§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question [8th February], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Question again proposed:—Debate resumed.
§ *SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somerset, Wellington)
said he had always been a consistent supporter of the Government, and it was with great regret that he felt it his duty to oppose their proposals with regard to the Brigade of Guards. He 281 desired to assure the House most emphatically that the officers and men of the Guards had no objection to foreign service as foreign service. [Cheers.] That was sufficiently proved by the large number of officers and men who always volunteered for active service. When, recently, a detachment of men was required for service in Ashanti the whole of one battalion of the Guards came and volunteered. [Cheers.] The Guards objected to the scheme of the Government on one ground only—that of efficiency. The first difficulty he would deal with was that of recruiting. It would not be a case of raising two battalions, but nearly three. There were to be two new battalions of a strength each of 744 rank and file, and there were in addition the extra men for the Brigade at Gibraltar, which would total up to three battalions. The establishment of the Guards now was 5,208 rank and file, and to keep that establishment going the number of recruits raised each year, taking the average of the last five years, had been 1,361. The future establishment would be 7,227 rank and file, and, on the basis of the average of the recruits for the last five years, the number required annually for the Guards would be nearly 1,900 men. Even if he look the figures for 1896, when the number of recruits was 1,250, the future number required under this scheme would be 1,730 annually. There were three ways of getting the recruits. The first was to raise the pay, which the Government did not desire to do. The second was to issue an order that every man enlisted for general service who was 5ft. 8½in. in height could be transferred to the Guards. That would be most unjust to the Line regiments, would meet with strong opposition from the officers commanding Line regiments, and would accentuate, possibly, any jealousy which might now exist between the Line and the Guards. There was only, therefore, one way of raising the increased number of 480 a year, and that was by permanently lowering the standard of the Guards. If they once permanently lowered the standard of the Guards they would undeniably lower their efficiency. Recruiting depended very much upon trade. When trade was good recruiting was slack, and when trade was slack recruiting was brisk, it had been necessary frequently when trade was good to 282 temporarily reduce the standard so as to get the number of men required. But if they permanently reduced the standard they left themselves no margin whatever for good trade and a slack time in recruiting. He would like to point out that the standard was now lowered. In 1890, out of 1,250 recruits no less than one-third were what were called specially enlisted men—that was, men below the standard, whom it was hoped by good I feeding and good treatment might at some I period or other grow up to the standard. [Laughter.] At this very moment they were drawing to the extent of one-third on the class for which they depended for the increased number of men. What was the inevitable result? The battalions must be kept up to the very greatest strength of 921 rank and file, but if recruiting fell off every battalion at home would have to be depleted till it was much below the establishment, or else would have to take men far below the present guardsmen in physique and efficiency. He proposed to deal with the question of the efficiency of the Guards under this scheme in times of peace and war. Suppose the system in full swing in time of peace, and they had a regiment composed of three battalions—A, B, C. The A battalion was at Gibraltar with a strength of 921; and B and C at home with a strength of 744 rank and file. A battalion came home in duo course, and B battalion had to go out. Before B battalion could start a certain number of time-expired men, a certain number of sick, who could not be removed, and a certain number of bandsmen would have to be left behind. Thus B battalion, of a total strength of 744, would have to leave behind something like 220 men, therefore, to make up the strength of 921 rank and file B battalion required 397 men. He begged to point out that these men must come from the C battalion, and not, as Lord Lansdowne stated, from A and G. In other words there was only one battalion to draw upon and not two. Why? They could not come from the A battalion which was returning from Gibraltar, for two very good reasons. In the first place there would be a number of time-expired men the moment the battalion came home. These men would be discharged or transferred to the Reserves, and the A battalion would at once come below its strength. Another reason was 283 this. Supposing that an order was issued that the A battalion was to leave behind at Gibraltar 200 men to reinforce the B battalion what was the result? Say these men remained enlisted for three years. They had already spent 18 months at Gibraltar, a place where, as everybody knew, a soldier could not be properly trained. Did the Government propose to give them 18 months more at Gibraltar, and make them even more inefficient than they were? If so, these men at the end of the three years could come home, be transferred to the Reserves, could serve nine years in the Reserves, and if they chose to do so could then serve four more, so that for thirteen years they would be drawing the money of the taxpayers after only three years' training at Gibraltar. Take the case of Battalion G Battalion, C had, say, to hand over to Battalion B, 397, or in round figures 400 men, and Battalion C received from B, 220 men—time-expired, sick, and recruits. That reduced the strength of C at once to 564 men, many of whom were recruits. What would be the first result? It would be that the duties in London would be so absolutely heavy as to become intolerable slavery. Was it likely service in the Guards would remain popular when the men had less than three nights a week in bed? Lord Lansdowne said in the House of Lords that this was a loan. In 1882 and 1885 brigades of Guards went abroad on active service, and in both years received drafts. But it was a very different thing to give a draft in time of emergency and make these loans a permanent, system. It had only been done twice in 30 years. The official idea of a battalion was rather curious. It seemed to be thought it consisted of a certain number of officers and men who might not know each other, but all were the same scarlet coats and regimentals. No idea can be more erroneous. The Commander-in-Chief acknowledged that the Guards were more efficient, than the Line regiments. The reason for this was that while men in the Line regiments were constantly being transferred to regiments abroad Guardsmen, except in cases of rare emergency, served in one battalion during the whole of three, five, or seven years of their service, and officers and men became well known to each other. But if, every 18 months, one-third to one-half of the men of a battalion 284 were to be transferred from one battalion to another the Brigade of Guards must soon lose its efficiency. ["Hear, hear!"] This frequency of transfer would lead to the non-commissioned officers refusing to re-engage to complete their 21 years' service. They would join the Auxiliary forces, and officers in the Guards would lose the service of men to whom they owed much. If a European war broke out we should have three battalions of Guards at Gibraltar. They would, for months, have had no military training, and not one man could be removed until relieved from homo. Our Navy would be looking after the enemy's fleet, and it would be impossible to find ships of war to escort troops from Gibraltar. Even if they could be relieved a not unimportant, fortress would be left to be defended by troops absolutely ignorant of defending our position at Gibraltar. Now, we had four battalions of Guards ready for active service, and behind them an ample reserve which they were told drew their pay with commendable zeal and punctuality from the Post Office four times a year. [Laughter.] Under the scheme we should have three battalions at Gibraltar who had had no military training while there, and could not be moved, and three battalions composed chiefly of Reserves at homo who had chiefly distinguished themselves by the regularity with which they had drawn their pay. The Commander-in-Chief called the scheme of the Government the greatest, step in advance that the Army had taken for years. It reminded himself of the balance step without gaining ground. [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"] There were two questions he would like to ask the Secretary for War. The first was whether the scheme before the House was the scheme originally proposed by the Army Board, or did they propose a much larger, wider, and more efficient scheme of which he believed the House and the country would gladly approve? Or did the Army Board, in default of their scheme being accepted, accept this from the Government on the ground that half a loaf was better than no bread? It was only fair to the Army Board that these questions should be answered, and it was not fair that the responsibility for the present scheme should be fixed on the Army Board when it really rested on the Government. He wished to ask the Under 285 Secretary who were the authorities connected with the Brigade of Guards whom Lord Lansdowne had consulted? Who were the Guards' Committee? He owned he felt considerable alarm at the idea of some secret body which officers who had been in the Brigade for many years had never heard of, and he pictured to himself a secret society, with masonic signs perhaps, going to the Secretary of State for War in the middle of the night and revealing all sorts of secrets. [Laughter.] He thought, however, that he could track them to their lair—[laughter]—they consisted of the three honorary colonels of the Guards, and the commanding officer of the Brigade—His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, General Sir Frederick Stephenson, and Lord Methuen. He had nothing whatever to say against those Gentlemen, but two of them had had no regimental experience of the Guards, although they were looked on with general esteem and affection. He would not say one word against Lord Methuen, who was a thorough good soldier—["hear, hear!"]—but he had done less than ten years' regimental duty. Were those the people to go to for information as to the views of the Guards? Why did not the Government go to those officers who were responsible for the recruiting and drill of their regiments—ho meant the lieutenant-colonels in command? Was not their opinion worth having? If it was not, why were they given these commands, and why were they not got rid of? He feared they were not consulted lest they should prophesy not good but evil of this scheme. They were told that this was only an experiment, and Lord Lansdowne had said that, if these changes resulted otherwise than was expected, the Government would certainly consider themselves bound to reconsider the matter. No one doubted for a moment the sincerity of Lord Lansdowne, but he could not give a pledge that would be binding upon his successors or upon the military advisers of future Secretaries of State, and he himself protested in the strongest way against experiments of this kind being made with the only troops at home who were highly efficient. The Commander-in-Chief had said that the Brigade of Guards were never more efficient than they were now. To what 286 was that due? It was due to the unflagging zeal and energy and enthusiasm of all ranks, but especially to the officers and non-commissioned officers of Brigade. They were asked to apply" to that magnificent force a modified form of a scheme which had already" ruined the rest of the Army—["hear, hear!"]