HC Deb 19 July 1872 vol 212 cc1472-92

, in rising to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be pleased to cause full inquiry by means of a Royal Commission into the working of the Control Department of the Army, and that the said Commission may be required to frame a Report embodying suggestions, if found necessary, for such alterations, both of principle and detail, as may conduce to efficiency and economy in the Civil and Administrative Departments of Her Majesty's Army. said, at that late hour, and at the late period of the Session at which they had arrived, he would be as brief as he possibly could in calling the attention of the House to the important question of the state of the Administrative Departments of the Army. Hon. Members who had made a study of that subject would readily admit its magnitude, its intricate character, and the difficulty of dealing with it—and especially of finding fault, without wounding the susceptibilities of the members of those Departments. They would therefore, he hoped, be indulgent with him, and pardon him if—notwithstanding all his efforts to the contrary—he should be compelled to trespass longer on their time than he could wish. If any justification were necessary for the course he was pursuing, it was, he thought, to be found in our observation of, and in the experience which we had derived—or ought to have derived—from the events of the last great European War, in which the success of the victor and the defeat of the vanquished were due—not so much to bigger battalions or superior generalship, or even greater valour on the one side than on the other—as to the fact that the one nation was found, on the outbreak of hostilities, in possession of an organization which enabled it to mass its armies without delay and without confusion, and with a system of transport and supply which stood the test of gigantic operations in an enemy's country, while the other was found miserably deficient in each and all of those vital particulars. He did not for a moment advocate that we in this country should be always ready to wage an offensive war, as foreign nations had to be—or as unfortunately for themselves they often were—any more than he would urge the adoption in all its details of even the most perfect of those foreign systems which enabled its possessor to be so prepared. All that he contended was that it would be an unnecessary and wasteful expenditure to keep up a standing Army at all, unless we were always able to move and to supply such a proportion of it as might be of some use in a case of emergency. He did not ask that we should be able to accomplish great things from a warlike point of view; but he did not think it was asking too much to expect that we should be able to concentrate in any part of the country, at the shortest notice, such a force as would be sufficient to overwhelm any Army which an enemy would have had time to throw upon our shores, and at the same time to be able to embark such a contingent as might be deemed necessary for the relief of any of our colonial possessions which were threatened; or, if need be, to disembark such contingent, complete in every particular, on the shores of the country by whom our interests were threatened, so that by acting on the seaboard in conjunction with our Fleet, it might indirectly strengthen our defensive power. There were some people, perhaps, sanguine enough to believe that we could do that at present. He was not so sanguine; and, perhaps, the best thing he could do, in corroboration of his views, would be to quote what had been effected in the Autumn Manœuvres of last year, on which occasion it was whispered about that the movements of the troops had been adapted to the capabilities of the Supply and Transport Departments, instead of those Departments adapting themselves to the exigencies of the campaign. It was far from his wish to depreciate the advantages of those Manœuvres, or to detract from whatever credit might be due to those who had initiated them; but he thought that the principal advantage which we had derived from them was, that they had taught us—not what we could do, but what we could not do. They had proved that our Supply Departments, as far as they were tested—and in the matter of the supply of warlike stores it had been no test whatever—were very far from what they should be, and that our Transport Department was absolutely futile. What had we effected? We had shown that we could place some 30,000 men in the field and keep them there for a week or ten days—for he did not consider them to have taken the field until they left their standing camp at Aldershot. During that time they were most inadequately supplied. He had no wish to enter into a recital of the shortcomings of the Supply Departments during those Manœuvres. He did not suppose anyone would contend that they did more than barely keep the soldiers alive. Then, as to the mobility of the Army, what had we effected? We had moved it by brigades backwards and forwards, over a radius of something like 12 miles from its base of operations, that base being our largest military station, situated 40 miles from the metropolis, and in a country inter- sected by canals and railroads. And in order to effect this, we had withdrawn nearly all our standing Transport not only from England, but from Ireland; we had been compelled to have recourse to hired transport from London, which generally broke down when off the high roads; and, what was more serious, we had absolutely crippled a large portion of our field artillery. He used the word "crippled" advisedly, for not only had we broken up the depôt of field and horse artillery—the only means which we possessed of filling up casualties—using the men and horses for Transport purposes, but we had rendered many of the service batteries not employed in the Manœuvres, inefficient by calling on them to perform the normal duties of the Army Service Corps at the several stations from which detachments of that corps were removed to Aldershot. He presumed that the Surveyor General would draw a very different picture of the Manœuvres. He would probably paint everything couleur de rose—at least, such was the colouring or character of a circular Memorandum which he had issued to his Department shortly after the Manœuvres, in which, while admitting that time and experience were very good things in their way, he seemed to infer that, as far as the Control Department was concerned, there was very little room for improvement, and that time and experience could do very little for it—in which opinion he quite agreed, at any rate, as long as Control was based on existing principles. Another argument which might be used in defence of the present system, or at least in opposition to those who criticized it, was "the unfairness of judging of the success of a comparatively new department by its results in a campaign which was itself a novelty." He entirely dissented from that view, and he contended that however valid the argument might have been had the Department only just been formed, it lost all its force when they remembered that the Manœuvres of last year did not occur until the Department had been more than a year and a-half in full operation, and that it was now more than two and a-half years old. Believing as he did the principles upon which it was based to be false, and the manner in which those principles had been put into operation to be vicious and mischievous, and knowing also the difficulty of uprooting or even modifying any institution, whether good or evil, which had had time to take deep root, he thought that action should be taken in this matter at once, before such was the case, and before vested interests had had time to accumulate.

