Motion made and Question proposed—
That a number of Laud Forces not exceeding 180,513, 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 31st March, 1899.
§ *SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
I should like to say a few words upon the very important subjects dealt with in the Army Estimates this year. And in the first place I should like to remark that it seems to me that great convenience and advantage have been gained by the Under Secretary of State making his statement with the Speaker in the Chair. Had that not been so, there would have been a great number of matters submitted bearing upon the Service for the year which would, to a great extent, have been made in the dark, Members being in ignorance of the whole scheme of the proposals of the Government. Whereas now, in the admirable statement which was submitted to us by my right hon. Friend we are in possession of the whole of the case, and are able to discuss with advantage and great saving to the time of the House the whole proposal of the Government. Now, Sir, the statement of my right hon. Friend has shown a very great change in the policy proposed 156 by the War Office. Hitherto there have been great complaints made of the working of the present system. Year after year, Gentlemen in this House, well conversant with the feeling of the Service and working of the system, have complained that it was very faulty in its main principles and in its operation, and left us without reliable military provision. Well, Sir, these statements have been submitted from time to time to the Government, and with great particularity in the course of last year, by the military Members of this House. Now, Sir, it has been said here and elsewhere, that it is a new departure that Members of this House, who were formerly in the Service, taking a particular interest in the affairs of the Service, should form themselves into an unofficial Committee and act in a collective manner. I can well believe, in fact I know, that it has been very distasteful to officials, and they have resented what they call the dictation of a certain section of this House. I do not, however, think that there is anything novel in Members of this House, interested in particular questions, endeavouring to take collective action. We are all familiar with such joint action. Agricultural Members join together and make representations to the Government. There is the Church Committee, which represents Church Reform. There are Irish Committees and Scotch Committees, and yet it is said that members of the Service, by joining together and taking collective action, have overawed the Executive Government. Well, Sir, it is not so very long ago that a very considerable section of this House interested in Home Rule in Ireland so overawed the Government of that day that they turned their back upon their former professions and found salvation in Home Rule. At all events, there is nothing novel in a particular class of subjects procuring collective action. On the contrary, I should think there is great advantage gained by a comparison of views, and by their agreeing upon some definite and practical scheme of reform, which they may urge upon the Government. So I do not imagine that it is necessary for the Members of the Service in this House to make an apology for their collective action, especially if by that action it is found that the conclusions at 157 which they have arrived commend themselves to the Government of the day. But, Sir, former members of the Service would have no influence or authority if they did not faithfully represent the feeling of that Service, and if they were not able to speak with experience, and from their own practical knowledge. It cannot be doubted that those who have served the country in former times have gained a certain knowledge of matters appertaining to the Service, which those who have never served caa never obtain. And that is particularly manifest in the discussion on the Army Estimates, bearing upon the question of esprit de corpt, which has of late been before the House. Certainly there is nothing in which those who have served in the Army have more sympathy and fellow-feeling with the Army of the present day than the attachment to the traditions of their own regiments, in the recollections of the actions and events in which the regiment has become famous, and the knowledge of the attractions which attach to the history of the regiment. The Under Secretary of State has indicated certainly a new point of departure in his present proposals. He has declared that the Government must adhere in the main points to the system which, for many years now, has been in operation, whereby certain linked battalions in the Home Service, in turn, relieve those in foreign Service. Now, if I may refer to the representations which were made by the Service Members, they did not confine themselves to an abolition of the linked battalions system, but urged certain modifications if it were necessary to retain it. Important modifications have been made, and most valuable modifications they are, in that these linked battalions cannot now, to use a well-known expression, be "squeezed like a lemon"—you must retain a sufficient number of establishments to be reliable in case of emergency. If there be airy "genesis" attaching to the changes now proposed by Her Majesty's Government, I should rather think that it may be found in that well-known declaration of the Commander-in-Chief that the Home Battalions were squeezed like a lemon to keep up the battalions abroad. But that squeeze of the lemon has gone on for many years— 158 from the time when the expression was first used till now. I can recollect myself, when I was in India, battalions being sent out in time of emergency, some of which the Commander-in-Chief said it would be utterly impossible to send into the field. Well, Sir, there is a very important change proposed in the present system, that in addition to the battalions having an irreducible minimum, special encouragement will be given to the Reserve soldiers to return to the Colours. Now, I do not at all see that that will involve anything contrary to the proper maintenance of discipline for the battalions to have an admixture of old soldiers. On the contrary, the admixture of seasoned soldiers has always been thought to have a very healthy effect upon any corps. But there is a more important matter than that. Not only ought we to have a mixture of old soldiers in the ranks, but we ought to have experienced non-commissioned officers. It is very easy to manage battalions of young soldiers if you have old non-commissioned officers—that is to say, comparatively old non-commissioned officers, men who can exercise model influence with the rank file, and who are to be depended upon in time of difficulty; but if battalions are so squeezed that even pay-sergeants are sent away, it cannot be wondered at that there is increased difficulty in bringing young battalions rapidly up to the mark of efficiency. The question of the Reserve is a very important question indeed, and the absence of the Reserve in former times was the cause of great inconvenience, and yet it would be a great mistake to ascribe the trouble which befell our Army in the Crimean War to the Long Service System. It is not very long ago since I heard that remark in this House; but, Sir, the distress and trouble of those days had a very different cause. The Government of the day never realised the magnitude of the operations in which they were involved. If I do not mistake, I have a lively recollection of the period when the Government went to war with a first-class Power and only increased the Army by a nominal 10,000 men; indeed, it was only in the autumn of that year that they thought ii necessary to call out the Militia, and realised the magnitude of the 159 undertaking they had taken in hand and increased the strength of the Army. Had the Government of the day then, at the beginning, sufficiently realised the magnitude of their task, we should not at the close of 1854 have had an Army reduced far below the necessary numbers for the work we had in hand. Sir, there are some different points in the scheme of Her Majesty's Government which, with the permission of the House, I should like to call attention to, though not at all venturing to set my opinion against that of the experienced and practical officers at the head of the Army, but, nevertheless, believing, as I do, that I speak the sentiments of many officers of practical experience. Now, Sir, the main point in examining the present proposals of the Government is whether you will get the men you require. The Government are doing a great deal to attract more recruits to the ranks, but it must be wondered whether any such moderate increase of pay as it is proposed to give, and which is possibly as much as it is practical to give, is sufficient to make up for the present deficiency which unhappily exists in each class of the Army. It has often occurred to me as an extraordinary and most unsatisfactory feature to notice the great contrast which exists in the military spirit displayed by the upper, middle, and lower classes of this country. When it is a question of officers you get 10 or 12 candidates offering themselves for any vacancy that occurs, young men willing to undergo an expensive preparation, working up to a very high standard, and, when they get to the Army, throwing themselves heart and soul into the service they have undertaken. If Volunteers are required for extra service in most unhealthy parts of the world, the War Office is overwhelmed by the number of applicants for the situation. Now, Sir, such is the military spirit of the upper classes. In the middle classes there is comparatively no desire to enter the Army at all, and among the working classes, I am sorry to say, we do not get the real bone and sinew of the working classes into the Army at all, we only get a very small proportion. If a young man belonging to the working classes does enlist, or, to use the expression, "goes for a soldier," he is thought to be going to the bad, and very often his friends do their best to buy him out, and 160 the result is that a sufficient number of recruits is only obtained by reducing the standard, and even then, for the most part, they are only got from the idle and unemployed classes; in fact, as a commanding officer expressed it the other day, our recruits are obtained mainly from the "corner boys." Now, there must be something very unsatisfactory somewhere in a scheme that fails to attract the best portion of the working classes to Her Majesty's service. The other night the Under Secretary of State referred to the nominal pay of the Army being the same as it was in the days of Agincourt. Well, I believe it was much higher relatively then, and also that the men who filled the ranks at that time were of a higher class than they are now. Farmers, and the best labouring men of the country then entered the ranks. Now, Sir, surely it ought to be our main effort to endeavour to attract a better class of men to the ranks of the Army by tapping new strata. The German Army, the French Army, the Russian Army, the Italian Army, each of these is practically the nation in arms. All classes have to pass through the ranks, and if the popular feeling in France at this moment is manifested in a remarkable manner on the side of the Army, it must be remembered that the men composing the mob who cheered the officers of the Army have, for the most part, served in it, and have naturally the honour of the Army closely at heart. The extra 3d. a day which is proposed seems to me to be a very wise proceeding, because a man has a shilling a day, and it is not reduced 25 per cent. A recruit is promised a shilling a day clear, and it must cause disappointment when he goes back on furlough and tells his friends that he has had 3d. a day stopped for his food. Perhaps it would be as well if the extra 3d. were made 4d. so as to include washing as well as rations. With regard to the question of deferred pay, about which there is a considerable difference of opinion, I can only say that many officers with whom I have constant communication have only one opinion, and that is that deferred pay is to a very great extent wasted as soon as it is received; that it does not, as a rule, conduce to the settlement of the men in civilian life. On the contrary, after a 161 man has entertained all his friends he find himself in great difficulty of obtaining employment, and he would like to go back to the ranks. That is my own personal experience. I have found excellent Reserve soldiers, men whom I should be glad to employ, who told me that they would be glad to get back to the ranks if they could. I quite admit that it is most desirable to have Reserves, and encourage men to join the Reserve than otherwise, but you must remember that this deferred pay is the man's own money, earned by his own labour, which he has quite as much right to spend as an officer has to spend his pay. That the men will much prefer having their pay as they earn it to waiting to the end of their service for the whole gratuity I have very little doubt, and I earnestly hope that it may result in bringing a better class of men to the Army. Bui in order to bring a better class of men to the Army something more is wanted, and everybody must wish that our Army should not be filled from the lowest classes, as it is largely, but that respectable men should be brought to serve in the Army. Now, Sir, there are two ways in which this can be done. One is by making an Army career entail a certain future career to the man who is a well-conducted soldier. Surely it is worth the while of the country to improve its Army by giving such places as it has at its disposal to the men who have served the country well in the held and the fort. It is all very well to say that there are 2,000 places which are only to be filled up from the ranks of the retired soldiers. When I was at the Post Office we were able to find 2,000 places for the retired soldiers; but that, I regret to say, was done away with, and now the Post Office is only to find places for half that number. The Government ought to put it out of their power by a self-denying ordinance to be able to put any but retired soldiers preferentially in various Government Departments. Why only last year there was a new branch of the National Gallery opened, and there were certain vacancies to be filled, half of them at 30s. a week, and the other half at 18s. a week, and the latter only were offered to retired soldiers. That is not the way to encourage respectable men to join the Army. I 162 am glad to say that in the House of Lords preference is given to the retired soldier. Is it too much to ask in this House of Commons that the same thing should be done? Should we be worse served if we had respectable, well-conducted Army men filling the position of attendants to the House? Why, in foreign armies, as it has been repeatedly pointed out, all non-commissioned officers serving 12 years with an unblemished character are guaranteed a superior post in the Civil Service, and I do not see why the same should not be tried here; although not having the conscription, we have not the same means of getting the best men in the ranks, and we can only do that by offering further inducements to attract them thither. If the Government are in earnest in this matter they will take up the question with much greater zeal than has as yet been shown, and they will let our soldiers feel that by good behaviour they will secure their future welfare. That is one way by which a better class of men can be attracted to the Army. You can hardly expect a young man of good antecedents and education to join the Army if he is only allowed to go about in his coarse red coat, which is looked upon with suspicion and treated with contempt in many places of amusement and entertainment. That has always seemed to me to be one of the meanest things done in this country, that a soldier should not be welcome for his cloth wherever he places himself and can afford to pay whatever a civilian can do. Could it not be arranged that as soon as the manœuvres were over the furloughs could be freely given, and men of approved good character allowed to wear plain clothes? Or supposing that a night out of barracks were allowed, could not these men of approved good character be given the privilege of wearing plain clothes? Surely that would be a great inducement to men of a superior class to join the Army, as that privilege would enable them to mix in superior society. Now, Sir, there is another point to which I desire to draw attention, and which has been somewhat lightly touched upon—I refer to the encouragement of the Militia. Look at Switzerland. There the men are liable to five years' service in the first line, and till the age 163 of 45 in other classes, and they are thoroughly trained as Cavalry, Artillery, and Infantry by competent officers. Recent reports from that country have shown that the people there not only do not look upon serving in the Militia as a hardship, but they value and honour it. The manœuvres in the various districts excite a good deal of interest. Then, again, the advantages of early training are not thrown away in Switzerland as they are here, for every boy is drilled at the public schools, and learns musketry in the Tir National, so that when he joins the Militia he already knows the rudiments of the work, and the training is fully utilised. I desire to point out that such training in our schools for our children would not only be useful from a military point of view, but it would be good for our youth, by improving their physique, and give them a taste of military organisation, and, perhaps, we should get many good soldiers in this way. We have Cadet Corps in our schools, but I do not think that is enough. I think in such schools as Harrow and Eton all the boys should be drilled, for it would have a most excellent effect upon schools of the second rank, who would have their scholars drilled too. In Switzerland the schoolmasters take a pride in having their children as well drilled as possible. No doubt the proposals of the Government are very good, and I humbly offer my admiration and gratitude to my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for War for having so ably laid them before the House. We are told that there are two Army Corps being got ready, and a third Army Corps to follow. Now, what could we do with these against an immense foreign army, some of whom we might be called upon to meet in hot haste, in time of national emergency, without guns and without means of transport? It is quite evident that the proposals of the Government only touch the fringe of the subject, and our Army Estimates are only in their infancy stage. I can hardly understand how those responsible can sleep in their beds if they think of this state of things. It is quite possible that the next great national quarrel will not be a word and a blow, but it will be a blow and a word, and we ought at once to set 164 our Forces in order if we want to really consider this country safe in the case of a quarrel with a great Power. Think of the consequences to our trade, and to our credit, and the money that would be lost, not by tens of millions or scores of millions, but by hundreds of millions, if this country was thought to be in danger. Our nation should complete its organisation ready to meet any invasion. We ought certainly to have such forces and organisation at our command as can be used in times of emergency. What happens now? If you send a single brigade to any foreign part the battalion is brought under a General whom they have never seen, and they only come to know him by degrees. What sort of a, military system is that? Why should there not be brigades under the officers who commanded them in times of peace, and so, at least, to this small extent, we should be ready for the least emergency? When we are not ready, and we have to send this small force off in hot haste, how can we expect to keep the country safe in the time of a real emergency, as I cannot help thinking some day may happen? I gladly join in pressing this case where we think it is weak, and I thank the Government for the considerable changes they have made.
