§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 227,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at home and abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1905."
*THE SECRETARY OP STATE FOR WAR (Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTEB,) Belfast,
in replying to the Questions which had been addressed to him, said he gladly recognised the favourable tone of the debate that had taken place. The criticisms had been limited in number, and not, to his mind, very important in character. He had found support for the ideas he entertained in the speeches which had come from both sides of the House. There had been exceptions, but he was very glad to find that the vast majority of the House were agreed as to the great value of the Report on the reorganisation of the War Office, and as to the desirability of giving effect to such of its recommendations as they approved. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was the most prominent exception. He ventured once more to express the opinion that, here again, the right hon. Gentleman had got a little out of touch both with the sentiment of the House and the country and with the sentiment of the Army. In his speech he I not only pleaded for postponement of any action in connection with the Report, but I there was scarcely-veiled criticism of the authors of the Report, and unveiled censure of the views expressed by the authors of the Report. He did not find I an echo of the right hon. Gentleman's views in any part of the House. All he could say with regard to the right hon. Gentleman's criticism was that he did not agree with him, and that he did not believe the future would show that such criticism was going to prevail. He had been criticised, not in a hostile spirit, from two quarters with regard to this Report, and the action of himself and of the Government in connection with it. He had been reproached because the Government had been too quick and because they had been too slow. They had been reproached because they had not accepted the Report in its entirety and guaranteed that they would carry it out; they had been reproached, I on the other hand, because they had not given enough consideration to the matter, and because they had already taken action which had committed the Government and which had greatly altered the constitution of the War Office. It was perfectly clear that, whatever their laches in this matter, these particular criticisms were very inconsistent, and that they 601 could not be found guilty on both counts at the same time. In his opinion, there was here what there was so very often in practical politics, a via media, which happened to be the road of caution and of experience. They had been reproached with not embodying in the Estimates all the consequences that might possibly flow from the complete acceptance of the recommendations of the Report. He had given the right hon. Gentleman opposite a pledge to which he intended to adhere absolutely, that if they found that any additional expense would be thrown upon the Army Votes in connection with the administration of the War Office by these changes, he would take the first opportunity of informing the House. He retained the belief that no extra charge of the kind would be entailed; certainly none had been entailed up to the present moment.
They were told they ought to have put all these matters into the Estimates. He went back to the question of dates. The ware commission reported in September. That Report revealed a state of things that made many of them sick at heart. The duty of a responsible Government was to take immediate action to see that that state of things should never happen again. What took place? The Prime Minister almost immediately appointed a Committee, which he and many other people believed was a body calculated to indicate a remedy for the state of things which was disclosed. It happened that one member of the Committee was serving his country many thousands of miles away. He was recalled, and the very day after his arrival the Committee began its deliberations. Within a month, the Committee represented its first Report, in which they laid down that, in their opinion, before the Government went any further some radical changes must be made in the organisation of the War Office. Who was there to dispute that? Who was there in that House who denied that proposition? Who was there now who would be willing to censure their action in adopting that recommendation? He did not believe there were half-a-dozen men on either side of the House who would do so. The Government acted upon that Report, 602 and with, as he believed, universal approval they made those changes in the War Office.
His hon. friend the Member for Oldham had said that the change in the personnel of the War Office was not a matter to be undertaken lightly, and that, if they were going to give the impression to the Army that changes were to be lightly made, and that great officers who had served the country well were to be transferred from one sphere of activity of another without adequate reason, it would be doing much more harm than good. He agreed, but he knew his hon. friend would believe him when he said that they were fully aware of the gravity of the work they took in hand. He hoped the view which some critics had adopted, that these distinguished officers had been dismissed from their employment, would not be adopted in that House. "These officers had not passed out of the service of their country. They were still either capable of being employed or were employed in the service. One name had been mentioned—that of Sir William Nicholson. He had a great admiration for that very distinguished and very highly gifted soldier, but he did not think that great harm had come to the country if Sir William Nicholson's term of service, which would have been curtailed in four months, had now been extended for six months, and if he were doing what he believed was the invaluable service of superintending the whole of the Intelligence work in the Far East during the present war. He could hardly trust himself to speak of Lord Roberts, from whom he had received the greatest and most unvarying kindness in every period of his life. Throughout the whole of these proceedings, Lord Roberts had been the guide and helper of those who were interested in carrying this scheme into effect. He was consulted with regard to all the appointments and with regard to the officers upon whom the posts should be conferred, and he could not too freely acknowledge the generous, the admirable conduct of Lord Roberts throughout the whole of this matter. He only said this because he was rather moved by what seemed to be suggested by the hon. Member for Oldham, that these changes had been undertaken with undue 603 rapidity and without due cause. That was not so. They felt throughout that they were performing the wishes of the House and the country, and, while the Government attempted to carry them out in the way which would be most effective, they also endeavoured to secure that it should be the way that commended itself most to all those who were concerned. With regard to the changes that had been made, they had to begin with the personnel of the War Office by selecting the members of the Council. That involved bringing from South Africa and India two of our most distinguished officers. The Council was not yet fully constituted, three of its members were here and the fourth had yet to arrive. Charges had often been made against those responsible for the conduct of the affairs of the nation in regard to the recommendations of Commissions and Committees, and those complaints had more often been made with regard to Army Commissions and Committees than any other, but when the Government got this information they proceeded to act upon it, and in face of the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, he maintained that they had done better to make progress than to wait indefinitely before carrying out what they believed to be right. The process had been carried further than appointment of the Council, they had appointed some of the directors, who were the officers who would carry out the work under the military and civil members of the Council. They had selected these directors, as far as possible, but not entirely. The Chief of the General Staff was not yet in this country, and this selection was to be a direct selection, as the Government were of opinion that those who were to perform the business of the War Office should decide how the business was to be distributed. That did not seem to him to be unreasonable, and did not arise from any apathy on the part of the Government, because they had no interest in the matter.
With regard to the selection and promotion, of officers, he said nothing about the selection in the past, but he had always felt that so long as what might be called the promotion centre of 604 the Army was in London, so long was there a danger that selections for promotion would be made, not by those serving in the field, but by those serving in the administration. Under the present scheme the whole of the promotion of the lower ranks of the Army would come from what we might call the circumference of the Empire. It would be seen that the moment the system was adopted a necessary corollary was that an officer should go about from one part of the United Kingdom to another to correlate the different officers of the Army. Army Corps were not like Fleets. Ships could be brought together, and their commanding officers brought under the scrutiny of a single man. That was not so in the case of Army Corps. There might be two officers of great quality in one Army Corps and two of indifferent quality in another, and the tendency would be for the officers commanding the districts to recommend one man for promotion from each district. Yet it would be quite right for the two men in one district to be promoted, and the two in another to be passed over. It was for this purpose that the Inspector-General was appointed. His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught would not take up his duties as Inspector-General until the beginning of May, but he did not think any loss, from the point of view of the public service, would arise through the absence of the Inspector-General for a month from the post to which he had been appointed. It had been said that the Government ought to have gone further, that they ought to give the Committee a pledge that they would accept the Report verbatim, et literatim. The second part of that Report had not been before the country more than ten days and the last part was not before the country now, yet within two working months of the commencement of the work of the Committee, the reorganisation of the War Office had been begun and great progress had been made.
The Committee did not want his personal opinion of the method to be adopted to improve our officers. The proper body to discuss this question was the Army Council, but the Army Council was not yet completed, and what would be said if he were to come down to the House and produce a scheme as to 605 which, no matter how good his intentions might be, he could not say that the Army Council agreed with it? The Army Council was only just constituted, and the most important member of it, the chief of the general staff, was not yet in England. That being so, was there any relevance in criticism of that kind?
His hon. friend the Member for Plymouth had spoken of his betrayal—for that was what his words came to—of the views which he had so long entertained. His hon. friend reproached him for saying nothing about all those things which he cared for in days when he had less responsibility and more independence. Well, he had worked very hard for many years in the House of Commons with the section of the House of which the hon. Gentleman was a member, and he thought, probably, that he hon. Gentleman was the only member—if, indeed, he was one—of that section who really believed that he had abandoned or changed his views by one jot or title. For many years he had worked as hard with regard to another branch of the service, and during the three happy years in which he was privileged to take part in the administration of that great service, he was permitted to participate in changes which, every day, were a fulfilment of the proposals which he had advocated in the years that had gone before. He trusted, therefore, that his hon. friends—whose support he desired and honestly hoped to obtain—though they might criticise his powers and doubt his capacity, would at any rate not doubt his good faith, or think that he was any less anxious for the cause in which he believed in former days. He would only say further of this question of the Report that, though they were to discuss it on other occasions—and he thought they might discuss it with much greater advantage when they had the whole of it before them—anyone who was in the House during the whole of yesterday's debate must know, that it was absolutely impossible for him to pass over the matter without some such reference as he had made to it to-day.
He would ask the Committee to excuse him if he did not now deal with all the subjects which had been brought up in the course of the discussion. It would strike rather oddly upon a foreigner, with 606 his continental view of the importance of an Army, if he were to come into the House of Commons and hear he subjects which were discussed on the important occasion of getting the Speaker out of the Chair on the Army Estimates, at a time when the atmosphere was full of clouds, and when the whole Army question was exciting the people of our Empire almost beyond any other question. Yesterday they discussed tailoring, bottled stout, the needs of the Empire, the cost of stationery, the arming of the field artillery, the headings under which salaries should appear in the Estimates, the Army Medical Department, belts and buttons, and the position of the Judge Advocate-General. He thought that these subjects were capable of being segregated, and that they might with greater advantage discuss the larger subjects apart from smaller; and he would do his best to deal with various matters which had been raised when they got to the individual Votes. Some of the questions were doubtless of great importance, and his hon. friend opposite, the Member for Newington, incidentally touched on one of the most important when he asked why they were discussing these Estimates without any knowledge of what the Army had to do? He would ask whether the hon. Gentleman had ever heard the Army Estimates discussed with any real knowledge of what the Army had to do I They had gone on in that House for years discussing the Army Estimates, not only without knowing, but without attempting to find out what the business of the Army was it was only recently that that attempt had been made, and he dated it from the formation of the Committee of Defence. He believed that more had been done in that direction since the formation of the Committee of Defence than had been done in any period that he could recollect since he had been a Member of the House. One great step had been taken. The Prime Minister had laid down a policy which he believed was accepted by nine-tenths of the House as to the functions of the Army. That policy was that the functions of the Army were primarily to conduct military operations across the seas, and that we need not anticipate serious danger from an invading force so long as our Navy was 607 kept up to its proper strength. That was an enormous contribution to the solution of the problem.
