§ CAPTAIN COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow, &c.)
said, he rose for the purpose of calling attention to the growth of Army expenditure and to the relative decrease of Naval expenditure; and to submit a Resolution to the following effect:—That it is desirable that this House, before having submitted to its consideration the Army Estimates, should be in possession of an explanatory statement from Her Majesty's Government, setting forth the general principles of defence which have determined the gross amount proposed to be allocated to Naval and Military purposes respectively, and indicating the main lines of the general plan, or programme, of British Defence, to which the Admiralty and the War Office administration, arrangement, and expenditure are respectively to conform.He had modified the original Resolution by striking out the word "Naval," for fear it might be thought he was transgressing the Rules of the House by raising any question of naval detail on going into Committee on the Army Estimates. He would only point out that the total of the Estimates for defence was for naval and military expenditure, and if they deducted the military expenditure from the total only the naval expenditure was left. As a young Member of the House, he so much felt the gravity of the situation and the danger of our policy in this matter, that he asked the House to listen to him while he stated the reasons for having put the Resolution down. Before dealing with, the subject, he desired to congratulate Her Majesty's Government, and especially the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope), on the information afforded to the House in regard to two great Departments—the Admiralty and War Office. He thought the country was indebted to the War Office and the Admiralty for having taken Parliament 230 and the country more into their confidence in the last two Sessions than had ever been done before. The object of his (Captain Colomb's) Resolution was not to cavil at any action of the present or past Governments, but to ask for information, and to draw the attention of the House to matters which appeared to him to be of great importance. The Motion was to go into Committee upon the Army Estimates, upon an expenditure of nearly £17,000,000. He wished to point out that that represented a force of over 680,000 men, consisting of two parts—the Regular Army, available for general service, and the Auxiliary Army, which was limited to home defence. The Auxiliary Forces in these Estimates supplied a total force equal to 56 per cent of the entire number, and, therefore, exceeded the Regular Forces to which they were Auxiliary. From the Auxiliary he deducted the 30,000 Militia Reserve and added them to the Regular Army as part and parcel of our Regular Service. Now, what was the distribution of the Forces of the Regular Army? Roughly speaking, there was 36 per cent at home, 24 per cent in India, 10 per cent in the Colonies, 1 per cent in Egypt, and 28 per cent in the Reserves. We were told that we were in a better position than we were formerly, because we might be able to despatch two Army Corps to take the field if required. Consequently two Army Corps appeared to be the extreme limit of the national military striking power. Out of more than 680,000 men, which cost £17,000,000 per annum, the striking power of two Army Corps represented only 28 per cent of the total Regular Force at home, and 11 per cent of the total Military Forces on the Estimates. It was obvious that our military policy of self-defence was to "sit down and wait" if a great war overtook us. This was a policy without precedent in successful defence, and it was a policy contrary to our national experience and the traditions of the country in the past. It was a policy that we had gradually slid into, rather than directly formulated; because no Parliament and only one statesman had ever so laid it down. He should refer to the observations of that statesman in a few minutes. We seemed to have this policy nevertheless, for our military expenditure had grown while the striking 231 power of that Military Force had shrunk. What he wished to bring before the House was that it was due to the fact that the country scorned to have lost faith in its own naval power, perhaps because naval power was more expensive than it used to be. The question was, what kind of Army did we want? He had high authority for asking that question—it was a question which only the House could answer. It was not one which the Military Authorities could answer, for Lord Wolseley, speaking on the 27th of April last, said—Before the Military Authorities were called upon to provide an Army, they ought to be informed clearly and distinctly what kind of an Army the country wanted, and if that were done there would be no difficulty in providing the necessary force for the defence of the Empire.Well, who was to inform the Military I Authorities what kind of an Army we wanted but that House? The difficulty rested with the House of Commons and not with the Military Authorities, and he thought the real root of it lay in the system of Party Government. He ventured to submit to the House that we could not say what sort of Army we wanted without reference to our naval position, policy, and power, because, situated as we were, the naval question ruled the military question. Until they had settled the naval question, they could not settle what sort of Army they wanted, and the naval question was only to be determined by reference to three things—the physical facts of our position, the teachings of past experience, and the conditions of modern war. The teachings of experience in regard to England acting on the defensive were in a dim and distant past. Since then, the facts of our position had materially changed, and to illustrate that he would divide the present century into three periods and give the rough results of a comparison between the three. He took three periods of 29 years. In 1801 the Army Estimates were £17,750,000; the Naval Estimates were only £500,000 less, being £17,250,000. That showed the sort of policy we were carrying out before we fought Trafalgar. He would point out to the House the very remarkable fact that although we fought Trafalgar and practically annihilated the Fleets of the 232 two great European Powers opposed to us, our fathers, the year afterwards, added £2,000,000 to the' Navy Estimates, and increased annual naval expenditure down to the battle of Waterloo, when it was £22,000,000. That illustrated the feeling that then prevailed. England, although triumphant, realized the enormous danger of maritime war and the great influence the element of chance might have. What was our position then? The population amounted to 16,000,000; our sea trade was a little over £4 per head; one ton of shipping entered and cleared at our ports in the year did the sea business of five inhabitants; one person only in 23 was fed on sea-borne food. In 1830, the last year of the first period, the population had increased to 24,000,000; the sea trade had risen to nearly £5 per head; one ton of shipping entered and cleared in the year did the business of four inhabitants; for every £100 spent on the Navy then, £105 was spent on the Army, but it was an Army that could strike. Coming to the closing year of the middle period, 1859, he found that the population had increased to 28,000,000; the sea trade per head had risen to £11 15s.; one ton of shipping entered and cleared annually did the business of only one inhabitant, and one inhabitant in three was fed on sea-borne food. It would thus be seen that gradually the interest of the people tended more and more seaward. What was the condition now in the closing year of the third period? The population had increased to over 37,000,000; the sea trade had risen to some £17 per head; each inhabitant employed one and a-half tons of shipping entered and cleared in the year to himself; soine20,000,000of people were fed on sea-borne food, and for every £100 spent on the Navy we spent £127 on the Army. He had compared the first year of the first period with the last year of the third period, and he found that whereas we spent only £500,000 a-year more upon the Army in 1801 than upon the Navy, we now spent nearly £4,000,000 more upon the Army than upon the Navy. In other words, for every £100 we spent on the Navy at the beginning of the century, we only spent £103 upon the Army; we now for every £100 spent on the Navy, spend £127 upon our Military Forces. Whereas only some 700,000 inhabitants were in 1801 fed on sea-borne food, some 20,000,000 were now 233 supplied from abroad. In 1801 the sea-borne trade per head amounted to £4 per annum; it was now £17. In 1801 one ton of shipping entered and cleared in the year did the business of five inhabitants; now each inhabitant required one and a-half tons to do his own annual sea business. That showed the enormous growth of our naval responsibility. But there was another point to which he desired briefly to refer, and it was this. The relation of extent of area to the amount of force required to protect it was the same upon water as upon land, and the area over which our sea interests operated in 1801 was illustrated by our export of produce In the first period of the 87 years which had elapsed since the beginning of the century, five-sixths of our export trade was confined to the North Atlantic, including the Mediterannean and the Baltic; in the second period, four-fifths were so confined, and now only one-half. The other half of our enormous commerce now went to the other side of the world; and three-fourths of the whole sea area of the world had been added to our naval responsibility of defence. In point of fact, we had since 1801 added another hemisphere to be defended by our naval arrangements. But this was not all. He had hitherto dealt exclusively with the position of the United Kingdom then and now; but while these changes were going on our own position abroad was undergoing a still greater change, and the interests of our Empire beyond the sea must now be added to the British interests to be defended—the interests of that outlying Empire which had grown up since the beginning of the century. In 1800 the British trade meant the trade of the United Kingdom; but now it meant that of the independent trade of the outlying Empire also. The value of British sea trade was under£70,000,000, and now it was closeupon£ 1,000,000,000. Whereas they had at the beginning of the century only £70,000,000 of sea trade, and a limited area to protect, they had now £1,000,000,000 of sea trade, and the whole water area of the world to protect. This distribution of British trade at this moment was not without interest and importance with regard to his Resolution, The sea trade of the Mother Country was over £600,000,000 a-year, and the sea trade of the outlying 234 Empire, independent of that with the Mother Country, was £400,000,000. The tonnage entered and cleared in British ports abroad in any year was now greater than the tonnage entered and cleared in British ports at home. Thus had our sea interest grown, and our naval responsibility increased; but our policy and arrangements for defence had been to reduce the Naval Estimates and increase the Army Estimates for the "sit down and wait "policy. The time was when all our attention was directed to the naval safety of the State, and it was considered necessary for the country to possess an overwhelming naval power, with an Army prepared to strike, and not to sit down and remain passive. Our naval power was applied to keep the enemies battle fleet in port, or, if it got out, to compel conflict against great odds.
§ MR. SPEAKER
the hon. and gallant Member is now entering into a subject which would more properly come in upon the Navy rather than the Army Estimates.
§ CAPTAIN COLOMB
said, he was sorry if he had transgressed the Rules of the House. It was not his intention to do so, and this only showed the enormous difficulty of considering the question of defence. He would endoavour, as far as he could, scrupulously to obey the ruling of the Chair, and he would, therefore, pass by the arguments he was about to adduce. The conditions of war had changed. To whatever branch of service they referred, it would be found that there had been great changes. Preparations for war now took a far longer time, were more costly, but decisive results were sooner attained. The heavy guns which formerly only took a few days to cast now took months to manufacture. The Artillery, whether sea or land, which before could be formed in a few days, now took a very long period to ensure its efficiency, and it would appear, on comparing our position then and the relative expenditure for defence in the past with the present, that we had thrown aside the teachings of experience and the former national principles which carried us safely through war. We had been developing a theory of purely military defence, based on the presumption that it was necessary because of the weakness of our naval 235 defence. At the first year of the last period—1859—we first took a definite new departure with regard to a military policy of passive defence; we appointed a Commission to investigate the defence of the United Kingdom, and to that Commission we assigned the duty of saying what was to be done under certain assumed naval conditions; but the assumed naval conditions had never been really examined or approved by the nation. The Commission had presented a Report, and upon that Report we spent a large sum of money upon fortifications, not only for the protection of the sea front of certain ports, which everybody must see was absolutely necessary, bat for the protection of these ports from land attack. Therefore, the assumed naval conditions involved this—that the rear of our ports might be attacked—in other words, we admitted naval weakness. The point he wished to bring forward was this—that the Army and the military arrangements were only a part of their general scheme; that they could not tell what it was necessary to have, or what it was necessary to spend upon their Army, unless they had before them the whole necessities of their national position. Unfortunately, he was precluded by the Forms of the House from discussing the whole question. Therefore it was necessary to confine himself to the Army. But he maintained that they could not deal with the Army from that limited point of view, and that if they w ere to get economy and efficiency in their administration, it must be from a review of their whole position, and adapting their forces, whether military or naval, to suit the necessities of their position. He would not road what was recommended by the Commission of 1859, and which was in process of development down to 1870. In that year there was a considerable alarm in the country. War had broken out on the Continent, and the public mind was agitated and anxious about the situation of this country. He proposed to quote the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), not for any Party purpose, for he could not do so if he wished, seeing that the declaration which was made by the Head of one Party had never been controverted by the other. In the words of the Prime Minister in 1870— 236Steam applied to navigation has done at least as much for a defending as for an invading Power; even the stores of coals needed for marine locomotion are principally ours, and while by aid of this powerful agent the ships of both nations may scour the coasts, with favourable weather, at from 12 to 15 or 16 miles an hour, the railways which gird the land—to say nothing of the telegraphs—may, in all weathers, carry the armies which are to guard it and their matériel from point to point at 20, 30, or 40.The principle of defence was thus explained—that they were to meet the danger of a hostile Fleet scouring their shores by the use of an Army constituted and only adapted and capable of passive defence within these shores. That was the principle of the Estimates the House was asked to vote that day. He asked hon. Members to consider in what position, oven if they had 10,000,000 men in the Army, the country would be under the circumstances he had described? Moro than 20,000,000 out of the 37,000,000 of the population would be entirely cut off from food. The absence of raw material, upon the manufacture of which 30,000,000 out of 37,000,000 inhabitants depended for their sustenance, would cause them to be thrown out of work, because that raw material could not come in, or, if it did, such a price would be demanded for it as to extinguish all profit, and therefore the mills would have to be shut up. Their foreign and coasting trade would have to be suspended; their Army would be unable to secure the ingress and egress at their mercantile ports, for, even though defended by the Army, they would be absolutely closed, and the moral effect he dared not speculate upon. Yet a defence such as this had been pictured by a Prime Minister of England as a cause of satisfaction. If ever it did come to pass, he (Captain Colomb) doubted whether the government of the country would be possible, and that was one of the points he wished to press upon the House, although he could not press it as forcibly as he should like without transgressing the Rules of the House. He could only indicate the point he wished to bring forward, and that was that the House was not in a position to discuss the Military or Naval Estimates until they had before them the general necessities of the position and the general policy which the Estimates were to carry out. He would conclude by pointing out the 237 last result of the present policy and illustrate what was the effect of existing ideas on the subject of defence. In the Report of the Select Committee on the Army and Navy Estimates, there was an answer given by the head of the Intelligence Department of the Army. Question 4,247, Major General Brackenbury was asked—And, as a corollary from that, I presume you think that our defensive condition should be made perfect?—I would then go on to say this; that I have not the slightest doubt that if our Channel Fleet were to be temporarily—for a, period, I will say, of three weeks—made powerless, to be removed from controlling the Channel for a period of three weeks, a strong Maritime Power would be able to place, crowding them together on board ships for the short voyage, such a number of men that they might land or attempt to land a force of from 100,000 men to 150,000 men upon these shores.What he wanted to point out was that whether an enemy could do this or not was not a military, but a naval question; and the answer itself was based upon the supposition that the assumed naval conditions existed for three weeks. He regretted that the Committee did not ask this officer to give the data upon which he formed his opinion, and did not ask him to state what ports he had in his mind from which the invading force could be despatched, the carrying power of the nation owning such ports, and the time it would take to collect it at such ports. He also regretted that so grave a statement in support of passive defence should have been accepted without proof and without inquiry. Assuming it to be true, what then? It meant that if, instead of this immense undertaking of embarking simultaneously 150,000 men, the enemy armed this vast multitude of ships—assumed to exist—with guns, torpedoes, and a handful of gunners and torpedoists, they might for three weeks swarm in the offings of our commercial ports. What, then, would be the value of passive military defence and defended harbours? Practically, the country would be absolutely invested, and three weeks of this condition of things would bring about the absolute necessity of a surrender without a single man having been landed on our shores. He would no longer trespass on the time of the House. He hoped he had said sufficient to indicate 238 the impossibility of discussing the military policy and the Army military expenditure without some general statement before the House indicating the principle on which the State was to rely for safety, and the main lines of the policy by which it was to be attained. Such a plan would involve full naval and military considerations, and he thought there was a necessity for the country and Parliament being informed as to the general outline on which the Army and Navy Administration was to be framed. It was proposed to have the Army Estimates discussed by a Committee, who would, however, only deal with the military part, while the Naval Estimates would be referred to another Committee, who would only deal with the naval part. He thought they were working a system of national defence in two water-tight compartments without any real responsibility, and no central controlling authority for both. Our safety in war would have to be evolved out of dual control and divided responsibility. That was a serious question, and if the House would accept his Resolution, before sending the Army Estimates to one Committee and the Navy Estimates to another, the House could settle first what both were expected to do. The position of the House in discussing the defence question was that they were asked one day by the Secretary for War to put on red spectacles and only look at the Army, shutting out the Navy altogether; another day they would be invited by the First Lord of the Admiralty to put on blue spectacles and only look at the Navy, shutting out the Army altogether. He thought that was a most unsatisfactory state of things, and it was in the interests of the country and the interests of safety, economy, and efficiency, that they should have a statement from a Minister responsible to the country for its defence, and answerable for general principles, being followed both by the Army and Navy. He believed that would be the first step towards effecting those reforms which were necessary to provide for our safety in war, and also to insure the economy and efficiency of the Public Service.
