in an emergency. But one thing we lack, and that is the driving force for these men. We want more trained officers, and when I speak of trained officers I mean officers who have gone through the mill and know what regimental life means.
Then we come to the great problem of the Auxiliary Forces, and first we come to the Militia. Here I speak fortified by authority much greater than my own, when I say that the condition of the 65 Militia is profoundly unsatisfactory. I have before me the Report of the Royal Commission on the Militia and Volunteers and what do I find? I find that the Militia force, which has been of such value to the country in the past, is 35,000 men below strength, that 27 per cent. of the whole force is under twenty years of age, that no less than,19,000 of the Militia pass annually through the Militia in to the line. I am informed that for every one of those 19,000 there are two men, or 38,000 men, who would pass through the Militia into the slender requirements of physical development which are considered necessary to en-enable them so to pass. But that is not all. I have before me the fact that in fourteen garrison units alone 42 per cent. of the men on the establishment do not exist, that seventy companies of Militia Garrison Artillery are entirely view of our military authorities, can be formed. They are absolutely redundant in our scheme of mobilization. I find that there are no less than sixty-four battalions of the Militia which are under 600 men, that there are forty-five battalions under 500 men, twenty-eight under 400 men, and ten under 300 men. I find that fourteen battalions have only fifteen officers have only fourteen, ten have only eleven, two have only ten, and one battalion has only eight officers.
What is the verdict on the condition of the Militia which is pronounced by a Commission largely composed of very distinguished Militiamen? Let me read it—There is a consensus of opinion both among Militia officers and those officers who have special opportunities for observation, that the average Militia battalion would not be fit to take the field except after several months continuous embodiment. The training of the Militia officer is inadequate to enable him to lead troops, and especially incompletely trained troops. The force is imperfectly equipped for war, and the Militia, in its existing condition, is unfit to take the field for the defence of the country.That is a very serious state of things indeed; and when I say that we are spending £1,800,000 on the mainten- 66 ance of a force which can be described in such terms, I think it will be clear to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen that the time has come when we should make some effort to mend a disastrous state of things,
I come now to the Volunteers. I believe, the Volunteer Force contains the best material we have in the whole Army—I speak with some experience, for I have seen the army of every European country—and if we are wise we shall make very best use we can of that material. Whether we are making the best use of it at the present moment is a thing about which I am not quite clear. I have before me again the Report of the same Commission on the Auxiliary Forces, and what do they say? They say—There is no divisional organisation, nor are any arrangements made for the command of staffs, or for the large mass of Volunteers told off for the defence of London. Units of Volunteers are of various establishments and strengths. Such differences rendered difficult proper grouping into the larger formations required for service in the field. The Volunteer artillery lacks the requisite training and mobility. Transport equipment and artillery material are far from satisfactory. Taking the force as a whole, neither the musketry nor the technical training of the rank and file will enable it to face, with any prospect of success, the troops Continental army.If they are not to face the troops of a Continental army, what are they for?An appreciable number of volunteers classed as efficient are physically unfit for service in a mobile army. The inequality in the attainments of the officers prevents the Volunteer force from acquiring the training necessary for war. In view of the inequality in military attainments of the officers, the limited training of the men, and defects of equipment and organisation, the Volunteer force is not qualified take the field against a Regular army.That is the development of the statement I made, to the effect that we were not making the best use of our military material. I think I may claim to have established my case. If anyone agrees with me in that, they will go further and say it is my duty to remedy all and each of these evils if I can.
I have said nothing hitherto about a matter which interests the Committee very much, and which does not come under any of these heads—that is the question of the reduction of the enormous cost of keeping up our Army. Everyone knows that the Army Estimates of the present year have 67 been £29,000,000 sterling; and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen know very well that those Estimates are in one sense illusory, because they omit items which must necessarily come in course of payment in future years. They do not take into consideration items for the manufacture of guns, the growth of the loan payments, or the replacement of stores. Am I misinterpreting the view of the Committee when I say it is the universal belief that not only should this increase be arrested, but that the total should be diminished? That is my own personal view. I have always felt that we are devoting a larger sum than we need to devote to the service of the Army. I have had that lesson enforced upon me from many quarters. But I would remind the Committee that if you are going to reduce expenditure you must reduce something that costs you money.
And now I come to the real crux and the real difficulty of my exposition. I speak as a Minister with many advisers—and I suppose there has seldom been a Minister who from divergent and contradictory points of view has received so much advice as to what he ought and ought not to do. There has been practically a universal consensus as to the duty of reducing expenditure, but there has been an absolutely universal condemnation of any proposal to do anything which involves the reduction of expenditure. That is the dilemma that I want the Committee to help me out of. I am going to lay down for their consideration a proposition which I ask them to accept. We are all agreed that it is desirable to retain with the colours and with the Reserve the men who axe required for the defence of the Empire at home and abroad—and no more? That whatever is superfluous should be discarded? I wonder whether my major premiss is admitted? I pause for a reply. If it is, it will carry this Committee a very long way in the direction in which I wish to take them. I am quite certain that if I do not undertake this problem somebody else will have to. The thing has got to be done. I believe it can be done, and that it can be done in such a way that we can specifically remedy all those evils which I have wearied the House by dilating upon. We can make our remedy healing, and at the same time effect a saving of money.
68 I do not know whether the Committee realises what a great Army we are maintaining. We have in the British Army 213,000 men. We have in the Army in India 77,000 men. We have in the Indian native Army 156,000 men. We have in the various colonial contingents 18,000 men. We have in our Reserve list, which is rapidly increasing, 73,000 men. We have 240,000 Volunteers, and we have on actual strength, not on establishment, 91,000 Militia. We have 28,000 Yeomanry. We have 126,000 men on the active list of the Navy, and we have 46,000 on the Reserve list of the Navy. In other words, we are maintaining now in peace time 1,070,000 men for the defence of the Empire. That is exclusive of troops maintained by the Colonies and the Indian feudatory forces. Does the Committee seriously think that for an island Power like ours this gigantic total is necessary? Frankly I do not think so.
I have had a great deal of advice tendered to me, and many suggestions have been made. One remedy has been suggested to me by many influential and important persons, and I heard it discussed at great length in another place. I mention it not because I recommend it to the Committee, but because it is suggested that as an avenue to a great saving we should adopt conscription. It did strike me as rather odd in the debate in another place the other day that no one of the noble Lords who took part in the debate had, among their other avocations, formed time to inquire into the finance of the system. But after the debate I went home and did inquire into the finance of the system. I took the terms laid down by the Royal Commission—abolish the Militia and the Volunteers, take 30,000 men from the Line, take your annual contingent as being 400,000 men. As a matter of fact I only took 380,000 men. The lowest rate ever paid to a soldier is 1s. a day. I assumed that rate, and the adoption of this simple expedient, omitting the charges for horses and some other things, would mean a net annual addition to the Army Estimates of£25,900,000. I am afraid that those who advocate this economical remedy do not realise that in every other country a conscript army is the army. In France 69 and Germany the army is a conscript army. But according to this proposal the whole British Army, minus 30,000 men, is to go on its majestic way undisturbed; and in addition there is the proposal that 400,000 men should be fed, clothed, and paid, that you must find ranges for them and barracks for them; and the net result is that you will get within 20,000 men of the number you have now in the Militia and Volunteers and pay £25,900,000 for the pleasure of your whistle. I have discarded this particular remedy. I have other remedies and these I wish to expound.
I have stated that we want to find out what the Army has to do and how much Army we want to do it. There is the Committee of Defence. No one is more anxious than I am to see its work carried forward. Its work, far from being ended, is barely begun; and my firm hope is that our successors in office may realise as clearly as I do that there is no greater economy, no greater service rendered to the country, than to maintain this Committee, if possible, to increase its efficacy and the value of its work.
We are reorganising the War Office. That, I think, is beginning at the right end, for the improvement in our machinery is the first necessary condition of effective work. We have come to the conclusion that we do not require a large Army at home in time of peace like that hitherto maintained. That being so, I look to the number of troops we must of necessity maintain abroad; and there I think the rule is laid down clearly. We must maintain the garrison of India. At present the infantry garrison of India is fifty-two battalions, and we have in the Colonies thirty-seven battalions. My own belief is that the time will come, and ought to come, when for a variety of reasons we shall withdraw a portion of those battalions. I must point out, however, that what is costing us money is the upkeep and maintenance of those oversea battalions; and as long as we have to maintain them we must pay for them as well as for a certain number of battalions at home, on the same basis, which will furnish a circulation and pre- 70 vent the soldier doing what they all dislike—namely, spending the whole of his time on foreign service.
Let us assume that these battalions amount to 100 more or less. We have then remaining a certain number of Line battalions which are superfluous. What are we to do with them? I do not suppose that even the most iconoclastic Member of the House would desire that we should destroy them. I do not suppose that any one would wish to destroy a great regiment like the 93rd Highlanders or the 100th Royal Canadian Regiment. But we are looking for a reduction, and in my opinion the Regular Army, as well as every other branch of it, must be called upon to make some contribution to the reduction. I propose, therefore, that we should reduce gradually by absorbing fourteen Line battalions. Those are the third and fourth battalions of seven Line regiments raised within the last three or four years. They have earned during their existence an honourable position but their position is not to be compared with the famous battalions of which I have spoken. We shall absorb them gradually into the battalions from which they sprang, or into other parts of the Army. We shall also, as time allows, absorb the five garrison battalions created for the war. They have done good service, but they are redundant in our establishments and exceedingly costly, not the less so because, to put it mildly, they are not celibate. There are between forty and fifty battalions remaining over. What are we to do with them? The number will depend on the number we are able to withdraw from colonial services.