He would now, with the permission of the House, say a few words as to the more immediate origin of Control, and the action in the way of Committees which had conduced to the existing state of things. In July, 1866, the Secretary of State for War (General Peel), acting on the recommendation of a Committee which had sat the previous year to inquire into the best mode of supplying stores to an army in the field, appointed another Committee to report on the best system of Army Transport. Of that Committee Lord Strathnairn was Chairman, and the following names were subscribed to the Report:—Lieutenant General Sir J. Hope Grant; Major General Sir D. A. Cameron; Commissary General Sir W. Tyrone Power; Colonel Gloucester Gambier, D.A.G., R.A.; Colonel J. Clarke Kennedy, Comm., M.T.; Colonel L. Shadwell, Military Assistant, W.O.; William Brown, Accountant General.

The intimate relation existing between Transport and Supply induced the Committee to apply for permission to go fully into both these Departments, and, acting upon the sanction accorded, they framed what he would only characterize as a comprehensive and valuable Report. Time would not allow him to go fully into the evidence, or even into the Report itself. He would therefore content himself with merely quoting a few of the leading principles laid down. These were as follows—namely:—(a.) That a Department should be formed to be responsible for—1st, Commissariat, including Store accountants for provisions, forage, fuel, and light; 2nd, Purveyors; 3rd, Military Stores, as regards clothing and stores generally, but not arms, ammunition, or warlike stores, being subsequently defined; 4th, Barrack, as regards fuel, light, and straw, at home as well as abroad and in camp; and also as regards cash and barrack and miscellaneous stores, now administered by barrack masters; 5th, Army Transport. (b.) That all munitions of war should be administered by an Ordnance Department, to be formed in the first instance from Military Store officers and Royal Artillery, but on no account to be under the Controller. (c.) That the Transport should be of three classes, organized as one service. (d.) That some means of expansion should be provided. (e.) That the duties at home, abroad, and in the field should be assimilated. (f.) Moreover, throughout the Report, stress is laid on the subordinate character of the Controller to the General commanding, whom he is intended to assist and relieve from troublesome details. Strange as it might seem, in all these and other important particulars, the recommendations of that Committee had been ignored. The Committee examined 28 witnesses, among whom—although, of course, there were certain points on which opinions differed—there was, on the whole, a remarkable unanimity in favour of the principles upon which the Committee subsequently framed its Report. Perhaps the most important and valuable evidence in that direction was that of the Surveyor General and General Balfour. The Committee reported in 1867. In 1869 another Committee was appointed charged with equal, or, indeed, far more important functions. It was entitled "a Committee to inquire into the Arrangements in force for the Conduct of Business in the Army Departments," and consisted of Lord Northbrook, Mr. Stansfeld, Sir Edward Lugard, and Mr. W. G. Anderson. To this Committee of four, one only of whom could have had any practical knowledge of the requirements of an army, was entrusted the responsible duty of reporting on and virtually remodelling the Civil and Administrative Departments of the British Army. Wide as was the scope of its inquiry, this Committee examined but 11 witnesses, and yet its recommendations, as far as Transport and Supply are concerned, were allowed to override the recommendations of the more important Committee presided over by Lord Strathnairn, which had specially devoted itself to those particular subjects. There were two facts worthy of notice in connection with this Committee. The first was, that its Report did not appear to be framed in accordance with the balance of evidence which it received; the second was, the remarkable change of opinion on the part of the Surveyor General and General Balfour, who was then his coadjutor or subordinate, He (Major Arbuthnot) had no intention whatever of imputing motives to either of those Gentlemen. Indeed, those who like himself knew the Surveyor General must be quite convinced that he was incapable of entertaining anything like an arriere pensée (and the same doubtless applied to General Balfour); but to those who did not know him, his complete change of opinion must, to say the least, have been open to misconstruction, considering that if the views which he entertained in 1867 had been carried into operation, the character of the Department over which he presided might have been entirely altered, and his own position would probably have been greatly reduced in importance, even if the necessity for it had not altogether ceased to exist. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to be on the horns of a dilemma. Either the very decided opinions which he expressed in 1867 must have been hasty, crude, and ill-considered; or if, on the other hand, they were the result of mature reflection and deliberation, then his total repudiation of them in 1869 was at least open to misconstruction. Altogether, the proceedings and Report of that (Lord Northbrook's) Committee did not tend to raise his (Major Arbuthnot's) opinion of Committees appointed by Government, and composed of Government officials; but confirmed him rather in the belief that they were usually appointed to carry out a foregone conclusion, and to justify preconceived determinations.

Having dwelt thus far on the proceedings of the Committees from which the present state of things had resulted, it remained for him to show what that state of things was, and what were the objections to it. Control, as the House was probably aware, consisted of the Amalgamated Civil Departments—namely, the Commissariat, the Military Store, the Barrack and Purveyors' Departments together with a Pay sub-Department and Transport of all kinds. These were all concentrated centrally under the Surveyor General assisted by the Director of Ordnance and Stores, and the Director of Transport and Supply; and locally under the Administrative officer of the Control Department, whom he should always refer to in the remarks he was about to make by the generic term of Controller, although the Administrative ranks included Controllers ranking as Major Generals, of whom there were three, Deputy Controllers, ranking as Colonels, of whom there were eight, and Assistant Controllers ranking as Lieutenant Colonels, of whom there were 14. The executive officers being Commissaries, who ranked as Majors, Deputy Commissaries ranking as Captains, and Assistant Commissaries as Lieutenants. The object of those who amalgamated all these scattered units was to produce efficiency and economy, to reduce the amount of correspondence, and to limit the channels of responsibility. Without instituting any comparison between the existing system and that which it superseded, it would be his object to show that these desirable ends had not been effected.