§ SIR. WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)
said, he had on the Paper a Resolution which, was one of the greatest importance that could be brought under the notice of the House. The question was one the House ought to consider, and there ought to be no Member of Parliament, on whichever side of the House he sat, who should be afraid to get up in the present condition of affairs and state his views and opinions with regard to the defences of this great country. It was most certainly not a Party question. No military question and. no naval question ought to be made a Party question, and the particular question he was about to bring forward was of such vital importance that he hoped for the indulgence of the House in making the statement he desired to lay before it. He said it was no Party question, and he was fortified in that opinion, because there was a meeting upstairs on Thursday last of the military and naval Members of the House sitting on both sides of that House, and they were all unanimously in favour of the Resolution he was about to submit. It was most certainly not intended that there should be any attack whatever upon the Government; but what would the people of the country know about the matter unless the real condition of our defences was placed before them? So far as the Government were concerned, they ought to feel obliged to any hon. Member who got up in his place and gave his opinion in order to show what was imperatively demanded for the safety of the country. Most certainly no attack was intended to be made on his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope). His right hon. Friend had placed before the House a most able statement of his views indicating what he intended to carry out. He had placed before them exactly what it was the Government intended to do; but without going into that question he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) ventured to say that the Government were dealing with this great question piecemeal, and that they had only a plan for the present year, or for two or three years at most, without going to the root of the whole matter, and enabling Parliament to say whether there was any continuity of plan for the defence of the country to be carried out which would have his support. The Government 240 proposed to raise some £2,000,000 or more of money only. He was satisfied that if the country knew the present condition of affairs and how defenceless we were at this moment, they would not only vote £2,000,000, but any reasonable sum, considering the enormous interests involved, that the Secretary of State came down and demanded. Unfortunately, the country did not know the condition of our defences, and, therefore, it cavilled at what Parliament was asked to vote. He was afraid that the country not only did not know, but would never know the condition in which our defences were placed, unless public attention was called to it by statements in that House. It was said that this was a great Constitutional question, and the power rested entirely in the hands of the Government, and that no one had a right to ask that it should be taken from them. It was an authority which they alone ought to possess. He denied that proposition absolutely, and when he came to look at what had been done in the past, what was our present position, and what might happen in the future, he thought he was entitled to ask that a Royal Commission should sit and inquire into the present state of our defences, and also what re-organization, if any, should take place in the War Office. At any rate, those military advisers who were now consulted and had now to state their views and opinions, and those who had been answerable in a time of war for everything being right, should have the responsibility of spending the money that was asked for in order to put our defensive forces into decent and good order. If that were done, and they were made absolutely responsible to the House, and could, show that the money had been spent in the interest of the country, there would not only be greater efficiency but greater economy than we had now. There was, however, another question. No one knew what the defences of the country were, or how many men in a normal condition o affairs we ought to have. That was one of the questions which had often been asked and never answered. Parliament ought to know the number of men absolutely necessary, the quantity of arms in store, the quantity of ammunition, and the quantity of stores of all kinds. There ought to be no reserve in a matter of 241 that kind; but the country ought to know whether, in a case of emergency, we possessed all the men and all the stores we absolutely required. It was also necessary to know the requirements of our naval and military ports. In the Report of the Committee appointed by the Secretary of State for War, and presented to both Houses of Parliament the other day, would be found a list of military ports. The Report was as follows:—Among the so-called military ports three at once suggest themselves as far exceeding all others in importance. They are Portsmouth, Plymouth, and the ports included within the Thames and Medway defences. It is not too much to say that the destruction of our great Dockyard at Portsmouth—and in a less degree of that at Plymouth—might be decisive of the issue of a great war.And yet the House of Commons was absolutely without knowledge as to whether any one of these ports was in a condition to resist the attack of an enemy. He maintained that that was a very serious matter for the nation at the present moment; and what would be the consequences to our Colonial ports if it were found necessary to keep our Fleet and Reserve at home to look after England alone, so as to meet any Fleet, of whatever size that Fleet might be, which might choose to threaten an attack on any of our ports around these Islands? There was another very important matter—namely, our coaling stations, for which a special Vote was about to be taken. He did not propose to enter into the condition of the different stations. Malta and Gibraltar formed the great highway to India, and in our interests in the Mediterranean it was absolutely necessary to maintain them. Was Gibraltar at the present moment fit to sustain an attack? He was told that there was only one gun there fit to cope with the guns of large calibre which largo iron-clads carried now. What he asked for was that a Royal Commission should go carefully through the whole of these questions, and decide what should be the normal number of the men, and the necessary expenditure to be made upon our naval and military ports, coaling stations, and mercantile ports. These were very serious questions, and he should like, if the House would permit him, to read some of the evidence that was given before the Royal Commission on War- 242 like Stores presided over by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen. One of the questions which naturally occurred to hon. Members at the present moment was, how was it that, with the enormous amount of money voted annually by Parliament, we should find that our Army was not at the present moment in a far better state than it was? How was it that we found perpetual changes in policy? No single plan was carried out from year to year. The number of men was reduced to suit the interests of the Government and Party warfare, while the country was left out in the cold. He would soon show whether he had a right to make a statement like that. The first witness examined before the Royal Commission was his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), then the Secretary of State for War, and this was one of the first questions put to him—But his Colleagues, the other Members of the Cabinet, must have something to go upon when they say—' You must do without this or that improvement?'—Well, they never enter into the details of the expenditure; the whole responsibility for that rests with the Secretary of State.I mean does the Cabinet say—' Well, you may arrange it how you please; but you must do with £500,000 less?'—Practically, that is very much the result.After you have consulted upon the various rave matters which must regulate the taxation, the feeling of the House of Commons, the prospects of peace and war, and other things of that kind, it finally conies to this—that the Cabinet say—' Well, the War Department must take off £250,000?'—Substantially, that is the mode in which the result is arrived at.Then, when the Secretary of State is told that he is to take off £250,000, or whatever it is, he has to take it off really from the elastic part of the expenditure?—Yes; he calls the officers of the Department round him, and asks for their advice and for their opinions, and he exercises his discretion and judgment.He has to do without some of the things?—He might have to do without men, or he might have to do without stores of every description.These were the answers of the right hon. Gentleman the then Secretary of State for War. In further examination the right hon. Gentleman was asked—Practically, therefore, it comes to this—that when the Cabinet finally determines that the Secretary of State for War is to do with a smaller amount than he has proposed, it has all to come out of the elastic part of the expenditure—namely, the stores and the labour?—Or the men.That would be the labour?—No; I am speaking now of the number of men voted. It might happen that there is a reduction of 5,000 243 men in the Army; that is a mode in which economy, so to speak, has been effected.''That is the answer given by the then Secretary of State for War, who was truthfulness personified, and who, when asked by the Royal Commission to state his views, told them, as clearly as it was possible to state it, what his real opinion was. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) wanted to know if the country was to be placed in such a position that when, for political purposes, and for political purposes only, in order to please outsiders and reduce the Votes—he was not accusing one side more than another—they were to find that the men were cut down and the stores cut down in order to meet the cry for economy which had been raised. He did not propose to quote more from this Blue Book than he could help; but he felt that it was necessary, at the same time, that in an important matter like this every hon. Member should state what he believed to be the truth; so that they might all, upon an occasion like this, examine carefully into the matter as it stood. There was one other question which he desired to place before the House. His right hon. Friend the present First Lord of the Treasury was asked—Does anything occur to you as capable of improvement in regard to the general system that you have stated—namely, putting it shortly, the Secretary of State with the ultimate decision, the Secretary of State with the Surveyor General under him as a practical officer advised by the Director of Artillery, and with the power of consulting the Ordnance Committee; can you suggest any alteration in the system?—I am not prepared to suggest an alteration in the system. I think h is possible that the office of artillery and stores might be strengthened; but that is a matter of detail. So long as our political system exists as it is, it does not appear to me to be easily practicable to make any considerable change in the system. Everything depends upon the individuals who have to work the system. If I was in the position which some Ministers of War occupy in other countries, with a power over the purse which I do not possess, and an. uncontrolled responsibility which does not attach to me—for I am checked and controlled—I could imagine a better system than that which exists at the present time—a greater amount of freedom with an increased responsibility attaching to the Secretary of State. But, looking to our Parliamentary system, it does not seem to me practicable to introduce any great changes in the existing system.He now came to the evidence of the hon. Baronet the late Surveyor General of Ordnance (Sir Stafford Northcote). 244 The hon. Baronet (then Mr. Northcote) was asked—I think you said that Vote 12 is by far the most important Vote that you have to deal with?—I think it is the most contentious. I think it is the one upon which more discussion usually takes place in the House of Commons than any of the others.In fact, I suppose the two Votes which take the most consideration are Vote 1 and Vote 12?—Yes; of course, Vote 1 is the great Vote; I was only alluding to any special Vote.Taking your business as Surveyor General of Ordnance, you have very little to do with Vote 1. You have to do with the other Votes, especially with warlike stores, Vote 12?—Quite so.Is it not the fact, because we have had it stated before, that it is upon these two Votes, Vole 1 and Vote 12, that the manipulation of the Estimates usually takes place?—Yes; I think that is so.That is to say, there are many charges which are fixed charges, and certain other things which are obliged to be done; but whether it is in the interest of the country, or whether it is not, when Votes have to be cut down, it is, generally speaking, upon Vote 1 and Vote 12 that the reduction takes place?—Yes; principally.And although you yourself may have thought that it would be necessary that certain Supplies with regard to Vote 12 should be granted, yet in the exigencies of the case they are not able to be granted because you have not sufficient money?—Yes; that is so.That was the evidence of his hon. Friend sitting below him, and was as truthful evidence as could be given. These were the facts of the ease, and the House had to deal with them as they found them. He would turn now to the evidence of Lord Wolseley, who gave evidence before the Commission. The evidence of the noble and gallant Lord would of course be acceptable to both sides of the House, because the noble and gallant Lord had been appointed to very high commands by both Parties when in power. Indeed, he had been regarded as a military officer of a specially high type, and therefore he would read the evidence of the noble and gallant Lord with great confidence. Lord Wolseley, in answer to questions whether they ought not to have some standard laid down to work up to, said, "Yes; but at present they had none," and he suggested a Royal Commission. In answer to Question 2,643—Do you think it would bean impossible thing, or even a difficult thing, if serious inquiry were made into the subject, to draw out some permanent system of the nature of that which you describe?—I think it would be a very simple process, a process that might be very easily accomplished by a Royal Commission of both Houses of Parliament, not constituted of military 245 men, but of judicial men who would look at it as a judicial inquiry, and examine experts on the various topics connected with the subject.Lord Wolseley, in Question 2,764, was asked—You made one very correct and at the same time strong statement, that the worst part of our system is that we never tell the truth so that the English people may know the position in which we are?—We never take the English people into our confidence, We never tell them what are our shortcomings; they have no means of ascertaining what are the military views of the highest military officers they employ. The highest military officers are employed and paid very well; but the English people have never the benefit of knowing what their military views are; as long as military men are employed in the War Office their tongues are tied. They are not allowed to express their opinions, even in ordinary conversation, much less in print, upon the most important subjects connected with the defence of the Empire.'' And is it not your view that until we get such a Committee, and until we have our Army and our stores in the position which you have named, we are liable to the greatest panics that can he imagined?—Yes; I consider that the position of England at the present moment, as regards its Army, is very unsatisfactory; that if a hostile force were to land upon our shores of, say, 100,000 men, there is no reason whatever, if that 100,000 men were properly led, why they should not take possession of London.That was the statement of Lord Wolseley. The noble and gallant Lord made another statement in answer to a question from the Chairman of the Commission, 2,649—The effect, therefore, is that when, for a very general political reason, it is desired to reduce the Estimates, the stores, man, and horses fall off?—Yes.There were two or three other points which Lord Wolseley most carefully stated before the Commission; but his views and opinions distinctly were that it was absolutely necessary in the interests of the country that a Royal Commission, or a Committee as he called it, should be granted, and that before that Committee all the best experts in the Service should be brought, be that the requirements of the country might be made known. He felt sure those requirements would be granted, as well as the necessary money to carry them out. By the extracts he had given from the Blue Book of the evidence before the Royal Commission which sat to inquire into the condition of warlike stores, he thought he had been able to show the position in which the country was in and what Parliament had to deal with. There was another question. 246 Going back to the Crimean War, would anybody say that the Government had in regard to the Army and Navy done their duty? When we went into the Crimean War we had made no preparation of any kind, either in regard to men or stores. The result was that we incurred a large, and what ought to have been, both in men and money, an unnecessary expenditure. Thousands of young soldiers lost their lives, and millions of money were thrown away. We were not prepared then in any one single point, and we had taken no precautions, believing that the necessity would not arise. Mr. Cardwell—afterwards Lord Card well—was, in 1870–1, Secretary of State for War. He passed the Short Service Act and formed a Reserve, but in doing so thought it absolutely necessary that those regiments which were first for duty should, have their strength raised. A plan was prepared, but the Treasury would not allow the regiments to be raised to the number suggested by Mr. Cardwell. One of the small African Wars came shortly afterwards, and the consequence was that regiments were sent abroad short-handed, and then those which were first on the rota were called upon to furnish drafts for those regiments serving in Africa making them quite inefficient, though next for duty. In this way we went on from hand to mouth. He would instance another campaign—that which took place in Abyssinia in 1868, That campaign was organized by Lord Napier of Magdala. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) was on the Committee which sat to inquire into the expenditure connected with that expedition.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman would recollect the inquiry which took place, and would be aware that, notwithstanding the enormous expenditure which was incurred, the provisions which were made might have been altogether inadequate. It was a great expedition up to a certain point—namely, up to Magdala; but if King Theodore had not remained there, and had retired with his army, our troops could not have gone one step further, as there were not sufficient men to keep 247 open the communications. He mentioned this fact to show that it -was impossible in a time of war to be guided by an economical policy only. Whenever it was necessary to go to war we ought to be fully prepared. What happened in reference to the Egyptian War? We sent out an excellent army to Egypt, but we had to draw troops from India and to call out a portion of the Army Reserve; by that means denuding this country of its defenders. The number of men who went out to Egypt was considerable; but, at the same time, some of the Reserves went with them and the rest were called out for service at home, to make the regiments at home efficient. Not long ago it was thought that we intended to take a firm stand against the encroachments of Russia in Afghanistan. £11,000,000 was voted for that purpose, as well as for continuing the operations in Egypt. Most of the money, however, was devoted to replenishing our stores, which were in a most unsatisfactory condition. He could only say, and he thought he had a right to say it, that Party considerations were always considered before the great honour of the country. Let them for one moment look at the present condition of affairs; let them look at the enormous host of Russian troops echeloned along Bessarabia, Podolia, Volhynia and Poland, facing Roumania, Austria-Hungary, and Germany. Could anyone read the papers that morning, having regard to the statements of the Emperor of Russia, and say how long it might be before a state of things would arise which, as in the case of the Crimea, might drive us against our will and inclination at once into war? To go one step further—what was our policy now with regard to Bulgaria? They would all recollect the Bulgarian atrocities, which brought Russia to the gates of Constantinople, when we had to intervene. What was our policy now? Were we going to allow Bulgaria to be swallowed up by Russia, or was that young nation, rightly struggling for its liberty, still to have the sympathy and support of England? Was our policy still, as in the old days, to prevent Russia reaching the great goal of her ambition—the gates of Constantinople? To allow Russia to establish herself in Constantinople, so that we should not have a free entrance into the Black Sea, 248 would be a fatal stop in the interests of the British Empire, of which we were so justly proud. Russia had millions of men, some of them well armed, some of them badly armed; but there they were with 280,000 horsemen. France could put 2,500,000 men into the field, and could mobilize 1,500,000 more as occasion might require. Her fortresses were perfectly armed and provisioned.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
His right hon. Friend said "No." Would his right hon. Friend mention one fort which was not properly garrisoned and provisioned? He should like his right hon. Friend to state what towns in France were not properly fortified and garrisoned. It might be so in regard to one or two; it was certainly not the rule. So far as Germany was concerned, she could now put 1,280,000 men into line if she pleased, one-half on the frontier of France, and the other half on the frontier of Russia. She could produce 750,000 more within a fortnight to keep up the communications between the two Armies on the frontier, and besides that she could raise 750,000 more for her home defence. All her railways were complete; all her fortifications he believed were complete; and he did not think that his right hon. Friend would say that they were not all of them properly provisioned. He trusted that this country was not likely to have anything but the most friendly relations with Germany; but all we had to do was to be prepared for anything that might happen. He gave his right hon. Friend credit for having done a great deal more than his Predecessors. Nevertheless, what had been done fell very far short of what the country required. He asked his right hon. Friend, how many field guns in case of a great emergency could be produced at this moment? His own impression was that, taking into consideration all the batteries which had been broken up, and the resolution which had been taken with regard to ammunition trains in connection with the formation of two Army Corps, we could not send out into the field 200 field guns. He asked if that were so or not? If it were true, it was out of the question that if we were to send these two Army Corps abroad, with the guns they required, we 249 should have a single gun left for the home force to whom the defence of the country would have to be entrusted. At the lowest calculation we ought to have at this moment at least from 500 to 600 field guns for the 500,000 men of the Regular and Auxiliary Forces we had at home. At Sedan—when the German Emperor showed the Emperor Napoleon the case of iron which surrounded that position—the whole work was over, and the slaughter stopped, because it became at once apparent how hopeless it was to make any further resistance. He thought that was a case which deserved the most careful consideration. He had looked through his right hon. Friend's Statement most carefully, and he had endeavoured to find whether there had been any increase in the Estimate, but he found no increase whatever. He did find a statement that, considering the defenceless position of the forts at certain stations, it was absolutely necessary that more Garrison Artillery should be got.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, it was explained in the Statement what this Garrison Artillery was required for.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, there was undoubtedly a very small increase in the Estimate of the number of Garrison Artillery, and he wished to know for what purpose it was required? He considered it absolutely essential for the welfare and the well-being of the country that we should have in all our fortifications, and at our coaling stations and elsewhere, such a force as we could rely upon. He did not want the Navy to be obliged to go out and look after the coaling stations. He knew the necessity of the coaling stations in the interest of our food supply, upon which the great masses of our people depended. They ought, no doubt, to be in a better position to feed themselves, but, unhappily, at this moment that was not the case. He should like to call the attention of his right hon. Friend to some statistics that were given in an admirable work written by Sir Charles Dilke, showing the proportion of men and field guns possessed by different countries. Belgium, with 105,000 men, had 240 guns; Servia, including the National Militia, had 175,000 men and 200 guns; Roumania 200,000 men and 336 guns; and Switzerland, 215,000 men and 348 guns; and yet, in this country, we could not 250 put two Army Corps in the field without denuding the country of its 200 field guns. Turning to the question of the rifle, his right hon. Friend was no doubt quite right in not adopting a rifle until he was quite certain that the weapon was the best that could be produced. He believed his right hon. Friend was now making inquiries in that direction, but what was to happen when the best rifle was discovered? It was to be manufactured only for the Army, and not for the Militia or Volunteers, so that it was impossible to foretell what might happen if ever it became necessary to call all our Forces into play. He was afraid that the same thing would occur here at home as occurred in the Soudan. Shells were sent out without powder in them, and other shells which did not fit the guns. Above all, Parliament had a right to know how many arms we had in store, and he maintained that that information would never be supplied until a Royal Commission inquired into our position with respect to bringing this question before the House. He felt that he had simply done his duty. His object was to place the facts before the country, and he trusted that his statement would be amplified by other hon. Members who would follow him. He had read with pleasure and gratification the remarks which had been made by Sir Charles Dilke, who was a Radical at heart. That gentleman knew France well, had lived in it for years, and he told his countrymen as frankly as a man could tell them that we were in a most defenceless position, and that the position we occupied was one that was not creditable to the nation. He recommended hon. Members to read the statements made by Sir Charles Dilke which showed the condition of our Army and Navy. The highest military authorities—such as Sir Frederick Roberts and Lord Wolseley, and his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley) who made an admirable speech last year—clearly showed what the condition of affairs was, and how absolutely defenceless we were in the event of being attacked. If the enemy by any evil fortune should come here and take possession of London, how many millions would be demanded in the shape of ransom? [Laughter.] He saw an hon. Member laugh. He would be the very 251 man, if such a thing should happen, to fall into a panic and lose his head. Now was the time, when we were at peace with all the world, to consider what ought to be done. He remembered some very weighty words that were used by the Prime Minister of this country. At Derby the Prime Minister said, "Your fate will depend upon the preparations you have made in time of peace. He recommended that statement to his right hon. Friends on the Front Benches, and he asked them to consider the question fairly and honestly. He had been for many years a Member of the House. Could it be supposed that if he did not believe the gravity of the situation and the necessity for action that he would have offered these remarks? He believed that it was absolutely necessary and essential that we should know the exact position in which we stood. He was satisfied that if money was required the country would freely grant it, and if the Government, in any attempt to deal with the defences of the country, were blamed, they would feel that in making preparation for a time of need they had done their duty to their country. Let him say in conclusion—May God grant that should the evil day come we may be found prepared. He bogged to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that, in order accurately to ascertain our position, She may be graciously pleased to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into and report upon the military and naval requirements for the protection of the Empire.
