Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 158,774, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding Her Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I rise to move that a number of land forces not exceeding 158,774 be granted to Her Majesty for the service of the Army during the ensuing year. During the two nights of discussion to which we have listened respecting the proposals which I am now about to lay before the House, it is a memorable fact that every speech or suggestion from every quarter has, so far as I am aware, been directed to a criticism of the smallness of the proposals which we submit. This is an experience as unprecedented as it is pleasurable. And it is the more remarkable because in a time of peace we are asking for the largest number of men which has ever been voted since 1815, except in one year of the Crimean war. We are moving Parliament to allow us to raise three new British battalions, two colonial battalions, one battery field artillery, and 3,500 garrison artillery. We have been asked repeatedly why we did not ask for six more battalions, and have been assured that if we had put a bold face on it we should have got the money. Well, that is a great inducement to a War Minister. It is more, it is a great temptation. If we have resisted it, it is not in the least from a want of keenness for national defence. To have 10,000 surplus men at Aldershot fit to go anywhere and fit to do anything, without calling out reserves or manipulating battalions, would be an ideal condition of 320 affairs, and would be the greatest relief to the mind of a War Minister. Some of our friends have said to me, and much has been said in the Press to a similar effect in the last few days, "You are neglecting your opportunities; ask for all you can get; you will never get such a chance again." That advice, seductive as it is, however, carries with it its own refutation. It means this—that the country will ask and Parliament will vote for large additions, but by the time the Bill comes in the hot fit will be over, and the reckoning will then come, as it has come often before. It is worth asking hon. Members to notice what have been these spurts and set-backs in the last 50 years, and how often this see-saw has occurred. In 1847 our military strength had sunk to a condition of perilous weakness. Lord Palmerston said in that year, "We have some 50,000 or 60,000 men on paper in the United Kingdom, including depôtes, skeleton battalions, recruits just raised, and invalids about to be discharged. We could not out of this motley mass collect an army of 20,000 cither in England or Ireland. We cannot increase our Regular Army to the requisite amount, because it would be too expensive to do so." This was the policy which led to the disastrous condition of the Army in the early part of the Crimean war. Every Englishman knows how our Army by its bravery compensated for the national neglect. In 1856 Parliament voted 246,000 troops, but on the declaration of peace, and even after the early indications of the Sepoy mutiny had taken place, Parliament reduced the forces in 1857 from 236,000 to 126,000, or little more than half those voted in the previous year. In 1864 Lord Palmerston, in the temporary access of fervour on behalf of national defence which then seized the country, added 6,000 men to the establishment, but two years afterwards this excess was rectified by reducing two companies from each battalion in the Army. In 1870 Lord Card well carried this further by reducing the Army to 113,000 men, besides reducing stores and material, and within a year the panic caused by the Franco-German war involved us in a hasty increase of 20,000 troops, with all the accompaniments of panic expenditure. Eight years later, in 1880–81, despite the fact that we 321 were at war in Afghanistan and had difficulties in South Africa, the Army was reduced again by 4,000 men. Thus the see-saw system was carried on with admirable regularity, but to the great disadvantage of the service, there having been five separate changes of policy between 185G and 1886. It has been carried on despite the fact that our possessions, and therefore our responsibilities have been steadily increasing, and that foreign nations one and all have been doubling and trebling their armaments during the same period, and it has had the worst possible effect on our Army organisation and on our national defence. ["Hear, hear!"] In the last ten years, I am glad to say, there has been a progressive increase, and with the measures now proposed the Army will be 10,000 stronger than it was in 1887, besides having 40,000 more men in the Army Reserve. And be it remembered that these increases have been accompanied by a rigid overhaul of every branch of our equipment for war; so that, even if the Secretary of State and the Army Board are not asking for the full numbers for which use could be found, a deliberate defined policy has been pursued. I told the Committee last year that we could not shrink from asking for what we thought absolutely necessary for the Army as for the Navy. I submit that we have had the courage of our opinions. We have not yet been in office 20 months. During that period we have proposed to the House on Army services alone a loan of £5,500,000; we have asked for an increase of close upon 8,000 men to the Army, which will cost us when complete, £600,000 a year; we have by Supplementary Estimates given the Volunteers £250,000, and spent large sums to equip the infantry with ammunition and the artillery with guns. By these means we propose to provide a sister battalion at home for every battalion which it is intended to keep permanently abroad. If we have gone no further, it is, as I have shown above, because, if we asked for anything which is not essential, we know by experience it will not be permanent. We have, moreover, in the matter of men, asked for as many as we believe we can recruit at this time on existing terms. If we raise questions which will cause a general reconsideration of the pay of the Army, 322 we must be prepared to show not merely that the occasion justifies the sacrifice, but that it is a sacrifice which the country is prepared to maintain. ["Hear, hear."] I look upon permanence as being the basis on which the Army system should be dealt with if it is truly and usefully to look after the needs of the country. ["Hear, hear!"] Now some criticisms have been expended in this and in preceding years on the gross total of the Estimates, and the heavy dead weight of non-effective pay which we have to carry. And first let me assure the Committee that, considerable as are the increases in expenditure for which it has become our duty to ask Parliament, we have not lost sight of economy in our pursuit of efficiency. Last year I endeavoured to present to the House some comparison between our expenditure and that of foreign countries and the results achieved, and, taking army corps against army corps, the comparison, making due allowance for the cost of a conscript as against a voluntary soldier, worked out not unfavourably. But I then pointed out that while we have a short-service Army under pay stronger by nearly 100,000 men than the long-service Army which preceded it, we are still cumbered with all the pensions of the long-service Army, and that we have to meet a scale of pensions and retiring allowances to officers granted in 1877 and 1881 in pursuance of the recommendations of Lord Penzance's Commission, which were calculated on an excessive scale, but on which we are bound to keep faith with the officers concerned. ["Hear, hear!"] What this burden is I can best make clear to the Committee by reading the successive columns of one hem alone. The retired pay of regimental officers in 1887 was £567,000; in 1888, £623,000; in 1889, £651,000; in 1890, £694,000; in 1891, £726,000; in 1892, £760,000; in 1893, £794,000; in 1894, £821,000; in 1895, £857,000; and in 1896, £886,000. Thus we have a rise of 56 per cent. in ten years—a rise which would have been far higher but for the continuous efforts made since 1886 to check it. ["Hear, hear!"] That is an item over which we have no control except in the way which I will explain to the Committee—namely, by raising the age of compulsory retirement for captains to 45 from the absurdly low age of 40, at which it stood in 1886, when nearly 323 half the officers of the Army were compulsorily cast at that age; by raising the colonels' retirement age from 55 to 57; by decreasing the general officers' list, and by denying the privileges of retirement in certain rants to officers who had not yet reached those ranks, or to officers who had not then entered the Army. By these means a decisive check has been put, or will be put as warrants take effect, to this great burden. ["Hear, hear. "] It is due to these efforts that the total vote for non-effective pay of officers has only increased £83,500 in the last ten years, and has now, I hope, practically reached its maximum. ["Hear, hear!"] But meantime the nation has annually to bear a charge of £3,000,000, over which we have no control, and to which I may here observe that, in my experience of the War Office, which is now of ton years' standing, with one small exception, the only addition which has been made is the compassionate allowances, granted, with the full assent of this House, to Indian Mutiny and Crimean veterans, which have cost us £30,500 a year—an expenditure which will, we believe, be satisfactory to the House—[cheers]—and which we look upon as one of the most justifiable items of expenditure to which a nation can be asked to contribute. [Cheers.] We have, therefore, to look for our economies to the effective services, and of this item of £15,000,000, large as it looks, when pay and similar obligatory charges are deducted, we have only £5,336,400 to play upon. It is on the heads of warlike stores, transport, clothing, and miscellaneous charges that we have to concentrate our attention and although I am far from saying that fresh economies may not yet be introduced in every department, yet our contracts are constantly and scrupulously overhauled, our prices for all necessaries are the lowest obtainable, and the output of our factories constitutes the cheapest, and, I may add, the most rapid and punctually delivered supply of the Army. ["Hear, hear!"] If the amount that we can give for our money does not, as we know is the case, satisfy all our critics, it is not for want of energy at headquarters. ["Hear, hear!"] Leaving now this question of economy, upon which I have dwelt merely for the purpose 324 of satisfying the Committee that we have not had it out of our sight, I would observe that the past year has been one of exceptional activity in the War Department. Early in the year we dealt promptly, and, I hope, to the satisfaction of Parliament, with the pressing needs of the field artillery in respect of the guns, of the infantry in regard to ammunition, and of the Volunteers in respect of capitation grant. ["Hear, hear!"] But beyond the provision of an increase to the Army and of the military works which have been already explained to Parliament, the military authorities have brought before the Secretary of State proposals for the reorganisation of the cavalry—[cheers]—and of reconsidering to some extent the service of officers in the different branches of the artillery. The organisation of our cavalry has for a long time given disssatisfaction. Hitherto we have had what one General called no organisation at all in the cavalry. It may be described as an organisation of separate units, none of which, excluding those in India, are in themselves large enough for independent action, and none of which have behind them any arrangement