§ ship to go to sea if it was insufficiently ballasted. If it is easy for surveyors to do this, what difficulty would they experience in marking the average safety-line below which a ship should not be out of the water? There is, therefore, no difficulty in the way. Any slight trouble or expense to shipowners caused by the carrying out of this proposal is a small matter compared with the safety of life and property which would be secured.
§ On Question, whether the word "now" stand part of the Question, the House divided:—Contents, 32; Not-Contents, 66.317
|Northumberland, D.||Verulam, E.||Kelvin, L.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Wharncliffe, E.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and' Mount-Earl.) [Teller.]|
|Northampton, M.||Falkland, V.||Lingen, L.|
|Knutsford, Y.||Middleton, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Wolseley, V.||Monckton, L.[V. Galway.)|
|Carrington, E.||Belbaven and Stenton, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Chelmsford, L.||Mount Stephen, L.|
|Lathom, E.||Clanwilliam,L.(E. Clan william)||Muskerry, L. [Teller.]|
|Mansfield, E.||Norton, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Haliburton, L.||Pirbright, L.|
|Romney, E.||Herries, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Halsbury, E.(L. Chancellor.)||Malmesbury, E.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)[Teller]|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Northbrook, E.||Forester, L.|
|Northesk, E.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Onslow, E.||Hencage, L. [Teller]|
|Scarbrough, E.||Hothfield, L|
|Bedford, D.||Selborne, E.||James, L.|
|Marlborough, D).||Stanhope, E.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore)|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Lindley, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Waldegrave, E.||Macnaghten, L.|
|Bath, M.||Manners of Haddon, L. (M. Granby.)|
|Frankfort de Montmorency, V.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E.(L. Steward.)||Goschen, V.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Hardinge, V.||Muncaster, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Ridley, V.||Newton, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Northbourne, I,.|
|Dartrey, E.||Asheombe, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Avebury, L.||Revelstoke, L.|
|Doncaster, E.(D. Buccleuch and queensberry.)||Balfour, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Blythswood, L.||Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery)|
|Dudley, E.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)||Sackville, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Churchill, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Colville of Culross, L.||Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)|
|Harrowby, E.||Dawnay, L.(V. Downe.)||Windsor, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||De L'lsle and Dudley, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
§ Bill to be read 2ª this day six months.
Secretary of State for War the question which stands in my name, I must claim your Lordships' indulgence for a few moments whilst I try to show that the
information which I seek is really required. The noble Marquess at the head of His Majesty's Government, speaking on November 9th, 1900, said—
'We must consider the defences of this country, scrutinise them carefully, and examine all the machinery, administrative and military, by which they are sustained.
§ Anxiety to comply with the noble Marquess's exhortation prompts my present question. I believe it can be said with accuracy that, at present, only War Office officials are in a position to understand the working of our military administration, which has never been fully explained to Parliament.
The noble Marquess who was Secretary of State for War in 1895, when the Government reorganised their military administration, said in your Lordships' House that he was not then able to give a full and final account of the proposals of the Government, but could merely give a brief and imperfect sketch of the main outlines of the new system. This brief sketch has never been followed by the full and final account of which the noble Marquess spoke. At present the only source of information is to be found in the Orders in Council. Orders in Council come, and Orders in Council go, in bewildering succession. Their appearance and their exit are conveniently recorded in the official preface to the War Office List, from which I have made the following extracts—
An Order in Council of December, 1887, was slightly, but not essentially, varied by one of February, 1888. By a further Order in Council of November, 1895, a new administration was established, but the Central Office was not affected by this order, and the part relating to the Financial Secretary merely repeated the Order of 1888. An Order in Council of March, 1899, revoked the Order of 1895.
So much, then, for the Orders in Council as they appear in the War Office List, changing and revoking each other and altering the administration of the Army. The Order of 1899 contains the latest definitions of the duties of the Commander-in-Chief and the principal officers of the Headquarters Staff. But these definitions are necessarily general, and deficient in detail. The first paragraph of the Order endows the Commander-in-Chief with the general command of the Army. The four suc-
ceding paragraphs deprive him of control over the Headquarters Staff. Now, my Lords, in what sense can an officer be called Commander-in-Chief if he has not got control over the Headquarters Staff? We cannot tell whether the Commander-in-Chief has been or is the real adviser of the Secretary of State and the real head of the Army; we do not know his position and responsibilities in matters of finance; we are ignorant whether in time of war he is or is not discharged from a portion of his duties. On the outbreak of hostilities the Cabinet appoints a Commander-in-Chief in the field. This war Commander-in-Chief reports directly to the Secretary of State. Thus the duties of the peace Commander-in-Chief seem to lapse. It appears that, in addition to Orders in Council varying the administration of the Army, the Secretary of State for War may, as occasion requires, assume additional powers for dealing with special cases. For instance, it was notified at the end of January that the Secretary of State, in future, could place any officer on half pay for causes other than misconduct. A very well-known case in which this has recently been done will occur immediately to your Lordships. The question at once arises, Is there any limit to this assumption of special powers to enable a Secretary of State for War to solve in silenced difficulties of his own creation? To all officers in the Army, and to all those who mean to make the Army their profession, the answer is of supreme importance. I find, my Lords, that in 1887 a Commission appointed to report upon Warlike Stores reported upon the Secretary of State for War. Why that Minister was then classed as a "warlike store" I am not concerned to inquire. I merely quote to your Lordships from the Report of that Commission. The Royal Commission on Warlike Stores reported on 16th May, 1887.and said that—
The Secretary of State is charged with five great functions, any one of which would be sufficient to occupy the whole time of a man of first-rate industry, ability, and knowledge.
§ A very few years later the Hartington Commission arrived at exactly the same conclusion in reference to the duties of the Commander-in-Chief. That officer 321 had duties placed upon him far in excess of the power of any one man to perform. The key-note of the Harrington Coin-mission was to lessen the power and diminish the responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, the Commission recommended the abolition of that office. The Government decided to retain the name, but to practically abolish the office of Commander-in-Chief by transferring his responsibilities to the Secretary of State for War, in spite of the Report of the Commission of 1887 that that Minister was already completely overburdened. In 1895 the concentration of responsibility in the Commander-in-Chief was terminated in favour of co-ordinate authorities collectively responsible to the Secretary of State.
§ As though to accentuate the responsibility of the Secretary of State for War, that Minister is empowered by Act of Parliament not only to appoint, but at his pleasure to remove, the Financial Secretary, who is his chief adviser on all questions of Army expenditure, responsible to him for the Army Estimates, and for the redistribution of the sums granted for the year. We do not know, we have no means of knowing, what sum the military experts have asked for, what they consider to be the absolutely necessary minimum, or any of the reasons which prompt them to ask for loss or more than usual. All we know is that a certain sum has been granted, which may be less by millions than the sum asked for, and that the Financial Secretary is subject to removal at the pleasure of the Secretary of State for War.
§ A variety of boards, committees, and councils are mingled in the work of administration at the War Office. The Secretary of State for War. The Under Secretary, the Financial Secretary, together with the Headquarters Staff and the Commander-in-Chief, form the War Office Council. The Commander-in-Chief and the Headquarters Staff form the Army Board. But the decision of that Board, on appeal from any one of its members, may be reversed by the Secretary of State. The Commander-in-Chief, with two officers to assist him, carry out those duties which in Continental armies are discharged by one officer alone, the chief of the staff. Your 322 Lordships are aware that in 1895 the five-great officers of the Headquarters Staff of the Army were made directly and co-ordinately responsible to the Secretary of State for their different departments. They advise the Secretary of State directly upon all matters connected with their departments. Thus the Headquarters Staff of the Army is not the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, but the staff of the Secretary of State for War. Now the Headquarters Staff, sitting with the Commander-in-Chief as its head, forms the Army Board. Thus we have one staff serving two chiefs, the one a Cabinet Minister and the other a distinguished soldier. We have always believed from days of old that no man can serve two masters, for most undesirable results are certain to follow.