Putting the economy question on one side for the moment, he would deal only with that of efficiency; and in order to prove his case, he would have to state some few of the numerous objections which might be urged. Everyone would admit that the efficiency of an Army or department of an Army depended materially on the ability of its head to perform the duties devolving on him. From that point of view, he might comment on the anomalous position of the central head (the Surveyor General), who, in addition to his Parliamentary duties, had to discharge most onerous administrative and executive duties. He preferred, however, to rest his case upon the false position of the local administrative officers; and, as regarded these, although he would admit, for the sake of argument—though he denied it in point of fact—that they were equal to the duties which devolved on them in peace time, he contended that in time of war no man could be found, either mentally or physically, equal to the various and opposite duties which would devolve on them. Putting aside such matters as the Control of Transport and Finance, they would find it almost sufficient strain on their energies to complete and to maintain their depôts and reserves, of food and forage, without troubling themselves with the all important branch of warlike stores, even supposing them to possess the technical knowledge necessary for the latter. But perhaps he should be told that they were not expected to do this—that they were merely to act as channels of communication between the general officers and their own subordinates who would superintend the sub-departments. He denied that that could be so, because the subordinate officer would decline to issue anything, unless it was sanctioned by the signature of the senior officer of the Department, and therefore the senior officer, according to the usage of the English Army, would be responsible; but even if it were the case, what did it amount to except to this—that the senior officer was to be a mere dummy and an extra link in the chain of responsibility. A combatant Staff officer would perform the duty far better, inasmuch as he would not be shackled by the feeling of responsibility, while from his military education he would more readily apprehend the wishes of his general. Besides this, did any human being exist, who, when at the head of a great Department, would not insist on carrying out his own ideas? It would be hard to say which Army would be in the worst plight—one in which such responsible duties were entrusted to a man who interfered without understanding them, or one in which they were administered by an official who, being responsible, was contented to endorse the views and actions of his subordinates, because he did not understand the details of those duties. Those who now filled these positions were not equal to the task. They would be more than human if they were, for they had devoted their professional lives to the study of one, and had suddenly found themselves at the head not only of that one, but of five or six other Departments. Endless instances might be quoted to show how entirely innocent they were of the various duties which devolved on them, but it would only be necessary to mention one or two to prove his case. At an important military station not long since application had been made to the Controller—a late Commissariat officer—for cartridges. He ordered their issue; his subordinate—a late Military Store officer—declined to supply the particular sort ordered; the superior officer was very indignant and reported him not to the General, but to the War Office; but, on inquiry, it proved that the cartridges ordered to be issued were of an obsolete and dangerous character. Had this happened in war-time what a tragedy might have ensued.

Passing from the tragic to the comic view of the case, he would mention an incident which had come under his notice during the last Autumn Manœuvres. An Artillery officer of high rank, in a playful mood, told the representative of the Control Department attached to his division that, owing to the heavy fighting of the previous few days, his batteries had run short of shell. After much reflection, the Controller offered to telegraph to Woolwich for a supply of shell, not seeing the absurdity of the idea of firing shell during peaceful manœuvres on the Surrey hills. But it might be said that it was necessary to utilize the services of the officers of the old Departments, and that when they died out, or rather had retired