§ MR. T. C. T. WARNER (Lichfield)
The right hon. Gentleman has made very many useful suggestions, no doubt, many of them hardly practical, for the Army Estimates of this House. There is one thing that he has mentioned. I should like to say at once, in reference to the Swiss Militia, that they are undoubtedly some of the finest troops in the world, but they have an advantage over our Militia—they do not require Cavalry in their country. Our Militia may be very good, but we require Cavalry for them, and the Militia and Volunteers have got no Cavalry at all. One of the propositions of the Government is that they do not propose to supply the Cavalry and Artillery with more than the advance forces of the Militia and Volunteers, and that is a very important flaw in the suggestions. I am glad to see that the Government have taken up this question, and intend to make them more efficient than they were. There is another suggestion made, which is also a really important 165 one, and that is the Government has not yet given a shilling a day, and there is still the washing penny to be taken off; and the right hon. Baronet was quite right in saying that that was very serious, and ought to have been taken off instead of being charged to the individual soldier. No doubt, the answer will be that they have not got the money to do it. But here again there are several things that might be done for the sake of economy. I believe the Under Secretary for War suggested that the depôts were not going to be used for training the men, because they were so badly trained there. What are we going to do with these depôt? They are practically places where the soldiers go to idle. They have twice as many officers as are necessary, and double the staff that is needed, and the depôts are practically useless. I am not talking of the Caterham or the Cavalry depôts, but of the ordinary regimental depôts for two battalions, which are practically useless, for there is not a bit of drill taught, in them, and a lot of men are kept idle, practically. Now, if the Government would undertake to reduce the staff and officers there, and transfer the non-commissioned officers into some of their new battalions they would effect an economy which would amply compensate for the men having to pay for their own washing. Several on this side of the House want to know what the new artillery depôt is intended to be. Depôts vary so in different parts of the country. Some do much, some do little, and in some the recruits have to be trained again after joining their battalion. What is this artillery depôt to be? We want to know a little more about it. A good deal has been said about the Militia. Now, the present Militia regiments supply a large number of recruits to go into the Army. They go into the Militia first, because they make 10s. more by going there, and they have a little longer time. A great many troops go there for that reason. But if the Army pay is to be increased, these men will not go into the Militia, and you will reduce the numbers of the Militia in getting the numbers in the Army up. That is reducing the real Reserve, because the Militia is the real Reserve. Therefore, I suggest a very simple plan to improve the position of the Militia man by doing 166 away with the Militia Reserve. It is a most ridiculous thing, and will be more so when the Militia is enlisted in foreign service. Now, the Militia Reserve is a Reserve which is counted twice over, because every Militia man is a Reserve man. In time of war the Militia is called out as the Reserve, and for all practical purposes they are used to garrison foreign fortresses in times of war. Under this new system they are to be enlisted for foreign service, and then I not see what difference there will be in any way between the Militia and the Reserve men. And yet you give a man £1 a year extra to be on the Militia Reserve—that is you take him out and put him into a Line regiment. Another thing that I should like to mention which I think ought to be done, and it is a matter that I have asked for before in the case of the Militia, to raise their numbers, and that is to pay a little more attention to their dress. I will only give one instance of the absurdity of the cheese-paring that is going on. There is a cap given to all the Line regiments, which is not given to the Militia regiments. There is a distinction made, and at the present moment the army factories are making Glengarry caps simply for the Militia, and they do not like it. It would be just as simple to give the Militia man the same head-dress, and give him a little more encouragement in that way. Give the Volunteer also the same dress as the Army. Surely the Militia man might be dressed the same, and not have an invidious distinction made. It does not matter much about the officer, because he doesn't mind; but when you come to make distinctions between the men, then it is a rather serious matter. There are men in the Militia who have no full head-dress, and when they go to Aldershot they have to wear their caps. They have no full dress given to them at all. That is another thing complained very seriously of by those regiments. As to the whole scheme, I hope that the expectations of the Government will be fulfilled, and that this 3d. a day will bring in the recruits, because, as far as I understand it, there are to be a great number of additional recruits. I should like more money given to increase the number of the rank and file, and 167 also to increase their comforts, so as to give every inducement for recruiting to the Army, and to Reserve; but the whole thing depends entirely upon whether the Government is successful in getting their recruits, and I hope they will be, although I do not believe there will be sufficient recruits to carry out this scheme. I hope they will not set about forming the new battalions until they have filled up all those vacancies which exist in the old battalions. I hope the Government will be very careful to see that every place is filled up before they make new ones, which will only make the old battalions mere skeletons.
§ *LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (York)
Allow me to add my congratulation to the storm of congratulations which the hon. Gentleman has received from both sides of the House. This is the first time in the history of the country that there has been any like proposals put forward on business lines. I think even right hon. Gentlemen opposite will be delighted to see there are some symptoms of sanity at last in War Office administrations. There are certain points which I should like to call attention to, more particularly with regard to the Artillery. I believe that in the next war, whenever it occurs, things will be very much like they have been in the last wars; that is to say, the war will be decided more or less by Artillery duels. It is absolutely certain that upon Artillery will mainly depend the result of the next campaign, and, with the very small Army we have, the Artillery should be exceptionally strong, instead of it being rather the other way. We find an illustration of this in recent campaigns. The result of the war between France and Germany was brought about very much by the superior artillery fire of the Germans, and the war between the Turks and the Greeks was certainly settled by the superiority of the artillery fire of the Turks. The Artillery also played a noteworthy part in the Indian Frontier war, and our success in this campaign in the Soudan will rest mainly on our Artillery fire. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War says that he proposes to increase the number of guns from four to five per 168 thousand bayonets. But in the Army Estimates I see that the rank and file—Infantry, including the Guards, numbers 93,000. Well, Sir, if the Secretary of State for War makes his computation at five guns per thousand bayonets, he ought to have 465 guns, or, say, 77 batteries. But, instead of having 77 batteries, I make out that we have only got 56; and 384 guns, instead of 465. As to the Reserve, we cannot expect the country to keep the Army or Navy up to their full active war strength; therefore, you must have a good Reserve. Looking at the reserve of guns, I find we have only got one horse-battery of six guns, five field-batteries of 30 guns, and 22 15-pounders. I am not quite clear what part these last take in a war. To go to war on that reserve of guns appears to me to be ludicrous for such an Army as ours. There is another question, that of the new four-gun batteries. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War says that there are to be 15 new four-gun batteries, and that they are to be made up to six-gun batteries by adding a division of two guns out of the Reserve. Sir, I can assure the House that nothing would be more fatal to the efficiency of a battery than to make it up in this way. A battery does not work in sub-divisions, but as a battery, and what horse-artillery or field-artillery would do if you make a six-gun battery out of four efficient guns and two from the Reserve I cannot conceive. I hope some hon. Member who has experience of Artillery will make this plain to the House. The whole effort of a battery must be to be as mobile as possible, to get into action as quickly as possible, and to get out of action as quickly as possible, and in order to do that effectively each one of the sub-divisions must have worked with the other. Sir, I am rather puzzled to find that the whole of the auxiliary forces are to be four-gun batteries, with a total of 196 guns, but I cannot make out how the proportion is arrived at, because in the Army Estimates there is no rank and file put down at all. I would ask my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for War to explain that. No calculation can be made out as to the number of guns that, according to the right hon. Gentleman's 169 own consumption, should be given to this force. I do think, Sir, there should be a proper number of guns for this auxiliary force; at any rate, there should be some understanding on business-like lines, to enable the Committee to see what is proposed with regard to the Artillery for this force. There is another point I should like to call attention to. Fifty muzzle-loading guns are to go with the Reserve, or with the Auxiliary force. What I want to point out is that these guns are supposed to be good enough for the Auxiliary force, or the Reserve, as the case may be. But these muzzle-loading guns are not accurate. Their range is limited, yet they are supposed to with stand the attack of any Power that might land on our shores artillery composed of the most modern guns. Sir, it is absolutely absurd to suppose that these muzzle-loading guns can resist modern artillery, in these days of rapidity and accuracy of firing such as we get with modern artillery, these muzzle-loading guns would be put out of action before they ever tired a shot. If the Reserve Artillery is to be used in case of invasion, let us have proper guns, and guns that have some chance of hitting an enemy that can hit you. Sir, I should like to see these guns sold as old iron; they are absolutely useless against the guns that can be used against them. With regard to the Indian Army, the guns, according to the computation of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War are in the proper proportion, but I can not find any statistics as to what the Indian Reserve is, or if there is a reserve of guns in the Indian Army. Sir, I maintain that there should be a good, heavy reserve of guns in India, because if there is any trouble it is principally upon the guns we shall rely. There is a Question on the Paper relating to the new artillery of the French and German Armies. If the statements made on the subject are correct, and those Powers have 12-pounder quick-firing guns equivalent to our 12-pounder slow-firing guns, they have a most, formidable weapon, and I will oppose to the best of my ability any large increase in the amount of our artillery, until we are perfectly certain that these French and German guns are a distinct failure. 170 It is only throwing money away to equip these new batteries until we obtain the very best gun it is possible to get, and which, I believe, it is possible to get in this country. To show the Committee what we have against us, I may say that the French have 130 quick-firing batteries, and Germany a considerably larger number; but one of their quick-firing guns can fire accurately at the rate of six rounds a minute, whereas the guns we have in our Horse and Field Artillery can only fire one round a minute, and that is good firing. Such a battery would have no chance against a battery of quick-firing guns such as France and Germany possessed. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will inform the Committee what steps are to be taken if these guns are as good as I am informed they are, and I trust also he will assure the Committee that he will not incur the expenditure of money before he knows that he has got the equivalent for it. There is another point. The right hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary of State for War has said, as is always said on these occasions, "We have increased the Army and Navy very much more than has ever been done before." But the point is not whether you have increased the Army so much, but whether you have increased it to our needs? Have you done what the Hartington Commission recommended so strongly—make up your requirements before you make up your establishments? That is the point to consider, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will assure us that he has made out his requirements before coming to the House to make out his establishments. To turn to another point, I should like to ask if the right hon. Gentleman in his new scheme intends to decrease the Reserve in number? As I understand his statement, he is offering facilities for getting a number of men back to the Army from the Reserve. Sir, it will be a bad proposal if in any way the Reserve is decreased. I entirely sympathise with what fell from the Front Benches of both sides, that the linked battalion system is a system to stick to. It is true that it has failed, but that is because it was not carried out on the original intention. If the Government try now to carry it out on the original intention, I am certain it would be the best we could devise, because 171 it will give us a good Reserve, and one that we can trust to, and that will be very cheap. That is a point I should like the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War to note, and that is the question of the characters of the men. He says that the men now are going to have on their discharge a certificate of all the crimes they have committed while in the Army. Sir, I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will not do anything of the sort. I venture to say, in a speech I made in the country, that the best fighting man in the Army or Navy is the man who goes by the name of "Scallywag." I do not mean anything disagreeable by that, because, when I was young, I daresay I was a "scallywag," and I daresay if I had been in the Army a few years ago, and had come out under this new arrangement, I should never have got employment anywhere. I do hope my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for War will reconsider that question, because, after all, if a man makes a little mistake—we all do—do not "log" it up against him, but let him go out on a clean sheet. Very often the men known as "black sheep" are the men we like best. There is another point which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed to the Committee, and which, I think, is excellent, and is the crux of the whole thing—that is the decentralisation of the War Office. In some cases there would be a long correspondence as to whether a stirrup-leather or a stirrup-iron had been broken by a man's carelessness or by accident, and as to whether the fault was due to himself. That sort of thing has increased enormously, and I am certain that the Army will benefit considerably, and that a great deal more trouble will be taken by those in command, if they are given more power, and if decentralisation of the staff is carried out. I must congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Government on having at last taken upon themselves to study the welfare of the soldier. It is a most important matter, and it is the point that we shall have to look to most for increasing recruiting. I should like, if I might, to have what I would describe as a light spar with the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He said in his speech, the other night, that he was one of the old-fashioned Constitutionalists. Well, those are the people that I have always 172 been endeavouring for many years to get hung, more or less—the old-fashioned Constitutionalists, as he put it himself; and I hope he will not thank I am saying anything offensive—I am only trying to explain my point. When he was First Lord of the Admiralty, the present Secretary of State for India was an old-fashioned Constitutionalist. He was solely responsible, and he would not take any advice. He would not listen to anybody. "I am the First Lord of the Admiralty," he said, "and I do not agree with those hon. Members who want a great increase of the fleet." The right hon. Gentleman opposite probably said the same when he was in the War Office. It is perfectly true; but they are responsible to this House, and this House is the only place where you can settle these questions. I was rather sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman taunting other hon. Members on interfering when they had not arrived at that extreme old age which is the only qualification which I can conceive for an Admiral or General. They are in a more important position, because they are sent here to this House to help the Government and the country to put those things right. I was delighted when I heard there was a Service Committee in this House, not so much to force the Government—well, if necessary, to force the Government for, after all, they depend upon votes. But there is this to be said, and the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me, there is great utility in having Service Members and others going about the country and endeavouring to stir up the country to the facts as they are, and trying to get our position right; for no Ministry—I do not care on which side of the House it is—can possibly come down here and make a proposal involving large sums of money unless the country knows the why and wherefore of those sums being wanted. Therefore, the old-fashioned Constitutionalist, though he is a very valuable person, who does not encourage these things, and does not like them, is, I respectfully submit, entirely in the wrong. Here is the only place where you can settle these things—on the floor of the House. The right hon. Gentleman says these people are returned on Local Veto, and other things of that sort; and no doubt a great number of these people, and I am one of them, do mention 173 those things; but I put my appeal far more on the stronger question of Imperial defence than anything else, because I thought I knew something about it, and, at any rate, I felt keenly about it. Of course, I acknowledge that I am only a temporary Member. Still, I am a Member, and I have this opportunity of ventilating my opinions. I saw that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire described me, I think it was, as merely a ewe lamb, with not a very assured life. Well, I hope that after Wednesday he will find that I am a vigorous ram. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to answer the question I have put to him.
§ CAPTAIN D. V. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
I must say that I find it rather difficult to reconcile some of the statements of the right hon. Gentleman with those of others who have preceded me; but there are some points which I desire to elaborate, and to which I wish to draw his attention. I recognise entirely the responsibility and the care that the Government must have given to such great changes as they are now proposing; but I think, as has already been pointed out both to the House and the Committee, that the crux of the whole question whether these changes will succeed or not, lies in the consideration, will you get the men or will you not get the men? Everything depends on the recruiting in the next two years. Now, I venture humbly to say that in my opinion the feelings of the recruits themselves and the feelings of the parents of those recruits have not been sufficiently considered in drawing out these changes. The Under Secretary of State quite recently informed me that the scheme which he was about to bring before the country would contain important modifications in regard to the question of the age at which recruits were to be taken into the Army. I must say that I looked forward with great eagerness to the details of the scheme with relation to age, which, to my mind, is one of the most important questions, so far as the men of the Army are concerned. But I find that practically there is really no change to speak of in this new system from what 174 the old system was; the only difference being that the commanding officer is to require a certificate as to the age of a certain number of men when they reach the age of 19. Now, this is a new qualification, but it is utterly unreliable. I might give an example by reference to what took place in the other House last week, when a noble Earl gave an authentic instance of a boy who enlisted in the Army at 13 years of age, and yet he was supposed to possess the qualifications of 18. Not four months ago, in a police court, in London, a mother was summoned for her son not attending school. She gave, as her defence, that the boy, who had all the qualifications of a man, had enlisted in the Army, as he was tired of going to school with boys whose age was about 14. And I myself last year communicated a case to this House, and it was proved, of a boy who was allowed to enlist in the Army at the age of 15 years one month. In view of these three striking examples, I do not think anybody will admit that physical qualification is sufficient to determine the age of boys. Now, I hold in my hand a document which shows that it is demanded of every applicant for employment in an English Government arsenal that he shall state the date of his birth, and give some certificate of character. I humbly submit that men seeking to serve in the Army must comply with a condition of that sort. We are told, and I have been informed in answer to questions on the subject, that if we ask for these conditions we shall not get the men, that it is impracticable to get the men we want if we create these difficulties. Well, I hold myself that that is a very wrong view of the subject, and I would advance the reverse opinion. I think that human nature being such as it is, in some ways the more difficulties you put before men the greater chance there is of their being anxious to overcome them. And it will be found that if the doors of the Army are open to everyone, you will not get the class of men most desired for the Army. What we have to do is to make the Army popular; and not to attract the men so much as to convince the parents of the men that their sons are going into a profession which there is some difficulty in getting into, and where they 175 will be associated with men of a certain character and ascertained qualifications. The hon. and gallant Member for Worcestershire, speaking in this House on Friday last, said the actual pay offered to recruits was not the principal object of a great many of them, and with that view I entirely agree; and I regret very much indeed that that circumstance has been to a great extent lost sight of in this great scheme. To my mind, to continue this system whereby boys are still enlisted in the Army is to perpetrate a serious wrong and evil to those boys. I would refer to boys as they are treated in the Navy, where boys are only associated with boys. Where the evil of the present Army system comes in, is that boys 15 or 16 are expected to associate and to live in barrack-rooms with men of 20 years of age, who are obliged to live unmarried lives. And I say that it is unfair to those boys of 16 or 17 to expect them to withstand the temptations of garrison and barrack life under the same regulations as apply to the men. It is absolutely wrong to continue this system under which boys, who do not know what the world is in many cases, who have never before known what it was to be well dressed, or to have the command of money, should be exposed to the numerous temptations of garrison life, and of being allowed to go out for the full time limit given to men of 19 or 20. It is even worse than that, because a man going into the Service under full age keeps up this false age right through his career. He may be brought up before his commanding officer, who knows nothing of his age, except from the enlistment book, from which, although only 19, he may appear to be 22 years of age, and in judging of the punishment to be given to that boy the commanding officer looks upon him as a man three years older than he actually is, and judges accordingly. This is absolutely wrong, and perpetuates a great and serious evil for the man, and I do not think we enter sufficiently into the feeling of the class from which recruits for our Army are drawn, or into those of the upper class which furnishes the officers. The sons of those parents are sent with other boys intended for the Army to Sandhurst, Woolwich, where they are under strict discipline, or else they enter into 176 civil life, or go to the public schools or Universities, where, again, they consort with boys past their own age. I do not think there is any reason why the experiment should not be made, and in this way: I would humbly submit to the Under Secretary of State whether it would not be possible for the three years to insist upon the production of the birth certificate. If that could be carried out, even tentatively, a great step in advance would be made. The country would gain enormously in an indirect way, because the number of cases of disease and illness would be lessened; that it must be apparent to every member of the Committee, in view of the returns which have been put before them, how terrible it is that boys should be exposed to the ravages of disease. I am obliged to differ entirely, I am sorry to say, from a statement made by a right hon. Gentleman on the Bench in front of me on Friday, that there is no difference between overgrown boys and undergrown men. I think there is the very greatest difference between the two, and I cannot understand how anyone, really dealing with the question of Army Reform and employment, and not only physical but moral qualifications, cannot see that there is the greatest difference between the two. I am sorry I cannot see my way to vote for an increase of the Army entailing such an enormous addition, but I do not intend to oppose the Vote, because the responsibility would be too great for a private Member to oppose what the Government are advised is necessary for the defence of the county. But I must point out that the responsibility rests upon them, and I must say that for the policy pursued for the last two years it is most unfair that the taxpayers of the country should have to bear the burden. I think also that the propositions that are now made do not tend to enable us to get our money's worth for what the country spends on the Army. Our requirements, as has been well said, are unique; and our qualifications are unique. There is no other nation in the world that can produce the Volunteer force that this nation produces. I do not think the country is getting its money's worth, or doing its best to appropriate the money wisely, appropriated to Army defences, when we have not adopted the suggestion 177 so ably made in the letter from the hon. and gullant Member for Great Yarmouth to the Duke of Devonshire. The suggestion for an increase of our coaling stations ought, I think, certainly to be adopted. I elicited from the Under Secretary last week that no reply had been received from the Canadian Government in regard to the proposal that had been made to them for the self-defence of our Colonies; and although that proposition had been before the Canadian Government, I believe, since, last year, I must express my regret that they have not been able to see their way to further that proposition, which I consider an excellent one. But I think we ought to look on the question of the Army in this House, more than we do, from the taxpayer's point of view. While we are here as Service Members, we ought not to forget that our first consideration is that of our constituents who pay the taxes. It is from that point of view that I cannot myself, as I have said, vote for the sum; but as I do not care to undertake the responsibility of voting against, I intend to abstain from voting.
