§ Vote of £3,352,600, Provisions, Forage, and other Supplies.
§ Agreed to.
§ Vote of £1,972,000 for Warlike and other Stores: Supply and Repair.
§ COLONEL WYNDHAM MURRAY (Bath)
On this Vote I wish to direct the attention of the House to what I consider a most important point in the training of the soldier—rifle shooting. The soldier is armed by the country with a magnificent weapon, and it is desirable on grounds of efficiency and economy that he should shoot well. The Lee-Metford is a splendid arm at any distance from a yard to 2,000 yards, but it requires great skill and confidence, and these are only gained by constant practice. The only advantages of marching power, endurance, and knowledge of drill are to place the soldier in a position to use his rifle with deadly effect in war if the opportunity occurs. For this he is fed and paid, clothed and trained; for this we have a War Department and costly autumn manœuvres; for this we have the whole machinery of recruiting; but it is not the big battalions but the straight-shooting battalions that will win the battles of the future. The greater number of our soldiers do not shoot well, 319 and in my belief it is because they have not sufficient practice. I do not find fault with the instructors nor with the troops, but only with the system. The Army has fired with a breech-loading rifle now for 30 years, and there must be a fault in the system that better results are not obtained. Reference to the Report on Musketry for 1897, published this year, shows that the number of marksmen in the Army has certainly increased and the number of really bad shots has decreased in the last few years. That reflects great credit on the late Commandant of the School of Musketry and other instructors. We have good shots in the Regulars, the Militia, and the Volunteers, but the bulk of those forces shoot badly. To take the 140 battalions of Infantry of the Line. In 1897, according to the last Report, the average of marksmen was 16 per cent. and of first-class shots 24 per cent., the remaining 60 per cent being in the second and third classes. That is to say nearly two-thirds of the Infantry are stated by the offcial Report to be second and third class shots, which means, at any rate, indifferent shots. Field firing and machine-gun practice appear to have been seldom carried out, chiefly because of the want of ranges. In the Militia commanding officers complain that they can devote so little time and attention to rifle shooting, and in the Volunteers, although a few such splendid shots go to Bisley that the authorities are at their wits' end to make the conditions sufficiently difficult, yet a reference to the official Report shows that the average of second-class and indifferent shots is about 80 per cent., and that two-thirds of the Volunteers shoot only 21 rounds a year, and not beyond 200 yards. Take the Reserve. What training do they receive? There are 50,000 infantry in the Reserve, and they are not even mentioned in the Report! They go to the Reserve probably poor shots, and are expected (without training) to return to the ranks good shots in case of war. That is impossible. It is quite possible to make good shots of the class from which recruits are drawn, but they should have more practice. The soldier fires only 119 rounds a year, besides possibly 81 more in field firing and other exercises at the discretion of his commanding officer. 320 His course of shooting is compressed into a few days, and all at one time, the rest of the year being given to other exercises, important enough, but in my opinion nothing like as important as shooting. I submit for the consideration of the military authorities that the soldier should shoot much more often, say for a few days once in each alternate month, and that the allowance of ammunition should be proportionately increased to allow of this. The annual course, instead of being a teaching course, should be a test time of what the soldier has learned during the year. It is said one of the chief difficulties is the want of ranges. This, for a great and wealthy country like England, is a paltry reason. It is unfair upon the Army that it should be expected to shoot well and not give it the means of doing so. There should be far more range accommodation, and especially at large camps like Aldershot, Salisbury, and the Curragh. Abroad it is much the same story. From South Africa the last Report available, for 1894, says—Deficient range accommodation hampered the troops, who had no opportunity for private practice, and fired badly.For 1897 there is no report. There is the case of a country where our shooting in action has conspicuously failed in the past. Since the Crimean War Englishmen have only met white men in action on some very few occasions, and those have been in South Africa. Our disasters on those occasions have, in my opinion, been greatly caused by inferior shooting. Although we may well hope there will be no more troubles in South Africa, still precautions should not be neglected anywhere. There should be no want of space for ranges in that expansive country, so there, of all places, shooting should be practised far more than at present. And not only there but throughout the Empire. The regiment that furnished the assault on the heights of Dargai was one of the best shooting regiments in the whole Army of India. They had confidence in themselves, in their comrades, and in their weapons. If troops have not that confidence which habitual practice and usage give they will fire wildly in the heat and excitement of action. It is stated in the Report that certain regi- 321 merits in India which expended much larger amounts of ammunition than others, by shooting in their regimental rifle clubs, were far better shooting regiments than those which expended considerably less. This strongly supports my appeal for more ammunition for practice. It is unfair upon the men to mulct them of their pay to enable them to learn their duty, and it must act unequally, because many regiments will not do it. I have only spoken of the infantry, as that is the arm of which I know the facts, having watched the subject for many years, and having always taken a great interest in rifle shooting. I am dissatisfied with the small progress made, and attribute such progress as has been made to the great improvement in the rifle itself rather than to the practice with it. I consider that with more practice enormous advances might be made. I have felt it my duty to call attention to this subject, which is not only a military one but a great national one; and I earnestly trust the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War and the military authorities will give the question their most careful consideration.
§ * COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
suggested that the men, where long ranges were not available, should never be exempted from firing, but should fire with another rifle at the shorter ranges and be taught to take am at longer ranges.
§ COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
wished to know if there was a sufficiently satisfactory reserve of bamboo handles to equip all the lance regiments; and whether all the lances in use had bamboo handles? Compared with the ash, bamboo handles made the lance a more serviceable weapon.
§ * MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)
When I spoke to the House last year with regard to Gibraltar I was able to state that there was range accommodation up to 800 yards and field firing at a longer range, and although I am aware that that is not the full extent 322 of the ranges in this country it is sufficient to permit of the training of the troops. With regard to the question of the lances, brought forward by the honourable and gallant Member for Taunton, I believe we are in perfect accord. There is a sufficient reserve of bamboo handles, and the test is very severe, because the bamboo is very severely bent, and unless it returns absolutely straight it is rejected. We are quite in agreement with the honourable and gallant Member that no motives of economy should prevent us having the best possible weapons, and the War Office are of opinion that it is possible to get the supply of bamboo handles required. A question has been raised by the honourable and gallant Member for Bath with reference to the musketry practice of the infantry. On that point my honourable and gallant Friend has understated the amount of practice which a soldier gets in his first year. Every soldier in his first year fires 400 rounds, and in every subsequent year 200 rounds of ball ammunition, and the general officer commanding has power to issue to any battalion under his command 4,000 additional rounds for field firing, and, further, the War Office makes a grant of over a quarter of a million rounds in order to encourage rifle shooting. It may be that this is not sufficient, and that, as my honourable and gallant Friend says, the soldier should fire more. But there is an immense amount of other training now besides rifle practice. The field training and the company training are very much greater than they were, and the whole of the soldier's year is largely filled up. I quite acknowledge that if we could put ranges where we liked and could mass our infantry in proportion to the amount of field firing to be obtained it would be a great advantage, but my honourable and gallant Friend is well aware—nobody better—that one of our greatest difficulties is the provision of ranges. We have attacked that difficulty most vigorously during the last two or three years. We are largely increasing our ranges, and I hope we shall be in a better position shortly. We have developed the range accommodation at Bisley and Ash, but it is only by the most careful administration 323 that the musketry training of the troops can be carried out. This is a point which the Commander-in-Chief, to my own knowledge, attaches the utmost importance. We fully see the importance of it, and a great deal is being done to improve the musketry training of the troops. Very good progress is being made, and I will only add that the Headquarters Staff fully realise its importance.
§ Question put.
§ Agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £245,200, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Salaries and the Miscellaneous Charges of the War Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899.
§ * SIR C. DILKE
I do not propose to detain the Committee at any length. It would be cruelty to deal fully with some of the subjects connected with the Vote at the present stage of the Session and when the House has been wearied by late sittings, but only two days ago we had the Report of the Decentralisation Committee, and, naturally, some comment has to be made upon it. I admit perfectly that personally I have so strong an opinion on the subject of the decentralisation of the British Army, and the impossibility of any decentralisation under our existing system, that I come to the consideration of the Report as a somewhat prejudiced person. In that Report there seems to me to be very powerful confirmation of the views which some of us have ventured to put before the House. The Committee called before them the Military Attaché at Berlin to give information as to the system of decentralisation in the German Army; but we cannot argue from the German Army to our Army on the principle of decentralisation, or rather centralisation, for 20 different districts. We have nothing in the least resembling the German Army in this country except, in a measure, in the Irish command and the command at Aldershot. We have it also, of course, in India. The little changes recommended in the Report, 324 subject to the consent of the Treasury, are merely pottering suggestions, which only touch the fringe of an enormous subject which really cannot be dealt with at all until we have the revolutionary changes which some of us advocate. In some of the evidence given by distinguished men before the Committee there are most powerful admissions of the truth of many of the contentions which reformers have advocated in this House, and I do most strongly recommend Members of the House interested in these questions to read that evidence, especially the evidence given by General Buller. That evidence is deserving of the attention of honourable Members, and should be most carefully considered. The Government came before this House last year, and again in February and March of this year, with suggestions for changes, especially with suggestions for the increase of the Army, and those of us who hold very advanced views on this question and are dissatisfied with the existing system, prophesied a failure. The Government do not admit the completeness of their failure, but the speech of the Secretary of State for War himself went a long way towards confirming the truth of our prophecy; he said they were not doing so badly, but he admitted that while they were making some gain in recruiting towards an increase in the Army, yet next year, and the year after, there would be a considerable deduction, and that they would be happy if they could keep pace with that deduction. That is telling us virtually that any increase in the Army is to be an increase for the present year only, and that we must not look forward to be able to increase that gain. Let me point out that the increase in the Army in 1897 was not really an increase at all. The establishment was 3,000 greater on the 1st of January than on the previous 1st of January, but the actual increase in any number of men was only 100, and the number of men after that increase was smaller than the number in previous years. Let us go a little further. The number of effectives in 1895—the year the late Government came to an end—was 196,000, and the number of effectives on the 1st of January this year was 194,000, or a 325 falling off of 2,000 men, although there was an increase in the establishment of the Army, showing, it seems to me, the extent of your failure to recruit. I will not attempt now any comparison between the existing system—the broken-down system, as we think it—and the system some of us advocate. The only outward and visible sign of the strength of military reform in the councils of the Government is the peerage which has been given to Lord Haliburton, who was the great opponent of our views. Lord Haliburton has always attacked our views. He is a very able man; about that there is no contention, and those of us who object to his views feel his ability even more than those who approve of them. Lord Haliburton has attacked most unfairly the views of those of us who advocate revolutionary reforms. He charges us with attempting to destroy an experienced home army in order to set up a militia. Some people—not only clerks in the War Office, but distinguished soldiers—used that language with regard to the Prussian Army in 1866, and we know how completely that army triumphed, without the aptitude of the English people, for the military spirit exists in this country far more than in Germany. I only rose to show how little the arguments of those of us who prophesied the failure of the Government are affected by the Report of this Decentralisation Committee, and to express the opinion that, sooner or later, the Government will have to adopt our scheme.