§ Above the Secretary of State we have, in the first place, the Cabinet, and, in the second, the Committee of National Defence. We do not know the powers of this Committee, or its exact relations to the Secretary of State. It is said to meet occasionally and to keep no minutes. However, this Committee of National Defence is composed of most illustrious. Ministers, without any of the special knowledge and experience requisite for successfully organising the defence of a world-wide Empire. The action of the Secretary of State implies often the initiative, always the consent, of both the Cabinet and the Committee of National Defence. It is true that the Secretary of State is held responsible for the whole Army, but in purely military matters it is impossible to bring personal responsibility home to a civilian Secretary of State. That responsibility must devolve on subordinate officers, who are protected from all blame by the umbrella of collective authority, under which they wait unconcernedly till the clouds roll by. Individual responsibility in the War Office seems to begin and end with the rank of doorkeeper.
§ I am not hopeful of any real reform of the Army unless the Government take the country fully and frankly into their confidence on the subject of Army administration. Popular enthusiasm, which is essential to the existence of a Volunteer Army, can only be aroused and maintained when the nation easily understands the way in which the Army 323 is administered. The Government must remember that, although we do not know the precise system which has governed the Army, we do know its exact result— namely, the opening scenes of the South African War. We had administrative machinery designed to ensure victory and success. Under the test of war it turned out disaster and humiliation. Is it unreasonable to wish to know the exact construction of the machinery which gave results so unexpected and so Calamitous?
I apprehend that your Lordships will agree that there is a widespread wish in the country for legislative reform in the Army—I say, my Lords, legislative reform as distinguished from administrative change. I am well aware that the Government cannot now make any announcement of their intentions for the future. But, my Lords, my contention is that a detailed explanation of our existing military administration would pave the way for legislative reform more usefully than a series of administrative changes launched haphazard from the War Office. The Secretary of State has already appointed two Departmental Committees, one to instruct him how to carry on the work of the Department over which he has just been called upon to preside, and the other to inquire into the exact position which the Yeomanry are to occupy in an organisation the principles of which are not yet determined. Departmental Committees have inquired into the condition of the War Office ever since the Crimean War. The cumulative result of the labours of those Committees are the disasters in South Africa, but my Lords, forty years of failure seem to count for nothing in the sight of the War Office, I presume because
Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Committees never are, but always to be blest.
In conclusion, I beg to call your Lordships' attention to the apparent anomalies of the military administration, and to ask the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for information on the subject.
*THE UNDER SECRETARY of STATE FOR WAR (Lord RAGLAN)
My Lords, it is with considerable diffidence 324 that I address myself to this question. In the first place, I was brought up as a soldier, I had the honour to serve in the same regiment as the noble Duke, I learned the lesson of discipline in early life, and it goes somewhat against the grain to have publicly to discuss the proceedings of high officials whom I have always looked upon with respect from a distance. In the second place, as your Lordships are aware, my official life has been short; I have only been at the War Office for a few months, and I am asked to explain the working of a great system of which I have hardly had time to grasp the outline. The chief accusation which the noble Duke brought against the War Office was that there was no such thing as responsibility. I should like to point out that the changes to which the noble Duke took exception were brought about solely with the view of giving more individual responsibility. We all know that the tendency of all great institutions, whether Government institutions or not, is towards excessive centralisation. That tendency is continually increasing, and requires to be fought against. These Departmental Committees to which the noble Lord takes such exception were chiefly formed with the object of endeavouring, as far as possible, to further a system of decentralisation. The noble Duke complained that the result of the present system is that all power has been removed from the Commander-in-Chief. If you have any system of decentralisation you must decentralise responsibility, and to decentralise responsibility you must decentralise power. No man can accept responsibility without accepting at the same time a certain amount of power. You must give it to him in order that he may lie able to exercise that responsibility.
The four great department soft he War Office are the Adjutant General's department, the Quartermaster General's department, the department of the Inspector General of Fortifications, and the department of Director General of Ordnance. By the last reorganisation— I quite agree with my noble friend there have been several—those four departments were put under their respective heads, who were made absolutely responsible for the conduct of their respective 325 departments. That did not remove them from the supervision of the Commander-in-Chief, though they were removed from his control. Besides those four military departments there are the department of the Military Secretary and the department of the Director of Military Intelligence. The Military Secretary's department, as most of your Lordships are aware, deals with the appointment and retirement of officers, and so on, and these are matters which must come almost hourly under the immediate control of the Commander-in-Chief. The Military Intelligence department deals with military intelligence, with mobilisation, and with general staff preparation for war. It is also considered that that department should be under the direct control of the Commander-in-Chief. All these departments are under the supervision of the Commander-in-Chief; he can at any moment see papers he desires to see on any subject, and can send for any officer either inside the office or out of it. I cannot but think that the supervision of the Commander-in-Chief is exactly what the Commander-in-Chief chooses to make it. If the Commander-in-Chief were to attempt to control every department of the War Office, no mortal man could stand the strain for a week. Under the present conditions the responsibility, and therefore the power, was deputed to the heads of these departments. They have charge of the work which is to be executed in their departments, but the Commander-in-Chief is consulted when that work is boingmapped out. The head of the department does that work subject to the supervision of the Commander-in-Chief, who can see exactly what is happening.
I will now come to the difference between control and supervision. Control consists in standing over a man while he does the work; supervision consists in telling that man to do the work, still having the right to impure how ho is getting on with it at any moment. Take, for instance, the case of a Commander-in-Chief in the field. He has a column under his own immediate personal command. That is under his control. He sends out a detachment under a general officer. He says to that general officer, "March from A to B. "That column then passes beyond the control of the 326 Commander-in-Chief, it becomes merely under his supervision. The control of the column remains in the hands of the general officer until he gets fresh orders from the supervising authority altering his plans. That is the difference between control and supervision as applied to the relations between the Commander-in-Chief and the other officers in the War Office.
I now come to my own personal experiences. As far as I have seen, no question affecting discipline—and I use the word "discipline "in its widest possible sense—has been decided since I have been at the War Office without the Commander-in-Chief having been consulted. In many quarters capital has been made out of the fact that all the correspondence goes out in the name of the Secretary of State for War. That custom was adopted in deference to the views of high military authorities, but no great importance is attached to it, and the Secretary of State does not see why the correspondence should not be sent out in the name of the Department which sent it out. All the correspondence which comes into the War Office is addressed to the Under Secretary for War. The reason for that is that it all has to go to a central office to be registered. The Secretary of State sees no particular reason why the correspondence should not be addressed to the particular Department for which it is intended, but it would make no practical difference in the working of the system.
With regard to the personal relations between the Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief, I can say that every Paper which I have seen—and I think I have seen most of them—which referred in the slightest way to discipline or to any purely military subject apart from that of expenditure—and even those in the great majority of cases— had a note upon it to the effect that the Commander-in-Chief had seen it and agreed with it. Indeed, the Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief were in daily, almost hourly, correspondence. My room lies between the rooms of those two high officials, and constantly throughout the day either the Secretary of State passes through my room to see the Commander-in-Chief, or the Commander-in-Chief passes through to see the Secre- 327 tary of State. There are times when I wish that their communications were not so constant.
There seems to be an idea that the Orders in Council of 1895 and 1899 were brought in solely with the object of enabling the civilian element to overrule and usurp the position of the military element. I can assure my noble friend that that is wrong. The basis of the change then made was simply the decentralisation of responsibility, and in decentralising responsibility it was also necessary to decentralise power. The noble Duke alluded to the war in South Africa. I was not in office at the time to which the noble Duke alludes, but I must challenge him to produce his authority for saying that the deficiencies of the civilians at the War Office caused the disasters early in the war, and to give his authority to say that any supplies or any reinforcements that have been demanded by the military authorities have ever been refused by the civil authorities. I do not think he can.
