HC Deb 12 March 1889 vol 333 cc1511-48

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.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 149,667, all ranks, be maintained for 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. Picton.)

Debate resumed.

* SIR W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)

I think there is no one who will deny that the House has had put before it, in the statements of my noble Friend at the head of the Admiralty and of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, a clear explanation of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the Army and the Navy. No one will deny the importance of the Navy, or that the Navy should be maintained in such a position so as to be able to command the seas wherever it may be placed. The question that we have more immediately to deal with, however, is that of the Army Estimates, and I think that when we look broadly at the question, and when we consider what has been done, or rather what has not been done, in days gone by, we shall not consider the sum asked for excessive. I certainly was surprised when I heard the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) say that if the Army Estimates are to be increased as is proposed that certainly would show that the Navy Estimates ought not to be increased. Even hon. Gentlemen opposite who take a very different view to that which I hold in regard to these matters will admit that, considering the position of this country at the present moment in regard to its food supply, it is absolutely necessary that we should have command of the sea. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) last night referred to the Motion which was brought forward last year by me for a Commission with regard to the defences of the country, and expressed his approval of the action of the Government in opposing that Motion. But though the Commission was not granted, there can be no doubt that if it had not been for the discussion that took place on that Motion there would neither have been the Commission to inquire into the working of the War Office and Admiralty, presided over by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale, nor the Committee of the Cabinet, to whose Report it may be assumed that the present proposals of the Government are due. May I ask my right hon. Friend (Mr. Stanhope) in what position is the Commission at the present moment, and whether it is likely soon to report, because the questions referred to it, such as the relations between the War Office and the Admiralty are grave questions, and the sooner the House knows the exact opinion of the Commission on matters of that sort the better it will be for the country. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), it is right that the Cabinet should take questions of this kind into their consideration. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) said he knew the opinions of the Cabinet, but not the opinions of their military advisers. I think the country and the House would like to know what were the recommendations and what were the opinions of the military and naval advisers? I cannot bnt think that these opinions are in unison with the opinion of the Cabinet, and if so it is well that they should be expressed so that the country may know whether the Government are carrying out the defences of the country on the lines which those who are best able to judge have recommended to the Cabinet as being essential to the welfare of the Empire. The Secretary of State for War has suggested a scheme of defence which will employ more or less all the forces which are to be found in this country, especially the Auxiliary Forces. He has told us it will take 124,000 men to garrison and maintain the different positions that are held to be of vital importance to the country. One thing I should like to say is this: 124,000 men, mainly of the Auxiliary Forces, are to occupy these various positions. Why not call out these men and let them see the positions they are to occupy? That would cost the country nothing, as the men, generally speaking, are to be found in the neighbourhood where they will be called upon to perform their duties. The Militia, which I do not think has received that attention which it ought to receive, when it is called out for its annual training, could be sent to work at those positions, and the country would know that the men were there and were likely to be efficient, and do the work required of them properly and efficiently. My right hon. Friend has also organized the Volunteers by Brigades, and there are certain Brigades, I presume, that are to go into line of battle in case of absolute necessity. I saw in a military paper that the War Office are only going to allow a certain portion of the Brigades to asemble. A more short-sighted policy could not possibly be found, because you would find a large number of men discontented if they are not allowed to go out with the battalion if it is called out for any purpose of the kind. The Brigade-Majors, too, are to be paid so small an amount that they will not like to accept the positions which will be offered to them. Efficient officers are absolutely necessary, and I hope there will be no false economy in so small a matter. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of earthworks which are to be erected. I hope he is not going to leave the construction of such works until the day of danger arrives. Earthworks are not costly in construction, and it would be much better for the men to know where the works are, and what they would have to do if danger arose. So much for the Volunteers. As to the Militia, I hope that some steps will be taken to put them in a more effective condition. Some regiments are excellent, but some are not up to the mark. I regard it to be the duty of the Government to organize all the forces we have at our disposal, especially those remarkably cheap forces—the Militia and Volunteers. Now, the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) has moved an Amendment to reduce the number of men by 2,600. What are these men required for? They are to maintain our garrisons in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, at stations necessary for the safety of the Empire. Some men talk as if we were going to hold aloof from everything happening elsewhere; but history shows that that is impossible. Nothing could be more detrimental to the working classes than that this country should sustain anything like an Imperial reverse, and especially that anything shonld happen to our stations in the Mediterranean, and at the Cape which are so necessary for the maintenance of our highway to India, Australia, and other possessions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) could not support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leicester, but he sympathized with the object of the hon. Member, because he thought there ought to be no increase in the Estimates. If we intend to preserve our coaling stations, we require greater garrisons, and, therefore, I welcome the propositions of the Government upon this point. But upon the question of the Reserve I was sorry to hear what my right hon. Friend said. I hold it to be a positive duty of any Government to see that the Reserve is effective and efficient. Every man ought to be inspected, to see that he is effective and efficient, to see that he knows what his drill is. It is to a large and effective reserve of Army men and to our Auxiliary Forces that I look for a continuance of our freedom from conscription. We have only to look at Germany and France to see how the heart of the nation is eaten out by conscription, and how the women of both Germany and France are called upon to perform those duties which, if it were not for conscription, might, and ought to be, performed by men. Let me now turn to the question of Artillery. Do not let us blink the question that our Artillery is not what it was in former days when we had muzzle-loading guns. I think a step in the right direction is to make a distinction between the Garrison and the Horse and Field Artillery. Men dislike going into the Garrison Artillery because they are deprived of opportunities of distinction. Something ought really to be done to make garrison service attractive, and to encourage men to learn the work. As it is every officer of Artillery does all in his power to avoid serving in the Garrison artillery, where scientific training is absolutely necessary in handling the enormous guns we now have; where also he finds himself in worse quarters; and where as soon as he is appointed, he endeavours not to learn his work, but to get into the Horse or Field Artillery as soon as possible. I desire to congratulate the Secretary for War on his determination to distribute to the Artillery 12-pounder guns, which, I am told, are the best arms of the kind in the world. I quite agree, too, that the Army and Navy should each have the duty of ordering its own guns. As to the Cavalry, I think every regiment ought to be made up to its full strength. In this island we may not require so many regiments, but the time may come when we may have to send Cavalry at a moment's notice for one or two Army Corps abroad. We might very properly copy either France or Germany, who look upon a reserve of Cavalry or Artillery as of no use until they had gone into training again, and therefore keep all their regiments of Cavalry and also their Horse and Field Artillery up to war strength. I do not agree with my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for South Hampshire (Sir F. FitzWigram), that it would be well to decrease the number of regiments, but I do agree with him that all ought to be kept up to full war strength. In the next place, I musr protest against the Home Army being used to feed regiments in India. We ought to have for the Indian regiments separate depôts of older men, enlisted for a longer time than men are enlisted for home service. I suppose the 80,000 we are to have available will be exclusive not only of the 30,000 in Ireland, but also of the Army Reserve, or else we are doing nothing at all. If the Reserve men are called into the first line, how will gaps, which any campaign will naturally make, be filled up? I have asked before that we might see one of those Army Corps; and I think Aldershot is the proper place for the men to assemble. I cannot, for the life of me, see why an Army Corps, which might be sent abroad, we will say, in the course of a month, should not be assembled now and then at Aldershot, under those officers under whom it would serve. Each regiment—at any rate a certain number of regiments—should have five squadrons, and one of these squadrons, in the event of a regiment going on service, should remain at home for the depôt. My hon. and gallant Friend went so fully into the numbers of a regiment that I will say nothing on that point. Now, I have not heard a very great deal about the transport, and I am rather anxious about that. My right hon. Friend told us that all stores were to be decentralized. I think that that is a most desirable thing to be done, but I should like to ask him who is to be responsible for those decentralized stores? Are they to go into a particular district, commanded by a General Officer, who will be responsible for them, and see that the men have what they require in the event of an emergency arising? That is a point worthy of serious consideration. If they were to be surrounded by all the difficulties in getting at stores that at present exist, the gravest danger will arise in case of any emergency suddenly confronting us. I think, too, we ought to see that the Transport for the First Army Corps is in a state of efficiency. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman that he has 14,000 horses upon the register. But is nothing more to be done? If the Cavalry and Artillery have not their full and proper strength of horses, and if the Transport is not, at least, moderately complete in that respect; and if, as a consequence, these 14,000 horses are to be brought into use, how many will be fit for the work, and how many will be able to draw and take the heavy burdens which they will have to bear without notice? This is a matter which deserves serious consideration at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. At any rate, he should insure that the Cavalry is always fully mounted. I think it right to make these few remarks, because we have had so many Armies on paper, and I desire now that we should have a real and efficient Army. I will conclude by making one remark, and it is upon a question which has occupied the attention of soldiers for many years. The barracks were bad when I first entered the Army in 1839, and you may depend upon it they have not improved in condition since then. This is one of those cases which does not brook delay; it is one of those things which the Army have a right to demand and we are bound to grant. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester and those who sit immediately behind him would, if prisoners were confined in gaols absolutely unfit for human habitation, make a great outcry, yet they do not seem to care whether money is found to provide proper lodging for our soldiers. A right hon. Gentleman last night found fault with the Secretary for War because he did not know exactly what would be the amount of money which would have to be spent on the barracks in order to put them in proper condition. But even the matter of barrack accommodation requires proper organization. It is necessary they should be placed in large centres, in close proximity to railways, so that the troops may be moved without difficulty; and I do hope that the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman will place before the House will be one which, when carried out, will put the barracks into a condition to last at least a century. I venture to hope that the House will never hesitate to do that which is necessary for the health, welfare, and well-being of our troops. I do not doubt my right hon. Friend will not spend any more than is absolutely necessary for the improvement of our barrack accommodation, and that what is necessary will be placed unreservedly at his disposal by the House.

MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I desire, Sir, to revive the Amendment I moved yesterday, and I wish also to say one or two words in explanation. The hon. and gallant Baronet has referred to the necessity for improving the barrack accommodation, and has taunted us on this side of the House with being careless on the subject. But, Sir, we are not careless on the subject, and we should not object to any reasonable expenditure. If we have soldiers we must give them proper barracks. I trust, Sir, we shall not be thus taunted again. My Motion does not refer to the question of barrack accommodation. I moved that the number of men should be reduced by 2,615 men, which is the exact increase proposed this year. I object to the people of this country being called upon to pay for more soldiers, and I desire to hear something of the policy which requires this increase. I fear that it is a policy of aggression. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to the possibility of a great emergency, and I should like to have some explanation as to that.


The right hon. Gentleman has given us a clear outline of parts of what may become a very comprehensive scheme. I say "may become," for we must remember that the object of all the measures which he has described can only be to bring the forces of the Kingdom, with the fullest effect which preparation can give, against an invader; and that these and all other such measures must be judged by the degree in which they promise to accomplish that result. But the only result which the right hon. Gentleman has pointed to is the occupation of certain positions round London where, in a few days, the defenders of London could be concentrated and entrenched. Now, there are two ways of looking at the defence of London, either as a duty to be undertaken by a comparatively small body of troops specially devoted to the purpose, and operating as near the capital as the conditions of ground and the spread of streets and houses will admit of; or, the interposing of the Field Army between London and the advancing enemy. In this latter case, the term "Defence of London" can only be applicable in the sense that the ultimate object of an invader must be to seize the capital, and that all operations against him may be said to be in its defence; but in this case the phrase loses its distinctive meaning, and is, in fact, misleading. But it is this latter case which the right hon. Gentleman appears to contemplate; he seems to speak of assembling the Field Army and the field portion of the Auxiliary Forces in these positions, in order to deliver there a decisive battle. But he also tells us that these positions are "round London," which must mean near London. Now, to choose ground near London for the first concentration of the Army would leave great part of the South of England to the mercy of the enemy. If he had said that he meant to make here an ultimate stand for the defence of London his intention would have been clear, and in that case it would be well to strengthen the position, as he proposes, with works in which the Volunteers might most effectively co-operate with the regular troops. But the first concentration should take place as near as possible to the enemy's place of debarkation.


Nothing that I said was at all inconsistent with that. I especially reserved the Field Army as separate from the Volunteers, who would occupy this position.


