§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 154,073, 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, 1893.
§ (8.52.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE,) Lincolnshire, Horncastle
Sir, I abstained from addressing the House at an earlier period, because I know it is much more in accordance with constitutional practice and with general convenience that the Minister who, for the time being, is responsible for the Army Estimates, should have an opportunity of laying, in one statement, his view of the condition 215 of the Army, and of what he proposes for the year, before the House of Commons. I do not think that it will be thought presumptuous on my part, considering all that has recently been written about Military subjects, if I venture to occupy the attention of the Committee for some little time. But certainly with a good deal of what has been written I have little or no concern. Much of it has been founded upon reports and evidence relating to a state of things which has passed away, while absolutely ignoring the reforms which have been introduced and the consequences which have come from them; and I am afraid also that much has been written which may have the effect, although I know it was not the intention, by painting unfairly, in the blackest colours, the conditions and disadvantages of the Army Service, of discouraging recruiting. For my part, I want to approach, without the smallest prejudice, the consideration of all these questions, which can alone in that manner be satisfactorily dealt with. Now, Sir, a good deal has been said with regard to the amount which we are at present expending upon the Military Service. I am afraid that anybody who endeavours to make an exhaustive or complete comparison between what we expend in this country and what is expended in foreign countries on the Military Service is attempting an impossible task. The conditions are wholly different, and I do not think that even the most acute intellects, applied under the most favourable circumstances, could possibly be able to present to the country a really fair comparison between what we are spending in this country and what they are spending in France and Germany. I know very well for myself, who have tried, during the last few years, to arrive at such an estimate, the task has proved beyond my powers. I had two years ago the assistance of a man, second to none in that respect—a man who had given very special attention to the subject of the expenditure in France and in Germany. General Brackenbury furnished the Committee on the Army Estimates, and afterwards furnished me, with all the information which he could collect to enable him to make any comparison between what was being spent both in France and in Germany and here, and I am bound to say that even that in- 216 formation was of a meagre description. He pointed out with very great force that when you came to compare expenditure in this country with what took place in France and Germany, you had to compare, to some extent, the conditions under which that expenditure was made, and he proved, I think, beyond any doubt, that if you were going to pay the German Army, to clothe the German Army, to feed the German Army, and to give the German Army generally the same advantages which you give to the Army in this country, you must begin by adding £9,000,000 sterling to the Estimates of Germany. I do not want to go into these comparisons now, because I have a good deal to say to the Committee; but I should like, without going further, to say that General Brackenbury pointed out the insuperable reasons why we could not make a fair comparison between what we are spending in this country and what they are spending in France and Germany. First of all, of course, we have a voluntary system in this country, whereas they have a compulsory system in those countries; secondly, the cost of living in England is altogether different from the cost of living in foreign countries; and, thirdly, the larger salaries which are paid to officials in this country are not confined to Military Departments, but extend to every Department of the Government of this country. These three conditions alone make a difference which it is almost impossible to estimate at its full value, and which led General Brackenbury to the conclusion, after the most impartial and careful inquiry, that he could not say that we in England were spending an undue sum on the Army, as compared with France and Germany, and that if we were enabled to achieve certain results—about which I shall have something to say presently — our expenditure in this country would compare not unfavourably even with that of France and Germany. Well, we have given the House of Commons every opportunity of examining our expenditure. I do not deny for a moment that this volume of Army Estimates is a very formidable document for any Member of the House of Commons or anybody in the country to take up. It has been examined, let me remind the Committee, very carefully by a Committee presided over by my noble Friend 217 the Member for South Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), which sat for two years. That Committee examined every Vote. It called whatever witnesses it chose. If I may say so without offence to the Chairman, it took whatever course he thought desirable to elucidate what he thought it necessary to elucidate. There were representatives of the War Office on the Committee, but they had very little voice either as to the witnesses to be called or as to the manner in which they were examined. The result of the examination by that Committee was a Report, or a series of Reports, recommending certain reductions of expenditure in various directions, and every single one of those points has been taken up and dealt with by us since that Committee sat. In the course of their investigations there were various points brought out, which showed that the amount we were spending upon certain important services was inadequate, and the consequence has been that the inquiry has led to an increase of expenditure. We have since that time presented to the Committee every year a short Table, showing in the very best manner that we possibly can what we get for the expenditure we undertake. It is now printed in the Army Estimates, Appendix 21, but formerly it was circulated as a separate Paper; and there everybody can find, if he chooses, the cost of the separate arms of the Service, the cost of every institution connected with the Service, of every educational establishment, and he will find further what the cost of a soldier is in this country. I think it is worth mentioning that we take here the cost, not only of the private soldier, but of warrant officers, and non-commissioned officers, and include in it his clothing, rations, fuel, transport, equipment, ammunition, barrack accommodation, medical attendance, and all the costs of paymasters and chaplains, the prison staff, schools, and libraries, and the result is that we arrive at a sum which, divided by the number of men in the Army, gives an average charge of £56 per head. I want the Committee to notice that figure, and I want anybody to look into this statement, and tell me if they do not think, looking at the cost of labour generally in this country, we do not get the services of the private soldier, with all these advantages, at a moderate sum. Now, Sir, I turn from that particular question 218 of expenditure, to more general considerations. Of course, like my predecessors, and certainly like my successors, I am very anxious indeed, not only to keep down expenditure, but to strike off every possible item of expenditure that it is possible to save. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary and myself may claim, during our term of office, to have cut off a large number of items where we felt that we could do so with justice and consistently with the efficiency of the Army. But, unless you come to deal with the great items of expenditure as a whole, I cannot hold out any hope that it is possible to reduce the expenditure to a very large extent. You may examine as you like; the Committee under my noble Friend the Member for South Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) examined it, and the result which it always arrived at was that though there were minor items by which you can reduce the expenditure, you cannot largely cut down the expenditure on the Army unless you reduce the number of men, or reduce the stores, or cut down the Non-Effective Vote. It is quite clear, much as any of us desire to keep down the Non-Effective Vote, it is very difficult to do so; and much as I have tried to do it, under considerable obloquy, it is the fact that, having regard to the conditions of the Army, having regard to the promises that were made to the officers and men who have entered the Army, you cannot hope to reduce by one stroke of the pen the Non-Effective Vote. Nobody will suggest that we should reduce the number of men. Can you reduce the stores? Perhaps in a few years time, when we have built up our reserve of stores, and furnished the Army with the new weapons now being supplied, it is possible that the time may come when the Vote for Stores may be considerably reduced. Certainly, at the present time, I do not feel justified in recommending the Committee to think for a moment that that Vote can be reduced. I am bound to say that while sympathising with the desire to reduce expenditure, and while striving to reduce it wherever I possibly can, I am not prepared to hold out to the Committee and the country any reasonable hope that, while we maintain the number of men and try to make them efficient, the expenditure on our Army can be extensively cut down. Now I am coming to 219 some of the increases in expenditure which have taken place during my administration, and I want to dwell on some of the questions which have been raised in the course of the evening and out-of-doors with respect to the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee. I should like, in the first place, to remind the Committee that this Committee was appointed by myself. I saw the necessity for inquiry into the question of drafts, and when I saw the necessity for that inquiry I did not hesitate to ask that Committee to assemble to inquire into that question, and to advise me and the country as to the best means of dealing with the difficulties which had then arisen; and when I see sometimes in the papers the statement that I have any hostile feeling towards Lord Wantage's Committee or its Reports, all I can say is, if it were likely I could have entertained any such feeling, I never should have appointed the Committee at all. I appointed it because there were subjects which required investigation, which in this House and out of it were pressed on me again and again, and therefore I determined to ask a Committee which had my confidence to undertake the investigation. Lord Wantage's Committee devoted itself to the work with the greatest possible industry, and have produced a Report which shows signs of great labour on their part, and a desire to arrive at a proper decision on all the points, and more than all the points, submitted to them. I do not want to discuss the recommendations of that Committee now; it would be premature on my part to do so. The Report lays down principles of great importance, and proposes expenditure of very great magnitude. I have not yet had the opportunity of consulting my military colleagues at the War Office with regard to the Report, and I feel sure that no one in this Committee would think for a moment that I should be justified in speaking generally on the proposals contained in it. Of course, it is obvious that that Report has generated a good deal of difference of opinion, and that difference of opinion is really much more serious than appears at first sight. I stated last year two sides of an important question, its advantages and disadvantages—I mean the question of deferred pay. That question I referred to the Committee as underlying practically a 220 great many other proposals, and I asked the Committee for an opinion with regard to deferred pay. No one will doubt, even after the Report of the Committee, that the question how you are to deal with deferred pay is still enveloped in doubt. The Committee itself made the recommendation, without giving any reasons for it, that deferred pay should be abolished, and a small gratuity substituted for it. But four Members of the Committee dissented totally from that recommendation, and here I am bound to say I am exceedingly sorry that the evidence taken before the Committee is not available for reference to-night, because there is a very remarkable document which was referred to by the minority who dissent. That document gives the opinion of a large number of Reserve men—40,000, I believe—on the question of deferred pay. They were asked what was the result of deferred pay, and was it an advantage to them or not? The vast majority of the men said that deferred pay was an enormous advantage, and that when they left the Service it had enabled them to set themselves up for life in a better manner by far than they would have done if they had not had it. I am not now arguing one way or the other; we are entitled to reserve our opinion till we have thoroughly examined the evidence. The evidence taken before the Committee has thrown much new light on the subject, and we cannot hastily say that it would decidedly be better