—and he earnestly pressed the Government to consider the matter further before they committed themselves to a scheme so crude, so dangerous, and so destructive to the efficiency of the Brigade of Guards.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said he should like to explode two misconceptions which were rather widely prevalent. It was considered by some that they who opposed this particular section of the Government scheme were opposing the general proposals of the Government. That was not so in the least. ["Hear, hear!"] They were strong and hearty supporters of the Government as regarded the whole of the scheme with the exception of this one point. They deemed it their duty to point out the manifest defects in the scheme. They were supposed also to be opposed to this scheme because they wished to bolster up and support certain imaginary privileges belonging to the Guards. But the only privilege they wished to see maintained was that of being ready to go immediately on war service, if the need arose, without any preliminary or delay in putting them on board ship. He was ready to accept the Government proposal provided that when war was declared the battalions of the Guards should be the first to move forward to the seat of war. He would accept it, however, with four essential postulates—(1) that nothing they did should interfere with the spirit that animated the Brigade of Guards at present; (2) that the step taken did not interfere with the class and stamp of recruits who now came into the Brigade—["hear, hear!"]—(3) that they should be most careful to secure absolute efficiency for the battalions in Gibraltar or any other foreign station; and (1) that they guaranteed the absolute efficiency also of that portion of the Brigade which remained at home, and undertook to see that that portion was not one whit less ready to embark for foreign service than was the Brigade as now constituted. If the Government could not show that under their scheme 287 they could put on board ship at Portsmouth a Brigade as efficient, and in as short a time as at present, they would have broken faith with them, and, on their own showing, would have to cancel and reconstruct their scheme. The Guards to a certain extent merged their regimental in their Brigade feeling, and service-in the Brigade created a feeling of loyalty and devotion. Those who said "We do not want the swagger of the Guards," did not remember that this swagger might be an exceedingly valuable article on the battle-field. He asserted that it was a mistaken and misguided idea, to think that they would obtain for the Guards recruits of the same stamp and quality as at present if the enthusiasm which at present prevailed among them died out. He wished to refer to another point of intense importance. They knew that their brethren in Line regiments thought, no hardship greater than that which occasionally extracted an additional year of service out of them beyong that, for which they had enlisted, because they happened to be in India. They would have to be most careful that in any arrangement that was now being made, they did not bring the same rather sharp practice to bear. Once the idea got abroad that while they nominally enlisted men for three years they intended to extract four years' service out of them, they would find that recruiting would dwindle even more rapidly than under other circumstances. Passing to the important point of efficiency, he said it was acknowledged on all hands that the Guards were efficient now. He need not point out that it might make the whole difference in a campaign, whether they were able to seize rapidly and immediately on some point of vantage, or whether they had to hesitate while they created a corps good enough to seize that point. The force at present might not be very large, but as far as it went it was thoroughly good. They had also the certainty of that strong self-reliance which animated all the battalions as they were now constituted. But if this scheme was carried out they would strike at the root of that feeling and destroy the thread of confidence that ran from, the colonel down to the young man in the ranks. He was not quite sure that enough stress had been laid on the miserable condition in which the battalion at home would be after the first time of 288 relief—that was when two out of the three battalions had done or were doing their turn of foreign service. He hoped the Under Secretary would not seek to put the House off with general assertions in reference to that matter, but would give a clear and explicit statement of the view of the War Office on the point. The present Commander in Chief, Lord Wolseley, had laid down as a paramount importance for the training of the Army, that every individual man of every single company should be trained from first to last under the immediate supervision of those non-commissioned officers and officers who would go with him into the field. Yet by this scheme they would absolutely destroy the possibility of any continuity in such training. They used the men as though they were shuttlecocks, and battledoored them about from one officer to another, from one company to another, and from one battalion to another, until it would be absolutely impossible for any large number of men in any battalion to maintain that sort of feeling towards those who had to lead it, which in the opinion of the Commander in Chief was inseparable from an efficient and trustworthy Army. If there was one point which could be compared with the necessity of this constant touch it was that the men should be well trained in musketry and in firing drill of all sorts. By the proposed change they would secure, that, supposing the battalion from Gibraltar had to be moved at the end of six months to face a European foe, they would conduct into the field men who had hardly learned what it was to go through two courses of musketry, whose discipline would not have been created by sufficiency of manœuvres or of company training, men who had not been made efficient riflemen by practice at the target, or with the weapon on which they would have to depend. He thought he had shown conclusively that under the scheme, as it stood, efficiency at Gibraltar could not be really and thoroughly maintained. As to the question of efficiency at home, the effect of the scheme had been pretty well demonstrated by the figures that had been given. The Under Secretary would no doubt say they relied on the expert advice of the highest military authorities—Lord Wolseley, Sir Redvers Butler, and Sir Evelyn Wood. He allowed that in that trio they had 289 three out of the four best officers in the Army, and that they were entitled to attach very great weight to the opinions of these three officers. But would the right hon. Gentleman venture to say that this was a scheme which, in the opinion of these three officers, was sufficient to bring the Army into the state in which they would like to see it? He felt pretty certain that if he was in their position he would say: "I must do the best I can. Here I have one Government after another starving and ill-treating the Army. Here I have one miserable dole after another offered. I must make the best of it; I must get as much as I can." He could understand these officers saving: "This may lead to better things in the future; at all events we get something we want; "and he could imagine them reasoning thus: "This experiment will fall utterly and hopelessly to the ground after it has been tried, and then we shall have secured an addition to the Brigade of Guards which is not likely to be dispersed again. We shall, at all events, he on stronger ground for the future in demanding other additions to the Army, which, in our opinion, are vitally necessary to make the Army efficient and real." Supposing the result of this scheme was that in future they should find this addition to the Brigade of Guards made it into a division with one brigade constantly at Aldershot, and constantly in a state of immediate readiness for service, he could understand that that would not be an unpleasing possibility to these military experts, who would think that a step in the direction of greater efficiency had been permanently taken. Lord Methuen was referred to as one of the authorities whose opinion had bolstered up the Government in taking this step. He had no access to the private communications that might have passed between the noble Lord and those whom he was said to have advised, but he listened to every word of the noble Lord's speech in the House of Lords, and could say that it was an absolute condemnation of the scheme. He said:—The whole pith and essence of this scheme of yours depended on your not tearing out the vitals of the battalions at home in order to give life and substance to the battalions abroad.290 He could not but regret that no alternative Measure could be tried. Was it impossible to carry out the object in view by some scheme in the direction of longer service—providing they could maintain recruiting under longer service—or by substituting for the system of deferred pay, which many of them thought mistaken and unwise, a differential scale, under which men could get increased pay according to the length of service. Those were experiments in which the Government would have been supported experiments which they might have made without rousing any of the grave anticipations and fears which they had roused in military minds by their present suggestions. This was no Guards' question; it was not a question in which the Guards were fighting for their own hands alone. There was not a distinguished soldier in the House, no matter to what branch of the Service he belonged, who would not re-echo and emphasise every word, or, at any rate, the spirit of what he had said. If the Government were to poll the Army through they would not find any practical men who had not seen the hollowness and misfortune of the present proposal. He had another reason for trusting that the Government would listen to the moderate request now made. Many of the hon. Members who agreed with him were strong and consistent supporters of the Government, and they did not wish to see the Government embark on an experiment which was foredoomed to failure. They preferred to see the failure. If he might venture to whisper in the ear of the Government—[laughter; the hon. and gallant Gentlelman having spoken throughout in a loud tone]—he would say, "Don't take of another scheme and fail." They preferred to see the Government's experiments successes. Considering their opportunities, the Government might have had rather more emphatically the courage of their opinions. With the expansion of the Empire, it was absolutely necessary there should be expansion of the Army. Would it not, therefore, have been bolder and more genuine for the Government to have come to the country and said:—We have increased responsibility, we have increased places of danger, and we call upon the country to provide the means adequate to 291 defend those spots of danger, and to carry out that responsibility"?They wanted an increase of 11 battalions. Conjure as they liked, they could not, by adding three battalions, get the fighting strength of 11 battalions. He had heard it said the Government had some hope that the course of events would enable them to bring home two battalions from Africa. The recent speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Prime Minister, and the Colonial Secretary—which he had heard with delight—certainly did not point in the direction of the withdrawal of any troops from Africa. Would it not have been far wiser and more courageous to have faced the real necessity than to have put the present petty and inconsiderable scheme before the country? He asked the authorities—not in the name of the Guards, but on the broad ground that by the present proposal they would decrease the efficiency of the Army—to reconsider the matter in the direction of, at all events, maintaining that amount of efficiency which there was at present.