To enable the Field Army to concentrate, by road and rail, on the menaced point, must be the primary object of our efforts. And in mentioning rail, I would say that the right hon. Gentleman's explanation would have been more complete if he had told us how he meant to bring the railways into the general scheme of defence. Again, when the right hon. Gentleman described the excellent and necessary step he had taken of dividing the stores of the Army and placing them at many points for ready distribution to the troops, we should have been glad if he could have told us also the selection of the points on lines of railway where magazines might be placed for ammunition. As to the assembling of the troops, I have no doubt that by the arrangement of Sir Redvers Buller this could be successfully accomplished in a very short time. In this connection the right hon. Gentleman made mention of the Reserves. He told the House how he wished, and properly so, to give them opportunities of exercise, but he also explained the difficulties he had found in the way. If for Reserve men we read Volunteers the case equally applies, and therefore I trust that the right hon. Gentleman is now convinced that I and other hon. Members were justified in the course which we felt ourselves obliged to take last year in opposing certain steps of his intended to invite the Volunteers to submit to fresh liabilities. With regard to the guns with which he proposes to supply the Volunteers, the right hon. Gentleman says that their value has been decried. This is unjust, because they are all that we have which are available and suitable. He then tells us that their calibre is more powerful than that of any which an invader could bring against them. But, in answer to this, I must observe that the power of guns does not depend upon their calibre alone; it also depends upon their range; and, supposing the enemy's artillery to be of superior range, he might take up a position beyond the range of our guns, and yet have our position within the range of his. I mention this only to show that they are only the best we now possess, and should be replaced by better ones; but I also admit that other kinds of guns are more pressingly needed. Some Members opposite object to the Estimates, because they are too large. For my own part, however, I lament that the right hon. Gentleman has not seen his way to repeat the loan which he obtained last year, because I believe the country was never in a better frame of mind to grant cheerfully all that may be necessary for our defence. All that the country desires is to be convinced that the steps proposed are necessary. This brings me to another point of great importance—namely, the defence of our commercial ports. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the progress made in supplying these ports with submarine mines, but other things are necessary, namely, long-range guns to keep off a hostile cruiser, and to protect our floating defences and the works in which to place them. The right hon. Gentleman tells us he has made proposals to the municipal authorities of these ports, suggesting that they should bear their share of the expense, and he added that those proposals have been rejected. This I was very sorry to hear, because I wanted to see the commercial ports take a generous part in this enterprize. It appears that on the failure of the negotiations the project was brought to a standstill, but I would represent that the completion of these defences is anxiously looked for by the public. The results of some of the late naval manœuvres have strongly fixed attention upon this subject. Perhaps the postponement of this and other measures may be, in some measure, due to a certain theory which has been put forth by a school of naval opinion, with the best intention, I believe, but which is so extreme that it may be called extrava- gant. The theory is that we should abandon every kind of land defence in order to concentrate our resources on the Navy. They affirm that if the Navy suffer defeat we have no further hope; that in a few weeks we should be starved into surrender: that no invasion is necessary to complete the conquest of this country; and that no amount of Land Forces would serve to avert our fate. The men who maintain this also state that the Navy is insufficient to protect us. If hon. Members put these two affirmations together—first, that the Navy is all in all, and, secondly, that it is incompetent to protect us—they will see that we have a very alarming prospect before us; so alarming that it is a good service to inquire whether it is true; therefore, with all the diffidence which a landsman must feel in opposing naval opinion, and with all deference to the decision which naval opinion may ultimately arrive at, I will venture to state the case thus. We have two kinds of naval defence. We have a fleet of battle-ships to meet the enemy's in a general engagement, and we have ocean cruisers to protect our trade lines against the enemy's cruisers. These two kinds of defence are distinct and separate. Now, supposing that our ironclad fleet has suffered such a series of discomfitures as to be driven to take shelter in our fortified harbours, it could not be imagined that the enemy could have effected that result without being himself in a crippled condition. Would he, with what remained of his fleet, undertake the blockade of all our important harbours throughout the whole extent of our shores? If he did, he would offer us an opportunity of attacking him in detail with the serviceable ships still remaining to us. Or would he take the alternative course, and collect his ships in one or two squadrons with which to attack our merchant vessels laden with food? Now, I confess that an attempt to intercept with ironclads swift ocean steamers, having such an extent of coast to make for, and such a large space of open sea in which to make for that coast, seems to me to be an impossibility. In any case, the theory that the defeat of our battle fleet would entail the destruction of our commerce and the cutting off of our food supplies is one of such a formidable nature that we cannot accept it unless it is absolutely brought home to us by proof. Assuming that there is a flaw in this reasoning, and that we shall still be able to receive our food supplies although our fleet had suffered disaster, it appears to me that we cannot too soon set about completing the defences of our commercial ports. It needs no argument to prove what an advantage it would be to ships making for those ports to find the ports open to them and closed to the enemy. But there is another point to consider in this relation. The advocates of the policy of abandoning all other attempts at defence except increasing the Navy would have much more reason on their side if we could go at once into the market and buy any number of warships ready made and armed and manned. I, for one, should in that case be most earnestly desirous of putting all the public money that can be made available into this truly national investment. But we know that even the approach to a sufficient fleet which is at length so happily to be made cannot take full effect for four years and a-half. What of the interval? We have frequently been assured of late that a great war cloud is about to burst over Europe. It is impossible to suppose that this prophecy relates to an event which is not to take place for four years and a-half. It must relate to something immediate. Thus we have this situation—an imminent crisis—an insufficient Navy—and when the Navy on its trial shall prove insufficient, nothing left but immediate surrender. Now, this situation is so appalling that the theories which point to it ought to be at once tested, and either admitted or rejected; and, if rejected, then we cannot too soon proceed with those measures of internal defence, which will not only fulfil our immediate purpose, but which will immensely increase the power of our existing fleet. But, before sitting down, I will touch once more on a matter of high importance in this great subject of national defence. I will once more venture to impress on the Government the importance of establishing by competent authority, and in open day, not secret conclave, a standard of our military requirements for the defence of the Kingdom and the Empire, with full details of the amount of forces needed, of their distribution, and of the material necessary for them. I am aware that a plea has been set up against this, and it was yesterday concurred in by the right hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), a former Secretary of State for War. But I am totally unable to understand it, and I believe it cannot be understood by anybody who has not held office, which is an unfortunate position for a plea to stand in before the public. But I venture to believe that, until this is done, no measures that may be taken can be at once perfectly adapted to a sound general scheme, and perfectly acceptable to the country. I wish to acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman's proposals are excellent so far as they go, and I shall therefore heartily support them, as I would any proposals for the Army or Navy which are good as far as they go. Indeed, I cannot but concur in them, for they are such as for many years I have been pressing on the public. It is, of course, a satisfaction to find that my ideas are in unison with the ideas of those who have power to give them effect. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having got so far on the right path, and I hope he may yet see reason to respond to the spirit of the nation and to seek larger means of giving security to the country.