But we propose to recognise the facts. At present every battalion is divided into two unequal parts, one part which goes abroad and a part which is not allowed to go abroad. We divide the Army into two parts. We propose to keep a certain number of battalions at home on the home establishment. We also propose to reduce these battalions to 500 men, and out of these 500 men 100 will be general service soldiers and the remainder short service soldiers enlisted for two years. The result is that every year there will be a large turnover of men for the Reserve. They will enter the Reserve for six years, and 71 every third year they should come out for training. We propose that the battalion shall have twenty officers, but that there shall be attached to it ten officers who are of the same type of officers as those now joining the Militia, and after an adequate period of training, say a year, will pass into the Reserve and come back at each period of training to train with the battalion. We also propose that, as far as possible, these battalions should be made really territorial battalions. The territorial scheme has never had any real meaning in this country. At Liverpool the other day it was remarked to me that the King's Liverpool Regiment had never been seen in the city of Liverpool. How can you expect any locality to take an interest in a regiment which it never sees? We propose that as far as we can we will quarter the territorial battalions in their own territory. What will be the result? Nothing is more detrimental to the Army than the badness of the barracks. The barracks are so bad, because every battalion goes out of them, knowing that it will never go into them again. The Royal Marine barracks get better year by year, because they are tenanted and maintained by the same force. I look forward to a time when each territorial regiment will be quartered in its own barracks in its own town, and when everything that is done for the soldiers by the benevolence and good will of the county to which the regiments belong will endure for the benefit of that county regiment.
What will be the position of the officers who now go into the Militia, but who will attach themselves to the Home battalions? They will then pass a year with their own Line battalions, and at the end of the year they will pass back into private life and come up for their training. And they will come up for their training with a full battalion of 1,000 men. It may be said, "These officers cannot rise to the full position of colonels-commandant of their regiments." That is true. They cannot, because it is obvious an officer who only engages himself for a month in each year cannot become a permanent member of the regiment; but we believe that we can find an issue from this otherwise difficult situation. We believe, if we allow these officers to retire after a full period of 72 service with an honorary step in rank and a retaining fee, that they will come on to the reserve of officers. We are very sanguine that we can follow the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and that we can reserve to them and other deserving officers the dignity of deputy-lieutenant. They will remain as the officers on the reserve for the mobilisation of this battalion. You will have a battalion at Gloucester, say, of 500 men and twenty officers in time of peace. In war it will mobilise and have 1,000 men and thirty officers. There will be some 600 or 700 men over, for whom at the present time absolutely no organisation and officers have been found. We hope that these retired officers who have taken their retaining fee and who know the battalion, the men and officers, will come forward at once and take command of that additional battalion, and we shall at one step have got that for which all military men have longed—something analogous to the German Landwehr—proper organisation for our surplus regiments.
I attach great importance to the question of barracks. Nothing more affects the recruiting than the way you treat the soldier. I know our barracks intimately, and I say they are not a credit to this country, and I have taken a step which I believe will commend itself to the Committee. We have put a stop to the system of having standard plans of barracks which has led to the stereotyping of barracks. I am entrusting the work o our barrack-building and repair to a gentleman who, if any man is capable, ought to be capable. He is the gentleman who has built the great artisans' dwellings and Rowton Houses both in London and Birmingham, and ought to be able to utilise his experience for housing our soldiers as I desire they should be housed.
Now I come to the Royal Artillery. I do not want to touch a battery of the Royal Artillery. They are our best force. They are unrivalled in the world. I want 100 batteries to remain as they are; but I want to take the remainder and put them on the same short service basis in order to enable us rapidly to create a reserve. I want to take some sixty or seventy batteries of the Royal Artillery, 73 to put them on a four-gun establishment, to enlist a portion of the men for general service, and the remainder for short service, to keep them at home in time of peace, and to be able to create what we greatly desire—a reserve for the Royal Artillery.
I said I wanted to do away with the linked battalion system. We propose to do away with it by establishing large depots throughout the country—depots analogous to the Royal Marine depot, the Guards depot, and the Rifle Brigade depot. We believe, if we do that, we shall be able to select the best officers and non-commissioned officers, to keep the men there for three or six months, and turn them out as trained soldiers.
I spoke of one of our difficulties being the absence of a striking force. We propose to establish a striking force. We propose to keep at Aldershot a force of practically 15,000 or 16,000 men, equal to a division and a brigade of infantry, with troops of other arms, which will be always ready to take the field. That is one of the most important changes from the Army point of view that we contemplate. I believe if we do that we shall have done a great deal to strengthen our military work.
With regard to the cavalry, I propose some slight alterations, with which I need not trouble the Committee now. I do not propose to alter the number of cavalry regiments in any way; but my military advisers are quite clear that there are some steps which may be taken with regard to the enlistment and disposition of the cavalry which will be to their advantage, and which will relieve us from the situation' in which we are now, and under which we have to keep one cavalry regiment at home as a link for a cavalry regiment abroad. I need not enlarge upon that. It is so obvious a mistake. We believe we can alter that system greatly to the advantage of the cavalry.
Hon. Members have frequently, and I think with perhaps more zeal than discretion, attacked the Army Corps system of my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India. It is really extraordinary how much zeal and energy they have displayed in attacking a matter which really had very slight importance indeed. It is perfectly true, though some hon. Members do not appear to think so 74 Hon. Gentlemen have been attacking this system as if it was a matter of substance and essence. My right hon. friend has divided the United Kingdom into a certain number of divisions, and he called these divisions "Army Corps" divisions It does not matter two straws what the divisions are called—whether they are called Sunday school districts or Army Corps districts, and so far as I can make out, the whole fury and zeal of hon. Members opposite has been directed purely against that name. I should have had a great deal more respect for their attacks, if they had directed them to what I believe to be the underlying matter of essence, because there is a matter of essence, which I have never heard mentioned by one single Member. An Army Corps is an accepted expression which connotes in ordinary parlance a certain proportion of troops of the various arms. My right hon. friend hoped that that proportion might be attributed to each of these divisions. Up to the present time it has not been attributed to all of them. Hon. Members laugh, but I have never heard that point of view raised before. I have heard many attacks on the name. But we propose now to follow the recommendations of the Esher Commission, and divide the country into commands, which although they correspond almost exactly with the territorial extension recommended by my right hon. friend, will not be subject to the anathemas of hon. Gentlemen opposite, because they will be described by another name. I think if they can draw any consolation from that fact they are fully entitled to do so. I am in favour of the change, because I think it is desirable to harmonise the name with its customary signification.
Now I come to the question of the Militia. I have already described to the Committee what the position of the Militia is. It is very grave indeed. Nineteen thousand men a year out of the Militia are passing through to the Line. If they were physically fit I think twice that number would pass through. In some battalions as many as seven out of eight of the subaltern officers are in the Militia, in order that they may go into the Line. I was visiting a Militia battalion a few days ago, in which all the officers at the depot mess were officers 75 who had passed through or were trying of the material worth anything of the to pass through to the Line. The two majors were Linesmen and the sergeant-major was a Linesman. There-fore you will understand that at present the Line is living on the Militia. There are many hon. friends of mine in this House who have belonged to the Militia who have done splendid work, and I am the last to deny that to a great extent the Militia difficulties have arisen from the unwise treatment they have received in the past. But the difficulties of the Militia are greater than that; they are inherent to the situation. So long as the Line depends upon the Militia, so long as the country districts are depleted as they ale now depleted, the Militia difficulty will remain.
I must tell the Committee what my own view would be with regard to the best treatment of the Militia, both in the interests of the Militia and of the Army as a fighting machine. My belief is that the proper course to take would be to give the Minister of War carte blanche to take some seventy battalions of the best Militia, to unite each two battalions together, and to turn them into territorial battalions; to make them shake hands with the Line; to put them into the great centres of population; to make them the Herefords and the Bedfords, with pay for it. That is the plain black and their colours and their drums and traditions.—[OPPOSITION Laughter]—These things are very precious to the soldier—[MINISTERIAL Cheers]—and make them the territorial battalions of this country. We should then be able to give 800 Militia officers precisely the same opportunity that they now have—that is, of coming into the trainings and going out after the trainings, being associated with their own country battalion in peace and fighting with it in time of war—and we should be able to give to 1,600 other officers the chance which most Militia officers now are seeking of passing direct into a Line battalion, of serving at home in their own counties, and in their own county towns, and with their own comrades. I believe nothing would be more popular in this country than if I were allowed to put down in each of our county towns one of these territorial battalions, which would use up the whole 76 of the material worth anything of the officers and men in the Militia at the present time. That is what I believe is the correct solution of this Militia problem. I believe that is the real way out.
But I have not been so many years as I have in this House without knowing that with a great national force of that kind no Minister—not even a powerful Minister, let alone a tyro like myself—can effect a change like this, unless ho has with him the good will and conviction of Parliament and of the nation. I commend that statement to hon. Members and to the country. I do not propose to ask the House now to give any opinion. On the contrary, I propose to occupy the coming autumn in consultation with the Militia officers, and with those who are best qualified to voice public opinion, and in ascertaining if they desire to fall in with this proposal, which, I believe, will be both popular and valuable. But perhaps no case that I can make out now will prevail to change the customs and traditions of a force to which we owe so much as we do to the Militia; and therefore I am prepared to leave that matter in abeyance. But let the Committee remember this. They have asked me to economise. If they desire to keep up the whole of the Militia on the basis on which it now exists, they will have to pay for it. That is the plain black and white of it. If they desire to keep up the whole of the 124 battalions of Militia, with their artillery and engineers, on their present basis, they will have to pay for it. And do not let it be believed that we can raise the pay of the Militia, and for this reason—the moment you raise the pay of the Militia you raise the pay of the home service Line battalions; and the moment you do that you raise the pay of the general service battalions; and the moment you do that you will raise the pay of the Navy, and some £15,000,000 will be paid by the time you have done. We will do our best, if it is the wish of the House and of the country, to maintain all the Militia that are capable of being maintained; but we ask leave at the same time, as those responsible for making a fighting force for this country, to raise the standard of the Militia. It is absolutely no use to go on recruiting boys who can be described, and are described, in the terms of the Commission's 77 Report. And I go further. We must be given permission to cut off from the Militia those units of it which are plainly redundant to our requirements, and show that they are not capable of recovering the ground which they have so unfortunately lost.