§ *GENERAL F. S. RUSSELL (Cheltenham)
I have listened with the greatest interest, and, I hope, with much attention, to the under Secretary's lucid and comprehensive statement, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the chorus of satisfaction and approval which has followed it, interspersed by a few gibes against the Service Members of Parliament. I do not think we have reason to reproach ourselves with any portion of our action, for the proposals which the Government have brought in are the best and the most triumphant vindication of the letter which those Members addressed to the Prime Minister. Sir, in this general pæan of congratulation it may, perhaps, appear a somewhat ungracious task to strike even one discordant note. I must however, venture to say that I think the Government, in the proposals which they laid before the House, have failed satisfactorily to grapple with the real difficulty, which is the bottom and the root of the whole subject—viz., the recruiting 178 question. Nothing proves this more conclusively than the Returns which have just been laid on the Table of the House. What is the use of adding six battalions to the Army if those battalions exist only on paper? What is the use of increasing the Artillery by five batteries if there are no men to serve the guns, or if those so-called men are puny boys, who would never be accepted in any other Army? Now, Sir, if the Government intend to have the additional 25,083 men, which they now ask for the Army, in flesh and blood, and not only on the Returns of the War Office in paper and ink, they will have to adopt a different attitude to the great question of recruiting. This, I may point out, is a national question, entirely remote from all consideration of Porty Government. No doubt, it is the duty of the Administration of the day to determine what are the requirements of the Empire, so as to maintain the policy which they have to pursue; but when this is done, the question is one for the nation itself to decide, whether they will consent to offer such terms as will provide the Army with a sufficiency of men, and with men of a proper stamp, or whether they will make up their minds to fall back on some form of compulsory service, which is the only other alternative. Now, Sir, this recruiting difficulty is not a new one. It has existed ever since we had an Army. It has, however, reached a more acute stage since the requirements of the Empire have multiplied and the size of the Army has materially increased. Royal Commission after Royal Commission has reported on it. In 1859 a Royal Commission, under the presidency of Lord Hotham, and comprising some of the most experienced officers of the day, considered the subject, and in their Report said—We can only expect to get recruits from those few who naturally have a predilection for the soldier's life, or from those who can be induced to go back, either for domestic reasons, or when, by the fluctuations of trade and the adverse influence of the seasons on agricultural operations, they are deprived of other employment. Our recommendation must, in consequence, be chiefly confined to the removal of any obstacles which may have impeded their mode of recruiting, and to the suggestion of such arrangements for the benefit of the soldier as we think calculated to render the service more attractive.179 The Report proceeds—We adopt this course, however, with the full consideration that, except during periods of great depression in our manufacturing or agricultural interests, such a means of recruiting must necessarily be very slow in its operation, compared with the means by which other European armies are created or augmented on any emergency. It will sufficiently illustrate this to state that—although authority was given nearly three years ago, in consequence of the Mutiny in India, to raise an additional number of 65,000 men, and although, in order to facilitate that operation, the bounty was increased, and the standard, as is unavoidable when so many men are required, was lowered to such an extent as to bring boys instead of men—the establishment of the Army is not yet quite complete.And, again, they say—In considering, therefore, the reductions which in time of peace are so often advocated on financial grounds, we trust it will always be borne in mind that the Forces should never be lightly parted with, which, even on the greatest emergency, requires so much time to raise.Eight years later another Commission, composed of most experienced men, again considered the subject, with Lord Dalhousie as President, and it is remarkable to note that in their Report they attributed the deficiency of recruits for the Army to the abandonment of the ballot for the Militia, the renewal of which has been so ably advocated in another place. After enumerating the various efforts that had been made to improve the soldier's position and make the Army more attractive, there occurred the following paragraph, which I beg especially to commend to the attention of the Government—The greatest care should be taken that every recruit should be made to understand that it is open to him to choose what regiment or corps he will enlist into, and that it is only in the case of his not having a preference for any particular regiment that he will be enlisted for general service. It should further be understood that once a soldier has been posted to a regiment he cannot be transferred thence to any other regiment, except with his own consent.The Commission also recommended training schools, such as the Duke of York's Schools at Chelsea, and the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin; they strongly deprecated the abolition of pensions for long and faithful service, 180 and pointed out that "we must look to the Militia for the solid constitution of the Reserve of this country." They conclude by the following passage, which cannot be too often brought before the public—We are well aware that our suggestions will tend to increase the cost of the Army, but when we consider the vast interests at stake, and the immense amount of wealth and capital accumulated throughout the country, we cannot think that the nation will hesitate to pay what is, after all, a very trifling rate of insurance.Let us see what the Government has done in the new proposals to attract more men of a better class to the ranks. They admit that we are at our wits' end for recruits. The standard has been lowered almost to the irreducible minimum in peace time; the greatest liberality has been shown as regards the enlistments of specials—i.e., of boys who do not come up to the standard of height and measurement; but still the supply of recruits is insufficient. Now, Sir, how are we to get men for the coming increase of the Army? Heaven only knows! I am quite certain that the Secretary for War and the Inspector General of Recruiting have not the remotest idea. Let us see what the Government are going to do. They propose to give 3d. a day day to a certain class of soldiers with one hand, and with the other they propose to take away about 2d. of the deferred pay. In fact, they have made soldiers of a certain class better off by 1¼d. a day, while soldiers of another class they have made worse off than they were before. In fact, until a soldier reaches 19, he neither has the extra 6d., nor does he get the deferred pay to which he was formerly entitled. The same is the case with the man who only enlisted for three years. No doubt there is considerable weight to be attached to the objection thrown out by the First Lord of the Treasury against giving men who only enlist for three years the same advantages as those who enlist for a longer period. It is feared that all would limit their engagement, in the first instance, to three years, and, hence, that the Government would have no security to provide for the Indian reliefs. But, apparently, the First Lord of the Treasury entirely forgot that the three-years' men 181 were to be limited to 100 men per battalion. I believe that any such danger might be met by not giving any gratuity, on discharge from the Colours, to the three-years' men, but by allowing them, if they desired to re-engage, to count the full gratuity from the first day they entered the Service. It is also very simple to exact greater physical requirements—in fact, this will become a necessity if we are to get any good out of the men. The course which I have suggested as regards the gratuity may be adopted with men under 19. Let their services towards the gratuity or pension only reckon from the day of their attaining that age, but let all men doing the same work, and serving side by side, receive the same pay—that is, if you wish to avoid chronic dissatisfaction and an enormous complication of company accounts; and, above all, if you wish to get on good terms with that most uncertain element, the recruiting market. Let us now turn to another of the means proposed by the Government to stimulate the recruit—I allude to the efforts to obtain sufficient employment for discharged soldiers of good character. We must all approve and welcome those proposals, and most fervently trust they may be crowned with success, not only as regards Government offices, but still more with respect to the great employers of labour, more especially railway companies. A case was recently brought to my notice of one of the companies, which has a large portion of the traffic to the south of London; I will not mention the name, but perhaps it may be identified when I say that it is notorious for the unpunctuality of its trains and the general indifference of its service. Well, Sir, this company, I am told, made it a rule never to employ old soldiers. In one instance, however, great pressure was brought to bear on the Chairman—himself, I believe, an old soldier—to make a special exception and exert his influence on behalf of one man. This he kindly did, and wrote a letter recommending him for the occupation of sweeping a crossing elsewhere. This shows, Sir, the prejudice which, I fear, we must acknowledge exists against the employment of old soldiers. Now, Sir, there is one important point as regards the recruiting question, and also the employment of Reserves, which the Government 182 have omitted—viz., to improve the position of superior non-commissioned officers, encouraging them to re-engage for long service, and giving them, as far as possible, the certainty of employment after leaving the Service, so as to make men of superior class feel they have a life career in the Army. There are certain posts, not unconnected with these Houses of Parliament, which are popularly supposed to be reserved for the personal servants of Cabinet Ministers. Probably this popular belief is a fallacy, and I admit that it would be impossible to have the duties better performed than they are at present; but it is worthy of consideration whether, after the present generation of occupants have passed away, these most desirable and responsible posts should not be reserved for superior non-commissioned officers, such as regimental sergeant-majors and other warrant officers. What an inducement to a recruit it would be if he might, perhaps, some day have the privilege of listening, without restriction, to the Debates in this House. I think it is universally admitted that the great practical difficulty, more especially with Reservists who are called back into the ranks, is the youth of the non-commissioned officers under whom they have to serve. The attraction of receiving deferred pay has hitherto induced many men to take their discharge who would have been invaluable as non-commissioned officers had they elected to stay on and serve for the pension. If their pay were slightly increased during their second period of service, and if there existed the practical certainty of their being provided with suitable occupation after they had left the Service, I feel confident that this complaint as to the youth of the non-commissioned officers would be removed. I may mention, Sir, that precisely the same difficulty, as regards the youth of non-commissioned officers, has been experienced by foreign Governments. When I was military attaché at Berlin a special army order was issued offering a bounty to non-commissioned officers to re-engage for long service, and enumerating the various posts to which they would become entitled in the event of their completing a certain period of lengthened service. Now, Sir, I will not trespass on the indulgence of the House more than a few minutes longer, 183 but I must ask permission to make a few remarks regarding a passage in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War. When speaking of the battalions which we should have in the event of a great war, he said that the proportion of Reservists in our ranks would be smaller than existed under similar circumstances in foreign armies. The right hon. Gentleman has been entirely misinformed. Under no circumstances, in any foreign army that I ever heard of, are three-quarters or even two-thirds of the men in the battalion Reservists. The right hon. Gentleman omitted to state whether there was any intention of giving our Reserve men more training than they have at present, which is practically nil. I understand that they are not habitually called out for training, and that there is no penalty attached to their non-appearance. Undoubtedly it was a great omission not to make provision for the training of the Reservists, upon whom we relied for our first line of defence. Surely the Reservists who get £9 a year might be called upon to put in as many drills as the efficient Volunteer, who gets nothing. The right hon. Gentleman also made a remark which is likely to be misinterpreted, to the effect that British officers are not worked as hard as foreign officers. It is quite true that formerly they were not so, but I question whether at the present time there is any country which exacts so much from its officers as this country does. With regard to the Cavalry, we are told by the Inspector General of Cavalry that no man who went to India from the depôt at Canterbury was fit to go into the ranks until he had been in India for more than a year. This, I venture to suggest, was the fault of the depôt, and not of the system, because up till recently there were not sufficient means of training at the depôt. As to the Militia, I had the good fortune to be sent some years since to report on the Swiss maœuvres, and I was very much struck by the efficiency of the Militia Artillery. I see no reason why our Government should not organise a similar Militia Artillery for our Army. What is the use of the 40-pounder guns on position? They are only a blind to the public. Our Militia and Volunteers could not face a foreign 184 army unless they have guns; and I trust that next year the Government will come forward boldly and state their wants to the country in this respect. As a Member of the House, a soldier, and a taxpayer, I feel very grateful to the Government for the proposals which they have now brought forward. No Administration of recent years has done so much for the Army or the Navy as this Government, and I am confident that no Government, no matter to which Party it may belong, will find its appeal to the country refused so long as this House is satisfied that he Administration is good and the money properly spent.
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
The real main important fact in the suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War is that he wants very largely to increase the Army. We have had a good many speeches, but I do not think anyone has alluded to this subject, with the exception of the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs, and he took a very fair view when he said the War Authorities were not responsible for this increase. It was admitted to be the consequence of your policy, and if you approve of that policy you must approve of demands made by the Government. I quite agree; but as I disapprove of the policy of the Government, I disapprove of the expenditure involved in that policy. No doubt it may be partially due to my own stupidity, but I must say the civilian mind has great difficulty in following the figures of the Army reformers, because when you have grasped one set of figures you think you have grasped the whole, and when you turn to another set you find you were quite wrong, and have to commence again. In dealing with matters of this kind I do not look at memoranda, but always look at what may be termed the gospel of the House of Commons—the Estimates. I find, upon looking at the Estimates the last year, there was a demand for 7,000 or 8,000 men, and now I find this year there is a demand for a further 20,000. We are told, it is true, that it will not be sought to obtain all these men during the present year. The object in asking for them is to get a sort of general cheque from the House, so that the Government may be able to draw men as required. And the object of that 185 is to avoid all discussion on the matter in the future. Now, that is not the way to treat Parliament. Last year you asked for 8,000 men, and you have not got them. Why could you not rest satisfied with that 8,000 men until you had got them, and then come to this House and ask for more? The whole system is ridiculously bad. The ground for this increase in the Army is stated to be that the strain is too great at present on the Army. The right hon. Gentleman gives us special reasons this year, but I gathered from him that they were special reasons in one sense only, and they may always recur, and you must count on them recurring. The first ground for the increase is the Frontier war in India, for which you require a further draft of men. Now, I object to the Frontier war in India, and I am certainly not going to give you men for that. Then there is the Soudan, for which you want, I think, 3,000 men. Well, we were told positively when this Soudan war commenced that British troops would not be engaged. I knew what would happen, that the Egyptians would be sent to the front, and that then the English would be employed, and you not only use the 4,000 men you have in Egypt, but you ask for another 3,000. Well, I am opposed to the Soudan war, and, therefore, I am not going to vote for that. Then you have the troops in Crete. I am bound to say that the behaviour of the fleet and troops in Crete will not lead me to give you any additional vote on that score. Then, the right hon. Gentleman said you require three Army Corps in England—one to remain at home in case of war with any great European Power, and two others ready to take the field at once in case war breaks out with any great Power. After the Napoleonic wars, the Duke of Wellington was head of the Army, and I do not remember to have heard that he wanted two Army Corps. What are you going to do with your two Army Corps when you have got them, and where would you land them? We know that in the event of a war with any great Power on the Continent we should want not one but 10 or 20 Army Corps. One would not be any use. You must do one of two things, either you must admit the fact that you are a Naval Power and depend upon your Navy for your defence, or, you must go into competition with foreign countries, 186 great territorial Powers, to be ready to tight which you must have a great territorial Army. Lord Wolseley says you require an addition to the Army of 30 per cent., and I suppose the hon. Members of the House who are in the Service will think he is right. That means not 40,000 men only, but an additional 30,000 to that. Now, why are we doing all this? We are doing it admittedly because we have adopted the policy of an expansion of the Empire. I have pointed out that Lord Wolseley said you required 70,000 men; now, if you go on expanding you will have to have more men, and as you expand so you will endeavour to get more. Now, we have the Reserve, and the Militia, and the Volunteers: but suppose there was no Reserve, no Militia, no Volunteers, we have in England an Army to defend England, and we have an Army to defend our Colonies and our possessions, and why we should want to grab somebody else's property I cannot understand. This is an Army on a war establishment. I am of the school of Sir Robert Peel—I do not allude to the present Sir Robert, but to that eminent statesman, his grandfather. He pointed out that in a time of peace we must have a peace establishment. If he had heard the statements made by Service Members of the present time, he would have been perfectly horrified, and I wonder he does not turn in his grave. It is quite opposed to the whole of his principles. Now, there are one or two figures I want to bring home to the House. In 1838 the accounts of all armament were £12,000,000 odd hundred thousands, and in 1818 they were £17,000,000, whilst this year they are £42,000,000 odd hundred thousands, and what is it to be this year? Something more? And yet the right hon. Gentleman tells us we are only at the beginning, and we shall go on increasing our expenditure. Out of the 70 hon. Members of this House who are in the Service. 45 are members of a Service Committee, the object of which is not only to carry out reforms in the Army, but to acquire money to carry them out, and I do think it is a serious thing for this House. These gentlemen join together and exercise pressure upon Her Majesty's Government to squeeze money out of us. Now, I think we ought to meet this state of things, and I should like to meet it by having a Committee of 187 45 direct representatives of the taxpayers to look after these 45 members of the Service Committee. What would be said if we had in this House 45 ex-civil servants who exercised similar pressure on behalf of the Civil Service? These gentlemen say they go about the country, and make speeches, and rally the country. Well, we will go about the country and make speeches and explain. The expenditure on the armaments of the country has increased in a most alarming manner. In the year 1888 it was only £12,000,000, but at the present time it amounts to £42,000,000. During the last two years we have had very good times. We have had valuable additions to the Estate Duties, which were modified by my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth; we have had a reduction in the interest of the National Debt, which has also given us a great deal of money, and yet we have not had one single tax taken off, with the exception of some few doles to the class opposite me.
*THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES OF WAYS AND MEANS (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER,) Cumberland, Penrith
The hon. Gentleman is anticipating his speech on the Budget.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I shall have another speech on the Budget; therefore I will now say nothing more on this subject, except that we have not had the tax on tea or such-like articles taken off, and we have not got the money for such taxes. We have had lean years and fat years, but the fat years far exceed the lean ones, and I say that when we are spending these various sums on the armament of the country we shall have cause to rue it when the lean years come. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman opposite that they have almost practically admitted that the limit has been already reached without conscription; they cannot raise any further men. The right hon. Gentleman announced that he was going to raise a certain number of men last year, but he was not able to get them. What has the Government done? It has reduced the height and it has reduced the girth of the soldiers. The Government has winked at the heads of the Enlistment Department taking boys entirely under age. Consequently, a very 188 great proportion of our Army is made up of boys. You say you have now to get about 35,000 men a year. I think of this number you may take it that 15,000 join the Army because they are those who love adventure and like this kind of life better than a civil one; but the other portion of this 35,000 men is composed of men and boys who are induced to join the Army by the hard fact that they are positively in want and cannot get into any profession or occupation. You find that when the times are good you have a difficulty in getting this latter class. It is only when times are bad that you are able to get them. What are your proposals in this respect? You admit that if you are going to meet this difficulty you have a serious proposal before you. One proposal made is that you are going to take men from the Reserve. This, it seems to me, would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. I always thought it was a good thing to keep up a Reserve. There is no good to be obtained by taking men from the Reserve and putting them in the effective Army. Another proposal made is to increase the pay of the soldiers, when you would take off the deferred pay by 1½d. per day. And another of your plans is to get recruits for three years, but you say these recruits for three years are not to get this extra 1½d. per day. I always thought it was a swindle upon the soldier to tell him he was to get 1s. per day and then take 3d. of that sum away. I would vote in favour of his having the whole amount, but it is a question whether you will get more soldiers by this system. If you wish to get more soldiers you must go into the market and compete with labour, but you will then have to give trade union prices instead of trying to get blacklegs by giving them too little money. It is a positive fact that under those circumstances you will not be able to get these men. It is almost admitted by the members of this Service Committee that we shall have to come to conscription. I have not the slightest doubt that we shall have to come to conscription. I think that it is obvious that we shall if we go on in the present course. Other countries when they want a large Army have had recourse to conscription. This country is not a more military one than others; rather less so, I should think. The 189 English are perfectly able to defend themselves if attacked, but a military life is not so popular a one here as in other countries, not so much because of the money, but because the discipline is not liked, and because of the absence of individual liberty involved in military life. Therefore, you will never get these men unless you are willing to pay even more than they will get in civil life. That is the trouble. Therefore, if you go on the system of expansion (you say that you have two Army Corps who are ready to fight the world) you will have to pay the penalty as other countries have done, namely, you will have to pay the penalty by having conscription. I have been a long time in the House of Commons, and I remember that at the time the Volunteer movement commenced we were told that this movement was a happy idea, because it would not be necessary to spend more money on the Regular Army. Then the movement as to the Reserve came up; and, lastly, the suggestion as to the Navy; vast sums were voted for the Navy. Now we are told that we must vote a large sum for the Army. A great portion of the country is military-mad: military sins are thoroughly dominant. We are told that this is because we want to obtain more markets; but I would observe that it is a curious fact that, in 1883, when this military mania had hardly commenced, our exports were 732 millions; in 1895, 702 millions; and in 1896 they were 736 millions; which seems to me to show that, while we are spending very large amounts under the plea of getting large markets, such as in Central Africa, we are not making anything by the transaction, because, last year we went down below the earlier year, and this year we have gone very little above it. I ask my right hon. Friend opposite to bear me out. It appears that a brisk business has been done by the constituents of the right hon. Member the Member for Birmingham in selling arms to the Afridis. I know of no other case in which we have benefited by it. I have often been told, and those also who think with me have been told, that we are not patriotic. Our patriotism is of a different sort to that of Sir Robert, Peel. It is the patriotism of Mr. Bright; it 190 is the patriotism of Mr. Gladstone. I am inclined to think it is a different patriotism to that of Lord Salisbury. It certainly is a different patriotism to what is the patriotism of the right hon. Gentleman. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, when he was one of us, published a work called "The Unauthorised Programme," and he recommended me to read it. I had great admiration then for the right hon. Gentleman's principles, and he told me to read the book at once. I read it, and I found this passage in it—In one way the nation may save in its military expenditure, and that is by putting an end to useless, expensive, and costly expeditions in every quarter of the globe.I think I may claim the right hon. Gentleman. When he was a blind Radical, like us on this side, he entertained the same views of patriotism as we do. Sir, I am and always shall be against all these wild claims of intervention: bully and bluster all over the world. I say they involve a huge outlay of public money, which is unnecessary, and they will involve, if we continue them, conscription; and I really believe they will divert the attention of the public mind from those home reforms which we on this side of the House want to see carried. Sir, I have been exceedingly modest in the Amendment I put down; I have left out the Artillery and Engineers. Personally, I would like to take all, but I know there is a feeling amongst some Gentlemen that we ought to have a larger number of Artillery and a larger number of Engineers. I do not ask for that reduction—I give that in—but I do ask for the reduction of this excessive money that is asked for every year with regard to the Foot Guards, the Cavalry, and regiments of the Line. If I did so on no other ground than this, I should do it upon constitutional grounds, that when you are going to recruit three or four thousand in the year, you must not ask for 20,000 men above that, in order to effectually take the matter out of the hands of this and future Parliaments, to have, as it were, a claim against Parliament for 20,000, instead of Parliament being allowed to discuss the matter every year on the 191 Estimates. I, therefore, beg to move the Amendment standing in my name—That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 167,146, all ranks, be maintained for the said Service.That is, to reduce the number by 13,367 men, namely: Cavalry of the Line, 684; Infantry of the Line, 12,045; Foot Guards, 638.
§ The Committee divided.—Ayes 45; Noes 232.
§ MAJOR GENERAL W. T. GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
Ever since I have been in this House I have, to the best of my ability, done all I could for the private soldier, in order to make our Army what I consider it ought to be—a good fighting machine. I do not think it matters a bit whether you have long service or short service; but whenever any faults are found in connection with the Service the matter should be immediately looked after. Much good has been done by pursuing this course in the past. When Mr. Stanhope was Minister of War he improved the rations of the soldier, and he was always ready to listen to any representations made to him by the military Members of this House. I am very glad the Government has taken the step it has now done. I do not think that all has been done that ought to be done, and I hope that the Government will carry on their beneficial policy, so that in time we shall have a perfect Army. We who are soldiers, or have been soldiers, are not here in this House as soldiers, but as representatives of the taxpayers, and, as such, we say that we want value for our money, which the taxpayers have not had in the past, and which I hope they will have in the future. I hope the Under Secretary for War will pay attention to this matter. He is invariably courteous in regard to any representations made to him on the subject, and I hope he will listen to future representations that may be made to him, and see what he can do to give us a good Army.
§ *MR. H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
There are one or two details it is necessary to speak about. I earnestly hope that in asking this increase of the Infantry the Government will bear in mind the desirability of not raising the new units till the old units have been 192 completed. There is, as far as I can judge, a very large amount of doubt as to whether the Measures which were sanctioned or are to be sanctioned for raising new recruits, will be satisfactory. It does seem to me a most foolish policy to attempt this great experiment of raising new battalions before you have raised the men required to perfect the old battalions. I do not think the Committee realise how many men will be required before you raise the new battalions. Already no less than 5,000 or 6,000 men will be required for the 60 infantry battalions at home, and the eight or nine abroad; and when there are added to that the number of deficiencies in garrison and field artillery, it is perfectly clear that a very large demand will have been made upon this surplus population available for the supply of recruits. I have other reasons for desiring that these new units should not be too rapidly made. I think it would be much better not to start them at all. It is unfortunate that the paraphernalia of regiments should be started at considerable cost, and that the arrangements between one battalion and another should be set on foot, when we have so very little security that the whole of the men will be raised for a very long time to come. In this connection I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what is the precise meaning in regard to this figure he has given us about the brigade of Guards; he mentioned 800 as being for the brigade of Guards since the last Vote on this subject. I should like to ask whether any of these men are men who have come back from the Reserve, and whether any of the men have extended their service under the new regulations. I should also be glad to know whether the addition is a net addition, or whether it really means an increase over the number of last year, before the addition was voted. If it is merely an addition after the establishment of last year had been arrived at, it will affect the figures produced by the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to another important matter. I take the statement the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to put into my hands, and, of course, he may not agree with my method of calculation; if he does he must find fault with my arithmetic in order to prove 193 that I am wrong. I take not selected battalions. I take the first 20 battalions in the list, and I take the last date given to me, namely, the 1st January. I take the actual number of men serving with the home battalions, and I deduct from them the number under 20 years of age, for, as a matter of common agreement, men under that age should be deducted. Then there are the drafts still to go. Also, I take off 10 per cent. for casualties and sick.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Very well, five per cent. The amount is very small, and it will not make any material difference in my calculation. Unless my arithmetic is at built, I come to this conclusion: the number required to till up from the Reserve—after deducting men under 20, drafts to go before March, and 10 per cent. for casualties—to complete to war strength is: Somersetshire Light Infantry, 750: West Yorkshire, 714; East Yorkshire, 736; Bedfordshire, 743; Royal Irish, 754; Lancashire Fusiliers, 783; and Enniskilling, 773, and so on. I am only too anxious to be set right if led into a miscalculation. I should be glad if the suggestion could be carried out that something should be done to induce non-commissioned officers to extend their service. It is most important, in view of the large number of Reserve men who will have to be called upon, that the standing of non-commissioned officers should be beyond cavil. The method is a very simple one. You must offer to the warrant officer an increase of pay during his service at any moment when he undertakes to extend his service, in which case I believe there will be a greater disposition on the part of those men to remain with the Colours. The difficulty now is that the corporals and sergeants retire at the close of their service. If they undertook to extend the period for seven or fourteen years, having had from that time an immediate increase of pay, this increase would be a great inducement for them to extend their service. With regard to the men, I entirely agree with the opinion expressed all round that the terms offered are not in themselves sufficient to get hold of a new class of recruits. I do not 194 see why those terms should attract them. I do not think that 3d. a day extra is sufficient to appeal to the new class of recruits. As they serve they should earn for efficiency something in addition to their pay. I do not, in the least, think that that would have the effect, as has been suggested, of making men discontented when they found they were working side by side with men who were receiving higher pay. But I believe it will be found a very serious objection in the case of the new three-years' service men, because there is no suggestion that they are not doing precisely the same work with the same qualification and the same liability to get shot, and though, of course, I highly appreciate the reason given by the First Lord of the Treasury for taking this step, I do think that what hon. Members have suggested might be considered. After men have given long years of service, and acquired the experience which long years of service give, and after they have become marksman, I think they ought to receive more pay; and in this matter I think the Army might learn a lesson from the Navy. Many of the premiums given for shooting might very wisely be abandoned in favour of, say, a penny a day addition to the men's pay. It is very little good for the men to get these small premiums, which are of no particular value to them in their after service. I should like to say one word in confirmation of what has been said with regard to uniform. The other day I was able to get together a collection of the uniforms of infantry soldiers for the last 30 years, and during that time there has been a steady progression in the degradation of the appearance of these uniforms. It is a fact that men joining the Army are paid a wage which is not the market wage, and are induced to serve by a multitude of considerations, among them being pride of the Service, if you like. But soldiers are like other men; they like to be well-dressed, and to attract the attention of people by the smartness of their dress. I think I know the ground on which these changes have been made—namely, the ground of economy: but I could prove, with very little trouble, that the changes which have been made with the object of simplifying the uniforms are, taken altogether, 195 so trivial as a matter of saving that they are almost negligible, and they have, by the extraordinary number of changes, produced an expense which has gone far to counter-balance, if not to outweigh altogether, the saving effected. I am not so foolish as to imagine that uniformity is not desirable. I think it is essential; but I think also that some of the distinctions which used to exist were very useful. I believe it is almost necessary, when a soldier is wounded, to make a microscopic examination to find out what battalion he belongs to. It is very difficult indeed to distinguish. Having said that with regard to campaign kit, I now come to walking-out uniform for home service, which, I think, might, with a very small expenditure indeed of taste and trouble, and with little, if any, expenditure of money, be made infinitely more agreeable to the soldiers and the officers commanding them. This is a matter which is being felt more and more, and if the right hon. Gentleman would do me the favour of investigating this matter, and examining the museum which I can place before him, he will be of my way of thinking. Though he may smile, I think he knows too well what soldiers are to quite overlook the importance of these things. I now come to another matter. We were informed the other day that we were not deficient in a general scheme for the mobilisation of the Army, and I have been reminded during the Debate this evening of what we were told on that occasion. It has been said to-night that we have 600,000 men on our books. But in respect to that force, organisation in the ordinary military sense, such as it is understood in other countries, does not exist in one half of these men. I think it would be better if the Volunteers were reduced by half, if the other half were more efficient. Everybody knows that, in the ordinary sense, they are not an organised force at all, and we have not yet received the information as to what it is intended to do with these battalions in time of war. I think the right hon. Gentleman told us we should find the information in the Army Book. That is a book I always keep by me to study, but I do not find the information there. The only reference I can find to the Volunteers, 196 as regards their use in time of war, is the following—The Yeomanry and Volunteers form the third line. These troops are available only for the defence of Great Britain. They are not available for the defence of Ireland. The law as regards the Volunteers is that all, or part, of them can be called out by proclamation, in case of actual or apprehended invasion of any part of the United Kingdom. The Yeomanry can be called out for home garrison duty in case of a precipe, but the Volunteers cannot.That is not calculated to enlighten the House very much as to the use of Volunteers in time of war. There should be a more serious intention to make Volunteers realise that they have an important part to play in the organisation of this country for the purpose of defence. I hope that during the course of the Debate the right hon. Gentleman will supplement the information he has given us on these points.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
Mr. Speaker, we shall believe that the Government are in earnest with regard to the possible use of Volunteers, or even of Militia for home defence, when they provide them with the proper proportion of field artillery. I rise, now, for the purpose, not of repeating what I have said, but of asking one or two questions. In the first place, may I beg the Under Secretary for War, in any reply he may make, to tell us, if he can, or, if not, to arrange that we shall be told by the Secretary of State for India what will be the cost to India of the proposed changes in the organisation of the Army? In the second place, may I renew an appeal which has been made from all parts of the House that the Government will reconsider their decision not to give the 100 men per battalion who are to be raised on the three-years' system full pay? Some think the answer of the First Lord of the Treasury on this question is a strong one. I cannot say that I think it is a strong answer. The answer that has been given is this: that no man not a fool will join on the seven-years' system when he can join on the three-years' system with equal advantages. The answer to that is that you are only going to take 100 men, and you can put special conditions of height and chest measurement upon them. May I 197 also add this further argument: that the two systems have worked side by side in the Brigade of Guards? For a considerable period a large number of three and of seven-year men enlisted, and in some battalions of Guards hardly any three-year men were taken. At the present time I think they are nearly all seven-year men, but there was an intermediate period when the two systems worked side by side. How was it that in practice the fool argument did not prevail with regard to the Guards? How was it the Guards were able to get seven-year men? I am told that the considerations in the minds of the men were many. The first was that the three-year men were worked harder. They were naturally told that they would have more to learn in a shorter time, that less furlough would be given to them, that they would not be allowed to become officers' servants, and that they had no practical chance of becoming non-commissioned officers. Of course, I am speaking here, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, as an advocate of the shorter system for the home Army generally, but I want to see the seven-year men and the three-year men paid the same sum. I have one other question to put to the Government, but if it is more convenient I will put it on some later occasion in connection with the Naval or Military Estimates. There appears to be, so far as I can see from the Estimates, no change proposed this year with regard to a garrison, the condition of which we discussed last year—I refer to the garrison of Sierra Leone. It was admitted last year by the Under Secretary of State for War, by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and, I think, by the Leader of the House, that this is a garrison of first-class importance as a coaling station on the Cape route. Last year a promise was given that this question would be considered, but I cannot, see any change in the Estimates this year with regard to it. The matter does not seem to me to have received the attention it deserves. There has recently been a delimitation of the Frontier of the Protectorate of Sierra Leone. It has been conducted by very efficient officers, and from the papers read before the Geographical Society, and from the books which have been published, it appears that a foreign Power has, within 198 easy land distance, a considerable force of excellent local troops. It so happens that on our side of the Frontier the tribes are unwarlike, and no troops can be obtained from among them. The new West African Frontier Force seems to be intended mainly for service on the Niger. I should like to know if that force would be available for the defence of Sierra Leone? I want to know if the matter has received that attention which the Government promised last year they would give it, and if the Government are in a position to declare that there is no risk of difficulty with regard to the chief command at Sierra Leone. I am one of those who are a little frightened at seeing the creation of Colonial and foreign little armies, as distinct from the home Army and the Indian Army, as there might, in case of war, be a question about the chief command. I cannot but think that the matter is one which specially deserves the attention of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, if it has any real existence. This is a case in which the War Office and the Admiralty have shifted and thrown the responsibility from one to the other, with the result that nothing has been done. I hope the Government, if they cannot make any statement on it here to-night, will give an assurance that the promises made last year have been kept.
