§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made and Question proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 152,282, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding Her Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1890.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I do not think it would be seemly on my part if I did not offer, first of all, my hearty thanks and those of the Government to those hon. Members who have been kind enough to make way in order that we might get into Committee, and that the House might have an opportunity of hearing the full statement of the Government upon the Estimates now before the Committee. The Committee will have observed that I propose this year to revert to the old practice of explaining in the House itself the general policy of the War Office, as expressed in the Esti-1406 mates of the year. The written Memorandum, which during the last two years has been published with the Estimates, though in some respects convenient, seems to have entirely failed in one important respect. Very few people read it, and throughout the year all sorts of curious misstatements have cropped up, which a cursory perusal of the Memorandum would have immediately exposed. I have, therefore, to ask the Committee to grant me its kind indulgence if—I fear at some length—I attempt to give a comprehensive account of the work being done. It is not, indeed, to be hoped that the present Estimates will satisfy those who think they can measure progress by the amount of money spent. Some increase was and is undoubtedly necessary for causes which I shall explain. But for a large part of the improvement which our Military Forces undoubtedly require we must look not to money, but to continuous advance in organization, carried out upon a definite and well-considered plan. More than that, every Vote has been most carefully scrutinized, and every item not considered to be essential has been questioned by the Financial Department. And, secondly, it is necessary to point out that everything cannot be done at once, and that out of many services undoubtedly most important, which the fierce competition in the improvement of weapons of destruction now going on all over the world render necessary, many considerations, of which one only is economy, compel us to select the most urgent only for immediate execution. And, thirdly, I should like to say, in justice to the War Office, that our uniform policy and practice is to give the preference in every respect to the requirements of the Navy, and to postpone, if not to abandon services, if they interfere in any way with the execution of demands for the sea service. And now, Mr. Courtney, as I am anxious to explain with perfect frankness our existing state of preparation, will the Committee allow me to test it by briefly indicating the principal steps which would have to be taken on the occurrence of a grave emergency? The Militia would be at once embodied. It has been customary to give 15 days' notice, but in real difficulty they would be called up in a very much 1407 shorter time. Those assigned to garrisons could proceed at once to their destination. The Reserves would be called up. Experience has, on a former occasion, shown that many of the men presented themselves within 48 hours, and I have no reason to doubt that the bulk could be obtained in about four days. The arms necessary for the Reserve men are now being stored at the depots, and will be stored at the points of concentration. Then the Volunteers and the Yeomanry, or such part of them as the emergency might require, would be called out. We rely, in the event of the danger being prolonged, upon half of the men being able to be present on duty at one time; but in the actual crisis not only would nearly all enrolled Volunteers be in the ranks, but they would be swelled by offers of service from many who have passed through the force. We come now to the disposition to be made of these forces. In the event of an emergency the first duty which devolves upon the Land Forces is the protection of our ports and coaling stations, and orders would be at once issued to lay down submarine mines. The military ports at home and abroad are now all provided with the necessary buildings and stores. The coaling stations and nearly all the commercial ports to be defended by submarine mines are already furnished with a large proportion of these stores, and the general result would-be that almost every port selected to be defended throughout the Empire could be provided with a substantial mine defence in ten days, while a considerable amount of protection, sufficient to have a very deterrent effect on the enemy's cruisers, could be laid down in three days. The Submarine Miners for this service have already been raised in almost every case, and are composed, according to the circumstances of the port, of Royal Engineers, of Militia or Volunteer Submarine Miners, supplemented, where necessary, by native auxiliaries or by hired labour. This service alone has involved an enormous amount of preparation, and its very advanced condition justifies us in attaching great importance to it in our scheme of defence. The next step in organization is the provision of garrisons. The whole of the garrisons for our fortresses and commercial ports at home are told off. 1408 In the latter case, they consist exclusively of Militia and Volunteers, but the total strength of these garrisons for our home ports alone amounts to no less than 124,000 men. The particular duties to be performed by each corps have been laid down by the General Officers commanding in their schemes of defence. And, among the many changes in details of administration which have been introduced, I do not think any greater improvement can be found than that which places the whole defence of the Thames under the control of a single General Officer, instead of dividing it, as has hitherto been the case, between several districts. Upon the armaments I shall have a few words to say separately. The question of providing adequate garrisons for the fortresses and coaling stations abroad has undergone the most careful consideration, and the establishment of the Army has this year been increased in order to deal with it. Every case has been considered upon its merits, and dealt with after consideration of the probable dangers to be incurred and all other circumstances affecting it. The whole garrison, which would be necessary in war time, has not been completed in cases where its reinforcement would be comparatively easy, or where the climate is such as to be dangerous to the lives of Europeans. But in others, especially the very distant stations, the garrison has been increased, and is being supplemented by native auxiliaries. This is especially the case at Hong Kong and Singapore. At Gibraltar the garrison is already sufficient; but considerable reinforcements are to be sent to Malta, where also it is hoped to raise a regiment of Militia, and but accommodation for the increased force is in course of construction. The general policy will be pursued of utilizing native auxiliaries as far as it is possible and prudent, and so of minimizing the constant drain which is involved in maintaining a large European force in the Colonies. And I may add that, in return for the increased protection afforded, additional contributions towards the expenditure may fairly be expected from some of our Colonies. But, in attempting to facilitate and to quicken the rapid mobilization of our defensive forces in this country, we were confronted by two grave difficulties, with both of which I have endeavoured 1409 to grapple. The first was the deficiency of horses. Like every foreign country, we must rely, on the outbreak of emergency, on obtaining, as quickly as possible, a large additional supply of horses. Abroad, it is universally accomplished by requisition. And we have now, for the first time in this country, under the National Defence Act of last year, full legal powers for this purpose. But we have not stopped there. We have established a system of registration, by means of which, at a very small cost to the public, we have a list of horses on a register, which can be obtained at the shortest notice. I have before alluded to the very cordial co-operation which we have met with from many large horse owners in the Metropolis and elsewhere. Last year we took powers to register 7,000 horses, and it is satisfactory to know that a very considerable number are suitable for the Cavalry, and all broken to bit and bridle. This year we ask for a large increase of that number—no less than 14,000; and there is little doubt that in this manner, backed, if necessary, by the use of our compulsory powers, we can obtain in case of emergency even a much larger number of horses. We hope, therefore, that this primary necessity has been to a large extent overcome. But before I leave the subject of horses, as to which we are much indebted to the able and energetic action of General Ravenhill, I should like to add that the Remount Establishment is working most satisfactorily, and with marked economy. We can without difficulty obtain, within the United Kingdom, an ample supply of horses for the normal requirements of our remounts. The second of the grave difficulties to which I alluded is the excessive centralization of our stores. Partly from motives of economy, and partly because no general scheme whatever existed for the mobilization of our troops, there has been a constant attempt to crowd everything into Woolwich; and, unless a remedy had been applied, the consequences, in the event of a sudden order to call out all our available defensive forces by land and sea, must have been grave delay, if not something much worse. Decentralization is now actively going on. The places where, for convenience and rapidity of concentration, stores should be placed have now been for the most 1410 part selected. Some buildings have been acquired or adopted for the purpose; in other cases new storehouses are being built. Many of our arms and accoutrements have already been decentralized, and the work is rapidly proceeding. But we have also borne in mind the safe and economical custody of the stores. Some which from their nature are perishable or require very careful attention must be specially provided for. But the great object has been that, within the limits so imposed, the officers responsible for the various sections of our defensive forces should know what stores to ask for, and where they are to be obtained without delay, with as little reference as possible to any central authority. Into this great work of decentralization, with all its enormous mass of detail, the present Quartermaster General has thrown himself with his well-known energy and business capacity. Putting aside these preliminary difficulties, therefore, which are, I hope, in a fair way of being overcome, and are, indeed, already partially surmounted, we are at present in this position with regard to our Regular Forces. The Reserve being called up, we could put into the field at short notice for home defence a force of 80,000 Regular troops, with a proper proportion of all arms of the Service, with the exception of certain small units advisedly left to be organized on mobilization, but the machinery for creating which has been worked out under Regulations already compiled. Lists of officers to fill all the commands and Staff posts have been prepared. Any deficiency in horses, not provided under our system of registration, would be made good by requisition. Ten days should, therefore, suffice to assemble the men and horses and distribute clothes and arms. There are more than sufficient stores in hand for the requirements of this force operating at home; but until the process of decentralizing the stores is completed, I cannot accurately estimate the time required for their issue. When it is completed the issue will be exceedingly rapid, and the greater part of the operations required for mobilization would take place automatically on the order being given, without requiring instructions from headquarters. This Field Army would be at once concentrated at railway junctions or 1411 other points which have been carefully chosen, with the view of affording the greatest facility for moving the troops at a few hours' notice to any point that may be threatened. And every detail required for this operation is gradually being laid down. After providing for this Field Army, there will still remain a small force of Regular troops of all arms, together with a good many regiments of Militia, for which the same preparations are not yet complete. But they would be mobilized and utilized according to the circumstances of the particular danger that may arise. Besides these, there remains a large body of Volunteers. Part are assigned to the duties of purely local defence, the remainder, consisting of a force which at a crisis could be at least doubled in number, will be mobilized in defence of the point or points principally threatened, and especially of London. The Volunteer Infantry assigned to these duties has been formed into brigades under officers selected for military capacity and personal influence amongst their men. The system is developing itself far more rapidly than could have been hoped last year, and many of the brigades, having in the interval taken active steps to improve themselves locally, will be tested in joint operations before long. I sometimes hear it objected, "What is the use of all this force without any transport?" Well, that is one of the questions which we have thoroughly taken in hand, and our experience conclusively proves that by a simple system of registration the necessary transport can be kept in a sufficient state of readiness to be easily available in the time of emergency. We have now also 67 batteries of Volunteer Artillery with 268 guns. I have noticed a good many attempts to decry the value of these guns. Well, all I can say is, that more than half of them are powerful breech-loading guns of a far heavier calibre than any invader could bring against them; and all, though not, of course, of the newest types, are perfectly suitable for the purpose for which they are required. The duties assigned to these brigades and batteries in the event of emergency are of the most important character. I do not think I can be accused of underrating the value of the Volunteers. I have been and am doing my best, within the limits created 1412 by the peculiar circumstances of the force, to organize and utilize it to the utmost extent of which it can be made capable. But its best friends will not deny that it is of unequal merit. Some battalions, I am assured by competent military critics, fully rival any Line regiment. Some batteries of Artillery are conspicuous for efficiency, and show signs of continuous improvement. But there are other corps, both of Infantry and Artillery, that undoubtedly could not be prudently manœuvred in the field against a well-trained and disciplined army. How, then, can they best be utilized for the defence of the country and of the Metropolis? This leads me to the subject of the plan which we have formed for this purpose. And, first, let me say at once that neither officially nor unofficially, neither by the officers of the Department nor by the malign influence which has been ingeniously suggested as at work, has any plan been brought before me for building permanent fortifications for the defence of London. Such a scheme is extravagant, visionary, and wholly unnecessary. Indeed, the only definite proposal of this sort of recent years which has been brought to my notice was that officially put forward by no less an authority than General Sir Andrew Clarke, who, in a Minute when Inspector General of Fortifications, which I have before me, proposed to build, besides others, four permanent fortifications for the defence of London at a cost, for three alone, of about £350,000. I am aware that that officer has subsequently modified his views; and indeed on this subject, not only is there agreement among my military advisers and the other distinguished officers who have been consulted, but there is absolute unanimity of opinion as to the principles of the scheme. Everyone hopes and thinks that our first line of defence should be strong enough to defend this country from the possibility of invasion, and the scheme now adopted is an additional security, necessary only in what may be a remote contingency. But in that contingency some part of the battle would have to be fought by troops insufficiently drilled, and from various causes inferior, not in courage or physical strength, but in knowledge and preparation, to the troops to which they 1413 would be opposed. It is, therefore, necessary to prepare and strengthen the position they would occupy, so as at once to protect the defenders and to make up for their necessary deficiencies. There are certain strategical positions round London commanding roads and railways which are essential to its defence. These have been carefully examined by our most experienced officers, and places have been marked out, where, upon the occurrence of grave emergency, certain steps, arranged in every way beforehand, could at once be taken. Every preparation will be made for enabling the work to be executed without delay. And these are the positions on which, on London being threatened, the defenders of London would in a few days be concentrated and intrenched. The House will understand that it is neither desirable nor necessary that I should enter into a detailed description. But this must be added. Almost all this work is to be left to be rapidly carried out when the emergency arises. There are, however, a few sites of specially urgent importance which we deem it essential to acquire at once. It is the intention to establish ordinary field works in the form of intrenched camps, which would form the backbone of the defensive line, and in which certain articles which would be required at the shortest notice could be stored, and where it will be possible hereafter to exercise some of the defenders in the actual place which they might have to defend. The cost of these precautions will be inconsiderable. We have hitherto been met by the owners of property affected in a reasonable and patriotic spirit; and the result will, therefore, as we hope, be that the security of the Metropolis will have been assured at a very moderate outlay and with the least possible disturbance of private interests. The negotiations are pending for these essential sites, and I have accordingly included in the Estimates a sum of £20,000. I have now stated with some frankness, but without entering into detail, the general preparations that have been made for the concentration of our forces. They may be described as incomplete. I am the first to admit their incompleteness. But when it is remembered that two years ago none of these preparations were in existence, 1414 and that neither for our Regular nor for our Auxiliary Forces was any plan in operation for making the most effective use of them in emergency, I am entitled, at least, to claim that considerable progress has been made. In the evidence before the Committee on Army Estimates there were some strong recommendations in favour of calling out the Army Reserve for some form of annual training; and, in the discussion in Committee of this House, I promised, while pointing out some of the grave difficulties to be encountered, to consider whether some partial and tentative scheme could not be adopted this year. A very close examination of the subject has led me to postpone that proposal. I found that many large employers of Reserve men, while ready to make any sacrifice at the time of national emergency, plainly intimated that anything like an annual training, which took the men away from their ordinary work, would compel them to discontinue the employment of Reserve men. I found, too, that large exemptions would be necessary. Men in the police, for instance, could not be called out; and if men in Government employ were generally exempted, the objection of private employers would naturally have been much intensified; and the feeling against employing Reserve men, which has of late years been so happily and so largely overcome, might have been increased to an extent sufficient to endanger the whole system of an Army Reserve. Perhaps the simplest form of keeping the Reserve up to the mark—which will become more important when the new rifle is issued—would be by the requirement of a certain amount of musketry practice, and it is in this direction that I hope to find a solution of what is a most difficult problem. The question is sometimes asked whether it would not be possible to put military organization to some practical test? It is suggested that an Army Corps should be mobilized without notice, and it is pointed out that a similar experiment was tried in France last year. To mobilize that Army Corps nearly 6,000 horses had to be requisitioned, and the total extra cost of the experiment was a quarter of a million sterling, and yet that took place in a limited area, within which a large proportion of the 1415 force to be mobilized were already resident. Our complicated system of spreading our troops all over the United Kingdom, the situation of our barracks, and other local exigencies, would render a similar task in this country one which would be felt as a disturbance in al branches of our national life, and which would entail a cost out of all proportion to the advantages to be derived from it. The organization of the Royal Artillery has excited some interest during the past year. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Lambeth (General Fraser) will see that, although it has only been possible to make a small addition to the batteries of Horse Artillery on the Home Establishment, an attempt has been made to meet my engagement last year with regard to ammunition columns. We have placed in the Estimates the nucleus of these columns, and provision has also been made to increase the reserve of drivers, who would be called up in time of war for similar service. But the most important step taken in these Estimates in connection with the Artillery is the progress made in the construction of the new 12-pounder field gun. Before long I hope that no less than 45 batteries will be armed with this gun. I may also remind the Committee that a short time ago a Committee was appointed, under the presidency of Lord Harris, to inquire into the organization of the Royal Artillery. After taking much evidence, the Committee was exactly divided in opinion on the subject of the separation of the Garrison from the Horse and Field Artillery. It appeared, further, that while the senior officers of the regiment mostly opposed separation almost all the juniors were in favour of it, although by no means unanimous as to the mode in which it was to be carried out. In these circumstances I have, upon the whole, decided that the wise course is to carry out some of the unanimous proposals of the Committee as to grouping the batteries of Garrison Artillery, but that the main question of separation must stand over for further consideration. And now I turn from questions of organization and mobilization to the subject of armaments; and as my Department is charged with the supply of warlike stores to the Navy as well as to the Army, I think that the Com- 1416 mittee will expect me to give some general account of the production during the past and the prospects during the coming years. Probably the Committee hardly realize the magnitude of this work. Taking the orders for the Army and Navy together, but excluding the demands for India, there will have been passed through the War Office during 1888–9 orders for warlike stores to the value of nearly four millions and a half sterling; and during the present year, if the House approve the naval proposals of the Government, they will reach even a larger amount. Of this amount rather more than half will have been executed in the Ordnance factories, but the whole of the stores represented by this sum have to be inspected and tested before being passed into either Service. We have now had a year's experience of the new plan of dividing the cost of warlike stores between the Army and the Navy, each Service bearing its own shares upon its own Votes. I venture to say that, for the purpose for which this change was effected, it has been completely successful. It was carried out in order that the true cost of each Service should be shown upon the Votes for that Service, and in order to prevent the scandal, so much complained of by the Committee on Army Estimates, but which was practically put an end to by the present First Lord of the Treasury, of the proposals for the necessary armament and equipment of the Fleet framed at the Admiralty, being cut down at the War Office, mainly on economical grounds. Under the new system each Department decides upon its own responsibility the amount of the Vote for warlike stores which it feels it to be its duty to submit to Parliament. But, looking at the vast work to be performed, the question at once suggests itself—and it is the most vital question connected with the whole subject—whether our present sources of supply, especially in the matter of big guns, are now adequate, and, in the face of the coming large orders for the Navy, are likely to continue adequate in carrying out their orders with all reasonable punctuality? To this question Her Majesty's Government have given the most careful consideration, and my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty furnished an answer on Thursday last. A year 1417 ago, feeling that our knowledge on these points was not sufficient to enable a complete answer to be given, we set on foot independent inquiries into the resources of the great gun factories in this country, their power of production, the causes of the delay that had already occurred, and the steps that might be necessary to prevent it in the future. And we ultimately came to the conclusion that several steps of the greatest importance were immediately necessary. We held, first, that the existing gun-producing power of this country might not be sufficient for the great programme to be undertaken for land and sea service, and we accordingly took steps to enlarge it by intrusting a contract for big guns to Messrs. Vickers, of Sheffield. The new machinery to be obtained and set up before any new firm can undertake the task of making big guns, and the experience which can alone enable it to accomplish it satisfactorily, necessarily involve delay. But the result is that we have now four large firms engaged in producing steel forgings for big guns, and three firms, besides the Royal Gun Factory, engaged in building up and completing them; and in every one of these cases additional machinery has recently been laid down for dealing with the larger description of guns. And to this we may add that the patterns are practically settled, the difficulties in regard to steel manufacture have been surmounted, and we have greatly increased securities for progress in a monthly Return showing the exact state of each gun, and in the inspection which takes place at regular intervals. In consequence of this, I venture, with much more confidence than before, but with the full admission that past events justify some hesitation, to give to the Committee a forecast of the turn-out during the present year. Between April 1 and the end of the first quarter of the next financial year, we hope to receive 23 guns for land and sea service, of 22 tons and upwards; during the second quarter 32, and in the third quarter 24 guns. And as in that quarter the first deliveries are expected of guns now in the course of construction by Messrs. Vickers, and the fullest advantage will be felt of the improved machinery to which I have already alluded, we ought from that time to have an increased output. I have not in- 1418 cluded the 6-inch or other comparatively small breech-loading guns, because, with regard to them, there ought to be no substantial difficulty. Undoubtedly, however, the great Navy programme now proposed to Parliament imposes a heavy strain upon our gun-producing powers, as regards guns of the largest types. We have only lately learned the number and nature of all the guns to be provided, and it is, therefore, not possible at present to state how all the work will be allotted. But the whole situation has been most carefully considered in the light of past experience and of undoubted failures to perform promises, and we are confident of being able to make such arrangements as will provide for the delivery, with reasonable certainty, within the prescribed time, of all the guns in the programme. The principle, however, with which I set out, and which I am sure will meet with cordial acceptance, that the requirements of the Land Service in this matter must be subordinated to those of the Navy, may lead, as it has led during the past year, to some delay in carrying out the improved defences of our forts. But every endeavour shall be made to prevent that delay extending to the defence of the coaling stations, without which the full advantage of our great maritime strength cannot be taken. It will be remembered that last year I explained at very considerable length the state of the defences of our ports and coaling stations, making no secret of the grave deficiencies that existed; and accordingly a sum of about three and a-half millions sterling, provided partly by loan and partly out of Estimates, was assigned to complete the defences of the coaling stations according to the programme accepted by Parliament, and to effect certain urgent improvements in other cases. All the guns were put in hand at once, and with them, as well as with the necessary works, substantial progress has been made. Speaking first of the coaling stations, I neither deny nor justify the delay that has taken place. Most unfortunately, when the armaments were originally selected and the scheme of defence laid down, much to their credit, by the Party opposite, a good many of the guns selected were of types which had never hitherto been made or tried, and for which even the 1419 designs were quite unsettled. The whole question of the construction and mounting of heavy breech-loading ordnance was in an experimental state; and delay arose, to be aggravated by other causes for which less excuse can be made. In the case of the lighter armaments and quick-firing guns, the greater portion of the work has been done, and even with the heavier armaments good progress is being made. The remaining armaments of Hong Kong and Singapore—the delay in which has naturally given rise to indignation—ought to be completed, as they are promised, within the year; and some, indeed, of the heavy guns ought to be ready next month. At the Cape the works are being carried on by the Colonial Government; one big gun is in position, and the remaining guns for Table Bay and Simon's Bay ought to go out this year. In the case of what are technically termed the Imperial ports, at home and abroad, good progress is being made. The defences of Portsmouth, both on the land and sea side, though it would not be right for me to go into detail, have been materially strengthened during the year, and some very powerful guns have been mounted. Since last year the whole defence of the Thames has been reconsidered, and a scheme, involving larger additions of armament than had been originally intended, has been recommended by the military authorities. The necessary works are in active progress, including the remodelling of some of the existing armaments, and the present year ought to show a most substantial addition to the defences. Special attention is also being paid to Malta and Gibraltar, which, though heavily fortified, require additional guns of modern type. Here, too, great progress will be made during the present year. A good deal has been said during the year about the defences of our commercial ports. The Committee will, no doubt, recollect that I circulated last year the Report of a very able Committee which inquired into this matter with myself. The proposals of that Report were adopted in the Imperial Defence Act of last year, and are being carried out; and, in further compliance with them, I offered to certain ports that we would mount some breech-loading guns of modern type, if the localities would show a willing- 1420 ness to co-operate in the work of their own defence. These proposals have been criticized as inadequate. But every scheme of defence must be judged of in respect of its inadequacy to meet the particular danger to be anticipated. And I have, at least, very high naval authority for saying that guns of this description, which can be fired much more quickly than heavier guns, are—in addition to the submarine mines, protected by quick-firing guns—amply sufficient to meet the sort of attack to which these ports are liable to be subjected by the chance visit of a cruiser. For any additional defence they must rely upon our naval resources. I propose to lay upon the Table at the close of the financial year a Report from the Director General of Ordnance-Factories upon the work of his Department. The magnitude of their operations will be shown by the fact that the turn-out for the year will be about two and a quarter millions in value; but there is every reason to believe that the amalgamation of all the factories under a single head is producing good results in the direction of economy and efficiency. I am unwilling to detain the Committee by dwelling upon the various branches of this work which might be of interest at the present time, and I will, therefore, only allude to one or two weapons. Since the adoption of the design for the new magazine rifle, a step, I am happy to say, characterized by complete unanimity, good progress has been made with the preparations for its manufacture. Rifles will be turned out by the Government factories at En-field and at Birmingham, and by the trade in London and in Birmingham. The fact that all the parts of a military rifle are in this country with obvious advantage made interchangeable makes the time necessary for producing them with complete accuracy longer than it would otherwise be. But the work is being pushed steadily on, and it is satisfactory that the trials of the rifle in India, which had not completely reached us when the pattern was selected, have been in all respects very favourable to the new weapon. And in order that the two Army Corps, which will be the first to receive the rifle, may have only one sort of ammunition to carry, provision has been made in the Estimates for Maxim guns and for 1421 carbines of the same calibre. The question of the powder has been one of great difficulty and anxiety. With the first issue of the rifle compressed pellets of black powder, which have been found to possess the necessary qualities, will be used, and this will be a considerable advance upon the present state of things. But it is also confidentially believed that a chemical powder has been found in all respects suited for our purposes, and possessing what many chemical powders now being tried abroad do not possess—stability under all conditions of climate; and to us, perhaps more than to any other country, this condition is absolutely essential. By the use of this powder the power of the new rifle will be considerably augmented; but, even with the compressed black powder, it will be possible to fire it without raising a sight at a range of 500 yards. It will be sighted up to 2,800 yards. I should like to take this public opportunity of expressing our hearty thanks to the Small Arms Committee, presided over by Major General Philip Smith, who brought so much ability and perseverance to the task of choosing a magazine rifle. This very difficult work has been performed with perfect fairness towards all inventors, and has produced a rifle which promises the most satisfactory results. Further experiments with the high explosive which recently showed such destructive results at Lydd prove that it can, in various forms, be employed with perfect safety for heavy guns, and that it may probably be made avail-able for shells for our Field Artillery guns. During the past year the examination of all the arms in the hands of the troops has been continued. New arms have been issued to the men comprised in the First Army Corps; and in the case of the remainder of the Regular Army in this country unserviceable weapons, whether rifles, carbines, swords, or bayonets, have been withdrawn. Commanding officers of regiments have been made responsible for the mode in which all arms issued to the troops under their command are kept. I should like to add that the result of the examination has conclusively proved that the work was not undertaken a day too soon. Considerable neglect in certain cases, and in others weapons deteriorated by long use or by other causes, have been discovered; and though it is even now probable that de- 1422 fects may occur from time to time, the chances of such failure have, at leas been enormously reduced. It will lead to better care of weapons issued, and to improvement, where necessary, of pat terns. In one case, that of the swords known as of the pattern of 1885, it is admitted that the attempt to secure lightness has probably led to undue weakness in one part of the blade. Much has been said recently about swords of German and English manufacture. It is only fair to my Predecessors, who ordered swords from Solingen, to say that it has hitherto been difficult to get them in large numbers anywhere else, and that the results show that they have not failed to pass the tests imposed to any greater extent than the English swords. Now, however, we are having all our swords and bayonets made in England. Large numbers are being made at the Government Factory at En field. The contract with Messrs. Wilkinson is being executed in London, and two more contracts are about to be entered into, which will give the workmen in Birmingham and Sheffield full opportunity of showing the quality of their work. And now, if the Committee will pardon me for the length to which my remarks have extended, there is one other subject of grave importance as to which I shall also have some proposals to make to Parliament. They intimately concern the health and comfort of the private soldier. I do not allude to the daily ration, which was, as the Committee will perhaps recollect, referred to an independent Committee to investigate. That Committee has directed certain experiments to be made, and is not yet in a position to make a final Report. But, in the meantime, steps have been taken, in fulfilment of the pledge given by me to my hon. Friend the Member for Mr. Preston (Mr. Hanbury), to increase the supervision on the supplies of contractors, and on the mode of issue of the meat ration to the troops. But beyond this question of food there is another, even of greater importance, to which I have given special attention during the past year—I mean that of barrack accommodation. The evidence before the Select Committee on Army Estimates last year brought out very clearly the exceedingly unsatisfactory condition of our existing 1423 barracks from more than one point of view. Some of them, originally acquired for temporary purposes, have never been suitable for permanent occupation. Others are in a very bad state of repair. The huts in our great military camp at Aldershot were built of wood after the Crimean War. They were intended to last 20 years, and they are now in such a state of decay that it is with the greatest possible difficulty we can keep some of them up at all. They cost £5 a-year to keep up, and will soon be past repair. Other barracks have been erected or acquired in localities which may have been suitable to the circumstances of the moment, but which are exceedingly inconvenient for the purposes of concentration in time of emergency, because the subsequent development of our railway system has brought other centres into prominence. Some of them are situated in districts where no rifle range is obtainable, and great cost must be incurred in moving detachments to a distance for their annual practice; and, lastly, they are insufficient in accommodation. The lodging allowance to soldiers, for whom barrack accommodation has not been provided, costs no less than £250,000 a-year. These difficulties have increased and become intensified year by year. The great demands upon the Estimates, especially in the direction of new armaments, and the increasing sums necessarily required for repair of rapidly deteriorating works, have led to the gradual contraction of the sum assigned to new construction, so that we are year by year getting into a worse position. Added to this, the requirements of modern sanitation, and of modern comfort, especially in the matter of recreation rooms and gymnasiums, have helped to absorb whatever money has been available. Nor is it too much to say that the question of barrack accommodation has never been looked at as a whole. The large expenditure upon barracks authorized by the Military Forces Localization Act in 1872 was entirely directed towards the erection of the 69 depôt centres for the establishment of the territorial system; and Mr. Cardwell strictly limited his object to the erection of barracks for this purpose. The great cost of putting all our barracks upon a proper footing—estimated before the Committee at four or five millions 1424 sterling, has naturally proved a serious obstacle. But, on the other hand, it would be hopeless, within the lifetime of the present generation, to complete such a task out of the ordinary Estimates. The reconstruction of our camps alone, if carried on upon the scale attempted during the last few years, would not be completed within that period. I approach the question, there fore, from three points of view, and first upon the ground of economy. The present system is distinctly wasteful and extravagant. A moderate capital expenditure in certain well-selected cases would largely reduce the lodging allowance, the cost of transport, and the enormous annual charge for repairs. I approach it, secondly, on the ground of military efficiency. To break up a battalion by sending it in detachments into isolated quarters is disastrous to this efficiency, while the concentration in our great military camps of larger bodies of troops would tend to their greater utility for the support of the Civil power, if required, and to their more complete preparation for times of emergency. And, lastly, it can hardly be asserted that we are justified in exposing our soldiers to the discomforts, and, in some cases, to the dangers, which prevail in some of our existing barracks. For these reasons we have examined the barrack accommodation of this country as a whole; and though the scheme of this year will not profess to deal with all parts of it, it will include the more important cases from the three points of view which I have mentioned. It will be embodied in a proposal which will shortly be presented to Parliament; and though it would not be right to detain the Committee by dwelling upon its details, I have already indicated the lines upon which we propose to work. We shall put forward no fancy schemes of reconstruction and no wild Estimates, but only such proposals as can confidently be recommended to the House as absolutely necessary, in our opinion, to remove the present grave causes of complaint, or to improve the efficiency of our Army. And now, to deal generally with the whole subject, it is true that this year we have to ask, in peace time, for a considerable increase of our Estimates. I have attempted to give the Committee a full explanation of our grounds for this demand. And this, at least, we 1425 may urge in our own support—for two years we have had no Supplementary Estimates. It proves, as I venture to urge, that we have prepared our Estimates with care and foresight, and administered the funds intrusted to us with economy and prudence. The experience of the past is an earnest for the future, and we look with confidence to the general acceptance of proposals which are, in our opinion, essential to the proper land defences of the country.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
I merely rise to ask whether the scheme for new barrack accommodation which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to lay before Parliament—a scheme involving large expenditure—will be in addition to the Army Estimates of the year?