Now, Sir, I come lastly to the question of the Volunteers. I said before, and I repeat, that I believe the Volunteer force contains the best material we have in the Army. I say that with some knowledge. I know the Army pretty well; I know the Volunteers pretty well; and I say that within the Volunteers we have the most magnificent material that this country can furnish, and I want to utilise it for the defence of the country. I am going to ask the Volunteers to submit to the same sacrifice as I ask the Line to submit to, and ask the Militia to submit to—that is, a sacrifice in numbers. I ask leave to reduce the establishment of the Volunteers to 200,000 men. I have just read to the Committee the Report of the Commission, which states that large numbers of the Volunteers are inefficient, and are practically not available as soldiers. We ought not to have these men in the Volunteer force at all. I speak not without some knowledge. The other day I was blamed for fixing the establishment of the Yeomanry at a figure which involved a diminution of some of the regiments. What has happened? These regiments now thank me for having done it. They say they have the call of the market, they can get the best men that come up to their standard. I propose, therefore, to fix the establishment of the Volunteers at 200,000 men, and to reduce the strength by absorption, in the first instance to 180,000 men. In every Volunteer corps there are two forces pulling different ways. There are men who want to give more time and are able to give more time, either because they are not fully occupied or because they are young; and there are those who are willing, and capable soldiers, but whose avocations will not permit them to give so much time. The result is constant complaint against the "screwing-up," as it is called, of the War Office regulations. We desire to recognise that state of things, and what we desire to do 78 is this. We desire to give a much larger grant to the Volunteers. We desire with the assistance and counsel of Volunteer officers, whom we are most anxious to consult in this matter, to give effect to that separation which we know exists. Personally I should like to take 60,000 Volunteers and make them into a field army, require of them all that we think they can give, put a large grant at their disposal, and make them keep up their full complement of properly-trained officers and their full complement of noncommissioned officers. I should like to put the other 120,000 upon an easier basis of requirement, retaining their connection with the force, sharing all, its social opportunities, proud of their position, and ready, I am perfectly certain, in time of war to take their place in the force, with the experience and knowledge which they have acquired. That I believe to be the right and true solution of this Volunteer problem. Let me take an example. I know many battalions of 900 men. I should like to take 300 of these men—I take 300 as the figure for the sake of example—and say, "We will give you a much larger grant, but you must do certain training, you must show certain proficiency in musketry, and attend for a certain length of time in camp, and, above all, you must have a full complement of trained officers." And I would say to the remaining 600:—"You have done your hard work, and we wish you to remain in the second battalion of this regiment. You may be quite as good"—I know some cases in which they would be quite as good as the first battalion—"and in war time we will rely upon you to come and fill up these companies and make the thirty files sixty files." Then you would have what happens in every foreign army. You would gain strength by obtaining a willing reserve, falling into its place with its officers and noncommissioned officers.
But I do not want to dogmatise on the particular application of my doctrine. On the doctrine itself I am quite clear that we are right. The doctrine itself is this—that we must reduce the number and we must increase the quality of the Volunteers; and in order to be able to increase their quality, we must add to the fund that is at the disposal of those from whom we require 79 extra work. There will be a certain number of men who have not the time or inclination to enter the Volunteer force. For them also we desire to provide. There are many Members of this House who command a large amount of support in the country who believe that the country derives great support from the existence of rifle clubs, and undoubtedly the existence of rifle clubs, under proper management and direction, does familiarise men with the use of fire-arms. We propose to put an annual sum at the disposal of these rifle clubs, provided they come under our regulations in such a way as to make them, at any rate, a reasonably effective contribution to the Army in time of war. I further propose to do a thing which, I think, every one will agree with. We propose to set aside a sum that will enable the Volunteers to provide themselves with transport. Everybody well knows that at the time of the war we found ourselves with 250,000 Volunteers in the country, who were practically not available for warlike operations, because they had neither organization, nor transport; and we believe that if we make this attempt to improve the system of Volunteers, we ought not to overlook this important question of transport. That is a rough outline of the proposals I wish to submit to the House with regard to the Volunteers.
But every one will say I have left out one very important element, and I have. I am not going to leave it out altogether. I shall be asked—What about economy? I am not going to pledge myself to positive figures, and I will say that next year the economy will be very little indeed. You cannot deal with a great Army in which every man is serving on an engagement, as if it was composed of people taken on by the day. You will have to meet your engagements. Practically the only way of economising to a large extent next year would be by stopping the manufacture of the new gun or by stopping recruiting. Those are not expedients to which I think any one desires us to resort. But I do think that we ought to aim at reducing the expenditure next year, so as not to have any serious excess upon the Estimates of this year. But it is my ambition to lay the foundation for a scheme which will enable my successors to effect progressive economies 80 in the Army expenditure; and that, I believe, I can do. If you strike fourteen battalions off the Line it will be a very large economy; if you strike five battalions off the garrison regiments, that is a clear reduction of £500,000 off the Army Estimates. If you take forty or fifty battalions of the Line and reduce them to 500 men each and put them, not on a basis of full service pay, but on a lower basis of pay, that again is a reduction amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds. I think there are many reductions which I will speak about later, if necessary, which might be made and ought to be made. I hope to see a reduction made in what is to me the incomprehensible expenditure on what we call "aquatics." The Admiralty has always told us that as the submarine is perfected the need for "aquatics" will diminish. I propose to take advantage of that declaration and to diminish the expenditure upon "aquatics." Perhaps I ought to explain. Aquatics are submarine mining apparatus which at present, by a rather strange arrangement, as I think, are in the hands of the Royal Engineers. They are put into the middle of the naval ports, and I am afraid we sometimes get rather scant thanks from our friends at the Admiralty for putting these obstacles in their waters. It is perfectly obvious that this is one of the matters that can only proceed pari passu with the changes made at the Admiralty; but I am so sanguine with regard to the progress that is being made with submarine building that I believe we shall be able at once to commence reducing the expenditure on "aquatics." If any hon. Member cares to add up these figures he will find they amount to a very large reduction. And as we reduce the battalions, and bring battalions back from abroad, this reduction will increase. I cannot stand at the Table of this House now and say I am going to reduce this battalion or that battalion. I have gone into the matter with immense care, and I know what battalions I should desire to reduce. Perhaps it may be possible to reduce other battalions. If I am allowed to carry out these proposals, there will be a reduction of other battalions that will be brought back.
81 With regard to the Militia, I am in the hands of the House and of the public. If the Committee insist and the country insist upon the retention of the Militia as it at present exists, they will pay £1,800,000 for the privilege. If they allow me to do what I believe to be the best thing for the efficiency of the Army, they will very largely reduce that expenditure. But, be that as it may, apart from the Militia question, I believe I have done something to carry out the promise I made to the House to suggest specific remedies for a specific evil. I have suggested means by which we may cure the want of organisation in the head direction of the Army. I have already given an indication that we are taking steps to reorganise the War Office. I have told the Committee that we have already reorganised the Intelligence branch and the Staff branch of the Army. I have proposed to abolish the three years service, the evils of which, I think, I have made clear to the Committee.
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I do not quarrel with my hon. friend for asking these Questions, because he is merely calling attention to some of the many omissions there must be in a long speech. I did give the terms of service for the home battalions — two years. I propose that the terms of service for the General service soldier shall be six months in the depot and eight years and six months with the colours. I would point out that that is practically the term of service served by a very large number of soldiers at the present moment. I have suggested a remedy for the great evil of calling out the Reserves on all occasions, for all wars. I have promised to institute, if I am allowed, a striking force. I have indicated a method by which soldiers may be employed after discharge in employment congenial to them and to which they are accustomed. I have pointed out that there will be some forty or fifty, and, as I hope, some eighty Home - service battalions at home, none of which will be supplied with non - commissioned officers. The whole of the non-commissioned officers for this force and for the whole of 82 the depots and Reserves will have to, come from the soldiers of the General service battalions at the expiration of their service. In that way we shall have some 5,000 or 6,000 posts available for soldiers in precisely the career for which they are fitted and which they have learned to exercise. The Reserve will no longer be a substitute for men serving. It will become a supplement to the Army, and there will be an organisation for soldiers in the Reserves on mobilisation beyond those who are immediately called to the colours. The linked battalions will exist for the purpose of exchange, and will exist no longer for the purpose of drafting. Recruiting for the Guards will, I hope, be put on a more stable and satisfactory basis. The attractions of pay will, I believe, be greater than they have ever been, because no longer will the soldier of nineteen years of age be compelled to wait two years before he gets his full service pay. He will be able directly he has passed from the depot to get the full service pay, which, as hon. Members will remember, is 50 per cent. higher than the ordinary pay. The Militia I will not say more about. I have not yet the permission I desire to deal with that question. The Volunteers, I hope and believe, will be enormously improved, and an opportunity will be given to every good man and every good officer now serving in the Volunteers to continue his service and to continue it under conditions, I believe, more palatable and acceptable to him than at the present time.