to prepare them for such action, while it may be said that there is absolutely no existing organisation for the use of cavalry in war. Convenience has laid down the establishment of cavalry regiments in India, and similarly convenience has prescribed the establishment for the cavalry regiments at home as best calculated to provide for the preparation of each regiment in turn for its Indian tour. Before proceeding to detail the present proposals, it must be stated that some years ago the cavalry were divided for this purpose into four corps—viz., Household Cavalry, three regiments; Dragoons, ten regiments; Lancers, five regiments; and Hussars, 13 regiments. In the following proposals it is proposed to maintain these four corps, and the corps of Household Cavalry may be dismissed from further consideration, as it is not proposed to interfere with the Household Cavalry. For active service the cavalry will be organised in divisions; each division will be composed of two brigades; each brigade will be composed of three regiments; each regiment will be composed of three squadrons. The squadron on service is to have 120 sabres, the regiment 378 325 sabres, the brigade 1,134 sabres, and the division 2,268 sabres, not including officers and staff, Besides this force, each army corps will have one regiment for divisional purposes, and one squadron for headquarters duties. Turning now to the organisation of the units composing this force, we have already, as stated, three corps. The corps of Dragoons, ten regiments, will remain as they are. The corps of Lancers, five regiments, will be made into six regiments by the 21st Hussars being converted into a Lancer regiment, to which it is understood that there would be no objection as the regiment was originally a Lancer regiment. The corps of Hussars will then consist of 12 regiments. Each corps, except the Dragoons, will, it is observed, be divided by three. We have 28 regiments in all, of which nine are permanently in India and two do not go to India. Both of these latter are Dragoon regiments, and it is proposed that they should in future take alternate turns with each other on the Indian roster. The effect of this will be to reduce the number of Dragoon regiments taking turns on the Indian roster to nine, the regiments in each corps then admitting of being divided into groups of three, each group having one regiment in India, one regiment at homo on a high strength ready to go abroad, and one regiment on a lower strength. ["Hear, hear!"] The effect of this arrangement as compared with the present establishments will appear from the following figures:—The number of regiments on the new higher establishment will be eight, as compared with six on the old. Each regiment on the new higher establishment will have 26 officers, as against 24 on the old; 108 noncommissioned officers, as against 102; 560 privates, as against 504; and 433 horses, as against 410. Comparing the new and the old lower establishments, the number of regiments on the new lower establishment will be nine, as against II; each regiment having 23 officers, as against 24; 93 non-commissioned officers, as against 100; 460 privates, as against 390; and 343 horses, as against 313. It will be observed from these tables that the regiments on the higher establishment, will be at a higher strength than those of the present higher establishment, and the regiments on the 326 lower establishment at a higher strength than those of the present lower establishment, and I would beg the Committee to note that the essence of the scheme is that the First Cavalry Division and divisional cavalry regiment will at all times be ready for active service, requiring no men or horses to complete numbers. ["Hear, hear!"] The other advantages claimed for the scheme are that the regiments on the lower establishment in the Second Division can at any time be made up to war strength by men and horses from the reserve, who would be lit for the ranks by the time the division could embark; that squadron officers in peace time will be trained to lead squadrons on war strength; that cavalry drafts for India will be composed of trained soldiers; that young horses will be saved from hard work to a far greater extent than can be done in squadrons on the present strength; and that senior officers will be accustomed to lead cavalry brigades—in fact, that they will learn in peace time those duties that may devolve on them in time of war, if only the House by passing the Military Works Bill will enable us to hold such manœuvres as will enable us to exercise the cavalry. ["Hear, hear!"] But certain changes are necessarily involved by the scheme, and they are as follows:—Certain changes in the foreign service roster, so as to insure the proportion of representative regiments of each corps being at homo at the same time; the abolition of the Canterbury depot, which will cease to train recruits for India, but will remain the headquarters of the cavalry riding establishment and the administrative centre for all matters connected with cavalry reserves; and great simplification of uniform. It is proposed that all regiments should keep their present full dress, but that the undress of the regiments of each corps should be assimilated. Let me make it perfectly clear that there is no intention to do away with the identity and historic associations of the present regiments. ["Hear, hear!"] We are well aware of the importance attached to these distinctions, and Lord Lansdowne believes that in sanctioning this scheme as the most effective organisation for the cavalry both in peace and war, he has fully safeguarded the regiments in these 327 respects. Although: the purchase of 432 additional horses has been met by savings in the current year, there will be some initial cost in the scheme, but there will be a small annual saving arising out of other economics which it enables us to, effect, while we have a satisfactory increase in the strength of the regiments.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
There are rather less non-commissioned officers of cavalry, and the depôt at Canterbury will not be so expensive as it is at present, and there is a slight change in the number of officers which, with the saving in pensions, will more than compensate for the expenditure on extra horses. Now, with regard to the artillery. Measures are in contemplation to divide the service of officers in the artillery between the garrison and mounted branches. That has been for a long time the subject of serious consideration. Some years ago a step was taken in this direction by posting officers to field or garrison artillery and treating horse artillery service as a sort of staff appointment. It was then held that the passing of officers from the mounted branch to the garrison artillery from time to time, though they had less knowledge of big guns than might be desirable, imparted life and smartness to the garrison artillery. But, despite this advantage, if it were one, it is clear that the great divergence in the nature of the two services makes the continuance of the system impossible. ["Hear, hear!"] A long course of garrison artillery makes a man unfit for the horse artillery service, while horse artillerymen come to garrison duties with all the mechanism of big guns to learn. The Commander-in-Chief states that the difference between the mounted branches of the artillery and the garrison artillery is as great now as between cavalry and infantry. It has, therefore, been determined, with due regard to existing rights and qualifications, to separate artillery officers into two lists for mounted and garrison artillery respectively. Lord Lansdowne has appointed a committee to inquire into the subject of different claims, and every effort will be made to continue the same rate of promotion and to give weight to any claims which may be put forward by those who prefer the mounted service; 328 and I think the change will commend itself to all critics as giving us a system more applicable to modern artillery. Another thorny subject which we have had to deal with has been the condition of the medical department. For some time past, as the Committee is aware, we have had difficulty in procuring sufficient candidates for the Army Medical Department. Many reasons have been adduced for this, among which may be mentioned the question of rank and social condition, the examinations which were held to be conducted under less favourable circumstances for candidates from Irish and Scotch medical schools than for those attending London schools, the rate of pay in India, and the prolonged terms of foreign service. Lord Lansdowne has given the most careful personal attention to all these questions. He has received various deputations, and has spared no pains to get to the root of the difficulty. His conclusion is that as regards the examinations, while every consideration should be given to eminent members of the Scotch and Irish medical schools in filling vacancies on the examination board, the board should be constituted solely with reference to the professional eminence of its members—["hear, hear!"]—without regard to the mere fact of their coming from one part or another of the United Kingdom. The falling off of Irish candidates, not being more than on a par with the falling off of other candidates, has no special significance or importance. Lord Lansdowne has also reviewed the whole circumstances attending the present titles of medical officers, a question which appears to be closely bound up with their complaints of a lack of social consideration. The truth appears to be this. When the system of attaching medical officers to regiments was abandoned, on grounds which at the time were certainly deemed to be sufficient, for the system of appointing them to stations, medical officers lost their special and close personal contact with their regimental brother officers. Attempts have been made to give them a better position—first, by ranking them with combatant, officers on the recommendation of Sir Andrew Clarke as representing the schools, and then by conceding composite medical and military titles carrying with them substantive rank in their own department. These concessions, though 329 welcomed at the time by the profession, have not altogether acted as was desired. Lord Lansdowne is anxious that every consideration should be shown to the officers of this most valuable and distinguished department. ["Hear, hear!"] He has, after communication with the India Office, been able to secure to the medical officer an increase of pay in India, and the Indian tour will be decreased from six years to five. ["Hear, hear!"] Assistance will also be given to form medical messes at the large stations, quarters will be offered in barracks where possible, and opportunities to study on return from foreign service will be given. But none of the proposals which have been submitted to the Secretary of State for giving new forms of Army rank to the medical staff appear to him desirable for adoption. He does not believe that by such titles the medical department will obtain the status to which their talents and professional acquirements entitle them, and anxious though the War Office is to meet the medical profession on all points, this is not one of those on which further action appears to be desirable. As regards the conditions of our forces, so much has been said in the Debates before the Speaker left the chair on the condition of the Line and the state of recruiting that I do not propose to touch upon these subjects further now. But the present Estimates, apart from the increases of establishment which have been fully explained, contain no very striking features, except that we have been able to make various provisions which, will act directly on the comfort of the private soldier. The Quartermaster General (Sir Evelyn Wood), who has been um emitting in his efforts in this direction, has succeeded in making arrangements with the railway companies which will enable us in future to send troops between England and Ireland and otherwise in the United Kingdom by the shortest and most comfortable route, and thus to abandon the long sea passage by coasting steamer. ["Hear, hear!"] We have also arranged to give the soldier on discharge or on transfer to Army Reserve free conveyance to his selected place of residence in the United Kingdom—["hear, hear!"]