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BEODRICK,), Surrey, Guildford
who was received with cheers, said: My hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down began his speech by telling us that the House was not to suppose that because he found himself unable to join the Government in this particular Measure he was, therefore, in any way opposed to their general Army programme. Now, I can go further than that towards meeting him. I perfectly recognise the feelings which have animated hon. and gallant Members behind me who have spoken so strongly on behalf of that part of the Army with which they have been associated, but I can assure them that the Government have proposed these additions, not merely from the consideration of the Army at large, but from the consideration also of the efficiency of the Brigade of Guards. I perfectly recognise the right of my hon. and gallant Friend who introduced this subject to raise the question of the efficiency of the Guards as affected by this scheme. It is a question on which I have the less difficulty in meeting him, because the scheme has been already considered from that standpoint by the Commander-in-Chief 292 and the Secretary of State. A first and main object of this scheme is to improve the existing military organisation of the Brigade of Guards. We wish to improve that organisation, not merely in reference to great European wars, but also in respect to small wars, and, in order to make that good, let me ask the House to consider for a moment what is the present organisation of the Brigade of Guards. It is well known to nearly every Member of the House that there are three regiments with seven battalions, one regiment with throe battalions, and two regiments with two battalions each. That makes an organisation which does not specially commend itself to any military system. If it is better for a regiment to have three battalions than to have two, or vice versa, obviously the Guards' organisation is not in itself ideal, and my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke with such force to-night, the Member for West Somerset, himself admitted that when he said we had at present through the Guards, with their reservists, the power to send, out of seven battalions, only four battalions in case of a European war. The amount that we can send from the Guards is smaller proportionally that we can send from any other regiments in the Army. [Sir A. ACLAND-HOOD: "I said without reservists."] I think he said four battalions with reservists, and then proceeded to discuss the subject afterwards on the system of three battalions without reservists.
§ *SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
I said four battalions, with reservists behind them to fill up casualties in the field.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
My hon. and gallant Friend has now made his meaning plain, but I am afraid if I were to dissect that figure I should have to show, on the authority of the Adjutant General that, even including a fair proportion of reservists, it would be impossible with the present Guards' organisation to send more than four battalions out of the country at the same time. That in itself is a serious matter, and I think that the House will agree that if you are to have a corps d'élite at all—and we attach the greatest importance to the influence of a corps d'élite on the Army—that body of troops ought to bear some proportion to the size of the Army you can send 293 abroad. Now, the four battalions of Guards is in itself a very small proportion, and it is a strong desire of the Commander-in-Chief that in case of war it should be possible, as it ought to be possible, to send abroad, not four battalions, but six battalions of Guards, so that you might employ a whole division of Guards in support of the two army corps, or in the two army corps, which this country can provide. Therefore, as the first point in the organisation of the Guards, we take as a cardinal condition of the efficiency of those regiments that we should be able to increase the strength at which they would go abroad by one-half. Then we come to the question of small wars. Again, I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Somerset admitted a good deal more in his speech than he himself is aware of. There is a general belief in the country that every battalion of Guards is at this moment lit to go abroad in its present condition. That is not the case. I am very sorry to dispel the belief that prevails, because any belief in Army efficiency on the part of the public is very useful at the present moment when that belief is not too liberally bestowed. [A laugh.] But my hon. and gallant Friend alluded to the campaigns of 1882 and 1885, and I see around me more than one officer who took part in those campaigns in the ranks of the Guards. What were we able to do for the small war in 1882 by the seven battalions of Guards? The best we were a able to do was this. Out of the seven battalions we were able to send three abroad. At what strength were we able to send them? We could not send them at the full strength of 1,000 men, at which battalions should be sent on foreign service, but we sent them at the following strength:—The 2nd Battalion of Grenadier Guards, 761 strong; 2nd Battalion of Coldstream Guards, 760; 1st Battalion of Scots Guards, 764. How were these battalions made up? They were made up by draining in the most remorseless manner the other battalions at home. [Hon. MEMBERS: "No, no!" and laughter.] Allow me. The 2nd Battalion of Coldstream Guards had in its ranks 217 men out of 760 belonging to the 1st Battalion. The 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards had in its ranks 213 of the 2nd Battalion which was left at home. The 2nd Battalion of 294 the Grenadier Guards had in its ranks 250 men furnished by the 1st and 3rd Battalions.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the corresponding figures for the Line battalions?
§ *SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
What was the average service of these men? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware it was over five years?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I cannot tell the average service, but I believe the men were over 20 years of age, and that over one year's service was the test.
