§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £866,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Clothing Establishments, Services, and Supplies, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM (Winchester)
I was precluded by the Forms of the House from moving the Amendment, Sir, which stood in my name on the Paper of the House the other day; but I believe it is understood that a general discussion upon the Army Estimates is to be taken to-day. The Vote now under discussion is that for clothing; and the understanding was that a general discussion should be taken upon that Vote. Before proceeding to 1810 make some remarks upon the Motion of which I had given Notice, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War will allow me to congratulate him upon the direction, which I consider is the right one, that he has taken in regard to the number of men he has estimated to be necessary during the coming year. I believe that it is an honest attempt on the part of the Government to grapple with the question which every soldier and everyone who has given his attention to the matter has, almost without intermittence, advocated for many years past. But in saying that it must not be supposed that we are satisfied that enough has been done in that direction. It is, no doubt, a step in the right direction; but it is only a partial one, and one which in the future will require a considerable increase. The increase in the number of men is simply one step; but what we say is that we require not only more men, but more regiments and more units, if the severe strain to which the Army system has been subjected during the last few years is to be relaxed. We require not only, as I said before, more men, but a greater number of units. And you have now, in the year 1866, or will have in 1886–7, notwithstanding the increase proposed in the present Estimates, a fewer number of men than you had 20 years ago, although since 1866 you have largely extended the area of your operations. During the last five years you have an average of 3,000 men more in Ireland than during the five years which preceded 1866. You have now something like 18,000 men employed in Egypt; you have close upon 10,000 additional men in the new stations at Quetta and elsewhere on the Frontiers of Afghanistan, and a largely-increased force in South Africa; and yet with all this, and with an addition of 10,000 men in Burmah, in regard to which you cannot look for a reduction for a number of years to come—with all these additional stations and even additional countries to be provided for, you have now the same number of units which you had in the year 1866. You are trying to do all this work over this increased area of country without the addition of a single unit to the force you had then. I maintain that this involves an undue straining of our military system. It is placing additional work upon 1811 both the men and the officers, even supposing that your units are efficient. Unfortunately that is not the case. Your battalions in India are, no doubt, efficient; those in the Colonies and in Egypt are only partially so; but those at home are wholly and utterly inefficient. You have 12 battalions first on the roster for foreign service on an increased establishment; but if they are in the condition in which I recently saw one of these battalions in England, with a paper strength of 916 rank and file, but which had sent out some 180 men to its foreign battalion in the course of a few months, and although it may be ordered on foreign service at any moment, consists only of some 730 effective men—or so-called effective men—because out of those 730 there are some 400 under one year's service, 260 under six months' service, and 400 under 20 years of age. Consequently, the bulk of the battalion are recruits, most of whom are under 20 years of age. Can any man in his senses call that an efficient fighting machine? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, following the precedent set by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), who now sits behind him, when he was asked recently for information touching the strength of some of the battalions that were first for foreign service, prudently declined to give the information—I say prudently, because it is no doubt prudent that others should not be in a position to see us as we see ourselves. At the same time, I say that it is a position which the House and the country should fully understand and appreciate, and it is a position in which we should not be allowed to continue. We are living in a fool's Paradise. I am not, however, going to be satisfied with the figures of one battalion alone—I will take the whole of the five battalions which now form one of the largest garrisons we have in England. These five battalions have on paper a strength of 3,450 men; but their actual strength is not more than 2,400—being 1,000 men short of their established strength. These five battalions within the last 12 months of the trooping season—have sent out to their battalions abroad no fewer than 1,500 men, being three-fifths of their present total effective establishment, and what would be, if they were up to 1812 their full strength, three-sevenths of the entire body. Now, Sir, the Committee will be further startled to hear that within the past week, and it is only a sample of the previous ones, that these five so-called efficient paper fighting machines were able to turn out for garrison and other duties 398 men; being less than half of the strength of one full battalion on its foreign establishment. Now, I think that the Committee may gather from these figures, as to the accuracy of which I have not the slightest doubt, a fair idea of the state of the rest of the battalions in the Army at home; and hon. Members may be able to form an opinion of the state to which the whole Army has been reduced. I think that a more damning condemnation of the system under which the Army has been groaning so long could not be given than is supplied by the figures I have quoted. The system was well described by the late Adjutant General of the Forces in giving evidence before the Committee which sat some five years ago, in which his opinion was extracted upon the system of one battalion feeding another, or of men being transferred from one battalion to fill up another. He stated that a more pernicious system than that now in vogue the wit of man could not devise. That opinion is one which will be endorsed by every man and officer in the Service. This abominable invention of one battalion feeding another, to the entire destruction of the efficiency of the home battalion, has met with the universal condemnation of every officer who has commanded an Infantry Division, Brigade, or Battalion; aye, and not only of every commissioned officer, but of every non-commissioned officer and private as well. It is a system which is utterly destructive of all efficiency in the battalions, and in the Army at home. It is one which destroys all interest on the part of the officers in their men, and of the men in their officers. It unsettles the men; it makes the officers discontented, and it is utterly destructive of that esprit de corps which ought to exist in the Service, and which has been the means of winning for the country many a fight at long odds. An extract from the letter of a commanding officer, which I will take the liberty of reading to the Committee, is only a speci 1813 men, and a fair sample of many which I have received, not only from officers who are now in command, but from officers who have been in command, and from officers of a rank senior and junior to those now in command. This officer is in command of a battalion serving at home, and he says—The system of one battalion feeding others is absolutely destructive of all efficiency. It unsettles young soldiers, and turns every home battalion into a very expensive training depôt. It must be done away with.Not only by letters, but in conversations which I have had with other officers, that opinion has been endorsed by everyone to whom I have spoken. In 1879 the Committee, known as "Lord Airey's Committee," was appointed to investigate this and other kindred matters. That Committee, describing the condition of two battalions which had suddenly been sent abroad and brought up to war strength, as all the Home Army would have to be in the case of emergency at the present moment—that Committee, in describing their condition, said—It can only be described as being such that if their services had been immediately required in the field their employment would have been calculated to court disaster. In fact, they were not such troops as could be properly entrusted with the protection of the interests of the British Empire, or with the maintenance of its honour.What stronger evidence could the country have than the deliberately expressed opinion of 12 or 13 of the most experienced officers in the Service? Lord Airey's Committee further reported—and I quote the opinion of the Committee freely, because I do not wish the Committee to suppose that I am intruding unsupported views and opinions of my own upon it; but I wish to show what the opinions are of officers of very great experience, and of much greater length of service than myself—and to whose views the Members of this House would do well to listen—Lord Airey's Committee, I say, further reported in favour of training all recruits at training depôts in place of the present system, which they say is, in their opinion, most unsuitable. They also recommend that, once posted, no man should be liable to be removed without his consent; and in the concluding paragraph but one of their Report they say—With a view to prevent the drafting of men from one regiment for service in another to the 1814 cessation of a system by which one regiment serves as the depôt for another and for the re-establishment.I would ask the Committee to mark these words, for it is manifest that Lord Airey's Committee considered that that esprit de corps which formerly prevailed had departed—For the re-establishment (they say) of esprit de corps in, and efficiency of, regiments, the present system of linking should be done away with.In saying that the system of linking should be done away with, they had previously explained what they meant by linking or the transfer of officers and men from one battalion to another; and they expressly stated that they were not attacking, any more than I am, the territorial system which was not in vogue at the time of their Report. The territorial system may be a good one, and I am not to be understood as saying anything against it. What I contend is, that every regiment should consist of three practical units. At the present time it consists of one actual unit and two mythical units, the actual one abroad in a state of complete efficiency, another battalion at home in a state of inefficiency, and a skeleton depôt of 50 men which is utterly useless for all military purposes; and if the home battalion is to continue to usurp its functions, it might, for all the use it is, be done away with. I have said that each regiment should consist of three units; and whether the depôt should be an amalgamated or combined depôt of different regiments, as recommended by Lord Airey's Committee, or whether each regiment should have its own depôt in its own territorial district, are matters of minor consideration comparatively speaking. I am aware that some officers advocate the principle of the home battalion enlisting its own recruits. I am not prepared to say that that would not possibly be the best system, provided the recruits are retained and kept in the battalion after enlistment. That, however, I consider a question of minor detail. As far as my own individual opinion goes, I believe that the old system of a depôt belonging to a regiment itself which is not brought into contact or into connection with another regiment is the true and proper system ot adopt. Some such system as that we shall have to revert to if the efficiency of the whole Army is to be restored. The 1815 system which is provided for in the present Estimates, where both the battalions are abroad the depôts at home to have a strength of 600 men, is, in my opinion, one which ought to be followed in all cases, whether there are two battalions abroad, or one abroad and the other at home. But whether it is that, or whether the system of permitting the battalion to enlist and retain its own recruits, is, as I said before, a matter of comparatively small importance. The great point which I wish to impress upon the Committee and the country is, that it is absolutely necessary that we should not deplete the home battalions and destroy their efficiency by turning them into training depôts. I and others who hold the same view as that which I have myself advocated are of opinion that there should be an increase in the number of men at all depôts. I am aware, of course, that this will involve an increased expenditure, and the Committee over which Lord Airey presided was also fully alive to the fact, and stated so in their Report. I have no doubt that they had in their minds what has been running in my own—namely, that there should be no question to a rich country like England equal to that of the absolute efficiency of her small Army; and where the safety, welfare, and honour of the country are concerned, the question of the paltry saving of a few hundreds or thousands in the year should not be put in the balance. It is of the first importance to a country which has a small Army, as compared with the Armies of other countries, that the Army she possesses should be kept in the highest possible state of efficiency; and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, who has taken the first step in a right direction, has now an opportunity of associating his name with a scheme of reform which I believe will earn for him, not only the gratitude of the Army, but also of every man who is a well-wisher of his country. He will find that he is amply supported by the Reports of various Committees—Lord Airey's, and others which have sat on this and kindred matters—and by the Returns and figures to which he has access. The Report of Lord Airey's Committee was a most exhaustive one. It sat for nine months, and examined no less than 72 witnesses, ranging from the Commander-in-Chief down to the 1816 sergeant-majors of several regiments and depôts. The evidence extended over 700 pages, and was presented to Parliament in the year 1881; and the Report was couched in the most unequivocal terms. No notice whatever has been taken of the Report of that Committee since it was presented, either by the Government or by Parliament; and I say that if it is admitted that such an evil exists which makes it necessary to appoint a Committee consisting of the most experienced and capable officers in the Service, it is not treating that body with anything like the respect which is due to the labour they have expended upon it if their Report is simply to be pigeon-holed. To treat such a Report as so much waste paper means withholding from the country the reforms which the country has a right to expect will be applied by the Executive Authority, under the advice of men who have deliberately given their recommendations as the outcome of a lifelong experience and observation. Before the debate closes, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to say that he is alive to the vital importance of the question, and that he will give the Committee and the country some assurance that he will continue to look into the matter, and to see what steps can be taken, before the Estimates for next year are framed, to bring about what I am confident he will find to be a state of circumstances in accordance with the universal opinion of soldiers. I am not attacking the territorial system. I am not touching upon the question of long or short service. They are questions of policy upon which a civilian is as capable of giving an opinion as a soldier; but the question which I have brought before the Committee is one on which only the soldier who has served, or is now serving, and who is acquainted with the wants, the wishes, the hopes, and the essential qualities of the soldier is competent of expressing an opinion. A soldier is fully aware of what can or cannot be done in practice; and I think that the opinion which has been or probably will be enunciated by others besides myself will be one which every soldier in the Army will adopt. So far as the Government are concerned, they cannot afford absolutely to ignore the opinion of old and trusted servants solemnly and deliberately given; and I 1817 hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell the Committee he will give to the subject that consideration which I am sure he will admit it deserves.
MR. MAGNIAC (Bedfordshire, N., Biggleswade)
I wish to call the attention of the Committee to a Return which has been given in regard to a portion of this subject, and I desire to appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War for some sort of explanation in regard to this Clothing Vote. Hon. Members may not have inquired into this Vote, and I think they will be somewhat surprised to find that, although this is called a Vote for clothing the Army, it really includes many other subjects. In fact, it is the entire Clothing Department of the country. So far as the Government is concerned, it comprises not only the Army, but the General Post Office, the Metropolitan Police, the Irish Constabulary, the Custom House, the Board of Trade, Colonial Governments, India, and, in fact, every official in the service of the country. In any other country, I suppose, except a commercial country like this, these so-called clothing establishments would be under commercial management; but it seems to be supposed that because this is called the Army Clothing Establishment and the Army Clothing Vote, that therefore it is necessary that this trading establishment should be managed by colonels in the Army; and I am led to suppose that this is so in consequence of certain reports and rumours of complaints in regard to the matter which has been brought under the notice of the House. The House, as a matter of fact, granted a Return on my Motion, and that Return, which I have already received, is signed by Colonel Ramsey. [An hon. MEMBER: Who is a private gentleman.] Well, I may have been under a misapprehension with regard to that Return; but I do not think that it will very much affect the point I wish to make; because, whether the Director of the Clothing Establishment is a colonel in the Army or only a private gentleman, I do not think that it is less evident on the face of the accounts that a great amount of improvement is capable of being effected in this Establishment. When I moved for the Return I carefully considered the terms in which I couched it, and the House agreed to it. That Return has now been 1818 presented, and I regret to say that it is entirely a misleading document. I think it is scarcely respectful to the House that a Return ordered by the House should not only be contrary to the letter of the Motion upon which it was granted, but also entirely opposed to the spirit of the Motion itself. The Return for which I moved was intended to give an account of the number of persons employed in the Royal Army Clothing Factory and of the wages which they receive. I believe it is known to everybody that there have been very great complaints in regard to the management of this Factory. I will not say whether those complaints are well or ill-founded; but in moving for the Return I wanted to ascertain if there were any grounds for those complaints. I find from the Return that there are 5,000 persons employed monthly in that Establishment—that is to say, that an average number of 1,200 or 1,300 persons are employed there per week. The information I asked for was to be a Return showing a comparison between the wages paid in the month of February, 1886, and the wages in the same month in 1885; and my object in making that inquiry was to show whether or not it was true that the work was now being conducted on some different system in this Factory, and that the people were being ground down to a lower rate of pay than that which had been previously given. My hon. Friend the Surveyor General of the Ordnance (Mr. Woodall), in answer to a Question put to him, said that it would be found the wages had not been reduced, but that, on the contrary, they were somewhat larger now than were paid in 1885. That is absolutely true in the letter, though it is anything but true in the spirit, of the inquiry that was made. A Return has been given for the year 1884, showing the work done during the past year by the workpeople employed in that Establishment. I think it is well known, as is stated in the Return, that the work itself is only partially taken home. A similar Return to 1886 has been given, showing all the work done in the factory hours, and including that taken home out of the factory hours, and done in what may be called overtime. I find that the average rate of pay of the workpeople employed in this Factory in 1885 was 17s. 11½d. per week; but by the 1819 Return it would appear that the average payment is 18s. 8d. per week; so that I say the Return is true in the letter, but not true in the spirit; and if you eliminate the work done on Sundays, I believe that the average will come out at 16s. 8d., or nearly 6d. a-week less than the payments of last year. I do not mean to say that the workpeople are underpaid or that they are overpaid; but what I do say is that, when a Return is ordered to be given by the House, it ought to be given so that the House may be able to judge of its accuracy. One particular point I had in my mind is this—It was said that a large number of the persons employed were working at what are called starvation prices. My hon. Friend below me (Mr. Woodall) gave a Return in very minute detail, showing the number of persons employed at determined rates and wages, and the Return for the last class shows that a very large number of persons receive no more than 10s. per week. In a Return given so minutely, I am certainly interested to know how persons who receive less than 10s. a-week can manage to exist. Taking 10s. as the minimum, I find that in 1886 559 persons were employed in the Army Clothing Factory who only earned 10s. a-week, while in 1885 the number was 384. So that I cannot help thinking that some alteration has been made in the Regulations of the establishment which has brought an increased number into that class. I have no wish, Sir, in this House to ask that any person should be paid a higher rate of wages than that to which he is fairly entitled. I would not for one moment make a condition of that kind; on the contrary, I think that every Government Establishment should be conducted upon commercial principles; but, at the same time, I maintain that there are certain commercial principles which ought to be adhered to, and that there ought to be a minimum rate of wages for persons employed in the Government Factories, in order to secure that only competent persons should be employed, and that every person employed in a Government Establishment should be able to earn a suitable and sufficient amount of money to maintain him in a respectable condition of life. Now, I believe that no person can rent decent rooms to live in under 4s. 6d. per week; and what I would ask is, how any person can 1820 maintain himself or herself out of 10s. a-week, if he or she has 4s. 6d. to pay for rent? It is altogether impossible; and I can only infer that there is a system of employment by which persons who are practically incompetent to earn an adequate rate of wages are engaged in the Public Service. We all know, from what we read in the newspapers, how easy it is to cause a fall in wages. There is nothing easier; but I think that an evil of that kind ought always to be avoided in an establishment conducted by the Government. No doubt, such an establishment ought to be conducted on commercial principles; but it should be upon a principle which would prevent any person from being ground down and placed in such a position as to produce a public scandal. Of course, this question of wages must always be governed by the value of labour on the spot; but I would seriously urge upon my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War the necessity of giving it full consideration. A claim may be made that the rate of wages should be governed by the wages paid in London. I do not think that that is a fair test. On the contrary, I think that the wages paid should be governed by the rate properly paid in the place in which the labour is obtained. I am quite aware that this argument has been used in favour of a similar rate of wages being paid in the country to that which is paid in London; but I trust that that principle will never be acted upon, because it is quite clear that wages very materially depend on the cost of living, and the cost of living in London, as everybody knows, is much more expensive in London than in any other part of England, Ireland, or Scotland. There is another question which I think ought to be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, and it is that he should not allow this Clothing Establishment to be converted into anything in the nature of a charitable institution. The object is to give satisfaction, and the only way to give satisfaction in an establishment like this is to conduct it not only on commercial principles, but in a spirit of equity and fairness with regard to those who are employed in it. When we come to look at the enormous magnitude of this establishment I think it will be generally admitted that the management can hardly be expected to 1821 be such as would give entire satisfaction. I am quite aware that I may be charged with a desire to increase the expense; but I would ask anybody concerned in commercial affairs whether he thinks that he could conduct a business with a turn over of £1,320,000 by means of a Director, who only receives £1,200 a-year? I do not know how this has been brought about, or how it has occurred that a Director of an establishment like this should only receive £1,200 a-year. I certainly believe that a man who is competent to conduct such an establishment would be worth a great deal more than £1,200 a-year in any manufacturing town in Europe. I am quite aware it may be said that he has a technical assistant at his side. I know that the Assistant Director, whoever he may be, is supposed to be a technical man; but it is very difficult for an outsider to make out who is responsible for anything at all in connection with this establishment. It will be found that the Indian Government receives no less than £270,000 worth of clothing a-year. Who is it who superintends that work? Again, clothing is supplied to the Admiralty and to the Volunteers, and there are many other separate heads in regard to which clothing is issued on terms of repayment, and yet under all of these heads there does not appear to be anyone responsible except the Director of Clothing at £1,200 a-year, with an Assistant Director at £800 a-year. If the assistant is not a technical man then I say he ought to be. A great part of the trade consists in viewing and inspecting clothes which have been bought by contract outside. Anyone acquainted with the woollen trade will be perfectly aware that there are few things which require a more searching examination, or a more competent examiner, than the purchase of woollen clothing. Without a thoroughly competent Director there would be room for any amount of fraud. Only last year, or the year before, we had a great scandal with respect to the purchase of a particular kind of furniture for the Government Offices. That case showed the particular care which was required, and also the necessity for personal and practical knowledge; and if those objects are not secured no amount of technical knowledge in connection with any trade will be of the slightest use whatever. I say that the 1822 Estimates are not sufficient to cover the proper amount of pay which ought to be given to the workpeople, and I think it will be necessary to make some additional charge, although, perhaps, not to a very large extent. Having made these remarks, I ought to explain that the Return which I moved for, and which has been laid upon the Table, I shall not ask the House to print, because I do not think that the information it contains is worth printing. It does not appear to me to contain the information which I required. I hope that in another year the matter will be more fully considered, and that a clear and intelligible Return will be given, so that the House, if it is anxious to know, shall know what is being done, and that no charge of injustice in connection with the payment of starvation prices shall in future be made.