I should like to be allowed to offer one or two remarks in regard to the statements made by the Secretary of of State for War. I entirely concur in the observations made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down (General Hamley) regarding the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as eminently satisfactory; and I think the right hon. Gentleman may take credit to himself for the general concurrence with which the statement has been received by Members on this side of the House. I think he may congratulate himself that for the first time, in pursuance of what he began last year and is continuing this year, he has been able to present to the country and to the House a statement full, lucid, and clear, and giving us, I hope, a promise of something like definite conclusions from definite principles which have impressed themselves upon his mind in conjunction with the military authorities. In this respect, I am bound to say, there is nothing but praise to be given to the right hon. Gentleman's statement, but I am bound to qualify that praise by saying that if there is any criticism which may be pronounced upon the right hon. Gentleman's statement, it is that it is not so comprehensive statement as it might have been. I doubt if the Committee of the Cabinet which, we are led to understand, sat to consider this subject, was itself sufficiently impressed with the possible necessities of the Army, taking into consideration what emergency may at any time arise in India as well as at home. I make that criticism not from any carping spirit, but the hope that the right hon. Gentleman having made a great step in advance this year, may, in succeeding years, be able to continue in that right course, and be able to make still further satisfactory advances. He has gone not so much on the principle of desiring to increase largely or indefinitely the total number of men at his disposal, as upon the much better and safer and much more economical principle, much more useful and practical principle, of desiring to make the most of those which we already have in the United Kingdom. On this point I am in accord with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell), who spoke last night, and I think we ought not to make an addition to our total numbers until we feel confident that we have worked up to the fullest what we possess in the United Kingdom. It is almost impossible, except to those who have gone into the details of this subject, to conceive the large, latent, dormant military force we have in this country. I think the warmest praise is due to the right hon. Gentleman for having for the first time endeavoured to act upon the sound principle of trying to organize the whole of our military forces into a body which can be used for the effective defence of the country and the Empire. Our forces in this country consist very largely of a large body of Volunteers (225,000); and those who have, for the last 22 or 23 years past, seen this body rise by the spontaneous patriotism of the country—a body such as no other country possesses, but will be extremely glad to possess—must admit that the right hon. Gentleman's proposal for improving the organization of this force is one in the right direction. With regard to the Militia, I can congratulate the House on the assistance we received last night from the able and lucid speech delivered by the noble Lord the Member for the Petersfield Division of Hampshire; and, I trust, that will bear fruit in a Committee of Inquiry being instituted in whatever way may seem desirable to the right hon. Gentleman for the purpose of giving a stimulus to the Militia. The Militia are supposed to be 135,000 strong. They are the old constitutional force of the country, which in the Peninsular and in the Crimea Wars gave such enormous assistance to the Regular Army. They have, undoubtedly, within the last few years, been allowed to dwindle and fall off, for a reason which we cannot but be sorry for—namely, that it has, to a certain extent, been left in the shade by the more popular force of the Volunteers. I am not going to say a word in disparagement of the services that the Volunteers render, and are going to render, to this country. On the contrary, the only reference I will make to them is to express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be more liberal in his help to them when the necessity for it is pointed out. At present there is only a total of some 40,000 or 50,000 efficients in the Militia out of a nominal Establishment of 135,000. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman is not taking steps to increase the Militia Reserve on account of the reasons which are making the Militia itself unpopular, but I do hope that some steps will be taken before it is too late to give this force an impetus and to make it more popular. I was very much struck by what the right hon. Gentleman has done in the way of putting the Volunteers in to an available movable force which may be brought to the front in addition to the Regular Forces in case of an emergency. Everything the right hon. Gentleman has done in that respect is a step in the right direction, only he has not gone quite far enough. He has put a part of them to garrison duty, and 120,000 he has put into movable Brigades, which are intended to aid the Regular Forces in case they should be called into action. It is impossible for the right hon. Gentleman, or the country, to form at the present time any idea—and I say it advisedly—of the extent to which the military qualities of the Volunteers can be developed by judicious treatment, but we must be liberal in the way of money as well as praise. There are to be 31 Brigades, but the right hon. Gentleman has not made provision for nominating efficient staffs, and it seems to me that it would be absurd in this case to risk the loss of a good ship for a pennyworth of tar. The staff vacancies in the Brigades have only been half filled up. The right hon. Gentleman himself, as a colonel of Volunteers, knows how necessary it is to fill up those vacancies in order to secure efficiency, and I hope he will see that this is only one step in the further development of the operation of bringing the Volunteers into an effective condition. I have seen with some regret the statement made in the public Press—it may be entirely unfounded, however—that the Easter operations, which in the past have been attended by 50,000 or 52,000 men, ate likely to be curtailed very much this year. This would be greatly to be regretted, and I think it would be very desirable for the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the details of this matter, and to see if some further concession could not be made to the Volunteers, so as to enable them to go out in the same numbers as they did before this Brigade organization was adopted. With regard to the proper organization of Cavalry, it is too much to expect, with the many things the right hon. Gentleman has in hand, that he would have been able to deal with this matter this year. The details have been so very fully given by the Member for South Hants that I will not go over them, but I am sure there is no question which at this time requires more to be looked into than the question of the efficient condition of our Cavalry. We have one broad fact before us, that with 12,000 men we have only 6,000 horses. We have an assurance that the right hon. Gentleman is not going to carry out the scheme of forming ammunition columns from the field batteries, which I was very glad to hear, but I confess that I should like to know a little more of the details of the plan which he intends to substitute. He has constituted fifteen columns on paper, but I am afraid that when he comes to fill them up with 100 men and 75 horses each, linesmen and horses will still have to be drawn from effective batteries of Artillery. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would adopt the other alternative of taking the horses from the reserve of horses which he has registered, and the drivers from the reserve of drivers of the Royal Artillery. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say last night that the Army Corps to which he referred was intended primarily for the defence of the United Kingdom. It must be recollected, however, that with these proposals to put 80,000 Regular troops under arms in this Kingdom, 120,000 Volunteers would also be placed under arms. Has the right hon. Gentleman ever contemplated what would be the number of field guns required for an army of that sort? He has told us that he proposes to create 67 Volunteer Batteries of Artillery, or a total of 238 guns, and I hope that will be carried out, because it will leave the 80,000 Regulars intact, with their own proportion of guns, which is now small enough in case they should be required, not for operations in Europe, but for the, reinforcement of batteries in India. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware of what has been done in previous years in this matter. Promises have always been made to us that a sufficient number of batteries should be kept for the reinforcement of batteries in India should the contingency ever arise. This is why I say that the whole scheme is not looked at so comprehensively as it might have been. If at any time the Indian Army may have to take the field in numbers not less than 200,000, there are only 318 guns in India, and to give those 200,000 men their proper complement of guns would absorb the whole of the weapons available. I hope, therefore, the earnest efforts of the Secretary of State for War will be directed to the completion of those 67 Volunteer field batteries which he has indicated. I should like to say something with regard to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Bridgeton, as it has, in part, been conceded by the Government that a reduction should be made in the effective Generals' list. I should like to know whether he has followed the conclusions arrived at in 1881, when the Member for Bridgeton made the same raid upon the Generals' list, and, as the result of his somewhat misguided efforts, he established the very worst principle of selection that ever was established in the world—a haphazard system, a chance system, a system not based upon the merits of the individual. That principle of selection has resulted in eliminating from the list of General Officers of the Army some of the very best men, while it has retained men of inferior merits. If the right hon. Gentleman is congratulating himself on what he did in 1881, and will take the list of the year and ask anybody acquainted with the merits of the officers affected by it to go through the list with him, he will find what I say is correct. I hope the Government, while accepting the principle of the right hon. Gentleman regarding a reduction in the Generals' list, will not accept any advice from him as to the mode of carrying it out. The popular idea is that a General Officer is a man who has attained to a grade in which he receives pay for doing nothing at all, but, like everybody else in this practical country, a man to lead bodies of troops must have acquired efficiency by daily practice in doing so. That is the reason why in this country, which keeps only a small number of troops under arms in time of peace, it is necessary we should have some reserve of General Officers, for the purpose of leading an army. I only hope, if the reduction is made, it will be made wisely and well; but I think that should be done not by the haphazard cutting down which was proposed, but by a judicious and wise reduction, such as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War will carry out in conformity with the advice of the Duke of Cambridge last year. For my part I only hope that the reduction will be made both wisely and well, and on a principle as far as possible opposite to that laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Sir G. Trevelyan). The general principle the Secretary for War has adopted, seems to me to indicate great progress for the future, and if he will only act on the sound advice which is always at his disposal on the part of competent military advisers, and avoid being misled by the panic-stricken theories of those who really know nothing of what they talk so much about, he will do well both for the Government and the country.


The character of the hon. and gallant Baronet, who has just spoken, stands so high in regard to military matters that I cannot pass by an expression he has let drop, although I feel assured, from the silence with which it was received by the Committee, that it was regarded as an erroneous reference to what occurred here some five years ago. The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of my having recommended and brought about the present system of appointment to the Generals' list. It will, I am sure, be within the recollection of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House that that recommendation was—reduction of the list of Generals, selection by merit of those placed on that list, and coutinuous service on General's pay and General's duties when once put upon the list. But, unfortunately, the Government, doubtless under the advice of the military authorities of that time, accepted only part of that proposal—namely, the reduction of the list of Generals. They did not accept the selection of men fit to be Generals, and, afterwards, their continuous employment on Generals' duties. It is true that my efforts did bring about the change, but the hon. and gallant Member will doubtless allow that the system which I recommended five years ago was in all respects the same as I recommended to the Committee last night. I have no doubt Her Majesty's Government will complete the good work that has been so long doing, and that when they alter the list of Generals, they will do it on the principle recommended last night, and which the hon. and gallant Gentleman recommends now—that is to say that whether the list be large or small, it shall be a list of as many Generals as the country wants, and in carrying out that change, and in selecting the men to fill the post of General on the list, I am quite certain Her Majesty's Government will bring about a great reduction of expenditure.