I am very glad if the average was five years' service, but that was not the test applied, as the Adjutant General informs me. The question was that the Guards should provide as full a brigade as could be provided, and in doing so—I do not say it by way of reproach—["Hear, hear!"]—I am only speaking of the system as we found it—the military authorities were compelled to take the numbers I have given from I the battalions remaining behind. What was the experience of the Suakin expedition in 1885? In respect of that I should like to tell the House at once that I have reason to think that in the figures I have to give are included the men who served in the Camel Corps on the Nile. The 3rd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards had 804 men, and of these 346, or nearly one-half, were provided by the 1st and 2nd Battalions. The 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards took 808 men to Egypt; of these 290 were taken from the 2nd Battalion. The 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guards took 812 men, and of these 360 men were from the 1st Battalion. These figures speak for themselves. They prove beyond doubt that, if for a small war you require to send a brigade of Guards at this moment, the best you can do is to send three battalions out of the seven at a strength 200 below the fighting strength of a battalion; and you can only arrive at that strength by deducting from 200 to 300 men from the battalions at home, whoso efficiency is thereby seriously impaired. 295 My first point is, therefore, that by placing three battalions at Gibraltar on a high establishment, we shall mitigate that evil. We shall, as far as these battalions are concerned, have a nucleus in the case of a small war from which we may hope to get a brigade of Guards of fairly high strength without, unduly depleting the battalions at home. All my hon. and gallant Friends have urged that the battalions at Gibraltar will be inefficient because they cannot be trained—[cheers]—and that the battalions at home will become inefficient because they will be so depleted and will to a large extent consist of recruits. It has been boldly asserted over and over again by officers who have served there, that a regiment on a Mediterranean station is quite unfit to take the field. Let me investigate these facts, if they are facts—not on my own authority, but on the information drawn from the men who have the best right to advise us on these matters. In the first place, although the whole of this discussion has had reference to Gibraltar, it must be remembered that the Secretary of State the other night, in the House of Lords, spoke of the Mediterranean and, although I am quite ready to discuss this question from the point of view of Gibraltar alone, it must not be supposed that I am tying the Government down to Gibraltar as the only station to which the Guards may be sent. As to the service of the men in the Guards, the majority of them are not three-years men. Two-thirds of them are on seven years' engagements. But what is the position as to training at Gibraltar? I dare say that most of my hon. and gallant Friends have been there, and I candidly admit that I have not. Really, from the picture given, the House would assume that there was no place for drill, target practice, or manœuvres, and that nothing but sentry-go and such like duties was attempted. ["Hear, hear!"] I have had the advantage of seeing maps of Gibraltar and of having them expounded to me by officers who have served there many years. They inform me that there is ample room for all the ordinary company and battalion drill. As to target practice, there is target practice at 800 yards; and a young soldier trained to shoot up to 800 yards cannot be said to lose the whole of his military training. It has been stated that there 296 is no field-firing at Gibraltar. It is not the fact. The Quartermaster-General informs me that there are ranges properly laid out for field-firing, with targets for shooting down hill—which is the best practice for young soldiers—up to 1,400 and 1,800 yards. I am told that there are no manœuvres. Has it been the practice of the Guards to go to manœuvres every year? I have taken down the occasions during the last three years on which battalions of the Guards have attended manœuvres. In 1894 four battalions of the Guards joined the field column at Aldershot. In 1895 three battalions went to the manœvres in the New Forest, and in 1896 three battalions attended the small manœuvres at Aldershot. Therefore it follows that three battalions of Guards went to manœuvres twice in three years and missed one year, while four battalions went once in three years and missed two years. Will anyone tell me that it is not a strained view of the situation as to Gibraltar to say that a battalion going there for one year will lose the efficiency which it had gained in the preceding two years, because of the loss of manœuvres for that one year—manœuvres which it might not have attended had it been in England? I must say that, speaking as we are of some of the choicest troops in the Army, that is a strange and unwarrantable conclusion. As to efficiency for war after a period of service in the Mediterranean, it appears from statistics, which I gave in reply to a question this afternoon, that there is less sickness, less invaliding, and less death at Gibraltar than at home stations, taking them all round. As to the fitness of those battalions for war, I would appeal to the evidence given by the Adjutant-General before the Wantage Committee six or seven years ago, without any reference to this scheme. He was asked, "On what regiments would you rely for active service to go first into the field?" He said, "The battalions on the Mediterranean stations are those best suited both by their character and geographical position to be the first employed for the purpose of an expeditionary force." The last 11 battalions that have served on those stations have served there on an average three years 297 each—a much longer period than is proposed for the Guards.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
Does that opinion of the Adjutant-General refer to soldiers of three years' service or longer?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
They are men recruited, no doubt, for seven years—["hear, hear!"]—but they were also men who had spent three or four years at Gibraltar, and who, if the argument of the hon. and gallant Member for Somerset held good, being largely drafted from the Home Battalion, had not the advantage of knowing their officers. We propose in the allotment of drafts to the various battalions to avoid that difficulty. I wish to make it perfectly clear that if the results of the Gibraltar training had been such as my hon. and gallant Friends imagine, there are no two men who would have been more adverse to proposing such a station for the Guards than the Adjutant-General and the Commander-in-Chief. The next point of hon. Gentlemen is that the battalions at home become inefficient from depletion. What are the facts? A Line battalion goes abroad for 15 or 10 years. During the whole of that time 720 men in the battalion at home have to find drafts for the 1,000 nun abroad—that is, to keep 280 men abroad above the strength of the home battalion. The Guards are going out for one year, or little more; therefore there would be, taking the establishments as they now stand, 744 men. on the establishment at home, and abroad 920; and the difference between these two is only 180. To make that up you have two battalions to draw from instead of one. Therefore, at the worst, the drain on the home battalions ought not to be more than one-third of that on the Line battalions at home. I cannot follow my hon. and gallant Friend through all his figures for this reason, that his assumption is fundamentally different from the assumption made at the War Office. Nearly a month ago, if not more, the authorities at the War Office put themselves into touch with the officers commanding the various regiments of the Guards in order to obtain from them what, in their opinion, were the difficulties 298 that were required to be met in the working out of the scheme. These opinions are being most carefully considered at the present moment with the view—which I hope will be successful—of meeting the objections made by the officers commanding these regiments, lint every figure upon which my hon. and gallant Friend has gone has been based on the assumption that in a certain October or April we are suddenly to raise the battalion's home strength of 741 to the Gibraltar strength of 921. That, we think, would be a very crude way of going to work. ["Hear, hear!"] We have no idea that it would be desirable to face the obvious difficulties of transferring men of the Guards by any such rapid change as would be involved in that proposal. ["Hear, hear!"] Our suggestion and the lines on which we are working are these. When a battalion goes to Gibraltar on full strength in a certain October, we shall bring the next battalion which goes out 12 or 18 months later up to an intermediate strength between the strength of the home battalion and the strength of the Gibraltar battalion. There will then be only half the difference between 744 and 921 to make up. We propose to give the Guards what they have never had hitherto, a depot—that is, a depôt outside the strength of the regiment. ["Hear, hear!"] At present, if a man is measured for the Guards and is passed by the doctor he is immediately held to be on the strength of the regiment. We propose to have a depôt in the case of the Line regiments, which will enable us to keep a pool of recruits from which we can gradually strengthen the battalion which stands next for foreign service.["Hear, hear!"] Beyond that there was pressed on the War Office by the Wantage Committee and by some colonels who had been consulted that it would not only be a great advantage to the Guards themselves, but a great advantage to the Reserve, if a certain number of the very large force of Reservists who belong to the Guards were encouraged to serve rather longer in that force. ["Hear, hear!"], At the present time, a man, when he conies to three years, has to say down whether he will serve for seven years: and if he does not 299 he goes to the Reserve for nine years, a process which does not tend to his more effective training. We think it probable that, either by allowing men who have gone from the battalion to come back, if of good character and accepted by the colonel, or by allowing men to serve for an additional number of years, if unwilling to serve for the full term, we shall obtain for service in the Mediterranean a number of trained men who will have given one or two years' more service in the ranks and less in the Reserve. ["Hear, hear!"] That will at least give a stimulus to recruiting. A man who enlists in the Guards will know that from the day he leaves the regiment he is free at any time, if he fails in obtaining employment, and if his conduct is good, to return to the colours and serve another portion of his time. [Cheers.] We look to that and to a considerable rise in the establishment of the battalion next for service and to the depôt to relieve us from the difficulties to which hon. Gentlemen behind have referred. I have been asked to state whether, having enlisted men for three years with the right to keep them on a fourth year if they are on service abroad, we shall take advantage of it by sending these men to Gibraltar towards the end of the third year, and detain them for a fourth on the plea that they are serving abroad. We do not intend to do that. ["Hear, hear!"] It would be, if not an actual breach of faith, a straining of the relations, at all events, with the men who had already joined. ["Hear, hear!"] We propose to rely on the fact—on which we think we have every reason to expect we can rely—that a very considerable number of Volunteers would be ready to complete their services abroad, and come home with the regiment, which gives them a very much better chance of employment. ["Hear, hear!"] The case of the married non-commissioned officers has been referred to. I can promise that their case will be carefully considered. ["Hear, hear!"] We know very well that they are an immense stay and backbone to the regiment—[cheers]—and in carrying out our proposals it is our desire, as much as any military man in the House, to keep all the battalions in an efficient condition by giving a careful consideration to the position of the married non-commissioned officers. 