§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Question again proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 133,649, all ranks (including an average number of 6,185, all ranks, to be employed with the Depots in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland of Regiments serving in Her Majesty's Indian Possessions), be maintained for the service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, from the 1st day of April 1872 to the 31st day of March 1873, inclusive.
§ MR. HOLMS
, in rising to move "That the number of Men be reduced by twenty thousand," said, the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had been awaited with a deep interest, created by the inefficiency of the Army and its extravagant cost. It was hardly to be expected that the Government could at once present to the country a force thoroughly organized in all its parts; but it was hoped that they would be able to submit to Parliament a clear and business-like statement as to the proposed future organization of the military force of the nation, and as to its future cost. While expressing gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for the great pains he had bestowed on the production of the new scheme, he must observe that the future of the Army, and the safety and honour of the country, depended very much on the soundness of the views adopted by the House; and that a very grave responsibility rested upon hon. Members individually, as to how they shaped their views upon the question. He had devoted much time to the consideration of the question, and he confessed that he was impressed with its magnitude, but he was persuaded that the problem how to combine efficiency with economy in reference to the Army, though difficult, was capable of solution, and the solution would depend on two main points—the first of which was that the number of men with the colours should be relatively small, and the number of men in the Reserve should be relatively large; the other being that their Home Army should be divided into Army corps. With that view his Motion had for its object not the reduction of a single available man, but that in the interest of the country those 20,000 men should be put into the Reserve. After examining the scheme of the Government he had come to the conclusion that it was not likely to lead to efficiency 1329 and economy, but to the very reverse, for the expenditure in the past ought to have given them an Army of real fighting men and reliable officers; but the money had been squandered upon hosts of pensioners, useless officials, and in their having two many officers. There were two parties having distinct opinions on this question, and between thorn he did not think that the country got the reforms which it otherwise might obtain, for the Government of the day were willing to lean towards one party or the other. One of these parties was perfectly content with an increased number of men, and the other party was quite willing to have no Army at all. He belonged to neither of those parties; he was in favour of a moderate Army, but as efficient as it could be made. With regard to the cost, it was time they should take that point into consideration. Last year the cost of their Army was £15,800,000 for 135,047 men; 9,000 in the No. 1 Reserve, 30,000 in the No. 2 Reserve, 15,773 Yeomanry, 134,037 Militia, and 170,671 Volunteers; but he must observe that it was only the first two of those forces that they could compare with the thoroughly trained troops of other European countries. Then, on their Indian Army, which, he believed, cost no additional expense to this country, the expenditure was £16,476,000 for 63,000 European troops and 122,000 native troops, making a total expenditure for the British and Indian Armies of £32,276,000. From the days of Hannibal to their own there had been nothing like this extravagance In 1869 Austria had in the field in time of peace 278,000 men, capable of expansion to 838,000 in time of war. Prussia had then 299,000 men, capable of expansion to 940,000 in time of war. France had 400,000 men, capable of expansion to 757,000 in time of war. The cost of the Austrian Army was£7,450,000; of the Prussian Army, £10,000,000; and of the French £15,000,000; [making a total of £32,450,000. As regarded the scheme of Her Majesty's Government, he thought there were some points that were good. For instance, the plan of going back to recruiting for regiments which belonged to particular counties was good. With regard to recruiting, also, the establishment of common depôts was good so far as it went; but it was impossible to judge of the change proposed 1330 unless they clearly understood the system of recruiting which existed at the present time. What was that system? There were two sets of people out for recruiting—one set for the Militia, another for the standing Army. For the Militia Great Britain was divided into 65 divisions. In Ireland there were 32 divisions, each county having a recruiting depôt. The Militia recruiting officers had the great advantage of 10s. per man enrolling money, and a permanent Staff in each division. They raised annually 16,500 recruits in Great Britain alone, and they stated that they were able to raise 22,000; while in Ireland, where none were raised at present, they stated they could raise 9,000. The other recruiting party had not these advantages, for, as regarded them, Great Britain and Ireland were divided into 17 recruiting districts and sub-districts only. They had not the advantage of local knowledge, and they had no 10s. of enrolment money. The improvement which Government proposed in relation to recruiting was merely this—they would continue to recruit for both, but the recruiting for the Line would be carried on side by side with the recruiting for the Militia. The right hon. Gentleman still held to the dual system, although experience had shown that it was practically impossible, under existing circumstances, to work it out successfully; for he still proposed that the recruiting for the Artillery should be kept distinct from the other two, and said that under the proposed system the men would pass from the Militia to the Regular Army. Now, he ventured to say the class of men who passed into the Army from the Militia were not the best but the worst of the militiamen, for Militia officers, of course, took care to keep the best men for their own ranks. The Militia, then, so far from being a feeder to the ranks of the Regular Army was rather a sucker than otherwise. He could adduce evidence upon this point of a very clear character, and he would quote the Report of the Inspector General for last year, dated the 10th of January, 1871, which stated that recruiting for the Regular Army was very injuriously affected by enrolments for the Militia. The next point in the right hon. Gentleman's scheme was as regarded the question of localization. They were all desirous that 1331 localization should be carried out, but he found that instead of localization the plan partook very little of that character. The proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was, that they should have two battalions in a territorial district, and that of each battalion two companies should be placed as depôts. The position, however, in which they found localization was this—that one battalion might be transposed with another. According to that proposition, one Cumberland battalion might be in India, and the other in Dublin; and what then became of the localization? The territorial district was to take these two battalions, combined with two battalions of Militia and a certain quota of Volunteers. Not a word was said by the right hon. Gentleman about a Reserve. The Reserve was, in fact, lost sight of by the right hon. Gentleman. The "welding of a really reliable Reserve Force with the Army into a harmonious whole" seemed to have entirely disappeared. As regarded the battalion in India, it appeared that this was to be interchangeable with the Home battalion. As they could not enlist for the Indian service for less than six years, they could have no service short of that length of time, and as every man might be called upon to serve either at home or in India, they would still preclude the chance of getting a higher class of men who would willingly enlist for three years, if it were understood that they were really to remain in their own locality, and only in case of war to be called abroad. Moreover, he was convinced that after men had been in India or the colonies for five years, and more or less unsettled, they would be very unwise to depend upon them for bringing up their Reserve, so that it was obvious that the scheme of the Government did not aim with any real earnestness at obtaining a Reserve force. What they really wanted was to have a distinct battalion for India, which would be recruited for six years, and they should have two battalions at home enlisted for three years, which would be localized in their own particular district and remain there, and from which they should get the Reserve, which was the one thing sought for by everyone who really wished for Army reform. He was not a little astonished to see it proposed that the Militia should, be increased 1332 by 5,000 men. Now, he held that if the war of 1870–71 had taught any lesson at all it was this—that the days of franctircurs and Militia were gone, and that they must have an Army of well-trained soldiers if they were to have an Army to rely upon at all. Major General Sir Lintorn Simmons, who had written most sensibly on the subject of military reform, said that the German troops had passed through a superior training to our own military force, and that they had had the advantage of better drilling and better officers. In a pamphlet on this subject, he said three things were necessary in a military force—training, discipline, and experienced officers. Trying the Militia by that standard it would be found that their training was almost nil, their discipline ditto, and their experienced officers very few. The best use that could be made of them was to aid the police in maintaining order, and assist in garrisoning fortifications. It was also his opinion that three years was the shortest time in which to make a soldier. The late Duke of Wellington, according to Sir Lintorn Simmons, also was of opinion that it would be impossible to weld the Militia with the Regular Army; and Sir John Burgoyne, in a letter he wrote shortly before his death, said that hitherto they had deluded themselves with a grand show on paper of Regular forces, and of Militia and Volunteers, but that it was impossible to call the latter bodies Reserve forces, because they could not be relied upon even to fill up the gaps in the Regular Army. Only those men who had been in the ranks were fit to act as Reserves and to fill up the gaps in the Regular Army, and therefore all Reserves must be formed from men who had served with the colours. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had said that if the Auxiliary Forces were not sufficiently trained, the money expended upon them was being wasted; and that if they depended upon a delusive system, they were preparing for themselves a day of retribution. Why, they might as well attempt to weld hot and cold iron as to form the various diverse elements of which their Army was composed into one harmonious whole. Yet that was the system upon which they were invited to spend these vast sums of money. He maintained that he had established three points—first, 1333 that they were proposing to continue the bad system of recruiting for the Militia side by side with recruiting for the Line; second, to enlarge the Militia force—a force which had been condemned by all the rest of the world; and third, that they were about to continue that force at an enormous cost. Admitting that it was the duty of hon. Members of that House rather to criticize the Government schemes than to propose to amend them, still, following the precedent set by the manufacturing classes in this country, who, when they found themselves beaten by foreign manufacturers, endeavoured to ascertain the reason of their defeat, he should do his best to point out to the House the causes of the military strength of foreign nations. They had heard a great deal of the advantages of the Prussian system; but he did not think that in this country the Prussian system was very well understood, as far as it might be applied to the management of our own Army. The German Empire was divided into 12 provinces, the largest of which was about the size of Ireland, and the next in size about the same extent as Scotland, and others varying in size; these provinces were again subdivided according to population, into districts which might be assumed to be represented in this country by their counties and parishes, and to each province an Army corps complete in itself in every respect was attached. To these 12 Army corps another was added—that of the Guards, a corps which was recruited through all the provinces; and were their forces constituted on the same principle they would have in this country several such Army corps. The simplicity of the organization was extraordinary, and communication with the War Office at Berlin was free from complication of any kind. But the German system was most to be admired for its efficiency. The art of war was essentially scientific, and therefore it was necessary that their officers should have ample opportunities of studying their profession in a practical manner, and such opportunities were amply provided for even the youngest subalterns in the Prussian Army. The fact of there being 13 Army corps in the German Army gave rise to wholesome emulation among those bodies, which contributed to the general efficiency 1334 of the whole military force of that country. Our system, on the contrary, was a complex one, and we were now being invited to continue an old and obsolete Militia force. He maintained that if the people of this country only knew the value of having such Army corps as the Germans, and established one in each of the proposed districts, they would have no difficulty in procuring an efficient Army whenever it was required, instead of having to keep men haunting public-houses with ribbons in their hats, in order to attract raw recruits. In compliance with that system, he thought they ought to keep up their Home and Colonial Army at the strength of 83,000 men, and to pay the men better than they did at present. The men in Prussia served in the ranks for three years, then they passed into a Reserve force, in which they remained for four years, and finally they served five years in a sort of second Reserve force. All these men, having served in the Line, were capable of being welded into a harmonious whole, being all real soldiers, having one character, and each arm of the service being paid alike. The present pay of our infantry was 1s. 2d. a-day, engineers 1s. 4½d., of the artillery 1s. 5¼d., and of the cavalry 1s. 5d., and the men received 1d. a-day extra for beer, 1d. for good conduct, and about 2d. for extra rations. Now, he thought under this short-service system, that efficient men should receive at least 1s. 6d. a-day, which, with these extras, would amount to about 12s. 6d. per week, exclusive of clothing, barrack accommodation, fuel, and lights. After three years' service with the colours they might be offered, conditionally on remaining accessible within a certain radius, 1s. a day, while men entering a second Reserve might be offered £3 a-year, in both cases with 2s. extra per day for 12 days while on drill during the year. This 1s. a-day might appear a large sum, but as Reserves were worse than useless unless they could rely upon them when wanted, he held that that was the soundest policy to pursue. Not only would these men cling to them during their service in the Reserves, but such a rate of payment would attract as many men to their Army as they would require, and of a much better class than they have been accustomed to have. Besides, 1335 the economy effected alone in the present cost of recruiting, desertion, transport, medical attendance, &c, would be so great as to leave but little additional to be paid. There might, under this system, be 83,000 men for the Home and Colonial Army, 60,000 men for the Reserve, and 50,000 for a second Reserve, making altogether 193,000 trained soldiers, which with 172,000 Volunteers, would give them a more efficient Army than they had ever had, at a cost of not more than£10,000,000 or £11,000,000 per annum, including their large non-effective services. The right hon. Gentleman last year laid very proper