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Proposals will be made to Parliament; I cannot say the amount of expenditure just now, and it is not proposed to make a charge upon the Estimates.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)
In the remarks the Secretary for War has addressed to the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman has almost entirely confined himself to the organization and reconstruction of the military system. He has—and I imagine purposely—not gone into the question of the personnel of the Army, the Militia, or the Volunteers. With the permission of the Committee I will draw attention to a few points connected with the Militia. The Militia Force of the country occupies a very prominent part in any scheme of National defence, and its efficiency is therefore a matter of National importance. The Secretary for War must be perfectly aware the condition of the Militia is not satisfactory, although the Reports of Inspecting Officers may not, on the face of them, bear this appearance. I would say by way of preface to my remarks that I do not believe the question of the efficiency of the Militia is one of expenditure of money at all. Officers and men are perfectly well paid—it is a question of administration and properly utilizing what we already possess. In the first place I find that, according to the Returns for 1888, there were 383 vacancies in the commissioned ranks of the Militia; and, quite apart from the very serious nature of these 1426 figures, what is the actual state of military efficiency of the officers who do hold commissions in the Militia? They have a limited knowledge of drill; but I do not believe that Militia officers, as a body, are so highly skilled in military science as Volunteer officers. If I look to the Army List, I see that very few have qualified in examinations on tactics; and as for the higher branches of military training, field intrenchment, outpost duty, and the general operations of war beyond mere barrack parade movements, the Militia officers are on the whole, I believe, utterly ignorant. Now, is this a healthy state for officers of the Militia to be in? Turning from officers to men, the number of vacancies on the Establishment is even larger. At the same date, the training of 1888, there were no fewer than 17,827 wanting to complete the Establishment; that is equal to 20 strong battalions. Now, I observe, both in the Report of the Inspector General on Recruiting and in the Memorandum the right; hon. Gentleman has laid before Parliament that Militia depôts are going to be revised, and it is quite obvious that that is necessary. It is absurd that the same Establishment should apply to regiments having their depots in the great centres of population and to regiments which have their depôts in the middle of an agricultural county of large acreage and sparse population. It is quite possible that a great deal may be done in recruiting for the force by taking off the numbers in thinly populated districts and increasing the size and even the number of regiments in districts thickly populated. For example, I turn to the Annual Return for 1888 of the 3rd and 4th battalions of the Sutherland Highland Regiment. I find 266 men short in the 3rd battalion, and only 5 in the 4th battalion. What is the reason for this? The 3rd battalion is recruited in Stirlingshire, in mountainous or purely agricultural country, while the 4th battalion is recruited at Paisley, in the middle of a thickly populated district. Yet for years you have had the same estimate—800 men for each. This should not continue; the battalion with unfavourable opportunities for recruiting should not be placed in an inferior position to the town battalion. Again, speaking from some experience in this 1427 matter, I offer another suggestion for consideration. I believe a great deal can be done in agricultural counties by localizing the companies. I am speaking not from theory, but from practical knowledge of the non-commissioned officers, privates, and the permanent staff. At present there is no encouragement for what I may call camaraderie in the Service. If two lads enlist from one village, in an agricultural county, it is almost certain that they will be divided, one in one company, one in another. The Militia training is hard work for 27 days, and it would be made far more pleasant and interesting to the men if this spirit of camaraderie existed in the company. I have made inquiries of men in my own company and asked, "Why don't you bring men to join you from your own neighbourhood?" The answer is, "So we would, only we know there is no chance of a friend coming into our company, and we should not have a chance of seeing each other during training." Not only that, but very often country lads are brought into the closest proximity with town recruits, with whom they have nothing in common. Different strata of the population are tapped in the towns and in agricultural districts. The agricultural recruit will probably be a well conducted, steady young countryman, but the town recruit will very likely be drawn from the class of "roughs." If you put these together in the same room and the same bed—because, as the Secretary for War may not be aware, in all cases where men are billeted out two sleep in one bed—it very often happens, when the country lad finds himself in the uncongenial company of the low rough, he gets disgusted, gets a sovereign any way he can and buys himself out of the Militia. You might obviate this by localizing the companies drawn from a certain circle of villages round a country town, and the roughs might form a company of their own. This is not such a bad arrangement as it might appear at first sight, for although you have the rough town element, you also get the most intelligent non-commissioned officers from town, and the one element would counteract the other. I offer this suggestion for the right hon. Gentleman's consideration. I would also ask him to look carefully into the statistics in the 1428 Report, because I think a little examination will cause him to feel a doubt whether the non-efficiency is not entirely caused by want of zeal or capacity on the part of some of our public servants. If he will turn to the record of the two battalions of the Rifle Brigade—the 5th and 7th—he will see that the 5th battalion has only 13 men wanted to complete it, while the 7th wants 114 men. Yet both these battalions are Tower Hamlets Militia, the one wanting 13 men for completion having its headquarters in Victoria Square, the other in Dalston. How is this to be explained? If you turn to the figures and make a similar comparison in the matter of absenteeism, you find that the total number in 1888 was 9,084. These are not the men who receive their 10s. on recruiting and never return; they have gone through their 56 days' training and have cost the country £10 a head, and the amount lost—clean gone, thrown away—is nearly £100,000. I know this question of absenteeism has received much attention, and underlying it is the question of how far want of supervision by officials is responsible. Here are three counties side by side—Hampshire, Dorsetshire, and Wiltshire—and you find the absenteeism is in Wiltshire 646, Dorsetshire 544, and in Hampshire 133, in a battalion of 1,093. My explanation is this—in the first place, the getting a sufficient number of men, and seeing they are of the right class, depends upon the zeal and capability of the recruiting officers, but much also depends upon the adjutant, who often looks upon the appointment as a good shunt, from which he looks forward to four weeks' hard work and eleven months' hunting and shooting. The result is, we have a deficiency of 17,000, and absentees nearly 10,000. I believe a really efficient adjutant could reduce the percentage of absenteeism to a minimum. My complaint is, there is no difference made at the Horse Guards between the zealous and the careless officer. Whether an officer does or does not bring up his regiment to a state of efficiency, saving the country money and producing an efficient fighting force, seniority on the roster is only taken into account, and it often happens that the incompetent officer gets promotion sooner than the zealous, hardworking man. Some thing should be 1429 done to give encouragement to the latter, and this is a matter well worth looking into at the Horse Guards. All these matters, which, after all, are vital to the Service, are supposed to be looked into at the annual inspection. But what is this? The General Officer comes down, the regiment is put through a series of absolutely useless parade movements, and whatever the regiment does, everybody is complimented on the performance, the General Officer goes to lunch with the regimental officers, then he goes through a perfunctory examination of the books, and all agree there never was a finer regiment. Perhaps he remarks in conversation, "I hope you have not many absentees?" The Colonel replies, "Well, it is a most extraordinary thing, but there are so many." "Dear me. Well, I hope you will not have so many next year." But never is any inquiry made why there are so many absentees. One of the precautions provided by the War Office against absenteeism is to require any man of doubtful appearance to produce a character. Well, I have looked through many of these and found them most transparent forgeries. Is it conceivable that a proper system should allow such things to go on? I would respectfully press this question of the Militia, as one not of money, but of administration, and I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to appoint a Committee to inquire into these regulations and the manner in which they are carried out, to revise the system of training, and generally to look into the system of Militia administration, and I believe, if the subject were dealt with with that ability with which the field exercises for the Army were recently laid down, there would certainly be a great gain to the country. Now, a word on the training of the men, because, after all, that is the way to make them efficient in a short period. I say nothing of the equipment, though that is not all that might be desired. I say nothing about the absolute want of Commissariat or Medical Staff required to make the Militia an efficient force. What I would draw attention to is the training, and I am bound to say a great deal of the 27 days is lost time. A competent committee should decide exactly what 1430 is to be done in the 27 days, and everything not of the first importance should be omitted. I am quite certain that if this were looked at by some of the officers who drew up the "Field Exercises" recently brought out, very great changes would be made in the training. There is a general instruction that almost all the drill book should be turned through in 27 days, but no planning at how to get the best results from the time at disposal. To nothing does this apply so much as to musketry. What is the use of a militiaman who has never fired a shot in his life? Yet in the figures for 1887 I find 5,000 who never handled a rifle, and 7,000 supposed to be trained had never been near a target. I make these suggestions which, if I had had the opportunity, I would have made the subject of a Motion. I have touched on various matters of organization and administration but slightly, but if they were gone into by a competent committee I am sure valuable results would follow the inquiry.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S)
I think the noble Lord will admit that it would be hardly fair to the Secretary of State, after the very interesting statement he has made, to allow the attention of the Committee to be diverted to a question, no doubt of great importance, but more suitable to the Militia Vote than to a general discussion on the Army. I would not have ventured to take part in the discussion had it not been that, having been a member of the Committee which sat on Army matters, I had certain opportunities of making myself acquainted with questions which unfortunately were not open to many Members of that House, but which are of great value for the purpose of obtaining knowledge as to the manner in which War Office matters are conducted. In commencing my remarks I have great pleasure in expressing my own opinion, and I think that of nearly every one present, as to the extremely satisfactory character of the statement made by the Secretary of State on the Army Estimates. I have listened to similar statements since I have been in Parliament, but never to one more interesting than that with which the Committee has been favoured, or on the whole more satisfactory. It is perfectly clear to me that the War Office 1431 have been exceptionally energetic in the last year, and that they have done their very best to organize and utilize all the resources and forces at their disposal; and I think the Secretary of State would be inclined to admit that his hands in all this work have been greatly strengthened by the proceedings of the Committee of last Session and the year before. That Committee brought to bear not only Parliamentary influence but public opinion upon the somewhat rusty machinery of the War Office, and now we see in the evident signs of activity and originality in the proceedings of the War Office the effect of the pressure of that Committee upon public opinion. I gather that the Government do not intend to reappoint the Committee on the Army Estimates this Session. I do not complain of that; I think the Committee went as far as it is possible for a Committee to go, and that it would be detrimental perhaps to departmental efficiency if the Committee were to be reappointed. All I would say is that if we are not to have a Committee, I hope the Government will provide, with regard to the Army and Navy Estimates, that there shall be a regular and continuous discussion in the House of Commons, and that the House will not be satisfied with merely this night's debate and then forget all Army questions, but that the Government will initiate, and the House carry on and conclude, full and regular discussions on these subjects before the Session has reached a very advanced stage. I desire to say a word now on a scheme which I believe I was the first to suggest—namely, the practice of the Secretary of State for War issuing to Parliament a prefatory memorandum before the annual presentation of the Estimates, containing a general review of Army affairs, which used formerly to be left solely to the speech of the Minister. The Secretary of State appears to intimate that he does not much admire this new practice, and that it may be discontinued. I hope it will not. I myself attach the greatest importance to this memorandum, which binds the Department more than any speech, which is readily acceptable, which can be more easily referred to than the pages of Hansard, and from which there can be no escape on the ground of omissions or mis-reports. 1432 Therefore, I venture to express the opinion, that much the right hon. Gentleman told us to-night might have been conveniently embodied in a memorandum similar to that which was issued last year. The Estimates show an increase of expenditure, but, though I deplore an increase of expenditure on armaments, justice and common sense compel me to admit that this increase could not be avoided, being due mainly to the increased provision for colonial garrisons, and to the re-arming of our troops with the new rifle. The policy of fortifying our stations abroad was adopted by Parliament—perhaps somewhat lightly—a few years ago, and the increase of the garrisons now proposed is only part of the same policy. It is therefore impossible for any Member to quarrel with the increased expenditure proposed for the purpose, seeing that the policy is one which was deliberately adopted by Parliament. As to the new rifle, that was inevitable. It is only to be regretted that the War Office have been so very deliberate about it. I do not think there is any economy in postponing what must be done, and it would have been better for the country and for the Army if the decision with regard to the new rifle could have been come to earlier. Against this increase, however, I am willing to give the War Department credit for the disappearance during the past two years of Supplementary Estimates, and I hope they will never again reappear, save in the case of emergencies which could not have been foreseen. The Secretary of State omitted from his speech certain subjects on which I imagine the Committee would like to have information. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the provisions made for the defence of our ports at home by means of submarine mines, and plans for having 80,000 men in readiness for the defence of any point that might be attacked. I presume that he means militia and regulars combined?
§ LORD E. CHURCHILL
It is a point to be considered how far the right hon. Gentleman is strengthening the hands of his colleague at the head of the Admiralty by this statement, for our means of defence on land must, of course, 1433 have some bearing on the regulation of our naval force. What I desire to point out is that the right hon. Gentleman has omitted to mention whether these 80,000 men are to be in addition to the two Army Corps to which in last year's statement the right hon. Gentleman devoted the main portion of his memorandum. I should like to know whether these two Army Corps are in existence ready to be mobilized for the use of the country, and available to be sent wherever they may be wanted at reasonably short notice, and also whether, besides these two Army Corps and these 80,000 men, provision is also made for reinforcements in India in the event of India requiring military reinforcements. These are points which require elucidation if the Committee is to be placed in possession of what is our full military strength. Then there is another subject upon which the Secretary of State did not say much—namely, the provision of new Artillery for the Forces in the field. I should be glad to learn to what extent the Artillery is being armed with the new 12-pounder field gun.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
Then I will leave that subject, apologising for my mistake, and I will go to another question of the greatest importance of all, namely, the supply of Heavy Ordnance. The First Lord of the Admiralty, the other night, stated that steps had been taken, in conjunction with the War Office, to remove what has been called the block in the supply of guns. This is a satisfactory statement; but it would be more satisfactory if we could be told exactly what these steps are. I think the Secretary of State has informed the House, on more than one occasion, that he has taken a new departure, and that he is now relying less upon Woolwich and more upon other sources.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
I think this is a matter upon which the Secretary of State should supply the Committee with a little more information. I think the Committee are entitled to receive a full and clear statement as to what steps the 1434 War Office have taken in regard to the supply of guns, and generally, what are the sources to which we can look for supplying the country with such guns as we may require. I now come to another matter, which is also a matter of great importance, and upon which the Secretary of State touched towards the conclusion of his remarks—namely, the important subject of barrack accommodation. After hearing the evidence-given before the Committee that sat some time ago—especially that of Sir Lothian Nicholson, the Inspector-General of Fortifications and Barracks—I am convinced that the House of Commons must be prepared for a large expenditure in the provision of better barrack accommodation. Most of the present accommodation is insanitary, detrimental to the health, and certainly, in a still greater degree, to the comfort, of the troops. Many barracks are in such bad repair that it would be almost more economical to rebuild them. By far the most advisable plan would be to build large barracks in central places, where troops could be congregated together, instead of barracks dotted all over the country. This would be far more economical, and the facilities of railway communication obviate any objections that might otherwise be urged as to the necessity of military force being available to support local authority. I do not know what the demands of the Secretary of State may be. Sir Lothian Nicholson estimates the cost at four or five millions; but my own advice to the right hon Gentleman would be to be bold and frank with the House of Commons, and make such a demand as would give a guarantee that the question would be dealt with in such a manner that it would not have to be taken in hand again largely for one generation or even two. Though I deprecate all expenditure which is in any degree unnecessary, I have never opposed and never will oppose wise expenditure, and I am certain that an improvement of the barrack accommodation of the British Army is absolutely required, and would be productive, if wisely carried out, of very great economy. There is only one further remark which I desire to make. I recollect an observation which was made by the right hon. Gentleman about eighteen months ago, that by a Royal 1435 Warrant he had thrown on the military-authorities the duty of preparing the Estimates for the year. I want now to ask the Secretary of State whether Estimates have been prepared by the military authorities, for which they may be held responsible, and which they consider necessary to secure the efficiency of the Army and the safety of the country, because, if so, it marks a reform in our War Office administration for which I have long been anxious—a reform, namely, in the direction of throwing financial responsibility on the professional heads of the Army. I hope that on that point also, the Secretary of State will deal frankly with the Committee, and subject to that interrogatory and the remarks I have made, I have again to tender to my right hon. Friend my hearty congratulations on the satisfactory statement he has made.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I listened to the noble Lord, as I always do, with great pleasure; but I witnessed his sitting down with some dismay, because I thought we should have got some sort of a speech from him of a different nature from that with which he has favoured the Committee. I will tell the noble Lord why. The noble Lord expressed satisfaction with the policy of the Government, and, in one respect, I cordially endorse that remark. I agree with the noble Lord that, taking our military organization and our system as it is, there never was a time when the work of the War Office was done more intelligently or more strenuously; but in another point I cannot agree with the satisfaction the noble Lord has expressed. As an economist, the noble Lord was very much dissatisfied with the Estimates last year.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
I remember some remarks of the noble Lord with regard to the provision for two Army Corps at an enormous expenditure. With those remarks I thoroughly agree; and it is most important that every one who reads the speech of the Secretary of State should see to what a point of expenditure we are rapidly going, apparently to the satisfaction of everybody concerned. With some of the causes of increase I thoroughly agree; but I wish to point out that the system 1436 under which our Army is conducted is such that an extremely able staff of administrators at the War Office, adding very few men to our fighting strength, are obliged to increase our Army Estimates from £16,000,000 to £16,700,000. The noble Lord said last year that for this gigantic expenditure we only got two Army Corps that could be sent on foreign service; and he asks why we have heard no more of those two Army Corps. Personally, I am very glad that the Committee have heard nothing more of them; for I believe the enormous disproportion of result and expenditure on our Army is derived from the fact that our military organization under the right hon. Gentleman and all his Predecessors has been laid down on false lines—that is, the idea that the military necessities are of the same nature now as they were 70 or 80 years ago, when we could throw 30,000 to 40,000 men on to the Continent, who might really turn the tide of war, whereas now, I believe, our true policy is boldly to recognize the impossibility of our ever again placing Army Corps in line with the great Continental armies, and to apply the ability of our administrators to moulding together all the branches of our Army, the Militia, and Volunteers for the purposes of home defence, the defence of India, and our maritime Colonies. Just see what is the result of what we are doing now. These Estimates amount to £16,700,000. I take off £2,000,000, as representing the cost of the Volunteers and the Militia, and that is making a very large deduction. I am willing to take off whatever the right hon. Gentleman wishes, but I find that, even with that large reduction, we are brought face to face with the remarkable fact that, for an expenditure of £14,000,000 a year, we can only place in the field of battle in our own country 80,000 Regular troops.