—which is often further from his place of discharge than his place of attestation to which we are bound to return him. Despite these concessions, 330 by a most careful economy in conveyance of stores, etc., Sir Evelyn Wood shows us a reduction on the Vote apart from special services on manœuvres. The Vote was, £329,000 in 1895–96,. £309,000 in I896–97, and £281,000 in the present year. This is, I think, peculiarly satisfactory. ["Hear, hear!"] For some time past, we have also been considering the soldier's bread, the flour for which has earned an unenviable title as "red dog," a name which perhaps more than the quality has caused objection at some stations. [Laughter.] The white Hour which it is proposed to substitute will cost us £8,000 a year, but, considering that this is a subject on which the soldier is specially particular, we think the change is due to him. ["Hear, hear!"] Our attention has also, been drawn to the prickliness of the flannel shirt supplied to the Army—due to the less careful dressing to which inferior flannels are subjected. I myself made an experiment with the flannel, and I confess I was not impressed with the comfort which it afforded. [Laughter.] All men's skins are not equally susceptible, but that by no means relieves those who are sensitive, and we have taken £4,000 to provide a better quality of flannel. ["Hear, hear!"] Finally there is the question of boots. ["Hear, hear!"] Everyone admits that the soldier's boot is durable, but its want of flexibility often causes discomfort. To a certain extent this is due to the preference of many men for a boot too small for them—preferable perhaps for walking out on Sundays, but unsuited to a long march. We have, I believe—and all classes bore witness to it in the Ashanti expedition—as good a band-made field-boot as can be made. The only difficulty is we cannot obtain it. The trade do not, supply it in sufficient quantities. Boots, however, are unremittingly being tried to improve on the present boot, and I shall be glad if any hon. Member who has an interest in the subject will look in at Pimlico and see the varied assortment which there are under experiment. The question is not one of price, it is the difficulty of obtaining a flexible and at the same time sufficiently durable machine-made boot, ["Hear, hear!"] As regards the Militia and Auxiliary forces, a great change has been made this year by fixing the period of commands for Militia, and Volunteer 331 officers at five and four years respectively, with power of renewal. The object of this change is not to end the career of any really competent officer before he retires by age, but to secure a reconsideration of competence at stated periods—a procedure which it is believed will commend itself to all who have the interests of the service at heart. Seventeen battalions of the Militia were brigaded this year at Aldershot, and their work at the small manœuvres carried on there earned the warm commendation of the Commander-in-Chief. In his force, as in the Volunteer force, the dearth of officers is a serious drawback. The Volunteers, thanks in some degree to the grant voted by the House last year, have reduced their deficiency by 200 officers during the year, and it is hoped further progress will be made in this direction in the coming year. As regards the Militia, a variety of expedients have been suggested for filling up vacancies in the force. These have been under Lord Lansdownc's careful consideration, and I hope that before the Militia Vote comes on I may be able to make a statement on this subject. It seems clear that as the best organisation for the Militia is to have two classes of officers—first, county men, who enter with the intention of rising in the regiment; and, secondly, officers who hope through the Militia, to get commissions in the Line, or having served in the Line are willing to give a turn of service in the higher ranks of the county Militia. As regards the latter class, it is a question worth considering whether any Line officer taking retired pay might not under certain conditions (laid down before he entered the service) be liable to service in the Militia as he is now to recall to the Line in case of war. This and other similar questions are under consideration. I may add that it is intended again this year to train a considerable number of Militia battalions with the Line. Incidentally, I may mention that the issue of canvas shoes to the Militia last year, which was made as an experiment, has given so much comfort to the men that it is proposed to extend it. ["Hear, hear!"] Hitherto the Militiaman has only had one pair of boots to wear during the month of his training. We found the issue of canvas shoes gave so much comfort and was so favourably reported on by the commanding officers that we have provided money 332 to give every Militiaman this advantage. We also propose to complete the issue of helmets to the Militia, except in the case of those wearing a special headgear. Some criticisms have been passed on us in recent Debates for not giving further attention to the development of the artillery. I do not think we are open to this criticism. Last year we took measures which added 81 pieces of field and horse artillery to our equipment. We have now 45 batteries of six guns each, or 270 field guns, with 10 reserve guns; 10 batteries, or 60 horse artillery guns, with six reserve guns—the complete equipment and reserve of three army corps. Beyond this, in case of invasion, we have 188 field guns in the hands of the Volunteers and 204 guns of position which the military authorities assure us are a most valuable item in our defence. It is not pretended that guns horsed and manned by Volunteers are at this moment equal to the Royal Artillery, but the military view is that they are better manned and better horsed than the American guns were at the beginning of their war, or the French guns in the army of the Loire in 1871, and when we reckon up our artillery we may well afford them the credit they deserve. ["Hear, hear!"] This year we hope to complete the ammunition columns for the horse and field artillery, and to commence the formation of a modern siege train, of which 24 pieces are allowed for in the Estimates of 1897–8. We also have taken a considerable sum for quick-firing guns in connection with the defence of harbours against torpedo boats, the necessity for which was explained on the Military Works Bill, and the works for which are included in that measure. The Militia, including Militia Artillery, have been already armed with the 303 rifle, and it is proposed within the next financial year to complete the re-arming of the whole of the Engineer and Rifle Volunteers. In connection with this I may perhaps mention that the provision of small arm ammunition to complete the equipment of all descriptions of troops has now been accomplished, and that the three trade firms are now sending in regular supplies of this ammunition. There are many other subjects in connection with the progress of the Army on which I would gladly touch; but this Session has already been fertile of Army discussion, and will probably be more fertile 333 still. What I have desired to show the Committee is that progress has been made in every department of the service. We are often accused of taking too optimistic ii view of Army affairs. But I would ask whether there is not another side to the question, and whether possibly we in England who are so determined to see into every detail of our Army organisation do not sometimes take too black a view of the progress we have made. My right hon. Friend who spoke earlier in the evening used words of a Frenchman, to the effect that we are insensible to the demands of our Army. I remember a quotation from another Frenchman, the sense of which is that John Bull gives credit to all the world except his own soldier.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
My Frenchman said that he wondered when we were covering the whole world red that we laid not thought it necessary to increase our Army. [Laughter.]
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I think, on the whole, my Frenchman made the observation most pertinent to our Debates. [Laughter.] I am the last man to stand hero and say we are getting all we should like, or making all the progress we might make, that our system is absolutely perfect, or that we could not by any means make further progress. I believe that every year we are obtaining fresh light, that every change brings to us fresh organisation, decentralisation of stores, and responsibility, while doing away with the old system of red tape by which everything was discussed in the War Office affecting the remotest parts of the globe. All that we believe to be good, but at the same time let us not ignore the progress that has been ma le, the condition of our troops and the number of the Reserve, that the services for which we have to provide have been reviewed by successive Cabinets, and that latterly the stores and equipments have been provided, and the Army thus placed on a workable basis. Knowing what we intend to do, having regard to the National Defence which we must make in ease of invasion, and the number of troops to be sent abroad, I think I may say that all these are items of progress, showing that there is a sound principle prevailing at headquarters, one not averse from criticism, but which represents the Army in a fair and patriotic light and not in that 334 which may seem most favourable to the country. [Cheers.]
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
referred to the Militia, and said that, though the helmets had been mentioned, nothing had been said about the caps. He hoped that no more black powder would be supplied. Something ought to be clone to improve the condition of the non-commissioned officers in the Militia so as to get a supply of better men. He advocated that the Militia should he enlisted for foreign service in case of war.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
was pleased to hear that the War Office authorities were giving attention to those small material things which contributed so much to make the life of the soldier more pleasant. As put from the Chair the Vote was for 163,569 men; but this was a very limited Vote, because on the Army Estimates there were, exclusive of men in India, 645,000 men; and there-fore it was obvious that in taking the Vote for the smaller number of men the Committee vas only taking the Vote for the Regular Service. What did the right hon. Gentleman mean when he said that the ammunition equipment was now complete for all arms of the Service? Was it meant that the ammunition equipment would be equal to the demands made upon it in lime of war: and was the ammunition estimated by the number of men and arms represented on these Estimates?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said it was according to the equipment laid down for the Army, Militia, and Volunteers.
§ *SIR J. COLOMB
Is there any spare ammunition to meet those demands that must come from all parts of the Empire?