§ *MR. ARNOLD FORSTER
said that the hon. Member could not have heard what he was saying. He was saying that since the Committee of Defence was formed a new and most valuable light had been thrown on the problem which the hon. and gallant Member for Newington raised yesterday. He did not think that even now they knew the complete answer, though they had got nearer to that answer than before; but his own opinion was that until they had a professional staff really taught to consider, day by day and year by year, the needs and the dangers of the Empire they would not get a final and categorical answer to the Question which the hon. Member asked. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would go on asking it, for it was the duty of this Government and of every Government to do its best to try and get a succinct and clear answer. If he wanted an answer, however, let the hon. Member support the recommendations of this Report. One of the principal recommendations was that they should create precisely this general staff which they had so long lacked, and have a bond of union established between the two services to an extent which had never existed before. That was what he considered an important and legitimate subject of debate. He did not think that the right hon. Gentleman opposite was always an advocate of what might be called a "thinking department," but he thought the right hon. Gentleman would now give them his support, because they all saw the importance of the proposal. The hon. and gallant Member for Tiverton was afraid that they were going to let loose junior officers in the Intelligence Department upon important State Papers. He might rest assured that that would not be the case, for the proposals were that the heads of the Intelligence Department should in the future, as in the past, be the representatives of the great staffs of the two services on the Committee of Defence. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had fairly 608 criticised a portion of the Report which he considered to be inconsistent with the tenor of the remainder of the Report, and which, if taken alone, would certainly not be a correct expression of the opinion of the framers of the Report. The paragraph might have been modified with advantage, n order to express more precisely the intention of those who drafted it; but he believed that if there were a discrepancy, it was a drafting discrepancy only, and that they would find ample ground for agreement in the later paragraphs of the Report, in which the duties of the general staff and the intentions of the authors of the Report in regard to it were made perfectly clear. His hon. friend the Member for Aberdeenshire had spoken of the condition of the soldier, and he would welcome every assistance the hon. Member could give him in improving that condition. One might have thought from the hon. Member's remarks that the recruit was given less to eat than, or food different from that received by, the trained soldiers. He did not get so much pay, but the recruit ate quite as much as, and probably more, than the trained soldier, and it was surely not a very irrational thing to withhold full wages from a boy or man until he was capable of earning them. His hon. friend the Member for Oldham had gone into a great many matters as to which he had great sympathy with him. He had referred to the recruiting of the Militia, the India drafts, and the abolition of the linked battalion system. His hon. friend knew that he agreed with him in thinking that the Army was suffering greatly in all the particulars to which he referred, and he claimed him as a supporter if he were able, as he trusted he might be, to make proposals which commended themselves to his judgment, dealing with some of the evils which they both knew to exist and were equally anxious to remove. He had done his best to confine himself to important questions, and he trusted that he had made the action and the policy, both of the Government and of the War Department, clear in regard to the immediate past, the present, and the future.
§ *SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
The right hon. Gentleman has devoted the greater part of his 609 observations to the question of this Report, but he did spare a little time to speak in slighting language, language of reprehension certainly, to the House of Commons of the manner in which it conducted these debates. He said that we wasted the time which ought to be given to those lofty themes with which he is accustomed to deal—that we devoted it to questions of bottled beer. I do not think that it is worthy of the position which the right hon. Gentleman occupies as Secretary of State to make this complaint. The House is enabled to bring forward anything which it thinks is of advantage to be discussed. Its character is like the description which has been given of the elephant, which is capable of picking up a pin or rending an oak. Sometimes the picking up of a pin may be very important, especially if the pin happens to be in a vital part. The right hon. Gentleman complained also of inconsistency on the part of those who have criticised the treatment by the Government of the Report of the Committee; but there is no inconsistency in the criticism of those who say that the Government has been in too great haste in its publication and yet too slow in their action and in the indications of policy which they have given to the House. The extraordinary thing in this matter is the hurry with which this Committee has acted, and especially the haste with which the Report has been published. What advantage has been gained by the publication of the Report at the time when it is not complete, when the Government have not made up their minds upon it, and when there are other things to do in preparing the Estimates for the year? These Estimates are illusory, for they cannot represent what is to be the policy of the future. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Government cannot say what that policy will be because they would have to consult their new Council and their new officers. That is true; but it is all the more reason not to publish what has been published, seemingly under their authority, nominally, and indeed, as explicitly stated in the Report itself, with their approval, and thus to mislead to a great extent public opinion on the subject, Why this extraordinary haste? Sir 610 George Clark came home at the end of December. Before ten days the first Report was signed; and so on they proceeded at headlong pace. We all know that the Report embodies the views of a certain little knot of so-called Army reformers who have been busy for many years, and of whom the right hon. Gentleman himself is one. They have endeavoured through the Press and otherwise, very properly, to impress their views on the public. But their views are cut and dried views which are capable of being rapidly developed in this way. What was the object of the publication? I remember a friend of mine once saying that whenever a public speaker asked a question we may be perfectly sure that he had furnished himself with an answer beforehand. I will give my answer to my own question at once. The publication was designed to remove from the public the sensation created by the War Commission Report. They said, "Let us get out a revolutionary, sweeping Report; never mind whether it is right or not, let us get it out by all means to occupy the public mind and to get us out of the difficulty in which we find ourselves." There is too much hypocrisy sometimes as to the effect of a policy on the public mind, and the House need not think to deceive itself when everybody knows that it is so. I am not referring to the conduct of the eminent and capable men composing the Committee, but to the action of the Government. These Estimates cannot, it is said, be founded on this Report, and I agree with that view, for it is impossible that the members of the Council who signed the Estimates can either have investigated them or made themselves acquainted with their justification, or even approved the military policy which the Estimates embody. That is what I complain of. I do not complain of the Government for delay, but for not exercising more delay, not with the view of putting off the question or escaping from the necessity of its decision, but in order that they should not mislead and confuse the mind of the country by putting forward as their accepted policy documents which it now appears do not necessarily embody their policy, and then inviting the House to go through what is little 611 more than the farce of voting these Estimates, which do not express the policy which they intend to adopt. I do not think that a word can be said in defence of the action of the Government. Some of the main recommendations made by the Committee are such as I entirely approve, as I have shown in the past by taking steps in the same direction. But if the House examines the Report closely and the things in it, I for one should be slow to give my assent to the sweeping denunciations it contains as to certain branches of the public service which have done great good in their day and are still capable of doing great good, and which this Committee seem to have been so rash as to condemn.
I must now turn to the Estimates themselves, for I have a few words to say to the Committee in regard to them. What is the most remarkable fact in connection with the Army for many years? It surely has been the continuous growth of expenditure. I will take the: period from 1897–98, the first year in which there was a considerable spring in the amount of the Estimates and in the size of the Army. The regular Army has risen from 163,000 to 217,000 men, an increase of 33 per cent. The Guards have been increased by three battalions, the Horse Artillery by six batteries, the Field Artillery by fifty-two, and the Infantry by three battalions. The charge for personnel, including clothing, housing, and food, as shown in Appendix 19 of these Estimates, has increased in these seven years from £11,800,000 to £18,600,000. I direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that this is an increase of 50 per cent., whereas the force has only increased by 33 per cent. That is a significant and remarkable fact. A good deal has been done in increasing the pay. We are all willing to do anything that is possible to increase the comfort of the soldier, and to make the service attractive to him; but I have always held, and I think I am supported by the best opinions on military matters, that no small increase of pay is at all likely to have much effect in recruiting and in inducing men to enlist. If you want to bring into the Army another class altogether, to improve the character of your soldiers, to tap a different social stratum, then you must double the pay 612 or immensely increase it. If you do that of course you will incur this evil result of paying all that additional sum for many of the men you already get, and this will be a pure waste of money. At any rate we have this increase of 50 per cent, in the cost of the soldier. At the same time, the cost of the Militiaman has gone up from £15 5s. to £20 11s. 8d., or an in crease of 33 per cent., and we have fewer than ever on the books, both of men I and officers. The cost of the Volunteers j has been increased from £1,000,000 to; £1,750,000—that is, 75 per cent.; and all these things put together give an increase of £9,250,000. What is the outcome of this great additional expenditure; what have we got for it? These Estimates are said to show a small reduction from what the right lion. Gentleman called the normal Estimates. Some questions were addressed to him as to what "normal" Estimates were, and the right hon. Gentleman said that what he meant by "normal" Estimates were Estimates which would be £280,000 greater than these. He gave that as his answer, and I thought it was exceedingly ingenious. Do these Estimates show a real reduction? Are there no future expenses which have been announced to us, and which we must keep in view? There is the cost of the new rifle. We have not been told how much that will come to. It is not to be commenced this year, as I understand.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The new rifle has been under manufacture for some time, and will shortly be supplied to both the Army at home, and in India. I was misreported in The Times, and I have made a correction.
