§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
moved—That, in the opinion of this House, the present system of Military Administration fails to secure either due economy in time of peace or efficiency for national defence.His remarks must not be taken in any sense as an attack upon the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of 1461 State for War, nor upon the late Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope), to whom the country owed a great deal for his administration of the War Office, nor were his remarks intended as an attack against the distinguished officers and civil servants who served the country in their office, but what he intended to put before the House were certain observations intended to show that the system those officers had to administer was not a system that tended to economy in time of peace nor efficiency for national defence. This system, if it might be called by that name, was the result, not of a definite policy of any Minister, not the result of any policy adopted by this House, but a description of patchwork for which many Ministers were responsible, and many Commissions. The hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (General Sir G. T. Chesney), who was going to second this Motion, would speak—and he was second to none as an authority in this country—as to the reason why the administration of the War Office was deficient; he could put his hands on the weak spots and point out why they were weak and had arisen from the present mis-called "system" of the War Office. He proposed to show from the last public document at the disposal of Parliament that the administration at the War Office was neither economical nor efficient. The public document to which he referred was known as the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee, and he took that as the basis of his remarks, because it was the last authoritative document on the subject. The points he proposed to make good were three. In the first place, he proposed to show that the War Office had induced the country to adopt schemes and a policy entailing vast expenditure, but the War Office itself had never carried them out, nor properly administered them. He proposed to show, in the second place, the War Office had wholly neglected to make provision against some very important and wholly certain contingencies. And, in the third place, he proposed to prove that the general condition of affairs in connection with the Home Army, produced by this maladministration, had become serious. The Administration of the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister, 1462 which began in 1869, was a great epoch in military reforms. Mr. Cardwell, as the War Minister of that Administration, initiated a policy which was worthy of the name. Hon. Members might have varying opinions as to the soundness or otherwise of that policy; but no one could deny it was a definite policy that Mr. Cardwell submitted to the House, and the House and the country adopted it. That policy, whether good or bad, involved a vast expenditure of money, and that expenditure having been incurred, or the liability of it having been contracted, that policy having been adopted by the House of Commons, it then devolved on the War Office to carry out that policy efficiently, and to administer the money economically. He was prepared to prove the War Office had not administered that policy, and pro tanto as that administration had been deficient so it had been uneconomical. In the Scheme of Mr. Cardwell a cardinal feature was that the number of battalions of the Army at home should never be less than the number abroad. He did not propose to argue whether the plan was a good one or a bad one; he did not propose to argue whether it was one that suited the requirements of the country or not; what he took as the basis of his statement was the incontrovertible fact that that was a cardinal feature of the policy which Mr. Cardwell represented to this House, and which this House adopted. Now, to. what extent had the War Office carried out that part of Mr. Cardwell's policy? There were two ways of carrying it out. Either it could be rigidly interpreted that the number of battalions at home were always made to equal the numbers abroad, or when the number of battalions abroad were, through emergency, in excess large depots might be formed at home, which would be tantamount to the formation of temporary third battalions. The War Office had done neither one thing nor the other, with the result that two years ago the state of affairs became very serious. The then Secretary of State appointed a Committee, and in paragraph 10 of the Report of that Committee it was statedThe present difficulties are not attributable to short service as such, but to the failure of successive Governments to carry out the principles accepted in 1872, upon which the short 1463 service organisation adoptedlin that year was based.And, again, in paragraph 23—The system adopted for the Army in 1872, and which is the foundation of the present organisation of the Army, has never been carried out in its entirety, the provisions of the system which have not been carried out being precisely those essential to its successful working.There was a Minority Report of that Committee, a very able Report by Sir Arthur Haliburton, who, differing from the Committee on many important points, was entirely at one with them in this respect. He would call the attention of the House to what Sir A. Haliburton said on this subject in paragraph 49 of his Report—It will be seen0 that the present difficulty is purely one of administration, and is not caused in any way by a general want of recruits or by insufficient inducement to men to enter the service.A more remarkable paragraph could not be penned by a permanent official. From that it appeared that the critical and dangerous condition of affairs two years ago was solely owing to the maladministration of the War Office. There was another very important feature in Mr. Cardwell's scheme. Mr. Cardwell thought that the forces ought to be localised, and proposed that every Infantry regiment should have a local connection with a given district, and the result of his policy was that now the country was covered with military centres, to each of which a regiment was attached for recruiting purposes. Up to the 31st March of last year, which was the last period for which the Returns were forthcoming, the total cost to the country of the Localisation of the Forces Act had been £3,457,353 14s. 1d.; but that did not represent by any means the total outlay on that particular part of Mr. Cardwell's policy, because not only had the country been covered with these expensive depots, but each depot had an extensive and expensive staff attached; therefore, the amount of money the country had to pay was much greater than the three and a half millions he had mentioned. Now, again, it was not his purpose to argue whether that part of Mr. Cardwell's policy was wise or unwise; he only stated it was an intrinsic part of his policy, that it was deliberately sanctioned by the House of Commons, and on that sanction an enor- 1464 mous expenditure had taken place. And, again, he pointed out that that immense expenditure of money had been entrusted to the War Office to administer, that it had been left by the country to the War Office to carry out the principle involved in the Localisation of the Forces Act. Lord Wantage's Committee took a strong view on this subject, and in Paragraph 41 they gave their opinion as follows:—From their inquiry into this subject, the Committee have arrived at the conclusion that, regarded as a machinery for reaching men likely to, or inclined to, enlist into the Army, the present system, when thoroughly carried out, is probably the most suitable that can at present be devised to meet our requirements. In some districts it has been either misunderstood or administered without energy and intelligence; but in many cases it has been most thoroughly applied. Its main defects appear to be a certain want of elasticity in adapting special means to the requirements of special districts, and a tendency to over-centralisation of detail.He asserted that to anybody who read the evidence that was given before the Committee that paragraph in the Report was nothing like sufficiently emphatic. He did not think the House would credit the state of things that was disclosed in the evidence with regard to that part of the administration of the War Office. It was quite true that in some districts great energy was found to exist, and the officer in charge of the recruiting showed great power of resource and great ability, with the result that recruiting was good and in a satisfactory condition, but that was entirely owing to the individual activity of the officers in authority in those districts, and had nothing to do with the system of the War Office. Would it be believed that it came out in evidence that the War Office had never supplied to a single district a map of its district? Officer after officer who came before the Committee was asked what was the population of his recruiting area? —he did not know; how many villages were there in his district?—he did not know; where did the recruits come from?—he did not know. It was no exaggeration to say the state of affairs disclosed in some districts showed complete apathy, an absolute want of any sort of energy or zeal; and no wonder, because, so far as the Committee could elicit, there was absolutely no provision on the part of the War 1465 Office to superintend the work in these recruiting districts. It was even rather doubtful who was responsible. It was found out in evidence that the Inspector General of Recruiting had not been down to any district to inspect it for a long period, and altogether the real state of affairs was that the money having been spent, the War Office never paid the slightest attention to see whether the officers did their work. He was quite aware a different state of things existed at the present moment, that the Inspector General of Recruiting had effected a perfect revolution in his office, but that was owing to the fact that this evidence was brought forward by the Wantage Committee, so that the Inspector General knew the weak points of his office; but this was no excuse for the War Office, who had been entrusted with the administration of this vast 'machinery and this vast expenditure; it was no excuse for not taking reasonable precautions to see that the country got its value out of that machinery and money. It was also a fact that the Committee were unable to elicit that any difference was made in the future prospects between an enthusiastic officer, successful in recruiting, and an apathetic officer who allowed a good recruiting district to become a bad one. The Committee went so far as to make a variety of suggestions in connection with recruiting. They might be bad, or they might be good; some were obvious, and some had been adopted, but it was a, slur on the administration of the War Office that it should be left with the Committee to make these suggestions. He thought he had shown that in two very important features of Mr. Cardwell's military policy the War Office had not carried out that policy, and although the country supposed it was being administered by the War Office, it had not in any sense been so administered. Now he came to the second point he proposed to make good, that the War Office had neglected to make any provision against some very important and wholly certain contingencies. The House had heard a good deal about having two Army Corps ready for active service. He did not propose to say a single word about those. There was a good deal of difference of opinion as to whether they existed or whether they were wanted. After provision for 1466 garrisoning our Empire abroad and the defence of these Islands, he supposed it would be universally admitted that the most certainly recurring of all duties of the Army was taking part in small wars. The last 20 years had furnished numbers of examples of wars that were called small wars which were of varying importance. He took it that no one would deny that one of the primary duties of our Army was to be prepared for small expeditions. At the present moment, however, absolutely no provision was made for these emergencies —he meant that there was no force, how-ever small, in this country ready to take part in a little war. Lord Wantage's Committee reported on this subject. In. paragraph 13 of their Report they pointed out how there had been increasing pressure on the Home battalions for India and the Army abroad, and they went on to say that these various causeshave forced the authorities to depart in practice from those principles of the organisation of 1872 which provided that a certain force at home should be kept in a tit condition for active service, and that Home battalions should not be regarded merely as recruiting agencies for battalions serving abroad,Sir Arthur Haliburton in his Report put the point in stronger language. In paragraph 104 he says—Unquestionably, after the expiration of some 10 years, when battalions had produced a reserve, and their ranks contained fewer old, and many young soldiers, the measures necessary to provide for small wars, for which the Reserve was not available, should have been considered and settled.Here, again, the permanent Under Secretary said this extremely important point of Army organisation should have been "considered and settled," and yet after 21 years since the Report of the Committee of 1872 this point is not yet "considered and settled." He goes on to say—Apparently we drifted into the position of thinking that because a number of battalions were kept on a higher establishment than the rest of the Home Army, therefore they could provide for this service as well as for ordinary foreign reliefs. This was clearly an error; the battalions on the higher establishments are in reality as inefficient for active service, without their reserves, as are those on the lower establishment. Raising them to a higher establishment only commences two years before they go abroad, with the result that, during that period, their ranks are filled with an. unusually large proportion of recruits of under 20 years of age, and under one year's service.1467 Now, was it tolerable that the country should have entrusted the administration to the War Office, and then he told by this public official that this all important point had not been considered and settled? The House knew hardly what provision was made against this contingency. There was not a single battalion of the Line in England that could be sent on a small expedition. The Adjutant General, in his evidence, explained that if six or eight battalions were suddenly wanted for an expedition they would be taken from Gibraltar and Malta. But when they had left, what would be the plight of Gibraltar and Malta? They would have to be garrisoned by battalions of recruits from this country, battalions that were not fit to do any fighting work, or any work that deserved the name of service. If rumour spoke correctly the garrisons at Gibraltar and at Malta had already been materially weakened, and he thought that was a matter on which the House had not been sufficiently informed, and which he was confident they ought to know. As a makeshift, and in order to equalise the battalions at home with those abroad, several battalions, he thought three, had been sent out to Malta and Gibraltar and treated as if they were in England, that is, as if on Home service. That was to say, these garrisons would be called upon in the trooping season to send drafts to their battalions in India, receiving in place of them two or three hundred perfectly raw recruits from the depot, who although they would become admirable soldiers in a few years, were then unfit to take part in garrison service when the conditions were not so healthy as at home. Was it not an unworthy makeshift to pretend to equalise the battalion abroad with those at home by sending battalions which had no business to be sent there, and with men in such battalions who were physically unfit to go to such stations? Another matter in which the War Office had largely failed to make provision against certain contingencies was the question of drafts. The necessities of regiments for drafts could be accurately foreseen; the War Office had materials for knowing what drafts would be wanted, but instead of making provision for supplying these drafts, they had often actually checked recruiting for the very battalions from which drafts were shortly going to be taken. 1468 What did Sir Arthur Haliburton say on the subject? He said—As it was known in 1888 that, owing to increases in the Army, and to other exceptional circumstances which occurred in 1883 to 1886, an unusually large number of men would go to the Reserve from certain regiments in the period of 1890 to 1893, and that unusually large drafts would consequently be required from those corps in that period, it was unfortunate that any measures calculated, even temporarily, to reduce the supply of recruits, should have been adopted. In view of the impending exceptional demand for drafts, steps should rather have been taken, either to mitigate the demand or to stimulate recruiting, and the establishments of the battalions concerned should have been temporarily increased above their ordinary strength, so that when the demand for exceptional drafts arose it could have been promptly and satisfactorily met.He would give another quotation from Sir Arthur Haliburton, who had a happy knack of hitting the weak points of the War Office—When a merchant has liabilities maturing at a given date, he takes care to have funds ready to redeem them, and there seems to be no reason why similar foresight should not be observed in meeting the requirements of the Army.Yes, but the War Office not only took no steps to meet these liabilities, but on more than one occasion they took steps to make these liabilities, when they fell due, more difficult to meet. Sir Arthur Haliburton stated that, with reference to the equalisation of the battalions at home and abroad, the short service system could not be continued as at present administered, and in the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting for 1892 great stress was laid on this point. The Inspector General said about the preparation of drafts—As we are not allowed to exceed the numbers voted by Parliament, the result is that we are obliged to check the recruiting when recruits are most freely offering, and this with the knowledge that we shall want men later on when they are harder to obtain. This disability to recruit forces upon us the obligation to commence the drill season with the battalions at home, depleted by the drafts despatched to complete the battalions abroad to the requisite establishments. To recruit effectively, we ought to recruit at a given rate throughout the year; but to do this we must at one period be permitted to recruit in anticipation of the waste which can be foreseen in the immediate future.He should have thought it was absolutely elementary that the officers responsible for having drafts ready should be allowed to recruit in anticipation of these liabilities, and to meet any emergency that might arise. The general condition of 1469 affairs in the Home Army produced by maladministration of the War Office had become serious. The point he should endeavour to establish was that the ranks of the Home Army contained a great number of boys, who were paid what were supposed to be men's wages, and that they were wholly useless for the purpose of service at home or abroad. When he said service he meant not ordinary parade, but the work a trained soldier was supposed to do. Although they were of admirable character and would in a few years make good soldiers, he contended that now the country was maintaining tens of thousands of boys, who were receiving men's pay and who were for the purposes for which the Army was supported wholly useless; and if he could show that, he said in the first place it was a great waste of public money to maintain these boys for work they could not perform, and in the second place that proper provision for national defence had not been made. In paragraph 3 of the Wantage Report there were given the opinions of the present Adjutant General, the late Adjutant General, Sir Evelyn Wood, and the Commander-in-Chief, who spoke in strong terms of the condition of the battalions at home. He would quote the words of the present Adjutant General from the evidence that officer gave a year ago. He said—At the present moment I may say that we have not a single Infantry battalion effective at home.And Sir Evelyn Wood said—The Home battalion is now only a nursery.And he went on to say that such was the juvenile condition of the Aldershot Division that he did not dare exercise it in service marching order; that was, he did not dare put on their back the weight soldiers were supposed to carry. The remark the Committee made upon this was to the following effect:—It is true that, as pointed out by the officers whose evidence is quoted above, 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.And then the Report went on—The Committee feel it their duty to point out clearly that men who are too young to be 1470 sent on even peace service abroad, and who, in the words of the General Officer commanding at Aldershot, cannot do a day's service even in England,' ought not to be classed as effective soldiers.".It was objected to that by Sir Arthur Haliburton that statistics proved the contrary, and showed that the battalions at home were, on the whole, in a satisfactory condition; and some other critics had gone on to say that even if they were not in a satisfactory condition it did not matter, because we had the Army Reserve. With all respect to Sir Arthur Haliburton or any other distinguished public servant, or any Member of that House, he thought it was carrying faith in statistics too far, when statistics were to be placed against the opinions of four such competent soldiers as the present and the late Adjutant Generals Sir Evelyn Wood and the Commander-in-Chief. But it was not a question of the opinion of these distinguished officers, or of statistics, but a question of ocular demonstration. Any Member who went down to Aldershot would see battalions of extremely nice-lookiug boys, but who were totally and absolutely unfit to do a day's hard work in marching order even in England, and the idea of using them in any campaign either in England or abroad was obviously absurd. Now he came to the objection that it did not matter, and that we had the Reserve to fall back upon. But before he came to that he would point out to the House that he had not said one word about what were called the "special" men who were specially enlisted. Some specials were quite as good as many who were not "specials," and even better. But when they had a standard of five feet four inches in height, no doubt any men or boys below that standard were obviously physically weak. It was not, however, only those who were taken "specially," but there were thousands of those who were not taken specially, and who were just up to the standard, who were absolutely unfitted for the work the country expected them to perform. In paragraph 116 of Sir Arthur Haliburton's Report it was stated—Officers forget that this ungrateful and unpleasant duty of supply drafts to the sister battalion abroad is an essential element in the existing Army