§ LORD HENRY BRUCE (Wilts, Chippenham)
, in seconding the Amendment, said, he had to complain of the issue of different kinds of rifles to the Army. They ought to have the newest and best weapon for their troops. As to stores, he also pointed out that there were defects, and in this democratic age the country would never tolerate another Crimea. If a calamity like that occurred it would shake the country to its foundations.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that in accordance with the view of the Chair he would withdraw all reference to the Navy from his Motion.
§ Motion, amended accordingly.
To leave out from the word "That'' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty
praying that, in order accurately to ascertain our position, She may be graciously pleased to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into and report upon the requirements for the protection of the Empire."—(Sir Walter Barttelot.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK-ALLAN (Durham, S.E.)
said, he rose with considerable pleasure to support the Motion, as modified, proposed by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot). He did so with more pleasure now that the words "and naval" had been struck out, because there could be no doubt that, technically, it would not be right to raise the question of the naval resources of the Empire on the Army Estimates; but he should have been prepared to support the Resolution, whether the words had been struck out or not, because he was persuaded, from circumstances which had lately occurred, that there was no question more vital to the interests of the country at this moment than that our naval and military resources should be referred to some independent Body, independent both of the House and of the Principals of Departments employed in supplying those Departments. He could not but hope that the rumour which had reached him would not turn out to be unfounded—that before the end of the discussion, which he was afraid would be somewhat prolonged, they would hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) that he was able to see his way to accede, in some shape or other, to the request of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North-West Sussex—namely, that the condition and power of expansion of the resources of the country, from a military point of view, should be made a matter of inquiry by some great and independent authority. Before proceeding to deal with the necessity for an inquiry, he might be permitted to say that nothing was further from, his intention than of, in the slightest degree, hampering the Government, or of tying the hands of the Secretary of State for War, or in any way unfairly criticizing any of the changes which they were happy to see the right hon. Gentleman, had made during the last 12 months. He believed the Secretary of State for 253 War had already more than fulfilled the anticipations which were formed last year as to his probable action; the steps he had taken had been almost, without exception, in the right direction; and no doubt, when he came to have a longer experience in his Office, he would show that confidence had been very rightly reposed in him. He (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) considered that we were now entering upon a happy period of wise and decisive military change; but there were blots on every sun, and, touching for a moment points of detail before he dealt with the general Resolution before the House, he should like to say that in one ort we things he was extremely disappointed with the Estimate presented to them. The House would recollect that last year they were much exercised in their minds in regard to the question of the reduction of the Horse Artillery. He hoped the Government would take warning from what happened last year; many Members of the House would have been pleased to test the matter by taking a Division, because they thought that the reductions made were unwise, and were not justified by the reasons put forward for the step. He trusted they would not be put to that shift to-night; but he would recall to the right hon. Gentleman that which was, to some degree, the tacit understanding on which he, for one, voted for the Government last year. He understood that the reductions which were made in the Horse Artillery—a branch of the Service which everybody in the House and in the country agreed was one of the most highly scientific and efficient, both from a military and an economical point of view—wouldbemore than counterbalanced by some large increases in other branches of the Artillery. He had searched the Estimates, and the explanatory Memorandum which the right hon. Gentleman had issued, but had been unable to find what the corresponding increase in the effective force of the country was, It was with much reluctance that hon. Members consented to a large reduction of that brilliant force, the Horse Artillery; but they were told that they were to have in place of it a very large expansion of the Field Artillery of the country; they were told that they were to have a large expansion of the Military Transport Corps; that they were 254 going to have 14 ammunition columns formed; but he could find no reference to these columns in the Estimates. Perhaps, before the discussion ended, they would receive some explanation upon the point. Upon another question of detail he found in the Memorandum points which to him had rather a suspicious sound. They were told that the intention of the Government and of the Secretary of State for War, an intention with which he (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) entirely acquiesced, was that we should have two Army Corps and a Cavalry Division ready for mobilization. He could not say how strongly he would advocate that measure being carried out in its entirety. He found every detail given as to the efficiency of the First Army Corps; as to its Infantry battalions and its adjuncts; but he found nothing of the sort with regard to the Second Army Corps. He found only that the units existed somewhere; there was nothing shown in detail as to the mode of expanding the units. The First Army Corps was supposed to consist of eight battalions at home, exclusive of three battalions of Guards and the five battalions at Gibraltar and Malta, which were supposed to be in readiness for immediate service, and which, taken altogether, constituted the Infantry of the First Army Corps. These units were in a fair state of efficiency. The three battalions of Guards, for instance, had, under the present short-service system, a mode of expansion of their own which was so admirable that he wished the system were extended to the rest of the Army. The system observed in the Brigade of Guards had been to reduce the term of service from seven years to three, and to allow the men to spend the remainder of their service in the Reserves. He might say—not, of course, for the information of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, but for the general information of the country—that that system had been most wonderfully effective, and that whereas the battalions of Guards had a strength of 750 each, they had in addition, by the operation or expansion of the short-service system, a reserve of their own numbering about 3,000 men—that was to say, that they were able to fill up their battalions with men who had already belonged to the Brigade. 255 He was glad the right hon. Gentleman was about to develop the system by applying it to other arms which did not serve in India, and to which the system of short service could best be applied. He (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) would like to know by what means the right hon. Gentleman proposed to expand the 21 battalions which were to constitute the Infantry of the Second Army Corps? For every one of those battalions there would be at least 200 men required who could only be taken from the Reserve or from regiments at home. He did not know whether the redistribution of the Infantry was the wisest which could have been made. Formerly there were no less than five different scales, ranging from 920 to 550; undoubtedly, the battalions upon the smaller scale were too weak, and there were obvious reasons why they should be strengthened. It appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman had gone a little too far in the other direction. It stood to reason that whenever the Second Army Corps was called upon, the 21 battalions would have to be reinforced by at least 200 men, and perhaps by as many as 400. He saw considerable reason to apprehend great weakness and great difficulty in an arrangement of that sort, and he did not know whether it would not be better if the right hon. Gentleman were to recast his scheme so far as to have, at all events, one-half of the battalions of the Second. Army Corps in the highest degree of readiness. In the same way, as regarded the Cavalry, last year he drew the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the difficulties which existed in the present machinery for the expansion on short notice of the Cavalry service. The right hon. Gentleman had raised the Establishment of certain regiments by 44 horses and a corresponding number of men; but he (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) did not see that the right hon. Gentleman had dealt with a subject which was of primary importance—namely, the general re-organization of the Cavalry, which would enable him to readily expand that branch of the Service on a great emergency. He believed the right hon. Gentleman would find that there was no arm of the Service which would respond more readily to anything that was done in the direction of giving increased efficiency; and he hoped that when the Army Estimates 256 were produced next year, they would find that the whole Cavalry system had received the attention of the Secretary of State for War. There was another point deserving of consideration, and that was the means of suddenly finding a useful adjunct to our small Cavalry force by a greater development of the system of Mounted Infantry. The right hon. Gentleman had already taken a great step in advance by the course he had pursued at Aldershot in respect to providing Cavalry adjuncts. He had also taken a step in advance by putting a greater amount of responsibility, which also included a greater degree of power, in the hands of the Military Chiefs of the Army. The right hon. Gentleman had, for instance, put the transports and supplies under the Quartermaster General, instead of retaining them under the Civil Department of the War Office; that was a change in respect of which nothing could be said but in praise. There was another change which the right hon. Gentleman had made, and which was an essential feature of his scheme, but the result of it could only be judged by experience; he (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) thought its success was somewhat questionable. That change was the abolition of the Office of Surveyor General of Ordnance. The hon. Baronet the Member for Exeter (Sir Stafford Northcote) had set an example of patriotic abnegation in this matter which could not be over-estimated; he had allowed the Office he held to be abolished in the interests of the Army and of the country generally. He (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) doubted whether it was wise to do away with the Office of Surveyor General of Ordnance; they had now two military heads of the great branches of the Army, the Adjutant General and the Quartermaster General, working under a Chief; but they had nothing which corresponded in the smallest possible degree with what he might call the intermediate position between the Financial Secretary and the two military heads. The recommendation of Sir James Stephen's Committee was not that the office should be done away with, but that it should be put into the hands of a military man; and he believed that if that recommendation had been carried out, it would have been a far better change than that which the 257 right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had determined upon. There were many military men who were perfectly competent to fill that position with credit to themselves and advantage to the country; indeed, he need not go farther than to say that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley) was an officer well calculated by his wide experience to discharge the duties of the Office faithfully and well. He quite agreed that the holder of the Office should be a military man who had a seat in the House of Commons. Having said so much as to detail, he might he allowed to give the reason why he was heartily in accord with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North-West Sussex: (Sir Waiter H. Barttelot), whose Resolution was now before the House. The hon. and gallant Baronet asked the House to allow the whole question of our military resources to be examined by a competent tribunal which would be independent and apart from this House. That was also the recommendation of Lord Wolseley, a great and distinguished soldier, whose opinion could not be supposed to be biassed by any personal feeling at all. If there were any great changes at all in the military system, they must carry popular opinion with them, they must carry the constituencies with them, and that could not be done with the present mode of dealing with the three great branches of military defences. The three great branches of our defensive resources consisted of the Army, Navy, and the Indian defences. These were intimately connected with each other for it was impossible to say how interlaced and intertwined one was with the other. Questions were constantly arising in the one branch or the other which ought to be considered by someone who could take a purview of the whole. The supporters of the Resolution simply asked that, considering how widely spread these three branches were, considering that it was impossible for any one Department of the three to deal with any but its own branch, the whole question of our resources should be referred to an independent tribunal, not for Executive purposes, but for the purpose of ascertaining in gross what if was we required, and for familiarizing the country with our requirements, and. 258 therefore, allowing us to have popular opinion and support at the back of such increased demands as the best and most competent authorities might desire to make. Take, for instance, the case of our Imperial defence. Our Imperial defence was not confined to our Army. As we lost our insular position and came to regard our Indian possessions, the question branched out and became one to be dealt with by those who had an entire view of the military as well as the naval requirements. Our Colonial defence could only be conducted by the Navy and the Army combined. If any large developments were to be made, they must be backed up by popular opinion. To go a little into detail, he was bound to admit that he felt a very great responsibility in thin matter, for three reasons. The first was that since the institution of the short-service system in 1871, he had been one of those who had warmly espoused the cause of short service. If Lord Cranbrook were in the House, he would recollect that in 1874 he (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) begged the noble Lord not to make any great or sweeping change in the principle of short service until it had been submitted to a thorough investigation. We had now readied, however, a period when we could see whether the system had answered to expectations or not. They were told by those who advocated the system in 1871 that it would give them an effective Reserve of l60,000 trained men. He pointed out in 1876 that, from causes which were on the surface, the Reserve would never reach more than 45,000 or 50,000 men; and now, after an experience of 15 years, they found that that was the result achieved. By these Estimates, public attention was directed to the fact that the Reserve had now reached a maximum of 51,000 men, and that the passage of 8,000 men to the Reserve would be more than compensated for by the discharge of an equal or larger number of men. Therefore, at all events in this year, and in the next year, and, perhaps, the year after that, there would be no development of the Reserve. Thus we had reached a period of progress when we might look back on the Reserve system, and see what it had done for us and what it had failed to do for us. There was another important branch of the 259 subject, and that was the social condition of the men of the Reserve. The great bulk of the 51,000 men were now wandering about the country in the painful condition of waifs and strays. From long personal experience he knew that, in the present depression of the labour market and in the present depression of our trade, men in every employment were being discharged, and the Reserve men were those who suffered most. Our Reserve men were in a condition but very little above that of paupers. That was a discredit to the country, and he trusted some step would be taken very shortly to remedy that great defect. As regarded the Militia, which was the next branch of our defensive force, the painful fact came out year after year that it was dwindling in numbers. The Inspector General of Recruiting mentioned that this year the enlistments were 1,700 men less than last year. But that did not represent the decline altogether. Last year 17,000 men had failed to appear at the annual trainings. The Establishment of the Militia was 113,000; and if they struck out 17,000 who failed to appear, and 31,000 who were in the Militia Reserve, they would find that if the Militia were called out to-morrow to reinforce the Army, nearly 40 per cent of the whole would not be found. Then, as regarded the Volunteers, he was happy to say that the numbers and efficiency were increasing year by year; but if they supposed that the Volunteers were filling a position in the defensive force of this country which would enable them to be of great importance to us in case of foreign war, we were very much mistaken. It was because he believed that the people of this country were misinformed as to the office which each part of our military resources had to play, and as to what we could reasonably expect from it, that he thought a general inquiry should be hold—an inquiry which would make every detail of our military organization familiar to the electors of the country, who might, therefore, give them their support when great changes were contemplated. He had the pleasure and advantage, a few days ago, of listening to the discussion at the United Service Institution, in which the work, merits, and detects of the Indian Army were brought out in striking light. As regarded the Indian 260 Army, he believed that the changes made of late years had had the effect of rendering it, for its numbers, more efficient than ever it was before. But there was a great change—a political change, it might be called—with regard to that Army which had been on the carpet for 25 years past, and which, if made, would, in the opinion of the best military authorities, render that Army by no means such an effective assistance to us as we supposed it would be in the contingency of a great European war. The enormous reserve of officers we had in. the Indian Army had entirely disappeared; that was a question of vital importance. These men, for their numbers, might be as efficient as they could be; their patriotism, their earnestness, and zeal was everything that could be desired; but the organization under successive changes, made by successive Governments—all because we had no such thing as continuity of military policy—had been such as to deprive the Indian Army of any reserve of officers, and if we were depending upon that Army in time of need we were depending upon a broken reed. It was sometimes said that we had lost weight in the Councils of the world. He had before him some opinions uttered by a distinguished German officer. The disparaging opinions which this officer formed of us arose solely from the fact that the whole of our resources were never dealt with as a whole. In Germany they had just the opposite state of things. We, of course, did not aspire to imitate the German nation in military matters, because they were beset with dangers on the right and on the left, and, therefore, the whole population was armed for the purpose of defence. What he complained of was that we had nothing corresponding to that in this country; and so long as the present system continued of dealing with the requirements of each of the three branches—the Army, the Navy, and the Indian Service—each on its own lines alone, we should never have a corresponding advantage. He had read the excellent articles of Sir Charles Dilke on the Armies of Europe: Sir Charles Dilke viewed the matter from a different point of view, but came to the same conclusion that he (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) came to, and that was that, in spite of our Reserve system, and in spite 261 of the development of our military system in many respects, our great and most serious difficulty had never been touched at all, and that the total number of men we could muster was not only ludicrously inadequate for Imperial and Colonial wants, but that it would not carry us through a war of three months' duration. If there was any semblance of truth for these opinions, a case had been made out which required the earnest attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, who, he hoped, in this matter would not be influenced at all by any section of opinion—by, for instance, the Secretary of State for War on the one hand, or by the First Lord of the Admiralty on the other. He could not suppose for one moment that anyone would maintain that the two Gentlemen he had mentioned were the proper tribunals to settle a great national question like this. Military and naval Members of the House had great responsibilities to discharge; they were sent to Parliament by their various constituencies with the implied understanding that they would do all they could to further the Imperial interests of the country, and to see that the nation got their money's worth. They endeavoured to discharge that duty; but they could never do it by criticizing the Army or Navy Estimates alone, or by discussing the Estimates for the Indian Service alone. They never would be able to do that until they had raised, by some means or other, an opinion that matters were not altogether right in the sense that they were not dealt with by a separate and large tribunal which took a view of the whole system. He believed it was the opinion of every military man—Sir Charles Dilke was not a military man, but he was a highly trained politician who, perhaps, more than any other man in the country, was acquainted with what our requirements were in consequence of the great developments of the Continent, and he came to the same conclusion—that until they had the support of the nation at their back, and until they had developed some system of universal military training, the requirements of this country with regard to Imperial and Colonial defence would never be fulfilled. In 1876 he had the honour of serving on a Committee which had several changes in the Army referred to it, and among other ques- 262 tions was that of the possibility, under certain circumstances, of reverting to the old system of balloting for the Militia or a modified form of conscription. He produced before that Committee evidence showing that where a ballot for the Militia, together with the money substitution, was allowed, the one killed the other, and balloting for the Militia became invalid. Militia substitutes were purchased at a great rate—as high as 60 guineas a man—and that killed recruiting for the Army then employed under the conduct of Wellington in the Pensinula. Did anyone suppose that this country would permit for a moment the revival of such a system? If that was so, we were still leaning on a false hope and were still living in a fool's paradise. Under no conceivable circumstances would the ballot fur the Militia ever be tolerated in this country again. There was now a large electorate and a democratic form of government. Was it to be supposed that if there was balloting for the Militia money exemptions would be tolerated? If they came to make a demand on the people, the first thing the people would demand under a democratic form of government would be that there should be no destination whatever, that money substitutes should be entirely done away with, and that the son of the duke and the son of the labourer should serve in the ranks side by side. Was it not possible to devise some scheme by which, instead of going against popular sentiment, they could carry popular sentiment with them? Was it not possible that by a wise development of our resources we might have a larger number of men trained who might be brought to the military assistance of the country if required? He could conceive no better tribunal to which the question could be referred than a Royal Commission. The question to be decided was how they were to reconcile the military requirements of the country with the democratic feeling which existed nowadays, and the longer they deferred the consideration of such a question the longer they would be living in a fool's paradise, and the crash must eventually come upon them in such a way that it would be dangerous to the foundations of the Empire. He believed that a system of universal training might be devised which would not only be popular but 263 which would be demanded instead of resisted by the democracy. The Reserve system, which had cost the country millions sterling, had reached its utmost point of expansion. We were obliged to take men into the Reserve who had 17 years' service in the Army. In that degree the system did not differ from the old service in which we kept men in the Army for 16 and 17 years and them discharged them. He had the honour of being continually brought in contact with one of the moat democratic constituencies in the country, and he could say that if such a tribunal as a Royal Commission were allowed to investigate the question of the power of expansion of our military resources, taken as a whole, it would very soon arrive at the result that a system of universal training could be devised which would not be uncongenial to the labouring classes, but actually demanded by them. The Volunteers were kept up to an effective strength of 230,000 or 240,000, but from their very constitution they could not be called out in case of a foreign war. From every point of view a large development of the voluntary military system was absolutely necessary. He had the pleasure and privilege of passing many months during the hot summer of 1877 with the Russian Army in the field, and he could bear witness that the Russian soldiers were almost matchless for their enormous enthusiasm and their great patriotism. They were taken from a population which numbered 80,000,000, and therefore the power of expansion which the Russian Army possessed was almost unlimited. Russia had an effective force of very nearly 4,000,000 of men, and a gradual development of her system of communication had brought her to our very doors, so to speak. There were people in this country who supposed that the delimitation of the Afghan Frontier would be security for us in the future, but that delimitation was the very thing which would compel this country some day to come actively to the assistance of the Ameer at Cabul. We ought to be prepared for such an event, and not allow ourselves to be taken unawares. To return to what he had previously referred to, let him say he had found, in appealing to a democratic constituency that the one thing of all others which the people desired was free education. He was persuaded that moans could 264 easily be devised whereby the children of the working men of the country could be given an absolutely free education, beginning at the age of 10 years, and going on as long as desired. And then if they provided for the people from 15 to 21 years of age free technical education, combined with a certain portion of military training, such a project would be readly accepted by the working class, because they would feel it was one which was not beneath their dignity to accept.