to get rid of deferred pay. Lord Wantage's Committee did not, give an estimate of expenditure, and I am sorry that they did not do so; nor did they enter at all into the question of the results of the recommendations which they made. That omission was supplied by Sir Arthur Haliburton in his separate Report. I want to say one word with regard to his position. He was nominated by me on the Committee as a man of great experience and thoroughly able to advise us on these questions. But it so happened that he had never given any special attention to recruiting; and he joined the Committee as a thoroughly impartial man who had an opinion to form on the subject, and when it came before the Committee he dealt with it according to the 221 evidence and according to the facts given in previous Reports. Certainly, he did not deal with them according to any preconceived notion, or according to any wish expressed on my part. If I had expressed any wish concerning the matter, it might have been that he should not criticise my conduct, but he has taken what I believe to be the perfectly legitimate course of doing so. He dissented, I understand, from the Report of the Committee because he thought the principles laid down in the early part of the Report were departed from in their recommendations. There were two classes of recommendations: the first related to the terms of service, and there he expressed a doubt whether, practically, the extension of the terms of service recommended in the Report would not be inconsistent with the maintenance of the efficiency of the Reserve. The second class of recommendations dealt with the pay and allowance of the soldiers, and there he raised the most natural objection, that it would, in his opinion, fail to accomplish the object we had in view, and even if it were likely or probable that it would succeed, the same result might have been obtained without the great expenditure recommended by the Committee. I think I may sum up Sir Arthur Halliburton's objections to the Report by saying that he took the line that any intelligent and able man was entitled to take when appointed to take part in deliberations of such importance. For my part, I approach the consideration of what the Committee has said with the utmost impartiality; I have no prejudice one way or the other. I have read and studied the evidence solely with the view to arrive at the best conclusion—the conclusion most calculated to advance the interests of the Army. But it must be looked at generally from the point of view, which has lately been so much canvassed, as to the general effect of the existing system upon the Army at home and abroad, and whether, at the present time, we are getting an efficient Army at home, and by the same system are getting an efficient Army in India. What are the facts? I will endeavour to simply state what exists in this country and in India, and then inquire whether the facts warrant a satisfactory conclusion or not. I take the results of the system as they are to be found in the 222 Returns made to us up to the 1st February last. It is an unfavourable time in this respect, that large drafts have been recently sent abroad, but I take it as being the latest Return. We have got in India and the Colonies a force of 103,000 men, and these are all men who have undergone good training, are of good physique, and of an age fit for the climate they have to encounter. Is there a man in this country—there certainly is not in India or the Colonies—who will say that the Army which now exists in India and the Colonies is not thoroughly efficient? It is more efficient for the purpose for which it exists than it has ever been before. Therefore, so far as that Army is concerned, I think we may say that the present system has produced results which nobody can gainsay. Then we have at home an Army of 106,000 men, of whom 28,000 are under one year's service; deducting those we have 78,000 men of over one year's service, in addition to the Reserve, which we all know is close upon 70,000, and will next year be close upon 80,000; in addition, also, we have the Militia Reserve. What does that mean? It means this: that if we had to call out an army to be sent abroad of anything like the dimensions ordinarily contemplated, we could do it with men of full age and training. Look at the figures for a moment. I do not want to deal with Army Corps, for that is an unpopular term in this country; I think it is better to deal with numbers of men rather than with such terms. Suppose we had to send abroad 80,000 men—which is equivalent to two Army Corps—and that we had only to take the men now of sufficient age and training for that purpose, and so fill up the whole of the remainder of the battalions from the Army Reserve, we could perfectly well do it and have still remaining the number of men which I will describe to the Committee. We could fill up all battalions and regiments to their full strength for Army purposes with men of full training and still have remaining in the First Class Army Reserve 31,000 men, and 31,000 men in the Militia Reserve. I do not wish to pretend that every one of the men would be available. When you put men into the Reserve for a number of years you may make a fair deduction for 223 men who, for various reasons, would not be physically suitable or serviceable for a campaign. But it will be satisfactory to the country to learn that we can actually put into the field 80,000 men, and still have remaining 31,000 men in the First Class Army Reserve and 31,000 men in the Militia Reserve, or even if we deduct 15 per cent. for the men who might probably be inefficient, we would still have 47,000 men in these two Reserves, and behind that we should have the men who are rejected at the present time from regiments going abroad as not being in full training nor of one year's service, but who would be available in a few months to reinforce any army we might have in the field. The reason I quote these figures is because I want to show that when people say we have no Army, when they say that our Army at home is entirely composed of boys, the real facts are very different, for the result of our system has been to build up the Reserve, and to give a large number of men of full age and training available to take the field whenever called upon. I can also venture to say this. The force which I have described is a very large force, but I am perfectly certain, and say without the slightest risk of contradiction, that it is the largest force this country has ever had of men fully able to take the field since the time of the Peninsular War. Whatever may be said of our system, it has produced a large number of men available to take the field whenever they may be required; and, in addition to the numbers I have given, there remain behind for the defence of this country the large force generally known as the Auxiliary Forces—the Militia, and 220,000 Volunteers. Now, Sir, the second ground for the charge of inefficiency made against our Army is, that it does not contain sufficient men of long service. I agree that it is most desirable and necessary that—although you should be able to supplement your battalions at home from the ranks of the Reserve—there should be in the ranks of our Army a fair proportion of men of long service. Does anybody realise the enormous importance of the figures contained here, which have been quite recently obtained, in regard to the actual condition of our battalions. There are, no doubt, one or two battalions about which I will say at once that if 224 the figures are true they have not sufficient men of long service; but anybody who looks at the figures will see at once that there are only one or two. I was enormously struck when I studied the figures and saw the high average of long service men in all the battalions of our Home Army. May I ask the Committee to look at page 44, where they will find all the figures, and the result may shortly be put thus: that the average number of men in battalions on the Home Establishment who have served in the Army six years and upwards is 231 out of 793. I suppose there is no man who would not be satisfied with six years' men, and surely they would have a sufficient experience of the Service. I ask the Committee if they think that is a fair proportion? When hon. Members speak of the number of boys, I say there is a fair proportion of men who have served a considerable time in the Army. The third cause of inefficiency is the difficulty of obtaining recruits. I am very sorry that hon. Members have not had an opportunity of studying the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting, but that is not my fault. It lies with the Stationary Office. The Report for the past year contains much information that is satisfactory, for notwithstanding the fact that it tells us that the waste of the Army has been greater than during the previous year, the result has been an increase of recruits over waste of 1,000 men. The Inspector tells us that recruiting was brisk, and it must have been brisk to have brought in during the year no fewer than 36,000 recruits. The real difficulty we had to meet was not so much in obtaining the requisite number of men for recruiting the Home Army, as in obtaining the requisite number of men for supplying the drafts for India and the Colonies, and that was the sole reason which led to the appointment of the Committee over which Lord Wantage presided. From the Report of that Committee we have obtained one or two facts connected with recruiting which appeal to be conclusively proved. In the first place, a good many of the causes which led to difficulty about drafts were temporary. The majority of the Committee and Sir A. Haliburton are agreed on that point, and Sir A. Haliburton is particular in explaining the causes that led to the temporary difficulty. In 1882 recruiting was stopped 225 for certain battalions of the Army which had been filled up by Reserve men, and every step was taken to prevent a larger number of men being recruited than was then deemed to be necessary. But when in 1883 these Reserve men went back to the Reserve and left the Colours, this led to a demand for an exceptional number of men who required to be recruited. In 1883–4 a large number of men were allowed to extend their service in India because of the difficulties of drafts which occurred at that moment; and again in 1885–6 the establishment of every battalion in India was increased by 100 men, which led to a larger demand for recruits in this country. The full effect of those measures is now being felt, and we shall continue to feel the effect of these exceptional measures at all events until next year. The result is we have exceptional difficulty in providing for the drafts which have to be sent to India, and I accept some blame myself and for those who are connected with me at the War Office that we did not fully foresee two or three years ago the difficulties in which we should be placed, because we might have taken a different course of action from that which we are compelled to take on the spur of the moment. Of course also the Committee pointed out some permanent causes for the difficulty. They point out the disproportion between the battalions abroad and at home, and they point out the youth of the soldiers. With regard to the first, I fully admit that if the system established in 1872 were to be fully carried out we should have more battalions at home than we have; but if I have sinned in this respect I have sinned in company with my Predecessors. We have gone on the principle, not of increasing the number of battalions, but of increasing the number of men in each battalion. Lord Cardwell thought the system might be worked with a battalion of 520 men; but we have always thought that the number of men in a battalion should be 720, nor is it easy to see how the difficulty with regard to the drafts for India and the Colonies was to be got over by adding to the Army a number of battalions solely composed of young soldiers and recruits. The Committee also commented upon the youth of our troops, but, I ask, are our recruits younger now than they have been for many 226 years past? There was a great deal of evidence to the contrary, and I could quote the evidence of many men of experience to prove that the recruits are not younger now than they were in past years. I think the most satisfactory feature in the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee is that after all they approve the principle of the main lines of the policy upon which our Army is at present being recruited. On the question of long and short service the Committee say it is not open to argument. They express the opinion that under the existing requirements of modern warfare short service would enable us to provide for the rapid expansion of our battalions, and further reinforcement of our troops in the field. Then also the testimony in favour of the territorial system is overwhelming, and it has been shown that the double battalion system is not only the most economical, but that it is the best machinery for providing drafts. Therefore I may say that, whatever mistakes have been committed, there is no ground whatever for going back from the principles adopted in 1872, but that Parliament and the Government should be urged to carry out those principles in every respect. The result of the Report of the Committee, therefore, has been to give a most complete and authoritative approval of the whole principle