stress on the getting up of a Reserve. No country in the world could be more suitable for it than this, for in time of war plenty of men would be willing to serve, while in time of peace the manufacturing districts would offer those men employment. Indeed, the demand for labour in those districts rendered it very unwise to keep so many men with the colours. By sending 20,000 men into the Reserve it would be made much more effective, for at present a number of men nominally belonged to several Reserve forces, swelling their apparent numbers, while they could, of course, only serve in one force. The consequent saving in the Army Estimates would not be less than £750,000, and the ability of 20,000 men to earn 15s. a-week for themselves would be a further advantage of another £750,000 to the country. He had said that they ought to have Army corps in Great Britain, but he knew that it would be objected that Ireland offered difficulties in the way of such a project. Well, but last year, the Irish Militia numbered nearly 34,000 men, and surely if they could be trusted, it was not another couple of years' drill that would make untrustworthy an Irish Army corps consisting of 12,000 men with the colours, and 10,000 constituting the Reserve. He might also point to the fact that the loyalty and good conduct of the Irish Constabulary was universally admitted; but even that Army corps might be made up on the principle of the Berlin Army corps, which drew its members from all parts of the Empire. Turning to Prussia, they would find an example of economy flowing from this system. Her War Office consisted of 268 men, at a cost of £51,739, whereas our own was composed 1336 of 568 men, costing £170,000. Our War Office and Control department jointly cost us last year £568,000, while in 1853 the cost was £269,000. The expense of both departments in Prussia was only £107,000. He would not enter into the worth of our Control system, but the late Deputy Controller of the War Office had described it as "not existing." The management of our Army ought surely to be as effective and economical as that of a large business. Now, the Midland and London and North Western Railway Companies were doing a business of £12,500,000 a-year; they had manufacturing establishments much larger than those of our Army, producing £2,134,000 worth of matériel, and they had a little army of 48,000 men. They managed their business—a much more intricate one than our Army—to the satisfaction of the public at a cost of £91,000, and paid good dividends. Turning to the number of officers, irrespective of honorary colonels, we had last year 5,317, while the Prussians for the same number of men had 4,830. Comparing the number of officers of different ranks in our Army, with the number in the Prussian Army, he said he thought we ought to make some change in this respect. We had 167 colonels, they 95; we 439 lieutenant colonels and majors, they 343; we 1,870 captains, they 982; we 2,328 lieutenants, cornets, and ensigns, they 3,000; we 133 paymasters, they 114; we 142 adjutants, they 269; we three solicitors, while they had none; their pensioners numbered 38,000, ours 74,000; the cost of theirs was £1,007,000, the cost of ours was £2,280,000; they retired their officers as lieutenants and captains, we generally retired ours when they had reached a higher rank; thus they had 8,575 officers on retirement at a cost of £585,000, we had 3,260 on retirement at a cost of £809,000. There were many other points that he should like to touch upon, but he feared to weary the Committee. One thing, however, he must say, and that was, he was in favour of maintaining their Volunteer force. He thought that force ought to be encouraged in the future more than it had been in the past, for with regard to military spirit, he thought every one would agree that they had shown they were in no way wanting. There was another question to which he desired 1337 to allude, but which he was afraid would occupy too much time to dwell upon at present—namely, the question of our manufacturing establishments connected with our Army. He thought those establishments ought to be looked into. The main argument in favour of those establishments was that they were a safeguard to the country. Now, on the contrary, Burke and Cobden had both declared themselves against the practice, and in favour of the system of contract; and it was his own opinion that, so far from being a safeguard to the country, they were a serious danger. The manufacturers of this country found that the manufacturing establishments of the Government were neither more nor less than great competitors with them, and he had the very highest authority for saying that many of them had resolved not to submit their samples to the Government of the day; let the Government give orders to a large proportion of the manufacturers in the country generally, and they would be able to have their support in a day of difficulty and trouble. Moreover, he was not sure that in a great many cases the Government could not obtain articles very much cheaper in the open market than they could by making them in their own manufactories. He hoped that in the discussion of the Estimates an opportunity would be given for debating that question. He believed that if the Government would only raise the standard for soldiers higher than they had been accustomed to do, and pay them better, men would come to their colours without that difficulty which, unhappily, had always been experienced in the past. His Motion was a protest against the retrograde step of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the War Office, in substituting six for three years' service, as proposed last year, and in the Enlistment Bill of 1870, and against the continuation of a complex and antiquated military system, which he thought he had shown was not worthy of being thrust upon the country in comparison with the cost it entailed, and as such he submitted it to the Committee. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment, of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. MUNTZ
(who had on the Paper a Motion to reduce the number of Men by 10,000) said, he rose to second a Resolution with which he did not agree, 1338 and to support a speech with great part of the observations contained in which he could not sanction. It was his misfortune last year to be opposed to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War in regard to several points; but he was delighted to be able on the present occasion to congratulate him on the proposals he had made, and on the very able and lucid manner in which he had explained them. Contrary to the opinion of his hon. Friend, he (Mr. Muntz) had no fear whatever of the Militia and the Regulars not working together, because he knew it was from the Militia we got our best recruits. He also congratulated the right hon. Gentleman and the House and the country upon the abolition of billeting—a system that produced fraud, great annoyance, and the greatest immorality. He might also congratulate the right hon. Gentleman that he had taken the £3,500,000 for barracks upon Terminable Annuities. He only wished that last year, with respect to the £8,000,000 for the abolition of purchase, the right hon. Gentleman had adopted the suggestion that was then made, because he would thus have saved the country from the imposition of an additional income tax, which was the most unpopular measure that Her Majesty's Government had brought forward. He had an Amendment on the Paper for reducing the infantry by 10,000 men, and if the Committee would allow him he would explain his reasons for putting that Amendment on the Paper. He did not want to reduce the force one man below that which was requisite for the dignity, the honour, and safety of the Empire; but he thought he should be able to show that there was no necessity for the numbers proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. Before they discussed the force requisite for this country, they ought to have the policy of the Government—he meant their foreign policy—before them. Let the Government tell him their policy, and he would tell them what force they wanted. The question was—ought we to interfere in the affairs of Europe, or to maintain an attitude of isolation? In the former case our force was extremely little, and in the latter it was too large. If we were to take part as a military Power in the affairs of Europe, our Army should be, not 130,000 men, but 1339 330,000 men. He assumed that we had given up all idea of ever appearing as a small military Power on the Continent of Europe, and that we should never again land an Army of some 30,000 men to contend against the enormous hosts of the great military Powers. He would assume, also, that our present Army was altogether for home defence and protection, and for garrisons for our military stations. If he was correct in his assumption, then he was perfectly certain that 130,000 men were more than were required for purely home and colonial purposes. In 1869, when the right hon. Gentleman brought in his Estimates, we had a force of 127,360 men in the Regular Army, a permanent Militia Staff of 5,066, a Militia Force of 128,971, and a Reserve Force, No. 1, of 2,000 men. At that time the right hon. Gentleman said that—The Army of a country circumstanced as this is ought to be, as regards both men and matériel, in time of peace comparatively small; that its efficiency should be the highest possible; that it should be in a form capable of easy expansion."—[3 Hansard, cxciv. 1123.]After enumerating the force which he had just read, and after some conversation in Committee, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—With such a force I venture to think this country may be considered perfectly safe both from attack and from menace."—[Ibid. 1130]What had occurred since then to alter the views of the right hon. Gentleman? It was true an unfortunate war had broken out on the Continent, which, however, he ventured to say relieved us from all apprehension of attack; for it was impossible to deny before that, that if the Emperor Napoleon, who had a knack of going to war very rapidly, had taken it it into his head to attack us we should have had a serious matter in hand. France had then a powerful fleet and a great and formidable Army—though not so great and powerful as it was supposed to be—but now her fleet was very much diminished and was partly out of commission, while her military force was greatly crippled. Besides, when France went to war again, it would be rather towards the East, and not towards the West; in addition to which, there was so much kindly feeling cherished towards us for our sympathy and relief during the late crisis that England would be the last country they 1340 would think of attacking. As for Germany, he had always been very much amused at the notion of that country invading us. So far as that contingency was concerned, he agreed with a distinguished Member of the Government who, in a speech delivered in December last, characterized it as perfectly ridiculous; and quite as laughable as if the Germans were to fear that the English were purposing to invade them. No sane man would dream of trying to make a descent upon our shores with fewer than 100,000 men, and when hon. Members reflected that those men, with cavalry, artillery, and stores, would require 500 large steamers well armed to bring them over, they would be of the same opinion. But where were these steamers to be found? They did not exist on the whole coast from Cronstadt to Cadiz. In fact, England should be conquered and taken possession of before the requisite number of steamers could be got. Last year there was a panic in the public and the Press, stimulated, as one Government official had said, by publications like "The Battle of Dorking," and it was so painful that its occurrence was extraordinary. There was a belief, out-of-doors—not, perhaps, altogether unfounded—that our Army was in an inefficient state, and that we had not sufficient field artillery for more than 30,000 or 40,000 men. The right hon. Gentleman stated last year that he would bring in a measure to render panics impossible. In 1844 Sir Robert Peel brought in a Bill with regard to the Bank Charter Act, which, he said, would make panics impossible. But in 1847 there was the greatest panic ever known, and we had a recurrence of panics every ten years since. It would be the same in this case, for the fact was, as long as we had timid people, we should have panics whenever a difficulty arose. But now, finding ourselves in a better position than in 1869, having no fear of invasion from France, and very little from Germany, why increase the Estimates to the extent now proposed? In 1869 we had 127,366 men in the Regular Army, 128,971 Militiamen, 5,066 permanent Staff of the Militia, and 2,000 Reserve of the first class, making in all 263,403, against 133,649 men now in the Regular Army, upwards of 139,000 Militia, and 10,000 Reserves of the first class, making in 1341 all 282,667, being an increase of 19,264 men. He did not say that the Estimates of 1869–70 were right, but he did say that if they were right our present Estimates were wrong, because there was an increase of nearly 20,000 men, and it was for the right hon. Gentleman to show why that increase was necessary. He did not wish to see the cavalry reduced—which still remained at nearly the same figure as that of last year, for he believed it was short; nor the artillery; the engineers, also, he would leave alone, but he did not see, now that we had 10,000 men in the Reserve who ought to be as good soldiers as any in the Line, why the infantry should not be reduced. With regard to the Reserves, he wished to ask whether they were to be called out for exercise and drill, or were they to be allowed to float about with their 4d. a-day? They were now 10,000, as he before observed, and in the course of time should form an important element of safety in the defence of the country. We gave these men about £5 a-year; at present they had not been called out, but in case they were to be called out we might give them something more and make it worth their while to attend drill. He hoped his right hon. Friend would say whether they would be called out, as there was a great doubt in the mind of the public on this point. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) had told the Committee a good deal about the Prussian system. Now, he knew a good deal about that system himself, and he did not believe it was applicable to this country, unless we were prepared to have recourse to conscription. He quite approved the proposal to associate the Militia and the Regulars with certain localities, but it would require great care in carrying it out. But, supposing the right hon. Gentleman wanted 10,000 men, why not embody 10,000 Militia for 12 months, and at the end of that time embody 10,000 more, and so on? In that way, in the course of a few years, the Militia would be regularly trained and as efficient as the Line. That would be adopting a most constitutional plan, and in a short time we should have in the Militia a most valuable and important force. As to the Indian Army, if supplies were wanted for it—and no doubt they were, depôts should be maintained here at the expense 1342 of the Indian Government. It was idle to suppose that in the event of difficulties with America we could send troops to Canada. Nothing less than 200,000 men would suffice for the defence of the Canadian frontier; and he entirely agreed that, in the event of such a war, Canada must be defended at New York, and Boston, and elsewhere. The policy of the War Office should be to secure an effective Army at a moderate cost, and this might be done by carrying out the short-service system, and passing the men rapidly through the ranks. We had seen that three years' soldiers did their work perfectly well; in the late war they fought as well as the best troops of the Line. Why then were we to have this increased Army? In his opinion there was no necessity for it; a smaller force kept in a state of thorough efficiency would be quite sufficient, and they would be quite safe in reverting to the Estimates of 1869.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 113,649, all ranks (including an average number of 6,185, all ranks, to be employed with the Depôts in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland of Regiments serving in Her Majesty's Indian Possessions), be maintained for the service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, from the 1st day of April 1872 to the 31st day of March 1873, inclusive."—(Mr. Holms.)