§ MAJOR F. C. RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
Mr. Speaker, I should like to congratulate, very respectfully, the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War on the very lucid and very able speech in which he explained the Government proposals. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman in the least, either in his premises or his conclusions, but I admire his speech. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to allude to myself, and he said that if the hon. Member for South-East Essex had his way he would like to see the civil officials of the War Office hanging on, the lamp-posts in Pall-Mail. I have never said that, whatever I might have thought. If, however, such an unfortunate state of things ever came to pass, my right hon. Friend is the last man I should like to see executed. Far be it from me to criticise the proposals of the Government in any hostile spirit. I only desire to say a 199 very few words about them. I think it is high time that the Government did something to improve the condition of our land forces, their present condition having operated prejudicially with, reference to the diplomacy of this country in other parts of the world. What is it the public complain, of? They complain that the War Office has never taken the House of Commons into its confidence, that the country does not get value for its money, and that although plenty of money has been voted by Parliament, that money has been improperly spent by the War Office. They say that the War Office received 17½ millions of money, and only gave in return three Army Corps. They say that the battalions were in the condition of squeezed lemons, and that has been proved out of the mouth of the Under Secretary himself. In one battalion of 800 men, it was stated that the actual strength was only 700, and that, out of these only 400 could be sent out of the country. With regard to the Berkshire regiment, it was stated that there were in that regiment 400 men who had not got two years' service. In the Yorkshire regiment, out of 550 men, there were, I think, over 300 who had not got two years' service, and 150 who had not passed the musketry course. With reference to the Artillery, it was said that there was only one horse to every two men. It is contended outside that the private soldier is not properly fed, paid, or dressed. What have the Government done, in the statement made by my right hon. Friend on Friday, to remedy these evils? I do not think they have done very much. It seems to me that their policy is simply one of programmes and promises. The Government admit that the condition of the Infantry battalions is that of squeezed lemons, and they are going to add 80 men to each battalion. When, battalions are short, what is the use of adding a small contingent of 80? With reference to Cavalry regiments, the solo increase proposed is 32 horses, whereas you ought to double the number of horses they have in their stables. As to the private soldier, I admit that something is being done for him, and that the proposals with regard to the War Office are fairly satisfactory. I should not like to have said half the terrible things of the War Office which the right hon. Gentleman himself said 200 on Friday night. After what, he said, I think we can claim the right hon. Gentleman as one of us. If he believes what he says of his War Office, he ought to be one of the first men to pull the rope in the hanging business in Pall Mall. From the very able speech which the right hon. Gentleman made the other night, it did not appear to me that, the Government or the War Office had really made up their minds to effect any general or widespread reforms; it did not appear to me that, they entirely grasped, the situation. Their proposals merely amount to a request for more money and more men on paper. It is the same old story of putting a million in the slot at the top, and taking out as many battalions as you can at the bottom. The War Office simply desires to, patch up a discredited system, which, as the Times said the other day, has absolutely lost the confidence of the country. I am pretty sure that if they do not improve on what they have done, if they do not re-organise the system of recruiting, and give us a short service Army at home, and a long service Army in the Colonies, they will have to go over the whole ground again before three years have elapsed.
§ *SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
Mr. Speaker, I also should like to say that I most cordially join in the many compliments to my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for War on his admirable speech. Having carefully, for more years than I care to remember, observed the changes and choppings that have taken place in the military policy, the present proposals seem, to me more real and more business-like than anything we have yet had. While, with regard to Artillery, I wish to associate myself entirely with the view which has fallen from, so many hon. Members, that we are absolutely deficient in, field artillery, and that the proposals of Her Majesty's Government do not, adequately meet our requirements, I wish, to dissociate myself in the most distinct manner from advocating Volunteer or Militia field artillery in this country. But I think, as a broad principle of military policy, it must be really obvious to those who think at all that there should not be any cheeseparing either in our Artillery or our Cavalry. With reference 201 to keeping up the proportion such as is found to be the best in foreign armies, that is no guide to us, for I think you must remember this broad principle, that although you can create Infantry in a comparatively short time, you cannot create Field Artillery or Cavalry so readily. We cannot overlook the question of the requirements of the Indian Army, and in that sense I wish entirely to support what has been already said. I would say that, so far as I have had information, the proposal as regards interchange ability of Cavalry soldiers will have a very prejudicial effect. I admit the difficulty, but it is only right to say that whenever you speak to a Cavalry officer he will tell you the same thing. With regard to the Line, I must say that I think there will be considerable practical difficulties found in adding 100 men on a different system from the rest of the battalions in our Line regiments. I am almost sorry that the War Office policy is to limit us to any fixed number, because I think the difficulties are so great that they should reserve as much elasticity as possible. With regard to the Militia, I feel extremely that the Government are taking a wide step—a step which must be cautiously taken, a step which will encourage the Militia regiments, not the individual Militiamen, to volunteer now, and to hold themselves ready beforehand for service abroad. I think that is a great and a very wise step for the Government to take. I trust, with regard to the Vote, the Government will recognise that if they want regiments really to compete with one another for the purpose of giving the Empire the great advantage of their service abroad in time of war they must remember, and the War Office especially should remember, that it is not sufficient to give this additional bounty. I think you will have to Drive them better dress, and probably have to do something to create a greater distinction between those regiments that do volunteer for service abroad. One more point I should like to say with regard to the Militia I think my right hon. Friend talked about volunteers for service abroad. MY own view is that this is rather too wide a step to take and I would surest to him whether it is not more wise to make the Militia—to risk the Militia—regiments to volunteer for Imperial service 202 that is for service within the Empire. Now you are keeping locked up in garrisons efficient Infantry battalions, and, therefore, I trust Militia regiments will be asked to extend their service from the area of the United Kingdom to the area of the Empire, and I am surprised that this step has not been taken before. Great reforms have been made with the Volunteers. We are apt to forget with regard to the Volunteers that that movement which produced this magnificent force did not originate in the brains of any military authority. It was formed by the voluntary act of the people in a panic. That Volunteer force, having reached its present condition, is in the condition of the old Militia with regard to home defence, and that, to my mind, means this: the possibility of releasing the Militia for Imperial service and releasing our regiments locked up abroad. Now, Sir, in conclusion, there is just one particular matter I wish to refer to, but before I pass to that, I presume that in future we shall not, on this Vote, be asked to vote so many men, but we will absolutely face the question and adopt the principle of the Navy Estimates to vote so many men and boys to the Army. I hope that the Government will consider that they are recognising boy service. We are recognising it in this House in dealing with the Navy, and why should we be afraid of it, and conceal the fact that there are a large proportion of boys in our Army? One other point with regard to the War Office. We are all agreed that the principle of decentralisation is a grand one, but there is one outline of broad fact that cannot be ignored, and that is that the War Office is a department which is dealing with the Army as a department. But who is the authority really responsible to this House and the country to fix the work of the Army? The Committee has a right to ask who is responsible. I mention in particular the point alluded to just now by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean, the garrisons of coaling stations. You are taking this Vote for men. Now, there are eight battalions. They have been trained at vast expense for field service, and those particular eight battalions are lacked up on our naval stations abroad. 203 I ask you, is that policy right, or is it common-sense to take eight battalions abroad, and their reliefs of eight battalions at home—that is 16 battalions—training for field service, and then taking care that they shall never be applied to field service. When we talk about this system having broken down, I think we ought to remember the cause of its having broken down. As to the attenuated battalions, we ought to remember what Mr. Cardwell said in introducing this scheme, that it would produce attenuated battalions at home, which will be terribly disagreeable to the commanding officers. I do not think there were then half-a-dozen men in England who saw what was going to happen when steam was generally applied to the Navy. The coal depôts and the necessity for defending coal depôts was not in contemplation. The necessity became evident, with the result that what was never contemplated under the system, that is a great naval demand for troops at isolated stations all over the world, was created, and, I think, it is time we should thoroughly understand upon what principle we are acting in this and other matters in connection with the application of the Navy or Army with reference to the broad policy on which we wish to secure our Empire. The right hon. Member for Stirling Burghs was very severe upon this, and talked about the responsibility of Ministers. I do not understand that. I think we ought to say to them what the work of the Army is to be, and what the Navy is to be. I wish to emphasise, before I sit down, one point, by reminding you that we have had a Commander-in-Chief going up and down the country saying that if the country will only say what the Army has got to do, he will give us the machinery to do it. I want to know whose business it is to tell the War Office what the Army is to do? I think you remember very well when Lord Wolseley went on a campaign laying down strange naval doctrines, I was naturally anxious to know whether it was being done with the authority or connivance of the War Office. I called attention to what was stated, and endeavoured to give some facts to show that he ought not to be allowed to state such things, and the Speaker immediately called me to order, 204 saying—"This is an Army Estimate, and you must not really talk about the Navy." Now, I thought I would have him on the Navy Estimates, but I spoke again on the Navy Vote, and the Speaker said—"Order! order! We are now on the Navy Vote, and you must not speak about the Commander-in-Chief of the Army." Now, I thought, how is the House to get at the real position of these broad principles? I know exactly what I will do, said I, I will make a Motion to stop the salary of the President of the Council, who was Chairman of the Committee of Defence. But you, Mr. Chairman, pointed out with great urbanity that he was not paid as Chairman of the Committee, but as President of the Council, and so we go on for years and years shuffling backward and forward between naval and military policy, and we have these troops locked up, and a portion of the Army doing the work which ought to be done by the Navy. Until we have somebody responsible for the carrying out of principles it will not be fully recognised. The Council of Defence ought to be the authority responsible for telling the Army what to do, and the Navy what to do, but it was not responsible to the House of Commons.
§ CAPTAIN VERNON - WENTWORTH (Brighton)
I hope the War Office will be able to see its way to granting this extra 3d. a day to the three years' men now serving in the Brigade of Guards. I know there are several regiments especially affected in this branch of the Service, and in my humble opinion, and in the opinion of the commanding officers of the Guards with whom I have discussed the present proposals, the proposal that in the future the three years' system shall be extended to the Line, and that only those men who enlist for seven years or extend their service will have the advantage of the additional pay, will have a considerable effect, and will be attended with serious difficulties. My reason for mentioning this point is that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us in his answer why he cannot see his way to promise that the three years' men in the Brigade of Guards shall have the advantage of the 3d. a day which those men serving in the same battalion who extended their service to seven years would 205 have. If my right hon. Friend is not able to say that this suggestion will be adopted, all I can say is that there will be a great difficulty in raising the extra 2,000 men who are still required, and they will find great difficulty in getting those men. I will endeavour to explain my meaning. Hitherto, in the Guards, men have enlisted who wished to serve only in the United Kingdom, and tried military service for a short period without, wishing to go out of the country in case of war. In the future, you will not get these men. I presume that only seven years' men of the Line regiments will be sent abroad, so that a Guardsman will find himself neither "fish, Mesh, fowl, nor good red herring." You will neither get the men who wish to go on foreign service, because these men will go into regiments where they will have a chance of service in India, or at other foreign stations; nor will you get the men who wish to stay at home, because these men will go into Line battalions, and thus will not be sent abroad. In fact, I cannot see what inducement will be held out to attract men to the Brigade of Guards. That being so, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to promise that the three years' men in the Brigade of Guards will have the advantage of the additional 3d. a day which these men, serving in the same battalions, who extend their service to seven years, will have. Nevertheless, Sir, I welcome these improvements in the status of the soldier as making for a general improvement in the state of the Army. It must, I think, be doubtful whether this increase of pay will provide the enormous number of 21,000 more men still required, yet I do not suppose that the Government will give a larger increase. I look to the promises they have made of improving the chances which the soldier will have of obtaining employment after he leaves his regiment, rather than to the additional pay to facilitate this large increase of the Army. In that respect I cannot exactly endorse the disapproval of the objection which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for York took to the alteration which it is proposed to make in the specification of character with which a soldier is furnished on his discharge. The hon. and gallant Member for York said he preferred being followed 206 into battle by a "scallywag" rather than by any other man. Very possibly a "scallywag," whatever he may be, would follow the hon. and gallant Member into battle as well as any other man. But that is not the question. The question is whether a "scallywag" is the kind of man who is likely to give satisfaction to his employer in civil life. Sir, I feel bound to give my anproval to the change foreshadowed in this respect by the right hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary of State for War. In future, the employer will have a better chance of judging of the real character of the man he is intending to employ than has hitherto been the case. Gradually, but slowly, that idea has been dispelled, which many employers unfortunately have, that they should discharge old soldiers and engage any other. I have often found myself, when endeavouring to obtain employment for old soldiers in railway companies and other offices, met with an absolute refusal; in fact, it was a case of "no old soldier need apply." The arrangement the right hon. Gentleman has promised will eventually tend to dispel such delusions. I hope, also, the Government will see their way to opening up to old soldiers more posts in public offices, so that it might be possible eventually to advertise on the recruiting bills posted in the various recruiting districts, that soldiers of exemplary character would be absolutely certain of obtaining employment in a Government office or elsewhere. I suppose, Sir, it would be superfluous for me to add anything to the chorus of approval which has been addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War, for the statement he made in the House on Friday. I will only venture to express my thanks "for what we are about to receive." I hope that we may be able to add that we are thankful for what we have received.