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I only wish to call attention to two matters: one the speech of Lord Lansdowne with reference to the War Office, the other the question of recruiting. I have not the least hesitation in doing so, as I was not one of those honourable Gentlemen who covered the War Office with congratulations in March last when the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Guildford introduced his scheme. I said then that, in my opinion, the money asked for would be uselessly spent, and that the War Office had lost the confidence of the country. I think I was not far wrong in what I said then. The right honourable Gentleman did me the honour to say that if I had 326 my wish I would hang all the officials in the War Office. That is going too far. He himself is the very last official I would execute if I had my way. The right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean has just said that the only thing the Government appear to have done has beer, to promote Lord Haliburton for having held a brief for the War Office, and for the remarkably long-winded letters in which he opposed the views of the honourable Member for West Belfast. What did Lord Lansdowne say? He said they had not done very much; in other words, they had put some paint on the doors of the War Office and polished up the brass—the last thing, in my opinion, necessary. With reference to recruiting Lord Lansdowne said he did not see any deterioration in the class of recruits. When the head of the Department says that it is not difficult to read between the lines to see what he really means. He also congratulated himself on the fact that two-thirds of the specials had grown into soldiers of the regulation size. But what is the regulation size? As everybody knows, it has been cut down to five feet three and a-half inches in height and to 32 inches round the chest, because recruits were not available, and Lord Lansdowne says that two-thirds of the specials have grown into soldiers of that size, but if he is satisfied with that all I can say is that it is very easy to please him. With reference to artillery, in a letter published the other day by the honourable Member for West Belfast, he said—and, I believe, absolutely correctly—that, so far from the Government being able to increase the field batteries, they had not been able to get men to fill the batteries already in existence. On the condition of the Infantry of the Line I will submit a few figures. I find that the Essex Regiment, about which I know something, and which is on the higher establishment and one of the first for service, had at the beginning of this year a strength of 612 men, of whom, deducting those under 20 and a certain number for casualties, only 280 men were fit to go abroad. Of the 700 men in the Royal Scots Regiment only 325 were fit for duty, and of the 633 in the Kent Regiment only 327 266 were fit. If these battalions, supposed to be fit for service, and which are in the First Army Corps, have a strength of only a half which could be sent out of the country, I do not think the Secretary of State for War has much to congratulate himself upon. The worst of it is that in these discussions the speeches made by the officials are read by the public, whereas speeches made by other Members of the House of Commons are passed over with the remark that they are only made by colonels, who are always complaining, and who are the very incarnation of a grievance. What I venture to suggest to the War Office is that they should pay particular attention to recruiting. It is all very well to say, "We have to feed and clothe the men better and find them employment when they leave the colours," but the real thing to bring in recruits is to give them better pay. That is the Alpha and Omega of recruiting, and if you spend your money on bricks and mortar, on recreation rooms and canteens, you will not get your men. You must give more than the extra three-halfpence before you can get recruits. Of course, at this period of the Session it is impossible to go into the question fully, but I would venture further to suggest that if you would take the House of Commons and the country into your confidence and tell them what is now going on with reference to recruiting I do not believe you would have the smallest difficulty in getting all the money you want. I regret I have somewhat trespassed on the Committee, and I only hope that honourable Members will pardon me for having spoken so long in consideration of the importance of the matter under discussion.
§ MAJOR WYNDHAM-QUIN (Glamorgan, S.)
My object in moving the reduction I have given, notice of is to call attention to a matter which the people of South Wales claim is not only of local but of national importance. It is the inadequate defences at present existing for the coal ports in the Bristol Channel. I had intended to bring the matter in somewhat a lengthy form to the attention of my right honourable Friend, but I will be content, however, 328 to withdraw my Motion if my right honourable Friend gives me some assurance that the matter will be taken up seriously by his Department with a view to satisfying the people of South Wales and with a view to rendering the coal ports on the coast safe from attack.
§ * COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancs., Ince)
said, with reference to the Report of the Decentralisation Committee, that he was satisfied that if an officer commanding a district had the power of deciding small matters of finance it would save an immense quantity of correspondence and be of the greatest possible advantage, but he thought he would require the assistance of the chief paymaster to guide him in his decision. While he generally agreed with what had been done there were some cases in which he differed from the Committee. In the first place, he would take the purchase of land for the building of barracks. In his opinion, it would be far better to leave the building of barracks to the Inspector-General of Fortifications. He could use the engineer staff of the locality and could have the assistance of the general officer, as was done in the case of some of the depots many years ago. With reference to the length of time occupied in building the barracks at Winchester, which was referred to in the evidence before the Committee, that was not due to the system, but arose from the fact that those who had to decide did not make up their minds. He thought it would be better to leave to the adjutant general to appoint adjutants and post officers to depôts, and so maintain a common system; that could be done just as easily as under the system proposed in the Report. With reference to ammunition, in his opinion correspondence about it should go direct to the adjutant-general, as at present, or a copy of the letter to Woolwich would suffice. The proper service of ammunition had most far-reaching effects in war. He happened to be at Dongola during the last Egyptian campaign, and the opinion he formed then, from the accounts of officers and correspondents returning from the front, and which he now retained, was that if proper ammunition had been served out poor Stewart 329 would have won a thorough victory at Abu-klea, would have pushed rapidly on to the Nile and seized Metemmeh, and possibly the present campaign would not have been required. He assured the Committee that the ammunition supplied for the rifles was so bad that some of the men who had to use it cast down their rifles with an exclamation of disgust. On the return of the Camel Corps one rifle in three jammed, and would not go off. Then there was the question of giving power to a general officer to transfer men from one regiment or battery to another. In his opinion that power should not be given. They could be attached for duty until the proper transfer was completed. The "A" Division of police were sometimes sent down to a county where there was trouble, and sometimes the "B" Division were also sent. What would be said if the chief constable of the county transferred a man from the "A" to the "B" Division? Why, it would be an absurdity, as was the proposal made in the Report. It might be done by general authority if a man specially asked for it for a particular reason—to serve with an elder brother. He trusted that the reforms suggested in the Report, which would be a great improvement, would not be overdone.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
The supply of recruits seems to me to be the most serious question before us. I would remind honourable Members that though the reports with reference to recruiting are not certainly as favourable as we would wish, the scheme has not yet been fairly tried. The supply of men and the stamina of the men enlisted are better, and I am bound to say that I look forward with confidence to the War Office obtaining the entire number of men they want. The honourable and gallant Member suggested that a county might effect an improvement, but if I remember rightly the county system was tried during the Crimean War and cost a great deal of money, but did not get the necessary number of men. The right honourable Gentleman the Member for Guildford stated during his speech, when he brought in his scheme, that one man out of every five between the ages of 18 to 24 would be required to serve the Queen in one capacity or another. 330 That is a high percentage, and it is a very serious question as to where those men are to come from. Much as we would dislike a departure from our voluntary system, I confess the whole system of recruiting seems to me to be tending in a direction which will oblige us to bring another system into force. Of course, the present standard for recruits is low, but still I am not a believer in very tall men or in enormous chest measurement. When men join it is extraordinary how they increase in chest measurement and strength as a result of the various exercises they are put through. The real matter is, where are the necessary men to come from in future if we are to maintain our present strength? Some day or other the War Office or the military authorities will have to face that question.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
In the absence of the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for War it seems to me absurd to attempt to call the attention of the House to the Report of the Committee on the reorganisation of the War Office, but the subject is one of such importance as to demand the earnest consideration of the House and of the country, and honourable Members should make themselves masters of the Report. "Alice in Wonderland" contains nothing more amusing than is to be found in that later literary composition. The Committee was one of those everlasting Committees which are appointed at intervals every year by the War Office, the object of which was to discover that the sun is shining at 12 o'clock. Every single fact elicited by that Committee was perfectly well known to every member of the Committee beforehand; they were known to a very large number of the Members of the House, and to an enormous number of the public. I am of opinion, except that it has produced a very amusing literary composition, that the time of the Committee was entirely wasted, because every single fact was absolutely known to the members of the Committee before it began its proceedings. But, Sir, there are features about the Report which demand the very serious consideration of the House. The Committee recommend that certain things should be done which in 331 any City company would have been done by a simple memorandum from the general manager or head of a department, and which might have been done by the head of the War Department exercising a little common sense, instead of wasting the time of the Committee upon such trivial matters. The Secretary of State has congratulated the right honourable Gentleman upon the part which he has taken in this inquiry, and I do not want to take away any of the credit due to him on that score. I do look, however, to the importance attached to a Report of that kind, and I think that I shall be able to show that, instead of occupying his time trying to make the British Army more efficient in the sense alluded to by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, he has been wasting his time over trivialities which would not have occupied a business house half an hour. The Report proves to the hilt the absolute truth of what has been said with regard to the organisation of the War Office year after year, in season and out of season, both inside and out-side of the House. Now, here is one of the most brilliant officers in the service of the War Office—Sir William Butler—who said that—In my opinion, so long as this over-centralised work of reference and report goes on, so long will the general officers and their staffs fail to be able to perform what I take to be their primary duties.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Yes, I know that Sir William Butler signed the Report, although it was a triviality, and I can prove that it was trivial. Sir William was appointed, as a soldier, to sit on the Committee by the Secretary of State for War, but he did not frame the reference.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
I must altogether dissent from the view of the honour- 332 able Member that Sir William Butler sat on the Committee, as a soldier, to give his opinion on subjects submitted to him. He was called to give evidence, and, in addition to that, he examined every witness as he desired. But to say that he sat there, by order of the War Office, to do what the War Office wanted, was a perversion of terms.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