In conclusion, I have merely to say this. The Secretary of State for War represents the Cabinet, and the Cabinet in the long run must represent Parliament, which must decide all great questions of policy and control every single item of expenditure. Therefore, whatever arrangements are made at the War Office, the Secretary of State must in the long run be supreme. But I can assure your Lordships that there is no desire on the part of anyone, whether inside or outside the War Office, either civil or military, to detract in any way from the, position, or to belittle, the authority, of the Commander-in-Chief.
§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
My Lords, I gladly avail myself of this opportunity to call your Lordships' serious attention to the novel and experimental Army system introduced a few years back, under which His Majesty's forces are. I cannot say commanded by a professional soldier, but administered by a civilian Secretary of State. I speak in the presence of many noble Lords who are or who have been soldiers, and who therefore clearly understand the great difference in the meaning of those two expressions— "administration" and "command. "I do not think I mislead those who have not 328 been soldiers when I state that in all countries and in all ages standing armies have been controlled by professional soldiers, who, above all things, were personally responsible for the discipline and war training, and, consequently, for the military efficiency of the troops they commanded. The only exceptions to this rule ever attempted, as far as my military knowledge goes, are, the Chinese army— not a very good pattern to follow—and our own Army, which for the last five years has been administered by a civilian Secretary of State, and not actually commanded by a soldier, as it had always previously been.
I shall try, my Lords, to make my statements as general and impersonal as possible. I shall adduce no specific instances nor quote any particular correspondence to illustrate what I say. My arguments are not directed against individuals, but against a military system which I have honestly tried for five years and found wanting—which entails many great dangers not realised by the people, of this realm. Before entering upon my subject, I would impress upon your Lordships that nothing can be further from my intention than to make any attack upon the Government, still less upon any particular member of it. With the late Secretary of State, for War, the present Minister for Foreign Affairs, I was brought into almost daily contact whilst I was Commander-in-Chief, and I believe he will corroborate the statement that we worked most cordially together. No disagreeable incident of any sort that I can recall ever marred the pleasant relations which marked our intercourse. This is all the more satisfactory because, no matter what may be our military system, the non-political Commander-in-Chief and the political War Minister must often approach Army matters from very different standpoints. Even when equally impressed with the importance of a certain step they may disagree as to its feasibility. For example, say that it seems highly desirable to provide better field guns and more of them. It is the soldier's manifest duty to press for them strenuously, yet the War Minister, better informed as to the current financial demands of the Empire, may hesitate, to approve of the expenditure. He may 329 honestly believe that some other national requirements should have precedence. Even if he has been convinced personally of the urgency of the measure, he has still to bring his colleagues and the Cabinet to the same way of thinking, while there always remains the fierce Cerberus that guards the Treasury and so often refuses to be appeased.
It would not be difficult to show that the needs of the Army and its general efficiency have been more than once subordinated to the wish to produce a low Budget. Here, obviously, points of difference may arise between the political chief and the professional soldier. But it is not my intention to dwell upon the past. My concern is with the present and the future. I have no personal complaints to urge, no grievances to ventilate. My one great object is to strengthen the position of my successors in the post I have lately vacated, so that they may be given a larger share in the management of the Army than the existing Order in Council accords to the so-called, but really misnamed, Commander-in-Chief. No one can recognise more fully than I do the complete and individual responsibility to Parliament of the Secretary of State for War for everything relating to the Army. This constitutional responsibility was clearly defined in the War Office Act of 1870, and subsequently strengthened by Orders in Council. I do not, cannot, complain of it, for it existed long before the present Army system was invented, and it is inevitable under our Constitution
My complaint is against the present Army system, which has robbed the professional Commander-in-Chief of his chief usefulness, and has virtually handed over the command and entire management of the Army to a civilian Secretary of State assisted by subordinates with whom he deals direct. If anyone doubts this fact let him read the Order in Council of November, 1895. Let me give an illustration of how that Order in Council works and of the position of the Secretary of State under it. When. Mr. Kruger declared war against Her late Majesty in the year 1899, it was found necessary to send a large army to South Africa. But if that army had not been forthcoming, the fault would have rested with the Secretary of State for War, not with 330 the Commander-in-Chief. If the guns or small arms with which our troops took the field were not what they should have been, or, to come down to the present moment, suppose it were necessary now to mobilise our Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers for home defence, and it was found that the only guns in their possession were practically useless for modern warfare, the responsibility for that state of things would not rest with the Commander-in-Chief. The Secretary of State for War would be alone responsible for it. He is also responsible to Parliament that all reserves are ready, the guns, ammunition, clothing, horses, saddlery, harness, and everything else necessary to convert an army on a peace footing into an army fit for the field. Of course, under our Constitution this, the ultimate responsibility, he can share with the Commander-in-Chief or any other military officer. But he may be greatly relieved in it, the burden may be lessened, by the help of his expert adviser.
It has always been, and is still, the duty of the Commander-in-Chief to bring strongly—he cannot do so too strongly—to the notice of the Secretary of State the wants of the military forces. If he feels the Regular Army is not strong enough to perform the duties for which it is maintained, or if its material, its armament, and equipment are imperfect or insufficient, it is his duty to urge the need for additions—it has often been mine, as Adjutant General and Commander-in-Chief, to do so—but after that he can do no more. There the Commander - in - Chief's responsibility ceases. Although the various needs are not disputed, not only are no steps taken to meet them, but no one outside the Government is aware that their urgency has been raised. The Government has thought it advisable from economic reasons to postpone their provision, but yet it will not take the nation into its confidence that such important demands for men and stores have been put forward by the experts, and, nevertheless, refused. I cannot assert too emphatically that it behoves Parliament to devise some plan by which the fact that these strong representations have been so made and still refused should be laid before the nation for it to 331 decide between the expert and the economist. In no other way can we safeguard the Empire from great and unknown perils.
For the last twenty-eight years I have been employed in various positions under many War Office administrations, and many an evening at the end of my day's work I have felt sick at heart when I contemplated the great national risks deliberately accepted by the Government that happened to be in office. And why so accepted? Because it was not then politically expedient to ask Parliament for the money required to properly arm and equip our Army. Ministers evidently hoped that evil days might not befall the country during their term of office. It has often fallen to my lot when in the field to have to calculate the chances and the risks that certain operations would entail, and I have had at times to face, those risks and run them in making a choice of possible evils. But I would ask, What are such risks to those deliberately accepted time after time by Cabinets sooner than do the unpopular thing of asking for money to provide against them? When war is upon us, then money is to be had easily and for the asking. But money, as we know to our cost, will not then purchase in the open market soft he world the guns and other stores which were not laid in betimes, and which, when war comes, are consequently required. It is but natural in time of peace, under our system of government by party, and when the nation is left in ignorance of the views entertained by the military specialist upon the military requirements of the moment, that the party in power should still put economy before efficiency, and strain every nerve to spend as little as possible. That is the necessary out come of the political system upon which our Constitution is framed.
My Lords, in asking you to seriously consider the present unmilitary system under which the Army is now administered, I believe I can express some useful opinion upon this subject. At any rate, I feel that, as a Member of your Lordships' House, it is my duty, as well as my pleasure, to state here the result of my experience. Before I enter into details, I feel that I must ask the House 332 to allow me to give a short outline of the Army system it replaced. I shall not go into ancient history, and shall be as brief as I can. What I may call the modern system of Army Government was begun by the greatest War Minister have we had in modern days—Mr. Cardwcll— with the War Office Act of 1870 and the Orders in Council of that same year, which defined the respective duties of the Commander-in-Chief, of the Surveyor General of Ordnance, and of the Financial Secretary. The Commander-in-Chief retained under that system, as, theretofore, the direct and real command of the Army, and was charged with the discipline, distribution, military education, training, and the fighting efficiency of all ranks in all the military forces of the Crown. The Surveyor General of Ordnance was "charged with providing, holding, and issuing to all branches of those forces food, fuel, clothing, arms, and all the stores and equipment and transport they required, both in peace and war." The duties of the Financial Secretary were to draw up the Annual Estimates and to watch over all military expenditure.