upon which our Army system is based. But of course, if you accept the principles so laid down, you must be prepared to accept the consequences which flow from those principles. Parliament has accepted the principle of short service, and you must also accept the principle that when you want to put an efficient Army into the field you must fill up your battalions with men taken from the Reserves. Therefore, I think that the famous paragraph in the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee, which contains the opinions of various general officers and of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, is at once unfair and misleading. That paragraph states that these general officers consider the condition of the Home battalions is inefficient. But two at least of these officers were speaking not of the whole Army, but of some special battalions which they thought ought to be made ready in case of small wars; and all of them would repudiate the idea that you ought to rely upon putting an Army into the field 227 without calling upon the Reserve. Under the system established in 1872 by Lord Cardwell, the principle was laid down that the battalions of 520 men were to be filled up in case of need by drafts of men from the Reserve. I do not think I can quote on this point a stronger opinion than that of the Duke of Cambridge, who was examined before Lord Airey's Committee in 1880, when the new system had been in operation some years. The Chairman asked him (Question 3,400):—But having recourse to the Home battalion to feed the battalion abroad, does that not denude the Home battalion of all men effective for the field?The answer is—Yes; and therefore the Home battalion must look to the Reserve. I look upon it that the Home battalion must for service be chiefly composed of the Reserve, and in this way only can it be made efficient for any duties that it may be required for, and, therefore, the Home Army is the Reserve; but made up in this way it is the finest part of the Service that you can have. The Reserve last year (1879) when it came out made those battalions as efficient as you could wish.With that statement, which is a very strong one, I may leave the case as regards that paragraph to the Committee. Accepting this condition, which is as true for us as it is for all foreign countries, that you must rely on your Reserve to fill up your battalions for active service, it does not follow that our existing terms of service are altogether perfect. We may not have hit the exact proportion of time that a man should serve with the Colours and with the Reserve. It may not be the right time for all branches of the Service, if for some one branch in particular. On these points proposals have been made by the Committee which deserve the careful consideration of the War Office. I am bound to say, however, that some of these proposals struck me at once as proposals which would have the effect of cutting into the Reserve in such a way as to make it absolutely useless for the purposes for which it has been designed; but I may say generally that, while perfectly prepared to consider the proposals of the Committee, I am not prepared, as responsible Minister in this matter, unduly to deplete the Reserves. I am not prepared largely to introduce any system of pensions that we have got rid of so largely by short service, and I am not prepared 228 to keep the men at the Colours so long that when you send them out from your Service they are so old that it is absolutely impossible for them to obtain employment in civil life. Bearing these considerations in mind I shall approach all these proposals with an open mind, but I can hold out no hope that some of these proposals can possibly be accepted. The hon. Member for Preston has been pressing upon the House the question of long service for India, and he bases his position on the ground that we move our Army about a great deal too much. I am sure he will find on looking into the matter that this moving about is absolutely essential in our Volunteer Army. If the service were compulsory we could compel men to serve where we liked. But if it is to be a voluntary Army you must hum our the prejudices and feelings of the men. We cannot always put particular battalions in comfortable and healthy places and others in uncomfortable and unhealthy places; and you will find that if you are to get recruits for the Army you must have some regard for the feelings of the men and the officers, and you must give all a fair turn of the pleasures as well as of the disadvantages of military service. My hon. Friend wants us to establish long service for the Army in India. I do not want to go into that question now; but I should like to say that the reason why long service was given up for the Army in India was because you found you could not get men. So far from there being any evidence now that you could get men for long service, the evidence is in the contrary direction. It is shown conclusively that men are disposed to enlist for short terms, and then if they like the Service, if it is popular and they are well treated, they will re-enlist for a further period. If you are going to try to enlist men for long terms of service, depend upon it you will get back to the condition of things which prevailed when General Peel, standing at this Table, said that long service had broken down.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Oh, no, no, no; forgive me. It is long service altogether. If I were to go further into the question, I should like to point out that no one disputes that if you were to establish a 229 long service Army for India it would be very much more costly. If you enlist men for twelve years and more, the cost would undoubtedly be enormously greater than it is now. You are also brought face to face with the question of efficiency, and yet the Army was never more efficient than it is now. Was it so with a long service Army? Can it ever be so with long service in India? Everyone knows perfectly well that it cannot, and I have here figures which prove that a long service Army in India tends naturally to deteriorate after seven or eight years' service. If you are going to try to maintain a long service Army in India, you would have an Army less efficient than the one you now possess.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
The hon. Member has quoted the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief in India, and he is of opinion that you might have a longer service in India. But that is not the opinion of most people in this country, nor do I think there is any substantial ground for that opinion. I should like to give some statistics of mortality in short and long service, between the years 1868 and 1872, and between 1886 and 1890, two terms when the two systems of long and short service were in operation. During the first period the number of men per 1,000 who died was 25, and who were invalided 44 annually. In the last four years the deaths had fallen to 15½ and the number invalided to something like 23½ men annually. Thus it is conclusively proved that under short service mortality and invaliding are much less than under long service. There are one or two other matters with which I wish to trouble the Committee. It is said that the defence of outlying stations need not be undertaken by the Army, nut might be handed over to the Marines. This matter has been carefully considered by the First Lord of the Admiralty and myself, and it was approached on my part with a desire to accomplish the object. It could not be done with regard to all our foreign ports, but it might be done with a good many outlying ports which are defended by the Army. But the cost of the Marines under long service would be much greater than the cost of the men now in the 230 garrisons. And, in addition, if you are going to garrison these places with Marines, you must establish a Reserve Force of Marines in this country, and the result would be that we should find it impossible to carry out the plan without a considerable increase of expense. Although I, for my part, speaking from a military point of view, would like to see the plan tried on a large scale; we should not be justified, with the figures before us, in recommending it to the attention of the country at the present time. At the same time the experiment will be tried on a small scale in some outlying possession such as the Falkland Isles, and we shall be able to see whether a system can be devised by which such dependencies can be defended by the Admiralty at less cost than by the Army. If the experiment be successful, I shall be exceedingly glad to hand over to the Navy the responsibility for the defence of some other stations. Before I sit down, I wish to put before the Committee one or two considerations as regards our Home expenditure and what we do with it. During our term of Office, speaking generally, the Army Estimates have been increased by about £500.000 a year, and in addition to this we have obtained the sanction of Parliament to the employment of borrowed money for certain urgent and very important works. It may be well, therefore, that I should state some facts with regard to what we have got and what we are getting for this very large sum in order that the Committee may be able to judge to what use the money is being put. The increase has been accounted for partly by the larger number of men in the Army, by the increased grants to the Volunteer Force, and also by additions to our warlike weapons and stores. Almost every other item of expenditure having been carefully overhauled shows some decrease. This result, and also the fact that during this period we have practically had no Supplementary Estimates, testifies to the great care with which these funds have been administered by the War Office. It will be remembered that one of the reforms introduced in 1888 on the recommendation of Sir Matthew Ridley's Commission was that the control of the Financial Secretary should be extended to every branch of military expenditure. In administering these large funds, and 231 in considering all improvements in organisation or in equipment, we have had in view the main object of trying to weld into one practical and effective military organisation all the miscellaneous Land Forces at our disposal. It is a task which had never before been really grappled with, as I can show in a very few sentences. Only partial steps had been taken to allot the troops to any definite duties in the event of hostilities, or to complete the manifold preparations necessary for them to take the field at short notice, and properly equipped. The stores were collected together in a confused mass at Woolwich, no system was laid down for their issue, nor were any complete tables in existence showing the proper war equipments of the various units. As for our fortresses, no definite garrisons had been assigned to them, either at home or abroad. When we came into Office no breech-loading guns had been mounted in any of our coaling stations, although, to the honour of the Party opposite, their defence had been undertaken. And, with the exception of two, no breech-loading gun had been effectively mounted in any of our ports at home or abroad. Very little progress had been made with the submarine mining defence. The Horse and Field Artillery were, with the exception of five batteries, armed with inferior guns. Other countries were manufacturing magazine rifles for their troops; we had not adopted one. No systematic arrangement had been made concerning the troops to be sent abroad in case of a foreign expedition. The equipment for an expeditionary force was not laid down on paper, much less had it been stored in places where it could be readily embarked. As regards home defence, little or nothing had been done to define the part to be played by the Militia or by the Volunteers to enable them to take the field. No steps had been taken towards obtaining the horses required on mobilisation, nor had the necessary staff been worked out and selected. No actual plan existed as to the defence of London, nor were positions where the troops should assemble or concentrate been selected. Our Army was, in fact, a series of disconnected units, our stores accumulated at Woolwich without reference to war under Service conditions, and we had, in fact, no plans ready even for a defensive campaign. And now what has been 232 done? The forces with which we had to deal were, shortly, these: Since 1886 the Establishment of the Army, including the Colonial Corps, has been increased by 2,000 men, mainly in consequence of the necessary provision of garrisons for our foreign ports, and on the 1st of January last the effectives of the Regular Army on the British Establishment stood at a total of 138,718 officers, non-commissioned officers, and men. Our Reserve, upon which, like all foreign nations, we depend for strengthening in time of war the peace cadres of our battalions, is expected in April next to reach nearly 80,000 men, and that is a far larger number than it has ever attained, and showing an increase since 1886 of 24,000 men; or, to go a little further back, I may say our military strength of Regulars and Reserve, available for service at home and abroad, shows an increase in the last 10 years by no less than 66,000 men. Of the quality of these troops I speak in dealing with recruiting; but these figures, beyond all question, represent an enormous increase in our national strength. The whole of this force has been re-armed with modern weapons. Sixty-nine batteries of Horse and Field Artillery have been armed with the new 12-pounder gun.