§ SIR EDWARD HAMLEY (Birkenhead)
said, that it so happened that both the present Resolution and the former one had be much in common with the Memorandum and Report which the Secretary of State for War had laid before the House, that they all related to that most urgent question—the do-fence of the Empire. That brought with it the great advantage that the debate on military subjects, instead of being diffused, and one might say lost, over a vast variety of matters, was directed to a practical end. The Secretary of State for War proposed, after reference to the Report of his Committee, to complete the fortifications of Portsmouth, Plymouth, and the Thames, of Gibraltar and Malta, and of the other coaling stations so essential to the maintenance of the Empire, and would ask for a sum of £2,200,000 to be specially devoted to these purposes. For his (Sir Edward Hamley's) own part, he thought that both the House and the country might well be congratulated on the fact that a Secretary of State for War had at length brought forward a specific proposal for the national defences of the country, and had done it in earnest and in a practical way. They had been but too much accustomed to see it dealt with in a make-believe fashion. They had heard words of promise uttered to the ear but broken to the hope, never intended, perhaps, to be kept, but meant only as a decent shelving of the question. But now the Secretary of State for War told the House not only that those matters were urgent and must receive attention, but had also indicated the financial mode of putting his proposal into execution; and that mode, he was happy to say, was not by the illusory means of the Army Estimates. But he confessed that he wished the right hon. Gentleman could 265 have seen his way to make a larger and bolder demand, for it would appear to be only necessary to convince the House, as he was sure could be done, that certain measures were absolutely indispensable for the safety of the country, and then it would follow, as the night the day, that the means for giving them effect to the full extent would be forthcoming. If the House was convinced and would admit that certain measures were indispensable to the safety of the country, and were at the same time to refuse the means of giving effect to those measures, that would argue a degree of unreason which it would be disrespectful to attribute to that Assembly. Of course, in coming to a conclusion the House would wish to put itself in accord with the feeling of the country. But the same might be said of the country as of the House—that if it were convinced that its own safety depended on certain measures, it would certainly press for their immediate execution. Hitherto the public had been very little acquainted with the matter. It had had no means of informing itself. It was not to be supposed that many persons outside of that House ever saw or examined the Army Estimates; still less was it to be supposed that if they did they would understand them. They knew that we had Naval fortresses, but they were only now learning that as fortresses they had become ineffective. They knew also we had spent a great deal of money on guns, but they were only beginning to understand that those weapons had become useless, because they were obsolete. They saw that in our Volunteers we had a body of very fine and very zealous men, smartly dressed and carrying a rifle; but the public were only just realizing the fact that the National Army was unable to keep the field for a couple of days for want of equipment. They knew that in their time no enemy had ever appeared on our coasts, and they were not prone to believe that any ever would appear. They saw the nations of the Continent groaning beneath their huge armaments, military and naval, but they were not yet accustomed to connect these in their minds with the idea of danger to England; and as they had the natural disinclination of all subjects in all States to give money for public 266 purposes, they had been exactly in the condition of mind to give ear to those trading politicians who, knowing no more of the state of the case than the people themselves did, had been always ready to persuade them that it was a heinous offence to give money for armaments or defences, and who only looked on the relations of the great Military Powers with each other, where the indiscretion of an outpost might precipitate a general war, to draw from thence the happy conclusion that nobody desired, or ever would desire, to interrupt the peace of the world. He thought it was Mr. Cobden, an eminent apostle of peace, who once said—it might have been in that House for all he (Sir Edward Hamley) knew—he could crumple up Russia like a sheet of paper. It was a great pity he did not do it, for it would have saved us an immense amount of expense and panic. But he could not doubt that that declaration, coming from so trusted a source, did a great deal of harm to the nation. Now, he was happy to think that the people were beginning to emerge from that condition of ignorance, and there were many signs abroad that the idea that our defences must be looked to was spreading fast. He wished very much, therefore, that the Secretary of State for War had felt himself able to repose a larger confidence in the willingness both of the House and of the people to render themselves, their property, and their honour safe against the formidable States which might, on some sudden occasion, direct their weapons against us, and which were always prepared to the last detail for war. But he willingly accepted this instalment which the right hon. Gentleman offered. What was proposed would be so much indispensable work done, cleared out of the way, and carried to the credit of the nation. Our naval fortresses would no longer present the ridiculous spectacle of defensive works which were not defensible, armed with obsolete and dismounted artillery. It would be seen from the proposals in the Memorandum that part of the sum was to be appropriated to the completion of what was to be done in this Island, and part to what was to be done outside of it. Now there was so much to be done for our defences both at home and abroad that it was, perhaps, difficult to say what should first 267 demand attention. Where all was so urgent it might, perhaps, be thought that there was no first. But, without meaning to dispute that it was indispensable to the interests of the Empire to place our Mediterranean fortresses in a the rough condition of defence, he was of opinion that if part only of the defences was to be undertaken, that part should he within the four seas of Britain. It was better to have one piece of work finished than many pieces incomplete, and, consequently, so long as incomplete, absolutely ineffectual; and he should, therefore, have preferred to see the proposed sum appropriated in that direction. It would be doubtless an excellent thing to have our great Dockyards, and the river by which an enemy's ships would approach London, made secure. So far all must agree; nor need there be any dissent from that part of the Report which placed Malta and Gibraltar next in importance among military ports. These places were certainly rightly placed high in the list of military ports; but he could not but remember that while we were fortifying them, the commercial ports, the avenues on which we depended for so large a portion of our daily bread, would be left, he would not say undefended, but still open to those attacks which naval men thought we would be especially exposed to in the future. Admiral Aube, one of the French Ministers of Marine, speaking on this subject, said—The attack on every source of riches will become not only legitimate, lint obligatory…We must expect to see iron-clad Hoots turn their power of attack find destruction against all littoral towns, fortified or unfortified, whether purely peace establishments or warlike, to burn them, ruin them, or extort ransoms from them without mercy. With this new duty which we are therefore to conclude is now laid upon our iron-clad fleets, we are now entering upon a new system of maritime warfare—namely, that of the attack and defence of coasts. Every littoral town may be burnt down or laid under contribution by fleets or even by hostile cruisers…‥All this is coming… even the day when England's shores will be insulted and her ports burnt by the fleet of a victorious enemy.Such was the declared policy of the French Navy. Now, our own officers seemed to have come to the conclusion that what the commercial ports had chiefly to fear was not an attack by iron-clad fleets. It was considered pro- 268 bable that in no case except that of some great naval disaster should we be loft without a Channel Squadron; but it was not easy to guard a large circumference of coast like that of this Island; and the experiments with our Navy last autumn had shown that swift cruisers could always evade a naval squadron, and could enter and occupy ports long enough to inflict immense damage in many ways. The remedy for this was to enable the port to defend itself against the cruisers till the warships, summoned by the telegraph that surrounded the coast, should have time to arrive; and the means of so defending itself were held to be a fleet of gunboats and torpedo boats capable of going outside the port and engaging the enemy, supported by long-ranging guns in batteries on shore. These were the moans which, in addition to submarine mine fields in suitable localities, were held by those who had studied the matter to be sufficient for the purpose—that was, for the defence and security of our commercial ports. Such, then, would constitute the security of our coasts against an enemy's ships; and only those who denied that we could ever be at war would dispute that we could not obtain that security too soon; Now, the supply of these floating defences was the business not of the War Office, but the Admiralty. It was, however, necessary to take them into account in the discussion of any general scheme of defence, and he now adverted to them in the hope that provision for them might be among the proposals made to the House by the First Lord of the Admiralty. But there were two other matters included in the scheme which belonged to the province of the War Office—the submarine mines, including the light artillery attached to them, and the guns for the coast batteries of our commercial ports. The submarine mines were, in many situations, likely to be most effective—for instance, where the towns to be defended were situated far up rivers, with a long channel of approach, like London or Newcastle, or in our fortified harbours. But there were other situations where they were less applicable, as where towns were at the mouths of rivers, so that they could be fired on from the sea. The Mersey, for instance, appeared to him to be a case where an increased supply of guns would be more appropriate than an increase of sub- 269 marine mines. Liverpool was a port which it was essential to keep as open as possible, and ships making for it should find no obstacle. There were already considerable difficulties in the channel, and it was quite possible that submarine mines would be as likely to impede our own ships as the enemy's. He should, therefore, have been glad to see a large part of the sum which was here appropriated to submarine mines and their light artillery given to a supply of the best guns for the coast batteries of our commercial ports, for it must be remembered that the mines could be made quickly, and put down on an emergency, while the guns took a long time to construct. Thus far he had been only speaking of those defences which were to oppose the enterprizes of an enemy's ships; but there remained another equally important kind of defence—namely; that which should oppose invasion, and for that he found little or no provision made in the Memorandum. It was true we had a splendid Army of defenders, increasing in numbers and efficiency every year. But so long as they were kept unprovided for their purpose, so long they could not be counted among the defences of the country. They were quite inefficient, for want of equipment in what would enable them to keep the field. In order to enable them to do that, they wanted personal equipment, stores, and magazines; their transport ought to be organized ready for a crisis; the best rifle and the most powerful gun should be given to them, and the positions they would occupy should be selected and made places of exercise. In fact, a general plan of defence, in all its details, should be most carefully prepared. But for all that he found there was scarcely any provision made in the Memorandum; the chief item of preparation was the announcement that 21 batteries of position were to be given to the Volunteer Artillery. These, he presumed, were to be such guns as were already in store, which, perhaps, were a little behind the present stage of effectiveness. But it was quite a stop in the right direction to give these to the Volunteers till better were forthcoming, since these must be, until then, what they would have to use against an enemy. But in scarcely any other respect was a perceptible approach made towards rendering our 270 Auxiliary Forces efficient in equipment. Even the land defence of London received no notice. So long as this extraordinary anomaly existed of a vast and ever-increasing force of defenders who were not permitted to be capable of defending us, so long should he continue to think that to render them efficient was among the most pressing needs of the country. It seemed so illogical for what called itself a practical people to bring them to a certain point and leave them—to stop short of that animating touch, which alone was wanting to give them vitality and purpose; and all that was needful would be amply provided for by the addition of £1,000,000 to the sum that was now proposed to be asked for. Now, he knew, and indeed they all knew, that every proposal to spend money in order to render the Kingdom secure was sure to be opposed by a particular class of politicians. But, he would ask, what was their title to be listened to? Did they know anything specially about the defence of coasts? Could they suggest cheaper, better, and equally effective methods? Were they better able than the rest of us to judge of the probabilities of invasion? They did not profess, so far as he knew, to have bestowed any attention on the subject, except to look at the figures which represented the cost. In fact, they might very properly be described as professional cheeseparers. The economy they advocated was not a rational or a respectable economy. It was penuriousness of the kind which refused to replace the missing state on the roof, or the broken pane in the window. It was the frugality of the miser. But, at the same time, he feared it was allowed to have too much influence on our policy. He felt sure that if this spectre were resolutely grappled with, it would prove a sham—that this ghost in the churchyard would turn out to be a thing with a turnip for a head, lighted by a farthing candle. Now, it might, perhaps, fairly be inferred from passages in the Memorandum that although much that was needed was to be left undone, yet everything was to be undertaken that could be done in the time assigned for the completion of the military ports—that was to say, in three years. But nothing could be clearer than this—that with more money a great deal more could be done; everything that was needed could be done in that time. 271 In three years—much less, indeed—the Volunteers could be completely equipped, the necessary magazines and stores built, the country reconnoitred and positions defined, the Auxiliary Forces assigned to their posts, the means of transport the roughly registered, and the land defences of the capital provided for. Matters could to arranged with the commercial ports for joint contributions, and their defence could be proceeded with and rendered complete. All that could go on simultaneously with the works at the military ports. It might be said that we were at present producing guns as fast as the resources of our gun factories would admit. That might be so, though there was a belief, in which he shared, that an important addition would shortly be made to our power of producing guns. But everything else could be set on foot forthwith. If we were to wait three years for the proposed instalment, the present generation would not at that rate see the Kingdom rendered secure. It was impossible to understand why this matter should not be put plainly to the people, and why they should not be directly asked to give the means for effecting it. If that were done, and the means were withheld, it would be impossible to blame anybody but themselves; but now it might truly be said if the matter were not clearly put before them, and if they were not asked to find the money, that there was somebody to blame. He had thought it his duty to put those matters before the House; but, at the tame time, he should cordially support the present proposals. Although they formed but a slow and short step, and although they indicated a perilous dallying with a momentous subject, yet the step, so far as it went, was in the right direction, and would have his hearty concurrence. To the Resolution of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) he would also give his hearty concurrence. He had long been of opinion, and had freely expressed it, that tills was a time when publicity had come to be a necessary element in our military system. Now that the constituencies, by their numbers, formed so important an element in the Councils of the Nation, it was not only imprudent—it was worse—not to call them into council in everything which required their attention. What higher 272 interest could they have than in rendering the country secure from an enemy? He would not attribute to the people so unreasoning a condition of mind as to suppose that if these matters were put clearly before them they would refuse their ready concurrence in providing the means for giving them effect.