§ SIR. G. TREVELYAN
The right hon. Gentleman told us that those 80,000 would be composed of Regulars alone, and I want to know what force we can place in time of battle. Foreign countries, such as France and Germany, with Estimates hardly larger than our own, could place 500,000 in the field, at the very least. I presume that the 80,000 includes the Army Reserve, with the Garrisons, but I do not know 1437 whether it also includes the Militia Reserve. That, however, is a very important point. If it does, I must call the attention of the Committee to the state which we are in at the present moment. It means that we must in time of crisis take 30,000 men from the Militia, which would ruin it as a fighting force. I believe that the military authorities drifted from the true military system when they amalgamated the English and the Indian Armies. There never can be a proper military system until there is an Army for home defence, an Army of short service, an Army which would always remain inside the country—every man of it. If the home and the foreign Army are divided, it will be possible to deal with the great question of the difference between the two great classes of men who desire to join the Army. In old days, the Indian Government had never any difficulty in getting recruits. They appealed to that peculiar and numerous class of men who wished permanently to take up a military career, and not to stop at home in their native villages. But there is the still more numerous class who have a taste for a little drill, and who would join the Army if they could leave at the end of three years, and might rely on not having to leave the country for unhealthy climates. From these classes may be provided an Indian and Colonial Army of professional soldiers and a home Army of citizen soldiers. If there were behind these the Militia Reserve and the Volunteers, dangers from an invader would be at an end. It would be the invader who would have to be pitied. Let us have two Armies, so that we may know how many men we can rely upon in each quarter of the globe, and then our Army will be on that natural footing from which alone some large economy can be hoped for. In addition to that, we shall feel that if the first line of defence—the Navy—is broken, we shall be in a good position to meet an invader. Now, I was much disappointed that economy did not form the subject of a very large part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Let no one think that there are not economies to be made in the Army. I watched the Committee which sat on the Army Estimates with the greatest interest as an Army reformer 1438 of 20 years' standing, and I found, to my great delight, that more progress was made in six months by means of the exertions of that Committee than had been made in the 20 years previous. But although on a most important point the Committee had come to a most important conclusion, nothing of it has been heard from the right hon. Gentleman. I have never been in the War Office, but from my long experience in the Admiralty I know perfectly well that economies cannot be suggested from the outside, but must be made from the inside. [Lord R. CHURCHILL: Hear, hear!] But the removal of one tremendous abuse, unparalleled in any other service in the world, can be suggested from the outside. On pages 96 and 97 of the Estimates it will be found that the list of active generals eligible for employment is 151, whereas the number of generals actually employed is 83. In a well-organized service rank ought to mean employment; unless that is the case the service cannot be in a healthy condition. The Committee reported that the present state of things should be put a stop to; but more important than the Report of the Committee was the evidence given before it. In his defence of the system His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge admitted that in Germany there was a much larger Army, and there were comparatively few generals unemployed. "But," he added—in Germany every two regiments of cavalry have a brigadier, every two regiments of infantry have a brigadier, and every four regiments of infantry have a general of division, so that they can employ many more than we can.This sounds well; but we must remember that a German regiment consists of three battalions. Does anyone believe that if we had six English battalions employed on active service there would not be a brigadier to command them; or if there were 12 English battalions employed on active service there would not be a general of division to command them? His Royal Highness continued—Our armies go all over the world, and climate has a good deal to do with it. If you send a man abroad upon a foreign station he breaks down in health very soon in some cases, so that you must have a large number (of generals) for all requirements, taking into account India, the tropics, and the Colonies.1439 But if a crisis comes the spare generals are not the ones called upon; colonels, men deserving promotion, are made temporary generals and are paid as such, while 70 or 80 generals are not employed at all. What would hon. Gentleman think of such a system in any other service in the world? In the other ranks of the Army what takes place? The half-pay voted for generals amounts to the enormous total of £93,000, and that for 7,000 officers of other ranks amounted to only £36,000. In the rest of the Army the half-pay is only about one-third of the amount for the generals' list, and, therefore, the system is recognized as untenable in the Army at large. Of the major-generals, the youngest most certainly ought to be those to be employed; but I find that of the 24 lowest on the list, 18 are unemployed, and two of those employed are equerries. Of the lieutenant-generals, out of the last 18, 14 are unemployed. On the other hand, on the list of colonels a great number will be found who are commanding brigades, and—in some recent cases, at any rate, if not now—divisions. These men are selected for such service because they are the men Who can be best trusted at the time of need; and, therefore, they should be made generals. The list of generals ought to be exactly as large as the service of the country requires, but if not exactly in correspondence, then smaller, because in time of war as many posts as possible should be filled by the young and energetic colonels. The present system is bad for the generals, and terribly bad for the country, for I have not stated its worst economic results. If hon. Members look at page 100 of the Estimates, they will find that £266,600 a year is spent on retired pay of generals. It is obvious that this enormous sum is more than twice what it would be if the list of generals was cut down to a half, that is to say, to the requirements of the country. I do not wish to argue this question from the point of economy only, but from the point of view of the efficiency of the service. The service will never be really efficient from the top to the bottom until rank means definite duties which have to be done for sufficient pay and sufficient honour. But that will not take place until we begin with the highest rank, that of generals. Lord Wolseley, in giving 1440 evidence before the Select Committee on Army Estimates, said:—My idea would be that when a position among the general officers employed became vacant the Commander-in-Chief should select the best colonel who, in his opinion, would be the best man to put into that place and make him a general.… At the present moment, a man who may be a very good man, may be employed on the staff of the Army for five years, and at the expiration of five years there being so many other generals to be employed, it may be necessary to let him remain on half-pay three or four years unemployed, when he forgets a great deal of the useful experience which he had acquired during his term of office. I believe, having once selected a man to be a general, and assuming him to be a very good man, the more constantly you employed him the better it would be in the interests of the Army and of the State.Now, I believe, that instead of being an easy-going career which requires only second-rate qualities, the military calls out the most remarkable combination of intellectual and moral qualities to be met with in connection with any duty in the world. Conceive the result of a man having a break of four, five, or six years in such a career. The country has paid in one form or another £10,000,000 for the abolition of purchase—£7,000,000 for the regulation price and £3,000,000 for the over regulation price. Three and a-half per cent, upon £10,000,000 is £350,000 a year, and every penny of that amount goes into the pockets of officers of the present. Although the abolition of purchase has been of enormous advantage to the present officers it has not been of advantage to the nation, unless the nation, having bought the right to manage its own Army, is allowed to manage it on business principles, which I maintain are likewise Army principles. Lord Wolseley when before the Select Committee, was asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for S. Edinburgh (Mr. Childers)—I thought selection was to be and had been for many years the main guide for promotion in the Army?—It has never been laid down; it certainly has not been the practice. "Was not the understanding when purchase was done away with that selection was to be the main basis on which promotion was to be carried on?"I think," said Lord Wolseley, "that it was a popular idea." That is a mild way of putting it. There was an absolute bargain between the nation and the authorities of the Army that the nation should have the most absolute 1441 power over the Army, but the Commander-in-Chief now comes forward and defends the present system, with its very large list of generals, by saying that these were men who had claims of promotion. I know of no man in any department of the State who has any claim to promotion, unless the services calling for promotion are needed by the demands of the country. General Trochu, speaking of the French Army, said:—In the French Army, which had solid principles of honesty, we apply to the administration of all the material—arms, clothes, equipment—an inconceivable abundance of cares and checks and precautions against fraud and error. But very little attention is paid to the distribution of promotion, which is the corner-stone of the military edifice. The rules for promotion offer sufficient guaranteees to the individual officer, but not to the State and the country, which have so high an interest in the officering and command of our Armies.I rather think we are in the habit of choosing officers for promotion to the rank of general, with a view to their claims and requirements, and not primarily the requirements and the good of the country. I should like to know whether the best men are chosen for the command of battalions, which in time of peace is a matter of enormous administrative and economical importtance, and in time of war is fraught with issues of life and death? I do not believe the selection is carried out on the right principle, because in choosing our generals other considerations are looked to, apart from whether a man will be able adequately to fill the place. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) has done a great deal in this matter. There are many hon. Members who can remember the awful condition of the Generals' List, with its 700 or 800 real, retired, active, English, Indian, Marine Generals, all jumbled up together, so that the civilian critic could not find out without the greatest difficulty what the state of the case was. My right hon. Friend reduced the list to 142 generals; but I wish to ask the Secretary of State for War whether the time has not now come when, with the universal assent, not only of economists, but of military men who are desirous for the efficiency of the Army, he may apply to the List of Generals that principle which has never been applied strictly and severely up to 1442 this moment—that no man shall go on to the List except for the purpose of holding the position and performing the duties which are attached to it, and that while he remains on the List and until he becomes unable from age to serve, he shall be employed continuously in general's duties. I have now to thank the Committee for having heard me on the subject, which is one in which I have taken great personal interest.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
To the several points that have been raised it may be desirable that I should now make some reply. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division has brought forward his ideas on a certain number of subjects which have long engaged his attention; for instance, the General Officers' List he, for a long time passed, has considered excessive, and he has advocated its reduction. Well, the Government also has that view, that the list is excessive, and I hope within a short time to lay before the House proposals for its reduction. But at the same time the Committee will understand it is a matter in which there must necessarily be some delay though I had hoped to have had our proposals ready now. I find, however, I must plead for a little more delay, say for a week or two, when I hope to make my explanation. This I may now say, that we hope to introduce the principle of pure selection. No appointments will be made except upon this principle and promotion by seniority will disappear. No man will become a general officer unless he has been selected as a fit man altogether to hold the position. And now I turn to other matters of detail, several of which have been put to me by the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill). I have first of all to thank him for the cordial support he has given me on the question of barrack accommodation. I admit the enormous importance of the subject; the evidence given before the Committee upstairs ought to convince everybody of this, and I shall be glad to have the opportunity of saying what in the view of myself and my colleagues is the remedy we think should be applied for carrying out the recommendation of the Committee, the remedy for an evil we all believe to be a crying one. In regard to the preparation of these Estimates my noble Friend asks 1443 me a direct question, he asks whether they are the Estimates of the military authorities, or my own. I answer him equally directly, and say they are the Estimates of the Government not of the military authorities. The military authorities, according to the rule now in force, have submitted to me what they thought would be necessary for the services of the year; but I do not at all wish to shrink from my responsibility. This year we have had what appeared to be special opportunities for considering these Estimates and of satisfying all demands. A Committee of the Cabinet specially charged with the examination of the question has been sitting out the winter, and I can safely say that every representation made by the military authority has been thoroughly examined by myself and my colleagues, and the result is that the Estimates we present proceed from the joint authority of the Government, and are what we believe essential for the defence of the country. Then my noble Friend asks me as to the two Army Corps for Foreign Service. Well, I have certainly not desired to dwell on that point to-day, because the point to which I have specially directed attention during the past year has been the organization of the Army for home defence. Of course I do not ignore, and have not forgotten, the necessity that might arise for sending a portion of that Army abroad, but I admit frankly and freely to the Committee that our preparations for this purpose are not so forward as those in relation to home defence. I fully admit the importance of the point raised, but my attention has been specially directed to making the Army thoroughly efficient for home defence. I have not lost sight of the other question, though I fully admit that we could not without delay, I will not say considerable delay, but a delay longer than I care to contemplate send two Army Corps on foreign service. Then I am asked as to what has been done in reference to guns to remove the block there has been on the supply. We have thoroughly examined this matter, and we have satisfied ourselves that by the new arrangements made, and about to be made, we can provide against this block and enable guns to be supplied for both the Army and Navy 1444 without any inadequate delay, and with a certain punctuality for land and sea service. Of course the noble Lord does not wish me to refer to the special conditions of contract.
§ MR. STANHOPE
Not yet. The Committee will understand my reluctance to offer special encouragement to any one firm, and I may say that we require specific assurance before we accept all that is said in respect to offers. But I think on reviewing the whole position the difficulty is removed. Guns are coming in steadily and well, and throughout the course of the year they will be coming in in increasing numbers. Even the guns asked for in the near Naval Programme are insignificant in number compared with the total number to be provided for the land and sea services. I think it has been mentioned that the number is only 58 big guns required for the sea service.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
No; but I do not think that is a very large proportion—it is equal, I am told, to another eighth. But it is not a very formidable programme; the only formidable matter was the production of the very large guns and this we are prepared to meet. We understand what the gun-producing power of the country is not only in the Government factories, but by private firms, and we are convinced of our ability to provide the whole of the guns required for the Navy within the time laid down by my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. I don't think I need detain the Committee any longer just now.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
I think it is only right that the attention of the Committee should be invited to a point of view different to any yet taken, and which, perhaps, will scarcely commend itself to the sympathies of the majority in the House. I had hoped that the noble Lord, the Member for Padding-ton, would have assumed a more critical tone than he has thought proper to adopt. I was one of those who sat on the Committee under his able presidency. Surely he cannot have forgotten the portentous facts that were brought before us in evidence, some, indeed, he has alluded to. He cannot have forgotten how we learned that for 1445 a cost very little exceeding what we are called upon to pay the Empire of Germany is enabled to put three-quarters of a million of men into the field; that under the German system no man is ever appointed to the position of general until he has a general's work to do and can do it; that our paymaster system is most extravagant; nor can he have forgotten the grave defects in our Intelligence Department, which is nearly starved. There are more materials in the evidence than have been made use of, and I think the noble Lord would have done good service if he had pressed these points on the attention of the Government. But I am not going to dwell on these details. I listened to both statements made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanhope), and they were both marked with ability; but I must honestly say I liked the second and shorter speech better than the former and more elaborate speech. In it he showed himself more decidedly the advocate of administrative reform, which we know him to be. I am rejoiced to find that he hopes to bring before the House in a short time a scheme for a reduction of that intolerable surplus of General Officers under which we groan. I only wish that he had added that he could see his way to adopt a system, which I believe obtains everywhere else that no one shall be appointed to the position of general until there is a general's work for him to do. The more laborious statement of the right hon. Gentleman lacked nothing in clearness or interest, and I am glad to join with others in admiration of its ability—business-like it undoubtedly was, but I think it was somewhat cold and unfeeling when we think of the dreadful preparations with which he was dealing. I believe we shall never deal rightly or fairly with the dreadful busi- of war until everyone who has to bring forward any proposal for increased armaments shows that he personally regards such a necessity with pain and even horror, and regrets the misappropriation and waste of the resources of the nation. The right hon. Gentleman, in defence of the increase he proposes, alluded, among other things, to the fierce competition going on among the nations of the world. But what have we to do with this fierce competition? They are competing for nothing 1446 which we have the right to keep, or for our Possessions. [An hon. MEMBER: Yes.] They will not meddle with us if we meddle not with them. If we show ourselves antagonistic to their natural aspirations or are determined to meddle with their intrigues one with the other, of course they will take revenge by showing us they can do us damage in some remote quarter of the Queen's dominions; but apart from that what foreign Power desires to compete for any of our Possessions? I contend we have nothing to do with the fierce competition going on among the nations of the world. We ought to stand absolutely apart, serene and secure on our own peaceful policy and sound commercial doctrine. Our position should be like that of the United States, whose people have better sense than to waste their wealth on preparations that may never be needed. The increase the right hon. Gentleman proposes I am prepared to dispute, and I shall take a division on it. From the way in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke we might imagine ourselves on the eve of a great European war. He talked of arrangements to meet great emergencies, of the possibilities of invasion, and the necessity of defending London by field works. But I see nothing in the state of the world affecting us to justify such a tone; and I am afraid speech and action such as this tends to make peace less secure. The right hon. Gentleman assured us that forts would not be necessary for the defence of the Metropolis, and I am glad to hear that. But he went on to say that field works might be necessary, and the land, to enable such to be readily thrown up, would cost £20,000. Now, is not the use of money in such a way absolute waste? Who, in the case of actual invasion, would question that any Government would be absolutely justified in taking any land required for such a purpose? But it is a far-off and almost impossible contingency. What excitement, grumbling, and denunciation there often is if a School Board in a large town proposes to spend £20,000 on a school building; but here is money to be devoted to the preparation for shedding blood, and no one seems to complain about it. I know this sort of thing is, to a certain extent, popular, and I much regret it. How- 1447 ever little echo my voice may raise, I must needs protest against this continual increase in warlike preparations. I very much indeed regretted to hear the right hon. Gentleman allude to the possibility of troops being made available in case of civil disturbance, and say that this was one of she objects he kept in view in his contemplation of a re-arrangement of the barrack system. It is very much to be regretted that any such dire allusion should be made at a time like this. Why, we know that our people are the most peaceable and orderly in the world, and that if there is anything like riot or disturbance there is a cause for it that needs other treatment than bludgeon and bayonet. When I heard the right hon. Gentleman talk of possible civil disturbance and such a re-arrangement as would facilitate the concentration of troops in case of invasion, I could not help thinking of the policy that requires 30,000 or more troops to be concentrated in Ireland. In the present state of things, can those troops be made available for repelling an invasion of Great Britain? If that is to be so we must adopt a very different policy indeed towards that country. In fact, here on the discussion of these Army Estimates the country can realize afresh what a terrible loss we inflct upon ourselves by the insane policy we pursue across the St George's Channel. I need not allude further to the increase in the General Officers' List, for we have assurances that it will presently be diminished. But I may observe that on page 19 of the Estimates it will be seen that there were 249 last year, and there are 254 this year, and I do not quite understand how this should arise. I observe there is some reduction in the Army Pay Department which I welcome, and I note that the local Chaplains' Department is diminished by three, whether that is due to an improvement in the moral and religious tone of the Army, so that the services of fewer chaplains are required, I do not know; but, as these things do in a slight degree make for economy, I am glad to note them; but I must end by protesting against any increase in the army whatever. The increase now proposed is 2,615 men, of all ranks. The false assumptions as to the danger of war put forward to justify the increase are 1448 denied by the pacific assurance in Her Majesty's gracious Speech that Her relations continue to be entirely friendly with all the nations of the world. Under such circumstances I think it is impossible to justify this extra expenditure. We keep on adding a thousand now and a thousand then until we swell our armaments beyond anything at all needed, at great cost to the people of this country. Therefore, if I am in order, as I presume I shall be, I shall move the reduction of the number of men by 2,615, thus bringing back the number to what it was last year. I should very much like to move a reduction of 20,000, or even 50,000, but I do not want to appear unreasonable, and I simply ask the Committee not to affirm an increase in the Army beyond the total, of last year, when our defence was perfectly satisfactory, and since which time I do not see that any danger of invasion has arisen to justify the increase.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That '149,667' men be maintained for the said Service."—(Mr. Picton.)