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I am not quite certain, but I think so. All the rifles and carbines in the hands of our Regular troops and in the hands of our Auxiliary troops have been inspected and put in order, and we are gradually replacing them with the new magazine arm. The defective swords and bayonets have been replaced by very perfect weapons of English manufacture. The practical training of these troops, though still insufficient, has been enormously advanced. In 1890, for the first time for many years, two field columns carried out a series of exercises near Wooler, and for the first time in this country Cavalry manœuvres were instituted. Last year Infantry manœuvres, unfortunately altogether ruined by the weather, were held in the neighbourhood of Peters field, and also Cavalry exercises at Alder shot under the Inspector General. In both years extended exercises were carried out in connection with the mobilisation of the defences of certain ports. In the 233 Militia we have a force of over 105,000 officers and men. The Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting shows the physique of the recruits to be very satisfactory; but, on the other hand, in spite of the slight increase this year in its numbers, there is reason to fear that the popularity of the Militia Service has somewhat declined. The system of reducing establishments wherever we found they could not be kept up, and of increasing them where men could be obtained, has been continued with satisfactory results. The recommendations of the Committee which inquired into the Militia two years ago have been mainly carried out at very considerable cost. And I am also trying to train some of the Infantry by brigades, of which three will be formed at Alder shot this year. Further steps are being taken to train the Militia Artillery at the places which they would occupy on mobilisation, and to accustom them to the guns they would have to serve. The greater portion of the Militia are told off to the work of the various garrisons on mobilisation, and it is therefore unnecessary to provide them with an expensive system of transport. But for this force the necessary provision of additional clothing is being made. We have made provision for the necessary increase of clothing in the event of the Militia being called out. The Volunteers on the 1st November last numbered over 222,000, showing a satisfactory increase, especially in efficients qualified for the higher grant of proficiency in shooting, a result which seems to afford the most conclusive vindication of the policy adopted by me in 1887 of requiring greater efficiency with the rifle in return for the increased grant. All these men have now received the equipment deemed necessary to enable it to take the field. A large proportion of the Infantry has been organised in brigades. During 1891, 19 of these brigades attended at camps, and 5 took part in the Easter Manœuvres. There are now 9 brigade bearer companies and 26 supply detachments. The reports upon these brigades are almost unanimous in testifying to the satisfactory progress that has been made—testifying from year to year increased advances. The Artillery Volunteers have been divided into two portions. That part which has been 234 assigned to garrison duties continues to qualify for the defence of the works they would have to man in time of war. I am glad to say that during the past year no less than 1,600 of them have for this year earned the special grant given on this account. Of the remainder, 88 batteries of position have been formed with 354 guns. These batteries have earned most favourable reports during the year, and are rapidly advancing in efficiency. And I hope the House will always be disposed to extend encouragement to this force. And, lastly, financial assistance has been afforded to a company of Volunteer Engineers in London to enable it to join the Field Army to which it has been allotted on mobilisation. The objection is often raised that, without a complete system of transport, this force of Volunteers could not immediately take the field. Well, after the fullest consideration, we have arrived at what. I think, is the common-sense conclusion, not to spend money in organising transport in the localities where the corps themselves are raised. To block the railways at the outset of a general mobilisation with horses and carts would seem to be wholly unnecessary, when we find that we are able without difficulty to obtain the necessary transport close to the probable points of concentration. The general result is that, during these five years, our Volunteer Army has been converted into an organised and well-equipped force, and we think there is no doubt they can be assembled at comparatively short notice at the points likely to be threatened, and in an effective condition to defend the country. And now, Sir, how are the forces I have described utilised for the defence of the Empire? The first step, and one of very great importance, was to organise the defences of our ports and coaling stations at home and abroad, without which our Naval Force could not be free to take the offensive. Submarine mining defences have been provided throughout the Empire at all our ports and coaling stations, which would afford at short notice an effective defence at all our principal ports. The men necessary to work them, with the exception of a few native auxiliaries, are already raised and trained; and the mines are protected by 235 the necessary quick-firing guns. The necessary defence of the coaling stations is practically complete, and even for Esquimalt, where the Colonial Government has, I am sorry to say, not yet seen its way to undertaking the necessary works, the guns have been got ready. The defences of Portsmouth, Plymouth, the Thames, the Cape, Malta, Gibraltar, and other less important stations have been enormously strengthened, and almost all the necessary breech-loading guns are actually mounted and in position. The garrisons of all these ports are told off, and the schemes of defence providing for the special duties of every unit of the garrison have been in many cases laid down in minute detail, including the method to be adopted for food supply and for dealing with the civil population. It will, I daresay, surprise the Committee to know that we have to provide garrisons for 37 ports, at home and abroad, absorbing no less than 182,000 men. For the Home ports we depend, of course, very largely upon Auxiliary Forces, with the special difficulty, as regards Artillery, that whereas the requirements of defence necessitate the assembling of a large force in the South of England, the great strength of this branch of the Service in peace time lies in the North. For Colonial ports we do our best to supplement the necessary minimum of European troops by native auxiliaries. The task, therefore, of providing for the improved land defences of our ports, which has been in itself a gigantic one, has been successfully accomplished during our term of office; and it has required—in addition to the loan obtained under the Imperial Defence Act—an expenditure out of Annual Estimates not far short of £1,000,000 sterling. In addition to the troops detailed for garrisons, the whole of our Regular and Auxiliary Forces at home, with very few exceptions, have been told off to definite duties for Home defence, and the troops to form a foreign expedition have been selected, with the necessary departmental services. The precise equipments for Home defence and for a foreign expedition, so far as is possible, while its scene is undetermined, have been laid down in detail for every unit in the Service. The plans of mobilisation for all the Land Forces at home have been determined on, as well 236 as the positions to be taken up after mobilisation. The ground for these positions has been examined and detailed plans laid down, including the water supply. This has specially been the case for the defence of London. Sites have been obtained for the necessary works, and working plans and drawings, with other details for everything that would have to be done on an emergency, have been prepared. The Staff, whether for a foreign expedition or for Home defence, has been worked out and selected, and detailed regulations as to all that has to be done on mobilisation have been most carefully drawn up. These regulations have been based on the principle of decentralisation; and wherever it has been possible the central authority has been relieved of responsibility at time of pressure. The decentralisation of stores from Woolwich and the placing them in situations where they could be rapidly issued on mobilisation has been actively undertaken and carried far forward. Arrangements have been made to build fresh storehouses or re-model existing buildings for this purpose in 62 different centres, amounting in all to 177 different buildings to be completed. Of these, 110 are finished, and 38 approaching completion, and these include almost all the larger centres, with the result that, broadly speaking, accommodation for over two-thirds of the total stores required for Home defence is now provided at the different stations, and actually in the most convenient positions for the purpose. The stores for the whole Alder shot Division which might be required for a foreign expedition has been placed between Alder shot and Southampton, and could be issued and embarked at once. The registration of horses continues to be most successful. A complete working department for this registration has been formed, and the number at present registered could be easily increased at any time. We have on the register 14,000 horses, of which 3,300 are riding horses and ready for immediate service if required, all of which would make excellent troopers; and it should be remembered that of the horses required to complete the requirements of Cavalry on mobilisation, nearly one-half are draught horses; and the Committee will see that we have made, at any rate, a very good provision for an emergency. And as regards our 237 draught horses, we have arranged with the great railway companies, who have most cordially co-operated with us, to supply us with the neck harness, collars, and bridles of their draught horses. In this matter the greatest difficulty of all in the case of rapid mobilisation has been got rid of. But this sketch of the changes which we have brought about in our defensive strength would be obviously incomplete if I failed to mention the great changes introduced into more than one branch of the Service. The re-organisation of the Supply and Transport Services into the Army Service Corps is complete. The whole administration of these Services has been placed on a purely military basis, and absolute responsibility for the efficiency of these important Services now rests with the Military Authorities. The chief aim of the new scheme is to instruct military officers themselves, in times of peace, in the economical administration of their funds, and to accustom them to the duties which they would have to perform in war; and there can be no doubt that the formation of the new Army Service Corps has tended to efficiency and economy. General officers at home and abroad are unanimous in reporting favourably on the work performed by all ranks of the Corps. The re-organisation of the Garrison Artillery, which took effect on the 1st August last, is being rapidly proceeded with. To each fortress or fort a certain number of specialist officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, have been allotted, based on the requirements of the armament, distinct from the companies of Royal Artillery, and not moved with them in the ordinary course of relief. The continuity of special knowledge of the defences of each fort is thus retained, as well as the experience of the natural peculiarities of each station. Of this permanent Staff, all the officers and more than half the other specialists have been already appointed. Various rates of extra pay have been granted to officers of Garrison Artillery, and to specially qualified non-commissioned officers and men composing the permanent Establishment for each place. The higher technical training is also provided for by the establishment of two schools of instruction, one of which is already at work. And though this far-reaching change is too 238 recent for any real estimate of its value to be formed, the best information of its working which reaches me leads me to feel very hopeful as to its effect in producing economy and efficiency of work, in popularising the Garrison Artillery, and in producing a highly-trained body thoroughly fitted to deal with all the complicated details of modern armaments. The strength of the Army Medical Department has been very carefully reconsidered, and considerable reductions have taken place. The assistance of civil practitioners has been called in, and an Army Medical Reserve was formed in 1888, with the view of supplementing the reduced Medical Staff by a body of officers available for service at home in time of emergency. Much time has been devoted to the arrangements necessary in case of mobilization for the Medical Services and the detailed arrangements for the personnel, the medical equipment, and the necessary base hospitals have been almost completed. I may also mention the question