§ SIR WILLIAM CROSSMAN (Portsmouth)
said, he had listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley), but it seemed to him that no greater argument could be used in favour of the Motion before the House than was contained in the Memorandum of the Secretary for War itself. The country, he thought, had a right to demand that the scheme of defence adopted should be an exhaustive one, and they ought to know exactly what sum of money was required to put the whole empire in a state of defence he could easily understand that in the present critical state of political affairs the Government did not like to place their whole scheme before the country at once, but surely if the Commission asked for were appointed, on that Commission would be thrown the responsibility of stating what was wanted, and only on the Government would be thrown the responsibility of making demands in order to meet the requirements pointed out. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead, in the remarks he had made as to the defence of our mercantile ports. We had, he thought, gone rather wild of late in regard to submarine mines—and he spoke with some experience on the question—having been connected with the War Office for some time. The hon. and gallant Member had said that Liverpool and Birkenhead should be kept clear of submarine mines, and he (Sir William Crossman) thought that the entrance not only to those ports should be kept clear but also to the other commercial ports in the country, considering the attacks which could be made on shipping by armoured cruisers. He did not think our ships should have to wait for pilots to clear them, through the mine fields. He was sure that guns of position—6-inch guns with disappearing carriages, each supplied with 300 rounds of ammunition, but which would not cost more than £7,500—would be much better suited for the defence of these 273 ports than submarine mines. The money which would be spoilt in this way would be much better laid out than on submarine mines. No doubt there were some places where submarine mines, protected by quick firing guns, would be useful, but he thought that as a general principle they should not be entirely depended upon. With regard to the defences of the forts, both at home and abroad, which were built after Lord Palmerston's Commission, and most of which he had seen, they were no doubt relatively weakened by the increased power of weapons of offence, and it was desirable to strengthen them. The forts at Portsmouth in particular required strengthening. The forts at Spithead were being strengthened to some extent, but he feared they would never be as strong as they ought to be, having regard to their size and importance. With regard to the coaling stations he thought there was a very serious omission in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War. It ought to have been stated what money had been voted by the Colonies for the defence of the coaling stations, because some people in the country appeared to imagine that all the works had been carried out at the expense of the British taxpayer. Large sums had been spent by the Crown Colonies, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon. Mauritius, and Capo Colony. It must be remembered that Hong Kong and Singapore had nearly completed the works. He thought these Colonies had just cause of complaint because, although they had completed, or nearly completed, their forts, no guns had been sent out to them. Natal had voted £10,000 for guns, and the Colony of Victoria had spent £3,500,000 on naval and military matters, and contemplated spending £500,000 more. He had seen most of these places, and could assure the House that they were remarkably well defended; indeed, he believed that Sydney and Melbourne were better defended than some ports at home. But what was wanted was guns, and he was afraid the home Government was neglecting its duty in not making a larger number of guns than they were making. The Memorandum of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War informed them that the Department hoped that all the guns required for the defence of 274 the coaling stations, with the exception of two cases, would be sent out shortly. Did they contemplate sending out 10-inch guns after the accident which happened the other day? If they did not intend to do so, then the guns as promised to the coaling stations could not possibly go out yet. It was said that the works in progress depended on the Imperial Government, but he thought there were few places as to which that could be said with accuracy. St. Lucia and the Mauritius were, he believed, the only places where we were actually paying for our works, and in the case of St. Lucia it was on account of £56,000 having been spent by the Colony on deepening the harbour, so as to make it available for a coaling station. There was another point on which some stress ought to be laid—namely, the garrisons of the coaling stations; for it was the fact that in some cases, whilst we had very small garrisons of only 400 or so, the French in neighbouring Colonies had 7,000 or 8,000. He trusted the Government were taking into consideration the desirability of raising local Volunteer forces for the defence of the coaling stations, and that they had decided also to employ the Royal Marine Artillery on this duty. He also trusted the Government had reflected upon the desirability of giving one person, whether military or naval, supreme command of a fortress. It was of the greatest importance, where a fortress was besieged, that they should know who was in command. The operations, naval and military, were so mixed up together that it was essential that there should be no undefined power, and that there should be one supreme head to direct both the sea and the land operations. For instance, the Navy provides boats for defence of submarine mines, while the guns for the defence of these boats are manned by the Army. He did not care whether it were a soldier or a sailor who was in command, at all events, it should only be one man. He thought he had heard the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War in a remark he had made state that the garrison Artillery was now complete. He only hoped it might be so. It was not many years ago that he was told of a strange circumstance which occurred at one of our principal Naval stations. It happened that while some impor- 275 tant experiments were being carried on by the garrison Artillery, a Royal salute was required to be fired, and in order to fire it, the experiments had to be stopped, as there was no one to man the guns. He believed that arrangements were now made by which all the batteries in that important port could be manned. He thought that if the country only knew what was really wanted to complete the defences of the Empire, there would not be that opposition to its being granted on the part of the House which was generally supposed. He wished to compliment the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War on the very able Statement he had put before them, and on the information he had given, them in other documents, which he thought the y should have had longer time given them to consider, as, he was sorry to say, they had only reached hon. Members on Saturday. He should have been glad if the Memorandum had gone somewhat farther, and he trusted the Government would see their way to appointing a Committee without going to a Division in the matter.
§ SIR JOHN COMMERELL (Southampton)
said, he had heard the hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley) use a remark which seemed the key to the whole position, and it was—"Why do not the Government inform the country of the real state the defences are in?" It appeared that the Government had only one answer to that question—namely, "We are not game." The truth was, the Government considered everything depended upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer presenting what they called a respectable Budget to the country. However, he believed sincerely that if the country were let into the secret, and the people felt that they got 20s. for their £1, there would be no necessity for having only a "respectable Budget." He believed that a Royal Commission would do more to assist the Government than anything else. He could not for a moment see why they objected to it. Those who supported the appeal for a Commission desired to strengthen the hands of the Government. They desired to bring such evidence before the country that they would see that the Empire was not in a proper state of defence and 276 the Services not in a proper state of efficiency. If our coaling stations were not in a fit state; if our mercantile ports were not sufficiently protected; if Malta and Gibraltar were not strong enough to resist the attack of a powerful enemy, then all he could say was that the sooner we put all these things to rights the better. It was no use saying, "Oh! we will do it all in three years." No one knew in the present state of affairs what would happen in three years. In three years' time, if these things were not attended to, England might cease to be a nation. If there were certain absolutely necessary arrangements to be carried out, it was better that they should be carried out at once, and that there should be no delay in going to the country and asking for £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, whatever amount was considered necessary. He did not believe that the country, when it know that it was getting value for its money in insurance, would for a moment hesitate to pay. No man cut off half the insurance on his house because the times were bad. If a property was worth insuring at all, surely it was necessary that it should be insured up to its full value. He did not wish to enter into detail, but there were one or two points upon which he should like to dwell for a few moments. The country must remember the geographical position of England—it must remember that it was not enough for the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) to say, "We have 30 iron-clads"—we had not 30 iron-clads—"and the French have only 25." We had first of all to remember that our geographical position divided and split up our forces. On the one hand we had Malta to watch, and command of the Mediterranean to retain, and on the other hand we had the Channel and our mercantile ports to protect. The French would be able to concentrate a force in the Mediterranean which we should find it impossible to withstand. Another thing to be considered was this, we put a great deal too much reliance on torpedoes. Torpedoes were all very well, but it must be remembered that the same science which laid them down on the one side, could take them up or destroy them on the other side. He was perfectly certain that we placed too much reliance on 277 torpedoes. Much as he desired to see the country in possession of a strong Navy, much, as he wished to see the number of iron-clads and cruisers increased, he put much greater faith in a proper defence of the coaling stations than anything else. It was much better that we should have our coaling stations properly defended, and should be able to utilize the ships we had to attack an enemy and to defend our own shores than lay out money on new vessels which we could not use in consequence of having improper coal supplies. He believed that in the event of a future war, our great safety would he in having properly defended and well supplied coaling stations. He observed in the Report of the Committee, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War was Chairman, the remark that Bermuda was our principal military station in North America, and that it was surrounded by reefs which would render it impossible for any vessel to attack it, except under the guns of the forts. Now there never was anything more fallacious or untrue than that statement. There was no question of opinion here. If the Committee had had the proper evidence before it, it would have known that in 1812 an 80 and a 74 gunship and a whole convoy passed through the reef with the greatest possible ease, and did not go within seven miles of the places on which guns were now mounted. These ships went out under sail, but now we had steam power which very materially reduced the difficulties. This statement he made from practical experience. He had been through the reefs himself, and knew every inch of the ground; and he had no doubt there were other observations in the Report of the Committee which other officers could deal with, as he was able to deal with, that with reference to the Island of Bermuda. It was said—"Do not mention these things; you should not breathe them, lest you should let the foreigner into the secret." But were they to suppose that their naval brethren of Germany, France, and Russia were such fools that they did not know those things? If he wanted a correct chart of the Bermuda Channel, where would he go for it? To America. The United States and other countries sent intelligent naval officers about visiting our coaling stations and colonial defences, 278 and these officers made reports week by week and month by month. We might depend upon it that the officers of foreign countries knew more about our weak points and where we should suffer—and, in his view, fatally suffer—in the event of a war than we did ourselves, or, at any rate, than the vast majority of the people of the country did. What was the condition of things at the present moment? If he wanted to go down to Shoeburyness and desired to see experiments carried on there, he would find almost insuperable difficulties in the way, but not so in the case of the foreigner. A foreign officer would find very little difficulty in ascertaining all he desired to know, and that was because it had been laid down that nations must mutually confide to each other what was going on. He remembered during the time of the Russo-Turkish war, in 1878, he happened to be at Chatham one day when a very clever Russian Admiral—a man who, if there was anything to be found out, would find it out precious sharp—came down and said he wanted to see the hydraulic machinery of the Temeraire. The Admiral—the late Admiral Fellowes—said to him—"I cannot show it to you." "But," said the Russian, "I have an order from the Admiralty to see it." "I cannot accept that," answered the gallant Admiral, well appreciating the importance of the matter and willing to accept the responsibility of his attitude. "I must be in direct communication with the Admiralty on the subject before I can allow you to see the machinery." Upon that the Russian Admiral flew into a great rage, and said—"I will return to the Admiralty at once." "Do so," said Admiral Fellowes, handing the other a time table; "there is a very good train at 12.20." He (Sir John Commerell) was certain that if they wanted these things dealt with in a generous spirit and desired the country's defences put in the state in which they ought to be, the Royal Commission asked for should be granted. The Commission would obtain the best evidence possible, and the Ministry, let it be on one side or the other, he did not care a snip which, would have their hands strengthened in going to the country and showing it what was wanted. When the country was, in this way, made acquainted with the needs of the Services, he was certain 279 that it would never turn away and grudge, the money asked for. If it did, then the responsibility would rest with the country. The House would have done its duty; the Ministers of the day would have done their duty; and if disaster should happen, and we should lose our position in the world through unreadiness, it would be the fault of the people and not of Parliament. This country had always been in a state of unreadiness. If hon. Members would read the past history of the country they would see that England had never been up to the mark when a war broke out—that it had always been months and years after the breaking out of a war that England had come up to the mark. But things were not now as they used to be. We did not now read of a 10 years' war, a 15 years' war, a 20 years' war. "Would they in future even hear of a 20 months' war, a 15 months' war, or a 10 months' war? In the future wars would be decided in the promptest manner, and would be won by the Powers that looked things straight in the face in times of peace, and that was prepared the moment a blow was struck either for defensive or offensive operations.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)
said, there are periods in the life of a nation when it is wise to consider its defensive system in a special manner. The French did this after 1870. We had not had such disasters as the French in the war with Germany; but an enormous change had taken place in the last 50 years in the wealth, population, and means of this nation, and also in its vulnerability. The insulation of these Islands, speaking in a military and defensive sense, was not nearly so great as it was before the days of steam. It used to be said that steam had bridged the Channel; in his remarkable letter written to Sir John Burgoyne, our greatest Commander of the last generation had emphatically shown to what an extent we had become more vulnerable. What had happened since then? The Western Nations had been compelled, for their own security, to arrange a system by which they could organize and equip their forces, the whole manhood of the country, and to mobilize it within a few days: while railway systems had been developed, and 280 it would be possible very rapidly to concentrate forces on many points of the coast of the Continent where there are harbours convenient for embarkation, and to which the telegraph could summon vessels from distant ports. If a nation, by accident, obtained temporary command of the Channel, all those reasons would help them to throw a force into this country. Now, what chances were there of a nation getting temporary command of the Channel? In the Navy invention succeeded invention. Ships of war were now most complicated machines, and no man could say what would happen to them till they were tested. Formerly, naval wars were tactical; in the future they would be strategical also; and even if we had always the power to command the Channel, the demands on our Fleet to protect our ocean commerce would be so great that we should probably have to send it away from the Channel. Now, if an enemy, or enemies, got the temporary command of the Channel, what had we to oppose to them? The great majority of people seemed to look to forts and works as the mainstay of defence. But that was not so. The Duke of Wellington said, in the celebrated letter previously quoted—Let any man examine our maps and road books, and consider the matter, and judge for himself. I know of no mode of resistance, much less of protection, from this danger, excepting by an Army in the field capable of meeting and contending with its formidable enemy, aided by all the means of fortification which experience in war can suggest.The backbone of defence was an Army in the field; and he maintained that defensive security was the basis and foundation of our power of offence. It was absolutely necessary that we should organize and equip our forces, and enable them to be used as an Army for the defence of London, or anywhere else; and that London should no longer remain capable of being "rushed." we should take strategic points round London, and there form our ranges for the Volunteers; and upon those points, the main avenues of approach, we should place guns in position, and there drills should be regularly carried on by the Artillery Volunteers. If the large force we had in this country were organized as it ought to be, and if we also had those points around London 281 made the nuclei of a system of field fortifications that could be rapidly improvised, should the occasion arise, the temptation to invade the country would be gone. What was the latent power of this country? The latent power of the country could only be rendered active by keeping the country secure from invasion. They could measure the latent power of this country very well by comparing that of the North Americans during the Civil War, a nation which had no conscription. In a war of four years, they put 2,040,000 men in the field, out of a population of 20,000,000; while in the British Isles we had a population of 37,000,000. Therefore, our power for defence or offence was, no doubt, enormous, upon the condition that we maintained the security of these Islands. As had been truly said, a prudent householder did not refuse to insure because he was short of money; he knew that it was no economy not to insure. The money that we spent upon defences, if it was not sufficient, was wasted money. He believed if we had a Royal Commission, presided over by a man like Lord Dufferin, in whom the country and both political Parties had confidence, we should get something elaborated which would give us a feeling of much greater security. He did not believe that was a thing which would load to any great expenditure; but he did believe we should get a system on which we could really rely. He should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) to give some information with regard to furnishing the Army with magazine rifles. Just as the introduction of the breech-loader in 1866 gave a decisive advantage to the Prussian Army against the Austrians, so he thought it highly probable that at the present time the possession of a magazine rifle would give a similar decisive advantage to the Power using it. If that weapon was the right weapon, after it had been the roughly tested, not a moment should be delayed; but the whole Army must be armed with it, as well as the Militia and the Volunteers. It must be recollected that, whether they wished it or not, this country was, in consequence of its foreign possessions, also in a sense an offensive Power, and must be ready to attack. He trusted the Government would allow a Royal 282 Commission to inquire into the matter, because he believed that this work would strengthen the hands of the Government.
§ SIR FREDERICK FITZWYGRAM (Hants, Fareham)
said, he should gladly support the Motion of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot). To his mind, an inquiry would not only be useful, but in the present condition of the country, it was absolutely essential. He did not take the pessimistic view of our military affairs which many people did. He did not think that everything of a military character in this country was wrong and badly done and that everything that was foreign was good. He did not believe that the armaments and organization of foreign nations were perfect; but he thought there was very considerable doubt as to whether our state of security was such as it behoved a great country to rest content with; and if there was any doubt on the point he thought that Her Majesty's Government would do well to grant the Commission of Inquiry, which he believed to be necessary for the investigation of the question. If he had any doubts about this point, he thought the evidence they had heard read this evening of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) when Secretary of State for War, would completely establish the case and be the best argument for the granting of the Commission. He (Sir Frederick Fitzwygram) did not support the Motion in any sense in opposition to the Government of the day—not the smallest degree in the world. But for many years past successive Secretaries of State for War had dangled before the eyes of the country delusive statements as to the improvement they had made in the state of our organizations in our arms and defences, only, as a general rule, to be snuffed out when a new Secretary came into Office. He lived in the neighbourhood of Portsmouth, and saw a good deal of the Spithead Forts, which had been spoken of in course of the debate, and he could say, from his own observations, that these forts were perfectly insufficient for the defence of the Dockyard and the Solent against the long-range guns of the present day. He saw that a certain sum of money had been taken 283 for the strengthening of these forts; but he thought that, however they were strengthened, they would prove insufficient because they were too near the places they had to defend. Cruisers could he a mile or more outside the most advanced fort and pitch shells into the Dockyard and Arsenal, destroying the whole of the shipping and stores there. Well, if this were the case with regard to our great Port and Arsenal at Portsmouth, which were under the immediate view of the Commander-in-Chief and the First Lord of the Admiralty, he could easily conceive that many of our defences, which were further off, were in a position which was not creditable to this country and would not give safety to our shores. At Portsmouth and in the Solent there were an immense number of guns on the fortifications, many more than could be manned by the Royal Artillery. They had, however, at Portsmouth and Southampton very good corps of Volunteer Artillery. Last year he had had a discussion with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, and had pressed on him the complaints made by the commanding officers of these corps, that they had had no training in the use of the new large guns. Well, a gun had lately been given—one, he believed, to each of these corps. So far, to a certain degree, good work was being done, but the officers still complained that the supply of ammunition was so short that though the men had learnt the use of the gun they could not become efficient gunners for want of practice. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would take this into consideration. If our great Arsenals were to be of any use at all, great dependence must be placed on the Volunteers. Volunteers might to a certain degree fail in the field; but he believed that the Artillery Volunteers, who lived in the towns they were called upon to protect, who had no marching about to face and no encampments and so forth, would prove to be a very efficient force if only they were fairly treated by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. Regarding this question generally, he thought they might divide the nation into three parts. There was one party who denied the danger, and, because they denied the danger, therefore they grudged the cost—that was a small and 284 fanatical party; then there was the party who knew the danger and feared the cost, and he hoped Her Majesty's Government were not to be found in that second party; then there was another party, of good men and true, who knew the danger and were prepared to pay the cost, who preferred the safety of the country to the money bags of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ COLONEL EYRE (Lincolnshire, Gainsborough)
said, he should support the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), not from any feeling of antagonism to the Government, but because he believed that if this Royal Commission were granted it would be calculated to strengthen the hands of the Government instead of weakening it. Let them remember in what condition Europe was at present. It would not do for this country to be behindhand when every nation was an armed camp—all whose inhabitants were practically soldiers, where even every train, as in Germany, was marked with the number of men, horses, and goods to be carried in time of war. In such circumstances it was necessary, although we might not profess to be a military nation, that if we had interests and shores and coasts worth defending, we should be ready in case of war. It was important, first of all, to know what Army we wanted, and, secondly, what they had to do. For that purpose a Commission was required which would report favourably or unfavourably on the state of the defence of the country. The inquiry suggested would discover what was the weakest link in their armour of national defence. He did not understand why the Government objected to the Committee. He would call attention to the unnecessary expense connected with brigade depôts, and he condemned the equipment of our soldiers, beside the general want of system. He also thought we should have a cordon of Volunteer Artillery round our coasts. For a long period of the year the staff at these depôts was far in excess of the men quartered there or the work to be done. Economy might very well be practised in this direction. He hoped that the Government would consent to grant the Royal Commission, and he felt convinced that any Government which had the recommendations of this 285 Commission at their back in the measures they undertook for the defence of the country would be infinitely stronger than they could otherwise be.