There are two questions in connection with the matter before the House to which I desire to refer. One is the question of the Army in India, and the other is that of the defence of the Coaling Stations. I quite agree with what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman in reference to the Army in India. I have worked it out on the basis of certain figures, and I believe that that Army would be found much more efficient if it were made a Long Service Army, because the bringing home of the Short Service men and their kits adds enormously to the cost of maintaining that Army. With regard to the Coaling Stations, they ought, in my opinion, to be garrisoned by Marines, and to carry out this proposal I would increase the Force of Marines to whatever strength might be necessary, having such a number as would be able to garrison the Coaling Stations and take up their duties with the Fleet as well as in the Reserve, in regular rotation. There can be no doubt that this would not only be enormously cheaper to the country, but that it would add enormously to the efficiency of the Service, because we should get better men in regard to age and experience, and men who, at any moment, could be put on board ship. They should be put under their own Generals, and this would put an end to any of the disagreeable things that might otherwise occur in reference to those having authority in time of war at the different coaling stations. I know that my right hon. Friend cannot do this all at once. He has done a good deal under the routine system that has been established, and I do hope that now he will be able to make a settlement of this question. We have all listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman below me (Sir E. Hamley) in regard to the question of fortifications. It is a mistake to suppose that Navy men are opposed to fortifications. What we say is, that, first and foremost, we must get our Navy in order, and should then set to work to fortify the ports around the country. The hon. and gallant Gentleman advanced the theory that in case our Ironclad Fleet had suffered discomfiture, the enemy must also have sustained a good deal of damage, and would be unable with the remains of his fleet to blockade our harbours without risk of being attacked in detail by the serviceable ships remaining to us. He also said the enemy might destroy a certain number of vessels, but would be unable to so utterly destroy our commerce as to cut off all our supplies. As to invasion, I do not believe in the fears entertained with regard to such a contingency. If once our Fleet is beaten, why should the enemy attempt to effect a landing on these shores, with the chance of losing so many men and ships and the risk of being attacked from the rear, when he would be able to starve us into terms by stopping our food supply? I do not wish to join in what is described as a scare in regard to the invasion of this country, and I feel quite sure the idea is not one that will create any great amount of fear among the people. With regard to what was said about reform, I hold that reforms should come from inside, and until they do I do not think we shall ever see them carried out in an economical way. My right hon. Friend has told the story of how guns were supplied to the fleet without ammunition. What I wish to point out is that we are under the same system now, only we happen to have men who are working it in the best way they can; but the same thing is likely to happen again if once we get a bad lot of men in the Service. The hon. Member for Leicester has said that the officers of our Army are always asking for more money, and be has taken exception to the references made to the German Army on the ground that that Army is, owing to circumstances, in an exceptional position. But what is the reason the German Army, which is the life of the German Nation, costs less, in proportion, to our Army and is more efficient? There is no reason why our Army should not be as efficient in all its details as the German Army. What is the reason why, at the present moment, there is the difference that has been pointed out? It is because the experts in Germany have gone into all that is necessary for defence, and their opinions are con suited in whatever has to be done. What we hold is that the opinion of the experts should certainly be taken before the Estimates are prepared and the money is voted. My right hon. Friend will say I am unduly finding fault with him. I am not finding fault with him, but with the system. I think he has done more than any other Minister who has occupied his position to alter the old system and try to get a better service. My right hon. Friend was asked whether the Estimate he had brought forward was his, or whether it was that of an expert; and he has told us distinctly that it is his Estimate and not that of an expert. The present system, however, under which military experts report to the Secretary of State, and their opinions are accepted or rejected is, I think, open to grave objections. It may not be desirable that such opinions should be publicly stated to the House, but they ought at any rate to be brought before the Cabinet before they decide what is necessary for the Army, and till this is done depend upon it you will have these scares and fancies, and will be asked to state in a definite and understandable manner what is necessary to be done.