of station paymasters, whose establishment will, we believe, tend very largely to economy; because now, in all the different districts of the country, an audit is carried out upon the spot, and at the War Office we have only a test audit. So far as it has gone, the results of this change have been economical, and I think they will also prove satisfactory I must say a word or two on the supply of warlike stores, of which during our period of office we have had to provide an unexampled amount. A large increase in the Navy was decided on, and, in addition to that, a certain number of ships already constructed required new guns We had to arm our land defences, to introduce new weapons for almost all our Land Forces; whilst India and the Colonies also sent in large demands for heavy guns and other descriptions of warlike stores. In a single year we gave orders to the amount of no less than £6,000,000 sterling, and it is certain that our means of production at that time were nothing like adequate to such a demand But it was also clearly brought out to the evidence taken before Lord Morley's Committee that a large number of war-like stores were pushed into the Service during the Egyptian War in a great hurry and without adequate examination, and it therefore became necessary for us not 239 only to extend our area of production, but to take additional means for securing the quality of the stores supplied to the Army and the Navy. Accordingly three most important steps were taken by the Government, which have produced enormous consequences. First of all we called to our assistance to a much larger extent than formerly the private trade of the country, especially in regard to the production of big guns, in which a few years ago the trade was very little employed. So recently as 1880 the amount of the orders for big guns given to the trade was only £8,600. Even in 1886–7 the value of the orders given to the trade was only £116,000. Since then very large orders have been given, and the result is that whereas five or six years ago the number of big guns supplied by the trade could be counted on your fingers, since April, 1889, we have supplied to the Sea Service no fewer than 478 guns of six-inch calibre and upwards, while to the Land Service we have given no fewer than 174 guns of the same description. Besides these we have supplied guns to India and the Colonies, in addition to an enormous number of breech-loading guns of a smaller calibre, and quick-firing guns which might almost be counted by the thousand. The result is that the supply of guns for the Navy has thoroughly overtaken the demand, and we have practically completed all our requirements for the Land Service. We have supplied all these guns with a reserve of ammunition. In addition we have completed for the Home Army and for India no fewer than 300,000 magazine rifles. The completion of these exceptional and very extensive orders has necessarily diminished the amount of work, both in the Government Factories, and in the private trade; but I have every desire, consistently with the proper maintenance of the Ordnance Factories and with obtaining our goods at a reasonable price, to give at least a fair share, and even more than a fair share, of our orders to the trade. Certainly, I am very strongly of opinion that it is not the proper policy of this country to keep our Ordnance Factories employed in ordinary times at nearly their full strength, because it is of the utmost importance that when any emergency arises we should be able to call upon 240 them for enormously increased work at short notice. On the other hand, it seems to me equally necessary, in the interests of the country, to encourage in every way that is possible those private sources of supply upon which the country can also rely in any emergencies that may arise. It was in that spirit that, when the Lee-Metford rifle was introduced, we gave a fair share of the orders to the trade, in spite of the cheaper rate at which it could be produced in the Government Factories; and in respect of excellence of manufacture we have no reason to regret that decision. The second step was based on the recommendation of Lord Morley's Committee to place all the Ordnance Factories under a single head. The result of our experience has been that both efficiency and economy have been largely effected by this change. The various departments are now worked as parts of one great Government Establishment, and the confusion, and even worse, which sometimes resulted from their former isolated condition has been obviated, if not altogether got rid of. To the present Director General of Ordnance Factories we owe many improvements of the greatest possible value and importance at Woolwich, resulting in large economies, to which I shall hope at some time to have an opportunity of referring in detail. Thirdly, we have entirely separated inspection from manufacture, and every article produced by the trade, or by the ordnance Factories, is equally subjected to independent inspection before being passed into the Service. This step was strongly recommended by Lord Morley's Committee as an act of justice to the trade, and there is a general consensus of opinion up to the present time that the result has been very marked in the improvement of the quality of the weapons that are now supplied. The re-armament which has taken place both in the Land and Sea Service has also involved the introduction of a great many novel weapons, including quick-firing guns and the Lee-Metford rifle. The reports which reach me as to the Lee-Metford, both as regards Mark I., which is in the hands of the troops, and Mark II., which is about to be manufactured for Service purposes, are completely satisfactory. On the former aim the Lewes sight, however well-suited for 241 skilled marksmen, did not appear equally suitable for men in the ranks, and for that has been substituted a sight to which the soldier is accustomed on the Martini-Henry rifle. Various other small changes have been introduced which get rid of the minor defects originally complained of. The difficulty which prevents a very large issue of the rifle to the troops is that of obtaining rifle ranges, and it is a difficulty felt in all parts of the country, and the sooner that the transition stage is passed the better it will be both for economy and efficiency. Further experience with the new smokeless powder tends to confirm the favourable opinions formed of it. It has been tested in extreme cold with most satisfactory results, and though the experiments in India made under extreme heat are not absolutely concluded, so far as they have gone they tend to show it has greater elements of stability than any other smokeless powder. It is now being manufactured both for rifles, field, and larger guns, and, as soon as it is finally adopted as the Service powder, its manufacture by the trade will be encouraged. I hope and believe this powder will turn out to be satisfactory. But as every foreign nation has hitherto failed in attaining the much-desired object of a smokeless powder absolutely stable under all probable conditions, I speak with diffidence, and I do not venture to assert with too great confidence that we have been successful. And now I ought to say a word or two to the Committee as to the progress being made in the improvement of our barrack accommodation. In addition to the powers obtained at home and abroad under the Barrack Act and the Imperial Defence Act, we are carrying on a very large number of sanitary services out of the Annual Estimates, and every effort is being made to raise in this most important respect the general standard of our barracks. And I have every reason to be satisfied with the good work being done by the Army Sanitary Commission, which was revived by me two years ago for the special purpose of insuring that in all the new works the reasonable sanitary precautions suggested by modern science are adopted. In carrying out the general scheme of reconstruction, a good deal of delay was caused by the severe cold of last year, 242 but the work is now being pushed on, and at Aldershot in a few months a large part of the old wooden huts will be replaced by brick barracks of the most approved description, in which everything has been done within reasonable limits to add to the comfort of the soldier. Barracks for five Infantry battalions, three batteries of Field Artillery, the Royal Engineers, and the Army Service Corps are in hand, besides other garrison accessories. Barracks for three more battalions and 870 married soldiers' quarters will shortly be commenced. Plans are also in preparation for additions to the permanent barracks, and for the conversion of the prison at Woking into barracks for two battalions. At most of the other places in England where works are contemplated good progress has been made, especially in London. The improvements at the Albany Barracks are advancing rapidly, and promise to provide good quarters for men and horses, but to make a good job of it it has been found necessary to spend a good deal more money than was originally pro-posed. The quarters proposed for a proportion of the officers of every Guards' battalion are now almost completed. Progress in Ireland has been somewhat delayed by questions arising out of the distribution of the troops. The new Marlborough Barracks, however, are finished and in occupation. The Royal Barracks, so re-constructed as to be practically new barracks, are rapidly approaching completion, and will be occupied in a few months time. The Wellington Barracks, also, are making good progress. At the foreign stations, such as Malta, Gibraltar, and Bermuda, good progress has been made, especially in respect of important sanitary services. To sum up, then, the results of our expenditure, it has no doubt had the effect of generally raising the standard of barrack accommodation throughout the country which was urgently required in the interests both of officers and men, and in no case are we doing more good than in the provision of better quarters for married non-commissioned officers and men. This was one of the most important, objects of my scheme, and it has not only given a great deal more comfort to those men, but it will also have the effect of diminishing the amount now paid for 243 rent and lodging money to the extent of £10,000 a year. In this, and in many other respects the great work now being carried out in our barracks affords special opportunities of adding to the general attractiveness of the Service. I have just one other word to say with regard to the other proposals for adding to the advantages of the Service. I do not want to dwell upon them at length. I touched upon them in great detail last year. I pointed out how the barracks which we were constructing were providing all sorts of greater comforts, such as boxes and other things, which are of great advantage to the men's comfort. I pointed out that we are giving the private soldiers of the country new recreation rooms, canteens, and cooking houses, all of which tend to add to their comfort. And there was one subject in particular which I said had engaged my serious attention, and which I thought, more than any other that had been brought before me required my attention and that of the War Office—I allude to sea kits. I gave that my attention and entered into negotiations on the subject; and I am glad to say, with the full consent of the Indian Government, the stoppages for sea kits are now abolished. The result is, that we have accomplished a reform which certainly caused a great deal of grumbling, based upon reasonable grounds. There is one other subject I should have liked to have dealt with. A Committee sat two years ago to deal with the question of the issue of clothing to the Army. The Committee made a very valuable Report, and I am perfectly prepared to make proposals to the House dealing with the question of the issue of clothing. But it seemed right, as the Wantage Committee had also thought it necessary to enter into that question, to reserve the proposals I had to make on that subject until I received their Report. There is no reason now why I should not be able to put those forward, and I hope before long to be able to tell the House and the country the proposals I have to make, and put the issue of clothing on a satisfactory basis. There are a great many other questions affecting the comfort of soldiers, and I do not want it to be supposed for a moment that any proposal, whether coming from a Committee or from any other quarter, which 244 would add to the comfort of the soldier, is one which I will not endeavour to deal with satisfactorily. I have now to thank the House for the kind attention given to me. A great number of subjects have been recently brought forward connected with the Army. I thought it right to deal, at any rate, with a good many of them. I have not dared to trespass longer upon the attention of the Committee than was necessary, and may I hope they will see in what I have put before them that, at any rate during the past few years, we have endeavoured to add to the efficiency of the Army, and to deal with questions affecting the comfort of the private soldier. I am perfectly conscious that we may not have done all that people may have expected in every direction; but at least, after hearing what I have said, the Committee will be disposed to say we have not been altogether inactive, but have tried to promote the advantage of the Army in all respects.