This system remained in force until 1888, when Mr. Stanhope, then War Minister, amended and strengthened it by the Orders in Council of that date. They brought our Army abreast with modern ideas as far as that was possible under our form of government. The changes they introduced may be fairly regarded as the mathematical complement to Mr. Cardwell's great measure of Army reform of some fifteen years before. In my opinion Mr. Stanhope's system was a sound and workmanlike solution of a very difficult problem. The Army never gave him the credit he deserved for it, nor for the courage and determination with which he combated the opposition it encountered. Under it, the responsibility of the War Minister to Parliament was in no sense reduced, but subject to it; the Commander-in-Chief—the military specialist—was charged with the discipline, education, military training, and fighting efficiency of all ranks of the military forces that are annually voted by Parliament. In other words, the Commander-in-Chief was held responsible by the Secretary of State for War that 333 those military forces were always thoroughly efficient, and, supposing the stores, guns, etc., voted were sufficient, that the Army was always ready for rapid mobilisation. This, I contend, was a practical, well-working system— very different from that in force to-day. An effective control over all military expenditure was exercised by the Financial Secretary, who was a Member of Parliament and directly under the orders of the Secretary of State for War. The Commander-in-Chief had no command over public money whatever, and it was the duty of the Financial Secretary to keep the War Minister informed upon all matters bearing in any way upon Army expenditure. Whilst, therefore, the financial control of the Minister was absolute and complete, the military efficiency of the Army was secured by being placed under one man, the soldier-expert, the Commander-in-Chief. He was, in effect, as I have said, directly responsible to the War Minister for the discipline, military education, training, and fighting efficiency of all ranks. I believe it went far to reconcile the anomaly of dual government under which our Army has always laboured, and while it ensured the complete control of Parliament over the Army, did not interfere with the direct responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief for military efficiency.
The next modification of the system was started when Mr. Stanhope's Order in Council of February, 1888, was barely two weeks old. The new move was originated by a Member of the other House—an old friend of mine and an old soldier— who asked for a Royal Commission on the military and naval requirements for the protection of the Empire. This was a very sensible proposal, and it might well be revived to-day, when the nation is sadly in need of enlightenment on this essential question. The answer accorded was amusing, and it may be said that the hon. Member, having asked for bread, was given a stone. A Royal Commission was granted, not to investigate the necessities for national defence, but to report "on the extent to which our naval and military systems as at present organised 334 and administered are adapted to the national wants. "There was yet a greater change of front when the Commission was appointed and the reference to it made public. Its object was stated to be—to enquire into the civil and professional administration of the naval and military departments and the relation of those departments to each other and to the Treasury, and to report what changes in the existing system would tend to efficiency and economy in the public service.This Commission consisted of the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council and of eight others. Of these, one was a soldier, one a sailor, one was a Member of your Lordships' House, four were Members of the other House, of whom one had been Chancellor of the Exchequer and three had been Secretaries of State for War, one had been Governor of Bombay and possessed great Indian experience, the eighth being a private gentleman of commercial experience. Had this Commission confined itself to a Report on the subjects set forth in the instructions given to it, I have no doubt that, composed as it was, its Report might have been of high public value. But it launched out into recommendations for a complete change at he system of Army command and Army administration. I feel that nine-tenths of the Army would not believe that efficiency could result from changes carried out merely upon the recommendation of a Commission in which only one member was a soldier—a brilliantly able man, indeed, an old comrade of whom I have the highest opinion, but who had never held any high command, and had never been Adjutant or Quartermaster General of the Army. This Committee submitted two Reports, and of the eight members five dissented from clauses in both Reports. One member, a late Chancellor of the Exchequer, recommended the abolition of the office of Secretary of State for War. And yet upon the strength of those Reports an Army system then known to have been working admirably was overturned and the present experimental system established in its place. I call it experimental because no such system had been tried that I know of in any other army before. I 335 have been told that the new proposals were based upon a system under which the Navy is administered by a Board. Not being a sailor, I am incapable of expressing any useful opinion upon the system upon which our Navy is managed. I emphatically pronounce it to be entirely unsuited when applied to the government of the Army, and I maintain that under it you will never have an efficient, and I doubt much if you will ever have a contented Army.
In 1895, the illustrious Duke, who bad been a most popular Commander-in-Chief for nearly forty years, resigned that position, and I was selected to succeed him. The present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in intimating to me that I had been selected to succeed his Royal Highness, informed me that it was intended to introduce regulations which would greatly alter the position of all future Commanders-in-Chief, and it was upon that understanding I accepted the offer. When I subsequently learnt what was the nature of these alterations, I found they were certainly not to my liking, but I resolved to give them a, fair trial. I have done so honestly for the last five years, including a full year of actual war. It is because, after this experience, I believe them to be injurious to the efficiency of the Army and fraught with danger to the highest interests of the Empire, and because I am certain that under their provisions you can never have any effective Army, that I am here to-day in the hope of making my reasons for this opinion evident and clear to your Lordships.
Allow me now to analyse briefly this experimental Army system of 1895. It follows generally, as I have said already, the plan under which the Navy has long been administered—namely, by a Board. In other words, it divides into what I may term water-tight compartments the responsibility, under the Secretary of State for War, for the fighting efficiency of the Army, a responsibility which in all previous times had been concentrated in the Commander-in-Chief. The heads of these four water-tight compartments have no connection one with the other. They have no general military head; each is singly and individually responsible to the Secretary of State for War for the orders he gives and the work he performs.
336 Each is the adviser of the Secretary of State for War, and in describing their duties and position no reference even is made to the existence of a Commander-in-Chief. Until 1895 the Commander-in-Chief, as I have repeatedly urged, was responsible to the Secretary of State that the Army was thoroughly well trained for war. There is now no one soldier to whom the country can look as directly and professionally responsible for the military efficiency of the Army it pays for. It must depend upon the statesman, almost invariably a civilian, whom the Prime Minister may select from among political supporters for the position of Secretary of State for War. I would ask, Is this wise? Is it businesslike?
I venture to illustrate this method of Army administration by a homely and familiar analogy. I have lately been engaged in converting an old farmhouse into a little country residence. My first step was to call in an architect, an expert. I told him what I wanted, and, having done so, I left the expert to look after the builder and his men. Under our Constitution the Secretary of State, as the representative of the Cabinet, used to stand to the Commander-in-Chief in much the same position as I did to the architect. The Secretary of State acted as the owner, the Commander-in-Chief was the expert. But mark the difference of procedure: instead of dealing with one expert, the Secretary of State asks the opinion and advice of every one of his foremen, without the knowledge of the architect, much less consulting him. Had I followed this system, I wonder what sort of a house I should have had—very possibly the staircase would have been forgotten. One of the foremen—let us say the carpenter foreman—in his anxiety to make perfect his own particular job in which his interest was absorbed, and knowing little or nothing of the general plan of the whole building, might have impressed me with the importance of his own special share in the operation, while the drains might have been over looked, or some other necessity might have been omitted that would have left the house uninhabitable. Amplifying this, and dealing with it on broader lines, the inconvenience, the mischief, the possible dangers of the present system may be exemplified in another way. Hardly one of the many 337 questions that come up before the Secretary of State for decision is of quite a simple nature. All, as a rule, concern several distinct branches in the War Office. Take, for instance, the introduction of a new rifle. Here there are intricate, technical points affecting all manners of people. The mechanism, range, and precision of fire are within the province of the Director General of Ordnance; the weight of the weapon, the carrying power of the soldier, the facility for aiming and firing, involve important questions which concern the Adjutant General, the Quartermaster General, and so on. Each of these officers would naturally give the best advice from iris own particular branch's point of view, which would often be at variance with the views urged by other departments. How can the political Minister of War, to whom military science is more or less an enigma, usefully hold the balance between such conflicting opinions? How can he be sure that ho is giving due weight to each point, and that he fully realises the force of one and the weakness of another? That can only be well done by the trained military expert, the Commander-in-Chief, who knows from experience every technicality, every detail himself. It is the business to which he has been brought up, and he can therefore easily sift out the rubbish and emphasise the good stuff in a way that only an expert can. Then, when he has heard all sides, he will form his opinion, and with the sound judgment of ripe knowledge and wide experience he will lay the case before his official superior, the Minister for War. There can be nothing of this kind under our present military system. The civilian Secretary of State is left in a fog of doubt and indecision, the result of which is the probable shelving of the question, or, still worse, that the wrong course is taken.