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, he was glad, after the recriminations of last year, to be able to express his satisfaction with the statement made by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War the other night. The scheme was one which would, he thought, recommend itself to the country, because it was simple in its conception, had evidently been worked out by competent men, was comprehensive in its details, and would give us what no scheme had yet done—the promise of a machinery for getting any number of trained soldiers together when the exigencies of the country required it. At the same time, he hoped his right hon. Friend would not forget that he was merely at the commencement of his business, that we were still in a transition state, that we still had transition Estimates, and that much remained to be done before we could get out of the "Slough of Despond" of Army re-organization. He did not propose to speak a pamphlet upon Germany and the Prussian military 1343 system, or the probable invasion of the country by foreign Powers. He should confine himself to a criticism of the Estimates and the speech of his right hon. Friend. Now, if we were to have a well-equipped, well-found Army in all respects we must pay for it. But there was such a thing as getting money's worth for your money, and he was a little anxious on that point. It was remarkable that in 1866–7 and in 1867–8 we got a larger number of Regular men for a much smaller amount of money. His right hon. Friend had reduced the Estimates this year by nearly a million, and had reduced the Regular troops by 1,300 men, the Reserves by something like 4,000, and increased the Militia by about 5,000, to which might be added some few thousand Volunteers. Now, as far as the Regular forces were concerned, in 1866–7, for £14,340,000, we had 138,000 Regulars; while in 1872–3, for £14,824,000, we had only 133,000 Regulars, so that in 1866–7 we paid half a million less money, and had from 5,000 to 6,000 more Regular troops than we had under the Estimates of his right hon. Friend. So far there was nothing to justify the enormous expense caused by the abolition of purchase. He was not at all anxious to resuscitate purchase; it had been abolished, and could not be brought back. But as the Representative of a certain number of income-tax payers, he must say that those worthy people had really been sacrificed to nothing more nor less than a party measure. Instead of welding the Regulars and Reserves into one harmonious whole, the Government had tried to catch a little popularity, and weld together into a more harmonious whole the various sections of the Liberal party. As to the scheme of re-organization, though on the whole it was sound, the linked regiments seemed in some instances rather ill-assorted unions, reminding him of one of those Republican marriages during the Reign of Terror at Nantes, in France, when people of different rank and station, and perhaps of different nationality, were bound together and thrown into the River Loire. Thus the 49th Herts was linked with the 100th Canadian, and landed somewhere in the middle of Ireland at Birr; and some Scotch and English regiments also had reason to complain. He hoped this portion of the scheme might receive a little further 1344 consideration, so that these ill-assorted unions might, if possible, be dissolved. His right hon. Friend proposed to do away with the privileges of the Guards. As an old Guardsman, although these privileges were almost coeval with the establishment of a standing Army, and though the double rank of the ensigns was conferred after Waterloo for the gallantry of the brigade in that action, he thought the time had come when those privileges must cease. As far as the officers, however, were concerned, he thought they might be put a little more on an equality with those of the Line. As he understood, it was proposed that the senior captains of the Guards should still do the duties of mounted officers; and if their double rank was to cease, he hoped they would have to each battalion a couple of majors, as was to be the case in the rest of the Army. However, this question as to the officers was, after all, a small matter. A point of real importance was whether the Guards could be recruited as they used to be. It was most desirable that the physique and stature of the Queen's body-guard should be maintained. But the Guards would have no district on which to fall back, and no Militia regiment they could look to, under the new arrangement of depôt centres; and, seeing the difficulty experienced in recruiting the Artillery, he thought some better provision should be made for obtaining men of the same physique as had heretofore enlisted in those regiments. As regards the larger question relating to the difficulty of obtaining recruits for the Line in time to come, of which the Inspector General of the Recruiting department spoke in his Report, he (Lord Eustace Cecil) hoped that his right hon. Friend would give the House an assurance that the inducements offered would be increased to the Army generally. In the absence of such inducements, he was quite certain great difficulty would be found in procuring men with the necessary physique to enter the service in the face of the constantly rising wages in the labour market. Last year an important meeting was held, over which Lord Derby presided, which was attended by several distinguished officers, and it was then recommended that as many civil appointments as possible should be opened to deserving soldiers. [Mr. CARDWELL said, that had been 1345 done.] It was not stated what public Departments would be opened; but at any rate there was room for an increase in the number of appointments open to soldiers, and he was sure that the offering of such inducements would operate most beneficially. As to the interchange of officers between the infantry and the Militia, he (Lord Eustace Cecil) could not understand how it was to be effected. Something was said about captains of the Line retiring upon half-pay for ten years—that was, £100 a-year for a limited period, and it was supposed, perhaps with justice, that that would be sufficient to induce them to go into the Militia; but he wished to know how the vacancies were to be made, and what was to be done with the Militia officers displaced to make room for them? Were they to be pensioned or compelled to leave the service, or what was to become of them? On these points more categorical statements ought to be made, because the announcement of his right hon. Friend had already produced considerable excitement among the Militia officers. They said, and said rightly, that they had given themselves a good deal of trouble to pass the qualifying examination, and that it would be exceedingly hard if they were to be displaced by captains from the Regulars. He was glad that there was to be a camp of instruction in the North, a matter which had been advocated over and over again from the Opposition benches last year; for certainly Aldershot and Shorncliffe were not sufficient for the whole of the Reserve and Regular forces; but he must call the attention of economical Members opposite to the estimate that a camp of 1,500 acres was to cost £225,000 or £150 an acre, whereas he was told on good authority that for land like the moors of Yorkshire or Northumberland £20 an acre ought to be enough. The cavalry and the artillery were thrown into the shade a little by the scheme of the Government. His right hon Friend hinted at some plan for recruiting the cavalry, but he did not explain it. If the Yeomanry could not be treated as Militia, why was not some alternative scheme of recruiting for the cavalry proposed? It was more than likely that in time of war there would be great difficulty in getting cavalry and artillery up to the mark. Last year he 1346 complained of the insufficiency of our horses and guns. His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief spoke of the cavalry as the eyes and ears of our Army, and another noble Duke had said that our Army could not march. The latter statement was not surprising, because if there were not a sufficient number of transport horses, it was clear the infantry were not fit to make long marches in the field. Deputy Controller Robinson, in his Report on the Autumn Manœuvres, said that the hired transport was not found equal to our requirements; some of the waggons were unsuited to the service, others were underhorsed, and when additional Army Service Corps horses were attached to assist, the harness in many instances gave way. [Sir HENRY STORKS: That part of the Report only relates to the hired horses and waggons.] Though that related to the hired waggons, it did not invalidate his argument as to the lack of horses; and if they had to be hired it only showed how ill-prepared we were to take the field. In the German Army the peace establishment allowed 1 horse to 4 men; we had 1 horse to 10 men, excluding the Volunteers, and, including them, 1 to 15; that was, one-fourth or one-fifth of the number we ought to have, supposing 470,000 men, the whole number of our Regular and Reserve forces, were to be brought into the field. In the German Army there were three guns to 1,000 men; at that rate we ought to have 1,400; but last year we had only 336, and not having heard that the right hon. Gentleman proposed any addition, he trusted the Committee would receive some assurance on this head. Finally, he must say there was almost universal dissatisfaction with the Royal Warrant, relating to the promotion of officers, which was promulgated in November. It was true that since there had been newspaper reports that one-half of it was withdrawn; and he should be glad to hear that that was the case, for there was neither logic nor fairness in that Warrant. If it was good for one part of the Army it ought to apply to the whole; but as it stood it related only to infantry and cavalry of the Line. It was quite obvious that if examination was necessary to keep up professional knowledge in unscientific corps, it was much more necessary in the scientific corps; and although 1347 captains in the artillery were examined, there was no examination in the engineers. With regard to promotions, it seemed to him that the system of selection would work great injustice unless it were much more carefully guarded than there was any right to expect it would be; and several of the regulations opened the door to any amount of jobbery. There was also the question of confidential reports, and if they were to continue, their existence would, in his opinion, render the Army almost intolerable. They would establish a system of espionage amongst the officers of the Army, and would destroy that harmony which was necessary for the maintenance of the regimental system. He knew no system in any other service in the country like that which would be brought into operation by those reports as sketched in the Royal Warrant.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
The reports to which the noble Lord refers are not mentioned in the Royal Warrant, but in a few clauses inserted in the Queen's Regulations.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, that substantially made no difference; they were to be the rule in the Army for the future, and he could conceive nothing likely to be more injurious to the service. It was impossible that under it any body of men could work harmoniously, and he trusted his right hon. Friend at the head of the War Department would be able to give the House some assurance that the paragraphs relating to the reports of which he was speaking would be excised from the Queen's Regulations as rapidly as possible. He would merely add the expression of a hope that the system of selection which had now been started would not turn out to be, as had been said by a noble Relative of his "elsewhere," a system of stagnation tempered by jobbery.