GENERAL SIR F. FITZ WYGRAM (Hants, Fareham)
I desire to call the attention of the Committee and the right hon. Gentleman to the very defective organization and condition of our cavalry regiments. We have 19 cavalry regiments on the Home Establishment, and of these seven are only half efficient and unable to stand the strain of a campaign, because they have no depôt and no reserve, and the other 12 regiments are utterly unfit for service in any war which might arise. I hold very strongly the opinion that every regiment ought at all times to be fit for war, and my humble opinion is we have too many skeleton regiments. I would remind the Committee that in the present day wars are very sudden, very sharp, and decisive, and to be of any service troops must be capable of being placed in the field at once. As regards these cavalry regiments it would be impossible to augment them at once on the outbreak of war in time for them to take part in a campaign. Private trade by means of registration might provide horses, but private trade can never supply trained dragoons. Therefore, every regiment ought at all times to be at its full strength, having its own reserve, and being able to maintain itself during the 1449 progress of the campaign. An effective cavalry regiment ought to have an establishment of 670 men and 470 horses, divided into five squadrons, four for service and one for the depot. Each service squadron should consist of 100 men and 100 horses, making 400 men and 400 horses, and the depot, or fifth squadron, should consist of 270 men and 70 horses. Of the 270 men, probably 150 would be recruits, unfit to take part in the earlier portion of a campaign. The 120 trained men left behind would be engaged in training recruits and horses until such time as the casualties of war required that they should be sent on active service. Under this system I think you would make your cavalry an efficient force. As this would involve raising the amount of the Estimates, I, with some pain, would suggest that the number of regiments should be reduced by four. Exclusive of the Household troops, we have 19 regiments on the Home Estimates, of which, as I have said, seven are half efficient, and 12 wholly unfit for active service. To these seven I would add a fifth squadron. I would deal with the 12 regiments that were unfit for service by reducing four of them (450 men and 300 horses each), and by these means adding to each of the remaining eight a fifth squadron and 220 men and 170 horses, thus raising these regiments to the effective strength of 670 men and 470 horses. The result would be to make 15 regiments ready for war and to maintain themselves during war without being obliged to draw officers, horses, or men from regiments left at home. Cadres, or skeletons, of regiments were useful enough a hundred, or seventy, years ago, when wars grew up slowly and lasted for years, but now they are an antiquated, obsolete idea, for no regiment can be of use unless it can be placed in the field at the shortest notice. Drastic as these proposals may seem to be, they involve no further reduction than that of three commanding officers, for whom, no doubt, suitable employment might readily be found on the staff. As regards officers, there would be no reduction, but rather an increase by the addition of a fifth squadron to each of the 15 regiments, and as regards non-commissioned officers and men, there would be no reduction at all. As regards horses, raising the strength 1450 of the eight regiments to 470 horses would require a slight increase. The number required would be 1,370, of which 1,200 would be supplied by the four reduced regiments. I think it would be found that in working this scheme would give an efficient body of cavalry without increased cost to the Exchequer. In regard to this question of horses, I may be asked "What is the good of a dragoon without a horse?"—and I have proposed 670 men and only 470 horses. My answer to that is that the private trade of the country does not supply trained dragoons, while it can with a proper system of registration supply horses. But, more than that, whilst a dragoon will take at least a year to enlist and train and get ready for the field, a horse, if used to bit and bridle—and there are horses of that kind to be obtained in this country—can be taught to stand fire in a week, and can be taught, for all military purposes, to carry sword and kit in a fortnight at the outside. My idea as to cavalry horses is this, that we should keep the largest number of men that can be kept efficient on a given number of horses, and, conversely, that we should keep the smallest number of horses which, consistently with the efficiency of the dragoon, it is possible to keep for a given number of men. I think if you make inquiry you will find that all officers commanding cavalry regiments entertain this view, namely, that the essential part of a cavalry regiment is the trained dragoon and not the horse. A cavalry regiment can do with one-third less horses than men. There are always a number of "casualties" occurring every day—that is to say there are always each day a number of men who, from one cause or another, do not require a horse to ride on that particular day; and, generally speaking, the number of these casualties amounts to one-third the strength of the regiment. It is the duty of the officers commanding regiments to take care that all their men are kept efficient as dragoons, and with one-third less horses than men it is always possible to mount all the men three days in the week. I have made a rough estimate of the daily casualties. Of recruits there would probably be 150, and as two recruits can ride one horse, I put the number of horses down at 75. Officers' servants, 50, are kept well in exercise by riding 1451 the officers' horses and chargers, and amongst the "casualties" I have referred to I include the men who have to be instructed in various classes, and these I put down at 25 per day. I knock off 5 per cent to cover the sick list; the number wanting to complete I per cent; cooks, 11; men for officers and sergeants' mess, 5; canteen, 2; barrack police, 2; guard, 4; staff sergeants, 6; tradesmen, 8; orderlies, 2; riding establishment, 11. I reckon that altogether there are 245 men who do not require a horse to ride on any given day. Well, subtracting these 245 men from 670, it leaves 425 men for whom I suggest there should be an establishment of 470 horses. It may now be asked, "Why, after what you have said, provide more horses than are necessary for the men to ride?" The answer to that is that 50 is a very moderate number of horses to provide for casualties, which must always occur amongst horses. Some horses will be sick, some will be kicked, and about 25 are, generally speaking, throughout the year what we call young horses in training. So far as regards the establishment of the regiments I may be told we have a reserve. Well, I know we have a reserve, but speaking from my own experience on the matter, this reserve is a delusion and a snare. Men serve in a cavalry regiment for four or five years, when they pass into civil life. When they have ceased to be soldiers they take what employment they can get, and that is, mostly, situations as drivers, or situations in which they have to do with horses, but very few of them ever have to get outside a horse, and the consequence is that they very soon lose their riding and become stiff, and though they may be retrained yet they would not be fit for immediate service in any campaign. The Germans acknowledge this thoroughly, and have a cavalry reserve, as we have, but they do not reckon on that as available in any occurring campaign. They send them to the cavalry depots to be retrained in the event of a war lasting more than a year. My object in this matter is to serve the interests of the cavalry and the nation, and in conclusion I repeat again that I believe—nay, I know I am positive—that this nation would be far better served by having 15 regiments always effective and ready with full strength 1452 for war than by having seven regiments not really fit and 12 regiments not only not really fit, but which could not possibly be made fit in time for any sudden emergency.
§ MR. KENRICK (Birmingham, N)
Being a civilian. I do not propose to go into questions affecting the Army and its administration in any detail; but there is one point upon which, I think, I may be allowed to speak, and upon which I think I may ask for an announcement of principle from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. Before I come to that, however, I desire to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on what I understand to be the prospective arrangement as to the Volunteers. I have always regarded the Volunteers as a very useful force, and one not made so much of as it might be; but I admit that it must always be considered as an ineffective force until it is mobilized and has its transport and commissariat. As I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, his proposition, in future, is to mobilize the Volunteer Force; and, if that be so, I congratulate him on turning this valuable arm, from an arm not thoroughly effective, into a comparatively effective one. The point I wish more particularly to deal with is as to the supply of warlike stores, and I am glad to find the Secretary of State for War sees the advantage of having a number of manufacturers for the supply of the new magazine rifle in this country. He is now drawing very largely from the Royal factory at Enfield, from the Royal factory at Birmingham, and he is also drawing from the private factories of Birmingham and London, and he says he does not find these means of obtaining the rifle too many for the supply he requires. Then he laid down a principle with regard to swords and bayonets, which appears to me, in connection with the Army, to be a sound principle. There are two principles upon which you may obtain a supply of any material you want, warlike or otherwise, and one is the economical one of going to the cheapest market, regardless of any other circumstance, and the other is the one now to be laid down, I understand—namely, that with regard to warlike stores, reliance shall be placed upon British labour to supply 1453 the needs of the country, and that we shall not go outside the British Empire to give contracts to foreign nations. Well, if that is the principle to be relied on, what I have to say is that it should be carried out to its logical conclusion, and that we should no longer go to Solingen for sword-blades or bayonets. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for going to Solingen in the past, for it has been necessary to do so. I have taken trouble to inquire into the matter, and I find that the number of swords required in ordinary times by Her Majesty's Government has been so few that their supply would not have kept one sword forger in any one factory in Birmingham in full work. All orders hitherto, it seems, had been sent, I do not say to Solingen, but to London sword cutlers, who themselves imported the blades from Germany and fitted them with handles. Our patriotic officers in the Army and Volunteer Forces have apparently been under the impression that they have been buying English swords when, as a matter of fact, they have been purchasing German weapons fitted with English handles. I am glad, however, to hear in the interests of what I may even call the security and safety of the State that in future the Government intend to encourage manufacturers to manufacture these warlike arms and stores within the United Kingdom. But it seems to me that in the first endeavour to do this, they have not been altogether successful. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War referred to the contract given to Messrs. Wilkinson, of London, but we know now, owing to a question put in this House, that there are no such persons as Messrs. Wilkinson, but that the firm trading under that name have a branch at Solingen, and that they employ German artizans in this country. The impression amongst the English artizans engaged in the cutlery trade is that all these sword bayonets ordered by the Government are being-imported from Germany though supplied by what purports to be an English firm. If this is the case, I contend that it would be much better to send the order direct to Germany, as in that case the action of the Government would not give rise to false expectations, and so avoid the sense of injury which in some instances the working classes labour under in this 1454 country at present. I maintain that it is desirable that there should not be the shadow of a shade of an excuse for jealousy in these matters. There is an impression that in high quarters in the Army there is a prejudice in favour of German arms. ["No, no."] Well, I do not say that that is the fact, I only say that such an impression exists. It is unfortunate that while the Government are professing to act on the principle that these warlike stores shall be manufactured in England, there is some doubt, after all, as to whether they are not manufactured in and exported from Germany. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War will be able to set this doubt at rest. I can assure him that it has caused a good deal of apprehension and irritation not only in the constituency I have the honour to represent, but also amongst the workmen generally throughout the country.
§ CAPTAIN SELWYN (Cambridge, Wisbeach)
I am glad that good progress has been made in the preparation of the plant for the manufacture of these now magazine rifles. I would venture to ask whether we may expect to get a supply of these rifles soon and also whether the cavalry may expect to get their carbines at the same time I do not want to press the question, a we shall have other opportunities of doing so, but if we are informed how soon these rifles will be forthcoming and how much each rifle is to cost, those who are interested in this question will know better what course to take when we come to vote upon this particular part of the Estimates.