§ SIR LEWIS PELLY (Hackney, N.)
said, he ventured to think that this discussion had travelled a little beyond the limits of the Motion before the House. The Motion itself seemed to him simple and propose, its effect being that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into and report upon the requirements for the protection of the Empire. Its scope was to inquire and to report. Perhaps some of the speeches which had been made on it had dealt more with the details of the condition of our present defences. No one doubted that our iron-clads would give a good account of an enemy in line of battle, would guard carefully our coasts in some parts, and watch also the naval ports of the enemy; but what was felt was that the Channel in its whole length might not be quite secure, that the supplies on which we depended in our Island Kingdom might be cut off, and our coast line insulted. In other quarters it is felt that our Cape or our alternative Line to the East is not so safe as may be supposed, since the French hold all the Naval positions between the East coast of Africa and the Mauritius—namely, the Islands of the Comorro group, with the ample and secure anchorage of Mayotte, the Isles and Ports on the West and on the East coast of Madagascar and Bourbon. In other quarters it was assumed that our Indian Possessions were not sufficiently protected. But, however that might be, the question was whether there should or should not be a Commission of Inquiry into all those affairs, and to submit recommendations as to what ought really to be done to place this Kingdom and this Empire in a position to meet contingencies. He could understand very well that there would be a feeling in the country that men connected with the Warlike Services attached too much importance to these matters; but, for himself, he could truly say that he abhorred the very idea of war. He might say more than that, for he thought influences and causes even now were at work which would tend, in the long run, to induce, by the concurrence and co-operation of the civilized nations of the Wrest, to a lasting and general peace; but the danger 286 lay in the transitional period. The lasting peace might come; but this Empire might not survive to enjoy it. What was wanted was to ascertain what were the real facts of the case, and if we found ourselves not in a position to face the transitional period successfully, then to put ourselves into such position. He did not know that the Motion was founded on anything more than that. If it was granted, he thought the Treasury Bench would receive strength and support from it, for I they would find that they had at their back not only the naval and military classes in the House, but also the commercial and professional Members. They would, undoubtedly, have the country behind them. In his opinion, the country would not grudge a large sum if it felt that by the expenditure it could put its war like forces in such a state as to prevent anxiety and panic. Whatever the additional cost of money might be to place this country in a safe position, they must remember that no expenditure was so great, no outlay was so extravagant, as that which followed on a panic. It would be more economical to spend even a large sum in carrying out a settled plan; and he trusted, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government would see their way to allowing a Royal Commission to be appointed.
§ COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, S.W., Bootle)
said, he desired to make a few remarks on the Memorandum of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, which he considered a most important document, marking a great step in advance of everything that had been done before. It was a most able and exhaustive document, and he must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon having issued it. The provision in regard to the organization of a small force was an admirable one; but he should like to see provision made for calling out a large force. Up to the present we had been able to organize for our small wars; but the scheme we had to consider at the present time was what we should do if we had to provide a force for a war in the East. The step which had been taken, however, was a step in the right direction; but it did not go far enough. The statement that the accoutrements, equipments, &c, of the First Army Corps was practically complete was a matter for great satis- 287 faction; but although the scheme might be complete on paper, he should like to see the men paraded in line of battle, for the purpose of testing their efficiency and numbers. He observed that arrangements had been made for the formation of 20 batteries of Artillery Volunteers. It was very advisable that our Volunteers should devote their attention to gunnery and coast defence rather than attempt to organize a force of Field Artillery, the duties of which they were not fitted to discharge. He did not know whether it was the intention that the guns in position should be entirely for coast and battery defence, or whether they should include field guns.
§ COLONEL SANDYS
said, he had always considered Field Artillery beyond the Volunteer Force, and he therefore trusted that their attention would be centred on guns for coast defences. With regard to the branch of the Service with which he was intimately connected—the Militia—it had always appeared to him (Colonel Sandys) that the Militia Force was not made enough of. The Militia Force was the great Constitutional force of the country. It was the force on which we must rely as the second line of our Army. It was the Army's true support. There had of late arisen a habit on the part of successive Secretaries of State to pass over the Militia, and to turn attention chiefly in the direction of the development of the Volunteers. The Militia ought, however, to be made as efficient as possible; and in the scheme he would no doubt bring forward, he hoped the Secretary for War would not lose sight of that branch of the Service. The large proportion of desertions from the Militia was a matter deserving of serious attention, and we ought to endeavour to get together Militia forces in which we could rely upon every man turning up on parade. Deducting the Army Reserve men and the 10,000 men who deserted last year, the Militia had only 60,000 available men left who could be put on parade. A considerable item in that 60,000 men consisted of Irish Militia. Could we, considering what had been going on in the Sister Isle, look upon these men as a reliable force? If not, that would make a con- 288 siderable reduction in the figures. Then there was a medical examination for them to go through, and it was not certain they would all pass the doctor. The original figure of the Militia was 108,000, and it was generally supposed that that number was available. But many of those men enlisted in two and even three regiments, which they were enabled to do, as the training took place at different periods. He should like to see one day appointed for the calling out of the whole of the Militia, and in that way they would be able to ascertain exactly the number of men who were available; and much valuable information might be obtained in many respects. Then, again, the Militia was under-officered; nearly all the younger officers were men who were going into the Line regiments, and who, on a declaration of war, would be posted at once to Line regiments, leaving the Militia with very few officers below the rank of captain. That was a serious matter, to which attention should be given. Another mistake in our territorial system with regard to the Militia was that too many battalions were formed, the result being that it was impossible to get sufficient officers. The true constitution of a regiment, in his opinion, was one battalion, a depôt of two companies as a nucleus for recruits, officers and men, and a Militia regiment attached to the depôt. That arrangement would involve the doing away with the linked battalion system. With regard to the Militia Reserve, last year there were 578 men passing from that Reserve. The total strength of the Army Reserve was 51,000; but again, he said, that was merely 51,000 on paper. He knew that on one occasion when they were called they all came out; but, as no doubt the House knew, a number of those men were at the present moment serving with Her Majesty's regiments elsewhere, and of course could not leave their posts. On this question, also, he should like to see a day appointed for calling out the whole of the men, so that we could ascertain how many men could be relied upon. No doubt, the Militia was the true Army support, and supplied 11,000 men to the Army last year, a fact of which Militia officers ought to be very proud. But it had been stated that on the declaration of war a force of 25,000 men would be drafted from the Militia into the active Army. He be- 289 lieved that would be the case; but what would be the position of the Militia Force if that quantity of men were taken from it? They would practically skim the cream from the Militia, for the Army men serving in the Militia were the very best men. Therefore, he thought it would be worth the while of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, in considering defensive schemes for this country, to see whether he could not devise some means for filling up the vacancies which the present system would cause. He would make a suggestion which might possibly meet the difficulty. Supposing the ranks of the Militia were depleted to the extent of 25,000, he should like to see a scheme promoted by which the Volunteer Forces should supply that quantity of men to step into the ranks of the Militia. Each corps could keep 100 men in its ranks ready to do that, who should be called extra-efficients, and who should receive some recognition from the State in that respect. He should like to ask if the Army Reserve was fixed at 50,000, and if so, why? He believed that an Army Reserve of 100,000 would be a cheap force, and that a grant could not be devoted to a better purpose. It might be said—" It is very easy to formulate a respectable military scheme, but where is the money to come from? "He maintained that this was the very reason why a Royal Commission should be appointed, because what the country wanted to know was how a symmetrical scheme was to be formed, the number of men, and the amount of money requisite. For many years past the military interests of this country had been set forth in the House and in the country by experienced military officers; but their views had always been set aside by the Secretary of State in power, who had given a formal, half-hearted adherence to the scheme, and had cramped it down because he had said that he had only a certain amount of money to spend, and that it would make his Party unpopular if he asked for any more. There never yet had been a Government in this country which had had the courage to stand before the country and, stating what were the real needs, ask for so much money, and stake their official and political existence upon getting it. Such an opportunity now presented itself to the Government—a Government which he was proud to sup- 290 port because he believed they had the honour and the well-being of this country at heart. It was because he believed in them that he called upon the Government on behalf of his constituents and many in the country who would suffer bitterly in their need if a scheme of military efficiency was not properly carried forward now, to grant the Inquiry which was asked for, so that when the strain came they might have prepared a scheme at leisure, and should not be called upon to prepare in a hurry, spending great sums of money, and spending them badly. He should like to know what the £5 bounty and free kit system of enlistment during the Crimean War cost? Supposing London be occupied for two days, he asked what sum of money would be levied in order to buy out the foreign occupiers? Would it not, therefore, be better now to add a few millions to the Estimates yearly in order that the Forces might become efficient? If the Government assented to the Motion, the country would, when the hour of danger came, thank them for their timely action, and the heart of England would not begrudge the money.
§ COLONEL BRIDGEMAN (Bolton)
said, he could assure the Government that the supporters of the Motion did not wish that it should in any way be looked upon as a censure upon or as a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government. They wished, as a matter of fact, to raise the matter above one of Party, and they saw no other way of doing that except through the means of a Royal Commission. The country knew there were in the House many members of the Military and Naval Professions, and they imagined that those Members would see that the safety of the country was maintained. Those Members were now making an effort to attain that object. The time might come—and come sooner than some expected—when we might be in the same great stress Paris was in in 1870; and then the country would naturally say that those she had looked upon to protect her had really betrayed her. The opinion of Lord Wolseley upon this matter was of the greatest importance, and it really put the contention of the supporters of the Motion in a nutshell. The evidence given by the noble Lord before the Committee, to which reference had been made to-night, showed clearly the necessity for 291 a Royal Commission. In Answer 2,641, Lord Wolseley said—The greatest misfortune that occurs to me upon this subject, arises from the fact that our military requirements have never been inquired into—have never been tabulated and laid down. There 13 no fixed point up to which we work, whether it is the Commander-in-Chief or any official connected with the Army. We have had nothing decided by the country as to what the country wants, or as to what our military policy, its aims and requirements are.That was the point of hon. Members who supported the proposal now under consideration. They thought that there ought to be an inquiry as to what the aims and requirements of the country were. They thought that the inquiry should not be conducted by the Secretary of State for War, but by an independent tribunal which would look at the subject altogether apart from Party considerations. Lord Wolseley was then asked—Then you do not know what you want?and his reply was—We do not know what we want. We do not know what we are working up to. We have a certain number of horses and regiments, and those numbers vary according to the particular exigencies of the political Party in power. There has never been any authoritative inquiry instituted as to what are the military requirements of the Empire; how many troops we require to have in England, how many we require in our Colonies, how many in India, and in our garrisons abroad.The next question was—Do you think it would be an impossible thing, or even a difficult thing, if serious inquiry were made into the subject, to draw out some permanent system of the nature of that which you describe?and Lord Wolseley, in reply, said—I think it would be a very simple process, a process that might be very easily accomplished by a Royal Commission of both Houses of Parliament, not constituted of Military men but of judicial men who would look at it as a judicial inquiry, and examine experts on the various topics connected with the subject.Perhaps, the Government would say a Commission was appointed in 1886. But the answer would be that that Commission was appointed for totally different purposes. A Commission was wanted now to ascertain what were the requirements of the Army; and the Commission appointed in 1886 especially recommended that a Commission for that purpose should be appointed. Therefore, if the Commission in 1886 carried any weight at all, its recommendation in this 292 respect ought to be respected. He had heard it said that an inquiry would merely display our weaknesses. But it must be known to everybody that the points where we were weak, and the points where we were strong, were very well known to every one of the Intelligence Departments on the Continent. In all probability, the Intelligence Departments on the Continent know very nearly as much as our own Intelligence Department knew. He believed that the only people who would obtain knowledge as a result of the Commission would be our own people. He and his hon. Friends contended that it was of the utmost importance that our own people should know the real facts of the case. He was sure the country generally would not be afraid of spending money if they could be quite certain on two points—namely, that the expenditure was absolutely necessary, and that they got the worth of their expenditure. He had the greatest possible pleasure in supporting the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot).
§ COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich)
said, he was grateful for the consideration which the Volunteer Service had received at the hands of the Authorities within the last year; but there was one point upon which he desired to offer a suggestion. The equipment and training of the Volunteers was not yet on a satisfactory footing, because the Force had not the capital with which to meet the first outlay. Now, that the defence of the country was to be so much in the hands of the Volunteers, it was most important that the equipment of the Force and the permanent arrangements affecting it should be as perfect as possible. He found that in 1872 an Act of Parliament was passed to enable some millions sterling to be raised for the purpose of providing for the building of barracks, and also for the acquiring, under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, of freehold ground for Militia depôt centres and storehouses. Although it might be inconvenient to add to the expenditure of the current year, still if the Volunteer Service was considered a permanent Service—and he hoped it now was—it might be advisable to consider whether headquarters and coats, valise equipment and stores of all kinds might not be provided in the same way as Militia training grounds were provided. The Com- 293 missioners for the reduction of the National Debt were, under the Act of 1872, allowed to invest their money in Terminable Annuities, running over a period of 30 years, and to take for that purpose money deposited in the Savings Banks and in the Post Office Bank. At the present moment, when the Volunteers required head-quarters, they either had to hire them at a large rent, or to expend a large sum of money on leasehold property, which of course ultimately reverted to the freeholder. If the Service was a permanent institution, he trusted the Government would do something similar to that which they did for the Militia—namely, provide for it freehold head-quarters. Only the other week he had occasion to negotiate a loan of £7,000 for the purposes of a cemetery, and he obtained the money from the Metropolitan Board of Works at 3½ per cent, the same rate of interest charged to the London School Board. He could have the money from the Works Commissioners at 4 per cent. At the present moment, if Volunteers provided head-quarters for themselves, they had to borrow money from private individuals, and probably pay 5 per cent. They received no assistance from any public Common Fund, such as he had indicated. It would be of immense advantage if some arrangement could be made by which Volunteers could have head-quarters provided, in the first instance, from some common fund, at a moderate rate of interest—say, at 3½ per cent. The Government would make money by the advances, that is the difference between Post Office Bank interest and 3½ per cent, and the Volunteers would save the difference between 3½ and 5 per cent, which they now had to pay. The same thing might happen with regard to equipment. In many instances, the first cost, which often amounted to £400, was defrayed by the officer in command, and he had to wait for years before he could get the whole of his money back; while, if the Government lent it, they could deduct the repayments out of the Capitation Grant, and would have the Freehold as security. This matter was urgent, and therefore lot some money be raised, not on the Revenue of the year, but by means of Terminable Annuities, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer could devise; let the needs of the Volun- 294 teers, both as regarded equipment and head-quarters, be provided for, and the Force thus put in a permanent condition.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE (Exeter)
said that, having been recently connected with the War Office, he hoped the House would indulge him for a few minutes while he explained why he was unable to support the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend, though he sympathized with its object. He was glad to hear from his hon. and gallant Friend, and others who had spoken, an expression of their cordial appreciation of the services which his right hon. Friend had rendered to the country during his tenure of office. Having had the honour of serving under him for the last twelve months, he must say it would be hard to find a man who had the welfare of the country more at heart, and the Memorandum he had submitted showed the earnest desire by which his right hon. Friend was actuated to promote the interests of the Army. There was very little which his hon. and gallant Friend had said with which he did not agree, and especially with respect to the deplorable system of allowing our stores to run down, buying in a hurry, whether it was £11,000,000 that was expended or a less sum, inspecting in a hurry, and paying the highest prices for inferior goods, which ought not to be served out to the British Army. A more pernicious system he could not conceive. Another point on which he agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend was that some system of greater publicity was possible than any which at present prevailed with regard to our reserves of stores. There were certain classes of our warlike stores about which the world ought not to be informed; but he was afraid that foreigners were very often too well acquainted with the state of our military stores. But there were many classes of stores as to which no advantage could be gained by a foreign country knowing the quantity we had, while it would be well that our own people should know whether we were deficient in them or not. Then came the question whether a Royal Commission was the best machinery for obtaining such knowledge. His hon. and gallant Friend spoke of the Vote for improving the defence of our ports, arsenals, and coaling stations. Now, he would be prepared to support 295 his right hon. Friend if he were to propose a larger sum; but what was now proposed was a substantial step in advance. He was grateful to his right hon. Friend for proposing it, and he was convinced it would be accepted by a large majority of the House and endorsed by the voice of the country. As for the adoption of a Royal Commission, he would like to ask what the functions of that Commission were to be. They might be twofold. There might be a Commission to dictate to the Secretary of State and the Government for the time being what their military policy was to be in the future, or there might simply be a Commission to report to the Secretary of State and make known to the country what the exact state of our stores and supplies was. There was a wide difference between the two. He would be very unwilling to support a proposal for appointing a Commission which would take out of the hands of the Government the responsibility for our foreign policy. It must be remembered that a Commission of that kind would not be strengthening the hands of the Secretary of State. On the other hand, if the Commission was merely to report as to the state of our supplies, he thought sufficient data for that purpose existed already in the Reports of Lord Morley's, Sir Fitz James Stephen's, the Fortifications Committees, and other sources of information. If the proposed Commission were made a judicial rather than a military one, its findings would not long command the respect of military and naval men; and if, on the other hand, it consisted of military and naval men, it would embody the views merely of a body of officers whose views were already known to the Executive or could easily be ascertained by the Executive. Another practical objection was that a Royal Commission would be failing in its duty if it did not recommend various changes and an increase in the stores, which would lead to increased expenditure. The practical effect would be that inventors and inventions would be discouraged, because the officials of the Department would shelter themselves under the ægis of the standard which the Commission would lay down, and greater difficulty would be experienced in getting new inventions adopted into the Service. Suppose, for example, the Commission recommended 296 the introduction of a certain number of new transport waggons, and suppose a new waggon were to be discovered, if there were a large supply of the existing waggons in store there would be a great disposition on the part of the permanent officials to economize money by saying, "We had better not go behind the findings of the Royal Commission." he hoped his right hon. Friend would deprecate any plan which would tend to withdraw proper Parliamentary control from the money voted each year. No doubt recent changes would increase the responsibility of the military branch of the War Office, but it was absolutely impossible that the military advisers would ever be got to accept full responsibility for the Army Estimates unless they were given the full control over the money voted, and it was not possible to conceive a state of circumstances, in these democratic times, in which it would be possible, even if it were desirable, to withdraw such strict Parliamentary control over the Estimates of the House. He thought, without going the length of appointing a Royal Commission, there were many practical changes advantageous to the public and to the Army which might be made by the Secretary of State. His right hon. Friend had given to the country a full and ample earnest of his desire and intention to make those changes, and the House ought to treat with great confidence a Minister who had shown remarkable readiness to meet the views of the Army as far as he could, and, therefore, he hoped his hon. and gallant Friend would not press his Motion to a Division. If he did so, he should, though with much reluctance, be bound to vote against him.