§ *SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Everyone must be glad to hear of these improvements, regarded merely from the point of view of the efficiency of the service. But there is the new gun, which does not involve any charge this year, because all the guns of the new pattern are to be sent to India, and paid for by India. But what will it be in subsequent years? Will there not be a large expenditure on this account? Then there are the garrison battalions coming in a short time for their pensions, and other necessary sources of expense to which we 613 are already committed, and which must inevitably tend to increase the Estimates still further in subsequent years. What has been the return for this great increase of cost? There have been some additional Guards' battalions, which are not needed, or at any rate not used, now for the purpose for which they were raised, because the Guards no longer garrison the Mediterranean stations. There have been some highly-trained field artillery raised for the non-existent Army Corps. There have been some Indian battalions—and of those I quite approve—to provide for increase of force in tropical stations; and there is the garrison of 21,500 men for South Africa, to be maintained there at a cost additional to what the cost at home would be of £1,360,000. I shall refer to this by-and-by. What is the conclusion of the whole matter? It is nothing but this—that the cost of the whole Army has been allowed so to increase that the burden has become absolutely insufferable. If I seek to find the cause to which this great increase is due, I should say it was due, in the first place, to a policy of conquest and adventure, and, in the second place, to a disposition to hurry which has 'ed to steps being taken on very insufficient consideration and without really increasing the power of the country. I doubt whether the causes of this £9,000,000 of increase, with more to follow, were really properly weighed in the balance before being adopted. Does the country contemplate such a charge as this as being permanent? Not for a moment. I do not think I should find much disagreement if I said that at the present time the country is sick of war—sick of what I have called a policy of conquest and adventure. This scale of military expenditure cannot be maintained. That is what the House of Commons has in its mind and what it must impress on the Government, of the day, whatever Government that may be. And the great expenditure which has been so rapidly incurred can only be reduced by decreasing the numbers of the Army with the Colours.
We must therefore look forward ultimately to the withdrawal of this garrison in South Africa, whose maintenance at the expense of the British taxpayer is an entirely new departure from the established 614 policy of the country. That the garrison is intended to be permanent notwithstanding this established policy is shown by the fact that barracks are being built for it, on the footing, I presume, that it is to be there continuously. I have said that the policy of the country lies in the other direction. It has been laid down, not by one side of the House or by the other, and not by any erratic politician, but after the most serious consideration of all the circumstances, and many years ago, that this country should cease to maintain forces for local purposes unless the colony concerned itself paid for their maintenance. I have some words here of a high constitutional authority on the point which perhaps the House will allow me to read; for this is not a question of some fancy scheme devised by military administrators who found it convenient to withdraw; troops from the Colonies. It was deliberately done under the authority of Parliament—Within the past thirty years a fundamental change has been effected in the administration of the British Colonies by the withdrawal of the Imperial troops, previously scattered throughout every part of the Empire, arid the consequent devolution upon the self-governing Colonies of the responsibility of self-defence. This reform originated in the Report of a Departmental Committee consisting of Mr. Hamilton of the Treasury, Mr. Godley of the War Office, and Sir T. Elliot of the Colonial Office, appointed in 1859 to consider the cost of I colonial military defence. The previous year the military expenditure in the Colonies: amounted to nearly £4,000,000, to which the Colonies contributed something under £380,000, and few of the Colonies had any effective Militia or local force of their own. This was followed in 1861 by a Select Committee which made an inconclusive Report. In 1862 the House of Commons upon the Motion of Mr. Arthur Mills resolved without a division:—' That this House (while fully recognising the claims of all portions of the British Empire to Imperial aid in their protection against perils arising from the consequences of Imperial policy is of opinion that colonies exercising the right of self-government ought to undertake the main responsibility of providing for their own internal order and security, and ought to assist in their own external defence. Thenceforward this principle was adopted by every successive Administration as the settled policy of the Empire.We have been told, indeed, that these men are to be maintained in South Africa as a reserve for India. Why, Sir, that is an afterthought. This is a Government of afterthoughts. They waste on afterthoughts what would be better expended 615 on forethought. It has the effect of blinding the public to the fact that this is the direct outcome of the Government's policy. I want to ask the Secretary of State a plain question. What army has Lord Milner demanded for South Africa to maintain peace in the Colonies and to protect them? There was the constabulary, which would have been paid locally, and which, while fufilling the ordinary duties of constabulary, would have been useful as a military force; but the constabulary has been allowed to dwindle. The Indian plea is a mere pretence, and the Indian Government has shown that it is so by declining to accept any responsibility for this increased force in South Africa; and to ask for these 21,500 men as a permanent increase in the garrison of South Africa is to proclaim the failure of your South African policy in one sphere, just as the bringing in of Chinese labour proclaims its failure in another sphere. I protest against hurry in all these matters. I wish to know how the three years enlistment scheme is answering, and whether it is found at the present time to work well with a view to supplying the necessary drafts to the Indian garrison. After so many schemes and so many failures the House ought to demand the fullest information before agreeing to any new departure.
One reference I must make to the Committee on the reorganising of the War Office. Just at this moment, when economies must be enforced, that Report throws a perfectly undeserved slur—and I think a most unworthy slur—on that department in the War Office which is mainly charged with keeping both soldier and civilian within due limits. I saw that part of the Report with great regret, and I am sure that any one who is acquainted from the inside with the working of the War Office—which, though it may have changed since my day, has not changed in this respect—will agree as to the injustice of this summary judgment which is contrary to the published evidence before more than one Committee, and to the opinions of the highest military authorities. It is a slur on a department which I am sure does not deserve it. One other question. The Mowatt Committee's Report and the evidence given before the Committee—ought 616 they not now to be laid before Parliament? The Committee was called into being and conducted its deliberations in the hurry-scurry of the war, when there was not a little alarm lest we should be unable to meet the requirements of the war; and a heavy charge was laid upon the public. A good deal of the Report has been published, but surely now that the war is over there is no reason why Parliament should not have the Report and the evidence before it, as the recommendations of the Committee must be the basis for expenditure on stores and armaments in future. I should expect that its decisions will have to be revised in view of the actual experience of the war down to the close. These are the three definite subjects on which I wish to put questions to the right hon. Gentleman:— Lord Milner's estimate of the garrison required in South Africa, the subject of drafts under the three years enlistment arrangement, and the presentation of the Mowatt Report. The policy of the Government is necessarily in a fluid state to a large extent, but what I complain of is that they have forced public opinion on this matter by the partial publication of this Report before they have made up their own minds in regard to it. The right hon. Gentleman said something to which I entirely demur when he talked of the necessity of the War Office Council formulating some great military policy for this country. It is not the War Office Council or even the Cabinet Council of Defence that ought to formulate that policy. It is the Government itself, it is the House of Commons, it is Parliament. It is Parliament that will fix that policy. Our military policy will necessarily depend on the general external relations of the country, the general foreign policy of the country, and in that matter no help can be obtained from any skilled advisers, however eminent. It is a matter which must depend on the feeling, intention, and desire of Parliament and the country.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
We have had some opportunity during the course of the speech which has just been delivered of estimating the right hon. Gentleman in the double capacity of an Imperial 617 statesman and a War Office reformer; and I confess that neither as an Imperial statesman nor as a War Office reformer has he raised himself in my estimation, nor, I think, in the estimation of those who in coo blood consider the tenor of the advice which he has given the Government and the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman has referred, and he was perfectly justified in referring, to the enormous burden of tine Army Estimates. Nobody denies that burden; nobody denies its magnitude, and there is one question, and one question only, to be asked with regard to it, is or is it not necessary? I do not say that means may not be found for reducing it consistently with our full Imperial obligations; but I do not believe that, consistently with those obligations, it can to any very great extent be reduced unless great alterations are made, which the right hon. Gentleman appears to deprecate, in the constitution of the Army. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that it is possible for this country to alter the amount of the forces available for the defence of this country according to its own humour at the time. I say it is not possible for the country to do that, and that, if the country once begins to consider this question of Army expenditure from that point of view, under modern conditions we run the very gravest peril as an Empire. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the great cost of the Army is due to a policy of conquest and adventure. No doubt we have recently added to the extent of His Majesty's dominions in South Africa, but that the war which has had that termination was undertaken in a spirit of conquest and adventure is a total misrepresentation of the facts. I do not know how far the right Sum. Gentleman thinks the Government of this country ought to submit to His Majesty's territories being invaded before the Government which attempts to repel that invasion is open to the charge of having a policy of conquest and adventure. In that connection may I express my great regret at some observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman in connection with the South African garrison? I do not precisely understand, I admit, to what conclusion the right hon. Gentleman wished to induce the Committee to proceed; but I am perfectly 618 certain, whether it be easy or not for: us in this House exactly to understand the right hon. Gentleman's policy, that hat policy will bear a very clear meaning to the Boer party in South Africa. The meaning that they will put upon it, rightly or wrongly, is that as soon as the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have the control of the policy of this country, so soon will they reduce the South African garrison.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Exactly. I do not know how far the hon. Member for Dundee is an authorised exponent of the policy of the Leader of the Opposition, but I accept his gloss. I think that is exactly the interpretation that will be put upon it—that as soon as Gentlemen on the opposite Bench have the control of our policy the garrison will be reduced to a point at which the Colony itself will be able to pay for it. All I can ay is that assertions like that——
§ *SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The assertion is on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. What I referred to was the fact that the necessity which the Government allege of maintaining 21,500 men in South Africa is the fruit of the policy of the Government. It may be true that it is very difficult at present to deal with the result of their policy.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has again, on behalf of his Party, committed the mistake which has led to great disasters in the past. [OPPOSITION Cries of "Oh."] That is my opinion. He has uttered words which in South Africa will be interpreted, as words uttered from that Bench have so often been interpreted, as meaning that the instant the Radical Party come into power the vigour of our South African administration will be diminished, and immediately the hopes of all those, either in South Africa or in this country, who desire to see the results of the late war reversed will have a chance——
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That is where I differ from the right hon. Gentleman. I do not question the excellence of his motives, but I do say that he has used unguarded language, and of the interpretation of that language I venture to say that I am as good a judge as he is.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If I thought that, I would at once withdraw what I have said, because, after all, there are much greater interests at stake than a mere controversy across the Table. I am afraid I cannot lay the flattering unction to my soul that it is what I have said and not what the right hon. Gentleman has said which will produce this regrettable result. The right hon. Gentleman in the earlier portion of his speech severely criticised the Government for the course they have taken in regard to War Office and Army reform. When the right hon. Gentleman speaks in this House he always gives expression to a fine crusted old Tory view of Army reform. He deprecates any haste in this matter. There is no change I know of which has ever been made slowly enough for the right hon. Gentleman. I think he misinterprets public sentiment in this matter, and what is much more important, for public sentiment may change from month to mouth. I think he has mistaken the real necessities of the situation.