That is a misrepresentation of what I said. Sir William Butler's name was mentioned, but I never said that he gave evidence in accordance with the orders of the War Office. Obviously, it was Sir William's duty to inquire into the matter which the Committee was appointed to consider, and his signature to the Report does not in the least enhance the value, or increase the importance, of the Report. That is a matter upon which I am perfectly content to allow the Committee to judge. Sir William Butler confirms the statement that the War Office cannot do its work, and that their primary duties as officers were not performed because of the organisation of the War Office. Now, Sir, we have been sometimes called very hard names for saying very much the same thing as Sir William Butler with reference to the War Office. We have also said a good many other things; we have said from time to time that Parliament was not told the truth; that officers who were responsible for bringing the country safely through a war had reported that in their opinion a certain sum, say £1,000, was necessary for the safety of the country, and as the message had reached the House that need has been represented by hundreds of pounds. That was also proved by evidence before the Committee. We have been told that we have sometimes complained that the War Office have distrusted the officers of the Army, and that Reports which have been made to the War Office by men straining every effort to do their duty have never reached their destination. That is a strong thing to say, but there is no doubt about it if we read the evidence. Further, we alleged that the War Office hindered the real efficiency of the Army. All these things, I contend, are proved from the evidence and the Reports.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Yes, I will. Now that I have been challenged by the right honourable Gentleman, I am going to do my best to substantiate what I have said. Lieutenant-General Sir R. Grant was asked—1419. Is there not this difficulty in Part II., services: that the general officer asks for much more than he expects to get?And his answer was—That is undoubtedly a great difficulty, but it is a natural difficulty, because he knows that his estimates are going to be cut down. We try to suppress them by making them send up two lists; one list to show what they do expect to get, and the second list, to show what they do not expect to get.Now, I think that is most important. The late Admiral Home was exceedingly strong upon that point, for he used to say, "Let the House of Commons know what we want, and then let the House of Commons refuse." Now, I said that the War Office could not trust a soldier, and that he had a clerk hanging on his heels for fear he should commit a felony. This is the evidence of Sir Ralph H. Knox. He was asked by the Chairman—1366. That was settled after very considerable pressure from here?and his reply was—Yes; considerable pressure was put upon the Treasury to do that, and they gave us power to spend a small sum of money, notwithstanding that the money had been paid away absolutely in the teeth of the regulations.Major-General Burnett asked—1367. Do you think that limiting it to £1 was treating his judgment on a very narrow scale?—I do not think so.1368. You do not think the general officer is fit to be trusted with more than £1?—These are sums which we think should have been recovered.Now, that is not my question, but is put by General Burnett, who puts it that a general officer cannot be trusted with more than £1. Now, Sir, we have some- 334 times said that there are too many clerks employed in the War Office, and that many of them are employed in making work for the others. We have said that, in our opinion, the War Office clerks, to a large extent, are superfluous, and of no particular advantage to the British Army, Now, what does Sir Redvers Buller say? Now, he appears to have let himself go upon this question of the Army clerks. He says—I should like to say very clearly that my opinion is, and I have verified it sufficiently, that the whole system of reports, regulations, and warrants, under which the British Army now serves, has grown up entirely for the benefit of War Office clerks, and to find work at the War Office, rather than to find proper control for the Army.Now, I do not think anybody else has said anything so strong as the statement that the system which has grown up at the War Office is entirely for the benefit of the clerks. He further states that the gentlemen at the War Office do their work extremely well, but the result of milking these regulations in such detail is that, unless they follow them out, they would have nothing to do. That is what we have been saying over and over again, for we have been saying all along that these officials have nothing to do but interfere with the efficiency of the administration of the Army. Sir Redvers Buller let himself go again. He says—The existing financial relations are complicated. They keep them up and they cost about £3,000 a year. There are four gentlemen who are very clever and very distinguished, but they spend the whole of their time in what?—making us more able to fight our enemies? encouraging the filling up of our regiments, and supplying us with better arms? No; they spend the whole of their time making regulations. Every year we have new volumes of eloquence, which every wretched officer is supposed to enforce.I have said it is a pretty large order that the Reports did not get to their proper destination. What does the Report say? It says—Sir William Butler, commanding the South-Eastern District, agreed that 'the mass of this return and report correspondence does not reach the official heads to whom it is addressed.'335 And he added—Fortunately not, for if it did reach them, and had to be even casually perused, it must result in producing, at its final stages, a far greater delay and dislocation of business in the centre than its inception and preparation had already produced in the district circumference where it began.The right honourable Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office has seemed to suggest that this system of addressing documents to persons who never see them is a beneficial one; so I may be permitted to quote another passage from the evidence of Sir William Butler. In answer to a further question, he said—I can adduce the positive example that, when some of our most laboured reports and returns were presented to the official heads of some sections to which they were addressed, they did not appear to be recognised or known.That is the evidence of Sir William Butler commanding the South-Eastern District, and I am bound to believe him when he tells me that he can produce the positive example that some of our most laboured reports and returns never get to their addresses. I have said something about the cost of these gross absurdities of War Office administration, but as I spoke nobody listened. In his further evidence Sir William Butler paid a high tribute to the organisation of the London and North Western Railway, and, contrasting their organisation with the organisation of the War Office, he said—It is in this way that, in our Service, the great array of returns and Army forms has been produced, until, numbers being exhausted, letters and numerals can now only be differentiated by a combination of both, and the bill of the Service stationery has reached an amount equal to about the cost of a brigade of infantry.Some years ago I wrote an account of an orifice which exists at the War Office, and is labelled "Waste Paper Basket," and I said that it seemed to me a fit emblem of the Department. But I did not know that when I wrote that the cost of 336 the War Office waste stationery alone, in the opinion of one of the best officers of the Army, was equal to the cost of a brigade of infantry. Some of us have said that all this nonsense, all this complication, interfered with the efficiency of the Army, and we were laughed at. On this point I shall not give my own opinion, but the opinion of Sir William Butler, whose evidence I have already quoted. In answer to the question—Would the Headquarters suffer at the cost of this outside development by not having its hand in these practices?he said—On the contrary; the Headquarters would be the great gainers under such a system. They would be free to consider and solve the thousand questions which the necessities of the Empire and the ever-recurring surprises of political events produce. Go into one of the offices in this House and observe the piled-up papers awaiting decision. Out of every score of these there will be, perhaps, one of real value—one which, if we were be appraise it in money, might be worth, say, five, ten, or fifty thousand pounds. The remaining nineteen might have values ranging from fourpence to fifty pounds, but they are all equally papers—they have to be docketed, registered, considered, written upon, noted, and passed with the same regularity.And then Sir William Butler speaks of the value of the system. He says—The certificate and report system is in its nature misleading. On the occasion of a recent fire at the officers' quarters, Dover Castle, the reports and certificates dealing with the prevention of fire were of the most satisfactory nature. Everybody had done his duty. The place was burnt strictly according to regulations.I will give one more short quotation, and it bears upon the question of training. Sir William Butler said in his evidence—I regard our young army as being insufficiently trained in the most essential part of its work.Honourable Members will see that I have not been drawing a fancy picture, or making statements which I cannot verify by the opinions of men who know the realities which affect the organisation of our Army. I know the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of 337 State for War will say this has all been inquired into; we have gut Reports. What more do you want I have stacks of War Office Reports for nearly every year since I began to take an interest in Army matters. There are always Reports, but absolutely nothing happens. Up to the present time a very large number of Reports have been presented to the Secretary of State for War, or to the Under Secretary of State. I wish the noble Lord and the right honourable Gentleman joy of them—and it is recommended that in the future the Reports should be made, not to these Gentlemen or to the War Office, as has hitherto been done, but to the general commanding the district. What is the nature of these Reports? In the first place there is a Report as to the extent to which war games are carried out, a Report on the disposal of a man surrendering as a deserter, a Report on the "deprivation of appointment of sergeant-cook," a Report to the Commander-in-Chief on "soldier-servants travelling abroad," a Report to the Adjutant-General on "boys physically unfit for the ranks"; another on books lost from the officers' libraries, a Report about weak and awkward men receiving an extended course of gymnastics, another on "infantry transport horses unserviceable from vice," one dealing with "books condemned as unserviceable." Then there is a Report on the "appointment of acting schoolmistress for infant school," which was referred to the War Office; a Report to the War Office on a funeral costing over £2; another on "trees on Crown Department land found to be decayed or insecure, so as to endanger War Office or other property"; another on "attendance of soldiers' children at civil schools"; and one which deals with the question of whether a mounted infantry officer is to receive cavalry pay. That is the kind of thing, and the list is very much longer, with which this kind of thing is taken up, and these gross absurdities are not to be discontinued, but in future the Reports are to be made to the general commanding the district. How much nearer shall we be to real decentralisation in that case? I say that the one thing we ought to remember is that 338 the gentlemen who have been discovering these things, who have been "letting themselves go" over these matters, are the officers who, almost without exception, have been parties to this folly, who have been performing these ludicrous tricks to the disadvantage of the Army and the country; and when the House is asked every Session to disregard the system of the War Office, and accept the ipse dixit of the Department on this matter, it should not be forgotten that the gentlemen Who ask for the confidence of the House in this way are the gentlemen who have misled you so far, and year after year some of them have held staff appointments for 20 years, and have acquiesced in the continuance of this system. Earlier in the Session the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War said, "Don't pull up the plant by its roots, and it will grow." I said I quite acquiesced in that sentiment. That was the promise, but the performance resembles what is known in India as "the mango trick"—producing a plant apparently without a root. In the case of the War Office I am dealing, not with the root, but with the finished plant, and I want to explain to the Committee that the plant has no root. We were told that we should have an addition, a large addition, an immediate addition, to our military forces. We were told that certain improvements would be made to make the condition of things easier. I applauded conscientiously many of the promises given to us by the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War, but I made one reservation, the right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean made one reservation, and other honourable Members who know the Army better than I do made one reservation. We said, "These things are good and in the right direction, but there is one point where you fall short—you won't get the men," We have been told it is too soon to judge. I say it is not too soon, and I think I can justify myself for bringing forward the question now. We have been told that three extra battalions have been added to the Guards. I should have thought it would be wiser if the War Office had 339 lain low until they got them. They tell us they have got them, but I say they have not; they do not exist, and the battalions the War Office pretends to have got are not battalions in any just and fair sense of the word. We have been told that the Royal Warwickshire had a third battalion of 732 men sent to the Mediterranean. What does that battalion mean? It had a strength of 732 men, of whom 166 were taken from the first battalion, 278 men were called back from the Reserve, and 288 recruits. The Royal Fusiliers had 163 men transferred from the first battalion, 224 from the Reserve, and 239 recruits; the 19th Lancashire Fusiliers had 162 men transferred from the first battalion, 281 Reserves, and 186 recruits. If these recruits represented a gain to the Army there would be something to say for the system, but the 186 recruits for the 19th Lancashire Fusiliers in the period named were sent from every depôt in the kingdom. I know that for a fact, and I know that men were sent who were legitimately due to other battalions, which have thus been mulcted of their ordinary supply to furnish what are called the third battalions. Take, further, the case of the second battalion of this regiment. On 1st March it had 712 men in its second battalion; on 1st June it had only 529 men; 183 men had been taken away from that battalion, and its strength reduced to 529 men. The strength of the two battalions should be 1,444 men——
§ * MR. BRODRICK
The honourable Member does not state it correctly to the Committee; the strength supplied to the House is 800.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I appeal to the Committee whether I did not say, and whether I am not correct in saying, that the return was 1,444?