§ GENERAL FRASER (Lambeth, N.)
Sir, the experience of four recent years in command of a Camp of Exercise, during which period some 35 battalions were under my observation, induces me to trespass on the indulgence of the Committee on matters of deep interest to every constituency. The Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting affords complete evidence that the home battalions of the Infantry of the Line on the low establishment—although maintained at a large cost to the country—are utterly useless for garrison duties at home, and unfit for service abroad. This has been the state of the battalions for a long period. The Inspector General of Recruiting remarks—If men are unduly worked, as they always will be in very weak battalions, the Army obtains a bad reputation, and becomes less popular with those to whom we look to fill its ranks.It must be borne in mind that "unduly worked" includes the tour of guard coming round much too quickly, thereby reducing the number of nights in bed to an extent that the medical officers strongly deprecate. Sometimes I have seen guard duty come round so frequently that the men have not had more than three nights in bed, while the medical officers say they require at least five. The home battalions have been reduced to a state of absolute inefficiency by being sacrificed to the feeding of battalions abroad, and to the formation of a Reserve. Many battalions at home 1823 last year, and the year before, were on a nominal establishment of 520 rank and file, which included bandsmen, pioneers, boys, batmen, garrison and regimental employ. And we had to send abroad each year 300 men—at times between 200 and 300 at one draft. A battalion thus situated has never the chance of being practised in the field—for months and months Commanding Officers have no opportunity of parading their regiments—phantom regiments I may call them. The few men who are not recruits—and some regiments have 300 out of 520—are dribbled away in garrison employ, standing orderlies, hospital, fire brigade, Staff officers' servants, and by other causes; and so Commanding Officers have no opportunity of training the officers and men in their duties in the field. The loss of this practice, consequent on the debilitated state of the battalions is most serious; for unless the troops are exercised in the practice of scouting, outpost duties, protection of their flanks, taking advantage of ground, the skill of attack and defence, and other most important duties, they are worse than useless in a campaign. Theoretical instruction is of no use without practice. The addition to the number of men in these battalions proposed in the Estimates will be of the greatest benefit to the Service—as on the 1st of January, 1886, there was a deficiency of 3,613 men. The prospect of recruiting the extra 10,000 is not promising unless greater temptations are held out to recruits to join and to remain. The Inspector General of Recruiting reports—The waste should be calculated at not less than one-sixth of the strength.On January 1, 1886, the strength was 192,929, which would make the waste 32,000. From the Inspector General of Recruiting's Report we learn that 45,613 men will be required in 1886—namely, estimated waste 32,000; proposed increase to Establishment, 10,000; and deficiency on January 1, 1886, 3,613, making a total of 45,613. The strength of the First Class Army Reserve on the 1st of January, 1886, was 41,889. It may be said that though the home battalions are but skeletons the Reserve can be recalled to fill their ranks. They may in case of great national emergency; but where then would be the Reserves?—in the first Line! With regard to deserters. It appears that in 1884 1824 4,462 men deserted from the Army, and that out of this number 3,051 were under one year's service. In 1885, 5,147 deserted, and 2,975 remained away in a state of desertion. In 1885, 1,909 recruits bought their discharges within three months of enlisting. This decrease must have caused great expense to the country, and the reason for this waste requires explanation. As a general rule the recruits who purchase their discharge are respectable; they have enlisted not from being badly off, but with the wish to become soldiers. As a general rule they are of a superior class to the ordinary recruit, and their discharge is a loss to the Service. With regard to recruits—the present standard being, height 5 feet 3 inches, chest measurement 33 inches, and age 17 years—it is hard to conceive that—As a rule the men are as good as ever entered Her Majesty's Service.To use the words of the Inspector General, we may well believe that a cry has beenraised against the recruits because they were not effective as soon as could be wished.The rule at Aldershot Camp is that recruits must be returned as fit for duty in four months after joining. As a matter of fact, very few are then fit for the ranks—which is not surprising, as they certainly have not had time to mature; and yet no more time can be allowed, for the Report shows that there were 75,352 men under three years' service on January 21, 1885, out of which 31,758 were under one year's service. With an Army like our own, enlisted entirely on the voluntary system, whose duty calls it all over the world, no pains should be spared to render the Service popular, and to raise its tone and efficiency. Much has been done in this direction of late—much remains to be done. Perhaps the Committee will now permit me to enter into a few details. There is no source of discontent more burning than the arrangements by which a soldier has to accept the cast-off clothing — part worn is the term — of others. A country lad brought up in godliness and cleanliness joins and receives a shabby, stained, greasy suit of part worn, and very much worn, clothing. This system is strongly condemned by Commanding Officers—it leads to crime, as men make away with these articles 1825 purposely, and thereby render themselves liable to severe punishment. The saving to the Government by this system is not equivalent to its disadvantages. There is no objection to the reissue of great-coats, capes, and tunics, if fit for wear. Forage caps, jackets, and trousers are strongly objected to. There is a very strong feeling in the minds of all soldiers that the clothing given to them, and repaired at their own cost, should be, as of old, their own property. This was the system formerly, and it answered well. It led to thrift and care, and it was a source of great encouragement to the good soldier. Another cause of disappointment to the recruit is that, under the "conditions of enlistment," published "by authority," he is promised a "ration of bread and meat." He finds that it consists of 1lb. of bread and ¾lb. of meat, which includes bone and gristle. This small ration is not enough for growing lads who have to be matured. The ration being so small, men are induced, in many cases, to stay their appetites by drinking. Deferred pay has not been a success. In the majority of cases it finds its way into public and other houses less respectable in a very short time after the man to whom it is paid leaves the barrack-yard, and does neither him nor his friends the least good. This money ought to be spent on extra messing and comforts; it would be more beneficial than handing over a lump sum to a soldier, who will quickly spend it in most instances. Men can always, if so inclined, place their savings in the regimental or Post Office Savings Bank. The discharge of bad characters is of great benefit to the Service. The example of worthless, disreputable men is most injurious to the behaviour and happiness of the young soldier, and their dismissal from the ranks would render the Army much more popular. The bad characters in a regiment are the curse of it. The expansion of the time of service—that is, allowing men to take on for different periods until ultimately they may earn a pension—is a source of infinite gratification to all who take an interest in the Service, and again opens up a career for a soldier. Beyond the loss of strength to battalions at home, occasioned by the passage of men to the Reserve, and the transfer of men to the battalions abroad, the waste is immense from other causes, such as 1826 from desertion, purchase of discharge, invaliding, and deaths; 12,726 men were lost to the Service last year by such waste, My experience of the state of battalions inclines me to conclude that the battalions at home should drill their own recruits, and that the regimental districts should furnish the drafts for the battalions abroad. The present system, by which the battalions abroad are fed by the battalions at home, cannot be maintained, as duty calls for a larger number of battalions abroad than are retained at home. Therefore there must be certain regiments with both battalions abroad. There are at present 14 Line regiments with both their battalions abroad. In thanking the Committee for its indulgence, permit me to express a hope that a system of dealing with our soldiers may be adopted which will tend to decrease the number of desertions, to diminish drunkenness and crime, and to induce recruits to come and to stay. Let this old feeling of regiments be brought back. Let all ranks again look upon the battalion as their home, to be happy in, to work for, so that it may excel and take a pride in its old associations, traditions, and renown; to be looked upon as an effective unit of the Army that has gained honour, and will do so again when opportunity occurs.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH (Strand, Westminster)
I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester who initiated this discussion (Mr. Tottenham) that there cannot be a more important question than the efficiency of our Infantry battalions; but I do not propose to follow my hon. Friend precisely in the manner in which he has referred to these topics. I wish rather to address myself to the general question which has been raised in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, and to ask him for further information than the Committee and Parliament have yet received. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the strength of a battalion at home was to be in no case less than 750. There was, I believe, a distinct understanding to that effect. The right hon. Gentleman admitted very much of the contention of my hon. and gallant Friend behind me (General Fraser), that the strain on the resources of the Army 1827 under the existing system during the last two or three years has been exceedingly great, and that, in fact, it is not possible to continue it. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that in all cases in which the two battalions of a regiment were abroad a depôt of at least 600 was to be maintained in this country. That was the arrangement which was, I believe, laid down by the late Government, and was found to be absolutely necessary in order to supply the drafts that were requisite to keep up the battalions on active service. I am exceedingly glad that the right hon. Gentleman has followed our advice, and that he has come to a conclusion that it is necessary to maintain that system, so that in case of an arrangement for having two battalions abroad a depôt of at least 600 shall be retained in this country to supply the demand. I think I have given to the Committee an accurate representation of what the right hon. Gentleman stated. The figures themselves appear in the Estimates. I find that the right hon. Gentleman, under the circumstances, has asked for an Establishment of 148,518 men, and in order to carry out the engagement he has made with Parliament and the country it is necessary that that Establishment should be maintained. I think that follows as a matter of course. The figures are given on page 15 of the Estimates. I find that last year the Establishments were considerably less than they are this year. Last year the Establishment voted was 138,986 men, with a total number of 142,194 men; whereas in the present year there is an Establishment of 148,518 men, and a total number of 151,867 men. The gross Estimates for last year showed an outlay on the Army of £5,542,000. If the right hon. Gentleman makes a rule-of-three sum of these figures, he will find that if 142,194 men cost £5,542,000, then 151,867 men would cost £5,919,000. But the gross Estimate is only £5,657,300, and, on the basis of the same calculation as last year, the money taken is £261,700 less than last year. Therefore, the proportions in the Estimate are wrong to that extent. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman took credit to himself for the modesty of his Estimates. He said it was inevitable that the Estimates should be, to a large extent, conjectural; that it was better, more satisfactory, and 1828 more regular that the Government should fix the Estimates on a moderate rate of expenditure, rather than estimate for a larger outlay which might not in reality be incurred. I do not wish in the slightest degree to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman; but, as I understand the Estimates, they are based upon the necessities of the Army, and the obligation of the Government to maintain a certain Force in Egypt. The modest Estimates—the conjectural Estimates—the hypothetical Estimates of the right hon. Gentleman would not do more than keep up an Army of Occupation in Egypt of 8,800 men, and upon that assumption the whole provision for the Army is founded. It is assumed that a Force of 8,800 men will be retained in Egypt, and that the other battalions—eight or nine now there—will be recalled, that they will be added to the home strength, that it will not be necessary to maintain depôts of 600 for these battalions which are abroad, and that a certain number of depôts—I think seven—will be reduced. But that modest Estimate—that conjectural Estimate—based on the lowest Estimate which the right hon. Gentleman deems to be a proper and reasonable one—that modest, conjectural, and hypothetical Estimate, for which the provision of only 151,867 men is taken, shows that the proportion between the Establishment and the total numbers is exactly the same as last year. Therefore I infer that the cost of the soldier, the proportion to be raised, and the expenditure to be incurred, ought to be precisely in the same proportion, and therefore I maintain that the Estimates have been framed not only on a modest and restrictive view of the requirements of the Service, but that they are also framed insufficiently to meet those modest requirements. I now turn to a record of financial wisdom which was given to the world some years ago. I remember, when I was in Office, that I and my Colleagues were severely rated by the present Prime Minister for making further demands on the Exchequer than those which had been estimated for in the first instance. I will read the paragraph from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which lays down the canon law on the subject. In a speech which the right hon. Gentleman delivered in Edinburgh, in 1879, he said— 1829The second rule, gentlemen, is this—and this is, perhaps, the moat essential of them all—that once in the year, and only once, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall make his Financial Statement, shall say such was my income and such was my charge for the year that has expired, so that Parliament can judge me upon it; such is my estimated income ond such is my estimated charge for the year that is to come, so that Parliament can form its judgment with reference to the condition of the country, whether it is reasonable, and, if there be need, what measures it shall take in order to supply the means. Now there are great occasions, undoubtedly, when it is necessary for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to depart from such a rule. A war may break out, which could not have been anticipated, long after, months after, his Budget—of course I do not speak of cases like this. If you will look over the Budgets of the last Government, you will see that in almost every case we spent less money than we had asked Parliament to give us. We acted upon this old, well-established—aye, and I will venture to say, conservative principle, not in a Party sense, but in a sense higher than a Party sense—this conservative principle of compelling the Minister to state all the charge that he is likely to incur, in order to maintain the efficacy of popular control.I would add further—in order also to maintain the efficiency of the Services for which he was responsible. We notice that in the present case there will in all probability be a Supplementary Estimate, if the Force in Egypt cannot be reduced to the number mentioned in the Estimates. Now, I say that that is a distinct breach of the canon law laid down by the present Head of Her Majesty's Government. We are told that it is the duty of a Minister to state the outside expenditure which he is likely to incur, and rather to ask for more money than he expects to spend than to take less than in all probability will be required. Yet the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War excuses himself for not stating the full cost of the services which are likely to be entered into on the ground that it will be in his power to ask for a Supplementary Estimate. It is, at all events, an unsatisfactory departure from the sound principles laid down some six or seven years ago. I will now pass from that subject; but I do hope that, whatever the circumstances may be, the engagement which has been made to maintain the Force at a strength for each battalion at home of at least 750 men will be observed. Let the Committee consider what position we are in. We are now adding 100 men to the strength of each battalion in India. That ad 1830 dition of 100 men, as the right hon. Gentleman told us, will involve a large increase of the drafts required from year to year from the country. Perhaps from 170 to 180 men will be required to be sent out to the battalion on foreign service every year. If it has only 750 men, or less than 750 men, you will have something which really is not a battalion capable of service, but a mere depôt, which is nothing but a training machine. You recognize this by saying that in the case of double battalions abroad you will supply a depôt of 600 each. But in many cases last year it is notorious that the battalion at home had only 20, 30, or 40 men for duty, after the drafts for foreign service had been sent out. No one can justify a continuation of such a condition of things. I wish now to say a word or two about another item which appears in the Estimates, and which was spoken of the other night. With regard to Suakin, we are told that £58,000 is to be taken for the garrison of that place. On that point I am anxious to obtain from the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that Her Majesty's Government, who contribute the full cost of the service, will provide that at least the officers in charge of the troops at that place shall be British officers. I have heard that there is likely to be some difficulty on that point, and therefore I think it is necessary that we should have an assurance from the Government that the troops intended for the defence of Egypt will be thoroughly efficient. While in favour of the employment of Native troops in Egypt, I believe that they can only be efficient and useful, at all events, for two or three years to come, under the direction and control of British officers. I value the Egyptians very highly indeed, and I believe that the Egyptian officers would be of value in the direction and discipline of their troops; but in the recent past they have not been capable of leading their troops, and it is necessary that for the present British officers should be employed. The right hon. Gentleman made some remarks about recruiting. As regards recruiting, it has, I think, been most satisfactory during the past year; and I wish to join with the right hon. Gentleman in giving the highest possible tribute of praise to General Bulwer for the services he has rendered to the country in the matter of recruiting. General Bulwer has been a 1831 most able and efficient recruiting officer during the past five years, and his sole object has been to make the Service popular. I will venture to say that in a Voluntary Army the conditions of service must be always such as to attract the soldier himself, and that any attempt to enforce the regulations and conditions which may be possible with a Continental Army would, be quite out of place. In this country we appeal to the public and ask them to join the Colours as volunteers, and not as forced men or as conscripts; and therefore the general condition of the soldier must be such as to be attractive to them, and give them confidence that not only the rate of pay, but every other advantage offered to them, will be maintained. There should be nothing excessive in the way of duty. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lambeth (General Fraser) has told the Committee that under the present system men are kept out of their beds for three or four nights a-week. I believe that if proper care were exercised many of the inconveniences which now arise would be remedied to a large extent. In the first place, the constitution of the recruit should be carefully considered, and there should be no strain put upon him which is likely to lead to an unsatisfactory result, and which frequently becomes the cause of desertion. The right hon. Gentleman remarked that with regard to the Militia officers there have been an increase in the number of 160 or 170 during the past year, notwithstanding the fact that 222 subaltern officers had joined the Line from the Militia. Now, I venture to think that the very fact that these subaltern officers have joined the Line from the Militia goes very far indeed to account for the increase in the number of Militia officers. If Militia officers find that they can get employment in the Line by doing their duty well in the Militia, and qualifying themselves while in the Militia for Line employment, it will undoubtedly render the Militia Service more popular by showing that it is a channel by which young and energetic men can obtain an entrance into the Regular Forces. It certainly affords a source of attraction to young men to join the Militia which has not been previously experienced or realized, and I therefore support the view which the right hon. Gentleman has adopted in regard to this particular 1832 matter. Another question was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Finsbury (Colonel Duncan), who spoke of the compulsory retirement of Captains and Majors. Now, I cannot help drawing the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Non-Effective Vote is growing—perhaps slowly, but growing year by year—and assuming dimensions which are now really alarming, and form good ground for serious apprehension. The Vote is growing, notwithstanding the fact that the charge for pensions, as far as the soldier is concerned, has decreased. The charge for long-service pensions, which was so large some years ago, has been very much curtailed owing to short service; and therefore it comes to this, that the increase we deplore is due to the fact that officers are forced out of the Service at the age of 40, or 45, or 48, when in the prime of life, and quite capable of discharging their duty to the country and the Army. They are compulsorily retired at a moment when they are most anxious to remain, and their retirement is a loss not only to the country, but to the Army itself. I hope, most sincerely, that the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues will be given, not alone to the economy which may be effected by extending the period of service, but to the increased efficiency of the Army which may be secured. There are many other ways in which economy may be effected; but knowing that these subjects had not been fully investigated when I left the War Office, I will not now enter upon them. I will content myself with simply expressing a hope that both economy and efficiency will be studied together, and that both will receive the attention of Her Majesty's Government and of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, with special reference to the charge for this branch of the Service. I believe that nothing, on the whole, would be more popular in the Service itself, and that there is nothing that would more tend to relieve the disagreeable sensation of a man of 40 years of age who finds himself compelled to be a pensioner for life, and who knows that he has rendered himself unfit for any other useful occupation by the 17 or 18 years of his life which he has devoted to a Military Profession. My right hon. Friend made 1833 some remarks as to the amount of the Estimates which he has submitted to the House. No doubt, they are large Estimates; but he has explained to the House that these Estimates have been rendered inevitable by the fact that the improvements in machinery, and the scientific discoveries of the last few years—the march of invention, in point of fact—have made it absolutely necessary that Her Majesty's Government, if it did not excel, should at least follow, the exertions which are being made abroad in qualifying the Forces of the country for any service they may be called upon to perform. Well, Sir, I must confess that I do regret that some of the work which was in progress has been stopped. I am very far, indeed, from advocating that Her Majesty's Government should at any time offer employment where there is no work to be done that is necessary in the interests of the United Kingdom. I would not advocate, under any circumstances, the addition to the Estimates of a single £1 for that purpose. But the question is—What are the necessities of the country at the present time? Can you undertake to supply her requirements more economically, more successfully, and more efficiently now than you can in a time of panic and alarm? I have witnessed successive panics and successive alarms, and I have been conscious of the fact that, under the pressure of those panics and alarms, the money voted on a Vote of Credit melts away very rapidly, and that the country rarely gets full value for the money it expends. I believe that a judicious expenditure of money now in bringing up the stores required to the amount at which a sound judgment would fix them, would be an economical expenditure of money, because you would expend that money under no pressure, with no panic, with no waste, and with no over-crowded Department of any kind. You would have the full control of your machinery, full control over your materials, and you would be able to produce results which would give confidence and a sense of security to the country. A few days ago a Circular was issued by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Chamberlain) addressed to the various Local Authorities throughout the Kingdom, in which he suggested to them that, in consequence of the exceptional depression 1834 which has prevailed, they should undertake any public works that required to be undertaken, and that if they required the consent of the Local Government Board to the borrowing of money that consent would be given. I do not ask even for the application of that principle in this particular case; but the present state of the labour market affords an opportunity which would render a judicious and necessary expenditure in this direction more than justifiable. I do not ask Her Majesty's Government to authorize loans, or any extravagant amount of expenditure; but I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to this fact—that Her Majesty's Government are discharging some 400 or 500 men at Woolwich and Enfield, and probably at other Government works. If they will allow the authorities at Woolwich and Enfield and elsewhere, money to carry out those works which are deemed to be works of utility, although, perhaps, not works of pressing necessity, the services of these men might be retained. What I maintain is, that although it might not be an example to be followed except in exceptional circumstances, it would be at the present moment a wise and judicious expenditure, and probably one which would not only be economical but absolutely justifiable in the interests of the country at large. I do not know that I have any further occasion to detain the Committee from the discussion which they are anxious to enter into. One point to which I wished specially to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend was the very slow progress which has been made with the manufacture of the new rifle. I understand that only 55,000 stand are to be produced during the year; and I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that last year the demand from India and the Colonies was very large indeed. Indeed, there is a danger that we may almost come to a stand still for the want of small arms, unless they are produced at a much more rapid rate than the 55,000 stand of arms authorized in the coming year? After the new rifle has been sanctioned, I do not think it will be wise to go on manufacturing the Martini-Henry rifle, for it is quite certain that the Martini-Henry will be altogether superseded in the course of a few years. The new arm is certain to be demanded; and it will be impossible, if 1835 the expectations now formed with regard to it are right, for any authority to resist the pressure which will be brought upon it. It is, therefore, most undesirable that the Martini-Henry should be manufactured; but the new arm which is to take its place should be pushed forward with the utmost rapidity. In every respect, thorough efficiency in all matters connected with the Army is of the utmost importance. Some hon. Gentlemen seem to think that efficiency is not needed; but, so far as I am concerned, I would very much rather have fewer battalions and strong battalions than a larger number of weak battalions. So, also, I would prefer to have fewer arms than arms upon which no reliance can be placed. I maintain that it is absolutely essential to maintain your Army in a state of the most complete and thorough efficiency; and rather than reduce the efficiency of your Army I should prefer that you should reduce its strength.