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, he should confine himself to dealing on the present occasion with the topics which had been touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War when introducing the Army Estimates. The first subject to which he wished to refer was that of recruiting, and he must say that when he heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman he was filled with misgivings, in which he had been confirmed by the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting. The 1348 subject was one of the greatest importance, because the class of men whose services we could secure would depend entirely on whether the new system of short service was effectively carried out. It also involved considerations of the greatest consequence with respect to our being able to obtain an Army of Reserve, and the number of men we ought to have in our standing Army. He would, in dealing with the subject, briefly refer to some passages in the Report of the Inspector General, and it was evident from them that whenever we had to supply men, and not boys, there was an immediate failure. Let him take the case of the Royal Artillery; there we could get drivers, but when we wanted gunners we failed. We were, in fact, short of gunners to the extent of 1,700 men. Indeed, the Report of the Inspector General was neither more nor less than an elaborate apology for the failure of the whole of our present system of recruiting. He stated that there was good reason to believe that the physique of the recruits during the last year gave good promise that they would become very effective soldiers, which was as much as to admit that he was not quite certain they would be effective soldiers at any time, and, at all events, that they were not effective at present. In the very next page the Inspector General dealt with the question of height, observing that the standard height during the year was 5 feet 5 inches, but when we had to raise 20,000 men, it fell to 5 feet 4 inches. Again, it was stated that the average age of the recruits last year was 19 years, and more than half of them were under that age. Again, the Inspector General tried to make out that it was a good thing to recruit boys, being of opinion that by the time they attained the age of 20 they would be physically superior to men who had been recruited when above that age. That, however, was no argument in favour of the most expensive system of recruiting—that of feeding up boys for two years in order to render them fit to take the field. The subject, he repeated, was one of the utmost importance, and it was evident the Inspector General foresaw that the pay of the men would have to be raised in order that recruits might be attracted into the service. It was very well to say that the Inspector General 1349 based his Report on the reports of the commanding officers, but he should very much like to see their reports, and he hoped some hon. Member of greater weight than himself would move for a Select Committee to test the accuracy of the statement of the Inspector General, as compared with what one heard said on all sides. On the question of recruiting, he might add, depended very much the number of men to be maintained in our Army. He regretted the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) was not in his place. If he had been he should refer him to the able speech he had made last year, which contained opinions very different from those he had expressed that evening. The whole point of his speech last year was that we ought not to have men under 19. He went on to say that it was necessary we should have 62,000 men in India, 25,000 in the colonies, 70,000 at home, and a Reserve Army of 100,000—a very different statement, as hon. Members would observe, from that which they had heard from him a few hours previously. That force, too, be it borne in mind, was not to be composed of boys, but of men over 19 years of age, trained soldiers who had passed through the Army. Unless men were recruited in the first instance, and not boys, they could not be passed quickly through the ranks, and the forces at our disposal would never be efficient, either for Indian purposes or to meet any emergency which might arise. As to the strength of our Army, he should like for a moment to refer to the decrease which had occurred in our Regular forces between 1860 and 1870. In 1860, the total forces at the disposal of the Crown for the defence of India and at home, amounted to no less than 235,800. At home and in the colonies we had 156,782, in India 79,000. In 1870, the number was 60,000 less. War broke out, and then there was an increase in the numbers of about 25,000, but they were not men but boys. Moreover, a Motion, assented to by the Government, passed the House last year, prescribing that the age of the troops sent to India should not be under 20 years, and these circumstances, together with the regulation for three years' service, had reduced the physical strength of the Army generally. He thought the question of recruiting so important, that, if no one else took it 1350 up, he would himself move a Select Committee to consider the subject. Under the new scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, the Line regiments and the Militia would have a tremendous pull in respect to recruiting over the Guards, the artillery, and the cavalry, and yet the latter were the very branches of the service for which it was desired to have the pick of men. With regard to the whole scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, he thought nothing could possibly be better than the general principles, and from all that appeared in the newspapers, and was heard in conversation, it might be presumed that they would be excessively popular, and, for himself, he most thoroughly concurred in them. However, the success of the scheme entirely depended on the spirit with which it was carried into execution, and on the harmonious working together of the various parts; but if it was carried out in the manner proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the state of the Army would, in some respects, be infinitely worse than at present. Take, for instance, two regiments of the Line. It was proposed that the two regiments should be linked together, and two battalions should be taken from them. They were then to be formed into a local centre, and to that local centre was assigned the recruiting for both battalions. The battalion abroad would be entirely dependent for recruits on the depôt centre or upon its twin battalion at home, and in the case of India it would always be dependent on the twin battalion at home, and not upon the depôt centre. How, then, could they expect harmonious action between the two regiments at the central depôt, each retaining its own distinctive appellations, esprit de corps, and its jealousy, perhaps, of the other? He would, therefore, advise the Government to go one step further, and say at once that the two battalions should not merely be linked together but become one single regiment; and that could be effected by putting both battalions under one supervision, having first taken the distinctive numbers away of both—say, the 57th and 77th, and make them the 50th. If that were done there would be a chance of carrying out this system in a harmonious manner. No one had a higher idea of regimental esprit de corps than himself, for half of the secret of our success was to be attributed to it; but 1351 it did not at all follow that this would not be equally strong under the plan he suggested, if the battalions retained their old distinctions. He did not think that the right hon. Gentleman had quite taken the bull by the horns. It was not so much for their regimental numbers that regiments cared as for their badges, their names, and the words inscribed on their colours. In the case of some regiments it was almost an insult to call them by their number, instead of some peculiar designation which attached to them—for instance, the Rifle Brigade was the 95th in the Peninsula, but it was far better known by its historical associations than its number. What was wanted was to secure the efficiency of the whole Army, and as a step towards that object the change he suggested could be effected at a very little expense, while, without it, he feared that the plan of linking as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would lead to failure. The proposal as to having stores at the central depôts was one of the greatest improvements in the scheme. The question as to the number of men had already been touched on, and he attached a great deal of importance to it. He saw with regret that the Government were withdrawing from China and the Straits Settlements 1,700 native troops, thereby throwing on European soldiers the garrison duty there. In 1865 the Government of that day, for the sake of economy or some other reason, resolved to withdraw the native troops from China, and the result was that the whole of the work was thrown on European soldiers. The native troops left China in March, 1867, and the result was, in a few months after that, out of the two battalions of the 9th Regiment, 838 men, 85 men died and 115 were invalided, 6 women and 24 children died, and 27 women and 40 children were invalided. Out of 716 men, forming two battalions of the 11th, 94 men died and 164 were invalided, 3 women and 28 children died, and 21 women and 28 children were invalided. That was one of the results of withdrawing the native troops from China. In 1866 a Select Committee considered this subject, and they reported very strongly against withdrawing native troops. The evidence pointed distinctly to the advantage of constantly maintaining an Asiatic force at that station. With regard to the financial question, the Committee 1352 were of opinion that the substitution of a purely European garrison ultimately resulted in increased expense. Next year he moved for a Committee to inquire as to the desirability of employing Indian troops in our colonies; they recommended that Indian troops should be more largely employed for that purpose, and a considerable saving might in that way be effected. He thought it his duty to call the attention of the Committee to this point, for notwithstanding the Reports of those two Committees, the Government were again intending to withdraw native troops from China. The next point to which he would refer was one which had been touched upon by the hon. Member for Hackney—he meant the question of control, and the supply of warlike stores and manufactured articles. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State had passed over the subject, saying that the right hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General would refer to it another time. Now, this was one of the most important Votes in the Estimates, and if the Estimates were taken on a Monday it would be impossible for any Member to make a Motion in reference to the Vote. It dealt with about the largest item of expenditure in the Army Estimates—the item on which almost the whole reduction of the year was effected. Whether that reduction was wise or not he could not say. During the last 10 or 15 years our expenditure on warlike stores had trebled that of any other nation in the world. Some years ago he had urged the War Office to, in fact, take stock of their stores, and present to the House of Commons a comprehensive Return, on the principle carried out in the French system of accounts. Until that was done, it would be impossible to carry out an economical administration of the Control Department. A Return certainly had been issued, but it did not come up to his meaning. He could only re-echo the remarks made by the hon. Member for Hackney with respect to the manufactured articles; there was no public department that required to be more narrowly watched, or where a greater amount of money might be saved. He was sorry to see that the War Office still seemed to shirk the question of retirement from the way in which they dealt with the Royal Artillery. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to flatter 1353 himself that by giving appointments in the Reserve force, and creating Staff appointments, he was meeting the great difficulty of stagnation in promotion. But the fact was not so, for the question must eventually force itself upon the attention of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman might promote the whole of the first captains in the Royal Artillery to the rank of major, as no doubt they well deserved, and he should be very glad to see them all majors; but that would not remove the difficulty. The stagnation of promotion would remain just it was. It did seem at first sight as if this was intended as a sop to the Royal Artillery to stop the question of actual retirement. If it was intended in that way, he must say it was a very hard case as regarded other officers. After the right hon. Gentleman made his speech, he (Colonel Anson) had received a great many communications calling attention to the injustice which would be done to officers of the Line by this enormous promotion. He hoped the opportunity would not be lost for taking into consideration the case of certain of the captains in the Line. It was very curious that there were only 87 first captains in the Royal Artillery of over 20 years' service; only one of over 23 years' service; and only 17 of over 22 years' service: whereas in the purchase corps of the Army, cavalry and the Line, there were no less than 29 captains of over 24 years' standing, 67 of over 22 years', and 211 of over 20 years' standing. So that this great promotion in the Royal Artillery would be most unfair unless the same consideration was shown to these officers of the Line. This led him to say one word as to purchase, on which he had not intended again to touch. He accepted the situation, and there was end of it. But the right hon. Gentleman, in the commencement of his speech, began to crow over them, and stated that the abolition of purchase was not going to cost so much as had been expected. But there were two reasons why officers had not sent in their papers on the scale expected—one was they did not clearly understand the Act, and the other was they had no confidence in the Royal Commission named by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State had nominated the Commission without putting on it a single name in which the officers were likely to place their 1354 confidence. He was not saying one word against the Commissioners, or implying that they would not interpret the Act in a proper spirit. He had received a great number of communications from officers of the Army, complaining of the decisions of the Commission: and he must frankly admit—without saying that the Act itself was just—that, as far as he was able to gather from the cases which had been put before him, he believed it was impossible for any Royal Commission to have carried out more fairly than they seemed to have done the Act which they were called upon to interpret. With respect to the officers of the Guards, the right hon. Gentleman proposed to retain to all existing officers the privileges they had hitherto enjoyed. He himself was glad of that; but it amounted to a practical admission that every argument which he had used last year was perfectly correct, and that every argument used by the right hon. Gentleman was wrong. Why did the right hon. Gentleman deal in that way with the Guards? Because he was a just man; and when it came to be put before him in the War Office that those men were fairly expecting a certain promotion on the faith of which they had paid sums of money, and on the faith of which they had entered the service, he no doubt at once saw that it was a monstrous injustice to interfere with the just expectations of these men, and deprive them of that which they had a right to so long as they were efficient and did their duty. But it was a very curious thing that such a different measure of justice should be meted out to certain cavalry officers and to the unfortunate major of the 62nd Regiment. There was absolutely no difference between the cases. It was by no means fair to be so tender in the case of the Guards, and so little tender in another. The only reason why he mentioned this was, not because he wished to see the privileges of the Guards stopped, but because he took this last opportunity of protesting against this system of selection, as there was no object now to gain by it. The system of rejection, however, might be carried out as much as they pleased. He hoped that the suggestions he had thrown out would meet the views of the Secretary of State for War.