If the Coinmander-in-Chiei is not allowed to command the Army in the sense that he is the one man whom the Secretary of State is to consult, and whose professional advice he is to follow, he will be like the invalid who took the advice of half-a-dozen doctors, each separately and without the knowledge of the others. In his case there will be as many conflicting and inconsistent plans of operation as there were foremen 338 under the arehitect in my building illustration. It would seem, indeed, that to save appearances the title of Commander-in-Chief is still bestowed upon a General Officer, but lie is not allowed to have or exercise the authority possessed by every Commander-in-Chief before 1895, and, strange to say, which is still exercised by the Generals commanding in Ireland, in India, and in all our foreign stations. The Adjutant General and the Quartermaster General are no longer the stall' officers of the Commander-in-Chief at Army Headquarters, as the officers bearing those titles are of the General Officers under whom they serve elsewhere, and as the Adjutant and Quartermaster of a regiment are the staff officers of its commanding officer. They are now accountable to the Secretary of State for War, and not to the Commander-in-Chief, for the discharge of their duties. They are, in fact, the staff officers of the civilian Secretary of State, who deals with them directly, independently of the Commander-in-Chief, and even without his knowledge, on all the most important subjects in which military efficiency consists.
Is this a military system that commends itself to any man who knows the A B C of military organisation, of military life, of military history? Only think of what would be the result if you introduced such a system into the management of an infantry battalion! Suppose a clever magistrate in each town where a regiment is stationed were selected by the Home Secretary to have under him the adjutant and the quartermaster, who were to be responsible to the magistrate for the discipline, housing, feeding, and general well-being of their regiment, and that the magistrate was at the same time to ignore the existence of the regimental commanding officer? Is that a condition of things that recommends itself to your Lordships? Does any man imagine it would conduce to military efficiency? But I may be told that the Commander-in-Chief is by the Order in Council of 1895 "charged with the general supervision of the military departments of the War Office." Yet the head of each of these is himself "responsible for all questions relating to his department, and for submitting 339 them—when higher authority is necessary—to the Secretary of State." The incompatibility of these provisions is surely obvious. Mow can the Commander-in-Chief supervise or control a department the head of which is an independent authority, at least to the extent of having free access to the supreme head? My Lords, I should not like to weary you with criticisms upon the distribution of responsibility laid down in the "memorandum showing the duties of the various departments of the War Office and the responsibilities of its principal heads to the Secretary of State." Suffice it to say that it is a contradiction in terms, and the system it creates is unworkable—is, indeed, in my opinion, an impossibility. The endeavour to combine general control in one place and person with individual responsibility in many others has failed in both objects. The Commander-in-Chief has not effective control; neither are the heads of departments fully responsible. Moreover, the work and cross reference in all branches has largely increased without any benefit to the Army or the public service.
As an illustration of this I may mention that all letters for the purely military offices, even those upon discipline, drill, and technical and purely professional points, are now addressed to the Under Secretary of State, and not to the military branches that can alone deal with them. They are all answered, not in the name of the Commander-in-Chief, but in that of the Secretary of State. When the colonel commanding a regiment receives a letter in the name of the Secretary of State, upon, say, the advantages of open formations in field movements, the order is received as a comical episode of our new military system. To many it is a joke, but this novel system of correspondence is misunderstood in the Army generally. It leads soldiers to believe that even serious matters of discipline are no longer dealt with by their officers, but by a civilian Secretary of State, of whose very name they are mostly ignorant. My Lords, I presume I need scareely tell you that our soldiers do not love the War Office or its civilian rulers. You cannot thus flout the sentiment of the Army without doing injury to its morale. No soldiers like the idea of being commanded 340 by men in civil life, and no one who knows what our soldiers are like would ever have invented a system which brings that fact home to our men. At present the centralisation of work and correspondence in the office of the Secretary of State is excessive, and the work is not nearly as well done as when it was distributed throughout the military branches. In fact, the Army becomes less and less ruled and governed on military lines, to the detriment of military efficiency.
In a, time of pressure, such as that we have lately gone through, valuable time is squandered. The Commander-in-Chief's action is often paralysed, and the office blocked with routine papers passing backwards and forwards to and from the office of the Secretary of State, most of which should be disposed of by suberdinate officers in the purely military branches. But I am told that our Navy, the first in the world, is ruled by a Beard in which there are only four sailors: that each of these four has distinct responsibilities, for the due performance of which each is alone answerable to the First Lord—a civilian who is necessarily as ignorant of ships and sailors as I am. I am not competent to express any useful opinion upon any naval matters, nor to criticise the mode in which our splendid Navy is governed: nor do I know whether the majority of our admirals and captains are fully satisfied with our system of naval government I am not a sailor, and, consequently, my opinion upon such a point would be absolutely worthless. I confine myself to expressing an opinion upon the govern ment of the service—the Army in which I have spent my life and in which I have held the highest positions, both in peace and in war. I am fully aware of the responsibility I assume when I state that my experience convinces me that as long as you continue to deprive the Commander-in-Chief of all responsibility for the discipline, military education, military training and fighting efficiency of the officers and men who constitute the military forces of the Crown, you must not expect to have the effective army which the' nation wants, and for which it is prepared to pay.
We have thus created for Army Head quarters a military system which I have 341 shown to be new to our own Army, opposed to all the experience of the past, and different also from the system under which our own armies in Ireland, in India, and at all stations at home and abroad are commanded and governed. You refuse to give to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army the command and discipline of the troops under him, although you do confer those responsibilities upon all local and suberdinate commanders. Does the nation mean to perpetuate a system as illogical as it is novel and unmilitary and unsatisfactory? If the Army must have a War Minister responsible to Parliament—and this constitutional principle cannot be departed from—ought we not. As far as possible, to prevent this principle from being destructive of our Army? No matter how able the civilian War Minister may be, I may without offence say that he must necessarily be ignorant of war and its science and still more of its practice. Who would care to know his individual opinion upon any military subject? Is he likely to be the best man to create an army or to convert a badly-trained army into a good one? We are proud to be called a nation of shopkeepers, but is this a businesslike proceeding? In the interests of the Army, but still more of the State, we are beund to work upon some intelligible plan for the management of England's military business which will harmonise with established principles. I say, with confidence, that the only one which will answer the national ends was that devised in 1888 by Mr. Stanhope. Under it the Army steadily improved year by year until 1895, when the present pernicious system was introduced, and on no sufficient reason so far as I can see.
I should much like, before I conclude, to return to one branch of the subject which I touched on incidentally at the beginning of my speech. I am strongly of opinion that the military expert at the War Office should have the privilege, that it should be his right, no less than his duty, to make his views public whenever the occasion arises. My Lords, it is not a satisfactory state of things that when there is a difference of opinion on our military needs between the political and the professional chief, nothing is heard on the point of issue outside the War Office. The matter may have 342 seemed to the soldier one of extreme urgency, fraught with momentous bearing upon our life, our very existence as a nation. The civilian, rightly or wrongly, thinks otherwise, and there it ends. Now I say, I affirm, most unhesitatingly, that it should not be competent for the War Minister, or indeed the Cabinet, to give a final decision adverse to a proposal deemed of such grave importance by the military expert. In such a situation, in such a conflict of opinion, only the nation itself can decide. We should take the people of Great Britain into our confidence, and after stating beth sides of the case, ask them for a verdict. The Commander-in-Chief would show cause why more men, more guns, more material, some change of military policy were in his opinion imperatively needed. The War Minister would reply defending his action in refusing to comply with such demands. Either side might be justified; the need might not be so great as suggested, the difficulty of response at the moment insurmountable; but at least those most concerned, the people themselves, would have the casting vote. I have always thought that Governments show much weakness in concealing the fact that such momentous questions hang occasionally in the balance.