§ COLONEL SALIS-SCHWABE (Lancashire, S.E., Middleton)
I must congratulate the Secretary of State for War on the clear manner in which he has placed the Army Estimates before the Committee. At the same time, I am prepared to admit that some apprehension has been created among hon. Members at the enormous size of these Estimates, and also at their rapid increase. They have now reached the large sum of £18,000,000; and the taxpayer naturally considers, first, whether the proposed Establishment for the Army is necessary; secondly, whether the proposed Establishment cannot be maintained for less; and, lastly, whether the country gets the maximum amount of efficiency for the amount of money that is spent. Now, a great Conservative Leader has laid down that "Establishments must depend on policy;" and I must say that I, for one, very much regret the meddlesome foreign policy which was really commenced in 1874, and has continued, more or less, ever since. But, considering what our foreign policy has been, and what the consequent requirements are, I do not think the number of men voted for the Army is too many. No doubt, 141,000 men at home and 68,000 in India, making a total of 209,000, is a very large number indeed. ["Hear, hear!"] Those hon. Members who sit here and say "Hear, hear!" ought to 1836 keep a jealous watch over our foreign policy, and should remember that the only way of doing that is to avoid a reckless policy, to urge arbitration in lieu of war, and not to undertake to be the police of the world. It is only by pursuing such a course that we can ever hope to be able to reduce our armaments and effect a corresponding reduction in the Army Estimates. I must, however, say that the Secretary of State for War, by increasing the number of men in each battalion, has very greatly contributed to the efficiency of the Army. As has been stated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lambeth (General Fraser), the skeleton battalions which we have had are of no good at all, and afford no opportunity for teaching the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men the mere rudiments of their Profession. It is, therefore, desirable to get rid of skeleton battalions as speedily as possible; and I am glad to learn that in future we shall have no battalion of smaller strength than 750 men. But in regard to the second and third points—whether the proposed Establishment for the Army cannot be maintained for less, and whether we get the maximum efficiency for the amount of money we spend—I must say that I entertain very grave doubts. I have no desire to detain the Committee at any length; but there are one or two matters I should like to point out in regard to which I think we might economize. I begin with the pay of the General Staff. The General Staff pay amounts to about £200,000, while that of the Commissariat and Transport Staff amounts to £90,000. Now, I am of opinion that these two Staffs may very well be both amalgamated and reduced, and that the amalgamation would lead not only to economy, but to greater efficiency. Then, again, the War Office Staff costs £88,000 a-year, making a total for the three Staffs, exclusive of clerks, of £378,000. It appears to me that the most sensible plan would be to assimilate our Home Peace Staff, as far as possible, to the system carried out for the Staff on active service. At home, the Military Staff is divided into the Adjujutant General's Department and the Quartermaster General's Department, which it was decided to amalgamate 16 years ago, but which are still main 1837 tained as independent Departments. The Commissariat and Transport Department, the Ordnance Stores, the Medical, Financial, Veterinary, Artillery Stores, and other Staffs, are all more or less independent of the Military Staff, and of each other, and are divided in their allegiance between the Commander-in-Chief, the Secretary of State for War, and the Surveyor General of the Ordnance. The result naturally leads to great expense, very great delay, confusion, want of efficiency, and a certain amount of friction; and I do not believe that the machinery of the Army would work at all if it were not for the fact that all of these various Departments co-operate loyally, and do their best to work harmoniously together. Nevertheless, the system is a very bad one, and in a time of war it is greatly strained. Now, on active service the General in command has a Chief of the Staff, and an officer commanding the lines of communication and base; the Chief of the Staff looks after the duties which are managed by the Adjutant General's Department at home, whereas the officer commanding the lines of communication and base superintends the duties which at home are under the Quartermaster General, the Commissariat Staff, the War Office Staff, and the Surveyor General of the Ordnance's Department. These comprise transport of every description, the Commissariat supply of food, forage, and all requisites; supply of clothing, ordnance stores, such as tents, pay, medical and veterinary arrangements, the telegraph and post-office service, re-mounts, and military police. Why cannot we have the whole of these various Departments amalgamated at home, and placed under that time-honoured officer, the Quartermaster General, just as on active service under the officer commanding the lines of communication and base? At the present moment, in each district of any size, the General commanding has a Quartermaster General, and also a Commissariat Staff officer. It seems to me that if you amalgamated the various Staffs, one Staff officer would do the work of two, and, in addition, he would superintend all the work of the minor Staffs. The Staff of the War Office itself might be much reduced, the Army would be placed in a much higher state of efficiency, and the country would save at least 1838 £100,000 a-year. I come now to the question of the clerks, because each unnecessary Staff officer requires two or three unnecessary clerks; and I find that last year—1885–6—the War Office had 391 civil clerks, drawing salaries which amounted to £115,921 per annum. I regret to find that the number of clerks is going to be increased, and that in 1886–7 there will be 406 civil clerks, with salaries amounting to £118,087. Now, the civil clerks are, no doubt, very hard-working and deserving public servants, and I have nothing to say against any one of them. They work very hard, and at present they have a great deal of work to do; but what I maintain is, that they are employed in very useless and mischievous work. In fact, the system of centralization at the War Office has a most paralyzing and pernicious effect, in addition to being most expensive. The officer commanding a regiment, who is perfectly competent to settle many small matters himself, is obliged to refer to the General Officer in command of the district, whereupon the General Officer refers to the War Office, and thus this expensive system of routine, involving much delay and inconvenience, is followed in regard to every trumpery point, which the officer in command of the regiment is quite capable of settling himself. The same system is pursued in regard to Returns. Monthly Returns might be substituted for weekly, quarterly for monthly, and annual for quarterly. A whole army of clerks is kept up, not only at the War Office, but in all the districts and all the battalions and regiments. The regiments and battalions are, in fact, denuded of fighting men in order that they may carry on a constant round of mischievous and useless correspondence with the clerks who are at the War Office. Those 406 civilian clerks are to cost the country in 1886–7 a sum of £118,000, or an average of £290 each; but I find that there are 86 military clerks at the War Office, and that the average salary of each is only £105. All the clerical work which is absolutely necessary, with the exception of that which is carried on in the Accountant General's Office, could be done by military clerks, retired non-commissioned officers, or retired Quartermasters, or even by retired officers who have occupied a higher rank. The 1839 country would by this means save not only the difference of pay between civil and military clerks, but the pensions which these retired Quartermasters and other officers are now drawing. I think that, in this way, by reducing the number of the clerks now in the Service and employing military clerks instead of civilian clerks, we might reduce the Estimates for the Army by another sum of £150,000, making, with the reduction I have already suggested, a saving of £250,000, without losing a single fighting man, while, at the same time, the efficiency of the Army would be greatly increased. The existing system has a bad and pernicious tendency to take all power out of the hands of the Commanding Officer. The idea seems to be that some Commanding Officers are not to be trusted. If you find a Commanding Officer is not worthy of trust, let him be ruthlessly sent about his business; but trust those whom you do keep. Commanding Officers naturally wish to get rid of men with bad characters; but confidential instructions are forwarded from the Adjutant General's Office not to allow the men to be discharged except under certain excessively stringent conditions. The consequence is that the same men are tried by court martial over and over again, but are not discharged; and the cost of military law is very great—no less than £35,000. I think that this item, and £122,000 for transport, would be very considerably reduced if the Commanding Officer were more trusted, and were allowed to discharge any bad character he wished to get rid of. In 1885 there were 7,721 courts martial at home, which involved 6,681 sentences of imprisonment; but the number would have been greatly reduced if the Commanding Officers were only allowed to get rid of bad characters. There were 5,096 district courts martial, and 2,622 regimental courts martial. Now, a district court martial costs the country a great deal more than a regimental court martial, because there is a considerable expense incurred in getting the officers together from the out-stations to try the men. There is a rule that no non-commissioned officer may be tried by a regimental court martial. No doubt, that rule was introduced for the protection of the non-commissioned officers; but the non-commissioned officers themselves are quite willing to be fried by their own officers; and, 1840 therefore, I think it would be as well to revert to the old system of trying non-commissioned officers for certain offences by regimental courts martial instead of district courts martial, whereby the country would save a considerable amount of expense. Intimately connected with the soldier, after all, is the soldier's weapon. Well, Sir, I think that with regard to the £3,000,000 voted for warlike material and clothing, there is undoubtedly room for saving. Take, for instance, the Cavalry swords. In 1882, a pattern was invented by a Birmingham contractor and an Assistant Adjutant General. A few were issued to certain regiments on trial, and the Commanding Officers reported on their weight, balance, and so forth, but were not called upon to test their quality. No one tested it; and some paramount official in the Surveyor General's Department wrote snubbing letters to every Commanding Officer who objected to his men's lives being endangered by worthless weapons. I, myself, when in command of the 16th Lancers, objected to the swords, and I was told that I had no business to test them, and that if any were spoilt in being tested I was to pay for them out of my own pocket; if I thought them unserviceable, I was to report them. Of course, I could not find out whether they were serviceable without testing them, and the result was that the swords were re-tested by the authorities and withdrawn. Not only was £2,000 paid to the contractor for these worthless swords, but there was also the expense of issuing and taking them in, and engaging persons to test them. The present pattern swords have been, I am glad to say, tested by a proper Committee. They were tested on dead horses and sheep by men riding at a gallop and in every possible way. The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) ordered £20,000 worth of these swords in Germany. Now, I do not seriously quarrel with him for having ordered them in Germany, because it is quite true that the taxpayer ought to buy in the cheapest market, whether at home or abroad. But an exception should, perhaps, be made with regard to munitions of war, because in time of war they are contraband, and we might not then be able to get them. Therefore, I think we ought to encourage, as far as possible, the 1841 manufacture of warlike stores at home. It seems incredible that there should not be a single manufacturer in the United Kingdom who can make swords by machinery; there is, I believe, only one place where it can be done, and that is at Enfield. It appears that no steps were taken to let the trade know that there was so large an order in the market for swords manufactured by machinery; and I cannot but think it likely that if the trade had known of the order, some manufacturer would have started the plant necessary to produce them, and would have been able to compete with Germany. I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) has not the same views as his Predecessor with regard to enlarging our Government Manufacturing Establishments. I regret to see that the sum of £30,000 is asked for enlarging the Establishment at Enfield. I would rather this Establishment were reduced, and that the trade were encouraged instead. I should like to see our manufactures for military purposes in the hands of manufacturers at home, so that the country might not be at all dependent upon foreign countries. With regard to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith), that this is a good time to increase our stores, if you get more stores than you require they will only become obsolete, and there are thousands of obsolete Cavalry saddles now at the Arsenals. Besides, I think the outcry which is raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite for the employment of men in the Government Factories, because it is a time of distress, is unreasonable, because most of the taxpayers who are artizans are working on short time; and it is hard that these taxes should be increased to employ men in the Government Factories on work which is not required. Now comes the question, whether we get our money's worth for the £4,500,000 voted for pay, and I am inclined, to be a little sceptical on that point. I believe that out of 40,000 recruits, 15,381, or nearly two-fifths, were under 8 stone 13 lbs. in weight. Now, an Infantry soldier has a large weight to carry, and small and weak men are not equal to it. These men are all probably 16 or 17 years of age. All the statements made about age by recruits are valueless. It 1842 does not matter what age a recruit says he is; it is perfectly well known what are the limits, and he gives any age between 18 and 25. If these men remain in the Service and develop, no doubt at the end of two or three years they become good soldiers; but in 1885 there were 3,497 desertions by men of under one years' service; and it is very natural that they should desert, for being immature they get sick of being put to do the work of men which they are not fit for. My own opinion is that weak men ought not to be put on full duty—that it ought to be eased for them; but, at the same time, I do not see why they should be paid as men. They are merely boys, and as such I think a reduction should be made in the amount of their pay until such time as they can do the work of men. Of the 88,000 men said to be effective, at home there must, I think, be 20,000 who are immature, and are only growing into effective men. One word with regard to the Non-Effective Vote of £3,000,000. I think there are grave objections, from an economical point of view, to the present system of pensions; but taking into consideration the pay and the pensions of non-commissioned officers and men, I do not think they are at all highly paid as compared with the regular rate of wages. I must consider officers as coming under two categories—purchase and non-purchase. The terms of the purchase officers are finally settled; but I regret that there is an enormous number of officers drawing public money in the shape of half-pay, who are both able and willing to serve. The hon. and gallant Member for Finsbury (Colonel Duncan) made a very strong appeal the other night in connection with these officers. He made an appeal from their point of view, and there was much of his speech with which I quite agree; but I should like to make an appeal from the point of view of the taxpayers of the country. The retirement scheme was drawn up in 1873, after several years of comparative peace, and is totally unnecessary and extravagant considering the flow of promotion which has resulted from the wars of the last 12 years. I would recommend, Sir, that there should be no compulsory retirement except for inefficiency, or after five year's non-employment. Voluntary retirements, too, should be restricted If it were thought 1843 that promotion did not go on fast enough in each rank, it would be easy for the Secretary of State for War to say that there should be so many retirements open during the year. I think that plan has been tried in the Navy, and that it has to some extent succeeded. I hope I have drawn attention to some points giving room for economy and efficiency; but I feel that reform from within is hardly to be hoped for, because, probably, no Secretary of State for War single-handed can overcome the vis inertiœ of routine and vested interests, and we must look forward not only to a Parliamentary Committee to go into the Estimates in their complete form, but also to pressure from this House, for a reorganization on the lines I have indicated, which I think will be conducive both to economy and efficiency.
§ COLONEL BRIDGEMAN (Bolton)
I think the question of deferred pay was started 10 years ago by Viscount Cranbrook. It was a most excellent idea. It was thought that the soldier when he went back to his native village would, under that system, have a certain sum of money in his pocket, and that this would be an inducement to other young men in the village to enlist. I am afraid, however, that it has not had quite the effect that was hoped for. There are many cases of men leaving the Army who, in the course of a few weeks, and even a few days, come to the barrack-gate to ask for a few shillings to carry them home, having spent the whole of their deferred pay. In this way the taxpayer does not get the advantage which it was intended he should get, because the money does not remain in the man's pocket. I think the country is also disadvantaged by the system, because the six-years' service man when he leaves the Army is at his very best. He is a well-trained, soldier; he has gone through six or seven courses of musketry, and he is probably 25 or 26 years of age—the very age at which you wish to keep him—and one would have thought it wise that he should be offered some inducement to remain. But instead of that you offer him an overpowering inducement to leave the Colours, because it is only by doing so that he can obtain his deferred pay. Therefore, I think we are doing a suicidal thing in offering this money instead of an inducement to remain. The right hon. Gentleman the 1844 Secretary of State for War said the other night that when a man is satisfied with his career, it is most unfortunate that any Regulation should debar him from continuing in it. I maintain that this is a Regulation which must have the effect of debarring him from continuing in it, because the only way he can get this money is by leaving the Colours; and I wish to point out how, in my opinion, deferred pay may be made much more beneficial to the soldier and to the country. If there is one thing which the recruit thinks more of than anything else—and the subject has been touched upon by several hon. Members—it is the promise of a free ration. When a man enlists, he is told that he will have 1s. a-day and a free ration; and not unnaturally he thinks he will be supplied with whatever food is thought necessary by the authorities. But the first thing he discovers when he joins the depot is that the authorities stop 3½d. out of every 1s. He immediately thinks he has been let in, and this feeling rankles very deeply indeed; he feels sore about it, and in many cases thinks he has been allured into the Service under false pretences; and it is possible that this accounts for the numerous desertions which take place in the first three months of the soldier's career. It would, in my opinion, be well if the Government undertook this charge of 3½d., and if the recruit were told that he would receive 8½d. per day, and then he would not consider himself deceived. But a better plan still would be that the Government should give the 1s. a-day, together with the extra ration now paid for by the soldier, and that the deferred pay should be discontinued in order to meet the extra expenditure. The Government could buy the things for which the stoppage is made cheaper than the soldier can, because it could buy them without the necessary profit which goes into the pockets of the tradesmen. The Government can also supply tea and coffee duty free, and there is on that ground every reason to believe that it could supply the goods at 2½d. instead of the 3½d. which is now charged. I think this plan would be of great advantage both to the soldier and the country, because the soldier would have the advantage of knowing exactly what he would get, and the country would have the advantage of possessing a sol 1845 dier less inclined to desert or purchase his discharge during the first three months of service.