§ *SIR J. COLOMB
asked whether an assurance could be given that if war broke out the demand by the colonial forces could be supplied. On the last two occasions when there was a panic demands came from all quarters of the Empire for ammunition and equipment, and we were unable to supply them. It was necessary to extend our views in this matter, and to be ready to supply arms and ammunition beyond the forces of the 335 United Kingdom. He did not clearly understand whether the artillery was going to be divided into distinct and separate corps—whether three or two corps were to be constituted.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said there would be a corps of mounted artillery and a corps of garrison artillery. The officers would be separate.
§ *SIR J. COLOMB
thought that the fact of allocating a large body of artillery officers to a duty that was purely sedentary, with no chance of any active service, would have some effect on the class of officers obtained in the future. He was glad to hear the intention of the Government with regard to officering the Militia. It was a wise step, and he hoped that before long the Government would harden their hearts and approach the Militia question in a bold spirit. He thought it was to be regretted that the Militia had for so many years been treated with apathetic neglect. The full advantage which we could reap from the Militia had not been grasped by the War authorities, and his belief was, that the Volunteer Force, which was not created by any stroke of military policy, but by a spontaneous movement of the nation, had enabled the War authorities to do what could not be done before—namely, to release the Militia from purely local service in the United Kingdom. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to assure the Committee that the Government were considering that matter, because, after all, it was at the root of the solution of the question which had been the difficulty with us all along ever since the introduction of the short service system. The interesting sketch of the right hon. Gentleman of what had happened since 1847 was, as they all knew, quite true; but his contention was that it was because we had not had a consistent military policy. ["Hear, hear!"] That was at the root of our military weakness. On the whole, he thought many of the matters to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded would give great satisfaction to the Army, and none would give greater satisfaction than the efforts which had evidently been made to improve the position and comfort of the private soldier.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE,
referring to the reply of the Under Secretary to the 336 complaint that the spokesmen of the War Office were too optimistic, said that he and those who agreed with him had always distinguished between their general views as to the system on which alone, as they thought, the Army could be put on a permanently satisfactory footing, and the particular schemes which the Government brought forward and which were consistent with their policy, that was to say, they always tried to give a perfectly fair and impartial consideration to the detailed proposals of successive Governments, even though those were proposals to make the present system work, and he should do so on the present occasion. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the clearness of his military expositions, and agreed that many of the proposals made to-night—given the existing system—wore excellent, and said they would have his warmest, support. He felt most strongly that we had not a field artillery which was equal to the needs of the Empire, and believed the Government would be driven to increase that branch of the Service in future years. He was not prepared to say that it was impossible to create a Volunteer field artillery. The Swiss had been extraordinarily successful with their field artillery upon a training shorter than that which we gave to the Militia Artillery, and that showed what could be done; but for himself he believed that if a proper artillery was to be created for Volunteers it would have to be upon some mixed system, partly professional and partly volunteer. There was the remarkable fact that while there had been an enormous increase of military expenditure we had greatly diminished the field artillery in the last 10 or 20 years, and even the increase made this year would leave us infinitely below the figure reached years ago. What would be the additional cost of the proposals?
§ *SIR C. DILKE
added that this, taken in connection with the Military Works Bill, would mean a considerable increase on the Army Estimates of the future: and of course it emphasised what he had formerly said as to the small return we got for the expense.
337 On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WATS and MEANS, after the usual interval,
§ MR. J. G. GALLOWAY (Manchester, S. W.)
said that he most heartily supported any proposals which had for their object the increasing of the defensive forces of the country, or the increasing of their efficiency, and it was rather as to the omissions of the Government that he desired to say a few words. He held that the Government had very properly asked for a large sum of money in order to permanently increase the establishment of the Army, but he dissented from the policy of the War Office under which the Army would be centralised three, four, or possibly five large camps. It appeared to him that great danger to the country might arise through the adoption of such a policy. What, for instance, would be the effect of such a policy on recruiting and the number of recruits? Hitherto, fortunately, we had been able to do without conscription, and he was sure every Englishman believed that so long as proper facilities were afforded for recruiting there would never be any necessity for recourse to that system. He felt, however, that if we withdrew our soldiers from the large centres of population we should at once remove a large incentive to recruiting. Nothing could have a more advantageous effect upon the whole military system of this country than that the troops should be quartered at the large centres of population, and that the people in those centres should from time to time see the troops in their midst. The Under Secretary of State for War would bear him out when he said that the Guards, for example, were not recruited from London but from the provinces. That surely ought to be an additional reason why all the incentives to recruiting should be continually maintained in the provinces. He fully recognised the necessity of brigading regiments together, in order that they might be properly trained, but it was a self-evident proposition that the troops must be enlisted before they could be trained. He feared that if the taxpayers' wishes were entirely disregarded we should soon find the present system inadequate and have to devise sonic other, possibly the one suggested by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. It was questionable 338 whether, from a public point of view, it was good policy that the troops should be moved into large camps. Nothing could be more necessary than that adequate protection should be afforded our population. No one held a higher opinion of the police forces of the country than he, but he, nevertheless, felt that those forces were not sufficiently strong in numbers to put down a serious riot in any of the large centres of population, and that, therefore, it was necessary troops should be near at hand. The War Office would say that the facilities of transport were now so great that it was easy to move troops from one place to another. It seemed to him, the Department were so imbued with the idea of centralisation that they often overlooked even the most necessary precautions for the safety of large centres of population. Take the case of his own constituency, Manchester. In July last the War Office suddenly removed the troops from Manchester, in view, he supposed, of the proposed centralisation. The troops were withdrawn without any intimation of any kind or description being given to the local authorities. A magazine of powder was left entirely unprotected, and the officer commanding the troops telegraphed to the Chief Constable asking him to protect the barracks. Surely that was no part of the duty of the police. It might be necessary that troops should be moved into camp for training purposes. The training season was the spring and summer months, and he put it to the Government whether for the autumn and early winter the troops could not be brought back to the large centres of population. He hoped that in the interest of recruiting and the safety of our large towns and cities the Government would reconsider their present policy.
§ CAPTAIN JESSEL (St. Pancras, S.)
said that, while he should like to have some further explanation as to the alternative schemes which had been mentioned, he desired to state that he approved the proposals of the Government as far as they went, and believed they would be welcomed as a step to the good by all men who were concerned in the welfare of the Army. As a cavalry man he of course felt peculiar interest, in that arm of the service, and he regarded the 339 changes proposed as a substantial improvement. He had had experience of the error and inconvenience of weak squadrons, and he was glad to learn that now three squadrons would be kept up to their strength in each regiment. One point to which he wished to refer was that last year the Under Secretary for War stated that it was to be the policy of the War Office to decentralise the department as much as possible, so as to lighten, it of certain duties and give to the general officers commanding districts more scope and independence of action. This change was recognised at the time as a wise one; but, so far as he knew, there were only two matters in regard to which officers commanding districts had been given a free hand, the disposal of lunatics, and the appointment of civilian chaplains. [Laughter.] He should like to ask the Under Secretary for War whether in the ensuing year any change—any kind of decentralisation, would be carried out with regard to the stores of clothing? The stores being now mostly kept at Pimlico, great difficulty would certainly be experienced in a time of stress to get the clothing shipped off or distributed as required. ["Hear, hear!"] He was very glad to sec that the Government had recognised the valuable services of the Yeomanry, and that an additional sum of £3,000 was to be granted to them this year. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