I would go yet further in assuring the nation that its interests were being constantly safeguarded in the matter of its military institutions and strength. I would throw the weight and responsibility for these upon the Commander-in-Chief, not only by revising the Order in Council of 1895, but by calling for a definite and direct report or certificate from him, year by year, that the Army was in proper order, fit and complete at every point, sufficient in numbers, well found in every respect, armed with the best weapons, sufficiently equipped and ready for rapid mobilization. Where deficiencies and shortcomings existed they should be stated specifically and in detail. My experience of Army Headquarters in many capacities, and extending over many years, leads me to believe that had this rule been in force, had the demands made annually for the last fifteen years by the Commander-in-Chief been published, together with his reasons for making them, the taxpayer would, in most, if not all instances, have 343 insisted upon these demands being complied with whenever they had been refused. This would have added perhaps to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget, but the country would have escaped many terrible risks. It is not the fault of any particular Secretary of State that we are never ready for any great emergency, but because the nation is never told how we stand in such matters, and the only practical remedy is to be found in this annual report from the Commander-in-Chief to which I have just referred. Without it I would warn this House and the people of England that they can never be certain they are getting the value of their money already-spent, or that they will not be rushed at a time of crisis into almost unlimited expenditure. There are many good reasons, into which I shall not enter here, why our standing army should be small. All I claim is that, at whatever level you may fix the strength of our fighting forces, they should at all times be thoroughly efficient, and that a report to this effect should be supplied by the Commander-in-Chief. His responsibility for this statement must so obviously affect his character-and reputation that a very sound guarantee for its honest is afforded.
Recapitulating briefly. I repeat that I found the system established in 1888 under which I worked all that could be desired under our constitutional conditions. I have lately given the new system, that of 1895, a fair trial of five years, and I condemn it as an arrangement that will never give us a satisfactory Army. I believe it to be a fruitful cause of military weakness, and that it is likely to become a positive danger in times of war. One other word. It may be reasonably argued that if our present Army system is so bad. So unlike that of all the great military nations, how were we able under it to despatch the large army to South Africa we so lately sent there in such a satisfactory manner? The answer, my Lords, is a simple one. No Army system, however bad it may be. Would be allowed to stand in the way at such a time by officers like those of whom the Headquarters Staff of the Army consisted in 1899. I have known the War Office well for the last twenty-eight years, and I unhesitatingly say 344 That as a whole it could not have been composed of better men than those serving when Mr. Kruger declared war. All were highly educated in their profession, almost all having qualified at the Staff College. They were effectively helped by all the generals and their staff at the several ports where troops embarked. All worked hard, day and night, and all were determined that the Army required in South Africa should be despatehed from England without a hitch, system or no system, and they successfully carried out that determination. But in doing so they were not helped by the new Army system. If ever the history of what was then done is fully written, the country will realise how much it owes to those officers, and how little to the new-fangled, experimental, and unmilitary system under which they were supposed to work. According to my views of national and military matters, it is an unwarrantable risk to run in war to rest content with an inherently bad Army system, trusting always to find first-rate officers to work it in time of need.
An army system to be sound must be constructed upon essentially military principles of the simplest and least complicated nature, so that it may work almost automatically. It must be worked upon military lines, by officers well educated by staff, work, under the direct orders and supervision of the most experienced general as a commander-in-chief. He must know what war is. And, abeve all things, must thoroughly understand British soldiers, their needs, their virtues—and they are many— their likes and dislikes. He should be a man who can sympathise with their prejudices, and who from personal experience knows well the history and traditions of His Majesty's Army. Our Army is a peculiarly complicated contrivance, differing from all other European armies in constitution, duties, and character, and my own long experience tells me it can never be what the British nation expects it to be under our present military system. As I have already said, no one is more convinced than I am that the responsibility of the Minister for War to Parliament cannot be reduced in any way. But, my Lords, it was most carefully safeguarded by the 345 provisions in Mr. Stanhope's Order in Council, whilst the Commander-in-Chief was made directly and professionally responsible to the Secretary for War for the discipline and efficiency of all our military forces. That is the chain of responsibility upon which alone, in a constitutionally governed country like ours, the efficiency of the Army and its readiness for war can be adequately secured. Without that link between the civilian statesman, who is the Parliamentary ruler of the Army, and the professional soldier, who is Commander-in-Chief, the nation can have no sound guarantee that the Army they pay for is always efficient, and always ready in every respect for that conversion from a peaceful to a war footing which we describe as "mobilization." In what I have said I have endeavoured to avoid all reference to individuals, or to particular instances that would illustrate my meaning. I hope my reasons for doing so may not be misinterpreted, but I feel beund to say that the records of the War Office will be found to fully bear out all I have asserted. I end as I began, by imploring the House to seriously consider the essentially unbusinesslike system under which the military forces of the Crown are now administered.
*THE SECRETARY Of STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of Lansdowne)
I wish, in the first place, to notice a gentle remonstrance which the noble Duke on the back benches addressed to me at the opening of his speech. He made it a subject of complaint that in the year 1895, when I had presented a somewhat concise description of the operation of the Order in Council of that year, I held out hopes of following it up with a fuller statement, and that I had disappointed that expectation. I am quite unconscious of having given that pledge, but if I did, and if it remained unfulfilled, it was perfectly open to the noble Duke to remind me of it in any of the years which have since elapsed, and to ask me to make it good. But the suggestion that we are unduly secretive in these matters is, I think, disposed of by the Parliamentary Paper which contains not only the Order in Council of 1895, but a full account of the duties of the 346 various departments of the War Office, and the rules of procedure under which its work is done. If the noble Duke will study that Paper, he will find that it deals with many of the points which he has raised.
I pass to the statement to which we have just listened from the cross benches. Although we may not all of us entirely agree with what fell from the noble and gallant Viscount, I am sure that we are all of us glad to feel that the self-imposed muzzle which he has worn for the last five years no longer prevents him from taking part in our debates, to which his great experience and authority cannot fail to contribute weight and information. I wish to confirm the statement that fell from him with regard to the nature of our personal relations during the five years in which we were employed together at the War Office. I do not know whether the Chamber which intervened between that of the noble and gallant Viscount and my own was the scene of such a fast and furious traffic as now appears to pass through it; but we constantly met. And I can honestly say that, so far as I am aware, no important question of Army administration was ever dealt with by me without reference to the noble and gallant Viscount. To-night he has touched upon the difficult and delicate question of the relations of the Commander-in-Chief and the seeretatary of state and of the relations of beth those high officials to the heads great departments of the great departments of the War Office. The subject is one abeut which much has been said and written. It is a subject full of difficulty and perplexity; but I think that those who have listened to the speeches of the noble Duke and the noble and gallant Viscount must have felt that the real issue involved tonight is a comparatively plain and simple one.
The issue raised is this: Are we once again to entralise in the Commander-in-Chief of the Army the whole of the responsibility for all the enormous and various work which is conducted in the War Office? Are we going to deprive the great experts of the War Office of the responsibility which now adheres to them for the advice which they give to the Secretary of State? Are we going to deny to the Secretary of State 347 the right to obtain expert advice at first hand from these high officials? That really is the broad and simple issue which has been raised. The answer to these questions must be in the negative, I am perfectly willing to admit that the system introduced in 1895 may be regarded as to some extent experimental, and that the experience of five years, culminating in the experience of a great war, may lead us to the conclusion that certain changes in that system are necessary. It may be that we shall do well to give back to the Commander-in-Chief certain powers which were withheld from him in 1895. It may be, on the other hand, that we shall do well to take away from his immediate control certain portions of office work which are now immediately under him. But those are, comparatively, matters of detail, and I will not attempt to anticipate the statement which, will, no doubt, before long be made elsewhere by the Secretary of State for War. But on the main principle of enabling the Secretary of State to obtain the advice of his experts at first hand— upon the main principle, I for one am not willing to listen to any proposals involving the reversal of the present system and a return to the old system of 1888.