said, he was anxious to recall the Committee to the proposal 1355 under their immediate notice. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) said his object was not to reduce our armed force, but to take 20,000 men out of the Regular Army in order to place them in the Reserve; and, for the purpose of supporting his Motion, he adduced many arguments drawn from the state of things existing in foreign countries, and, above all, in Prussia. The hon. Gentleman condemned the extravagance with which our Army was administered, and gave them a great deal of information as to Prussia. That information was exceedingly interesting; but he would remind his hon. Friend of the French saying—"Comparaison n'est pas raison," and that arguments founded on analogies between two cases in which the circumstances were not entirely similar were apt to be extremely fallacious. As to Prussia, it must be remembered that its system was a compulsory one, and it must not be supposed that compulsion was, so to speak, left at the door when the recruit had entered the Army. In Prussia every department of the public service, every private industry, and every private interest, was made to yield to the great military necessity for which that country might almost be said to exist. It had been said, indeed, that Prussia was not a country with an Army, but an Army with a country. That must be considered when we were instituting any comparison between ourselves and such a nation. Again, his hon. Friend recommended that instead of having mere depôt centres, with regiments locally attached to them, we ought in this country to establish corps d'armée, as in Prussia. That, might perhaps, be ultimately desirable; but there was this difference between us and Prussia—that they had not the advantage we possessed in having the sea round our frontier; and, consequently, it was necessary in their case that a whole corps d'armée, as it would move in the field, should be able to start from the place where it originally was; whereas, on the other hand, all our troops would have to be sent to ports of embarkation. Therefore there was not the same necessity on the ground of rapid mobilization with us as there was with Prussia, for the corps d'armée system. The hon. Member had then brought three accusations against our system—first, that our system of recruiting was bad; next, that there 1356 were great evils in our mode of recruiting for the Line, the Militia, and different arms of the service, alongside of each other, and in independence of each other; and, lastly, he spoke strongly against the Militia. Now, as to our recruiting, it might be bad or good; he was not going to enter upon that subject, but one thing he might say, that it was the intention, and the confident expectation, of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War that his localization scheme would have a most beneficial effect on recruiting. It was expected that quarters of the country would be beaten up which were never touched before, and that there would be a great inducement for recruiting in the system of short service, by which, when a man went back to the Reserve, he would not go among strangers, but to his old home and among his old associates, and would retain a connection with, and an interest in, his brigade. All that was expected to have a great effect in making recruiting popular. As to recruiting for the Militia alongside of the Line and for different arms, as it were in rivalry with each other, it must be remembered that the whole of the recruiting would be under the supervision of the officer commanding the district, whose duty it would be to take care that the one thing did not interfere with the other. In enlisting a recruit in this country they must very much have regard to his own choice; they could not altogether take a man, as was done in some countries, and put him in that branch of the service for which they thought he was most suited. Then the third part of his hon. Friend's destructive argument was applied to the Militia, which he said was so little trained as not to be a force which could be relied on in time of war; while at the same time he seemed to be in favour of retaining the Volunteers, which certainly received a much inferior training to that given to the Militia. It was, however, expected that the Militia would be improved by its contact with the Line, and it was to be hoped that where deficiencies existed they would be amended under the new system. The hon. Member, too, was anxious to resort to the shortest possible term of service, and that we should increase the number of Reserves as quickly as possible. That also was the desire of the Government; 1357 but it was impossible yet to lay down an iron rule as to the term of enlistment, the number enlisted, the number of Reserves, or the manner in which they should be distributed. All action on these points was experimental at present. Indeed., although the localization of the Army attracted most attention at present, it should not be forgotten that the change was being carried out in conjunction with the very difficult task of transforming a long-service Army without Reserves into a short-service Army with Reserves. The House had thoroughly adopted the principle of these changes, and the only matter now in dispute was the manner in which they should be brought about. The question of short service was a question as between quality and quantity; we had, in fact, to find the point at which we should have the greatest number of men passed into the Reserves after sufficient training, or, taking the other view, the point at which the greatest amount of training could be given consistently with maintaining a constant and sufficient current of removal from the colours to the Reserve. Obviously, this problem could only be solved after some years' experience. The task was complicated by the necessity of garrisoning India. If we had no troops in India the best plan would be to maintain a large number of cadres at the lowest possible establishment consistently with being workable, which in time of war would be rapidly filled up by Reserves; but this would have to be accompanied by rapid recruiting and rapid discharge, and would interfere with the sending of drafts to India. Experience had, therefore, to define another point besides the point where quality and quantity in the Reserves met—that was to say, where the greatest expansiveness for home service could be secured in conjunction with providing a sufficient garrison for India. This complicated problem could not be decided off-hand, and certainly would not be assisted by cutting off 20,000 men at the very beginning of the experiments which would eventually solve the problem. The hon. Member, however, could not even wait until the Reserves were formed. He demanded Reserves with one breath, and with the next would cut off the supply of Reserves. It was impossible to say at present what term of service would best 1358 produce the results desired, and he counselled the Committee to leave it to the Secretary of State for War and to Parliament, to whom he was responsible, in the future to decide what should eventually be the standards of service. It might be asked why not pass the long-service men into the Reserve? His answer was, that this was already being done as fast as possible, and that provision was made in this year's Estimates for passing as many as were likely to accept the service. Some doubts had been expressed as to whether the Reserve forces would be got together for training when required. If that objection were valid, it would be overcome by the local system, because the men would literally have a local habitation and a name; but experience gave some assurance on this point. Out of 7,116 Army Reserve men of the first class on the books on the 1st of January last, only 341 failed to appear at the muster, and that the Committee would no doubt allow was a very small proportion of failures, considering the circumstances in which the men were placed. He hoped on these grounds that the Committee would not agree to cut off 20,000 men from the Army, but would be content to wait until it was seen what the effect of the Reserve-creating machinery might be.
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Campbell) had tried to limit the discussion as far as possible to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms); but he ventured to think that that Amendment embraced matters that were so mixed up with the whole question of the efficiency of our Army, that, subject to the correction of the hon. Chairman, he should, in referring to it, enter into the general subject of this Vote. He was one of those who, although in favour of the abolition of purchase, had, nevertheless, considered last year that in doing away with that system, without seeing the scheme of the Government, the House was incurring a serious responsibility. He was, however, bound to declare that, both from the clear statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War in introducing the Army Estimates, and from the Papers relating to the subject which had since been laid upon the Table of the House, the scheme of the Government, 1359 when it had been properly modified, appeared likely to afford all those advantages the House and the country were anxious to obtain, and would probably afford a basis on which an enduring scheme of Army re-organization could be carried out. The two main points in the Government scheme were, in the first place, fusion or amalgamation of the forces, and, in the second, the localization of the forces and connecting them with territorial divisions. With regard to the first point, he would consider whether the proposals were good as far as they went, and whether they were proposals capable of extension, if necessary, in the future. As far as he understood it, the only fusion at present proposed was that the adjutants of the Reserve forces should be reckoned as supernumerary officers on the staff of the Regular Army, and that the non-commissioned officers were, for the purposes of training, to be common, as it were, to the two branches of the service. It seemed to him to be a question of doubt whether the benefit that seemed to be anticipated would accrue from the proposal to allow a certain number of officers in the Regular Army to retire on half-pay after a specified length of service in order to enter the Militia for a certain number of years. It was true that from time to time a number of officers in the Regulars would be anxious for various reasons to retire temporarily from active service; but he doubted whether any such officer who desired subsequently to follow up his profession would retire into the Militia with only an off-chance, so to speak, of returning to the Regular Army, in case the Militia regiment in which he served were embodied. If it was a matter of importance to have professionally-trained officers in the Regular Army; it was certainly not less important that there should be such officers serving in the Reserve, where the non-commissioned officers and men had much to learn; and he rather doubted whether officers who went into the Militia to return to the Army at some unknown date would keep up their professional acquirements, which required following up day by day. A great practical advantage would be gained at once if the present Staff of the Militia could be appointed as supernumeraries to the regiments to which they were to be attached. He quite 1360 agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) in thinking it would be a great advantage, when amalgamating two regiments, to amalgamate them rather as two battalions of the same regiment. The result of such a course would be to bring about greater unity of sentiment and general harmony of action than would otherwise exist. Some means should be taken also to preserve an identity between the regiment serving abroad and the home regiment with which it was amalgamated, for by this means the two divisions would have more closely at heart the honour of their one regiment. These were comparatively trifling matters, but, taken as parts of the whole scheme, they were points which possessed some importance and deserved to be considered. Another of the advantages which would spring from this closer amalgamation was that it would put an end to the jealousy and suspicion which occasionally sprung up. Some time ago he was adjutant of a battalion of Guards which was serving at home, the other battalion being out in Canada, and he knew that there actually arose a feeling that one of these battalions was being unfairly favoured at the expense of the other. And if this arose in the case of two battalions belonging to one regiment, it was ten-fold more likely to arise where two battalions of different regiments were amalgamated. The hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Campbell) spoke of the officers commanding in districts taking care that the recruiting for the Army and the Militia did not interfere the one with the other; but that observation was answered by the hon. Gentleman himself when he said that service in this country being voluntary the difficulty would be greater than in Prussia and other countries, where service in the Army was compulsory. Another point was in reference to the equipment. He hoped arrangements would be made whereby it might be tried whether the equipment of the Militia regiments could not be carried on so as to correspond as nearly as possible with the equipment of the Line regiments to which they were to be attached. At present the Militia equipment was, in many respects, very far short of what would be necessary for the Regular service. His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, in his Report upon the Autumn 1361 Manœuvres, referred to this fact, and expressed his opinion that the Militia should be equipped in every respect as the Regular Army was, proper equipment tending to strengthen a man's respect for himself, such respect forming the very root and foundation of sound discipline. With regard to the localization of the Army, it was true, as had been said, that the position of England differed from that of Germany and some other countries. The proverbial "streak of silver sea" would have to be crossed in case of war, and as regiments, brigades, and divisions would have to be broken in order to transhipment, there would not arise the same advantages for localization which would be found in countries where a whole corps d'armée could move complete of itself. It would be all very well if localization could be carried