§ (10.50.) VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants,) Petersfield
There is no one who has heard the statement which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War who will not judge his administration of the War Office as a great administration. And it is simply because I admire the general conduct of that Department by the present Secretary of State as having greatly strengthened the country that I the more regret that on some of the points dealt with by Lord Wantage's Committee, of which I happened to be a member, I am obliged very seriously to differ from the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman divided the recommendations of that Committee into portions which, however, I will classify differently from the right hon. Gentleman. There were, first of all, the proposals for administrative reform. And, with regard to these proposals, which I think were extremely important, I would remind the House and the right hon. Gentleman that the Committee were absolutely unanimous, and on what I may call the administrative proposals there was absolutely no divergence of opinion on the part of Sir Arthur Haliburton from the rest of his colleagues. And nobody who reads the evidence put before that Committee will fail to wonder why, when these administrative reforms are so obvious, they have not 245 been carried out by the War Office without the appointment of any Committee. I allude to the extraordinary fact that all the War Secretaries of the last 20 years, with the War Office under them, have deliberately endeavoured to work Lord Cardwell's short service scheme, leaving out the most essential feature of that scheme; they have been trying to act not only the play of Hamlet with the part of Hamlet left out, but also with the part of Ophelia left out. That scheme had for its very foundation stone that there should be an equality of battalions at home and abroad, and I have no hesitation in saying that the short service system cannot be worked, and that the machine will come to grief unless these battalions are in some way or other equalised. It is absolutely imperative, in the interests of this country, for the very existence of the short service system, that additional battalions should be located at home, or that the brigade of Guards should be used to take its part in future service in the Mediterranean. And I think a very grave responsibility will be on the heads of the chief officers of the Army when there is ready at the hand of the Secretary of State for War the means of producing these reforms for a very small expenditure indeed, if from any reason of custom or prejudice they refuse to allow the brigade of Guards to take its turn in the Mediterranean. The second class of recommendations are the class which have produced the difference of opinion between Sir Arthur Haliburton and his colleagues, and those recommendations produced the strongest comments not only by the Secretary of State for War, but by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell -Bannerman). We propose certain modifications in the terms of service. We do not propose to lengthen the terms of enlistment. What was at the bottom of our proposals was to make the Service as easy for the private soldier as possible, and to make the terms of his enlistment as elastic as possible. The strongest remarks have been made in reference to our proposals that, under certain conditions, men should be allowed to come back from the Reserve to the Colours. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling 246 Burghs spoke of inducements to come back to the Colours. We proposed no inducements. All we say is that it is not for the interests of the country that men should go about the country wishing to rejoin the Army, and, because they are not allowed to do so, deprive the Service of recruits by decrying it. Would this proposal seriously affect the numbers of the Reserve? Sir Arthur Haliburton says it will, but I am diametrically opposed to his opinion on that subject. I believe the number of men out of work is infinitesimally small. One service this Committee did was to expose altogether the unfounded belief that the workhouses are full of Reserve men, and that the tramps we see about the country are Reserve men. Nineteen-twentieths of the Reserve men have no difficulty in finding employment. But there is a small fraction of men who have gone back to civil life who do not find it suitable; who made good soldiers, and who do not make good civilians. And it is not in the interests of the country that these men should either go about the country decrying the Service, or should come back to the Service by fraudulent re-enlistment as they do now. Sir A. Haliburton thinks he has found reasons for supposing that the number of men who would come back would be very large. I do not think he can have read the question put to the Reserve men before he made that Report. The men were asked, "Have you ever wished to return to the Colours after leaving them?" It would be a sorry Service if there were not a moment in the Reserve man's life when he thought he would like to come back, and Sir A. Haliburton thinks the number who replied in the affirmative would come back to the Colours. What we say is, that if, after adequate trial of the conditions of civil life, the men wish to come back, they should be given a stated opportunity of doing so. But I come to a more important point, the real point in dispute between Sir A. Haliburton and his colleagues, and between the Secretary of State for War and the Committee. We have quoted the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Wolseley, Sir Redvers Buller, and Sir Evelyn Wood, that there is not a single battalion at home efficient except the Guards. Those distinguished men 247 knew exactly what they said, and what they meant; they made no reserve, and they knew also that their evidence would be published. Now, Sir, in face of this, the opinion of the four most competent soldiers in this country, what is the use of figures? A battalion is either efficient or non-efficient, and is there any sane man who would send a battalion to war on the strength of figures in the face of such an opinion? Sir A. Haliburton objects to young soldiers. Never has the country had more thoroughly respectable recruits; their behaviour is everything the country could wish; but they are not only too young—for their age they are weaklings, and that is the whole point. The challenge laid down to the majority of the Committee is this: Your Report strikes at the root of short service and the Reserve. The true champions of short service and the Reserve are those Members of the Committee who looked facts in the face and told the truth. The danger is from those who do not believe things are as they really are. What is a Reserve, and what is it to do? The hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) and the Secretary of State very eloquently denounced the theory that regiments at home ought to be ready to take the field without the Reserve. They pointed out that that would entail a vast expense. You would think that the Committee differed from them; there is no sane man who has ever looked at the question who would say that the battalions at home should be able to take the field at war strength without the Reserve. The Committee say, after paragraph 21, in which they quote the opinion of the distinguished officers named—It is true that, as pointed out by the officers whose evidence is quoted above, that it was not contemplated, under the organisation adopted in 1872, that battalions at home should be efficient for active service without being completed from the Army Reserve; but the Committee are in complete accord with them in believing that it was never intended that the Infantry at home should be reduced to the condition described above.What is a Reserve for? I turn to paragraph 98 of the Report, which Sir A. Haliburton does not dissent from, and I will read what the Committee laid down— 248The functions of a Reserve are—(1.) To raise units (regiments, batteries, battalions, &c.) from the peace to war establishment. (2.) To take the place in the ranks of those men who, being recruits or not fully grown, are not yet fitted to take the field. (3.) To replace in the ranks those men who are found to be medically unfit for service in the field. (4.) After fulfilling the above requirements, to retain sufficient men in Reserve in second line to fill up the casualties occurring at the front until such time as the men left behind as recruits or immature have become sufficiently trained or physically developed to take their place in the fighting line.How far is the present Reserve of 68,000 men fitted for the functions it has to perform? The Secretary of State for War told the Committee that after it had fulfilled all these functions, there were 31,000 men in the First Class Army Reserve to spare. All I have to say is, that that is diametrically opposed to the evidence given before the Committee by the Adjutant General, and the Commander-in-Chief. The whole point of our contention is that under present conditions there would be a practical substitution of the Reserve for the battalions. I need not quote these officers; I will take paragraph 130 of Sir A. Haliburton's own Report. He says—The Reserve required to complete the 65 Home battalions, allowing 10 per cent. for in-efficients, amounts, under Table 2, to 32,240, and under Table No. 1 to only 29,445; but if the whole of the men of less than one year's service shown in that Table were sent to the depot, then 45,110 Reserve men would be required, and this, allowing 10 per cent. for in-efficients, exceeds by 2,742 our total First Class Infantry Reserve.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I was dealing with the proposal for putting 80,000 men into the field, not for putting all the Home battalions on a war footing.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