300 ["Hear, hear!"] I can only say, speaking generally, that, although, to adopt the phrase used by the Secretary of State for War in another place, we cannot admit the battalions of the same regiment are actually to be kept in "water-tight compartments," we fully recognise the undesirability from a military standpoint of constant transfers of men and officers from one battalion to another; and consequently, without giving absolute figures, which must be, to some extent, problematical, we can assure the House of Commons that the principle and substratum of the whole scheme is to preserve the individuality of battalions and to secure that if we have to send battalions to Gibraltar, there should still be two efficient battalions at home. ["Hear, hear!"] We come next to the very important question of recruiting. My hon. and gallant Friend has said that we cannot possibly get the recruits we want for the Guards without greatly lowering the standard of height. In touching the recruiting for the Guards we are touching, not the weakest, but the strongest point in our recruiting system. If you look to the Line, it is an extraordinary thing that the recruiting for the line under a voluntary system has been for many years as consistently good as it has been, seeing that our Line standard is higher than the standard in any foreign country. ["Hear, hear!"] But, at the same time, evidence is not wanting that if we were to strain the recruiting for the Line we would have either to lower the standard or to increase the attraction of the service. In the course of the last nine years we have had to take under the standard a certain number of special enlistments; although, as the late Secretary for State will bear me out, we have succeeded in turning those men into excellent soldiers after a year's training. But we cannot strain the recruiting of the Line too far. In 1889, we took 4,200 men, specially enlisted under the standard; in 1890, 7,900; in 1891, 11,600; in 1892,12,100; in 1893, 7,700; in 1894, 8,400; in 1895, 5,700; and in 1896, 5,000. Therefore, the House will see that for the last five years there has been a progressive improvement. Now, what has been the experience in the Guards? Fifteen years ago the standard for the Guards was 5ft. 7in. That was the standard when 301 the Guards accomplished some of their best deeds abroad—["hear, hear!"]—und it is a higher standard than the standard of the Guards of any foreign Power. In 1882 the standard was still 5ft. 7in. During the last 15 years it has been gradually raised to 5ft. 9in., at which figure it stood for four years up to two months ago. Consequently there has been such an increase in the supply of recruits for the Guards over the demand that we have been able to raise the standard by two inches during the last 15 years. The Adjutant-General says on that point:—The average annual number of recruits taken for the Foot Guards during the last four years has been 1,142. We estimate that after the two new battalions are raised and the three foreign battalions raised to the foreign establishment, and the extra men so raised kept up, we shall, during a period of eight years from the commencement, have required 4,867 more recruits than are now considered necessary to keep up the existing seven battalions. Our average annual requirements during eight years will, therefore, be 1,142 plus 608, or 1,750 recruits per year for the Guards. Now, in 1883, with the standard at 5ft. 7in., we raised 1,727 recruits; in 1884, with 5ft, 7in., 1,712 recruits; in 1887, with 5ft, 8in., 1,266 recruits; in 1891, with 5ft. 8in., 1,604 recruits; and in 1892, with 5ft. 8in., 1,832 recruits. In 1891 and 1892 men under 20 years of age were taken at 5ft. 8in. In September 1892, the standard was raised to 5ft, 8in. for all; in October 1892, to 5ft, 8½in.; and in December. 1892, to 5ft. 9in., at which it remained till January 1897. These figures seem to justify our belief that we shall raise and keep up the extra men for the Guards without au undue reduction of standard.Of course, in the matter of recruiting it is impossible to dogmatise. It all depends on the state of trade. ["Hear, hear!"] To-morrow 100 men may come in, and for a fortnight after we may not get a single man. But it will be said, all this depends on the popularity of the service, and your proposals will decrease the popularity of recruiting in the Guards. Well, I should like to read to the House the views of the Recruiting Department on this point, The report from the recruiting officer says:—With regard to recruiting for the Guards it appears that a large proportion of men from London or its immediate neighbourhood have a preference for other corps. These men have been frequently questioned as to why they prefer other corps, and the usual answer is desire for change; either a wish for foreign service or a desire to see the world, places where the 302 conditions of life are very different to what they are in England, and places where they may hope to earn war medals.The report further stated thatabout half the men, more or less, who are of the Guards' standard and come up to enlist do not take the Guards because they want to see foreign service.That is not an opinion written to order or asked for, but the opinion volunteered before oven the question was raised, and I think we have a right to hope that the popularity of recruiting will not be reduced, but may be stimulated, by the prospect of some foreign service, especially in the face of figures showing that for some time past we have been raising the standard and that we do not require a larger number of recruits than we have been able to raise during some past years. ["Hear, hear!"] I have, I fear, burdened the House with many details—[cheers] but I have been anxious to show to those who disagree with our proposals that, at all events, these proposals have not been lightly taken up, but that the whole matter, with many criticisms offered, has been fully considered by the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, having said so much about the efficiency of the Guards, I will refer to the manner in which the Government proposal will affect the efficiency of the Line. We have had 141 Line battalions forced to perform a great deal more work than it was ever the intention of Parliament that they should be called upon to do. The principle laid down at the time of short service was that there should be a battalion at home for every battalion sent abroad. But since 1874 there has not been a single year in which that intention has been realised—["hear, hear!"]—and the consequence has been that the drafts to maintain that principle have been an immense strain on the efficiency of the regiments at home. Every man and officer in the Line at present has to do from 12 to 15 months' service abroad out of every 24 months he serves the Queen. That enormous strain is one which was never contemplated in our Army system. The question we have to face is, how is that strain to be relieved.' ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. and gallant Member for Shropshire (Colonel Kenyon-Slaney) said the 303 proposal of the Government was a miserable dole. But this so-called dole involves an addition of nearly 8,000 men to the Army at an ultimate cost of £450,000 a year. ["Hear, hear!"]
SIR HENRY CAMPBELL-BANNER-MAN (Stirling Burghs)
This particular scheme?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
No, not this particular scheme. My hon. and gallant Friend was speaking of the whole Government proposal as a miserable dole, and he argued that it was desirable to add 11 battalions to the Army. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, by sending out three Guards' battalions we are avoiding the necessity of raising six new Line battalions, and by doing that we avoid the necessity of raising and of expending £200,000 a year permanently, making our.£450,000 up to £650,000. We also avoid the initial expenditure which would raise our requirements for military works from £5,500,000 to £6,000,000. That is not all, because you could not be sure of getting the number of Line recruits you want unless you grant an increase of pay. If you gave 3d. a day extra pay I do not think that that would have the least effect on recruiting, and yet 3d. a day would add nearly a million sterling to the annual Estimates. Therefore, you are asking us to embark in a very dangerous and difficult operation if you call upon us to substitute for our present proposal the much greater proposal which finds so much force in, the minds of my hon. and gallant Friends. I have been asked to say whether the present scheme is the scheme of the Army Board or of the Government. The sending of the three battalions abroad has unquestionably been commended to the Secretary of State by the Commander-in-Chief and by the Army Board, and the Commander-in-Chief considers that the scheme will tend to the military efficiency of the Guards. ["Hear, hear!"] The question of what addition should be made to the Army was one which the. Commander-in-Chief and the Army Board had to consider in relation to the number of regiments that the Government, deemed it necessary at a given time to keep abroad. The Cabinet must be masters of the situation. They have the key of matters abroad by which they can decide what force may be needed; at all events, what operations it may be necessary to 304 carry out. ["Hear, hear!"] In the present year the Government have accepted from the Army Board and from the Commander-in-Chief the suggestion that an equivalent number of battalions should be kept at home to those which are to be kept abroad. Therefore, the scheme is a military proposal and not merely a Government proposal. ["Hear, hear!"] Let the House consider how we are placed. We have to decide how to meet this difficulty. We have on the one hand a proposal to send the Guards to the Mediterranean, and on the other hand Ave have a proposal that we should make a large addition to the Army at a great cost, which would become an enormous cost, if we found we could not get the men under the present regulations without increasing the pay. But having got the men we should only have, according to the Adjutant General, troops outside the organisation of our Army Corps, and maintained merely to keep up foreign relief. There is a third course, that of leaving matters alone, but I do not think the House would take this third course, as it would, in the opinion of every military authority in the country, result in the inefficiency, through overstraining, of certain Line battalions. ["Hear, hear!"] We have adopted the first alternative. We have taken the advice of those who will have to work the system, and who will be responsible for carrying it out. If Ave adopted the second we should be taking the advice of men who certainly have a right to speak on the matter, but who, after all, are not responsible for finding a remedy for the difficulty we have to provide against. ["Hear, hear!"] I must say here that I cannot help feeling impressed by the fact that a feeling has been experienced that this scheme has been adopted hastily, in order to meet a recognised and a difficult problem, but at the risk of spoiling what is almost best in our military organisation. This is not the first time the scheme has been brought forward. It was first proposed by the Duke of Cambridge, the late Commander-in-Chief, who desired to add battalions to the Guards and to send Guard Battalions to the Mediterranean. I am sure that the House will agree that there is no man in this country who is less willing to suggest a change for the sake of change than the late Commander-in-Chief. 