out to the extent of identifying, for purposes of association, particular regiments with particular territorial districts; but as he understood the proposal of the Government, it was desired by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr Cardwell) to mingle the different nationalities comprised in the Army of the United Kingdom. If that was really intended, he could not help thinking that the tendency of the scheme would be to delocalize and weaken the Army, and produce a result different from that which was to be desired. It was proposed, further, that the troops should be trained at brigade depôts by directors, who were to be lieutenant colonels in the Army; but it occurred to him that it would be difficult to retain the services of these lieutenant colonels on the Staff in time of war, if the districts were to be of the nature of nothing more than depôts instead of military districts. With regard to some other proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, relating to arrangements for the Staff, he would call attention to another portion of the Report on the Autumn Manœuvres, where His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief dwelt on the importance of Staffs being associated and encamped with their troops several days, if not a week, before any actual movement took place. He wished the right hon. Gentleman had given a little plainer explanation as to what he proposed to do with respect to the purchase of county buildings, as he might rest assured there would be no opposition to any proposal he might 1362 make for the purpose of doing away with billeting. It was almost impossible, indeed, to exaggerate the evils accruing from that system. The officers and the men were scattered; the officers had no control over the men, and the men were not brought together. If he rightly understood the right hon. Gentleman's statement, the sum which would probably be required for the purchase of county buildings, and the arrangement of the various stores, would not fall far short of £3,500,000, and it was highly desirable that the Committee should have further details as to the manner in which that large sum was to be expended. Was it to be chiefly expended on the purchase of land, or in the construction of buildings? If we made a great outlay on the construction of permanent buildings, we should be greatly cramped if, at a future time, we required any further re-arrangement; because they would most likely be adapted only to military purposes, and, therefore, could only be disposed of at a considerable loss. In connection with that part of the subject, he might mention that the buildings at Shorncliffe, the Curragh, and Aldershot, though erected years ago for temporary purposes only, had been used up to the present date, their original cost being, of course, much less than it would have been if the buildings had been of a permanent character. He hoped the Committee would hear from the right hon. Gentleman that there was a likelihood of military manœuvres being soon carried out in the North. [Mr. CARDWELL: No, no!] At all events, he earnestly hoped the Reserve forces and Volunteers in the North would have an opportunity of seeing such manœuvres as they were unable to witness last year, in consequence of the great expense of conveying them South as far as Berkshire. As to the Control Department, there was no doubt a great deal to be said about it, but perhaps it would be better to give it another trial under circumstances similar to those of last year. He would only point out that the Duke of Cambridge's Report was strongly opposed to the system of civilian transport, and it was worth consideration, whether a military transport could not he provided without any great increase of expenditure. With regard to the education of officers, he thought the right hon. Gentleman 1363 must be fully satisfied by this time that there was no foundation for the disparaging remarks made upon the amateur character of our officers, and that they needed no inducement to avail themselves of all the facilities for education which were offered to them, for he (Mr. Stanley) was sure they would try to learn all they possibly could. Though he did not share the opinion expressed by some of his hon. and gallant Friends, that all the proposed changes would have been possible prior to the abolition of purchase, yet he could not help thinking that many of the shortcomings of the officers which had been dwelt upon last year were due to the deficiency of facilities for professional education. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the desirability of keeping down the mess expenses of officers; but history taught us that sumptuary laws had not reflected much credit on this country; and if any attempt were made to tie officers down too tightly at the mess, they might be driven to places where they would be beyond the control of their commanding officers. He wished to draw attention to an abuse which had grown up with respect to messes. It was now an almost universal custom when regiments were changing their quarters, to give to each other expensive and formal dinners. There was no real hospitality; the custom was not popular with the majority of the officers in the Army; and 80 per cent of the commanding officers were strongly opposed to it. There were plenty of other means of making officers acquainted with each other than by excessive hospitality. Visiting each others messes, and paying a share of the expense was true hospitality; the other was only formal ceremony. But many officers were obliged to attend the messes of neighbouring regiments by the order of their superior officers. The right hon. Gentleman might also render great assistance to the officers and to the country by limiting to a far greater extent than was done at present the moving of officers' furniture from place to place. No doubt there was a certain inconvenience in providing at the various stations the articles which officers might require, but they would not incur the expense of moving their baggage, while they would avoid those connections with tradesmen into which poor officers in particular 1364 were obliged to enter when sent suddenly to foreign stations. He begged to thank the right hon. Gentleman also for what he had done with respect to the vexed question of bands, and he would like to suggest to him that a further saving might accrue from the brigading of two bands together, thus enabling a good band to be formed by the united action of two regiments. He could not sit down without saying a word with respect to the change which had been made in regard to the special branch to which it was once his privilege to belong. Everyone who took an interest in the Army must have been aware that sooner or later the special privileges which belonged to the Guards must be done away with. It would be too much to expect that privileges acquired in 1693 should continue to be kept alive to the detriment of the whole service, and he was bound to add that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be looked upon on nearly all hands as a fair settlement of the question. At the same time he demurred to one term used by the right hon. Gentleman opposite when he spoke as if the Guards got off with a lighter qualifying examination than the rest of the Army. As to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms), and the arguments he had made use of in bringing it forward, he would only say this—that the comparison which the hon. Gentleman had drawn between the Army of this and those of other countries in no way held good in his opinion. The hon. Gentleman seemed entirely to forget that, although the money cost of foreign Armies might be less, other nations paid a great deal more in the shape of the general inconvenience which they suffered. We could not, moreover, expect from an Army enlisted under the voluntary system, the same results as from an Army kept under compulsion from the moment of enlistment throughout the whole of its service. In dealing, too, with voluntary enlistment it should be borne in mind that if, beyond a certain point, fresh duties were imposed upon our soldiers, more would be done to discourage recruiting than would be balanced by increase of pay or by pensions. In conclusion, he begged to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War on the scheme which he had laid before Parliament and the country, and 1365 must say he hoped the Amendment would not be pressed, for if it was he should be compelled to oppose it.
§ MAJOR WALKER
said, he wished to say a few words on the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, more especially as it affected the force of which he was a humble member. He must, however, in the first place, congratulate the right hon. Gentleman for not having approached the whole of our military system as if it were a carte blanche, and for having made use of the materials which he found ready to his hand. Having done that, he begged to thank him for having put a stop to the system of billeting in the Militia, a system against which, since he had the honour of a seat in that House, he had always raised his voice. Passing from that point, he looked upon the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman as well calculated, not only to promote the efficiency of the Militia, but that of the whole military service of the country, if it were only carefully worked out. He hoped, however, he should be forgiven if he pointed out certain dangers, which might be distant, but which were still real, if it was the object of the right hon. Gentleman to foster the existing Militia system. The first of those dangers was connected with the officering of the force. It was proposed to introduce into it captains of 20 years' service in the Regular Army. That being so, he wanted to know what was to be the system of promotion in the Militia generally. As regarded its officering, it was an exceptional service. It was a seniority service of a particular kind, inasmuch as the seniority was not tempered by service in the field, by Staff appointments, or by brevet rank, and inasmuch as it terminated abruptly at the grade of lieutenant colonel. Up to the present the difficulties arising from such a state of things had not become very prominent. There had been an exceptional absence of blocking, because for the last 10 or 12 years the service had been made so entirely unpopular by the action of successive Governments, that there had been the greatest difficulty in finding officers to enter it at all. Officers passed, therefore, with comparative rapidity through the junior grades, and a deadlock of promotion had not as yet been arrived at. The right hon. Gentleman 1366 had been successful in filling up the junior ranks, but the inevitable result would be that within a certain time, be it 5, or 10, or 20 years, a block of promotion would come, and we should have captains of 60, and gay young subalterns of 40 and 50. If to that were super-added the system of bringing in officers from the Line, serious difficulty and great danger would result to the Militia service. He, however, did not at all object to a certain number of professional officers being brought into the Militia from the Line, but everything depended upon the proportion in which they were introduced. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would afford some explanation on that point, in order to relieve the anxiety of many deserving officers in the Militia. Adverting to the proposed system of localization, which in the main he approved, he must point out that there was another danger to the Militia which, though not so prominent, was quite as real, and that was this—the permanent Staff of the Militia was the backbone of the force, and under this system the permanent Staff would really cease to be militiamen, and would become members of the depôt. For 11 months of the year the permanent Staff would have no connection with the Militia; and, indeed, with nothing but the depôt. They might, under these circumstances, come to think the training of the Militia an interruption to the ordinary depôt duties, and they might also practice upon the men to induce them to join the Line battalion. If that danger were not obviated, it would result in breaking down the old regimental spirit of the Militia. It might, indeed, for a few years stimulate recruiting for the Line, but it would be found to interrupt enlistment in the Militia; the officers also, it was to be feared, would drop off, and finally the depôt centre would come to be simply a large recruiting establishment for the Line. No doubt, many officers of the Line would look upon the breaking-up of the Militia, not as a loss, but as a gain, because they looked upon the Militia as an obstacle in the way of recruiting for the Regular Army. He believed himself that that was a great fallacy, and that the Militia was the necessary complement to our system of voluntary enlistment, and the source of great strength to the country. Under our Militia system the country 1367 obtained the service of 150,000 men—a force which could be easily expanded in time of need to 200,000, who were perfectly willing to subject themselves, in time of peace, to drill and to military discipline and to the Mutiny Act for a period which enabled them to become practical working soldiers, content at its expiration to return to their civil pursuits, while in time of war they would be embodied, and so become a real addition to the standing Army of the country. It might be objected that the Militia could not be regarded as an addition to our standing Army, because even in time of war they were not bound to serve abroad; but the force had never insisted upon that limitation to their service, and in the time of the Irish rebellion at the end of the last century and the beginning of the present, of the Peninsula War, of the Crimean War, and of the Indian Mutiny, large numbers of the Militia regiments had volunteered to serve abroad. Under those circumstances, Her Majesty was as much entitled to count in time of war upon the services of the Militia at home and abroad as she was upon the Guards. He regretted to see that the right hon. Gentleman, although in the Act of last year he had taken power to call out the Militia for six months in the year, had made no provision for extending the period of their training beyond the 28 days hitherto allotted to that purpose.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he would inform the hon. and gallant Gentleman that it was proposed to extend the time for training the Militia.