on high pensions, their places should be filled by men who had acquired universal knowledge. He believed that they would be then going from bad to worse. They would have Jacks of all trades and masters of none. The next point to which he must refer was a most important one—namely, the relations of the Controller to the General commanding. He was quite aware that, according to the Regulations, the Controller was supposed to be subordinate to the General, and to be instrumental in carrying out his wishes. In point of fact, however, he was far more frequently an impediment rather than an aid, as the members of the Department had come to look upon themselves as the agents of the War Office, and to consider it their special duty to act as checks on the combatant officers; so that, in place of being as of old merely custodians and issuers, under superior authority, of munitions de bouche and munitions de guerre, they had become another, and, he might almost say, an antagonistic power in the Service. Whether that feeling was derived from the parent source, the War Office or not, he could not say; but so it was, and the Department possessed, to the very full, the same faults which were attributed—and justly attributed—by the Surveyor General, in his evidence before Lord Strathnairn's Committee, to the French Intendance. As already stated, the Regulations directed that the Controller is to be subordinate to the General. The official words run as follows, in Paragraph 11:— The Controller will conduct his duties under the direct orders of the officer commanding in the district or station to which he may be attached. He will be the adviser and agent of the officer commanding in all matters connected with the raising or issue of money, the supply of provisions, stores, clothing and transport. He will relieve him, as far as possible, from details connected therewith. Nothing could be more satisfactory; but, unfortunately, Paragraph 13 concludes with the following words:— The Controller will be held responsible for any measure which may be adopted on his recommendation. What did this mean, except placing the Controller on an equality with the general—the division of power and the division of responsibility? But the next Paragraph (14) was even more objectionable, and absolutely made the Controller in some sense superior to the General, for it laid down that in the event of the General and Controller disagreeing— A report of the circumstances, countersigned by the officer commanding, together with a copy of the correspondence, will be transmitted by the Controller to the Secretary of State for War, who will hold the officer commanding responsible for the measures ordered by him. So that the Controller is absolutely invested with the power of reporting his commanding officer. This independence on the part of Controllers was much to be deprecated. Not only was it unfair on general officers as tending to cramp their action, but it was the very way to make small generals, for it at once gave an unsuccessful General grounds for excusing himself. He would be able to say—"The Control broke down;" or "I could not carry out my wishes without bringing myself into collision with the War Office;" no small matter in these days when the Secretary for War possessed such an amount of power and patronage, if he did not actually assume the command of the Army. Before leaving this branch of the subject, he wished to quote one or two instances tending to show that the feeling which he had stated to exist really did animate the members of the Department. Thus not long since a camp was formed in the vicinity of a swamp. Owing to that circumstance, the senior medical officer recommended that each man should be supplied with an extra blanket. The commanding officer, a colonel of Engineers, approved the suggestion, and forwarded it to the Control officer for compliance. That official, in place of doing so, forwarded it with his reason for non-compliance to his superior in the district, who, in his turn, forwarded it with more observations to the War Office. In the meanwhile, the men went without their blankets. Again, a site had to be selected for a magazine. A Committee of Artillery and Engineer officers was sent down for that purpose. They performed the duty, and reported accordingly. The Control officer in the district, however, selected a different site, and reported accordingly to his superior, who forwarded the same to the War Office, with remarks of his own, endorsing the views of his subordinate.