These are my propositions, which I hope I shall be able to elucidate and elaborate on another occasion. I am putting these proposals forward as the proposals of the Government. I do not want it to be supposed that any reduction is palatable to the Army. Although I speak on behalf of the most loyal colleagues a man could possibly desire, I must not have it supposed that any soldier desires that there should be a reduction of any Line battalion, or that there should be any alteration of the conditions of service of any battalion with which he has ever been associated. I think it would be unfair to my colleagues and those with whom I work if I were to let it be supposed that they desire these changes should be made. They do not; but they do give me their loyal and perfect 83 desires the end, I do beg that they will co-operation. It is a matter of policy. It is a matter of policy for the House of Commons, and if the House of Commons give me the means.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition whether he does not recognise as certainly as I do that this problem is one that has got to be faced, and to be faced immediately. I ask him, if he can find in the propositions I have made something that will make our joint work easier, to give me his support. I know I shall have his criticism, and I shall welcome his advice. I am quite confident that, if I could get the House of Commons to look at this thing as I have tried to look at it, they would very largely agree with me. I have been trying to look at this problem from the beginning with one prospect before me, and that is the prospect of war. If I were to say that 99 per cent. of the recommendations and suggestions that have been made to me in the course of the inquiries I have been making have been based on some other consideration, I should not be going far wrong. There are, and there must be, personal views, individual views, views connected with association and with sentiment, all of which I understand, all of which I appreciate. But with the lessons which we have before us to-day, the lessons taught us of what military virtue means—I mean military virtue in the Roman sense of the word—of what are the qualities which you must have in a soldier in order that in the day of battle he may win; when I think of these things then I try to set aside from my mind any consideration which is not guided by, and does not lead to, that final end. I make this appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House. I ask them, when they criticise me, as they will and as they are entitled to, on this particular or on that particular, whether what they are saying is really and truly in the interests of the fighting forces of this country, or whether it is not a little tinged by something they are thinking of in their own home, in their own county, in their own work—all admirable motives, but not the motives which are entitled to predominate in a case where the fortunes and the fate of this country are really concerned.
§ Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The right hon. Gentleman has appealed, and will not appeal in vain, to the House to consider this matter with the seriousness it deserves, and to endeavour to put away subordinate considerations and prejudices and Party feelings in order to judge fairly of the scheme he has unfolded to the House. But the right hon. Gentleman must not carry too far that part of the exhortation which he addressed to us towards the end of his speech. I will only say on that that it is impossible for us to ignore a great many considerations which are of a minor character altogether, but yet do, with a voluntary Army as we have it, immensely influence the efficiency of its organisation, and therefore cannot be disregarded. There were two striking things in the right hon. Gentleman's statement. One was the gallant and complete way in which he exploded the doctrine of conscription, which has been dangled before the eyes of the country for some time; and I cannot mention that without expressing not only regret, but a certain degree of rebuke, that an old friend of mine, the chief military adviser of the right hon. Gentleman, should have made such an indiscreet speech the other day which led to the belief that whatever the Government might say or whatever the right hon. Gentleman might say, there was behind them a lurking desire for conscription in this country. The right hon. Gentleman has done good service in pointing out the enormous cost of any such system and the deduction — intellectual and industrial—from the resources of the country which can hardly be essayed in figures but which is really one of the heaviest burdens that some of our neighbours across the Channel have to bear. The right hon. Gentleman also caused a thrill of relief to many Members of the House when he showed that certain intentions attribute to him, I do not know with what authority, in regard to the Militia were not to be carried out. One cause of the weakness of the Militia is the question of officers, but I think a good deal could be done to remedy that weakness without materially transforming the force. The right hon. Gentleman, as I expected, threw over what he persisted in calling the linked-battalion system, 85 though it had ceased to be a linked-battalion system. I would prefer to call it the double-battalion system, by which a battalion abroad leant upon a battalion at home. I am completely unconvinced by anything the right hon. Gentleman has said, that it is a wise thing to overset that system. I am quite aware that in this I am going against the great majority. I suppose, of those who count themselves the Army reformers of this House. The system was introduced at a time when our troops were brought home from the Colonies, and when it appeared to those who elaborated the system that the best thing we could do would be to use a battalion at home for a double purpose, not only to employ them in peace time, but also so to maintain them that, with the help of the Reserve, they might be turned into efficient fighting units for defence of this country or any other purpose. The right hon. Gentleman, it seems, is creating a number of depots in addition to the battalions of the Line which will be maintained. These depots will be a costly institution, and, whatever their excellence may be, they will be of no use for the defence of the country, and will not be the same thing for military purposes at home as one, two, or three battalions, however attenuated.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
That is another thing altogether. That is an organisation which was instituted for the initial training of the troops. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the depots are too small, and that there are too many of them. When that system was instituted it was found that no county would allow itself to be left out of the arrangement. Such are the jealousies between localities, the traditions and associations attaching to individual regiments, and the power- 86 ful influence brought to bear in this House, in society, and in the Press, that the Government are forced to multiply those depots in order to meet the strong feeling that exists. That is' a misfortune; but I am afraid that in this country, where, with a voluntary service, we have to depend on the good will of local people and the influence they can bring to bear, it is necessary to keep on good terms with them. If we had a tabula rasa matters might be arranged in another way; but we mast recognise the circumstances in which we have to work. It was only at the end of his speech that the right hon. Gentleman told us what the terms of service will be of the men in the Line battalions, and of the increase proposed. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as any one that it has been laid down after an immense amount of careful inquiry, on sanitary grounds, and after most elaborate actuarial calculations, that in adjusting the service of a man we come to a time when it is impossible to turn him adrift without providing for him in the future. If we take nine or ten years out of the best part of a man's life we arrive at the pension zone, and it would be cruel and inhuman not to provide for him in some way. The claim may be resisted at first, but it will gradually grow in strength; and therefore in calculating the expense of any system of this sort the right hon. Gentleman must always remember that there is that spectre of a non-effective Vote in the background. If the right hon. Gentleman keeps men too long with the colours, as sure as fate he will land himself in a heavy pension charge; and that is a danger which ought always to be borne in mind.
I do not quite understand how the regiments are to be relieved. I am not at all surprised to hear that the right hon. Gentleman is going to abandon the three years enlistment, and meet in some other way the almost critical difficulties which it has placed us in. But what about the reliefs of the battalions, if the proportions are altered? We shall have a certain number of long-service battalions, some belonging to the expeditionary force, and others garrisoning different parts of the world, 87 and the rest of the Army will be on a two-years service footing, and employed for another purpose altogether. I presume that a greater amount of foreign service will be necessary in the case of the long-service battalions. The right hon. Gentleman has very adroitly managed to fasten upon the name of the Army Corps system, and implies that that is the principal thing to which we have objected; but what we object to is the idea of maintaining in this country a number of Army Corps with a view to an Army Corps as an Army Corps being sent abroad to any part of the world. That is an idea unsuited to our wants and requirements. However, that is a thing of the past, and we need not revive ancient controversies. In regard to the Volunteers, I have a good deal of sympathy with what the right hon. Gentleman proposes to do—namely, somewhat to reduce their number and to pile the money, so to speak, on those that remain, and even to add to the grants. I think that in that matter the right hon. Gentleman is going in the right direction. As to the question of the battalions of the Line, the right hon. Gentleman will find that strong local feeling will be aroused if a battalion of distinction is converted into a mere training depot, which is never to go abroad and is never to have a chance of distinguishing itself again.
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I wish to point out that all these battalions would go abroad in time of war.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The battalions to which the men are engaged for two years? [Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER assented.] They will be filled up from the Reserves? I think that is a use of the Reserves which the right hon. Gentleman does not like.
§ * MB. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The right hon. Gentleman must not misunderstand me. I have always thought and said that the Reserves ought to be supplementary to the Army, and not a substitute for it. Of course, a service battalion must be filled up with Reservists, as it is in every country.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I think that in this case the Reservists will be a substitute for men in the training battalions. The whole question, however, will stand over for further consideration. For my own part, my principal commentary on the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, the greater part of which contains nothing very novel or startling, is that if the right hon. Gentleman had been contented to leave in existence the economical and efficient system of double battalions, he would still have been able to save a large amount of money, and probably considerably to reduce the number of men. After all, what has happened? During the last few years 50,000 men have been added to the Army, and the experditure has been doubled, and the right hon. Gentleman is now trying to go back to the position in which he and his friends found the Army a few years ago.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said it was impossible to discuss this matter in any full sense on the present occasion. He wished, however, to enter a caveat on a subject on which his hon. friend particularly invited discussion. He did not think his right hon. friend had treated the Militia altogether fairly. He had proposed two alternatives, one of which meant the entire abolition of the Militia, and the other that we were to remain in our present unsatisfactory state at a cost to the country of £2,000,000 a year. There was, however, another alternative, which was to cut down the expenditure of the Militia and get rid of what was useless. A great mistake, in his opinion, would be made if the Militia was done away with. It was admitted that a great number of the Militia found their way into the Line, and he believed it would be found the great bulk of those would never have got into the Line but for the fact that they had gone into the Militia first. The Militia was the feeding-bottle of the Line, and as such was extremely useful. During the late war the Militia did not get much credit for the work it did, but had it not been for the fact that we had 100 battalions of Militia able to garrison both this country and our Mediterranean possessions we should never have been able to release the large 89 body of Regulars required by Lord Roberts to finish the war in South Africa. What were we to do on a future occasion when we had sent abroad every available regiment strengthened by Reserves, and had depleted our garrisons in the Mediterranean, if we had not the Militia to fall back upon to perform this work so successfully performed by them hitherto? So far as he understood his right hon. friend's proposal it was that the Militia, as at present constituted, should go and that it should become a portion of the territorial Army. That proposition he ventured to say was an impossible one. It must be remembered that besides the young men who went through the Militia as a matter of course, there were a certain number of country gentlemen who went into the county Militia because their families had always been in it, and it appealed to their sense of patriotism that they could serve their country in that way. What his right hon. friend desired to do was to turn the Militia into an inferior branch of the Line. We had in this country a voluntary system, and what should be done, both as regards the Militia and the Volunteers, was to make the system more elastic so as to attract men in every possible way; to present the term of service in as varied a manner as possible. If the Militia was abolished or so altered that it did not hold the place in the eye of the people that it did now, the result would inevitably be that we should lose and not be able to avail ourselves of a great amount of material which at present existed and which only wanted to be encouraged to be made efficient. It was not possible to enter into any detailed criticism at present because it was not possible, but he thought that any attempt to abolish the Militia would be very badly received by the country, and he appealed to his right hon. friend not to take any such step as suggested without the fullest inquiry. He asked him as an alternative whether he could not improve the Militia as it stood and make it more efficient.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
expressed the opinion that the hon. Gentleman would have appealed to the House with greater force if he had replied to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. We spent in this 90 country enormous sums for troops tied by the leg and which could not be moved. To-day the House had heard that we were getting rid of the garrison battalions, which were always objected to in that House on the ground that they were costly forces which could not be moved. The question was, were the Militia willing to take upon themselves the burden they had sometimes taken in time of war, to go abroad in war. If that was so, the Militia would not be the force that now existed. The Statement of the Secretary of State for War, though some what lengthy and very interesting, did not make things clear to those who had worked with him in the past and who shared his views, nor had he made it clear how his plan would work. The right hon. Gentleman had based his speech to-day on the Report of the Defence Committee. In introducing his Estimates this year, the right hon. Gentleman said—I hope this Report will not be debated on the Army Estimates but will be dealt with by itself.As regarded the constitution of the War Office, he understood that, although no statement had been made in regard to it in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, a statement had been made in another place to the effect that a Bill was to be brought in in the course of the present session dealing with the powers of the Secretary for War. If that were so some of the subjects which otherwise would be properly discussed now would be postponed for discussion upon that Bill. He was of course assuming that that Bill would be introduced in the course of the present session. He also understood that there would be a further day for the discussion of this Vote itself. There were, however, one or two preliminary questions which he desired to ask. He might be somewhat stupid but he was unable to follow in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the general principles—with every word of which he agreed and which were so admirably laid down in the first part of his speech—to their logical conclusion in the actual scheme which had been laid before the Committee. He congratulated the Government upon their secret having been admirably kept in retard to the scheme. Many rumours had been rife, and they had turned out to be so different from the actual scheme that none 91 of those opportunities of discussing the matter in advance, which frequently happened in regard to statements of this kind, had occurred. The main point which had been established was the success of those principles which the Secretary for War and many other hon. Members had fought for in the past in regard to the establishment of a completely separate system of enlistment for India and the peace foreign Army from that for the home Army. He had never asked—and he did not think any hon. Members in the House who held those views had ever asked—that what might be called the principle of service with the Indian Army should be applied to any part of the Army at home. Many of them had discussed this matter and had written about it, and they had always assumed that eight or nine years was the proper Indian system, and they had always understood that that system of enlistment would be applied to the Indian Army or the foreign peace service Army, but they had never asked for it to be applied to the Army at home except so far as the Secretary for War himself and other writers had recommended that a comparatively small force should be kept ready as a striking force. As he understood the right hon. Gentleman's statement he went far beyond that in the direction of long service. This was a point upon which they ought to be most distinct and clear. Was the long service system of nine years to be applied only to the peace foreign service Army and the striking force at Aldershot?