I cannot think it is possible to have 31,000 men in the Reserve after sending out 80,000, and yet not to be able to make up the 65 Home battalions by nearly 3,000 men. We say that the function of the Reserve is to complete the battalions for war service; the result of the present state of affairs is that the Reserve has to be substituted for the battalions for war service. Here is a Return prepared to show what proportion of Infantry of the Line at home are available for the purposes of draft. It will be observed that no man is considered to be available for 249 draft until he is considered to be available for a home or foreign war. According to this Return, 48.8 per cent. of the Infantry of the Line are not available for the purposes of draft because of their youth. That is practically, that half the Infantry at home is absolutely useless for the purposes for which it is maintained. It is not only useless for the purpose of going to India or taking part in a Continental war, but it is useless for Home defence; and Sir Evelyn Wood said that he dare not put these men in Service-marching order. What is the use of such men? But the case is even worse than it appears on the face of this Return. Great numbers of these men have been specially enlisted, and many were under 18 years of age at the time. It is a remarkable fact that the statement of the Inspector General of Recruiting, which was sent to the Committee, dealing with the men who had been specially enlisted between 1st September, 1880, and the 31st August, 1890, shows that when these men were re-measured a year afterwards, in June, 1891, 31.6 per cent. were still under the standard. As an example I will quote the 2nd Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment—a battalion of very young soldiers, all of whom were, however, supposed to be over 20 years of age. That battalion went to Egypt, and the number in hospital per 1,000 was 1,406; that is to say, that every man in the regiment went into the hospital one and a half times. The Secretary of State for War and Sir Arthur Haliburton denied that there was any truth in the assertion that recruits enlisted at a younger age than formerly; but I should like to point out that there is a difference between absorbing in the Service in 1869 something like 10,000 boys into a mass of 80,000 men, and absorbing 30,000 boys into a mass of 64,000 men. The deduction seems to be one of common sense; it is not a question of age of any particular recruit; it is the age of the battalion as influenced by the larger number of young recruits. I maintain that the Committee are the supporters of the Reserve, and that Sir Arthur Haliburton is the detractor. If you have to take 50 per cent. of your Infantry and send them to the depôt, you swallow up your Reserve at once. It seems never to have 250 occurred to Sir Arthur Haliburton that every man you keep with the Colours is a Reserve man to the good. I have no time to go into the question of the supplementary Reserve, but I believe, and the Committee believe, that a very slight inducement would be needed to keep men in the prime of life in the supplementary Reserve. I believe it was a very bold step on the part of the Committee to recommend that better terms should be offered to recruits, but I am prepared to defend that recommendation on these grounds: It would bring in older men and really sturdy lads of 18. There is a very considerable difference in the Army point of view between a well-grown, sturdy lad of 18 and a young lad of 18 who joins because he cannot get good wages in civil life. The terms of the Army will not attract the well-grown lad of 18, and we shall have to do the same as the employers of labour, who find that if they want the best men they must raise their terms. Sir A. Haliburton declares that previous raising of terms have produced no better results; but will he be logical, and say that these rises ought not to have been made? What I say is that Secretaries of State have left to the very last moment raising the terms for the recruits, and if those rises had not been made the Army would have ceased to exist. Then there are three Members of the Committee who consider that the increase should not be given on enlistment, but when the man is a trained soldier. That is a question of opinion, and does not carry with it an alteration in the principle. Last year the Secretary of State put down the value of a soldier's wages at 15s. a week, and I ask what kind of pay is that for a matured man and a skilled man? I maintain that a soldier is a skilled man, and I ask is this a wage that a man would accept in any other branch of industry? The answer is in the negative. My last point is this: If you are not going to deal with the pay, how shall you deal with the discontent that exists in the Army? There is not a single witness who does not agree in stating that a soldier is usually deceived when he goes into the Service. Nine men out of every ten imagine they are going to get 1s. a day, and the whole discontent arises from the fact that he only gets 8½d., and he feels that he has been swindled. 251 I say, without hesitation, that, for the honour of the country, and in order that the dealings between the country and her servants may be fair and square, that the soldiers, pay should not be called 1s., while it is actually only 8½d. I should not be sorry to see the effect of that alteration on the recruiting, and I believe we should not get the number of weakly-developed lads we do mow. But whether the pay is raised or not, the present system, which practically deceives the recruit, must be altered and got rid of. I see no way out of it except by raising the pay. You will not get men for 8½d.; but if you pay 1s. you will get these better-developed lads I have spoken of, and this will not diminish, but will materially increase, the military strength of the country. Sir Arthur Haliburton has said that there are other and cheaper ways of doing the same thing, but the Committee could not discover those ways, and Sir A. Haliburton never hinted that he had any other plans. One word on the subject of finance. It is quite true that the Committee did not go into that matter, because they were not asked to do so. If they had been asked to go into the Estimates, I think they could have shown where some very real economies might have been effected. I entirely deny that £1,500,000 would be required to carry out the recommendations of the Committee. I am one of those who believe that enough money is spent on the Army, but I believe that a large sum could be saved out of expenditure which is now incurred and which is not remunerative to the Service of the country.
(11.30.) GENERAL SIR F. FITZ-WYGRAM (Hants, S.)
There is, I believe, a great deal of truth in the statement that all our Cavalry regiments are inefficient for service if required, and I should like to point out the cause of the inefficiency. The money spent on our Cavalry is sufficient, the officers and non-commissioned officers are thoroughly well trained, and we have in the English 'Cavalry the best horses in the world. The fault, I believe, is entirely one of organisation. I believe we fritter away our Cavalry force in driblets, or, in other words, we have too many regiments. Of Line regiments we have 18, and none of these regi- 252 ments are fit for active service. Six of them have a higher strength, and would be fit for service but that they have no depôt or reserve. The remaining 12 are useless, and could not be made efficient by any exertions for an occurring campaign. The remedy I would propose is practical and simple—to reduce the number of regiments, augment the numbers in the remaining regiments, and thus make them efficient. I would propose to reduce the number of regiments by four, and, taking their strength at 500 each, that would give 2,000 officers and men whom I would add to the 14 regiments, thus raising the force of the latter to 700 officers, and men each—an effective force. Beyond this I think the interior organization of our Cavalry regiments is defective; they have only four squadrons, and they have no depôts or reserves. Having reduced the regiments by four we should have 16 squadrons to dispose of, and I would add one of these squadrons to each of the 14 regiments. This would absorb the whole of the noncommissioned officers and men. I admit this would leave in the cold shade the officers of two squadrons, say 12 in number, and it would be a still harder case with the commanding officers of the four regiments. No doubt a good many years ago, when officers held command of regiments as long as they liked, this would have been a serious matter; but in the present day, when commanding officers only act for a few years, it is not so very hard a case, and no doubt as regards the officers displaced the War Office would find them suitable appointments elsewhere. But I argue that if it is a military necessity to strengthen our regiments, this House must not have too much regard for the inconvenience certain officers may suffer. This suggestion of mine is practical; it would involve no extra expenditure, and the result would be that instead of 18 regiments, not one of which is fit for war, you would have 14 regiments at all times fit for war and able to maintain themselves throughout a campaign. The distribution I would suggest would be the division of each regiment of 700 into five squadrons, giving 140 men to each. Four squadrons should be kept up to a strength of 500 men ready for service, and a depôt squadron of 200 would make up the 700. You may say that a depôt 253 of 200 is much too large, but I would remind the House that in these days of short service there will be in 700 men at least 100 with under one year's service, and the depôt would not be too many to fill up the casualties that would occur in a campaign. I think this is a system that would work, and I earnestly press it on the attention of the Secretary for War. I know that military officers always object to the idea of reduction. They say the first thing a Secretary for War desires to do is to reduce the strength of a regiment; next he will reduce the number of regiments, and the last state of things in the Army will be worse than the first. But every hon. Member must know that this is a fallacy. This House votes a certain number of men at a certain cost, not entering into the division into regiments. It is the business and duty of the Commander-in-Chief so to dispose of the number of men that they shall be most effective for military service, as Cavalry, Infantry, Artillery, or other branches. Then, on another subject I desire to say a few words. There have been a good many statements about the want of horses in our Cavalry regiments. I have seen it put in the form of question, "What is the use of a dragoon without a horse?" but I feel inclined to put the converse, "What is the use of a horse without a trained rider?" The real fact of the matter is, that trained dragoons are the essential part of a Cavalry regiment and trained horses are not. It is a good thing to have a trained horse, but it is not a necessity. If you have a well-trained Cavalryman he can manage almost any horse. It takes a very short time to train horses, which are used to saddle and bridle, to military exercises, and fit them for Cavalry work. There is a little knack about it, but, as Cavalry officers know, it does not take more than about a week to teach horses to stand fire, to allow the sword-cut to be made over the head, and to carry military accoutrements. As a matter of fact, you can train horses in a much shorter time than a vessel can be got ready to carry a Cavalry regiment. I press this view strongly; namely, the value of trained dragoons. The private trade cannot supply trained dragoons, you must train dragoons; you cannot get them when you want them. But private trade does supply horses used 254 to saddle work; you can get these by purchase or registration when you want to send a Cavalry regiment into active service. If you want 1,000 extra dragoons on an emergency you cannot get them, you must enlist them first, train them to ride, drill them, and prepare them for service. This is not so with the horses. Having regard to these considerations, I come to the number