It had, however, been frequently alleged as a reason for maintaining the existing system that the Navy had to be considered as well as the Army. Now, it did not appear that the relation of Controllers to Admirals was much more satisfactory than was the case with Generals, as the following would demonstrate:—The Admiral commanding at our principal naval station directed the Controller to issue a few rifles to blue-jackets, who were about to compete at Wimbledon. That official wrote a curt memorandum, agreeing "To do so on that occasion, as the case appeared to be one of urgency;" but stating that he would never do so in future, "unless the requisition came through the Admiralty," or words to that effect. This did not accord with the Admiral's ideas of discipline, so he wrote to the Admiralty requesting that he might be informed with whom the discretion rested as to naval requirements—with the Controller or the Admiral Commanding. The Admiralty consequently requested the War Office to issue instructions preventing a recurrence of such conduct.

The next ground of objection to be taken to the present system was one which especially affected the executive officers of the Department. Could a system be good under which a man might be in charge of bread and beef one day, of barrels and brooms the next, of warlike stores after that, and then of horses and men; or, perhaps, as was frequently the case, of two of these at the same time? He supposed they would hear the old story that "Control consisted of so many sub-departments, officered by men specially trained for each purpose." How was that to be reconciled with one of the leading principles of Control—namely, that the officers, though borne on separate lists for pro- motion, were to be interchangeable? But it might be said that though interchangeable in theory, such change was not carried into practice. To refute that, he would only refer the House to The Army List, which showed that in almost every station there were men performing duties for which they had received no special training. It mattered little whether this was due to interchangeability, or to their having been pitchforked into their places on the formation of the Department. Taking Chatham as an example, it would be seen that there was a late Purveyor's clerk performing the duties connected with warlike stores in the Gun Wharf. There was also a military store officer in the Pay sub-department. There he was, handed over to cash accounts, and flinging his experience of over 20 years to the winds. Again, at the same station—and this applied to almost every garrison—there was a detachment of Army Service Corps, all men taken from the ranks of the Army, officered partly by Military Train officers, but commanded by a Commissariat officer, who, besides looking after the bread and beef, had to drill men, and administer discipline and military law without any experience or instruction whatever. What became of the outcry which had been raised of late as to the necessity for higher military qualifications on the part of the combatant officers, if the officers of the Civil Departments were to be permitted to discharge all the functions of combatants, without any test, examination, or qualification whatever from the day they joined the service until they left it on a far higher pension than combatant officers of corresponding rank could hope to attain, all their tests and examinations notwithstanding.