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
We propose that of these battalions the greater part should be at Aldershot. The entire service of the General-service soldier will not be in the foreign service.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that was a most important point which ought to be worked out, and placed before the House in detail. There was another reason for this, and it was the effect the nine years and the two years enlistment respectively would have upon the Reserve. It was impossible that the Committee should either accept or refuse this scheme until hon. Members were satisfied upon these two points. It was 92 most important to know what the effect of this scheme would be upon the eventual number of Reservists. The right hon. Gentleman had not placed that information before the House, and therefore he asked him in his reply to give some calculation as to the number expected from the two years enlistment and the effect produced by it on the Reserve; and in the other direction he wished to know the effect anticipated by the extension of the service from eight years to nine years. Those were points of extreme importance upon which he thought they ought to have some statement from the right hon. Gentleman.
In the whole of the first part of his speech the Secretary for War carried the entire Committee with him in the exposition he gave of the enormous number of troops maintained and the very small number of actual efficients produced by that large number. One important question which underlay a great deal of the right hon. Gentleman's statement was the large proportion of our troops who were tied by the leg for home service only, and who could not be sent abroad in time of war, except by volunteering as individuals. He understood that the tendency of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was against spending large sums of money upon troops which were tied by the leg to home service, but he had not been strong enough to tell the House that he actually intended to reduce the expenditure upon this class of troops; even the improved Volunteers and the improved Militia which he looked forward to would not be capable of being sent abroad except by a change in the conditions of their service. When they came to the points where money was going to be saved they were inseparably connected with the abolition or diminution of the linked-battalion system. Those who would mend the linked-battalion system and those who would sweep it away altogether in accordance with the recommendations of the Esher Commission, had always looked forward to obtaining a considerable reduction of Army expenditure after getting rid of the necessity of keeping a battalion at home for every battalion abroad; the former being battalions which were not needed at home. When the Secretary for War used that argument and 93 spoke of the abolition of the linked-battalion system he became a little vague in his figures. He told the Committee the number of battalions in India and the number of battalions for colonial stations, but he did not distinguish between those battalions and the South African garrison, and he left a very wide margin unaccounted for.
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that what he hoped was to have about 100 battalions for general service, which would cover India and colonial service and would leave a very small number of the General-service battalions at home, which would carry out what the right hon. Gentleman desired.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that if the right hon. Gentleman would total up the battalions he had referred to he would find that they added up to eighty-nine battalions for service abroad, and that left a very small amount of troops for his Aldershot force. The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, looked forward to a reduction of the South African garrison. That matter was inextricably mixed up with the question of the constabulary of the Transvaal, which now consisted only of 4,770 men, with the result that the garrison had to do policemen's duties, and that was fatal to the training and discipline of the Army. This had rendered the service most unpopular and it was damaging recruiting. A ring of brewers had been formed and duties upon beer had put up the price of beer to the troops to 6d. per glass in South Africa, and that was not likely to encourage recruiting. The reduction of the garrison in South Africa was an essential part of the scheme which had been put before them that day. The present state of things put difficulties in the way of recruiting. It would no doubt be suggested that now it was proposed to take steps toward long service whilst two years ago they took steps in the direction of short service. The most confused impression upon this matter appeared to exist not only in the Press but in the minds of Cabinet Ministers. The present Secretary of State for India attempted to throw upon him personally the charge of desiring to cut down the general service of the Army to short 94 service. He wished to point out that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office in his evidence before the Royal Commission on the War, made exactly the opposite statement, for he said that for years the Government had been fighting against proposals for long service. All these general statements were most confusing. What he had always pleaded for in this matter had been greater elasticity in the conditions of service in the long service according to the purpose for which it was required, and the same with the short service. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would go so far as to admit that there was in the evidence which had been taken upon this subject in the three most recent inquiries a great deal of evidence which went to show that it was not necessary to have a longer service than one year in order to make an efficient soldier. The evidence given by General Sir Charles Knox went to show that the best men in the Army were convinced that in one year they could train a person of the present class of British recruit not only in ordinary infantry work but also in mounted infantry work as well. The evidence was very strong that in a single year, with the assistance of good noncommissioned officers, they could produce a most excellent man for the service, and therefore he was inclined to give more elasticity to the conditions of our service.
The general principle of the Secretary of State's scheme was admirable, though at present it was a limited scheme. It was possible that if the right hon. Gentleman was encouraged by success in the main portions of the scheme he might be inclined to carry the reductions further. He had given them simply a general statement as to the reductions, and he had suggested that the reduced charges in the course of this year would be little more than equivalent to the necessary increase in the charges for next year. One reason why he was anxious for a reduction was not only that the country might spend more money on the Fleet but also to some extent save money, and spend more money upon some other branch 's of the service in certain matters which he thought were necessary. The Secretary for War had said hardly anything about cavalry and mounted men. They were costly, but 95 the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that the only definite recommendation of the War Commission was that there must be a large increase in the number of our mounted men. He also knew that the Esher Committee had used words which showed that they were in favour of the creation of regular mounted infantry battalions, and yet he had not said one word upon those subjects in regard to which some increase would undoubtedly have to be provided for; neither had he made clear the system he proposed for the cavalry in the future. He had stated that he was going to leave the number of the cavalry alone, and that he was going to make certain changes at home. The right hon. Gentleman had not, however, described them, and perhaps his plans were not sufficiently matured to allow him to do so; but in making those changes many of them would be prepared to support him in making a greater reduction in the number of Regular infantry and spending the sum thus saved upon increasing the number of mounted troops.
The Secretary for War had made some sort of defence of the Army Corps system, and explained that they were in the nature of school districts, and were merely a change of name. The right hon. Gentleman was wrong upon this point, because the Committee would remember that one of the strongest points of attack upon the Army Corps system was that it linked together imaginary Army Corps which could never be sent abroad as they existed, because the Yeomanry Cavalry and the Militia were serving under conditions which did not allow them to go abroad as organised bodies. They declared that that system was a sham, and the Esher Committee declared that it was a sham, and that system was now happily at an end. Therefore they had criticised that scheme upon grounds a little more serious than those which had been suggested to the Committee. A great mistake was made, for which they had paid a great deal in muddle and waste, by trying to reorganise the Army under pressure and in haste after certain pledges had been given at the election. There were members of the Government who had said that the War Office must be swept out from top to bottom, and there was a sort of sham system adopted which 96 involved them in a great deal of muddle and waste and loss of time. Now they were getting to that position in which they might have been several years ago. The Secretary for War had used strong language-strong coming from one in his position, but not too strong—in regard to the question of what the Army really existed for. The Norfolk Commission appeared to have experienced an extraordinary difficulty in obtaining a really sound opinion upon this question, and as late as January last members of the War Office staff gave evidence, showing that they firmly believed in the necessity of having an Army ready to meet an invasion of this country. The whole of that argument had now been disposed of, and the Government had turned sharply round from the position taken up by the War Office staff.
The expenditure proposed upon the forces which could not be sent abroad and which would be required for national defence only had not been made very clear. The theory was that the Militia would readily volunteer for service abroad. Would it not be much better to recognise that in time of peace. The right hon. Gentleman had described fully the present military resources of the British Army, but lie wished to point out that, counting the expenditure for troops for India and the Colonies, they were still spending far more upon the land forces of the British Empire than they were upon the naval forces. Whilst the Government admitted the primacy of the Navy in the defence of the Empire, and the absurdity of preparing to resist an invasion of this country; whilst they had concentrated their attention upon the establishment of a striking Army, they still had to justify the proportion between the naval and military expenditure of the Empire as a whole, and they had still to show that the country was getting a sufficient striking power for the amount of money which it was proposed to spend upon the land forces. He thought the main lines of the early part of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman were entirely sound from that point of view, but he failed to see a sufficient acceptance of those lines in practice in the scheme put forward.
§ * SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said that they had had a very 97 able and clear statement put before them by the Secretary for War of the difficulties in which they found themselves placed in respect to their military forces and the outline of the remedies which must be applied to meet those difficulties. The subject was so enormous, however, that it was impossible on the present occasion to do anything more than touch the broad fringe of the question, because the statement which had just been made to them required to be carefully read and weighed. He heartily congratulated the right hon. Gentleman upon the masterly way in which he had made clear the difficulties of the present position, and the general outline of the way in which he proposed to meet those difficulties. He thought nobody who had studied the question could find much fault with the statement which had been presented to them. He agreed, however, with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean that when they came to apply those principles it was quite possible that some of the halo would diminish. The crux of the Army question was really what value should be attributed to the sea and land forces to provide against any possible military descent upon these islands. His right hon. friend had made it perfectly clear what his opinion was. What had brought this question out of the narrow purview of the War Office was the creation of a Committee of Defence which even in its infancy had brought more true light to bear upon the Cabinet than ever before. Therefore he thought the Government was to be congratulated upon having gone so far as to make a pronouncement which was simply a reversion of the policy they had been pursuing for over forty years. It was almost unreasonable to expect from any Minister dealing with the Army a statement of the real scientific facts of the situation uninfluenced by political considerations. Under our system of government they had always to remember that a Minister face to face with the Army problem had to take up two points. In the first place he had to think of the real necessities of the Empire as regarded military forces; and he had to think in the second place of the exigences of the Parliamentary situation. Therefore, no 98 Minister in that position could by any possibly means give them a wholly sound and true scheme.
There were one or two main points which he should like briefly to touch upon now, and after he had had time to digest the right hon. Gentleman's statement there would, no doubt, be other matters he would like to discuss. The first matter was, of course the recognition of the fact that our Army should really be ready to strike and not wait until we were struck. That was clearly acknowledged by his right hon. friend, but he himself was a little confused as to what increase or decrease the present proposals, if carried out, would mean in respect of the number of units which were now, and would then be, available for oversea service. His difficulty in that matter might disappear when he came to study the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Of course, he recognised the most desirable change in a small portion of that problem by the fact that they were to have at Aldershot 16,000 men who would be an organised striking force as far as that number went, and in order to apply them for purposes oversea for which they existed we should not have to call out any reserve at all. He thought that was true policy and a real advantage, but it did not meet his difficulty, namely, what would be the Imperial striking force which this scheme would give in regard to numerical strength. When the right hon. Gentleman came to face the inevitable question of reductions they would sympathise with him. Reductions could not be made without hurting somebody's feelings. The one thing with which he was most pleased of all was that there was certainly to be no reduction in the cavalry strength. He agreed with his right hon. friend that whatever reductions might be made in other branches, so far from any reduction being contemplated in respect of the cavalry, all students of this question would advocate some increase in the cavalry strength. He observed that there was to be no real reduction in field artillery. There would be in peace a reduction in the actual strength of certain batteries, but that was to create a reserve which would fill up those 99 batteries in war and, therefore, practically he did not gather that it meant anything in the shape of an attempted reduction in field artillery. That was a thing upon which they must congratulate his right hon. friend and the Government. He did not gather from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that there was any policy settled as regarded the garrison artillery. The Committee knew that there was to be a considerable reduction in the Line. The right hon. Gentleman had said nothing whatever about the garrison artillery. He did not press the right hon. Gentlemen for an answer now, but he would on a future occasion ask for some fuller explanation as to that. The right hon. Gentleman said generally that he contemplated a reduction in the colonial garrisons, but he did not mention the garrison artillery. He heard with the greatest satisfaction the declaration of his right hon. friend, that he intended to put his foot down firmly against putting the cost of submarine, or what was called aquatic business, on the Army Estimates, and applying soldiers to work they were not qualified, by any means, to do. He thought every sensible man would cordially support his right hon. friend in that direction.
They had it acknowledged clearly and firmly that the main purpose of our Army was for oversea service. That principle being acknowledged, it destroyed what had been a bugbear in regard to our military force in its relation to home defence. He did not know whether the question of the area of the services of the different forces had been considered. He was not clear whether there was to be any change in regard to that. The obligation of the soldier in the Regular Army was to go anywhere in the world. That was a binding obliation, but under the present system the obligation of the Militia was only to serve within the United Kingdom. The obligation of the Volunteer was only to serve in Great Britain. No comment was needed from him to show that the position was an absurd one. [An HON. MEMBER: Why?] In the first place, did they consider these three forces the component parts of one army. If they did, could they have an efficient Army when the three elements of it had different spheres of obligation. The thing was preposterous. In view of the statement 100 that the Army was to be a striking over-sea force, he wished to ask whether it was in contemplation by the offer of inducements to get the Militia to extend the area of their service to any point within the Empire. That was important from the point of view of its necessity. He was not now talking about efficiency. He was talking about numbers. Efficiency was a different question. When it was remembered that on the outbreak of the South African War there were on the enrolled strength 98,000 Militia and nearly 250,000 Volunteers, and that the number who volunteered for service over-sea was 52,000 Militia, and only 19,000 Volunteers, it seemed to be within the range of practical politics, whatever might be done, to get the Militia without much difficulty to extend their services to outside the United Kingdom. He considered the policy which the right hon. Gentleman had indicated was a great advance, and he trusted that they were not going to have a repetition of what happened when the last Army scheme was introduced. They were told then that the great aim was to have an oversea fighting force, and he got up and congratulated the Secretary of State for War on that statement. They were then told that they were to have 120,000 men as a striking force, and then, having chalked up this main principle, the right hon. Gentleman ran away from it. He trusted that, the Government would have backbone now—he was sure his right hon. friend had—and that, having indicated the main principles aimed at, they would stick to them and carry them out in their entirety.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said there would be much advantage in having a Memorandum from the Secretary of State for War showing the exact bearing of the most interesting statement to which the Committee had listened that afternoon. He was sure it was impossible for many who were sincerely desirous of assisting the right hon. Gentleman to give him any effective support without such a Memorandum. He would only give one or two examples of what was needed. One of the proposals which would meet with great opposition was in regard to the Militia. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman 101 that although in many Militia battalions they would find admirable men, there were a few in which the circumstances were exactly opposite. He believed the proposal was to make the Militia part of the Regular Army.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
Well, to make it into a localised force, and to diminish the ineffective condition of the present Militia. Probably there was no way in which a large saving could be more readily effected than by that method. But in order to press this and other points, as well as to enable hon. Members to consider possible alternatives—because there were possible alternatives —to the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman they must have a Memorandum. He was sure that many of the contentions of the right hon. Gentleman could hardly be upset. Most hon. Members were agreed that it was essential to have a considerable reduction in the cost of the Army, and when the right hon. Gentleman put that in the forefront, and stated that in the policy he was pursuing he had a single eye to the making of preparations for war, and war only, he must have the support of those who had also held those views for some time past. He should like to express his deep sense of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for the illustration he gave of the disadvantages of conscription merely with respect to its cost. That was a most valuable contribution to their information. The figures the right hon. Gentleman gave with respect to the three years system would carry conviction to the country that it had broken down, and that it was essential to have some effective substitute for it. He hoped this would be the last of the Army schemes brought before the House, and that they would be able to see their way through the entanglements of what had been a disgrace to the administrative system of the country.
§ MR. REGINALD LUCAS (Portsmouth)
said he had read in a newspaper that in the House of Commons there were few Militia officers; but it was some satisfaction to gather from the tone of the debate 102 that they might hope to have considerable support and encouragement in regard to the Militia part of the scheme. But he could not help feeling the disappointment which was shared by an hon. Member opposite, that after what had been said the Militia were to be still left with the sword hanging over their heads. They might have hoped after that statement that they would have had some intimation of what were the prospects of the Militia, whereas at the present time he did not know that they were very much wiser than they were when they came into the House. To those interested in the Militia it was of the utmost importance to know what was going to happen. He desired to know whether it had been definitely settled that the Militia were to be turned into a part of the Regular Army. They had heard a good deal about the quantity and expense of the Militia, but very little had been said about the quality. The real point was whether the Militia were considered to be worth continuing on their merits. He did not forget that before the Commission on the South African War Lord Roberts spoke rather disparagingly of the Auxiliary Forces in South Africa; but he thought they were entitled to say that the Militia at that moment were put in the position of a squeezed orange. When the war broke out the Militia became attenuated, because the Regular Army had borrowed from them to fill up their own ranks. He maintained, therefore, that the Militia were entitled to the benefit of extenuating circumstances on that occasion. They had been told that the great drawback to the Militia was the lack of trained officers. He would take one authority in regard to that. Colonel Henderson, in his "Life of Stonewall Jackson," having begun by saying that the Militia were not really worth anything as soldiers, went on to make this admission: "There were not more than a dozen Regular officers in the whole of the Army of the Valley. Twelve months previously several of the brigadiers had been civilians—yet Jackson might have boasted that his men had accomplished feats of which thoroughly trained soldiers might well be proud." On the authority of Colonel Henderson, therefore, Militia were not altogether worthless in case of war. He submitted that even if they 103 could not train the Militia more than they did now, there was a foundation on which to build. He believed that soldiers trained to that extent would improve very rapidly, that there would be a geometrical progression, and that in no very great time an army could be produced which would become identical with the Regular Army, and give that material aid in time of emergency which they could very ill afford to spare.