I am very glad that the proposition to report Progress last night was not approved, and I think the discussion we have had to-day has been very useful. We have had an immense amount of military experience given us this morning, and it will appear presumptuous for a civilian to take part in the discussion, because it is thought by many Members of this House that nobody is qualified to take a share in it save those who are themselves members of the Army. ["No!"] Well, I understood so. If it were merely a question of the best arrangements of the Army, or which weapons would be best in the interests of scientific slaughter, I should certainly not presume to trouble the Committee any farther. But on this Vote, which involves the whole of our military policy, because it relates to the number of men, I contend, though a humble Member, I am quite as competent to form a sound opinion upon that question as any General, Captain, or Admiral in this House. Two of my right hon. Friends on the Front Opposition Bench said the policy of non-intervention had been pretty well accepted by all Parties in this country. But when I hear the word "non-intervention," I always remember the answer of Talleyrand to the lady:—"Non-intervention, Madam, means—much the same as intervention," I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend (Sir G. Trevelyan) say last night that the time had come when we should recognize the responsibility of this country again placing an Army in line with Continental Armies. And the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs spoke very much in the same way. Nobody contradicted on the other side, and I suppose their dicta were pretty well accepted. If that be the case I am justified in assuming that ostensibly our Army is for defence. Against whom do you want to defend yourselves? The Queen's Speech of February, 1888, and of this year, speak of the continued friendly relations with foreign Powers; but if that be the case, it is an extraordinary and monstrous thing that the Government should come down and say "because we are friends with all the world, we must have £21,000,000 more for 70 ships and we must have 2,615 more men, to defend ourselves against those friends who are in such cordial relations with us." It is a most monstrous proposition, Mr. Courtney, and I am sure anybody, who thinks for a moment, will agree with mo. What would you think if you were told that two parties of aborigines were friendly, on hearing that they were going to build a large fortification, or if the Secretary for Ireland said he had succeeded in pacifying Ireland, and then asked for a large number of police to protect the people? Yet we, being at peace, are asked for this increase of the Army and Navy. I sometimes think that the House is out of its mind with these extreme military preparations. The Queen's Speech spoke of the necessity of increased precautions for the safety of our shores and commerce, and, while saying that our relations were friendly, said, we had no right to assume that this condition was secure from the possibility of change? (hear, hear) An hon. Member says "hear, hear." I do not know any position in this world which is necessarily secure from the possibility of change. I would like to ask the hon. Member who says ["hear, hear!"] whether he knows of any condition of life which is free from the possibility of change. The fact is there is no more probability of a change this year in our relations than there was last year. We must take these Votes of the Army and Navy together. We cannot dissociate them. It is a question of what armaments we require; and, as I have stated, my starting point is that both the Army and Navy are required for the defence of our industry and commerce. I do not believe that either is for defence. When the Volunteers were started people recognized the motto, "Defence not Defiance," as quite a new thing, showing that in their hearts they had hitherto regarded the Army as for defiance and not defence. ["No" and laughter.] I hear some hon. Member laugh. Let him tell me of a single instance since the conclusion of the great war with France of a war in defence of this country. It is always defence not defiance which is involved in your military preparations. The War with China was to poison the Chinese with opium. The Zulu War, the Boer War, the Burmese and the Egyptian Wars, one to stifle a new Republic, another a burglary, and another to get money for the bondholders, besides the 30,000 soldiers kept in Ireland to strangle national life, were all means of defence. Well, but suppose these proposals are for defence, am I to believe all the stories which are told by the colonels and admirals and generals on that side of the House? I have a sincere respect for them, but I do not believe them a bit, because they have always been wrong ever since I have known anything of this House. The prophecies of these military and naval men have been utterly wrong. But, unfortunately, the people of this country have believed them; they are very credulous, and they can swallow a great deal. When I first came into the House Sir John Pakington was reconstructing the Navy, and we were told that when it was reconstructed we would be quite safe. Then it was said, only get fortifications, and everybody can keep in their beds. Everybody knows that the money spent on fortifications was a simple and unadulterated waste of money, and it might as well have been thrown into the sea. With the Volunteers, we were told, we must be safe. I remember the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham telling what a Yorkshire farmer said when the Volunteers were started:—"Well, we always thowt there were a power of fools in the country; but we never had any way of pointing them out afore." Well, after all this re-modelling and re-constructing, we are now asked for £21,000,000,70 more ships, and 2,600 men. But that is not the end of it. What is Lord Wolseley doing? Why he is going up and down the country under the patronage of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and is calling for a conscription. I do not know what is going on in this way, and whether we are to have every man, woman and child enlisting, but this I did see in the Daily News of this morning an advertisement announcing that at the United Service Institute on Friday a lecture will be delivered on the employment of dogs for military purposes. But I am not attacking the way in which you are going to carry on warlike operations; have "dogs of war" or whatever you like, I attack your policy solely. If you are going to defend yourselves against all possible combinations against you, you will require far more preparations than these you purpose. I saw a statement the other day that, taking the great European Powers, Germany, France, Austria, Russia, Italy, and the Balkan Provinces, there are some 28 millions of men more or less ready to engage in fighting, and is it not utterly absurd to attempt to vie with these great Continental Armies? Let me read a quotation from the Observer newspaper, which I think puts the case very well:— In one sense of the word no price is too high to guard the country against invasion, but the price of averting the mere risk of invasion may easily be too high. As in a question of insurance, the cost of a premium may be so heavy as to make it worth a prudent man's while to run the risk, rather than make such provision against a possible contingency. In other words, the struggle for life makes life not worth having. That seems to me to put the case very well. Is life worth living by many wretched people in this country? Hon. Members may laugh, but I was one of those who the other day listened to that melancholy catalogue of the miseries endured by classes of starving people in this country, given by the hon. Member for N.W. Lanark (Mr. Cuninghame Graham). He described how the people were struggling in the depths of ignorance, wretchedness and misery, and I say it is a cruel thing to pay away the money of the people as a protection against phantom foes, while you have all the forces of poverty, misery, ignorance, vice, and crime in your midst. I know what the answer is. I shall be told it is impossible to reduce our forces, so long as other nations of Europe keep up their large armies; but let me quote once more, before I sit down, the words of a great statesman, and a sentence from a great philosopher. I think in these quotations I shall point out, in better words than my own, what I think is the real policy to pursue, by which you will get rid of this enormous expenditure. So long ago as 1841, Sir Robert Peel—and you know there never was a more sagacious, prudent, common-sense Minister than he ever sat in Parliament—said— It is for the interest of Europe that the nations should come to a common accord to enable every country to reduce these military armaments, which belong to a state of war rather than of peace. I wish we could influence the public mind to enforce this doctrine on the Government. Now listen to Bentham— Whatever nation shall get the start of the others in making proposals to reduce and fix the amount of armed force will crown itself with everlasting honours. I say that is the true policy; but I have heard or read nothing of any statesman having made an attempt to carry out such a policy. In my humble opinion it should be tried at once in the interests of this country and the world, and until it has been tried, I, for one, as a humble representative of the people, refuse to vote one shilling or add one man to increase those hideous bloated armaments—at once a disgrace and burden, and a danger to a country that professes to be Christian, and pretends to be free.


I hope I may now be allowed to make an appeal to the Committee to come to a decision upon the question before us. The Committee will remember that it is absolutely necessary to take the Vote for men to-day; and if we do not obtain that, it will be impossible for us to comply with statutory requirements, which I am sure the Committee desire should be observed. It is absolutely necessary, and I would make an appeal to the Committee in the strongest terms to come to a decision. I am reluctant to take up any part of the small remaining portion of time at our disposal, especially after the full measure of indulgence accorded to me yesterday; and, in answering the questions put to me, I will be as brief as I can. The hon. Member for Leicester, who moved the Amendment in terms of which I have no right to complain, and who confined his observations within the limits of his Motion, asks the Committee to reduce the number of men by 2,600. Well, I know this House prides itself on being a business-like Assembly; but would it be consistent with that character if, after the House voted money for the purpose of fortifying our coaling stations and putting them in a proper state of defence against attack, we were to stop short in the middle of our work and say, "We will not grant the Government money to garrison these works." The proposition is so absurd that it is only necessary to state it as explaining the reason why this Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester must be resisted. Among the questions put to me, I take first that in regard to the Cavalry, several hon. Members having asked me to take up the question of Cavalry re-organization. No doubt the Committee must have observed most of the hon. Members who touched upon this subject were exceedingly unwilling to express any opinion of their own as to the means by which this re organization was to be effected. I know that the hon. and gallant Member for Hants (General Sir F. FitzWygram) was an exception. He gave us a complete scheme of re-organization, but the Committee will have noticed that his scheme, which was a large and in itself a complete measure of re-organization, was not only received with some doubt and hesitation by other Members of the Committee, but several intimated that they altogether opposed the plan of my hon. and gallant Friend, and therefore I think he will understand how, in my responsible position, I feel the full difficulty of the task he would invite me to undertake. Before I could do that, I must feel satisfied that the steps I recommend will really tend to the advantage of the Service. Then a good deal has been said about the new arrangements for Volunteer Field Brigades. I think the country is to be congratulated upon the officers whom we have been able to get for the command of these brigades, and I must say there are none of them to whom thanks are more due than those who have seen such service as the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (General Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) who has very kindly undertaken the command of a brigade. From his knowledge and experience Volunteer officers will derive the greatest advantage, and to him and others the country will owe a debt of gratitude. But he and other hon. Members have to-day alluded to some of the difficulties to be encountered in the organization of these Field Brigades. It is impossible to free the plan from every difficulty, but I am prepared to meet them as fairly as I can. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred to the question of paid Brigade Majors. I do not like to use the word paid; it was never intended that they should be paid; but what we did hope was, that we should be able to offer them a reasonable allowance to compensate them for the extra outlay they were put to. It may be that in some cases the amount was fixed too low, but that is a matter for the consideration of the Department after full experience of the difficulties to be met. Certainly, I did not mean to lay it down categorically that we would not move by one inch from the position we have taken. In Militia battalions, again, there are difficulties to be encountered, and no doubt we run some risk of putting difficulties in the way of other meetings of Volunteers. It is not our desire, in the least degree, to limit the Easter gatherings, although we place in the first rank the importance of exercising the men in the new brigades. In cases where battalions are not able to join, we are still anxious to encourage Easter gatherings, as calculated to encourage efficiency in the force. Then I am asked a question by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead (General Sir E. Hamley), whom I thank very much for the able and clear—criticisms, I was going to say, but they are scarcely that—comments on the scheme I have proposed. I know that in the matter of defences of this kind, and especially that of London, we owe very much to his teaching and experience. I have had the privilege of consulting him on the subject, and any observations of his are entitled to great weight in the House and in the country, and will receive most respectful consideration from myself. I am not quite sure whether my hon. and gallant Friend heard one part of my speech last night, because he specially called attention to the desirability of concentrating our Field Army on positions such as railway junctions, whence they could be easily moved to points of danger. I explained that this was a cardinal part of my proposal. Troops will be concentrated on railway junctions and similar places mapped out, and will be enabled to entrain at a moment's notice, and proceed to any point of danger. My hon. and gallant Friend also alluded to the defence of commercial ports, and I think my noble Friend (Lord Charles Beresford) did the same. I really think I may leave those two speeches to answer each other; but I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Birkenhead there is no desire for a moment to abandon the proposals put forward for the defence of commercial ports. I have already explained that certain defences will be carried out in any case; but my offer of breech-loading guns to the ports without offering to pay for land, &c., was made on the ground that localities should contribute towards the cost of their own defence in someway. We indicated several methods, and I issued a Memorandum in which it was suggested that the towns should find the sites for the fortifications if the War Department found the guns. I do not think that was an unreasonable proposal at all, and I know in several instances towns have acquiesced in it. I am not all dismayed at the reception my proposal has met with in other instances. There is a distinct desire to close with our offer in reference to the defence of the Tees. The Municipality have expressed their readiness to meet us in a reasonable manner, making an offer that we should take the land at a nominal rent, and we have gladly accepted that course; the guns will be mounted as soon as the works are complete. I hope, in respect to the other ports, we shall come to a somewhat similar arrangement. My noble Friend (Lord C. Beresford) has raised an important question, how the garrisons for the coaling stations are to be provided, and has suggested that, in many cases, Marines should be employed. Well, I do not wish to express any definite opinion. I know there is much to be said for his proposal, and it is one that has been and is under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. If we find, after very careful examination from every point of view, that of economy as well as efficiency, that it is a proposal we are justified in accepting, we shall not hesitate to do so. My hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Sir Walter Barttelot) asks me when the Royal Commission now sitting on the administration of the Army and Navy may be expected to report; but I do not think he can really expect me to give an answer, for I have no control over the proceedings of the Commission. But, I observe the Commission has been sitting very assiduously, and I understand its Sittings will shortly recommence. Further than that I am not able to go, though I may say I hope the Commission may report shortly, for then we should be able to carry out several contemplated changes that are suspended pending the presentation of the Report. Again, I would earnestly press upon the Committee the urgent necessity of the case, and allow a decision to be taken on this Vote now.