said he welcomed the scheme of organisation now proposed by the Government as an advance in the right direction, and he believed it was of a character which would lend itself to that greater scheme of organisation of the Army at large, which must come sooner or later. ["Hear, hear!"] He understood the cavalry scheme was to be one of divisions, brigades, and regiments. The divisions would probably be only on paper at first. What they had really to do with were the brigades, each of which was to be composed, he understood, of three regiments. Now what he wished to know was to what extent, if any, this scheme of organisation would interfere with the regimental system? Were there to be three squadrons forming the entire regiment, or were there to be three squadrons as a regiment working with the brigade, and one in depôt? If there was to be also a squadron in depôt he should be in entire 340 agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. What he wanted really to get at was how the strength of the three squadrons in trained men and horses, was to be kept up? If it was to be done by denuding other regiments it would be introducing a bad system into the cavalry service; but if it was intended to keep up the strength of the squadrons entirely from the depôt squadron, the scheme, he was confident, would prove to be an excellent one. He did not see how this could be effected through the depôt at Canterbury. He would also ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, while making the proposed changes of organisation, he could not deal with the discrepancy that at present existed between, the number of horses and men in a cavalry regiment. It was constantly thrown in the teeth of the cavalry corps, for instance, that while they had got 200 men they had only 100 horses. Where were the men without horses? Why, filling the places of officers' servants, clerks on the staff, and so forth, and yet these men, who were without horses, were counted on the strength of the regiment as efficient cavalry soldiers. ["Hear, hear!"] Could not the authorities consider some scheme by which Reserve men might be employed in those places, so that the strength of the cavalry should be regarded only as the number of men who had horses, and were available at any time to ride them? ["Hear, hear!"] It was not fair to the cavalry regiments that they be pointed at in the House and in the country as having so many men and only so many horses. ["Hear, hear!"] In Germany, France, and other foreign countries, a squadron was accounted to be, say, 120 horses and 120 men; as many men as formed the corps so many horses. Why could we not adopt a similar system. If some such suggestion were carried out it would enable all the men of the regiment to be actively utilised, and give employment to the He-serve men, and at the same time overcome one of the difficulties applying to the reservists. ["Hear, hear!"] Something had been said about the uniform to be worn by the new brigades. He regretted that the undress uniform was to be the same. What was called the undress unifrom was that which was worn in barracks, but what was wanted was a really serviceable working dress, and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether 341 such a dress might not be provided for the purposes of manœuvres, drills, and general work. In foreign countries this was done. In Russia the Guard had a magnificent full dress, but when they went on service they were as plain a dress as any man of the Line. The only difference there was between the Garde Corps and the Line Corps was that there was a small piece of lace on the collar. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether something of this kind could not be devised now when this new departure Was being made. He knew one great difficulty was the head-dress, but he did not see why there should not be a really serviceable working headdress. He would press this on the right hon. Gentleman's attention, because it was a time when those changes could be made, and he thought made in a way which would be very acceptable to the Army. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Medical Department, and he was sorry to hear him say that it was impossible to return to the regimental system. He thought the system of changing doctors so frequently was a bad one, and he did not see why the men in their regiments could not be treated in the same way as civilians were treated. He noticed from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the time of the doctors in India was going to be lessened. That would increase the rapidity with which the doctors would move from this country to India, and increase the evil of which he complained. The difficulty arose chiefly, if not wholly, from this Indian rota. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not modify to a certain extent the medical department, and as they had got a Brigade of Guards, whether he could not put a brigade or regimental surgeon to this new cavalry organisation. He was sure it would be good for the men, and would give them confidence in the organisation of the Army, and make it easier to get recruits. The hon. Member for North West Manchester, in referring to the question of barracks, had no doubt touched upon a point which is a very great difficulty with any future scheme of re-organisation. One system which obtained in Austria was worth consideration—that was that when a great city like Manchester wanted a regiment quartered there, it built its own barracks, 342 and he believed that a great city like Manchester would be willing to do that. ["Hear, hear!"] He knew the danger of it, because it gave the city a hold upon the Army organisation; but still it was worth consideration. As he understood the hon. Member for Manchester, his proposal, or idea, was that the barracks should be in these great cities, and the troops should be quartered there during the winter, but that they should go to these great camps in the summer time. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman who had planned out so excellent a thing as Salisbury Plain for the Army, would insist upon that being simply a camp of exercise, and that there should be no permanent camp there. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for this much larger scheme of cavalry organisation, than he thought the country had ever known, and he thanked him especially for saying that it was the intention of the Government in no way to interfere with the regimental system, which, he believed, had carried them through all the great days of warfare. That was why he had always distrusted this system of linked battalions.
§ *SIR F. FITZWYGRAM (Hants,) Fareham
said he was sorry to see that the Secretary of State for War proposed to raise three new battalions. To his idea they had too many battalions already. Their infantry were split up into too many units, and that was the great cause why they were not efficient. The Government's proposal, if carried out, would only increase the existing evil. Under their present system their infantry were filtered away in 141 battalions. His impression was that every foreign battalion should be 1,200 strong, and every home battalion 1,200 strong. If they had 1,200 men for the home battalion, it might be accounted for in this way; 1,000 men on the active home battalion and 200 extra for the drafts. He believed that in that way they would get their home battalions and their foreign battalions efficient. But of course it must be acknowledged that that scheme would mean an increase to the Army of 20,000 men. He need not tell them that that, would never be voted by this House; but it seemed to him that very much the same object might be effected by reducing the number of battalions by one-third, and aggregating them together in 343 three linked battalions instead of two linked battalions. He wished to see the foreign battalions 1,200 strong, because if there were only to be 50 abroad it would be necessary to maintain the same number of men in those 50 battalions as had been hitherto maintained in 76 battalions. He thought that when they came to consider this they would find that without any increase of cost to the country, and without any augmentation of men, they would have an army which would consist of 50 home battalions of 1,200 strong, fighting strength 1,000, and 50 foreign battalions of 1,200 strong. That would give the foreign battalions about the same number of fighting men as they had at present. This idea of linked battalions was not new, but as Mr. Childers destroyed all the old traditions of names and numbers, he did not see why they should not bring it up still further so as to give three battalions to each link. He would not go at length into the scheme; he put it forward merely as a sketch, and the details might be worked out. The fault of our present system was not want of numbers in the infantry, but the weakness that arose from breaking it up into too large a number of units. He was quite aware that many of his hon. and gallant Friends did not approve of this, but went in for augmentation, saying, "Give us more men." He, however, did not think that the country would give more men, and that it would be better to set aside vain hopes never likely to be realised, and come at once to some practical scheme that might be worked out with the approval of the country. It was an old-fashioned idea to keep up a number of skeleton battalions, for it was said it was easier to bring these up to strength than create a new regiment. This was all very well a hundred years ago, but now wars were conducted with such rapidity that no battalion was of any use unless ready at a moment's notice. Lastly, he had a few words to say in reference to the Brigade of Guards. He was sorry to see the augmentation in the number of battalions. He did not sec why four battalions at homo should not be sufficient for three battalions abroad, as was found to be the case with Line regiments. He protested strongly and emphatically to raising any new battalions whatever 344 which were not to take a fair share of foreign service in the colonies and in India.
thought it would be convenient if he now dealt with one or two minor points raised in the course of the discussion. The first of these was in relation to horse and field artillery, and he stated how matters stood. There were 45 field batteries, each consisting of six guns; there were 10 batteries of horse artillery, consisting of 60 guns, making 330 altogether, and there were 40 field guns and six horse artillery guns in reserve, making a total of 376 guns. By far the greater portion of the batteries were fully equipped and in readiness for service, and in the Estimates there was provided a further sum to complete the whole of them. When this was done it would be seen that in respect of proportion of guns to per thousand of troops we stood in nearly as favourable a position as foreign countries, assuming, as he did, that the class of guns we had in our Army are as good as the weapons foreign armies possess. It was, perhaps, unadvisable to carry things further at the present moment than they were carried in the Estimates, for this reason, that before very long there would probably be invented and perfected a quick-firing horse and field gun. When this new gun was perfected, clearly our forces would have to be armed with it as quickly as possible; and with this probability in view the Secretary of State had rightly decided not to carry matters further than the Estimates proposed. There was a complaint from the hon. Member for Manchester that two regiments had been: moved from Manchester suddenly and without due notice or consultation with the local authorities. He did not know: what local authorities ought to have been; consulted, unless possibly the Board of Guardians. [Laughter.] These things, of course, were in the hands of the military authorities; and he was not prepared to accept the theory that those I who paid for the troops ought to command them. [Laughter.]
understood his hon. Friend to say they should have a voice in moving the troops from place to place.
would not press the matter. In this particular instance there was very sufficient reason for removal—the barracks were in a very unsanitary condition. The hon. Member for St. Pancras had called attention to two matters to which the Secretary of State attached great importance. One of these was in reference to some proposal to change the numbers of cavalry regiments. He did not know whether any such proposal had been made, but he could give his hon. Friend an assurance that it would not be accepted; the numbers of cavalry regiments would remain precisely as they were. The other matter was the decentralisation of clothing supplies, and on that he assured his hon. Friend that matters were making satisfactory progress. But this was not a thing to be entered upon lightly and indifferently—it was like marriage in that respect—and it was very costly. It would involve an outlay probably from first to last of £200,000; certainly of over £150,000. But a start had been made, experiments had been sanctioned and were being tried. It had been found that in a considerable number of centres in various districts—at any rate in the headquarters of the districts—very little alteration and fitting would enable clothing to be stored. These alterations would be very quickly taken in hand and completed. In other cases there would have to be heavy outlay to supply satisfactory accommodation, and the work must take some considerable time. The matter certainly would not be lost sight of. The question had been raised as to the cost of the Army proposals which his right hon. Friend had submitted to the Committee. His right hon. Friend had stated the cost as £450,000. This sum embraced every item of charge which the increase proposed by the Government would give rise to during the next few years.