The Government found themselves, after the Report of the War Commission, naturally subjected to a great deal of criticism. I think most of that criticism was unjust. I feel confident that an impartial historian in the future will take that view. In my view the period antecedent to the publication of that Report, ever since Lord Lansdowne took office in 1895, has been a period of Army reform on a great scale. It is perfectly true that the Ministers responsible for that Department worked upon the traditional lines that had been handed down to them ever since Lord Cardwell's time, and which had been worked upon, among others, by the right hon. Gentleman. They worked within those lines, and 620 within those lines they carried out, in my judgment, very great reforms—reforms without which it would have been impossible to carry on the South African War in the way in which it was carried on. It is for that reason that I have always thought the criticisms upon my right hon. friend on this Bench and his predecessors are grossly unjust. The impression left on my mind by the War Office Commission was not that any great reform was possible under the existing system, but that the system itself required the most critical examination and revision. We began without one moment's delay to make that critical examination, and carry out the revision. We began, rightly as I think, with the War Office constitution. The right hon. Gentleman has accused us of going too fast. Almost every other critic of my right hon. friends in the Government has accused us of going too slowly. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean and other Gentlemen who have taken great interest in Army matters in this House have taken precisely the opposite line to that which commends itself to the right hon. Gentleman, who has told us that we are proceeding with almost indecent haste, and that time should be given to this House and the country for the elaborate consideration of the whole machinery of the War Office. We took precisely the opposite view. We thought that the time for these lengthy examinations by Committee or Commission of this House, by such bodies as the Hartington Commission, had passed, and that the facts were known. We believed that if we appointed this small Committee to suggest a scheme of reform, we should be able to set to work upon the War Office constitution with a speed and a success which no other possible procedure would give us. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that we ought to have waited until the whole of the Report of the Committee had been finished and approved by the Government before publishing. I disagree with him. In the first place let mo say that the approval of the Government is never one of the conditions under which the Report of a Committee ought to be published. I have never heard of such a proposition being laid down. Was the 621 Report of the Hartington Commission, for example, never to be made public until approved by the Government?
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
That was a Royal Commission. This is a small Committee, and we do not even know the terms of reference. It is a small ad hoc Committee appointed for a certain definite purpose, no doubt, by the right hon. Gentleman himself.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That the Committee was appointed for a definite purpose is, I hope, not an uncommon peculiarity of a Committee, and the fact that it was appointed by me appears to me to be wholly irrelevant to the argument. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that because it was appointed on my recommendation, therefore if I did not like the Report I was to keep it indefinitely secret the thing is wholly absurd. The Report had to be published whether the Government approved of it or disapproved of it. Whether it was desirable to publish it on the exact date selected for publication may be open to question, but that it had to be published^ whether we approved or disapproved of it, that is, I think, beyond question. Now the question is, was it desirable to publish it piecemeal? I say it was desirable to do so because it was desirable that we should at once sot to work to constitute the Army Council, which was the pre-requisite and condition of further reform; and the first part, which recommended the Army Council, was one which we were bound to act on at once, and, being so bound, we were compelled to publish it. As regards the second part, I do not know that anything was to be gained by its publication at the particular moment; I do not dogmatise as to that; but the Committee were in favour of its publication, and certainly I saw no reason for taking a different view, and I am perfectly prepared to take the whole responsibility for having accepted the suggestion, and that responsibility I do take.
Now, about this second portion of the Report, we are not bound because we have published it to approve of it either in whole or in part. That we do look favourably on the general tenor of it the 622 House naturally will expect. The Committee was our own creation, and its work, I think, deserves the highest praise from the House and the country. It is our own creation, and on it we have founded high hopes for the reform of the Army system; but we certainly do not commit ourselves either to every statement of fact or every opinion or every recommendation which this part, or any part, of the Report contains. I am not quite sure that I do agree—so far as I can form an opinion I should say I do not agree—with some of the criticisms which the Committee have passed upon the transactions and the work that have gone on in the War Office. Certainly, I do not feel bound to associate myself in any sense with those criticisms; but, nevertheless, I do hope and believe that, we shall be able to carry out great reforms through the assistance given us by the Committee; and we have given a most effective earnest of our policy by revolutionising already, as we have done, the War Office system within a very few months of the access to office of my right hon. friend and the appointment of this Committee. The right hon. Gentleman opposite stands alone. I think, in his view that we have gone too fast.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Does the right hon. Gentleman want us to act without publishing? I do not understand what be means. We found ourselves face to face with a situation which, partly on the ground of cost, partly on the grounds supplied by the Report on the South African War, in our judgment required thorough reconsideration both of the War Office system and the Army system. Well, we are carrying that out as fast as in human nature it is possible to carry it out. Some Gentlemen talk as if we were putting forward Reports—I think the right hon. Gentleman himself said so—like throwing bits of meat to a dog that might otherwise be disagreeable. If that charge has any meaning it can only mean that we are amusing the public by hopes of reform which we do not mean to carry out. That is the only meaning that such a metaphor can suggest. Considering that we have already revolutionised the constitution of 623 the War Office, what is the meaning of the charge? Some hon. Gentlemen appear to suppose that it would have been possible for the Government and my right hon. friend, before the preparation of these Estimates, to bring forward some new Army system. No one who understands the practical limitation upon the preparation of Estimates can hold that view for a moment. Anything that may be done in the way of reform this year cannot show itself, of course, until the Estimates of next year; but I should be very sorry if this session passes without the Government's being able to make a much fuller statement of their general views upon the Army problem than is either possible or proper at the present moment. Let the House not forget what it too often has forgotten, that the size of our Army depends upon the duties that Army has to perform, quite apart from that imaginary policy of conquest and adventure which appears to haunt the right hon. Gentleman's mind. Apart from that, and looking simply and solely to the question of Imperial defence, I tell the House that no investigation which I have been able to make shows that the military burden of this country can be a light or an insignificant one. It is true, indeed, that many of us have come to the conclusion, after such an examination as we have been able to give to the question, that the invasion of this island by a large regular force, capable of undertaking its conquest, is, if our home forces are kept in anything like an adequate state, and above ail if the Navy is kept in anything like an adequate state—for after all this is really a naval question—that invasion is a dream, an illusory danger, and not one of the contingencies against which it would be right or proper to ask this country to make costly provision.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
A year or two ago we had nothing to go upon except the system which was then in existence, and the conclusions I have now given to the House are conclusions arrived at by an organisation which was not in existence then. But. Sir though I do not believe that this landing of a great 624 organised force, competent to quell this country and reduce it by force of arms, is possible, no man can blind himself to the fact that the whole trend of circumstances in the East is to make us a Continental Power conterminous with another great military Continental Power, and that is the dominating circumstance which we have to take into account in framing our Army Estimates; and no Government, I do not care from which side it is drawn, will, I believe, be permitted to ignore the necessities of which I speak, or in the interests of any economy or reduction of taxation, however desirable, to lower our Army strength beyond a certain limit. I think that one of the most valuable results that have followed from the reconstitution of the Defence Committee is this, that we shall have something threshed out and argued out to go upon, and not mere obiter dicta as to the number of men required in this or that military operation, vaguely estimated by this or that more or less self-constituted military expert. I hope I have indicated to the House the way in which the general problem of Imperial defence and the Report of this Committee strike my right hon. friend and the Government. That we have been lax in carrying out reform seems to me of all the charges levelled against the Government the most absurd. One great revolutionary reform in three months, seems to me not a bad record. Those whose appetite for the revolutionary reform requires the process to be repeated every throe weeks appear to me to have an excessive desire for these dramatic changes. I do not think that anybody who knows my right hon. friend the Secretary for War, or who has understood the spirit in which I have endeavoured to address the Committee, will doubt for one moment that, difficult and complicated as are the problems necessarily presented by a voluntary Army and by the military needs of the British Empire, they are being approached by us in no laggard spirit, with no prejudice in favour of the system which we found existing, but with an earnest and impartial desire to turn to the very be; it account the materials with which the country supplies us, and to make our Army system, if not everything that we could wish, at all events, as far 625 as may be, adequate to the great responsibilities which none who look round the world can doubt may have to be met by this Government or some of its immediate successors.
§ MR. FULLER (Wiltshire, Westbury)
said his right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition had stated that the Committee had been asked to discuss illusory Estimates. The Committee had come dawn to-day to know what the policy of the Government really was; they expected to hear whether the Cabinet as a whole were prepared to adopt the recommendations contained in the second part of the Report of Lord Esher's Committee or not, and until they knew that these Estimates must be illusory. The Estimates were those of the Secretary of State for India; the policy that of the Secretary of State for War. What the Committee wished to know was whether the right hon. Gentleman had been able to force his view and his policy upon his colleagues. Until they knew that it was impossible to discuss the Estimates on their merits. The Estimates did not show the scale and character of the future expenditure, and it was necessary that that should be known. The Army expenditure was becoming intolerable, and it was the bounden duty of this Committee, and the first duty of the Government, to do what it could to reduce an expenditure which had become an intolerable burden to the taxpayer. Not only were the Estimates illusory from this point of view, but they did not represent the actual expenditure that would have to be incurred. The charge for the Somaliland force was omitted, as was also that for the quick-firing guns with which the Field Artillery were to be supplied. There was no Vote to be taken for those guns, and therefore discussion as to their character and quality would not be in order. The people of this country did not realise what an enormous military force they had to keep. Including the Regular forces at home and abroad we were maintaining an army of 561,000 men, and when the Auxiliary forces were taken into consideration, the military force of the Empire amounted to just over 1,000,000 men. The country did not realise the burden which successive 626 Governments had laid upon their shoulders. It had long been the settled policy of Governments of both parties to maintain in India an army of 300,000, and when the Committee remembered that India was the only part of the world where we could meet a European enemy, and having regard to the fact that we had an Auxiliary force of 700,000 men he could not help thinking those who desired economy could only come to the conclusion that our armed force was enormously large for the wants of the country. The peace footing of the armies of France and Germany were only 600,000 men respectively, while that of the United States, whose condition more closely approximated that of this country, was 67,000. He would not point out where economy should take place, but his conviction was that a reduction must be made in the direction not of cutting down the expenses of the soldiers and still less of the general staff but in a general and large reduction in the number of the men. If a change of the kind was to be made, and the reduction was to be sufficiently large to have any effect on the Estimates, it must be done on the lines of the Report of the Commission which recommended the abolition of the double battalion system.