§ MR. ROUND (Essex, N.E., Harwich)
I do not agree with the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite who a short time ago said that an increased Vote for the army is always popular in this House, or even in this country. In my opinion the only reason we vote increased supplies is because they are necessary, and no Government would be worthy of the name if it proposed a Vote for the increase of the Army on any other ground. I was glad to hear the remarks of the noble Lord opposite with regard to the Militia. As an old Militiaman, I trust that the points urged by the noble Lord on the Secretary for War will not be lost sight of. I do not think the noble Lord gave sufficient credit for the 1455 improvement in Militia officers, for I think there has been a great and marked improvement in the condition of the men and the efficiency of their officers during the past 20 years. With regard to the prevalence of absenteeism in a number of regiments at the present time, I am of opinion that stricter inquiry should be made into the characters of recruits when they come up for enlistment. I am specially grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War for his proposals to improve the barrack accommodation in some parts of the country. The principal military centre in the county which I have the honour to represent, is Colchester, where there are excellent cavalry and artillery barracks, and very good quarters for the married men; but where the infantry huts, which have to accommodate a very large number of men, are of a very inferior description. They were built, I believe, before or during the progress of the Crimean war, for the reception of the Belgian Legion, and were only intended to last a short time, being made of wood; but from that day to this they have never been properly reconstructed, though, no doubt, the expense of merely repairing them has been enormous. I sincerely hope that Colchester will not be forgotten when the time comes for the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State to carry out his plans.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I am glad to see the Financial Secretary to the Treasury present for he was one of the most regular attendants at the Committee on the Army Estimates, presided over by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington. The Secretary of State for War stated on the question of guns, that there were, besides the Government Departments, three large factories, which supplied those guns, and four large firms which supplied the steel of which those guns were made. Could the names of those firms be supplied to us, and could the Secretary of State for War announce to us on what principle those factories have been selected? I think it will be in the recollection of the Financial Secretary that in the debate which we had last year I said that all this raw material should be put up to open contract as far as possible. I do not complain of guns—or parts of guns—being put out to private business 1456 firms; but I think it would be well if the Secretary of State would throw these contracts open to public competition, so that any one who likes may come forward. It is extremely necessary that manufacturers should be encouraged when a new system of manufacture is about to be entered upon; but very great care should be taken in deciding what firms should be encouraged, and the amount of orders to be given out ought to be definitely stated. If not, considerable trouble is likely to arise. I remember that about seven or eight years ago the then Secretary of State for War entered into arrangements with certain manufacturers for the supply of steel for Woolwich Arsenal, and he gave encouragement to certain men. I pointed out what a dangerous course he was entering on, and the results justified my warning, for there subsequently appeared to be an uncertainty as to who had actually been encouraged to put up new machinery, and subsequently the Secretary for War pleaded in this House that he was, in consequence of the claims of these firms, obliged to give them contracts. I think the present Secretary for War should, therefore, be very careful whom he encourages to put up machinery for the production of these guns, and he should make it clear to them what amount of orders firms putting up machinery are likely to have, so that they may reimburse themselves, and future Secretaries of War need not be hampered by their claims. I come next to the question of the inspection of warlike stores. The result, the Committee will remember, of the deliberations of Lord Morley's Committee was to institute a fresh system of inspection. Now the public mind has been much moved of late by the reports as to bad swords and bad bayonets. But I never paid much attention to these reports, because I hold that swords and bayonets are not likely to be such important factors in the battle fields of the future as they have been in those of the past. I hold that the proper construction of the rifle is a thousand times more important. I think that our present system of inspection is dangerous. With regard to the inspection of warlike stores, the Secretary of State informed me some time ago that we must not hope to get cheaper stores, on account of the system of inspection which has been 1457 adopted; and I saw in a paper the other day that considerable confusion has been caused by the rejection of stores by the inspectors. It is quite possible that the want of knowledge on the part of the inspectors, combined with too much zeal, may lead to difficulties; and, of course, if inspectors are over strict and condemn too many articles, the prices of stores will run up. Bad articles should not be passed, but there is a danger to be guarded against in the other direction, and I think the authorities should see to it that these inspections are not carried out with too much zeal. In regard to the field guns I differ from the view of the Director General of Artillery as to the necessity of getting new batteries complete, with guns, carriages, and waggons all new, when a new gun is adopted. I think that is doubtful economy; and I hold it would be sufficient to get the new guns and gun carriages as quickly as possible, and deal with the question of the waggons afterwards. With regard to the smaller, but not less important, question of the rifles, I think the Secretary of State for War might have given a more definite statement. For instance, I should like to know a little more about the allotment of orders between the factories in London and Birmingham. It is also a matter of enormous importance to know when the new magazine rifles will be turned out. Unless they are ready quickly there is something inconsequential in the conduct of the Government. The increase in the Army and Navy Estimates can only have one meaning, if the matter be judged favourably to the Government, and these questions I do not regard from a Party point of view. It does not mean that the Government is thinking of war, but that Great Britain's preparations cannot be allowed to fall too far behind those of other Powers. An excellent pattern has been adopted for the new rifle—probably the best in Europe, because it is the last. But, as far as I know, not a single rifle, except a few for experiment, has yet been issued to the Army. Prance has close upon half a million at the present time, and the other great Powers are far in advance of England in this matter. What is the use, then, of increasing the Estimates, if the production of the new rifles in England is so slow? 1458 I hope the Secretary for War will give us some information as to the number of rifles likely to be turned out in the course of the next twelve months, for I really look upon this as a question of State policy. It is idle to urge it would be indiscreet to give such information to the world, because the power of production of the factories is in all probability, known to every foreign Government. Again, the Secretary of State for War has touched very doubtfully on the question of smokeless powders, and has said that, while undoubtedly they are an improvement in many respects, the Government intend for the present to adhere to the ordinary black powder. These chemical powders, which are smokeless, undoubtedly produce better shooting, and that is a very important point. Scientific witnesses have urged that time is required to test their adaptability to various climates. No doubt time would be the best test to apply; but, in the meanwhile an emergency might arise and pass before the question is settled. Surely chemical tests could be applied which would approximately indicate the real value of the powders under all circumstances. You must anticipate the action of time, and I believe chemists could tell you more as to the reliability of these powders in different climates. I, therefore, trust that the Secretary for War will reconsider his verdict on this matter. I now come to the question of the personnel of the Army and that of the Army Corps. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton congratulates the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War on having said very little about the Army Corps. Well, I never considered this was a pressing question, but it is mixed up with the question of efficiency. In my opinion, it is very doubtful if the Army Corps system is suitable for the British Army. It is to the interest of the military party to insist on two Army Corps, because, having obtained them, they will at once point out how useless they will be without a third. I do not think that an Army Corps organization is necessary or desirable for a small Army, like that of Great Britain, of under 100,000 men. I admit you must have Army Corps when you get beyond a certain number of men; but I am 1459 afraid that our own Secretary of State for War has been too much at the mercy of his professional advisers in dealing with this matter; for, as I have already pointed out, they prefer the system for reasons of their own. I wish the Secretary of State for War had noticed a little more the question of the rations served out to the soldiers. We had the subject before the Committee of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) last year, and it seemed to be generally agreed that the rations were insufficient, and it was stated, at the same time, that the soldier would not bear any reduction from his pay in order to give him bettor rations. There has been this year a falling off in recruiting, which is to be very much regretted, although we cannot, of course, regret the cause of it, which is, of course, the great improvement which has taken place in the trade of the country. It seems to me that the difficulty as to recruiting can only be got over by improving the condition of the men, and one of the most essential improvements to be effected is in the matter of rations. No doubt at present there is a large amount of criminality amongst the soldiers, and the character of the troops in many cases requires a large number of men to be told off for guard duty, being in that way kept away from instruction in drill. I do not believe in the allegation once made by an officer that one-half of Her Majesty's Army is occupied in keeping the other half in the guard-room, but no doubt there is an improvement to be effected in the character of the men, and I hold that if you make the condition of the men better, and improve the rations and pay, you will raise the character of your soldiers, and it will become then a punishment instead of a reward for misconduct to turn a man out of the army. A very vexed question was introduced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir G. Trevelyan)in regard to the Indian Army, and I think his general argument was, in the main, extremely sound. I perfectly agree that the Army at home should not be regarded merely as a gigantic depôt for the Indian Army. The more you divide Her Majesty's forces into an Indian Army and Colonial Army on the one hand, and a home Army on the other, the more efficient will your 1460 Army become. You would get more efficient Indian and Colonial troops by keeping the men longer than you do at present in India and the Colonies—though, of course, the evil is to be avoided of cutting the men off from England altogether, and teaching them to forget their connection with the home army. But I do think the service would be vastly improved if a soldier could say "I am enlisting for two or three years' service at home, in a particular county; I can almost choose the town I shall be in; and at the expiration of two or three years I can leave and join the Indian Army, if I like." That would be a much better system than the present, and it would, I am sure, prove attractive to the men if they could enlist three years in the infantry, and a little more in the cavalry and artillery, knowing that they would not be compelled to go to India or the Colonies, except in a case of emergency. Another matter on which I feel strongly, is this: I think the Secretary of State should do everything in his power to try and increase the Reserves, this being a point on which continental armies are so much superior to our own. Our present system springs in a great measure from the necessity of sending men to the Colonies and to India, and in order to do that you have to enlist your men for seven years. There is an exception to that rule, and that is in the case of the Guardsmen, who are only enlisted for three years. No doubt their Reserves are in a much more satisfactory state than the Reserves of the line regiments. If you enlist men for three years and allow them to go to the Colonies or to India, if they like, afterwards, you might run up your Reserves very much. You might run them up from 25 per cent of your Army to 100 per cent, a number which I believe it perfectly possible to obtain. This I hold to be one of the most important questions in connection with the personnel of the Army. It takes very little time to educate a man to fight, and, therefore, I am in favour of short service enlistment. It is true it takes a man a long time to learn to ride a horse, but to teach him to fire a gun and get from column to open order and back again is a thing which can be done in a few weeks. Of course I do not allude to making a man 1461 a smart soldier, teaching him to trim and dress and bear himself well in barracks, and so on; but these things, although they are the pride of officers, are not required in actual warfare. What a soldier actually wants to know to be an efficient fighting man is very little. I say, cut down the time for which you enlist the men. If you do not adopt the German system, at any rate cut the time down to two or three years, in the manner of the French system.
§ GENERAL FRASER (Lambeth, N.)
I regard this subject as one of vital importance. Two years back an appeal was made to the Secretary of State for War of the present Government to abstain from crippling the Royal Horse Artillery. This question was in every soldier's heart and on every soldier's lip. We wanted to know whether the highest military authority we have—namely, the Commander-in-Chief—approved of the reduction which had taken place in this force; but the etiquette of the Army, its sense of discipline, and the respect felt for the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State prevented any of us from asking a question on the point. However, we now have the answer of his Royal Highness given before the Committee on Military Estimates last year, and for fear of making a mistake I will read his statement word for word. His Royal Highness said:As to the Horse Artillery, I think it very desirable that they should he restored to their full strength.Now, after the reductions carried out last year nine batteries only of the Royal Horse Artillery remained on the strength of the Home establishment, and they were all attenuated batteries—cadres. We had to bow to the action of the authorities; but we relied to a great extent upon the words of the Secretary of State two years back this week. On the 14th of March, 1887, the Secretary of State for War, speaking in this House, said:Our object is to have no longer a large proportion of attenuated batteries. We hope to have a few organized in the most effective manner, ready to be produced whenever they are wanted.How grand and hopeful was this promise, and yet to-day, after the lapse of upwards of a year, not one man—not one horse—has been given to any one of 1462 these nine batteries to raise them from their state of attenuation and prostration. With regard to reserves, the Commander-in-Chief in his evidence said:The artillery is a very delicate arm, and I certainly should not have confidence in a horse artilleryman after he has been away a year.And, further, His Royal Highness said:I think that the cavalry and artillery should be kept at the fullest strength at which they can be maintained.While other countries are increasing their mobile artillery, we are decreasing this arm. I will not trouble the House by repeating the evidence brought forward two years ago as to the absolute necessity of a mobile artillery, but resistless evidence has been adduced from incidents in history and from the opinions of toe most distinguished and experienced soldiers in European and Indian warfare proving the absolute necessity for an adequate force of horse artillery—evidence that shows that this arm, by its extreme mobility, can turn the tide of battle, and that an army in an open country without horse artillery and cavalry is impotent; that its troops will have no rest by night or day, and that its leaders, however intrepid, will command without confidence or prospect of success. I do earnestly hope that the request of His Royal Highness will be attended to. As an old soldier, I must say I was deeply grieved to hear from the opposite benches the remarks which fell from the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir G. Trevelyan), although I have no doubt he considered them just and right. The right hon. Gentleman ignored the shabby way in which the country has behaved to its officers. There are hundreds of men who staked their fortune in the army—who put all they had in the hands of the Government, the Government keeping the money. I hope the present Secretary of State will recognise fully that the country is indebted to its officers—to many of them to the extent of £4,000. Many young officers have complained that the Government have got the £900 they received from them and yet other officers who had paid nothing were running up side by 1463 side with them for promotion. With regard to the question of the quality of the swords, I may say that I have carried a sword nearly all my life, and have even suffered by it, and I am able to say that the best swords can be procured at Solingen. Even at Dettingen our soldiers carried swords manufactured in this place. For a long time the swords in use in the British Army have been made abroad. One of the finest swordsmen I ever knew told me on one occasion that the hilt of the broadsword being found inconvenient, as it cut the accoutrements of the men, an order was issued for changing the pattern of the hilt, but as this could not be effected without spending £100 upon plant, Messrs Wilkinson were unable to effect the change, which, therefore, had to be carried out in Germany.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War no doubt was exceedingly clear, as his speeches always are, so far as it went-I could not help, however, regretting that it did not go farther. I regret some things that he did not say. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman did not forestall what I had intended to say had I been able to bring on my Motion on going into Committee. However, the right hon. Baronet the Member or the Bridgetown Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) forestalled a great deal of what I had intended to say, as also did the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton). I desire to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leicester, though I am not sure that I shall do it on the same grounds that he proposed it. I am not one of those who feel quite easy about our present position, and I am one of those who believe that we are by no means safe from invasion. I am very much a man of peace; and I hope that should there in the future be great wars in Europe we shall not be involved in them. On the other hand, however, I cannot disguise from myself that we 1464 are a proud and rather a bumptious, and also an aggressive people, to some extent, and, therefore, no one can say what might happen. In the event of a war happening on the Continent we as neutrals might find our position prejudiced, and as a matter of fact we never know when we might be drawn into hostilities. Well, I conceive that no Fleet we can have can give us perfect protection, and I therefore desire to see this country strong on shore, but for defensive, and not for offensive, purposes. I would, therefore, submit to the House these propositions—first, that we should provide for defence, and not offence. For my own part, I rather wish to keep down the Regular Forces, and that whatever Army we have it should not be one which would enable us to vie with any Continental nation as a great military Power. I do not want the two Army Corps that are spoken of, for I think they will probably lead us on to mischief. We are much better without them. I am of opinion that we should provide for defence at home, which is a primary object, rather than provide for the defence of our Colonies, which is a secondary consideration. As regards our foreign possessions, my belief is that our self-governing Colonies are now pretty well able to defend themselves. India can defend herself, with certain reciprocal assistance between herself and this country; and, as I say, with regard to the Colonies, though I do not deprecate our possession of them, I do not, I must say, regard our connection with them as vital to our strength. The principal object of the Motion I put on the Paper is to urge that we should have a complete plan for the defence of these islands. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division said that we want a scheme which shall combine the Army, Militia, Volunteers, and all our Forces; but I want to combine not only the land, but the naval and coast defences. The next 1465 proposition I wish to submit is that, under the present conditions of service, no regular Army which we can have is sufficient for the defence of these islands. The Secretary of State hopes to be able to put in these Islands a regular Force of 80,000 men. I apprehend that includes Ireland; if it does, the force for the defence of Great Britain is greatly diminished. Then the Secretary of State gave his reasons why the Army Reserve is not a force easily available. He told us how unwilling employers are to let their men go; indeed, I think the right hon. Gentleman proved the case that the Army Reserve, as it stands, is not a force on which we can rely. I do not think we shall ever be secure in these Islands until we have a thoroughly reliable citizen force. There is another proposition I have to submit, and it is that the system of armed citizens to defend our homes is the greatest possible security for peace. The Regular Services are always crying out for war and for aggressive policy. ("No, no!") Well, perhaps I am wrong. I admit that there are many sensible men in the Army and Navy, many men who, having seen service, would be the last to precipitate war. But there is among younger men in both services a spirit encouraged by popular feeling in favour of war. But in the case of a citizen army, people do not like to see their husbands, sons, and lovers sent out to risk their lives. We have a Volunteer Army of which we may be proud, and a Militia which in many respects is efficient; but there is no sufficient organization and combination of these forces with the Regular Army so as to be able to meet a sudden invasion. According to the statement and speech of the Secretary of State, there is a failing off in the Militia and Volunteers, and I cannot see that the right hon. Gentleman has suggested anything sufficient. The Volunteers ought to be treated more liberally. I hear on all sides that the officers of Volunteers are not able to keep up the force, though they spent large sums on it out of their own means. It is very unreasonable to expect them to do so. With regard to our coast defences, the Secretary of State has not put the subject in a sufficiently prominent shape before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman told the Committee 1466 that arrangements have been made for garrisoning the ports; but what provision has been made for the general coast defence of the kingdom I do not know. Kirkcaldy, the constituency which I represent, is one of the most exposed in the country, and I should like to know what preparations has been made for its defence. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what he means when he says he proposes to assist those localities which assist themselves. The town of Kirkcaldy has assisted itself as largely as it could be expected to do. The people have not only a good show of Rifle Volunteers, but also of Artillery Volunteers. In addition, the county of Fife has a very large and efficient force of Artillery Volunteers. Under these circumstances the Secretary of State may be prepared to give us sufficient guns to destroy any cruisers which may come to blow us to pieces. At present there are in Kirkcaldy only a few guns, not more formidable than pop-guns, while the garrison only consists of three men. Now, with regard to the question of Colonial contribution, the Secretary of State proposes, according to the statement he has circulated, that there should be an additional contribution of £30,000. I cannot help thinking that the Colonies have been treated with such indulgence that they will try to evade the payment of every farthing you propose to put upon them. Malta may be a very important station, but I am not quite sure that we should not be better without it; at any rate, its possession is not at all so important as our home defence. The contribution from the Colonies is miserably inadequate. I find that in the Colonies, exclusive of Egypt, we maintain 30,640 men, at a cost of £1,986,352. In addition, there is the cost of arms, ammunition, barracks, sea transport, and the non-effective Services. In reality, the real cost of the 30,000 men is nearly £4,000,000 a year, What is the contribution of the Colonies towards this sum? At present it is £114,000; if you get the proposed addition it will only be £144,000. I say that this is miserably inadequate. I protest against treating the Colonies with the excessive indulgence accorded to them. I do not see why rich Colonies should benefit by the 1467 protection of this country, and practically pay nothing for it. Newfoundland, Bermuda, Halifax, the West India Islands, contribute nothing, neither does Cape Colony. Natal pays £4,000; Mauritius formerly paid £18,000, but now only pays £15,000; Ceylon used to pay £43,000; it now pays £34,000. The Straits Settlements pay £35,000, instead of £44,000 as formerly. I think these facts justify me in saying that the mother country is not being treated fairly in this matter. Now there is one other very important question which has not been touched upon in this debate, and that is, the utilization of the non-effective force. I want to see a large portion of the non-effective force available for the citizen army which I wish to see organized. Enormous expense is incurred by the provision of retiring allowances for officers who are comparatively young men. I do not by any means grudge the retiring allowances, if, at the same time, the officers are utilized in connection with the citizen army. It is notorious that we have not a sufficient supply of officers for the Militia and the Volunteers, and, therefore, I believe that by the introduction of a judicious system those officers who will willingly engage in serving their country in this way may be utilized. I hope something will be done to make an arrangement of this kind. Just one word with regard to a question which has already been mentioned in the debate—namely, the great necessity which exists for dividing the Army into a real short service Army and a real long service Army. I do not agree with the suggestion that a separate Army for India is desirable; there are great dangers in having a European Army for India alone; but I certainly desire two classes of soldiers—one which does not wish to go abroad, but which is anxious to perform military along with civilian duties, and another class which will make soldiering a profession. The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) made a serious beginning in that direction, and I am somewhat disappointed that nothing is said on the subject in the present statement of the Secretary of State for War. I am sure that is the way in which to make the Army fitted to meet the exigencies of the country. I heartily agree 1468 with what has been said as to the necessity of providing better barracks. When I compare the barracks provided in this rich country with those provided in a poor country like Switzerland, I am ashamed of England in this respect. As to the Horse Artillery, I entirely disagree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hampshire (Sir F. Fitz Wygram). I have always thought the Horse Artillery a most expensive force, and I am very glad it has been reduced. I have nothing more to say except that I hope we shall have from the Government some statement as to what they propose to do with regard to the defence of these islands. Holding the views I do I must vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton).