SIR H. CAMRBELL-BANNERMAN
said there were some of the proposals for augmentation of the Army in the Estimates which all would approve of, and rejoice in. The first of these was the the addition of a battalion to the West 346 India Regiment, a force which deserved every possible encouragement and exhibition of gratitude that could be shown. He believed that the additional battalion would give greater facilities for changing the quarters of the force, and he only wished it were possible to introduce into their course of service the occupation of some quarters not altogether tropical. He was aware this was a matter of difficulty, and that it had been contemplated more than once; but if it could be effected without injury to the susceptibilities in any direction it would be an exceedingly desirable thing to station the regiment sometimes in a locality not open to the evil of tropical life. Then he came to the addition of the Cameron Highlanders, and observed that no explanation had been given as to the mode in which the battalion was to be recruited. He knew there was a general impression in the minds of people, especially of residents within the sound of Bow Bells, that everybody in Scotland were a kilt. He saw in one of the Christmas numbers of the illustrated papers an elaborate and very entertaining pictorial version of the well-known ballad of "The Laird o' Cockpen," and he was extremely amused to find that, though the locale of the ballad was in the Lothians, all the little boys on the roadside, as the Laird of Cockpen rode along to visit his ladylove, were beautiful kilts of the Stuart tartan pattern. [Laughter.] He did not know anyone within striking distance of Cockpen who ever saw a kilt in his life. [Laughter.] Being unable to maintain one battalion of Cameron Highlanders, they were to have a new battalion created. He was full of faith, and he should be glad to believe almost everything the right hon. Gentleman who represented the War Office should tell them. He should be pleased to know where in Scotland the Scotchmen and Highlanders were to be found who were to fill that second battalion of Cameron Highlanders. The present battalion in the main part was recruited in Glasgow; but Glasgow was drawn upon by all the other kilted regiments, and he believed all the people who could either have a "Mac" before their name or could speak Gaelic had been exhausted long ago. [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"] Then 347 the artillery was to be considerably increased, and so far as that was necessary for the working of the defences of the coaling stations there was no objection. But there was an objection in one sense. Although he knew the fixed and regulated opinion on the other side, he should have thought it would be very much better if the Navy would undertake the defence of the coaling stations. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not want to hamper the Admiral on the station with the cares of defending the particular coaling; stations, but surely, if in a place like St. Helena a few marines were stationed, they could move as any ship passed. If it was an unhealthy climate or an unpleasant station, they could be relieved and removed so easily by the Navy, whereas what was more detrimental to a company of infantry or a few artillery as those they were now invited to vote, than to be stationed for two or three years permanently in such a locale as that? He knew that places like Sierra Leone, St. Helena, and other coaling stations must be defended, but he could not help thinking common sense required that it should be the Navy that should be responsible for the defence of these places, and not the Army. ["Hear, hear!"] He applied the same principle to such larger places as Malta and Gibraltar. What could be more extraordinary than that they should coop up in those two garrisons at the present moment ten of the best battalions of their mobile force? He said the other night they were deteriorating under their eyes from day to day. They were not deteriorating, it might be, but they were not improving. Negatively, if not positively, they were deteriorating, and therefore he should have hoped, now that they had a strong Committee of the Cabinet established to look into these matters, they would seriously consider whether the naval view was really to prevail to the extent that it did at present, and whether they might not see some marine forces employed on a larger scale than now for the defence of these fortresses, thereby releasing a number of their mobile battalions, which would then have all the benefit of the Salisbury Plain manœuvring ground of 348 the right hon. Gentleman, and all the other blessings of boots and flannel shirts which he was anxious to bestow upon them in this country. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] These things concerned both the Army and Navy. Each had its prejudices, which sometimes ripened into being superstitions, and he was at present attacking what he believed to be a naval superstition. He hoped it was not too late to attack that superstition with some effect, and then the whole question of the unequal distribution of battalions would solve itself. The hon. Member for Hampshire, td whom he always listened with great respect in these matters, had said one thing which rather astonished him—namely, that he opposed the increase of the battalions of infantry because he said he was in favour of larger cadres and fewer of them. He agreed with the hon. Member, but, whenever any proposal had been made to deal in a logical and common-sense way with the infantry or cavalry, there had always been this tremendous outcry as to the traditions of the regiments, their numbers, and associations. The Under Secretary for War made an announcement as to the reorganisation of cavalry. He would prefer to sec the details in print before examining them, but be might say it seemed to be a step in the right direction. The right hon. Gentleman was advised in the matter by authorities beyond doubt the most capable he could have. He himself was very glad that this matter, which had hung in the wind for a great many years, was at last being dealt with by the military authorities. The right hon. Gentleman stated—and every one was glad to hear it—that he had been able to provide something for additional comforts for the men. He could not help wondering, as he was speaking, and the Secretary for the Treasury was sitting in an attitude of admiration of his discourse—[laughter]—whether anything was to be done towards the more frequent washing of the sheets and blankets of soldiers. [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"] He hoped that now the Under Secretary was a little nearer the Throne than in the times when he seemed to be the reservoir of personal 349 complaints of soldiers throughout the country, he would quietly and without public display—[laughter]—see that these sheets and blankets were more frequently washed. [Renewed laughter.] The Under Secretary at the close of his speech spoke of being an optimist. He himself was an optimist and gloried in being one. ["Hear, hear!"] What was an optimist? He understood him to be a man who preferred to look on the bright side of things, and to contemplate the good things that had been done rather than those that had been left undone. The Under Secretary for War was perfectly right. He and himself and others outside the House, who had really been inside the War Office and knew how the administration of the Army went on, without claiming any great credit for themselves had this advantage over many people who spoke with considerable confidence in the matter—that, whereas they spoke with experience of the defects of the system, they themselves spoke with experience of the advantages of the system—[cheers]—and the impossibility of the alternative system which might be proposed. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman and himself spoke as if everything was for the best in the best of all possible worlds, it only meant that from their knowledge they believed that the best was being done just now under the conditions imposed upon them with the means which the country supplied. [Cheers.]
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
complained of the want of employment amongst discharged soldiers. It was stated public? in evidence before the Wantage Commission that out of the total of the Army Reserve 20,000 men were believed to be out of employment. From inquiries he had since made he found that, in the Field Lane Refuge, of 1,150 destitute persons 179 were discharged soldiers. Returns from provincial workhouses told a similar tale. He believed that the poor future of the soldier after serving in the Army deterred the best class of recruits 350 from enlisting. ["Hear, hear!"] Reference had been made to the Royal Marines relieving Line battalions. The Royal Marines consisted of 15,000 men, and had one general officer on active service, which consisted in sitting on a stool in Pall Mall. The Marines as a body of troops were unrivalled, and it was lamentable that they should not offer them a greater objective of ambition. He hoped the reforms that had been suggested in the Debate would be carried into effect. There should be some authoritative agreement as to the length of service. Persons regarded as "authoritative" differed on the subject, giving the periods at three, six, seven, eight, and twelve years. Now? they were told they were to discard all these, to have four years and a "go-as-you-please" term of service after that. It was an example of having "authorities" eternally quoted against you. It was only when there was a movement taken up on a large scale, a large demand made, and a large appeal made to public opinion that any changes worth thinking about at all were made. He persisted in his view that until some very radical reforms were introduced into our military system the House would not get away from the perpetual recurrence of Debates such as had occurred that night. No one after hearing the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary, could get away from the fact that what he had told the Committee was not the view of the military authorities, it was but a maimed and stunted account of their view. It was the habitual mistake of the War Office that they did not take the country into their confidence. The Navy had at least compelled the Naval authorities to tell the House what they really wanted. The House had never refused to vote supplies when a responsible Minister told the House of Commons what he wanted. It was not quite fair to come and put before the House a state of things which was not the view of the military authorities. He did not believe that the House would ever refuse to meet an appeal for military necessities. Until such 351 a full statement was made upon Army matters as had been made in regard to the Navy this unsatisfactory state of things would continue; and he would, at any rate, do what he could to discredit the present method of stating the needs of the Army. The regiments were inefficient, and, known to be inefficient, and until a clean breast was made and some confidence given to the House he should continue to press for a complete and searching reform.