§ SIR HARRY SETON-KARR (St, Helens)
said he did not agree with an hon. Member who characterised the burden of these Estimates as intolerable. His object in rising was to ask the Secretary of State for War a question regarding the Army rifles. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the other day that he was producing a new rifle, and that 71,000 stands had already been ordered for the Indian Army. He wished to know if that new rifle was any different from the last rifle which he believed was five inches shorter than the weapon used in the Boer War. Tins question involved a rather important general point. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman would correct him if he was wrong, but last year when they heard that the new rifle was to be cut down by five inches the impression was conveyed— and he believed it was a correct impression—that some attempt was being made in the form of a compromise between the carbine and the rifle, and it was thought 627 probable that both the Cavalry and the Mounted Infantry could be armed with the same weapon. Some of them were not satisfied that such a thing was possible, and from inquiries which he had made he believed that it was absolutely impossible to have a rifle five inches shorter than the weapon used during the Boer War which could possibly have the same trajectory and the same range as the longer weapon. Did the right hon. Gentleman propose to arm the Infantry as well as the Cavalry with that shorter weapon? He took it that one thing which was impressed on their mind by the late war, was that the rifle with which our Infantry was armed was a most important weapon. If we were to make a mistake in this respect in the case of future wars our Infantry found themselves armed with a weapon inferior to that carried by their opponents, it might have an important bearing on the result of that war. At all events he believed that it was necessary for the Infantry to have the best possible weapon. He was also one of those who believed that in the past our Army had not been armed with the best weapon as compared with the weapons held by the Continental armies. In his opinion the Norwegian and Swedish, and American rifles wore in many respects better than ours. There were two or three points on which he hoped the Secretary of State for War would give a reply. Was the new rifle to be a longer weapon than the last, which they were told was the latest-weapon with which our soldiers were going to be armed? If the right hon. Gentleman was going to stick to the shorter weapon was he absolutely convinced that it had the same trajectory and range as the old weapon, which was five inches longer. Could he five them some details of the experiments which had convinced him on the point? Finally, would he disabuse their minds of the suspicion that an attempt was being made to arm the Cavalry and the Infantry with the same weapon? He did not believe the latter could possibly be done because the Cavalry could not carry a large rifle on their holsters, but he would like to have some definite statement on the subject by the right hon. Gentleman, and to have 628 that statement supported by any information that could be given to them.
§ MR. LOUGH
congratulated the hon. Member on being able to bring his mind to the discussion of such details as those to which he had just referred. The effect of the Estimates on his own mind had been to render it impossible for him to consider seriously anything they contained. It seemed to him that the Estimates were a mere blind, brought in to amuse the House of Commons for a few weeks, while the Government completed their revolutionary scheme of War Office reform, without taking the House of Commons into their confidence. Only two days ago the Secretary of State for War had deprecated discussion of the Report of the Reconstruction Committee, and had expressed the desire that the Estimates should be considered without reference to the revolution that was being carried out at the War Office. What example had the right hon. Gentleman set to-day? The whole of his speech had been about that Report, and the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister had spoken about nothing else The Army Council set up under the Report had signed the Estimates, thereby giving the last touch to the unreality or the situation. The Government ought to take the Committee more fully into their confidence. What was there to conceal in these Estimates? What was the extent of the changes the Government intended to make at the War Office during the year? The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the officers to be newly appointed would take the place of other officers already existing, so that no additional cost would be involved. That was not a satisfactory explanation. The House of Commons ought to have an opportunity of expressing its opinion on the whole situation. According to the Prime Minister, the Army system had already been revolutionised, but what trace of that revolution appeared in the Estimates? The right hon. Gentleman had urged that the time had come, nor for publishing information, but for taking action, that we had had too much obiter dicta on the matter of Army reform, and the; something ought to be done. But the Report was full of obiter dicta; there was 629 no evidence; the House was in ignorance of the reference to the Committee; and the Report was the most informal document ever presented to Parliament; and yet in obedience to its commands all these revolutionary changes were to be effected without the cognisance of the House. What were the terms of the reference? Certainly the methods pursued by the Committee were not such as to entitle its decisions to the deference displayed to them by the Government. The Committee decided not to publish the sources of their information; consequently it was impossible to see whether the recommendations accorded in the least degree with the advice or evidence submitted to the Committee. Possibly there would be another opportunity of considering the recommendations of the Committee in a more complete form, but at the present stage the House ought to protest against the incomplete form in which those recommendations had been submitted.
As to the Estimates themselves, how could the Secretary of State justify his action with regard to the Somaliland troops? Conflicting explanations had been given of this matter. The first was in the right hon. Gentleman's own memorandum. There the omission of provision was attributed to the impossibility of forecasting the duration of the operations, and the hope was expressed that the War Office would soon be in a better position to judge of the situation, in which case an additional Estimate would be presented. But that attitude was not maintained, for in the Vote now before the Committee, 10,000 men were put down for Somaliland. The second explanation was of a more satisfactory character, because on Monday last the right hon. Gentleman held out hopes that there might, after all, be little or no further expense in connection with the campaign, that a certain success had been achieved, that if a favourable opportunity offered of bringing the operations to a close the Government would seize it, and that in any case the expenditure and the operations would be kept within narrow bounds. But before voting these 10,000 men the Committee ought to have a clear explanation why no corresponding monetary provision was included in the Estimates. The light hon. 630 Gentleman had claimed that the present Estimates were £280,000 below the normal expenditure. What was meant by "normal expenditure?" He certainly protested against these inflated Estimates being regarded as the normal Army expenditure of the country. There had not been much hope of economy held out. In a remarkable speech at Liverpool the right hon. Gentleman said that people would be crazy to expect much reduction in Army expenditure.
§ MR. LOUGH
was glad to hear the explanation, because the ordinary system was that embodied in the present Estimates, so that probably the new system by which economy would be possible was the system which die Government intended to put into operation during the year. That was the most satisfactory statement he had heard in the debate. After they had had one or two month to consider this Report then the Government might have carried out the reforms they had decided to adopt. That would have been far better than the indecent haste which the Government had adopted in this matter. With regard to the normal cost he hoped his right hon. friend would give them his full mind. How did the right hon. Gentleman arrive at the £29,000,000 suggested in his remark-as the normal expenditure of the Army'. There was one great improvement in the Estimates, and that was the table given of the total expenditure of the last ten years on each Vote. To get the normal expenditure they had to go to the period before the war when they were not affected by the war expenditure. The last complete year before the South African campaign was the year 1898–9. The total in that year was then £20,100,000 and that must be taken its the normal Estimate. That figure carried them back only five years, and, of course, some allowance must be made for the natural growth of the Army, and he would place the amount at between £21,000,000 and £23,000,000 at the outside. He thought that would be a much more reasonable sum as the normal expenditure of the Army than the vas- 631 sum which had been put down in these Estimates. This Vote was chiefly concerned with the men, but it was in the men that economy would have to be effected. He believed that a larger amount of pay had been given to the individual soldier and he did not think that was extravagant. He thought it was possible that two well-equipped and better paid soldiers might be as good as three of the class they had had in the past, and therefore better pay need not necessarily add to the expense of the establishment. He thought means ought to be found for saving as much as they paid away in increasing the pay of the soldier, and that could only be done by a reduction in the total number of men. This country was now maintaining 21,000 troops in South Africa at the cost of over £1,500,000 per annum. The Leader of the Opposition had also shown that the constabulary force had been diminished while the Imperial garrison had been increased. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would tell them the total savings the country might expect when the recommendations of the Committee were carried out.
§ MR. YERBURGH (Chester)
said the hon. Member who had just sat down had for many years been a consistent advocate of economy, and on this occasion he was quite in agreement with him in regard to the Army Estimates. He hardly thought is was necessary for the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to tell the House that he still retained in office the opinions he had expressed as a private Member and was prepared to carry them out. He was perfectly certain the right hon. Gentleman would set himself to work with all the energy he possessed to reform the Army. He did not think sufficient attention had been given to the remark made by the Secretary for War that any readjustment of the burdens laid upon the country would be in the direction of perfecting our naval defence and decreasing the expenses of the Army. That appeared to him to be a historic utterance, because it was the first time that a Minister representing the War Office had told them that the claims of the Navy ought to be paramount over the claims of the Army. That was a very wholesome utterance for it was a throwing over 632 of the evil traditions revived by the Secretary of State for India. Anybody who had studied the Army knew that there had in the past been an enormous wastage of about £9,000,000 a year, and in ten years that amounted to £90,000,000. They were also face to face with a great expense by taking the soldier too young, for the younger he was taken the more expensive he was. There was a further wastage in time of war because by employing young soldiers and men physically unfit they were incurring a tremendous waste, and in all these directions, by getting a better article, they saved an enormous amount of wastage. They would also obtain a saving in the number of men employed, by getting only men of maturer years and better physical capacity. He quite I believed that they would find in his right hon. friend a strong advocate of economy in the Army. He had told them that too large a machine for the Army would be extravagant, and too small a machine would be a waste of money, but they looked to the right hon. Gentleman to provide them with the machine they wanted.