§ LORD ALGERNON PERCY (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I rise with great diffidence to speak upon military subjects in the presence of officers holding high commissions in Her Majesty's Service; but having held an appointment when in the Army, which gives considerable knowledge as to the interior economy of the Service and of its requirements, I venture to endorse what has fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Tottenham) and the hon. and gallant Member for Lambeth N. (Major General Fraser), with regard to the very great error of insisting upon the present system of feeding the battalion abroad from the battalion at home. We are all perfectly aware of the great improvement which has taken place in consequence of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War deciding that there shall be no battalion at home of a less nominal strength than 750 men. Of course, this is a great step in the right direction; but I am afraid that the good effect of that change will be neutralized or destroyed if the present system of feeding the battalions abroad is continued. The stronger you make the battalion abroad the stronger becomes the argument which I lay before the Committee. In the case of a battalion abroad of 850 men—and, of course, many are stronger—it is clear that, as enlistment is for seven years, one-seventh will be transferred annually. You will have 120 men going to the Reserve, and you must allow also for the ordinary waste of the battalion by desertion, purchase, sickness, and other causes, which it is not too much to say will amount to 5 per cent. That will give 160 men whom the battalion abroad will lose annually, and which must be supplied by the battalion at home in order to fill up the vacancies thus caused. But then you must also take the vacancies occurring in the battalion at home. Taking the strength at 750, one-seventh will be transferred to the Army Reserve yearly, and 5 per cent will represent the waste from other causes; and thus the number of men required to fill up the vacancies in the battalion at home will be 140, or a total of 300 men, whom the battalion at home must recruit in order 1846 to fill up its own vacancies and those of the battalion abroad. Therefore, you will have in the home battalion only 450 men of over one years' service; and I venture to say that any officer would admit that a battalion of 750, having 300 men under one year's service, is not in a state of efficiency. You must take away all the "casuals," as the hon. and gallant Member for Lambeth has said; and everyone is aware that when a battalion is supposed to stand at 750 on parade it is a very small number who really appear under arms. In addition to what I have shown is the effect of the present system, the constant changes which take place in battalions are ruinous to their efficiency—the men do not know their officers, and the officers do not know their men. It seems to me that there is only one remedy for the present condition of affairs, and that is to make the depôts real, and not mere shams as they are now. Let the depôts supply both battalions; let the recruits be kept at the depots until they are fit, or nearly fit, to pass into the ranks. At the present time the recruits dribble into the depôts; they thus only get a knowledge of the rudiments of drill, and I know Commanding Officers say that they would rather have the men just as they join as recruits than as they come to their battalions from the depôts. In the Guards the system is a better one; they have a large recruit establishment, and the men recruited are sent down to that establishment. There they are thoroughly drilled, and when sent to the battalion they take their place in the ranks almost immediately, and are able to perform their duties. I think that the waste in the Army is a subject which is not sufficiently considered by the authorities. Looking at the Return, we find that, deducting transfers to the Reserve, the net waste averages 20,596 men, or about 12 per cent. We find that in this number there are 5,147 desertions. Desertion is one of the most disgraceful forms of waste, and should be checked if it is possible to do so. At present it constitutes absolutely one-fourth of the total waste in the Army; and, of the number I have given, 1,653 represent desertions in the first year of service. Then must be added the number of those who purchase their discharge. I venture to endorse entirely what has fallen from my hon. and gallant Friend 1847 on my left (Colonel Bridgeman). It is perfectly clear that there is discontent, and the cause of the discontent which leads to this desertion and purchase of discharge, is, I am convinced, the stoppages made from the pay of the soldier. I know, of my own personal knowledge, how much the men dislike the stoppages. I say that stoppages should be confined to punishment. If a man gets drunk, or wilfully damages his clothing, for instance, let his pay be stopped; but it is absolutely unfair and unjust to stop the pay of a soldier to make good accoutrements worn out by no fault of his own, and in the performance of his duty; and that is the condition of affairs at the present moment. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bolton (Colonel Bridgeman) has spoken of the free rations which the recruit is told on joining he will have, and upon that subject I will not touch; but he is undoubtedly led to believe that he will have free rations and a free kit, but upon joining he finds he receives neither one nor the other, and I am justified in saying that, as a rule, recruits are about £1 in debt at the end of the year for clothing or "necessaries" which have to be replaced by them. Now, that seems to be a very bad system indeed, and nothing can be more disheartening to the recruit than that he should find himself in this position from no fault of his own, but simply because he has been engaged in very heavy duty. Under the present system the soldier is given boots to be kept black, and a belt to be kept white; but in order to do that he has to buy the necessary materials, which I think is hardly fair, and undoubtedly it is the cause of much dissatisfaction. The soldier is stopped 3½d. per day for his evening meal, and ½d. for his washing; so that while the country leads the recruit to believe that he will get 1s. a-day, in no instance can he get more than 8d. This is a most important question, and it is one to which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would do well to give his attention. Of course, we shall be told that we are creating expense, and increasing the Estimates; and, perhaps, if the Prime Minister were in the House, he would say that I am taking an unconstitutional course in advocating such a course. But 1848 there are many points in connection with which, as has been pointed out by several hon. and gallant Gentlemen, economies may take place; and, indeed, the stopping of desertion would be a saving of expense, as every deserter costs the country a considerable amount. Then with regard to the question of deferred pay. I think there is much to be said in favour of the opinion that the system of deferred pay should be discontinued; and, if it were, it would set free a considerable sum which could be devoted to giving the soldier free rations, and relieve him from the system of stoppages. Another point where a saving could be made would be be by discontinuing the system under which the men who join the Army from the Militia receive, after 42 days, £1 as bounty. Under this system it is to the interest of the man to go into the Militia first, instead of direct into the Line, because, in the latter case, he would get no bounty at all. This seems to me to be a very unnecessarily expensive way of recruiting. With regard to the clothing and accoutrements of the Reserve men, it seems to me that these should be kept at the depôts, where every man's clothing should be ticketed, so as to be known exactly; and not at Woolwich, as at present. In the event of the Reserve being called out, there is great delay and expense in sending the clothing to the depôts. In time of war this mischievous system might have terrible results. In 1878, I remember, the men of the Army Reserve were not clothed for something like two months. As we have a small Army, it is of vital importance that there should be rapidity of equipment, in order that the men of the Reserve may be ready the instant they are required, and a large Force placed in the field as quickly as possible. It may, perhaps, be said that these are small matters; but I venture to remind the Committee that it is upon small matters that the contentment of the soldier depends, and that in small matters of detail the efficiency or non-efficiency of an Army consists.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
I do not think that I ought to allow the present opportunity to go by without making some observations on the increase which the present Government has sanctioned in the num 1849 ber of troops in India. I own that it was with an immense feeling of relief that I read in the Estimates that an increase was to be provided for, because the rumours that were about shortly before with regard to the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave me a very uneasy moment as to whether the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War might not be forced to curtail or retard that increase of troops in India. However, the right hon. Gentleman has been able to hold his own, and I would respectfully congratulate him upon having been able to overcome any opposition which the Treasury might have offered. I say might have offered; for nothing will induce me to believe that it was not offered. There is nothing that is of more vital importance to the safety of India than that that increase should be carried out, and carried out without loss of time; and I am indeed glad that the Government determined to take steps to raise the Army in India by the end of the next recruiting period by 10,000 men. But there is one remark I am anxious to make, to extract, if possible, some kind of assurance from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), and that is, that this 10,000 increase to the British Forces in India shall not be a mere paper increase or an illusory increase. The right hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware that there have been among the Viceroy's military advisers men of position and authority, who advocate an increase of 15,000 men, which they consider to be absolutely essential. But one of the chief reasons for advocating that larger increase of 15,000 men to the British Army in India was that the Military Authorities felt no confidence whatever that the War Office at home would keep the strength of the Indian Army up to that number which is absolutely necessary for the safety of India, and therefore they asked for a considerably larger number of men than they thought necessary in order to be certain that what they did get from the War Office would be sufficient to maintain their military strength. The Viceroy and his Council, however, were not impressed with the value of that advice, and thought it better to ask for the precise number which were absolutely required; therefore, they did not agree with the Military Authorities to whom I 1850 have alluded. But what I wish to impress upon the Committee is that the Viceroy and his Council, in coming to that decision not to ask for more than 10,000 men, have confided in the determination of the War Office at home never to let the Army be practically one man below its strength; and I think it is not at all unreasonable that I should make that remark. The Committee will bear in mind that only in 1884 the Army in India was allowed, from some motive connected with recruiting, or for some obscure reason, to fall no less than 8,000 men below its proper strength. Now, of course, if disturbances with Russia in Central Asia had taken place that year, the situation would have been of a most desperate character; and I do most earnestly appeal to the Committee and the right hon. Gentleman, as representing the Government—as representing a Liberal Government and the Liberal Party—to give an assurance and guarantee that, so far as he is concerned, and so far as his Colleagues are concerned, this increase to the British Army in India is to be a bonâ fide and genuine increase, and that under no circumstances whatever will he, so long as he remains in power, allow the British Army in India to undergo that which took place in 1884. I wish to extract from the right hon. Gentleman a guarantee which shall be binding on the War Office whilst he is there. I see no reason why my right hon. Friend sitting near me (Mr. W. H. Smith) should not be willing to give a similar guarantee. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member for Northampton may object to the policy of the increase; but I am certain that even he will go with me in this, that if there is to be an increase it ought to be a genuine one. I am certain he would not wish to see the increase, if an increase is decided upon, a sham one. If we are to have an Army in India at all, it should be a real one. The hon. Member may think that we have no need for such an Army. If he does, I shall be quite ready to argue that point with him on a fitting occasion; but I do not think that, nowadays, that point is likely to be very seriously disputed by any man of common sense. What I want is, that all rational beings in the House, or, at all events, all rational beings in the two great Parties, should enter into a covenant that they 1851 will not allow the decrease of 1884–5 and the consequent military risks which were run to occur again. There should be an understanding and an undertaking between the two sides of the House that the Government of India shall not suffer through having made upon us a less demand than the Military Authorities deemed it necessary to make. These are practically the only remarks I wish to make to the Committee, with the exception of some observations on the new rifle. I own I join entirely with my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) in the great regret he has expressed that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has not been able to provide for a more rapid manufacture of the new rifle. It was my earnest hope that before the end of the year 1888 the whole Indian Army, both British and Native, might have been provided with a similar weapon, so that there might be no longer that distinction between the Snider and the Martini-Henry which exists in the Indian Army. I had hoped that the very best weapon that modern science can produce might have been issued to the whole of the Indian troops, Native as well as British; and I think I may say that to bring about that state of things was the policy of the late Government. That was their intention; but now I understand that, owing to the decision of the right hon. Gentleman, the new rifle this year will be manufactured in very small quantities indeed, and that it is no use looking forward to the Indian troops possessing in the near future that efficient weapon which is the latest development of modern times. We must rest content with the knowledge that these troops will have to defend themselves for years to come with the Martini-Henry. One great objection to the use of the Martini-Henry in India is that many of the Native troops will be unable to use it with efficiency on account of the recoil. It is likely to try very severely many of our regiments of Native Infantry, who do not possess the strong physique of British troops. There is one further point to which I wish to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman is aware that there were great military manœuvres a short time ago in India, and that they were carefully watched by military men representing every Power in Europe. But I do not know whether 1852 he is aware that whilst these foreign critics were greatly impressed by the general aspect of the troops that were assembled and the general development exhibited of Indian military resources, there was one thing upon which they unanimously formed an unfavourable opinion. They all commented upon the absolute uselessness of our Artillery, if opposed to European troops. This I happen to know as a fact. The Artillery—I am speaking now of the guns alone, and not the equipment—was the object of universal condemnation amongst the foreign representatives at Delhi. You cannot exclude—it would be ludicrous to exclude—the fact that there may be no very long time before your Indian Army is called upon to meet European troops. That being the case, I should be glad to know from the right hon. Gentleman that he does contemplate progressing rapidly with the construction of field guns and the sending out of new batteries to India, of a type similar, if possible, to those at home. These are all the remarks I wish to make to the Committee. While congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on the increase he has decided to make in the Indian Army, I would venture to express a hope that he will give us some guarantee that it is his intention to keep up the strength of the Army to the fullest extent.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN) (, &c.) Stirling
I have no desire to interrupt the course of the discussion, and I hope it will not be thought I am anxious to do so by making a few observations at this point. I think, however, I must answer at once the appeal—the solemn adjuration—which the noble Lord has addressed to me on the subject of the condition of the Army in India. The noble Lord, in solemn and impressive tones, asks for a guarantee from me as to what the future course of events will be. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: No, no!] Well, as to the maintenance of the Establishment of the Indian Army in the future; and he alludes to circumstances which have happened in the past—in the year 1884–5—with regard to the number of men falling below the Establishment. Now, I confess that I did not at the time follow the course of events, and I am not aware of the cause to which they may have been due; but if that cause again arises—and it is, no doubt, 1853 possible that it may—I can assure the noble Lord that I have no desire, and that my Colleagues have no desire, to do otherwise than maintain the full Establishment in India. For my own part, however, I cannot help the fact that I am only a human being, and only a transient human being; and not having been long in the Office I now have the honour to hold, I can give no promise or pledge of the serious nature called for by the noble Lord; but I can assure him that there is no intention on the part of the Government to do other than give the Indian Government the Force they desire, and to maintain it with full efficiency. I explained the other night the exact composition of the augmentation. That will be done which India desires; and I can assure the noble Lord there is no desire to commit the shortcomings to which he has alluded. With regard to the new rifle, as I said, 55,000 are to be produced at Enfield next year, but that is for Imperial purposes; and the Indian Government will also receive such quantity of rifles as they require. The demand of the Indian Government is not, in my opinion, a very large one. From the point of view of the War Office, it would have been satisfactory if it had been larger, because, of course, it would have kept our Establishments going and our workmen employed. But all I will say is that we are prepared to furnish the Government of India with the quantity of new rifles that they require during the year. At present, the number proposed to be manufactured on repayment is 20,000. I speak from recollection, however, and am not certain as to the figures. At all events, the exact number to be produced is not a matter for my decision, but will be fixed at the request of the Indian Government. I wish to take this opportunity of relieving the noble Lord from the apprehension he seems to be under as to the disposition of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the final determination of the Estimates, I may say that my right hon. Friend Las not only met me in a most reasonable spirit, but in a generous frame of mind. Any impression to the contrary is, therefore, entirely erroneous. He may be full of proposals of economy, and I believe he is; but whenever I have put before him—as I have on one or two matters—the strength of an in 1854 dividual case, I have found him extremely ready to listen. So that nothing is to be feared in that direction, I think. As regards field guns, we are, I admit, not pushing forward quite so fast as the Service would have us; but there are so many things we would like to do and cannot do with the money we have at our disposal that we are obliged to delay those which we think most susceptible of being postponed. As I am speaking, perhaps I may answer one or two of the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. W. H. Smith). He pointed out that the sum of money taken in Vote 1 is not proportionately as great for the Establishments as that taken last year. But I think the difference is to be accounted for in this way—that the number of soldiers is at present under the Establishment, and the Estimates are framed with that in view. Again, the increase is in privates alone, and not in officers, which makes a considerable difference. I believe that for the total number, if they were now actually in the ranks, the additional cost for the whole year would be £172,000, whereas the amount provided for in the Estimates is £145,000. These two facts will, no doubt, cover the difference pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman. Then the right hon. Gentleman made some caustic observations on the strength of the Force we propose to provide for in Egypt. Well, what I said was simply this—that it was impossible for us to be perfectly certain, in the present condition of things in that country, that we can reduce the Force, as we desire to do, to 8,000 men. But we do hope to be able to effect this reduction. I said, however, that if we were disappointed in that expectation we should undoubtedly require more money than is provided in these Estimates. As to the troops at Suakin, I may say that it is intended to put British officers over them. Then this terrible question of the dead-weight of the Non-Effective Vote, and especially the question of compulsory retirement, was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. It is very easy to rail against compulsory retirement; but if you have no compulsory retirement, you must have something else to keep a proper flow of promotion. I know, by my experience in these matters, how delicate and difficult a thing it is to 1855 adjust the flow of promotion so as to deal fairly and reasonably with the whole career of the officers. The slightest change at any one point, and especially in what is often called, by the use of a common expression, the "neck of the bottle"—namely, the promotion to Field Officer—the slightest change there, I say, has a wonderful effect, and one which experience proves to be much greater than might be expected all through the junior ranks. In a Return which was moved for by the right hon. Member for North-East Manchester (Sir James Fergusson), and which I laid on the Table to-night, I was astonished myself to find that the total number of officers who have been compulsorily retired from the ranks of Major and Captain since 1870 in the Cavalry and Infantry is only 214. So that I do not think that that in itself accounts for the great increase of the Non-Effective Charges; but if I may quote another figure from this Return, it certainly does appear that the increased charge on this account is very great. The total cost of pensions and gratuities on retirement borne on the Estimates was £504,388 in 1855, and this year it is £1,354,000. That is a very startling state of things, and it will go on increasing. I quite admit to the full this very serious result; but, on the other hand, it is not easy to decide how it can be avoided. The same principle of compulsory retirement, or a substantially similar system, prevails in the Navy. It would be difficult to interfere in any sweeping way with the one Service without re-arranging the other; and I am rather disposed to be cautious in making any change, however slight and harmless it may appear, because my experience shows me that a small change sometimes produces much more extended results than one would anticipate. As to the double battalion system, I am afraid I cannot enter again into the old arguments with which we have all been familiar. I was rather astonished that the leading attack upon the double battalion system should have been made by the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Mr. Tottenham), and that he should have been supported more prominently than by anybody else by two gallant Officers in the Guards. I am astonished at this, because the very idea of the double battalion system was derived from the Rifle Brigade, to which 1856 the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester belonged, and from the Guards. I should have thought that hon. and gallant Members who have had experience of the benefits of having at least two battalions to support each other would have been most in favour of the double battalion system. I think it will be generally admitted, at all events, even by those who are opposed to the system, that in what we have done in raising the establishment of even the weakest battalions in this country to 750 men, we have taken a step towards meeting the difficulty. We have been asked if we intend to maintain the establishment, and make it a real establishment. Again, I say, we have no other intention than to do so. My hon. and gallant Friend, who, I am afraid, has now left the House—I allude to the Member for one of the Divisions of Lancashire (Colonel Salis-Schwabe)—made a number of suggestions on the score of economy in connection with these Army Estimates. He suggested instances in which money could be saved in order to supply funds for improvements. He alluded to the large number of civil clerks in the War Office, and suggested that greater powers should be given to Commanding Officers. But what is the cause of the amount of centralization with which we are afflicted at the present time? I would point out to my hon. and gallant Friend that the maintenance of all these clerks in the War Office, and the degree of centralization which exists, are due in a large part to the House of Commons itself. The House of Commons insists, and very properly insists, on a most rigid and accurate account of every item of expenditure. Every shilling that is spent has to be submitted to the Auditor and the Accounts Committee of this House. In order to have that exact and rigid account kept of every penny that is spent, we must maintain this, I admit, somewhat clumsy and involved system, and we must keep all these public servants working hard. When we come to a state of war, things are widely different; the purse-strings are thrown away, and the General Officer commanding in the field may do as he likes, because there is no time to appeal to Auditors General or Committees of this House. But so long as this House insists upon having an account kept of every penny spent, we shall have to keep these 1857 clerks, and we shall not be able to get rid of this large item of expense of which the hon. and gallant Member spoke. Allusion has been made to the well-known topic of German swords. I can speak of the German swords with a perfectly clear conscience, because the whole transaction occurred before I had any responsibility in the matter at all. The truth is this—that the sword trade is an exceedingly small trade. I have no doubt the Committee will be as astonished as I was when I heard it to learn that for years back there have been only two manufacturers of swords in this country, and that one of them struggled on for some time and expired in a business sense some years ago. For a good time back there has been only one man in the country who can take an order for swords, and he is a small manufacturer who can make comparatively few; and what was the experience on this last occasion? He was invited to tender. I may say that not only is the trade a small one, but the work of manufacture and the knowledge of the technical part of it was, I believe, confined to two individual families of workmen in the country. This one manufacturer was invited to tender, and he received an order for the largest number of swords that he could undertake to produce. The rest were given to a Solingen firm at a smaller rate than we paid him; but he had the power to make as many as he could. But before many weeks were over he had to come to the War Office, hat in hand, confess that he could not make the swords, and ask our permission to substitute Solingen blades for blades of British manufacture. When I state these facts, I think the Committee will agree that all the stories about a penurious Public Department, out of mere wantonness of economy, employing the wretched foreigner to do things cheaply, and thereby giving the go-bye to British manufacturers at home, are actually without foundation. So far as I have been able to investigate the matter, no supplies for the War Department are sought for on the Continent, except in respect of articles which cannot be produced in this country. I listened with great interest to the speeches of the noble and gallant Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Lord Algernon Percy) and to the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Bridgeman). 1858 There was one point dwelt upon which I should be sorry to believe was true to any great extent, and that was the allegation that the recruit is misinformed at the time of his enlistment as to the real nature of his pay. I hope it is not true that the recruit is told that he is to get 1s. a-day and a free ration. I am very certain that if my friend General Bulwer, or any of his officers, caught a sergeant telling men anything of that sort, the sergeant would immediately be put to some other duty. But I will undertake to make inquiry, and discontinue any practice which may lead to misapprehension on the subject.
§ SIR ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL (Renfrew, W.)