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
These are the facts, and it is not only to that battalion but to others that my remarks are applicable. Take the Coldstream Guards. I 340 have not the latest details, but the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War said on 1st March, 1898, that the third battalion had reached a strength of 273 men. But these consisted of 142 recruits who had been practically arrested in their training, and 131 men transferred from the first and second battalions. The whole thing is humbug. With regard to the Royal Artillery I said some time ago, what was true, that the Royal Artillery field batteries had been arrested in their recruiting altogether, and I quoted figures given, to me by the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War. The field batteries in India had been instructed to leave behind on their return home all men who had two years still to serve. That may seem a technical detail, but men who have served with a battery in India, and, when the battery comes home, are told to remain and serve two years with a battery they know nothing about, and care nothing about, resent it. I attribute the falling-off in the Royal Artillery, among other things, to that feeling. What I want to point out is that the recruiting is at a standstill. The right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War said, I think, that 18,000 had been recruited for the first half of the year, and he added that that was a very exceptional figure. I have the figures here for the last 17 years, and I find that in 1885, 1886, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, and 1897 the number of recruits for the half year has been considerably over the figure given by the right honourable Gentleman. But at what cost have these 18,000 men been dragged into the Army? It has been done by reducing the standard of enlistment. I know everything that is said about the effect of gymnastics in broadening and lengthening these boys and making them soldiers, but that is not the material we want to hold up the British Empire. The right honourable Gentleman has also said that we are offering great attractions to men to join the Army, but I am not sure about that. Earlier in the Session the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War told us that the cavalry question was occupying his attention, and he said 341 a nucleus was to be formed. The right honourable Gentleman admitted that the cavalry organisation, as it was originally sketched out, had set up the back of every cavalry officer, and there was no doubt that it had made officers indignant. The right honourable Gentleman stated that a nucleus of 300 cavalry men should be allowed to continue to serve in the regiment to which by sympathy and sentiment they were attached. I want to know if that has been done. I have not yet seen the regulations which authorise it, and I do not know any cavalry regiment which contains at present 300 men as the nucleus of its organisation in the future. I believe that the organisation of the cavalry corps is as near a deliberate evasion of the Army Act as anything can possibly be. I believe that the use of the word "corps" has been resorted to simply and solely for the purpose of making this undesirable change possible. The words of the Army Act were clear that a man shall not be transferred from the corps in which he serves to another corps after a certain period without his consent. I put this question, before any jury of 12 plain men and I ask if the definition of a corps as stated in the Army Act can be interpreted to mean nine regiments in reserve? I maintain that the War Office is not strictly carrying out the letter of the intention of that Act. One word in conclusion. I want to see a little less of mere promise with regard to this question of regimental distinctions and regimental esprit de corps. I recognise that the Secretary of State is active in this matter. He has always professed himself, and no doubt is, most anxious to respect the esprit de corps of the regiment. I am glad to know that one or two of these grotesque tailoring changes which have been suggested lately have been stopped, and I hope that is an augur of future favours to come. But there is a good deal to be done. We want everything done we possibly can to stimulate the regimental feeling. There is a good deal of talk about the Highland regiments. The Highland regiments are admirable; but, Sir, they are associated with something else. These regiments are always capable of performing their task, and we hear about them—we 342 hear about nobody else—till I am almost tired of hearing the name of the Highland regiments. What is at the bottom of that? These men are not Highlanders. They have nothing to do with Scotland in many cases. But these regiments have won great prestige; their name is familiar; their uniform is in the public eye; and they carry public feeling with them wherever they are put in the field—not because they are Scotch, for they are half Irish or English. I know well the feeling that exists among many of these regiments, how one after another they have been deprived of the things they care most about, and things which have made these Highland regiments marked individualities before the British public. There was a question asked to-day; and what was the absurd and grotesque answer put in the mouth of the right honourable Gentleman? There was a regiment raised in Canada in the war of 1812 which fought at Niagara. It was disbanded in 1817, and was succeeded in 1857 by a regiment raised in Canada, the only British regiment raised in the Colonies. This regiment, the 100th Regiment, was raised in the crisis of the Indian Mutiny. Men and officers of that regiment were made honorary members of the Canadian mess. Nothing was too good for them. What happened? When the War Office had one of their fits in 1881 they telegraphed out to India to the 100th Royal Canadians and asked them to give up that title. They said "No." They telegraphed back in half an hour. Well, the War Office amalgamated them with the 109th Bombay Regiment, which had a name and fame of its own, and they called this the Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment Royal Canadians. What did the War Office do? They sent out the second battalion 109th Bombay Regiment to Halifax, and they sent the 100th Regiment Royal Canadians down to Birr, in Leinster, which they have as much to do with as I have with Mesopotamia, and then they thought they had satisfied them. I asked the right honourable Gentleman whether he would allow the Royal Canadian regiment to be repartiated in Canada and given back the title. What does he say? Oh! he says, we must wait and see whether they will get 343 recruits to the regiment. I will give the House the views of the Canadian Senate. I have read their Debates. They say—We will support this regiment, we will do all that we can for this regiment, but on one condition. Young men will not go into a regiment which bears the badge of 'Leinster,' a totally meaningless title, on their shoulder-straps. We want to give our own name to the regiment.What does the right honourable Gentleman say? Was there ever such a case of putting the cart before the horse as to say, "We will not change the title until you get the recruits"? Surely the Dominion Senate are within their rights when they say—We will not encourage recruiting until you give us what we ask.I give that as an example. Then we have so many regimental nicknames that, in case we mobilise for war, there will be something like, I believe, one hundred battalions appearing in some form or guise under the name "York." The Commissary will go mad, will need to be put in a lunatic asylum, if ever he tries to distinguish these regiments. The other day I was in Yorkshire. There is a very splendid Yorkshire regiment, the 20th Regiment. A report was absolutely sent back from Afghanistan censuring the Yorkshire Regiment for their conduct in the field. What was the fact? Almost on that very day the brigadier was congratulating the Yorkshire Regiment as having performed their duty in a way more exemplary than that of any other regiment in the field. What is the explanation? The officer who made the report did not mean the Yorkshire Regiment at all; he meant the Yorkshire Light Infantry. I sympathise with him. I would like to put the right honourable Gentleman through his paces in an examination of the Yorkshire regiments mobilised for war, and I say that, able as he is, he would absolutely break down if put to that test. I believe at this moment the Yorkshire Regiment is suffering under this error because of the confusion between the Yorkshire Regiment and the Yorkshire Light Infantry. It is not the only mistake made by a long way. These mistakes have occurred over and over again; and I say it is not common sense, that there is no military organisation in the world, no army, no business organisation which could be 344 properly carried out in the way that the War Office chooses in this matter. Give the regiments their numbers; give them, titles, if you like—a whole string of titles. The satisfaction of the right honourable Gentleman is a small matter; but, for the convenience of everybody, give them some sort of distinction. The impression that I want to try and leave on the mind of the Committee is a perfectly definite one: in the first place, that we have a Report made by the War Office, and that Report is in itself a condemnation of the men who make it and the processes they have been working; in the second place, that that Report deals with the fringe of the question only, and does not in any single respect give the essentials; and in the third place, I want to call attention to the fact that the proposals of the War Office have not succeeded, and that the Secretary of State for War was justified, and amply justified, when he said the other day that after this year we should have two or three years during which the efflux will be abnormally large, and it is hard to say whether we shall be able to keep pace with it—that is to say, instead of having our new batteries and battalions, and being strengthened for all the tremendous responsibilities we are going to incur, we are going to stand where we were in numbers, or, rather, we shall be weakened in personnel by the acceptance of children for those battalions, and that the War Office is still asking us to accept on its authority the dictum that they are right and we are wrong when we say, as we have always said, that you will never solve these problems until you realise that you cannot do what no nation has ever been able to do—constitute an army for all the difficulties and dangers and trials of the British Empire, and an army for the common defence of the United Kingdom, on precisely the same lines—and that until you realise that fact, and organise an army on a basis conformable with that fact, you will not get the efficiency you now desire.
§ * MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)
I think anybody who listened to the long speech of my honourable Friend will admit the ability he brought to bear upon the questions with which he dealt: 345 but it seemed to me that the honourable Gentleman approached the subject from the point of view of a critic who was determined to see the worst of everything that had been done by anybody who had anything to do with the administration of the Army. I wish to say at once, by way of apology to the Committee, that, considering the late period of the Session and the late hour at which we have arrived, it would be impossible for me to go into details, as I should desire, in reply to the speech which already has occupied more than an hour of the time of the House; but I would say this, that when a Government has introduced great changes, that when we have asked the House for a large increase in the number of men, and have changed the scale of pay, the terms of enlistment, and have also changed in very many respects the conditions of the regiments and also the administration of the Army at headquarters, we have a right to ask for some time for the consideration of these changes before they are again dragged before the public for dissection. I say again, in reply to the honourable Gentleman, who said he was not going to pull up the roots of everything to see how it was growing—I affirm that he has gone as far as he possibly could in dragging out all his old accusations and a good many new ones, and a good many criticisms of a system which has not even had three months' working, before the House, in order that he may prove how absolutely useless are those who administer the War Office. I will only point to one single fact in all the allegations that he has made. He comes before us, and he denounces at great length the condition of the three battalions which have been added to the Warwickshire Regiment, the Royal Fusiliers, and the Lancashire Fusiliers. The three battalions were not formed until the 1st of April. We are now at the 28th of July. I say that instead of complaining that the battalion in each case is not in an absolutely efficient and full state, he ought to be surprised at the fact that they have already reached between 600 and 700 men. The honourable Gentleman complained that the Adjutant-General has taken a certain number of men from other battalions at home in order to assist in forming the 346 new battalions. I ask the Committee to consider what would have been the scorn the honourable Gentleman would have heaped upon me if we had attempted to form the new battalions entirely of new recruits, under circumstances under which it could not possibly become efficient for five years. One of these battalions has already gone abroad, and one is on the point of going abroad. I admit that these battalions would not have been sent abroad but for the fact that we have eight battalions up the Nile and 20 battalions abroad altogether in excess of the normal number. If you have got 1,200 or 1,300 men in a regiment where up to the time the House voted the money you had only 700 or 800 men, and even perhaps less, I think that we have not done badly in the progress we have made with these battalions in the last few months.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
I beg pardon, we had not them all before. It is true we have taken men to increase these battalions from the time the House passed the first Vote in the course of the month of March. I only give that as an indication of the spirit of the honourable Gentleman's speech. Instead of congratulating himself and the country on the progress made, he makes an accusation against the Adjutant-General and the Commander-in-Chief that they have taken time by the forelock, and they have begun to form the battalions as soon as the House voted the money. I call attention to this because I do think this extraordinary spirit in dealing with public matters shows to disadvantage a critic like my honourable Friend, who has so much knowledge and experience. For Heaven's sake, let us be attacked for that which we do wrong. We are endeavouring to carry out the wishes of this House, the wishes of the public, by every means in our power; then do not turn round and say, "Oh! but you can only show a handful of men." I put that to the Committee because I think what we desire to know is really what the attacks mean. My honourable Friend said, and the right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of 347 Dean insinuated, that there had been no progress in regard to the increase in the Army voted by this House in the month of March. That is not the fact. The increase in the last year, between the 1st July, 1897, and the 1st July, 1898——
§ * MR. BRODRICK