With regard to home defence this was where the whole question of economy came in. They had heard the statement that the Militia was in a deplorable condition both in regard to officers and men. He very much regretted this because those who knew the Militia would remember how they rallied during the Boer War. Me was sorry to hear that I the Militia were in this sad state, and he felt sure they would all welcome the words which had fallen from his right hon. friend in which he s id that the prestige of the Militia should be established and restore to the position which it held in the post. He agreed with that view, but ho would go further, I He wished to touch for a moment upon the position of the Volunteers. Everybody in the House sympathised, he was sure, with the position of the Volunteers, because they sacrificed a good deal of time and comfort, giving their services, and they share other people from having to take their share in the defence of the country. That being so they ought not to begrudge paying liberally for their services to the country. Many people thought that the Volunteers 633 were not paid enough at the present time. He felt bound, to say that if they put the extra burdens on the Volunteers foreshadowed in his right hon. friend's speech—and he understood that he proposed to make them a body capable of fulfilling efficiently the duties to be placed upon them—they would have to pay them more money, for they could not ask men depending upon a weekly wage to go to camp and thereby lose money which they would otherwise be earning. It was not fair to ask them to do it. If they asked the Volunteers for further service in order to make them an effective force in time of war they must be prepared to spend a further sum of money upon them. He believed that the real remedy for this question of expense, and the real way to get an effective Army for home defence, was to boldly recognise that on every man was laid the duty of defending the country if he was called upon to do so. The time had arrived when, for the purposes of home defence, every man should be taught drill and the use of the rifle, and so qualified as to be able to take his place in the ranks. The Volunteers and Yeomanry should be swept away, and home defence placed upon a force of Militia drawn by ballot. It might be said by some people that this was an un-English proposal, but it really was not so, because from the earliest days in our history it had been the duty of the freeman to take his place in the ranks. Why should not a man I discharge this duty at present as in times past? It might be said that it was against the spirit of a free people, but in answer to that he instanced the admirable Army of Switzerland, which he was told was equal in the matter of efficiency to the other Continental armies. In that country liberty had its home, and any invasion of popular rights would be resented in the strongest way by the people. The Army there was established on a principle which was welcomed by all in the country—rich and poor, and people of every shade of belief. He wanted to know why some in this country should allow other people, because they were more patriotic, to take their place in the ranks, and to bear the share they ought to take in the defence of the country. He was told that under such a system they would get far too many 634 men. He understood that in Switzerland only 52 per cent. of the men were taken and that the remainder paid a tax. He ventured to say that if we acted on that principle we would get a good and cheap citizen Army such as we wanted for home defence. He believed that we should be eventually driven to adopt the system of compelling every man to serve the country.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he would not have intervened in this debate but for an incident which occurred when the Prime Minister was addressing the Committee. A conversation took place between the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, which led to the exposition by the Prime Minister of a doctrine which was worthy of the Committee's attention. They were told that the military expenditure in South Africa, was £80,000 a week, and £4,000,000 a year. When the Prime Minister was denouncing the Leader of the Opposition for quarrelling with the military occupation, he interjected he suggestion that the new Colonies might at least pay for it, and on that, coupled with the statement of his right hon. friend, the Prime Minister had based a portentious superstructure involving the abandonment by the Liberal Party of what he called the results of the war. Unless the Prime Minister's speech was a mere attempt to make Party capital of a not too respectable kind—and he was unwilling to believe that—he absolutely failed to understand the question of Imperial military defence. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to shrink with horror from the notion that the new Colonies should bear the burden of their internal military defence, and talked of the suggestion as unheard of The right hon. Gentleman could not have followed the debates on the Navy during the last few years, nor could he have been acquainted with the passage read by the Leader of the Opposition on the constitutional practice of this country, where it was laid down that it was not the duty of the people of the United Kingdom to maintain local armies in the outside portions of the Empire. It was not the case in the Colonies, in India, or even in Egypt. Did the Prime Minister wish to apply 635 this doctrine to India? Would he argue for a moment that this country should pay for the military occupation of that country? If India was taxed for this purpose, how could a different rule be justified for the Transvaal? If the Prime Minister's doctrine became established in this country, the people of India would say, "If you are so generous as to pay for the military occupation of a country which is full of millionaires, how can you ask people with an average income of a penny per day to pay for the Army in India?" That was the meaning of his interruption, but it did not justify the interpretation which the Prime Minister seemed to wish to put upon it, and in place of any defence the right hon. Gentleman set up a false; and erroneous doctrine with respect to the duty of this country in Imperial defence. He ventured to prophesy that the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's speech would he very different from what he intended. If a Liberal Government came in it did not follow that the number of troops in South Africa would be reduced. It might be that the Transvaal was too poor to pay, and too disturbed to admit of the reduction of the Army. But that justified his right hon. friend's contention. They had spent £250,000,000 in acquiring two new Colonies with the result that they had to pay £4,000,000 a year for the territory they had captured. The original policy might not have been wrong, but it was clearly not a good investment, and therefore the Prime Minister's extraordinary doctrine would bear fruit that he little contemplated. Was the Secretary for War prepared to announce that no matter how great might be the prosperity that would follow from the introduction of Chinese labour, no matter how profitable the mines might turn out, and no matter how flourishing the country might be, it was the policy of the Government that the poor people of this country were to continue to pay for the Army which protected these industries. If the Prime Minister meant that, he did not understand the problem of Imperial defence. A succession of debates in that House had established the principle that the Colonies ought to paya share of the cost of naval defence. This question had not been recently raised in regard to the Army, but when they were told that 636 this expenditure of £30,000,000 a year was necessary not for home defence but for the defence of the outlying portions of the Empire, the question of whether the United Kingdom was to go on for ever doing this must be settled one day or other. That was the question which the Prime Minister had brought up in an ill-advised speech and by a hasty Party manœuvre. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh, oh!"] The Colonial Conference three years ago was addressed by the then Colonial Secretary, who called it, by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Secretary for War, all of whom spoke in behalf of the Government of the day. The Secretary for War submitted a proposal that the Colonies should not only pay for their own military defence out of their own resources but should contribute a force to assist the Imperial Army. To that the Prime Minister was a party, and how, therefore, could he justify the words he had used, which meant that it would be a shame and disgrace if the United Kingdom ceased to pay for the military occupation of South Africa? That was the dilemma in which the Prime Minister had involved himself. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, looking at the matter from a military point of view, ought to be able to tell the Committee whether it was the policy of the Government that, no matter how rich a Colony might be, the people of this country were to pay £4,000,000 a year to the end of time for the military defence of that Colony.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, he could not see that any great public, advantage would arise from the publication of the whole of the Report and evidence of the Mowatt Committee. It gave minute details with regard to the whole of the fortifications all over the world—their past armament, their present, and their contemplated armament. He thought it would not be advisable to publish such a Report, but it would be possible to publish a very valuable summary of the recommendations, and of what it was proposed to do and how far what was proposed had been done.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said he had no desire that information of the kind referred to by the right hon. Gentleman should he published.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said the nature of the Report was such as he had indicated. With regard to the working of the three years system, he felt a little hesitation in speaking about it because the full effect of that system had not yet come into operation. The men were not called upon to declare their intention of extending their service until the end of the first two years of their period of enlistment. That end would not be reached until the close of this month, and therefore they had no certain evidence as to the extent to which men would continue their service in the Army. He could not say that, pending the light to be thrown on the subject at the end of this month, their experience had been very fortunate. They had had to send out to India men who had not extended, but who were necessary to fill up the Indian drafts. They did not know whether these men on reaching India would extend or not, and there was no doubt at all that if they did not extend, there would be a very considerable additional burden thrown upon this country. He was not convinced of the great value of the system, which enlisted all the men on the basis of a three years enlistment: but he withheld a further expression of opinion until the end of this month, when they would know what was the attitude of the men generally with regard to extension. All he could say in reply to the right hon. Gentleman's Question about Lord Milner and the South African garrison was that the Government had reduced the garrison to the limit which Lord Milner considered desirable in the interests of the safeguarding of that very large extent of country, under the very peculiar circumstances that existed.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN: Then I understand that the maintenance of 21,000 men is regarded by those responsible as necessary for South African needs?