There are one or two points that I should like to bring before the Committee. They have not been touched upon by any of the hon. Members who have addressed the Committee up to the present, and my apology for referring to them is that I approach them from a point of view which is that not altogether of an officer of the Army, though, having served for a long time in the Army, I have some experience of the Service. I have had experience of the Reserve Forces, having commanded a regiment of Volunteers, and I have also the honour of commanding the regiment of Militia in my county. In these positions I have had exceptional opportunity of seeing what becomes of the men who pass out of the Army. As a result of my experiences, I think that a step might very well be taken in the direction which has already been taken by my gallant friend General Bulwer, than whom there is no better officer in Her Majesty's Service, and under whom I was proud to serve on more than one occasion. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) spoke of him in such admirable terms, because I feel sure he has done everything he possibly could for the good of the Army, and has moved in the direction I should like us to move—the direction indicated in his recommendations upon the Service and upon the duties of a man when he enters the Service. There is one thing which always struck me as very necessary, and that is that, inasmuch as our Army is a voluntary one, we ought to endeavour to make it as easy as possible to men; and, in fact, to work, if we can, upon the feelings of the 1859 recruits. What I found when in the Army was that, whatever the term of enlistment was, if you asked a man whether he would like to leave he would assuredly answer "Yes." The men wanted to get their liberty again; but when they did go away and found that their home or the place which knew them before knew them no more, and that it was very difficult to get work, I do not hesitate to say that two-thirds of them would have gladly returned to the Service. Having in view this indisposition on the part of the men who have left the Army, I wish to offer a few observations to the Committee. At the present time a recruit enters the Line for seven years; but at the end of three years he can re-engage, and make up his term of service to 12 years. Now, what I propose is this—that at the end of seven years men should be allowed to go away from the Service for a year, and that at the end of that period, if they found it would be an advantage to them to come back, they might re-enlist for 12 years, if they chose, and thus earn their pension. I believe that by adopting this plan we should get back all the very best men. As a matter of fact, we need only take back those men who bore good characters. We should get trained men into the ranks; we should have men of good age mixed up with the recruits, and that would be of immense advantage, and would be the means of preventing a great deal of the waste which now goes on in the Army. What has happened since 1870 has shown quite plainly that our young soldiers are bold enough, but that they are not strong enough. The consequence is that at the beginning of a campaign there is always very great waste. A short and stiff campaign they may be able to stand; but if the struggle continues for anything like six months, it is found that the young soldiers become sick and have to be sent home. The fact of the matter is that in six months one sees a tremendous change worked in the young men forming the Army. Why, the men of the Militia regiment under my command—unfortunately it has often been the case, and I am afraid I shall see a repetition of it this year—get into their clothes with great ease in the first few days of training; but when they have been a fortnight or three weeks in camp they are found to be very 1860 different men. They are better and stronger in every way. All I want is to get men who have left to rejoin the ranks. I believe we could get back voluntarily most of the men if we only give them the opportunity of returning when they have tasted the disagreeable-ness of being at home and of being unable to obtain subsistence, as many of them are. We need not take back any of those we do not require. I believe the change I propose would prove a great boon not only to the men, but to the country. Of course I would allow them when re-enlisting to enter any regiment they chose, and also to fall in at the bottom of their rank; if they went away as non-commissioned officers they might come in again as non-commissioned officers, but, of course, at the bottom of the list.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK-ALLAN (Durham, S.E.)
Mr. Courtney, in the few remarks I propose to address to the Committee I wish to confine myself principally to those subjects taken up and dealt with so ably by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lambeth (General Fraser) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who opened the discussion (Mr. Tottenham), because it so happens that I have unfortunately been unable to bring on the Motion I have had on the Paper for several weeks with regard to the points upon which they touched. The ballot was on every occasion very unpropitious to me; and not being desirous on the first occasion the Army Estimates came on to stand between the Committee and the Statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), I felt it right to defer any remarks I had to make until a time like the present. Now, Sir, I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman, in the few remarks he has just made, and which appeared to me to be interjected exactly at the right moment, has dispelled the illusion which seems to prevail that he has been engaged in some active struggle with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt), and that it has only been with the greatest difficulty he has been able to present the present Estimates, which, I am pleased to see, promise much greater efficiency than those of the last few years. I should say there could be no greater illusion than 1861 to suppose that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt) or the Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) has, in any degree, desired to see efficiency sacrificed to false economy. If I may be allowed to quote the Estimates of the present year as testimony to the contrary, I should say we have now, for the first time, some hope of the realization of those improvements which military reformers on both sides of the House have been impressing on successive Governments for the last 10 years. For instance, the hon. Gentlemen to whom I have alluded have dwelt in strong terms, though, I am bound to say, not in too strong terms, on the deplorable state of things which has been caused by the endeavour to feed battalions abroad from too small bases at home. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will pardon me when I say that that is one point in his Estimates in regard to which I cannot entirely concur with him, because the evil that has been pointed out by my hon. and gallant Friends the Members for Lambeth and Winchester does not appear to be met by any remedy in the present Estimates. We, undoubtedly, do suffer from the fact that when the new scheme was set into operation in the year 1872 or 1873 there was a miscalculation made as to the number of battalions which it was likely would be sent abroad compared with the number of those which it was likely would be retained at home. Perhaps, as it is a matter of history, I may be allowed to recall to the recollection of the Committee what was the arrangement that was then come to with the common concurrence of both sides of the House. The Infantry of the British Army, exclusive of the seven battalions of Guards, is divided into 141 battalions. The 141 battalions were so divided as to be grouped into 70 abroad and 71 at home. It stands to reason that, with a margin of only one at home, there was little material with which to cope with any of those small Colonial or foreign wars of which we have had so many. Very nearly all the evils, and the extraordinary strain to which in successive years our system has been subjected, have sprung from this miscalculation. It does not appear to me that in the Estimates which we have now before us, excellent as I believe they are in 1862 many respects, that blot has been entirely removed, nor do I see any indication that a remedy is contemplated. Now, the idea of the new organization was, as I have said, that there should be 70 battalions abroad and 71 at home; but what has actually turned out to be the case? Beginning, I think, about 1876, we have down to the present day been engaged sometimes in a small Colonial war, sometimes in a considerable one—on one or two occasions we have had two Expeditions going on in different parts of the world at the same time; and the result has been that we have been endeavouring to carry on war or warlike operation, or whatever we choose to call it, upon a purely peace footing. As a consequence, the whole of that system, which was based on the idea that there would remain at home one or two battalions more than were abroad, has completely broken down, with the deplorable results which hon. Gentlemen opposite have so minutely described. It appears to me that there is not in the near or remote future any probability that the state of things with regard to the balance between the number of battalions serving abroad and the number of battalions serving at home is likely to be remedied. Furthermore, one of the points insisted upon to-night by the noble Lord the late Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill), and with whose remarks regarding the desirability of making the increase of the Army in India a real, and not a sham or delusive increase, I entirely agree, was that the Establishment in India should be permanently increased from 50,000 to 53,000. Then, Sir, we cannot suppose that any cause will arise which will diminish the number which are serving in the Colonies, in the Mediterranean, China, and so on; that will always remain at the fixed number of 25 battalions. 53,000 in India and 25,000 in the Colonies and China make a total of 78,000; and in addition to that we have, at the present moment, the disturbance of the arrangement seriously aggravated by the fact that we have no less than 17—I think 17½—battalions of Infantry in Egypt. I must confess I am not so sanguine as those hon. Members who have spoken of the probability of a very large and serious reduction being made this year in the number of battalions serving in 1863 Egypt. Therefore, it follows that the present state of things will be more or less continued. Lord Airey's Committee has been spoken of, and perhaps the Committee will allow me to offer a few observations in regard to the proceedings of that Committee, having paid, as I did, considerable attention to the evidence given and to the Report which was published. Now, Lord Airey's Committee appear to have hit upon the idea that it was desirable that we should revert to the system which had been formerly extensively tried and abandoned—namely, the system of large depots. I was struck with the fact that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Mr. Tottenham) who opened the discussion this evening did not tell us why it was that the Report of Lord Airey's Committee in this particular was never acted upon. That this recommendation was not respected was the more singular because the Government who were in power at the time Lord Airey's Committee presented their Report continued in power for some considerable time afterwards. If the recommendation regarding the importance of large depôts had commended itself to the minds of the Government then in power, I think they would have taken some means, before quitting Office, of carrying it out. The Liberal Government came into power in 1880, and in the latter part of that year or of the following year there was a general concurrence of opinion amongst men of both political Parties that it would be undesirable to re-establish the system of large depôts as recommended by Lord Airey's Committee. But there was one recommendation simultaneously made which, I am sorry to say, has not been carried out; and as it is the one which bears more immediately on the question of the strain which at present exists, I trust the Committee will permit me to say a few words upon it. The recommendation to which I allude was that, whenever both the linked battalions of a regiment were abroad at the same time, a large depôt of some 600 men should be raised at home for the purpose of keeping the two battalions supplied. Perhaps the Committee are not aware that in no case has that recommendation been fully carried out. In only six cases has it been partially carried out; but I am happy to say that, from the Estimates now pre 1864 sented to us, there is reason to hope that, concurrently with some of the battalions being withdrawn home, that sound recommendation of Lord Airey's Committee will be carried out. The fact exists that, at this moment, there are no less than 13 regiments, consisting of two linked battalions each, which have both their battalions abroad, and in only six out of the 26 has this particularly sound and good recommendation of Lord Airey's Committee been adopted, and that only partially. I find that the strength of the depôts in the six instances of which I speak falls very far short of the 600 men which was recommended by Lord Airey's Committee; in no case does the number rise to over 520 men, and in some cases the number is only a few men over 400. Therefore, I am bound to say that it is no matter of surprise to me at all that the whole system during the last four years should have been perfectly disjointed, and that the state of things has existed which has been ruinous to the esprit de corps of the Army, and which has almost broken the hearts of some of the most able men in the Army. I repeat, Sir, that I consider it is one of the best features of the recommendations made in the Estimates which have been submitted to the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that this deplorable state of things is now likely to come to an end. But, Sir, this will not, even if carried out, entirely remove the evil, for we shall still have the fact that the number of battalions abroad will be very large indeed in comparison with the number at home; and as long as some means are not taken to adjust the balance between the two states of things I am afraid that, in a lesser or greater degree, the evil will still continue. At the risk of being supposed to recommend that which may incur additional expense, which is not, in the slightest degree, my intention, I do desire to put before the Committee the serious consideration as to whether it would not be desirable to face this Committee with what has been suggested, but which was only slightly touched upon by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Winchester (Mr. Tottenham), and that is a permanent increase in the number of units. For instance, if it should be decided after consideration—and it is a matter which only ought to be decided 1865 upon after full consideration, although I believe that already it has the weight of being recommended by the highest authority we have on such matters, Lord Wolseley—if it should be decided that the number of battalions should be increased from 141 to 160 it would always be possible, even in times of Colonial war, to have 80 battalions abroad and 80 at home; and, at the same time, there need not necessarily be a single man added to the number provided for in the Estimates of the present year. And this brings me to the point on which I venture to disagree with some of the recommendations which have been made as to the dead level of strength being 750 a battalion. Now, Sir, one of the principal defects that have existed since the year 1882, when the Expedition went to Egypt and fought the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, has been this—that whereas in 1876, when the system of linked battalions was agreed upon, it was fixed that there should always be kept in this country at the head of the list of the battalions which were first for foreign service 12 battalions of the strength of 950 or 1,000 men, the idea being that the 12 battalions, in conjunction with the nine battalions which are always kept in the Mediterranean, should form a corps d'armée ready at the shortest notice, the result has been that owing to the various Expeditions of which I have spoken, and which began in 1878, that arrangement—that salutary and good arrangement—has been entirely lost sight of. Not only was it the case a few months ago, but it is partially the case still, that we have 86 battalions abroad and 55 at home, not one of which comes within 250 or 300 of its strength; and if any complication had arisen, or were to arise elsewhere, calling for other troops, they could not have been provided without sending some portion of the Reserve, or else disjointing the whole Reserve system. I earnestly put it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War whether he should not take into consideration, coincident with the question of the desirability of increasing the number of our units so as to preserve a balance between the number of battalions abroad and at home, the necessity of returning to that wholesome and salutary system of retaining at home a number of battalions, be it 12 or 14, of the prescribed strength, and ready to 1866 take the field? I cannot see that any harm would be done if we were to return to the principle of a graduated scale of strength; that instead of keeping all the battalions at home at 750 we should keep the 12 first on the list for foreign service at 950, and the battalions at the bottom of the list, those which were not likely to be called upon to go abroad for at least five, six, or seven years, at the reduced strength—that is to say 600–600 being, I believe, the number fixed upon by Lord Airey's Committee as likely to suffice to meet the annual waste. While I think we should return to the wholesome practice which existed in 1876 and 1878 of keeping a certain number of battalions always ready to be called upon, and at the proper strength to take the field without any addition from the Reserve, I am bound to say that the criticisms that have been made from the other side of the House have come at a somewhat unfortunate time, because it does so happen that the Estimates now presented to us are the very first which have given us an assurance that we should have an effective strength both at home and abroad. With regard to the question of the increase of the Army in India, I do not know at all on what the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) based his assumption. I think it was an entirely groundless assumption that there was any degree of disinclination on the part of the Secretary of State for War to effect the reinforcement of the Army in India as soon as possible. I do not think the previous history of the right hon. Gentleman in any of the Departments in which he has served so well shows that he will be guilty of delaying a step which is acknowledged to be necessary. Well, Sir, having said this much as to the defects which still seem to exist in our system, may I be permitted for one moment to congratulate the Committee and the country upon the real and substantial effects which have been produced in the last 12 years by the working of the short-service system. It is satisfactory to think that this year we have obtained something like 42,000 recruits for the Line, and that 40,000 men have voluntarily engaged for service in the Militia. Now, Sir, when I recall the forebodings which were uttered in this House and in the 1867 Press all over the country some years ago as to the effectiveness of the short-service system—when I recollect how continually we were told that the short-service system would not only destroy the fighting line altogether, but would not give us the proper number of men, I am bound to say one word in commendation of those who, through thick and thin, supported the new system. Upon the result the country may be justly congratulated. Who would have thought some years ago such a result possible? In every way the men entering the Army nowadays are of a superior quality. Who would have supposed that we should have been able, under a voluntary system, to have in one year some 82,000 effective men entering the Military Service? In speaking of the degree in which the short-service system has commended itself to the minds of those classes of the population who enlist, I must not lose sight of the fact that, in addition to the 82,000 of whom I have spoken, 7,000 men had entered the Reserve. On the whole, however, I think that we may congratulate ourselves that the short-service system has worked well, and that none of those forebodings which the croakers gave utterance to some years ago have been realized. We were told that we should have large numbers of our men breaking down when it came to a strained campaign; but I do not know that in the recent war in Egypt, during the arduous march up the Nile, that foreboding with regard to our soldiers was carried out. I may mention one thing to show that the men enlisted under the short-service system are not inferior. A regiment in which I once had the honour to serve performed the extraordinary feat of marching towards Gubat, in the Expedition up the Nile, 120 miles on foot in six days—an average of 20 miles a-day on foot under, perhaps, the most trying climate in the world, and over a route, it must be recollected, which was thought so impracticable that it was traversed before only by men carried on camels. All the men marched 120 miles, and not a single one of them gave way on the journey. I think that, having regard to these facts, we must be satisfied that the short-service system has not led to the deterioration of our soldiers. Then I come to another point—namely, the recruiting 1868 for the Army; and I cannot give a better illustration of the successful way in which that is done than by referring to the present condition of the Brigade of Guards. They have had a good turn during the last three years, for out of seven battalions they have had six battalions in the field. Now, Sir, what has resulted from that state of things? Have those battalions been so depleted that they could not turn out now? On the contrary, we find that the Brigade is not only up to its full strength, but it has 300 men beyond its establishment; and instead of the physique falling off, I think it is the opinion of everybody who has any acquaintance with matter that a more magnificent body of men it would be impossible to find. That shows that all the predictions of evil have fallen to the ground. The condition of the Guards is owing to the admirable manner in which they carry out the short-service system; and the only difference between it and any other service is that the term of service is shorter in the Guards than in any other Corps. Men are enlisted only for three years, with nine years further service if they like; and the results which are obtained by the system show how wise it is that recruits should have it in their power to choose their length of service at the beginning. When I returned to the Service from India I found a marked and very great improvement in the conduct of the men; but that was not to be wondered at, seeing the better and more extended system of education which was given to the youth of the country by the Liberal Party in 1871. The young soldiers we get now perform their duty admirably, and it is almost impossible to make too great a demand upon their zeal. I thank the Committee very much for the kindness with which they have listened to me, and I beg to commend the suggestions which I have made to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. With those exceptions which I have mentioned, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon having given the country something in the nature of value for their money, and of having delivered one of the most interesting Army Statements that has been delivered in this House for the last 20 years.