My Lords, the noble and gallant Viscount went somewhat minutely into the history of the various changes which have been made in the organisation of the War Office. I am not going at this hour to follow him, but I wish to impress this on your Lordships, that the system of 1888, to which he wishes to revert, is not in any sense consecrated by long usage or justified by experience. It was a system introduced in 1888, in which year the office of Surveyor General of Ordnance, which was held by a civilian, a Member of the House of Commons, was done a way with and the three high officials, dealing with works, ordnance, and the supply of the Army, were placed under the immediate control of the Commander-in-Chief. The result of that change was to effect a stupendous centralisation of responsibility in the person of the Commander-in-Chief. You had at the head of this immense system His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, who for so long presided over the 348 Army, T and who certainly was not, regarded, even by those who most valued his great abilities, as in any sense an expert upon all the subjects with which the War Office has to deal. Under the Commander-in-Chief and abeve the great heads of departments there came the Adjutant General, again an officer who was not necessarily an expert, so that the advice of those who were really experts—experts as to works, experts as to fortifications, and as to supplies—had to percolate to the Secretary of State, first through the Adjutant General and then through the Commander-in-Chief. What was the result? The Secretary of State could not get expert advice upon all these questions from the Commander-in-Chief, and the true experts had no right to give such advice. Of course he got it occasionally, but be got it sub rosa. There were informal consultations between the Secretary of State and the heads of departments. Surely if there are to be consultations of that kind, is it not clear, is it not far better, that they should be abevebeard?
§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
Under the system of 1888, and even prior to that, so far as I know, the Secretary of State had the power, which he very often exercised, of sending for any military officer and asking for his advice on any topic that he wished to inquire abeut.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Exactly: but when the military officer gave that advice he gave it without responsibility. The responsible adviser was not the expert for whom the Secretary of State; the sole responsible adviser was the Commander-in-Chief. That is the great difference between the two systems. My Lords, the system of 1888 was almost universally condemned. It was condemned in the press and it was condemned in Parliament, and the disfavour with, which it was met led to the appointment of the Hartington Commission. The noble and gallant Viscount was severe en the composition of the Hartington Commission. We know how difficult it is to find suitable gentlemen to take part in these inquiries. I have noticed lately that whenever an inquiry is called for, what is most desired by the 349 public is that we should get away from professional people and go to what are described as men of business—men of common sense. Now, my Lords, if ever there was a Royal Commission on which common sense might be said to abeund it was, I should think, the Hartington Commission. I will not, in the presence of the noble Duke, suggest that he is conspicuous for that quality; but he was at the head of the Commission, and he was aided by Mr. W. H. Smith, pre-eminently a man of business, and a man looked up to by all who knew him for the soundness and vigour of his judgment: by Lord Randolph Churchill, a man of extraordinary brilliancy and originality; by Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman, formerly Financial Secretary to the War Office, and subsequently Secretary of State for War; by Sir Richard Temple, an Indian administrator of well-known experience; by Admiral Richards, who was able to bring to the Commission a thorough knowledge of the affairs of the Admiralty—a Department which is so often held up to us for admiration; and, finally, by Mr. Ismay, a well-known shipbuilder. It is true there was only one soldier upon it, but the Commission took military evidence by the acre, and it was the Report of that Commission which led to the Order in Council of 1895. I will quote a few lines from the Report of the Commission. The Commissioners say—We consider that a definite and direct responsibility to the Secretary of State should be pieced on the heads of departments for then-several administration, as is the case with the Naval Lords at the Admiralty. Under the present system the only real responsibility appeals to rest on the Commander-in-Chief, who alone would be accountable to the Secretary of State, even for such a matter as the defective design of a heavy gun. We do not find that this centralization of responsibility exists in the administration of the armies of any of the Great Powers of Europe, and we consider that it cannot conduce to efficiency. The professional officers administering departments in the War Office should, therefore, be made directly responsible to the Secretary of State for the efficiency of those departments and for the economical expenditure of the sums annually allotted to them.It became our duty to deal with that Report. When we came into office we found that our predecessors had made considerable progress in framing a scheme founded upon it, and I do 350 not think that when the Order in Council was introduced there was any great difference of opinion between the two parties in Parliament with regard to the course to be adopted. We gave to each of the heads of departments that responsibility which the Hartington Commission desired to impose upon them, and to the Commander-in-Chief we gave the supreme command of the Army, the right of general supervision, and we gave him, at the same time, extremely important duties of his own to perform. My experience of the system docs not agree with the experience of the noble Viscount. I believe, on the contrary, that the system has worked well during the last five or six years, and I believe if there were, as there no doubt have been, failures and mistakes during the South African War, they were not due to the system of 1895, but due, if anything, to the fact that that system was not carried out as faithfully as it might have been.
The noble Viscount suggested to us that we were able to keep a force of over 200,000 men in the field not on account of any merits in the system, but because of the devotion of the Headquarters Staff of the Army in those trying times. I gladly join my witness as to the devotion with which our colleagues; but does the noble Viscount forget that every important step and decision affecting the army in the field in South Africa was considered by the Army Beard which was introduced as part of the machinery of the scheme of 1895, an Army Beard of which he himself, under our rules of procedure, was the president, and which, therefore, gave him an opportunity at every step of keeping his finger on the pulse of what was being done and seeing that it was done properly, and that the departments did not act in ignorance one of the other? That part of the indictment of the noble Viscount has signally failed, because I think we may claim that if anything was well done—and some things were not badly done—it was done under the system introduced in 1895. The description which ho gave of the position assigned to him under the Order in Council was, if he will permit me to say so, a travesty of the actual facts. He repeated more than once that under the Order in Council 351 the command of the Army had passed away from him to the civilian Secretary of State for War. My Lords, I am constrained to say that that is a mere rhetorical phrase. None of the attributes of the Secretary of State for War can be properly described as involving any-thing like command. Under the Order in Council the command of the Army is in so many words conferred upon the Commander-in-Chief: all Army Orders are issued by him. He is the principal adviser of the Secretary of State for War. He is charged with the distribution of the Army at home and abroad, with the preparation and maintenance of plans for the mobilisation of the Regular and Auxiliary Forces, with the preparation of schemes of offensive and defensive operations; he is charged with the appointment to commissions, promotions, honours, and rewards; and the Military Secretary, who is his immediate suberdinate—not supervised by him, but under his control—deals with the admission of candidates for the Army and that great and important question of the education of the Army which the noble and gallant Viscount suggested had been taken away from his cognisance.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I suggest that the duties thus assigned to the Commander-in-Chief, far from being inadequate and insufficient, are duties so vast and important that one is rather inclined to the belief that he would find them of a positively overwhelming character. I have, indeed, heard it suggested that too much work and not too little was thrown by the Order in Council upon the Commander-in-Chief. Yet the noble and gallant Viscount suggested that we had succeeded in practically abelishing the office of Commander-in-Chief. My noble friend the Under Secretary for War made use of an expression which summed up aptly this part of the case. He told your Lordships that the supervision exercised by the Commander-in-Chief, which the noble and gallant Viscount so much derided, was "exactly what the Commander-in 352 Chief chooses to make it." My complaint of the noble and gallant Viscount is that he chose to make his supervision a great: deal smaller than it really was, and that he has persisted in and acted upon that most erroneous belief. He may have wished to give the system a fair trial, but I am compelled to say that he did not
I think if he had been a little more ready to take advantage of the great opportunities placed within his reach he would not have made those complaints. My Lords, what are those opportunities. The Commander-in-Chief is a member of the War Office Council, at which important questions are discussed in the Secretary of State's presence, lie is president of the Army Beard, at which other important questions are discussed. It is laid down in the rules of business that all important Papers are to be laid before him, and he has an absolute right, of his own motion, to call for any Paper he pleases or to initiate any proposal he may think desirable. The noble and gallant Viscount did occasionally initiate proposals having reference to all the different departments of the War Office. But our complaint of him was that he did so fitfully, and only when the spirit moved him. If he had watched his opportunities more carefully, things might have been somewhat different. If he had paid more attention to the duties assigned to him by the Order in Council, he might, for example, have enabled us to turn to better account that large number of auxiliary forces that we have in this country, and which I am constrained to say have been not a little neglected during the last five years. I think that if he had paid more attention to that part of the regulations which requires him to prepare schemes of offensive and defensive operations he would, perhaps, have told us, before the South African War, that Ladysmith was not a very suitable military station for Her Majesty's forces to occupy. He might even, if he had paid rather more attention to these questions, have warned us that it would take more than one army corps to subjugate the two South African Republics.