The last exception which he would take was the absence of any definite rules guiding the relations between Control officers and combatant officers other than general officers. Whatever were the faults of the old system, everyone knew to whom, and through whom, application should be made for what might be required. Now it was not so; but it did not end here. There were absolutely no rules clearly defining the relations which subsisted between members of the Department itself. For instance, in a district in which there was a gun wharf, he could never find any one who could tell him where the duties of the district Controller ended, and those of the gun-wharf Controller began. The official regulations were as follows:— District Controllers will conduct their duties immediately under the authority of the generals commanding districts, and will be responsible to them in all matters connected with Supply, Transport, and all duties lately in charge of the Commissariat, Store, Purveyors', and Barrack Departments, under existing regulations and instructions for the several Departments, together with such special regulations as may have been approved for the conduct of Control duties. The Store Departments are excluded from the Great Britain charge, and will not be in any way responsible to general officers commanding districts for the direct supply of the troops, except that all demands for stores, ammunition, and camp equipage in different districts, will be addressed direct to them, to be complied with. Anything more vague and apparently contradictory could not be conceived; for it appeared that in the same district there were two officers of equal rank whose relations to the general officer were entirely different, and whose relations to each other were both confusing and confused. Perhaps, the best way to show the complicated working of the system would be to state what would be the course of proceeding in the event of a General wishing to send out a flying column. He would, in the first place, request his district Controller to make all arrangements for Transport and Supply of all kinds. The district Controller would, in his turn, order his subordinate—usually an Assistant Commissary, who ranks as a Lieutenant—to provide provision and transport. He would also have to indent upon the gun-wharf Controller for warlike stores, who, in his turn, would order their issue by his subordinate, also an Assistant Commissary. All these gentlemen have different offices. Was there any simplicity in the arrangements; and did they not belie the theory that one administrative head was responsible for everything connected with Transport and Supply? The four points he had endeavoured to establish were—1st. The inability, both mental and physical, of any man to discharge the duties of a Controller in time of war; 2nd. The unsatisfactory relation of the Controller to the general commanding; 3rd. The unsatisfactory effects of interchangeability—inasmuch as it placed men in positions for which they were unfitted; 4th. The confused and com- plicated working of the system, owing to the absence of any definite rules.

It might fairly be asked—"To what were these grave evils due in a system which could not have been established without anxious consideration?" In his opinion they were due to that bane of armies—over centralization, and to the amalgamation of too many Departments for the sake of an imaginary simplicity, to effect which antagonistic duties had been thrown together, and vital principles disregarded. It might fairly be asked—"What was the remedy for these evils?" Well, that raised important points both of principle and detail; indeed, it was with the view of solving the question that he was about to move for a Commission. He might, however, be permitted—indeed, he felt bound to state two changes which he held to be indispensable to efficiency—namely, the removal of warlike stores from the control of the officers who have charge of Transport and Supply, and the re-organization of the Transport Department. When these fundamental changes had been made, others springing from, or, to use an ill-omened expression, "growing out of them," would be sure to come to the surface. The removal of warlike stores would necessitate the formation of an Ordnance Department, which he agreed with Lord Strathnairn's Committee in thinking should be composed of officers of the late Military Store Department, supplemented by Artillery officers. It was true that some Military Store officers, including Captain Gordon—whose opinion, he admitted, on matters connected with stores was of greater value than that of any man in the country, had objected to the separation of stores. He doubted whether they held the same views now; but, whether they did or not, the arguments which they used before the Committees of 1867 and 1869 were directed against the separation of Artillery from other military stores. He (Major Arbuthnot) advocated the removal of all warlike stores from the charge of the Controller. Surely, if there were two kinds of stores—the one requiring special and scientific knowledge and manipulation, while the other required only ordinary care and attention—it would be more consistent with common sense to place the latter under the supervision of men who understood the former, than to act on the opposite principle, as was now the case. Then, again, although most anxious not to appear to argue this case from an Artillery point of view, the House should recollect that these stores were, with the exception of those few supplied by contract, manufactured under the supervision of Artillery officers. They were used to a large extent by Artillery officers, and in times of war would be used to a far greater extent, and would probably have to be moved by the Artillery, while, even in peace time, they were sent to Artillery officers, when damaged, for repair. Under these circumstances it did seem only natural that either Artillery officers or others, who possessed the same qualifications, should have the custody of such stores. Again, although as an Artillery officer he felt he was treading on delicate ground, he might point out the advantages of employing Artillery officers in this manner, inasmuch as it would, to a great extent, solve the difficult question of how to provide a permeation of steps in the junior ranks, while, on the other hand, to entrust such duties to Control officers would act detrimentally on all officers of garrison artillery, and more especially on commanding officers—the importance and responsibility of whose position would thus be seriously impaired. As regarded the Transport Department, not only the evidence and the Report of Lord Strathnairn's Committee, but the highest military authorities of past and present times, were unanimous in advocating that it should be of a military character. That, no doubt, only applied to standing and not to local or auxiliary transport. A deputy adjutant general of Transport on the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief would at once stamp the Transport Department with a military character. Again, far greater efficiency would be obtained by a complete system of regimental transport. It was rumoured that this was to be carried out, to a certain extent, in the forthcoming Manœuvres; but the advantage of it would be immensely marred, if the men required for regimental transport purposes were to be taken from the ranks of the fighting men. These, and other suggestions which might be made, did not in any sense militate against the principle of a responsible officer for Supply and Transport, because it only had reference to permanent standing, and not to local transport, which would be under the Supply officer. The removal of the discipline of the standing transport would be of immense advantage, as it would give the Supply officers time—which they had not now got—to investigate the resources of their districts as to food, forage, and transport, and would also enable them to make arrangements for the utilization of the same.