SIR FREDERICK FITZ-WYGRAM (Hants, Farnham)
Mr. Courtney, Sir, 1869 in the face of the very large Estimates which have been presented to this House I shall not venture to ask for them to be very considerably increased; but I hope to make some suggestions, which, if acted upon, will very considerably improve the Service without very greatly increasing the Estimates for the year. I will deal first with the Infantry, because, first of all, I think it is the most important portion of the Army; and, secondly, because it is less organized than any other part of the Army. No Infantry regiment can move out of camp without an escort of Cavalry, without transport, without a Commissariat Corps, without an Ambulance Corps borrowed from the Army Hospital Corps, and without Royal Engineers for the purpose of throwing up trenches, making bridges, and such-like duties. I think such an organization as this is incomplete, and I think that it would be advantageous, if possible, to make every regiment almost complete within itself, so as to be independent, to a large extent, of these auxiliaries. I should like to see a large percentage of men in every regiment trained to some useful military trade, such as carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, &c., and so on, as they might be in times of peace. Probably 10 per cent of the men, or 80 out of 800, might be so trained; and then I should like to see them formed into an Industrial Company, call it a Pioneer Company; they would be able to pay for the training they obtained by doing barrack work. Then I should like to see those men employed upon barrack repairs, and such like, which could be done with advantage to themselves. Infantry soldiers might even be employed in the building of their own barracks, and thus useful employment would be found for thousands of men who now idle about in the afternoon, and in whom an industrious spirit might be developed if they were encouraged to devote themselves to useful work for which at present civilians have to be employed. I live near a town—Portsmouth—where there are a large number of convicts who are trained to do useful work; and I am sure that if convicts can be so trained it ought to be easy to teach our soldiers to do repairs about the barracks. I think that every soldier in the Army ought to be made as useful as he can possibly be; and if it can be done without seriously 1870 increasing the Estimates, I shall ask the Secretary of State for War to take the suggestion into his very serious consideration. I believe that if an industrial training can be introduced into the Army it will make the soldier more happy and contented, and will greatly tend to the efficiency of the Service. The next point I wish to refer to is the question of transport. An Infantry regiment cannot move without transport borrowed from the Commissariat and Transport Corps. In fact, we require two kinds of transport—a general transport by a special corps, and also a regimental transport. The existing Commissariat and Transport Corps do their work very well, but they are insufficient for carrying on the whole transport of the Army; and I believe it would be a great advantage to them if they were relieved of the regimental transport by training Infantry regiments to undertake transport duties for themselves. If the Government would supply each regiment with 12 horses and 6 carts that would do very well to instruct the men in transport duties. There might be 75 men in each regiment so trained in transport duties, such as the care of horses, saddling and driving, and the loading of carts, which are duties not to be learned in a day or a week, or a month. This would give the men a knowledge of horses which is always useful to the soldier. As it is at present, when emergencies arise—as in the case of the Egyptian War—men were sent in batches of 30 to spend the ridiculously short term of three days in being trained to these duties. Of course, I am aware that there will be some expense connected with this change; but I do not think it need be a large one. The horses might be provided from those which are unfit to carry heavy weights, and are therefore cast by the Cavalry, but which would be sufficient for harness work. And I would also remind the Secretary of State for War that at present there is very considerable expense in hired transport at different regimental stations. The third point on which I think our regimental organization is incomplete is in regard to the ambulance. It is at present very successfully carried on, and with great skill, by the Army Hospital Corps. By the present system an Ambulance detachment is sent with each regiment and acts quite well as far as it goes; but a regiment 1871 is often broken up into wings and companies, and my contention is that each company ought to have a certain number of men trained to ambulance duties. I would go a step farther, and would ask the Government to provide each company with two mules; and I think it would be a very good thing indeed to tell off a certain number of men in each regiment to take care of the mules and be trained in fitting them with ambulance saddles, which require careful adjustment. It is exceedingly necessary to train men in the care of mules, because if a mule is ill-treated it becomes vicious and kicks a great deal, and that may increase the sufferings of any wounded man who was placed on such an animal. There is another matter on which I think the Infantry are singularly inefficient, and that is in regard to scouting. Our regiments are deficient in the means of doing their own scouting, and they cannot move without an escort of Cavalry. Scouting cannot be done by men on foot, for the quickest running would be too slow to give the necessary security. It will probably be in the recollection of the Committee that an Infantry regiment was taken by surprise at Pretoria by the Boers, and that this was the commencement of all our troubles in the Transvaal. That difficulty would never have occurred if that regiment had had mounted scouts with them. Of course reconnoissances, when large bodies of troops are pushed forward considerable distances, can only be made by Cavalry; but minor scouting duty—that is, the care of the immediate front and flank of a marching column—can be very well done by Mounted Infantry; and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give 12 horses to each regiment for this purpose, and to see that these men are told off to look after them, and trained to this work. This is a matter which concerns the safety of the immediate front and flank, and I think it ought to be undertaken by Infantry scouts. In this way you will get rid of a great difficulty in regard to the movement of Infantry—that is, if you supply them with scouts, with their own Commissariat arrangements, and with an Ambulance Corps. I do not see why Infantry soldiers, especially in the present day—intelligent as they are—should not be as well trained as the Royal Engineers. No men in the Service are more useful 1872 than the Royal Engineers; and if the men were trained to useful trades there is no reason why a regiment might not dispense with the section of Royal Engineers which is now almost essential. For my part, I want to see every portion of the British Army trained and made as competent as it can be. There is another point connected with regiments of Infantry to which I desire to refer—and that is the art of shoeing. The breakdown in all our Transport Departments of late years is due, in a great measure, to the difficulty of getting horses and mules shod. The iron trade has been active for many years past, and the result is that there has been very little inducement to workers in iron to enter the Army, and the Cavalry have to train their own farriers. Now, Sir, the farriers' art is not to be learnt in a day. There are two branches of the trade—one is that of the farrier who can make shoes, which takes a couple of years to learn, and I do not suggest that this art should be taught; but there is the trade of the shoeing smith—that is, nailing on ready-made shoes, which are always supplied on service—and that can be learnt with comparative ease in a few weeks. I believe that if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War will give 12 horses for transport, 12 for scouting, and six mules, there will be no difficulty in training 30 men per year in this very useful art of nailing on and taking off shoes; and by adopting the principle which I suggest you will have 90 men in the course of three years in each regiment, well qualified in a most useful way, the want of which qualification has caused more losses in our transport than I care to name. Of course, there is the question of expense. Well, as regards the Industrial Company, which I spoke of first, of 80 men to undertake barrack repairs, new buildings, and the repair of fortifications, there would be no cost at all, because the saving to the country of civilian labour would be greater than the cost of military labour. The cost of 25 men for instruction in transport, 25 for mules, 25 for scouting, and 25 for shoeing, at 2d. a-day, would be about 16s. a-day, or, say, £300 a-year. I multiply this by 60, the number of regiments at home, and I find the cost of thorough industrial training would be about £18,000 a-year; but I have to add to that the cost 1873 of forage for 30 horses for 60 regiments. There would be 1,800 horses on the average, and that, I admit, would represent a large sum—say from £65,000 to £80,000 a-year. Adding the same establishment for the 15,000 men in the fortresses, and at Gibraltar and Malta, I take the whole cost to amount to £100,000, and I am able to say that the State would gain considerably more by this expenditure than it would lose. It would make the Army far more efficient than it is at present; and it would be a great advantage to the soldiers on enlisting, who would know that they could employ their spare time in the ranks, and that they would learn in the Army a trade against the time when they would join the Reserve. We have a large portion of our Army in India, and this matter is, of course, one for the consideration of the Indian Government; but I believe that the Indian Government would be ready to adopt any scheme which would abridge the many idle hours which the soldier has when serving in a tropical climate, and which he cannot use himself. But there is an argument against this; and I shall be told that the Infantry soldier has no time for this sort of industrial training. But the Cavalry, the Royal Horse Artillery, the Military Engineers, and the Transport Corps have time for these duties. They spend some six hours a-day in industrial employment; like the Infantry, they are on short service, and what they do I am satisfied the other branch of the Service can do as well. I shall be told that the Infantry take general fatigue duty, and that the other branches do not; but general fatigue duty may be an hour's or half-an-hour's work. Suppose that six hours were spent in industrial duty—strike off one hour for general fatigue duty—and you will have five hours a-day in which this useful training may be carried on, as I believe, without the least detriment to the drill of an Infantry regiment. Then I may be told that drill occupies a long time, and must do so. Well, but there is drill in the Cavalry as well as in the Infantry, the only difference being that the one learns two sets of drills, and the other only one set. When I look at an Infantry soldier in the streets, I do not think that he looks any better or smarter than his brother who joins a Cavalry regiment. I believe that the Infantry soldier, em 1874 ployed as I have indicated, would be far more efficient than he is at present. But I wish to advocate the scheme for training the Infantry soldier not merely on the ground of what is good for the Army, but what is good for the Reserve man. At the present time we take a young man in the prime of life, and we keep him in almost complete idleness for six years; if he has learnt a trade he has no chance of exercising it, and he loses his handiness, and the consequence is that when he re-enters civil life he finds himself strange to it; and, besides, not having been kept at work, he has an indisposition to work, and the result is that many Infantry Reserve men are to be seen loafing about the streets. I attribute the large number of loafers in the streets to the fact that the men have got out of the habit of work. Nearly all the loafers I see come from the Infantry regiments. I have commanded a Cavalry regiment myself, and not once in a year have I had an application from a man of that regiment to find him employment; the men are kept at work steadily; they have learnt a trade, and in consequence they are very easily absorbed into the industries of the country. Another point I am very keen about is that of Mounted Infantry. That is growing into importance every day. The last Nile Campaign was carried on almost entirely by Mounted Infantry. If you are to have Mounted Infantry you must take care that the men have a knowledge of horses, and know how to sit steadily on the horses, or else they will very soon have sore backs. Now, I do not want to put the Secretary of State for War to any expense for horses for the Mounted Infantry. I think the training could be done without any fresh horses being added. We have 15 Cavalry regiments at home, exclusive of the Household Cavalry; and I should like to see detachments of 30 Infantry soldiers sent to the Cavalry regiments during the winter season, to remain with them, and be thoroughly trained in mounted duties during two months and a-half, and I should at the end of that time like them to be exchanged for another similar detachment. I am satisfied that there would be no opposition on the part of the Cavalry regiments to this arrangement. The Cavalry have always in the winter 1875 more horses than they want. The state of the country renders it impossible to have field days, and the men are generally allowed freely to be absent on leave; and, therefore, I say there would be no opposition whatever, nor would there be any jealousy on the part of the Cavalry regiments towards the Mounted Infantry men, because the two classes of duties are totally different. The Cavalry fight on horseback; their weapon is the sword; and their secondary, or, perhaps, their primary duty, in the present day, is that of scouting and reconnoisance, which can only be performed by highly-trained Cavalry soldiers. But the Mounted Infantry man fights on foot, with a long rifle. He only uses his horse as a means of transport, by which he is enabled to made longer and quicker journeys than on foot; but he fights on foot; he remains to the end of the day essentially and primarily an Infantry soldier, and I think it will be admitted that this work does not interfere with any Cavalry duties properly so-called. I suggest this scheme because it can be carried out without any expense to the country, and because the Infantry soldiers will like it very much. There are always a certain number of men in a regiment fond of horses, and who, as they would take kindly to it, are very easily trained. In a Cavalry regiment we are obliged to train every man, whether he is a horseman or not; and that difficulty which we have to contend with would not arise where you had to select 80 men out of, say, 850 Infantry. There would be no difficulty in getting men ready to be trained. If you were to send 60 men every year to each of the 15 Cavalry regiments, you would have 1,280 men trained every year to perform these duties, and that, at the end of three years, would give 3,700 available for the duties of Mounted Infantry, which year by year are becoming more important and absolutely necessary. But I must remind the Committee that the men must be thoroughly trained to manage horses, and the necessary knowledge can only be gained by sending batches of Infantry soldiers to be instructed in Cavalry regiments. I have not much to say about industrial employment for Cavalry; but I do hope the Secretary of State for War will see the great importance of giving earnest consideration to the duties specially be 1876 longing to Cavalry of mounted signalmen and mounted pioneers. Signallers are men who should know not only the alphabet of signalling, but men who can use their brains as well as their eyes; they should be men who, when pushed forward to collect information, will collect reliable information, for it is upon the information transmitted by signals that the safety of the army and, perhaps, the success of the campaign depends. The theatre of war has been very much extended in the present day. The facilities afforded by steamers and other means for the conveyance of troops make it absolutely necessary to transmit information to a great distance in districts where we cannot lay down our electric wire. By means of the heliograph in Afghanistan messages were transmitted to a distance of 40 miles, and in most countries in which we have to carry on war there is the advantage of the sunlight, which can be made use of for heliograph signalling. We have in these days mounted pioneers, who are a very great and prominent feature in war; they carry dynamite, and when such a body of men are pushed forward in a country it is impossible to say how much mischief they may do. I should like to see men appointed in every regiment as signallers and pioneers—that is to say, 32 men to be instructed in each capacity. If these men are to be really effective they must be kept in practice every day in pioneer duty. They may learn at Chatham things thoroughly; but unless they are kept in practice everyday their training will be soon lost, and it is for that reason that I ask that a regularly established corps of signallers and pioneers may be kept up in every regiment. These men would need some little extra pay. I wish to say a few words about our Cavalry regiments. Are they too weak? There is not the least doubt in the world that they are. Every Cavalry regiment ought to have, I was going to say, five squadrons. We want four squadrons in the field and one at home, the latter not merely as a reserve, but because there are a number of recruits and unfit men in each of the squadrons. Now, I am not going to ask for this squadron, because I know that in the present state of the Estimates it cannot be given; but I believe that the Cavalry regiments, as they are now, are inefficient for the purposes of war. Skeleton regiments 1877 may be valuable in the Infantry where they can be filled up with trained men; but you cannot train up a dragoon in a year; and, therefore, I say you ought to keep up your Cavalry regiments to the war strength at all times, but I cannot ask for that now, and if I were to do so I know that I should not get this squadron. But in the interests of efficiency I would rather see the number of regiments reduced. By reducing the three junior regiments you will gain 12 squadrons, and by that reduction you would probably be able to furnish a fifth squadron to each of the regiments at home. I say that an additional squadron for each regiment is absolutely essential to their efficiency. The Cavalry regiments in India will require no further increase, as the Indian Government have just added an extra squadron. There is a common opinion with regard to Cavalry regiments that the horse is a more valuable article than the man, and accordingly the idea is that the regiments should be kept as strong in horses as possible. But I think that if you ask the opinion of anyone competent to speak on the subject of Cavalry regiments, you will find that there is a concurrence of opinion that the largest number of men should be kept at drill on the smallest number of horses, that is to say, that the man is the essential part of the Cavalry regiment, and that the horse is not so. If you give to 500 trained horsemen 500 horses untrained, I think I can guarantee that, so far as military duties are concerned, the men will quickly obtain command of the horses. That was proved to be the case recently, when the 15th Hussars was ordered from Bombay to Natal without horses. On arrival they were supplied with horses which had never seen a dragoon. They were very soon under the control of the men, and in a few days were sent to the front. General Sir Evelyn Wood told me himself that they did their work capitally in the field. Therefore, I think it should be our endeavour to keep the largest number of men who can be kept efficient on the smallest number of horses. The Cavalry regiments first for foreign service are 600 men and 400 horses. I should like to see the number of horses reduced to 350 and the number of men increased to 700; and in regard to regiments of lesser strength I should 1878 wish to see the 300 horses reduced to 250, and the number of the men increased from 400 to 500. I am satisfied that in that way you will get a more efficient body of Cavalry than you have now; and in making this statement I believe I shall carry with me the opinion of every Cavalry man in the Army. Three field days a-week are enough to keep men in drill. Thus 350 horses will keep 700 men in training. I would remind the Committee that when you speak of 700 men you are not speaking of 700 trained men, because you must remember that the Cavalry are short-service men as well as the Infantry; and as it would take more than a year to train a man, you generally have about 100 who are not fit for service in each regiment, so that the 700 men are practically reduced to 600, which could supply four squadrons of 150 men each for service in the field, and I think you would then have, without any extra expense, a thoroughly effective force for the service of the country in time of war. Then there is another subject on which I wish to make some remarks. The late Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) has furnished some information on crimes and punishments in a Return which is of a very remarkable character. There exists a greater discrepancy in the behaviour of regiments than can, I think, be well explained, seeing that they are serving under the same Mutiny Act, and formed from the same class of men. It appears, according to the Return I have alluded to, that the best-behaved men in the Army are the Household Cavalry. Each regiment has an average of eight courts martial in the year, and about 200 minor offences. Considering that these regiments are quartered in London and at Windsor, and that they are exposed to all the temptations of this great Metropolis, I think this state of things is highly creditable to them. The average number of courts martial in each battalion of Foots Guards is about 50, and of minor offences 1,400. Well, Sir, I do not think this is very unfavourable, although it is certainly not so good as the Household Cavalry. But, considering that the Devil finds works for idle hands, I think it compares fairly. The lowest number of courts martial in the Cavalry regiments for last year was 18, as compared with 74 the highest. This is higher 1879 than it should be; but when I come to the Infantry regiments of the Line I find a far greater discrepancy. I find that in one regiment there were 110 courts martial, and 4,437 minor offences; in another, 107 courts martial and 3,500 minor offences. Then I contrast the case of a regiment in which there were 11 courts martial and 450 minor offences, and another of 15 courts martial and 450 minor offences. Now, Sir, I want to know what is the cause of this? I shall not believe that it is due altogether to the locality in which one regiment is raised as compared with another, or to the difference between the localities in which they are quartered. I admit that there is a great deal in those points. No doubt regiments abroad, especially those in India, are under far less temptations than those at home; but I take an instance, shown in this Return, in which two battalions of the same regiment, raised in the same part of the country, and both of them abroad, presented a very different Return, there being in one case 21 courts martial, and in the other 109. I ask why is this? The command of a regiment is the most important post in the Army. There has been a tendency of late years to give undue prominence to Staff employment. My opinion is—and I think the Army will go with me—that the command of regiments are the most important posts in the Army. Too much prominence and too much reward cannot be given to men who have successfully commanded your regiments. Regiments are the backbone of an Army, not the Staff, and the Commanding Officers are the backbone of the regiments; and in the selection of officers to command regiments too much care cannot be taken. I admit that with every care mistakes may be made—that, with the most favourable antecedents, it is possible that a Commanding Officer may turn out to be not what could be wished. I think the burden of the selection of Commanding Officers is too great to be laid on the Commander-in-Chief or the Military Secretary. I think that the arrangements touching all promotion should be placed in the hands of a Military Board. Such a Board should be formed at the Horse Guards, and should have upon it the Adjutant General, the Military Secretary, the Quartermaster General, the Deputy Adjutant General (Royal Artil 1880 lery), the Deputy Adjutant General (Royal Engineers), and the Inspector General of Cavalry. I do not say that that Board would act with greater impartiality than the Commander-in-Chief has acted hitherto. I have not a word to say against His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, or the Military Secretary, under whose advice he acts; but I cannot help thinking that a Board such as I suggest would speak with much more firmness. It is a very painful thing for any single individual to feel that he has upon his own shoulders the responsibility for all the promotion of the Army. Individuals who think themselves hardly treated can complain, and quarrel with him; but were these promotions the work of a Board it would be another affair altogether. Supposing a Board were appointed, and an officer came to complain that his merits had not been duly recognized, the reply would probably be—"Well, Sir, the Board have carefully considered your case, and do not view your merits in the same light that you do yourself." There is one thing I wish to say as to confidential Reports. These Reports contain a number of very stringent questions, which are answered very fairly and honourably by the officers commanding regiments—although sometimes it is a very disagreeable duty. But there is one question that, for some reason or other, has been omitted from these confidential Reports, and it is—"Is this officer strictly sober?" Why that extremely important and pertinent question should be omitted I do not know. I think it is a great pity that it is omitted. Where a number of stringent questions are asked, and no information is sought to be obtained upon a particular point, there will be a tendency on the part of the signing Commanding Officer to avoid reference to the subject about which he has not been questioned. I think the question of sobriety is one that is essential to the discipline of the Army, and ought to be dealt with in the confidential Report. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would take a suggestion from so humble a Member as myself on another matter. In the present day it not unfrequently happens that officers are reported upon unfavourably either as "Idlers," "Stupid," "Drones," "A Bad Example," or something else 1881 of that kind; a Report goes up to the Horse Guards, and there comes down a serious lecture from the Commander-in-Chief, these officers being informed that if they do not mend their manners something will be done. But nothing is done, and things go on like that for years, the officers who are complained of remaining in the Army, though an evil, and, as drones and idle men, setting a bad example to other officers. I do not wish to raise a cry; but I do say most emphatically that it would be a great advantage to the Army if, in cases where officers have been unfavourably reported upon for three years in succession, Her Majesty should be advised to accept their resignation. I do not think there would be any unfairness in that, though it might be said that there would be. It might be argued that an officer might have his character taken away by a senior with whom he had quarrelled; but at each annual inspection an inquiry is made into the complaint by the Inspecting General, and he gives his opinion as to the justice of the complaint to the Commander-in-Chief. I thank the Committee for having listened to me, the more because I am fully aware that the details into which I have entered are hardly suitable for the consideration of a non-military Assembly.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)
I do not propose to stand for more than a couple of minutes between the Committee and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere); but I should like to ask the Secretary of State for War to look into one or two details connected with the Militia. The points I would bring under his notice have this extraordinary merit—that they would cost no money; on the contrary, if the right hon. Gentleman will pay attention to the points I shall raise he will, I think, be able to save a considerable sum. It is in connection with the absenteeism of Militia recruits that I would speak. Before the year 1881 every Militia recruit on enlistment received the sum of 10s.; he then went about his business, and very often was not seen again, though he ought to have come up at the time of training. Now, in the last year of that system there were 3,358 absentees. After 1880 every Militia recruit was drilled on enlistment; and the result of that was that last year—1885—there 1882 were 4,429 Militiamen who, having been drilled as recruits, did not appear again when the regiment was called up for training. As a matter of fact, the percentage of absenteeism has slightly decreased. It was 12 per cent in 1880, whereas it is only 10 per cent now; but the difference in the cost to the State is enormous. In the case of the 3,358 absentees in 1880 the State only lost 10s. per man; but in the case of the 4,429 men who did not appear last year every one of them cost the State, at the lowest computation, £8, and that is not including any charge for wear and tear of arms and other military stores, or for ammunition, travelling expenses, or fees to civilian medical practitioners, nor is any allowance made in the calculation for the cost of the permanent Staff employed in instructing the recruits. The whole difference arises from the fact, as you will see, that the men now go through a training of 56 days on enlistment and before the annual training; whereas, under the old system, no cost was incurred, except the 10s. bounty prior to that annual training. I have made a calculation, and I find that in the last five years previous to 1880 the Militia absenteeism cost the State, roughly speaking, £16,000; whereas during the past five years it has cost something over £100,000. If the right hon. Gentleman can see his way in any manner to deal with this question he will save a great deal of money; and if he will allow me I will respectfully make one or two suggestions to him. The first is this—I do not think any adequate step is ever taken to bring these men to justice. It is within my experience—an experience of seven years—that in connection with that part of the Militia of which I have knowledge no single man has ever been apprehended and brought to justice for absenteeism who did not give himself up voluntarily. In the second place, I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should make inquiry into the reason why some regiments have no absenteeism, whilst others number absentees by hundreds. If he were to send out some competent officer to make inquiries, I think he would frequently find that this absenteeism is due to the carelessness of the recruiting officer. In the case of a regiment about which I happen to know something, out of 123 1883 absentees 63 were known to have given as their address common lodging houses in a poor street of a neighbouring town. Most of these men were simply tramps, whose profession it was to go round from depôt to depôt enlisting. If the recruiting officer had gone into the question of their residence, he would have found that they were not suitable men to enlist. The present system of training men for the Militia has not been a good thing for that branch of the Service, although it has been excellent for the Army. The men are by no means as well drilled at the depôts as they used to be during the preliminary drill. They do not get trained in musketry at all. I find that recruits, when they come up now to a regiment have none of them been put through a course of musketry in the dopôt, and I need not say that a Militiaman who does not know the use of the rifle is utterly useless. I have no doubt, as I have said, that the present system of training Militia recruits is good for the Army; it has done much to widen and strengthen the foundation of the territorial system. There is only one other point with which I will trouble the right hon. Gentleman—only one other matter of detail upon which I would respectfully make a suggestion, and that is with regard to a question of morality. You are aware that many regiments do not go into camp or barracks, but are put into billets. It is the invariable practice to put at least two men into one bed; and any hon. Gentleman who can form an opinion as to the condition of things in low public-houses will see that this is the worst possible moral training that can be given to these young lads. If the right hon. Gentleman will give that his best attention I think it will be a considerable benefit to the Militia Service.