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR DEPARTMENT (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkaldy took a very comprehensive view of the requirements of the country, but at the same time he protested vigorously against any increase of the Colonial forces. I do not gather whether he meant that the Colonies should look after themselves.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The hon. Gentleman considers that the Colonies are not vital to us, and that their contributions are miserably inadequate. In short, he led us to understand that in his opinion it would be better if we looked after our own affairs and left the Colonies to look after theirs. I think the hon. Gentleman was a party to the expenditure on the coaling stations in which the House of Commons entered unanimously two or three years ago. I do not think any policy could be more ridiculous than that of providing armaments and fortifications and not providing men to serve them. The hon. Gentleman regretted that there was a reduction in the Militia and Volunteers, but surely he did not notice that the Volunteers, having come under a different standard of efficiency, are stronger in every particular than hitherto.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The decrease is something like 3,000 in 225,000, and the men are forced to make a certain number of points in shooting. I think it is necessary that hon. Members who are to occupy the time of the Committee at length on military subjects should recognise the conditions under which military efficiency is to be gauged. When hon. Members talk of a great decrease of Volunteers, they ought to recognise that if we fix a very much higher standard of efficiency, and the Volunteers attain it to the extent of something like 97 per cent, there is really an increase of strength and not a decrease. It is only due to the Volunteers to make this remark, because the way in which they have responded to the call of my hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is one which reflects the greatest credit on the Force. The hon. Gentleman referring to the statement that there will be 80,000 men available for garrison duty, asked how we shall provide for the garrisoning of Ireland. The hon. Member will be surprised to hear that the garrisoning of Ireland has been provided for without counting on the 80,000. If the hon. Member, instead of limiting his attention to the defence of Kirkcaldy, were to carry it a little further south and west, and notice the city of Edinburgh meeting the Secretary of State for War half way by providing the land for fortifications; if the right hon. Gentleman provided the guns, he would be doing very good service to the town of Kirkcaldy as well as to the Firth of Forth. Nothing is more important than that the different localities should do something for themselves. The hon. Member does not see things in the light we do. Does he want all ports to be made military ports, like Portsmouth?
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
No. I only meant to say the offer of the Government was not liberal enough; they have not met the ports half way.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I do not know what the hon. Member would consider half way. The towns have gone no distance at all.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The Government offer to find works and guns if the town will find the land on which the guns are to be placed; and this, I think, is as far as the House of Commons can be expected to go. Then I pass to the extremely interesting speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Gal-way (Colonel Nolan). He spoke at some length on the provision made for guns; and asked us what promises or pledges we had given to contractors to induce them to supply guns within a definite time, and he expressed his preference for definite orders, instead of indefinite pledges, such as were given, I believe, by Mr. Brand under the Government of 1884. He will be glad to hear that the contracts we propose to give will be definite contracts. It would be useless to expect the putting up of expensive machinery by indefinite promises of employment. They will be definite orders, as the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) was informed an hour or two ago, to fill the requirements of the Navy, as foreshadowed in the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty. We see our way to giving these contracts for adequate performance within the specified time; but the hon. and gallant Member will excuse me if I do not go absolutely into this question; it is better that this should not be pressed just now. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked for open competition—open competition in the matter of big guns. Now, I am sure those who have had any experience at the War Office will know the risk we should undergo in anything of the kind, and will have in mind the enormous issues at stake; but we have gone as far as we can to ascertain the number of firms who could compete, their terms, and what their requirements are. And upon this information my right hon. Friend will found satisfactory contracts. Then there were several questions put 1471 in reference to the Magazine rifle, and the time when its distribution will take place. Well, we have every hope that the distribution of the rifles will begin before the close of the present financial year. Progress with the rifle has been delayed no doubt, until very recently, through difficulties arising before the Small Arms Committee, but now every hitch is removed; the departments at Enfield and at Birmingham are at work, and, as I said, the distribution will commence before the close of the financial year.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Seventy thousand or eighty thousand during the financial year will be manufactured for us and for the Indian Army. Their order will be executed parallel with ours.
§ MR. BRODRICK
About 30,000. There is one point I must not forget; it was raised by the hon. Member for North Birmingham (Mr. Kenrick). He expressed his belief that the Government were rather more inclined to favour Germany than England in the matter of sword manufacture.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Speaking from his position and from his trade knowledge, I feel that, coming from him, it is a point that I cannot pass over. There is no desire whatever of that kind, and if the hon. Member wants anything else to disabuse him of that idea, he has only to turn to the Estimates which are now before the House, and he will see that there is provision made for a great increase of workmen and expenditure on works proposed to be undertaken at Enfield and Birmingham during the next financial year. At Enfield, for instance, it is proposed to make an increase from 220,000 to 250,000 on that account; and at Birmingham, where the hon. Member has special interest, from 35,000 this year to 65,000 in the coming year. This is in addition to the contract given to Mr. Mould, of Birmingham. He has received an order to the full extent of his own tender for 15,000 swords and bayonets, to be delivered, I think, 1472 all within the next financial year, or very soon afterwards. There is every desire to encourage the manufacture, not only at Government establishments like Enfield and Sparkbrook, of rifles, swords, and bayonets, but also among private firms, and I may say that if we can get any one single thing we need from the United Kingdom, we would infinitely prefer to got it there than from abroad. So far as this sword industry can be developed in Great Britain we shall lose no opportunity of doing our utmost to promote it. There is one other question which has been touched upon by the noble Lord the Member for Hampshire (Viscount Wolmer). He spoke with great knowledge of the Militia, and he made several very valuable suggestions, pointing out how in his view the loss in the Militia could be lessened, and suggested, among other things, the localization of companies. He showed how recruits came from country and town districts, and of the latter the noble Lord did not seem to entertain a very high opinion. I confess there is great force in the arguments he used, and I am quite sure the Department will be ready to consider his suggestions. He also spoke of improving the system of recruiting, and found fault with the present permanent staff, saying that the relative success in obtaining efficiency was not sufficiently regarded. It is a suggestion that ought to be considered, and if it has not been considered it must be the fault of the commanding officers; they have only themselves to blame. But, of course, it was impossible for the noble Lord to bring forward definite instances. One thing I can say, that the sole reason why the present system was adopted and maintained—that of taking men actually in regiments of the Line and sending them to serve as adjutants in the Militia and Reserve Forces—was to preserve a class midway between the Army and the Reserve; that a man should have a stimulus, and not conclude—because his service in the Army was expired—that no more would be heard of him, but that he might serve in the Reserve Force and get promotion. I have no doubt that the remarks made by the noble Lord will bear fruit after the attention which he has directed to the subject. Certainly, the state of the Militia is not satisfactory 1473 in regard to numbers; but, of course, there is the difficulty always to encounter that recruiting falls off when employment becomes more brisk. My right hon. Friend will have no objection to consider what form an inquiry, such as that suggested, should take. Several other points have been raised, upon which, I think, I need not now dwell. In regard to the Amendment by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton), I think it has been made so clear by my right hon. Friend that the sole object of the increase made this year is to provide efficient forces for the protection of those works the House of Commons has already sanctioned, that I need not further detain the Committee in justification of that.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
I listened with interest and pleasure to the statement of the Secretary of State for War, and I must join with others in expressing my admiration of the activity, energy, ingenuity, and ability with which he and the distinguished officers who assist him have, so far, under the conditions that were imposed upon them, developed the military resources of the country. But the main feature of the Estimates which arrests most attention and excites no slight degree of surprise and disappointment is the proposal to increase the total expenditure upon the Army by no less than £600,000. At a time when the Government are recommending a large development and expansion of our naval strength, involving a heavy burden on the taxpayer, we might naturally expect that in the other branch of warlike expenditure there would have been prominently displayed a more than usually vigorous effort to effect savings which would, in some degree, afford compensatory relief. That surely would be the course taken by a prudent administrator under ordinary circumstances, and we anxiously scrutinized the Estimates to find the trace of such an effort. I find no such traces, however, but on the contrary, the most prominent feature is this increase of £600,000. But there is more than this, because in the course of his speech, and in a quiet and casual way, the right hon. Gentleman informed the House that this was not the whole Military Budget, and that there were other financial proposals of an alarming 1474 kind which the Government would have to submit by-and-bye to the House. I agree that the condition of much of our barrack accommodation is deplorable; that it is desirable that the location of our troops should be reconsidered; and that they should be concentrated so as to conduce to greater economy and efficiency; but I object to what was foreshadowed—namely, that the work will be effected by means of a loan, and I maintain that the House should be informed now what approximately will have to be paid for these needed reforms, the cost of which ought to be provided for out of the annual Estimates and not by means of a loan. It would have been better if the right hon. Gentleman had followed the example of his colleague the First Lord, and disclosed the whole demand, whether it was to be met by loan or by the taxation of the year. There is, I have said, little trace of saving in these Estimates. I am well aware, from personal experience, of the enormous difficulty of curbing the expenditure on these laudable and patriotic services, and as long as the system and organization of the Army remains as at present this difficulty will continue. I know how one object after another is urged upon the Minister, and supported with overwhelming arguments by his professional advisers, and it is almost impossible to say which should be allowed and which refused. But a limit to expenditure must be found somewhere, and in such a year as this that limit ought to be applied with more rigour than usual. Before making any general observations upon military policy, I will ask the Committee to consider the decreases and increases shown in the Estimates. In the statement on page 3 of the Estimates a distinction is drawn between those which are automatic and those which are due to policy and administration. The decreases due to policy are set down at £92,300; but I notice one of the items is £14,200for Non-Effective Services in India; but surely that is automatic and in no way due to policy? The rest of the reductions are, I am bound to say, of a satisfactory character. The reduction in the Army Pay Department is a matter upon which I may specially congratulate my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary. The establishment of a system of station paymasters is an object that has been desired for twenty 1475 years. I hope that the change may be carried a little further, and that these officers may be interchangeable with others in the Accountant General's Department, so that they may have experience in turn in discharging pay duties at out stations, and also in administration at headquarters. The increases which are due to changes of policy and administration amount to £612,000, of which the increase of the Army accounts for £100,000, and stores for £400,000. I do not object to the particular addition to the Army because it provides Native Corps and Lascars for the garrisoning of coaling stations. But the £400,000 increase under the head of stores includes £342,000 for guns, carriages, ammunition, and small arms, and it will be observed by looking at Vote 12 that this increase occurs upon an expenditure, for these sub-heads, of £1,000,000, which is a large provision to begin with. Without saying which particular item might be curtailed, there was surely here a wide field for that squeezing and pressure by which alone savings can be effected. I am too cautious and wily to point to particular services that might have been reduced, because the irrefutable arguments which have already been used by the Military Authorities for the purpose of convincing the right hon. Gentleman will immediately be advanced for my discomfiture. But I point to these large sums as, at least, offering a favourable field to a Minister anxious to make economies with a view to meet increases in other directions. Speaking of what formerly took place when the War Office Estimates included a provision for Navy guns, the right hon. Gentleman said it was a scandal when the Admiralty demand was cut down by the War Office, and this had been put an end to. It may have been a bad system, and I always advocated a change; but the right hon. Gentleman was inaccurate in speaking of the Admiralty claim as being cut down "by the War Office;" if it was reduced it was with the assent of the First Lord, and it was done by him and the War Minister conjointly. Besides, so long as the War Office had to bear the charge, perhaps the Admiralty was induced to make demands in excess of actual requirements; and "scandal" is certainly a strong term to apply And now a word or two on another 1476 knotty point—the supply of swords. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of an order given to Solingen by one of his predecessors, and I believe that predecessor was the First Lord of the Treasury. [Mr. E. STANHOPE: I said "several."] Well, I was speaking of the latest, and if I recollect rightly what occurred was, that Mr. Mole undertook to make a certain number of swords, and the order for the remainder that were required was given to Solingen. Mr. Mould, however, was unable to supply all he had contracted for, but he offered to make the hilts if the Department would accept Solingen blades; whereupon the Department said, if they were to have Solingen blades after all, they might as well have cheaper swords direct from Germany at once. This incident explains what has puzzled a good many people in the country—that, owing to a great demand being exceptional and rare in England, the sword-making trade had almost vanished, and therefore we were obliged like the rest of the world to go to Solingen for swords. I am, however, glad to learn that this industry is now reviving. Well, Sir, there has been another source of saving pointed to—namely, the Generals' List, with which the right hon. Gentleman says he intends to deal. This is matter for congratulation; but I am even more suspicious about the Lieutenants' List, because when once a man appears on that list he is practically guaranteed a career, vested rights cannot be touched, and it is an expensive matter to keep the flow of promotion going for all these. If you want to reduce the charges for officers of the Army, what you have to do is to limit the entry of junior officers. I am afraid that of late, though not in the last year or two, there has been a tendency to unduly increase the subalterns' list. I was glad to gather from the observations of the right hon. Gentleman that in future promotion to the Generals' List will only be given those who hold or have held the command of a General. This is indeed the sound principle of promotion from one end of the Service to the other, that there should be no promotion to rank alone but that rank should accompany selection' for duty. I look back with satisfaction to the fact that during the short 1477 time I was at the War Office, I for the first time introduced that principle in regard to promotion to the rank of Colonel, and this did something to check the number of those officers, who were multiplying and replenishing the earth at an inordinate rate. I was glad to find in the War Office at that time a disposition to act on the principle that officers should only be promoted to the rank of Colonel who held appointments as Colonels, and I hope it will now also be acted on in regard to Generals. But, Sir, the case for adverse criticism of these Estimates seems to be stronger than I have as yet put it. What is the position assumed by the Government as represented by the statement the other night of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty. They make an assertion to the House, and to the world, that the provision at present made for the defence of these shores and of our commerce and of the Empire at large is inadequate, and they found on that assertion their new shipbuilding policy. Now this is not the time to express any opinion with regard to that statement, but I would point out that the defence of the Empire is partly naval and partly military, and it would appear to an unsophisticated mind that, in this composite undertaking, in proportion as the naval element is strengthened, it might be found practicable to modify and reduce the military element. But there is more than this. Let me recall to the recollection of the House what occurred at this time last year. The hon. and gallant Member for Sussex (Sir W. Barttelot) brought forward a Motion for the appointment of a Commission to inquire into and report upon the requirements for the protection of the Empire. This Motion was largely supported, especially by hon. and gallant Members opposite, but Her Majesty's Government in my judgment very rightly opposed it, as any such Commission of Inquiry would have been in derogation of the sound Constitutional principle which places the direct responsibility in this matter upon the Ministers of the Crown—a principle which is the corner-stone of our Parliamentary system of Government. The Government instead granted the hon. and gallant Gentleman a Committee of Inquiry into the higher organization of 1478 the Admiralty and War Office, and I have much sympathy for my hon. and gallant Friends, for, although they cheerfully and innocently accepted this substitute, it gave them nothing of what they desired. Besides this, however, Her Majesty's Government appointed a Committee of Cabinet Ministers to inquire into the whole military and naval position of the Empire, and this step I entirely approved of—it was the proper Constitutional course for them to pursue. This Cabinet Committee has had frequent meetings, and has had the advice and assistance of the principal professional authorities of the country. I assume that it has not occupied itself with the smaller details of administration, with questions of the best type of ships and the best form of guns. I assume that it has inquired into great questions of naval and military policy with