§ MAJOR WALKER
said, he was gratified at hearing that assurance from the right hon. Gentleman, and trusted he might also hear from him that means had been taken to give adequate professional instruction to officers in the Militia.
§ MR. CARDWELL
explained that it was expected that the establishment of local centres would afford the Militia officers the opportunity of obtaining the best possible instruction.
§ MAJOR WALKER
said, he must again thank the right hon. Gentleman for the statement, though he could not find anything either in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman or in the Estimates to show that there would be a definite plan of improvement. The officers were the weak part of the Militia force, and that 1368 both in respect of quantity and quality. In the Regular Army there were three officers per company, whilst in the Militia there were now only two. The Militia officer, too, when he received his commission, had to attend an annual drill of 27 days, whilst everything else in the way of instruction was entirely optional with him. He might, if he chose, go to a school of instruction, but he would do so on very "mean terms." If he did not go, what chance would he have of making himself effective? Examinations, it was true, were promised; but a high standard of professional attainments could not be applied to men who had only 27 days' training in the year. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman had some remedy for that.
§ MR. CARDWELL
explained that the Vote for Schools of Instruction had been raised from £1,500 to £4,000.
§ MAJOR WALKER
said, he was aware of that fact; but thought that would not sufficiently provide for the requirements of the Militia officers. It was very important that men who had to drill troops, and might have to command them in the field, should master the details of military science. He had dwelt on that point as one comparatively little known, and his criticisms had been offered in no unfriendly spirit to the right hon. Gentleman, who, he was sure, had the welfare of the Army at heart.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
said, that it was true that about £1,000,000 had been saved in the present Estimates, but it was saved principally because of stores not having been ordered. To have that matter clearly understood, it had been suggested that each year the stock of all the stores in hand should be taken, but he was afraid that would be impossible; because the waste in stores chiefly arose from the fact, that implements of war became obsolete, and for such depreciation in value it would be unfair to make the Department responsible. As to the localization of the Army, it was needless for him to add his tribute of praise to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, for the military skill with which he had handled the question. The scheme appeared to allow of considerable future development. Some, indeed, thought a shorter service system should have been introduced; but the establishment of 1369 local camps was obviously the first essential, and he believed that eventually the defence of the country would rest with men of six or twelve months' training. Public opinion, however, would have to ripen on that point. Turning to the artillery, the branch of the service with which he was best acquainted, the right hon. Gentleman had done something for the officers, by promising to make the captains of batteries majors. Officers of the Line obtained their majorities, on the average, after 18 years' service, and cavalry officers after 14 years' service. Artillery captains would wish to get their majorities in a period between those two terms. On another point—the establishment of the advanced class for the artillery—he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had been quite so successful. It was true that the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) had recommended the Government to give up manufacturing altogether; but even in that case officers of technical skill would have to inspect and control the matériel supplied. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to do away with, or discourage the employment of, the Artillery Volunteers as field artillery. This seemed to him (Captain Nolan) a mistake, for though the Volunteer artillery could never equal the Regular field artillery without giving up their civil pursuits, that was no good reason for destroying it, as they might form a useful Reserve. How glad would M. Gambetta have been of such a force in the late war. To abolish them was like taking out a tooth, which, though not missed at the time, would be missed when the other teeth dropped out. As an Irish Member, he might be allowed to take exception to the proportion of local centres proposed to be assigned to Ireland. If that proportion were to accord with the number of battalions actually serving in Ireland, it ought to be rather more than a fourth. In recruiting power, the two countries, according to the hon. Member for Hackney, were in the proportion of 22 to 9. That would give Ireland rather less than a third, but more than a fourth, of these local centres. Take it by the population, the population of Ireland was 5,400,000, a little more than a sixth of the United Kingdom. So that whatever way you looked at it, the proportion of local centres that Ireland ought to obtain should vary 1370 from a fourth to a sixth. But the proportion given to Ireland by the scheme of the Government was about a ninth nominally—the actual proportion being really much less, as, according to that scheme, the greater part of the artillery would have their centres in England. Consequently, Ireland got a very much smaller share of these local centres than the rest of the United Kingdom. Such an arrangement would be a real pecuniary loss to Ireland, and he did not hesitate to say that she was entitled in fairness to five or six more of these local centres. The effect that would be produced on foreign countries, also, by thus making a difference between Ireland and the other parts of Great Britain could not but be very unfortunate.
said, he could not support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms). The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had always been asked to bring forward a scheme for the reorganization of the Army, and now that he had done so an attempt was made to cripple it. As to that scheme, he would confine his observations to the service to which he belonged. As an old Militia officer, and knowing what the feelings of Militia officers out of the House were, he offered his thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for what he had already done—not in this scheme—for the Militia. The right hon. Gentleman had given to the officers an opportunity of learning their duty, and of becoming fit to go into the Army; and by some little addition to the pay of the officers he had added very much to their comfort. He, however, confessed it was with some regret, and also considerable surprise, that he saw no name of an officer of the Militia service appended to the Report on which the right hon. Gentleman had made this scheme. If his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Wilson-Patten), who thoroughly understood the Militia service, or some other gentleman in that service, who could have stated the wants and feelings of that service, had been consulted, he believed that course would have been satisfactory, not only to the Militia, but also to the country. He thought the best part of the right hon. Gentleman's plan with reference to the Militia was the abolition of the 1371 billeting system. He had always felt that if we were to have a local force at all, we must not disregard local interests, and he was happy to find that opinion had been expressed by one of the highest personages in the kingdom in a Paper laid on the Table of the House two days ago; but he protested against the complete go-by which the plan gave to the commanding officers of the Militia regiments in favour of the brigadiers of the respective local centres. True, that when the training was over, and the commanding officer and the troops had returned home, the former would still be allowed to imagine that he was in command of the regiment, but in all real respects the power would be taken from him. Now, he believed that, except in regard to the billeting, the present Militia system worked extremely well. The Duke of Wellington, a very short time before his death, had spoken on the Militia Bill, and had told the House of Lords that the men from the Militia who had been sent out to him in his wars had been well-disciplined men, disposed and able to be an honour to their profession and do their country good service. The Militia enabled us to carry on the Crimean War and to put down the Indian Mutiny, and thus rendered great service to the country. It had been said that the scheme of the Government was a tentative scheme, but it must be looked upon as a whole and judged by its results.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, he wished, as a civilian Member, to give his opinion on the Estimates and the question now before the House, for it should be remembered that, after all, it was civilians who had to find the money. He knew that anybody who got up now-a-days in that House to speak strongly in favour of economy and retrenchment might be truly said to lead a forlorn hope; but that was all the more reason that they who held that principle should declare the faith that was in them. At the close of the Session of 1870, when Her Majesty's Government thought fit to increase the numbers of our military men, he ventured to oppose that; but there were only seven hon. Members who could be found to vote against that increase. When the great war broke out on the Continent, he thought that was a time when we wanted military men less than at another period, because those who 1372 were engaged in fighting would have less opportunity of attacking us. But that was not the view of the Government or of the House, and he remembered that the First Lord of the Admiralty, in defending the policy of the Government about that time, said that while war was raging in Europe it was our duty to keep our Army and Navy on a war footing. If that doctrine were sound then, when there was no war, surely it was a time for reducing our armaments. He was not going now to use language as strong as that of the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), who, when a Member of the present Cabinet, said that no Government was deserving the confidence and support of the people of this country which could not carry on the administration in a manner consistent with the dignity and security of the nation for a smaller sum than £70,000,000 a-year. What he wished to do was simply to state, and to endeavour to prove, that we were sufficiently safe without the large number of land forces which the Government called upon the Committee to vote. We had lately seen a great war on the Continent concluded without our having taken any part in it—a novel and delightful thing. We had adopted, as we were told, a policy of non-intervention; more than that, we were informed the first day of the Session, in the Gracious Speech from the Throne, that Her Majesty continued to receive assurances of friendship from all foreign Sovereigns. Well, that being the case, was it not perfectly extraordinary that the Minister for War should come down and ask the House to maintain a larger defensive force than we had ever before kept up in time of peace? He wanted to draw from the Government some explanation why that enormous force was required. We had been told by the Prime Minister that there never was a time when this country was so secure in her naval superiority; we had been told in the House of Lords that an American Commodore had expressed his admiration at the high state of efficiency in which he found our Navy, and the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Brassey) had stated that our Navy was superior to the united Navies of the whole world. Well, under these circumstances, down came the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell), and asked for more men. Lord Derby made a speech during the 1373 Recess, in which he said, with his usual sagacity—Before you can reasonably make up your minds as to what sort of Army and Navy you are to have, you must first have formed some definite idea as to what you wish or expect them to do.There was one of those pithy remarks of the Leader of the Opposition which lived in the mind of the country, and which he begged now to quote. The right hon. Gentleman said—"Expenditure depends on policy." Now, he wanted to know what the policy of the Government was which led them to demand these large Estimates and large armaments? He had said that the policy of non-intervention was now generally adopted, but he had some doubts on the subject arising from remarks which had fallen from Members of the Government at different times. In August, 1870, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government spoke of the Army as—A force available for the defence of these shores, or for any great European purposes.Again, last year, the same right hon. Gentleman declined to admit—That the military establishments of the country should be limited, absolutely and rigidly, to what is required for the defence of its shores; our duties," he added, "extend somewhat beyond the limits of our territories. We may be called upon to perform duties over and above what pertains to the immediate safety of the country.And the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland told his constituents towards the close of 1871—Our Army is not only to be 'a defensive force to secure us against invasion,' but to be 'a standing Army, well organized, and capable of striking a blow in any part of the world.'He hoped the House of Commons would not endorse such a sentiment as that. But speaking of defence, against whom was defence required to be exercised? Against France? The idea was ridiculous. Against Prussia? We had no quarrel with Prussia, and if we had, could be in no danger of invasion from her. When we saw those preparations, so far from having any fear of being invaded ourselves, we ought to ask the Government, who it was that we were going to invade? The Government would probably say we wanted this large force to prevent panics. But panic from its very nature was an unreasonable thing, and on that account, perhaps, the Government might say—"Let us take unreasonable means to allay it." But 1374 we had done that and all sorts of foolish things before, and we had not succeeded. Members knew perfectly well how the fortifications were to make us secure; how the Militia were to make us secure; and as for the Volunteers, they told us day after day at public dinners what great things they were to do. When we got the Volunteers we were informed that our war expenditure would be reduced; but the fact was, when a cry of alarm was got up we ignored everything that had been done. By the course the Government were now taking, they were turning the people from industrial pursuits to military purposes, and making the country look ridiculous in the eyes of the whole world. He wished just to call the attention of the House to what occurred ten years ago. On the 3rd of June, 1862, the following Resolution was moved in this House:—That, in the opinion of this House, the National Expenditure is capable of reduction without compromising the safety, the independence, or the legitimate influence of the country.That Resolution was moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) and seconded by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter); and it was supported by his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose declared that we could not go on much longer squeezing £70,000,000 a-year out of the taxpayers of this country; but the hon. Gentleman was sitting there on the Treasury bench, one of the squeezers now. He appealed to his hon. and right hon. Friends to show if they could that the country was in greater danger now than was the case in 1862. In default of that, the Committee ought to oppose armaments so needless, expenditure so extravagant, and a policy so injurious to the real interests of the country.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