Quite so. I was going to tell the House what has been the increase in the Army during the year, and my honourable Friend gets up immediately and says we voted men last year. As a matter of fact, since the 1st July, 1897, and up to the 1st July, 1898, the number of men serving with the colours has increased by 6,292. We have made an alteration, in deference largely to the pressure exerted by my honourable and gallant Friends in this House, and a great number of other persons, by which a certain number of men have been allowed to rejoin the Service. I think that measure has commended itself to a large majority of those sitting behind me. That accounts for 3,000 men. But by fair recruiting we have added 2,600 men in the last year, and 600 men have been added to the Colonial forces, making altogether an increase of nearly 6,300 men in one year. As we have increased the Army we have also increased the Army Reserve. The strength of the First Class Reserve in July, 1897, was 81,410. It was on the 1st July, 1898, 80,708, so that while we have taken 3,000 men from the Reserve, we have only reduced it by 700 men. Therefore, considering the condition of the regiments, the increase voted in each regiment by the House, and the larger number of battalions, I do not think that anybody can complain because we have taken a certain number of seasoned men as a foundation for new battalions formed. My honourable and gallant Friend the Member for Essex (Major Rasch) thought that particular attention should be given to the question of recruiting. I do not think it will be possible—I am bound to speak out for those who are engaged in the work of recruiting—for any body of men to have worked harder. The Inspector General of Recruiting, since he was appointed a 348 year ago, has spared neither time nor toil nor any expedient in order to put pressure upon the different recruiting centres, and I have not the least doubt that if anything has been done too much it is to impress into the ranks sometimes, perhaps, too many "specials," who will develop into soldiers, but who at the present time, for the first few months of their service, do not possess the necessary physical strength. Well, Sir respecting this increase, I will tell the House what has been done in regard to artillery. We have gained 619 men in field artillery and 835 men in garrison artillery. I do not say that that is all we could desire. We are watching the question carefully. We have never professed that recruiting is an exact science, and I do not think there was much point in the criticism that the War Office was one source from which the deficiencies of recruiting ought to be made up. This House is, after all, the arbiter in the matter. We are endeavouring to the best of our ability to carry its desires out. It is said, "Why do we not ask for more pay?" I say that many people doubt whether three-quarters of the men who join the Army join in consequence of the pay at all; and we might very well come to the House and ask for an expenditure of two or three millions of money and not get the recruits that this House desires to have. We are bound to pause to consider everything very carefully. We are bound more than all to try every expedient that we know—to try every change in the terms of service to add to the attractions to the private soldier, and to endeavour to get him employed to the best of our ability after he leaves the colours—before we ask the House to bear this enormous expense. It may interest the right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean to know that every week since the three years system was introduced we have enlisted for the line about 100 men on the three years system, and these men have been so far in excess of the number enlisted for seven years last year.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
About one in seven. One small point before I deal with the 349 larger question brought up by my honourable Friend the Member for South Glamorgan, the question of coast defence. That question is in itself an important question, and it is occupying the very serious attention of the Secretary of State. In the case of Bristol plans are being drawn up, and I hope we shall soon be in a position to discuss them. They have by no means escaped attention, and I can undertake that the case of Bristol, as of the other commercial ports, will not be left out or be postponed a moment longer than can be helped. Very large demands are now being made upon our attention for national defence. There is a temptation held out to me of lengthily refuting what has fallen from my honourable Friend the Member for West Belfast on the subject of decentralisation. I am going to resist it for this reason. In the first place my honourable Friend gave himself away at the end when he said that nothing would be done by War Office Committees. I confess I think he showed very little generosity in that respect. When I heard him reading out with the utmost contempt and scorn a number of small changes which it is proposed to make, which found no place in the Report, but which are modestly tucked away in the pages containing something like 300 or 400 references to regulations, returns of stock, and the like, I doubted if he had at all appreciated the spirit in which the Committee worked. In the schedule we dealt with enormous labour with the individual questions which had to be decided. My honourable Friend spoke of Sir Redvers Buller, and he quoted that portion of Sir Redvers Buller's evidence which happened to give him satisfaction. I wish he had gone on a little longer and quoted a passage which I will give to the House. My honourable Friend quoted from Sir Redvers Buller's evidence all which appeared to him to boar on the evidence of the War Office clerks. He stated that all these returns and regulations were kept up for their benefit, but left off at a sentence which I will give—With regard to many of the Returns sent in to the Adjutant-General I should say they have grown out of questions in Parliament, and if ever we have a Secretary of State strong enough to refuse a Return asked for by a 350 Member of Parliament, on the ground that it is not worth the trouble of preparing, then, and not till then, shall we have the number of the Returns reduced.Sir Redvers Buller's complaint is every bit as strong of the House of Commons as it is of the War Office clerks, upon whom my honourable Friend laid the whole of the sarcasm. I am not going further with these Reports. I think, after one has spent three or four months' labour on one of these Commissions, one may naturally speak somewhat warmly of the extraordinarily lukewarm reception from the honourable Gentleman, who is never tired of speaking about these mistakes, and has very little to say in favour of those who endeavour to remedy them. I complain that he should have gone out of his way to select Sir William Butler, whose evidence he read. He said Sir William Butler was in a position in which he could not avoid signing a Report which was full of trivialities, and did not attempt to give his fair opinion.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I protest that is not a fair statement of what I said. I made no such suggestion. It is an absurd statement—a statement not necessary to my argument, and which was not present to my mind.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
His words were that Sir William Butler was in a position in which he should not avoid signing the Report.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I mentioned Sir William Butler's name; the right honourable Gentleman said Sir William Butler signed the Report; I said of course he did—he was a member of the Committee. What I said was that the subject matter of the Report was trivial, and that Sir William Butler signed it.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
He says the Report is full of trivialities, but he missed every important point. He then proceeded to quote the evidence of a member of the Committee who had himself given evidence, which shows how utterly bad the system is, which, as he says, we have done nothing whatever to redress. I only wish to remove that impression before the Committee. I think a very great stride has been made in the 351 direction my honourable Friend desires, in giving general officers full control, or as large control as possible. On this Committee we had no difference whatever. The civilians were in a minority, and there was nothing which any soldier desired to put in that Report which is not there. There were three general officers, two of them commanding districts at the time, both of them men of undoubted character; you have a third who has had large experience all over the world. There is not one single point in which the civilians disagreed; there is not one single point proposed by any military member of the Committee which is not in the Report. The Report is crammed full of criticisms, which are not so much against the War Office; but I am not going further into the matter at this moment. My honourable Friend said he would like more performances and less promises. I think the increase of the Army by five or six thousand men in India in a year shows that the War Office authorities are not merely marking time. I also ask the Committee to consider what human power could enable us, under the voluntary system, to perform all we desire in the space of two months. I can only say this: that if, as I do not believe, the main system that was proposed by the Government this year, and approved by the House of Commons, should fail to achieve its desirable object, we, at all events, shall not sit still. We are not desirous—the Commander-in-Chief and the Adjutant General are not desirous—of falling short of the Supply Parliament voted them. I sincerely trust that there is no Member of this House who will believe that it is merely the critics of the War Office who have a monopoly of patriotism or desire for the improvement of the Army. I can only say that night and day since we took office, in season and out of season, we have not failed to press forward every reform which has been suggested to us and everything which has been put before us by the military heads of the Army, and I can assure the House of Commons that, although the time is now too short to give a complete and satisfactory account of all the changes which we desire to see set in motion, I trust that before we discuss the Estimates again we shall be able to show even better progress, and it will not be 352 due to any want of desire or want of patriotism if that is not so.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
Sir, the matter to which I desire mainly to draw the attention of the Committee is one which is closely bound up with the general policy of the Army, and therefore I feel justified in reviewing that policy. It will be in the recollection of the Committee that some time ago, when we were on the point of being obliged to send some two army corps to South Africa, when, moreover, we were not in a position to take any troops from either Egypt or India, that Service Members of this House, some 50 or 60 in number, felt it their duty to bring before the House and the country the fact that our Army was inadequate to our Empire and, I might add, to the needs of our constantly growing Empire. Well, Sir, at that time it was stated that we knew little of these matters. Now, I ask the House to say whether it is not fair to admit that a number of men who have spent the best years of their lives in connection with the Army are better qualified to give an opinion on this question than gentlemen, who have spent their lives in connection with agriculture, law, commerce, or some other pursuit. Well, Sir, at that time we stated that, irrespective of the infantry branch of the Service, the artillery was distinctly deficient. I myself have repeatedly brought before the House the state of the Army Medical Department. I have no hesitation in saying that at the present moment, even while drawing upon the Reserves, even while drawing upon the officers of the Army Medical Department, who are upon half-pay, you would not possibly get, without completely denuding the garrisons at home, a sufficient number of Army medical officers to man two army corps, and to have a sufficient supply for the lines of communication and for the hospitals at the base. Well now, Sir, references have been made to the War Office. It is not my intention to attack the system of the War Office. What I desire to say—the complaint I make against the Government—is this: that they have not done what they ought to have done. They had a unique opportunity to place before this House and the country the state in 353 which the Army is, the state in which they knew it at that time to be. I know it will be said that the country would not have been prepared for what the War Office might have been prepared to advocate. Well, Sir, I am of an altogether different opinion. I venture to think, Sir, that the whole difficulty lies in this: that we have not got an adequate supply of men for the Army. We are throwing the fault upon the War Office, on either the civil or military element, and we are losing sight of the fact that the fault is not at all either with the War Office or with those who direct the military portion of our Army; the fault is with the House of Commons in not bringing to the knowledge of the country the position in which we stand. They are attempting to make bricks without straw. It is certain that we have not got an adequate supply of men. The honourable Gentleman referred to conscription. I know it will be said that the whole issue depends—as the late Commander-in-Chief used to say—on this: that either the people of this country must be prepared for conscription, or they must be prepared to pay extravagantly. Now, Sir, representing as I do a working class constituency, and being, not a little Englander, but an Imperialist, I venture to state that the people of this country are prepared, if they are shown that it is necessary, if they are shown that they cannot get an adequate supply of suitable men for their Army—they are prepared, if needs be, to do a certain amount of soldiering, in connection with either the Volunteers or the Militia, in order that we may have a sufficient supply for our Indian Empire and for our foreign needs I say that the opportunity for placing the state of affairs before the country arrived, and that the Government did not take advantage of it. I know there are those who say the breakdown of our Army is due to the fact that we have not got in force now the old system, the system of long service. Why, Sir, we rejected the long service system because the long service system broke down; we were unable to obtain men for that length of time. Furthermore, it was conclusively proved by the campaigns of 1864 1866, and 1870 that it was the Power which was able to bring into the field highly-trained Reserves with rapidity that 354 invariably won the day. Consequently, we were obliged to abandon the long service system, and to adopt the present system, in order that we might have a Reserve. That Reserve, it is true, has been to some extent produced; therefore I say that the fault does not lie either with the old service system or with the new service system. The real secret is this, that you must popularise the Army with the people of this country. Why is the Army not popular as a profession—as a trade, if you will? Why, for this simple reason, that it had a bad name, and that bad name still exists. It is as true with reference to the Army as it is true with reference to an employer of labour. If you get an employer who has a bad name, he may become the best of employers of labour, but it takes years and years before he can establish his reputation as such, before he will get a good supply of the best men. It is said we must compete with the labour market. Now, Sir, we desire to draw our recruits mainly from among agricultural labourers. In any case we desire to draw them from unskilled labour. It is true we may draw a certain number from skilled labour, but they invariably rise to the position of non-commissioned officers, and consequently I will confine myself to the case of the others. I say we are competing very fairly with the labour market. The average rate of wages for unskilled labour varies from 12s. in the country, where the cost of living and rent are small, to 24s. here in London, where the cost of living, and more especially of house rent, is at the maximum; therefore, the average rate of wages throughout this country will be about 18s. Therefore, I will ask my Friends the Labour Members, the honourable Members for working class constituencies, whether a man can house himself as well, feed himself as well, clothe himself as well, upon the wages which he would receive in civil life as he can in the Army, paying, moreover, a certain amount to a good friendly society, and having, over and above that, several shillings per week to spend as pocket money. We know it is not possible, and therefore it is not purely a question of competition in the labour market; and, moreover, Sir Thomas Crauford, the late Director General of the Army Medical Department, 355 computed the cost to the State of a soldier at about a pound per week.