With regard to the question of economy time would allow him to deal but briefly. That was to be regretted, as the more he could say on this point the stronger would be his case for asking an inquiry. He would, however, be content with pointing out a few false principles which the present system had created—for instance, the expenditure on stores and the control of such expenditure was in the same hands, or, at any rate, under the same Department. Again, the expenditure was subject to no audit outside the Department. From a financial point of view, the Warrant regulating the pay and retiring allowances of Control officers required careful reconsideration. He was quite aware that pecuniary advantages had to be offered to induce talented men, whether from military or civil life, to take service in these Departments; and he would be the last man in the world to advocate the violation of what might be termed "vested interests,"—to rob anyone of those advantages on the faith of which he had taken service in that Department. At the same time, as far as the future was concerned, ordinary prudence and common justice to the combatant branches and the taxpayers of the country demanded a careful reconsideration of the Warrant. The Warrant of 1st January, 1870, laid down the following rates of pay:—

On Appointment. After 5 years in the rank.
£ s. d. £ s. d.
Controller 3 0 0 3 0 0
Deputy Controller 2 0 0 2 4 0
Assistant Controller 1 4 0 1 9 0
After 30 years. After 20, but under 30 years' service.
£ s. d. £ s. d.
Controller 2 0 0 2 0 0
Deputy Controller 1 13 0 1 5 0
Assistant Controller 1 0 0 0 15 0

Paragraph 18 stated— An officer to be eligible for promotion shall have served on full-pay for the following periods, dating from his first entrance into our service:—To the rank of Controller, 13 years, of which at least 3 shall have been as Deputy Controller. Deputy Controller, 10 years, of which at least 3 (including probationary service) shall have been as Assistant Controller.

Thus an officer of 13 years' service, 7 of which might have been in the War Office, was eligible for a position conferring on him the relative rank of Major General. Paragraph 29 laid down that— Officers who shall have completed 30 years' full-pay service (including previous departmental, War Office, or combatant service) shall, on giving 6 months' notice, have an unqualified right to retire on retired pay, namely, £730 per annum. The same clause further empowered the Secretary of State for War to place any officer of the Department, disqualified by bodily infirmity contracted in the service, on the retired list at the same rate of pension—namely, £730, if a Controller; £602, if a Deputy Controller; £365, if an Assistant Controller, after 20 years' meritorious service, including Departmental, War Office, or combatant service. How was that to be reconciled with the opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, that £600 per annum was too high a pension for colonels of Artillery and Engineers who had completed 30 years' service? Of the many other points to which he would have wished to refer, had time allowed, he would mention but one—namely, the Pay Departments. It was difficult to understand why there should be two Pay Departments at all, and still more difficult to understand why the officers of the one Pay Department should be so much more favourably circumstanced than those of the other, those connected with Control receiving far higher pay and better retiring allowances, although not compelled to deposit money or provide security on obtaining the appointment as regimental paymasters had to do, both classes being civilians, and being called upon to discharge work of identically the same character.