§ MR. NORTHCOTE (Exeter)
Though this discussion has travelled over considerable ground, there are one or two questions I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman; but before doing so I should like to make just one comment upon the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South-East Durham (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan), whom I am glad to see in the House. I wish to correct him, if I may venture to do so, upon a matter of fact on which I think he was mistaken. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said, speak 1884 ing of the Report of Lord Airey's Committee, that it was made some time prior to the period at which the Conservative Government left Office in 1880.
§ MR. NORTHCOTE
But the hon. and gallant Member is mistaken, for, as a matter of fact, that Report was only placed in the hands of the Earl of Beaconsfield's Government the day the Dissolution was announced. It was, therefore, impossible to take action on that Report. There was another point in the hon. and gallant Member's speech to which I should like to direct his attention, because he referred on no less than three occasions, in terms of the strongest possible eulogy, to the Estimates the right hon. Gentleman has presented to the House. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), whom we shall soon have the privilege of hearing, will join with the hon. and gallant Member in those terms of unqualified eulogy of the Estimates that are now before us; but I would point out to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that, at all events, whatever credit or discredit may be due to Ministers for their Estimates, it must be shared between the two political Parties. It must not be forgotten that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) is to a considerable extent responsible for these Estimates. They were in a large degree framed before he left Office, though they had not formally come before him. At all events, I do not think the present Secretary of State for War will be inclined to claim any credit for having made any increase in the Estimates in the shape in which we now find them. Therefore, when the hon. and gallant Gentleman says that these are the first satisfactory Estimates that have been presented to the House of Commons for a considerable number of years, I am rather sorry that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) is not here to appreciate the compliment. I will not weary the Committee by travelling over some of the points upon which I had wished to say a few words, but which have already been touched on by hon. Members of greater experience than myself; but I would like to point out, with reference to some remarks that were made by the hon. and gallant Gen 1885 tleman (Colonel Salis-Schwabe), that he complained of the total of the Estimates, and I should not be surprised if the hon. Member for Northampton followed his example. I should rather like to ask any hon. Gentleman below the Gangway who may feel disposed to rise and propose a reduction in these Estimates if he can point out, with somewhat more accuracy than we have hitherto seen, where the reductions are to come from, and also how he can expect, with so many burning questions coming before the War Office, that there is any hope at all of seeing anything like a reduction for many years to come? I would just quote, for the benefit of the hon. Gentleman, some of the principal questions that were under the consideration of the War Office during the short time I was connected with it—questions which still remain unsettled, but which will, no doubt, receive attention from Ministers. There is the question of barrack accommodation. I do not think there is anyone who is acquainted with the condition, or, I would rather say, the extent, of the accommodation we have at our barracks, or who knows anything about the condition of the huts at Aldershot, who does not see that before long considerable expenditure will have to be incurred for enlarging our barracks and rehousing our troops at Aldershot. Then there is the great question of our military and commercial ports, the expenditure on which is hung up at present, but in regard to which it is believed by both sides of the House that considerable expenditure will have to take place before long. There is also the question of increasing the Artillery, and of the production of new small arms. I do not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War will deny that new small arms will have to be provided in considerable quantities. Again, there is the question, which was discussed in this House a few nights ago, of the Capitation Grants to Volunteers. I venture to hope that the result of inquiries will be to secure an increase in those grants. Another question is that of the purchase of horses, and a great many hon. and gallant Members in this House take an interest in the question of an increase in the amount of rations supplied to the troops. I commend these five or six questions to the attention of economists below the Gangway such as the 1886 hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere); and I ask if, when there are these questions, the importance of which has, I think, been pretty fully admitted by responsible Ministers on either side of the House, before us, is there any great probability that we shall see very much lower Estimates for some time to come in connection with the War Office? I do not think, myself, that there is any such chance, I must honestly say. To refer again to the great question of military and commercial ports, I must confess that I was very sorry to hear the arguments which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) used the other night, because I thought they pointed too much to the undue prolongation of the time within which works for the defence of our commercial ports should be undertaken. I do think hon. Gentlemen and the country generally should remember that in the 15 or 16 great commercial ports of this country property exists that I believe is valued at £1,500,000,000 or £1,600,000,000. It is a serious question how far we are wise in delaying an expenditure which I admit is serious, but yet which is a trifle compared with the value of these ports. The wisdom of expending money on this object is questioned on two grounds—first, because expense cannot be properly undertaken now; and, secondly, because it cannot be properly undertaken at all, for the reason that works of defence are improving and increasing from day to day, and in a short time what is done now will be of little value. It is, of course, quite true that weapons of offence and defence are constantly improving; but that is no reason for putting off necessary works of defence. If we wait for finality either in weapons of offence or defence these ports will never be defended at all; therefore, I feel sorry to hear proposals for serious delay in the construction of these works. No doubt it is possible that we may not be able to erect the very best defensive works; but I cannot agree that science has not reached a point at which we can put up defensive works which will not only be better than none at all, but which will come high up in the second class of any improved defensive works which it is possible to conceive at present. I will not mention the question of small arms 1887 and artillery, because it has already been sufficiently discussed. But as to the question of the Capitation Grants, I do hope that if the inquiry the Secretary of State makes should result in his coming to the opinion that an increase in the grants is desirable and proper, he will accompany his proposal with an increase in the qualification for efficiency in shooting. The conditions on which the Volunteers attain to this efficiency are unsatisfactory I think; and if we are about, as I hope is the case, to improve their condition, we should accompany the pecuniary improvement we grant with a more stringent test of proficiency in this special work of shooting. As to the Volunteers, I should like to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, or the Secretary of State, whether I am correct in supposing that there has this year been no increase made in the numbers of any of the Rifle Volunteer Corps? because I think I notice that there is a sum of £5,500 less taken for the Volunteers than was contemplated when I had the honour to hold Office. I am inclined to assume—and I should like to ask if that is so—that that decrease may be due to the fact that no increase has been sanctioned as regards Rifle Volunteer Corps as distinct from Artillery and Engineer Volunteer Corps? Then, as to the purchase of horses, I am rather sorry to see that so small a provision is made for the acquisition of an increased number of horses. I think Sub-head M gives the figure £10,000. I had the honour of serving upon a Committee which made some inquiry into the subject of horse purchase whilst I was in Office—the Committee which went into the question of the organization of the Artillery. It became our duty incidentally to make some inquiry into the question of the horse supply for the year. I should like to ask the Secretary of State whether it is intended that the Report of the Committee shall be published, and whether he has had it under his consideration, and whether any decision has been arrived at in reference to it? At all events, in the course of our inquiry we had to make some examination into the question of the supply of horses which are so valuable for Artillery purposes; and I regret to say that although the basis on which we were appointed to act was to ascertain how 1888 far the supply of horses was equivalent to the demands of two Army Corps in the field we found that the supply of horses was barely sufficient to meet the demands of one Army Corps. I think that some active steps should be taken by the Government to increase the number of horses, and to develop the field from which horses may be obtained in the future, and I should say, notably, our Colonial Possessions. Another subject which has been referred to in the Navy Estimates is the question as to the manufacture of stores by the Army Department for the benefit of the Navy; and I think it seemed to be the general opinion of the Committee, when the discussion on the Navy Estimates was taken, that it would be desirable to make the Navy responsible for their own Estimates, and the manufacture of their own guns. I know there are grave difficulties in the way of carrying out such a proposal.
§ MR. NORTHCOTE
The hon. and gallant Member says—"No difficulty at all;" but I believe that it would be somewhat difficult to distinguish at Woolwich and elsewhere between the stores for the Army and for the Navy, and to say which materials were intended for naval guns and which for Army guns. I feel sure that some difficulty would be experienced in regard to the interchangeability of military and naval stores for Malta and other places; but, on the other hand, I do think the principle is a sound one, and one the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State should do his utmost to carry out and enforce. The result of the present system is that the Navy tries to get as much as possible of their demands stuck into these Estimates, whilst, on the other hand, the Army is always trying to cut out that item of expenditure under the belief that the Navy can afford to do without guns, and the result is a very unsatisfactory state of things. There is another matter to which I should like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention, and which I do not know whether he has had brought before his notice—I allude to the financial position of the Surveyor General of the Ordnance. I must say that I think the Surveyor General of the Ordnance is placed in a very hard position indeed, because he is 1889 specially and primarily responsible for what I may call the most contentious Votes—namely, those from 9 to 13, which include stores, clothing, transport, and in fact all those Votes which hon. Members are specially apt to take exception to, and to move the reduction of, and upon which it is considered that a great saving might be effected, and which are invariably more keenly debated than any other Army Votes with the possible exception of Vote 1. The Surveyor General of the Ordnance has no special financial adviser. The Financial Secretary—and I am sure in this he will bear me out—has every day to be indebted to the great ability of Mr. Knox, the Accountant General, whose services I am convinced every Minister will always speak of in terms of the highest praise. But with regard to these particularly difficult Votes the Surveyor General has not the same direct and immediate assistance as the Financial Secretary possesses, and he has to depend to a great extent on the Inspector General of Fortifications, the Director General of Artillery and others, who hold their appointments only for a term of years and who, being officers of the highest ability, yet are officers with whom I may say, with all respect, I do not think economy is always the first consideration. I do not know that it is natural to expect that it should be, and I do not for a moment mean to say that they are intentionally or wilfully extravagant, but they are officers who have to consider what is called efficiency in the first place and economy in the second; and I do think that when you consider these Votes from 9 to 13, which amount this year to something like £8,163,000, it would be a wise and economical proceeding if some special financial adviser to the Surveyor General were appointed who would be a permanent official and able to keep on the track of the Inspector General of Fortifications and the Director General of the Artillery, and make economical financial transactions his very first consideration. Before I sit down I should like to say one word in reference to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Salis-Schwabe). The hon. and gallant Gentleman made one or two suggestions with regard to a more economical working of the War Office; but he prefaced his suggestions by one remark I think it right to contradict, because it was an 1890 unfair one. He taxed my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) with having suggested that work should be found at Enfield and at Woolwich for the unemployed. My right hon. Friend said precisely the reverse—I appeal to any hon. Gentleman who was in the House if that is not the case. My right hon. Friend said he did not wish that work should be purposely found for the unemployed; but if there was any work which the War Office wanted to have done this was a good time to do it, there being so many people unemployed. I have ventured to suggest one or two points upon which I hope the Secretary of State for War or one or other of the Gentlemen who officially represent the War Office in the House will kindly say a few words. I thank the Committee for the patient hearing they have accorded me.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (, &c.) Kirkcaldy
Sir, I have given Notice of a Motion for the reduction of this Vote; but before I speak to that Motion I should like to say a few words in regard to the question which I put to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) at the beginning of the sitting as to the three years' enlistment system. I am very sorry my right hon. Friend could not see his way to give me a more sympathetic answer to the Question. He promised to consider it. Now it has been long before the War Office; not only has it been long before the War Office, but it was specially considered and dealt with by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) when Secretary of State for War. Only very recently the noble Marquess expressed a particularly favourable view of the system of three years' enlistment, and I think a great many leading men, men much more qualified to form a just opinion than myself, have expressed a favourable opinion of the system. I do hope that still we shall have a more sympathetic utterance from my right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) on the subject than that he gave us earlier in the evening. I have long held the opinion, as many very experienced men do, that the present system amounts to neither long or short service. The result of the system now adopted is that the man who wants to merely pass through the ranks and qualify as an efficient soldier 1891 is unable to do so, because the chances are he will be sent to India, and possibly deprived of any opportunity of obtaining any civil employment when he leaves the Army. On the other hand, the system now prevailing spoils the long service. It does seem to me that as we have a voluntary Army system, it is very much better for all parties—for Reserves and for men going foreign service—that men should be allowed to choose between really short service and really long service. The system which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) commenced with every promise of success was to allow men to enlist for three years with the Colours in the first instance. The men who enlisted for this term were practically not liable to be sent to India; they knew that all they had to do was to qualify as soldiers, that when their term was up they might join the Reserve, follow their civil pursuits, and be, in fact, armed and trained civilians, which I venture to think are the best men the country can have. On the other hand, if after their experience of the Army the men were willing to accept long service, and our officers thought they were fit to be retained for long service, they would have the opportunity of enlisting for the longer term. It seems to me that is really the best system for all parties. The noble Marquess will bear me out in saying that he has expressed a very favourable opinion of the system. I do earnestly hope my right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) will favourably consider the subject. Now, I come to the Motion of which I have given Notice, and I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) say he will oppose it.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I said that I should oppose it if the hon. Gentleman does not carry it a little further, and ask for a greater reduction.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I propose to move a reduction of the money which is to be devoted to the service of the Army in Egypt. If my hon. Friend wishes to move a larger reduction than that I propose, £17,500, I will give way and allow him to take my place. I brought this subject before the House the other day; but I was not able to take a division upon it. I hope I may be able to do so now. I confess that on the former occasion to which I allude, I 1892 was very seriously disappointed at the tone in which the introduction of the subject was met by those who represented the Government. I did hope that we should, on that occasion, have had a more sympathetic reception of the proposal, and that measures would be taken to withdraw our Army from Egypt at the very earliest period. We know that when the late Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) was in power, they expressed their desire to withdraw the Army as early as possible. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), in perfect good faith, told us several years ago, very soon after the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, that they hoped to withdraw our troops from Egypt in about six months. We know that continually, year after year, and in statement after statement, we were given to understand that the late Liberal Government hoped to withdraw the Army from Egypt at the very earliest opportunity. I was very much disappointed the other night to find that in the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce) there was not one word in regard to the probability that the troops would be withdrawn from Egypt. I know that it is a very unpopular thing to talk of this withdrawal. I know there are many people who are very much interested in keeping our Forces in Egypt, and who are continually telling us that the worst thing we could do would be to withdraw. If you are not going to withdraw, if your object is to stay in Egypt, I admit it does do a great deal of harm to talk of withdrawing. But if you wish to withdraw, you had better say so frankly and honestly. I do not believe you will be able to withdraw unless you convince the people of Egypt and the financial advisers of the Egyptian Government that you mean to withdraw in a given time. As I have said, I was very much disappointed with the speech of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It is very sad to see how a Radical, when he accepts Office, gets into the official groove. Formerly there was no man who was more robust in his sympathy with people struggling to be free than the present Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He had particular sympathy with oppressed na 1893 tionalities, and with people who, as I say, were struggling to be free; but when I heard the speech he made the other night, I could not help exclaiming—"Et tu Brutus; are you the man to use the old official arguments; are you the man to pay the bondholders in full, because then you will satisfy the great financial Powers of Europe." Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) far from telling us, as the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) used to do, that he hoped to withdraw the troops from Egypt at the very earliest period, only told us that whereas we have at present something like 28,000 troops in the country, he hoped to reduce the number by one half by the end of the year. If he could not reduce them to the extent he hoped to be able to do, he would bring in a Supplementary Estimate. It appears to me that that was a very disappointing statement. As regards the financial part of the business, my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told us, what no doubt was the view of the Government, that we could not allow the whole expense of the Army to be thrown upon Egypt. An arrangement was made a few years ago which certainly was not disadvantageous to Egypt, and that was, that this country should pay the whole of the ordinary expenses of the troops in Egypt, and that the Egyptian Exchequer should bear the extraordinary expense of the Army. A compromise was arrived at by which the extraordinary expense was fixed at about £48 per head per man. If that bargain, for a bargain it was, and a bargain which I maintain was not disadvantageous to the people of this country, had been carried out, we should be receiving from Egypt a subsidy of £1,000,000 per annum. Even with the number of men reduced to the point to which the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) hopes to bring the Army before the end of the year, the subsidy would be about £450,000 per annum. But because you could not pay the bondholders in full at the same time as you did justice to the taxpayers of this country, an agreement was made last year whereby the subsidy of £450,000 was reduced to not more than £200,000. That £200,000 has been again reduced this year, be 1894 cause you find the Egyptian Exchequer is not able to pay the bondholders in full, and to pay for its own troops. Furthermore, you have engaged to pay the expenses of three Egyptian regiments employed to do Egyptian service. It seems to me quite clear that in this matter the taxpayer of this country is not being treated very fairly; he is the beast of burden who has to bear all these financial burdens. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs seemed to suppose that the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and myself answered each other. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dillon) and myself are entirely in accord in this—that those who derive profit from Egypt are bound to keep the concern going; in point of equity that seems to be the right course, and indeed the only course. I know that the answer is that the Powers will not allow us to stay in Egypt unless we put on the British taxpayer the whole of the burden. For my part, I should prefer to withdraw, and I believe if Her Majesty's Government made up their minds to withdraw, sent for Arabi Pasha, and put him at the head of the Egyptian Army, they would find that the evacuation of the country was easy of accomplishment. The reduction I propose to make is an entirely practical reduction. The number of men has been passed, and the money has been voted; but we learn from the Papers submitted to the House by the War Office that in the matter of transport, clothing, &c., for the troops in Egypt, it is proposed to incur an additional expense over the expense of last year of no less than £416,000. Now, Sir, I know very well that we cannot withdraw our troops in a day. We require some months to make our arrangements to get Arabi back, to drill the Egyptian troops. I allow Her Majesty's Government six months in which to make their arrangements to get out of Egypt. I find that for transport, clothing, &c., of the troops in Egypt £35,000 is taken. I do not propose to disallow the whole amount; but only half of it—namely, £17,500. I hope the Committee will think this is a very reasonable proposition. It involves the principle that Her Majesty's Government should withdraw our troops from Egypt, not immediately, but within a reasonable time, or in some way or other 1895 put the expenses of the troops upon the revenues of Egypt, instead of upon the taxes of this country. I beg to move the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £17,500.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £849,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Clothing Establishments, Services, and Supplies which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887."—(Sir George Campbell.)