Order, order! I do not think the honourable and gallant Member is entitled to go into the whole question of soldiers' pay or recruiting. He is entitled to criticise the policy of the War Office in carrying out the scheme laid before Parliament at the beginning of the Session, but I do not think the whole question is open for discussion now.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
Very well, then, Mr. Lowther, I will only point out that the Secretary of State for War, in the speech that he recently made, declared that "during the next two or three years the efflux would be abnormally large." Now, Sir, my view is that, in two or three years, unless some change has been made, there will be a complete breakdown of the present system, owing to the fact that we shall not be able to obtain an adequate supply of men. Of course, I shall be told that the people and the country are not going to back up the Government and Parliament. I am of a totally different opinion. I think that the working classes of this country, owing to superior education and a cheap Press, were never more thoroughly convinced than they are to-day of the value of the "open door," which, I may add, has been unceremoniously slammed in our face lately. They know very well that the commercial existence of this nation depends on securing markets for our trade, and they see other Powers making use of their defensive powers for that purpose, and they feel that England should adopt the same course. A point I wish particularly to direct the attention of the Under Secretary of State for War to is this: granted that the opportunity is passed, and that we are obliged for a few years to cling to the present system, that we are obliged to patch up the present military boot—the present military foot having outgrown the military boot—if we are obliged to patch it up, let me direct his attention to this fact, that if there is one thing more than another that will enable us to get a high class of recruits it is by paying some attention to the soldier's future. I observed with satisfaction that the Secretary of State for War stated that there were some two 356 thousand posts open to the soldier after he has served in the Army. Well, in my opinion, there ought to be at least five times that number. He also went on to say that "some of the great railway companies—I wish I could say all," were prepared to take a certain number of ex-soldiers into their service. Now, Sir, we had in Committee of this House——
Order, order! I think the honourable and gallant Member is dealing with the general question—not with the policy of the War Office. The general question was discussed at the early period of the Session.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
I am endeavouring to show that the Government are at the present moment endeavouring to make the present military machine run rather in want of recruits. My contention is that they are not obtaining them in sufficient numbers; they are obliged to fall back upon the plan of obtaining "specials," or young men who are not physically up to the standard. They take these young men, and not infrequently a large proportion, when they are put to men's work, when they come to marching with packs on, break down, and subsequently these men go about the country and injure recruiting. I was pointing out that if the Secretary of State for War desires us to make the railway companies more patriotic he has nothing to do but name the companies against which he has complaint, and we will very quickly, by stopping all their Bills, increase their patriotism. But I maintain that that is not the case, that the railway companies are prepared, and have frequently stated that they are prepared, to take as many old soldiers as they can find places for, but that these men cannot get through the first year of severe railway work in the goods shed. They were wastrels when they started. You take the wastrels and ne'er-do-wells of society, and keep them in the Army for a few years, and then turn them out, and naturally they are unable to compete in the labour market. The question I desire to deal with is this: that by showing greater consideration for the sick and dying soldier you will go one step towards popularising the Army. Out of the 32,000, on an average, that you enlist 357 every year you are obliged to invalid about one-eighth. The position we occupy, as compared with other armies, if this: that having a large proportion of our Army abroad, we have a death-rate of something like 12 per 1,000 of those abroad, as compared with eight per 1,000 of those at home. As the right honourable Gentleman knows, they are liable to more climatic disorders of a lasting nature, and I say one of the best methods of helping yourselves to recruits is by establishing some system whereby the soldier, when recovering from exhausting diseases due to his residence in foreign climates, instead of being drafted, as he is now drafted, from the hospital to the barrack room—to remain only a short time in the barrack room and then be brought back again to the hospital—should be sent to a convalescent home. In that way you will vastly benefit recruiting, because then you will not have thousands of men roaming about the country showing the young men that their health has broken down in the service of the country. It will be said that the Chelsea Commissioners deal with these cases; but, Sir, of the 3,300 men you are obliged to invalid from the Service Chelsea can only deal with about 1,000. I would point out that there is a vast amount of valuable material lost to the country by the system now in operation. We have a constantly non-effective rate of sickness out of our 220,000 men of 13,000, at a cost to the country of some £600,000. Now, Sir, if you were to establish a system of convalescent homes it would lead to a reduction of the established rate of accommodation in hospitals of between seven and ten per cent., and out of those 3,300 men you send out to act as non-recruiting sergeants you could save at least—this is the calculation of an expert medical man—330, or, practically, half a battalion. Now, Sir, it may be said that I would advocate the building, at an immense expense, of large convalescent homes throughout the country. I advocate nothing of the kind. I do advocate that there should be, so far as invalided soldiers are concerned—so far as those who come to Netley, where the most acute disorders are dealt with—one large relief hospital. I find there an some 310 convalescent homes throughout the country, and all these are kept up 358 it a cost of something like £300,000 per annum. They are extremely well managed; the cost per patient varies from about £1 and a decimal to £10 and a decimal; therefore, at a very low cost the Government could save a very large amount in their hospital expenses, and save half a battalion of men to the Service every year. It may be said that soldiers, as a rule, are men in youth and the prime of life, and that they do not suffer from the severe illnesses which we find in civilian life. Sir, that is not the case with men who come to Netley, for I find, on examining the seven heads of severe diseases, the time they remain in Netley is something like 48 days. Therefore, I say it is a wanton and senseless form of extravagance to keep these men in hospital, where they cost, as the right honourable Gentleman stated, on an average—at Netley they cost much more—some 17s. per week, when you can have those men taken into convalescent homes for something like 12s. 6d. a week, thereby saving to the country and the taxpayer a sum of 5s. per man per week, and giving the man a much better chance of recovering. Now, Sir, I want to put this before the right honourable Gentleman: I wish to point out that the soldier, owing to the fact that he is a soldier, is placed in a very much worse position than his brother in civil life. A man in civil life, if he goes into any of our hospitals, and if he is suffering from an exhausting disease, is transferred to a convalescent home, but that is not the case with the soldier. I take the case of Middlesex Hospital, which corresponds most nearly to Netley. Middlesex Hospital has 300 beds, and an average of 3,000 patients a year, but they pass 1,000 of these to their convalescent home at Clacton at the rate of 20 per week. The cost at the Middlesex Hospital is about £1 17s. per head, whereas the cost at their convalescent home is about 17s., or £1 less, and therefore they do this to economise. But take a case that corresponds with a military hospital. Charing Cross Hospital has 175 beds, and 2,000 patients a year. It passes into its convalescent, home 150 persons a year, at a cost to patients of 7s. 6d., and to outsiders of 12s. 6d. a week. I am given to understand that this very hospital would be prepared to take a certain number of these soldiers 359 at 12s. 6d. a week, thereby saving the Government something like 5s. a week. The right honourable Gentleman, in an answer he gave to me in this House, stated that there were convalescent homes here and also abroad, but he had to acknowledge that there was but one convalescent home in this country, and this convalescent home was capable of accommodating only 68 patients in the course of a year. Why should a great and wealthy country like this be behindhand as compared with Continental countries? We find Italy, a much poorer country, with a standing army of something like 280,000 men, providing no fewer than five convalescent homes for her sick, and passing through 1,800 patients every year, while we should require for our Army of about 220,000 convalescent homes for 1,400. Supposing the right honourable Gentleman were to arrange for five per cent. of the existing convalescent homes, to take five soldiers each—that is to say, 75 beds—per year; he could accommodate something like 1,500, and he could do so at a saving of £400 to the Estimates. He would, moreover, diminish the number of 3,242 discharged soldiers who are to be found in our workhouses. Then the right honourable Gentleman, in answer to a question of mine, denied that soldiers were ever sent to workhouse infirmaries. He must, however, know that not infrequently, when a ship is to arrive at Netley with a certain number of invalided soldiers, the authorities keep at Netley those cases which would not be received at any hospital or workhouse infirmary, while those who have no friends are sent to workhouse infirmaries to die. I say that it is monstrous that in a voluntary Army—an Army of which we are justly proud—men who have served this country should be placed in a worse position than those who are serving compulsorily in France, and get three or six months' furlough, and who, in cases where they have no friends, Tire sent to maritime establishments. We find even Austria has made better provision for her soldiers than we have made in this country, while Germany has also a certain number of establishments to which soldiers can be sent. Speaking generally, the soldiers in foreign countries are altogether on a different basis from those in this country. The soldier 360 abroad serves for a short time. He serves compulsorily, but he scarcely ever quits his native land; whereas the British soldier is a voluntary soldier, and he has in frequent cases to renounce both his home and his country for years together. Therefore, any comparison between the Continental soldier and the British soldier is invidious. If you want a proper supply of suitable recruits for your country you must endeavour to raise the social status of the soldier, and to increase his self-respect. I say this is a great and national responsibility, which should touch the heart and the conscience of the nation, and, moreover, that both, humanity and expediency are here combined. That a man who has served his country in foreign parts, and thereby ruined his health in protecting our honour, our Empire, and our trade, should be condemned to die in the wards of a workhouse is a disgrace to a great and wealthy country. There ought to be no excuse for anything of the kind. It may be said, What does it matter where a man dies? Well, Sir, it matters very materially. It may be only a question of sentiment, but after all, sentiment is one of the most powerful motives in the world. It is sentiment which causes the British people to cling to the voluntary system; and they are quite right, for there never has been a nation which can claim that its army has done what our Army has done.
Order, order! I must ask the honourable Member to confine his remarks directly to the Vote.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
I will confine my remarks directly to the Vote by saying, in conclusion, that it is manifestly the duty of the Government, seeing that they are determined to adhere to the present system—a system of which I do not approve, and a system which those of us who have studied the matter believe to be breaking down—I say that if they wish to patch up that system a little time longer they should leave no stone unturned to popularise the Army, and one of the first things they ought to do is to care for the men of whom I have spoken—namely, the sick and dying soldier.