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE for WAR (Mr. W. ST. JOHN BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
It would be ungracious, if not ungrateful, of me if I did not acknowledge the very kind reception with which the proposals of the Government have been met, I may say, from almost every part of the House, and also the very kind expressions used by almost every Member who has spoken 207 with regard to the remarks I made in introducing the proposals. The discussion we have had has been exceedingly useful. Naturally on this side of the House it has turned to a large extent on a demand for more. Appetites have, perhaps, been whetted by what has been done, and I am not surprised that we have been asked for more organisation, more Artillery, more Militia, more pay, more training, and for the institution of boys' schools, and other rather expensive things. Doubt has been expressed as to whether the Government expect to accomplish in the time at their disposal, all the proposals that had been put forward. As to that, I can only say that we have not put forward anything which we have not a reasonable hope and expectation of being able to accomplish. My noble and gallant Friend the Member for York, dealt, in his speech with the question of Artillery, and he made a computation, which he invited me to discuss, as to the number of guns per thousand bayonets and sabres. Well, Sir, in discussing our three Army Corps, we look upon the bayonets and sabres as amounting to 80,000. In point of fact, there are 75,000 bayonets, and a Cavalry division of 5,000 sabres, and we have taken the number of guns which we shall have in England when these proposals are carried out as 402. There are also three batteries in South Africa which are not there permanently, and which will give us another 18 guns. The noble and gallant Member for York also asked with regard to the Reserve of guns, a matter which is very important. At this moment we have 40 field guns of the newest type, and that is the number laid down by the Army Board as being the proper reserve for the probable losses in a campaign. Without going into the question of the loss of guns in European campaigns, I may say that we have made very good provision, and have given what we have been asked for. The hon. Member for York takes some exception to the four-gun battery system; but the fact is, that the four-gun battery system obtains nearly all over Europe. That is to say, in no army in Europe is any attempt made to keep the whole of the batteries up to the war strength in time of peace, either in men or horses. It does not follow that there are not men 208 trained to fill all the posts in these sixgun batteries, because I believe—without being an expert, and speaking from information supplied to me—that the number of men we keep is ample to fill up all the special posts in connection with the batteries. In this connection the following figures are of interest:—The batteries in the French Army have 103 men and 61 horses; the Austrian Army, 101 men and 44 horses; the Italian Army, 90 men and 45 horses; the German Army, 21 batteries of 126 men and 76 horses, and over 400 batteries, with an establishment of less than 100 men. Our batteries and the higher establishment have 161 men and 138 horses, and in the lower 141 men and 58 horses.
§ *LORD CHAS. BERESFORD
Perhaps I did not explain quite clearly. In foreign armies all the men and horses are trained equally, but our batteries are worked differently, and we have trained and untrained men and horses working together.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I quite understand the point; but I think the hon. and gallant Member will find, if he goes into the question, that the horses in the battery, which are in first-rate training, would be used for the extra guns. My noble Friend behind me asked me a very important question with regard to the auxiliary forces. I have pointed out already that there are 47 batteries with muzzle-loading guns, but he says that those guns might as well be sold as old iron, being quite useless. I think my noble Friend goes a little too far in saying that. After all, these are the guns which the Royal Artillery had up to six or seven years ago, and the best artillerymen tell us that, although you may have guns which have a superior range, and shoot more quickly, at the same time these are formidable guns.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I know that seven years ago it was considered the best gun in Europe, at all events, by the experts who advised us. Now I do not say that at this moment—I have never professed that these batteries of Volunteer artillery 209 are equal to the best artillery of foreign Powers. At the same time they have been regarded as a very valuable adjunct, more especially in view of the large extent to which these guns could be employed with advantage in positions where the longer range may not be required. Sir, the whole question of Auxiliary and Volunteer Artillery is a very difficult one. I know that several hon. Members with military knowledge in this House have spoken against the Volunteers being supplied with guns at all, but it was considered at the time these guns were first given to them that they would be an important adjunct to our Field Artillery. Our present intention is this: we intend to have our three Army Corps fully armed. The question of what should be done with regard to the Auxiliary Artillery is one to be carefully considered. It is impossible at this moment, when quick-firing guns are being introduced all over the Continent, to throw opinions broadcast as to what should be done without careful consideration. My noble Friend, I think, held that view when he warned us seriously against setting to work to arm our Artillery until we had got the best guns possible. I know the House will not expect me to go into details at this moment, and I can only say that, for many months past, our minds have been closely directed to this question, and every effort has been made to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion with regard to producing a quick-firing gun. We have not the least intention of throwing money away in having guns made which will not be of the best possible pattern as quick-firing guns. I know that the Committee will not expect me to say more than that every attention has been given to the question of these guns. A few remarks have been made as regards some of our proposals by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, who has quoted some extracts from the returns given to the House to-day, with reference to certain battalions which were, no doubt, considerably under strength. He objected to the number of Reserve men included in them, and the whole effect of the Measures we are now proposing would be to reduce that proportion, and I believe 210 it will be reduced quickly. Some doubts have been expressed by more than one speaker on the point, and I would put the matter to the Committee in this way. Nobody, after what was said in this House on Friday as to the value of the Reserve, will suppose we are going to deplete the Reserve in order to create Army Corps. Let me draw attention to this fact. At this moment, for reasons which I explained to the House the other day, we have had to rob the Army of a very large number of men in drafts, and we have brought our regiments and batteries down too low. At this moment we want these Reservists, or some of them, in the ranks, but we do not rob the Army by taking these men if at the same time we are obtaining as many recruits as we can get.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that it is the intention of the War Office to fill up these battalions before the new battalions are raised?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
Yes, Sir, that is so. The first thing is to bring up these battalions by the returns from the Reserve. We ought to get the existing battalions up to their strength and then proceed to raise the new battalions. Now, the question is, are we right in believing that by the means we have adopted we shall bring in more recruits? The hon. Member for Northampton pointed out that 25,000 was all we could get last year, but it was a very bad year, and we had over 34,000 men to send away owing to the excessive number of discharges. But in a normal year there is no reason why we should not gain 45,000; and if we can keep up our recruits this year we ought to make a large addition to our forces. When it comes to a question of three years' enlistment, I feel, naturally, as everybody in this House feels, that we want to encourage the men. But I would put this consideration before the Committee. If you are going to give the men at home precisely the same that you give the men liable to serve all over the world, you must, expect that nine men out of ten would prefer to stay at home and serve for three years. 211 Our object is not to induce the men who are at present willing to serve for seven years to serve for three years; and when we find that in regard to that experiment a difficulty arises, then will be the time to consider it. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton spoke of the Guards as being in a different position; that is to some extent true, because the Guardsman, whether he goes in for three years or seven, has to do everything required of the Guardsman, and to serve at home or in the Mediterranean or elsewhere abroad. But the Line recruit enlisting for three years will possibly wait to see whether the battalion is ordered to a pleasant station, and then he may decide to serve or to leave the Colours and remain at home. After three years he goes into the Reserve for six or nine years, whichever it may be, and he gets £9 a year during the whole time, although he is by no means so valuable a soldier as he was during the last three years of his training. There is a very strong argument for putting the three years' men on a different system from the seven years' men. Now, one word with regard to the question of characters on discharge. My noble Friend made some extremely pleasant observations on that topic. I sympathise with him in thinking that all the errors of his youth should not be brought Up against a man; our proposal is to lay down the absolute necessity of the character being a true one. And it is not giving a true character to say that a man who has behaved himself for six months is a good character, when, during previous years, he has been perpetually drunk or in trouble. To give a man of that sort a good character is not fair to the good soldier or to the Army. We have had instances of men who have been taken into the service of the Post Office, who, on looking back, have found that they had not always had a good character; and it is preposterous to give such men a character which is not a true one. If that is so, we must be in a position to tell his employer what his peccadilloes during his last three years were, and how far his commanding officer would recommend him; and if you take any other line it will militate against the whole employment of the Army Reservists, in order to save a few men who have been incorrigible in one form or another. For example, 212 a soldier employed at the Post Office was found to have stolen letters. He had been discharged from the Army with a good character, but it appeared that the year before he had been detected in a theft.
§ *LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
May I explain that, in speaking of a scallywag, I never said anything about theft. A scallywag will never steal. But the best fighting man is the man who may get into a row. Very often you find an exemplary person who has not got pluck enough to get into a row. The scallywag has, and he is by far the best man to employ in the Army.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
Mr. Chairman, I stand rebuked. Until now I did not know the exact nature and propensities of a scallywag. I did not suppose he would steal, but I did suppose that he had some of those genial qualities which we have sometimes seen in men of the Navy, and which are sometimes objected to by private employers. I know my noble Friend will understand what I mean. Well, Sir, one word before I sit down with regard to what fell from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Essex. He was good enough to speak, in very pleasant terms, of the War Office, and I confess I was glad to hear him do so, for I think that it is only due to the gentlemen who have served their country in the War Office. I did not paint its faults so black as some others have done, but I pointed out that any faults there are are owing to the system. Undoubtedly that system is bad, but I think it is a great pity that the House should go away with the notion that the officials there, and especially the civilian heads, are not doing their duty so as to promote the public service. I have endeavoured now to deal with various points raised in the Debate, but, Mr. Chairman, I have now to refer to one other, namely, the great question of organisation, which is constantly before the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State, and in regard to which, perhaps, more progress has been made than is generally known. With regard to 213 smaller questions, such as that of the dress of the soldier, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast touched, although it is apparently a small question, yet it is one which intimately touches the life of the soldier and his feelings. It is, therefore, by no means to be despised, and all these questions are points on which we are endeavouring, so far as we can, to reconcile the regimental sentiment with the natural desire to make our mobilisation arrangements more reasonable than they have been in the past. Now, Sir, I will not trouble the House at greater length. I will only again thank the Committee for the kind attention with which they have listened to the proposals for Army reform that I have placed before the House.
§ MR. T. C. T. WARNER (Sheffield, Lichfield)
Is it proposed to do away with the Artillery depôts to a certain extent?
§ MR. BRODRICK
I hope I have made it clear. The Artillery are to be reorganised, and this will involve the decentralisation of the depôts. It is not proposed to have one large depôt at home, but what we hope to do is to carry out the reorganisation of the depôts and the Artillery at the same time.
§ *SIR E. GOURLEY (Sunderland)
I beg to join in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War upon his speech in introducing the subject of the intended reforms in the Army. I feel bound to say that I have never listened to any speech in the House of Commons of greater ability. It would be disgraceful, indeed, if the Parliament of this country, with ability fully equal to that of the late Lord Cardwell, were to do nothing in the direction indicated in the speech in which the right hon. Gentle man has unfolded the proposals of the Government. Now, with regard to the subject of the War Office, there can, to my mind, be no objection to the proposed increase of pay to the ordinary soldier. It would bring more recruits, but I think the War Office might to go a step farther and provide a further inducement in the way of higher and better pay. Now, the next part of the proposals will, I am sure, meet with general approval. There 214 can, of course, be no doubt that the decentralisation of the Army and the increase of the Artillery are absolutely necessary. But, again, I go further, and say that the Government have not gone far enough. We know that Germany, France, and Austria provide six guns to 1,000 men. In the English Army we only have four. It is now proposed to increase the number to five. The lesson to be learned from the Franco-German War, and more recently from the Turco-Grecian War in Thessaly, proves that all our great battles will in the future be decided in a great measure by the use of artillery. We believe that it is hardly possible for men armed with the rifle to come together without being decimated by the operation of the quick-firing guns. With regard to the Artillery, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if the guns to be used for siege purposes or for mountain purposes will all be of a similar pattern? If they are to be of diverse patterns, as they are in the Navy, confusion is certain to arise by reason of the great variety of ammunition. Now I come to the question of the enrolment of boys. I am strongly of opinion that the age at which a boy is enrolled as a man—viz., 19 years of age—will cause dissatisfaction between the boys and the men, for many boys will consider themselves quite equal as regards drill to those who are a little older than themselves. Let the boys—if you choose to call them so—when they join the Colours be brought up in a manner similar to that which obtains with regard to the Navy. What the War Office ought to do is to teach these boys some description of trade. If the boys are enrolled as boys, and trained in some way to some trade, the same thing will follow which now follows with regard to the boys trained in the Navy, and the difficulties with regard to the future employment of the soldier will be largely solved. What is the case in the Navy? In the Navy boys first learn to be seamen, and after they have learned to be seamen they learn to be boatmen, and after they have learned to be boatmen they learn to be fishermen; and after they have finished their training as men-of-warsmen, and passed into civil life as seamen; they can find employment as boatmen in almost every port round the kingdom, and as fishermen they can embark on any fishing 215 vessel, or purchase a boat of their own and make a living even by fishing. Now, I do consider the time has come when the War Office ought to take into serious consideration the absolute necessity of teaching men who join the Army some description of trade. If this were done, there is no reason why we should always be confronted with the difficulty of how the men should find employment when they leave the Colours. The very fact that they have learned a trade will enable them to find employment when they leave the Colours. Now, Sir, with regard to the withdrawal of men from the Reserves. It is, I understand, proposed to withdraw a certain number of men from the Reserves. Now, I do say that this is a very serious hardship upon the Reserve system. It would be a much wiser policy if the Government would spend money in training annually a certain number of men. As the gallant Member said this evening, the Reserves are very rarely brought up to train either wholly or in part. Inasmuch as men must in some degree lose the grip of what they have learned, and become more or less rusty, something ought to be done to keep them trained. A certain number of them ought to be brought up, say 10,000 or 15,000 every year, to be trained either in the Reserve or in the Militia. The argument, no doubt, would be that the recruits we are getting are too young, but I am in favour rather of enlisting young recruits than depleting the Reserve. Men of experience like Lord Wolseley, Sir Redvers Buller, and Sir Evelyn Wood, all speak in favour of training younger troops. I think it was Lord Wolseley who said he did not believe in old soldiers, and that when he had work to do he believed in doing it with young soldiers. And I would rather take the view of men of experience like Lord Wolseley, Sir Evelyn Wood, and others than those of hon. Members who have had no experience of what has been done with young soldiers. What are the reports sent out to the country of the young soldiers? Why, that they rival the oldest veterans in the service. I think the Government are adopting a wrong departure in bringing in the old soldiers. What is to be the policy with regard to future organisation? The policy of Mr. Cardwell never had a fair trial. His intention with 216 regard to these depôt centres was that the men quartered there should be thoroughly equipped. At the present moment what is the state of things with regard to these depôt centres? So far as the Line is concerned, you have simply skeleton numbers. That was never the intention of Mr. Cardwell. His intention was that the Militia and Military forces generally should be all so organised that every arm should be able to collect on a War Equipment at the depôts. What is the case now? You have an establishment of the Militia, of the Volunteers, and of the Line, each under different commands, a system expensive in itself and totally unnecessary. With regard to the Volunteers, you have in the same town or county a corps of Artillery and a corps of Rifles, the Artillery with an expensive staff and the Rifles with an expensive staff, but they never exercise or drill together. Everything is done separately, and the same with the Militia. I contend that when they are brought into camp the Artillery and the Infantry should be brought out together, and practised as would be the case in the field. In the event of a war they would have to fight together; why, therefore, in time of peace should they be kept in a condition, or trained differently from what they would be in time of war? Now I should like to have the opinion of the War Office on this. I do not see that anything was said in the report of the Secretary for War about the Volunteers beyond the fact that there was a falling off of numbers and a saving of expenditure. In my opinion the falling off is in consequence of the men who join losing their wages during the time they are in camp. Now I hope the Government will see the propriety and the necessity of giving the Volunteers when they are in camp the same amount of pay or pretty nearly the same amount of pay as they would receive in wages. It is done in the Reserve, and why should it not be done in the case of the Volunteers? What I want to see is the Volunteers made a reliable force, and in order to do that you must recognise that branch of the Service and train them in such a way as they would be trained in the time of war. Each county should be brigaded—not Artillery under one brigadier and 217 the Infantry under another. But all branches of the Service as a whole.
§ *COLONEL C. WYNDHAM MURRAY (Bath)
I am glad to have an opportunity of making a few remarks on this subject in reference to the most satisfactory statement of the right hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary of State for War. I cannot claim to speak as an expert, but having served in military capacities for 36 years may say I have had some practical experience. I cannot at all agree with the remark of my hon. Friend the Member for York that it is the Artillery that has won the battles in the past entirely, or that it will win battles in the future. By looking through military history you will find that the Infantry has had a great deal to do in the battles on behalf of the British Empire; and as an Infantry officer. I feel sure that in the future, although the Artillery will as before do well in battles, the Infantry will be the arm that will help a great deal to win the battles of the future. I think the Infantry should be very carefully attended to and trained with that object.