a view to our having some definite principle in the matter, for that is what is demanded not only in the country, but, above all, by the officers who are interested in the two Services. The time is favourable for determining this great question,—for what purpose our Army is maintained, and what strength and organization is required for that purpose. Military policy obviously depends upon foreign policy, and at the present time there is apparently and ostentatiously a practical concord upon the subject of foreign policy. Both political Parties profess one principle of foreign policy, which is that, while willing to give friendly advice, we shall entirely abstain from any interference in Continental politics. What is the inference, as affecting our military policy, to be drawn from that fact? It is that we must abandon definitely all idea of placing on the Continent the six or ten, or perhaps 15 or 20 Army Corps which Continental interference would imply, and that we should restrict our Army to the protection of India and our Colonies and to our own domestic defence. There are many men of great authority who maintain that, with a sufficiently strong Navy, invasion of this country would become impossible. What they say is that while our Fleet holds the seas no one would dare to invade us, and that, if by any misfortune our Fleet lost the command of the seas, no one would need to invade us. That 1479 is an extreme view, which I, for one, am not prepared to adopt. But it is easy to see how intimately the great military question I refer to is connected with the question of our naval strength. I will only refer for a moment to Ireland; but everybody must know that if by some policy we succeed in securing to the Government of that country the respect and support of the people of Ireland, we shall at once disengage a large number of the troops employed in Ireland. However, I will pass by that subject, because it brings in other questions of Party policy. But on the mere ground of the distribution of naval and military duties in the work of our national defence, I am interested to know whether the question of the numbers and the preparedness of the Land Forces as a whole was considered by the Committee of the Government when they resolved to increase the Navy, and whether the conclusion that they formed could be stated? My strong belief is that if a sufficient, a reasonable, and a gradual increase were given to the naval power of this country, and if it were openly and formally recognized that we were not to provide for taking any part in European warfare, a most material modification and reduction might be possible in the Army with great economical results, and with no loss to the efficiency of the Army for those limited purposes for which we should have to maintain it. The suggestion of my hon. Friend, that there should be a separate Indian and Colonial Army, is not a practical solution of the difficulty as far as I can judge. I am fully alive to the fact that to speak of such a modification as I have indicated is much easier than to effect it. Last year I explained to the House the difficulties in the way of a satisfactory alteration in the system of our Army. I confess, however, that my hopes were high that the present Government might accomplish the task. They have advantages which other Governments do not possess. They are strong in the very quarter of tradition and prejudice in which the impediments arise, and they are the masters and the controllers of those Conservative forces. Their action, therefore, would not arouse the jealousy and enmity which a Liberal Government would have to encounter in 1480 dealing with these great reforms. Yet apparently nothing has been done, and no principle has been laid down. We are to go on in the old hand-to-mouth way, merely asking for as much as a reluctant Parliament will give. There is, indeed, the imaginary standard of two Army Corps—an ideal adopted by the military authorities in sheer despair of having any definite principle laid down, and as furnishing at least some object up to which they might work. But what is an Army Corps? It is a body of troops composed of the different arms in certain prescribed proportions which foreign Armies find most suitable for great campaigns, in conterminous countries on the Continent of Europe—the very service on which we shall never employ our Army at all. Whereas if we wish to reinforce our garrison in India, or to send out some small expedition to Egypt or the Cape, the first thing we have to do is to disturb and break up our Army Corps. I cannot think that I am alone in thinking this an unsatisfactory picture of the organization of our Army; and thus my objection to these Estimates is twofold. In the first place, I complain that £600,000 should be added to the public burdens at a time when greatly increased expenditure is asked in regard to the Navy; and, in the second place, I object to these Estimates, because they disclose no comprehensive policy, no definition of the uses and duties of the Army, and no adaptation of the Army to those duties and uses such as a protracted and close investigation by the Government justified the Committee in expecting at their hands. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester has moved a reduction in the number of men; I have said that these particular men are the native gunners to work the defences of the coaling stations already provided with the approval of Parliament. I cannot, therefore, vote against them. And apart from this a reduction would hardly be possible under the present organization; with another organization, as I have said, certain things could be done; but with the present organization I recognize the extreme difficulty of saving any money at all. So that, while sympathizing with the Amendment, I cannot support it. I am particularly anxious to know 1481 from the Secretary of State what sum of money would be asked for barracks.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I think that after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman it is only right that I should offer one or two observations. Among the subjects which the right hon. Gentleman has introduced to the notice of the Committee is that of the two Army Corps which it has been the object of the War Office for the last two or three years to get into a state of thorough organization. I was under the impression that the beginning of the organization of those two Army Corps was in the administration of the right hon. Gentleman himself. If now the right hon. Gentleman thinks fit to despise and condemn them, then all I can say is that under the right hon. Gentleman the Regular and Auxiliary Forces had no organization at all. The right hon. Gentleman has based most of the remarks he has made on the assumption that the Navy programme will be accepted.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
No; I said that the Government who proposed the one ought not to have proposed the other.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
If the right hon. Gentleman is going to reject the Navy Estimates as well, he does not desire at all to aim at the proper defence of the country.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Let the right hon. Gentleman postpone the consideration of the Army Estimates till the opinion of the House was taken on the other proposals.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I never heard a more illogical proposition. The right hon. Gentleman is going to postpone the Army Estimates, and then he is going to vote against the Navy Estimates.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Well, is he or is he not? One way or the other, he ought to provide for the defence of the country. The most important part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was that in which he asked whether the present Army Estimates were the result of careful deliberation. I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman and the country that the result of the deliberations of the Committee of the Cabinet was the Army Estimates now before Parliament. They deliberately con- 1482 sidered what was necessary for the Army and the Navy. The one thing most wanted for the Army was the completion of the garrisons for the coaling stations. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman at all objected to that increase of the garrisons. The other point to which the right hon. Gentleman called attention was the proposed increase in regard to barracks, and the right hon. Gentleman wanted to know what sum would be asked for that purpose. I entirely decline to give him any information at all on a matter which is under the consideration of the Government until we have a complete scheme to put before Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman complained of that large expenditure, but surely he could not have read a line of the evidence before the Committee last year, which clearly showed that if any attempt was to be made to deal with the barracks of this country in a satisfactory manner it must be by a large permanent expenditure. Any ordinary private trader dealing with a matter of that kind would immediately propose a capital expenditure, because he would know that, on the ground of economy alone, he was justified in making that expenditure; and he would also know that it would be a saving to the expenditure of the country. I believe that we ought at once to try and put the barracks in a satisfactory condition. The right hon. Gentleman admits that our barracks are in a deplorable condition. I want to know where did he find that out, and I beg of him to answer this question. Did he find it out when he was in office in 1886? If he did, all I can say is that I never saw in any of the Estimates he laid before Parliament the smallest indication of any desire on his part to remedy that state of things. If the right hon. Gentleman has only now found it out, surely he might, instead of the carping criticism in which he has indulged, give the Government an opportunity of making their proposals to Parliament, and of trying to remedy a condition of things which, he said, was deplorable, without waiting for that interminable length of time which will be required if no increase be made upon the sum ordinarily voted for the barracks. The right hon. Gentleman has also complained because I described as a "scandal" the cutting 1483 down by the War Office in 1886 of the Estimates proposed by the Admiralty; but I certainly think it is a scandal that after the Admiralty has put forward Estimates for the purpose of carrying out the services they think necessary, the War Office should cut out all the ammunition for the quick-firing guns. That is a thing which no Government ought to allow.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the War Office cutting out certain items. In 1886, when the Estimates of the War Office and the Admiralty were considerably reduced, nothing in the Admiralty Estimate was cut down by the War Office. It was cut down as a matter of Cabinet policy, with the consent of the First Lord of the Admiralty and of the Secretary of State for War.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I entirely accept the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. It was a matter of Cabinet policy that quick-firing guns should be provided for the Navy without ammunition. I am content to accept that explanation, and if the present Government has endeavoured in their time to provide a remedy for the state of things produced by such a result, I do not think they have laboured in vain. I earnestly entreat the Committee now to come a decision on the question raised by the hon. Member opposite. I know that a good many hon. Members wish to raise other questions of great importance upon these Estimates, but they will have an opportunity of doing so at a later stage.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I am not aware on what other Vote save Vote 5 it will be possible to raise the question I desire to raise this evening, or I should accede to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman at once. The point I wish to bring to his notice is one which twice last year I understood the right hon. Gentleman to promise to consider, and one which is attended by so much hardship, and provocative of so much ill-feeling in the Channel Islands, that I think it absolutely necessary to bring it to the attention of the Committee—I 1484 refer to the Channel Islands Militia. At present the Militia there are burdensome in the highest degree to the poorer classes, the wealthier class being entirely untouched, while for what it costs to those parts of the country there is nothing whatever to show.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
If the right hon. Gentleman undertakes that I shall have an opportunity on Vote 5, I will give way.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Unless the Chairman should object on Standing Orders—and I hope he will not—we will take the discussion on Vote 5.
I see on page 6 of the Votes in Supply, Vote 5, a Vote for the Channel Islands Militia, so that it would be perfectly relevant to that Vote.
§ MR. CREMER
I beg to move, Sir, that you report Progress, and ask leave to sit again. I do not think the proposals of the Government have been adequately discussed, and I, therefore, hold that a good deal more time should be given to the very important questions which have been brought under notice. It is perfectly monstrous that we should not have the opportunity of discussing on this Vote the extraordinary proposal with regard to the defence of London.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman report Progress and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Cremer.)
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I must again appeal to the Committee upon this subject. It is absolutely necessary for us to comply with our statutory obligations, and the time at our disposal for doing so is exceedingly short. Seeing that the hon. Member will have an opportunity of discussing the subjects in which he is interested upon other Votes, and that the Motion for Adjournment, if carried, would simply have the 1485 effect of stopping the business of the House at a critical period, I hope the hon. Gentleman will allow the Vote before the Committee to be taken.
§ MR. CHILDERS
The Vote might be further discussed to-morrow at the Morning Sitting which the Government have obtained for Supply.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Supplementary Estimates are put down for the Morning Sitting to-morrow, and there are many subjects involved in them which Members are anxious to discuss. Hon. Members will be able to discuss matter connected with the Vote now before the Committee on other Votes.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
In supporting the Motion for Progress, I would point out that nearly the whole of the evening has been taken up by the discussion of matters connected with Army organization, while on the question of policy involved in the increased Estimates of the Army and Navy scarcely a word has been said. I confess that I am not concerned in the technicalities that have been raised, but I feel that on the foreign policy upon which the proposed enormous increase of expenditure is based we ought to have ample time for consideration. I come from a part of the country where the military feeling is not so strong as in the Metropolis. Of course hon. and gallant Gentlemen connected with the Army and Navy love to fan the military feeling; but the people of this country generally regard the matter from quite another point of view. I am amazed that when we want to go into the foreign policy of the Government the Chancellor of the Exchequer should tell us of the necessity for discussing certain paltry Supplementary Estimates to-morrow, while, as regards the two great Services of the country, the cost of which is to be enormously increased, we are to have nothing to do but vote the Ways and Means. I, for one, am deter- 1486 mined to press for a further opportunity of discussing the great question involved in the statement submitted to the Committee this evening. We are always promised something at subsequent stages, but when we have voted the men right hon. Gentlemen opposite say, "You have given us the men; surely you will give us the means." I consider the House of Commons will be failing in its duty if it do not insist on discussing the policy on which the present proposal is based, and I therefore support the Motion for Progress.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
I hope the hon. Member who moved the adjournment will modify his intentions, seeing that the Secretary of State has given an undertaking that the passing of the Vote under discussion will not prevent us from discussing points which might be raised upon it on other Votes. If the hon. Member allows the Government to take the Vote, public business will be forwarded a step, and he will not forfeit a single right which he possesses of expressing his views to the Committee. The time at the disposal of hon. Members for the discussion of matters of importance is short, and if we drive any Government into a corner they become desperate—perfectly desperate—and make a grab at all the time of private Members. If private Members insist upon their rights at inopportune moments they lose all. On the ground of common sense as well as of policy, and in the interest of the taxpayer and of free discussion, I would urge the hon. Member not to persevere with his Motion.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I have not the smallest wish to embarrass the Government. If I understand the right hon. Gentleman correctly, we can take Naval Supply on Thursday, the Vote on Account on Monday, and then there remain only five or six Votes in the Supplementary Estimates, four of which are unopposed. This Vote can thus be taken to-morrow. It is, therefore, only reasonable that the Committee should report Progress.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman means to hold out the hope that the Govern- 1487 ment may be absolutely certain that the Navy Vote will be taken on Thursday. My right hon. Friend suggested that to-morrow should be devoted to the Army, Thursday to the Navy, Monday next to the Vote on Account, and Tuesday to the Supplementary Votes. That involves three propositions—namely, that the Government are certain to get the Navy Vote on Thursday, the Vote on Account on Monday, and the Supplementary Votes on Tuesday. The Government understand that there is a large number of questions to be raised on the Vote on Account. The Government are not prepared to run the risk which would be involved; at least, we are entitled to vote against the Motion to report Progress. If we do not get the Army Vote to-night, we must have the Navy Vote on Thursday, the Vote on Account on Monday, and the Supplementary Votes on Tuesday.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian the other day, and he acknowledged that the House would be bound to vote the money in time to carry on the Government of the country. Therefore, there is no choice. We are using no threats whatever. All we say is—and I believe with the concurrence of right hon. Gentlemen opposite—that we must get the money within a certain time.
§ MR. MOLLOY
It may not be the fact so far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, but it amounts to this—that we are now coming to the custom of the Estimates being forced through the House without anything like adequate discussion. I quite agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that some Votes of a non-contentious character may have been discussed at some length; but here we have a Vote which involves the whole policy of this country and its foreign policy, and to ask the Committee to 1488 close the discussion to-night is really absurd to common-sense men. We are told that we can have a general discussion on the items. I venture to say we would very soon be out of order if we did anything of the sort. We are accustomed to the ruling of the Chairman, and we know that in discussing a particular Vote we have to keep within the limits of that Vote. Now, the Government are taking their Estimates in a microscopic fashion; they are of so little importance. Yet the Secretary for War has made five speeches, and his Under Secretary two. My hon. Friend by my side rose, and on two occasions he was interrupted by the Secretary for War. One of the right hon. Gentleman's (the Secretary for War's) speeches was a mere repartee speech to one by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). It was merely a personal encounter between the present and past War Secretaries. Several of us who have formed some opinion upon this subject desire to give expression to it; and looking at it fairly, it seems utterly impossible that this debate should close, and I protest against putting the House to the trouble of taking a Division.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan)
I think the proposition of the Government is absurd. The argument, as I understand, was this—that we must first of all vote the money, and get the reasons for the Vote afterwards. Now, I take it that that is beginning at the wrong end.
§ It being Midnight, the Motion to report Progress lapsed without Question put, and the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ House resumed.
§ Progress reported.
§ House adjourned at five minutes after Twelve o'clock.