organisation, and that, provided each battalion, when it has done this, preserves 1471 a sufficient, cadre on to which to graft its Reserve it is thoroughly efficient for the most important duties required of it.He was quite prepared to accept that definition, and he could show that each battalion had not left a sufficient cadre. In paragraph 130 of the Report Sir Arthur Haliburton went on to suppose that all the battalions at home had to be raised to war strength, and said—If the whole of the men of less than one year's service were sent to the depot 45,110 Reserve men would be required, and this, allowing 10 per cent. for inefficients, exceeds by 2,742 our total First Class Infantry Reserve, including Section D.And again he said—It may become a question of whether the home establishment of the Army will not have to be augmented in order to increase the Reserve.He thought so too, if the present condition of affairs was allowed to go on. But what did this mean? Did the House grasp the real meaning of this paragraph in the Report? It meant this: that to complete the 65 home battalions, and to bring them up to war strength, the whole of the Infantry Reserve was required; every single man of the First Class Infantry Reserve was required to complete the home battalion to a war establishment, and then there were not enough, for even then nearly 3,000 additional men would be required. What was the meaning of that? It meant the substitution en bloc of the Reserve for the men with the Colours, not because the men sent back to the depot were men under one year's service. If these men were physically efficient great numbers of them need not be sent to the depôt, and the reason why—in the opinion of every hon. Member who examined these battalions for himself— all these men had to be sent to the depôt was not because they had only one year's service or less, but because, as a rule, they were wholly inefficient for military purposes. They were extremely young. Many thousands did not pretend to be more than 18, and great numbers were much less. A very large proportion were only 17, and when the House remembered that the military authorities did not consider a soldier fit to be sent to India until he was 20 years of age they could judge what use for active service this vast number of men would be if they were sent back to the depôts. For what 1472 did the Reserve exist? The men who comprised the Reserve were intended to be used for two purposes. One was to bring up battalions ordered on active service to their proper strength, after sending back to the depot all those not able to go on service; and the other was that the Reserve should be a Reserve in the usually accepted sense of the term, able to supply drafts to those battalions when they were on war service. Now, they found that the condition of the home battalions was such that the whole of the Army Reserve was barely adequate to fulfil only one of the functions for which it existed, and for the purpose of furnishing drafts to battalions on active service there was absolutely nothing left except the same material which was left in the days of the Crimea, that was, young soldiers who were too young to go out on active service. He could not leave this branch of the subject without reminding the House what the present Adjutant General said in his evidence. Sir Redvers Buller said—We are deficient 12,050 Reservists to bring two Army Corps up to our establishment to send abroad,leaving absolutely no Reservists at all, except the Militia Reserve, for the purpose of supplying drafts in time of war. What was it he asked the House to deduce from these facts? He asked the House to deduce that it was not economical administration to support in the battalions at home this vast number of inefficient boys. In the second place, he asked the House to deduce from them that the present system of recruiting and administration was absolutely destructive of the Reserve; and, in the third place, he said emphatically that these results were not necessarily the results of the short service system. If the men now in the line battalions at home were really well developed lads of 18 even, there would be no necessity to send such vast numbers of them back to the depôt. The present lamentable results were due to the maladministration of the recruiting system by the War Office, or were due very largely to that cause, and to their complete want of forethought shown in the matter of drafts. These results were also due to the inadequate terms and conditions of the service that were offered to 1473 recruits. The House were aware that this Wantage Committee recommended that the pay of the Army should be increased. He was not going to argue at the present moment whether the recommendation was right or wrong. He himself held the view most distinctly that to obtain a better size of recruits better terms must be offered, and they must offer at least a clear shilling a day. What he did want to urge was, that the present state of discontent which existed in the Army was a thing for which the War Office must be held responsible. It was proved conclusively in the evidence before the Committee that the majority of the soldiers believed when they enlisted— and believed erroneously—that they were going to get a shilling, or nearly a shilling, a day free from any deduction, and that the conditions of service, and the amount received when they got into the Army, were quite different to what they had been led to expect. It was impossible to acquit the War Office altogether of blame in this matter. The pamphlet which was issued was on the whole clear, but the posters were at that time misleading, and the War Office must be held responsible for what those employed in recruiting told the recruits, and there was no doubt that at the present moment the great bulk of the soldiers in the Army found on enlistment that they had been deceived, and he thought no one would be more ready to admit than the present Secretary for War that means should, if possible, be adopted to put an end to such things. All the stoppages which would be made from the soldier's pay should be clearly explained to the recruit, who should be distinctly told the exact conditions under which he entered the service. There were one or two matters which, although trivial, were of great importance to the private soldier, which he regarded as doing him the greatest personal wrong, and in which—to use his unparliamentary language—he regarded himself as being swindled. He did not wish to put the matter too strongly, but he thought that expression was not very wide of the mark with respect to the points he was about to mention. On enlistment he was told that his kit would be supplied to him free, but in a year or eighteen months he was sent to India, to serve his country and to protect 1474 India, and yet the moment he embarked he was made to pay for the use of clothes on board ship, and in India he was made to pay for special suits of clothes to use in the Indian climate. So that when he went to serve a generous country it was necessary for him to provide himself with different clothing for that purpose, and to pay the expense of it. He (Lord Wolmer) had heard lately that that had been altered, or was about to be altered. He thought, for the honour of the country, if was time it was altered. He himself had conversed with private soldiers who had come back from India, this charge rankling in their minds during the whole time they were there, and until they returned and after it. While on this question he could not leave out of sight the fact which he was glad to learn from the Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State for War, that he was going to deal with the question of corporals and lance corporals. One of the reasons for the recent insubordination was the incapacity of these men; and the reasons why they were incapable was that it was most difficult to get the best men to accept the positions, because on many occasions men who accepted such positions had not only to do the increased and difficult and unpleasant work, but to be put to increased expense, and yet they did not get the pay—they had the rank only —for eighteen months. The country would be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for undertaking to deal with this matter. The last point to which he would draw attention, in connection with the Committee's Report, was one that made no reflection upon either the present Secretary for War or his Predecessor, but it affected the War Office to a very serious extent, and that was the employment of the men of the Army Reserve. An eminent authority had told them that the Army Reserve system depended upon whether Army Reserve men did or did not get employment. If it once came to general public knowledge that the Army Reserve man, apart from his character, could not get respectable work, then the days of the voluntary enlistment were numbered. The Army Reserve stood between the country and compulsory enlistment, as it was certain that the present system of raising the Army could not continue if the Army Reserve men could not 1475 get employment. They had a clear indication of that in the evidence given before the Committee, and it produced conviction in the minds of the majority of the Committee that respectable men of that class should be provided with employment. He would point out to the House the duty of the Department in this matter. Until the administration of the late Secretary for War this question—upon which the whole of their military system turned, upon which conscription depended—had been completely ignored. This matter until then —a matter which was absolutely vital— had been completely neglected in the past. He was pleased that action had at last been taken. The late Secretary had taken action, and the House would have fresh in its recollection what he did. He made arrangements with the Post Office—and in that he had the cooperation of the late Postmaster General— and secured that these men should have places in the offices; and then he went to the railway companies, with a like result; but the very success of that movement only showed that for 20 years, although a Committee was appointed, the War Office took no action in the matter. He hoped the matter would not be allowed to drop now, but that the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary for War would carry on the policy put in train by his Predecessor. Why should not the men who had served the country be preferred for offices that they were capable of filling to men who had acted as footmen and valets, or who had waited at the table of a Minister? Was it not possible that they could obtain the help and co-operation of the municipalities—of the County Councils and of the Town Councils—in the same way as the late Secretary for War had obtained the aid of the railway companies? Could they not approach these bodies on the subject? The present Adjutant General referred to the subject in his Report, stating that in his opinion a very serious state of affairs might arise in recruiting service unless the country ensured that soldiers coming off service should get remunerative employment. He had heard indirectly that the present Secretary of State for War had been acting in the matter. He was informed that he been calling for Reports as to how the question stood in Foreign 1476 Armies. He would respectfully ask the right hon. Gentleman whether these Reports could be laid before the House. He had probably occupied the House at too great length, but he thought he had proved from the evidence brought before the Commission, and from a high official in the War Office, that the War Office was not administering the money entrusted to it by the country for the improvements that were due in the condition of the Army. There was a most extraordinary want of foresight in dealing with drafts in the Home Army; there was the threatened destruction of the Reserve as a result of the policy that was being pursued, and he had shown, he thought, that they should provide for the employment of the Reserve men, as by not discharging this primary duty they ran the risk of which only the good character of the men themselves could save the country from. The men had a genuine grievance as to pay, and then there was the question of stoppages, which demanded the attention of the War Office. He would only make one more appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, and that was upon a subject upon which every non-commissioned officer and private felt most acutely, and which should be mentioned as a blot upon the national character. There were still places where the soldier's uniform was not only regarded as an object for insult, but where the soldier himself was treated with insult. There were places where a soldier was still refused admission. He was refused admission into some theatres, and into other places of public resort. He would say nothing of ill-behaved men, but he thought it would be conceded that a soldier had as much right to go into any of these places as had any civilian, as long as he conducted himself and behaved in a respectable manner. The conduct of those who were responsible for these refusals was an insult to the uniform of the Queen, which was the uniform of the nation. Such an insult was passed when the soldier was turned out of a public-house, or out of a hall, or any place of the sort. On this subject he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman, who was the guardian of the interests of the private soldier, and he thought the War Office should take this subject up as an insult to the nation. 1477 It might be said the right hon. Gentleman had no power, but he appealed to him to make it a cardinal feature of the policy of the War Office to guard the honour of the Army, and to take up every case of this kind. If he did this, this conduct would cease, these insults would cease, and the honour of the nation would be preserved.
§ GENERAL SIR G. CHESNEY (Oxford)
said, the noble Lord, in the Motion which he has brought before the House, has drawn attention to defects in our military system of the most serious kind, and, I venture to think, has in his speech brought out very forcibly the necessity for introducing reforms into the administration under which such an un satisfactory result should be possible. Sir, the Resolution moved by the noble Lord, to which the House is asked to subscribe, is to the effect that the present system of military administration fails to secure either due economy in peace or efficiency for national defence. In the remarks which, with the indulgence of House, I shall submit to it in support of that Motion, I will endeavour to make good both these propositions. The facts which I shall adduce in support of them are not new ones. The House and the country have already had repeated warnings that the military administration is in a state of inefficiency, at once dangerous and extravagant—warnings proceeding from high and indisputable authority. To go back no further than the year 1887, in that year the strong Commission, presided over by Sir Fitz-James Stephen, made a Report on the system of ordnance administration, which is a scathing exposure of mismanagement in that most important branch of the Service, and generally of the War Office administration. In the following year, in 1888, a still more authoritative Commission, presided over by the Marquess of Hartington, and comprising the late Mr. Smith, the present Secretary for War, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington,the hon. Baronet the Member for Kingston, and other persons of standing and experience, was appointed to inquire into the still larger question of the whole system of our military administration; and their Report, presented in the following year, constituted a still graver indictment of our military system. It is true that the Commission was not 1478 quite unanimous in the constructive part of their Report; that is, in their recommendations as to the particular organisation to replace that which they found existing. Even in this respect, however, the differences of opinion among the Members'arose only on details—important details no doubt, but, still, only details. At any rate, they were unanimous in their judgment that, whatever might be the best remedy to apply, the present state of things was radically vicious and defective and constituted a grave danger to the country, calling for immediate remedy, and, if we consider that the Commission comprised three former Secretaries of State for War, that they were thus in a measure sitting in judgment on themselves as well as on their successor in the office, my right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for War. Anyone reading between the lines of their Report, and bearing in mind also that in some respects they were treading on delicate ground—anyone reading the Report by these lights must come to the conclusion that it was an unqualified and alarming denunciation of our military system. And yet from this—the most important State Paper in connection with the military affairs of our country which has ever appeared— absolutely nothing resulted. There was a desultory Debate in this House on the subject, as to which it may be said that 'the attention of the House was diverted to insignificant side issues, and the subject was allowed to drop. None of the reforms proposed by the Commission have been carried out, nor has any appreciable effort been made to act upon them, while one of the measures which was in course of being carried out while the Commission was sitting, and to which they particularly objected, has been persisted in, with the result that things have gone from bad to worse. Such being the result of an inquiry conducted by the highest authorities with its vivid exposure of our defects and differences, one may well almost despair of arousing the House and the country to interest themselves about the matter. Nothing, indeed, in this connection is more striking than the contrast exhibited between the interest which the people of all Continental countries take about their military affairs and the intimate knowledge they possess of them, and the indifference on the sub- 1479 ject displayed by almost all classes in this country. The reason for this remarkable contrast is not far to seek. The Frenchman or the German knows that the very existence of his country depends on the efficiency of his Army, while his liability to military service must naturally give him a very close and lively interest in all the conditions of military life. We in our island home are, happily, not in the same critical state; but surely our circumstances do not justify our total inattention and indifference to these things. If we are not liable to sudden invasion on our own shores, still we have enormous interests all over the globe which we may be called upon to defend at any moment, while our whole trade and prosperity rest on a complex and artificial basis such as has never been found before in any country in the world. We have had abundant warnings that, in these days, the outbreak of war may be sudden and its issue tremendous, and, if our Army is a small one compared with the colossal Armies of Continental nations, surely that is all the more reason why its organisation should be as efficient as it can be made. And, apart from any question of danger, surely we are not justified in neglecting considerations of economy. While professing as we do to be a practical, businesslike people, the great comparative costliness of our Army is surely a reason why we should insist on getting full value for our money, as we certainly do not at present. But one reason for the apathy of the House and the public on this subject is, no doubt, the complacency with which the responsible heads of our Military Administration, and the Government generally, are accustomed to display when these grave charges are brought against them. The country feels that it pays handsomely for its Army, doing so under the belief— not an irrational belief—that the sums which it so generously grants shall be applied to the best advantage; and if it sees that those who are responsible for the management of our military affairs make light of these complaints and warnings, it not unnaturally assumes that these are over-charged. Surely, it may say, things cannot be so bad as they are represented to be, or successive and responsible Ministers would not be satisfied with such a state of things, but would set about reforming them. But yet Ministers 1480 have no right to be satisfied, or to rest complacently with folded hands. Not that I would be understood to imply that no reforms have been carried out. The Army has not been standing still, although its progress towards efficiency has not kept pace with that of other nations, and I am very far from wishing to undervalue the useful work in many directions which has been accomplished by successive Secretaries of State, and especially by my right hon. Friend at the head of the War Department of the late Government; but, in fact, isolated measures here and there are quite insufficient to meet the case; the system of War Office administration is, and always has been, radically faulty in principle, and can never work properly until based on the sound principles which govern the conduct of the administration of every other Army in the world. And instead of any improvement having been achieved in this the first essential respect, things have been going from bad to worse, as Lord Hartington's Commission point out. The responsibility for the present state of things can be charged on neither Party. This is in no sense a Party question, each Party has succeeded to the charge of a system inherently faulty from the first; and looking to the practical side of political life, to the stress and strain of office, and how particular views for the future are constantly obscured by the present needs which arise to be dealt with from day to day; considering the frequent changes in the tenure of the high posts; considering also the greater attractions which other posts in the Government offer to the ablest men in each Party, it is not surprising that no man of genius should have been found at the War Office with discernment to grasp clearly the necessities for reform, and with firmness of character and strength of will to enforce and carry out his conception. However that may be, a state of things has come about which, as I shall endeavour to show, calls for the most serious attention of this House and the country. The truth is, as I have said, that a false start was made at the outset—by the outset. I mean the time after the Crimean War, when the War Department was first created. Up to that time there had been no War Department, 1481 and the first necessary step in the creation of one central responsible authority for Army administration was obviously the abolition of the separate Ordnance Department, which had not only charge of ordnance matters, but also the command of the regiments of Artillery and Engineers, and to place all that business as well as the Commander-in-Chief and the whole administration of the Army under the Secretary of State. It was a necessary and a primary condition of the case that the Secretary of State should be made the supreme and responsible head of the Army; but when establishing that supreme responsibility, the fatal mistake was made of abolishing the responsibility of the heads of all the different Departments of the Army for their respective duties. The heads of these Departments —the Ordnance, Transport, Fortifications, and so forth—were retained, and retained their high-sounding titles; but they were divested of all responsibility; they were transformed into mere office subordinates of the Secretary of State, and have so continued ever since; and to this radical mistake—to this blindness of perception of the essential principles of administration, and the excessive centralisation of authority much—indeed, almost all— of the subsequent confusion and maladministration at the War Office is due. Now, I would venture to lay down this axiom: that sound administration is essentially based on maintaining a recognised chain of responsibility throughout all grades of the Service. accompanied by a corresponding devolution of authority. For example, take a great Railway Company. The possibility of its working at all as an effective machine depends on the large devolution of authority to each of the heads of the departments and making them responsible for the business of their respective departments. What would be thought of the management of a Railway Company in which every matter of business, down to the most detailed item, was carried out in the name of the Chairman and Board of Directors? in which the heads of the departments—the locomotive department, the traffic department, or any other—never ventured to issue an order in his own name, and professed to be merely a subordinate conveying the 1482 orders of the Chairman and the Board? Yet this is precisely what has been from the first the system established by the Secretary of State; the responsibility of everybody else has been merged in that of the Secretary of State, who becomes nominally responsible for everything and is virtually responsible for nothing. Every head of a Department at the War Office issues every order in the name of the Secretary of State, and under his authority; whether a thing is done by his own advice or without it never appears in the record; to all intents and purposes he is merely a clerk with a high-sounding title, acting under the direct orders and inspiration of his superior. And to further accentuate this, every Departmental Authority outside the War Office, whether in the Transport, Ordnance, or any other branch, does not address the head of his Department at the War Office, but the Under Secretary of State, to whom he applies for the orders of the Secretary of State upon every case down to the most minute and trifling details. And if such be the overgrown centralisation within the War Office, the condition of impotence to which the Departments outside that office is reduced is more monstrous still. There are highly-paid officials all over the country and all over the world serving under the War Office Department, but the whole business of the Army is gathered up, and centralised in, the War Office itself. No one outside the War Office has any authority whatever. Here you have at once a sufficient explanation of the overgrown office establishments to be found within that building. A further mistake made at the outset was the abolition of official correspondence within the office. This may, perhaps, seem a small matter, but it is really one of far-reaching consequence. The intention was well meant — to reduce correspondence; but it has been the cause and source, in reality, of much of the confusion, delay, and waste of time which now takes place, and of the destruction of any sense of responsibility on the part of those concerned, which the rest of the system might have left them. When any matter has to be taken in hand, a Minute Paper, as it is called, is set going, and every official concerned is invited to record his opinion on it. Each man writes something or other on the Paper, and passes it 1483 cm to some other official, and so the ball thus set rolling may go on rolling round and round the Department indefinitely, till at last such a mass of correspondence is collected that when it reaches the Secretary of State it is often difficult to determine what is the issue involved and whose opinion it is that is to be taken, and what it is on which an Order has to be passed. An incidental point in the matter is that there is nothing to prevent any one person keeping this Minute Paper as long as he likes, and the Minute Paper may be mislaid for weeks or months—it is no one's particular business to pursue its course or to bring it to a conclusion. I need hardly say, also, that it offers a facile temptation to procrastination, because, if there is any doubt as to what it means, there is nothing easier than to set it in circulation again with fresh opinions. Uultimately, if the case gets as far as the Secretary of State, he initials it, and becomes responsible for the Order, but how and by whose advice he passes it there is only this mass of undigested notes to show. I have now to mention what has been the most disastrous measure of all. In every other Army a broad distinction is drawn between the command of the troops and the supply of their equipment. By equipment I mean everything connected with the troops apart from their drill and discipline; that is, their clothing, arms, food, housing, and also their pay— the finance and accounts of the Army. All these services would together make up what is technically styled "supply," and in every Army in the world which deserves the name (except in our own) the conduct of these two branches of Army administration — command and supply — is kept absolutely distinct. The command and discipline of troops is quite sufficient to occupy the energies of the best man available. But those who are concerned with the command have nothing to do with the provision and equipment, or supply, or with the disbursement of money. Supply is kept absolutely distinct, and requires its special staff of administrators. The disastrous mistake I have referred to was this: that this broad distinction has been lost sight of. Two or three years ago the Department of Supply was swept away, the office of the Surveyor General of the Ordnance was abolished, and 1484 the duties which had been dealt with in his branch were distributed throughout the War Department. And as part of this re-organisation, as it was called, came the most lamentable change of all, whereby the nominal charge of the supply of the Army, which hitherto had been placed under what might be called a non-military branch of the War Office, was placed under the Commander-in-Chief and the Adjutant General. The idea which prompted this curious, not to say ridiculous, arrangement was no doubt a specious one—that military men should look after military business. Yes, but which military men? The discipline of the Army, including in the Army all that involves its preparation for war and its higher training, is amply sufficient in every Army to engage the undivided energies of the ablest soldiers to be found. As it is now, the Commander-in-Chief is not only responsible for the discipline and efficiency of the Army in the accepted sense, he has also become nominally responsible for everything connected with equipment—the Ordnance Factories and the clothing alone excepted—forall equipment, including buildings, fortifications, commissariat, transport, and everything connected with Army supply. Down to the very smallest details, everything is now done in the name of the Commander-in-Chief and under his direct orders, passing through the Adjutant General, to whom all other heads of the Departments are made subordinate. This is the state of things Lord Hartington's Commission found just established. They said in paragraph 60 of their Report—In the first place, it appears to us to involve an excessive centralisation of responsibility in the petson of the Commander-in-Chief, on whom the whole executive command, administration, and supply of the Army now devolve. He is, in fact, the only officer who has any direct responsibility to the Secretary of State.In paragraph 61 they said—We believe that such a centralisation of power and responsibility in the office of the Commander - in - Chief must necessarily tend to weaken the sense of responsibility of the other heads of Departments, and thus to diminish their efficiency.Then in paragraph 73, they said—Further changes are, however, in our opinion, required in the administration of the War Office. We consider that a definite and direct responsibility to the Secretary of State should be placed upon the heads 1485 of Departments for their several administration, as is the case with the Naval Lords at the Admiralty. Under the present system, as we have pointed out (paragraph 57), the only real responsibility appears to rest on the Commander-in-Chief, who alone would be accountable to the Secretary of State, even for such a matter as the defective design of a Navy gun. We do not find that this centralisation of responsibility exists in the administration of the Armies of any other great Powers of Europe, and we consider that it cannot conduce to efficiency. The professional officers administering Departments at the War Office should therefore be made directly responsible to the Secretary of State for the efficiency of those Departments and for the economical expenditure of the sums annually allotted to them.The Commission might have added that, apart from such a system being fatal to responsibilities, there is this further result: the loss of all effective criticism, upon the effective working of this Department. If the troops are ill-found, or ill-fed, or ill-armed, or ill-housed, it is to the Commander-in-Chief as safeguarding the interests of the troops, that the Secretary of State should look to have the evils brought to light. But now the Commander-in-Chief has become directly responsible himself for everything in this respect. You will find that down to the smallest point of detail, the number of bricks in the thickness of a barrack wall, the number of spokes in the wheel of a waggon—in everything, no matter how insignificant, the order is said to be that of His Royal Highness. Now, I should explain this. This distinction, which is so absolutely essential, and was always insisted on by the Duke of Wellington, was until lately observed in the administration of our own Army. Under Lord Northbrook's Committee of 1870 the War Office was divided into a Military Department, a Supply Department, and a Finance Department. The Committee recommended that of the three branches, one should be personally under the Commander-in-Chief, who should command the troops;another under a new officer, who was to be called a Surveyor General of Ordnance, and the third under a finance official. That recommendation was carried out; but a few years later the original scheme was departed from, and the office of Surveyor General became a Parliamentary one, and some younger Member of the Ministry was appointed to it. The idea was that in this way the Secretary of of State should be assisted in his 1486 official duties, but clearly there was a misconception in that, because, if you are to maintain the responsibility of the Secretary of State to Parliament, you cannot have a subordinate officer under him who is also responsible to Parliament. The evidence given before successive Commissions has shown that the position of the Surveyor General of the Ordnance was really that of an irresponsible subordinate. The Surveyors General of the Ordnance appointed were Sir H. Storks, from 1870 to 1874; Lord Eustace Cecil, from 1874 to 1880; Sir John Adye, from 1880 to 1882. Afterwards a succession of Parliamentary officials with no special experience were appointed—altogether seven persons in 16 years—only two possessing "the qualifications which were in the mind of those who originally established the office." The whole purport of the Report is that the Secretary of State's nominal responsibility for everything becomes a mere matter of form, from his having no strong professional advisers on technical matters. And this position is weakened rather than strengthened by the position of Surveyor General, who is, by his own admission, the mere Parliamentary exponent of his Department on matters relating to the Ordnance, on which he does not profess to have opinions of his own. The remedy proposed by Sir J. FitzJames Stephen's Commission was the re-creation of a Master General of Ordnance altogether separate from the Secretary of State. Opinions may be given for or against that proposal, but the facts incontestibly established that there is an entire want of responsibility, and that the administration of the War Department as regards supply needed to be strengthened. It is a grotesque commentary on the case that the ink with which the Report was written was hardly dry when what little remained of the Department of the Surveyor General, which was already greatly attenuated, was abolished, and all the Departments of Supply were placed under the Commander-in-Chief. No doubt the intention was a good one. It was thought that "he who drives fat oxen should himself be fat." No doubt the Secretary of State had in view the fact that Secretaries of State succeed each other very quickly to office, and that by placing these duties 1487 on the Commander-in-Chief there would he greater continuity and permanence in the work than there was before. The result was that another sham was introduced. You now have the Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief responsible for everything. Dealing with the position of the Surveyor General as a Parliamentary official, the Report of Sir, J. FitzJames Stephen's Commission, in paragraph 53, said—It appears from this that as matters stand at present, the Surveyor General of the Ordnance not only cannot advise the Secretary of State, as it was intended he should do, but is himself in the hands of his own subordinates, at least as much as the Secretary of State. The inherent weakness of the position of the Secretary of State is increased by the inherent weakness of his principal subordinate, the Surveyor General of the Ordnance. It is, indeed, surprising that worse results have not ensued from so very weak an organisation.In evidence before Lord Hartingtons' Commission the Surveyor General said that he was merely a superior clerk. Sir J. FitzJames Stephen's Commission, in their Summary and Conclusions, paragraphs 192 and 509, said—The great defects of the existing system are three: First, it has no definite object; secondly, it has no efficient head; thirdly, it has no properly, organised method of dealing with technical questions which arise as to the construction or purchase of warlike stores. In other words, it requires more system, more publicity, more vigour in administration, and more special knowledge in Council.509. The general results of our inquiry are as follows:—We think that the system on which patterns of warlike stores are procured and passed into Your Majesty's Service is defective in the following particulars:—This, then, is the system: the Secretary of State responsible not for keeping others to their work, but nominally from doing it. Real and effective responsibility is to be found, nowhere. Add to this a most cumbersome method of correspondence of a piece with everything else and successive centralisation of all authority within the War Office, and you have a state of things unexampled in this country or in any country. It is, in truth, "confusion worse confounded." It is bad enough in peace time, in which the thing hardly gets along. The public hears of delays, for example, in the supply of guns, of rifles, and munition, and they are told when they inquire about the thing that it is due to the difficulty of coming to a decision and the complex nature of the problems involved. It is really due to the total want of any specific responsibility on the part of any one person for the proper conduct of business; and if the machine hardly works in peace time, in case of war a breakdown is inevitable. Now, to turn to the way in which an Army ought to be administered. I might refer to the German Army or to the French Army or to the Austrian Army, for in all the principle is the same. I would take the case of the Indian Army, if the House will bear with me for a few minutes longer, and will endeavour to place before it as briefly as I can the system pursued there. It is just the same in principle with that of any Continental Army. It is not claimed for the Indian Army administration that it is the work of any genius, it has, in fact, grown out of necessity. The Indian Army has to be kept in a state of constant readiness for war; the Indian Military Administration is constantly practised in the business of conducting campaigns and expeditions, and it is obliged, therefore, to have a system which will work, and which does work, in perfect efficiency. Sometimes a General in command of a force may prove unequal to his position, and the policy which has governed military operations may no doubt be open to question, but the machine always works with perfect success and without any friction; and 1489 that system was established from the first on a sound principle, and has been so maintained. In the first place, a distinction between the command of the Army and the supply has always been maintained; the Commander-in-Chief and the Staff under him have nothing to do with equipment or finance or disbursement of money; secondly, every head of the Department of Supply is specifically responsible for the business of his own Department. The head of the whole business is the Military Department of the Government of India, which corresponds to the War Office Department in this country. The Commander-in-Chief is a member of the Viceroy's Council, which is just as if the Commander-in-Chief at home were a member of the Cabinet, but qua Commander-in-Chief, he is under the Military Department, and his office is a branch of it. The heads of the Ordnance, Commissariat, and Clothing Departments, with some minor heads, as the Remount, form also branches of it; the Departments of Pay Finance, and Accounts form another branch. The next step is that responsibility is established throughout by correspondence being conducted by official and formal letters. There is, of course, the usual interchange of Minute's and of personal opinions, but business begins and ends in each case with an official letter. There is the letter of the person or authority who makes the proposal; there is the final letter of the Government of India passing orders upon it, and plainly showing whether the proposal is approved or disapproved or modified; and if the recommendations of the recommending officer are set aside, the reasons are recorded, and responsibility can always be traced to the right source. I will just observe by the way that this system of rigid official correspondence has arisen possibly, to a certain extent, through accident; that is to say, the Indian Government is under an obligation to report all its proceedings to the Secretary of State in London, and this involves the necessity of their business being conducted in this way. The supplementary Minutes which form the basis of the orders passed are confidential, but the official correspondence containing authoritative statements goes on from first to last. To this happy accident—if it can be so called—may be ascribed the success of the system, in that responsi- 1490 bility throughout is perfectly recognised and acted upon. If, for example, the troops should be supplied with indifferent provisions on a campaign, or if the ammunition should run short—though I cannot recollect any case of its ever having done so—it is always possible to ascertain who is to blame, by whom the stores were supplied, or whether the Government itself has interfered with the action of the Commissariat offices. So with regard to the ammunition—whether the scale supplied has been that by the Commander-in-Chief or has been curtailed. But in the system carried on by the War Office—if such it can be called— if some gentleman forgets to pack the medicines, or the ammunition is put at the bottom of the transport under the reserve stock of hay, in all probability it will be found that this is the outcome of some voluminous Minute Paper, which has been handed about in the office and to which the Secretary of State has eventually put his own initials. Now, it is not to be supposed from this that the Commander-in-Chief in India has nothing to say to supply. He has the first say in everything practically; every proposal for altering the equipment is initiated by him. It may be the outcome of discussion in the Viceroy's Council, or in any other way; but the proposal always takes the form of an official letter from the Adjutant General to the Military Department, recommending the change. It is then referred to the head of the Department of Supply, Ordnance, or Commissariat, or whoever it may be, for his opinion; and after that discussion conies the final order of the Government, either approving or disapproving, or modifying, as the case may be. So in the still more important case of an Expedition. If an Expedition or Campaign is determined upon, the Commander-in-Chief is formally requested to form a proposal for carrying it out. This is done in an official letter, setting out the troops he would recommend to employ, the scale of ammunition, clothing, and everything else connected with the Expedition. This is then formally approved in an official letter from the Government, making such modifications as may be thought necessary. There may be, of course, any amount of personal discussion upon this, but the final document is the official order of the War Department of the Government. 1491 for which they are responsible. Then a copy of this order is communicated officially to all the Heads of the Department, and they issue this order in their own name, and are responsible for the necessary detailed orders to their respective Departments for carrying out the same. It will be observed, therefore, that the Commander-in-Chief is virtually the author and source of all military measures. It is he who, besides commanding the troops, really controls their armament, their equipment in all respects, their housing, and, in fact, every arrangement connected with them. No building connected with the troops is put in execution until it has been formally approved by him, or, if disapproved without the reasons for over-riding his opinion being officially recorded, and it may be said without exaggeration that the Commander-in-Chief has much greater influence and authority than the Commander-in-Chief at home. But I need hardly point out the essential difference between the two ways of doing business —between the Commander-in-Chief recommending that a gun or a transport waggon or a barrack should be of a particular pattern, and the execution of the order being committed to the trained head of the Department concerned, to be carried out under his responsibility, and the system which obtains here, under which the Commander-in-Chief is supposed to be a responsible executive authority for carrying out himself all these works in all their details. I would further invite the attention of the House to this important point: that in India the Commander-in-Chief is the potent critic if anything goes wrong. Suppose that in peace time the troops are badly clothed, or badly housed, it is from the Commander-in-Chief that the Government first hears of it, and then the departmental officers concerned are put on their defence to explain or account for the defect. So on a campaign; if provisions or equipment are faulty, it is the Commander-in-Chief who, getting the report from the officers of the staff, brings the matter to light, and it is this form of criticism—which the House may be sure is very freely and very fully exercised—which constitutes the most effective check against any departmental inefficiency. But here at home this form of criticism is absolutely non-existent, be- 1492 cause, under the ridiculous system that obtains at home, the Commander-in-Chief and Adjutant General have made themselves responsible for all these Executive details. I will not dwell here on the vigour and the promptitude which this method of procedure admits of. As an illustration, I will merely say that just before I left India the Government had just carried out three important Expeditions simultaneously—an Expedition to the Black Mountains and the North-West Frontier; an Expedition to put down a sudden rising of the troops in the Meranzai country further south; and the Expedition to suppress the revolt at Manipur. There were thus three considerable military operations going on simultaneously, and between 30,000 and 40,000 men had to be set in motion with all their supply and transport, and in each case over a most difficult and inhospitable country. Yet under the system there obtaining, of establishing the responsibility of the heads of the Services concerned and giving them—as to a certain extent has been given—wide devolution of authority, I do not hesitate to say that business, as far as regards the mere military details, gave the Government of India less trouble and correspondence than will be found to take place here in order to carry out a review in Hyde Park. As for attempting to carry on a war under the present system, it is difficult to conceive of the state of confusion and the delays and waste of money which must arise if the breaking out of war should come on us before we have set our military house in order. And assuredly it cannot lead to economy in peace. Where there is no specific responsibility there must be waste. For instance: '1 he War Office Department, including the Pay Department, consists of something like 1,300 superior officers and clerks, and costs, I think, very nearly £300,000 a year, and audit has to be done all over again by the Treasury. And yet this does not lead to any effective control over the combatant branch. First, as an illustration of economical management, I may refer to the very efficient Military Body known as the Punjaub Frontier Force. It is, in effect, a small Army of itself, consisting of 15 regiments of Cavalry and Infantry, and 4 batteries of Artillery. It com- 1493 prises altogether about 14,000 men, and is posted along the North West Frontier of India over something like 500 miles of ground. This force is, and has been for the last 40 years, commanded by a Colonel, with the temporary rank of Brigadier General, and one Staff officer. There are no departmental officers at all—Commissariat, Transport, or any other. The regiments keep their own transport; the combatant officers pay the men; the whole business is conducted in this way, and its efficiency has been proved indisputably by 40 years of warfare. It will be said that this is entirely a force of native troops. Well, I will turn to the Lahore district of the Bengal Army. This has altogether about 16,000 men, and is commanded by a major-general, with one aide-de-camp and two executive Staff officers. In the Umballa district there are 6,200 men, mainly British troops; also a colonel and two Staff officers. For the Aldershot division there are seven generals, including the principal medical officer and seven aides-de-camp. But no one will take exception to the Aldershot division in particular, as it is the one practical place for soldiering in the United Kingdom. If we turn to our colonial stations we find a truly surprising state of things. For example, at the Cape there are a garrison battery of Artillery, a detachment of Horse Artillery, one company of Royal Engineers, and one and a-half detachments of Infantry. To command this enormous force there is provided a lieutenant general, an assistant military secretary, an aide-decamp, two Staff officers, or a total staff of five officers. At Cyprus there is a major general, a Staff officer to command four companies of Infantry. At the Mauritius there are one company of Royal Artillery, two companies of Asiatic Artillery— whatever that may be—a detachment of Royal Engineers, and again four companies of Infantry. For this force there is a colonel on the Staff with the rank of major general, and of course a Staff officer. In Jamaica there are one company of Garrison Artillery, one and a-half companies of Engineers (African), three companies of British Infantry, and six companies of a West India regiment, to command which there are a colonel on the Staff, with rank of major general and a Staff officer. Barbadoes 1494 has pretty much the same strength of garrison and the same Staff. Again, I would say, compare this with what is found necessary in India. Take, for example, Sealkot, where there are a regiment of British Infantry, a regiment of British Dragoons, a regiment of Native Cavalry, two regiments of Native Infantry, and two brigades of Artillery. The whole form a strong brigade, a force of far more than the strength of six of these wretched little detachments put together, commanded by a colonel, with a Staff officer called a station officer, and no aide-de-camp. Well, Sir, no one would object to these little colonial commands if they formed useful training for higher posts, but it is obvious that they are nothing of the kind. Four companies of Infantry do not make a garrison fit for more than a major to command, leave alone a general officer. There is absolutely nothing military about the position from a military point of view. These major generals are, from a military point of view, simply rotting, and it is not too much to say that a man who has held one of these commands for five years becomes absolutely unfitted for any higher employment. And yet while money is wasted in this way, camps of instructions—the very life and soul of the Army—are year after year refused for want of money, and there is no range provided in England, except at Dartmoor, where you can fire off a field gun. I could pursue these details right through the items. To take the Engineers for example: A colonel of Engineers at Exeter doing duty which could be quite as well done—much better done—by a subaltern. The same at Brighton, where there is absolutely nothing to do. Let the traveller go to Kurrachee, for example. He will find there fortifications being carried out on a large scale and of a new type, the whole under the exclusive management of a captain of Engineers. At Bombay he finds a very large fortress in course of construction and nearly approaching to completion, the responsible officer at the head being a major of Engineers. He goes to Aden, where there has just been finished what is, in a military point of view, an admirable fortress, with works admirably carried out under the direction of a captain of Engineers. He arrives 1495 at Portsmouth to find three colonels of Engineers, although there is nothing going on of any importance. Well, Sir, if these eccentricities are to be met with in broad daylight, so to speak, I think the House will draw the necessary conclusion that there is also room for economy in every branch of the Estimates, especially in that overgrown rabbit warren—the War Office itself. I submit that the case which has been put before the House, that the present system does not conduce to economy in peace time, has been sufficiently established. I have endeavoured to put the case as simply as possible; No heroic action is necessary. The House is merely called on to record an opinion, which will, however, undoubtedly strengthen the hands of the Minister of War, and have & most potent effect. What is needed is a return to sound principles, to a proper distribution of duties till lately recognised, but latterly lost sight of, and the introduction of rational method of procedure which should establish responsibility through every branch of the Department. The first thing to be done, in my opinion, is to remove from the Commander-in-Chief the heterogeneous duties now cast upon him. Looking at the fact that the Secretary of State is frequently changed, and that, as a rule, he has not on entering office special experience, there should be a permanent head of the Department of Supply, and the office of SurveyorGeneral,or something akin to it, should be re-created, charged with control of all branches of it. And this office should not be Parliamentary. The effect of its being made Parliamentary, in the first place, weakens the position of the Secretary of State, who is and must be responsible for everything; secondly, the duty is too important to be dealt with by a junior Member of a Government. Lastly, there should be a strong financial department, and the Financial Secretary should not be in Parliament for the reasons I have given in the case of the permanent head of supply. Parliamentary aid to the Secretary of State can be obtained by the appointment of an additional Under Secretary. The system of correspondence should be reformed. The Secretary of State and three chief officials —namely, the Commander-in-Chief, the 1496 head of supply branch, and the Financial Secretary, should form a Council, and their proceedings should be formal, and, if necessary, available in case of any public inquiry. A greater degree of publicity should be given to their proceedings; for example, each head of a Department should make an Annual Report, to be laid before Parliament. This would strengthen the position of Secretary of State. There need be no fear of permanent officials over-asserting themselves, and the fear entertained of publicity, to my mind, is unfounded. I consider there is great value to be attached to publicity. It creates increased interest in what is done, and has a tendency to prevent rash charges. I have now put my case before the House. I have drawn attention to the grave disclosures already published, and I have submitted to the House my views of the causes of these defects, and the nature of the remedy to be applied. The House is not asked to apply an heroic remedy or to undertake any great inquiry, but only to express an opinion, which, in my view, will be most effective. I would appeal to hon. Members, as men of business and as custodians of the Public Purse and Representatives of the taxpayer, to put a stop to a system, perforce, in the last degree wasteful and extravagant. A system such as I have described is bound to be productive of waste and extravagance in peace time. And it has to be remembered that while an Army is maintained for war, peace is happily the normal condition of the country, and surely it is in the strongest degree incumbent on us to require that the Army shall be administered with due regard to economy, and on common-sense, business-like lines. As to the still more weighty consideration, whether the present state of things can possibly supply an adequate system of defence, such a handling of the military resources of the country as will secure that they shall be applied to the best advantage in the event of any great emergency— speaking with the experience of a long life spent in the Public Service and having had unusual opportunities of practical acquaintance with this particular branch of it, and speaking with a full sense of the responsibility involved—I desire to express my opinion that the present state of our military administra- 1497 tion is full of danger to the country. I do not mean to imply that I fear such an overthrow as has befallen France and Germany. From a catastrophe of that sort our Fleet will save us. But we have to remember that we are guardians of an Empire and a commerce which are the admiration and the envy of the world, and which are vulnerable at every point. And what I do think is to be feared is that if, with our Army administration in its present elastic condition, we should be drawn into a war we should sustain a blow and loss of credit due to our reckless indifference, it might require great efforts to recover. We should win, though, in time, no doubt. The courage and stubbornness of the race would pull us through in the long run, but only at a grievous cost in blood and treasure, wasted from reckless want of foresight. I 'would therefore very respectfully, but very earnestly, urge upon the House to take the first step towards putting an end to this extravagant, this discreditable, this dangerous state of things, by adopting the Resolution which has now been submitted to it.
- (a.) That the powers of the Secretary of State are so great that no single person can be expected to exercise them efficiently, especially when regard is had to the uncertainty of his tenure of office, and his presumable deficiency in special knowledge.
- (b.) The same observations apply in a less degree to the Surveyor General of the Ordnance.
- (c.) The Secretary of State and the Surveyor General of the Ordnance are practically in the hands of their subordinates, and this destroys all real responsibility and all effective superintendence.
- (d.) The present system is directed to no definite object; it is regulated by no definite rules; it makes no regular stated provision either for the proper supply and manufacture of warlike stores, or for enforcing the responsibility of those General Sir G. Chesney
1488 who fail to make them properly, or for ascertaining the fact that they are made improperly. It is to these defects in the system that we attribute most of the matters complained of."
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the present system of Military administration fails to secure either due economy in time of peace or efficiency for National defence,"—(Viscount Wolmer,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)
said, he claimed the indulgence which the House always extended to a new Member making his maiden speech, and promised to trespass on its attention only for a short time. He thought the attention of the country should be fixed on the condition of the Army, as shown by Lord Wantage's Report, the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting, and also by the Army Estimates. He thought that Lord Wantage's Report showed a most serious state of affairs existing in the Army, which could not be too often brought under the notice of the country. That Report showed that there were not sufficient recruits obtainable; that the recruits which were obtained were not of a sufficiently good quality to maintain the 1498 Home Army in a proper state of efficiency; and that the Home Army was really only a mere nursery and recruiting depot for the Army in India. The Report of Lord Wantage's Committee pointed out that this state of affairs was mainly due to the fact that the inducements offered to young men to enter the Army were not sufficient to supply soldiers to keep the battalions at home up to the proper standard of efficiency, and at the same time provide the necessary drafts for the Army in India. There was a deficiency of 1,400 men during the recruiting season, and were it not for the special measures and makeshifts adopted that deficiency would have amounted to 3,200. It was a very serious thing to think that makeshifts should have to be resorted to from time to time in order to maintain the Indian Army in a state to discharge its duties in time of peace, and he was afraid that if other conditions prevailed there would arise a drain, which the Army at home would not be able to supply. The evidence given by His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief was very important. As an officer in the Army, who had the honour of being inspected by the Commander-in-Chief, he could bear testimony to the searching character of the inspections made by His Royal Highness, and to the fact that His Royal Highness was not sparing in his terms of censure of the neglect of any officer. For these reasons he thought the evidence of the Commander-in-Chief was deserving of great weight, when he stated that the Army at home was inefficient, and that not one of the battalions was in a proper state to take the field without being reinforced by the Reserves. The Adjutant General declared that not one single Infantry battalion was efficient at home, and the Commander at Aldershot, who had unrivalled opportunities to judging of the condition of the Army, said that the home battalions were only a nursery for the Army in India, and that the soldiers were not fit to go through even the ordinary fatigue of the field-day. The Commander of the Forces in Ireland stated that when the drafts for India had been provided the home battalions were like a lemon out of which the juice had been squeezed. The only exception to these descriptions was the Guards. As one who had had the honour of serving for a few years in the Guards, he could, in 1499 every way, endorse what had been said about these regiments; their drill, their general efficiency, and their fitness for the discharge of any duty they might be called upon to perform. The Report of Lord Wantage's Committee said that the only alternative, apparently, to some great expenditure, in order to increase the efficiency of the Army, was conscription. "Conscription" was a word very few of them would venture to.use when addressing their constituents, for it was not a pleasant word to British audiences, and they would have to adopt some other system than the conscription for maintaining the efficiency of the Army at home and in India. He was sorry that Lord Wantage's Committee did not also inquire into the condition of the Militia. He thought that in the Militia they had a very strong force to fall back upon. He knew that officers and men in the Regular Army were rather inclined to sneer at the Militia; but his experience—for he had also served 10 or 12 years in a Militia regiment—was that as a reserve force we could look to the Militia with great confidence. The men in the Militia might not be drilled with the same efficiency as the men in the Regular Forces, and their appearance was not so good, which was perhaps mainly due to the clothing supplied them; but they were a fine body of men; they were of greater age than the men in the Line regiments; they were hardened by their labour for their bread during the portion of the year they were not in training, and they could do a better day's work in marching than a Line regiment could perform. The Army at home was maintained almost entirely for the purpose of providing drafts for the Army in India; but the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee pointed out the extraordinary fact that only about 20 per cent. of the soldiers serving in the ranks at home were fit to be sent out to India. Some of the men were near the end of their service; others were too young, and others again were not suitable for India from a medical point of view. The Report explained the youth of the soldiers by saying that the inducements offered by the service did not attract those who were capable of earning a man's wages in the labour market, and only attracted immature lads who were unable to earn a man's wages. Lads of 15 or 16 years 1500 of age were enlisted in some instances' though they were supposed to be older' and they had to spend one or two years in the ranks at home before they were fit to pass even the lenient medical examination for service in India. He asked the House to consider the enormous expense of that system. An effective soldier cost the country £55 12s. a year, and we had to spend that sum on every one of the men for one or two years before they could give a day's work. He could hardly believe his eyes when he read the figures given by the Inspector General of Recruiting of the invalids in the Army. In 1892 the number of men under two years' service amounted to 56,204, and out of this number 798 were discharged invalided. These figures were most startling, he thought. A soldier's life ought to be the healthiest of lives. The food was good, or ought to be good, for the country would not tolerate bad or insufficient rations being supplied to its soldiers; the discipline, the exercise, the warmth and comfort of the barracks ought to make the health of the men good; but instead of that a large proportion were invalided after two years' service. He reckoned that these invalid soldiers cost the country a vast sum every year, for which no value was returned. The people thought a good deal of this expenditure of money. In Scotland, at least, they thought the Army was a good deal too costly. He also honestly believed it was too costly, and he thought that means should be adopted to maintain an efficient Army at a less expenditure of money. He did not think the Secretary for War could as with a fairy's wand change all this at once; but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take into consideration the various suggestions which had been made for relieving the country of this great burden. He knew that the officers of the Army—and he believed the men also—had confidence in the right hon. Gentleman, and believed he would do his best for the service; and he would take the opportunity of saying that whenever he asked a question on military affairs the right hon. Gentleman always gave him a civil answer, which was not invariably his experience when he asked questions in the discharge of his duty to his constituents. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would do some- 1501 thing to improve the service in the Militia. The Inspector General of Recruiting bore testimony in his Report to the fact that the Militia, as a recruiting ground for the Army, was very effective indeed; that the recruits thus obtained were exceedingly good, and that their numbers had been largely increased. According to the Returns the number of men in the Militia was 113,000, and they had supplied 16,000 recruits to the Line in one year. These recruits were far better than the recruits picked up in the street by the recruiting sergeant. But the Militia was not used to its full extent as a recruiting ground for the Army. He believed that a few concessions would do a great deal towards improving the efficiency of the Militia, and increasing the number of recruits which pass from it to the Army. Lord Wantage's Committee suggested that a list should be prepared of efficient volunteers who would be willing to serve in the Army in the event of a small war; and he thought that if a small payment was given to Militiamen to induce them to go into the Army it would be the means of greatly increasing the forces available in the time of war. He considered the time for the training of the Militia was longer than employers of labour liked to spare their men, and perhaps it would be well to shorten it. Then he did not think the time of training was properly employed, and if there was a better system of drilling the results would be more satisfactory. There was, as a rule, in every case a very efficient permanent staff; but its members had too much to do to give proper attention to the drilling of the men, and he thought some arrangement should be made by which sergeants should be sent out from Line regiments to assist the non-commissioned officers of Militia regiments in the work of drilling during the period of training. To place the Army in a state of greater efficiency was of vital importance to the country; and the next thing was to get that efficiency at the least cost, and he thought he had pointed out how that might be attained.
§ COLONEL C. W. MURRAY (Bath)
said the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had seconded the Motion had so fully discussed the question of administration of the Army that he would not follow him into that field. But as the 1502 Committee of Lord Wantage had been mentioned in the Motion, he desired to say a few words to the House on that question. The main points placed before the Committee for discussion and report were: (1) the conditions of recruiting and inducements to recruit; (2) terms and conditions of service with the Colours and reserve; (3) advantages on discharge. Recruiting appeared to have been last year very good, but they could not rely upon that exceptional state of things, and should still consider the inducements to gain recruits. It was recommended in the Annual Recruiting Report by the Inspector General, as well as by the Wantage Committee, that power should be given to recruit in anticipation of the waste which could be foreseen in the immediate future, to prevent in good recruiting times the check caused when the establishment authorised by Parliament was reached. Would this be done? There was no recommendation to this effect brought forward by the War Minister as yet, but he hoped it might be done later. There appeared to be a large number of special recruits. These, as the House knew, were boys not up to the standard of 5 feet 4 inches in height and 33 inches in chest. This was small enough, but it appeared that in 1890 about one-fourth of the whole number of recruits were specials; in 1891 rather more than one-third of the whole number; in 1892 about one-third. This was unsatisfactory. He had seen such weakly lads break down on active service almost before the campaign began. He considered that, besides inducements to join, inducements should be held out to the taxpayer to pay willingly for what he received, and that he should be sure of having a good and serviceable soldier. That was not the case here. The Inspector General says a large proportion are unfit for some time after enlistment to bear the strain of a soldier's life. That proportion may be diminished by increased vigilance in scrutiny of returns of specials furnished weekly by approving officers. This increased vigilance should at once be practised. It was worth considering whether it was advisable to go on paying a man's wages to this class, or whether it was not better to enlist them as specials at less pay, and keep them developing until they were fit to take their place in the ranks, the 1503 money saved by this to go as an inducement to a better class to join as men fit for work. The behaviour of the class of recruits now obtained for the Army was better than formerly. There were not the same habits of drink and crime, and punishments were less. There was some minor insubordination traceable to youth, and also to the youth of the younger non-commissioned officers. It had been stated by many of those who gave evidence before the Committee that, "as a rule, our regiments at home are useless for service." That had been the result also of his experience of a great many of the young men who went abroad on active service. There had been a tendency to catch the recruit by plausible statements, and afterwards not altogether to keep to the spirit of the agreement. The soldier should know exactly what his pay was to be, and vexatious deductions, especially for food, which he only really found out after enlistment, should be abolished. In the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War it was stated that—Measures have been adopted to equalise the number of stations of Infantry at home and on foreign service,but no mention was made of the establishments. This was a very essential part of the organisation of 1872. The Memorandum goes on to to say that—Even what has been done will be at once disturbed by the dispatch of extra battalions to Egypt.This was exactly the thing which was required to be avoided. It took place in 1877, five years after the establishment of the organisation, and had never been restored. Now the right hon. Gentleman told them that the equality had been re-established, and in the same sentence that it was again disturbed. The territorial system of 1872 had not been carried out in its integrity. At the time of the Report of the Wantage Committee there were 11 more battalions abroad than at home. For the present year it appeared that there would be three battalions of Infantry abroad in excess of those at home. But the establishments which were originally intended to be the same would now still be very disproportionate. At home the Infantry would number 57,000, and abroad over 74,000. This was a great disproportion out of the number at home, only it was found that only about 1504 20 to 30 per cent. were available for drafts, in consequence of various causes; one special cause being that a very large number were under age. In this matter of drafts to fill up the gaps in the forces abroad there seemed to be a yearly increasing deficiency. They should by some means have sufficient men to be sent out yearly. At present there was a constant struggle to make up the deficiency, with the result of leaving the regiments at home in a state almost of collapse and inanition. Another point in the territorial question was, that it should be carried out to the extent of quartering regiments in their own territory, to enable them to be more in connection with the various county branches of Militia and Volunteers. At present most regiments never went near their territorial districts from the time they come from abroad to the time they go back, and were never seen by the battalions of Militia and Volunteers. A very successful experiment was made with a Welsh regiment, and it was stated that a sensible increase of recruiting took place. This was strongly recommended by the Inspector General of Recruiting, and he should be glad to hear that the Military Authorities proposed to continue the practice in the same form. There was a point connected with the Reserve which he thought had never been sufficiently attended to. The training of the Reserve men, when there was any at all, was entirely sufficient to enable them to take their place again in the ranks. Everything in military affairs changed so rapidly. The Reserve man came back and found a new drill, new rifle, and everything new. All Reserve men should be obliged to join some force in which they could receive training in drill and shooting. The Volunteers would perhaps be convenient for this. He entirely disapproved of the present system of giving a large accumulation of pay to the soldier on leaving the Colours, and then requiring of him the impossible task of paying it back if he rejoined. He considered that whatever pay or gratuity was accumulated for the benefit of the soldier should be treated in the manner of gratuity or pension; if it was pay, then it should be added to by the State in proportion to the time he continued to serve in the Reserve after leaving the active Army, a small sum being given to him on 1505 leaving the colours to start him in life. It was a great advantage to a man to have learned a trade in the Army. It would have a good effect on discipline, and prevent men from wasting their time in public-houses, and would be a vast advantage in after life, giving the man a chance of gaining a livelihood. Reserve men of the best character should be employed as much as possible in Government posts. This was very strongly recommended by the Wantage Committee, and the Inspector General for Recruiting in his Report strongly recommended it.There would be no difficulty in obtaining the requisite quantity of recruits, and of greatly improved quality. If the plan followed in Germany were established here the recruiting difficulty would disappear, and with it the disinclination of the middle and lower classes to allow sons to select the Army as a profession.The Secretary of State for War lately, in answer to a question, stated that as far as he was aware only 13 appointments under Government had been given during 1892 to discharged and reserved soldiers. As more than 16,000 went to the Army Reserve on completion of service, this seemed a very small proportion, and he should be glad to know that every effort was made to give Government employment to discharged soldiers of the best character. It was a matter for great regret that the present Government should not consider themselves in a position to carry out any of the recommendations of Lord Wantage's Committee, except of increasing the pay of lance corporals. Lance corporals and bombardiers were a useful body, but did not make an Army. The late Government were evidently in earnest in wishing to place the Army in a proper state— the Committee was a War Office one— and had matters of great importance to discuss and report upon. It was hoped that, as in the Navy under the late Administration, great improvements would be effected. But, unfortunately for the Army, the Government that appointed the Committee went out of Office, and now it appeared that, like a Royal Commission on the Army which preceded it, it was to be shelved, or perhaps to be made to wait until the late Government should return to Office and reconsider it. The right hon. Gentleman stated that financial considerations would prevent the present Government from 1506 taking many steps at present towards carrying out the recommendations. But what was the object of having a Committee sitting at great expense and taking evidence? Was it not because there were known to be important considerations to be attended to, and he felt sure that the country, if it required an Army at all, desired that that Army should be efficient, and in a condition to do any duty required of it. The cost of placing the Army in a perfect state as regarded number and efficiency would be a very small item compared with the amount demanded from the British taxpayer to start the Prime Minister's useless scheme of Irish Government, and he would recommend to the right hon. Gentleman's careful consideration, although he was afraid his recommendation would not receive that consideration, whether the money would not be better spent in making our Army good enough to do justice to a great nation and sustain our Imperial position than in establishing a sham Government in Ireland.
§ MR. H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
said that, although he was a very new Member of the House, he had been a witness of what had taken place on the Army Estimates on many previous occasions, and he must say he regretted that the position which had been taken up in the past seemed likely to be continued in the future, and that absolutely no public interest was likely to be taken in this great question of the maintenance of the Army, on which they were asked to vote no less than £20,000,000 sterling. It had been established, he should think, to the satisfaction of every hon. Member who had heard the hon. and gallant Member for the City of Oxford, that from the logical point of view they could not, in the nature of things, with their present organisation have a good Army. He was now going to try and show that, as a matter of fact, they had not got a good Army. He thought this was emphatically a question for the Imperial Parliament. They had precedents in this question of great value. There was no doubt that matters at the Admiralty were now very satisfactory, and that they might well be able to entrust their maritime efence to them; but they could not have the same confidence in regard to the War Office in its present condition. 1507 It was an essential and desirable thing that the House of Commons should have cognisance of this matter. Something could be done by the House of Commons; everything had been done in the case of the Navy by the House of Commons. Let them take their minds back five or six years, and consider what was the then condition of the Navy. He would ask the House to remember that, owing to the pressure which was brought to bear in this House, and by those who were instrumental in forming the opinion of Members, the Navy was absolutely revolutionised, and that £11,000,000 sterling were asked for and voted in a single 12 months to enable the Navy to go to sea, in case of war. Therefore, it was right to put what pressure they could today upon the War Office. Three times within recent memory Parliament had charged Commissions to inform it of the state of the Army. There was a Commission under Mr. Justice Stephen; there was one under Lord Hartington; and a Committee under Lord Wantage; and those Commissions had, without exception, one and all reported that the condition of the Army was as bad as it could possibly be. They presumed that the Army for which they paid so many millions was an Army which was capable of doing something. He would ask whether the War Office had provided them with the means of contemplating the possibility of a great Continental war? The answer was given as follows in the Report of Lord Hartington's Commission:—There does not appear to exist sufficient provision by either Service for the wants of the other; little or no attempt has ever been made to establish settled and regular intercommunication or relations between the Services; no combined plan of operations for the defence of the Empire in any given contingency has ever been worked out or decided upon.Having failed to provide for war on a large scale, had the War Office made any adequate preparation for war on a small scale? Here was another statement, a statement made last year in the evidence given before Lord Wantage's Committee:—The provision of expeditionary battalions to be sent abroad in case of a small war was a point which certainly was not worked out by Lord Cardwell's Committee, and no plan that I know of has been worked out by any Committee, or by the War Office, with a view to meet that emergency.1508 Unless the Secretary of State for War could tell them that the War Office had entirely altered the state of things, unless he could give them some plan to provide for the contingency of a general war or a small war, the War Office had failed in the purpose for which it existed. He had seen something of foreign Armies, and he asserted, without hesitation, that in the modern sense of the word, as it was understood by experts of other countries, our Army was not an Army. He contended that Parliament, with these grave facts before them, was bound imperatively to demand from Ministers of the Crown an account of the money with which they were entrusted. He advised hon. Members to visit from time to time our military establishments, and see for themselves the state of things which prevailed. He now came to another serious matter which the House might well take into consideration. They did not get proper information in these matters; there was a hole-and-corner system pursued at the War Office which was not pursued at the Admiralty. Every fact was given them by the Admiralty, but the facts were withheld from them by the War Office. But those facts were really public property everywhere except in this country. He would give an example of one or two of the things he meant. He was sure the Secretary of State for War would not object if he referred to a matter which had occurred during the last two or three days. A day or two ago he put down a question on the Notice Paper to the Secretary for War regarding the number of 9-pounder muzzle-loading guns which were now in the hands of the Field Artillery. These guns were of an entirely obsolete type and were out-ranged and out-classed by nearly every gun in the Russian Service. The reply that he received from the right hon. Gentleman was that it was undesirable either that such a question should be put or answered. He could not help pointing out that such Returns were printed and circulated every single month throughout the year, and, as a matter of fact, the figures on this matter were published by himself in the very last edition of a small pamphlet he had written on this subject last year, and the figures were still substantially correct. We had at this moment in India nearly 200 of these 1509 obsolete 9-pounder muzzle-loading guns with the field batteries. What was the remedy for this state of things? There was only one remedy for it, and that was to get rid of these useless guns, and to replace them with modern 12-pounder guns. These new guns could be obtained in 12 months. So grotesque was the condition of things that at this moment at Woolwich, our only school for the instruction of Artillery officers, they positively had not got enough guns to supply an experimental battery for the instruction of cadets, but every single gun used for instruction purposes was of an obsolete type. The same state of things once prevailed on the gunnery training ships at Plymouth and Portsmouth, but it had been remedied and guns provided for the Navy of the most modern type. Meanwhile, at Woolwich there was only one of the new guns, and that of a discarded pattern, and the cadets were compelled to practise with the old 9-pounder. He contended that monthly Returns ought to be published which would give information with regard to gnus in use in the Service. He had tried, but had failed, to get Returns which would show the actual state of the Service battalions and Service batteries at Aldershot. He was able to get them by personal research last year, and had he had time he might possibly have done so this year. He wanted the House to understand that when they saw these battalions and batteries put down as having some 1,200 men in the First or Second Army Corps, that was, if he might say so, a fraud on the public. One Infantry battalion which he had in his mind, and forming part of the First Army Corps, stood on the list as being 1,100 men answering the roll call, and the country believed that all these men were ready for service. What was the fact? This very battalion was asked to furnish a draft of 200 men fit to go to India, and out of 1,100 men they had not 200 men fit to go to India, and they could only send 180 men. That was not an unfair example of battalion after battalion, and he wanted to know how many men in our battalions were disqualified at the present moment under the rules existing for the regulation of the Army from proceeding to India when they were ordered to go, and when such a Return was given a re- 1510 markable state of things would be found to exist. These facts showed that the War Office had not done its duty in this matter; they had been misled by the War Office; they were not getting proper information, and were not getting value for the money which they spent. Lastly, he wished to say a few words about the grievances of the men. These grievances had been known for a long time. It did not require a Commission to tell them that the men were underfed, and one of the first things that ought to be done was to provide a proper meal after the afternoon meal for every soldier in the Army. Another thing that was well known without any Commission being necessary was that boys, on enlisting, were misled by the recruiting sergeants; and that these boys were physically unfit to undertake, not merely the labours of a campaign, but the ordinary daily routine of barrack life. The medical officers' returns showed the disastrous effect upon the young soldiers of a nine miles' march on a warm summer's day. If they wanted to get proper men for the Army, they must pay them properly, treat them properly, and feed them properly. Some other prospect than the workhouse must be given the men after they have left the Service, and it was a humiliating thing to have to say that at present that was the only prospect before many of these men. Only the other day he got a Return showing that 160 discharged soldiers passed through one casual ward alone in the course of a year, and what was going on in the case of one casual ward was going on in the case of many. The people of the country took a very deep interest in these military questions, as he knew from experience by addressing civilian audiences, and he could not repress a feeling of shame when at a large meeting he addressed in the East of London the other day, he found there was scarcely a man in the whole of that audience who did not speak in terms of absolute scorn and abhorrence of the career of men who were compelled to enter the Army. Until some step was taken to remedy the grievances of the men, to treat them properly, and to make the Army popular, this feeling with which the Army was regarded by many people would not be got rid of. One step in the direction of reform which the authorities might at 1511 once take was by improving the condition of many of the recruiting stations. One of the most important recruiting stations in the country was St. George's Barracks within a few hundred yards of that House, and its condition was simply a disgrace. To enter it one must go through an avenue of slums, and they could not put a man in a more humiliating position who was taking this important step in life by joining the Army, when they compelled him to go through such a place. Many other recruiting stations were also in a similarly unattractive state, and he would suggest that this, at any rate, was a matter which might be remedied almost immediately. He contended that the War Office had failed in its primary duties for which it was created, and that until it was shown it had taken steps to fulfil those primary duties it stood condemned. There were some obvious things which could be done without waiting, by the ordinary administrative process, and there were other things which would demand the countenance and assistance of a willing House of Commons, which he was perfectly certain would in the future, as in the past, never be withheld from any Government who came down to the House and said they desired to have these things in the interests of the Army and of the country.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
Mr. Speaker, to anyone who like myself or like the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War has had to deal with many of the subjects mentioned in the course of the Debate to-night the prospects are sufficiently appalling, for even in the small number of speeches delivered we have had speeches so full of matter and so full of suggestion that it is almost impossible for anyone like myself to attempt to deal even with a small part without trespassing to a somewhat serious extent on the attention of this House. But, Sir, it seems to me it is right I should rise at this stage of our proceedings, because I can, at any rate, bring to bear upon our discussion to-night some practical experience of very recent date with regard to the many subjects that have, been brought under our consideration. Now, Sir, the Motion that has been made in the Committee to-night by my noble Friend relates to two subjects. It deals with the cost of the Army, and it deals 1512 with its efficiency. I ask leave to say two or three words upon each of these before I go into the details of the various subjects which have been brought forward to-night. Now with regard to the cost of the Army, I do not suppose that anybody in my position, or in the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, would deny that the cost of the Army is very large. I am quite sure that everybody who has filled the position I have had the honour to fill would desire to reduce it to the utmost extent consistent with its efficiency. And I am bound to say, after very careful consideration of all the circumstances concerning attempts at economy, that although I think there are some economies that might be effected in our Army system, little by little, yet I cannot but doubt that there are other subjects, such for instance as the enormously increased attention being paid to the condition of the soldier in all parts of the world, which must inevitably add to our expenditure almost as much as the most careful economy can take from it. I have great experience of this subject, because I had the honour of serving upon the Committee appointed by this House, and of which my noble Friend the Member for South Paddington was the Chairman. We examined every branch of our subject. We spent two years in that investigation, and the witnesses that were called were certainly not witnesses favourable to any existing administration of the Army. They were called by my noble Friend himself on his own responsibility as the witnesses he thought most able to render assistance to the Committee, and I bear my willing testimony to the services that were rendered by that Committee, because I think they did lay the ground for various useful reforms, and for some reduction of expenditure in various departments. But nobody who was on that Committee can doubt also that there were suggested to us in the course of that investigation various directions in which our expenditure was inadequate, and the ultimate result of that Committee undoubtedly was that although we out off small sums in various directions it led to much larger expenditure in others, and the result to the Exchequer was an increased charge. I am afraid also I draw the same experience from 1513 what I hear in this House. We have a good deal of economy in the abstract, but we hear very little of it as applied to particular instances, and my experience in this House has been that, whereas hundreds of speeches are made in which it is urged that expenditure should be curtailed in one direction or another, there is, perhaps, one speech in which the slightest suggestion is made towards diminishing the expenditure in the Army in the particular direction in which one might hope some reduction might be made. I should like to say that I have listened, and I am sure the House has listened, with great satisfaction and interest to the first speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford. He has a very distinguished record in India, and we were glad to hear the efficient manner in which he contributed to our Debates. His main suggestion for the reduction of expenditure is a reduction in the Staff and the number of officers employed. I have always felt, for my own part, that the Staff was larger than might be actually necessary, and it would be a great thing if some proportion of that Staff were reduced. But I have always been met face to face with the fact—and everybody will have to be met face to face with the fact— that we have to provide officers not only for our very small Army, but for the Army we could mobilise if we had to defend the country. We should have to put in the field 500,000 or 600,000 men, and nobody can doubt that the demand on the officers of the Army in such a time would even be largely in excess of the number of officers we possess at the present moment. I have always thought we had an excessive number of General Officers, and I have taken my share in endeavouring to reduce that number. But with regard to the officers below the rank of General, I am certain that we do require a very much larger number than can be suggested by the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend. It is of primary importance that we should not unduly reduce the number of officers in this country, or when the time comes for a general mobilisation of the forces we shall find ourselves short of the number we require. I think my hon. and gallant Friend in his attempts to find a direction for economy was not happy. He mentioned the case of Aden. I know a 1514 great deal about that, and I do not think in the course of my connection with the War Office I ever came across a grosser case of the expenditure of money, far above anything from which money ought to have been spent, than the manner in which by the Indian Public Works Department the defences at Aden were carried out. I pass from the question of cost to that of efficiency. Is the House prepared to say for one moment that the Army at the present time is not efficient? Now let me examine details. Does anybody dispute that the Army in India is efficient? The Army in India is composed of men thoroughly qualified for the object with which they are raised, and there never was a time in the history of India when the Army in that country was in all respects more efficient for military purposes than it is at the present time. I come now to the Army at home, and I venture to say that there also the Army in this country is more efficient and more thoroughly suitable for warlike purposes than ever it was in the history of this country. I do not want to trouble the House by quoting authorities in defence of that proposition, but I should like to quote one single witness. We have heard quoted to-night the authority of Lord Wolseley. And what does Lord Wolesley say about the efficiency of the Army at the present time? This is what he says—Of this there can be no doubt, that since the Peninsular War we have never had so strong or so efficient an Army. Looking at it as a military machine, it has never been so fit for quick conversion into a fighting army in the field, and never before has this country been in a better position to resist invasion.I think there can be no stronger testimony to the position of the Army, which I assert is at the present time in a more efficient condition than ever it was before. The state of recruiting cannot be described as otherwise than satisfactory, and my noble Friend the Member for West Edinburgh (Viscount Wolmer) in his speech was a little behind the date in many of the details he brought forward. Let some of those who have studied the condition of the Army be good enough to read the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting. That Report is in all respects eminently satisfactory. I should like to say one word before I go on about the Inspector General of Recruiting. I had the honour of appoint 1515 ing him. He at once directed his attention towards the very grave matters with which he had to deal, and he submitted proposals to Lord Wantage's Committee, of which that Committee approved almost without examining them further. Those proposals have been carried out. We have had during the past year the most energetic Inspector General of Recruiting, and the result of the efforts he has made has been the vast improvement which I am about to record. I am not going for a moment to defend the past history of recruiting. I did not try to defend it last year, but, on the contrary, I said all the evidence before us proved that the recruiting system had been very bad indeed, and great reforms were required in it. Those reforms have been made, and now what is it the Inspector General of Recruiting says? He tells us in his Report for last year that the recruiting for the Cavalry was very brisk, and the minimum age was raised from 18 to 19. He also tells us that whereas the Royal Artillery was previous to that time short of men, it is now, in almost every respect, over its standard. I can say upon my own authority, and upon the authority of men more competent to judge, that the Guards have never been in a more satisfactory condition—at any rate not for the last 20 years. Their recruiting is excellent, they have raised the standard to 5 feet 9 inches, and everyone who knows what the Guards are would acknowledge that they are an admirable type of men for the purposes for which they are required. One hon. Member has asked why the Members of the House do not go and look for themselves at the men of the Regular Army. If hon. Gentlemen will only do so they will be perfectly satisfied, and they will see that the men of the Regular Army are far better than they have been for many years past. The Inspector General reports that, whereas in 1890 we only raised 19,000 men, last year we raised from 25,000 to 26,000. Though some of the men were under the standard at the time, yet they were all of them as good as could possibly be required for the Regular Army. I do not think, then, any one can doubt that our Army is at present in a more satisfactory condition than it has been for a long time past. As to the other elements of the case, our Army at the present moment is better 1516 armed and better equipped than it has ever been before. We mobilize it in a manner in which it could never be mobilized before. We have a scheme of mobilization which can be acted upon, if there was any danger, to-morrow. Garrisons can be provided and established at a very short notice; and then again, a question of importance, the relations between the Army and the Navy, which sometimes have been a cause of difficulty, are now of a most cordial character. I believe that the co-operation of the Army and the Navy was never more satisfactory. I do not suggest that there are not reforms yet to be made. On the contrary, I have never held any other language, because I have never disguised from the House that other reforms ought to be made. But there is one great difficulty besotting the War Office, than which there is no greater. The fluctuations of public opinion from one time to another make the task of the War Office very difficult. At one time every one is for spending money upon the Army, at another every one is for cutting down the expenses. If we could only make up our minds as to the amount of force required for the defence of the country and for operations abroad, and if in season and out of season we stuck to it without regard to the fluctuation of public opinion, we should advance more than we have done. And now I come to deal with some of the reforms which have been suggested. The first is with regard to the higher administration of the Army. Well, I do not deny that the Staff at Headquarters must appear to many people who have not looked thoroughly into the matter an expensive Staff. No one will deny that our position in this country is enormously complicated by various considerations— first of all, by the control which the Treasury and this House exercise over Army matters, a control which I am bound to say creates increased expenditure, and which is complicated by the very peculiar constitution of the office of Commander-in-Chief. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford quoted various Reports; but I can tell him that of all the difficulties with which Secretaries of State has to contend one of the greatest is the enormous number of contradictory recommendations with regard to Army organisation. The 1517 moment they get a certain number of men together they find such a variety of recommendations that it is exceedingly difficult for anyone to start from them, and when my hon. and gallant Friend quotes various Reports and says that nothing has been done he is probably speaking without any precise knowledge of what actually has been done. My hon. and gallant Friend spoke of Sir James Fitzjames Stephen's Commission. Sir James Fitzjames Stephen's Commission was appointed to inquire into suggestions and possible corruptions in the Ordnance Department, but they reported upon other matters without having examined witnesses. Even the Secretary of State was not examined. If very much weight is to be attached to the recommendations of that Commission other witnesses ought to have been examined. But there is Lord Morley's Committee also, and I attach great weight to the Report of Lord Morley's Committee. Is my hon. and gallant Friend not aware that, in consequence of the Report of that Committee, we separated inspection from manufacture, and that the result, as can be shown by abundant evidence, has been most satisfactory? The weapons supplied to the Army were at one time defective, but they are at present very much better weapons. The division of the Vote for Stores has also been carried out. The result has been the establishment of separate responsibility for the Navy as well as separate responsibility for the Army as regards the stores supplied, and while there have been some difficulties of administration these have been got over. But, to return to the question of the higher administration, my hon. and gallant Friend said that in 1888 various changes have been made of which he disapproved. One of the changes made was this—I am using my own words—We propose to hand over to the Military Departments, subject only to the financial control and supervision of the Secretary of State, the administration of all the executive duties of the Army and headquarters. We hope to fix upon each military head of Departments full responsibility for that branch of the Service which he controls.This proposal, which was actually carried out, was based upon experience. I found hat some alteration in the administration 1518 was absolutely necessary, and at the time it was made it was generally approved. In the House it met with universal acceptance, and when it was examined into a few years later by the Commission over which Lord Hartington presided it was also generally approved of by that Commission. I do not gather that there is any great objection to it now. I am satisfied that under it very great advancement has been made. No complaint is now made of the weapons supplied to the Army, or of the manner in which the Supply Departments generally are managed. Why was this? Because, under the old system, the Civil Department administered the Transport, Supply, and Control Departments of the Army, and then when war came they had to stand aside and the Military Authorities had to take up those matters. My belief was that the Military Authorities ought to have control in time of peace as well as in time of war, and that they ought to be able to train their officers in time of peace for the duties they would have to perform in time of war. This was the basis of the steps which I took at that time, and I believe that those steps were not only the best at that time, but that no other organisation would possibly have worked under the existing constitution of the office of Commander-in-Chief. Then as to Lord Hartington's Commission, various quotations have been made from the Report of that Commission to show the various changes that ought to be made. I think I am ent tled in my own defence to refer to the paragraph in that Report which points out that the Commission recommends that many of those changes, if not all of them, could only be carried out when there is a vacancy in the post of Commander-in-Chief. I accepted that recommendation in the spirit as well as in the letter. It was, however, impossible to carry out the recommendation without calling upon the Commander-in-Chief to retire. I was not prepared to-take that step, and I did not believe the Army was willing that I should do so. I believed then, as I believe now, the present Commander-in-Chief retains the confidence of the Army, and I was certainly not prepared to call upon him to retire in order that certain changes in administration might be introduced, which cannot be introduced while he 1519 holds that office. The Commission recommended that when a vacancy occurred in the office of Commander-in-Chief that office should be abolished; they proposed that there should be a Chief of the Staff, and they also suggested that there should be a Council of five military members to assist and advise the Secretary of State. Even upon that subject there has been a good deal of difference. The right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State, who was a member of the Commission, differs upon the main proposal of the Commission, for he is not in favour of the appointment of a Chief of the Staff at all, and he would further reduce the Council of the Secretary of State by that member. The hon. and gallant Member for Oxford was not in favour of any such Council at all; he would limit the advisers of the Secretary of State to two military members and one financial member—three altogether—but he would not urge the appointment of a Chief of the Staff at all. For my part, I am of opinion that the foundation of any reform that is to be effected in our Army system after the retirement of the present Commander-in-Chief is the creation of a Chief of the Staff, and I have done my best in regard to that proposal. The present Adjutant General of the Army is practically in many respects Chief of the Staff of the Army, but he ought to be made so in name, and not only in office. The first thing that ought to be done, if the opportunity arises, is to carry out the recommendation of Lord Hartington's Commission, and to create a real Chief of the Staff. He was aware that the present Secretary of State objected on the ground that a Chief of the Staff, whose duties were in practice to make plans of operations, would not in this country have enough to do. I admit the force of the objection, and I think that the Chief of the Staff might still have some executive duties. Having carefully considered this subject, I think that the proposal of a Chief of the Staff holds the field, and that, whatever other changes we may introduce into our War Department, our first duty is to establish an efficient Chief of the Staff. In 1887 the real difficulty which confronted me was this —there was no one military authority responsible for all the military efficiency 1520 of the Army. Take, for instance, the defence of the ports. In the case of the ports there were separate authorities responsible, first of all for the armament; secondly, for the works; and, thirdly, for the garrison; and the result was that there was no harmonious co-operation which enabled any complete scheme to be carried out with efficiency and proper effect. I tried to secure that there should be one military authority responsible for the carrying out of every scheme in every necessary respect, but at that time the only person properly responsible was the Secretary of State, and that official came and went. What I was anxious to see was that the military heads of departments should be working harmoniously towards a common object. Let us take the case of the coaling stations. When I came into Office I found that, though there had been a certain amount of money voted for the purpose of defending the coaling stations, no plan had been prepared for the purpose of providing for the garrisons of those stations, nor had there even been a suggestion made that money would be wanted for the purpose of barracks to house the garrisons. My belief at that time was this—that the best means of remedying this defect was to place the responsibility on one military head and to insist that any scheme which was brought forward—such as that for the defence of the coaling stations—should at the same time make provision not only for the armament, but for everything else subsidiary to it, and to take care that every one was informed of the necessity of formulating a complete scheme in order to make that defence successful. Unless an attempt is made to maintain some supreme military authority, having the main duty of harmonious co-operation between all the Departments of the War Office, it will be found, with changing Secretaries of State, that no scheme will lead to really satisfactory results in the administration of the War Office. It has been suggested that the military advisers of the Secretary of State should be allowed to publish their recommendations to the Secretary of State. Well, I am bound to say in regard to that, that, difficult as the position of that Official is at the present time, it would become absolutely intolerable were such a 1521 suggestion given effect to. If we allow the Military Authorities under the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament their opinions on any question, it would be impossible for any Secretary of State to carry out the business of his Office for any length of time. It is also suggested that the financial control at present exercised is not satisfactory. I agree with that. I am of opinion that the result of the present control is to save shillings and spend pounds. I should like to see the system reformed from top to bottom, and I am sorry that the Commission presided over by Lord Hartington did not take upon itself the duty of revising it. I am sure that if an opportunity had been afforded of giving evidence as to the manner in which that system worked the Commission would have recommended drastic changes, resulting in a great alteration of the present system of financial control, and giving more control to the War Office. There are one or two other subjects touched upon by my noble Friend. With regard to Lord Wantage's Committee, he said that they recommended that the number of the battalions at home and abroad should be equalised. I cordially agreed with that recommendation. It has been pointed out that the recommendation has not been strictly observed. But an attempt was made to meet the difficulty not by increasing the cadres, but by adding to the number of men in each battalion. Mr. Childers fixed the number of men in the Infantry battalions at 450, the lowest figure ever reached; the late Government raised them to 700 or 710, at which figure they have been maintained for some years past. I quite admit that that does not meet our difficulty. I am, for my own part, anxious that steps should be taken for the purpose of redressing the balance between the battalions at home and abroad, and I rejoice to see that, although temporarily disturbed by the despatch of battalions to Egypt, the Secretary of State has taken steps which will tend clearly in the direction of the equalisation of the battalions at home and abroad. Then my noble Friend touched on the question of recruiting, and said that in past years there had been bad work in the Recruiting Department. I do not dispute that for a moment. I 1522 think the evidence taken before Lord Wantage's Committee shows that the recruiting was not equal to the demands made on it, and that it fell short of what the Recruiting Department ought to be. There has been great activity under the present Inspector General of Recruiting, and I think the result proves that, at any rate, the Inspector General is alive to what ought to be done. Then it is said that the Home battalions are not, at the present time, in a satisfactory condition, and a number of distinguished authorities have been quoted in support of that statement. But these distinguished authorities, and everybody who has ever been connected with the administration of the Army, knows very well that the Home battalions are not, and never have been, regarded as efficient for service abroad without being reinforced from the Reserve.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I am glad to hear my noble Friend say that. The battalions, with the Reserves, are sufficient for every service they have to perform. I am glad to find that my noble Friend concurs in that. Under the short service system, you have to rely upon the Reserve to qualify the home battalions for foreign service. We have now got to the happy condition in which we have 80,000 men in the Reserve, and we are entitled to rely, and we do rely, on that Reserve to fill up the gaps in the regiments when they are required to go abroad. That is exactly what is done by every Foreign Power. Our system, after all, is similar to the systems in France and Germany, relying, as we do upon drawing on our Reserves to qualify the battalions for foreign service, and no one can deny that England has to rely less upon her Reserves than any foreign country.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I say we have to rely less on our Reserves than either France or Germany, and we have a larger number of seasoned men in our battalions than either France or Germany; and this comparison holds good if made 1523 with the normal condition of our Infantry battalions at the most unfavourable time of the year. It is a curious thing that whereas here, in England, a normal Infantry battalion has no less than 245 men of over three years' service and under 21, Germany has only 59, and France has only 23. Therefore, you cannot doubt that our battalions, whatever else you may say of them, have got a very much larger proportion of seasoned men than those of either France or Germany. Of men between two and three years' service we have practically as many as Germany, but we have a few less than France. Taking it as a whole, nobody can doubt that we have as good a proportion of really seasoned men as any foreign country. The noble Lord will argue against that that we have in our battalions a large number of men of immature age, but so have France and Germany. When the battalions are sent to war, these men have to be taken out of the battalion and sent to special training before they can be allowed to go to the front. That is what we have to do, and if we maintain that result while, at the same time, we are supplying these tremendous drafts for the battalions abroad, I say our system of short service cannot be said to have broken down. I am not. disposed to argue that in every detail the system is complete. It is for the Secretary for War to say whether he can find in the Report of the Wantage Committee any suggestion calculated to improve the short service system; but I am entitled to say that I find in the Report confirmation, not only in words but in facts brought forward, that, upon the whole, the short service system holds the field, and that we can put our battalions in the field in a better state of preparation for war than France and Germany. My noble Friend has also raised a question of pay, and has urged that the proposal with regard to increase of pay which was made by the Committee should be adopted. Well, so far as I am concerned, I am bound to say that the best consideration I have given to the subject leads me to the conclusion that there is no reason for advising the House to sanction an increase. We have got a splendid accession of recruits—-as many as we want in all branches of the Service, and this does not seem 1524 to be a right and just time, in the interest of the taxpayer, to introduce a system under which the pay of the Army will be increased. We should take every pains to secure the comfort of the soldier, and many steps have been taken of late to add to his comfort. If in any respect there is a deficiency in the matter I should be the first to urge that it should be supplied. The hon. Member for West Belfast says, broadly, that the Army is underfed. I do not think there is any evidence whatever to support that pro position. Our recruits, after joining, improve every day, and in six months become fit for every duty. The question of feeding our Army exercised my mind very considerably, and I appointed a Committee over which the present Adjutant General, Sir Redvers Buller, presided. That Committee examined most carefully into the feeding of the Army and took evidence, and the result of their inquiry was that the present scale was quite adequate to meet the necessities of the case. Some suggestions were made on minor points of detail—in reference to the bread rations, for instance —which have since been adopted, but on the whole they were satisfied that the feeding was sufficient. With regard to the question of clothing, I do not find in the Estimates or the Memorandum of the Secretary of State any reference to it. So far as I was concerned, I was perfectly prepared to accept the Report of the Committee which inquired into this matter. The Committee made certain proposals, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State will tell us what he has done in this respect. I have touched now upon the points which I consider most important, and I must say, in conclusion, that while I am of opinion that when the proper time comes there are changes which ought to be made in the higher administration of the Army, as for the Army itself the time has come when it had better be left alone. We have had changes year after year, changes arising out of the fluctuations of public opinion—at one time adding to the expenditure of the year, at another time cutting it down. My opinion is that the Army is now in that state when it had better be left to work out the problems that lie before it without those constant changes that we 1525 have had in the past. I hope we shall soon arrive at a conclusion as to what the country requires as an Army to defend it, and that we shall no longer find one party striving to undo what the other party has done. So far as I am concerned, I shall support any Government that may be in power in their endeavours to make the Army efficient for purposes of national defence.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