§ DR. C. K. D. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
called the attention of the Chairman to the fact that there were not 40 Members in the House.
At the expiration of the allotted time, the CHAIRMAN announced that 40 Members were present.
§ *COLONEL WYNDHAM MURRAY
proceeded: In my opinion, there can be only three modes of obtaining recruits—the old mode of the separate depôt, the system of the depôt attached to a battalion (perhaps to another regiment or its own regiment), and the training in the battalion itself; add I have always most emphatically approved of the last-mentioned training for the recruits. The Under Secretary of State for War has assured us that the old depôts were costly, and also were inefficient, and to that I can add my testimony. In 218 my opinion—and I have had personal experience of all these systems of separate depôts, attached depôts, and the training in the battalion—in the old depôts the regimental esprit was not high—officers were away from the direct control of their commanding officers, and I never considered it a very good school for the young soldier. Then there was the system of depôts attached to another battalion. Naturally, it was the case that the battalions did not take such an interest in the recruits of another regiment as they would in recruits belonging to their own battalion, and I consider that the present, system of passing the recruits through the home battalions is by far the best. The recruit joins the Army at the nominal age of 18. He cannot go to India, upon medical grounds, until he is 20. These, Sir, are not the men that were spoken of by Lord Wolseley as being the best soldiers in the Army. The hon. Member for Sunderland seems to be under a misapprehension. The soldiers, as I understand it, to whom the Commander-in Chief referred were the soldiers of about 25—men who had seen six or seven years' service. These form the best material; not the young recruit, who, as I said before, really is not allowed to go, on medical grounds, to India until he is 20. If he were at the depôt during the time it would be two or three years of depôt work that he would be doing, and that would really be no useful work at all. It would be far better to make him useful, and make a soldier of him in the Home Service battalion. Again if the linked battalion system were put an end to it would uproot, the whole of the territorial system. It has been quite difficult enough to establish that, territorial system, which. I believe, now does its work satisfactorily. The principle of the linked battalion has always seemed to me to be a very good one, but it has never seemed to me to be thoroughly and properly carried into effect. As I understand 219 it, the proposals of the Secretary of State for War are to carry out the principles of the system of 1872 more fully than they have been in the past, and I cordially approve of those proposals. I only regret that he has not been able to go further in the same direction. The home battalions are still too weak. The battalion abroad is at the establishment 940, whereas the home battalion at the establishment is at the present moment 720, though I understand it is to be raised to 800. But even with an establishment of 800, the home battalions are not sufficient to fill up the deficiency between that number and the 940 men required for the battalion abroad. We never hear commanding officers abroad complain of the stamp of their men, or the strength of the battalion. All the complaints are from the home battalions, and, I think, very rightly, because the establishment has never been sufficient to keep up a satisfactory strength at home, and to give proper drafts for the battalions abroad. The present Estimates are better; but still there is a great discrepancy. By the Estimates of 1878–79 the home establishment is to be an effective force of 70,000 men for the Infantry, and for abroad, 81,000 men. The original plan of Mr. Cardwell was to have the battalions and establishments equal, and it is as important that the establishments should be equal, as that the number of battalions should be equal, and this has never been done. Referring to the statement of the Under Secretary of State for War, that the Militia will be allowed to volunteer for general service, that is satisfactory as far as it goes, but I should have been very glad if he had gone even further than this, and said that the Militia should have some real service. Would the right hon. Gentleman say if there is any reason against employing the Militia permanently as part of the garrisons, say, of such towns as Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Chatham, each regiment 220 to be embodied, say, for two years, or whether there is any reason against three or four battalions of the Militia Infantry being divided between Gibraltar and Malta? This, I think, would give these troops some real service and good training with the regular troops, and it would also show them that they are not neglected and left out in the cold. There is the proposal also to allow the Reserve to volunteer in their first year, after leaving the Colours, and that is a very satisfactory step in the event of small wars occurring, for then we shall have some trained and seasoned men, who are very much required for such service. I am sorry to say that, as regards the rest of the Reserve, there is nothing said about them. In the event of a big war these men will have lost their training. I do not speak so much of drill as of musketry and rifle practice. They should be drilled, and especially trained with the rifle, or they will have no confidence either in themselves or their weapon. The British soldier is never properly trained as a soldier should be. He is, as a rule, no marksman. He is not, as a rule, allowed sufficient ammunition to make him a good marksman. Of course, some men are specially gifted in that direction, but, as a rule, I think a soldier ought to have at least five times the amount of ammunition allowed him that he has at present, and I should be glad to hear that the Reserve would be trained in peace times, because there would be no time in these days of short wars to train him after he has gone to the Colours. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how many of the Reserves will be trained in the manœuvres this year, and how many of them will have some rifle practice. And now I will say one word on the soldiers' present condition and prospects. The proposals as to deferred pay I consider to be very satisfactory, but there is one point which I should like to mention in connection with the newly-joined soldier. The recruit now has very hard physical 221 work to go through, more so than he had in the old days. As I understand it, there is a great deal of gymnastic exercise to be done by the young soldier, and I certainly think he has not sufficient food. His last meal is at four o'clock. His meal of the day is in the middle of the day, and this, I think, is a very great strain on the constitution of these young soldiers. They certainly have some soup in the evening, made of scraps and bones, but these lads require more than that. They go through drill in the early morning before their breakfast, their last meal having been, as I have already said, at four o'clock the previous evening. I certainly think there can be more liberality in this direction. Then there is the question of employment after service. I believe that the object of the Military authorities is to obtain not the young men of indifferent character and irregular habits, but the better class of men from the home population, who will make the Army respected, because they are themselves respectable men. Those would be the men who would think of the future, and to whom the expectation of employment in civil life would have the strongest attraction. The proposal to take men into government employ after service with the Colours is good, as far as it goes, but with such a large number leaving the Army the few vacancies that exist cannot go very far. I have found that in cases of men leaving the Artillery, the Cavalry, and the Marines, as well as sailors, there is very little difficulty in their obtaining employment on return to civil life, because they know they have some trade to fall back upon. Employers very naturally decline to take men who know nothing except how to fire a rifle and go through the various bayonet exercises. These things are, of course of the utmost importance to the soldier during his time with the Colours, but they are of no possible use to him afterwards; and I am very glad to see, and it is very satisfactory to hear, that the soldier now 222 will have the chance of learning a trade in the Army, and I hope the greatest encouragement will be given, by general officers and everyone in authority, to soldiers to learn a trade while they have the opportunity. I think it should be compulsory upon every man who wishes to fill a subordinate appointment in civil life that he should qualify for it by, at any rate, a short service in the Army.
§ CAPTAIN J. F. BAGOT (Westmorland, Kendal)
My right hon. Friend, after all this Debate, will wish to attribute to the soldier the quality which hitherto generally has been looked upon as the especial perquisite of the farming class, who, we are told, no matter how good the harvest has been, always continue with their grumbling; and throughout the whole of this Debate I have heard nothing, or nearly nothing, but the barrack-room grumbling, which I have been healing for the last nine or ten years. I must say that I think all soldiers should heartily congratulate Her Majesty's Government upon the proposals which have been so ably brought forward by my right hon. Friend. I am extremely glad that the. Government has not been led away by any of those revolutionary changes of which they have heard so much from below the Gangway. The linked battalion system has been now in operation for a considerable number of years, and I think everybody will agree that it has never been given a really fair trial. I think that the proposals of the Government are a very alarming step in the direction of giving the system a fair trial, and I have no doubt they will turn out far better than the proposals which have been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite sitting below the Gangway. Now, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, in arguing in favour of these depôts, drew attention to certain existing depôts. Now, I will put the Artillery depôts on one side, and I will allude to the Infantry depôts. My hon. Friend 223 drew attention to the depôts of the Marines. I think the House will admit that the comparison between the Marines and the ordinary soldier is rather farfetched, and they are totally different services. For the purposes of argument, we may put on one side the question of the Marines. The point which, at first sight, the hon. Member appears to make is, that he pointed out the efficiency of the Guards' depôt. That, no doubt, has worked for many years extremely well, and has provided trained recruits, and that, at first sight, would appear to be a rather strong argument in favour of the depôt system and against the linked battalions. But my hon. Friend forgot a strong argument against that system. A recruit goes into the Guards' depôt, and serves there as an apprentice, as it were, for a period of about six months. He then goes to his battalion. The authorities can shorten his time at their will. But, supposing you had a depôt which was to feed a battalion quartered in India, the recruit cannot go out to India until he is 20, as he would have to go to the depôt at 18, and it is obvious he would have to remain at that depôt for two years. Eighteen months of that two years would be absolutely time wasted. What a soldier learns at a depôt is merely the elementary rudiments of soldiery, which he can learn in six months, such as drill, rifle practice, and certain other duties, but nothing whatever about the customs and habits of his regiment; therefore he would, for 18 months of the time he is at the depôt, be merely wasting his time and be in the position of a boy remaining at school 18 months after the time when he ought to have gone into a profession. Thus it would be absolutely impossible to feed our Indian regiments from such depôts at home. When mentioning that still more serious matter, the right hon. Gentleman very truly said that this depôt system would cost the country something like 2,000,000 sterling per annum, and would increase the 224 Army by 30,000 soldiers. I do not think this House of Commons would be ready to go to the expense of a system which no Member of this House has really made out a case for. Now, I do not want to say anything at this stage to prolong this Debate, and I certainly do not wish to bring to the notice of the House any further advice on the position of the soldier. I must, say I do not think that these small details, which are, perhaps, more suitable for discussion on the Estimates, must rather embarrass the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, who are honestly endeavouring to bring about one of the greatest and most important reforms in our Army that we have had before us for a great many years. But it has appeared to me that we cannot, of course, prevent what is going on in the public Press, but hon. Members in this House have also pointed out, through the publicity which these Debates must necessarily give, that the position of the British soldier is a bad one, because he is not paid enough, because he is not fed enough, and because he has not clothes enough. Naturally, the whole aim of the Government, in order to successfully carry out their proposals—the sole aim and object of the Government—is to get as quickly as possible, and as easily as possible, the goodwill and respect of the Army. I can confidently say, from having been connected with soldiers for a great many years, that the position of the British soldier in our Army at the present moment is very much better in every respect than that of the ordinary unskilled working man in this country. In his food and clothing something may be said for that, and we all wish to have our soldiers fed and clothed as well as possible; but what we must compare their life with is the position of the ordinary unskilled workman in this country. I maintain that the soldier is better fed, better clothed, and enjoys more freedom, and has less hard work than the ordinary workman; in fact, I think that, so far 225 as the point mentioned by my hon. Friend just now about feeding the recruit goes, the recruit, in nine cases out of ten, finds himself better and more regularly fed than he has ever experienced before. Well, now, there are one or two small matters which, perhaps, I may venture to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to. They are, of course, merely details, and I only bring them before him for his consideration. One of them is the provision that these men were not to have—and I think very rightly not to have—their full pay until they are efficient soldiers. Now, they are not only to be efficient soldiers, but they are to be 19 years of age. Now, I would submit—and I have no doubt that there are very good reasons for this determination of the Government—that this is rather encouraging the men to give a false age on enlistment. It is perfectly clear, and it will be perfectly obvious, that you should not pay a man who is only partially trained the same rate of wages that you pay a fully trained soldier. As far as I understand the regulations, I understand that he is to be an efficient soldier before he gets his full pay. Now, I think it would be just as well if the words "19 years of age" were left out. It would be an advantage to give his age at a higher age than he really is, because he will think that he will become efficient and be able to get his full pay sooner. It is, therefore, very desirable that soldiers should not be induced to give ages higher than they really are. The result will be that in many cases men who are really under 20 will give a false age on enlisting. I do not think, if a man is physically and to all appearances 20 years of age, that he is necessarily fit for a tropical climate. I do not believe so. Generally he is overgrown, and he is one of the last men you ought to send to a hot climate; but, however, the question of the age of 19 is a very small matter, which I merely wish to bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend for his consideration. 226 There is another matter of which I wish to speak, and that is the question of the three years' service, and that they should have the same amount of pay as for full service. That, I think, is a most excellent provision, and I have not, the smallest fear that these men who join for three years will extend their service. I believe a considerable number of men will be quite ready to take it, for if they only come for three years their obligations will be less. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean said that there should be no difficulty about men with three years' service and men with seven years' service, both serving in the same regiment. In that he was quite right, for there is no difficulty in men engaged for seven years and men engaged for three working side by side without any trouble. But there is a considerable difference, which he forgot, between the three years' men and the seven years' men, and that is that they are getting exactly the same pay. But there is hardly any difficulty, because there is no doubt, practically, that these three years' men have rather a hard time of it, for they will not be allowed to have certain perquisites, such, as officers' servants and longer furlough, which will be made use of by the longer service soldiers. There are other small matters. The soldier's pay is now a full shilling a day, but he has during the last few years, as many of the hon. Members know, had considerable improvements made to his position in the barracks. He has been given lockers to put away his things, his food has been immensely improved, and in other ways he has been given a good deal more leave, and allowed, to a certain extent, more time for sports and amusements. All these are great improvements, but there is one simple matter in connection with barrack-room grumbles to which I should like to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend. I regard it as a genuine grievance with the rank and file. You give a soldier his uniform regularly, so 227 many suits of uniform at various times, in exactly the same way as any private individual dresses in civil life, but you do not exactly conform to what is usual in civil life. You give a soldier his uniform at stated times, and he is supposed to make that uniform do, or if he does not, if it becomes worn out, he has to make it good out of his pay. But, at the same time, you send him—and very rightly, too—to manœuvres, and these manœuvres very materially affect him. On some occasions they may be very arduous and conducted in wet weather, and they have the effect of spoiling the men's clothes very much. Now, I do think the men should be given regular allowances for the damage done to their clothes and uniform, and that would encourage the men to take proper care of their uniform, and not to spoil it. I think that commanding officers are now given a little more freedom and less restrictions from headquarters. I think also that commanding officers might be allowed in manœuvres, or in any particular or special duty which their regiment has been called upon to perform, and which has spoiled the men's clothes, such as very wet weather, that after any occurrences of that sort the commanding officer might be allowed to apply to the War Office, for a certain sum of money with which to compensate the battalion which had suffered pecuniary loss through no fault or carelessness. I have known soldiers complain about this, and I believe this is one of those very small matters that would give satisfaction to the Army, and would certainly remove one of the small grumbles which the British soldier has occasionally to make. These are merely very small suggestions, and I do not think that they in the least touch the large question, the great Vote which is going to be given for the improvement of our Army. No doubt circumstances have occurred which have rendered it necessary that we should get a larger Estimate. I do not support this large continental Army principle. I do 228 not suppose that if we had such a large Army we should ever use it, or have anywhere to put it. We only want an Army sufficient to back up the authority which we have set before the British Empire.
§ *MR. GEOFFREY DRAGE (Derby)
I desire only to direct attention, in connection with this proposed increase in the Army, to the large number of persons chargeable to the Poor Rates who are returned as having belonged to the Army. According to the last Report of the Local Government Board, no less than 20 per cent. of the persons chargeable on the rates were at one time or other in military service.