In conclusion, he could only regret that the hour of the night, the magnitude of the question, and, above all, his own shortcomings had enabled him to do such scant justice to it. Notwithstanding all these disadvantages, he trusted he had shown sufficient grounds to justify an inquiry. If the general officers, the Staff officers, or even the Control officers themselves could be canvassed, there would be scarcely a dissentient voice as to the necessity for inquiry and change. Did the Secretary of State for War, or even the Surveyor General believe in the present system? but whether they did or not, there was no reason why they should refuse inquiry. If they proved right and all the rest of the military world wrong—for the whole military world would be arrayed against them—so much the more would it be to their credit; but if they were in the wrong and refused to accede to his Motion, great and heavy would be the responsibility which they would incur. As a last resort he would point out to the Secretary of State for War that he might agree to this Motion without in any way stultifying himself. He had promised great and important, and doubtless, in some instances, useful changes in the organization of the combatant forces. These changes would, of themselves, necessitate large organic changes in the Administrative Departments. Unless these changes were carried out simultaneously, his plans, however good they might be in theory, would fail to give what the House and the country had demanded, and with nothing short of which would they be satisfied—namely, an Army—a defensive Army—not only numerically formidable, but an Army which could be fed, which could be moved, and which, in the event of its being called upon to do so, would prove itself able to meet and to sustain the shock and the strain of a prolonged campaign. In conclusion he begged to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be pleased to cause full inquiry by means of a Royal Commission into the working of the Control Department of the Army, and that the said Commission may be required to frame a Report embodying suggestions, if found necessary, for such alterations, both of principle and detail, as may conduce to efficiency and economy in the Civil and Administrative Departments of Her Majesty's Army,"—(Major Arbuthnot,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman had made a great many feints that Session on the subject, but at last he had that night proposed a Motion. Early in the Session he gave Notice of a Motion for the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry into the Control Department, but up to the present time that Motion had not come on, and now he moved for a Royal Commission of Inquiry. As regarded the evidence which he (Sir Henry Storks) gave on that subject before Lord Strathnairn's Committee, he admitted that he had since found his former views impracticable. Stores must, he now felt, all be consigned to one individual, and if that were not done mischief would ensue. They had effected reductions in the personnel of the Department amounting to £45,000 a-year, while the number of communications addressed to the War Office on administrative subjects had diminished by no less than 60,000 per annum. The great object, however, they had had in view was to make the general officer responsible for all that had happened under his command, and, with that view, he unequivocally declared that the Controller was an officer placed at the disposal of the General, that his duty was to carry out the General's orders, and that he could make no communication to the War Office without its first passing under the eye of his superior officer and bearing his signature. He could assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that so far from their object being one of centralization, they had done all in their power towards decentralization, and that if there was one thing more than another upon which his right hon. Friend the Secretary for War had insisted it was decentralization. The system of storekeeping had received every consideration, and although he was aware that in India Artillery officers were frequently appointed as storekeepers, the plan was an expensive one, and one which would not in this country tend, in his opinion, to the advantage of the public service. The Control officers did not under the present system receive that large increase of pay which the hon. and gallant Gentleman appeared to imagine; indeed, in many cases they had lost money by the change. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman really had the interest of the Control Department at heart, he was not pursuing the course best calculated to promote that interest. No doubt the Department was not perfect; and although he had received many reports in favour of it, there were many matters which would have to be altered, and much that would require correction; but they were matters of detail, and with time and fair play the Department would, he was convinced, fulfil all the requirements of the service.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.