remarked, that from the hon. Member who had just sat down (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) such a speech as he had delivered was not to be wondered at, seeing that the hon. Member, in July, 1870, led the forlorn hope who, not knowing what might happen to Belgium or on the Continent, voted against an increase of our Army. The hon. Member had dwelt on the absence of disorder; but why, if there was no disorder, did he come down with a Bill which would certainly create it? 1375 With regard to the Motion before the Committee, the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) had not made out a substantial case for the reduction he proposed. He appeared disposed to abolish the Militia, unmindful of the services which that force rendered the country in the Peninsula, at Waterloo, and in the Crimea, and which they would be ready to render at any future time. As to imitating the Prussian system, would the hon. Gentleman, as a man of business, compare this country with Prussia? We exported annually £207,000,000 worth of goods, and our Army expenditure was not an excessive insurance for that trade. Surely it was better that our people should be employed in industrial pursuits than that a large number should be drawn for compulsory military service? The hon. Member had been a strong advocate of short enlistments and of passing men into the Reserve; but how could a Reserve be formed if there were no men to be thus passed? As to the abolition of purchase, there was nothing in the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War which could not have been carried out under the purchase system. He hoped the abolition would have the effect which the right hon. Gentlemen anticipated, and he was sure it would not deteriorate the character of our officers, who, whether they had entered the Army by purchase or without it, would, he was sure, faithfully perform their duty. He adhered to the opinion he expressed ten days ago, that this was such a scheme as the country had been looking for; that it would find the men when wanted, and that the men would know the duty they had to perform. Some of its details might require improvement; but if the scheme was properly extended it would prove satisfactory to the country, and deserving of the support of the House. He had regretted to hear from the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) that, under no circumstances, were we to be called upon to send an Army abroad—as, for instance, to Canada. Surely, we were bound in honour to support our colonies as long as we had any, and he was sure the great majority of the House would be ready to defend Canada should the necessity arise? Much depended on the depôt centre; and he should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman how the 1376 four extra companies, which were to be formed in case of necessity, were to be officered. As to the recruiting for the Artillery there was naturally more difficulty on account of the size and class of men required than in recruiting for the Line. The hon. Member for Glamorganshire, though an advocate for short enlistments, told him the other day that the men of one or two of the infantry regiments forming part of the procession to St. Paul's were so small he could hardly believe they were British soldiers. It was obviously very important that in each district proper recruits should be obtained expressly for the cavalry and the artillery. At all events, the scheme of the Government ought to have a fair trial. The Secretary for War must not forget the esprit de corps of the different regiments, and in linking two together he must take care of their respective susceptibilities, for some of them had peculiarities which must not be ignored. He believed that the scheme of the Goverment would commend itself to the country generally, and that in the Army both officers and men, if they saw the scheme was for the general good of the whole British service, would cheerfully endeavour to follow out the rules and regulations which from time to time might be laid down for them.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, that while prepared to vote for the proposed reduction in the number of men, he dissented from almost every portion of the speech in which that reduction was moved, and sympathized rather with the development of the scheme of the Government. The proposed reduction would bring down the number of men to 113,649, compared with 120,790 in 1847–8, the starting point of a valuable Return laid before the House, and the year when Mr. Cobden moved a reduction of the national expenditure by £10,000,000. Since then had occurred a succesion of panics, to which allusion had been made, and we had greatly increased our Reserve forces. In 1847–8 there were practically no Reserve or Auxiliary forces at all, for the Yeomanry and disembodied Militia numbered only a few thousand men. We had now 300,000 men; the Volunteers made the total 467,000; and the number liable for service abroad was 146,500. Either our Volunteers and Militia were men on whom no reliance was to be placed, or else the number of 1377 Regulars considered sufficient in 1847–8 ought to be considered sufficient now. Again, we were very much stronger now than we were then in those branches of the Regular Army which could not be easily extemporized. At that time there were in the Royal Horse Artillery 616 men and 451 horses, compared with 2,995 men and 1,978 horses now; and of cavalry of the Line there were then 7,078 men and 4,978 horses, compared with 11,066 men and 6,656 horses now. The Royal Artillery had been increased from 10,615 men and 590 horses to 19,337 men and 3,828 horses. In supporting the Amendment he desired to reduce, not the artillery or the cavalry, but the infantry of the Line. We now had fewer soldiers in the colonies than we formerly had. In 1847–8 there were 41,266 in the colonies, and now there were 25,000. Therefore, in 1847–8 120,000 men gave 80,000 men for home defence, while now 133,000 men would leave considerably over 100,000 for home defence. The policy of the Government in withdrawing men from the colonies might be carried further, for there were 1,964 in Nova Scotia; and when the Canada Loan Bill was before the House, he understood the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to say that the passing of it would relieve us from the obligation to keep troops in Canada. We had 2,163 soldiers at Bermuda, and a number scattered over the West Indies; and if the Government would only carry out further their policy of concentrating troops at home, we should be justified in further reducing the number of the standing Army. He believed that we might readily reduce our military expenditure by £3,000,000.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
said, that the whole of the opposition to the proposal of the Government had proceeded from hon. Members sitting near him below the gangway. Now, he had the honour, or dishonour, to sit below the gangway, and he called upon the House not to entertain the Motion for a reduction of the British forces, which maintained the honour of the country. It had been proposed by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. A. Herbert) that the Swiss system should be adopted; but he believed that the Swiss themselves were not content with their military organization and as for the Prussian system, this country would not stand it for one 1378 minute. He was sorry to see that the hon. Members sitting behind him thought they could not consult the wishes of their constituents without disarming the country and making it ridiculous in the eyes of Europe. Those hon. Members appealed to the weaknesses of their constituents, and cared more for their prejudices and weaknesses than for the honour of the country. He believed that the Government proposal would recommend itself to the sound sense of the nation, and he earnestly hoped that he should be supported on both sides of the House when he begged the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War not to listen to the rhodomontade of the hon. Gentlemen sitting on the back benches below the gangway.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
supported the proposal of the Government because it provided barracks for the Militia troops during training, created a local connection between the Line regiments and the Militia, and established two-battalion regiments. He, however, thought that with regard to the linking of regiments together more attention might have been given to local circumstances, and he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would have no objection to make further inquiry on that point. In reference to the officers commanding the depôt centres, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of them as lieutenant-colonels; but he apprehended that colonels commanding regiments who had served five years would be selected to command these depôts. The Control department was extending and increasing, but it appeared to him that it was established on a wrong principle; for the Control officers were not Staff officers in the ordinary sense, and they were both administrative and executive officers. He regretted to see that we had not yet made that progress towards a Reserve which was desirable; but he did not wish that should be done at the expense of the Militia. He agreed that it was very desirable to have a larger number of men pass through the Army into the Reserves; but he could not agree that it was desirable to get rid of the Militia before tie Reserve had been formed. During the manœuvres last autumn he had the opportunity of conversing with 1379 some very distinguished foreign officers, who said we ought not to trust to our Militia. He told them we must trust to the Militia, as we could not have a standing Army, as they had, forced by conscription. We were bound to make the best we could of it. He hoped the scheme of the Government, by training them in the winter for three or four months, and by giving them the advantage of soldiers of the Line alongside of them, would be the means of bringing the Militia up to a much higher point of efficiency than they had yet attained, and it was because he thought this would be the result, that he cordially supported the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. ANDERSON
thought there was a great deal in the scheme of the Government to be approved; but in one point there was a lamentable failure. Economy had been entirely ignored. £3,000,000 were added to the Army Estimates last year, and this year only £1,000,000 of those £3,000,000 had been reduced. Two years ago, under pressure of a panic, the House agreed to a proposal to grant an additional 20,000 men; but it was never intended that the increase should be a permanent one. Notwithstanding this, however, no proposal for a reduction had been made. Another matter which appeared to him to be wanting in the Government proposals was that there was no scheme for the retirement of general officers, and no attempt had been made to do away with the sinecure colonelcies. The country would be led to believe, if this continued, that there was a sinister influence at headquarters which baffled the right hon. Gentleman in his best intentions. They would be led to believe that every position he gained, he gained at the point of the bayonet. [A laugh.] Hon. Members might laugh; but matters were constantly coming to light to show that there was some semblance of truth in this belief. Could any hon. Member believe that the right hon. Gentleman would of his own action have gone to the Treasury and asked for a pension for the late Military Secretary, or was it not more probable he was prompted to do so by other influences? The right hon. Gentleman was probably not aware of the way these things lowered him in the eyes of the country. He had that day cut an extract from a newspaper which 1380 spoke of a Royal row with the Treasury, and pointed out that a Royal Duke had endeavoured to get a pension for his Military Secretary by going first to the Prime Minister and then to the Secretary for War; but, fortunately, we had a Chancellor of the Exchequer who was very jealous of the public purse, and it was peremptorily refused. He had reason to suppose the facts stated were true, as he had asked a Question in the House on the subject; and, if so, the country ought to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), who assisted him in watching over the public purse, for preventing what would otherwise have been a job. The only claim there was for a pension was that the office had been held for 12 years at a high salary, and the right hon. Gentleman said it should only be held for five years at a very much reduced sum, and had so arranged it in his scheme, thereby committing himself to that opinion. These were the reasons which prevented the right hon. Gentleman's scheme of re-organization from having the entire confidence of the country. He wished to make one other observation. The hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell) said that the Volunteer training was infinitely inferior to that of the Militia. He must express a contrary opinion. He hardly knew any point in which it was inferior, and he did know one in which it was very much superior—namely, the point of using intelligently and skilfully the weapon they were armed with. The Militia were not taught to shoot, and the Volunteers were, and if the hon. Member doubted it, let him turn to the Estimates, and he would see that for the same number of men the cost of ammunition for the Volunteers came to £60,000, and that of the Militia to £7,000.
§ MR. D. DALRYMPLE
supported the scheme. He differed from the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) with regard to Canada. It was short sighted policy to leave Canada to her own resources for her defence.
§ LORD ELCHO moved that the Chairman report Progress.
§ MR. CARDWELL
thought it was rather early to report Progress. The Committee, he had no doubt, would hear the noble Lord very patiently.
§ MR. EASTWICK
hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would consent to report Progress. A great number of hon. Gentlemen were anxious to address the House on the Motion, and, in addition to that, they must anticipate a long statement from the right hon. Gentleman in reply.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday.