§ * SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
I rise to call attention to the close relation which should exist between our Naval and our Military defensive preparations, and to move—That this House, before voting supplies for the maintenance of Military establishments in the United Kingdom, seeks an assurance from Her Majesty's Government that the Estimates for that purpose submitted to it are framed upon consideration of the needs of possible war by sea and land, and upon a consideration of advice tendered in that behalf by such Officer of each Service as is fitted to command in war Her Majesty's forces of that Service.If the Statement of the Secretary for War, which was issued yesterday, had been of the character of the Statement issued by the First Lord of the Admiralty to us yesterday, there would not have been any reason for making much of a statement in support of the Motion, which might have been allowed in that case to stand by itself. But the Statement of the Secretary for War is not in the nature of the Statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty. The Statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty lays down principles with regard to the management of the Navy for this year, and to some extent for the future, and is based upon a clear and fresh consideration of the needs of the country—a consideration which may be wise or unwise, which may have produced results of which we may approve or disapprove, but which we cannot discuss now—but, at all events, it is a Statement which shows a full and fresh consideration of the needs of the country with regard to naval defence pure and simple taken by itself. But the Statement issued by the Secretary for War is not like that Statement: it is a Statement rather in the old groove, I regret to say, and a Statement which is generally marked by that optimist view 463 as to the defensive position of the country which is held and defended with great ability by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War. When I speak of the Statement as being optimist, I wish to repeat what I said on the War Estimates last year as to my right hon. Friend's immense popularity in this House based upon his ability; but however much we may admire him we must recognise in him a very strong supporter of the existing system of War Office administration. [Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN dissented.] We have to judge him by results. We cannot base any statements upon private conversations or opinions; we have to judge him by his policy. His policy is essentially on the old lines, with a small and gradual improvement made from year to year, no doubt, but essentially on the old lines. To illustrate what I have to say—and it is the only illustration I will give—the only statement which I will allow myself to make in detail concerns what is, after all, the main paragraph in the Statement, the one which to the public will convey the impression that all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds. It is in the first paragraph of the Report which was printed which will strike the public eye. After a formal paragraph which appears each year, comparing the numbers of the Army with the numbers last year, and giving the reasons for any change, the next relates to recruiting, and that paragraph appears to state that nothing could be more satisfactory than the present condition of recruiting. I give that as an illustration—that the statement is an optimistic statement, because this paragraph, when carefully read, contains the words "for a time." It states that the establishments were so full on January 1st, 1893, that it was found possible for a time to dispense with special enlistments. But, as a matter of fact, no later than the Spring of 1893 special enlistments had to be resorted to again, because the Recruiting Returns had fallen off considerably. I wish to avoid details, because we have discussed them a good deal on former occasions, and not much good has come of it. It seems to me that there is more likelihood of effecting a real change of the military and naval conditions of the country by looking at the large principles which lie at the root of the systems. The 464 Secretary for War shook his head when I said that he is optimistic; but certainly I gathered last year in his speech upon the Estimates, and I gather from the Statement which he has placed before the House, that he is generally satisfied with the present condition of the Army. But there are few persons who have been connected with the Army, not as Secretary of State, who are satisfied with its general condition. I quoted last year pretty fully the opinion publicly expressed by one of the most distinguished Generals, who, perhaps, more than any other man, has the public; ear on such questions—I mean Lord Wolseley. I quoted fully his statements made at a time when he was largely responsible for the administration of the Army, and I am not aware that any changes have been made since that date which have affected the essential truth of those opinions. Lord Wolseley represents the War Office, and, to a certain extent, the administration at home. But what is the view of the other great branch of the Service connected with the Indian Army? Can it be said that those who have practically handled that branch of our Army, of which we are most proud, are supporters of the present state of things? It is a well-known fact that those who have advised the Government of India for many years past on military affairs hold the strongest views against the existing administration of the Army, and I think that no one who knows the facts will contradict the statement which I will make, in as summarised a form as possible, of what their views are with regard to that administration. Those views are—that the last state of the Home Army is worse than the first, and that no public company or private firm can afford to conduct its business on such a basis. When we consider that there is an expenditure on defence of the British Empire of £53,000,000 sterling a year in the cheapest years, and£58,000,000 in the dearest years, and that this year we are increasing our expenditure by more than £3,000,000 sterling on one branch of our defence it is impossible to say that the defects alleged by those high authorities result from the machine being run too cheaply. Those who have advised the Indian Government for some years past believe there is still enormous work to be done before we can convert 465 this army at home into a "serviceable and homogeneous fighting organism."A Railway Board makes it its business to select as General Manager of the line a man who not only commands respect and can enforce obedience, but is an expert in the various branches of railway administration which it is his duty to supervise; and similarly the responsible professional adviser of the Secretary of State for War, whether he be called Commander-in Chief, Chief of the Staff, or by any other title, should be a man,to quote Lord Randolph Churchill's words,of military training, military experience, and military eminence.
§ SIB C. W. DILKE
In the special Memorandum attached to the Report of the Hartington Commission. Those words may be adopted by myself as regards the last part of my Resolution. The noble Lord showed by his also somewhat optimistic speech last year that he, since he has been relieved of the cares of Office, has to some extent modified his views; but I prefer to go to the views he held when he was in some degree responsible for the administration of the Army. Besides these opinions we have the tremendous indictment brought by the Hartington Commission, which was an absolute condemnation of the existing military system. As there were upon that Commission three gentlemen who bad filled the Office of Secretary of State for War, one General from the War Office, one Admiral, with scarcely any outside opinion, we must ask whether since the dale of that Report there has been any change in the system which can in any way modify the conclusions at which the Commission arrived? I do not know of any which can be held to remove in any degree the anxiety aroused in the public mind by the statements to which I have referred. Some years ago the military system was supposed on paper to give the country eight Army Corps. Then the estimate was reduced to five Army Corps, then two, and then one, and eventually, when more closely examined, it has dropped to a single division of 20,000 men for foreign service. We are largely increasing this year our expenditure on the Navy. With regard to the Navy, we know the results we obtain for our expenditure; we find them in a tangible form. We know by the improvements 466 which have been made in the last few years in our system of mobilisation, that although there may be defects and drawbacks as regards the construction and manning of our fleets, we get value for our money, whereas as regards the Army we do not get it. In India, we get a good but a small Army—for which India pay a very full, and, as she thinks, an excessive rate—and at home we get an altogether intangible force, arrived at on paper by adding together items, which is not homogeneous in its character, and not in any sense an Army comparable with the Armies of the smallest Foreign Powers in organisation, with a view to war. There has not been any improvement since the crushing Report of Lord Hartington's Commission. There has, of course, been an automatic increase in our Reserves—and that is the one good fact about our present system—so that there are, roughly speaking, 80,000 men available; but this Reserve differs from the Reserve of any other country in the world in times of peace, because although some steps have latterly been taken to see that the men really exist, and that they are occasionally practised in the handling of arms, the Reserve is not called out, as are the Reserves of every other power in the world, and incorporated with the Forces, and made to take part in manœuvres. Therefore, in the modern sense, it is not a true Reserve, although it is, no doubt, a very useful force. We know that the number of our guns is still extremely low as compared with what other countries get for their money; and our field artillery and cavalry are loss adequately supplied with horses than are other Powers, and we still avoid manœuvres on a largo scale, as practised by other Powers, simply on account of the cost. We are called upon to-night to pass the Vote for Men and the Vote for Pay. The Vote for the number of men and the first Vote for the Navy that will be taken on Monday are really the foundation of the whole system of our defence. The responsibility that falls upon the House of Commons in voting these two items, the number of men for the Army and Navy, is a very heavy one, which they share with the Cabinet who present the Estimates to the House. It is a responsibility which ought to imply an amount of care and consideration by the Govern- 467 ment who submit the joint Estimates which there is much reason to believe they Jo not receive. I wish to know whether the Government present these Estimates as representing the least but still what is sufficient for the needs of the country for the next 12 mouths, not only for the protection of the home country and the Empire, but for the protection of our trade in all parts of the world? That is what these two items ought to mean. Do they mean this? Is it the case that, so far as human foresight can provide, the Government have thought out afresh, as is their duty, the naval and the military needs of the country? They have had some pressure put upon them in this House—perhaps they would have done it without that pressure, and I do not want to raise controversy with regard to that—but they have been brought to a careful and full consideration of the naval needs of the country. Have they entered into any similar consideration with regard to the military needs of the country? Have they entered into any joint consideration of the Army and Navy as to the share of expenditure which ought to be devoted to the two Services? That is what I doubt. There can be no doubt, I think, that these considerations involve something more than the mere thought by the Secretary for War of what should be the Estimates for the particular Service. That is not enough. I want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to tell us, not for himself but for his colleagues and the Cabinet as a whole, whether they have thought out these questions? Is he prepared to say that the number of men and the particular sums of money asked for in the Army Estimates are both sufficient and the best possible? The question that lies behind is whether the Cabinet are satisfied that in the Army as well as in the Navy we get full value for the money we spend, that there is no waste that is preventable, and that we are furnished for our enormous expenditure with something like a model Army, and an Army fit for war? It must be remembered that we have been too much in the habit of regarding Army Estimates as a sort of luxury, as something which provide us for a large expenditure with a toy instead of a machine for war. But unless it is something more 468 than a machine for those little wars where a few thousand men are required, and unless it is sufficient for the needs of modern war, certainly we ought not to go on year after year discussing these Estimates without inquiry. It may be the case—I do not wish to raise the ire of any military Member of this House —it may be the case that, with the exception of that portion of our Army which meets our needs for India, either actual or prospective, it would be cheaper and better for this country to spend vastly more than we do upon the Navy and less upon the Army. What I want to know, and what the Cabinet in framing their Estimates ought to know, is this: are the proposals before the House those which alone are capable of securing the safety of the country and of the Empire? There is some evidence, I think, that the customary mode of proposing to the House two separate sets of Estimates which have nothing whatever to do with one another, with the Secretary of State for War sitting on that Bench and proposing one set one day, and the Secretary to the Admiralty coming down and proposing, on the authority of the First Lord of the Admiralty, another sot on another day— there is some reason to suppose that that long customary plan is not a plan which would be likely to give you that joint and general consideration of our defensive condition which we really want. Who controls these two gentlemen and allocates between them the expenditure of the year? The House of Commons, no doubt.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE
The noble Lord has been Chancellor of the Exchequer himself; but we cannot go—it is impossible for us to go, because of the obligation of the Privy Council oaths—into the question of what happens in the Cabinet when the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War come with their Estimates. As I have said, the noble Lord has been Chancellor of the Exchequer. I was going to ask him whether he thought the circumstances of the consideration of the Estimates in the year in which he resigned and the reasons which led to his resignation —whether he thinks that is a satisfactory manner of transacting the joint considera- 469 tion of the Army and Navy needs of the country, which he seems to tell us is secured by the existing system? I will not trouble the noble Lord, however, for a reply. I prefer to take the Leader of the Party opposite as stating the views of the Party, and he has, to the full, continued the doubts which I, for one, very heavily entertained before as to the present system of administration as between the two Departments. The Leader of the Opposition thinks the present system is not satisfactory: it does not give us that which we certainly ought to receive—the full and joint consideration of these double means of our defence, a proper allocation of money as between these two Services and proper control. The control of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a Treasury control, a control in which, if he does his duty as guardian of the public purse, his first consideration is for economy, and that control from time to time, if he is dealing—as he is not in the present case— with a weak man, would enable him to secure economy at the expense of efficiency in the long run. The mere control of the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot be a satisfactory control as regards the efficiency of the Services. And, again, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not military and naval, still less jointly military and naval, experts behind him to tell him what particular items are necessary for the Public Service. If he objects to the Estimate for coaling stations, say, it is on the ipse dixit of a particular civilian, and not one who has got responsible authority behind him to advise him on the subject. The Leader of the Opposition has fully confirmed the doubts which existed in my mind, and confirmed the statements of the Hartington Commission, so often quoted by the Member for West Belfast, who has done such good service in calling attention to these matters. We come to the consideration of what is the remedy, because, of course, year after year we have had grumbling in this House—not perhaps on previous occasions at the whole defensive position of the country, but at first one Service, and then the other, for not doing this or that, or for not giving us value for our money. We, of course, have to face the public with the fact that the British Empire spends a great deal more on defensive Services than any 470 Empire in the world. We are spending from £53,000,000 to £58,000,000 sterling a year on these Services. It is chiefly in this country and India that we are spending these fabulous sums, and the inhabitants generally are beginning to doubt whether a business management for the whole of the defensive Services of the Empire, with one plan, one scheme, one responsibility, would not give them better value for their money than they get at the present time. What is the remedy? The remedy suggested by the Hartington Commission for the particular question was, I fear, rather a feeble one. They recommended a certain amount of intercommunication between the Services, but General Sir Henry Brackeubury— who is now in India—objected to the particular measure, as he thought it altogether inadequate. He was the military Member of that Commission, and the Admiral who was on the Commission also objected to the particular measure proposed. Very little has been done upon these lines. A sort of Joint Committee exists; but I think it is clear from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and from little revelations in the semi-official handbook to the British Army recently published, that that Committee does not deal with what may be called Cabinet responsibility, that joint responsibility for the Services for Imperial defence. Here I am speaking what is mere gossip; it may be idle rumour. These matters are somewhat secret, but there is no doubt that the late Government for a time established a Defence Committee of the Cabinet. I believe that that Defence Committee had not permanent direct advisers, or records for its successors who were to come after it. Of course, a mere Committee from time to time of the Cabinet may be a useful thing; but, unless you give it more formal consecration by the official system of the country, it cannot be vouched to this House with any great weight or authority, and it requires a more firm place in our defence and economic system than it has occupied up to the present to be of real use. At the present moment it has not had any serious effect. It may have done something with regard to naval matters, but as regards the work of the administration or the particular form of the Army Estimates, or the proposals made to us 471 for the Military Service, I do not think that Committee has had any effect. Indeed, the extraordinary similarity of the Army Estimates from year to year shows that there has not been any serious or fresh consideration of military questions. Now, Sir, what we all want is the same thing—namely, real responsibility of the Cabinet. Those who are nominally responsible we want to make really responsible for the advice—say to-night or on Monday—they give to the House. We do not want to feel we are merely acting on the advice of right hon. Gentlemen on that Bench, but on the responsible opinion of the Cabinet as a whole. The Cabinet must obtain the best advice possible. I, for my part, should prefer that the advice should be concentrated for each Service, because I think it is far more responsible advice if it comes mainly on the responsibility of a single man as regards the Army and Navy respectively than if you dispersed it among a great number of people, because if you disperse the responsibility it is not real. What you want to get is some person who is really responsible for the time being to his chief. As far as I am concerned, form in this matter is immaterial. There have been times when perhaps there might have been at the head of affairs those who had a very strong constitutional inability to face the very painful facts connected with the modern situation as regards dangers to this country, which have made it undesirable cither that the whole Cabinet or the Prime Minister in particular should have this responsibility specially laid upon him. I, for my part, wish to disavow, on behalf of those who give attention to these matters, and think it our duty to do so, anything like, by thinking of war, being suspected of being less anxious for peace, or less afraid of the consequences of war, or more willing to incur them than other people. There is no member of the Peace Society in this House who has a more earnest desire for peace than I have. I have seen something of war, and those who have seen war, I am sure, would be the last who would desire to promote a warlike policy. But it seems to me the first duty of the House of Commons to lay this responsibility upon the political personages; and whoever may be those charged with the Government of this country, they are the 472 proper persons to be responsible to this House for the advice they give. There is, at the present moment, an exhibition taking place in London, in which a young Scotchman, who is almost worthy to be ranked with Rembrandt, has portrayed the horrors of war in a way that is accepted by us all. A horrible and squalid but pompous spectre is represented stalking across the picture, beating with one hand a great drum, whilst with a flaming torch in the other he is setting fire to the dwellings of the people. We all hate war, and there is no man who hates it more than I do. But to hate it ought not 1o drive us to refuse to consider it. The whole of this enormous expenditure of ours, by far the largest single branch of our expenditure, is worthless and useless expenditure altogether unless it is an absolutely reliable insurance against the dangers of war; and I do not think any man who watches the foreign policy of this country, however prudently conducted, can doubt that many of these dangers have increased and gathered in a kind of network which has been drawn tighter during the last few years than for a great many years before. I know some people in this House are under the impression that I am absolutely connected with one particular form of remedy which has been associated with my name in the public Press, and I wish to say that form in this matter is immaterial. I have stated what I want to secure, and I will put two or three different ways of securing it which very often would come to the same thing. What I ventured to suggest at first was that the Prime Minister should be brought to take more personal concern in the defence of the country than is the case at the present time; that he should consider himself mainly responsible for the joint consideration of the whole defence proposals; that he should hoar the Secretary for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and their advisers if he is doubtful, and that they together, more seriously than has been the case in the past, should go into the difficulties of the problem, and he should then advise with them as to the Estimates. It was pointed out to me that sometimes there might be a Prime Minister who would have a special dislike to the question, and any such meeting might become a form, and mean 473 nothing more than the present consideration of the Cabinet. There are some Members of this House who think because of recent events that I must entirely differ from the present Prime Minister. There are questions on which I do not agree with him, such as those about Egypt and the annexation of Uganda, but I am certain that our present Prime Minister can be trusted with this responsibility, and if he would take it upon himself, and let the country know that he, from time to time, would thoroughly go into this question with those primarily responsible to this House, the House would have confidence that a great deal has been gained for the joint consideration of this military and naval expenditure. But something more is needed, and there was another suggestion made— that a Defence Minister, a Minister who should represent the Army and Navy, should be the person charged specially with the responsibility to this House. That suggestion was made many years ago. It is the practice of all the Australian Colonies who, although they have the management of defences on a much smaller scale, nevertheless admirably manage that particular defence with which they are charged. It will be the plan adopted under the Federal Constitution of Australasia for the defence of Australasia. That plan has been suggested for us. It was proposed to the Hartington Commission by the Member for South Paddington, and the Commission voted against it. I do not think the reasons for deciding against it are satisfactory or conclusive reasons.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE
I thought the noble Lord did. At all events, the proposal was discussed by the Hartington Commission, and rejected by that Commission for reasons which were inadequate. The reason given against it, that such Minister would be overwhelmed with detail, is not, I think, a good or sufficient reason. He would undoubtedly be overwhelmed with detail if he tried to do what too many Ministers do at the present time; if he tried to answer every question or letter of every Member affecting the particular Department over which he presided. If he did the enormous amount of detail work which both the present First Lord of the Admiralty and 474 the Secretary of State for War do, no doubt he would be overwhelmed with work, and just as these two find it difficult to get through their work in the day, so he would find it difficult to get through his in the day, and would have to give the night as well. I am quite ashamed of myself when I have, on behalf of a constituent who is, say, a Yeomanry sergeant or something of the kind, to put some purely personal and private matter to find the great machinery of the Secretary of State for War has to be brought into play to give an answer in that matter. We should all prefer to have them set free to attend to the larger problem, and that some clerk should deal with this trifling matter for us. I do believe that in every Department of the State Ministers do a large amount of unnecessary work—unnecessary in the sense that other people could do it just as well—and the main work of that Department could be discharged by them without the enormous call upon their time and labour which is made at present. I doubt, therefore, whether the answer given by the Hartington Commission was altogether a sound one as to being overwhelmed with detail. I do not think it necessary he should be. I believe it should be possible that a Minister of Defence might, in connection with great experts and the permanent heads of the two Departments, having those under him who would discharge all the House of Common sand the House of Lords' work as regards detail—could discharge his duties efficiently and preside over both in chief. Put I am not wedded to a particular form. Whether the Prime Minister specially undertakes the duty, whether it is undertaken by a Defence Minister, or whether the suggestion is adopted which, I believe, is that of the Leader of the Opposition, that a Defence Committee of the Cabinet, which I have heard was instituted by the late Government, should be provided with a more avowed and distinct position, armed with permanent responsible advisers, and equipped with records so as to hand over its work to those by whom they might, be succeeded in Office — all these plans would come at the present moment to very much the same thing. I am certain the noble Lord at the head of the Government would personally charge himself with a 475 great deal of this duty, so that all the plans would produce the same result. They would give us what we have not at the present time—that joint consideration of the defences of the Empire which the necessities and needs of the Empire demand, and which is also forced upon this House, it seems to me, by the great amount of money we at present spend. I will not trouble the House any longer. I believe at this moment the House feels, with the Army especially, that on the whole question of defence there is an absence of responsibility to this House. Take the most challenged act connected with either Service of the last 10 years—the case of the reduction of the Horse Artillery by the late Mr. Stanhope. In that case I will ask anyone who remembers it, and what was said against it and for it, how it was pointed out how short we were already in artillery, and what reasons there were for believing this country ought to be specially equipped with artillery as a means of war. All those who remember that controversy must be aware that it was impossible to get at a very real responsibility upon that occasion, because we could not imagine that the Secretary of State himself, as an individual, apart from advice, would wish us to take his mere ipse dixit for the change. On the other hand, we were never able really to ascertain who had been the suggester of that change, and who would really make himself responsible for the result. There is in this country a very special danger with regard to our whole military and naval operations, and one which ought to be borne specially in mind when considering this great subject. We are a defensive country—a country which stands on the defensive. We are not a warlike country in the sense in which many other Powers are warlike, which are continually considering whether it may not be more to their advantage to attack and begin the war by an attack on another. That, from time to time, has been the position in the last 30 years of a great number of countries in Europe, each of which has been led by the necessities of their position to consider this question. We are essentially a defensive country from the point of view of a great war, and it would never enter the mind of anyone that we should take the first step in war. We stand purely 476 on the defensive. We have got a great deal and, like rich people, we want to keep it. But by the very necessities of our military position we are too much inclined to consider what may be called strategic defence as against a policy of mere defence. Our policy is a policy of mere defence, but in strategy—if we were to go to war against our will—we should have to follow the ordinary rules of war. We should have to find our enemy, attack him and reduce him in the ordinary way of war. Obviously with our Army and our small numbers that can hardly be expected to be a land attack. It must be expected to be a naval attack, and it will be by naval means we shall in all probability have to reduce our enemies in future war. There is this great danger. If you look on this defensive position as implying defensive strategy you fall into the danger pointed out by all great writers, you look upon your force merely as a shield, and so regarding the matter you must prepare yourself for defeat, for unless you are prepared to use it as a weapon to parry and repulse, you cannot carry out even a defensive policy. That is a special danger in our case. It points, of course, to the predominance of the Navy in our defence, and as one who tried some years ago, when I first began to consider this matter, to work on this question of the Army by itself as detached from the Navy, I very soon found I was on a wrong line. The naval school point to the necessary predominance of naval considerations and to the Navy being the attacking force. I do not wish in any way to interpose these views upon others who may support me. My main point is that I think I have established a sufficient ground for anxiety and sufficient call for remedy to make it worth the while of the House to give some time to the consideration of those particular remedies which I have ventured to point out.
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER,
who rose to second the Resolution, expressed his satisfaction that this important subject had been brought forward during the tenure of Office of the present Secretary for War, who was an official as open in his mind as regarded military problems and fair dealings with the Army as any who had preceded him in his Office, and even if they were not likely to convince him they could feel that they were not 477 talking in vain, as they were appealing to a Minister who showed he took a keen and lively interest in the very important work of his Department. He (Mr. Arnold-Forster) had always found the greatest difficulty to be contended with was this. People would say, the moment this question was raised, "It cannot be as bad as yon say, because in the past, somehow or other, we have always succeeded." That was not his reading of the past history of our military and naval forces. There had been many defeats and many operations of war which, though not defeats, had been failures from the point of view from which they were undertaken; there had been constant throwing out of plans and failure and dislocation due, and solely due, to the want of disorganisation in the great Department at home. As an instance of this he looked back to the Peninsular War, to the Crimean War—where £50,000,000 sterling were spent in repairing the errors of the Department— and to many of those expeditions mentioned by his right hon. Friend. He looked back to the Egyptian Campaign and the Afghan Campaign, and in all these wars there had been an enormous unnecessary waste of blood and treasure, in consequence not of a lack of courage on the part of the troops in the field, but of want of organisation in the Departments at home. He had never urged—as some people had suggested—that when British sailors and soldiers found themselves side by side they would not, owing to jealousy between the forces, make every effort to do what they were set to do—namely, to uphold the honour of our country and obtain the success of the war. Hut he pointed to defects existing, not as between the men in the field, but in the offices by which our armies were placed in the field and our navies on the ocean. Could any one for a moment contend that our military and naval expenditure was based on any reasonable calculation? The greatest maritime Power in the world spent £17,000,000 on its Navy and £10,000,000 on its Army. Could that expenditure be based on any reasonable and logical calculation of the different duties which those two Forces had to discharge, and their relative positions in maintaining the defence of the Empire? The fact was 478 that the tradition of the times of the great Continental wars had been continued down to the present day. But he knew that the present Secretary for War had expressed the view that the time had gone by when this country could hope to engage with success in the great military struggle of the Continent; and he hoped that the possibility of this country taking part in such wars in the future had been utterly discarded. He contended that it was impossible that this comparison of expenditure between the Army and Navy could be referable to any rule of logic and reason. Every item of naval defence was far more costly than the corresponding item for the Army. There was no item in the Army expenditure at all comparable with the cost of the matériel of a great battleship. Yet the country was spending three times as much on its Army as on its Navy, and it had spent four times as much. He was glad to believe that it was no longer the case that the Navy might not be mentioned when the Army was under discussion in the House. But he remembered the time when such a ruling was given; and that was a clear illustration of the attitude which had been preserved with respect to the relation of the two Services. It might be said that something had already been done, and that there was no occasion for alarm. He challenged that statement point blank. The Navy and the Army existed for one purpose only—to conduct successful war; and if they wore not capable of fulfilling that purpose they might, as well be abolished to-morrow. There was on record the deliberate judgment of the officials of the Army and the Navy, and of the leaders of opinion in the House, that by neither the Army nor the Navy at the present time was that object achieved. It might be thought that the Army was prepared to conduct those small expeditions which had to be undertaken from year to year. Had all those great officers of State who were employed for the purpose devoted their attention to that object? No; they had not. There was the statement made by one of the most responsible and justly-respected members of the War Office Administration, Mr. Knox, on the very question as to whether there was any provision made for providing battalions to take part in any expedi- 479 tionary force or a small war. Mr. Knox said—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.Therefore, for 20 years there had been no attempt to perform one of the most elementary duties of the Admiralty and the War Office. Was the country hotter prepared for a war on a large scale? He asserted that it was the deliberate judgment of one of the strongest Commissions which ever sat on the subject— Lord Harrington's Commission—that no attempt had been made to establish settled and regular communication between the Services, and that no combined plan for the defence of the Empire in any given emergency had ever been worked out. It was typical of the present way of looking at things that the Royal Marines—a force unrivalled in the world—were neglected both by the Admiralty and the War Office. They were deprived of their just number of officers and of promotion; they were disappointed in many ways which were keenly felt by officers and men; and they were not represented as they ought to be either at the Admiralty or the War Office. Yet the Royal Marines was the nucleus of the very force which a great maritime Empire which had its pathways on the ocean needed to do its work. It would be impertinent for him to suggest any remedies. But there were two or three remedies which had something to recommend them; and any one could see that the present order of things did not, and could not, afford an avenue of escape from the difficulties under which we labour. What was wanted, in the first place, was some arrangement by which a proper organisation for war might be set on foot. In the second place, there ought to be means by which the country could be informed if such an organisation did not exist. Time after time, a condition of affairs in naval and military matters had been disclosed such as the country would not have allowed to continue for six weeks if it had known of it. Time after time, naval scares, promoted from outside, had pointed to the necessity for 480 additional expenditure on the Navy. Lord Northbrook objected to the plan of making a single officer responsible to the House of Commons, but Lord North-brook was the last person to speak in defence of the existing system. He could remember the time when Lord Northbrook stated in public and private that no expenditure on the Navy was necessary, and that if £2,000,000 were given to the Navy he should not know what to do with it. He remembered also that 10 mouths later Lord North-brook had asked for £11,000,000 for the Navy to enable it to go to sea. There had been in the meantime a popular agitation about the Navy which forced the administrators of naval affairs to take this action. The scale of preparation for war was more adequate in the Navy than in the Army. Nevertheless, at the time of the Russian scare an order was actually sent to a distinguished naval officer to report on the best means available for the defence of our coasts and the protection of the shipping in the Channel. This plan, which ought to have been prepared months before, was written by the officer on the spot; and the Report still existed. This, too, was in view of war with what was then a fourth-rate naval Power. There was practically a consensus of opinion among naval and military officers that some definite responsibility must be attached to some individual with regard to the defence of the Empire. The recommendation was made in the Report of Lord Hartington's Commission that such a person should be appointed, and appointed for a sufficiently long term of years to enable him to learn his work. This was not a novel proposal. It was carried into practice in nearly every country which had to conduct its defence on a large scale. It existed in Germany, Russia, Italy, and France—the same result was aimed at by the constitution of the "État Major." Parliament was told certain facts sometimes on the responsibility of Ministers, but what was stated did not represent all the facts; and what was wanted was that Parliament should know something in addition to the modified and political view of defence questions which came through Ministers, as, for example, what the naval and military officers who had to fight in case of war thought of the subject, and what were the military 481 and naval needs of a given situation. He was in favour of the proposal of the right hon. Baronet that Parliament should make it an absolute sine qua non that some permanent responsible adviser should be established whose position should be authoritative as far as stating what were the naval and military needs. Great and most vital as was the question which had been raised last year in connection with Ireland, he was bound to say that, in his opinion, the matter which they wore now discussing was of even more transcendent importance. he believed that they were doing their best to incur such a disaster by land and sea as would strain all the tremendous powers of recuperation even of this great country. It would not be unworthy the attention of the House if hon. Members gave their impartial judgment, sympathy, and interest to make it possible that Parliament should no longer continue to pursue the policy of appointing Commissions. They had got beyond the stage of Commissions, for every known fact bearing on the matter had been accumulated. They needed some strong man who would move in the matter: and he believed the Secretary for War was able and desirous to take that initiative in this movement if properly supported by hon. Members, which if taken might lead the country out of this Slough of Despond in which it now was. He begged to second the Motion.
Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—
This House, before voting supplies for the maintenance of Military establishments in the United Kingdom, seeks an assurance from Her Majesty's Government that the Estimates for that purpose submitted to it are framed upon consideration of the needs of possible war by sea and land, and upon a consideration of advice tendered in that behalf by such Officer of each Service as is fitted to command in war Her Majesty's forces of that Service,"—(Sir C. W. Dilke,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ LORD E. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
I shall not follow the hon. Gentleman who spoke last into the wide area of naval and military service which he has traversed in the course of his speech, 482 and by doing which he has rather led the House away from the most interesting and, in some respects, most advantageous argument which the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean adduced in his very comprehensive speech. But the fact of the matter is that I do not think the right hon. Baronet quite grasped the relations of Parliament to the Government or the relations of the Government to Parliament. There is no real responsibility— no practical responsibility—on the part of the Minister or Secretary of State to the House; and, unless we go back many years, there is no record of a Vote of Censure upon that Minister, which would involve, of course, the fall of the Administration. No Vote for the Army or Navy has ever been negatived that I can remember, and voting against the Estimates in any force is hardly known. Everything asked for has always been granted. I want to know, therefore, how we can get any Parliamentary control if it is the regular practice of Parliament to vote the sums demanded without making any effort to ascertain the information on which the Minister made his Statement. We have never been able to do that, and never shall be able, so long as the civil management of the Services continues. So long as Ministerial responsibility and naval and military responsibility are not directly connected, and the Services are not able to make their opinion officially known, not only to the Minister of the day, but to the Government of the day, the House of Commons will never have sufficient knowledge to enable it to decide whether the Government is right or wrong in its changes or in the supplies for which it asks. That has always been my belief, and I have heard much of these matters, notably on the Hartington Commission. Members know little of that Commission, because they have not seen the evidence, which was given on condition that it should not be published, and to read the Report without knowing the evidence is to be hampered in arriving at a decision. The right hon. Baronet dealt largely with certain operations of the Army, and he rather criticised the military system in India. I can say on authority which I cannot now name that the British troops in India have never been more efficient or more lit for service on the frontier.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE
What I said was that the Army in India, though small, is admirable, but that the Indian Government are not satisfied with the system of administration, including the system of despatch of troops, its cost and efficiency.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
The Indian Government have always been anxious to place British troops on a stronger numerical footing, but I know of no dissatisfaction on the part of the Indian Government with the system of sending out regiments to India. The troops go out with great regularity to India; they soon settle down to the climate, and soon become efficient. Certainly this was the case under the late Commander-in-Chief, and I believe that the present Commander-in-Chief is quite equal to keeping the troops in India in the same state of efficiency. The maxim Si vis pacem para bellum does not command approval if it moans that in times of profound peace, when it is difficult to discern from what quarter war may come, the country is to get into a panic, to change its existing system without due deliberation, and to spend large sums of money without sufficient thought. I quite agree with the right hon. Baronet that the question whether our present system for the management of the Army and of the Navy ought to be altered deserves the serious consideration of any Administration. I think the object of any Administration should be to find out the best method in which to associate more closely the professional or the military element with the responsibility of the civil element, and until that is done there can be no responsibility with regard to the administration of the War Department towards the House of Commons. I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer is at all a useful influence in controlling the Estimates of the War Department, for there is no joint communication on his part with the Services as to their needs. At any rate, I have never hoard of any organised scheme of joint communication, although the adoption of such a scheme has been recommended by a very influential Commission. One great deficiency in the existing system is that Cabinets never get military or naval advice directly. I think that is the greatest fault in our system. They receive it 484 through the Minister for War and through the First Lord of the Admiralty, and it is quite possible that those Ministers may have opinions of their own opposed to those of their advisers. That was the case with Lord North-brook. The Cabinet never know the naval position until there is a great outcry. Professional opinion never reaches the Cabinet at all. This is why I think a Committee of the Cabinet would be rather dangerous; for it would interpose a further obstacle between the Cabinet and the experts. The plan providing for control over the Services by a Committee of the Cabinet does not appear to me to be satisfactory except in some special cases. Nor do I think that the Prime Minister is the proper man to have practical superintendence over the Services and their management. The Prime Minister ought to form his judgment, as he does now, on the Report of the Ministers responsible, but to bring him into close and constant communication with the War Office and the Admiralty would interfere with the ordinary duties of the Head of the Government, and prevent him from obtaining the acquaintance he ought to have with the views of the other Departments. I do not agree with the idea of a Civil Minister looking after two Departments. The right hon. Baronet charged me with having been in favour of a Civil Minister to do this. I never was. It would be impossible to have a Civil Minister to superintend the Admiralty and the War Office; it is not in the power of man to discharge such a work. What I propose, and what the more I think of it the more I favour is the appointment of a Finance Minister, who might be called Treasurer of the Army and Navy, who would hold a high position, and be in constant communication with the Heads of the two Departments, so bringing them into closer connection than is the case at present. This official, for weeks before the Estimates are prepared, would find out what each Service required, would balance the respective claims, and would present to the Cabinet not only the civil, but the military and naval opinions brought before him. There would thus be useful inter-communication between the Cabinet and the professional element. Of course, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would always have his voice in what the 485 expenditure should be, but such a Treasurer as I suggest would certainly have great authority with the Cabinet, before whom he would place what long and careful investigations would show to be the military and naval wants of the country. As a rule, the practice of Governments is to make the Estimates of one year very much like the Estimates of the year before, and Cabinets as a rule, I think, do not give much consideration to the Army and Navy. They take it for granted that what the respective Ministers say is right, and they will never be able to get real information until naval and military responsibility is represented by such an officer as I have suggested. Until this is done we shall go on spending much about the same sums year by year, and there will be the same annual complaints that the Services are not sufficiently provided for. I much wish the Government would appoint a small Commission—there is plenty of information ready to hand — to examine into the schemes suggested and draw up a plan. Then it would be possible to make some real progress.
§ SIR G. CHESNEY (Oxford)
said, the question they as Representatives of the people, of the country, and the guardians of the Public Purse had to ask themselves was whether the money granted under these Votes was properly represented by the results they got. That really was very closely connected with the Motion of the right hon. Baronet. It had been said by both previous speakers, and truly said, that this whole raison d'être and object of their military and naval expenditure was for the purpose of war. If that expenditure did not place the Army and Navy in a position adapted to the exigencies of war then, obviously, they had no cause to have either a considerable Army or a powerful Navy, and the point he would submit was this—Did the House and the country get full value for their money, looking at the two Services as means for the purposes of war? He would say at the outset that he had himself the greatest personal detestation of war. He did not speak as a Jingo, he had seen too much of war not to know that there were innumerable blunders committed in it: that a great deal depended upon chance, and that very often the exertions of gallant troops and good naval officers were frus- 486 trated either by the incompetence of Generals or by mal-administration at home. No reasonable man could allege that these things could always he avoided. They spent upon the Army about £17,500,000 a year, apart from the expenditure on the Army in India. The House voted that sum. How much of it could it be said was available for purposes of war? The only establishments which we kept up which could be considered for purposes of war, either offensive or defensive, apart from the questions of garrisons and the Colonies, and of undertaking petty expeditions and obligations which the necessities of the Empire imposed, were the Militia, the Yeomanry, the Volunteers, and the Reserves. These Services together cost about £2,250,000 out of the £17,500,000 total net expenditure. They, therefore, had an expenditure of £15,250,000 representing the normal peace outlay of the country. No doubt if this expenditure furnished them with a machine which on an emergency arising was ready to pass from a state of peace to a state of war it might be said, and very fairly said, that it was perfectly justified by the objects in view. Rut our Army, he regretted to say, was a peace Army, and nothing more than a peace Army. It would require to be entirely reorganised and reconstituted to make it an Army efficient for the purposes of war. That was an important point for consideration. It might be said that they had a powerful Reserve. He was glad to know that the Reserves had now been brought up to 85,000 men. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the War Office on that satisfactory result; but he wished to draw attention to the fact that that Reserve of 85,000 men was far from being a Reserve for war purposes. All they could do with it would be, not to bring the Army up to a condition at which it would be fit to make war, but simply to furnish a nucleus upon which they might proceed to build up a military war system. He would explain how he arrived at that conclusion. The House was no doubt aware that our regiments were on a very attenuated scale. Our Cavalry regiments, if they were wanted for active service—as all military men acquainted with the subject would tell them—would not, after making the necessary deductions that it would be 487 necessary to make from the nominal strength in order to arrive at what would-be the strength in the field, would not amount to more than 250 or 300 sabres per regiment—a mere handful of men. Our Infantry battalions, which were nominally 750 strong after deducting recruits, sick, depôts, and guards, would go into the field 400 strong, or mere skeletons of corps. A proof of that was to be found in the little manœuvres, such as those which took place in Surrey and Hampshire. They showed how weak the regiments were. The Artillery were probably in a better condition; bit they, too, were on an attenuated scale. On an outbreak of war 45,000 men of the Reserve would be required at once to bring the regiments up to the proper strength, leaving out of account how they were to keep them supplied so as to make up for the waste of war. That took away 45,000 men of the Reserve. It left 40,000, which would be required on the outbreak of war for service in India. They heard a great deal about the efficient state of the Indian Army. He was happy to think that it was efficient—a most efficient Army so far as it went, but it was an Army entirely on a peace footing. It was an Army without reserves or depots, and which had been largely reduced during the last 40 years. It had been increased somewhat in regard to British troops, but its whole strength had been greatly reduced during the past 40 years. Meanwhile their Indian territories and responsibilities had increased in every direction. They had now in India territories as big as the United Kingdom and Franco and Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Sweden; the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a tract a great deal larger than Europe if they deducted Russia. This territory was occupied by a garrison of about 200,000 men; there were hostile tribes on the frontiers, and beyond the frontier on the North-West there was a great possible source of danger. For that country they had, as compared with the enormous forces in Europe with the garrison in England, an Army on a peace scale. If they were called on to send a force to the frontier—and he would not say that that was a liability which it would be political prudery to ignore—the utmost force of British troops we could send 488 would be 30,000, leaving 40,000 in India, a number altogether too small to hold that country in the state of excitement which would inevitably arise. Even that force could not be sent out unless they were sure of receiving immediate reinforcements from England. Therefore, India and England would at once absorb the whole of the Reserves. He did not desire that they should add one additional soldier to the Army or that they should spend £1 more on it than they spent now. On the contrary, he believed that the Army cost now a great deal more than it ought to cost for the results which one got, and he contended that for a country situated as we were, with all our enormous responsibilities in every part of the world, with all the responsibilities that might come on us at any time, they ought to be provided with a system under which they would be prepared when the occasion arose to pass at once from a state of peace to a state of war. The country and the House ought not to be satisfied with less than that. At present we had no such system nor any assurance that it would be introduced. The Report of the Hartington Commission stated that in the broadest way, vet nothing had been done since the publication of that Report. What was wanted, beyond all doubt, was that there should be somebody responsible to the War Minister for the preparation of a scheme of defence—an officer prepared, by a long and careful study of all engagements, and liable to at once put the Army on a war footing. There was no one of that kind at present at the War Office. There were, no doubt, a number of essays written from time to time by officers more or less irresponsible suggesting operations in the Baltic, in the Black Sea, in the Caucacus, and elsewhere, but nowhere at present had the Secretary for War a properly worked-out scheme which would enable the Government, if, unhappily, the country was drawn into war, to satisfy themselves that they had at their hands the best means of defence in a complete form. It had been said that the creation of responsible officers behind the Government would be to take away from the responsibility of the Government itself. The idea always had been that the Minister for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty should be entirely responsible for 489 everything down to the smallest detail. He thought that Parliamentary responsibility had often been carried too far. Now, he would put it to the House, how was it possible, especially in these busy days, for anyone, be he ever so experienced, to give his services to that House afternoon and night, and at the same time to carry out matters of detail and careful work involved in applying the military means at the disposal of the Government to the needs of the country? After all, what was the policy of the Government? Parliamentary responsibility simply meant that if things went wrong the Government was turned out. What satisfaction was that to the country, which wanted to know that the supplies they freely granted should be turned to the best account? For that purpose, both in regard to the Navy and the Army, there should be some high authority which should be definitely responsible to the Government. To everybody who took the trouble to ascertain it was well-known that although the nations of Europe were now on friendly terms, they did not keep up and increase their gigantic Armies for the purposes of peace. He recognised with gratitude what had been done by the Secretary of State for War during his short tenure of Office. But there had been a most important change made in the last three years at the War Office under which what small responsibility which was left to individual officers had been taken away. Under the new system the Commander-in-Chief had been made nominally responsible for every detail of military business. No man dare write a letter from the War Office in his own name. He quoted the name of the Secretary for War. He challenged hon. Members to produce any record of the War Office to the contrary. That system of centralisation must ensure absolute failure in ease of war, and he was afraid that unless there was a reform before war broke out they would undergo some great catastrophe. He did not say that he believed the British nation would ever go under in any war. He believed that, under any circumstances or trials, we should win through to eventual success; but what he did feel was that they would only achieve that success after a great and needless waste of blood and money, which might have been 490 saved if in times of peace this country, and those who were responsible to this country for its expenditure and for its business, had devoted some reasonable share of their time to work out and settle in a satisfactory way this grave and most important problem.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
I do not mean to detain the House for more than a very few moments. But the reference which the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean made to me in moving the Amendment which is now the subject of our discussion perhaps makes it desirable that I should just explain to the House what my views are upon this important question so far as I have myself ventured to formulate them. I may, however, premise what I have to say by making the admission to the House that the actual method by which our common object is to be carried out appears to me to be surrounded with difficulties, and that I find it much easier to criticise the various schemes that have been propounded than myself to propose one which shall be absolutely free from objections. However, I think I am absolved from arguing the main proposition, which has been so ably laid before us by the various speakers who have preceded me. No one has ventured to get up and say that there is not a grave necessity lying upon us at present for co-ordinating our forces for ensuring harmonious action between the Navy and the Army, and for preparing those plans for military defence—I use the word "military" as including both the Army and the Navy—which every nation in the world prepares in time of peace, and which I rather suspect we have not, at all events, got in any advanced state of preparation. If that general proposition be conceded to me, and if I am absolved from arguing it, I will confine myself to a very brief consideration of some of the plans for meeting the difficulty which have been propounded. First, and perhaps the most apparently plausible of all the schemes, is that of a Minister of Defence—a Member of this House or of the other House—who shall be responsible to Parliament for the general defence of the Empire. My objection to that scheme arises out of this consideration: I cannot quite see what is to be the relation between this Minister of Defence and the Heads of 491 the Army and Navy. If you thought it desirable or practicable to reduce the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Minister for War to the position of Under Secretaries, then I think the position of a Minister of Defence would be a possible one. But I do not think you can administer your Army or your Navy by men under the rank of Cabinet Ministers. I do not believe the Services themselves would tolerate it, and, though it is true that under our system of Parliamentary questioning and answering, and under the system under which every constituent, however remotely connected with either Service, justly thinks he has the right, through his Representative, of obtaining some reply to his communication direct from the Minister for War— though, I say, under that system the Minister for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty are obliged to consider details which had much better be loft to their subordinates—still I think the broad fact remains that you must have at the head of your Army and your Navy men responsible to the House and the country for the conduct of their Departments, and men who shall not be under the rank of Cabinet Ministers. If that is so, what position is your Minister of Defence to have in relation to these two great officers of State? The position appears to me to be impossible. Is he to walk about between the Admiralty and the War Office, consulting now with the one and now with the other? Is he to be responsible for the Navy Estimates and for the Army Estimates, and, if not, how is he to be responsible for the defence of the Empire? By this proposal to set up a third officer of State who is not to be at the head of one Department or the other, you are endeavouring to construct a machine, with the best intentions, that cannot be expected to work satisfactorily. Some objection of the same kind, I think, attaches to the suggestion thrown out by my noble Friend near me, who speaks upon this matter probably with an authority second to none in the House, and who has given very great attention to the question. His proposal, as I understand it, is that a Finance Minister should be appointed who shall be neither the First Lord of the Admiralty nor the Secretary for War nor the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But it appears to me that, although he is not to 492 be one of these three officers, he will, as it were, take out of the hands of each of these officers some essential part, of his work. How could a Chancellor of the Exchequer propose a Budget to his colleagues when a third of that Budget is settled for him by another colleague in the same Cabinet? Whore is this military financier to get his figures from? He must get them from the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Minister for War. Just as I think he will take from the Chancellor of the Exchequer part of the responsibility which attaches to that officer, so he will take away from the Minister for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty part, of the responsibility which properly attaches to their offices, because the man who decides on the finance of the Services decides the policy of the Services. If the Finance Minister is really to be responsible for the expenditure of the Army and of the Navy, you may call him a Finance Minister, but he will in reality be the controlling authority both over the Army and the Navy. Then there is a third proposition, or rather there are two other propositions which are separate but, which I think should be considered together. There is the suggestion that the Prime Minister should himself undertake the business in conjunction with his colleagues at the Army and the Navy, should make himself acquainted with the general problem that has to be dealt with, and should make himself responsible for the solution of that problem; and then there is the plan which I regard as essentially different—namely, a Committee of the Cabinet. That the Prime Minister should himself take the whole burden on his shoulders must depend upon what else he is called upon to do. I cannot imagine that anybody who is, for example, both Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary should, however exceptionally endowed with physical and mental endurance, have also time to go into the details of national defence. With all the amount of work which the Foreign Secretary is called upon to do it is impossible that any single Minister, of ordinary or even exceptional mental and physical powers, should undertake so important a matter. Under these circumstances, I should imagine he would associate with himself a Committee of the Cabinet, of 493 which he should, when present, be Chairman, and should throw upon shoulders less heavily weighted than his own the responsibility for the advice given to the Cabinet. That is the only possible way which I can see of keeping the Members of the Cabinet in touch with the military and naval exports. Some gentlemen have talked as if it was desirable to leave the solution of these questions to experts. It appears to me impossible. Do what, you will, under a system of representative Government and Parliamentary responsibility, the ultimate weight of the decision must be borne by civilian Members of the Cabinet and by the Government. I do not see how you can escape from that. I quite admit the obvious anomalies of a civilian being responsible for the treatment of questions with which he has little familiarity, and making himself master of principles which are commonplaces to a soldier and which he will have laboriously to learn. Grave as the objections are to such a course, I think-that, it' we are to keep Governmental responsibility, we must make up our minds to submit to them. I do not talk of this House having control over the Estimates or otherwise. I think discussions in this House may be a useful check upon Ministers and Departments, but we are now talking business, and as men of business we know perfectly well we cannot lay down what is or what is not necessary for national defence. We know perfectly well that as a body of men sitting speaking within these walls it is absurd to expect us to utter an opinion worth having in regard to any far-reaching scheme for dealing with the defence of the Empire. All we can do is to express our views and leave them to be carried out by responsible Ministers, giving them the machinery by which the duty which we cast upon their shoulders may be by them adequately fulfilled. How, then, do I think a Committee of the Cabinet is the only method of bringing the Cabinet itself into touch with expert opinion, and, through the Cabinet, giving the House practically the best advice and information they can obtain on these subjects? The answer is this: A Committee of the Cabinet such as I contemplate is not merely one of those passing bodies called into existence to 494 deal with a particular question and passing out of existence when that particular question is decided. I rather contemplate that the Prime Minister, with or without his colleagues, or a Committee of the Cabinet, with or without the Prime Minister, as the case may be, should constitute themselves a body with permanent records and confidential advisers. That is what we want. The Minister of a Department makes it his business to inform his successor exactly how matters stand in the Department and what questions remain unsettled: and if they are two gentlemen of common sense, they will find it possible, however sharp their political differences on questions connected with the Department, to come to a perfect agreement, so as to preserve that continuity of administration which happily characterises our Government, whatever Party be in power or whatever changes the political wheel of fortune may bring about. If we conceive some organisation of this kind—a Committee of the Cabinet, expert advisers, permanent records—then you would ensure at all events that the Cabinet, who are the ultimate depositaries of power in this matter, shall have brought to their minds the real difficulties of the case, the real problems which they have to solve, the real necessities which they have to meet, and the best way of meeting them. Then it will rest with them to say whether they will take the whole advice which is given—advice, of course, always involves corresponding expenditure—or whether they will take part of the advice, or, indeed, what plan they will adopt. Some gentlemen have suggested that, where in any case the responsible advisers of the Committee of the Cabinet differed from the Cabinet, they should have the right to publish their opinion, so that the House of Commons, having the case of the experts put before them in a Memorandum, and the case of the Government in speeches by Ministers of the Crown, should decide between the two and make up their minds to which they mean to adhere. I see advantages in this plan, but I see great difficulties also. It appears to put everybody concerned in an almost impossible position. I am afraid that we shall have to address whatever Government is in power. I do not see how you can 495 possibly have two Governments in power. You cannot have two Ministries, one sitting in tills House and the other a set of permanent officials sitting in an office. You must have one Ministry, and that one Ministry must be responsible to this House, and I do not see how they could carry out their work if the rivals sitting at Whitehall had the power of making direct communications to this House, and the House deciding by their votes as between the Ministers and the officials. The House will see that I profess to possess no clear-cut or perfectly satisfactory solution of this great difficulty. I recognise all the pitfalls which lie on either side of the path; but I do believe that, without either revolutionising our Parliamentary system, without altering the responsibility of Ministers of the Crown, without doing anything which could injure the susceptibilities either of the Army or the Navy, it would be possible by some such changes in our Cabinet system or some such addition to or modification of our Cabinet system as I have suggested, to bring home so clearly to the mind of the Ministers of the day the real dangers and necessities connected with the problem of national defence, that no Government, having the facts before them, would dare to ignore them; and we might rest secure, not only that the Government had the best advice at their disposal, but that on the whole, so far as was consistent with their general policy, the advice of the competent advisers was likely to be followed.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stirling, &c.
The tone and character of the speech to which we have just listened, and of the speeches which preceded it in this Debate, may suffice in themselves to indicate the great importance of the question raised by my right hon. Friend. He brought forward with great ability and clearness what he conceives to be a want in our present system of Government as applied to questions of national defence, and my right hon. Friend has made suggestions in a moderate and tentative way which I, for one, shall not be disposed lightly to put aside. My right hon. Friend, rather, I suppose, by way of disparaging my opinion, said that I was an optimist. I presume an optimist is one who 496 prefers to look on the sunny side of things. I have done that all my life, and I hope I shall go on doing it. My right hon. Friend said I was an optimist with regard to the old lines of Army administration; and I ventured to shake my head. My right hon. Friend in his speech made no distinction between Army organisation and Army administration. So far as Army organisation is concerned, I am an optimist to such a degree as I shall explain when I introduce the Estimates in Committee of Supply; but I am not an optimist in regard to the question of Army administration, because, as much that I have done and said will show, many things exist with respect to which there is great room for improvement. So far as observations have been made upon the Army system by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite and by my right hon. Friend, I think that those observations were suitable rather for the Debate which will follow this on the Army Estimates themselves. When I hear wholesale denunciations of our present Army system, when I hear that the Government of India disapproves of it, when I hear that it produces inefficiency in all quarters of the world, and that it would be so easy, for the same money, and without adding a single man, to produce something very much better, I cannot but remember all the schemes for that purpose, including some, I think, by my right hon. Friend, which I have seen analysed in a ruthless manner and pulled to pieces, the expense of them calculated, and the conclusions that were come to respecting them. Having seen all those schemes, many of which may in themselves have a more logical and complete appearance than our present system, which is undoubtedly a mixed system adapted to many ends, I much prefer still to abide by the system we have and to make the best of it, rather than to adopt any of those great changes which have been suggested. I merely say that as the question of the Army system has been introduced. But the real question which is before the House now is whether we, by our present arrangements, have that unity of policy for the defence of the country which is necessary. Abundant allusions have, of course, been made to the Hartington Commission of 1890. It has been said 497 that that Commission condemned in the clearest terms what has been called the existing system. Yes, the system which existed in 1890; but my right hon. Friend and others who take that line forget that four or five years have elapsed since that inquiry. I can assure them, of my own knowledge and on my own authority, that many of the events and facts which impressed the minds of the members of that Commission, of which I wits a member, are now quite impossible, in consequence of the arrangements that are made for consultation and cooperation between the two Departments. I will give an instance at once, because a concrete instance is sometimes more effective than a general statement. The instance is one which was brought before the Commission, and greatly impressed me at the time. In providing for the defence of a certain foreign station, works had been erected at great expense, and no doubt with the greatest propriety from the point of view of the advising military officer, for the purpose of guarding a certain approach to a main fortress, But when the works had been completed, and when the opinion of naval officers came to be taken, the naval officers said that the approach was one which no seaman with a head on his shoulders would ever think of going up, and therefore the whole of that work was practically thrown away. This is an example which shows the sort of danger we were incurring at, that time; it is an instance of what we were liable to under the old system, but it is impossible now. We have a Joint Naval and Military Committee, comprising the most eminent professional officers in each Department, who consult and deliberate on every point in regard to the defence either of the shores of this country or of any foreign station. Beyond that, there is the most perfect co-operation, even on those questions of high military policy which have been referred to between the high officers of the two Departments. So when I heard to-night hon. Members saying that there is absolutely no scheme for combined defence or operations I wondered from what source those hon. Members derived the information which was the basis of their confident assertions. But I am one of those who agree with my right hon. Friend, and with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, that 498 we ought to go further. After the criticism which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has passed upon the two proposals that have been made-one for a Minister of National Defence, and the other for a sort of treasurer, I think be was called, who was to sit with a Captain-General of the Army on one side and a Lord High Admiral on the other side, and to dispense all the justice he could between them—as to these two suggestions I need not say much. Neither of them recommends itself to me. My right hon. Friend, in introducing this subject, said the Minister is at present too much encumbered with details. I am not one who fall into that error; but the particular details to which he referred, the letters received about all sorts of apparently trifling matters, are not, I think, to be entirely disregarded, because really it is only by being brought into contact with details that a Minister can know how a Department is proceeding and have his mind opened to a great many higher questions which otherwise would escape notice. The great objection that was brought at the time of the Hartington Commission against the present system was this—that you took a pure politician, who knew nothing of Army matters or of Navy matters, and put him at the head of the Army or the Navy. It was asked, How can you expect such a civilian to be an efficient head of the Army or the Navy? And the odd cure suggested is that you should take another politician—one equally ignorant of both Services—aud assign him the duty of managing them both. That plain statement of the case is enough to condemn the proposed Minister of National Defence without going further. I will not proceed to discuss the alternative of the treasurer, with a naval and a military adviser on either side. As the right hon. Gentleman said, I do not see where his place would come in. The head of each Service ought to be of Cabinet rank; but I do not see what the position of the treasurer would be, because when he turned away from his Captain-General and his Lord High Admiral, he would have to face the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who might have something to say to his decisions; and it would be very difficult to adjust the proper hierarchical position 499 of each of these three officers. Then I come to the proposal, which certainly is much more practical, and commends itself much more to me, that there should he more definite control on the part of the Cabinet over the administration of the two Services. In the latter part of his Motion the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean has a clause with reference to professional advisers which I do not quite understand, and of which I am a little suspicious. I think it would be desirable— in fact, necessary—that the Ministers for War and Marine and the Prime Minister, acting as a Committee of National Defence, should have the amplest information from the highest officers of the Army and the Navy as to all points of detail. But I should be slow to exalt these professional officers into any position which would give them higher standing with reference to the Committee of the Cabinet. The Committee of the Cabinet, if it knew its business, would freely ask their opinions, just as a Minister in his own separate Department does now: he would be a poor administrator and a foolish man who did not consult his professional advisers, or who sought to override them in matters upon which they were infinitely better able to form a judgment than himself. At the same time, the thing we must keep hold of is responsibility to this House for the spending of public money. The persons who must be supreme in these matters are the persons who find the money and who have to pay for the service. However much I should be disposed to pay deference to professional opinion, from one Service or the other, I hope that nothing will be done or suggested by the House of Commons which will detract not only from the responsibility, but from the absolute power of Ministers over that which involves so large a demand on the Public Purse. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington said that at present there was no responsibility on the part of a Minister to Parliament. He asked who over heard of a Minister being impeached or censured. But I may point out that if a Minister enters upon a foolish course, he is very soon made to feel that the House of Commons does not approve of it, and he will not persist in it. He wall, in fact, 500 avoid it in the future. He is here in touch with those who represent the taxpayers, who represent public opinion in the country. In that sense he is responsible as much as any man can be. The noble Lord suggests that we should have a naval officer at the head of the Admiralty and a military officer at the head of the War Office; but what responsibility would they he under to this House if each was absolutely supreme in his own Department, and if the Minister representing each Department in this House was either on a level with them or inferior to them, or a mere clerk or treasurer? With the plan which the noble Lord suggested there would be very little responsibility here, because the Minister would be really acting under the advice and direction of others; and they would not be here at all, so that the House of Commons would lose its control over the whole business. The noble Lord seems to be impressed with the view that pure civil control in these Departments is an evil. One cannot imagine a, civilian Minister altogether exceeding the bounds of his duty by disregarding the advice received by him; but a civilian Minister who knows how to administer a Department is probably the best head of it, better than a professional head, because he brings to the consideration of professional 'questions a little of that outside feeling which professional officers are sometimes too ignorant of. I can assure my right hon. Friend who brought the Motion forward that I personally sympathise with the object which he has in view, in as far as it is to bring about a more direct control by the Cabinet over these great Departments, and in as far as it means greater unity of policy. I do not agree with the view that this Committee of the Cabinet should determine what share of expenditure should go to each Service, as though it were so many spoonfuls of pudding. It should rather determine the respective parts to be played by these Services, and the distribution of the money would follow the definition of those parts. In this sense I express general agreement with the object which my right hon. Friend has in view. I entertain almost identically the opinion which has been expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. When we touch the Cabinet and its organisation we get into a very ethereal region; and I am not 501 sure that it would not be a great innovation to have a permanent Committee of the Cabinet with the records kept and undertaking all the duties which have been ascribed to it to-night.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I must not answer. It would be most improper for me to do so. But, reserving my opinion as to the precise form which this more unified system might take, I am generally in sympathy with the view of my right hon. Friend.
MR, BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)
said, that one point raised by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had been rather missed in the general review of the subject. A Committee of the Cabinet to be called together only, as hitherto, on points of dispute between the Army and the Navy was not even a large part of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. He desired a Committee which would actively exert itself to see that the relations between the two Services with respect to their organisation for war were properly treated. After all, almost the greatest difficulty under which the Secretary for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty laboured at present was that presented by their relations to the Treasury in matters of detail. In matters of principle there; was a direct appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who might he trusted to exercise a fair judgment on the points laid before him: but many of the points which were raised in the House of Commons, and which seemed most unreasonable, were due to the manner in which the Treasury controlled the details of administration both at the War Office and at the Admiralty. Those details frequently involved an absolute control over the principles of administration. For instance, the Secretary for War or the First Lord of the Admiralty were not allowed either by the House or by the Treasury to grant a single sixpence as pension except under certain Rules, and yet when they wanted work done they could go and expend £10,000 or £25,000. Not even the Chancellor of the Exchequer could relieve the Secretary for War from the disabilities of that magical day, the 31st of March. On that day the money voted for the Army, if not spent, was taken to pay off the National Debt. 502 Thus, if certain Services which the House of Commons might have declared to be necessary were not completed by the 31st of March, they could only be carried out at the expense of the Army generally, for the money voted to those purposes would be appropriated to the payment of the National Debt. These points connected with the control of the Treasury ought not to be left out of consideration by the right hon. Gentleman when deciding upon the remodelling of the organisation of our forces. There had been Committee after Committee appointed on this subject, and there was the Report of the Hartington Commission. He hoped the light hon. Gentleman would not wait for further inquiries, but would be able to announce during the present Session that the question had at last been put on a satisfactory basis.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, that as the right hon. Gentleman had included the Navy in this pernicious Resolution he must say a word. He was glad to find that in his indictment the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had said very little but what was complimentary of the Navy. He was bound to say he had not found a single naval officer— and he had consulted a great many—who shared the views of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman bad not proved his case. He had not in his excellent speech advanced a single fact to show a want of co-operation between the Army and the Navy when an emergency demanded such co-operation. Indeed, he had run away from his guns, for although in a letter he had published he had said he wanted a Minister of National Defence, he had said scarcely a word on that proposal in his speech. Naval men were perfectly satisfied with the present system: and they would not approve any system of official co-operation between the two Services which would put naval interests in the background. They must not hamper naval men in the discharge of their duties. Lord Darlington's Commission reported that no European Power had united the administration of the two Services under one Minister, and that all the naval witnesses whose evidence they heard were unanimously of opinion that under such a system the interests of the Navy would suffer. A clever civilian might grasp 503 military affairs; but in naval matters, so much technical and scientific knowledge was required nowadays, the civilian politician did not exist who could properly discharge the duty of Minister of Marine alone. The Secretary of State for War had that evening alluded to this point at great length, and had shown that the Cabinet had at its command the power at any time to summon distinguished men together and to take and act upon their advice. There were many distinguished officers who by the Rides of the Service had unfortunately had to retire at the age of 65. Some of these might well be called upon to form a Council. That being so, he contended that it was unnecessary for the Government to upset the present system, and to introduce any of the newfangled notions now put forward. So far as he could gather from personal conversations he had lately had with officers holding very high positions in the Navy, the criticisms of the Service were favourable to his contention—that the old system worked well. Naval men alone were qualified to pass really trustworthy criticism on purely naval matters; and where difficulties arose involving military as well as naval questions the Government should at once appoint a Joint Committee, whose Report should be very carefully considered and acted upon by them. It was well known that this course was adopted before the Crimean War and the Egyptian Expedition were entered upon. The Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman now before the House might find favour among certain politicians, but it would not be accepted by those who were practically acquainted with the internal economy of either branch of the Service. It was not the business of politicians to interfere in matters relating to that branch of the Service at all. And he therefore appealed to the right hon. Gentleman not to upset a system which now worked so advantageously.
§ SIR G. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
said, he cordially approved what had fallen from the Secretary for War and from the Leader of the Opposition. This was by no means a Departmental question. There were other Departments of State, as well as the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Treasury, which must be con- 504 sulted before taking any new steps in these matters. There was the Colonial Office, for example. In the Colonies we had an organization numbering between 60,000 and 70,000 men, including in those figures their incipient infant Navy, and he contended that in any change which would directly affect them it would only be fair—and, indeed, it would be necessary —to consult the opinion of our colonists before passing such a measure. It was impossible to put with safety all this power in connection with the defence of the Empire into the hands of one person. This fact alone constituted one of the difficulties of limiting the responsibility as now proposed to one Minister.
§ * CAPTAIN NAYLOR-LEYLAND (Colchester)
said, he thought that he was right in assuming that he must couple the statements made by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean before the House that evening with the expression of his views that he had set out in a letter not very long ago on the subject which appeared in The Times and which attracted a great deal of public attention and comment. In that letter the right hon. Gentleman took exception to the present system of administration with regard to both the Services, chiefly on the ground that under present conditions there was not sufficient Parliamentary responsibility in the sense that two Ministers who now sat in the House had not complete control over both branches of the Service, and did not act together. That was a grave accusation to bring against both the Army and the Navy Executive, and he thought that some very strong and cogent proofs should have been produced by the right hon. Gentleman in support of such a sweeping statement. No details had, however, been given. The right hon. Gentleman told them he was not going to discuss details, but how were they to prove any system in the world not to be good or bad if they declined to discuss details? What he personally wanted to know was whether his right hon. Friend considered certain parts only of the present system at fault, or whether he wished to contend that the whole of the present system was irreparably bad? He thought he could show that the present system was better than the one proposed. He could not see himself how the present Parliamen- 505 tary organisation could be improved upon. The two branches of the Service were now represented by the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty respectively, and the two jointly constituted the Cabinet Committee of Defence. The First Lord of the Admiralty had the assistance of a number of Naval Lords. The Secretary of State for War had to advise him the Commander-in-Chief. As these two Ministers were on a footing of equality in the Cabinet, and were of the same political Party, they had every incentive to work successfully and harmoniously together. No proof had been given that the system had failed. The facts, indeed, pointed in an entirely opposite direction, and he therefore objected to the idea that under the present régime these two representative Ministers did not work hand in hand, and that strong pressure, to ensure their doing so ought in future to be put upon them. An objection had been taken by that high authority the hon. Member for West Belfast that some of the field battalions were kept too long on peace strength. To keep up the effective strength of the battalions when no war was expected would be distinctly wrong, and therefore the present system could not be blamed on that ground. We already had one Army Corps, and, thanks to the Reserve, we could in two or three months raise another Army Corps, but England was not going to invade a Continental country. Soldiers were needed in this country for little wars and for a land frontier, as in Canada and India. Canada might be put out of the question; but we had one Army Corps and a prospective Army Corps to be established as in the case of a Russian invasion of India. Was it alleged that this was not sufficient? The right hon. Baronet had written a book on the subject of Imperial defence, and in it the right hon. Gentleman had stated a view with which he concurred, and what he believed was the view of the most competent military authorities, that in the event of war on our Indian frontier it would be necessary to supplement the Army of India with two Army Corps, and it was in view of that situation that two Army Corps had been fixed as the standard to be attained in our Army. The hon. Member for West Belfast said that he wanted more detailed information; but for what purpose? Was it proposed 506 that strategical plans drawn up by the War Office should be published to the world? The fact that the Member for West Belfast did not know of them was no proof that they did not exist. The only advantage of Inning any plans at all in connection with the Army and the Navy was that they should be kept secret, so that when war was declared the authorities might he able to act upon them and put them to practical use. The hon. and gallant Admiral who last spoke told them such plans existed at the Admiralty, and he had no doubt the same system was adopted at the Wan; Office. Reference had been made to the German Army. No doubt the Chief of the Staff in the German Army was a useful person; and though it might be of some advantage to have one official to make out plans and to work them out in practical detail, it must not be forgotten that when this was accomplished the officer did not tell everyone about those plans, but kept them as secret as he could, He did not agree with the Member for West Belfast, that Ministers of Defence existed on the Continent. Though the German Emperor was the Minister of Defence for Germany, it might equally be said that in the same sense Her Majesty was the Minister of Defence for this country, because technically she was at the head of the British Army. But below the German Emperor there was a Consultative Committee of three, and they represented practically what in the Navy were the Lords of the Admiralty. In the whole military history of the world recently there was only one instance in which a Minister of Defence, on the lines now proposed, had been appointed. That was by the? American Government in the last century. It was found to be such a dismal failure that the post was abolished. The only object in having a Consultative Committee composed of two professional officers, a military and a naval, would be for the Army officer to give his advice in naval, and the naval in military, affairs: he submitted this was preposterous and absurd. In the reign of Charles II. the mistake was made of placing a. Cavalry officer at the head of the Navy and an Admiral in charge of the land forces, and it was not likely we should repeat that error.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE
As the Leader of the Opposition has taken a first step towards the attainment of the object I have in view, and the Secretary for War has expressed as clearly as official reticence renders it possible his concurrence in the view of the Leader of the Opposition,. J shall ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.