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said he had listened with deep interest to the Debate which had taken place. [A laugh.] They had heard a great deal about the Guards. He did not know much about them himself, but he was surprised that hon. Gentlemen who, he had no doubt, had plenty of military courage had not the courage to go to a Division. [Laughter and an HON. MEMBER: "We could not."] Hon. Gentlemen took care to raise the question when they knew they could not divide. He knew that game. [Laughter.] If they had gone to a division he should have voted with them so as to encourage the spirit of independence he would like to see grow up on the other side of the House. Although hon. Gentlemen who spoke on behalf of the Guards represented a very important factor in this matter, he represented a far larger body of men than they. He represented the British taxpayer—["hear, hear!"]—who was obliged to pay for all this increase in expenditure and who, when he got the opportunity, loudly protested against it. It was all the more necessary for Members of the House of Commons to look closely into these Estimates, because he remembered that Lord Beacons field said that the heads of the two spending departments ought to be in the House of Commons and that unless they were, Members of that House could not exercise due control over them. Had hon. Gentlemen taken into consideration the fact that taking things all round, this permanent increase in the expenses of the country would amount to 352 about £800,000 per annum? Yet not one word of protest had been raised against it. Of late years the Navy had been very largely increased because Ministers had said that it was absolutely necessary to have a Navy stronger than the navies of any two other countries. At the same time the House was told that England was not a military nation, but that she must rule the sea; and he said to himself, "Now, if we spend all this on the Navy it has this advantage, that we shall not have to spend more on the Army." He was, therefore, surprised to read a speech of the Commander-in-Chief in which he actually gave as a reason why more money should be spent on the Army that we had already spent so much on the Navy. There was a sort of competition between the naval and military authorities and if the House of Commons did not put its foot down, the people would be eaten out of house and home. ["Hear, hear!"] The proposal was to increase the infantry and artillery. He would have thought it more desirable to increase the artillery than the infantry, and if it had been proposed to increase the artillery alone he should have suggested that it might be done by decreasing the infantry. The plea put forward was that there were not sufficient men for foreign service. The question was, could the difficulty be met not by increasing the number of soldiers but by reducing, without any harm to the Empire, those places abroad where soldiers were sent. ["Hear, hear!"] Perhaps the Guards rather than go to Gibraltar would agree that we should give up Gibraltar. [Laughter.] But he thought it was far more important that a reduction should be made in Egypt. As far as he could gather he believed we had now 4,200 men in Egypt. He was not going to repeat the various protests he had made on political grounds to our occupation of Egypt, but would look at the matter from a military point of view. The importance of Egypt from a military point of view was due to the fact that the 353 Suez Canal, which was the means of communication between our Indian and home possessions, ran through Egyptian territory. He admitted that if that canal fell into the hands of some foreign Power in time of war it would be a most serious matter to us. In time of peace it was very obvious that we gained nothing by this garrison being in Egypt. Nothing prevented our commerce or our troops going through on equal terms with that of other nations. As to the case of war, he would assume for the sake of argument that we were at war with France and Russia. It was not necessary, however, that we should occupy Egypt in order to stop other Powers with whom we might be at war from passing by the Suez Canal to India and the East. So long as we held the command of the sea we could always prevent a fleet passing that way, and if we were at war with other Powers we should not attempt to convoy our merchandise or send our troops by way of the Suez Canal. Mr. Childers had told him that when he was Minister of War there was an important Departmental Conference between the naval and military authorities at which it was decided that in case of war between naval Powers it would be impossible to send our troops under convoy through the Suez Canal. Everybody knew that in case of war they would be obliged to allow neutrals to pass through the Canal, and if any neutral could be induced to blow up his ship in the Canal, it would block the Canal for two or three weeks. Some tacticians were of opinion that in the case of such a war it would be wise for us to evacuate the Mediterranean and concentrate our forces nearer home; if we did so it was obvious that we must either increase our garrison in Egypt or withdraw it. If we increased it he did not even then see how we should be able to prevent an army approaching Egypt by land through Syria. Moreover, in such a case, if we increased the force in Egypt, we should have to draw soldiers from India or from the British Isles, 354 which would put us in an utterly false strategical position, as these places would require troops. In a Dispatch written by M. Waddington to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and dated November 3rd, 1886, M. Waddington quoted words which Lord Salisbury had used, to the effect that they were greatly mistaken who thought that we wanted to remain indefinitely in Egypt, and that we sought the means honestly to withdraw the troops which we had there, and which would be more useful in India. He (Mr. Labouchere) very often agreed I with Lord Salisbury. [Laughter.] At the time of the Treaty called the Drummond-Wolff Convention, Sir Henry Drunmond-Wolff wrote a Dispatch to Lord Salisbury in which he said that the diain on the military and financial resources of England rendered it most desirable that our troops should as soon as possible be taken from a position if so delicate a character, which in time of war might be a weak point. Lord Salisbury, writing in reply, said that he assented entirely to Sir H. Drummond-Wolff's views. Then the First Lord of the Treasury had said:—We are pledged before Europe not to occupy Egypt permanently. We do not look upon the occupation of Egypt as strengthening the position of this country.In 1891 Mr. Gladstone said that our occupation of Egypt was an embarrassment and weakness, and in 1892 Lord Kimberley declared that the long continuance of the occupation would be fraught with great disadvantage to our country. Thus the Prime Minister and other prominent statesmen had stated that from a military point of view our retention of this garrison in Egypt was not advantageous. It might be said that Egypt paid for the troops. Well, Egypt paid a portion of the cost, no doubt, but nothing like the whole amount. It should be remembered that no gain accrued from taking men from labour and putting them into the Army, for a country depended largely for its prosperity upon the number of 355 labouring men which it had. He protested against this system of hiring out mercenaries to a foreign Power. Surely no one would say that we ought to increase our Army simply to benefit Egypt. Very possibly the Egyptians were badly governed before our occupation, and if we withdrew their future system of government would very likely not be as good as the present.
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The hon. Member is trenching upon political subjects. He must confine himself to the military portion.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
moved:That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 154,574, all ranks, be maintained for the said Service.He said that he had only incidentally interpolated the remarks for which the Chairman had called him to order. Our occupation of Egypt was stated to be only temporary, and for tins temporary occupation they were asked to increase the Army. Could anyone point to any single occasion when, after having increased the numbers of our Army in time of peace, we had reduced it to the former numerical state? Once the numbers of the Army were increased, they were never reduced. Practically the Committee were now asked to burden the Budget for all time with this addition of £800,000 per annum. He was not prepared to consent to in-crease the Army for these wild schemes of occupation, schemes said to be temporary, but which would be converted into permanent ones if that should be possible. He concluded by moving the Amendment standing in his name.
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
seconded the Amendment. When he first entered the House some 17 years ago, there was in it a body of Members who were known as the party of economy, and whenever a Government proposed any increase in the taxation of the country it was always subjected by that party to searching criticism and a good deal of 356 opposition. It might be that the opposition of those gentlemen to increases of expenditure was too general; nevertheless, in his opinion the condition of things which then prevailed was much more wholesome than the state of things now, when hon. Members like the hon. Member for Belfast, who used to be looked upon as a Radical, and would possibly so describe himself still, attacked the Government with the greatest ferocity because they had not proposed Army Estimates equivalent in amount to the monstrously extravagant additional expenditure on the Navy. In the last few years millions had been added to the permanent expenditure of the country, and that had been done without vigorous protest except from one or two quarters. The hon. Member for Northampton was perfectly justified in his assumption that the proposed addition to the Army was directly connected with the occupation of Egypt. Seven or eight years ago the present Commander-in-Chief declared that in consequence of that occupation and the strain that it put upon the British Army, it would be necessary to increase the military forces by 10,000 men, and that increase was made. It was not sufficient, however, and now they were called upon to sanction a further increase of upwards of 7,000 men. Those of them who heard the extraordinary speech delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week could not do otherwise than believe that the present increase was only the beginning of a long career of extravagance. This increase was plainly to a considerable extent dependent upon the necessity of a prolonged occupation of Egypt. They knew from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the requirements in connection with the occupation of Egypt would grow enormously in the next few years, and they would, therefore, if they voted this increase now, be called upon in all probability to vote further and greater increases in the next few years, in order to 357 develop and consolidate the British Empire in the Soudan. This country was now in a period of profound peace, the most unbroken during the century, and yet we had settled down to an 8d. Income Tax without hope of any diminution. Indeed, he doubted whether in view of the further demands that would be made on the Treasury, an, 8d. Income Tax would be sufficient. The present period of unparalleled prosperity—in England at all events—might come to an end, and if it was followed by a period of depression similar to that which existed in 1893 and 1894, it would be necessary in order to maintain the present burden to increase the Income Tax by 1d. or 2d. He thought the country was entitled to know what value it was getting for all this expenditure. While they were called upon to vote immense sums for the British Army and the Britsh Navy, and for the re-conquest of the Soudan, they saw, nearer home, scandalous and monstrous and unheard of proceedings in the Island of Crete, within sight of British ships, and within the reach of British arms, and yet not a single soldier or sailor was moved to put a stop to that state of things. It was monstrous that they should be asked to increase the naval and military forces of the country, and yet that nothing should be done to end the outrages which were disgracing Christendom and humanity in the Turkish Empire. The Under Secretary had expressed the hope that the Military Works Bill and the Military Lands Bill would be allowed to pass quickly. For his part he would resist these measures to the utmost of his ability. It appeared to him that the British taxpayer was suffering from a temporary ht of insanity with regard to the expenditure of money. England was enormously wealthy, and an 8d. Income Tax was an inconvenience and an uncomfortable thing even for her, but she was dragging in her wake in this monstrous enterprise a poor country which would be swamped, and founder under the burden which would be placed upon 358 her. It was their duty, even if the expenditure was justified, from an Imperial point of view which he did not believe, to take into consideration, to take into account the circumstances of a poor country which had not shared to the extent of a single Cd. in the prosperity and wealth and trading expansion of England, but which, on the contrary, was plunged into a condition of profund depression. Therefore, from the Irish standpoint, as well as from the view of the hon. Member for Northampton, which he shared, he objected to this expenditure.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The hon. Gentleman who moved this reduction did it avowedly on the ground that the occupation of Egypt, which requires the services of 4,200 British troops, would not be expedient in the interests of the British Empire; and he divided his speech in making out this contention into two heads—one devoted to the Canal and the other devoted to Egypt itself. He said the Canal was of no strategic or commercial importance to us that we should require this expenditure, and that we should gain nothing from the occupation of Egypt, even apart from the Canal. He produced in defence of both propositions a long catena of eminent military and political authorities to support his views.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