In the short time that remains before the Secretary of State replies on this Debate I should like to be allowed to criticise briefly the optimistic speech which we have just heard from the late Secretary for War. The debate has drawn forth several interesting speeches, especially those of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford City and the hon. Member for West Belfast. The hon. Member for West Belfast spoke from the same point of view from which I shall attempt to speak—namely, that of the civilian and the taxpayer, who want to know whether they get value for the money they spend on the Army. Those of us who have given some time to the study of this question, and who are under the impression that the taxpayer does not get value for the money he spends, can hardly be satisfied with the speech we have just now listened to from the late Secretary for War. He told us pretty much what the hon. Member for West Belfast as a civilian told us—namely, that we have no Army in the modern sense of the word, and yet a sum variously computed at £ 17,000,000 and £20,000,000 spent on the Home Army, and a further sum of £16,000.000 on the Indian Army. The total of £36,000,000 or £37,000,000 is larger than the expenditure of any other nation on its Land Forces. And the question is what return we get for it, whether we get a proper return? The situation may be compressed into a brief phrase. We are a great Military Power when we consider the amount of charge we bear for military purposes, and we are a small Military Power, indeed, when we consider the result in efficiency. What is the answer? That "comparison is impossible." That it is useless to point out that we spend more on defence 1526 than does France or Germany, Powers which can take the field with 2,500,000 trained men apiece, properly supplied with cavalry and guns; useless to show that Russia spends only £29,000,00 sterling upon her Army, only £34,000,000 (as compared with £56,000,000 in the British Empire) on defence, and that she keeps up a peace-footing of between 800,000 and 900,000 men, and of 160,000 horses. "Comparison is impossible," we are told, because we have no conscription. Yet of the heterogeneous forces shown on page 8 of our Army Estimates, the numerous Volunteer which figure so largely in the total draw no pay, and the Militia but little pay; while in the countries which possess conscription, each has a whole Army of reengaged non-commissioned officers, who have to be paid sufficiently to make the Army compete with Civil employment, and in whose case conscription does not come into the account. Moreover, the conscription argument applies to the Navy, for Foreign Navies have, and we have not, conscription, yet our Navy is a cheap service which compares favourably with the French Navy. In fact, the conscript argument only affects our regulars; those regulars of whom we can find at home but a single corps properly supplied with cavalry and guns and train, not even the two corps so often promised us, and still less the three corps of the late Secretary of State for War, or the seven of one of his Predecessors. Although we spend upon our Army the enormous sums which my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast had pointed out, we are unable on account of cost to carry out those manœures upon a large scale which are essential to the efficiency of our Army, which are carried out by France with armies of 120,000 men, by Russia with armies of 180,000 and 150,000 in the same year, although Russia spends so much less than we do. The force which we get for our expenditure is to a large extent a sham. Page 8 of the Estimates shows regulars who are a mere depot for our Indian Army, generally composed of undrilled boys, weak in guns and horses and trained Generals. With these it lumps such curious forces as the Channel Islands Militia, although the Channel Islands are not in a condition of defence, and 1527 would not be defended against a serious attack, and such forces as the Yeomanry (who are not drilled in time of peace to perform any of the duties which they would have to perform in time of war). We certainly cannot compare our Forces with the Forces of a great Military Power, although we can their cost, and although we shall shortly be in possession of a common frontier with a great Military Power in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan. Can we compare our Forces with those of a small Military Power? The late Secretary of State for War professes to have at home three Army Corps, which he makes up by using Militia, by taking 73 battalions of Regulars, although he only has from 70 to 72, and by counting in to his active Army every gun of his Artillery in the country except two batteries at Athlone. We possess nominally 52 batteries, of which 5 are depot, leaving 47 real batteries, of which 9 are horse batteries. Nine horse batteries and 38 ordinary field batteries to be compared with 8 horse batteries and 54 ordinary field batteries of Roumania. Short as they are of guns and cavalry, the late Secretary of State for War could only make his three Army Corps by using the Militia and the Irish garrisons, and counting 16 ammunition columns which do not exist in fact. We have at home batteries only enough for two Army Corps on a Continental footing, not three, and the mobilisation scheme of the late Secretary of State for War is in fact as unsubstantial, as completely a paper scheme, as that which bears the name of Mr. Gathorne Hardy. If we compare our Army with the smallest in Europe we find a similarity of force but a great difference of expenditure. Roumania turns out four Army Corps and an independent Cavalry Division, 154,000 men in all, for £1,500,000 sterling a year. I have already named her Artillery, which considerably exceeds our own. Switzerland also turns out four Army Corps of about 150,000 men, with a provision for filling up gaps during service in the field, and she has 48 field and two mountain batteries, which all shoot better than does our crack Royal Horse Artillery, and she has the best rifle in the world—all this for under £2,000,000 sterling. For our expenditure of £16,000,000 sterling at home, we can 1528 show only almost as many guns as Switzerland or Roumania, and we cannot horse our Cavalry. We spend on defence £38,000,000 in the United Kingdom, £17,000,000 in India (besides expenditure on those strategic railways which we do not bring into account), and £1,500,000 in the Colonies, or over £56,000,000 on defence, and there is no business man who sits within these walls who, if he were given a free hand, could not do it infinitely better for less money. What is the reply? No one has blamed, or wishes to blame, the present Secretary of State. There is room, no doubt, for a far closer and a far more authoritative joint consideration of the problem of naval and military defence than any which was given by the late Government or has been given by the present, but to say this is not to blame the present Secretary of State for War, who, on the whole, has done perhaps more, and is certainly more popular with the Army, than any of his Predecessors. He will hardly contend that the new scheme of mobilisation constitutes a reply. The one essential about mobilisation is rapidity, and this scheme takes people from one end of the-country to another, in the same way as proved fatal to France in 1870, and cannot be pretended to possess that virtue. The only reply that has been made is that the Motion is vague. It is necessary to begin with a vague Motion, as we have to prove to the country that it gets nothing for the enormous cost it bears. We have to upset the present system before we can put a better in its place. But the Secretary of State for War is well aware that we have none of us shrunk from committing ourselves to plans. The gallant General who has seconded the Motion has published his. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Arnold-Forster) has published his. I have published mine; and different as is the basis from which we have started—-some soldiers and some civilians—-the points of difference are small. We are able to agree among ourselves, and to agree with the Mover of the Resolution of to-day, and, civilian though I am, and approaching the question chiefly from the taxpayers point of view, I find myself in substantial agreement with three such great military 1529 names as Lord Roberts, Lord Wolseley, and the gallant Member for Oxford City (Sir G. Chesney), with their immense experience. Lord Wolseley has been quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for War. Well, Lord Wolseley has used almost the words of the Motion of to-day, when he said that the country paid for an inferior article a price which would suffice to give it an effective military machine. The first essential is, that a Prime Minister and a Cabinet should take into their own close view, and out of the hands of the Departmental Minister, the consideration of this hugest branch of the National Expenditure, and of what we get for it. Then, turning first to India, where there is the greatest risk of active service against a European foe, we might save money and increase efficiency by unifying the command. It is a mere red herring to draw across the trail to pretend that it is any part of my scheme to insist upon a separate Army. This is a mere contest about words. Those who, in words, most strongly object to the separate Indian Army, like the Generals and the hon. Member for West Belfast, all agree that there must be two terms of enlistment, one for home, and one for foreign service; one with short service and large reserves, and the other with long service, as reserves are almost useless for the conditions of our Indian Army. We cannot wait for war to set these matters right. If the Naval School are justified in thinking invasion to be impossible, if we are to trust wholly to our Navy, then there is room for saving money at home and for modification of our home military system, and our attention should be turned to India and abroad. To my mind, there is some danger in this course of panic, as it might be of vital importance to us to be able to send away the Fleet. But, above all, we should remember that time will not be given to us; that danger in war in these days comes most early; that no Power possesses a perfect system; that our own conditions are peculiar, and that, whatever we do, we must not imitate. It is time that a capable Minister, like the present Secretary of State for War, should insist with the Cabinet of which he is a member on being allowed to deal with this question. He has considerable advantages in 1530 dealing with the question. He is extraordinarily popular—extraordinarily, not in the sense that he does not deserve his popularity, but because it is universal. He is popular with the Army of all ranks, from the Commander-in-Chief downwards; he is popular with his colleagues, and with this House; and if ever there was a man who had a chance of distinguishing himself by inaugurating that which is one of the first necessities of the country—namely, a revolutionary scheme of Army reform, it is the right hop. Gentleman.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
I can hardly offer my congratulations to my right hon. Friend who has just resumed his seat on the oration he has delivered upon the Army. The right hon. Baronet ranged over a very wide field. He hardly consented to argue. He dealt very freely in assertion. In his general statements as to the Army he was very profuse and diffuse, and in his admiration for the absence from the Debate of Party animus he really quite forgot to follow in his own discourse the example he so much admired. He indulged in a eulogy—and, I thought, rather an inflated one—of the present Secretary for War; but not a word of eulogy, not even a word of commendation, had he for the right hon. Gentleman's Predecessor, nor for any other Secretary of War who has belonged to the Tory Party. I quite agree that one should discuss Army questions without displaying Party spirit, but the principle must apply to both Parties if it is to be any good. The right hon. Baronet made some suggestions as to what should be done in the way of Army reform. I do not know whether it is necessary for me in a new Parliament to say that I am not altogether without title to offer some remarks on this question, seeing that I left the late Government on it. I sat on the Departmental Committee on general and military arrangements in 1886, and I had an opportunity of ascertaining many of the facts of the case, and of forming strong opinions on Army expenditure. That was, however, at a period following a long Liberal Administration, and though the Liberal Party may be celebrated for many things by which they have im- 1531 proved the condition of the people, no one, not even on that side of the House, will claim that they have ever gained fame or renown for their conduct of military or naval affairs. The right hon. Baronet was no doubt right in much that he said about the cost of the Army, and the unfavourable comparisons which can be drawn between that cost and the cost of Foreign Armies. But it would have been well if the right hon. Baronet and those who agree with him had said all this years ago, when the circumstances were no different from those now prevailing. When I brought before Parliament, at great cost and sacrifice to myself, the opinion which I then maintained, that the expenditure on the Army and Navy was too large, and ought to be reduced, what assistance did I got from that side of the House? None whatever — absolutely none. Where was then the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, the fervent devotee of economy now, and where was the present Secretary for War, who has just received the eulogies of the right hon. Baronet? Not one word did either of them utter. The cause of economy was left in the hands of a single individual in the Conservative Party—an individual who sacrificed for the cause more than the whole Liberal Party had sacrificed in the course of a long series of years. I merely refer to this question because of the extraordinary attitude which has been adopted by the right hon. Baronet. I pass now to the questions more closely connected with the subject before the House. I have never denied that there are great faults still in our military system, and great defects in our Army. I am very much in accord with the late Secretary for War in holding that the organisation of the Army does call for reform, simplification, and for much larger and more powerful professional management than it now gets. But we must recollect what is the state of things now obtaining in the Army. We have a Commander-in-Chief with unique experience and recognised capacity for the general control, discipline, and command of such an Army as ours, and we might, if we made a sudden change now, when the Army has full confidence in its head, and introduced what I admit I myself have in a written document suggested, it is extremely 1532 likely that we should give a wrench to military feeling, which ought, if possible, to be avoided. I have no doubt that some day or other some military or Parliamentary man will be able to accomplish a large reform; but I am not clear that at the present time it would be desirable to attempt it. There is a great defect in our Army in connection with the Military Reserves. I believe that, as far as numbers go, they are satisfactory, as, I believe, they amount to 80,000 men, but it would be delusive to come to a conclusion as to the value of the Reserves by numbers alone. The fact is that the Reserves are totally untrained, and every military officer whose opinion you value will tell you that they would have to be braced up if called upon to serve in the field, simply because they have received no training since they left the Army. Of course that is a very difficult problem, which it would not be right for Parliament to carp with any Administration for not having solved. But, at the same time, until the Reserves are trained they ought not to be counted upon as a military resource. It is also true that the Army is not yet provided with a thoroughly efficient field gun. The Horse Artillery gun has been found somewhat unwieldy in operating rapidly across rough country, and the Military Authorities are face to face with the very difficult question of deciding upon and manufacturing a more efficient and easily managed field gun. That is not so serious a fault, but it is undoubtedly a fault. The right hon. Baronet touched upon another defect when he said there was a deficiency of horses for the Cavalry. I believe it is a fact that the men in the Cavalry are double the number of the horses. I always think that this is very foolish economy. Military opinion is unanimous that Cavalry, at all events, should always be kept up to its full strength, and even if you cannot afford to mount all your men, I think it is better to have a smaller force properly mounted, fully equipped, and ready for active service. The right hon. Baronet ridiculed our scheme of mobilisation. That is a very old subject with him. It is very easy to make jokes about the different schemes for the mobilisation of the Army. It was during a Liberal Administration that the great dream of Military Power 1533 was thought to be obtained when seven Army Corps were confidently counted upon by Ministers. Now it is said there are three Army Corps. I agree with the right hon. Baronet in a way. I myself am not quite sure of the accuracy of that calculation, and I doubt whether three Army Corps could be put into the field in full strength. But our Army Corps never profess to exceed in number 20,000 men.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
In that case my incredulity is rather strengthened. But I have often thought that these Army Corps were rather expressions than realities, and I never quite saw the object of using these particular terms. We understand what a Continental Army Corps means, but no Army Corps in this country could, even if we spent a good deal more, rival in size, in equipment, and in absolute perfection the great Army Corps of the Continent. I think, therefore, it is a great mistake to use that term. What I understand is, that at the present moment it would be easy for us to send to any of our possessions—say Africa or India—within a reasonable time a well-appointed expedition of about 50,000 or 60,000 men. The right hon. Baronet has talked about the cost of the British Army, but the proof that our expenditure is high is to be found in the fact that our expenditure on the Navy is not nearly so large relatively to its strength. When I protested against the military expenditure of this country the Army Estimates were £18,233,000. Since 1886 they have risen to over £20,000,000. A good deal of this, however, I think is by no means normal expenditure. There has been an increase in the cost of keeping the men, and a large sum has been expended on the manufacture of new rifles and upon barrack accommodation. On the whole, I think that the increase in the Army Estimates, though an apparent, has not been of normal increase, and that the normal cost of the Army is much about the same as it was in 1886. So that perhaps, with great respect to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I may say 1534 that efforts in the cause of economy, even if they go a great length, may not always be altogether wasted; they may be bread thrown upon the waters which after many days may return to us. I pass now to the comparison which the right hon. Baronet has instituted between the European Powers and England. That is a comparison I once made myself, and I thought it a very fine one. I came to the conclusion, however, after I had had more experience, that it would not bear all the examination which I thought it ought to bear. The right hon. Baronet makes much the same mistake as I made six years ago. He put together the expenditure of England and India on naval and military affairs, and says they amount to the enormous sum of £56,000,000. That figure will not bear the slightest examination. It is quite true that we have to spend something like that sum on the Army and Navy in England and the Army in India, but it is wholly illusory to compare lump sums of that kind. For the expenditure on our Navy, which is this year, I think, about £15,000,000, we do undoubtedly obtain the most powerful Fleet in the world, and the relative power of our Fleet when compared with the power of European Fleets does not fall far short of the relative power of the Armies of European Powers compared with our Armies. In that respect, therefore, our expenditure does not compare very badly with that of Foreign Powers. The Army of England, I think, numbers one way and another about 154,000, and when you add the Militia you get a total of something like 250,000 men. I will not talk about the Yeomanry, which the right hon. Gentleman ridiculed. I think I have heard a great many officers, whose experience is vastly greater than that of the right hon. Gentleman, say that under certain circumstances that force might be capable of performing important military duties.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
What I said was, that they were trained to perform duties other than those they would have to perform.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
As to the increase which has taken place in the expenditure on Foreign Armies, I find from an article which appeared in the Fortnightly Review that 1535 in 1891 the cost of the Russian Army was £39,000,000, while the average expenditure for three years before that was £32,000,000.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I would remind the right hon. Baronet that mere assertion is not sufficient for the purpose of Parliamentary Debate. You must either have a recognised authority on which you make your assertions—