My Lords, I say it with regret, hut I say it with a strong conviction that I am only saying what is true, that the 353 noble and gallant Viscount failed to take into account the immense importance of the special duties assigned to him by the Order in Council, and assigned to him not in common with other officers of the War Department, but as duties for which he alone was responsible to the Government. I know he was under a misapprehension, because, on the very eve of my departure from the War Office, I had an opportunity of considering a paper written by the noble Viscount on the subject which he has brought before us to-night, and I found, to my intense surprise, that in the enumeration of his duties contained in that paper he omitted altogether to mention that he was responsible for the mobilisation of the Army, that the Intelligence Department was under his special control, and that he was charged with the preparation of schemes of offence and defence.
THE EARL OF NORTH BROOK
Is the paper which the noble Marquess has quoted going to be laid on the Table?
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
A minute addressed to the Prime Minister. It is impossible to listen to the two speeches of the noble Duke and the noble and gallant Viscount without feeling that the real grievance which has rankled in the mind of the noble Viscount is that the heads of departments in the War Office are given direct access to the Secretary of State—
§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
I assure the noble Marquess that I have no grievance of any sort or kind of a personal character.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
It may be an impersonal grievance, but I 354 will call it his complaint of the system introduced in 1895, and the gravamen of his charge is that under that system the heads of departments are constituted the responsible advisers of the Secretary for War. I think that is accurate. That I hold to be absolutely essential. The Secretary for War has to defend in Parliament proposals involving the expenditure of millions of public money for such things as the supply of the Army, equipment, and artillery, barracks, and other works; and it is absolutely necessary, to my mind, that he should be fortified by the advice of experts, given not through two or three other members of the Headquarters Staff, but given to him directly, and with a full sense that the giver of the advice is responsible for that which he advises. The noble and gallant Viscount made a I great deal of the argument that the present system involved over centralisation in the person of the Secretary for War. I think his suggestion was that that was an infinitely more dangerous | kind of centralisation than the old centralisation in the person of the Commander-in-Chief. Let us consider that argument for a moment. There is all the difference in the world between the two kinds of centralisation. Centralisation in the Secretary for War is in a sense inevitable, because he and no one else is responsible to Parliament for the affairs of the Army. You must therefore have a certain amount of convergence of responsibility in him. But there is another aspect of the question. Centralisation under the Commander-in-Chief means centralisation in one who is a soldier and an expert. Centralisation under the Secretary of State means centralisation in one who is not a soldier, and has no pretension to be an expert. Consider the difference I in the position, let us say, of the Director General of Ordnance when he comes, in as the case may be, to the Secretary of State. He finds an official who is not his military superior and who has no pretension to expert knowledge. If he comes to the Commander-in-Chief he has to do with a member of his own profession, who is senior to him, and from; whom, with that strong feeling of discipline which is prevalent among soldiers, he may be extremely reluctant to differ. 355 Who is likely of the two to get at the I real opinion of the expert adviser, the Commander-in-Chief or the Secretary of State? I venture to think the expert is far more likely to give his advice fully and freely to the civilian than he is to his military superior.
Something has been said by the noble and gallant Viscount as to the practice of the War Office with regard to correspondence. I think the Under Secretary for War dealt sufficiently with that point. he was perfectly correct in saying that in 1899 I had proposed that letters going out from the War Office should be written in the name of the heads of the different departments of the office. I was met by strong military objections, and I abandoned the proposal, with the result that the present system was introduced, and although the noble and gallant Viscount suggests that the present procedure leads to letters on purely military questions being addressed to distinguished officers by the civilian Secretary of State, he will remember that, although the letter is written by the instructions of the Secretary of State, the formula used (if my memory server me right) is that he intimates to the recipient of the letter that the view or the decision of the Commander-in-Chief is so and so. There is no attempt to suppress the authority of the Commander-in-Chief, and in all purely military cases it is his authority and not that of the civilian official that is always invoked.
With regard to letters addressed to the War Office. If an officer in a district were expected to address his letters, not, as now, to the Under Secretary for War, but to the particular department which had to deal with the subject of the letter, I am afraid that there would be perpetual confusion, because, as the noble and gallant Viscount himself told us, in such cases you are very often concerned with perhaps two or three departments, and the person who writes the letter may have considerable difficulty in deciding as to the manner in which it should be addressed. I remember that was brought very strongly before me when the question was discussed. But these are comparatively small matters. In regard to such matters I, for one, am entirely in favour of doing all that is possible to meet military 356 sentiment, and if any improvement in the procedure can be devised I shall join with the noble and gallant Viscount in welcoming it very heartily.
In another part of the statement of the noble Viscount he told the House that he thought it was extremely necessary in the interests of public safety that when the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State for War were unable to agree the public should be taken into our confidence, and that we should leave the public, as it were, to choose between the two. I am afraid that that is somewhat a council of perfection. Does the noble and gallant Viscount think that the government of this country would be possible, that the administration of the War Office would be practicable, if, whenever the Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief were not at one, their arguments were to be publicly paraded and to form the subject of controversies in the press or on the platform I cannot conceive a more fatal arrangement than that there should be disputes of this kind in the eve of the public. The noble and gallant Viscount is a great supporter of a very popular institution called the Military Tournament. I should be very sorry if the Secretary of State were obliged to take part in a military tournament of the kind which the noble and gallant Viscount suggests.
Of course, it is the case, and it always will be the ease, that there will be differences between the civilian officials at the War Office and the military officials. It will be so to the end of time. I do not think that the noble and gallant Viscount has very much to complain of in regard to the manner in which his military demands were dealt with while I had the honour of serving with him. The Estimates, at any rate, rose during his five years from £18,000,000 to £21,500,000 sterling: and at his invitation we added to the strength of the British Army no less than 25,000 soldiers. Of course the noble and gallant Viscount did not always get what lie wanted, and I do not think I am wrong in saying that he certainly did not always expect to get what he wanted. At any rate, I know that when he and I used to take stock after the preparation of the annual Budget, he always accepted gratefully 357 and philosophically the substantial additions which I was able to procure for him, and that he never suggested to mo that any of our failures to concede his demands in full involved results fatal to the efficiency of the British Army. I will not, at this hour of the night, attempt to follow the noble and gallant Viscount through the other points upon which he touched in his long statement; but I will merely say that in my opinion he is too apt to forget the limitations which our Parliamentary institutions place upon us, that ho has failed correctly to apprehend the bearing of the system introduced in 1895, and that because he failed to apprehend it he did not turn to account the great opportunities which that system placed within his reach. In my opinion the system, of 1895 was in principle a perfectly sound system, and I sincerely trust that, whatever may be done hereafter, we shall not revert to the discredited and, as I believe, disastrous system which prevailed between the year 1888 and the year 1895.
The further debate was adjourned (on the motion of the Earl of Northbrook) till To-morrow.