§ CAPTAIN BAGOT (Westmorland, Kendal)
I beg to call attention to the great expense entailed on the officers of certain regiments in regard to mess arrangements. The Government propose only to give those unfortunate officers the sum of £150 towards providing the mess, which is, after all, an extremely expensive thing in the first instance, and on that account a most heavy tax on the officers, and I hope my right honourable Friend will reconsider the matter. If he cannot give a larger sum of money to those messes, I would suggest that he should allow officers to borrow money and pay it back by instalments through the Treasury, at a cheap rate of interest, because, as I understand the position, these officers have either to borrow the money or else they have to obtain the necessary articles of furniture on the hire system, which is extremely undesirable. I hope my right honourable Friend will be able to give the officers some assistance in this direction.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
With reference to what my honourable Friend has said, I may inform him that the subject which he has brought before the Committee is one which is now under the consideration of the Government. They feel that the burden placed on the officers is an extremely heavy one, and they are considering how far a remedy can be applied. With regard to the more general discussion of the Vote, I quite admit, Mr. Lowther, that it is of very great importance, but I would respectfully venture to suggest to the Committee that it would be a very great advantage if we could shorten the discussion on this Vote, inasmuch as there are other questions of great importance with which we have to deal. I hope honourable Gentlemen interested in Army matters will not assume that on that account I am oblivious, or the Government are oblivious, of the many important topics they wish to bring before us, for, after all, we have to arrange these matters as well as we can to the advantage of the different interests concerned. I would, therefore, venture to make an appeal to both sides of the 362 House to shorten the discussion, so as to enable the Committee to proceed to the consideration of other, and not less important, matters. I do not wish to curtail this discussion except in the interest of the other Votes to be taken.
§ SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
I quite acknowledge the necessity, as the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House has pointed out, of curtailing the discussion on this particular Vote, and I will, therefore, only detain the Committee for one or two minutes. In the first place, I desire some information as to the percentage of recruits who pass into the cavalry. I also desire to say one word with regard to the general question of the War Office. We must not be premature in coming to a conclusion as to the success or non-success of a policy which has only been adopted within the last few months. But once or twice in the right honourable Gentleman's speech he drew attention—and I think it is rather an important point—to the fact that the War Office had been working night and day, straining every nerve, to produce those results. When ever you have that condition of things in any office it does not mean that your organisation is satisfactory. The other point I desire to put to the Financial Secretary of War is as to the desirability of further information with regard to the gun factories. Is it a fact that the gun factory was without a head for six months——
§ SIR J. COLOMB
I respectfully submit that it would be in order as a matter of War Office policy. I would, therefore, like to say one word on the broader question with regard to officers. I should like to know whether, as a matter of policy, the War Office have represented to Her Majesty's Government that a great strain has been put upon the Army system by 363 naval demands—I mean the absorption of the flower of our troops at the coaling stations all over the world. To my mind, such demands must break down any Army system, and I trust that more will be heard of this next Session. It has been perfectly plain to the House that the Navy should do its own work, whatever it be. As an illustration of this, I would allude to the War Office policy, and ask a question. The War Office has sent officers out to Wei-hai-Wei, for military purposes, of course, and considering that the whole military arrangements of that port depend on its maritime condition, I want to know what they can do with regard to the military defences of that place. Now, I do not at all raise the question of the acquirements of that port, but I do ask, in the absence of hydrographical surveys, as to the naval defences, what are military officers to do?
§ MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
Sir, I wish to ask the right honourable Gentleman as to the accommodation provided for soldiers at Aldershot and elsewhere. I believe no one has ever done more for the soldier than the late Mr. Secretary Stanhope—no one has ever done more for the welfare of soldiers than he did. May I go on to another matter, with reference to manœuvres on Salisbury Plain? The Government have, very wisely, I think, bought 40,000 acres of land on that plain for manœuvring purposes, and I believe it will produce good results. But at the present time cavalry regiments have been ordered not to go there on account of the scarcity of water. The right honourably Gentleman cannot deny that cavalry regiments were ordered to go to manœuvres on last Tuesday, but they are still at Aldershot, and I do think that a large sum of money having been spent on the land, a little extra money might be spent in order to have a better water supply. With regard to the soldiers, I believe that the Army is now more popular than ever.
§ MR. DILLON
I never heard of such a proposition as that put forward by the First Lord of the Treasury, who said that this claim was at pre- 364 sent under the consideration of the War Office. In the whole course of my experience of this House I never heard of a more audacious proposal. The idea of putting before this House, as a proper use of the cesspayers' money, that it should be contributed towards the expenses of officers' messes is monstrous. Am I to be told that because the private soldier gets a shilling a day to support himself the British officer is to get a contribution towards his mess? The thing is preposterous. It is all very well to say that the contribution is only for supplying knives and forks; it is an absurdity. I maintain that if the officers require more expensive plate they ought to pay for it out of their own resources, and when the Estimates are brought on next year I shall examine them very closely, to see if any provision is made for this.
§ MR. WARNER
I think that some slight contribution from the War Office is necessary in order to put officers of new regiments on the same footing as officers of old regiments. There was one question raised which was not made clear, and that was the question of the sergeants' mess. The sergeants do want their plate provided; it is much more important that they should be provided than the officers, because they cannot afford to pay for it themselves. We can get plenty of officers, but we are in great difficulties about non-commissioned officers. I should like to hear the right honourable Gentleman's statement with regard to the sergeants' mess, and I hope that he will nut them on an equal footing with battalions already existing. I hope that the War Office will take into consideration the fact that the Marines should be treated by the Army officers with more consideration than they have been. It has been a grievance with the Marines. There is another slight that has been paid to another branch of the Service. During these coming manœuvres Volunteer officers have been invited to attend, and provision has been made for them, but no provision has been made for Militia officers. I think the same facilities ought to be extended to Militia officers as to Volunteer officers.
§ COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, Bootle)
I do not propose to keep the 365 House long, but one word I wish to say upon a remark concerning the Army which fell from the lips of the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War. He mentioned, during his speech, that it was not altogether a question of pay with regard to getting the number of men in the Army that he wished to complete the strength. In that I thoroughly agree with him. Of course, we all know that the first object of an army is to be ready for war. It cannot be ready for war unless you have the full complement of men, and it is the impression among many people interested in the Army that it is the pay alone which attracts men to enlist. I do not deny that pay has a certain influence in enlisting for the Army, but there are other questions which affect it very much. There are certain paints in the soldier's code very dear by tradition and association, connected with the glorious deeds done by their regiments, and I think the War Office should be extremely careful how they break down those points to which the men attach importance with reference to their regiments. One thing I would instance, the regimental numbers, to which great affection is attached; and another point I would also lay stress upon, and commend to the consideration of the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary for War, is as to whether it would not be advisable to try a system of allowing men to enlist for the regiment which they wish to join, rather than compel them to join a branch of the Service in which distinctions have been to a large extent obliterated. I believe at the present moment, for the first time in the history of the British Army, there is a difficulty in attracting recruits to cavalry regiments. I am told there is hardly a cavalry regiment in the United Kingdom at this moment which is not from 150 to 200 men below its strength.
§ COLONEL SANDYS
Well, I am misinformed. That is the information supplied to me, that cavalry regiments are largely below their strength, and cavalry has always been fully recruited in the past. I am inclined to think the system which has prevented, or is now prevent- 366 ing for the first time, men enlisting for the cavalry regiments they wish to serve in, is the main cause of the deficiency in the strength of that arm. It is an arm which takes long preparation, and it cannot be extemporised by votes of money. It takes a long time to train cavalry and make it efficient. My point, which I wish to impress upon the Committee and upon the Under Secretary for War, is that they shall attach some importance to this esprit de corps, and that men shall be allowed to enlist in any particular regiment.
§ COLONEL WELBY
I need hardly say I agree with the honourable Members who said that they wished this Departmental Committee's Report dealt to a greater extent with the organisation of the Army. The honourable Member for West Belfast condemned that Report in the most wholesale manner, but I believe if that Report is carried out—as I hope and trust the Under Secretary for War intends that its recommendations shall be carried out—a great step in advance will be taken, and much benefit will, result from it. I hope that the right honourable Gentleman will not rest there, but will take into consideration the organisation of the Army.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
My honourable Friend who spoke the last but one is really entirely in error in supposing that there are between 150 and 200 men short in several cavalry regiments. As a matter of fact, there is a deficiency of only 71 men. The condition of the cavalry is not such as is supposed by those who have not access to the figures. In regard to the new scheme, undoubtedly that will be carried out. The men will have the power of indicating the particular regiments they select. Enlistment will be for the corps with a pass into a regiment, subject to an emergency which may make it necessary to pass into another regiment.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
The regulations are in print. The regulation as to the minimum for each cavalry regiment is to 367 be given to the Adjutant-General, and will be carried out strictly. My honourable Friend below the Gangway asked what are the proportions by which the increase in numbers has been distributed over the Service. The increase in the Royal Artillery is 1,350; in the Foot Guards, 861; and 3,293 in the Infantry of the Line. I think he also asked for information with regard to Wei-hai-Wei. The position at present is that certain officers are there on behalf of the War Office. The War Office and the Admiralty are acting absolutely together, and no steps will be taken that are not approved of by the Government as a whole, and no delay will be incurred in taking any steps that are necessary.
§ COLONEL WELBY
I should like to know what these military officers are to do pending the completion of the hydro-graphical survey.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
I have already told my honourable and gallant Friend that it is not desirable to go closely into details at this stage.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
There is one point respecting which I must express my regret at the action of the Secretary of State for War. I am sorry to have to do it, because in other respects he has been very successful, much more so than any of his predecessors; but I very much regret one decision that he has taken, because it will have a very bad effect in South Africa. He has given pensions and retiring allowances to two gentlemen who ought cot to have got them, and I am very glad to see that the Auditor and Comptroller General has expressed in a Minute his strong disapproval of the conduct of the Secretary of State for War. He used a strong phrase, that it was a "strained interpretation" of his powers, and the Committee on Public Accounts have even gone further, and said it was unnatural. So we have one public official and one public body censuring the conduct of the Secretary of State for War. I will go further, and say the grants were totally unnecessary. So far as Colonel Rhodes is concerned, he is a rich man, and for us to give him £300 a year is throwing away money. I make a distinction in 368 the two cases of Major White and Captain White; they are separate altogether from Rhodes and Willoughby. They are not so much to blame, because they were under Major Willoughby's command. The man to blame is Sir John Willoughby. Major Willoughby is more of a financier than a soldier, and he has been so for the last dozen years. He has made a big pile, and the £1,133 that the Secretary of State has given as a gratuity to Major Willoughby will be simply money thrown away. If these men had been poor or deserving in any sense I could have understood the Secretary of State for War being tempted to give an unnatural construction to the power he enjoys, but when you have got two rich men who nave made piles by their South African work as financiers, and do not require money, I do not see why on earth the Secretary of State for War should have strained, and have given an unnatural interpretation to, his powers in order to give these men these pensions and gratuities, when, upon the simple wording of the law, they are not entitled to them. I very much regret the action that has been taken, because it will be supposed in South Africa, when these remarks by the Auditor and Comptroller General and the Public Accounts Committee come to be known there, that those in authority in this country are, after all, behind Major Willoughby and the others connected with the Raid. I very much regret that this has been done, but I do not intend to mark my sense of it by taking any further action.
§ MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to what I must consider a serious blot on the practicability of the manœuvres which are at present coming on. The point is that this year the system of messing as carried out on active service—namely, messing by company or by squadron—is not to be carried out. The system of regimental messing by officers is to be insisted upon. These manœuvres will cost some £140,000, and it is only natural that the taxpayers of this country should expect that they should be in every respect as like active service as it is possible to make them. Now, when you have a system of regimental mess- 369 ing carried out on so-called active service, you have something absolutely foreign to active service. There is not only this drawback, but great individual expense is entailed on the officers; you have the roads blocked in many instances with lot of private transport, and altogether it is absolutely foreign to the conditions of active service. I quite admit, Sir, that on the first occasion in which manœuvres of such size have taken place, there have been many difficulties to contend with, but I trust that on the next occasion manœuvres are taking place on the same scale attention will be given to this point. To a certain extent this also applies to the men. Really, it is very essential that the commissariat should be practised in every possible way, both the purchasing of stores and the supply to the men of rations.
§ MR. PIRIE
I will not dwell further on the point. One other point I should like to bring under the notice of the Committee is the inequality of the quartering of troops in the British Islands. Scotland in this matter is, as has already been brought under the attention of the House of Commons this Session on more than one occasion, most unequally treated. We have only three regiments quartered in Scotland. We have one district command, compared to 11 in England and five in Ireland, and the money which is spent on military requirements in Scotland is in proportion to a thousand to tens of thousands in Ireland and hundreds of thousands in England. I am not here to ask for any very great increase of the garrison. We do not wish that; but we do wish a certain more fair proportion than we have at present. I should be satisfied with an increase of one or two infantry regiments in garrison in Scotland. Towns like Stirling and Aberdeen are quite capable of accommodating a regiment, and as we supply 10 or 11 Scotch territorial regiments to the British Army, a number out of all proportion to the size of the country, the least we can ask for is that a fair proportion of the men should be apportioned to Scotland. I only hope that the Secretary of State for War will take that into consideration in 370 the future, especially as the Army is to be increased by 25,000 men.
§ * MR. WOODALL (Hanley)
I have no disposition to prolong the discussion upon this Vote, but I hope I may be permitted to call attention to the extreme importance of the ruling which you, Sir, have made from the Chair, and repeated in the course of the discussion; that in which you have given a decision that nothing can be discussed under this Vote which would more properly be raised upon any specific Vote. I take it that hitherto the general practice in Committees on the War Office Estimates has been freely to raise any question upon the Vote for the salary of the Secretary of State for which he was officially responsible. I can recall to the mind of honourable Gentlemen whom I see opposite an occasion when a change of Government was brought about, though it was pointed out at the time by the Chairman of Committees, your predecessor, Sir, that the discussion ought more properly to have been raised on Vote 9. I do not challenge your decision, Sir. I think for the convenience of the business of the House there may be a good deal to be said in favour of it, but it is a very important decision upon which I think probably some of us may desire to retain a certain independence of judgment.
I do not think it is at all a new decision. It has been laid down over and over again that the proper place to discuss a subject is where that special subject is referred to in the Vote. I have laid it down several times. It applies to the War Office Votes just as much as to the Naval Votes, and what has just fallen from the right honourable Gentleman I think supports that view, when he said that my predecessor himself said that the Debate to which he referred ought to have been taken on the specific Vote. It seems to me to be the proper course.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I think I understood the right honourable Gentleman to say that the 6,000 men were not an addition to the Army, because 4,000 of the men were already in the Army. As I understood, the addition to the Army is not 6,000 men, but about 2,400 men.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
Six thousand is the net difference between the numbers on the 1st July, 1897, and the 1st July, 1898.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
There is 6,200 increase with the colours, of whom 3,000 are Reservists, and that involves a loss, not of 3,000 Reservists, but about 700.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
My honourable Friend behind me [Dr. Clark] has received no reply from the Under Secretary for War on the question he raised. I think we ought to have some sort of explanation on the subject. The Public Accounts Committee considered, and they are supported by the Comptroller and Auditor General, that these officers should not have been granted this money by the Secretary of State. Well, with that before us we ought to have at least some sort of explanation of the matter. It is obvious, without going into the merits or demerits of the question whether these gentlemen ought to have the money, that it was improper for the Secretary of State to have granted this money if he had no power, and the Public Accounts Committee and the Auditor General say that he had no power to make these grants. I do not quite understand one point. Five or six of these officers, I think, were at first deprived of their commissions. Then we gave these retiring allowances, a certain sum to which it was considered these officers were entitled. But of these three have been replaced in the Army. Two are left outside, Major Willoughby and Colonel Rhodes. They all received the money. Do I understand that the 372 three who were replaced paid back the money into the Treasury?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
They did? That was what I wished to know. Well, then, there are only two other officers. I do not wish to deal hardly with those subordinates, but after what has been brought out by the Public Accounts Committee's Report and by the Comptroller and Auditor General I think we ought to have some information on these other matters.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
With regard to these two other officers, it is perfectly clear that the position of the Secretary of State is this. It constantly happens that officers are called upon to retire from the Service. They may be cashiered, they may be dismissed, or for some reason or other they may be called upon to retire. In all these cases the Secretary of State has power to make allowances at his discretion. When an officer resigns his commission, and sends in his papers, he is given what it is considered he is entitled to. That is what the Secretary of State did in this instance. The Public Accounts Committee challenge it, and I have no doubt that, when the next raid takes place—if ever similar operations should again take place—the Secretary of State will consider very carefully before deciding on retiring pay to such officers.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
I do not think that the right honourable Gentleman has given quite a full account of it. What took place, as far as my recollection serves, is this. These five gentlemen were compulsorily retired, and the question then arose under which section of the Army Warrant they were to be retired. The Secretary of State, in the exercise of his discretion, said that they would be retired compulsorily under Article 101, I think it is. That Article provides for cases of gentlemen being compulsorily retired from the Army for causes other than misconduct. Well, in the first place, the Comptroller and Auditor General called attention to this interpretation of Article 101 of the Army 373 Warrant being a strained interpretation. That is to say, he complained of the Secretary of State allowing these gentlemen, one of whom has been convicted of treason-felony, I think—Colonel Rhodes—in the Transvaal, and the other has been brought up here and charged under the Foreign Enlistment Act, and convicted and sentenced to some term of imprisonment in this country. He called the attention of the public authorities to the fact that the Secretary of State, in allowing them to be retired under Article 101, was putting a strained interpretation upon the expressions in the Army Warrant. The Secretary of State replied, I understand, that he was by the terms of the Warrant made the absolute interpreter of it. But there was a second complaint. The Comptroller and Auditor General also complained against the Secretary of State retiring these officers under Article 101, and the right honourable Gentleman replied, so far as I could hear what he said, that the Secretary of State had no discretion, even under the section under which he retired them, in giving them their full gratuities or lesser gratuities. That is not quite the case. He could have given them, even supposing he was justified in retiring them under this section, either reduced gratuities or no gratuity at all. Those are the two points to which the Comptroller and Auditor General called attention in his Report of last year. Those are the two points which I think were introduced in the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, and with regard to which I think there cannot be much doubt that the Secretary of State, at any rate, did put what was described, I think, as a "non-natural" interpretation on the Warrant.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
Well, the Report of the Public Accounts Committee is there, and can be referred to. At any rate, I will say this: I am perfectly certain that the Comptroller and Auditor General did say that this was a strained interpretation of the Warrant, and I think he used the word "non-natural." I put it to the Committee whether he was 374 not justified in calling attention to this subject, and in the use of the language used upon this subject, and I think we ought to have some fuller information from the Under Secretary of State for War.
§ DR. CLARK
So far as this question is concerned, the Comptroller and Auditor General objected to the action of the Secretary of State, and stated that this was a strained interpretation of the Warrant. There have been three cases of this kind—in 1886, in 1889, and in 1892. On each occasion—in consequence of the preamble the Secretary of State held—well, I have brought the statement by Mr. Stanhope, when Secretary of State, before the Committee, and I will read the words—The Secretary of State has no more claim, nor greater freedom, to disobey rules, or to put an unnatural interpretation upon them, or to make alterations so as to increase expenditure, than the head of any other Department.That is strange phraseology. The Committee's attention is drawn to this matter by the Comptroller and Auditor General. He says it is a strained interpretation of the powers of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State claims to be the sole interpreter of the Warrant. I will read the terms of the preamble of the Warrant—Our will and pleasure is that as hereinafter laid down, this, our Warrant, shall be established and obeyed as sole authority on matters here treated on, and that our principal Secretary of State, to whom we shall think fit to entrust the affairs of our department, shall be the sole administrator and interpreter of this our Warrant, and shall be empowered to issue such instructions in reference thereto as he may from time to time deem necessary.He shall be the sole interpreter of the Warrant. Then the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Treasury, and the Public Accounts Committee say that, while he is sole interpreter, he must not interpret the language in such a fashion as to go contrary to the express provisions laid down in other Warrants. I understood Mr. Stanhope then agreed that in any question of this kind he should not act upon his own responsibility, but should act with the Treasury. Well, I suppose in this case the Secretary of State has fallen away from the position 375 of Mr. Stanhope, and has himself claimed to determine this question, and not be bound down by the discretion given in Article 101. I think, as I have said, there are certain occasions when he might on the ground of charity do something for men who are compelled to leave the Army, but, so far as these two men are concerned, I say there was no need. So far as Colonel Rhodes is concerned he is a very rich man, and so far as Major Willoughby is concerned he has ceased practically to be an officer and has been a financier, so that both men have plenty of money, and this grant is totally undeserved.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
The point is simply this. The Secretary of State is undoubtedly his own interpreter of the Warrant. He interpreted the Warrant favourably to these officers. Whatever their means may be, I do not think the interpreter ought to be guided by the poverty or wealth of the officers, but by the justice of the case. The justice of the case was held to involve the payment to them of the money they had earned by their services. It has been pointed out by the Public Accounts Committee and by the Comptroller and Auditor General that that was a strained interpretation, and regard will undoubtedly be had to that in considering any subsequent proceedings.
The Vote was agreed to.
£1,567,800, Retired Pay, Half-Pay, and other Non-Effective Charges for Officers, etc.
£1,335,600, Pensions and other Non-Effective Charges for Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Men, and others.
£177,300, Superannuation, Compensation, Compassionate Allowances, and Gratuities.