§ COLONEL HILL (Bristol, S.)
said, he rose to support the Motion of the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot). He conceived there was no subject of deeper interest to the people of this country at large than that of our public defences. He believed the great majority of taxpayers were desirous and determined that our defences should be adequate for the protection of our coasts, our shipping, and our Colonies; but an opinion had got abroad that we did not get the protection we ought to receive for our money, and there was a feeling of apprehension that the non-combatant branches of the Service were not yet so 297 perfectly organized, that we could be quite sure that the mistakes arising therefrom in former times were not likely to appear again. He believed a Royal Commission would sift all those matters; it would ascertain what the defences were and how much money was necessary to be provided, and he believed the people would be contented to pay the cost of the work. He should not have intruded on the House were it not that he was anxious to draw attention to what he conceived to be an important matter in connection with the defence of our coaling stations. He was glad to see in the Memorandum of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) that the matter was receiving attention, and that a sum was proposed to be voted for carrying out this important work. Without that it was impossible that the Navy could do its work and that our mercantile marine could receive the protection which it required; but, at the same time, if they merely defended the coaling stations and left the places where the coal was obtained unprotected, the work was only half done. It was well known to every Member of that House that the coal which is used in the Navy came from only one place, namely, South Wales. The coal of South Wales was much more adapted for steam purposes than all other coals, and it had the advantage of being smokeless. This coal was produced at Cardiff, Newport, and Swansea. Newport had practically no defences, Swansea had merely a small battery, while Cardiff had no defences at all. It was true that there were a chain of forts for the Bristol Channel defence, but those forts had no guns capable of coping with the arms of the present day, and they would be, therefore, absolutely usleess for the purpose of defence. There had been a suggestion that submarine mining would be an adequate means of defence, but in the Bristol Channel, where the tide ran very swiftly, he very much doubted whether that system could be effectually applied. Those rapid tides would be a great factor in favour of an attacking force, because a vessel coming up Channel with a five-knot tide and making 20 knots an hour would be an extremely difficult object to strike. Until efficient 298 fortifications were built, he urged that a few guns of the heaviest calibre should be placed in commanding positions at those ports where they would be ready in time of need, and likewise afford the Volunteer Artillery an opportunity of learning the drill of the guns they would have to use in case their service should be required on an emergency. He ventured to think that it was the expense which stood in the way of those works. When they came to consider the enormous national interest and the enormous private pecuniary interest involved in the preservation of those ports, he did not think that the question of money ought to be taken into consideration. He had been very much struck with the fact that at Tangiers there were, no loss than four 100-ton guns, and if that poor port could be supplied with the so guns, he did not think that this country ought to grudge the money necessary to secure so important an object as the protection of the ports to which he was referring. He looked with satisfaction and gratitude at the remarks which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War was pleased to make with reference to the Volunteers. He could assure the House that the Volunteers were most desirous of doing everything in their power to render themselves efficient. Something had been said with regard to field batteries. He did not mean to say that the Volunteers could possibly acquire that precision in field drill which was gained by the Royal Artillery, but it seemed to him, if there were sufficient Artillery Volunteers for the purpose and the Government were prepared to grant the necessary money, there was no doubt that field batteries could be formed. At the present time he believed there was not a sufficiency of garrison gunners, and therefore the time was not yet come when they might agitate for field batteries; nevertheless he hoped that more facilities would be given to Artillery Volunteers for learning the drill of heavy guns. He was pleased to find that a sum of money was proposed to be voted for camp exorcise with the Regular Forces, and he was assured that this was going in a direction in which the greatest possible service could be done to the Volunteers. He should have been much pleased if, during the Recess, the Secretary of State for 299 War could have found himself in a position to add to the Estimates the email sum necessary for the old Adjutants of the Auxiliary Forces—that he had not been able to accede to the prayer of the Memorandum which was presented to him signed by over 100 Members of the House of Commons that their case should be considered. He would not attempt to go into the question now, but would only say generally that, although he had no reason to believe that anything he might say would induce the Secretary of State for War to alter the opinion he had formed, yet he thought it was hardly desirable in the interest of the Service that officers or public servants should have reason to feel that they were suffering under what they considered to be a grievance—namely, that the conditions of their Service had been altered to their injury without proper compensation. Finally he thought that grave reasons had been adduced for the granting of a Royal Commission. He believed that Commission would be a benefit to all the Services, and that their recommendations would be exceedingly valuable and would cause the taxpayers to provide the necessary money, for what had been properly called our assurance, with much greater satisfaction than they did at present.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY, WAR DEPARTMENT (Mr. BRODRICK) (Surrey, Guildford)
said, the Government had no reason to complain of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), who introduced this subject, or of the speeches that followed. The hon. and gallant Member for North-West Sussex, in the course he had taken, was doubtless anxious to strengthen the hands of the Secretary of State for War; but it was to be noticed that the scope of the hon. and gallant Member's Motion had been considerably widened by every successive speaker. It was a remarkable fact that, the ugh the hon. Members who had spoken all supported the Motion for a Commission, not one of them insinuated that the present policy of Her Majesty's Government was proceeding in a wrong direction. Motions for a Commission were generally based on an allegation that the Government were pursuing a wrong 300 policy; but no such allegation was made in the present case. If hon. and gallant Gentlemen had pointed out that the Government was blind to the military needs of the Empire, then he could have understood their asking for a Commission; but, instead of that, they all seemed to admit that the Secretary of State was proceeding step by step in the direction that they themselves indicated. Under these circumstances, it certainly did seem anomalous that the Government should be asked to accept a Commission which would be fruitful of the most unfortunate consequences on the publication of its Report, and which, in addition, would widen questions and transfer responsibility. The hon. Baronet the Member for Exeter (Sir Stafford Northcote) alone of those who had spoken foresaw the disadvantages which would follow the granting of a Commission. The speeches of all the hon. and gallant Gentlemen practically amounted to proposals for a gigantic development of the military forces of the Crown. There was scarcely one hon. and gallant Gentleman whose speech, if pushed to its legitimate conclusion, would not involve an enormous increase in our Army Corps. The hon. and gallant Member for Bolton (Colonel Bridgeman) had spoken of working up to a fixed point; but he did not inform the House whether he considered two Army Corps to be the proper fixed point. Nor had any other hon. and gallant Gentleman expressed any opinion on this matter. But before appointing a Commission some diversity of opinion should exist to justify it. No one had said that two Army Corps were insufficient. The hon. and gallant Member for South - East Durham (Sir Henry Havelock-Allen) said that these Army Corps should be kept fully prepared. But there was no necessity for a Commission to enforce so obvious a fact as that. The hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley) animadverted on the organization of the Volunteers, and proposed that magazines and stores for the whole of our 220,000 Volunteers should be erected, and that about £1,000,000 should be spent in providing them with field guns. The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Durham said that if the Volunteers were called out they could not keep the 301 field for a week. Well, upon that point he would find many military authorities to differ from him.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK-ALLAN
said, he had stated that the Volunteers could not be kept together for a fortnight without unhinging the whole social system of the country.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he thought the hon. and gallant Gentleman was mistaken in that view. Some counties had already taken up the question of transport for Volunteers as a local matter, and it would be an excellent manifestation of public spirit if other counties acted likewise. A great deal had been said with regard to the defence of military ports; but no one had condemned the intention of the Secretary of State for War to proceed first of all with works at Portsmouth, Plymouth, and on the Thames. The only point made was that they wished to see larger sums expended. But to that the Secretary of State's reply was that the sum proposed to be spent was as much as could be advantageously expended in a certain time. As to mercantile ports—such as Bristol—if, after being provided with submarine mines and quick-firing guns, according to the Government scheme, they were not satisfied, they could make an additional effort on their own behalf, for the Government recognized the principle that localities, for the sake of their own trade, should do something for themselves in providing the necessary defence. He could not pass from this subject without aknowledging in the fullest degree the exertions made by our Colonies with regard to coaling stations. Nothing did more to knit together the different parts of this Empire than the exertions of the Colonies—hand-in-hand with the Mother Country—to put their coaling stations in a proper state of defence. He had listened with great attention to the speeches that had been, delivered, but had not been able to find one single word of genuine criticism upon the course pursued by the Government. If the Government had come down and said that they had effected great economy at the cost of efficiency, the House would have had some ground to find fault with them. Under all the circumstances he put this question to the House. Ought they not, before considering what they should do, to give some credit to, and repose some 302 confidence in, the Government for what had been done already? The hon. and gallant Member for North-West Sussex went back to the Crimean War and the Abyssinian Expedition, and described the difficulties in which we had been landed in those expeditions by our utter state of unpreparedness. He would put this broad fact before the House. The Government could say that they had followed the lead indicated to them last year. With an increase of efficiency they had effected great economy. For the first time for eight years there had been no Supplementary Estimates; the sums voted for the Service for the year had been made sufficient, and more than sufficient. They showed on the Estimates an absolute reduction of £150,000. They had likewise appropriated for other urgent services for the defence of the country the sum of £170,000 more. Thus they had effected an economy of £320,000 without cutting down a single man or a single horse, while at the same time they added a small force to the Army. They had further provided and were providing new field guns for the whole of our two Army Corps. All that sum of £320,000 they had gained by sheer economy and hard work. They were proposing to spend £3,000,000 in a manner which the House evidently approved; and, under the circumstances, he would ask whether it was fair to say, as the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had asked, they were always to go on living in a fool's paradise. Far from that, almost for the first time the state of the country, of the forces of the Crown, and of our national resources had been brought forward perfectly openly, so that the House was able to grasp the position. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who opened the discussion said the first thing he desired was that there should be such an organization at the the War Office that the soldiers who were responsible in time of war should also be responsible in time of peace. What more could he fairly ask for that had not been done already? As to the difficulties in the way of appointing this Commission, he would say this: They now had at the War Office Lord Wolseley, Sir Redvers Buller, General Brackenbury, and almost every one who had held commands in recent expeditions, and during the last six months there 303 had been transferred to them the whole responsibility of the administration of the spending Department. Now, he knew no step the House could take beyond that, unless Parliament meant to take the control away from itself and give it to those who spent the money, and who could not sit in this House to justify their expenditure. Without the control of the Treasury it would be impossible to keep the Estimates down. Soldiers naturally had a desire to spend money. He would put this point clearly before the House. In the first place, if they put the whole thing into the hands of soldiers, however able they might be as administrators, they would not always agree as to what the money should be spent upon, and they would always make a compromise with each other, saying, "If you will spend what is necessary on my service I will spend what is necessary on yours." In that way no economy would be possible. He would not, as to that, exclude sailors. The hon. and gallant Admiral said that we ought to do everything that was needed at once, and exercise a generous spirit. Well, but a generous spirit was often the word for universal squandering. What he would say was, we ought not to act in a niggardly spirit in doing what was necessary; but, at the same time, we ought not to do a single thing which was not absolutely necessary. He was inclined to ask this question—"Who were the economists to-night?" Last Session they heard a great deal in the Committee about the necessity of economy. The economists never rose to support a Minister. The whole tendency was on the other side. As to this Commission—if it were granted—were they to have on it Gentlemen who were anxious to spend, and also the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and one or two other Gentlemen of the Peace at any Price Party, in order to establish on that Commission a proper equilibrium. If they had both, they would be certain to have a minority Report. The hon. and gallant Member for North-West Sussex said that there was great danger at present of a European war. Did it not occur to the House that if a Commission were appointed, and that if the Commission recommended the immediate expenditure of £12,000,000, £15,000,000 or £20,000,000, people would say in two or 304 three years' time that their Report was made when a great war was expected? The scare would pass away, the war would be over, and a generation would arise which knew not Joseph, and which would criticize the system of hopeless, hapelss expenditure that had been established. Then the Commission was to be asked to decide what was needful in respect of foreign expeditions. He did not at first know what the expression meant, but it had been emphasized by the Mover of the Amendment and by the hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley). The Mover spoke of the aggression of Russia and the misfortune of allowing Bulgaria at this moment to be taken by Russia. But was it not a dangerous and an ominous suggestion to make that we should transfer to a Commission, which could only have a delegated authority, a responsibility that could only rest properly upon the Cabinet? He would draw attention to an important utterance last year by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) to the effect that if our foreign policy were conducted with skill and judgment, armaments would be unnecessary and taxation for them unjustifiable. It had, therefore, been laid down on the noble Lord's authority that the strength of our forces might depend upon the foreign policy of the Government. To put into the hands of a Commission authority that could only be properly wielded by a responsible Cabinet would be to make the Government a mere machine for carrying out the mandates of that Commission. Then there was the further objection that such a Commission could not sit without exposing every weakness in our defence to the eyes of the whole world? There was a Committee appointed to consult with the Secretary for War last year, and such a Committee might be continued with advantage. The appointment of a Commission would involve serious delay, for it could scarcely conclude its labours within two years, and he hoped the greater part of the proposed programme of his hon. and gallant Friend would be carried out by that time. The Government were far from saying that the present system was perfect, and they had taken such steps as they could to improve and strengthen, its weak points, of which there were many, 305 in which public opinion might strengthen the hands of the Secretary for War; but the Government could not accept a proposal which would impair their own responsibility for the Estimates. The Government hoped they might be favoured with the opinions of some of the non-military Members of the House; for, with all respect to the military Members and giving them full credit for desire to advance the interests of the country, irrespective of those of the Service, that was a subject that should not be discussed by military Members exclusively. So far, the discussion had been highly advantageous. He supposed it might be taken as a compliment to the framers of the Estimates that no exception had been taken to anything they either contained or omitted. In conclusion, he submitted that no case had been made out for a Commission, whose inquiries might prove to be a distinct disadvantage to this country.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON (Devon, Tavistock)
said, that inquiry need not be shirked because of any possible disclosure, since foreign Governments probably knew our weaknesses as well as we know them ourselves. It was suggested that the proposed Commission would take two years to report, and that the matter of our defences would be hung up in the meantime. He, however, thought that the programme of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) might be proceeded with pending the inquiry, and he should imagine that if the Commission were appointed it might present its Report within six months at the outside. The hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Department (Mr. Brodrick) complained that hon. Members had not communicated to the Government any point to which they ought to work up. He (Viscount Ebrington) thought the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War was a sufficient proof that he had a point he would like to work up to, if he was sure that public opinion would back him. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to state there that the programme was not an exhaustive one, or one which showed the full amount of the work which the Military Authorities thought necessary, or oven desirable. He believed it would be of use to the House and the country that they should know 306 what works the Military Authorities did think necessary. The hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary seemed to think he had disposed of a good many of the previous arguments, when he said that a quarter of the Volunteer Force had been provided with great coats. In his opinion, however, great coats were things which they could afford to wait for, and there were many other things far more necessary which, unlike great coats, could not be improvised. Although the Volunteer Force might be so well provided with these garments, he found that the Secretary of State for War admitted that even the First Army Corps was not fully provided with all things necessary. And although he said that what was required would probable be completed without serious delay, yet unless the general opinion was incorrect there were some very important items in the shape of material which, were not available, and which it would take some time to provide. Turning from general matters to points of more detail, he wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a subject which, he thought, had not been touched upon in the discussion which had taken place—namely, the amount of Garrison Artillery which he proposed to provide for the defence of our Coaling Stations. The right hon. Gentleman, in his Memorandum of last year, spoke of the necessity of increasing that force by 1,800 men; and the ugh the Memorandum of this year stated that all the necessary garrison artillery was provided, yet the Estimates only showed an increase in that force, deducting Mountain Batteries and men in Egypt, of 1125 over 1886–7 and 59 over 1887–8.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
The Estimate I gave in the Memorandum was the Estimate received from the War Office Authorities.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
said, that in that case those Authorities must have changed their minds a good deal since last year. He ventured to doubt whether the system they were pursuing with regard to heavy guns was the best system possible. Garrison service was by no means popular; it was generally conducted in out-of-the-way places, and it offered few opportunities for distinction. Under the present system an officer with a mule battery at Aldershot might be 307 transferred to a 100-ton gun at Gibraltar; and he believed that officers were habitually transferred from Horse and Field Batteries to another branch of the Service which was now practically quite a distinct one. Such transfers might have been unavoidable and even desirable in old days when guns of position were not so very much heavier than those which an army might take with it for siege operations; but while the dimensions of these and of field guns were practically unaltered, heavy guns were now of enormous size and had become such complicated machines that he believed we ought to follow the example of other nations, and constitute a special corps of Fortress Artillery. Of course that could not be done all at once, but he would suggest that as a beginning the Royal Marine Artillery should be entrusted with the garrisoning of our Coaling Stations. There were many advantages in the plan he suggested—there was no difference between the great guns in these places and ships' guns, the men therefore, whether on land or at sea would be working guns to which they were accustomed. Secondly, there would be great advantage in respect of the health and lives of the men. Many of our Coaling Stations were dismal, unhealthy places, and it was well known that many men were invalided, and died and even committed suicide in them unless frequently relieved. Now, under the plan he proposed these men could be relieved easily by the men in the squadrons on the various stations; the men of the garrison being taken on board ship and replaced by others at short intervals, whenever most convenient to the Admiral on the station. He (Viscount Ebrington) reminded the right hon. Gentleman that this was not a new system; it had, in fact, been practised in various parts of the world, by our Navy for more more than 100 years. The Diamond Rock in the old war afforded an instance of the practice. Ascension was another at the present time, while Port Hamilton also had been garrisoned by the China Squadron. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to adopting this system at the Coaling Stations.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