305 ["Hear, hear!"and laughter.] The scheme was not carried out by the Governmen of that Jay because an increase in the Army was not decided upon. It was proposed again in 1891 by Lord Wantage's Committee. Lord Wantage was himself a distinguished Guardsman; he served in peace and war with the Guards, and while with them won the Victoria Cross at Inkermann—[cheers]—and as to this proposal he had the support not only of General Fielding, himself a Guardsman, who was then Inspector General of recruiting, and therefore conversant with the whole question, but of all the four selected colonels of Line regiments, every one of whom must have been cognisant of the conditions of Mediterranena service. ["Hear, hear!"] It was again, proposed by the military authorities in the present year. Complaint has been made that the officers who are themselves commanding the Brigade of Guards have not been consulted in this matter, and it has been asked, why did we go to the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Conuaught, and Sir P. Stephenson? Reference was made to them only because, by the Queen's regulations, these three officers are, as I understand, the officers specially charged with considering any proposal out of the ordinary' routine which may affect the Brigade of Guards. Lord Wolseley has also been cited. May I read the opinion of Lord Wolseley'.' ["Hear, hear!"] He has, unfortunately, been prevented by illness from attending in the House of Lords, where he would have desired to express his views, but he wrote me this under date of yesterday and authorised me to read it to Parliament:—Gibraltar always was a popular station with the Army, and I believe that an experience of foreign service will be beneficial to the Brigade of Guards. Nothing has reached me which makes me think that it will be otherwise than popular with the men. Bearing in mind the condition of Line battalions that have spent several years in the Mediterranean, I see no reason to fear that the tour of service proposed will impair the efficiency of the Brigade. On the other hand, as a matter of military organisation, by a careful arrangement of the recruiting as between the battalions, we shall insure six battalions of Guards being fit for service in case of a big war, instead of four as at present, which will be a great improvement upon our existing organisation.That is Lord Wolseley's opinion. [Cheers.] I have said so much as to what soldiers 306 feel that I should like to say a word as to what civilians feel on this subject. I know how little the opinion of any civilian is worth on a military question, but this is not merely a question of military organisation. It is to some extent a question of military sentiment, and in a sentiment which concerns the Guards civilians have as much right to share as military men. I say this—that there is not a man on this Bench who would have raised one finger in this work if he had believed he was doing anything to impair the efficiency of the Brigade of Guards. ["Hear, hear!"] I know I can say for Lord Lansdowne and for myself that there are no men in this country" who are more conscious than we are of the services which the Guards have rendered to the country in the past, and, whether they have been called upon to serve in the Peninsula or the Crimea, of the devoted manner in which they had performed every duty? which the country has laid upon them. [Cheers.] But we have in this matter, when every patriotic sentiment and every military instinct urges us to consider the efficiency of the Brigade of Guards, also to consider the responsibility which we owe to the Army. We are working a difficult system—" hear, hear!"]—a system which is necessarily complicated by all the various needs of the Empire at home and abroad, and we have adopted the course now before us as being, upon the whole, the best military solution of a most difficult military problem. We have against us the suggestion that we should, at a moment when every nation in Europe is spending every farthing it can scrape together for the most effective national defence, spend a large sum of money in raising more Line battalions to do that which, it is represented to us, with increased efficiency can be done by the Guards. My hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Motion asked that we would give this matter further serious consideration. I can assure him that nothing shall be wanting on our part of close scrutiny to see that nothing in the course of the changes occurs to impair either the character or the status, the physique or the efficiency' of the Guards regiments. [Cheers.] Un the other hand, I urge the House not to stand between the Government and a proposal which will add 2,000 choice troops to the British Army, and 307 will give to the Guards, as well as to the Army, that which in the opinion of our highest military advisers is the best military organisation for the country. [Cheers.]
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I am sure there will only be one opinion in the House—that the right hon. Gentleman has laid before us the case for this particular proposal of the Government with very great ability and clearness. ["Hear, hear!"] But there were two qualities in his observations which, I think, were conspicuous above all others. He was courageous and he was sedative—[laughter and cheers]—two qualities which were very much required at the moment he rose. [Laughter.] I think there was, in particular, considerable necessity for the latter quality. We had a series of speeches from hon. and gallant officers opposite which rose in crescendo scale until they culminated in the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Shropshire. [Laughter.] I was sometimes on the point of appealing to Mr. Speaker as to whether an hon. Member was justified in using language of menace to another Member within the walls of this House. [Laughter.] He spoke, it is true, as he told us, in a whisper—[loud laughter]—but it is well for the equanimity of the right hon. Gentleman opposite that he was not siting on this side of the House. If he had seen my hon. and gallant Friend as well as heard him, I am afraid his equanimity would have been disturbed. [Laughter.] But besides being sedative, the right hon. Gentleman was courageous, and this again was wanted. We have had a report in the newspapers, emanating, I presume, from those purlieus of the Press where there is so much more intimate knowledge of our motives and intentions than we ourselves possess, that the Government intended to treat any action contrary to this proposal of theirs as a want of confidence. The fault up to that point I had to find with the Government was that they exhibited a want of confidence in themselves and in their proposal. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman has supplied that lack by making a bold and clear and well-reasoned and well-considered defence of what they propose. The Secretary of State for War, on the other hand, having arranged apparently an artificial opportunity for 308 making a statement on this subject in another place, and thereby anticipating, I think, the action of this House and almost the right of this House—["hear, hear!"]—in a way which I think we ought, at all events, to comment upon if we do not protest against it, delivered a speech and explained these proposals as being of a hypothetical, tentative character, and spoke in a tone which was apologetic and almost penitential. That is not the way in which the confidence of the country will be gained for a considerable change of this nature. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore I am very glad that now we have from the right hon. Gentleman a fuller and more perfect explanation. The right hon. Gentleman has, however, put it on somewhat different grounds than those on which it was put in the House of Lords. The right hon. Gentleman, though he referred at the end of his speech to the necessity of dealing with the evils arising from the inequality of the regiments at home and abroad, founded, I think I am right in saying, the case for the proposal on the interest of the Brigade of Guards itself—that it was a desirable thing in itself, and then he proceeded to bring in Gibraltar and the other considerations as secondary matters, although important in themselves. That rather takes us by surprise, because we had not been led to regard the proposal from that point of view. It is not a matter on which I should like to give any strong opinion. My tendency is certainly to the belief that in all cases efficiency is increased by having at least three battalions en cadre helping each other. On the merits of the proposal, apart altogether from this question of equalising battalions, we are to have 2,000 men added to the British infantry. The question I think will arise first of all whether that is in itself necessary, because, if I am not wrong, we have added 20,000 within the last 20 years to the strength of the British infantry; and, secondly, the next point is whether any such addition of infantry is required for the duties of the Army. Ought it to be given to the Guards, or would it not be better to give it to some of the regiments of the Line? I think it is a matter certainly worthy of consideration whether this is the best form and whether there is the most urgent necessity for this increase of the infantry force. As 309 to the Guards themselves, I think they have every reason to feel proud of and satisfied with the manner in which their ease has been put before the House. [Cheers.] I say that for this reason. The Guards have indiscreet and foolish friends, in the Press and elsewhere, who on an occasion such as this raise the question of privilege and the question of breach of faith as to service and the questions of the irksome duties of garrison life. None of those questions have been raised on their behalf by any officer who has served with them—["Hear, hear!"]