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that was so. The hon. Member for Dundee in concluding his remarks took all the 638 sting out of them, if they had a sting, when he said that when the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony were rich and prosperous enough to pay for ail the troops necessary for their defence, they should pay for them.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
No, they are not. It would be a mere idle, pretence, almost a waste of time, to contend that the situation in South Africa was normal or could be a normal situation at present. The Army there was, to a large extent, an army of occupation at the termination of a successful war, and the position of these Crown I Colonies could not be compared with that of New Zealand or Australia, The hon. Member said that this was not a commercially successful transaction; but larger views should be taken of these matters than those of mere commercial success. The remarks of the Prime Minister, which had met with the censure of the hon. Member for Dundee, were elicited from him by a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. What the right hon. Gentleman opposite said was—We must, therefore, look forward to the withdrawal of this garrison in South Africa, whose maintenance at the expense of the British taxpayer is an entirely new departure from the established policy of the country. That it is intended to be permanent notwithstanding, is shown by the fact that barracks are being built for it. To ask for these 21,500 men as a permanent increase in the garrison of South Africa is to proclaim the failure of your South African policy.Those were the words which seemed to constitute a very alarming statement on the part of a gentleman in the very important position of Leader of the Opposition. He agreed with the hon. Member for Islington that the proper way to economise on the Army was to see that they got proper value for their money. He had a firm belief in the possibility of their doing so. The hon. Member had criticised his comparison of the Estimates of the year with what he called the normal Estimates. What he did was to compare them with the Estimates for rise year 1903–4, which amounted to £27,588,000. The 639 figure for this year was £28,928,000, but in that figure were included two sums which were not normal sums at all. One was the additional amount of £930,000 for the extra expense of the garrison in South. Africa, and the other was for the completion of the Mowatt programme. Il they took away those two figures, they got this year £27,490,000. In regard to the question of the rifle, raised by his hon. friend the Member for St. Helens, he must explain that the adoption of the short rifle was due to the advice of his military advisers tendered after exhaustive trials. It was in some respects an improvement on the existing pattern. The old rule was, that two patterns of rifles were issued. In the opinion of the military authorities there would be considerable advantage, and no loss, if one rifle were substituted for the two. The new rifle was four inches shorter than the old, but the range was practically the same. He was not prepared, however, to discuss this subject with so great an expert as his hon. friend, and would only say that the change had been recommended by his military advisers. He thought he had now answered all the specific Questions which had been asked.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
said that the Secretary for War was really responsible himself for any misunderstanding that had arisen with respect to the maintenance of the garrison in South Africa. In his own Memorandum the right hon. Gentleman stated that provision had been made in these Estimates for a permanent garrison in South Africa. The word "permanent" was not in accordance with the speech he had made that night. The essence of that speech was that the situation in South Africa was abnormal, and not ordinary, and that this garrison, therefore, was not a permanent and normal garrison, but one which was kept there because the situation so recently after the war was one which did not admit of the garrison being withdrawn. If that were so, then he did not think there would be much difference of opinion. They all knew that the situation in South Africa was not normal to-day; and if this were regarded as an exceptional and abnormal state of affairs he and his friends 640 were quite prepared to admit that it might be necessary to make provisional arrangements with regard to the stationing of forces there, which were not in the nature of permanent arrangements at all. But then this ought not to be called a permanent garrison. The idea that they could go on with the policy of holding South Africa by force as a permanent policy was not entertained by either side of the House. Difficulties were thick in South Africa, and in his opinion they were difficulties which would bring people on both sides to the conclusion that the task of government in that country was one which could only be eventually solved by self-government of the white population. When that solution was effected, whatever forces were retained in South Africa would, of course, be retained as in any other colony, with the consent of the Government of the colony itself. An idea was put forward last year, very largely from the other side of the House, that there might be some economy in retaining this force in South Africa in future with a view to the relief of India. The idea was that, if they stationed one man in South Africa, they might save two men at home. If that idea were correct, it would, of course, mean increased efficiency and economy, and it did not mean the creation of an army of occupation, for the force would be kept there only with the consent of the Government of the Colony itself. But if that idea was gone altogether and the Government had made up their minds that there was no efficiency or economy to be gained in that way, there was no object in their building permanent barracks for the forces in South Africa. He would like to know on some future occasion whether barracks were being built, whether they were to be permanent barracks, and what the distribution of the forces in South Africa was to be.
He was not surprised that the Committee did not take very much interest in the discussion of these Estimates. They were illusory and provisional, and lie thought they ought not to have been presented to the House at all. In view of everything that the Secretary of State, himself, and the Prime Minister had said, the Government ought to have asked for a Vote on account, and postponed the Estimates. The whole question of the Army was in a 641 state of solution, at all events as far as the mind of the Government was concerned. The Prime Minister had tried the temper of the Committee very highly in recent years. He had given them quite a different idea to-day of what we wanted the Army for from that which he gave a few years ago. Some Members of the House last year and on previous occasions very strongly opposed the Army reform scheme of the present Secretary of State for India, but the Prime Minister defended that scheme. He resented the attacks upon it, and repelled them with indignation; and now this afternoon he stood up and spoke in favour of the Report of a Committee which blew to atoms the scheme of the Secretary of State for India. He seemed to think that the House should accept that change of attitude on his part as the most natural thing in the world after all the indignation he had shown in defending his right hon. friend's scheme. He thought much better of the Report of the Committee than of anything which had appeared in the way of Army reform yet, but it was a little bitter that they should have had to fight so hard before the Government reached this state of things. After fighting for an expensive, wasteful, and impossible scheme, the Government had at last blundered on to something which seemed to have, at any rate, possibilities of retrenchment and efficiency. He would express no opinion upon the details of the Report, but it had done this service—it had entirely disposed of the wasteful and expensive scheme of the Secretary of State for India. It had, at any rate, cleared the ground. It had, indeed, left the Estimates. They were still there because the Government could not make up their minds as to how far they would adopt the Report in particulars; and that was why he thought it would have been fairer to the Committee if the Government had admitted that the Estimates they presented or the Votes they asked for were to be as provisional as the state of their opinion in regard to the Report. But he did not wish to discourage the Government in any way from regarding that Report favourably. They were in a very tentative state of mind in regard to it, but it had cleared the ground. The Secretary for War in the winter made a 642 very interesting and courageous speech, in which he said that we had not yet settled what we wanted our Army for, and also that we might by spending the same amount of money that we spent now get a much better Army than at the present time, or by spending even less get an Army quite as effective as the present one. He was one of those who believed that they must have a reform of the system before getting that efficiency, and he recognised that this Committee had approached the subject with great breadth of mind and with great vigour and grasp. While reserving his opinion upon details, he did hope that the Government were not going to be paralysed by difficulties in the Cabinet, and that, whatever passing difficulties there might be in the Cabinet which might prevent them from digesting and adopting what they thought good in the Report of the Committee and disclosing their mind to the House, they would in a short time as completely forget those difficulties as the Prime Minister had apparently forgotten the fact that he defended with such vigour and affection the very scheme of Army reform which had been so completely condemned by the Committee.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said he should like to have a clearer explanation of the statement of the Prime Minister, in which he said that the expenditure on the Army depended on the requirements of the Empire. That was to say that if the Empire were to go on increasing, the Army should be correspondingly increased. Everyone must, however, realise that there was a limit to the purse of the nation, and that there should be some consideration for what the nation could afford to pay. That fact ought not to be left out of consideration altogether, otherwise it would be a case of the old story of the frog and the bull. He hoped the Government in considering any new scheme would remember the strained circumstances of the moment. They could not go on at the rate at winch they were at present going, and unless there were some great reduction in the expenditure, the Army in the future would be so reduced as to be useless, which would be a great danger to the country. He trusted that the Government would take 643 care that the spirit of economy was not left altogether out of consideration in this matter.
§ CAPTAIN JESSEL (St. Pancras, S.)
did not think the right hon. Gentleman was justified in the attack he had made on the Prime Minister who, he said, had warmly defended the scheme of the Secretary of State for India when it was before the House and had no less warmly advocated that of the Secretary of State for War now. When it was borne in mind that since the scheme of the Secretary of State for India the War Commission had published its Report and the Defence Committee had been put upon a proper footing the change in the mind of his right hon. friend was easily accounted for. The War Commission stated that that Army, which had hitherto been run on peace principles, would now have to be run on war principles, and when his right hon. friend came to realise the enormous difference in the principles before laid down and those laid down by the War Commission, the reason would be easily understood for his change of opinion. He thought the Secretary of State for India had been somewhat hardly used in this matter because, although his scheme had been condemned, it must be admitted he was the first Secretary of State for War who tried to do something in the direction of decentralisation. His scheme was by no means perfect, there were many mistakes in it, but it did involve decentralisation. The House was twitted with having taken too much time in getting Mr. Speaker out of the Chair in the discussion of small details, but the time had now come when the House had resolved itself into a Committee for discussing these details in the interest of the Army itself. The first question he would ask was whether there would be in the future any development of the policy of trying to pet soldiers from the Colonies to serve in the British Army? Would recruiting officers be established in South Africa, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere, and attempts made to get our fellow subjects to become part and parcel of the Imperial Army. It was a matter of great regret to him that something was not done to attract the Colonials to the Army. The Maltese might also be induced by liberal terms to 644 garrison different places in India and the I Mediterranean, and so far as Australia was concerned, it, had always seemed to him that it would be a very good thing if it I were possible to get an Australian regiment to India, as it would show the natives of that dependency that there were other British forces available besides those coming from the United Kingdom. It was only a question of pay after all, and that matter could no doubt be got over by arrangement, especially when it was remembered that British soldiers in India drew double the pay they received at home.