said, he thought that the question of the defence of the country was exercising the mind of the 308 people at the present moment more than anything else except the question of Home Rule. He did not intend that evening to touch upon the question of administration, although he believed the system was utterly wrong, that it invited extravagance, and was certainly adverse to economy. The time had arrived when they should drop Party altogether in these matters, and see what they could do to put the Services in order, because late events and statements made by experts went to prove that the services were not in order, the ugh the country thought that they were. It seemed more or less ungrateful of the Service Members to agree on a Motion like that which his hon. and gallant Friend had brought forward. He (Lord Charles Beresford) admitted that the Secretary of State for War had done a very great deal for the Service, and there were many things in his Memorandum which were in the right direction, and with which he heartily agreed. But what he wanted to show was that these improvements would not help organization for war, and would not enable the Army, to a great extent, to fight any better; and more particularly they would not enable the country to know what was required for its defence. Only a Royal Commission such as was now proposed could possibly enable the country to see how it stood. The alteration of the system of administration in the War Office, by giving military men responsibility over the Departments, was apparently a very satisfactory point. But that responsibility was entirely a myth, or it would be, unless the Secretary of State for War could answer a question which he intended to put to him. It would be very much the same class of responsibility as that which the Sea Lords had at the Admiralty. At the Admiralty it was simply nil. For instance, our shipbuilding policy was dictated by the amount of money which the Party Head of the day thought he could spare for building ships, and not at all by the actual necessities of the case. His noble Friend had in his possession a paper which he had himself written, urging the necessity of building a great many more cruisers. But this matter they would have out on the Navy Estimates. Unless in the War Office the soldiers who were to be responsible were able to write out their demands and the 309 reasons for them, and the country knew what they thought, the demands would be laid on one side as they were now; and then the Secretary of State would cut them down, and after that the Treasury would cut them down still further. The Secretary of State had proposed a loan of £2,200,000 in order to put the Coaling Stations and Maritime Ports in order. The House ought to know what sum the experts thought was necessary. He did not say that the country should go by what the experts said, but they ought to know what their opinions were.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
said, that that might be so; but what he wished to know was whether they were what the experts recommended? That he doubted. As to Treasury control, it was all based on unsound evidence, or else he should have been at the Admiralty now he believed. He had seen the bent bayonets, the broken cutlasses, the cartridges that jammed, and the shrapnel shell that did not explode in the Soudan. Major Hunter, when he examined his shells in the Soudan to see that everything was right before going into action, found that out of 110 shrapnel shells, 19 were empty, 29 were partly empty, 10 were damp, and one had the plug jammed. As to responsibility, they were working under the same system now. [Mr. E. STANHOPE dissented.] Well, it was the same at the Admiralty. But when that happened who was hung for it? Who was even chided for it? The troops might have been at Metammeh, trusting to the shrapnel shell, waiting for the enemy to come within range; and had that been so, the shell would not have burst, the enemy would have been upon them, and would have done for them. That would have meant another expedition of an Army Corps from England. All this was the result of not having real responsibility from somebody, so that there would be somebody to be hung if anything went wrong. These shells might have been worth three times their weight in gold if they were all right; as it was, they were useless. Responsibility, as they now had it, was not worth a penny. In 1885, if we had gone to war, any seaman could have told the country that it would have lost its Mer- 310 cantile Marine, and that its food supply would have been stopped. If that had come to pass, would poor Lord North-brook have been hung? [Laughter.] It was no laughing matter, but a very serious question. What he wanted to prove, and would prove, was that the present system was utterly wrong and unbusiness-like. In 1885, Lord North-brook said, if he had been given £2,000,000—[An hon. MEMBER: £3,000,000.] £3,000,000, was it? It might as well been half-a-crown, because he said he would not have known what to do with it if he had to apply it to the Navy. Then war loomed in the distance, and Lord Northbrook asked for he did not know how many millions. [An hon. MEMBER: £5,000,000.] £5,000,000, was it? Well, he ventured to say, and he appealed to the present First Lord to confirm him, that a very large sum of that was as good as thrown into the sea. And this because the system was bad, because there was no organization in time of peace to enable the country to fight in time of war. He would read to the House what Lord Wolseley said in a letter to the Secretary of State for War. Lord Wolseley, writing from the Soudan, said—It is difficult for me to adequately describe the feelings with which I have read the enclosed papers, describing the condition of the ammunition supplied from Woolwich to the only battery of Royal Artillery which accompanied the column recently operating from Korti across the Bayuda Desert. In all our small wars the British soldier has to contend against enemies vastly superior in number, and it is only by superior discipline and the efficiency of our arms of precision that we can secure victory. I have already addressed your Lordship on the subject of the carelessness shown by those responsible at home for the quality of the ammunition supplied to the troops in the field, in issuing star shells of a diff rent calibre from that of the guns of the battery serving here. I trust the new proof, contained in the enclosed papers, of the culpable negligence of some branch of department at home will lead to an inquiry into its working by a Board of selected officers of the Line, unconnected in every way with the Woolwich Manufacturing or Store Department, or with the administration under which they work. I write strongly because I feel strongly, when I think of how the lives of gallant soldiers may have been sacrificed in the present campaign, and may be again so sacrificed in the future, through the inexcusable carelessness of individuals in the Woolwich Arsenal, and through the unsoundness of a system under which such ammunition as that described in these enclosures could possibly have been issued for service in the field.311 This was from a man who was responsible in time of war; but such men were not allowed to say anything in time of peace. Unless an expert had a seat in that House he had no hearing. It was only by proper organization in time of peace that we could be properly prepared for war. The country, he believed, would do anything to have its Army and Navy in the condition in which it ought to be and in which the people thought it was. Hon. Members objected to the Estimates because they saw the money was often spent in a wrong way and on a wrong system. It was suddenly found out when they went to war that they had not a lot of things which they ought to have had before the war was declared; and when money was spent in a panic they paid the highest price for the worst things. A Royal Commission would prevent such things as happened in 1885. It would prevent the scandals revealed in the Judge Advocate's Report. There was the question of the new shell with high explosives. Every nation except England had now got shells with high explosives, whether melanite, dynamite, or some other. In the new shell the velocity of dispersion was greater than the velocity of progression, and it burst all over the place in a circle. The French had actually spent £1,000,000 on melanite or other high explosive shells. The suggested Commission would find out how we stood in regard to that matter. He believed that if a French ship using these shells attacked one of our ships of the Ajax class, and one of those shells came into an important part of her and burst, it would knock a hole in her that would wholly unfit her to fight. He, as an expert, said that, and other experts would say the same. But, unfortunately, for Party reasons, the country never knew what the experts said. They might have to go to sea with those ships, and they would be in danger of having to meet and fight ships with those melanite shells. On ordinary business grounds, he asked why should not the country know exactly how they stood in regard to those things? There had been a great many comparisons drawn between this country, France, and Germany. Let them take the question of our stores. The Secretary of State for War ought to know all about the stores 312 in this country. Let the right hon. Gentleman get up and tell them how much gunpowder they had got in this country, He believed that the right hon. Gentleman would be perfectly bald and gray if the country knew how much gunpowder they had, because the right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that they had got very little, and that every bit of it that was made abroad would be stopped if war broke out. All their accounts were mixed up. The Royal Commission ought to find out a normal. Every great Empire ought to have so many men and so many ships; and to that should be added whatever was required that was abnormal—such as rearming the army, defence of the coaling stations, protection of mercantile ports, and so forth.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, that if the noble Lord would look at Vote 12, he would see that this year, for the first time, they had separated the warlike stores, showing what were the requirements for ordinary and what for extraordinary purposes.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
said, that certainly was right, but it did not give them a normal. His remarks, the ugh they seemed to apply to the Army, had great reference to the sister Service, [Laughter.] Hon. Members laughed; but it was impossible in the defence of this country to separate the two services. He noticed what the right hon. Gentleman stated, but he was not at all satisfied with the arrangement; he did not think it was at all a good one. He wished to remove a false impression which he had seen in the Press, and which had been conveyed to him by his Friends, in regard to his speeches. He believed that all the Service officers in that House agreed with him in this—they did not at all want that the experts should have the control of the administration. The soldier's and sailor's idea of administration was to give an order and carry it out; but the statesman's idea was very different. He had to administer by argument, and by a different method. The Heads of Departments—the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War—must necessarily, by the Constitution, have the power of coming into that House, and then also into the Cabinet. But what he complained of was that they 313 did not consult their experts, or might not consult them. Under the present system those two Chiefs of Departments were perfect almighties—they could say "we "when it was only "I," and the country thought that the experts had a great deal more to say in the management of the Service than they really had, and looked upon them as being a great deal more responsible than they were. The views of those experts ought to be placed—he would not say before the country, though he should like to see them placed before the House—at least before the Cabinet, and until this was done things would not get right. The idea of the Parliamentary control, what was it? They were given a volume, and they criticized it. The Radicals—he must pay them the compliment of saying they generally did try to criticize it, but they took up the wrong thing and criticized it very severely; they really had no control, as they did not understand it. The same remark applied to the other side, because it was the fault of the system. If they had a definite thing given them, they would know what they were talking about. He said that their Parliamentary control was a myth. They were asked for a certain sum of money for certain purposes; but in an ordinary line of business they ought to know what was necessary and what they were paying for. They were asked to vote a certain amount in the Estimates, and when war occurred they had to pay goodness knew what, and most of their money was then wasted. He did not see the Chancellor of the Exchequer then present. He was a very bad hand to tackle; but the Treasury control also was just as much a myth. It was based upon unsound evidence. The Treasury never, or rarely, saw what the necessity of the case was, as, for instance, in the case of the Intelligence Department. The Parliamentary Heads of the Departments came to the Treasury and said so-and-so, and the Treasury went by their opinion, and not by the opinion of the soldiers and sailors. He did not want the Treasury to go by the opinion of the soldiers and sailors, but to see what the evidence really was. It was said that a Royal Commission took time. In his opinion, this matter was so important for the safety of the Empire that it should be attended to first of all. Let them have some system—some Plan of Campaign. At present 314 there was not even a roster of ships for the various stations. That was not the way to carry on the defence of a great Empire at all. One thing he would like to ask was this—of what were the Government afraid in this Royal Commission? Were they afraid of France, or Germany, or any other country? He could assure them that if they wanted accurately to know the state of our defences, and every gun we had in the world, they could get the information by going to the Naval Attaché of any Embassy in London. Were they afraid of the British taxpayer? But the British taxpayer was, as it were, a shareholder in the business, and ought to know how his money was spent; at present he was in a perfect sea of blue dust, and knew nothing. He would only only ask the House of Commons whether they had found the system which they had got at present a satisfactory system? He maintained that it was a bad and utterly wrong one, and a Royal Commission would expose that system. All their bad expenditure was the result of the system of administration, and until they altered it they would never better themselves at all. Then his hon. Friend on the Front Bench said that this was very ridiculous—at all events, he had rather laughed at the idea of a Royal Commission. For his own part, he could not understand why. All that they asked of the Government was that the recommendations of their own Royal Commission should be attended to. That Commission had been presided over by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, an eminent Judge, accustomed to balance evidence, and he, in the strongest terms, and in words almost identical with those used by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for North- West Sussex, had said—The present system is directed to no definite object; it is regulated by no definite rules; it makes no regular stated provision either for the proper supply and manufacture of warlike stores, or for enforcing the responsibility of those who fail to make them properly; or for ascertaining the fact that they are made improperly. It is to these defects in the system that we attribute most of the matters complained of.Then, again, they found these words—We think that the charge of inefficiency, both generally and in a variety of particular instances, has been proved to a considerable extent. We attribute this inefficiency to the defects in the system pointed out above.315 This, it must be remembered, was the Government's own Commission. Then, with regard to the remedy, the Report went on to say—We propose to remedy defects as follows:—A Commission, composed of men of the highest eminence and authority, should be formed to lay down a standard as to the amount of stores which should be kept in hand for the Public Service, and annual tables should be published showing how the existing stores stood in relation to this standard.His hon. Friend behind him did not even ask for a standard, but that the question should come before a Commission of business men, and that the facts should be stated in such a way that the country might judge what ought to be done. There was nothing about a Vote of Censure on the Government in this proposal; nothing could strengthen their hands more.
§ MR. BRODRICK
observed, that he did not say it would be a Vote of Censure, but that it might prove a serious matter, and do injury to the country.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
said, that he certainly understood his hon. Friend to say that much, but something more as well. Now with regard to the question of economy, which was always preached whenever they went to address their constituents—["Hear, hear!" and laughter.]—Oh, yes; they were always preaching peace and reform and economy; they were bound to promise these things, but they could not have economy under their present system. If they wanted economy the system must be altered. What he asked was that they should not make this a Party question, but all join together to repair a system which had proved itself bad in every particular, and which, in his opinion, could not at all increase economy, but must increase extravagance, and which as long as it lasted would prevent their ever getting their Services in that state of efficiency which everybody desired.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I only wish, before the debate goes any further, to say a few words in order to remove a misapprehension which appears to have arisen. My hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), who introduced this debate, is, I know, the roughly desirous to render every assistance to the Government in the discharge of their duty, and I regret that it is not in our power to 316 accede to the terms of the Motion he has put upon the Paper, although my desire is to give the fullest credit to him and to those hon. and gallant Gentlemen who have supported him in all that they have said, and as regards the motives by which they have been actuated. I wish, therefore, to say a few words to justify the course which the Government think it right to take in the circumstances in which they are placed. My hon. and gallant Friend asked the House to approach Her Majesty, in order that she may be graciously pleased to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into and report upon the military and naval requirements for the protection of the Empire. Well, Sir, I listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Durham (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan). He emphasized the demand that is made in the Motion by saying that it was a demand which must embrace the requirements of the Army and Navy for home protection, as well as the necessities for foreign service, and it also raises the whole question of the defence of India. Now, Sir, my hon. Friend the Member for the Guildford Division of Surrey, the Financial Secretary to the War Department (Mr. Brodrick), referred with very great force to the circumstances in which any such inquiry as is now asked for must be held. He quoted, with admirable effect, the speech made by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) last year, in which that noble Lord showed conclusively that the proportion or amount of even the normal expenditure and strength of the country must depend upon the policy of the Government and of successive Governments, and upon the view they took of their responsibilities. I should like, therefore, to ask how a Commission, largely composed of experts, could be charged with the duty of making provision for the interests of this great Empire so far as concerned the providing the strength which would be required for every contingency, at the same time removing all responsibility from the shoulders of the Government of the day? I can imagine no greater relief, if it were not cowardice to seek it, to any Government than to devolve upon a Royal Commission the duty which, the Government now discharges. The Government would for the next three years, 317 at any rate, be relieved of any responsibility for the extension of the defences necessary for the protection of the Empire. All we should have to do would be to keep things going in the best way we could, and changes in ships for the protection of commerce, or in fighting ships and other questions connected with the Departments, must be held over until this Commission has made its Report. I have heard a remark made by my hon. and gallant Friend that this Commission was one that would report at once. I have had very great experience of the assistance of experts, and can bear testimony to their loyalty both at the Admiralty and the War Office, and it would be unfair to them if I allowed it to be supposed that they held office without a great sense of their responsibility, without communicating freely to the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State, and without having the great satisfaction of knowing that their advice is followed as a rule on questions on which their advice ought to have the greatest weight. The amount of force required and of provision made rests upon the responsibility of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State, checked and controlled to a great extent by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I should like to ask the House whether any system that could be devised could relieve the Ministers of the responsibility of making pecuniary provision for the Services in this House? I should prefer that the responsibility which at present rests upon Ministers should be insisted upon and maintained, though I am very far from saying that our system is perfect. I do not believe it to be perfect by any means. Even looking at the checks with which our Parliamentary system surrounds the Departments, it is almost impossible that they could avoid mistakes and to some extent errors and maladministration at times. But if you ask me whether it is desirable that there should be investigation into the system—a careful, persistent, and acute investigation—I should be perfectly ready to accept such an investigation. I have nothing whatever to hide; I have no desire whatever to maintain any portion of the organization or administration either of the Army or Navy which upon inquiry may be found to be defective. That is an object to which Parliament may properly 318 direct its attention with a view to ascertaining to what extent the present Naval and Military systems are adapted to the national needs. Such an inquiry I am perfectly prepared to grant; but, Sir, I am not prepared to accept proposals which must relieve the Government of responsibility in the future. Change the system if you like, if there is anything wrong in it; deal with the organization if you please, if it is defective; but adhere strictly to the maintenance of the responsibility which up to this time has rested with the Ministers of the day to provide for the safety and protection of the country, and to present to Parliament such measures as they think necessary to present in their duty to the Sovereign, the State, and the Empire. I, Sir, for one, should be no party at any time to relieve them of that responsibility. We cannot devolve on a Committee of the House of Commons or a Royal Commission of irresponsible Gentlemen the duty of determining what force and what strength may be required for the protection of the country. It would be a mistake to suppose that officers of the Army or Navy are uniformly agreed in their recommendations to the Secretary of State. It would be absurd to suppose that they recommended but one scheme or one proposal, either as to the strength of the forces, or the plan necessary for the defence of the Empire. We have had, Sir, the assistance of experts and officers who have investigated particular questions, and I am sorry to say that, from the intricacies of those questions, they have frequently been years before they have arrived at a conclusion. Take, for example, the case of the new rifle, which has lately been the subject of investigation. I believe that rifle has been in the hands of a Committee of officers for four or five years, and now the decision arrived at is only a tentative one. The Government must under the present constitution—and it is for the House to say whether that constitution requires to be changed or not, but of course we must as Ministers of the Crown retain to ourselves responsibility for the proposals to be made to Parliament. We are willing to take Parliament into our confidence; we are willing that Parliament should examine into any point, any item, or existing institution as an institution. Parliament should find out, if it pleases, 319 defects in those institutions, and may recommend changes; but so long as the Government remain in our present positions, we must, I regret to say, oppose the proposal of my hon. and gallant Friend, to whom we wish to give the fullest possible credit. We desire, however, to obtain absolute security for the Empire in a different manner and by different methods to those by which he seeks to do so.
§ Motion, made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Lord Randolph Churchill,)—put, and agreed to.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I hope it will be understood that the Vote will be secured on Thursday, as that is absolutely necessary in the public interests.
§ Debate adjourned till Wednesday.