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The noble Lord will be able to work it out for himself if he will take the value of the rouble, or ask any friend in the City what a rouble is worth.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I will not let the right hon. Baronet drag me into the mysteries of the currency. The article I am referring to is well worthy of being quoted in the House of Commons. From 1888 to 1891 the Russian expenditure increased by £7,000,000. The French expenditure remained stationary at £28,000,000, and the German expenditure remained stationary also. Ours increased from £16,000,000 to £18,000,000, but the increase included a considerable expenditure on barracks and ports. I must really do justice—the necessity for doing so has only of late years dawned upon me—to my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), who during six years was Secretary for War. The right hon. Gentleman was attacked first from the Opposition side of the House, and then from the side of the House which was occupied by the supporters of the Government of which he was a Member. The right hon. Gentleman at first resisted too strongly the arguments that were used against him, but after I had sat on the Departmental Committee and increased my experience of military matters, and, moreover, after I had watched, without speaking in this House, the general military administration of my right hon. Friend, I was forced to come to the conclusion that, compared with all previous military administrations, it had been economical, and at the same 1536 time the maximum of efficiency had been obtained. It bears out my theory, for which I do not claim originality, that without economy you may never have efficiency. The moment you indulge in un-economical expenditure you indulge in wasteful and useless expenditure. That is an extraordinary fact, to which you will never find any exception. The Commission presided over by the present Duke of Devonshire worked very hard, and sat very long, and, though it is quite clear that the War Office did not act entirely upon the Report of that Commission, it is evident, both from the remarks of my right hon. Friend and from the general conduct of the War Office, that their labours were not wasted. An indirect effect has been produced by the Report, which has, I think, been invaluable. I find that in military affairs it is no good to impatiently expect rapid progress. It is not possible, consistently with our Parliamentary ideas, to make such progress. There are more potent arguments than may appear very clear to the Parliamentary and the public eye. I gathered from the right hon. Baronet that the highest model which he thinks the English Administration can follow is the management of the Army in India. I can quite understand, however, that military arrangements which might be deemed admirably suited for India are totally unsuited for this country. In India you have to keep the Army practically on a war footing; in England you can practically keep it on a peace footing. The whole circumstances of military drill and military life in India are totally different from those which prevail in this country, and I think it is a most dangerous proposition to say you ought to copy, slavishly the system of military management which is in operation in India. I did not quite understand the illustration which the right hon. Baronet gave. I understood one of his illustrations to be that the Army in India ought to be unified under one command. I do not see how that bears on English Army reform, or why, if there is a defect in the Army in India in that respect, it should be applied to England.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I beg pardon for interrupting the noble Lord. I did not hold up India as a model to us on 1537 that point. I mentioned unification as a reform that was desired by everybody in India and thwarted by everybody at home.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Well, I will not go into that because it is a digression from the main subject. I think, however, the House will agree with me that it is foolish to set up the Army in India as a model which we should follow, and to say that it is perfect. We have much that is good in our English military and naval administration, and I will say—if I may say it without provoking the displeasure of hon. Gentlemen opposite—that I think that there has been a very marked improvement during the administration of my right hon. and noble Friends who were at the heads of the Naval and Military Departments during the last Administration. No doubt there are still improvements to be introduced, and I shall watch with interest the career at the War Office of the present Secretary of State, because he has been so free in his criticisms and so prolific of severe, though not ill-natured, remarks while he has been in opposition that Parliament is undoubtedly entitled to expect from him very remarkable performances during his tenure of Office. I will not dwell longer on the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Dilke), except to say that it presented a curious spectacle, such as we have not seen in this House for a very long time—that is to say, a combination of the Jingo and the Radical. There used to be a combination in old days which excited the greatest possible amount of comment—namely, that of Conservative Home Rulers, but the combination presented by the right hon. Baronet is even more puzzling than that. I do not know how far the right hon. Gentleman goes in his desire to make Great Britain almost a first-class Military Power. Taking into account the state of Europe, which I do not believe to be a warlike or dangerous state, while the expenditure on the Army is high, there has been a considerable, a marked, and an easily-traced improvement in the state of our military resources. If the Government are at all represented by the right hon. Baronet in the views he has expressed, and early reforms are to be 1538 effected, you must have quiet Parliamentary times. Parliament cannot give its attention to the great Army question when it is occupied with far more exciting conflicts, and far larger questions. It is perfectly useless to advocate the reforms which the right hon. Baronet advocates on a quiet night like this if the great bulk of the Session is to be absorbed by far larger questions affecting the Constitution of the country. If during the last six years, when the country was quiet and tranquil, we had had the benefit of the assistance and advice of the Party opposite, it is possible that the improvement which I claim as having taken place in the Army and Navy might be more marked than it is. But in the consideration of these dull and quiet subjects the Party opposite take little interest. Other subjects claim their attention, and whatever improvement has been effected in the Military and Naval Services has undoubtedly been the work of that energetic, persevering, but at the same time unostentatious, administration which distinguished, certainly, the two great spending Departments during the late Government. I can quite understand the Secretary of State treating my observations as a matter of ridicule. I do not in the least mind it. I only want to say that the attitude I have taken in the past fully justifies me in assuming my present position on this subject.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Before the right hon. Gentleman speaks, might I intervene with an appeal to the Leader of the House to recollect the pledge he gave—[Cries of "Order!"]—at Question time to-day, that our proceedings were not to be materially prolonged after 12 o'clock; and that he will permit us to hear the necessarily-important reply of the Secretary for War at a time when it will be possible both that he should be reported and that we should be able to discuss his statement.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
It appears to me that this Debate has attained a state of full ripeness for the speech of my right hon. Friend, not in exposition of his policy or his proposals, but his answer to the speech of the noble Lord who has made this Motion. I must confess nothing whatever is more inoppor- 1539 tune than to interrupt this Debate at the present moment.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
It certainly does not appear altogether unreasonable that, after a Debate which has lasted from 6 o'clock, a Member of the Government, and the principal Member of the Government concerned, should have some opportunity of taking part
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I think the House will not be surprised that I rise to address it under the influence of some natural embarrassment after the very strong words which my right hon. Friend below the Gangway (Sir C. Dilke) made use of, which have been alluded to by the noble Lord who has just sat down, and also after the expressions of a similar nature which various Members have used towards me during the Debate. All I can say is that those expressions have placed upon me a burden of despair, because I am at a loss to understand what I have done to deserve them, and also what I can ever do to justify them. The noble Lord who has just sat down does not require anyone to pronounce an eulogy upon him, because he is quite ready to perform it for himself. The principal part of his speech, so far as I was able to follow it, was to recall to our minds the wonderful efforts he had made during the last Parliament in the interests of military economy.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The noble Lord implied by an observation across the House that I was rather ridiculing that reference. I was not doing so, because we honoured him for the stand he made on that occasion in defence of opinions he honestly held. But I was a little surprised to find that the noble Lord should go so much out of his way in order to bury the hatchet in that old quarrel and make up matters with his friends around him. I must say that, having had some opportunity of watching the progress of military matters in the House and out of it, I was not aware of 1540 any reducing effect on the Army Estimates which the noble Lord was able to produce.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
But I am aware of this, that the noble Lord was instrumental in procuring a Select Committee upstairs, which sat upon the Army Estimates and discussed them for one or two years, with the result that in one direction and another large additional charges have been put on the Estimates.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
There may have been a reduction here and there, but the general result was, I will not say any extravagance, but increased expenditure. And I venture to say that that will be the probable result on every occasion when these questions are referred to a Select Committee.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I certainly am right in saying that that Committee recommended a reduction of expenditure.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I do not say the Committee recommended increased expenditure, but I was speaking of the general outcome of the inquiry. The speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean was of a most belligerent character. He complained of the poor Army we have in this country, and he compared it with that of other nations on the Continent. He said we had no Army at all. The right hon. Baronet must remember that, after all, it effects, at all events, one of the most useful purposes for this country. It is the means of furnishing us with an Army in India which is the best and most efficient we have ever had in that possession. It is quite true that the Army is paid for by India; but will the right hon. Gentleman endeavour to reckon up and assess the cost which is laid upon this country through the interruption which the calls of India cause in our ordinary military schemes at home? The right 1541 hon. Gentleman says that a better return for the purposes of defence could be got for the money in these Estimates by any business man who might be selected for the purpose. Yes, Sir; if the business man had a tabula rasa on which to erect a new system, a more complete and symmetrical system than ours no doubt it would be. But the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, will credit us with all that we suffer in consequence of old traditions, old associations, old prejudices, old vested interests in connection with the Army. These are the causes of a great deal of that extra expense of which so many complaints are made. My right hon. Friend alluded to one great reform which might be effected in India. I am glad to tell him—and I make haste to tell him at once, lest it may be thought it is owing to his speech that it is going to be done—that a Bill is about to be introduced in the other House by the Secretary of State for India for the purpose of doing away with those Presidency commands in India which, I believe, are most prejudicial to the efficiency of the Service in that country. Coming back now to the Motion before the House, I cannot but allude to its extraordinary nature, and as the consequence of that peculiar nature, to the very mixed character which the Debate has assumed. The Motion begins by announcing that it calls attention to the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee, and moves that—In the opinion of this House, the present system of military administration fails to secure either due economy in time of peace or efficiency for national defence.The first observation which must occur to anyone on reading that Motion is, what in the world has the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee to do with the present system of military administration? It is as if the noble Lord were to say, "To call attention to Tenterden steeple and to move that the Goodwin Sands are a danger to navigation." The noble Lord tried to make out that certain deficiencies were due to the War Office—not to any system in the War Office, but to the War Office itself. He created out of his imagination a wicked entity called the War Office. He said it was owing to this that the battalions at home are weak, that the 1542 Reserves are so few, and the cost so great; and he then proceeded to call authorities to prove his case. But who were the authorities that he called? the very officers who constitute this War Office which he attacks; and the very Committee on which he sat and to which he refers was largely composed of gallant officers who are or who have been connected with the administration of the War Office. I dare say that there is some justification for the faults which he finds, in the War Office at least, and that, perhaps, there are some necessary defects in our Army; but I deny that they are due to any particular system of administration in the War Office. They are, I think, the result, perhaps, of the natural errors which we are liable to make when we are feeling our way to the best organisation for an Army such as ours. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded the Motion dealt with the subject of military administration with an authority and experience which few men in or outside the House could command. I can only say to him that I shall be only too glad to have his help in mending any of the weaknesses or defects in the military administration of the country. I do not think it is necessary to state what my own personal opinions are, because they are on record. As a member of Lord Hartington's Commission, I dissented from my colleagues in regard to one point, and I expressed in my dissentient Report my own opinions in very plain terms. I retain the opinions I then expressed, and, being in office, I shall be glad, if the opportunity arises, to carry them into effect. But the Hartington Commission did not speak of the immediate adoption of its proposals; it contemplated an interval, because it did not wish in any way to disturb existing arrangements so long as we have the advantage of the services of the present Commander-in-Chief. Therefore, I will observe and watch the working of the present system of the War Office with a perfectly open mind, and a mind favourable in the main to the views expressed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and certainly to the conclusions of the Hartington Commission. But the present division of responsibility, having been made so recently by my predecessor, and apparently working 1543 smoothly and well—I do not say it is the best arrangement that could be made, but at all events it works for the present smoothly and well—I do not think I should be justified, whatever my opinions may be, in proposing any change until an opportunity arises for dealing on a larger scale with the whole question. The most important point of all brought before the Hartington Commission was the then existing want of harmony between the Admiralty and the War Office. I am glad to corroborate what the right hon. Gentleman opposite has said—that that want of harmony has almost entirely disappeared; that the great questions affecting the defence of these shores and the possessions of the Crown in different parts of the world have been, and are being, settled by the joint counsel of the best officers of both Departments, and that there is really none of that friction which used to be attributed to the two Departments, whether it ever existed to the alleged extent or not. The noble Lord (Viscount Wolmer) dealt largely with the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee. That Report has been discussed again and again in this House, although the noble Lord may not have been present, and there has not been a single passage quoted to-night which I have not heard quoted before. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite said that the late Government, if it had remained in power, would have adopted a number of recommendations made by the Committee, my answer is that the Report was made in January of last year the late Government considered nearly all the recommendations; they formed, I will not say a conclusive judgment upon them, but at all events a first opinion, which they handed over to me, and I have, so far as I have gone, fully confirmed and adopted all the conclusions they arrived at. I hope the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh will not object to my criticising himself and his colleagues or Lord Wantage's Committee; but I must say that the Committee did not cover all the ground that they ought to have covered, because they omitted from their consideration the important element of expense. They neglected to inquire what the cost of their recommendations would be, and the result is that from a Paper laid on the 1544 Table of the House last summer it appears that the total charge of those recommendations, if they had all been adopted, would have been £2,000,000 sterling. That is a reason which should make us pause in accepting wholesale the recommendations of the Committee. The noble Lord quoted some strong observations made by Lord Wolseley and other authorities on the subject of Army Corps. Lord Wolseley is often apt to use strong expressions, but I can quote other expressions of Lord Wolseley which form a complete answer to those quoted by the noble Lord. Lord Wolseley has said with regard to the Infantry—I do not know a single battalion ontside the Guards fit to go into the field and fight against any European nation. But that is not necessary, provided that a thoroughly efficient reserve of 80,000 men is maintained. It is not the object to have all the battalions at home ready to go on active service. That would mean an Army without a reserve. I should call such an Army a theoretical Army, such as we had before the Crimean War.Again, Sir Evelyn Wood said that the present system was the most satisfactory solution of a difficult problem, and infinitely superior to any system of depot. The noble Lord said one would have to put the whole of the Reserve into the first line of defence. What is the Reserve for but for that purpose? That is what continental nations do, and that is what we have always intended to do. The noble Lord quoted the opinion of Sir Redvers Buller, that there is not enough Reserve to feed two Army Corps. I think it is well to be frank on this subject, and to adhere to the opinions I have often expressed. Before I came into Office I frequently said at the other side of the Table, that I was no believer in Army Corps. What do we want two Army Corps in this country for? Surely not for foreign service. Who is going to send two Army Corps to the Continent? Is there any man in the House who would think of sending an Army Corps on the Continent to engage in a Continental war with one of the great European nations? Such a possibility I dismiss from my mind altogether. What we want our Army for is to garrison India and the Colonies, to defend the shores of this country, and to supply those small special expeditious 1545 which are from time to time sent out to the small wars, in which, unfortunately, we are often engaged. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, in his belligerent speech, complained that there are no trained Generals in this country, and no great military manœures at which they could be trained, as there are on the Continent. He said, "Why have we not great manœures? "Has my right hon. Friend forgotten that the enclosed nature of this country, cut up into small fields with hedges and ditches, precluded manœures on a large scale? ["Oh!"] I say you cannot pass great bodies of troops over them without doing considerable damage to the owners and occupiers of property, which the country would not stand for one moment. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members said "Oh, oh!" but I am well acquainted with the matter, because I was in the War Office when we had great manœures on Dartmoor, Cannock Chase, and Salisbury Plain, which are the only places in this country where manœures to any considerable extent can be held. When hon. Members complain that we have no great manœures, the reply is that this country does not require that sort of experience which is necessary in the case of European countries possessing a co-terminous frontier, and which must be always in a state of readiness, with Army Corps fully equipped to meet any sudden emergency, with trained Generals, and with all the advantages for manœures which we in this country do not possess. But these are not required for our purposes. I would warn the House against being the slave of the Army Corps system, although it is useful as a standard up to which we should work. As to the recommendations of Lord Wantage's Committee, it is, I think, bettor to reserve my statement as to what I propose to do as regards pay and clothing until we get into Committee. We are asked to give a free ration and to put a stop to the messing stoppage. But does the House know what this would cost the country? It would entail an extra expense on this country of £667,200, and in India of over £313,000, together nearby £1,000,000. I do not deny that it would be a good thing to do this, if it were feasible; but it is not right to say that recruits are deceived as to the con- 1546 ditions of service, and are under the impression that there are no stoppages of pay. Since January 1 of last year every recruit is asked, "What led you to make up your mind to enter the Army? "In more than one-half the cases the answer was "The posters," and on those Army posters it is distinctly stated that the rations are bread and meat, and that a deduction is made for groceries and other articles of that kind. It cannot, therefore, be said for one moment that any deception takes place now, though it may have been in the old days. Hon. and gallant Members, who know the British soldier, will agree with me in saying that he is prone, when asked what induced him to enlist, to put such a construction on the terms as to lead to the impression that he believes that he has been misled. I do not think I need delay the House any longer, especially as the Leader of the Opposition is anxious to close the Debate. I have said enough to show why we cannot be precipitate in adopting the recommendations of Lord Wantage's Committee; but I assure the House that I am most ready to adopt any suggestion, either as to the administration and organisation of the War Office itself, as to the treatment of the soldiers, or as to any other measure which is likely to improve the efficiency of the Army. That is the only object I and those who work with me have in view. We have no preconceived opinions or prejudices, or, if we have, we will not allow them to stand in the way. I thank the many hon. Members for making suggestions, which, though they may not be at once accepted, may be found more practicable in the future.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Major Rasch.)
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I think the Debate, which has been of great interest and conducted with much ability, is a Debate which might now fairly be brought to a close. There has been a full expression of opinion, and I certainly must take the sense of the House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has not been in the House, and I do not know that it is necessary he should have been, but I may inform him that only two military 1547 men have spoken. [A Ministerial cry: "Quite enough."] Some hon. Member says "Quite enough," but I suppose military men may be supposed to have some title to speak on a matter affecting the Army. Not only have only two military men spoken, but the total number of speakers has not exceeded five or six in the course of the whole evening. The speeches have been prolonged, but they have certainly not been unimportant, and the matter contained in those speeches could not well have been compressed into a shorter space. I think we have some right to complain of the action of the Government already. Pledges of a clear kind were given at question time, and those pledges have been broken. Under these circumstances, I do not think the Government should endeavour to exclude from taking part in this Debate on a very important question affecting the Army— the greatest, as far as I know, of the last five years—hon. Gentlemen who have a perfect title to speak.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W.HARCOURT,) Derby
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has entirely appreciated what the point was that the Leader of the House suggested—namely, that we should conclude only the Debate on the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh. But that does not conclude the whole Debates upon the military question. That does not exclude military gentlemen, Members of this House whom we always hear with the greatest respect, from calling attention to questions relating to the Army. All that we ask is that the Amendment should be disposed of, leaving the rest of the discussion on Army Estimates open to the House. I confess I do not think the House will regard that as an unreasonable proposal.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 167; Noes 225.—(Division List, No. 26.)
§ Original Question proposed.
§ Dr. FARQUHARSON rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ MR. SPEAKER
I think it reasonable, after the Debate that has taken place, that the Question may be 1548 now put, but only on the first Question— the Motion of the noble Lord—not upon the whole Question, that I now leave the Chair.
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow at Two of the clock.