* MR. WOODALL (Hanley)

I am reluctant to intervene between the right hon. Gentleman and the decision of the Committee; but, in the absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling under whom I served, I must protest against the statement made last night, and which has attracted much attention, to the effect that in the preparation of the Estimates for 1886 the amount required by the Admiralty for projectiles and ammunition for quick-firing guns was struck out of the Estimates.




I am unable, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, to vindicate the action then taken without reference to confidential documents, some of which I have not now in my possession; but, as I had some subordinate part in the preparation of the Estimates, afterwards adopted by the Secretary of State and submitted to the House, I may be permitted to ask the attention of the Committee to the Estimates actually submitted, a copy of which I have now before me, in which provision is clearly made under Vote 12 for ammunition in the column wholly devoted to sea service, and there is an item of £32,600 for ammunition for quick-firing guns. Further, a little lower down, I find a sum of £159,000 submitted for projectiles, also for sea service. Now, it is perfectly true that the demand of the Navy in these particulars was curtailed, but the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that there never has been a period without some such curtailment. We have to cut our coat according to our cloth, and reductions are considerately and proportionally made. But, as was explained by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) in reference to the method of dealing with naval demands, there was a Conference at the War Office between the Secretary of State and the First Lord at which I was present, and at which a happy medium was arrived at, and the amount entered was agreed upon equally on the responsibility of the War Office and the Admiralty. Another allusion was made last night in reference to barrack accommodation. "When," asked the Secretary for War, "did my right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) become acquainted with the fact that barrack accommodation was demanded?" In 1886, it will be remembered, the Government came into office well on in February, and they were under the same obligations as the present Government are to get these Votes early in March. They found the Estimates in a complete slate of un-preparedness, and the Government they succeeded had been spending freely on these Services from the large amount placed in their hands by the Vote of Credit. In these very Estimates large provision was made for barracks at the Curragh, at various places in Dublin, at Portsmouth, Gosport, Aldershot, and elsewhere. But this was done before they became acquainted from personal inquiry with the absolute necessities of the case. The right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State who preceded him were in possession of the information we left, and they might have been expected to make good the deficiency. I hope the Committee will excuse this interruption; but I feel very strongly that an injustice was done to my right hon. Friend.

* MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

Notwithstanding the earnest appeal made to us to close this debate as speedily as possible, I feel unable to comply, because, while I admit Her Majesty's Government have a duty to discharge towards the country, we also have a duty to discharge towards the people who sent us here; and, in the name of the people, I desire to register my solemn and emphatic protest against the demands of Her Majesty's Government. Three different proposals the Government have made, against which, I hope, we shall record, if not a numerous, a serious protest. First, they propose a considerable addition to the number of men to be engaged in fighting; secondly, they ask us to sanction an expenditure of £6,000,000 over that of last year; and, thirdly, we are asked to sanction a scheme the Government, with the assistance of experts, have prepared for the defence of the Metropolis. Well, I am amazed that any body of reasonable men, in or out of this House, should have had the temerity to make such propositions, and especially the latter; and in no speech yet delivered do I find any justification for it. I remember, some three or four years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) was Chancellor of the Exchequer he deplored the great increase of expenditure on the Services, and used strong language—not stronger than was warranted by the facts; he said the expenditure upon the Services was every year increasing "by leaps and bounds," and that, if economy and retrenchment was to be effected, it must be in this direction. But on retrenchment has been effected, though I remember a strong appeal was made to us below the Gangway to assist the Government in what I believe was their determination to effect retrenchment. Then, during last Session, we had two very common-sense speeches from the Treasury Bench on the subject. First, the Secretary for War stood up and disposed altogether of a scare in regard to an invasion by some imaginary foe. Following him we had the First Lord of the Admiralty, who, in a common-sense manner, effectually disposed of the dangers from a naval invasion. With these two speeches some of us hoped that the bogey of invasion by some imaginary foe from some imaginary part of the globe was disposed of; and at least, I think, we are justified in asking—as in all sincerity I do ask—what has occurred since these two speeches were delivered in the House some six months ago to cause such a complete change of front on the part of Her Majesty's Government? If there was no danger to be apprehended at that time, we are justified in asking—nay, more, we are justified in demanding—in the name of the industrial millions of this country, some proof that some incident has since occurred to warrant us in voting this increase in expenditure. What I want to know is, where is the enemy? Where is the danger? Where is the foe? If there is no danger, we are not to be frightened out of our propriety by the bogey of invasion, which is continually trotted out to extract money from the pockets of the toiling millions of this country. Last night we witnessed a sparring match between the Front Opposition Bench and Her Majesty's Opposition. It is very curious how those who sit on the Front Bench, opposite to those who are in office, consider it absolutely necessary to criticize severely the financial proposals of the Government. When out of office, right hon. Gentlemen feel it their duty to pose as economists; but we all know that in the end, when the sparring is over, the gentlemen who criticize the proposals of the Government will say that, after all, the moment is not opportune for the retrenchment they are desirous of effecting, and under the circumstances they feel it their duty to support the Government. That is exactly what happened in the farce which was enacted last night, and how the Secretary for War managed to pump up so much excitement and pitch into the right hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) so strongly is a mystery to me. I have been long enough in this House not to believe in these naval and military manœuvres of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Benches opposite. It would be far better if they would tell us what the remedies are for the evils which they profess to deplore. One hon. and gallant Member was good enough to tell us that we want a great increase in the Horse Artillery; another that steps should be taken to improve the breed of horses; another advocated a more efficient Cavalry Service; another said "strengthen the Infantry," while some advocated long service and others short service. All these nostrums have been put forward and the same speeches delivered over and over again, and when the Government bring forward the Estimates next year, they would save the time of the House by reprinting the debates which have taken place in former years. But we have another class of Members who declare that all the previous doctors have been wrong, and that what we need is a complete system for the fortification of our coast. I would, however, ask whether it is not desirable, before we commence new fortifications, that we should supply those which have already been constructed with guns? Forts have been constructed at enormous cost at Plymouth, Portsmouth, and other naval stations, upon which no guns have been mounted, and I think it would be sheer folly and waste to repeat these blunders. I am prepared to register my vote against the proposals of the Government, because I believe that instead of diminishing danger they are calculated to increase it. My theory is that the danger becomes the greater with every increase of the Army and Navy; because if the nation is prepared to fight, and you are satisfied that all branches of the Service are in a perfect state of efficiency, you are much more likely to engage in a struggle with a Foreign Power than if you had a weak Army and an ineffective Navy. A few years ago there was a remarkable scare which I have before referred to in reference to Pendjeh, and a Vote of £11,000,000 was rushed through this House to prevent Russia from taking a piece of territory which was said to belong to our Ally, the Ameer of Afghanistan. But the money was never applied in that direction. Nobody knows to this day what became of it, because a few weeks afterwards the alarmists discovered that our Army was not large enough to cope with that of Russia, and there was a danger that if we engaged in a struggle we might be defeated. They, therefore, climbed down from their lofty pedestal and proposed to refer the matter to arbitration. Russia readily consented; but the matter never came to arbitration at all; because the Commissioners appointed by both Powers to delimitate the frontier line found that the so-called valuable territory was a mere slip of sandy desert not worth half-a-crown, and that, after all, it really belonged to Russia. The moral of that story is that we did not engage in a struggle with Russia because the experts discovered that our Army was not strong enough for the purpose. Had our forces been sufficient, the alarmists would undoubtedly have provoked a war with Russia for a valueless strip of sandy desert. I come now to the last proposal of the Government—namely, the defence of London. I am told that Her Majesty's Government simply propose that a number of sites shall be purchased, that no forts shall be erected upon them, but that the land shall simply be acquired so that it may be available in the event of an invasion. What will happen? The land will, I presume, be acquired. I am told it is intended that earthworks shall be at once erected. Even suppose that they are not, as soon as the land has been acquired a flagstaff will be erected, and the British flag will fly above it. By-and-bye there will be earthworks and buildings, and ultimately money will be expended in the erection of fortifications, which will remain as monuments of the folly of this House. Scores of similar monuments exist throughout the country. It is because I do not believe that the danger would be diminished, but greatly increased, if the men and money asked for by the Government were supplied, because I believe that there is no Power in the world who desires to invade us, and because I am not to be frightened by the spectre of invasion I decline to vote for the proposals of the Government.


I feel under the necessity of moving that the Question be now put.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Question be now put."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)

The Committee divided:—Ayes 221; Noes 101.—(Div. List, No. 14.)

Question put accordingly, That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 149,667, 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.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 92; Noes 230.—(Div. List, No. 15.)


claimed "That the Original Question be now put."

Original Question put accordingly.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 231; Noes 88.—(Div. List, No. 16.)

(2.) £5,004,500, Pay and Allowances.


I venture to make an appeal to the Committee to allow this Vote to be taken at once. As a matter of ordinary practice, this is done; for it is the natural consequence of the decision we have just taken. We have had a full discussion, extending over two days, of the policy in which the two Votes are concerned; and, having in mind those statutory obligations to which I previously referred, I trust the Vote will now be taken.

* MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I desire, at any rate, to say a word of protest against this procedure. I care not what has been the practice on former occasions; it is quite enough for us that the circumstances of the day are altogether unusual. Whether or not it is any use insisting upon debate and Division I do not know, and it is a point I do not now wish to argue; but I do propose to say this, that the circsmstances under which the Government are asking us for money are absolutely unprecedented. The Government are a discredited and disgraced faction, and they know that they appear in the face of the country and public opinion with halters round their necks. Under the circumstances, I, for one, am not disposed without protest to give them any facilities for obtaining one farthing of public money; and, if there were the slightest possibility of doing it, I would offer every possible obstacle in the way of their obtaining any money at all for the Public Services. [Sensation.] Hon. Members appreciate the position, I am glad to see, in which they are placed. The people are well aware of it, and if you went to the country to-morrow you know you would be routed. Another reason why I think it is our duty to offer a protest against the Vote is that you are asking for an unusual number of men, more than is absolutely necessary. I will not argue that question, but I object to any more burdens being imposed on the taxpayers of the country for two very sufficient reasons. One is that the taxpayers are already overburdened by the wholly unnecessary expenditure incurred by your degrading, disgraceful policy of Coercion in Ireland; and, secondly, if you were not so fatuously wedded to that disgraceful method of government, you might withdraw the 30,000 bayonets with which you now hold Ireland down, and have an ample force for the legitimate service of the country. I would add, in addition to that, it is, to my mind, sufficiently unsatisfactory that we should be abused for spending three and a half hours in discussing what is quite as important a question as the condition of Ireland—namely, the question of the condition of the industrial classes—while no objection is made to wasting two whole days on the question of adding to the taxation of these poor people for the purpose of increasing our already bloated armaments.

MR. PICTON (Leicester)

On this subject, again, something might be said as to the Staff of Generals. I may say that it is because, and only because, of the undertaking given by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, that I shall abstain from moving a reduction to this Vote. I must say that I have it on the highest authority—that of Lord Wolseley and Major-General Brackenbury—that we have at least 100 Generals too many on the Effective List, and I do not think we ought to allow it to be supposed that we let a scandal of this kind pass without protest, unless on the ground that we have it from the Government that they intend to introduce a reform in this Department. It is only on that ground that I refrain from moving a reduction.

Vote agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £57,200, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Pay and Miscellaneous Expenses of the Chaplain's Department, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1890.

MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, South)

I must protest against this Vote being taken at such an hour.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.