All our best politicians and all our best generals. [Laughter.] There was one authority he did not quote. I do not know whether I ought to describe him as one of our best generals or one of out best politicians, but his opinion is couched in these words:—He considered it absolutely necessary to maintain supreme and paramount influence over the Canal, and it was impossible to maintain that influence unless we also had paramount influence in Cairo and the valley of the Nile. He did not know that there was anyone more strongly opposed to our intervention in Egypt than he was, but, speaking in a general sense, he really believed this intervention was absolutely necessary if England was to remain the great Empire that she was.359 That represents the earlier phase of the hon. Gentleman's opinions. [Laughter.] That was the hon. Member's earlier manner—[laughter]—but whether he spoke as the best of our politicians or the best of our generals I know not. In any case he must admit that there has been a period when people of intelligence took a different view from that which the hon. Member now takes. [Laughter and cheers.] In truth, I rather think if I were to go into the question of the utility of the occupation of Egypt to the British Empire on the present Vote you, Sir, would call me to order and would restrict me to the question of whether the 4,200 men should or should not be kept on the Establishment. Let me point out, therefore, that we really could not assent to the hon. Member's Motion if we are to remain in Egypt; if we regard our duties apart from our interests as requiring us to be in Egypt this force must be there; and, therefore, there is no military question involved at the present time. Even the hon. Member would not say that we ought to disband these 4,200 men and maintain the occupation of Egypt. It would be impossible for me, however, without transgressing the rules of order, to go into the reason which makes it absolutely necessary that these men should be kept on the Establishment. But though I cannot go into the merits of the question, I may conciliate the hon. Member, not, perhaps, in his capacity as politician or as general, but in his capacity as economist, for these 4,200 men which I think he has described as costing a million of money—
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
NO, no; the figure he quoted was £800,000. But the Government were asking for 7,400 men, and he took the sum at £100 per soldier, adding the charge for generals and so on. [Laughter.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Then it is not our Estimate the hon. Member wants to reduce; it is the Egyptian Estimate, a subject which is 360 hardly in order on the present occasion. Egypt pays the greater part of the cost of the English occupation; broadly speaking, it pays for these troops.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
admitted that Egypt paid a considerable amount, but he could not suppose that any Gentleman on that side of the House would take that point because that was really hiring out our soldiers as mercenaries for foreign States.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
All the additional cost falls on Egypt except a trifling sum. That being so, I do not think the hon. Member need be perturbed over this Vote. If we are to keep Egypt, and as long as we keep it, men must be there and paid for. The hon. Member will admit that this is not the occasion on which to discuss the Vote on the occupation of Egypt. The success of the hon. Member's Motion would only prevent us from continuing our present Egyptian policy; and therefore I submit that the only way in which the House can be legitimately asked to come to a decision on the point is on a Resolution openly and plainly stating that the English occupation of Egypt ought forthwith to come to an end. [Cheers.] When the hon. Member chooses to bring forward that Motion we shall be prepared to discuss it in all its bearings, but until that moment arrives I submit to the Committee that it is not for our advantage, and does not conduce to legitimate discussion in Committee of Supply, that we should, on an absolutely irrelevant issue, be asked to decide a question not merely of English or Imperial policy, but a question in which the whole of Europe is concerned as well as ourselves. I trust, in these circumstances, the Committee will speedily come to a decision on the point, and it will not consent to follow the hon. Member in the course which he has asked it to pursue. [Cheers.]
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give us a day to discuss the occupation of Egypt?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
If a Vote of Censure is brought forward by the proper authorities—[cheers]—I shall gladly do so.
§ Question put, "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 154,574, all ranks, be maintained for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 20; Noes, 134.—(Division List, No. 28.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ *CAPTAIN PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
wished to remind the Government that in regard to the Army they were responsible to the nation, not only for its efficiency but also for the welfare of the men who composed it. He was sorry to miss from the right hon. Gentleman's statement any reference to the character of the men in the Army. Unless the nation could be convinced that men left the Army better than they entered it, the class of recruits which it was desirable they should obtain would not be secured, nor would they get the results for which they hoped. The popular prejudice against the Army found expression in the exaggerated language sometimes heard. He had been told of parents who said that they would rather follow a son's body to the grave than that he should join the Army. The nation had confidence in the management of the Navy, but not of the Army. At the present time large numbers of immature boys were decoyed into the Army, and in many cases their lives were practically ruined. That was a condition of affairs to which the attention of the nation should be aroused.
§ GENERAL McCALMONT (Antrim, N.)
thought that two divisions of cavalry—not one, as was proposed in the Government's scheme—should be kept up at full strength. The enormous difference between the strength of our cavalry and the strength of the cavalry of both 362 France and Germany, was most apparent in the matter of horses. In France there were 601 horses to the regiment, in Germany 612, and England only 433. We had very nearly as many men in a cavalry regiment as France or Russia, but, as compared with those countries, each of our regiments was deficient in 200 horses. Where were those horses to come from in time of war? Were they to be obtained from the omnibus companies or the tramway companies, or pressed from the hunting stables? [Laughter.] But those horses were no more to be compared to the horses which the French and German cavalry rode than a cab horse was to be compared to an elephant. [Laughter.] He did not believe at all in a reserve of horses. What we had to do was to find out what cavalry we needed and keep it up to its full strength in time of peace. ["Hear, hear!"] He was glad that in the proposed reorganisation it was not intended to touch the regimental associations of the Army. When he was at Constantinople at a time that our relations with Russia were rather strained, General Skobeleff said to him in a friendly way,Your Army has one great advantage over ours. Our army is composed of enormous masses of men, but your Army has the advantage of regimental divisions, and you should never allow it to be interfered with.["Hear, hear!"] He earnestly hoped, indeed, that that great institution of the Army would never be touched.
MR. JOHN McLEOD (Sutherland)
said there was a very distinct understanding, if not a pledge, before the last Government went out of office, that a regiment would be stationed at Fort George. He thoroughly agreed with what had been said on the Opposition side of the House with regard to the extravagant expenditure on the Army, but he thought that as long as money was being spent the Scottish people were entitled to a fair share of it. [A laugh.] The Scottish people contributed their share towards that expenditure, and the least they could ask 363 was that a due proportion of the regiments at home should he quartered in Scotland. He had considerable doubt as to the good that would result either to the district of Fort George or to a regiment from being quartered there, but the people of that locality were so misguided as to believe that it would be a considerable advantage both to themselves and a regiment to have one there, and therefore in the interest of the people he hoped the Under Secretary for War would be able to relieve the anxiety on that point by sending a regiment to Fort George. With regard to the raising of another battalion of Cameron Highlanders, he was sure the War Office authorities were under a very great misapprehension if they imagined that they were going to get recruits from the Highlands for this second battalion. There was a very popular tradition that more Highlanders did not enlist in the Army because of certain treatment meted out to them at the beginning of the century. [Ironical laughter.] But after examination he had discovered that the disinclination arose from an entirely different cause. Anyone who studied the history of the Highland regiments would have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that a Highlander was never a man who hired himself out for the purpose of killing. Highland regiments had, with credit to themselves and glory to England, gone to all parts of the world and made empire, but those regiments were raised for a particular object, and having served that object the men considered their functions were at an end. He therefore ventured to say the right hon. Gentleman would find great difficulty in finding recruits from the Highlands for the second battalion of the Cameron Highlanders. If England wished to fight battles abroad she would have to find men to do so outside of Scotland. Scotland had quite sufficient to do at home. [Ironical cheers.]
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.364
§ 2. £5,937,800, Pay, &c, of the Army (General Staff, Regiments, Reserve, and Departments).
§ 3. £295,800, Medical Establishment, Pay, &c.—Agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £553,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Pay, Extra Pay, Bounty, &c. (exclusive for Supplies, Clothing, &c.) of the Militia (to a number not exceeding 135,243, including 30,000 Militia Reserve), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898.
SIR HENRY CAMPBELL-BANNER-MAN (Stirling Burghs)
protested against any further Votes being taken that night. It was altogether unusual to take more than the first Vote which involved a large sum on the same night. There were many hon. Members who were interested in the following Votes, and who might be absent in the belief that this invariable practice would be followed on the present occasion. ["Hear, hear!"] They had already allowed one Vote—the Medical Vote—to pass, but he hoped no further Vote would be taken.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said he entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, and he had no desire whatever to press on Votes which might be unexpected. Under those circumstances he would not go on with any further Votes, and would move "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again." ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also to report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.