§ *MR. DRAGE
The evidence was contained in the return issued last Session, in which it was stated that 2,068 persons produced a certificate to that effect. I may explain that that return was taken in May last year, and, as the hon. Member for Belfast pointed out, that is the time when the largest number sleep out. Sir, I recognise at once the improvements which the Government propose to make in the way of obtaining appointments for Reservists, and opening Government Departments and so forth, but I think if the Financial Secretary will give to the House a return taken in December last we shall find the number is even larger than it was in the month of May. In any case this question of vagrants is a serious one taken in connection with the proposed increase in the Army. The lowest estimate of their number is 30,000, but a great expert, the Rev. Mr. Garble, of the Ghurch Army, makes it 100,000, and I believe there is a still higher estimate, that of "General" Booth, who puts the number at 165,000. At any rate, there is a serious danger of the number of vagrants being increased, and the question arises 229 as to how they should be dealt with and the way in which those who have been in military service should be diverted to some employment. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War whether it is not possible to arrange some co-operation between the War Office and the three Societies with which he is familiar: the Corps of Commissionaires, the National Association for the Employment of Reservists, and the Army and Navy Pensioners Society. Between them I believe these three Societies find positions for something like 6,000 Reservists in a year. If the War Office were to co-operate with these Societies, and if, further, some organisation, like that which exists in connection with the Mercantile Marine Service, were to be established, a great step in advance would be taken. I need not remind the Committee, in passing, that, in all the Workhouses of the United Kingdom, as far as the Inspectors have been able to ascertain, persons who have served in the Royal Navy are rarely, if ever, found to take to a life of vagrancy. My suggestion is that the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War should endeavour to procure some method of co-operation between the War Office and the Societies I have mentioned, and, further, that he should establish in each of the great military districts some such office as that of Superintendent of Mercantile Marine. The Committee is probably aware that the Superintendent of Mercantile Marine at every one of the great ports keeps a list of all seamen in search of employment and all employers in search of men, and acts as a sort of intermediary between the two.
§ *COLONEL SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
There are one or two questions which I am anxious to bring to the notice of the Under Secretary of State for War in connection with the proposals of the Government for increasing the 230 Army and calling out the Reserves. First of all, as to allowing men who have taken deferred pay to rejoin the Colours, it is important that it should be known publicly for how long this will be allowed, otherwise no man in India, will re-engage. As regards, the abolition of deferred pay, I am doubtful how far that would be popular in the Army. The reduction of the deferred pay to £7 will hardly enable a man to provide himself with an equipment for civil life. After he has paid for his plain clothes he will have very little left, and I am afraid that when he gets home he will give to his friends a rather bad account of the advantages of the Army, and this, I feel, will have a very injurious effect upon recruiting. Some arrangement for providing an equipment for civil life would be a great advantage. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham has already called attention to the question of the training of the Reserves. Within the last six or seven years the Reserves, I think, have only been called out once for training. Sir, I am sure some arrangement might be made for the drilling of the Reserves with the Volunteers. There is a great difficulty, of course, as regards the capitation grant. It is impossible for commanding officers of Volunteers to take in Reserves, unless they can earn their capitation grant. On the other hand, the Reserves cannot be allowed to earn the grant, because then they would be receiving Reservist pay and a grant from the State for their services as Volunteers. But, if some arrangement were made as to their uniform, there would be no difficulty in a limited number of Reservists being regularly trained and drilled with Volunteers. It stands to reason, too, that they would be of very much more service to their regiments when called out for active service if they keep up their drill and military training. I think the Committee may be congratulated that upon this Vote we have heard none of that denunciation of the Army which, has been rather prolific in the 231 public. Press for months. None of the hon. Members who have spoken have depreciated in the slightest degree the men who are now serving, and I think a very good explanation may be found in what the Army has done recently in India and elsewhere. The hon. Member for West Belfast said, in the course of the Debate, that it was little short of a calamity that officers now serving could not be heard in this matter. I am not going to trouble the Committee with any lengthy quotations, but I think it is right, upon this Vote, that we should have as witness one of the most active officers now serving. In an address before the Military Society of Aldershot, in December last, when the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean and the Member for West Belfast were present, Colonel Hutton, of the King's Royal Rifles, who had just returned from Germany and France, said—In the case of our Regular Army at least we have no reason to fear comparison. If we may believe our eyes and accept statistics the physique of our regular soldiers is certainly not deficient, if we except the small proportion of immature lads, and will compare far more than favourably with the troops of Germany or France. The smart and soldierly bearing of our men is unquestionably superior to that of our neighbours on the Continent, where time can be ill spared for that finish and polish which in former years were considered to be essential in turning out a soldier. As for officers, Great Britain has good reason to be satisfied. At no period in our national history has England had so many well trained and experienced officers as at the present time. Our numerous and varied campaigns in all parts of the world, and in all varieties of climate and of physical conditions, have afforded opportunities of practical training in war, with all its infinite variety, which should make our officers unrivalled.Sir, I have thought it right to give this quotation from the address of Colonel Hutton, who is one of the most experienced, able, and active officers on the staff of the Army. The address was delivered in the presence of nearly all the officers of the Aldershot Division, with the Duke of Connaught in the chair, and I think it affords a clear 232 answer to many of those denunciations, which have been too prolific of late, regarding the position of the Army. From a Report presented this evening giving the length of service and ages of men in the Army, I find that, out of 132,000 Infantry of the Line on the 1st January, 1898, only 21,000, or about one-sixth, were under 20 years of age, and only 19,000 had less than one year's service. Five-sixths of the Infantry of the Line were over 20 years of age, and five-sixths also had more than one year's effective training with their regiments. Considering all the circumstances under which the Army is raised, the Committee have reason to be satisfied with that proportion. The question of the employment of old soldiers has been constantly referred to. I am bound to say that within the last few weeks I have had some experience of the desire of the Government to give employment to old soldiers, for an important position in connection with this House has been filled by a former Grenadier in my employ. To replace him I wrote to Colonel Crutchley, of the War Office, and at once was sent a first-rate Reservist, writing shorthand, only recently discharged from the Middlesex Regiment, showing that the register kept by the War Office is in an efficient state, and that the Department is doing all it possibly can to register men who are desiring civil employment, and have the requisite qualifications. Now the noble Lord the Member for York has stated that he hopes my right hon. Friend will not insist on elaborating the character given to soldiers. I am deeply interested in the employment of old soldiers. I have found employment for a great many of them, and I do not think there can be anything more undesirable than that employment should be obtained for a discharged soldier, and then for the employer to find out that the man turns out unsatisfactorily. That operates badly for the man, for he at once loses his employment, 233 and a prejudice is created against the employment of old soldiers generally, which does infinite harm to the entire Service. I do not think my right hon. Friend ever said it was intended that all a man's little peccadilloes should be entered upon certificates, but, at any rate, there should be, as far as possible, a true account of the general conduct of the soldier in reference to his qualifications for civil employment. As this matter has been so thoroughly debated, I will not take up more time, yet there is one matter in connection with the Army which I am most anxious to impress upon my right hon. Friend, and that is the large number of staff officers we have in our Army, as compared with those in foreign armies. The matter has been repeatedly mentioned in this House, but nothing has been done. I have had the good fortune to witness the manœuvres in peace and war of several European armies, and more especially those of the German Army, and I see the number of aides-de-camp attached to British Generals, and I am convinced that this is a matter which deserves the attention of our military authorities. If we are accept the accounts coming from the North-West Frontier of India, we shall find that one of the great difficulties of the campaign is said to have arisen from the enormous mass of baggage, and the superfluous number of staff officers engaged in the campaign. Whether that is true or not, I do not pretend to say, but I do say that the number of staff officers in our Army is a matter which requires the greatest vigilance from the Secretary of State for War and the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Wolseley, who is doing so much for the good of the Army. But having said so much, as regards the scheme of Lord Lansdowne and my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for War, I cannot but express my great disappointment that the Government have not done all they possibly could to grapple, 234 once for all, with the military problem as a whole. I admit that they have attempted to do something as regards the Regular Army and preparation for foreign service, but nothing has been done, or is proposed by the Government to be dime, so far as we have heard from the able statement of the right hon. Gentleman, as regards the better organisation of the enormous force of 230,000 Volunteers which Great Britain is so fortunate as to possess. This is a matter which vitally affects the whole question, and until it is grappled with it cannot be said that the defences of the country or that the Army of the country is in a satisfactory condition. It is utterly ridiculous that this enormous force of Infantry should exist without any Cavalry, and without sufficient, artillery, and without any field guns. There may be difficulties in the way, but what is the use of a Government if that is so?—for difficulties only exist for a Government to overcome them. They can be over-come, and the country ought to insist on them being overcome. The Government has said that two Army Corps are ready for foreign service, but that will leave; the defences of the country mainly in the hands of the Volunteers. The Government proposals are that the greater portion of the Militia Reserve should go to the Regular Army, and they also propose an alteration of the Militia Act calling the Militia to service. My belief is that four-fifths, and I expect the whole, of the Militia battalions will readily volunteer for foreign service. I shall be very much surprised if they are not prepared to do so. But that will leave the defence of the country entirely in the hands of the Volunteers; and, therefore, it is incumbent upon the Government to grapple at once, and once for all, with these questions of the proper organisation and the proper armament and equipment of the Volunteers. At present they cannot be accommodated in any of the Military camps, and, therefore, 235 provisions should be made in this respect, and in the matter of rifle ranges. There are no drill grounds available for the 30,000 Volunteers in London. Now, the Government have a large majority, and on the opposite side of the House there are a large number of hon. Gentlemen, I believe the majority of them, who are anxious, to assist in this matter, which has nothing to do with Party politics. If it is not possible for the Government to deal with this question this Session, we ought to urge upon Her Majesty's Government and Lord Lansdowne, the Secretary of State for War, that what the House of Commons and the country insist upon is that if the Army is on a footing to send two or three Army Corps on foreign service, the defence of the country must not be neglected in these times. The Volunteers are an essential portion of the Army in regard to home defence, and must receive quite as much consideration at the hands of the Government as the Regular Army and the Militia. I beg to apologise to the Committee for having detained them so loner.
§ *MR. A. F. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
Mr. Speaker, it has been said in the course of this Debate that the proposed extra 3d. a day will not be very much appreciated by the soldiers. Now, I have a great many soldiers of all ranks in my constituency at Aldershot, and during the 12 years that I have been a Member of this House I have been constantly hearing that they regarded the deduction of 3d. a day from their money which they have to spend for their vegetables and groceries as a great grievance. Therefore, when the Government have decided to give this extra 3d. a day, I think the soldiers will take it as a great boon. I believe they will think more of that than anything else in regard to the stoppages from their pay, and I thank the Government most heartily for having given them this extra amount. It is sometimes thought that these are the 236 only stoppages, but there are additional stoppages which come to about 3s. 1d. a month; so that although we are now giving the soldiers this extra 3d., it must not be supposed that they have not to pay anything extra in the way of stoppages. I find that there are three classes of men who enlist for the Army. There are, first, men who cannot get any other work; secondly, men who are attracted to the Army by the uniform and by the prospect of going to war; and, thirdly, men who take to the Army as a career. I think that the last are the men whom we ought most to consider, and that we ought to make their lives in the Army as comfortable as possible. I find, and I now speak of what I have heard from soldiers, that a great many men object to join the Army because of the low character of men with whom they have to herd in over-crowded barrack-rooms. If we could get men of better character, then I am sure more recruits would come into the Army. As to the allegation that there are a number of boys in the Army because of the standard being decreased, I think that is a great misfortune, and that instead of decreasing the standard the Government would do well to increase the pay, for I believe that in that way they will get a great many more recruits for the service. I think that it is a most excellent proposal of the Secretary of State for War to allow soldiers to rejoin the Army without being subject to repaying the deferred pay which they have drawn. We know that when a man at the end of his service draws £25, he will spend it in a short time, and, of course, it is impossible that he should repay it. But I am told that this concession does not extend to the Cavalry, and I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that is true, because I think it would be a great pity that the Cavalry soldier should not be allowed to rejoin the Colours on the same terms as the Infantry soldier. And I should also like to ask whether the extra 3d. a day could not be given to 237 recruits as well as to men in the Army, so as to offer a greater inducement to men to join the Colours. Now, I hope I may be allowed to say a few words with regard to the minor grievances of the soldiers. Whenever I am talking of their grievances, they beg, both officers and men, that their names may not be divulged to the War Office. Therefore, it is very difficult for me to bring these grievances before the War Office, because, when I am asked to state a particular case, I am unable to do so. They do complain very much of over-crowding in the barrack-room. They declare that 11 or 12 are ample to put into one room, and I think so too. It is well known the barrack-room is a, large, bare room, and all the men, both good and bad, are huddled together, and it is practically impossible, it is said, to live a decent life there. All the lights in the barrack-room are put out at 10 p.m., though the men are able to get leave out of barracks until 11.15 p.m. The lights in the canteens and billiard-rooms and libraries are put out at 9.30 p.m., so that when the lights are put out the men, being able to get leave until 11.15, they are nearly all driven out into the streets. I do think that it would be preferable if the barracks were kept alight until 11.15, the time up to which the men have leave. As it is, they have to come in and find their way in the dark barrack-room to their beds. Then, with regard to the canteens, I am told that the articles of food and drink which are supplied there, are the subject of large commissions taken from the persons supplying them. I think that we ought to have the best food and drink in the canteens that it is possible to obtain, but these things are not subject in ordinary tender, and I am informed that very large commissions are taken from those people who supply them. If the Government could see their way to put a, stop to this wholesale taking of commissions it would do a very good work, and put 238 an end to a state of things which is a scandal. The soldiers, however, are very grateful for the benefits now conceded by the War Office. My hon. and gallant Friend said just now that something ought to be done in the way of clothing, to obtain better clothing for the soldiers. I said last night that the Committee which sat upon the subject reported that the clothing was not satisfactory, and ought to be improved, and I hope that something will be done in respect to that matter. I must say this, that after the Autumn Manœuvres, when the weather was very wet, and when the men's clothing was spoiled, and their boots worn out, the Secretary for War very liberally and generously gave all these men an extra allowance on account of the clothing destroyed by the rain, and the men were very grateful for what was done. I beg to thank the Secretary of State for War for the extra help he is now going to give to the Army.
§ *MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)
I have listened to some remarks that have been made as to the employment of discharged soldiers, and I have a little suggestion to make to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War. There has been a good deal of money voted for carrying on great Government works at Devonport and Dover, and they must employ at those places some 1,000 men before they can spend the money which has been voted for Close works. Now, I ask, is it not feasible that that work could be given to discharged soldiers, seeing that there is so much to be done, and so much money is to be expended at Devonport in making new docks and making new piers, in connection with those docks? I think my suggestion is worthy of consideration. There is another point I should like to direct attention to. They are all talking of putting two Army Corps into the field. That is about 75,000 men. Those 75,000 will require about 370 guns or field-pieces. Now, I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the 239 Financial Secretary to the War Office whether he knows how long it will take to mobilise 75,000 men, with all the guns, stores, horses, and all the impedimenta of two Army Corps? Has he given that matter consideration? Has he also calculated the number of steamers that would be required for all the stores and guns and everything. I see the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War is now in his place, and I will repeat my question to him. I was saying you take a great deal of credit to yourselves that you could put two Army Corps of 75,000 men into the field, how long would it take you to do it? Seventy-five thousand men would require 370 guns, and I ask how long do you think you would take to mobilise 75,000 men and all the guns, horses, and stores, with all the impedimenta, and whether you have also calculated the number of steamers you would require? I make out that you would require 60 steamers, and I ask the right, hon. Gentleman, where are they? Have you got them? I am surprised at the ignorance of military men when they come down to practical matters. Have you got the steamers? Are they all ticked off? Have you the whole of the transport, and can you fix upon the steamers that you require in a moment? I only rise to put these questions, as they seem to ma to be very important and bear greatly upon the efficiency of the British Army if it has to take the field.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
The hon. Gentleman, in his speech, no doubt, was referring to what was said by the Commander-in-Chief with regard to the rapidity with which two Army Corps could be mobilised. If I remember rightly, the Commander-in-Chief put his case thus: that he could get two Army Corps ready as quickly as the transport, and therefore the criticism of the hon. Gentleman—
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
It may be a negative answer, but I think it is an explicit one. There 240 was no statement made by the Commander-in-Chief as to the time it would take to mobilise two Army Corps.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Because, I presume, that was not the object he had in view. He merely said that as soon as the Admiralty could provide the transport, he could provide the Army Corps, a fair challenge from one Department to another. I did not rise, however, to deal with this specific question. I rose to make an appeal, if I may be permitted to do so, to the Committee that it will come to a conclusion upon Vote "A." The Committee will remember the pledge given last Friday. Only I felt that, after the pledge given in respect to the return promised by my right hon. Friend, it would not be fair to take advantage of the kind mood in which the Committee find themselves. I think it will be generally admitted that the matter has been well threshed out by the interesting and important Debate, extending over two days. There is another Vote of importance to be taken before we conclude the Estimate work of the evening, and I should think the Committee could now come to a decision on Vote "A." I hope the Chairman will now put it to the vote.
The Vote was then agreed to, together with a Vote that £6,266,400 be granted to Her Majesty to defray the pay, allowances, and other charges of the Army at home and abroad.
§ Resolutions to be reported to-morrow.