of horses required for a regiment. My opinion is that you should have the smallest number of horses, on which the required number of men can be kept efficient as dragoons—and conversely the largest number of men who can be kept efficient on the horses. A regiment does not generally have more than three field days a week. I admit they might have more, but they do not. The horses must be exercised every day, and I think that for a regiment of 700 men 350 horses are sufficient in peace time to keep up the training of dragoons. In these views as to the proportion of horses to men I think most Cavalry officers will agree with me. Then there is a subject connected with the organisation of the Indian Cavalry I should like to refer to. You have a most expensive system of recruiting for India, costing many thousands a year more than it need. The Indian Government will not take recruits for India under the age of 20, yet you go on recruiting lads of 17 and 18 at the general depôt, and you are obliged to keep them until they are 20 at very great expense. The consequence is you have nine regiments in India requiring drafts of 90 men annually, 810 men, but the number on the establishment at Canterbury is 1050. Thus you have in round numbers 250 men at Canterbury more than are needed for India, and this arises mainly from enlisting the men so young that you have to keep them two years before drafting them to India. You keep 250 men more than are needed, and with no advantage to the Service. There are constant complaints in India of the inefficiency of recruits sent out, and it is said that it takes pretty nearly a year when a man gets to India to make him into a dragoon. This will always be so while a large number of young men are trained at Canterbury and recruits are sent out when they have hardly done their drill. I 255 suggest that you take these 800 men and add them at the rate of 56 each to these 14 Cavalry regiments at home. Let them belong to these regiments, and then call on the regiments annually to supply volunteers for the drafts required for India, stipulating that the men so volunteering shall not be of less than three years' service. I am satisfied that the Indian regiments would benefit by the change, and I do not think there would be nearly so much objection to that as to the system proposed by Lord Wantage's Committee of brigading Cavalry regiments together. You keep the regiments perfectly distinct; you keep up their strength, and they can supply the drafts for India. It is proposed by Lord Wantage's Committee that the term of Cavalry service should be nine years. I quite approve of that, though I would not approve of the same arrangement for Infantry, because the Infantry man is turned out without any training for civil life. You teach the Cavalry man a trade, and you seldom find him loafing about when he has left the Service. The loafers come almost invariably from the Infantry regiments, where they have led a rather idle life. Therefore, it might be unwise to keep them longer in leading strings. But as regards the Cavalry I think you would do well to keep them nine years, and that would give them three years in the Reserve. You may say that will knock our Reserves on the head, but I do not think so so far as Cavalry are concerned, for they are no use when they have left the regiment two or three years. It is true, Reserve men find employment in stables and in driving horses, but they seldom ride a horse from the day they leave the regiment; and anybody who has not been on horseback for three years will find it very uncomfortable to resume campaigning work in the saddle at a moment's notice. I do not think these Reserve men would be fit at once for active service again. The Germans, I know, have Cavalry Reserves, but they do not reckon these of use for an occurring campaign: they send the Cavalry Reserves to train in case the war should last for another year. These are the only remarks I have to offer, and I thank the Committee for listening to them.
(11.46.) GENERAL SIR H. HAVE-LOCK-ALLAN (Durham, S.E.)
There are one or two statements from the Secretary for War to which I should like to call attention. I am afraid we cannot, with any great advantage, discuss the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee, for we are not in possession of the very important evidence upon which alone an opinion can be formed. In addition to that, an hour ago there were only a few copies available of the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting. It was issued on 18th February, and last year at the same time it was in the possession of every Member of the House. It is an important document, necessary that we may form an opinion on the condition and general efficiency of the Army. But I am bound to say that during the time I have sat in the House I do not recollect hearing a more satisfactory, lucid, or more exhaustive statement on all points connected with the Army than we have had from the right hon. Gentleman to-night. I think, in most respects, the right hon. Gentleman has under rather than overstated the great services he and his Department have rendered to the country during the right hon. Gentleman's tenure of office. In every branch of the Service organisation has been carried to a very high extent; the Army has been almost entirely re-armed; all the Auxiliary Services have been brought into closer connection with each other for Home defence and in relation to an expeditionary force required abroad; stores have been completed, economies introduced, organisation improved; and, without exaggeration, I may say that it will be a long time before we get again such a satisfactory statement, unless the right hon. Gentleman next year fills the position in which he has so fully satisfied the requirements of the House and the country. But there are one or two points upon which I am compelled to dissent from the right hon. Gentleman's conclusions. Lord Wantage's Committee has established three things—first, that the system of short service, which has been so much decried, has been a complete success; secondly, that the territorial service and system of linked battalions, also decried, has entirely fulfilled the purpose intended; thirdly, it is an undoubted fact, proved by Lord Wan- 257 tage's Committee, that, take it all round, the system of supplying drafts from regiments at home, though it has some serious defects, is the most economical and most effective that can be adopted. Short service has given us a substantial Reserve of 68,000, which, we hear, will this year be increased to 78,000, and, including the Militia, we possess a force for service abroad and for filling up Army Corps that may be required fully double that which has existed at any time and under any organisation for the last 50 years. But when the right hon. Gentleman has attempted to palliate the defects that exist, and which are pointed out by Lord Wantage's Committee, he has totally failed. Though this system has provided us an effective Army in India, and though it has provided us a numerous and effective Reserve, one thing it has failed to do—it has altogether failed to provide us an effective Army for the time being at home. That is not at all palliated by the statement that it is always open to us to fill up battalions at home from the Reserve when necessary. We have the evidence of four of the most distinguished officers in the Army. Sir R. Buller does not in the least exaggerate when he speaks of the deplorable want of physical strength on the part of a great many of our young soldiers. The Commander-in-Chief said we have not a single Infantry battalion at home efficient. The Commanding Officer at Aldershot, an officer of great experience, said our Home battalions are only nurseries, and Lord Wolseley caps all by saying that our Home battalions, when the men have gone to India, are like squeezed lemons, and that we have not a single battalion at home fit to go into the field without drawing on the Reserves. These defects were strongly brought out in the Autumn Manœuvres. No one has a higher opinion of the discipline and willingness of the young soldier than myself, but there is no disguising the fact that the youth and the deplorable physique of our recruits produce a condition of things that is fraught with great danger to the country, and which cannot be remedied at short notice by the infusion of large numbers from the Reserves. This deplorable condition of things arises from the fact that the industrial condition of the country has vastly improved, wages are 258 higher, and hours of labour have diminished, so that the Army can no longer, in the same degree, compete in the open market with employment in civil life. And this will continue and increase everyday, and I am persuaded that, although an increase of pay may be desirable for the moment, that will only stop the gap for a short time, and two years hence we shall be landed in precisely the same difficulty. The only remedy is to meet competition in every available way, to cultivate every indirect method for keeping up the effective strength of the Army. It would be well if the right hon. Gentleman would turn his attention to the recommendations of Mr. Childers's Committee, made in 1876. That Committee recommended that the Government should endeavour to find suitable employment for all the men in the Reserve who are now more or less unemployed throughout the country, and that a Department should be formed for the purpose. But the recommendations of the Committee have been totally disregarded, and it is a discreditable fact that, through successive Administrations, out of 4,700 vacancies in civil employment under the War Office only 222 have been allotted to old soldiers. In this connection I am bound to recognise the step taken by the Postmaster General in offering employment in the Post Office. As regards the Militia Reserve, no doubt commanding officers do not encourage men to join the Militia Reserve; but if you increase the number of the Militia Reserve, and let it be understood that in case of war these Reserve men shall not be taken from any battalion that volunteers in a body to go into the field, then I think you would satisfy commanding officers, and they would help to increase the Reserve instead of looking at it with a jealous eye. As applicable to the Supplementary Reserve the recommendations of the Committee are perfectly sound. Again, in reference to the Volunteers, I am sure that if proper inducements were held out you might rely on from 5,000 to 15,000 men from this force in time of war. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will recognise the advantage of giving civil employment to old soldiers. With the exception of that physical deficiency which I have alluded to, and which if not remedied will some 259 day end in a desperate disaster to our arms, I think the condition of the Army is far better than it was supposed to be, and the credit of that is entirely due to the right hon. Gentleman, who I hope now will take this Vote.
§ It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow, at Two of the clock.