As to the training of officers there were proposals laid before the recent Commission which, he thought, were perfectly impracticable, unless they were going to turn the Militia into the Regular Army. Colonel Satterthwaite in his Report said that all officers in the Militia ought to pass an examination equivalent to that for the Army. His point was that they could not take, say, two brothers—one who went into the Regular Army, and the other who became a barrister or Member of Parliament, but who joined the Militia—and ask them to do precisely the same work. It was ridiculous to ask them to pass the same examination. There was another point which was of even more importance in connection with the Militia. Unless they were going to extinguish the Militia altogether, it was impossible to jeopardise the character of the officers. Sir Ralph Knox, in his evidence before the Norfolk Commission said that—No officer trained exclusively in these forces should be given such a rank, unless he has shown himself up to the standard of the same rank in the Regular Army.He would give a personal illustration of what he meant. In the battalion in which he held a commission, the late colonel was the First Lord of the Admiralty, who could not be expected to spend the time to pass his examination, and the present Colonel was a Member of Parliament and an exceedingy busy man, but who was just the sort of man that that was wanted to command Militia. He was fortified in that opinion by the tatement of General Swaine on 25th June last, in which the General said—The best Militia battalions that have come under my notice were those commanded by country gentlemen, who had never been in the Army, and some of the least good were commanded by ex-Army officers. The former were principally officered by gentlemen of the county, who took a pride and pleasure in their 104 work. The latter suffered from not being in touch with the county, or the county with them, and in several cases had a difficulty in obtaining officers.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol. E.)
said that he dissented from some of the suggestions and theories put forward in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. He, however, fully recognised the spirit in which that speech had been conceived. There was only one objection he had to offer, and that was that the speech had been made so late in the session. It was manifestly impossible, or at any rate difficult, for hon. Members to consider the speech in all its bearings at the present moment, and it was difficult for the Government to find another day for the consideration of so important a subject. One thing which struck him at the commencement of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman was, that it was a speech which might have been made in support of a vote of censure on the preceding scheme of Army reform propounded from the same Bench. Any one who was in the House of Commons on 8th March, 1901, must have recognised that the right hon. Gentleman who had just come in (the right hon. Gentelman the Secretary of State for India) proposed, amidst a scene of equal excitement and interest to that they had witnessed that day, a new scheme which was guaranteed to be a great achievement in the way of Army reform. He did not wish to dwell upon the fact, or to arouse any feeling of bitterness, but if the authority of the Government was brought in this afternoon in support of this scheme, why was the same authority pledged to the scheme of three years ago? The Chief Secretary for Ireland, the Prime Minister, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, the Postmaster-General all spoke in the debate in support of the scheme which they had now had to throw over. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India indulged in an outburst at one period of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, which indicated that it was doubtful whether he had really abandoned his own scheme.
§ THE SECRETARY of STATE For INDIA (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
said that the hon. Gentleman had misunderstood him. The Leader of the 105 Opposition had fallen into an extraordinary mistake in believing that a large number of home service battalions could not be available for service abroad. He cheered the correction.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said he quite accepted the explanation, especially as it showed that the right hon. Gentleman had abandoned his own scheme; and he, as one who voted against the Army Corps scheme, must rejoice at the tardy repentance of the right hon. Gentleman. The Secretary of State for War spoke of the necessity of remedying the evils which existed. He said that the country was going through a period of great peril; that the present numbers and composition of the Army were unsuitable to the needs of the Empire; and that it was unduly costly. Yet that was the system to which the country was asked to pledge itself three years ago. They were, therefore, entitled to look very carefully at the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman before accepting it.
He wished to refer to a few details taken at random. The right hon. Gentleman did not go at any great length into the question of finance; but he indicated that, although there would not be an immediate reduction there would be a reduction the year after next. It was essential, however, that the Committee should know how far the statements of the right hon. Gentleman were accurate. The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of linked battalions; but it was quite clear that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman would involve the creation of a large number of depots. Sites would have to be purchased; large buildings would have to be put up; which he hoped would be more economically erected than was the case in the past. The cost of the Army had been progressive, however, not only in bulk but in detail. There had been an enormous increase in the Army since 1895; all of which had to be put against the small decrease mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. He was certain that there would be further increases. Take the case of the Army Corps. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lard-Lieutenant of Ireland stated in 1901 that they would be the basis of the Army. Now he had changed his 106 opinion. The right hon. Gentleman, on that occasion, said that it was of importance to get the design of their house right; their design was to have six Army Corps; that would be steadily in view in all the plans submitted to the House. Now the whole matter was to be reversed. There were to be district commanders, and it would be certain that the cost of the staff would be much more than under the old system. Again, the linking of battalions one to another was to he abolished. Were battalions to be renumbered or renamed? The right hon. Gentleman ought to make J that clear. Then the right hon. Gentleman proposed nine years in the colours for the striking force. That would leave only three years in the Reserve; and to that extent the Reserve would be reduced. He wished to know whether there was to be a considerable reduction in the reserve. The right hon. Gentleman also stated that there was to be a considerable reduction in the artillery; but it was not clear whether the reduction would be in horse artillery or field artillery.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said that the late Mr. Stanhope attempted what the right hon. Gentleman now proposed; but his action had to be reversed.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said he hoped that the question had been taken into consideration. As to the Volunteers, he absolutely endorsed everything which the right hon. Gentleman had said. It was essential, if the Volunteers were to be any use, that they should be efficient. From his own experience, he believed that this efficiency could be secured without the very largely increased grant foreshadowed by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ COLONEL PILKINGTON (Lancashire, Newton)
said he listened with great pleasure to the speech of his right hon. friend. It contained many proposals, one or two of which were so novel as to be almost revolutionary, and it was difficult to digest them at the moment 107 properly. He did not like the proposal put forward with respect to the Militia. In his opinion the Militia ought to be improved and made much better even than it was at the present time. The record of the Militia in the South African War was the best of all the forces, being far better than that of the Line or the Volunteers. The battalions of Militia went out as they stood with their own colonels and their own officers. He hoped there would be reorganisation and improvement in the establishment of the Militia on the grounds of the Report of the Royal Commission, which did not advocate its being broken up, but, on the contrary, advocated its being trained and improved in every war. This old constitutional force should be improved and enlarged. His right hon. friend wished to reduce the expenditure, but he would point out that for the £1,800,000 we paid for the Militia we had something like 100,000 men fairly well trained; better trained and more valuable in the field certainly than the Volunteers would be. This was the thin end of the wedge in the attempt to spoil this old and excellent force, and in his opinion such a policy would be fatal.
With regard to the other proposal, he agreed with the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean as to the increase of mounted infantry. It was noticeable in the war in South Africa a very much larger mounted force was wanted. It was all very well to talk about reducing expenditure, but the safety of the country and the efficiency of the Army of one of the greatest Empires of the world should be the first consideration. It was not a question of expense. He was glad that the artillery and cavalry were to be left as they were. But he could not see how the supply of men to feed the fighting force was to be obtained. The fighting force in South Africa came to an end because the system was not sufficiently expansive. If the right hon. Gentleman was going to do away with linked battalions he would destroy the system which gave reinforcements, and allowed the operations of war to be carried out without much difficulty. But that question had not been touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman. From where were the supplies of trained men in the case of a 108 great Continental, or a great Indian War to be drawn? The Militia as at present constituted could go out en bloc, and those who did not go could do duty here in place of the Line. In his opinion the exhaustion of men which took place during the war in South Africa ought never to occur again. He would point out with regard to that that it was not the voluntary forces which broke down, but the Regular forces. He submitted that to carry out the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman would not only be unreasonable, but dangerous. While he admitted that at the time the force was founded both officers and men of the Volunteers knew very little, he drew attention to the fact that there had been a marvellous improvement during the last forty-four years, and that that improvement was clue entirely to the effort of the force, and that if the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman were carried out this force would be destroyed. All that the Volunteers asked the Government to do was to take the force as it was and improve it on those lines. The provision of rifle ranges was a perfect farce. They wanted more ranges and more inspection and examination. They did not mind the Regular superior officers coming down occasionally to stir them up and if they were not good enough making them better. They were often snubbed in camp, but it did them good in the end. He protested against the introduction of rules and regulations with regard to the Militia and Volunteers which would tend to discourage those forces. In every army in the world the Reserve was always five, six, seven, eight, nine, and often ten, times greater than the number with the colours, but this was not the case with our Army. The vital question which the Government ought to turn its attention to was to raise a much stronger Reserve. If they proposed to decrease the number of men with the colours they ought to increase the Reserve ten-fold. Why should they not adopt some system whereby when men left the Volunteers or the Militia their names should be taken and something done for them? Why could they not be granted some small privilege which would cost the nation practically nothing? He asked the Government to pause before taking some of these strong steps which 109 he was afraid would be disastrous and would spoil in many ways what they now possessed. He wished to improve the system they had now. The Report of the Royal Commission said that with regard to the Auxiliary Forces they ought to improve the Militia and they said practically the same thing with regard to the Volunteers. What was the use of having a Royal Commission and taking no notice of its recommendations.
§ * MR. GUEST (Plymouth)
offered the Secretary for War his hearty congratulations on the spirit of the pronouncement he had made, and wished to re-echo the view he held that the question of Army reform should be treated in no Party spirit. Last year he ventured to move that the forces of the Crown might safely be reduced by 27,000 men, and his proposal was received in almost every quarter of the House, and especially on the Treasury Bench, with scorn and contempt. Fifteen months had elapsed since that time and now the same right hon. Gentlemen came forward with a proposal for a still larger reduction. He should like the Secretary for War to tell them what reduction he considered his proposals would effect. He understood that nineteen battalions were to be abolished altogether. Then there was to be a further reduction of the difference between the 500 and the existing strength of the battalions, but they did not know how many battalions. He understood that they were to have at least fifteen or twenty battalions maintained at Aldershot at war strength, therefore they must deduct those from the forty or fifty battalions which were to be treated as upon the home establishment. That would leave thirty battalions to be reduced from whatever they were now, and he calculated that that would amount to about 24,000 men. But that did not represent the whole of the reductions which the Secretary for War hoped to effect in the Regular forces of the Crown. The artillery and the cavalry were not affected; but there was another principle which they had contended for all along, namely, economy. Although the right hon. Gentleman had laid down that principle, he had only seen fit to give the Committee the vaguest and most general figures in support of the economy 110 he hoped to effect under his scheme, and he had left it to the members of the Committee to make calculations for themselves. Having regard to the difficulty of calculating the reduction in the number of men, it was hopeless to attempt to determine what that reduction would represent in pounds, shillings, and pence. He trusted the Secretary for War would not be content with simply saying that he hoped to effect some economy, but that he would give the House some idea as to the extent of the economy he was going to achieve. The two things hung together very much, and unless the reduction in numbers was accompanied by efficiency the right hon. Gentleman would find it very difficult to persuade the House to adopt his scheme. He was delighted to feel that they had at last given up the idea that the main object of an Army in England was for home defence. The idea had been prevalent in the past that there should always be a sufficient number of men in this country ready to stand with fixed bayonets all round the coast to prevent a foreign invasion, but that idea had now happily entirely disappeared. They no longer entertained the ambitious views of the Secretary for India upon this point that they might be called upon to take their chance in combination with a Continental army against some other other Continental army. They had abandoned that idea altogether.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I never suggested that our Army should be maintained with the idea of taking part in a Continental war.