He should also be glad to know what was to be the future policy with regard to the building of barracks. When at Shorncliffe recently, he noticed that since he was stationed there a large amount of land had been purchased by Government for manœuvring purposes and that barracks were now being built upon it, the result of which was that a large portion of the land was lost for the purposes of manœuvres. This seemed to him to be a great mistake, and the same thing, he understood, was taking place on Salisbury Plain. He also desired to draw attention to the non-observance of the pledge given by the present Chief Secretary for Ireland with regard to the cavalry regiments, that men joining cavalry regiments should have the privilege of serving permanently in the regiment they joined. In no force was the esprit de corps so great as in the cavalry regiments, and a distinct pledge was given that 200 men in such regiment should form a permanent portion of it. He did not believe that any of the men enlisting in cavalry regiments were informed of this privilege that they could enlist permanently in a particular regiment, and he thought some steps should be taken to carry out the spirit of the pledge that had been given. He would also like to know whether any decision had been arrived at on the vexed question of armaments, and particularly with regard to the abolition of the lance as a weapon of war. One high cavalry authority was greatly in favour of its retention, but, on the other hand, they were told by a high officer who had served principally in Highland regiments that the lance was an absolutely useless weapon, that at present it was neither one thing 645 nor the other. The orders were that it was to be used for ceremonial purposes, but the men were to have no real instruction in its use. It was a great pity a proper decision could not be arrived at. If the lance was to be retained only as a pretty toy the sooner it was done away with the better. If, on the other hand, the advice of cavalry officers was taken, the lance should be placed in its proper position. A question of considerable importance to those affected by it was that of the proper supply of regulation books for the use of officers. It was exceedingly difficult for any officer to obtain the proper books. From time to time they were out of print, and men going up for examination were obliged in many cases to pay exorbitant sums for books which they could not otherwise obtain. He hoped that steps would be taken to keep the supply of the regulations and of the necessary books up to date. While fully appreciating the difficulties of the position in which the Secretary of State had been placed, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would persevere in the course he had marked out, and that he would do his best to secure the adoption of the Reconstruction Committee's Report almost in its entirety. There were some parts of the Report with which he did not agree, but he hoped that its vital principles would be put into practice, and that the reception the public generally had accorded to the Report would be an encouragement to the right hon. Gentleman to persevere in the path upon which he had started.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)
said that, before moving the reduction of the Vote by 10,000 men, he desired to refer to a matter which had already figured in the discussion. The position had doubtless been changed by the speech of the Prime Minister, who had declared that the Government did not bind themselves to approve of Part II. of the Report in whole or in part, and that he did not agree with many of the criticisms in that section of the Report. That was a reassuring statement, because there were many far-reaching proposals of the Committee which ought not to be adopted without very careful consideration of their probable effect upon the finances of the country. In a single sentence Lord 646 Esher and his colleagues proposed to abolish the Accountant-General's Department, la the judgment of financial authorities, the accounting at headquarters, so far as the saving of money and the promotion of efficiency woe concerned, was better in the Army than in the Navy, and it had been the aim of the Admiralty to work up to the level of the War Office. Another important announcement was that at a later period of the session a further statement would be made on Army policy. One could not fail to recognise that in view of the rapidity with which the Report had been produced and substantial parts adopted, it was impossible at present for a full or well considered decision upon many important matters to be announced. The second Army statement would therefore be anticipated with great interest. In moving the reduction of the Vote by 10,000 men, he was acting largely on economical grounds. He was one of those who, when it was less popular so to do than now, had advocated economy in Army and Navy expenditure, and ho remembered a Treasury official saying five or six years ago that economy had a future but no present. He hoped they were now in sight of that "future," and that steps would be taken in the direction of economy. It was certainly necessary that all who desired economy should take every opportunity of urging their views upon the House. He did not agree with the Prime Minister that the first object of our military organisation should be to have a large highly-trained military force available for purposes of aggression or military expeditions abroad. Our Army ought to be primarily for purposes of home defence. He was entirely in sympathy with the view that the proposed permanent garrison in South Africa was far too large. No less than 72,000 men were serving in the Colonies and Egypt, or almost as many British soldiers as in the normal garrison in India, and representing a rise of about 20 per cent. during the last six or seven years. That rise had taken place, not merely in Africa, but in other colonial and foreign stations. With regard to South Africa, this was the third estimate in the course of the year as to the number of men the authorities responsible considered necessary. In last March the 647 permanent garrison was put at 15,000; in July the estimate was increased to 30,000; it was now said that 21,000 would be necessary. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that this figure was in accordance with the report of Lord Milner and the authorities at the Cape. That was doubtless the ground on which the figure was put into the Estimates, but it did not justify the statement in the Secretary of State's memorandum that it was lo be looked upon as a permanent garrison, to be maintained presumably out of Imperial funds. In addition to this heavy charge, £2,000,000 had already been spent, and we were committed to an expenditure of a further £1,000,000 in the erection of permanent barracks in South Africa. Where were those barracks to be—in Cape Colony, or in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony? And where were the troops to be stationed?
He advocated this reduction upon another ground. On page 4 of the Estimates there was a table explaining Vote A. as regarded the number proposed. The last column stated that 10,000 men were required for Somaliland. He took it that those men were included in the total of 227,000 men. Therefore they were being asked for a total of 10,000 men for Somaliland, and yet not a single penny was being asked in these Estimates for the payment of those troops. That made these Estimates not only provisional and interim, but also inaccurate. Here they were being asked to vote a certain number of men and the Government were not asking for the money to pay them. The Secretary of State for War admitted in his memorandum that lie did not ask for the money for these men, for he stated that he had deliberately omitted any Estimate for Somaliland. He did not consider that was any explanation at all, and it was no reason for breaking, if not the law, at least the practice of Parliament in the past. The hon. Member for Islington asked if the Government had any money for next year for this campaign, and the right hon. Gentleman replied "No." After the 31st of March there would be no money available for the payment of those troops. What chance was there of the war really coming to an end before the 31st of March next? As far as he could see, the omens were the other way. A 648 telegram, dated 4th March, stated that the Mullah had been informed that only his death or capture would put an end to the operations. That did not look like reconciliation and it did not appear as if the British authorities were making any serious attempt to induce the Mullah and his forces to surrender. Another telegram, dated the 6th of March, stated that—The season's operations were expected to be over by the middle or end of April; that the transport was practically worn out and the hard work done by the Indian troops was beginning to tell upon them.Therefore the most favourable opinion was that the campaign would not end until the end of April and up to that time no money was being asked for. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that he might move for an additional Estimate in the future, but it was clear that if the renewal of the campaign was necessary in the ensuing season it would be a very costly one, because the transport was now worn out. He had not followed the details of this campaign, but he welcomed one of the statements of the Secretary of State for War in which he said that if an opportunity could be given, consistent with the safety of those dependent upon this country, to bring about peace he would avail himself of that opportunity. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman what was his justification for the extremely unusual course he had pursued in regard to these Estimates? The cardinal principle laid down by Sir Erskine May was that the Estimates should contain the total expenditure for the year and the Votes for all the services for which money was wanted. They were not asking the Government to put down an enormous sum for Somaliland, because they knew it was an uncertain charge, but he did not think it was treating the country fairly to present Estimates which contained no provision for the expeditionary force in Somaliland, and did not put in any sum of money to meet the expenses of that force. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to investigate the matter, and, meanwhile, he begged to move a reduction of the Vote by 10,000 men.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 217,000, be maintained for the said Service."—(Mr. Buchanan.)649
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said the Secretary of State for War had complained that afternoon of the Opposition raising a great number of subjects which he thought ought to be discussed on the specific Votes. If the right hon. Gentleman would carry his memory back to the time when he was a private Member he would remember that a great many Votes involving large quantities of ammunition and stores were hurried through without any discussion at all. The only time they were free to discuss every subject was upon the Motion that Mr. Speaker should leave the Chair. That was his legitimate excuse for the Opposition raising small points which he agreed would be more appropriately discussed on the specific Votes. He had ventured to point out to the right hon. Gentleman certain details in regard to the men upon which he thought, it was possible for him to make certain reductions. His hon. friend had now proposed to reduce the forces by 10,000 men. The Prime Minister had made two specific statements which were of the greatest possible importance. In one of them he told the Committee that he supported the Secretary of State for India's scheme last year because he had not got the full information which he now possessed, and then he went on to say that the possible invasion of this country by a foreign force was, according to the information now at his disposal, not to be considered as a serious or probable contingency. If that information was correct, then the Committee ought to have fuller information in support of so serious a statement, for it was one which must affect the number of troops to be kept in this country. If no foreign invasion of this country was possible or probable they could afford to dispense with a large number of the Regular troops which, up to the present, it had been their custom to maintain in this country. If the Army had simply to supply drafts for India and the Colonies and sufficient men for an expeditionary force, that would enable the Government to reduce the total to a number very much nearer 40,000 or 50,000 men. For that general reason he should support the reduction. About twelve months ago the Secretary of State for India told them that this war in Somaliland would last some four or 650 five months, and that it would cost about £500,000 or £600,000, but they knew now that both the duration of the war and its cost had been sadly under-rated. There had been an entire misconception of the resisting powers of the enemy of the number of troops required to bring the campaign to an end, and the difficulties of the country in which they were operating. The total of £1,900,000, returned as the cost of the expedition, was misleading. What was the position of affairs in Somaliland when the campaign began? The Mullah was in the Italian territory. AT a cost of many officers and men they had driven him into territory where he was safely ensconced, and where it would be impossible to follow him as soon as the rains broke. After 500 or 600 men had been killed, troops bad been brought practically from all parts of the world. They were now employing 8,000 men, at a cost of £120,000 a month. The Government, which had made no provision for the future, were not very sure what they had been doing in the past. The non-success of their operations had within the last week induced a new man to come forward and to set up on his own account. Were the Government going to organise a fresh, expedition against him, and was that to be as costly as the present? The Italians had begun to do something, and they were organising a force to check the onward progress of these two Mullahs combined. The Secretary of State for War took a very optimistic view of what was going to happen. He said—In my opinion the situation in Somaliland is more favourable than it has been for many months past.What was the position? Troops, transports, and money were exhausted, and the right hon. Gentleman called that a more favourable situation. The House had been too long accustomed to favourable anticipation of this campaign, but they had never before had experience of a campaign in progress for which no money was asked. The Secretary of State for War knew that the cost of this campaign was so great that it must have raised difficulties in connection with the coming Budget, and it was in anticipation of financial disaster 651 that no doubt this Vote was postponed at the request of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the Secretary of State were to put down the cost of the expedition he would probably state it ac £500,000 or £600,000.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said the reason why an Estimate had not been put down for the expedition was that they were absolutely unable to form any anticipation of the course of events at present. It was a great mistake to suppose that it was the practice to estimate the cost of a campaign at all, and so far from the course adopted being contrary to precedent there was only one occasion on which a war had been carried on by means of Estimates at all.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said the Estimate put down last year was perfectly speculative. No one could foresee the course of any war, and for the purpose of the House of Commons they might as well put down £100,000 or £1,000,000. The Government believed that in a short time it would be possible to make an approximate estimate of what the cost of the war would be. He would remind hon. Members that it was not a question of keeping up all those men after the war ceased. As soon as the war came to a close, the greater number of them would become chargeable on the Indian Exchequer. He was told that he had been too optimistic. On Monday he stated what was perfectly true, that he regarded the situation as more satisfactory than it had been for a long time past. The period when we could conduct this campaign in the same way as we were now conducting it was practically drawing to a close, and we would see in a short time whether the operations were likely to be successful or not. The Government would then be able to review the whole chances of the campaign and the expenditure. He admitted that the House of Commons was entitled to information, and if be had thought it was in the power of anyone at the War Office to 652 form an adequate estimate in regard to the campaign for the coming year, he should have supplied the figure, though it would no doubt have exposed him to as much criticism as the omission of which the hon. Member complained. He felt that he had done no injustice to the House of Commons, and therefore he did not accept any censure.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said it would be more convenient to discuss the reduction on all grounds, and not on a single item.
Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
And it being half-past Seven of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER left the Chair till this Evening's Sitting.