—and I feel perfectly sure that no such considerations would be urged by anyone of any rank connected with the Guards. ["Hear, hear!"] Their whole history goes to disprove the probability of any such line being taken, because they have always been ready, as has been said to-day, to thrust themselves forward into any difficult or unpleasant position in order to save possibly some of their comrades in the Army. [Cheers.] At the same time I do not enter into the technical arguments that were urged by many hon. and gallant Gentlemen. With some things that they said I could largely sympathise. There were others which I think were a little overstrained, but they were all arguments based on the real necessity of the efficiency of the Brigade. It does appear to me that the Guards are not likely to suffer, but rather to gain, from a certain share in foreign service. We have had some experience of it. Everyone knows the high pitch of efficiency to which the Brigade of Guards has risen at the present moment. The energy and the zeal of the officers, and the devotion, of the men—who can say how much that is due to the experience they had in Egypt and in the Soudan, by being taken out of the ordinary routine of their home duties and employed on work of that kind, even where that work is not that of actual warfare? I remember two or three years ago, when I had some small responsibility in the matter, we were hard pressed for a battalion, and it was almost arranged that a battalion of the Guards should be sent to Egypt, or sent in the first place to Gibraltar, with a view to their being moved afterwards; but that was a very different thing—it would have been giving them the benefit and variety of a 310 little foreign service; that was a very different thing from the proposal now before us, which, in the crude form first presented—though considerably modified now—meant the relegation in perpetuity of three battalions of the Guards to fortress duty at Gibraltar. Now, I am not going to depreciate Gibraltar or say a word that might hurt the feelings of anyone interested in that place. It may be the most healthful and pleasant place a battalion could be stationed at; but at the same time anyone can see that a regiment stationed there does not obtain the same variety of experience and instruction that the Guards obtain even at home. I confess I regard with great—I will not say an absolute or insuperable objection—but certainly with great dislike the idea, as I have said, of constituting Gibraltar a Guards' station, with three battalions of Guards always there, and I think it would be very injurious probably in its effects to the discipline and efficiency of what may well be said to be among the most efficient part of the Army. Therefore I should hope that there will not be on the part of the Government any absolute committal of themselves to that destination of the Guards. The right hon. Gentleman has raised, not probably a new question, but he has adopted a new way of looking at the question—namely, with the addition of three battalions, a desirable thing. At the same time it is all in the future; there is very little provision for it.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Quite so, but I do not know whether this will be proceeded with as rapidly as possible with a view to secure two battalions as soon as possible, or whether it will be proceeded with by a tentative process; we certainly gathered from a statement made in another place that the process would be exceedingly tentative. I do not know in these circumstances that I can add anything to what has already been said. The right hon. Gentleman has made out a strong case from his point of view, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke on behalf of the Guards has made what in many respects was a well-founded protest against what we believe to be the intentions of the Government, and we are in 311 the position that we cannot divide and by actual vote express our opinion, and therefore it will be convenient to many Members not to commit themselves too hard on one side or the other. But I trust, and many Members will agree with me, especially after the exhibition on Monday and to-day of the sentiments of Guards officers towards the Brigade and their devotion to its interests, with their willingness to listen to anything which is likely, in the opinion of high authorities, to benefit those interests—after that, I say, I hope that we shall have some certainty that the views of those who represent the Guards will be considered to some extent, and if, on full consideration, it appears to the Government, as it appears to some of us, that to carry out the original proposal would be detrimental to the Guards, it will not be persevered in.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right hon. Gentleman in the closing' sentences of his brief speech indicated his view that Members of the House had better be cautious before committing themselves to one side or the other on this controverted question, and I am bound to say I never heard a speaker more carefully carry out in his own conduct the advice he gave. ["Hear, hear!"] I. declare that, after listening to the right hon. Gentleman with all the attention I invariably give to his speeches, I have not the slightest idea whether he approves or disapproves of the policy so ably expounded by my right hon. Friend near me. ["Hear, hear!"] Indeed, I should almost conjecture that the right, hon. Gentleman had come to the House prepared with a speech which after my right hon. Friend's remarks he did not think it expedient, to deliver—that he found the enemy too strongly posted, and was not prepared to bring up his forces in the way of serious attack. ["Hear, hear!"] The right, hon. Gentleman, under these circumstances, took refuge in the ancient Parliamentary manœuvre of trying to draw a distinction between the utterances of the Government in this. House and the utterances of the Government in another place, between the view of the Secretary of State expressed in the House of Lords and the view expressed by the Under Secretary in the House of Commons, and he went the length, I think, of describing 312 the difference between the statements as amounting to a change of front.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
No, I did not say a change of front. I said totally different reasons were given, as has happened once or twice before in statements from, the present Government.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
To those who do not come down with a speech cut and dried it must necessarily occur that, the arguments they may think it expedient to put forward on any occasion of this kind are determined by the nature of the attack. Lord Lansdowne was the first to open the scheme, and did not and could not foresee the extent and nature of the criticisms that would be offered against it. In consequence of that he dwelt more upon one than upon another aspect of the question, and in explaining the views of the Government doubtless he did not insist to the same length as my hon. Friend on certain points on which subsequent, experience has shown the strongest, feeling is entertained by those who have expressed and have a right to express the feeling of the Brigade of Guards in a matter so nearly affecting their interests. When the right hon. Gentleman said the Secretary of State wanted confidence, and expressed no belief in his own scheme I directly traverse that statement. ["Hear, hear!"] Not a word can be extracted from the noble Lord's speech which is fairly open to that interpretation. The noble Lord did say that if the design was found to have different consequences to those he anticipated, of course, a change of policy would have to occur. Did he express any anticipation that, evil results would be experienced?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Quote the sentence. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not press the right hon. Gentleman. He is not bound to have the noble Lord's speech with him, nor am I justified in requiring corroboration of every word said; but this I can say—that after reading that speech I derive from it a very different impression, and I have had the opportunity, which the right, hon. Gentleman does not, possess, of a great deal of personal conversation with the noble Lord, and I can in the most explicit terms contradict, the impression which the right hon. Gentleman has himself derived 313 from the speech and has sought to convey to the House. The explanations given by the Secretary of Slate and the Under Secretary are consistent with each other in the positive statements they contain, and the general impression they were intended to convey as to the future of the scheme now initiated. I do not think it is necessary, after what has not fallen from the right hon. Gentleman and what has fallen from my right hon. Friend, that, I should occupy the time of the House in going over again the ground so ably traversed by the Under Secretary. A more able, vigorous, temperate, and lucid defence of Government policy was never delivered at this box by any Minister of this or previous Governments. ["Hear!"] He traversed the whole ground and proved to every man who listened to him how carefully the subject had been thought out, and it would be mere impertinence on my part if I pretended to the House that I could add to the weight and value of what my right hon. Friend has said. Before I sit down it is only necessary for me to say that I appreciate the spirit which has been shown by those Gentlemen who, having themselves served in the Brigade of Guards, have a special right to take up the defence of the interests of the Brigade in this House. Neither I nor my colleagues complain of the line they have taken. If regimental officers cease to have pride in the history of their regiment, and to interest themselves in its present condition and future prospects, it will be a had day for the Army. The course they have pursued is one that requires no apology, however much Ave may have felt that the criticisms directed against us were criticisms necessarily delivered under this disadvantage, that they could not be fully acquainted with the whole view of the Government in regard to this matter. Let me simply summarise what my right hon. Friend has said. We not only do not desire to do anything that may lead to the injury of the Guards, we desire to do everything to improve their position and importance. We do not desire to make the home battalions weaker than the home battalions are at present; on the contrary, we believe the strength of these battalions will be greater than at present. In addition to these home battalions thus increased in strength we give to the Guards three 314 battalions, all of higher strength than the Guards have ever had before. All this we mean to do without, interfering with that traditional character which has marked out the Guards as a special branch of the Army. If our anticipations