§ * MR. GUEST
said the whole tenor of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and the only justification he made for the Army Corps system was that at some time or other, we should be obliged to take part in some very large conflagration, if not on the Continent, at least on a Continental scale. One of the great points of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme was that the Indian frontier might be defended, and for that purpose we were to reduce the seven years system with the colours to a three years system. Now they found that the justification for that policy put forward both by the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister had entirely collapsed.
111 With the general spirit of the Secretary for War's statement he was agreed. But he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman would find it so easy to put into practice the whole scheme he had put before the Committee. Hosts of difficulties would occur to anybody with even the slightest knowledge of the subject. How many battalions did the right hon. Gentleman contemplate keeping abroad? He did not understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant with regard to the five garrison battalions which were to be abolished. They were abolished, and consequently there were fifty-two battalions in India, and thirty-seven in the Colonies, and that number would be diminished by five, leaving eighty-four. He could not see how the right hon. Gentleman made the 100 he spoke of. How many battalions did he allot for the defence of India and the Colonies; that would be the base upon which the number of battalions retained at home would be fixed. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would tell the Committee how many battalions he thought it necessary to keep at home at full strength to circulate. With regard to the Auxiliary Forces, it was very difficult to make out from the information furnished the real effect of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals. With regard to the Auxiliary Forces, there were two schools of thought, and they both had disadvantages. There was the school of thought very common among professional soldiers that unless they could get out of the Auxiliary Forces the same efficiency they got out of the Regular Forces, the former were of no use at all. The other school of thought was that held by hon. Members who were interested in the Volunteers and Militia, and who thought that the best assistance and encouragement that could be given to the Auxiliary Forces was to allow any number oh men, whatever their disqualification, to join. But the Secretary for War intended to avoid both those extremes, and to indicate his encouragement of, and the value he set upon, the Auxiliary Forces, not so much by trying to increase the number but to increase their efficiency. He would be taking a wise course if he carried that out.
The remarks the right hon. Gentleman made upon the Militia were of a some- 112 what striking and alarming character. The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well the services the Militia rendered in time of war. During the late war ninety-seven thousand men went from the Militia. What he did most earnestly regret was that the Secretary for War thought it wise to take up the question of the Militia, and instead of giving the decision of the Cabinet upon it, throwing it upon the floor of the House to be dealt with as best it might. Nothing could be more damaging to a force than to be placed in that position of not knowing whether they were to be abolished or retained. He thought the discouragement which such a situation was bound to bring about would rather enhance than diminish the unsatisfactory condition of the Militia. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of recruits being six months at the depot and then being drafted into the regiment. At present a great many boys joined at eighteen and nineteen, and it was an axiom of foreign service that no recruit under twenty years of age should be sent to a tropical climate.
He would like to ask a question about the Reserves. The foreign service Army would be completed very slowly, and it was therefore probable that at any moment the foreign service Army would have a very small Reserve of its own. Was there any connection between two battalions for the purpose of defence? It seemed to him obviously undesirable that a man who was treated as a Reservist for the home Army, on the outbreak of war should be drafted into a regiment with which he had nothing to do; that presented some difficulty and he hoped that the Secretary for War would give some information about it. He regarded with great satisfaction the general views of Army problems which the Secretary of State had brought before the House, and he hoped he would be successful in impressing upon the House that he was able to give practical effect to them.
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that nothing had made more plain to him the inadequacy of his statement than the number of Questions that had been asked with regard to omissions he ought not to have made. But it was exceedingly difficult to present the problem as it had 113 presented itself many scores of times to his own mind. Only one remark had been made which he regretted. The Leader of the Opposition had spoken of the Chief of the General Staff in his absence in terms of reproach, which he thought might have been omitted. In regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for the Leith Burghs he would do his best to supply a Memorandum of the case as he desired the House to see it. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean was unduly alarmed as to his departure from the canons which the right hon. Gentleman and he had agreed upon as to the distribution of men at home and abroad. The whole object of the depot system and the getting rid of the system of linked battalions for the purpose of drafts was to enable them to keep a much larger number of colour men abroad than at home. Without desiring to commit himself to precise figures, he could give an indication of the kind of proportion he had in his mind. He should like to see the Indian garrison maintained as it was; he should like to see some twenty-six battalions—a reduction on the present number—retained in the Colonies, and he should like to see twenty-six battalions of General service troops maintained in this country. That, of course, was an entire departure from anything we had ever had before and it was coming into line with the view the right hon. Gentleman had been in favour of.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the Colonies will he say how many battalions are to be retained in South Africa?
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said he knew the right hon. Gentleman felt strongly on that, but he would rather not introduce that question. He felt confident, himself, that in the course of a short time they would be able materially to reduce the South African garrison. But it would introduce an element into the debate which was really not necessary to it if he were to venture on a prophecy as to the reduction of the South African garrison. Everyone knew that the garrison in South Africa was abnormal because of the abnormal condition of things existing there, and when 114 that condition ceased they hoped to withdraw some of the battalions in South Africa. With regard to the Reserves, roughly speaking, there would be a reserve of 23,000 for General service battalions and 87,000 for the Home service battalions if he were allowed to incorporate a certain number of Militia battalions.
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that was the anticipated figure. It was considerably larger than the actual Reserve, but he would ask hon. Members to bear in mind that the difficulty was not the question of men. The hon. Member for Dewsbury had said that we ought to pile up our Reserves and have hundreds of men in them and very few men with the colours. The hon. Member said that was the example of every country in Europe. There was a fallacy underlying that statement. In every other country in Europe a standing army was only kept in existence for the purposes of training. We were face to face with a totally different set of circumstances. We had at this moment eighty-seven battalions of infantry abroad, apart from artillery and cavalry, which were bound to be on a war footing. Therefore his hon. friend the Member for Dewsbury would see that his theory did not apply under existing circumstances.
§ COLONEL PILKINGTON
said why could not some provision be made for extending the time during which these men should be in the Reserve; and why could not the same regulation be applied to the Volunteer?
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
It could. But in his view of the circumstances they did not want an enormous Reserve. His own feeling was that the sooner they could relieve the Englishman after he had successfully done his soldiering the better. They might continue the length of Reserve service ten, twelve, or fifteen years and they would get a gigantic Reserve.
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said the hon. and gallant Member was mistaken. That was exactly what they did not do. What happened in South Africa was what he wanted to guard against. They sent to South Africa the Reserve of the Regular Army, which was less than the Reserve he proposed now, and they got a great many Volunteers and Militia. But 90,000 men were left behind whom they could not send and for whom no organisation at all existed. He wanted to bring about a state of things under which all the men we were paying or should be available for the service of the country. He wanted to go beyond that, and to have a large number of additional officers, so that the men, who in a time of stress would certainly come forward, could fall in under properly trained officers and be made available. He had purposely refrained from giving full details in regard to cost, because he had been compelled to leave part of his proposals in abeyance, but he thought lie could give some figures which would be of considerable interest. If he were permitted to strike off fourteen battalions of the Line he would strike £810,000 off the Estimates. If he were permitted to abolish five battalions of the garrison regiments he would strike off £530,000. If he were allowed to divert forty-five Line battalions of the home establishment he should save £954,000, and there would be a saving of £100,000 by transferring from the Army to the Navy the aquatic submarine service. He made a slight addition to the cost of the cavalry and artillery for Departmental reasons, and the Foot Guards which would add £115,000. He did not say anything about the reductions that might be effected in regard to the Militia, but he was confident that he or his successor would be able to reduce many other items of expenditure in the future. There was the Garrison Artillery. It was a complex problem, but he was sure there was a way through it which would not alone improve the constitution of the force, but reduce its cost. The position was similar with regard to the Royal Engineers. But until he had his estimates ready he could not give any accurate statement with regard to the cost of a condition of things for which he did not at present know 116 whether he had the sanction or good will of the House.
He had been asked where he would get his men if he abandoned the linked battalion system. There was no mystery about that. The Royal Artillery, the Guards, and the Royal Marines, got their men, although they had no linked battalions for the purpose of drafts. As to the Volunteers, the Royal Commission had reported that they were not fit to face foreign troops, and he wanted to take some steps to bring them up to a better standard. He was perfectly prepared to consult with the representatives of the Volunteer force as to how best to utilise the force. What he did insist upon was that the Volunteers should have the necessary additional efficiency. With regard to the Militia, if the suggestion of the Royal Commission that the force should be called up for service six months of the year Were adopted, it would absolutely revolutionise its character, and bring the cost of a militiaman up to within £6 17s. 2d. of the cost of the Regular soldier. He adhered absolutely to the view—although the decision must rest with the House and country — that his plan would give the opportunity to every Militia officer who cared for his craft, and to every Militiaman who cared for the service, to continue in the force under conditions which would be more congenial to them and much more advantageous to the country, and in that way perpetuate to the full the traditions of the service to which they belonged.
§ And it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.