§ COLONEL DUNCAN (Finsbury, Holborn)
Mr. Courtney, before replying to the hon. Member (Sir George Campbell), who has just spoken, I should like to express how much pain I felt to-night at hearing the utterances of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) on the question of compulsory retirement. The other night the right hon. Gentleman spoke on this subject with deep sympathy, I think under the stimulus of his better instincts, for the taxpayer and the unemployed officers; but I think I can guess what has happened. I fear that since then he has been, metaphorically, plunged into a cold bath by the permanent officials of the War Office. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to allow the permanent officials to entrammel him with red tape. I am sure his own are a great deal better than the opinions which are being foisted upon him. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to throw off the yoke it is sought to impose upon him, were it only for the sake of consistency with the other Members of the Cabinet. It will be in the recollection of the Committee that the noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) recommended the suspension of the Sinking Fund, in order that with the money we would thus obtain we might make our Navy effective. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt) rose with holy horror, with every particular hair on his head standing on end, and asserted that what the noble and gallant Lord suggested would be pernicious finance; it would be a dangerous precedent for others. What is the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) doing if he continues the policy of compulsory retirement? While he is apparently allowing the Sinking Fund to be paid off, 1896 he is building up a non-effective Army and creating fresh debt. About the year 1900, if any institutions are left in England, even the institution of the taxpayer, any hon. Gentleman will find, if he looks at the Budget for the year, that perhaps a certain smaller amount of interest will have to be paid; but there will be an enormous amount of accumulated pensions. Surely that is a form of finance which cannot commend itself to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This question of compulsory retirement is a very serious one. I have seen in this Parliament the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) raise his daring hand against the pensions of Dukes. What would happen if the daring hand of another Member for Northampton were to be raised against the pensions of half-pay captains? Their chance of successful resistance would be but small. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War compared the Army to a bottle, and said that the difficulty lay with the neck. But he put the neck in the middle of the bottle, where the field officers' rank begins. He is making a vacuum in the bottle by this system of compulsory retirement. To fill the vacuum we have officers from the Reserve and Militia doing duty which ought to be done by officers of the Regular Army. We have shortened the terms at our military schools for the education of officers; we find ourselves going into highways and byeways to get men through the neck of the bottle to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. That is an unwise method, and a very costly method, of filling up the vacuum which is being created. Besides, it is understood that when a man is placed on the Retired List he immediately, like all annuitants, gets a new lease of life. I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), who is respected by the whole House for his straight forward utterances, to throw off the permanent officials, and to trust himself, and himself alone. And now I will turn to what has fallen from the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) with regard to Egypt. As I have said before in this House, many of us are perfectly at one in our anxiety to get out of Egypt; but we differ very much as to the means. Why we ever went there is one of those puzzles which, like the origin 1897 of evil, I have long given up trying to explain. But we are there; and I consider that the way to get out of the country is not by fixing the date of our withdrawal in months, as the hon. Member (Sir George Campbell) would do, but by telling the Egyptian people that they must throw themselves as thoroughly as they can into the reforms we consider necessary for the country, and that the moment they are in a fit state for self-government we will leave them. The idea of bringing Arabi — that shallow charlatan — back again and putting him at the head of the Army, as suggested by the hon. Member, is simply preposterous. It is proposals of this kind which keep Egypt in a continual state of unrest. For 18 months in Cairo the voice of England never spoke properly; it only stammered, and the people did not understand it. Over and over again Sheikhs came to me utterly bewildered. They wished to stand by us as long as they could; but changes of policy were bewildering to them, and made them lose all confidence in us. Allusion has been made by the hon. Member to the utterances of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), when Member of the Government, as to our withdrawal from Egypt in six months. That utterance reached us in Egypt, when we were in the flush of our reforms, when we had the people heart and soul with us, and when the Representatives of other countries were perfectly silent, and allowed us to do exactly as we wished. But after that message arose symptoms of hostility from the Natives; the Representatives of Foreign Governments pricked up their ears, and the mists of intrigue settled down on Cairo. It is such messages as these which do more to keep us in Cairo than anything else. I do not wish to interfere with the amusement of the hon. Member (Sir George Campbell), and his Colleagues below the Gangway opposite, in worrying the Government they profess to follow; but I do trust the Government will act wisely. Let them resolve upon leaving Egypt when Egypt is ready to be left; not upon a certain day, or in any particular month. I am in constant communication with Egypt, and I hear much of the state of feeling amongst the people. To hear the hon. Member talk one would think the people of Egypt are delighted to throw on the taxpayers 1898 of England the burden of the occupation of Egypt. They would pay twice as much to get rid of us; but as we chose—I do not know why—to demolish their Government, to wipe out their Army, we are bound in honour to put them in a position to govern themselves. There are some luxuries for which we have to pay bitterly, and mistakes may be included in them. But mistakes having been committed, let us endeavour to remedy them in the wisest manner, instead of occupying the time of the Committee by the consideration of such utterly impractical Resolutions as that which has been submitted to us by the hon. Member (Sir George Campbell). As I have already said, we are at one in our desire to get out of Egypt; but we differ as to the means of getting out. I have the experience of residence there for three years, and of knowing the people; the hon. Member has not. I appeal to him to withdraw this Motion in the interest of the taxpayers of England, and in the interest of the Egyptian people. We owe a great deal to the Egyptians for what we have done. The large increase in the Estimates for the men in Egypt is all owing to ourselves. We went where we had no business to go; we excited people who would have been perfectly quiet had we not been there at all; we made government there almost impossible; created there a feeling of hostility against all Europeans, and now we have to pay for it. We would do much better if we would trust the Government. I trust the Government in this respect—for they know now the situation exactly. If experience makes us wise, their bitter experience in Egypt should have made them Solomons. Let us get out of Egypt honourably; let our troops be withdrawn when we have restored the Egyptians to the position in which they were before we entered their country. When I spoke before on this point, I said there was one thing necessary. The mistakes which we have committed in Egypt have been numerous; but none of them, perhaps, was greater than that we should have coerced Cherif Pasha, whose patriotism was certainly beyond question, to withdraw from the Soudan. The first step for us to take now is to subsidize someone whom we can trust, of the same religion as the Egyptians, at Dongola, and place him in command of that Province, so as to make 1899 a buffer between Egypt Proper and the wilds of the Soudan. Then the next thing is to place Egyptians in the garrisons along the Nile and at Suakin, and then will be the time for us to leave, but not before. With Egypt to protect and Ireland to protect we have too much on our hands. We cannot afford to stay in Egypt; but I venture to think that the way of getting out which I have suggested is more dignified than that proposed by the hon. Member (Sir George Campbell).
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Most of the hon. Members who have addressed the Committee to-night have been either connected with the Army or have been ex-officials, and all the speakers except two have suggested an increase of the Estimates. Every military man who has spoken this evening has suggested that the Army Estimates should be increased, and in this they were backed up by the ex-officials. The noble Lord the late Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill) was in the height of elation when he heard that the Army was to be increased. Then we have had the hon. Gentleman the Member for Exeter (Mr. Northcote) who spoke just now. He said he did not see how it was possible—how anybody could ask for a reduction in the Estimates—considering the number of burning questions at the War Office.
§ MR. NORTHCOTE (Exeter)
What I said was that the reduction was not likely to be made—not that it was not likely to be suggested.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
No one who understands the House of Commons believes that a reduction is likely to be made, even if it is suggested; but why are there these burning questions? Because we have an Army which is far too large for defence, and is therefore kept up for offensive objects. If we had not had a large Army should we have annexed Burmah? and what has been the consequence of annexing Burmah? Why, it is that we are now asked for an increase of 10,000 men. We were told that it was to cost us nothing; that it was, in fact, to be valuable to us; but the first thing that is done is that we are asked to burden ourselves with an increase of 10,000 men in India. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) said we ought not to leave Egypt too early. Early! how long have 1900 we been there? No confidence can be placed in anyone sitting on the Ministerial Bench on this question. Again and again Ministers have deplored our being there. We were coming away after Arabi was suppressed; but then there was the cholera, if I remember rightly, which kept us there. And then there were these ridiculous Expeditions to Suakin, and no one knows now why we are to defend Suakin. We have 17,000 men in Egypt; no one precisely knows what they are doing. Sometimes we are told that they are defending the frontier; sometimes they are preserving order; but no one knows precisely. All we know is that we are paying for them. Of course, they ought to be paid; but, surely they should be paid by the Egyptians themselves. Who ever heard of one country sending an army of 17,000 men to another country to maintain order and to pay for the men themselves? We all know that the Egyptians can pay. ["No."] Oh yes; we do know that they can pay. The reason we are told that Egypt cannot pay is that if she did so she would not be able to pay the enormous interest on her Debt. The first charge upon every country ought to be the cost of its administration and defence. It is obvious that if we are to put this after the Debt, Egypt cannot pay it; but it ought to be paid before the interest on the Debt. Why are we there? We are not there for the benefit of the English taxpayer; it is not for the honour and glory of England; it is not for the fellahs of Egypt; it is because we went there with the deliberate object of forcing the Egyptians to pay the interest on a debt which was most unfairly incurred. We are assuming these large liabilities because, if we do not, the interest on the Debt will not be paid to the bondholders. It was a bondholders' war that sent us there, and it is the bondholders who are keeping us there now. Until we realize this fact, and say we will not have an Army in Egypt unless the Egyptians desire it, and not if they do desire it unless they are ready to pay for it, we may depend upon it that we shall have to remain there for the bondholders. Why, Sir, did not the Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone) say that he repented, almost in dust and ashes, the course that he had taken in this matter? and did he not promise that if he were returned to Office he would clear out of Egypt at 1901 once? Well, why did he not? Why are we called upon to pay this amount? I shall be obliged to vote against my hon. Friend, who seems inclined to make two or three bites at this cherry. I do not know how he makes up the amount by which he desires to reduce the Vote, and I would ask him to withdraw his Amendment and substitute another with a much larger scope. My objection is to the number of our soldiers being increased, and another objection is that any of our soldiers are in Egypt at all. Now, let me call attention to the Return which we received this morning of Public Income and Expenditure—a very excellent Return, moved for by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry H. Fowler). From that Return it appears that the cost of the Army last year was £15,960,000. In no previous year has it been larger, and yet we are now asked to increase that expenditure by £482,000. There is a very strong feeling in the country that our military expenditure is too large. We do not think that there ought to be an Army for offensive purposes such as the country has at present. ["Oh!"] Yes, we do not consider that we should have an Army for offensive purposes, but we should have one for defensive purposes alone. I, and those who think with me, do not consider that the Expeditions to South Africa, up the Nile, and to Burmah were necessary, and the main reasons why such expeditions are undertaken is because the country has too many soldiers. But if we have the soldiers, why, we must employ them; and I consider that an Army sufficient to maintain our position in Europe and Asia, without making any attack upon our neighbours, would be ample to uphold the honour and glory of this country. What I would suggest to my hon. Friend is that he should withdraw this Amendment and move the reduction of the Vote by £50,000, for the reason that the increased number of men that we are asked to provide for is 9,600, and the clothing for these men will come to a trifle over £50,000, If my hon. Friend accepts my suggestion he will be killing two birds with one stone. He will register his protest against our continued occupation of Egypt, and, at the same time, register the protest which is felt by a great many hon. Members against an increased number of soldiers being 1902 voted. The Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone) said the other day that the main business of the House is to reduce the Estimates and not to increase them. Well, the right hon. Gentleman is unwell, and I am sure that nothing would be more gratifying to him to-morrow morning, when he rose refreshed and well again, to hear that the Committee have so well occupied the evening that they have reduced the Vote by £50,000.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Although I am quite willing to admit that the knowledge of Egypt possessed by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) may be good, I cannot say as much for the logic of his speech. How can an hon. Member stand up in this House and ask the House to repose the most implicit confidence in the Government, when he goes on to say that many of the misfortunes which have overtaken the English in Egypt have been brought about by the blundering of Sir Evelyn Baring? Why did he not go on to say what is the truth, that it has now become a public scandal that Sir Evelyn Baring should be left in the administration of Egypt any longer? If the Government desire to restore public confidence, the first step they ought to take is to recall Sir Evelyn Baring and those who have acted with him and have been responsible for the government of Egypt for the last three or four years. I quite agree with the hon. Member in saying that on the subject of Egypt the House ought not to repose any confidence in the Members of the present Government. I have over and over again seen every kind of excuse, some of which were perfectly laughable, put forward at the last moment to prevent our leaving Egypt. The Radical Members of the House have themselves to blame for the prolongation of the occupation of Egypt by this country. They have not done their duty in this matter. They have reposed confidence in the Government instead of applying a wholesome pressure, and I have no doubt the Government would now be glad if some pressure had been applied. My object is to appeal to the Radical Members not to continue the line which they have taken up with regard to the Egyptian Question. When anyone had called the attention of the Radicals of the House to this matter the answer has always been—"We admit that up to now everything has gone wrong; but we trust 1903 the Government will now get out of it as cheaply as possible." But matters have gone on from bad to worse, and I would ask that they should now take the trouble to look up the question. Let them realize the grave responsibility of the English people; let them not treat it as they do the question of Indian Finance; and let them make up their minds to put pressure on the Government. Let them insist upon the matter being at once cleared up; and the first step necessary is the immediate—and there ought to be no delay about this at all—withdrawal of Sir Evelyn Baring. We know perfectly well that the interests of these officials in Egypt is to be lording it over the Egyptian people. We know that until they take that step no Radical Member ought to believe the Government. The first step they ought to take is to bring away Sir Evelyn Baring and those who serve under him. One thing that makes me think that the Government do not intend to immediately withdraw from Egypt is the extraordinary charge they have made for the garrison of Egypt. We know that there will be no trade there upon that coast while they stay there, because the tribes are hostile; and yet we are to hold the place, knowing that it will be utterly worthless as long as we remain there. And what is the use of our sending out fresh troops at a cost of £50,000 to maintain Suakin if we have the intention of leaving it? The best thing for the Government to do would be to enter into negotiations with Osman Digna and allow the Arab traders to come back, so that trade might be again opened up. I hope that if Radical Members honestly believe that the English occupation of Egypt is a disgrace to this country they will not sit silent, but will bring some pressure to bear upon the Government to take the first step of bringing away Sir Evelyn Baring.
§ SIR W. GUYER HUNTER (Hackney, Central)
I rise, as a new Member, to ask the forbearance of the Committee for a few moments. I am going to speak from personal observation. I have had the pleasure and honour of serving in Egypt for some few months in 1883, and during that time I had opportunities of gleaning information which have fallen to the lot of few. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) has suggested that we should 1904 leave Egypt in the course of a few months; but the question is, to whom the government of the country should be handed over in case we do leave? I yield to no Member in my desire to see Egypt governed by the Egyptians; but are the Egyptians fit to govern themselves? The history of Egypt shows that for years it has been governed by foreigners; and it must be governed by foreigners, until such time as the Egyptian people can be educated to carry on the Government of their country for themselves. I should like to see that time; but I am afraid the period is far distant when the education of the people will have attained that length. When in Egypt, Cherif Pasha, the then Premier, requested me to draw up a scheme for the re-organization of the Sanitary and Medical Service. In doing so I was anxious to fill as many of the Administrative and Executive posts as possible by Egyptians; but, on turning my attention to this point, I was at once arrested by the fact that the number fitted to undertake duties of the kind might be counted on the fingers of one hand. That is a matter of great regret to me; but I think the more this question is considered the greater will the difficulties be found in the way of handing over the Government to them. Until a system of education is organized in Egypt we shall never be able to hand over the country to the Egyptians. With these few words I beg to oppose the Amendment.
§ MAJOR GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
I shall not take up the time of the Committee at any length; but there are some points in connection with our Army organization on which I desire to make some observations. [Continued interruption.]
§ MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)
I rise to Order. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) is continuously and persistently interrupting the hon. and gallant Member for Hammersmith. I wish to know whether he is in Order in so doing?
§ MAJOR GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY
I wish to say that, in my opinion, the organization which permits of there being a large number of General Officers and colonels on the Active List, who have 1905 not the slightest chance of employment, is defective. I think you ought not to promote officers to the rank of General unless you intend to employ them. If you look over the Army List you will see that there are very many of those officers who have no employment whatever; and the same may be said with regard to Colonels, many of whom are on half-pay. I think it would be a considerate act on the part of the Military Authorities to notify officers at once whether they are likely to be employed; so that, in the event of its not being the intention of the authorities to employ them, the officers might look for some other occupation and means of living. [Great interruption.]
§ MR. BRODRICK
Sir, I rise to Order. I wish to call attention to the fact that the hon. Member for Northampton has disregarded your ruling. [Interruption.] I beg to move that you report Progress.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I rose on a point of Order. I asked whether the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Northampton had not disregarded your ruling by constant and most audible interruptions of the speaker?
I have already said that it is disorderly to interrupt any hon. Member constantly and persistently. I am not aware that any particular hon. Member has done so.
§ MAJOR GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY
It is my intention to speak, even if I am interrupted. Having spoken of General Officers and those of the rank of Colonel, I wish to say that we should give our best attention to the improvement of the condition of the private soldier and non-commissioned officer. You should raise them by giving them some privilege or distinction which the people will recognize; and I am convinced that as soon as the people see that the private soldier is respected by the country, you will have no difficulty in recruiting your Army. I remember when I was once in an omnibus a corporal of Engineers came up, but was refused admission inside, the conductor saying it was "not the place for common soldiers." I say that as long as we have civilians looking at private soldiers in that light we shall have a difficulty in getting good recruits.
I must point out to the hon. and gallant Member that he is not in Order in discussing the conduct of conductors.
§ MAJOR GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY
I was showing that a non-commissioned officer was not allowed to take his seat in the omnibus; and it was only through the intervention of an officer that this man was placed in a position of equality with the other civilian passengers. Well, Sir, I contend that that is an anomalous position for a soldier to occupy. As an officer, I say I am proud of our soldiers, and shall always do what I can to place them in the position which their behaviour gives them the right to demand. Then, I desire to call attention to the education of our officers, and to the desirability of more officers attending the Staff College. I believe that, as a rule, they should be there for only one-half of the time they are at present. Then it is undesirable that there should be so many changes of uniform. If an officer leaves a regiment, or goes to the Staff, he has to provide a new uniform; and, in addition to that, he has to spend a great deal of money in changing from one place to another. Again, an officer, when he changes his quarters, has to carry about with him an immense amount of furniture and baggage; whereas I say that his quarters ought to be furnished for him. I am not one of those officers who, as an hon. Member opposite says, are desirous of increasing the cost of the Army; but, as military men, we sit here to point out to politicians what our experience tells us is necessary for the efficiency of the Army. I hope before long to see our Army in a more efficient state by the introduction of salutary changes; and, so far as the cost of the operation is concerned, you may save the money necessary to carry out all the changes advocated here by reducing the number of officers retired, and by the other means that have been suggested. I want to see a better rate of pay and less punishment than you have at the present moment; and my opinion is that an improvement of the material condition of the soldier will tend to bring in a better class of recruits, the result of which will be fewer desertions and less necessity for punishment than there have been in the past. There is one observation I wish to make with reference to a remark which fell from an hon. and gal 1907 lant Baronet on this side (Sir Frederick Fitz Wygram) (about drunkenness of officers). The hon. and gallant Gentleman wished to know why a certain question was not put in the confidential Reports? I do not consider that question at all necessary. I have had much experience; and I must say that, in my opinion, Commanding Officers have commanded their regiments according to the best ideas as regards efficiency. My view is that if you have Commanding Officers whose management results in too large an amount of punishment in their regiments your only course is to remove them. I believe it is absolutely necessary to remove officers, especially Commanding Officers, if they have proved themselves to be inefficient. I hope this Committee will show its feeling that the Army should be efficient, no matter at what cost; but I am sure that this can be brought about without spending any more money than we do at the present time.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN) (, &c.) Stirling
I venture to make an appeal to the Committee. The Government gave up the night for a prolonged debate on general questions affecting the Army. We had a full night's discussion on Monday last, and we have now been discussing this question since 6 o'clock. I am aware that there are one or two hon. Members wishing to take part in the debate, and there are some remarks which I myself should like to make; but the Committee is aware that we were to suspend this part of the Business at 11.30 in order to bring on another subject—an arrangement which was made to suit the convenience not only of Members in favour of the Bill of the right hon. Member, for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), but of those who have on the Paper Amendments in opposition to it. Therefore, I suggest that we should now divide on the Motion which has been made, and that then the Vote should be allowed to be taken. I trust that this suggestion will be in accordance with the wishes of the Committee.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: — Ayes 66; Noes 290: Majority 224.—(Div. List, No. 44.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
At this late hour I beg to move that the 1908 Chairman report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.