are fulfilled, as I doubt not they will be, I am sure my hon. and gallant, Friends will agree that the Government instead of injuring the Guards have done them good service. If, on the other hand, our confident anticipations prove to be ill-founded, then, of course, the Government will be obliged to retrace the step they have taken. If that be to regard this as an experiment, then an experiment I admit it is, as everything in the nature of a change must be an experiment, but it is an experiment of which we do not doubt the results, results beneficial to the Guards and to the whole Army. The right hon. Gentleman complained I hat my right hon. Friend did not dwell at greater length on the question of the inequality between the home and foreign battalions, and he contrasted his speech in this particular with the speech of Lord Lansdowne. My right hon. Friend said quite enough on that subject to indicate how important in the view of our military advisers it is to diminish as far as possible that inequality. If you want your Army to be efficient you ought not to throw this undue burden upon the foreign battalions alone. That being so, would appeal to my hon. and gallant Friends behind me, and the House at large, to support the Government in the only practicable method of really dealing with this difficulty. ["Hear, hear!"] The Under Secretary has shown that if you take the only other solution—that of raising six new battalions of the line—you would be met by two difficulties, each of a formidable character. You would be met with the recruiting difficulty, which might be great in the new battalions for the Guards, but which would be still greater in an attempt to raise six battalions of the Line. You would also be met by the financial difficulty, which is, indeed, not present to the mind of many irresponsible military advisers of the Government, but which, I am sure, will have due weight with all my hon. and gallant Friends behind me. ["Hear, hear!"] They know already that impatience is constantly expressed 315 at the immense cost of the British Army. ["Hear, hear!"] They know that in the country at large the expenditure on the Army is not of so popular a character as expenditure upon the Navy—["hear, hear!"]—and they also know that we are at this moment, and under this scheme, actually proposing a considerable permanent addition to the Army Estimates. I would put it to all those who, like my hon. and gallant Friends, are interested in the efficiency and in the reform of the Army, whether it would not be very bad policy on our part if we were to ask for a scheme which would impose a far heavier charge upon the taxpayers than the one which we are actually proposing? I am convinced that it would not be to the interest of the Army as a whole—even apart from the difficulty of recruiting and the financial difficulty I have referred to, and which was developed by my hon. Friend—and that alone would be enough in my opinion to serve as a real reason why we should adopt the more economical rather than the more costly scheme. These are the broad grounds upon which I think we are justified in asking the supporters of the Government to back us up, not on party grounds, and in asking the House at large to support us in carrying out what we believe to be a real step in Army reform. [Cheers.] There are no greater enemies to Army reform, in my judgment, than those extreme Army reformers like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, who sneer at every change that is made, and are content with nothing but advocating revolutionary schemes by which the whole existing Army system would be upset. [Cheers.] Those who ask for so much never end. The only true friends of reform are the moderate reformers, and it is because this is a moderate and practical reform—a reform within the financial capacities of the State, a reform which will not bring behind it a public reaction against Army expenditure, but which will carry out a great improvement in our Army organisation—that I appeal both to the ordinary supporters of the Government and the House at large, and not least and not last, and not with the less confidence, to my hon. and gallant Friends who have, in this Debate, shown so much ability, and have with such justifiable warmth 316 defended the interest of that great brigade of which they have been members. [Cheers.]
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N. E.)
thought the Under Secretary and the First Lord of the Treasury had done no more than justice to the hon. and gallant officers who had spoken in the interests of the brigade in stating that in their opposition to the scheme of the Government they had been actuated by no selfish considerations. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not think that those who had objected to the proposals in connection with the Brigade of Guards would have had their objections altogether removed by what had been said by the Under Secretary. They would still, doubt whether the efficiency of the Guards would be affected by stationing certain battalions in the Mediterranean with the inevitable drafts which would have to be made from one battalion to another, and the consequent disturbance of the military training of the men. It would also be very unfortunate if the conditions and standard of the brigade which had kept so high, should manifestly fall off. He was bound to say he thought those who had been connected with the Brigade of Guards would recognise that the Under Secretary of State had shown that very grave consideration had been given to the objections expressed in the interests of the Guards, and there had been certain modifications of the scheme as it was originally understood. His right hon. Friend had stated that there would be a depôt for the service of the battalions maintained at home so as to act as a feeder. That was an important point which had often been recommended by more than one officer, so that other battalions might not be unduly drawn upon. He also approved of giving to men who would naturally pass into the Reserves, inducements to remain longer with their regiments so as to strengthen the battalions. He was thankful that this modification, which had often been suggested by every branch of the Army and resisted by the military authorities, was to be introduced into the general system of short service and the Reserves, and would be brought into force to obviate from the Guards the mischiefs which it was feared would be caused by the scheme of the Government as at first indicated. 317 He felt sure that the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury would give satisfaction. He had renewed the assurances of the Secretary for War, and had not diminished the effect of anything his colleague had said. If the scheme as regarded the Guards did not work well it was to be reconsidered. His right hon. Friend did not merely not say things he did not mean, but he found he generally meant more than he said, and he was sure he would carry out all he had promised. The Government that had done so much for the Army as well as the Navy would do something more than was proposed. Our military weakness was known to all the world. Only a few days ago an eminent Frenchman told him he wondered we did not increase our military forces. It was said that the Army had been increased in recent years by 20,000 men.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
did not think we had added a single column or battalion to the Army during the last 20 years. With the enormous increase of territory we had brought under British sway and in the present state of political trouble and unrest in the world, it was very necessary our military should be increased that we need not be afraid of our enemies, and the safety of the country might be assured. The way in which the Government had met the objections that had been raised would, he hoped, induce hon. Friends who had been connected with the Brigade of Guards not to offer any further opposition to the scheme. Without an efficient Army our diplomacy could hardly be successful. We could not obtain the respect and attention which such a Power as Great Britain ought to obtain in the world, and, above all, if unwelcome war should come we should not be able to meet it fairly. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
said that the Brigade of Guards, unlike other regiments which had left one station for a foreign war and returned to another, had, by their duties about the Sovereign, been localised in London. They had returned to London with untarnished colours from their engagements, small and great. ["Hear, hear!"] The strongest sympathy existed between the London population and the 318 Brigade of Guards, and he believed that on an emergency it would be possible, on the training basis of the Brigade of Guards, to raise rapidly a largo and admirable force. On public occasions of great assemblies of people in London the Guards were accepted by the people in the remarkable way in which they accepted the police. That tended to the preservation of order without the exercise of force. If they failed to recruit either their men or their officers as they were then recruited, the Guards would not fulfil their duties in war and peace as they then did. He was satisfied with the assurance of the first Lord of the Treasury that the new scheme would not be persevered in if it were found not to work well. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
repeated the inquiries he made last June as to whether anything had been done by the War Office to remedy the grievances of the Army Medical Department and attract candidates for appointment under it, who were lamentably deficient in number. There were 60 vacant appointments and only 25 or 30 candidates for them. With the prospective increase in the Army still more appointments would be available. The competition between the young men to obtain commissions in the Army was eager, and it was formerly so to obtain Army Medical appointments. The Army Medical Staff was much undermanned, and civilians had to be appointed at many military stations to fill up the gaps. It had been proposed to lower the standard of the examinations and to give the "chronics" a chance of allowing those to enter who had been three times "plucked." He hoped this would not be the case. Field-Marshal Lord Roberts said the Army needed as doctors the best medical schools could turn out. But, under the circumstances indicated, there seemed little chance at present of that ideal being realised.
*THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. J. POWELL-WILLIAMS,), Birmingham, S.
in the absence of the Under Secretary for War, replied that the grievances of the Army Medical Department had been carefully considered in detail by the Secretary of State. The representations made had commended themselves to him, but he himself was not in a position to say at present that 319 any distinct or specific step would be taken to remedy what was complained of. He suggested that the subject might be raised on the Estimates when the Under Secretary for War was in his place.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Supply considered in Committee:—
§ [The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, Mr. J. W. LOWTIIBR, in the Chair.]